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.