Tuesday, December 24, 2013

My Christmas Letter to You, Whether You Celebrate Christmas or Not

Dear and Precious One,

God loves you with a deep and everlasting love. His is the only perfect love you will experience here on earth. All other loves, as beautiful as they can be, are only pale imitations of His true and abiding Love. He resides in your heart, caring for each precious beat of it, whispering to the inmost part of you His words of True Love.

Like all good loves, He listens, too. He waits for your word, longs to hear you utter the smallest of prayers so that He can hear your desire for Him, for change, for perfection. He wants you to love Him in return. He will never force Himself upon you. He will wait for you and love you from afar for as long as you demand it.

He knows how you breathe, how you feel, how you wonder. He also knows your struggles. He meets you with Mercy when you fail to live in the way that He knows is best for you. He asks you to wait for something much better than you can imagine. He sighs with your impatience and anger at Him and loves you anyway.

Your life is so much more than you can even imagine. His plans for you are so far above your ideas as the Heavens are above the Earth. Allow Him, the author of your very soul, to whisper the first parts of His desire
s for you in the silence of your expectant heart.

I will pray each day for you, my brother, my sister in Christ,
Christie Martin

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Candy Making: Chocolate from Scratch Using Candy Molds

With all our kids' allergies, we can't eat the chocolate from the stores. Our options are to spend upwards of $5 for a candy bar, live without chocolate for Christmas, or make some ourselves. Last year we splurged on the disappointing and expensive candy bars. This year I am attempting to make chocolate candy. The recipe I arrived at after much experimentation is as follows:

1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup cocoa powder
4 TBS corn syrup
2 tsp vanilla extract
sprinkle of cinnamon
dusting of powdered sugar

I simply heated the coconut oil to the melting point for about 30 seconds in the microwave and then added in all the other ingredients except the powdered sugar. I stirred the mixture until it thickened and poured it into candy molds (available at hobby and craft stores). I then froze the molds for 20 minutes in an attempt to harden the chocolate.

The resulting candy was a bit bitter, so I rolled them in powdered sugar. That made them nice and tasty. They are a dark chocolate, so you have to be prepared for a strong chocolate taste. Their texture is on the soft side, sort of like a truffle. They are good enough to outshine the expensive disappointments from last year. They are going in to this year's stockings Christmas Eve.

As you can see we're individually wrapping them in strips of foil.

Individually wrapped homemade chocolate ready for the stockings!

After all the chocolate I ingested today, I highly recommend fooling around with chocolate recipes. If you can improve upon mine, I'd really be interested in hearing from you.

Meanwhile, this is the next recipe I am going to work with. It's from  over at Love to Know Gourmet.

How to Make Chocolate from Scratch

Learning how to make chocolate is an art unto itself. Gather your basic supplies and learn how to make chocolate from scratch with these simple, step-by-step instructions. Whether you decide to make truffles or chocolate molded candies, candy making is a fun pastime.

Recipe for Homemade Chocolate

Whether it's a chocolate bar or a fancy filled chocolate, the base of chocolate candy is made from cocoa powder or cocoa beans, cocoa butter, butter, and sugar. Some recipes also recommend using blocks of unsweetened baking chocolate.

Traditional Gourmet Recipe

The gourmet recipe to make milk chocolate requires some unusual ingredients. You may not be able to find these at the local supermarket, but most online and gourmet retail shops carry them. Chocolate Alchemy sells cocoa beans, roasting equipment, and other equipment needed to make pure chocolate from scratch. In general, to make chocolate from raw beans, you need to select the beans, roast them, grind them, cook them with sugar and butter, then process them for many hours before pouring, molding, and melting them again to temper the chocolate. This process can take several days, and requires special equipment to grind the nibs.

Basic Gourmet Recipe

Since most people don't have several days to devote to chocolate making, the following basic gourmet recipe shaves off several days by starting with cocoa powder. Cocoa powder substitutes for roasting, grinding, and processing raw cocoa beans.

When purchasing ingredients for this recipe, make sure you buy the very best cocoa powder you can afford. The better quality cocoa powder will yield a richer, more satisfying chocolate taste.
  • 2 cups cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup whole milk, room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup water

  • Heavy saucepan
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Chocolate molds
  1. Heat the water in a medium-sized saucepan until simmering.
  2. Cream the cocoa powder and butter together into a paste.
  3. Add the cocoa mixture to the hot water. Bring it back to simmering, and then remove from heat and transfer the cocoa mixture to a bowl.
  4. Sift the two sugars and salt together in a separate bowl to eliminate any lumps.
  5. Add the sugar to the cocoa mixture and stir well to combine.
  6. Add the milk slowly and stir.
  7. Pour the chocolate mixture in thin layers into molds and freeze or refrigerate until firm.
The recipe doesn't produce tempered chocolate, it is a more firm truffle consistency. You can make it harder by substituting softened cocoa butter for dairy butter - that will give it a raw chocolate consistency (firmer than truffles, but softer than a candy bar).

The thinner you pour it, the harder it will become as well; thick chocolate molds will produce a fudgier consistency.

Be sure to click on the llink for variations and more instructions on the recipes.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Wifey Wednesday: Enjoy the Holidays

Nothing says frantic to me quite like the Pinterest and magazine spreads of November and December. Those glamor shots of centerpieces and perfectly pinched pie crusts, ornately wrapped homemade gifts arranged artfully on a tray for the guests of a festive formal holiday party with signature drinks and home-baked gingerbread houses as decor are the peer pressure of the digital age. Even if you do manage to pull off a party mid-December, the pictures pointedly ask you, "Did you take the time to individually wrap your antique book collection with color coordinated wrapping paper to add punch and sizzle to your bookshelves? No? Well, we won't judge."

"Nobody breathe until I get a picture of this for the website!" 

My advice for the holidays is to remember them for what they really are: holy days. This time of year is the time we stop in wonder at the miracles of God. There was enough oil for one night and it lasted for eight. There was a moment when God became flesh. It's a wonder. Let's just wonder.

Sure, it's nice to celebrate that with food. Who doesn't celebrate with food? Just remember that you and your family are celebrating with God and His larger family. Don't worry about making a perfect celebration, just make a celebration. Perfection isn't our lot in this life. Relax and tone down your menu to foods your kids will actually eat. If nobody likes turkey, serve roast beef. If nobody likes to cook, order in pizza. It's your family. It's your celebration. Enjoy it.

"So dinner's running late, at least no one
will see me in curl…oh, the doorbell!"

If you, like me, enjoy the cooking and the hours of preparation and aftermath in the kitchen, remember to factor in the fact that the baby will create a hazmat diaper, the five year old will toss a tantrum, and all the kids will want to help, dinner's going to be at 2:30 and not noon, at least one pie will be burnt, and the cousin from Wisconsin will not have the manners to refrain from criticizing the biscuits. "Yes," you'll be forced to agree, "Memaw's biscuits are better than mine." Just let it be.

That's my advice. Just let it be. No matter if half your family is down with the flu for Christmas, no matter if half your New Year's Eve guests invited their own guest, no matter if the toddler stripped down to her all-together while no one was watching and marched down the aisle at Midnight Mass, that's how this particular celebration is turning out. Just let it be. (Do redress that girl, though, it's cold out.)

Relax. Have a sense of humor about it. Enjoy it. The flubs are half the fun anyway. The baby will need to be fed when the turkey button popped. Go ahead and take the turkey out and then sit and feed the baby while the meat rests. It's okay. Christ was a baby once. He's not going to mind if dinner's late. If Uncle Joe mangles the carving and there's not a piece of meat bigger than a chopstick, does it really change the fact of Christ incarnate?

Just let it be. All of this is your story for this year. You celebrated and it wasn't perfect. My family lives on the Great Plains of America, beauty here is found in the vast expanse of sky and grass or it is found in the close ups of the prairie primrose, but in between is the thistle and the goat head. You don't see those when you get real close and you don't see them when you take in the vastness of it all. If you crave perfection, think of the big picture: God incarnate, God's miraculous light. Or get in really, really close. Some years, that particular candle next to that poinsettia is as close to perfection as you can get.

Have a Happy!


This has been a Wifey Wednesday post. For an even wifier Wednesday click on over to To Love Honor and Vacuum!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

I'm Officially a Winner!

Yay! Whew! I stuck it out!

I wrote my whole entire novel. Now it is in dire need of editing. But yay!

I'm going to sleep now...

Friday, November 22, 2013

One of the top ways people find my blog

is by Googling the phrase, "naggity nag nag." My husband finds this so funny, he is threatening to inscribe it on my tombstone.

Yes, I'm still writing on the novel. I'll have to keep it light until after it's written!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

I'm Writing a Novel

There, I've said it. I'm writing a novel.

I signed up to write a novel for November.

Yes, November. The one that has two full days of cooking in it. The particular November that my van was going to break down and be in the shop for the two solid weeks that my husband was going to be out of town. The one where my dad was going to have his pacemaker installed. That November.

This very November.

At any rate, this is why you haven't heard from me. I'm frantically writing a novel.

I'm insane, I think.

At any rate, I'm almost at the final conflict. I'm just over two-thirds of the way done.

You'll be able to read it soon.

Meanwhile, here's the synopsis I wrote up for the NaNoWriMo page…

A Catholic couple seems infertile until they test positive for pregnancy. The husband is thrilled but the wife is dumbfounded as she had been taking birth control pills for their entire marriage. Tensions steadily rise over the news until a miscarriage occurs, which sends the wife into an unexpected tailspin when she finds herself experiencing grief instead of her expected feelings of relief. Will her husband discover her secret pills? Or worse…will he find out about the abortion she'd had so long ago.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Wifey Wednesday: Thank Him

Most marriages are good. They're workable. Two average people get together hoping for the best, what could go wrong?

Plenty. Hence the Divorce rate, all my Wifey Wednesday type blog posts, and all the how-to books on marriage out there. This week, I want to be sure to pass on one of my favorite ways to keep a marriage healthy and strong:
Be grateful. Say thank you.

Obviously, neither of you is perfect. Obviously both of you need to continually strive to become better lovers, friends, companions, and Christians in order to make this marriage work, but we can get awfully discouraged by all the work we have yet to do. Don't forget to reward each other for those times you get it right or merely close enough.

Today, take a moment to think on a few things that your husband does right.

Say Thank You Just Because...

--1--  He Makes You Happy
Today thank him for just one thing that he does that is vital to your happiness. It doesn't have to be a big deal, it could be something as simple as remembering to turn on the coffee pot each morning so it's ready when you get up. Or it could be one of those important qualities in him that you love and need. For me that would be my husband's kindness. I know that no matter how frustrated or exasperated he becomes, I can count on him to be careful with my feelings. Even when he does slip up and lash out emotionally, it takes very little time at all for an apology to follow it up. (Thank you, honey! I really love that about you.) For someone else, it could be that he remembers to send flowers on your birthday or he kisses the kids goodnight every night. For others it might be that he is an emotional rock to lean on. Everyone measures their happiness differently. How do you measure yours and where does your husband measure up?

--2--   He Has Your Back
There are plenty of moments where a man steps between you and the world and tells it to back off. From the, "You listen to your mother!" moments with your children to the, "My wife called about the car and you said..." interventions with mechanics, he is there for you. He lets you put your cold feet on him at night and he holds your hand when you cry at weddings. Pick one of those many, many times he has expressed in some way his manly, supportive, and protective instincts for you, his bride, and let him know that those moments matter to you.

--3--   He Rings Your Bell

Because sex is so important to your nonverbal connection and communication as a couple as well as to his self worth as a husband, be absolutely sure to include an "When we're in bed, I go wild when you..." on your list. Don't even worry about all the blushing and giggling it might take to get the words out, he'll find that absolutely charming even as he blushes and giggles back (especially if you add, "Can we do that later?" to the end of your giggle!).

We find it easy to criticize, be so practiced at gratitude that it comes easy, too!

If you are one of those less expressive couples or if all this thanking seems awkward somehow or if you happen to be in the middle of one of those marital low spots we all experience, ask God to help you find your moments to express your thanks. Sprinkle the thanks out over the week or leave little notes for him to find, if you prefer. The important thing to remember is that we all work better when we know we are making progress. Be sure, on your journey to Heaven and to holiness, you let him know you notice the good.

The Caveat at the End: If you are struggling to find three things to be thankful for, now is the time to consider a trip to Confession, an appointment with a counsellor, and a fervent prayer to God to see your husband and yourself more clearly. If you are in the lowest of low spots in a marriage, also consider looking into a weekend retreat. I highly recommend Retrouvaille for help in turning your marriage around again. 


This has been a Wifey Wednesday post. For an even wifier Wednesday click on over to To Love Honor and Vacuum!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

"Christian Nation" Failure Rant

If you look at this picture and think, "Yeah!" I will look at you and wonder if you're ready to read your Bible. If you are rejoicing over the price these poor will pay for their poor thinking, are you as ready to step up your tithe to the poor when they're cut off. Are you ready to foster and care for their children when they are arrested for the theft?

Have you ever wondered why we have a welfare system in the first place? Because not enough Christians put their money where their faith is. We have put the government in charge of our job: caring for the widows, orphans, and poor. So why can't the government weed out the ones taking advantage of the system? Because it's the government. Simple enough.

Meanwhile we had a run on goods. Is that really a surprise? Sure, some were simply out to get rich, but some were the desperate poor. If you haven't been desperately poor, let me explain that first of all, hunger hurts. It nags and burns and writhes within you. For one year during college I chose books and tuition over groceries. I ate rice for almost that entire year. I didn't even have enough rice. No, I didn't starve, but I ached with hunger. Because I was choosing my situation, I was never tempted to steal. But I have enough experience to know how simply and completely hunger can take over a person's thinking.

I can understand that someone who has to rely on the government to supplement their lives and hears the same news that I do that the government is failing, the dollar is precarious and the way of life we are living is coming to an end, and who then hears a rumor that shelves are being emptied at their local store just might react by going to that same store and filling up a cart. I can imagine myself thinking, "This might be the last of the food forever."

The poor will always be with us, remember. In our wealthy country, no one should ever go hungry, but they do. Every day, they do. When we justify paying young people or otherwise inexperienced and untrained people wages that no one can manage on, while saying, "You don't like it? Get a better job!", when we have the same tired arguments that the top tier "can't afford" to pay decent wages because the drive to make greater and greater profits is more important than the circumstances of those among us who are being ground up in the system, when we who have never once experienced life at less than Middle Class look down our noses at those who have never once experienced a day without want blame the poor for the very circumstances that make them poor, then we are not actually a Christian nation worshipping at the altar of the Lord but are in reality sacrificing the least of us unto Mammon.

If, even after reading this rant you still can't imagine that desperation can drive people to desperate measures, and if you can not look at your donations and be entirely sure you are not one of the reasons our government had to step in to fulfill the Christians' duty to the poor, or if you have forgotten the robber baron age of our very own history and are gullible enough to believe the corporate moguls who use up media bandwidth with their Libertarian drivel that the market can govern itself, then at least have the decency to sharpen your goatish horns on someone else's Facebook feed.

I'm too busy taking care of those "least of these" within my reach to have the time to attempt to smack common sense or even a bit of empathy into random strangers.

Just remember that making fun of the poor and pointing fingers at them is no guarantee that you will never find yourself in that number.

Wifey Wednesday: Gratitude

As my husband and I slogged through some financial stress and strain this week, I had a revelation: all our current problems are external right now. We're doing the best we can for each other and facing our problems as a team.

I even remembered to thank my husband for that yesterday. I came home from a meeting and sat down across from my guy and told him I was grateful that he was such a nice guy and doing his best in a tough spot.

Don't get me wrong, here. Our marriage isn't perfect. Like everyone else we've had those moments where we could swear we'd married the Devil Incarnate. Every marriage has had a few of those "Who IS this person?!" pauses, but right now, we're not having one of them. We're having one of those, "Thank goodness he's/she's got my back!" moments and it's nice, given all the uncertainty in everything else.
Every marriage has those moments...just don't forget
to be happy whenever you're not having one of those moments.

Meanwhile, a young couple we know just got engaged. Like me, she's picked the nicest guy she knows to marry. I happen to know from experience that that's a pretty sure bet for success. I can't say that everything will go right in their lives, but having a really nice guy around when things go wrong sure makes things a lot easier to bear.

The only advice for today is to be grateful for each other. When it all comes down to it, between him and you and the Lord, you're a pretty formidable team. Make sure he knows you know that.



I am on the team for an ACTS Retreat this weekend, please keep us in your prayers!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Because it is Monday

Typical Monday. Everything seemed to hit at once today. The part that actually made it more Mondayish than not was when the repair estimate came in for my husband's car right at the bluebook value of the stupid, broken down thing. So we had ourselves a fretful day around here until we realized that things could be worse.

Upon reflection, we're very pleased to report that all of our current problems are external ones. Andy's a nice guy with good intentions. I'm a nice enough gal with similar intentions. We could be going through financial stress with a spouse who was indifferent, selfish, or antagonistic. It really could be worse.

Life is good!

Friday, October 11, 2013

7 Quick Takes: The Financial Stress and Birthday Edition

Yes, we're affected, but no, we're not. Not really.

Yes, my husband works for the U.S. government and yes, we're not getting a paycheck until further notice. We have enough in the pantry and enough in savings to manage for a couple of months before we have to go into debt or sell any belongings to get by. In our young adult years my husband and I have both experienced real financial stress--the kind that rejoices that there will be eggs in the fridge for the month because you just found spare change in a coat pocket from last winter--so we know how to stretch a dollar. We have stockpiled for this temporary emergency, so though we won't be getting paid, we'll be getting by just fine.

Pray for those less able to pull through!

If it were just about health insurance, it would have been over by now.

Yes, if the President and the Democratic Party were just offering health insurance, my family would be well within our rights to be ticked off at the Republican Party (for more than just waiting until almost too late to actually address this issue). But...but...when people and Catholic organizations are being forced to choose between the teachings of the Church and personal conscience and complying with their government's new regulations about providing out of our very own pockets birth control and abortion services, it's no longer about healthcare. It's about bullying. Without more and reasonable exceptions, it's antiCatholic, plain and simple.

If they'd only wanted to provide healthcare for all, they wouldn't be fighting tooth and nail for just those two services. They'd compromise. And if they did, the Church wouldn't be fighting back either. We'd be fighting alongside them. This insistence on free abortions tells me clearly that it never really was about healthcare. It's pretty obvious it's not.

Meanwhile, if we have to sell a car to protect the Little Sisters of the Poor from Big Government bullies, so be it.

As far as taking one for the faith goes, this is nothing to our brothers and sisters in Egypt. Chin up and carry on.

The Blog Silence

Anyway, if you've been wondering where I've been lately, I've been at home, cutting every corner I could find. Corner cutting is time consuming. Just as an example, instead of buying alfalfa this week, I took a hoe and "hayed" weeds growing outside of the pasture. I'm meal planning so intricately that I only light the oven every third day. I'm a bit busier than usual. Add in a bit of panic at the news and you get an absentee blogger. I'm done fretting now that I've got a groove to get into. I'm back!

Quick Money Saving Tip

Don't run the dryer, but use that dishwasher: when the sun is available to dry your clothes for free, running the dryer is like tossing dollars out of the dryer vent. On the other hand, using a dishwasher sterilizes your dishes. It kills germs. If you spend an extra $5 a month on electricity and save yourself one trip to the doctor because of a secondary infection following a round of cold and flu--even for one person over the course of the year--you more than break even.

Quick Sanity Saving Tip

If you are having to cut back and you have kids, start reading aloud the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. It helps change the tone from privation to pioneer. I know it may sound silly, but linking your frugality to living a bit more like Americans of a hundred years ago makes it all a bit more adventurous than arduous for the kids. It also helps the adults get into the spirit of things. There's a whole lot less spirit of privation when there's less complaining.

(Don't!) Take Two!

Our first set of ducks were stolen out from under our very noses. There were no feathers scattered about, no breaks in the fencing, no blood splats, disturbed dirt, or other evidence of four legged thieves and our neighbors only missed chickens on the nights they missed locking their hutch, so we've got two legged poultry thieves around.

Another set of duckies hatched at the local food pantry and have grown enough to be a nuisance, so we were called to take them off their hands. We happily obliged. We've moved the pen closer to our house in hopes of keeping this set safe and happy until they can be producing cute little duckies of their own.

Somebody is Eight!

We are off to the park today to celebrate with our friends who are going to "drop by and play with us." Can you believe that eight years ago, we met face to face for the very first time!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

40 Days and 3 Ways to Improve Your Marriage

My husband has this amazing fall back position that I admire greatly. When the going gets rough, he gets polite. More accurately, he stays polite. He practices niceness. Raised like I was in a culture of self-indulgence, he practices self control.

This could be my husband's mantra!

More often than not, if tensions are running high and my manners have flown out the window in a huff, he's as polite and kind as ever. It's rare that his emotions get the better of him.

In our Modern Life, where Emotion is King, that sounds so unfeeling. Media pushes emotionalism. Pop psychology lauds it. Our commercial culture wants us to react to every whim with abandon. An emoting person is so much easier to manipulate and so we make much "better" consumers when our emotions take the reigns and make our decisions for us. Our current psychology has told us for decades to let our feelings out; our feelings are our Truth; our emotional life is our only authentic life. As a result we have adults with the emotional maturity of toddlers. If you feel it, do it. Don't be afraid to pitch an authentic tantrum now and then, either.

Fair warning, though, the pendulum is beginning to swing at least in psychology. Self Esteem is slowly giving way to something called Resilience. Self control is coming back into fashion, though they'll wind up calling it something more palatable and marketable (like Resilience). You might want to pick up a few skills and get some practice under your belt and lead the charge rather than run to catch up later.

40 Days and 3 Ways to Improve Your Marriage

Bite Your Tongue and Then Some

This is an oldie but a goodie. Count to 10. Take a deep breath. Get some air into the moment. If you feel like snapping at someone, try that moment of silence first. As a Christian, this is the moment to pray. In fact, if you are determined to make a real change here, you need to step up your prayer life.

Prayer: Change It Up

If you pray habitually in the more Charismatic fashion of ejaculatory or improvisational prayer--making a prayer up from the heart and heat of the moment--now is the time to add the discipline of the prepared prayer. You can write out your own, or better yet, find a beautiful prayer that speaks to the Lord in a way you need to grow spiritually, memorize it and then really and truly discipline yourself to it. For those of you who find this a new concept, Christ Himself introduced the idea of praying a prepared prayer, so you may want to start with His prayer, the Lord's Prayer, first. Really pray it. Delve into each word and plumb the depths as you spend the next 40 days making a habit of turning to prayer rather than turning to your emotions to deal with those hard moments in your day.

If you pray the prepared or prewritten prayer regularly, now is the time to begin the practice of ejaculatory prayer. Eventually you will have the habit and will be able to compose a beautiful prayer on the spot, until then God will adore your first clumsy steps like the perfect Father that He is. As you are learning, remember that a complete prayer contains praise, thanksgiving, petitions for others, repentance, and requests for ourselves. Again, it takes about 40 days to begin developing a new habit, so don't expect to be an expert at the ejaculatory prayer style right away. You can simply begin with a quick, "Jesus, I trust in You!" or even a heartfelt,  "Help me!" in the heat of any given moment. To help you practice the practice, add a few sentences of improvised conversation at the end of your regular prayers at your regularly scheduled prayer times throughout the day, too.

God will reward these steps toward Him in His way. Be on the lookout for those subtle signs of change and remember to thank Him for His good work when you see them in you.

Pay Attention

If your spouse is cranky, it's a signal. It's very likely that they need something. More sleep? More affection? Appreciation? Chocolate? Being a human being, you may suspect that you've fallen short of your husband's expectations and can call to mind a few dozen handy excuses for yourself and your behavior. But before you go down that well trodden road, try a new route. Instead of reacting defensively to a moody person, react on the offensive. Pray a quick prayer and then do something nice.

Marriage is a work of the heart
and heart surgery always hurts.

Conflict is an opportunity to make your marriage better. It's a signal that it's time to work. The work of marriage is a work of the heart and you and I both know that heart surgery hurts. HURTS. Ask God for the bravery and the strength to endure the truth about your shortcomings and the necessity of your spouse's needs, and then set about setting those above yours.

Whoa! Hold It!

Yeah, I know! In an ideal world that idea of putting your spouse's needs above your own would not be a scary one. Ideally, every he would be serving every her and every she would be serving every him, and everyone's needs would be more than adequately met. In the real world, this will take trust, practice, and a whole lot of Grace to even approach equity. Let's face it, getting two Modern Western minded spouses to acknowledge that each other's needs are even on par is a minor miracle.

Psst...that's one reason you're doing all this praying.

Simply changing your focus from yourself
to others can relieve some of that inner pressure.
This is a practice, a process. Don't get overwhelmed at the thought. Try focusing on one need at this time. Pick one important need of his and put that one need on top of your priority list. You can mentally see yourself giving one of his needs top billing, can't you? Make meeting that one need a daily habit and see what happens. Ask God to make you see the fruits of your hard work. Ask Him to reward you with an awareness of His rewards.

One of the first fruits will be a lessening of your own inner turmoil each time you take a moment to step
outside yourself to identify the needs of others. It takes a bit of the pressure off when you take the focus off of your own pressure cooker.

Give It the Full 40 Days

You tell yourself you want to be a better person. You may even say to yourself you're a good person. Where the real work happens, though, is in the practice of the preaching.

You have to do the work. You have to fail miserably. You have to start again and again. That's just how we do it. Those of you who play a musical instrument know how much bad music it takes to produce good music. Learning a new song takes a willingness to sound like a fool. It is only a seasoned musician with years of ugly music behind him who can pick up a new song and sound pretty decent on a first go. They've put in the work already.
Practice makes perfect!

Just like with my husband and I. In keeping his cool, he logged in all his practice hours before we even married. I'm putting them in now. Comparatively, he has the mastery of a maestro. Between him and the Lord, I'm screeching out the first recognizable notes of this song. In this particular aspect, I'm patiently being tutored by my betters. By following my husband's lead, I can hear how well it is supposed to go as I struggle along.

All those years of practice make it look so easy.


This has been a Wifey Wednesday post. For an even more Wifier Wednesday click on over to To Love Honor and Vacuum!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Saturday, September 21, 2013

7 Quick Saturday Takes

--1--  It's Fridurday!

I am a day behind because we went to the fair on Thursday. We homeschooled today and morphed our Friday into Saturday. We shall dub it Fridurday!

--2-- Suspicious Nefarious Plots Are Brewing

We saw an exotic bird show that featured trained macaws at the fair. It has generated a lot of dinnertime discussion. On a related note, we are suddenly interested in visiting South America around here. I suspect bird smuggling could be on the itinerary.

--3-- It's Getting Cheesey

Wednesday I made a cheddar cheese. It's drying on a rack and will be ready in a few months. Today I made a mozzarella. That's a fresh cheese that is ready straight from the pot.

It's not too shabby to be milking one goat and still have enough spare milk in order to store some of it in an aged cheese.

--4-- Eye Surgery Update

I'm still adjusting and healing. As they heal I have fluctuations in my near sight. So far my mid and far sight is pretty steadily excellent. Eye strain is still a factor and will be for a few more weeks. So far so good, though. Thank you for all your prayers.

--5-- Mr. Baby Update

He is a real Summer Baby. He's not too sure about these cool Autumn breezes. He can't decide whether to be offended by them or afraid of them. He is certain, though, that they are an aberration and must stop.

--6-- ACTS Retreat Coming to Amarillo

Our Lord calls to us in different ways and wants each and every one of us to come into His arms to share His love and graces. If you are a Christian woman who wants to draw nearer to our Lord, renew her spirituality, and give new depth and meaning to her prayer life, then an ACTS Retreat is for you. The next ACTS Retreat will be in Amarillo, Texas, October 17 to 20 at the Bishop de Falco Retreat Center. To register or for more information, go to http://www.actsamarillo.org today.

As one of the ACTS Team Members, I will see you there!

--7-- Speaking of the ACTS Retreat

The acronym stands for Adoration Community Theology and Service. It's a great experience, and no, it is not just for women. They have Men's ACTS and Teen ACTS as well, and they are in many states. Go to the ACTS Homepage and see if there is one coming up near you.

P.S. Jennifer Fulwiler has a link for a free personality test over at Conversion Diary in this week's 7 Quick Takes. Go have some fun!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Wifey Wednesday: Date Night Exclusive Report

Now that Mr. Baby is sleeping in five hour stretches, we are trying to rekindle the habit of Date Night. We usually window shop or picnic or something free-ish, but this week a supposedly "good" scary
movie was at the discount theater, The Conjuring (click here for Steven Greydanus' 60 Second review).

By the end of it, I was crawling up my husband's arm. In theory that's romantic, in practice, that's describing a person who was so freaked out that facing down an empty public restroom afterwards was only made possible by the terrors of a screaming bladder. On the way home and throughout the evening I processed the movie by discussing the creepy details and weighing the potential reality with the movie's reality. I commented again and again on the genius of the musical score which had lots of silent stretches that added to the realism of the experience. By bedtime, I'd analyzed and prayed my way into feeling much better. I drifted off to sleep, still chatting.

My husband, on the other hand, tossed and turned all night. We had a good scary movie experience, but romance? Not a chance.


This has been a Wifey Wednesday post. For an even more Wifey Wednesday click on over to To Love Honor and Vacuum!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Effective Catechesis

"How was your class today, Anna?"


"Really? That's great!"

"Yeah, great!"

"Great! What did you learn?"

"Oh, you know. Stuff."

"Yeah? What kind of stuff."

"Good stuff. The best stuff!"

"Oh yeah? What kind of good stuff?"

"The Jesus stuff!"

That, folks, is what's known as taking away the main idea.

Happy Catechetical Sunday everyone! 

Friday, September 13, 2013

7 Quick Takes in 3, 2, 1!

--3-- I Have 20/20 Vision!

Yesterday I had Lasik surgery done at the urging of my mother and husband. My last pair of glasses cost more than our iPad, so it made sense for us to invest in the surgery. It will pay for itself in just a few short years.

Today I am getting used to crystal clear sight and depth perception. That is one amazing procedure, I can tell you. I am feeling a bit drained and my eyes are not quite up to an extended session on the computer, so I'm going to truncate my post today. Only 3 for me today!

--2-- Since I skipped out on my Wifey Wednesday post this Wednesday in the preparation for being out of action this week, I thought I'd post several marriage positive takes to make up for it. The first one is for Couple Prayer. It's a nondenominational (not Catholic) resource that promotes couples praying together.  Research shows that couples that pray together tend to stay together. Couple Prayer is a program that you can purchase for individuals or for groups.

--1-- Retrouvaille

If your marriage has reached the crisis point or it has resolved into an uneasy truce, there is more for you. It can get better. You can rediscover your passion and love for one another. Retrouvaille is a weekend lifeline for couples for whom the stress of marriage has robbed them of each other.

From the website:

... a lifeline for Marriages

A program to Help Couples Heal and Renew their Marriages.
  • Do you feel lost, alone or bored in your marriage?
  • Are you frustrated, hurt or angry with your spouse?
  • Are you constantly fighting? Or, do you simply shut down?
  • Have you thought about separation or divorce?
  • Does talking about it only make it worse? 
    ... Retrouvaille provides marriage help!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Tune for Tuesday

Though the secret is out, I am still rather shy about my banjo playing. For the first time in, like, ever I will be playing in public in October.

To celebrate, I thought I'd share one of my favorite banjo players on the planet. I betcha if I hadn't warned you first, you'd never guess this was featuring a banjo.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Forgiveness: A How To and a Why To

If you're having trouble forgiving someone, you know that your life keeps circling back to that person and their actions. You can't keep yourself from discussing it, from thinking of it, from using that period as the go-to excuse for failures that truly have nothing directly to do with that situation. How do I know this? I have been there, circling that same drain.

Not forgiving someone is a trap. It makes that moment in time, that person the center of your life. You never, ever move on. If you don't move on, you don't ever get away from it.

You are still right there in that Hell.

To Be Crass...

Don't let crap rule your life.
Deal with it and move on.
It's in your best interests to forgive. It doesn't mean that what happened was right or good or anything. It just means that you are ready to set that person free from your desire to personally witness justice. You'll let God deal with that situation and that person.

Forgiveness is an admission that you are not in control,
You aren't now and you weren't then,
And you're moving on because
There is only one thing
You can actually

Forgiveness gets you out of the mess you were in. Finally. It gets you out mentally and emotionally. You get to finally be free.

Freedom! I highly recommend it.

So, here's the deal. If you find it hard to forgive, let me let you in on the Great Big Secret. Forgiveness is not a feeling. It's not a once and for all type of thing. It's a decision. You make it every time you are tempted to dwell on that person, that moment, that perfectly justifiable anger.

Here's how it works. You think of that person and you say, "Okay, that was bad, but I forgive it." Then you give yourself permission to think of something else. When your thoughts drift back you get to tell your thoughts, "Been there, done that. There's no more fruit here. I've forgiven."

It's that simple. It's a process. At first it's simply that: a mental action that you decide to make. After a period of time--days, weeks, months, years, or decades--you will find that this little mental ritual will not be necessary quite so often. If you had to struggle to think of anything else at first, then three times a day after a year or so is an improvement.

Here's the other thing. Some people with certain temperaments do have an easier time with this process. It's true. It's harder for you.

How do I know that? Because you're the type who reads this type of thing. You're like me: you need to learn people stuff. I've always needed Human Lessons. It's why I can write about it. Someone taught me or I went out and did what you're doing. I looked it up. There are those who seem born knowing this stuff. Not me. Not you either.

Life's complicated. People can wreck a person. It's tough going, for sure.

Just keep in mind that Christ told us we are to forgive someone 70 times 7 times. I'd always assumed that he meant to forgive someone every time they did something wrong. Now that I'm in the cycle of forgiveness I get it. He means sometimes you have to forgive a person that many times for just one bad moment. He's talking process here.

I hope you get it. Your life is worth the trouble it takes to forgive. In fact, you will only get your life back once you forgive.

Moment by blessed moment.

Friday, September 6, 2013

7 Quick Takes: Good, Bad, and Ugly

--1-- Ugly

Last month (more specifically the July/August polyglot that was the last 45 to 60 days) got away from me. We had the flu. We had a newborn. We had excuses! Literally. Though we homeschool and though it was summer, we were in such bad shape that our family physician and pediatrician kept trying to hand us official "Excused from School" slips. I took that as permission to flounder on couches and gripe with abandon, but the slips were unnecessary. My husband is a wonderful man who steps up to the plate every time he's called up to bat. Lucky for us, he's an excellent cook because he did more than his fair share of it these last few weeks.

Thank you, sweet guy!

--2-- Good

We have started homeschooling this week. The Kindergarteners are happily devouring their First Grade math program. The Fifth Grader is embarking on a study of the American experience from Greenland to the Moon. The whole lot of them are doing a Neighborhood Unit that will give me the excuse to take my homeschool group on a tour of our the fire station, airport, and local news station.

--3-- Good

I would like to ask prayers for an old, old friend of mine who is embarking on her career as a homeschooling mom. She, like me, has schoolteachers in the family tree, so there is a bit of self-imposed added pressure to do a stellar job. Since I don't have her permission to use her name, you may pray for her under the name of Scholastica, if you please. God will know who you mean.

--4-- Good

Since we are on the subject of homeschooling, I wanted to share this gem of a post from Tara. I like how she has been flexible enough and honest enough to modify her game. She has discovered that sometimes that wall that you beat your head against is a guide and not an obstacle. I also like how well she manages to put the purpose of raising children at the center of her homeschooling. Enjoy!

The Night Before Homeschooling…

..and all through the house, Tara is procrastinating.
That was the first line of my first blog post, written the night before our first official day of homeschooling.
That was three years ago, and much has changed.  The night before we start our fourth year of homeschooling seems like a good time to stop and reflect.

--5-- Bad
This one is so bad, it is ugly, horrific. In England, no one is interested in putting a stop to the abortion of girls simply because they have the misfortune of being girls. Feminism is so adamantly for abortion, that it is lining up against the birth of girls.
Like so many of the unthinking zealotry, do we now see that to be a feminist ultimately means to be against all things feminine? We modern thinkers have repackaged misogyny and pronounced it good. We have streamlined the ancient ideas that women are inconveniently fertile, that everything that makes us uniquely women is an inherent flaw. The result is the same and ages old philosophy: we women must be sterile and we must be as genderless as possible. Feminists are so for us, my friends, they are against us. As Victor Hugo describes this phenomenon, "It is to be a partisan of things to the point of becoming their enemy; it is to be so strongly for, as to be against." (Les Miserables by Victor Hugo)

Thank Heaven for Little Girls…Not

The UK law enforcement authorities decide that it is not worthwhile prosecuting abortionists who kill unborn baby girls…simply because they’re baby girls. Read about it here.
The silence of the feminist pro aborts in the face of this outrage is deafening. What more can one say except that these cruel women clearly prefer the “choice” of grown up females over the lives of unborn females. Why else would they be silent? What the pro aborts are saying is, “We would rather people continued to have the right to abortion for any reason than to have any restrictions at all on abortion. We would rather allow the killing of baby girls by selective gender-chosen abortion than see abortion restricted in any way.

--6-- Good
Speaking of modern heresies, modern dating has boiled down to using other people for entertainment purposes. Dating is more about culling your spouse from the herd than it is finding something(one) interesting to do Friday night. Here's a How-To on dating, in case this is all news to you...

Ask 20 people what a “date” means or looks like and you will get 20 different answers —different etiquette, different expectations, different experiences, different everything.
Apparently most of us are just making it up as we go along.
Done well, a date is an art and a mystery. Few things are more intoxicating and memorable than a truly great date. Unfortunately, it seems the proper date is becoming a lost art.

--7-- Good or Bad, Depending
Just to lighten things up a bit before you head off to your weekend jump here to hear the best a capella rendition of the Tetris theme song ever!