Wednesday, November 30, 2005

God has Good Ideas!

My son David (age 4 1/2) came up to me today and said "God had a good idea when he made me!" Obviously, my son has no self-esteem issues. But David was a good idea, as was my other son Isaac, and every single one of us. God created each of us unique and we each have a role to play in God's plan. What a powerful thought! What a self-esteem boost! What a responsbility! God does indeed have good ideas, and our very existance was one of them.

I posted the review for "One Baby Rose" today - http://www.spiritualwoman.net/Books/OneBabyRose.html
Look for it in January from SoulCake Press.

I also posted Don't Let Worry Ruin Your Career

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Miscellaneous Happenings

I finished reading "One Baby Rose" by Jim Bello today - an excellent book. It can truly be considered a right-to-life novel in that it explores the issues of abortion and euthanasia, but it is also a page-turner. I was only able to read a chapter or two at each setting, but it was so hard to put it down. I just wanted to keep going to see what would happen. I hope to write a review in the next couple days. The book will be available in January from SoulCake Press.

The boys and I made bread-dough Christmas ornaments today. I wish I could claim that I came up with that idea all by myself but it was actually a suggestion from the children's bulletin that our parish gives out at the children's mass. Here is the recipe: 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup salt, and 1/2 cup water. Mix until it sticks together but shouldn't stick to your hands. Put flour on your working surface and then roll out the dough and use cookie cutters or shape the dough with your hands or a knife. The dough can be left out to dry (it will take about a week) or put in a 400 degree oven until light brown. Then they can be painted. My mom used to make this dough for me which was something I had totally forgotten about until reading about it today. The kids had a great time.

I also mailed out the latest copy of the newsletter today and posted the corresponding articles on the website:

Making the Most of God's Gifts

How to Have the "Perfect" Christmas

Waiting For a "Star"

Profile in Faith: Hildegard of Bingen

Book Reviews:
Called to Communion by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now Benedict XVI)

A Resilient Life by Gordon MacDonald

The Unmistakable Touch of Grace by Cheryl Richardson

Sunday, November 27, 2005

One Baby Rose

Yesterday I received in the mail a review copy of "One Baby Rose," a new Catholic novel by Jim Bello to be published by SoulCake Press this January. I'm about one-third through it and so far I'm very impressed. It's so nice to be able to read a novel and consider it work! I'll be writing a review for my website as soon as it is done, so stay tuned for more information. If it continues in the same way it has been going, this is one you'll want to read!

In other news, I've been putting the finishing touches on the December/January newsletter that will be mailed out later this week. This issue features information on how to make the most of the gifts God has given us, how to have a "perfect" Christmas, a Profile in Faith on Hildegard of Bingen, and three book reviews including "The Unmistakable Touch of Grace" by Cheryl Richardson. To subscribe, visit my website at http://www.spiritualwoman.net

Friday, November 25, 2005

O Christmas Tree

We put up our Christmas decorations today. While our tree certainly win any awards in a design magazine, it is a tree full of memories for me. When Bernie and I were first married, we had a hand-me-down tree from his parents and the ornaments that went with it. It was a "Charlie Brown" type tree but it was the best we had and it was kind of them to give it to us. Over the years, we have made the tree our own. A couple years back we even bought our very own artificial tree that looks somewhat more tree-like.

It is the ornaments that truely make it ours, however. There are still a few choice ornaments from Bernie's family - they are part of his history and now our children's history. The majority, however, tell the story of our life together. There are ones that I have made, ones that I have bought or have been given showing each year we have been together. There are the baby's 1st Christmas ornaments from 2001 and 2002 when David and Isaac were born. And perhaps most special of all, the ornaments which they have made and hung themselves with such pride. Topping it off is a beautiful angel that my sister gave me. I look at our tree and I can't help but smile.

It is night now and the lights are glowing. While I know that Jesus's birth was almost certainly not in the middle of winter, I'm glad that the powers that were decided that was when we would celebrate. There is something so symbolic about the light coming into the darkness. In these shortest days of the year for us in the northern hemisphere, the light is so welcome and beautiful. Just like Jesus coming to bring light into our world, we welcome the celebration.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

A White Thanksgiving

We awoke this morning to a blanket of snow - our first snowfall of the year. The boys were ecstatic. They wanted to go outside at 6 am. I made them wait until the sun was fully up so there we were at 7:30 am shoveling the walk and making footprint patterns in the snow!

One of my favorite Thanksgiving memories was of a white holiday back when I was 14. That year, for whatever reason, my parents and I were spending the day just the three of us. We had significant snow, but I remember going out for a walk by myself through the world of white, and that it was just so peaceful. That has always stayed with me.

These days, my expectations for holidays are different. I still look forward to them, but there is also that layer of stress that comes with entertaining and taking care of small children. Did I really think that the boys would behave any better than usual today just because it says that it is a holiday on a calendar? Sometimes it seems like holidays are merely to be survived! Still, today is a day for giving thanks for all our blessings, and I am fortunate to have so many. I give thanks for my children, and my husband, and our warm home on a cold day, for the food on our table, for the walk that David and I took hand in hand through the snow, and the fact that the children are now in bed and I can relax a bit!

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope that your blessings are many as well.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Getting Ready for Christmas

I went out Christmas shopping tonight. Over the years I have discovered that I enjoy the Advent and Christmas season much more if the work is behind me. I realized that today was the last opportunity I was going to have to visit the mall before the mad rush. My husband and the boys were out visiting Grandma so I did a marathon three hour session and am happy to say with a couple exceptions, my shopping is done. I hope that my boys are happy with what Santa will be bringing them. Isaac only wanted "play-dough." He said Santa could surprise him! How I love that not-yet-commercialized state of life. I remember when all David wanted a couple years ago was a green tractor. This year the length of his list could rival the US Constitution! Needless to say, Santa will not be bringing him everything on his list.

I hate the commercialization of Christmas, but I remember as a child looking forward to the presents under the tree. So, I try to balance the present-giving with an emphasis on the religious traditions. David (and possibly Isaac) will take part in the Christmas pageant at Church. I want to get an Advent calendar to count down the days. I want to put the focus more on Jesus and less on the gifts that will be coming. Hopefully, that will stay with them long after the presents are forgotten.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Easy Christmas Ornament Idea

Yes, I realize it's not even Thanksgiving yet, but the boys and I were getting into the Christmas spirit today making some ornaments for my husband's tree at work. Here is an easy idea for making ornaments out of your old Christmas cards. Trace a circle onto cardstock - I find that tracing around the mouth of a large cup works well for this. Make a small half-moon at the top so that you can hole-punch a hole. Cut out. Now trace the same size circle onto two greeting card pictures. Cut out. Glue one picture to each side. Obviously you could get even more fancy using collage. Put a ribbon through the hole and you're done! This is quick and easy and the results are beautiful.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

A Remarkable Inspiration

Up near the altar today at mass were two baskets full of mittens of all shapes and sizes. Our pastor pointed out that an elderly member of our parish had spent the summer and fall knitting 120 pairs of mittens for the poor people of our community! What an amazing inspiration. Here was this old woman who cared enough about people being warm that she put her gifts to use to do something about it. What a wonderful illustration of today's gospel urging us to feed the hungry and clothe the naked for each time we do, we do it for Christ.

On a different note, many thanks to Ralph Ferraro of the Italian American Press who shared his booth with me at our parish craft fair. It is always nice to get out and spread the word about Spiritual Woman. I even sold a couple copies of my book - "Letters to Mary from a Young Mother" (one of which to the mayor's wife!)-I hope that it will be a blessing to anyone who reads them.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Exploring Social Justice

I know I have been woefully remiss in posting to my blog this week. I'm reminded of the person who said "I have no time to scrapbook - I'm too busy making scrap!" Nevertheless, I try to both live a meaningful life and find time to record it!

Last night, I met with my spiritual director. I can't even begin to tell you how much I look forward to these monthly meetings. It is a place where I can be truly honest and explore my relationship with God and others in a supportive context. A "spiritual friend" is a wonderful thing to have. If you are wondering if a spiritual director is right for you, you can find out more at:

Spiritual Direction

Anyway, after my meeting, my director mentioned that she was going over to Elms College to listen to a talk by Sr. Helen Prejean of "Dead Man Walking" fame, and she invited me to come along. Elms is my alma mater and I also worked there for several years, so I tend to always take advantage of an opportunity to go.

While I had heard of Sr. Helen, I confess that I have never read the book or seen the movie, and I had no idea what to expect. The auditorium was packed and the talk was amazing. What a dynamic woman! She comes from New Orleans and the headquarters for her ministry were wiped out by Hurricane Katrina, yet here she was still speaking, still pushing for equal rights, still fighting against the death penalty. In addition, she has a wonderful sense of humor which one would not expect on a topic as serious as that of the death penalty. She can be serious when called for, however, and as she recalled the story that inspired "Dead Man Walking," I felt ill and also amazed by the amount of forgiveness the father of a murdered boy had. As much as I am against the death penalty, I am also a parent, and it is hard to imagine how I would feel if faced with the horror of one of my children being murdered. It is not something I ever ever want to go through. Yet, this man did, and still he forgave, and reached out to the mother of the murderers. That is a true Christian.

The evening was very thought-provoking, as such evenings should be. And I am left wondering what my role should be in working for justice in this world.



Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Website Updates and New Art Contest

After a crazy on-the-go three days, it was so nice to jus be in the house all day with the kids. They had been so wound up, we all just needed to decompress and have an easy-going homeschooling day.

Tonight, however, I have been hard at work. Here are two new articles on the website:

Just in time for Thanksgiving:
Being Grateful by Susie Cortright

and for those who may be struggling with a husband's depression:
Lean on Me by Dionna Sanchez

Also, I am pleased to announce that Spiritual Woman is sponsoring an art contest focusing on "Where Do You Find God?" All media are welcome. All levels of expertise are welcome. There is a $300 first prize! Find out More at:

"Where Do You Find God?" Art Contest

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Using the Gifts God gave us

The gospel reading for today was the parable of the talents (Matthew 25: 14 - 30). Fr. John Connors, the pastor at my home parish of Holy Name in Springfield gave a wonderful sermon on risk-taking. He commented that using the gifts God has given us almost always involves taking a risk. The steward that hid his one talent was punished for hiding what he had. Because he wasn't willing to do anything with it, he lost it all.

That is very true with the gifts God gives us. We may be very good at sports, but if we don't exercise our performance will reflect that. If we are good at art, but never draw or pick up a paintbrush, that gift will never reach its full potential. And so it is with any of our talents. As Fr. John stated, Jesus never berated anyone for trying and failing, only for not trying.

It is our responsibility to get up every day and try to make the world a little bit better by using the gifts God has given us.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

New Website Updates

I've been busy tonight making updates on the website.

Here is a taste of the new articles:

Are You Forsaking God?"
by Janet Cassidy


One of my personal prayers is that God will show me when I am forsaking Him for false idols. If we take away the idol image of worship and statue, then a false idol becomes something we turn to in confidence and trust; something that deceptively appears to benefit us. Unfortunately, these false idols slip into our lives and we do not realize the place of importance we give them.




What Really Creates Health and Wellbeing?
by Margaret Paul, Ph.D.


Research indicates that a major factor in good health – more
important than genes, food, or exercise – is how we handle
stress.




and in our Creativity Section:

Family Scrapbook
Making Flower Scented Photo Cards
Creating your Own Jewelry

If you are interesting in receiving new articles via email, please sign up for the Free Spiritual Woman Ezine by sending an email to: SpiritualWomanNews-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

Friday, November 11, 2005

On the Birth of Jesus

I just finished watching a "Dateline NBC" special on the birth of Jesus. It was a very interesting look at the infancy narratives in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. What is true? What is parable intended to make a point to the audience for which the gospel was intended? The reality is, no one is really sure, and for those of us who believe, the historical accuracy is of little consequence. As the commentators said in conclusion, "What we do know is this . . . A young woman gave birth to a baby boy and changed the world."

I found it interesting that two of the experts interviewed were scholars whose books I have reviewed. Lesley Hazleton is the author of Mary: A Flesh and Blood Biography She was even nice enough to send me a thank you email after I had reviewed her book! It was wonderful to listen to her in person. While I didn't agree with everything in her book, she focused on reclaiming a human Mary. This was something I tried to do in my own book, Letters to Mary from a Young Mother.

The second expert they interviewed was Scott Hahn. I have reviewed his book "Lord Have Mercy: The Healing Power of Confession.

To find out more about any of the following books, please click on the underlined title:




Thursday, November 10, 2005

Rest in Peace, Mrs. Paquette

My 7th and 8th grade teacher died on Tuesday. Normally, that wouldn't be the cause for much sadness, but Mrs. Paquette was more than just my teacher, she was also my best girlhood friend's mother. Mrs. Paquette had the toughness required of anyone who chooses to teach junior high school students for a living, but we knew she also loved us. She tried to keep us on the straight and narrow as we navigated raging hormones, first loves, and teenage rebellion. Oh yes, and she also taught us algebra, biology, and history. The education we received from her was top notch and gave us a solid foundation for high school and beyond.

The last time I saw her was about ten years ago when she came to my one-woman senior art show in college. She and her husband retired down south and from my friend Teri's accounts, she was greatly enjoying her life. Although young (62) she lived long enough to see her first grandchild and enjoy him for a year. Teri said she died quickly with no warning - the way she would have wanted to go. And as her family celebrates her life and mourns her passing, my thoughts and prayers go out to them.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Another Gorgeous Fall Day

We are having the fall that we didn't get in October. I went out to vote today and then took the boys to the park. Who knows how many more opportunities we will have to do that? This is New England. It could snow anytime! The boys were having such fun in the swings. "Push me higher, mommy, I want to touch the sky!" Of course, David is a very cautious soul and his touching the sky is about 3 feet off the ground. He has gotten alot braver, however, and I am proud of him. For the longest time, he wouldn't even go near a swing! Isaac, however, swings with abandon, as high as he can. In any case, they were both smiling and laughing and it was wonderful to behold!

Monday, November 07, 2005

Psalm 139

Today's reading for the responsorial psalm:

"O Lord, you have probed me and you know me;
you know when I sit and when I stand;
you understand my thoughts from afar.
My journeys and my rest you scrutinize,
with all my ways you are familiar.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know the whole of it.
Behind me and before, you hem me in
and rest your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your spirit?
from your presence where can I flee?
If I go up to the heavens , you are there;
if I sank to the nether world, you are present there.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
if I settle at the farthest limits of the sae,
Even there your hand shall guide me,
and your right hand hold me fast."

I love Psalm 139. I find it so comforting. God is always with me. Sometimes it doesn't always feel that way, but he is.

The Chronicles of Narnia

I'm not sure why, but I received a big package at my P.O. Box today concerning the upcoming film: "Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" based on the book by CS Lewis. It had a lot of cool stuff in it including two big movie posters, one of which I am going to put in the boys' room, and a resource guide for educator's use with the movie. I was first introduced to these stories in the 4th grade when my teacher read them aloud to us. I admit the allegorical aspect of them was lost on me at the time. I've tried to have my boys listen to them on tape but they just weren't into it. Maybe in a few years! If anyone is interested, they offered the following site for additional resources:

http://www.narniaresources.com

Sunday, November 06, 2005

So Much To Do, So Little Time

I have been rather productive this evening. I've prepared three different article submissions to send out tomorrow. Anyone reading this, please say a prayer that they fall into favorable hands who will want to use them!

Somehow though, my list of what I want to get done workwise is always so much longer than the time I have to do it in. I really wish that there were two of me!

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Wherever Life may Lead . . .

Isaac did have a good birthday party today. It was unseasonably warm - about 70 degrees so we were able to sit out on the deck and enjoy the sunshine.

Later this afternoon, an old friend called me to tell us that it looks like he and his family are moving to Pheonix. They moved away from here two years ago in favor of southern Connecticut, but that is only about 1 1/2 hours away. This is a much more dramatic move. It is a good career opportunity for him, and while he still needs to hammer out the final details, I understand why he feels he needs to take advantage of it. Still, it is a difficult decision to uproot his family again, and I don't blame his wife at all for being more than a little upset. In times like this, it is hard to know what the right decision is. I certainly don't know what is best for his family and their future.

God has different plans for all our lives, and oftentimes those plans take us away from home. I always said that I would never leave Western Massachusetts, but now I'm not so sure. I love it here. I certainly have no intention of leaving. My family and my husband's family are here. I want to be here as they age to help care for them. I love my church community and the friends that I have made here in Springfield. Still, it may be at some point that God will send us someplace else.

Such decisions are never easy. I really don't know what I'd do, but I do know that I would pray and try to do what God wants. So, I will pray for my friend, that he and his wife will make the right decision as well.

For more information on discernment, check out:
http://www.spiritualwoman.net/discernment.html

Friday, November 04, 2005

And the Days Go By . . .

I've spent the past couple days getting ready for Isaac's birthday party tomorrow. The little man is turning three - it doesn't seem possible. On one end table in my home, I have pictures of the boys when they were very small - age 2 and under. Were they ever actually that small? They have grown into two such different human beings with such pronounced personalities.

David's mind is always going. He analyzes and overanalyzes everything. He is a perfectionist and easily frustrated (he was having such a day today - everything seemed to frustrate him!). But if you want to have an in-depth conversation on any topic, he is the child to do it with. Nothing escapes his notice. He likes to create, whether it be with blocks, drawing, or on the computer.

Isaac takes the world as it comes. He has a whole body laugh that you can't help but laugh along with. He loves to play games, listen to music, and sing the alphabet song at the top of his lungs!

They both love to read and are affectionate and loving. They are also very good buddies - just this week they decided that they wanted to sleep next to each other! I am so blessed to have both of them in my life. It will be very interesting to watch them grow into adulthood.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Striving to Fulfill Our Potential

Quote of the Day, once again from "Out of the Blue":

"Everyone has inside of him a piece of good news.
The good news is that you don't know how great you can be!
How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your
potential is!" - Anne Frank

Much of what I've been reading lately talks about the interconnectedness of all life. Whether or not you and I ever meet, our actions effect each other's lives and indeed the world at large. We are each responsible for making the world a little bit better. It therefore does us no good to be jealous of another's good fortune. We should rejoice at the accomplishments of each person striving to be the person God made them to be, for another's happiness also increases our own. Only when we all strive for that goal will the world be what God intended!


On another topic I have posted two new articles to my website:

Does Belief in God Better Your Health? and
Dating Within Your Faith

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Nurturing the Imagination

I continued to read "Out of the Blue" today and came across the following quote:

"Our imagination is a gift from God -- it is the bridge that connects our dreams to our realizations. The use of imagination fulfills dreams and allows miracles to come into our lives. It is the source of all creative power."

Imagination truly is a wonderful thing. It is so important that we give our children the time and quiet to develop theirs. In our hectic world, children often don't get as much downtime as they should. I can remember as a child just spending hours in the backyard or in the living room dreaming of things I would do or making up stories. Of course, many of the things I dreamed of them seem quite silly now, but I am so glad that I had the opportunity to weave those castles in the sky. I try to give my children ample time and space to do the same.

My dreams today seem so limited by reality. When I think of a new idea, I immediately come up with a 100 reasons why it wouldn't work. Maybe it is time for me to start dreaming a little more, to start imagining possibilities I haven't even thought of yet. Maybe I need to to send my inner critic on vacation and see what happens.