Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year!

When I was younger, I used to embrace a New Year with such enthusiasm. As a child, New Year's Day meant parades and a trip to my Aunt's house for great food and games. As a young adult, I would get together with friends New Year's Eve and stay up until midnight to count down with the ball. Now, firmly settled in adulthood and parenthood, I have to admit I will be asleep at 10 pm tonight and will quietly mark the New Year by changing the calendar that hangs on my refrigerator tomorrow.

Yesterday, I took out that new calendar and completed my annual tradition of copying over all the important dates to remember - birthdays and anniversaries and such. I also wrote down doctor's appointments already made for the beginning of the year as well as reminders to bring the cars in for service. It always jogs my memory as I flip through the pages of the old calendar. 2006 was not an easy year. My father had cancer (and thankfully recovered well). My nephew attempted suicide. I attended three funerals in June. David started school. On the plus side, some new career opportunities did open up for me, the children have continued to grow well, and I made a couple of new friends. I feel like I have deepened in my spiritual life as well.

As I look ahead to 2007, I no longer see a New Year as a fresh start. I know that tomorrow really won't be all that different from today. It's more of a reminder that time is passing and I need to make the most of it. I hope 2007 brings many blessings. I wish the same for all of you.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Wise Choices by Margaret Silf

I was so excited to get an advance copy of "Wise Choices: A Spiritual Guide to Making Life's Decisions" by Margaret Silf in the mail. Decision-making is sometimes quite the challenge for me, so I eagerly dived into its pages, searching for wisdom. I just posted a review on my site. Overall it was a very good book with very practical decision-making tools. I wish that it had talked more about prayer and attempting to discern what God wants you to do. Nevertheless, it does have much to offer. The book won't be coming out until April 2007, but is now available for pre-order on Amazon.


Serving in the Name of God

This was sent to me by Janet Cassidy today. It really made me stop and think.


SERVING IN THE NAME OF GOD

Our local newspaper quoted celebrity Jeff Probst of the television show Survivor as having this to say about his experience as a volunteer at a soup kitchen on Christmas:

"It’s a chance to remember how fortunate you are."

Every time I read a quote like this it makes me cringe. The sick help us appreciate our health. The poor help us appreciate being employed, the disabled help us appreciate our abilities and the lost help us appreciate our faith.

It’s as if the sole purpose of those less fortunate is to make us feel grateful for our own status in life.

When we serve with this attitude, the good work is still accomplished, but it is done without love. And without love, there is no dignity. Without love, there is no justice. Without love, it’s simply a self-serving act.

We were so honored by God when, at the service of the world, Jesus came in love and raised us up. Because we are loved by God, dignity and justice belongs to each of us. This is what we can offer others when we serve—love, dignity and justice.

Send an e-mail to cassidycomments@yahoo.com with the word "subscribe" in the subject line if you would like to receive future issues of Cassidy Comments.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Holy Innocents

This is one of the saddest days in the Church calendar, especially coming as it does in between the feasts of Christmas and the celebration of Mary, Mother of God (also known as New Year's Day and the World Day of Peace).

The Gospel of Matthew tells us:

When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi, he became furious. He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vacinity two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi. Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet:

"A voice was heard in Ramah,
sobbing and loud lamentation;
Rachel weeping for her children,
and she would not be consoled,
since they were no more."


Matthew 3:16-18

I don't think that there is a mother in the world who doesn't cringe at the thought of her baby or toddler dying, especially in the cruel manner described above. As Mary and Joseph and the child Jesus fled to Egypt, these babies suffered at the hands of evil. All these years later, we take time in this joyous week to remember and weep with their mothers.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Vacation Days

David and my husband are both on vacation this week so we have been enjoying our family time as well as my husband and I each getting a little alone time as well. Today I took the boys to our Main City Library as well as to the George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum. I hadn't been to that museum in years and in the interim they have built a wonderful hands-on children's room where the kids can make crafts and have a great time. The boys really enjoyed it. They colored pictures and made medieval mosaics and castle crowns (It's Middle Ages Week at the Museum). I also managed to get them to look at one gallery which has giant plaster casts of Classical and Renaissance sculptures.

Anyway, as I was walking through the library, a woman looked at me and said, "Boy, I'll bet that you'll be glad when they are back in school!" I told her that I actually enjoy having my children around. How sad it is that most people don't expect you to enjoy spending time with your children. Yes, children can be exhausting. When they are tired and cranky and uncooperative, parenting can be completely frustrating. And yes, I do enjoy my alone time to get the things done on my to-do list that just don't mesh well with having two little children around. But I desperately enjoy my boys. They are interesting to talk to, fun to play games with, and I love to cuddle up with them reading stories. All too soon they will be grown up and living their own lives. I will have all the alone time I could ever hope for. For right now, I'm very happy to have my little boys around.

Thank you!

Thank you to the secret Santa who purchased an iPod from Amazon.com after clicking through from my site! As a reminder, if you ever want to purchase an item from Amazon, simply click through any of the links on my site (like the one below) and a portion of your purchase will go to support Spiritual Woman. You can purchase any item you want after you reach Amazon's website.
Thanks again for your support!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Merry Christmas!

I will be taking a Christmas blog break for the next few days. Meanwhile I will leave you with the reason for the season: the scriptural Nativity story. I wish you and your families a very blessed Christmas.

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment when Aquirinius was governor of Syria. So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town. And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you; you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:

"Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."

When the angels went away from them to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go then to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us." So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.
Luke 2:1 -19

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A New Night Before Christmas

This was sent to me by my friend Martha. I don't know who wrote it, but there is much truth here.


A New Night Before Christmas

T'was the night before Christmas
and all through the town
Not a sign of Baby Jesus
was anywhere to be found.


The people were all busy
with Christmas time chores
Like decorating, and baking,
and shopping in stores.
No one sang "Away in a manger,
no crib for a bed".
Instead, they sang of Santa
dressed-up in bright red.


Mama watched Martha Stewart,
Papa drank beer from a tap.
As hour upon hour
the presents they'd wrap

When what from the T.V.
did they suddenly hear?
'Cept an ad.. which told
of a big sale at Sears.

So away to the mall
they all flew like a flash...
Buying things on credit...
and others with cash!

And, as they made their way home
From their trip to the mall,
Did they think about Jesus?
Oh, no... not at all.

Their lives were so busy
with their Christmas time things
No time to remember
Christ Jesus, the King.

There were presents to wrap
and cookies to bake.
How could they stop and remember
who died for their sake?

To pray to the Savior...
they had no time to stop.
Because they needed more time
to "Shop til they dropped!"


On Wal-mart! On K-mart!
On Target! On Penney's!
On Hallmark! On Zales!
A quick lunch at Denny's

From the big stores downtown
to the stores at the mall
They would dash away, dash away,
and visit them all!

And up on the roof,
there arose such a clatter
As grandpa hung icicle lights
up on his brand new step ladder.


He hung lights that would flash.
He hung lights that would twirl.
Yet, he never once prayed to Jesus...
Light of the World.

Christ's eyes... how they twinkle!
Christ's Spirit... how merry!
Christ's love... how enormous!
All our burdens... He'll carry!


So instead of being busy,
overworked, and uptight
Let's put Christ back in
Christmas and enjoy
some good nights!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A Clean Heart Create in Me, O God

I went to my parish's Penance Service this evening. It has been a year since I last went to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and was obviously overdue. The way they work it is to have a Liturgy of the Word service including a homily. The priests (approximately 20 of them) are scattered throughout the Church. The penitents then line up and as you get to the front of the line, you take whatever priest is then available, unless, of course you are waiting for someone in particular in which case you can step to the side and wait for your chosen priest to be available. I usually leave the priest choice in God's hands and I take whomever is available.

This evening's priest of choice told me I should start going to confession every two weeks, or at the very least once a month. He told me that a regular confessor could really help me in my life. Now, before you get any ideas, it wasn't that my confession was so heinous he felt that I was in need of immediate remedial action. He recommends this to everyone. I know it is something I should be doing. Usually I leave confession feeling completely unburdened. Tonight, I feel like I have an assignment and that I need to take this next step in my spiritual development. At the very least, I definitely have something to talk about at my next spiritual direction meeting.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Discern What is of Value

David had to open several flaps on his Advent calendar today (he had been rather remiss the past few days). One a few days back had the instruction to read Philippians 1:9-11. It struck me as a very insightful verse:

And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Giving our Worries to God

"Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God" Philippians 4:6

At our last monthly meeting, my spiritual director asked me if I ever just turn over my worries to God and then try to forget about them, trusting that they are in God's hands. Me? Not stress? Not worry? That's almost unthinkable! No, I'm more like the widow in scripture who kept beating on the judge's door until he answered her petition. I keep praying when I have a problem, for years sometimes, waiting for answers to reveal themselves. Sometimes, truly, the silence is deafening, and yet, I trust that God hears my prayers and will answer in His time, not mine. As someone once told me, God has three answers to prayer: "Yes," "Not yet," and "Actually, I have a better idea!"

Yet, St. Paul tells us to give our worries to God. While I willingly give my concerns to God, I tend to hold on to part of them. I trust God but I still worry, mostly that I am going to screw things up. I know God has this great plan for our lives, but I feel like I'm going to miss the signs telling me which way to go. "Letting Go and Letting God" is not my strong point.

I think that moms, especially, are prone to worry. After all, we are not only responsible for our own lives, but also for the children whom God has entrusted to our care. That is some pretty awesome responsibility. As this is the Christmas season, I was thinking of Mary and the birth of Jesus. I wonder if Mary worried as she made the difficult journey to Bethlehem. I wonder if she was concerned about their being "no room at the inn," or felt afraid at the thought of giving birth among the animals in a stable. I wonder if she had the usual mother's concerns, about the way Jesus was growing and developing and whether she was preparing him well for the role he would play in human history. I wonder if there were times she just sat down and wanted to cry out of frustration and exhaustion. I like to think so. I think that Mary understands our every emotion as mothers, even our worries. But I also think that she was good at handing her concerns over to God. She accepted God's will in all things and trusted that all was for God's glory, even as her son was dying on the cross and she was the mother of a criminal. I need to follow her example.

Holiday Stress in Children

This is a great article on CatholicExchange on Holiday Stress in Children. This is so true. I can so tell when my children have not had enough sleep. Unfortunately, they will spend most of this week going to bed late, eating too many goodies, and generally over-excited. I keep telling myself, it is only one week! Hopefully, we will all survive!

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Christmas Tree

Last night I convinced Bernie to take an evening off from his regular TV fare (it helped that his favorite shows were repeats) and watch one of my favorite Christmas Programs with me. "The Christmas Tree" was a made-for-TV movie back in 1996 starring Andrew McCarthy and Julie Harris. I had taped it back then. Of course, the quality of the tape isn't that good and it is such a hoot to see the commercials from then, but the story is wonderful.

Based on a true story, it tells the tale of Richard, a landscape architect, who searches each year for the perfect tree to grace Rockefeller Center for Christmas. He finds the tree he desires on the property of an isolated convent. When he goes to ask the sisters that live there about the tree, he is directed to Sr. Anthony, a woman with a very unique relationship with the spruce, she affectionately calls "Tree." The story tells of the developing relationship between Richard, Sr. Anthony and the famous "Tree." I almost know it by heart, but it makes me cry every time I see it. Even Bernie grudgingly admits it is a good movie. Unfortunately, the movie is not available for purchase, but the book it is based on is. While I have not read the book, I'm sure the story is just as heartwarming. I have enclosed the Amazon link below.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Reason for our Hope

"They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength,
they will soar as with eagles' wings;
They will run and not grow weary,
walk and not grow faint." Isaiah 40:31

We all grow tired sometimes. I know that there are many days I am longing for a nap, as much out of emotional as physical exhaustion. Life can often seem like too much to take. But this verse reminds us that we have reason to hope. We can place our trust in Jesus. We, too, can soar with the eagles!

"Babies" project


I read an article today about a "Babies" project in the "National Right to Life News." It is an effort to put a visual face on abortion by creating a poster of baby pictures representing the number of babies whose lives are ended by abortion each day (approximately 3750). The original Babies project was done using pictures from magazines and catalogues which are copyrighted and therefore cannot be reproduced. So they are asking people to send them baby photos of their children to be used in the piece. I sent along photos of my two (that is David on top and Isaac on the bottom), and I am asking you to do the same to help this worthwhile project. JPG files can be emailed to jlittle@wrtl.org or hard copies can be mailed to: 9356 E. Ash Avenue, Solon Springs, WI 54873. Please include a note giving them permission to reproduce your photos.

Thank you!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A Christmas Indulgence

Each Christmas Season, I like to indulge in a holiday-themed novel. Its my little vacation amidst the chaos. This year I chose "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens. While I have seen countless movies and even appeared in my 4th grade play as the "Ghost of Christmas Past," I had never read the actual book.

It is rather short (106 pgs) in the version I had, and there were parts of the story that I had not been exposed to before. Even though I knew everything would turn out well in the end, I enjoyed it. It is an incredible story of redemption. We all have the chance to get rid of the "Scrooge-ness" in ourselves and start again tomorrow. Christ gives us this opportunity and what a wonderful gift it is!

Let them Come to the Water

I just posted a new article by Karen Ford, Let Them Come to the Water. It was a wonderful reflection on the beauty of creation, and for those of us in the midst of cold weather, a reminder that summer will once again come.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Sharing the Christmas Story with Children

I just posted a new article on the Christmas section of my website on Sharing the Christmas Story with Children. Visit it here:

http://www.spiritualwoman.net/Christmas/SharingChristmasStory.html

Karina Fabian Virtual Book Tour

Today I am pleased to welcome Karina Fabian for a stop on her Virtual Book Tour promoting "Infinite Space, Infinite God," a new science-fiction anthology.

PFM: What is Infinite Space, Infinite God?

KF: For me or for the readers? For readers, ISIG is great character-driven SF with a Catholic theme that makes you think. You want advanced technology? It's got clones, genetically engineered humans and human/animal hybrids; interplanetary and interstellar civilizations and time travel.



You want adventure? It's got murder mysteries, battles big and small, covert operations, alien abductions, explorers lost in space and daring rescues.



You want faith?It's got miracles, Marian apparitions, Church politics, and ordinary people at all levels of faith growing in their understanding of God and what it means to be Catholic. And--if you like to learn along with your fun--in addition to the stories, it has introductions that discuss different aspects of Catholic faith and practice--from saints to religious orders--and of course, the Church's participation in science over the centuries.



For my husband Rob and me, it was a chance to play in the genre we love and to share our faith. Just like creating our children, creating stories and books is a romantic venture for us. We'd go out to dinner at a fancy restaurant and discuss stories or hammer out introductions over candlelight and soft music. Beats a noisy movie and stale popcorn any day!



Finally, for me personally, it was a chance to learn more about my faith. As a cradle Catholic, there were things I took for granted that I just knew. As I read and edited the stories in this anthology, however, I had to really examine some issues--from the ban on female priests to the nature of Confession. Even now, I'm still asking and learning. You know what? That's what really excites me about this book, and what drives me to get it out there for Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

PFM: What prompted you to write this book?

KF: We'd edited a Christian SF anthology, Leaps of Faith, for FrancisIsidore E-Press, and had a lot of fun with it. Unfortunately, the publisher, Kathryn Lively (a great Catholic writer, btw) went on to other things and FrancisIsidore went out of business, so there was no chance for a Leaps II. We'd had a Catholic publisher interested in Leaps, but who wanted all Catholic stories, so we took a chance and started compiling ISIG. Sadly, he couldn't convince his company to take a chance on genre fiction, but luckily for us and readers, Twilight Times Books has picked it up.

What do you hope to accomplish with this book? Highest hopes: "What's Pope Benedict XVI reading? Infinite Space, Infinite God--the surprise #1 New York Times' best seller, which combines all the best of science fiction with deeply seeded elements of the Catholic faith."

Realistic hopes:

#1 People enjoy the book. That's what fiction is about--losing yourself in fantastic worlds crafted by skillful writers.

#2 People learn from the book: When a reader comes away with something more than just a fun time, you've snagged the gold ring as a writer. We just got a review from "Chewing the Bone" in which the reviewer (a Christian) said that she'd learned a lot about Catholicism. It made my day to read that. I hope, too, that Catholics will learn more about themselves from it.

Along those lines, I'm hoping to bust the myths that the Catholic Church is anti-science and that religion and science are at natural odds with each other. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

#3 The book makes people think. One of the great traditions of science fiction is to present today's and tomorrow's problems in a venue that allows people to consider the issue. We've tackled a lot of current issues in ISIG, especially in the area of genetics and cloning, as well as some age-old issues like "Why did Jesus die for us?" We'd love to have some high schools or universities pick up ISIG for a literature or theology-in-practice course.

Who do you think might enjoy this book? Catholics who like science fiction or who are interested in imagining the future of the Church and its followers. However, if you like science fiction, you'll like ISIG, regardless of your faith denomination. Even though the theme of Catholicism runs through every story, none are "preachy" or purposely evangelical in nature. We wanted to express the faith through the actions of the characters as they struggle with overwhelming challenges, fantastic adventures, or problems both probable and improbable.

Infinite Space, Infinite God is not just for Catholics. It's for anyone who wonders "What if?"

PFM: Is there anything else that you would like to tell our readers?

KF: Infinite Space, Infinite God is out now in electronic format, and
should be coming out in print in August. To learn more about the stories in ISIG and its intrepid crew of contributors, check out http://isigsf.tripod.com. We have some top-notch talent. If you enjoy the stories in ISIG, please go to our website, http://isigsf.tripod.com/id1.html and meet the authors. Many are accomplished novelists or story writers and you can find links to their websites there. Oh, and please come visit my website at www.fabianspace.com. I blog about writing, faith, and homeschooling and there's a list of my other writings and news as well.

PFM: Thanks for stopping by! I wish you the best of luck with "Infinite Space, Infinite God!"

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Importance of Forgiving Yourself

On a recent episode of "7th Heaven," Rev. Eric Camden had suffered a heart attack and made a temporary sojourn into heaven. While there, he was able to pick out some non-traditional gifts for his children. For his oldest daughter Mary, he chose an eraser which would allow her to forget some of the mistakes of her past, thereby allowing her to stop compounding those mistakes.

What a wonderful gift! Who among us wouldn't like to forget some of the things we have done or failed to do in our lives? We know we can always seek God's forgiveness for our mistakes. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we have the opportunity to be washed clean. Jesus suffered and died to save us from our sins. We know that if we approach God with true contrition, forgiveness is ours for the asking.

Human forgiveness is not always so easy to obtain. There are amends to make to those whom we have hurt. Sometimes, sadly, there are consequences of our actions that cannot be changed. We simply have to move on and make the best of our wounded relationships.

Perhaps the hardest forgiveness to come by is the forgiveness of ourselves. Memory is a wonderful thing. It allows us to look back and recall all those different threads that have come together to weave the fabric of our lives. Over the years, the bad times also seem to recess in importance thereby making it easier to forgive others who have hurt us in our lives. And yet, we do seem to remember the times we have hurt others. We remember our bad choices, harsh words we may have spoken in anger, and times that we just chose to walk away rather than take action. Perhaps remembering these things does serve a purpose in that, hopefully, we won't repeat the same error. But once we have sought and received God's forgiveness, we need to make an effort to forgive ourselves. Our mistakes have brought us where we are and there is nothing so bad in our lives that God can't bring some good out of it. We need to put the past behind us and move forward from where we are, trusting that God is there to guide our steps.

Friday, December 08, 2006

I believe in Santa, do you??

Adventure With Grandma (Just forwarding a good story--not my story!)

I remember my first Christmas adventure with Grandma. I was just a
kid. I remember tearing across town on my bike to visit her on the day my
big sister dropped the bomb: "There is no Santa Claus," she jeered.
"Even dummies know that!"

My Grandma was not the gushy kind, never had been. I fled to her that
day because I knew she would be straight with me. I knew Grandma always
told the truth, and I knew that the truth always went down a whole lot
easier when swallowed with one of her world-famous cinnamon buns. I
knew they were world-famous, because Grandma said so. It had to be true.

Grandma was home, and the buns were still warm. Between bites, I told
her everything. "No Santa Claus!" she snorted.
"Ridiculous!
Don't believe it. That rumor has been going around for years, and it
makes me mad, plain mad. Now, put on your coat, and let's go."

"Go? Go where, Grandma?" I asked. I hadn't even finished my second
world-famous, cinnamon bun. "Where" turned out to be Kerby's General
Store, the one store in town that had a little bit of just about
everything. As we walked through its doors, Grandma handed me ten
dollars. That was a bundle in those days. "Take this money," she said,
"and buy something for someone who needs it.
I'll wait for you in the car." Then she turned and walked out of
Kerby's.

I was only eight years old. I'd often gone shopping with my mother,
but never had I shopped for anything all by myself. The store seemed big
and crowded, full of people scrambling to finish their Christmas
shopping. For a few moments I just stood there, confused, clutching
that ten- dollar bill, wondering what to buy, and who on earth to buy
it for.

I thought of everybody I knew: my family, my friends, my neighbors,
the kids at school, the people who went to my church. I was just about
thought out, when I suddenly thought of Bobby Decker. He was a kid
with bad breath and messy hair, and he sat right behind me in Mrs.
Pollock's grade-two class. Bobby Decker didn't have a coat. I knew
that because he never went out for recess during the winter. His mother
always wrote a note, telling the teacher that he had a cough, but all
we kids knew that Bobby Decker didn't have a cough, and he didn't have
a coat. I fingered the ten-dollar bill with growing excitement. I
would buy Bobby Decker a coat!

I settled on a red corduroy one that had a hood to it. It looked real
warm, and he would like that. "Is this a Christmas present for
someone?" the lady behind the counter asked kindly, as I laid my ten
dollars down. "Yes," I replied shyly. "It's .... for Bobby." The nice
lady smiled at me. I didn't get any change, but she put the coat in a
bag and wished me a Merry Christmas.

That evening, Grandma helped me wrap the coat in Christmas paper and
ribbons (a little tag fell out of the coat, and Grandma tucked it in
her Bible) and wrote, "To Bobby, From Santa Claus" on it -- Grandma
said that Santa always insisted on secrecy. Then she drove me over to
Bobby Decker's house, explaining as we went that I was now and forever
officially one of Santa's helpers.

Grandma parked down the street from Bobby's house, and she and I crept
noiselessly and hid in the bushes by his front walk. Then Grandma gave
me a nudge. "All right, Santa Claus," she whispered, "get going."

I took a deep breath, dashed for his front door, threw the present
down on his step, pounded his doorbell and flew back to the safety of the
bushes and Grandma. Together we waited breathlessly in the darkness
for the front door to open. Finally it did, and there stood Bobby.

Fifty years haven't dimmed the thrill of those moments spent
shivering, beside my Grandma, in Bobby Decker's bushes. That night, I realized
that those awful rumors about Santa Claus were just what Grandma said
they were: ridiculous. Santa was alive and well, and we were on his team.

I still have the Bible, with the tag tucked inside: $19.95.

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

This feast is often confused with the Annunciation. In fact, David colored a picture of the Annunciation in school today (although he also went to mass where our pastor clearly differentiated between the two events). Maybe it is because we have a good story to go along with that event of the Angel Gabriel coming to see Mary to tell her that she was to become the mother of Jesus. But the Immaculate Conception refers to Mary's conception in the womb of her mother, St. Anne. While Mary was certainly conceived via traditional means, we believe that she was conceived without original sin, that tendency to do wrong that the rest of us are born with.

Still the two events are connected. Mary was conceived without sin precisely because she was someday going to be the mother of Jesus. It was all part of the plan. Just for the record, though, we celebrate the Annunciation on March 25 - nine months before Christmas, and we celebrate Mary's birthday September 8, nine months from today.

Speaking of Mary, however, I wonder if she ever found parenting to be a complete mystery. Jesus was obviously not your run-of-the-mill boy. I wonder if she ever thought to herself, "Just what exactly am I supposed to do with him?" I wonder if she had to struggle to figure it out like the rest of us do.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Busy, Busy, Busy

For my regular readers who may be wondering where I am, I am still alive and well (well, I have a nagging cough but I am still alive). Life is just very busy right now. The boys started the Christmas pageant practice tonight. David is going to be a star and Isaac is a stable animal. I'm also busy with a web design project right now so time is at a premium. I hope to blog more tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Advent Prayer

I went to visit my spiritual director today and she gave me this Advent prayer:

Faithful Companion,

in this Advent season we pray:



to live deeply, with purpose,

to live freely, with detachment,

to live wisely, with humility,

to live justly, with compassion,

to live lovingly, with fidelity,

to live mindfully, with awareness,

to live gratefully, with generosity,

to live fully, with enthusiasm.

Help us to hold this vision

and to daily renew it in our hearts,

becoming ever more one with you.

Amen.

Six words turned Susan to the Light

To all of you who helped out Sophia Press with my previous post, thank you. Here is their most recent email. - Patrice


Six words
turned Susan
to the Light

"It was after midnight when I read them," said Susan. "Brian had abandoned us soon after Joan was born. We never saw him again. For months I'd been living on black coffee, cheap cigarettes, loads of valium, and little sleep.


"I'd stay up half the night reading -- Marx, Freud, Nietzsche, Sartre -- anything
I thought might give me answers. One night I picked up Dorothy Sayers'
translation of Dante's Inferno. In her introduction, Sayers says that the Inferno
can only be understood as "the drama of the soul's choice" between good and evil.
Heaven, Hell, or Purgatory. Death leaves us in that place where,
by our choices, we put ourselves: with God, or far from Him.

"The drama of the soul's choice," Susan said. "Those six words stopped me cold.
As free creatures, we each hold in our hands our own doom . . . or salvation.
In Dante's Inferno -- and in life -- where we are tells us who we are.

"Where was I? Cornered, gaunt, desperate, suicidal -- a prodigal daughter
with an infant child, driven back to a cramped room in my parents' home,
humiliated but not yet humble. In the drama of my own soul's choice,
I had chosen myself . . . and gotten myself.

"The drama of the soul's choice. Those words made sense
of Dante's Inferno; they made sense of my wrecked life; and
they convinced me -- a lifelong skeptic -- that since the Church's
explanation of my plight was convincing, I ought,
for the first time in my life, to consider
Catholicism as an answer."

Susan


Elsewhere I've told how those six words led Susan swiftly to the Bible,
and then to St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, G.K. Chesterton,
Cardinal Newman, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Therese of Lisieux,
St. Maximilian Kolbe, and other great Catholic men and women.
She took instruction from the local priest and began wearing
the Brown Scapular and praying the Rosary daily.

After fifteen years of exemplary life as a Catholic wife and
mother, Susan solemnly offered her life to God
for the return to the Church of a friend. Less than a year
later, just after she turned 40, the friend returned
to the Sacraments and Susan died of cancer.

* * *

I know about this, because, about a year after those six words
sparked her conversion, I married Susan, intertwining the drama
of my life's choices with hers. Soon I was Catholic, too, and together,
for fifteen years (and despite many troubles), we strove to discern
the will of God and then to do it, even as illness gripped her and death rushed in.

* * *

At the Pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem in Jesus' time, the ill and infirm
gathered daily, waiting for an angel to come down and stir the waters.
The first person who entered the water after the stirring would be healed.

With six words from a book, Susan's soul was stirred -- perhaps by an angel,
maybe by God Himself -- and, spiritually, she was healed. Six words changed
the direction of her life, bringing her into the Church. She drew after her me and
our children, and later helped literally hundreds of thousands of other souls.
For in 1983, a few years before she fell sick, Susan and I founded
Sophia Institute Press as a non-profit press to publish solid Catholic books
like those that first drew her into the Church.


The Temperament God Gave You (book cover)

A Mother's Rule of Life (book cover)

By means of Sophia Institute Press, the six words that stirred Susan's soul blossomed into 120 billion words: since its founding, the Press has published 2 million Catholic books by scores of good Catholic authors including St. Francis de Sales, St. Thomas Aquinas, Bishop Fulton Sheen, St. Robert Bellarmine, Fr. Lawrence Lovasik, and even (to return the favor) a book by Dorothy Sayers.

Before combat, thousands of Catholic soldiers in Iraq pray with our edition of Fulton Sheen's Wartime Prayer Book.

You yourself may have grown closer to Christ through our editions of Angel in the Waters, The Temperament That God Gave You, A Mother's Rule of Life, Finding God's Will For You or one of our other fine books.

Finding God's Will for You (book cover)

Angel in the Waters (book cover)


Now, weak sales
threaten to close us

In recent months, however, slow sales have brought us up short, leaving us with an
empty checkbook and more debt than we can manage. Although my recent fundraising
efforts have been aggressive and mildly successful, this morning we still have over
$30,000 in overdue bills. I've had to let go out of print many of the books we worked
so hard to publish, including the book by Dorothy Sayers.

If this trend continues, we'll just wither away. Therefore, using credit, I'm e-mailing to
250,000 Catholics this tale of the six words that stirred a despairing woman's heart
and brought forth 2 million Catholic books.

With just $1,
you can keep us in existence.

If you give a dollar, and everyone who receives this does, too, our doors will stay
open; our books stay in print; and we'll have enough to publish two million more books! Considering how God used just six words with Susan, imagine how He will be able to
use 120 billion words in another 2 million Catholic books.

So please help -- either with a contribution
at our website (www.sophiainstitute.com/donate.htm)
or by purchasing one or more of our books
there -- for yourself, or as Christmas gifts.
Please forward this email to your friends,
and pray for me -- and for Susan.

Sincerely yours,

John's Barger's signature

John L. Barger, Publisher
Sophia Institute Press

1-800-888-9344

Box 5284,
Manchester, NH
03108 USA
1-603-641-9344

Monday, December 04, 2006

In the Womb - Animals

I read an article today about a new "National Geographic" special called - "In the Womb: Animals" which shows ultrasounds of various animals gestating. It spoke about how no one who saw this program could imagine harming one of these innocent animals forming in their mother's wombs. Yet some of these same people will argue that a human fetus is just a "mass of cells" that the mother has the right to do whatever she wants with.

Something to think about, isn't it?

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Happy Advent!

Advent officially begins today! The waiting has begun. I got most of my shopping done last week. I do this on purpose. As much as some people lament the "Christmas" creep (I will admit, Christmas decorations in October is a bit much!), I certainly don't mind sales a bit early. I like to get the commercial aspect of Christmas out of the way, so that then I can focus on the spiritual aspect of Advent.

The boys and I made a paper Advent wreath today that we have taped to our window. We have paper "flames" so that we can just tape the appropriate number of flames on the candles. We have two Advent calendars. I had bought one and then the next day David came home with one from school so now each boy has his own. Advent calendars generally start with December 1st, so for the past three days, they have run downstairs in the morning, shouting that they need to "open the flaps!" I think that this Advent will be very enjoyable with those two around.

Meanwhile, we are all suffering from colds. Lots of coughing and runny noses in our house. I would have really enjoyed a nap today, but as we all know, Moms don't get sick days, especially when everybody else in the house is sick, too. Hopefully, we will all feel better soon.

Friday, December 01, 2006

"Bouquets of Love" by Karen Ford

I work in a very virtual world. Most of the people I write for or network with I have never met or even spoke to on the phone, yet I am so thankful for every one of them. The religious writing community is really a wonderful one.

But here is an article by someone who I actually know in person! My friend Karen Ford is an editor over at Catholic Exchange. Our children go to school together and we get to hang out at sports events. Today she had an article on Catholic Exchange about her daughter Elizabeth. Check it out at http://www.catholicexchange.com/en/node/7685

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Amazon Gift Certificates

Searching for that perfect gift for a hard-to-buy person on your list. Give an Amazon.com gift certificate. Click through below. Each purchase helps support Spiritual Woman! Thank you!

Answering the Call

"As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, 'Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.' At once they left their nets and followed him."
Matthew 4:18-20


As I read this Bible passage this morning, I was amazed at the speed with which Simon and Andrew answered the call from Jesus. I have read this passage many times, but for some reason today that fact struck me with force. They just went. A total stranger came up to them and told them to follow and they did. They gave up their way of life and all that they have. We know St. Peter was married. Can you imagine that conversation when he came home? And yet, they followed.

Answering Jesus' call requires sacrifice and sometimes, I admit, I'm not always that willing to make it. I admire the single-mindedness of Peter and Andrew. I admire their willingness to do whatever He asked. It reminds me of the cost of discipleship and it gives me something to aspire to.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Claiming Joy

"Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice;
let the sea and what fills it resound;
let the plains be joyful and all that is in them!"
Psalm 96:11-12

It can be hard to be joyful. Sometimes it seems like there is so much in life to weigh us down. But, if you really look, you can find joy in the simplest moments of life.

Tonight David and I went out for a walk in the chilly evening. All bundled up in our hats and coats and mittens, David began singing Christmas songs and I joined along. We had so much joy just walking along singing! Sometimes a joyful moment can take you by complete surprise!

Monday, November 27, 2006

What Do You Want Most for Christmas?

It's Christmas-list time again. My children have had theirs made out since the summer. I think they actually had me put every item in the "Thomas the Train" catalog on it! I used to do the same thing as a child. When the Sears "Wish Book" would come out in August, I would spend days out in the back yard studying the pictures and descriptions, making and revising my list a hundred times. I never got everything on it, and neither will my children, but that didn't matter. It was the dreaming that was fun.

There are still things that I would like to get for Christmas, although my life would certainly go on without them. I let my husband know I could use a couple of sweaters. My best friend asked for some suggestions and I told her I would like a new journal or a subscription to a favorite magazine. I could also use a new Bible. The much-loved one I own is worn out from use. The pages are literally falling out! Still, it is like an old friend and I can't bear to replace it yet. Maybe next Christmas.

Really though, I think that as we get older, we are much less likely to have things on our Christmas list. It's not that we don't want or long for something, it is just that those "things" don't come from a store. Some of us may long for love, a special someone to share life with. Others might long for a child. We might be searching for direction in life, a physical or spiritual healing, a new job, or a repaired family relationship. Everyone has some desire deep in their heart that only God can fill.

Last year, my mother told me about a special Christmas novena. She had said it when she was pregnant with me. I was in breech position and she was praying for me to turn around. She went into labor on Christmas Day (two weeks early) and I had turned around. I was safely delivered the following morning. I made the novena last year and did receive the answer to my prayer. Granted, the answer didn't come the way I expected it to, but the answer came, and it came on December 23rd. I invite you to make this novena this Advent season. The traditional days for it are December 16 - 24. Bring your deepest longings to God. Let God know what you want most for Christmas this year.

The Christmas Novena

Hail and blessed be the hour and moment
At which the Son of God was born
Of a most pure Virgin
At a stable in Bethlehem
In the piercing cold.
At that hour vouchsafe, I beseech thee,
To hear my prayers and grant my desires.
(Mention your request here.)
Through Jesus Christ and his most Blessed Mother. Amen.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Israel's Story


I just posted a new review of Israel's Story, Part One by Dianne Bergant. As I was reading this book, I felt like I was reading "Cliff Notes" for the Bible. It was a very good overview of the first half of the Old Testament, useful for someone just getting into reading scripture or who wanted to have a better idea of how all the pieces fit together.

Gifts for Teens

For those of you who are searching for a gift for the teenagers in your life or if you are involved in religious education with teens, check out these two resources: The Catholic Youth Bible Revised: New American Bible and
The Catholic Faith Handbook for Youth. They are written especially for teens.




A Fun Evening Out

Tonight, Bernie and I took the boys to Winterfest at The Connecticut Trolley Museum. What a fun time we had! We actually got to go on a real train tride - the first time for all of us. It was an old restored train and had vintage advertisements from the 1950s lining the upper panels. It was only a 3 mile ride but that was just about right for the kid's attention spans. After the ride, we went to the visitor's center where they had about 8 or 9 model railroads set up. Santa was there as well and both boys went to go see him to tell him that they want trains for Christmas. The whole thing took only about an hour, but what a great time it was.

The boys are at such a perfect age for Christmas. They understand the religious significance and are both looking forward to being in the Christmas pageant at Church (this will be Isaac's first year). At the same time, they still believe in magic and are so full of wonder for all the decorations and Santa. I really wish I could freeze time and keep them right where they are! Instead, I have to be happy cherishing the memories. Tonight was a good one.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Day after Thanksgiving

Our Thanksgiving was good. One thing that I have noticed is that I have started remembering holidays by the developmental stage my children are at. This year they actually sat at the table during dinner and ate like human beings! I considered that quite a development. They didn't stay for the whole dinner, but once they were done, they went to play by themselves for a few minutes until the rest of us were finished.

Today was putting up the Christmas decorations day. I love having the decorations up - it always makes the house look happy and the boys were so excited about helping out. As you can see from the picture, our tree is definitely bottom heavy with ornaments, but I think it is beautiful. Every ornament tells a story, and each year something new is added to the tree that will add to our family's history. As we put up the ornaments, I was telling the boys the story of each one. Some of them they had made last year and the year before so they were especially excited to put those up.

David also decided he wanted to put lights on his gymset in the back yard, so now we have lights both in front and in back so everywhere you look you see some Christmas spirit! I love this time of year.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

Every Thanksgiving at mass, my Church sings the following song. I have a copy of it on my refrigerator and I thought I would share it with you with warm wishes that you all have a very happy and peaceful Thanksgiving.

Bless this House

Bless this house, O Lord, we pray

Make it safe by night and day;

Bless these walls, so firm and stout,

Keeping want and trouble out;

Bless the roof and chimneys tall,

Let thy peace lie over all;

Bless this door that it may prove

Ever open to joy and love.



Bless these windows shining bright,

Letting in God's heavenly light;

Bless the hearth a-blazing there,

With smoke ascending like a prayer;

Bless the folks who dwell within,

Keep them pure and free from sin;

Bless us all that we may be

Fit, O Lord, to dwell with Thee,

Bless us all that one day we

May dwell, O Lord, with Thee.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Church at its Best

Tonight was the annual packing of the Thanksgiving baskets at my Church. The amount of food that had been collected was truly astounding. It was so wonderful to see all these people from age 5 to age 90 coming together to pack up this food for the needy in our community. We packed 107 baskets with some food left over for our food pantry which runs year round.

Thankfulness as an Antidote for the Green Monster

Every night before bed, I ask my children what they want to thank God for that day. Most of the time there was something good in their day and they find it pretty easy to come up with something; sometimes they can come up with several things. Other days, however, they look at me with a sour puss on their faces and say "Nothing! There was nothing good about today." Admittedly we all have bad days, even little children. On those days, I have to help them dig a little deeper to find something to be thankful for. I want to help them have thankfulness as part of who they are, and to realize that thankfulness is as important a part of prayer as is petition or saying "I'm sorry" for things they did wrong.

Sometimes, I need to take my own advice in the thankfulness department. God gives us so many blessings, yet I admit I often take them for granted. Even worse, I often look at other people's blessings and want them for my own! Ah, yes, that "You shall not covet" commandment has always been the one that has given me the most trouble. In the list of the seven deadly sins, envy has always been at the top of my list. From the time that I was child, it has always seemed like there is someone in my circle of friends who has life so much better than me. Those people have changed over the years and the reasons I feel envious have changed as well. Thankfully, I have outgrown my adolescent envy of those more attractive or more popular than I! By the same token, I no longer feel jealous of people with nicer homes, nicer clothes, or more fancy cars.

These days, my envy is much more likely to be of other people's interpersonal relationships. I see others who seem like they are better moms or have apparently happier marriages or have deeper spiritual lives. I try to channel my jealousy into a positive thing by looking at these people's lives and seeing how I could nurture those qualities in my own life. I try to pick up tips on parenting or marriage or prayer and implement them. Sometimes this helps.

What I really need to do, however, is to be thankful for what I do have. I have lived long enough to know that no one's life is perfect. We each have our own challenges to deal with, even if they go unseen to the rest of the world. In my more lucid moments, I even realize that there may be people out there who look at me and think that I have it made! I have been blessed in many ways. I have a loving husband and two beautiful children. I have a roof over my head and food on my table. My health is good. I am lucky enough to live in a place where I am free to worship as I choose. Yes, I have been truly blessed. Each day, I need to remind myself to thank God for all those blessings - the big and the small - that have come my way.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Keeping the Faith

"[Jesus] told them a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary." - Luke 18:1

Sometimes it is hard to keep praying for something when no answer seems to be forthcoming. It is frustrating when our sense of time comes in conflict with God's sense of eternity. We want answers and want them now. God often seems to take a much more leisurely view of the situation. Yet, in this parable of the widow who keeps badgering the judge until she gets the response she is looking for, Jesus tells us to keep the faith, to keep persisting, to keep asking. God will answer, when the time is right and in the way that does us the most good in terms of our eternal souls. In the meantime, prayer helps align our wills with God's will. It gives us acceptance and patience.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Help Save a Catholic Press

I have a soft spot for Sophia Institute Press. Back in late 2003, I was searching for a publisher for my manuscript of Letters to Mary from a Young Mother. On December 31st of that year, I received an email from them saying that they were interested. Although they ultimately decided not to pursue publication, just the fact that they were interested gave me such hope and encouragement at a time in my life when I desperately needed it. Now, that press may have to close.

One of the best books that Sophia Institute has put out is Angel in the Waters. You can read it online at www.angelinthewaters.com This is such a wonderful story of a baby in the womb and his guardian angel. My children love the story and ask to read it again and again. Sophia Press is asking that you consider purchasing a copy of this book for yourself or to give as a gift to a youngster or perhaps to donate to the religious education program at your parish.

They are also accepting donations at www.sophiainstitute.com/donate.htm . They are asking for any donations, even $1 helps.

Please consider either buying a copy of
Angel in the Waters or donating. It is a hard road out there for Catholic publishers and we need to give them all the support we can.

Thank you.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

My Kind of Heaven

This afternoon I took the boys for their weekly visit with my mother-in-law. I didn't have to go to work, so I indulged and took a little time for myself. First stop was the mall - AC Moore is having a 40% off sale on Thomas trains this week (which David and Isaac love) and with Christmas right around the corner, that was way too good a bargain for me to pass up. Next stop was the Mt. Holyoke College library. I hadn't been inside that library in years and it is a place I love. It is architecturally beautiful, plus I just love libraries - all those books just waiting to be read! I did sit down and do some work on an article I have to finish, but I left myself 20 minutes to just explore. I browsed some of the stacks and wandered up and down staircases to see what was beyond the next bend. I love to learn, and truly, there were so many books that if I had all the time in the world, I would love to read.

So, I got to thinking. Maybe in heaven we get to keep learning, except with the greater understanding that comes with eternal life (who knows, maybe calculus will actually make sense to me :) ) . After all, all this knowledge comes from God in the first place. Maybe in my eternity, I'll get to read all those books and talk to the authors and learn all I want about art and literature and music and history! That would be my kind of heaven!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Family Update

My nephew has been admitted to a psychiatric ward at a local hospital and will need some surgery to correct the damage he did to himself. As it turns out the anti-depressant drugs he was given increased his suicidal tendencies, leading his doctors to believe that he is actually bi-polar (his father is as well). My sister is a wreck, understandably so, but today, I have calmed down and been able to pray. Thank you for all of your prayers as well.

St. Therese Prayer

This was sent to me today as one of those emails you are supposed to forward on to a certain number of people. I didn't do that, but St. Therese is one of my favorite saints and this is a good prayer for all of us so I thought that I would share it with you.

Saint Theresa's prayer:
May today there be peace within. May you trust God
that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May
you not forget the infinite possibilities that are
born of faith. May you use those gifts that you have
received, and pass on the love that has been given to
you. May you be content knowing you are a child of
God. Let this presence settle into your bones, and
allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and
love. It is there for each and every one of us.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Wanting to Pray

I have often found in my life that at the times when prayer is most needed, I find it most difficult to pray. Tonight, my nephew is in the hospital for attempted suicide. Thankfully, he did not succeed and his prognosis is good. My sister is trying to arrange for him to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital for a while. Obviously, if there was ever a time for prayer, this is it, and yet, I found it so hard to find the words. I found it hard to go to my trusted prayer cards and pray. Ultimately, I forced myself to because I knew my sister was counting on me to do that.

This is not the first time this has happened to me. In labor with my children, I wanted so much to pray but couldn't; when David was in the hospital for his allergy attacks and when Isaac was diagnosed with lead poisoning, at the spur of the moment, the desire was there but the body failed to cooperate. I think as adrenaline kicks in, the ability to pray leaves me temporarily. And yet, maybe, wanting to pray becomes in itself a prayer. God knows I'm reaching out even if my words and thoughts are absent. And maybe, that is why praying for others when you know they are hurting is so important. Sometimes, when you are too close to a situation, its nearly impossible to pray yourself, but you can ask others for prayer.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Challenge to Love

In the Great Commandment, Jesus tells us to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Sometimes, loving God seems to be the easier part of that mandate. While loving God and maintaining a relationship with a God who often seems hidden can certainly be a challenge, loving the person standing in front of us can be even harder.

We often love our neighbors in the abstract. We can give food to food banks and money to homeless shelters. These are good things to do. But what do we do when confronted by a beggar on the street, or when someone sits next to us in church who hasn't showered in a while? How do we respond when we are confronted with the realities of poverty among us?

What about the people we work with? It can be difficult to love a supervisor or a co-worker whose goal seems to be to make our own life miserable. What if there is someone who has spread malicious gossip about us? What if someone has let us take the blame for her own error?

Then there are the people in our own families. Sometimes it is hardest to love those that we are closest to. We know their faults and they know ours. Our spouses may grate on our nerves. Our children may be in the midst of rebellion. Our parents and siblings may still treat us like we are children. Especially at holidays, old battles can be re-fought and old wounds re-opened. How can we respond with love when we feel like we are coming under attack?

Yes, the mandate to love is quite a challenge. Jesus asks us to put other people first. He asks us to see God within those around us, even in situations when that is most hard to see. Jesus asks us to give of ourselves, to reach out to our neighbor in need, whether that neighbor lives under our own roof, or spends their days in the cubicle next to us, or panhandles us on the street. Jesus asks us to love as He loves - a tall order to be sure, but Jesus does not ask the impossible. We all have God's love within us and the capacity to share that love. We can smile. We can share what we have. We can offer a kind word. In doing so, we can begin to plant seeds of love around us. We can begin to respond to the challenge.

Positive Mental Attitude

This was sent to me today by a dear friend. I know that keeping a positive attitude is one of the things that challenges me, so this provided a good reminder.

Positive Mental Attitude!!

We can all learn a lesson from this great old girl!

The 92-year-old, petite, well-poised and proud lady, who is fully dressed each morning by eight o'clock, with her hair fashionably coifed and makeup perfectly applied, even though she is legally blind, moved to a nursing home today.

Her husband of 70 years recently passed away, making the move necessary.

After many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, she smiled sweetly when told her room was ready.

As she maneuvered her walker to the elevator, I provided a visual description of her tiny room, including the eyelet sheets that had been hung on her window.

"I love it," she stated with the enthusiasm of an eight-year-old having just been presented with a new puppy.

"Mrs. Jones, you haven't seen the room. Just wait."

"That doesn't have anything to do with it," she replied. "Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn't depend on how the furniture is arranged... it's how I arrange my mind.

I already decided to love it "It's a decision I make every morning when I wake! up. I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do.

Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open I'll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I've stored away just for this time in my life.

Old age is like a bank account .you withdraw from what you've put in.

So, my advice to you would be to deposit a lot of happiness in the bank account of memories.

Thank you for your part in filling my Memory bank. I am still depositing.



Remember the five simple rules to be happy:

1. Free your heart from hatred.

2. Free your mind from worries.

3. Live simply.

4. Give more.

5. Expect less.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Simple Gifts

My children slept until 7 am this morning. This is virtually unheard of! So this morning I am thanking God for a wonderful night's sleep.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Something to think about

I was standing in line at the grocery store today. As usual the magazine racks in the check-out aisles were full of gossip rags. Everywhere I looked I saw famous faces looking out at me with headlines proclaiming the latest divorces, weight battles, marital indiscretions, hook-ups and more.

I must admit, I don't understand the attraction. Why do people spend so much time (and money!) caring about other people's lives and relishing in whatever misfortune has recently come their way. I feel badly for the celebrities, who after all, are people, too. It must be incredibly painful to have your personal life out there for the world to see. But I also feel badly for us as a people, that gossip has become the national pastime. What if as much time and energy was devoted to developing our sense of spirituality? What if we said nice things about other people instead of trying to ruin people's reputations? What if we held up people of faith as role models rather than people who just happen to have money? What a different world this would be.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Becoming Who You Are

I just posted a new review of Becoming Who You Are by Fr. James Martin.

Remembering Veterans

I apologize for not blogging much this week. I've been buried in design work and life in general.

In the U.S. November 11th is set aside to remember those who have served in our armed services. In my own family, both my father and father-in-law are veterans, and my nephew is currently serving in the Navy. David's school did a brief program today honoring Veterans in our parish. On the back of the program was a beautiful prayer. I thought I would share it with you.


A Soldier's Prayer

When I am called to serve, Dear Lord,
Wherever war may be,
Give me courage to fight the battles,
My country may ask of me.
Grace me with Your presence,
And know that I love You,
While I fight the enemy,
My country needs me too.
Help me protect my comrades,
as You expect me to,
And keep me in Your loving hands,
While I do what I must do.
I want to do my duty,
And to give the best in me,
To do what I've been called to do,
And protect our liberty.
And if, according to Your will,
I must give up my life,
Please bless with Your protecting hand,
My children and my wife.

Amen.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Will You Answer the Call?

Fr. Gary Dailey, the vocations director for our diocese, came to speak at the Children's Mass this morning. Ironically, he wasn't there to speak to the children, but rather to the parents. He spoke of the importance of the call from God that we each receive. We are each called to our state in life, married, or single, or the consecrated religious life. Our children are being called as well. Fr. Dailey challenged us to be open to our children answering the call to religious life.

God is continuing to call young people to serve, but that call is often drowned out by the definition of success that is so prevalent in the world today. Parents want their children to be successful. Teachers want their students to be successful. The success that is so sought for is often equated with the amount of money one can make. Even those who are open to low-paying service professions such as teaching or social work often can't envision their children as dedicated religious.

Yet, a parent's influence can be so important as a child struggles to discover what God wants for him or her. A parent can offer guidance and encouragement and offer a counterpoint to a world which places little value on service and sacrifice. If a child has even the slightest inclination to religious life, parents have the responsibilty to help them pay attention and at least explore the options available. We also have a responsibility to point out positive role models in the religious community. Religious sisters are not as common as they once were. Catholic schools and religious education programs are often staffed fully by lay people today, but point out those that do take an active role in the parish community. By the same token, one can also talk about the various roles that a priest has and how important it is that there continue to be priests to perform such important sacramental and ministerial functions.

Is it a sacrifice to have a child enter religious life? Of course. It may mean giving up the dream of watching grandchildren grow up. It may require a radically different picture of your child's future than the one you had envisioned. But just as God calls young people to religious life, God also calls their parents to be willing to give them up to God's service. If you hear God calling your child, will you answer the call?

For more information on vocations, visit www.vocationsplacement.org or contact the vocation director for your diocese.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Getting Ready for Christmas

If you are searching for a religious gift this Christmas season or some spiritual inspiration to help you prepare for Christmas, please visit the Spiritual Woman Religious Giftshop. Through our affiliation with Aquinas and More Catholic Goods, every purchase helps support Spiritual Woman. I have selected some gifts that I thought were particularly good to feature on my site but there is always a search box for you to search their full collection.

Also if you plan to shop from Amazon.com this season, please consider clicking through from our site. You can purchase anything once you get to Amazon, but purchases must be made within 24 hours after clicking through from our site for a commission to be credited to us.

Thank you in advance for all of your support!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

All Saints Day

Today is the day we celebrate all those in heaven. At David's school today, the eighth graders dressed up the Kindergarteners as their patron saint and gave a short presentation on who they were. David was St. David, patron saint of Wales. His big buddy worked really hard on David's outfit. It was so wonderful to go to mass this morning and see David and his big buddy. There was such a great spirit in the Church!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween!

The boys had a good time trick-or-treating tonight, although amazingly I think that they actually had more fun handing out candy once we got home. We live at the end of a dead-end street so we don't get lots of visitors but the ones that ventured here were greeted by two talkative little boys with fistfuls of candy!

Monday, October 30, 2006

"I want to be somebody else!"

"I want to be somebody else!" This is what my five year-old son told me as I put him in the car after school today. I kissed him, told him that I loved him, that he was "my David" and I was so glad of who he was.

Truth is, though, that at times, all of us wish we could be someone else. We look at other people and think that somehow they have it made. It is the old "grass is greener" syndrome. It can be tiring dealing with our own problems, insecurities, and flaws. But God is our caring parent in heaven who wraps love around us and tells us, "I love you just the way you are."

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Need for a Sabbath Rest

What did you do with your Sunday this week? Was there lawn work to do? Household Chores? Sporting events to attend? Shopping to get done? Maybe you had to finish up work from the office, or perhaps you physically had to be at work. We live in a 24/7 world. Sunday often feels like just another day, a mere continuation of the week in which we need to see how much we can fit into one day. We may even claim that we are relaxing, but we even tend to relax in fast-forward. There are so many places we need to be - sporting events for our children, parties to attend, people to see, and the list goes on. I'm tired just thinking about it. Sometimes I feel like I need a rest from the rest!

The Bible tells us that God created the world in six days and then took a break. "God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work he had done in creation." (Genesis 2:3) Yes, God took a rest, but we don't seem to feel we are entitled to the same. The little voice in our heads tells us there is something more to be done. Indeed, there usually is. The to-do list is not a figment of our imagination. The fact is, though, that while there are always things that could be done, they do not necessarily need to be done right now. The world will not come to a crashing halt if we step out for a little while. We need rest, true rest, to engage in recreation, a re-creation of our spirit. We need to quiet our souls, engage in prayer, and reconnect with nature even if it is just by sitting in our backyard or by staring out the window.

Most of us don't even know what it is to be still anymore. If we sit still for more than a minute, we feel unproductive. Yet, that very stillness serves a purpose greater than we realize. It gives us a chance to listen to our souls and the God that speaks to us there. It gives us the opportunity to pay attention to what is around us, to use our senses to take in this great big wonderful world that God has given us.

God was on to something when He took a rest. He gives us permission to do the same. In fact, God mandated it with the commandment to "Keep Holy the Sabbath." We have the go-ahead from the Almighty to take a break from the to-do list. The ultimate boss has told us to take the day off. Now we just need to obey.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Busy Couple of Days

The past couple of days have been very busy, but in a good way. Last night was my watercolor workshop. What a wonderful evening! I had a great group of people, many of whom had not picked up a paintbrush since they were children and all of whom went on to create amazing pieces. Each one of us has that creative spark within us and my experience with the workshop last night only reinforced that belief. They asked me to come back and do another one in the Spring. I'm already looking forward to it.


Today there was a Catholic School Teacher's conference, so David had the day off from school (oh, my, wasn't he happy about that!). I took the boys to my parents' house so that they could get to see David (something that they don't get to do as much now that he is in school) as well as so that they could watch them while I went to meet with my spiritual director. I had a good meeting with her. A lot is going on in my life right now and I always enjoy talking to her about it and working with her to find God in the chaos. After my meeting, I met my parents, the boys, my sister and her youngest son, at McDonald's for lunch. They just built one of the new upscale McDonald's near where my parents live and the kids have been looking forward to checking out the new play area.

Tonight was our parish Halloween party. The boys (also known as Oscar and Cookie Monster for the evening) had a good time, and even I enjoyed myself. There was a DJ and we were doing dances. It has been a mighty long time since I have done the "chicken dance" and the "hokey pokey" but it was fun! The boys didn't get to bed until 9 pm but once in a while, that is OK. So, it has been a good couple of days.

Thank you, God, for happy memories :)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

A Moment of Beauty



I took this photo of the sunrise a few days ago. I thought it was a beautiful example of God's creativity and I wanted to share it with you.

Saintly Survival of the Teen Years

Here is a great article on Catholic Exchange on Saintly Survival of the Teen Years. My children aren't teenagers yet, but already I feel like I have some of these problems. What did Saints do with cranky, attitude-having children?

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