Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Taking a little break from blogging

Be warm. Love those around you. Seek peace. And have a blessed Christmas.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

O Little Town . . .

1 14-year-old boy + 1 nativity set = this:

GI Joe probably makes it a much truer representation of Bethlehem, a city with a history of war and violence.

Someone apparently wasn't listening to the prayer at Youth Group Sunday.
But beware of the revenge of the stable animals:

Prayer for 12/13: A prayer from the Franciscans, who have defended and served The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem for centuries:

Prince of Peace

I have come to bring you peace.

Not the peace of the season, for it is too fleeting.

Not the peace of the carol, for it is nostalgic.

Not the peace of the greeting card, for it is too slick.

Not the peace of the crib, for it is too wistful.

Rather, I have come to bring you peace,

Peace of the ordinary, the daily, the homely,

Peace for the worker, the driver, the student,

Peace in the office, the kitchen, the farm.

I have come to bring you peace,

The peace of accepting yourself as I fashioned you,

The peace of knowing yourself as I know you,

The peace of loving yourself as I love you,

The peace of being yourself as I am who I am.

I have come to bring you peace,

The peace that warms you at the completion of a task,

The peace that invades you at the close of the day,

The peace that sustains you at the beginning of the day,

The peace that reinforces you when you reconcile with another,

The peace that touches you when your family is in order.

Without peace, my coming is unfulfilled.

Without peace, my birth is forgettable.

Without peace, Christmas is a contradiction.

I have come to bring you peace.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Viva La Virgen de Guadalupe!

Last year around this time, my friend Maggie and Father Todd were having some intense discussions about our Hispanic community. Father sees one side of immigration issues: people who have come here to work for a fair wage and the betterment of their families. Maggie sees the other side: illegal immigrants who are misusing the system by sharing the same Social Security number, driving without a license or insurance and not paying income tax.

So, Father made a wager. He said that if Maggie came and walked in the Guadalupe procession, he would give her $100. It started as a joke, and I'm sure Father thought his money was safe, but then again, he didn't know Maggie (as well as he does now!) She said if I went along, she would go. So we did.
We started in one of the neighborhoods about a mile from the church. Led by men carrying a statue of the Virgin on their shoulders, we walked. And walked. And walked. Through every apartment complex and neighborhood, singing Guadalupe songs. For 2 hours. In the rain.

When we finally got to the church , Father handed over the $100: Which, or course, Maggie had no intention of ever taking (he ended up giving the money to Haiti).

Did walking two hours in the rain give Maggie a greater appreciation for the Hispanic community in our little town? I'm not sure, but I know Father now has a better appreciation of Maggie's strong will.

This year, there was no procession. The city police and county sheriff's office have bumped up their arrests of Hispanics and have sent many on for deportation. Local sentiment for the Hispanic community is poor (read: small-minded, cold-hearted and nasty, but that's just my opinion), and the Spanish Ministry leaders at our parish decided it just wasn't worth the risk to have the long procession. They did march around the church block, and the mass was packed, as usual. Afterward, there was supper in the Parish Center with posole (delicious pork and hominy stew -- I plan to make some this weekend). The children (and some of the adults) always dress up -- here is a sweet picture of my friends Hanna and Haidy:

Prayer for 12/12: Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas, unite us in our love for you and for your Son. Bless our families, that they may remain strong and intact.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Handmade Holidays

Thanks to a tip on the Knittyboard, I found Sew, Mama, Sew! which is one of my favorite new sites. I found the perfect fabric for the curtain for our downstairs bathroom there, and lots of great ideas.
(The bathroom is decorated with pictures from our NYC trip, and I wanted the curtain to look like a chi-chi little dress. It's cinched in the middle with a velvet ribbon.)

They have started a blog meme about holiday traditions, so here's my 2 cents worth on the first part of the questions:
Do you have a favorite gift that you love to give?

I love to give what I love to get: Handmade things, books and family pictures.

If you’re making gifts this year, what are you making?

American Girl clothes, fabric-covered take out boxes (with knitted washcloths and handmade soap from Eryn) and some surprises I won't mention here. Yet.

Do you have any good stories about handcrafted gifts you’ve given or received?

I really could go on all day about this one, starting with my daddy's jumping Santa he made from cardboard, paper fasteners, an old watchband and aspirin bottle cotton. He drew the face and used some red fabric for the suit. It was just the best, and I wish I knew what became of it. Our house is filled with my mom's handiwork: quilting, sewing, embroidery. But since it is Christmas, I will show one of her most beautiful projects:
"Stained Glass" quilting. She machine-appliqued around each little piece of satin.
This is one of my treasures.

In one of our Christmas boxes, I have every ornament/gift our kids made at school, even though much of the macaroni, sequins and glitter is on the bottom of the box.

So many of my friends are crafty: picture frames from Linda, a quilted wall hanging from Kay, ceramics from Laverne and a watercolor from Jeannine that hangs right by our kitchen window.

Name one thing on your personal wish list.

Besides peace on earth and complete troop removal from Iraq, I am asking Santa for a puppy. However, I am afraid Santa thinks this is a terrible idea.


Prayer for 12/10: For women all over the world who create and craft items by hand as a source of income.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Peace of the Puzzle

Tonight at Youth Group, we went caroling around the church neighborhood. It was fun, except for the spitty rain.

Before we left, our Advent prayer/candle lighting was on peace. I especially like this part, taken from a Benedictine prayer:

God help us to be peacemakers.
Aid us to work for peace,
To take the first step in ending bitterness,
To be the first to hold our hands in friendship and forgiveness.
I gave all the kids a puzzle piece to carry with them this week, to remind them that we are all a part of the peace process.
I know peace is possible; it's like seeing the picture on the outside of a jigsaw puzzle box. All the pieces can come together, it just takes time, patience and a lot of work. You can't force your piece into a place it doesn't belong -- you have to consider all of the pieces around yours.

And whatever puzzle you're working on, you need some direction. To help you see what you can't see. To understand what you can't understand. To make it all fit together.

Prayer for 12/9: For the continued success of The Village Pig Project, which provides piglets, feed and veterinarian services to impoverished Cambodian families. "It's a piece of the puzzle," said Darren Pen, a survivor of the Khmer Rouge. "One thousand pieces come together into a big picture. It's little step by little step. When people are no longer hungry and have a little bit of money, they go to work and send their children to school. It's a major step out of poverty for these rural people."

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Culinary and Crafty Failures

I wanted to make something fantastic for Clay's pitch-in work party last night. His boss asked for our big salad (which Clay takes every year) and I thought I would make a gingerbread cheesecake -- the recipe is in the December Martha magazine. Clay loves cheesecake and gingerbread, so I figured it was the perfect combination.

So, to make the cake, I took out my favorite 20th century inventions (Blogstalking Week #12 assignment):

These are the workhorses of our kitchen, even though I dropped the Cuisinart lid and have to hold it at a jaunty angle to make it work. (I found a new bowl on the Internet, but since this is an older model, we could almost get a whole new machine for the same price.) And how did I ever make a cheesecake without this happy pink Kitchenaid?

And the ReddiWhip? Well, you know, it's whipped cream. In a can. And it's ready. (ReddiWhip was a constant source of after-dinner entertainment for my dad. ReddiWhip on a baby's spoon, on a finger, or the best -- directly in your mouth.)

So, most of my yesterday was all about the cheesecake. I followed the recipe to a T and baked it in a hot water bath. After 65 minutes, it was "set, but wobbly in the middle," just like Martha said. Coming out of the oven, it was gorgeous. Cooled it for 2 hours on the counter. No crack. I, apparently, am a baking master.

During all this baking and cooling, I made this:

I saw a "believe" sign in a Mary Engelbreit book years ago, and always wanted to make one. So, I spray painted some wooden letters, covered a sheet of styrofoam with fabric and with the help of a hot glue gun and duct tape, I had a sign to hang above our Santa collection.

I hung the sign, put the cheesecake in the fridge and went to see Grandma and make a holy hour. When I got home, the sign had half-way fallen onto the Santas:

I patched it a bit and was going to hang it up again when Clay suggested I try hanging it somewhere else so that if it fell, no Santas would break (I really lucked out the first time -- Santas all over the floor, but none broken.)

He made the salad dressing while I went to get ready, and brought me up a taste. "This isn't right, is it? But I'm not sure what it needs." What it needed was new oil -- no amount of salt or herbs was going to change that icky stuff. So off he went to try again. (2nd attempt was a success.)

I thought it would be easier to serve if I cut the cheesecake at home, so I took out my sharp knife, dipped it in hot water and sliced up pieces of

nasty goo

Because I am nice, I will spare you a picture. The recipe did say to chill 8 hours or overnight, which I didn't, but this morning, the remnants of the cake are still quite gooey. Delicious, but gooey.

Luckily, there were two other cheesecakes at the party -- ours was not missed. And the salad was a hit.

The sign? Yep, it had fallen once again, even with the additional duct tape. Clay is going to try to salvage it for me today.

Yesterday was the Feast of St. Ambrose, Doctor of the Church and patron of our parish. His day doesn't get too much recognition, falling as it does between St. Nicholas and the Immaculate Conception, but I know they really whoop it up for him in Italy.

Here is what St. Nick left for Will (minus the beef jerky, dark chocolate bar and can of french fried onions he had already eaten by the time I got this picture taken):

(Wrestling update: At the conference duals last weekend, Will went 0-7. Dual meet at Scottsburg Tuesday, he was pinned in the 2nd period. It was a very strange venue -- when we got there, the lights in the gym were very low, almost romantic. There was one spotlight over the center of the mat and the ref wore some sort of sunglasses. Will tried to tell the ref he was bleeding, and the ref said, "Prove it" and didn't stop the match. If he had taken his glasses off, maybe he could have seen the streaks of blood all over the Scottsburg kid's singlet. Yikes. I know he is going to get a win soon. Maybe this Tuesday when they have a home meet.)

Prayer for 12/8: Food for all. I grew up on a farm, where even if we didn't have a lot of money, we always had plenty to eat. My prayer today is for food security for all Americans -- access to enough food for a healthy life, without the need for emergency food sources to meet nutritional needs. This should not even be a question in a nation as affluent as ours. May God forgive us for our excesses and waste and give us the strength to work toward this basic human right.


Thursday, December 6, 2007

St. Nicholas Day

Of all the Catholic traditions I have come to love, filling the kids' shoes with candy and treats on St. Nicholas Day is one of my favorites. Now that they are all practically grown and only Will is at home, the tradition has sort of gone by the wayside.

Although I have a lot to do today, I think I will get out my Santas and decorate the mantle, fill a wrestling shoe with some surprises and make Will the beef stew he has been asking for.

Happy St. Nicholas Day. May it be filled with peace.

Prayer for 12/6: Gracious and good Lord, we bless you on this feast of St. Nicholas, who is an example to us of a life of charity and love. May we see in his life an invitation to imitate his good deeds. Make us always mindful of the needs of others and help us rejoice in the abundance of your goodness around us. Through Jesus our Lord.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


Yesterday, I needed to go to Sam's to get some things for the week's events. I'm not much of a shopper, so to fortify myself for the trip, I drove through Starbucks. I ordered a venti gingerbread latte as prompted by Mary, the voice on the intercom. When I got to the window, I gave Mary my gift card and she handed me a grande mocha with two pumps (whatever that means). I handed it back to her and told her that wasn't mine, and repeated what I had ordered. "You know, I didn't even enter that," she told me as she handed my card back.

So, I went to Sam's without my coffee. The store was crazy, and twice store employees almost ran into me with massive carts of merchandise, then turned to glare as if I was in their way. Invisible, I tell you.
I am used to being invisible -- I do live with a 14-year-old boy, you know. Lately, I feel visible only when he is hungry, thirsty or needs the heat turned up. (Now that it is cold out, he and Clay have a nightly ritual: scoot the furniture so that they can both lay on the floor and watch TV with their feet on the register, then cover up. I know when the heat is on by the balloon of blanket over them. Actually, it's pretty cute.)
And maybe Advent is a good time to be invisible -- quiet and still in a world of commercial and retail chaos. And a good time to stay under a warm blanket.

Prayer for 12/4: the 500,000 displaced people in Darfur, who must feel invisible to the rest of the world.
We were far from invisible on Sunday, when Sarah and Maggie threw a "surprise" 25th Anniversary party for us. (It ceased to be a surprise when they had to change the date from Friday evening because of Will's wrestling meet). They did an excellent job -- the food was delicious and they decorated in our wedding colors. They put together a poster of pictures from the "early years" -- one friend said we hadn't changed a bit. Sweet, but so not true. They used our wedding picture for the invitations -- I haven't seen it yet, but Clay has, and said I would be proud (we made Sarah's wedding invitations and both girls' graduation announcements.)They both have busy lives, and it means so much that they took the time to plan this party. (I should mention that Will did his part and cut carrots -- he certainly mentioned it enough!) I need to borrow Sarah's camera and post some pictures soon.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Advent Resolutions -- Why Wait for the New Year?

This week begins the great rush toward Christmas. I look at the calendar and cringe a little when I see how much there is to do in the next few weeks -- choir practices, catering jobs, and parties along with all the regular events. This week alone there is sorority on Monday, wrestling on Tuesday, Basket Bingo on Wednesday, Penance Service on Thursday and Clay's work party on Friday. Saturday, we hope to get a tree and get some Christmas decorations up. It is all great fun (well, maybe not the penance service) but I have a bad habit of doing things and not remembering why I am doing them: the Big Four of Advent (not K-Mart, Target, Wal-Mart and Toys-r-Us): hope, peace, joy and love.

So here are my resolutions, borrowed from the US Bishops' teaching on "Everyday Christianity":
Pray regularly for peace and justice.

Learn more about human life violations, stand with the poor and care for creation.
Reach across boundaries of religion, race, ethnicity, gender and disabling conditions.
Live justly in family life, school, work, the marketplace and the political arena.
Serve those who are poor and vulnerable, sharing more time and talent.
Give more generously to those in need at home and abroad.
Advocate for public policies that protect human life, promote human dignity, preserve God's creation and build peace.
Encourage others to work for greater charity, justice and peace.

To these lofty goals, I would add my simpler ones:
Be loving.
Be healthy.
Be thankful.
Be happy.

(And, I hope I don't have to go to Wal-Mart too often this holiday season. Although I love to buy gifts for others, most shoppers at WM don't seem filled with joy. Preparing for Christmas shouldn't make you want to smack your kids, snark at your husband or even furrow your brow, which must have replaced the smiley face as the official WM facial expression.)


Prayer for 12/3: for the 6,000 children who will lose a parent to AIDS today.

Friday, November 30, 2007

An Interview and Other Things . . .

A woman called early this week and said she had been given my name by the library. Would I be interested in being interviewed about my knitting? Since I'm always interested in spreading the word, I said yes.

It turns out, the interview was for a project of the Indiana Historical Society -- Traditional Arts Indiana. They want to document how people learned their craft, why they participate in the activity, etc. It was all very official, with a microphone, tape recorder and release papers.

Ilke, the interviewer, had just come from a maple sugar farm in another part of the county, and after my interview, was to visit a neighbor of ours who preserves and presses wild flowers.

I borrowed back the Pi Shawl I had made for Griffin's baptism, and gathered a few other things. She asked questions for about an hour, then she took some pictures -- I would have put on some make-up and a nice sweater if I had known that! Luckily, she took most of the photographs close up on my hands -- action shots, she said. She also took some pictures of the crazy quilt, and seemed interested in the story behind our group effort.

She had a little time in between interviews, so I suggested she go talk to Judy, my favorite shepherdess, whose story is much more interesting than mine. When we drove out to the farm, one of the llamas was in the front pasture to greet us. Judy spins the fiber from their sheep, goats, rabbits and llamas; I am anxious to hear what she thought about the interview.

Tuesday evening, Will had a dual meet at home against a team from Hanover. When the other team came out, one of the coaches asked, "Who has Hulk Hogan?" Will said, "That would be me." The kid threw a headlock seconds into the match -- we think it was about 14 seconds until the pin, but it was over so fast and with such violent force that I forgot to look -- I was kind of busy trying not to scream.

After the match, we found out that this was just another in the long line of state qualifiers that Will has wrestled this season, and he's getting just a little tired of it -- the Hanover opponent has gone to state 3 -- count 'em-- 3 times.

Wednesday, Clay took the day off, and we decided to go to the Story Inn for an anniversary lunch. Story is a rustic little town in the middle of nowhere with a gourmet restaurant. Unfortunately, neither of us had much money, and they didn't take American Express, the only card we had between us. Brilliant, I know. So we drove into Nashville, had lunch at a cute little place and poked around in a few of the shops.

I wanted to get Clay something really great for our 25th -- usually, we just get each other a book or CD -- one time, we even got each other the same CD. So when he mentioned a
GPS, I knew what to get. The best thing is, it was silver. He got me a beautiful diamond circle necklace. Joe the Jeweler tried to convince him I needed diamond earrings, but I don't have such a good track record with earrings -- lots of singles in my jewelry box waiting for the day to be reunited with their mates.

Thursday was my 48th birthday. Sarah and the boys came down for birthday supper, and we lit the candle on my cake 6 times for the boys to blow out. I made meatloaf, not exactly one of my specialties, but something everyone likes. I never make it the same way twice. This time, I didn't have a can of diced tomatoes in the pantry -- I did have a can of diced tomatoes with green chilies, and tried that -- Clay has suggested we make it that way from now on.

In more wrestling news, this weekend is the Hoosier Hills Conference Championships. Will has 2 dual meets at Columbus on Friday night, and then 5 dual meets at Jeffersonville on Saturday. So, I guess I'll be getting some knitting done.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

What a Headache!

After the initial bouts of nausea, light-headedness and falling down, I am happy to report that it is mostly gone.

I am unhappy to report that Clay yelled at me. (I say "yell"; he says "spoke to firmly." I say, yelling is in the ear of the hearer.)
This time, it was after I had a little collapse onto the family room floor the night before Thanksgiving.
"You have got to slow down," he yelled/spoke firmly. "Things don't have to be perfect. You do a great job. Thanksgiving will be great no matter how clean the house is."
When I told him that all this yelling was making my head hurt worse, he added this kicker:
"I need you to take care of yourself."
And as usual, (which really ticks me off) he was right: we had a nice dinner and a good time together, even though the steps weren't swept and I saw a couple of places I missed dusting.
So, I am happy to report, I took his advice, and slowed down the day after Thanksgiving. We sat on the couch, ate leftovers and watched movies.
And I got a chance to knit a little. Here are the results:

I got the back of Tommy's Accordion sweater done -- 18" of 4x4 ribbing. The width is supposed to block out to 17", but this yarn is really springy -- I am hoping for the best. I have about 5" done on the right front.

This is a feather and fan scarf, using the yarn I got from Anno in the Halloween secret pal swap -- Freedom Spirit. I think I will call this my "24" scarf, because we watched about 5 episodes of season 4 of 24 while I worked on this. (I don't know how anyone can watch that show during the regular season, and wait a whole week to see what happens. Will got up extra early yesterday morning so we could watch an episode before he went to school. Yes, we are addicted, and we have Clay's boss to thank -- she couldn't believe we didn't watch 24, and has loaned us all her DVD sets.) 24 is the Lays Potato Chips of TV shows.
Also, I love the stitch pattern so much, I couldn't stop knitting. One skein didn't make the scarf quite long enough, so I started in on skein #2 but couldn't quit (I blame Jack Bauer) -- the scarf is about 24" too long. I think I will rip back some.
My lovely model agreed to try on Andrew's hat and fun fur scarf. The hat is made from Paton's SWS. I just sort of made up the pattern: I cast on 88 and knit in the 4x4 rib pattern like the sweater, but then I got a little bored and added the cable. Here it is a little closer up:
I really love this yarn. I don't know if it's the soy or the silk or the combination, but it just feels great in your hands and knits up beautifully.
On the other hand, I'm not so crazy about fun fur. I did a lot of scarves, ponchos and purses when it first came out, but I'm a little tired of it. But I was asked to make another one for a little girl at school, so here's what I hope will be my last fun fur scarf in St. Ambrose colors. (Yesterday, I did find some sparkly blue and gold yarn at Hobby Lobby, marked down to $1.99 from $8.99 -- I'm thinking about scarves and hats for my two favorite piano students for Christmas. Novelty yarn is a little more tolerable when it is on big sale.)
Saturday morning, Clay and I went to Indianapolis for the funeral of the mom of our good friend, Kevin. Elinor was 90 years old, mother of 6, grandmother, great-grandmother and great-great-grandmother. The Mass (at Little Flower) was a loving tribute to her.
On the way home, we stopped for a sandwich at a drive-through, but called Will (who had wrestling practice that morning) and told him we went to Shapiro's, just to hear what he would say. We are evil parents.
And finally, a wrestling update: the team wrestled last week at Bloomington North. Will did better, but lost. He was disappointed in himself, but is determined to get the first freshman varsity win this year. He has another chance tonight, when they wrestle Hanover here at home. Then, conference matches this Friday and Saturday. With all these meets, I just might get that sweater done by Christmas.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

I do love Thanksgiving. I love to cook. I love Thanksgiving food. I love it when our house is clean and ready for company. I love to sit and talk over coffee and pie and play games in the afternoon.
But it is one of those tricky holidays for me (like Mother's Day) -- I need to be happy and festive for my own children, but I still want to be the kid going back to my parents' house for the holiday.

So, we make dishes my mom and dad would make in their honor: oyster dressing, pickled herring and cranberry relish.

I think I gave myself a concussion Monday, knocking myself out on the door frame of my car -- I woke on on the sidewalk. (I have a very long history of bonking my head, starting with a typewriter sophomore year of college, but that's another story . . . )

(I sort of feel like this)


Monday, November 19, 2007

Some Things Bugging Me Today

- Condoleezza Rice said that the US was willing to send $2.1 million to Bangladesh if they asked.
The massive cyclone last week killed over 3,000; 1,000 are missing and thousands are homeless.
Did they really need to ask?

- Did the Iraqis ask? This really bugs me, but don't visit the site unless you want your head to explode.

- Wal-Mart is open Thanksgiving Day. They are closed Christmas Day, but open on Easter. I am not too logical, but I had some logic in a graduate course once. Let's work this out:
A - almost everyone celebrates Thanksgiving
B - not everyone celebrates Christmas
C - Christmas is a Christian holiday
D - Easter is a Christian holiday (most of us Christian types consider this a bigger holiday -- indeed, the biggest)
Therefore, if Wal-Mart is closed on Christmas, they should be closed on Easter. And if they are closed on a day that only part of the population celebrates, shouldn't they be closed on a Federal holiday that people of all faiths celebrate?
I can't do it. In fact, it makes my head hurt.

- Today at the grocery store (not Wal-Mart), you can buy 2 half gallons of milk for $3.00, but a gallon is $3.88. I asked the cashier why. She shrugged. I asked the customer service rep. She said, "That's just how it is." I asked to speak to the manager, but he was busy. (I think saw me coming and went into hiding.)

- The Patriots. 56-10. As if people outside of Boston didn't hate them enough . . .

Off to sweep, dust and find a little peace.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

. . . thanks be to God (and St. Sebastian)

When I told my sister that Will would be wrestling varsity, she said, "Ooo, I hope he doesn't have to wrestle some spunky senior."

That, my friends, is exactly what happened.
We picked up the bracket sheet, and there it was: Will, a freshman, seeded #8 against a senior from Perry Meridian, seeded #1. On the back of his t-shirt, in big bold numbers, was his record from last year: 48-1. (After a little Internet research last night, we found out that his one loss was in the state finals.)
Will held his own for 36 seconds. (He did score his first varsity point when the senior let him escape, only to slam him down again for the pin.)
In the wrestleback round, Will wrestled a junior from Warren Central -- the round went a little longer, but he was pinned in the first period again.
Finally, for 7th place, he wrestled a sophomore from Bloomington North -- he lasted all three rounds, but lost on a decision. (He will probably wrestle that kid again on Tuesday night at the dual meet at BNHS.)
So, in his first varsity tournament, he was 8th out of 8. But no broken bones or separated shoulders, and he only had one nosebleed in the last seconds of his final round.
And every time I looked across the gym, he seemed to be having a good time with his teammates.
And I only cried a tiny little bit.
(Not such a great day for the team, either -- no 1sts or 2nds, 3 3rds and a lot of 8ths. 8th place for the team. But the best thing about that is that it can only get better from here.)
Now I need to track down the patron saint of achy backs and fannies-- 8 hours sitting in high school gym bleacher seats is about 7 hours too many.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Saint Sebastian, Pray for Wrestlers (and their moms)

There is an amazing statue of St. Sebastian in the courtyard of the parish named for him in Akron; we drive by it every time we go to visit. The statue shows him in great agony, with many arrows piercing his flesh (the icon here is a much
more peaceful representation of the saint). But all those arrows didn't kill him, because of his strong athletic body -- he was found, still tied to a pillar and still alive. Upon his recovery, he went to see the Roman Emperor again, but this time was beaten to death . (Reason #27 why I am not qualified for sainthood: try to kill me once, fine, but I wouldn't stick around for seconds.)
So, St. Sebastian is the patron saint of athletes, and who I have been talking to this week in preparation for Will's first high school wrestling meet tomorrow. It will be a long day -- 8 teams and lots of wrestlers. I'm packing Gatorade, beef jerky and ice packs for Will; some knitting, coffee and a rosary for me. And Advil for both of us.
(You know how I love these saintly connections: who wrote the history of St. Sebastian? St. Ambrose. Somehow, that makes me feel better.)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Oh Deer

At this evening's Mass, Father talked about things we worry about that may never happen.
I could write my dissertation on that topic, you know.
But last night, one of my worries came true.

Maggie hit a deer.

Or rather, Maggie was hit by a deer. On her way home from work, around 11:00. He ran out of the woods on her left side and ran into her door. He left a large dent in her front fender, and her mirror was hanging by just some wires.

But she is fine. She was just scared, and angry that her nice car, that she has had only had a few months, and which she has taken such good care of, is crunched -- she has to crawl in from the passenger side.

She and Nate went out to look for the deer, but couldn't find him -- I'm hoping he was able to die peacefully in a nice warm leafy spot. If not, he must have a hell of a headache.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

November Oddities

It is the middle of November, and that is a rosebud, with many more buds in waiting:
(Poor Mary needs a paint job!)

And if that weren't odd enough, the lilac bush bloomed, as well.

My Prodigal Kitty, PK for short. He just showed up one day, and we fed him. He sticks around for a few days, then can be gone for weeks, but I'm always glad to see him -- he is very sweet after you feed him. I told him yesterday that if he chases away the skunk, I'd give him a nice can of tuna. (Yes, I am a November oddity, myself.)

We took the Confirmation kids to St. Meinrad on Sunday. We had a lovely time, although the weather was gloomy. Once again, I forgot to take out my camera until it was almost time to leave, but here are three good (not-so-odd) guys who went along:
And the Archabbey Church. It's very beautiful and not at all odd, but apparently my picture-taking skills are (it's not sliding down the hill, I promise). peace

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

. . . and protect us from all anxiety . . .

I worry. A lot.
About a lot of things. War. Immigration. Wrestling. Hunger. Thanksgiving Dinner. Poverty. Skunks.

This morning, at 6:00, anxiety got the better of me. I woke up thinking about Will's wrestling meet this Saturday. My stomach hurt; was it food poisoning from the dinner I catered last night?
(We joke that the motto of our catering business should be "Ain't killed no one yet.")

Or, was it the fact that once again, our house is skunky?

I sat down on the couch and cried a little; Clay got his ratty golf umbrella and went scouting around the house. No signs of skunk outside. He thought perhaps the skunk had just sprayed while passing near our house.

I cried some more. If I didn't know better, I'd swear the skunk was hanging out in the garage or the basement. So, at 7:00, in a sweet attempt to get me to relax, Clay went to Home Depot to buy an ionic air purifier.

"Look," he said gleefully when he returned, "a three-pronged approach." Not only had he bought the purifier, he got a Febreeze fan "Odor Eliminator" and moth crystals -- much more potent (and probably more toxic) than plain old moth balls.

It smells better in here already.

I've had panic attacks for about 6 years --they started around 9/11 and when my dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. After a round of Paxil (lethal) and a round of Zoloft (slightly less lethal), I've almost learned to control them with exercise, prayer and meditation and an occasional Xanax.

But probably the best cure is a husband who would go out in the rain to assure me there wasn't a herd of skunks partying under our porch. Who always took the kids to the dentist. Who sweeps and mops as I am freaking out before guests arrive. Who doesn't mind if I wake him up if I've had a scary dream. And who always listens as I babble on about my latest worry, tells me to relax, hugs me and reminds me that whatever it is, we'll get through it together.

Protection from anxiety (and skunks) for almost 25 years.


Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Matthew 6: 27

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Blogstalking Assignments #8 and #9

#8 - My usual breakfast:#9 - My junk drawer:
For some reason, we call this the telephone book drawer. If there was a telephone book in there, you wouldn't be able to get to it.

I really resisted the urge to straighten this up -- it is ridiculous, isn't it? Notice the little green baskets -- at one time, for probably an hour, it was all straight and devoid of unnecessary crap, like hand cream samples, silicone sealant, cords to something and pieces from a Boggle game.

A few updates:

1) Maggie's nephew, Craig, did win the mayor's race. I'm not sure if I am more happy for him or for her.

2) The saint statue I couldn't name is St. Anthony of Padua. Thanks, Deloris.

3) I went to the last day of Lucille's auction yesterday for about an hour; I wanted to see how much her baby grand piano sold for. (It sold for $1000 to one of her daughters -- I couldn't have bid against her even if I had a million dollars in my pocket.) There were bedroom furniture sets, chairs, couches, armoires, pier mirrors, oriental rugs, 2 Regina music boxes and grandfather clocks. I think the most interesting piece was a desk with carvings of topless women on all 4 legs, similar to a ship's masthead -- it sold for $6000.
4) The skunky smell is mostly gone -- there is a slight hint when you first open the front door.
Clay says I am crazy; all he can smell is the mothballs.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

First, You Get a Badger

Once again, we have a skunk in the vicinity. Maybe under the front porch, maybe under the back deck. But the smell came floating into the house about 2:00 last night, so thick it woke me up. We opened the windows, started up the exhaust fan, and spread the moth balls around outside. It is better tonight, but still annoying.

I haven't written a poem in years, but for some reason was moved to write this tonight:

The Missed Putt

I think that God had lost a bet
when He made His foulest creature yet.

"You lose!" yelled Satan full of glee,
"Now make a thing that smells like me!"

Last time God lost, He heaved a sigh
And conjured up the lowly fly.

(God lost a pool match in disgrace --
The buzzard met his homely face.

He missed a free throw at the horn,
The warthog from a pig was born.)

This time, God was forced to start
With black, from Satan's evil heart.

A smallish body, slung quite low,
Four short legs for moving slow.

(Though not the kind of guy to boast,
God thought the face was cute, almost.)

"Come on, come on -- now make it smell,"
The devil squealed. "Should smell like Hell!"

God took the smells He like the least
To inject in the little beast.

Rotten veggies, burning tires,
Mixed with sulfur from Hell's fires.

"That's foul!" the devil then agreed.
"They won't forgive you for this deed!

They'll say, 'It must be God's wrath'
and take the tomato juice bath!"

Satan danced, began to gloat;
God bent to touch coal-black coat

To add a stripe of white to show
The world what only God could know:

Despite the worst smell in the land,
The skunk is still part of His plan.

So when you come upon his smell,
Just thank the skunk you aren't in Hell.

And in Heaven, I suppose
the skunk will smell just like the rose.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Play Nice, Kids

"Be nice to everyone, even if they don't deserve it."

That was Father Todd's entire homily this weekend. (He thinks it is the shortest homily ever, but Father Rathfon, at non-air conditioned IHM in Cuyahoga Falls delivered this on a sweltering August afternoon: "Good God, it's hot." His sweaty congregation was exceedingly thankful.)
I always take something away from Father's homilies that stays with me: a witty analogy, a new take on the scripture I hadn't heard before or even a reference to a TV show or movie (ie: there is no real love in Flavor of Love).
Sometimes, I am afraid he is a mind reader, because he talks about just the thing that's bothering me that week. Or my whole life.

Because of my lovely mother's influence, I have a deep-seated need to be nice to everyone. Family, friends, strangers, even postal clerks.

In general, I think this is a good way to live; if they inscribe "She was nice" on my headstone, I would be happy.

Clay is nice, as well (opinionated, stubborn and conservative, but very nice.) In fact, being nice to a stressed-out airline employee once got him bumped up to 1st class.
Our children have turned out to be nice people, I think.

See, it never hurts to be nice, my mom would say.

But sometimes it does hurt.

It's emotionally difficult to be nice to people who have hurt your feelings.

Maintaining a nice attitude while working with someone who is convinced he is smarter than you makes your head ache (of course, this could be from pounding it against both a literal and a figurative brick wall).

Being kind to someone who has said something unkind about your family (that they didn't think you heard but you heard) leaves your spirit deflated.

And being nice to your family might be the hardest of all.

I must be nice to my grandma. She is 96. She often doesn't feel well, she misses her home and farm and although she tells me she is ready, I think she is afraid of dying. She is sharp as a tack, but some days, she can be extremely mean to me and my sisters. Many of our visits begin with her loudly wailing "Where have your been?" whether it's been a day or a week since our last visit. "You don't even care about me" is another of her often-used favorites.

In fairness, many of our visits are very pleasant, and she tells me how she doesn't know what she would do without me, and how she knows what a lot of trouble her bills/birthday parties/ taxes/ medical care are for me ("Oh, no, gram, I'm glad to do it." See what a nice liar I am?)

But you just never know from day to day how you will be received. One day last week, as I left I said, "I love you," just like always. But she turned her head from me and said, "I don't think I know what love is any more." I went out to my car and cried for a few minutes before heading home, knowing that she would apologize the next day, which she did.

My sister says that when grandma gets nasty with me, I should shame her and remind her of what I do for her, how well she is cared for and how lucky she is that we continue to visit her despite what she says to us.

But I have convinced myself that if I do that, she will die that evening, and it will be my fault. And I much prefer playing nice over feeling guilty.

Peace, which just might be reached through niceness. It's worth a try.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Election Day and other things

Today our town will elect a new mayor. We don't get to vote, however, as we live just outside of the city limits. There are no county or state elections here either, so no visit to the polls for us today. Unfortunate, because I really need a new emery board and a book of matches.

Yesterday, I attended Grandparents' Day at the Lutheran School with my niece, Carly, who is a 4th grader. Her invitation read, "Aunt Georgie, I want to know if you could come to grandparents day with me."
Well, of course. She continued, "We will be playing recorders."

Ouch. 40 4th graders playing "Hot Cross Buns?" Almost a deal breaker. But when she wrote, "lots of love, Carly," how could I say no?
The chapel service was lovely, and we won a game of Grandparent Bingo. Then we had a sing-along with the music teacher and square dancing in the gym. Finally, a nice lunch featuring BBQ sandwiches and root beer floats.
And the recorder concert? The best one I have ever heard. They actually did a jazzy rendition of "Hot Cross Buns" with harmony.

I was almost late because I ran back home for my camera; then, I almost forgot to take pictures until after lunch. But here is Carly and her best friend, CJ.

Linda and I spent most of Saturday and Sunday afternoons at an estate auction. Lucille, an adorable lady and former organist at St. Ambrose (I took over her funeral duties when she couldn't climb the stairs anymore) died this summer. She was an antiques dealer, and ran a shop out of her home for many years.
Saturday, I bought a slide rule in a leather case, some Tupperware, a glass refrigerator box, delicate little wine glasses and two painted metal saints -- I am fairly sure the one on the left is St. Michael the Archangel, as he is standing on a dragon, but I'm not sure of the one on the right -- it looks like a cross between St. Joseph (holding the Child Jesus and the lilies) and St. Francis (monk's habit and haircut).
Will went with me on Sunday, and we bought some pretty plates, a blue whiskey bottle, a set of 16 water goblets 7 dessert dishes for $20 and two boxes of Blue Willow dishes for $1. I couldn't believe that -- no one bid against me! There were probably 20 dinner plates and 30 other pieces all together, some with chips and cracks, but worth much more, I know. Sharon has our grandma's set of Blue Willow, and this should help round out her collection with enough for Karen and me to start our own.
I love going to auctions; it's genetic --my mom and dad were auction fans, as well. Mom and Lucille had been auction buddies; one of my favorite nativity sets is one that mom bought for me at Lucille's shop many years ago. It's much more fun to go to an auction with a friend; you can speculate on an item, dismiss it as junk, gasp together when the bidders go crazy for it then laugh at yourself for not knowing something valuable when you see it!
Lucille had dolls, quilts and jewelry worth thousands of dollars (and there's still one more auction day with all her Victorian furniture), but luckily she had some little items that we could afford and remember her by.
And finally, a little knitting. Just a few more inches and I will have the back of the Accordion Sweater done. But as a Christmas present, it looks more doubtful every day.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Dia de los Muertos - This Stuff is Killing Me

They have built an altar in our parish center.
They have decorated it with colorful tissue paper cut-outs and pictures of their deceased relatives.
They have placed fruit, loaves of bread and bottles of beer on their altar.
Last night, after their Mass, they came into the center and stood around their altar.
They stood quietly talking.
They explained the meaning of the altar to me, how the Feasts of All Saints and All Souls are huge celebrations back home.
How, if they were back in Mexico, they would take these days to visit cemeteries and decorate the graves of their deceased relatives with flowers, and with the things they loved in life.
(If we did that here, I would put a bottle of Miller High Life and a stick of butter on my daddy's side of their headstone, and a Snickers bar and a cup of coffee on my mom's. A box of Toaster Strudels on Helen's. Pictures of little kids on Mrs. Christopher's.)
Immigrants don't have an easy time of it here in our little town. There are some wonderful programs for them, and some wonderful people who are working tirelessly to improve conditions for those who have come here to work. And live.
But there are townsfolk who aren't so nice. I've seen it in the snide glances of the Wal-Mart cashiers, and heard the sarcasm in their voices when they ask, "Is this parsley or cilantro?, " knowing full well that the customer on the other side of the counter probably doesn't speak much English.
Last week, while standing in a long line at the post office, I watched as the clerk let a blonde woman jump the line to show her ID (which she had left in her car) and pay for her shipping, but told a Mexican couple who she had been helping that they would have to go to the end of the line to pay for a padded envelope; they stepped away from the counter momentarily to get one from the rack behind them.
I watched. I didn't say anything. And as pissed off as I was at that clerk, I am more pissed off at myself.
For not letting that clerk know that perhaps her actions were unwelcoming, unloving and little (edited to remove unloving comment on my part.)
For not knowing enough Spanish to tell the couple that I was sorry that the clerk was an unwelcoming, unloving (ditto)
For not knowing what to do to make this Us vs. Them situation better.
I have jumped on the e-mail bandwagon, asking my Congressman and Senators to pass "comprehensive immigration reform." They sent back eloquently-worded notes, thanking me for my input and explaining the legislative challenges they faced in this issue, which caused it to fail in Congress.
I have downloaded Spanish lesson podcasts and subscribed to peace and justice newsgroups.
I have helped out at Spanish liturgies (which in turn, has led to invitations to fantastic meals afterward.)
But I don't know why we just can't get along.
I know, I know, it's historical. I've been to Ellis Island. I know that every minority group who has come to America has been faced with discrimination, usually from the minority group who got here right before them.
But I've also been to the Statue of Liberty. Right there, carved into the icon of American freedom, it says, "Give me your tired, your poor/your huddled masses yearning to breathe free . . . send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me."
Don't we believe that?
And in this Christian country, shouldn't we pay attention to the Bible? It tells us, "When a foreigner lives with you in your land, don't take advantage of him. Treat the foreigner as a native. Love him like one of your own. Remember you were once foreigners in Egypt" (Leviticus 19:33-34)
I like law and order. I like things on the up-and-up. If you are doing something illegal, you should quit doing it. I like people to stop at stop signs, pay their taxes and follow the rules.
But I like people more. And I like justice more. And I like peace most of all.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

All Saints' Day

Eighteen years ago, Sarah had just started kindergarten at St. Ambrose School. One morning, as Maggie and I stood in the school lobby waiting to pick her up, the new principal, Sister Josita, pointed her finger at me. "Hey, you," she said. "I want to have a festival on All Saints' Day. You be in charge."

Despite the fact that I had no idea what she was talking about, I said yes. (Sister was a tall, imposing woman who didn't take any crap from anyone. She probably had me pegged as her anxious-to-please, new-kindergarten-parent lapdog from Day 1. Of course, she was right.)

So, with a lot of other moms, I spent the next few weeks planning games, buying prizes and laminating saint holy cards for the 100 or so kids in the school.

After Mass (where every student dressed as a saint), the fun began. We had a fishing game, a duck pond, an obstacle course, a football toss, and face painting; the lunch ladies, who I had recently met, ran the cupcake walk.

It was a great success, and I ran the festival for three more years -- more games, more fun, and the lunch ladies became two of my best friends (not just because of their cupcake skills).

A few years later, a new principal (not a Sister) did away with the festival in favor of a more educational afternoon -- movies, quizzes and art projects. And no dressing up as your favorite saint. Now, I am all in favor of education, but where's the fun in that? What better way to celebrate saintly lives and martyrdom than getting all jazzed up on the cupcake you won at the cake walk washed down with the soda you won at the ring toss? Or seeing if you can wing the superball you just acquired all the way across the gym? Or watching the 1st grade teacher take on the 6th grade teacher on the obstacle course?

Maybe the good old days are on the way back. This year, another new principal, Sister Anna Rose, produced quite a spectacle for the Mass, complete with 18 children dressed as saints, from St. Gabriel with enormous cotton ball-encrusted wings to Mother Theresa in a very realistic-looking sari. Here is one of my favorites (saint and child):
Abby as St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
I hear the entire school played a rousing game of Saints Bingo in the afternoon. No duck pond, but it is a good start.

Speaking of St. Elizabeth, she was a wife, mother and convert to Roman Catholicism, just like me. And her passion was Catholic education. Unlike me, she was raised in New York City high society, married a wealthy man, and died at age 46, after founding a religious order, opening many Catholic schools and founding two orphanages.
I need to get busy.

And in yet another stroke of saintly coincidence, St. Elizabeth's spiritual advisor was Father Simon Brute, who became the first Bishop of Indiana, and who asked St. Theodora Guerin to leave France for the wilds of Terre Haute. Small world, great God.


Happy Halloween!

It was a boo-tiful evening; we sat on the porch to welcome trick-or-treaters (we didn't have many -- one of the bad things about living in the country -- but we had fun).
I made the boys Thing 1 and 2 costumes from red sweats, and knit them hats with Crystal Palace Squiggle (in Blue Grotto, one skein for each hat) and a Bernat yarn (Nathan removed the label -- it's probably in the toy closet). I just made this pattern up as I went, doubling the stitches after the ribbing to give it a nice full look.
Nathan didn't wear his Thing Hat very long, but at least we got one cute picture out of it:
I thought maybe if Sarah wore a hat, too, the boys would wear their hats. She looks adorable in the Desperate Housefrau (from Knitty), but it didn't work; her hat stayed on, but the blue hats spent most of the evening on the floor.
Three of my favorite trick-or-treaters:
Carly is Princess Leia, Taylor is a disco queen and Charlie is of course, Luke Skywalker.
And here's the third party in the Star Wars trio:

Griffin as Yoda.
My sister, Karen, made this little jacket for him, and Carly's hat, as well. They were so cute -- she even added the wrinkles for Yoda's forehead.
Tommy didn't want to wear his Thing Hat, but here is good picture of him and his best pal and aunt.

With the passing of Halloween, we'll now be bombarded with Christmas in all the stores.
I say, let's enjoy November first.
Peace, and a very happy November.