Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Good Mail Day

Today, the mailman brought the Dec. issue of Hopscotch magazine in which my article, "Waste Not, Want Not," is published. It's beautifully illustrated by Rebecca Spohn. It's a memoir piece about living in India and using everything. This was an ICL assignment years ago, so I was very, very happy when Hopscotch accepted it. Too bad I didn't have any pictures to go with the article. I share this issue with my good friend Shirley Anne Ramaley, who not only is a prolific writer but is a blue-ribbon photographer. Do check out her website.

It's nice to get back into the school routine. I'm working on a short story and novel revisions again. We decorated our fake Christmas tree on Sunday. I'm not ready for a real tree this year with two kittens. Look at them! They've been having a great time playing with all the ornaments. They remind me of both our older cats when they were kittens. Such fun, such chaos. They nose the bells, chew on sticks and pulls the ornaments off. This morning, one of the kittens brought an ornament upstairs ... a fuzzy Santa with sticks. I told the kids that our job will be to fight entropy with the naughty kittens.

I hope everyone is enjoying getting back to their normal routine and not getting stressed over Christmas. I have one word for you: Marantha. It means, Come, Lord!


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving and a Challenge

Faith wrote a beautiful post on being thankful even for bad things. It immediately reminded me of 1 Thessalonians 5:18: Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

It is difficult to be thankful for aches and pains, for suffering, for death, but only the good Lord knows how He will use them for His purpose, His glory.

Kristi Holl recommended me a book: The God of all Comfort by Judy Gann. It is a book of reflections for those who suffer from chronic illness, or those who are dying. Well, we're all dying, so we can all benefit from it. It brings much needed perspective to my life right now. If you know of someone who is suffering, I highly recommend it.

There's a poem in there by an unknown author I'd like to share with you:

My life is but a weaving
Between my Lord and me;
I cannot choose the colors,
He worketh steadily.
Ofttimes he weaveth sorrow,
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper,
And I the underside.
Not 'til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly,
Shall God unroll the canvas
And explain the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful
In the Weaver's skillful hand,
As the threads of gold and silver,
In the pattern He has planned.

Every night at supper, we go around listing five thanks in no particular order, big or small. We've been doing this for several years now. I especially enjoy listening to the children's thanks, which give me clues as to what they love in their lunchbox, like tomatoes or popcorn, or the obvious (not in their lunchbox) -- the pets, the sunshine, family, friends.

This year, our youth leader at Church challenged us to make a list of 100 things we're thankful for. I thought this would be fun. My kids have already finished their lists. In light of what I've said, I think you can think of a hundred things easily, both good and bad. Even I can be grateful for my illness; it draws me closer to God, makes my children kinder, more compassionate.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Birthday, Ai

Today is my mother's birthday. I had hoped to make a cake to celebrate, but I was too ill. Instead I prayed the rosary. For her soul. For mine. And for my loved ones.
Today I leave you a quote from Vance Havner: God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is a broken alabaster jar that gives forth perfume ... It is Peter weeping bitterly, who returns to greater power.
Looking back, my mother was broken. But as a child, I saw her great strength and courage. I weep too, for I am broken. But in this brokennes, friends and family have come to my aid, and lifted me up in prayer. How blessed I am.
I came across this beautiful song by Leonard Cohen's and the refrain resonates perfectly: There is a crack in everything, That’s how the light gets in.
Here's the YouTube video link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5zKk76YkF1U

Monday, November 22, 2010


We got a dusting of snow yesterday. The kids went out to play first thing in the morning. The dog kept jumping up and snapping at the large snowflakes. Today, it's been coming down all morning. The kittens have been watching it in rapt attention. Now I have one in my lap as I type this post. I hope the snowfall continues so that school is cancelled and we can have a nice long Thanksgiving break at home.


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Count My Blessings

Count My Blessings is Salina Yoon's first picture book. A little bear counts his blessings: one house, two parents, three friends ...
I met Salina through the Blueboards. I'd been working on a concept book that had received good rejections and I was stumped. Knowing Salina's background, I asked whether she'd take a look. Not only did she take a look, she advised me how to make it marketable. I followed her lead until it was pitch perfect to both our ears. And she sent me a book! Count My Blessings.
Shouldn't I be thanking her? Inside the book were several notes including: Where's my bread? Apparently the bread I'd promised had gone phantom on me. Did the postman eat it? The fungus? Uh-oh. But this story has a happy ending. The bread arrived. I've now achieved the status of Ma Ingalls since Salina doesn't like to cook (even in a crock pot).
The kids and I read Salina's book immediately and Salina shared the genesis of this book. She was already creating novelty books at the time, many that I'm sure your own children have grown to love (check them out at her website), but she was a mother of a toddler at the time: "I wanted a book that was created JUST for him, and JUST from mom."
I wrote to her about the pictures, which ones were our favorites. She wrote back: "My mom (the grandma in the book) is a true quilter. She's made me at least a dozen quilts, from crib sized quilts to king sized quilts! From quilted bags to quilted teddy bears .... And my dad is actually a watch repairman, but loves using his hands. All the toys in the book are from Max's things. Oh... and those stuffed animals ... Max insisted on dragging them to bed, and drag them back downstairs every morning for years! My family truly inspired this book."
My kids understand this. All my early stories (and even now) published in magazines are our family stories, doing the laundry, cooking, picking berries, etc. They are keepsakes. Salina and I talked about our kids and what an inspiration they are. She wrote: "Max and Mason are now in Kindergarten and 1st grade. They've now outgrown my books for little ones. But they absolutely continue to inspire me! In fact, Max's favorite hobby is to create books of his own with me! He has a drafting table right in my studio."
Lucky kids! Thank you for sharing your beautiful book and your family so generously with us, Salina. Folks, watch out for more books from Salina in the near future -- she's as busy as can be!
May you all have a happy Thanksgiving. Count your blessings.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

On Love and Loss

Earlier this week, we had to put our oldest cat down. It was probably the worst time ever, since I was recovering from complications from a lumbar puncture. But that's a separate story. Well, is there ever a good time to break a bone when you're a 17-year-old cat? I knew something like this was bound to happen. He was old. He was frail. But I was completely unprepared, emotionally and physically. He spent a fair bit of time in bed with me and even though he was bony and not very soft, it was endearing to have him close and purring. Two old souls.

I got him at a time when I was hurting emotionally -- my husband (then boyfriend) and I had broken up because we were in a long-distance relationship and he had taken a job in Belgium and I felt he was moving in the wrong direction. I loved him so very much and wanted him in the same country. The same state would've been better. So I ended the relationship, and got this kitten instead. Eight months later, I was still miserable, as well as him (the boyfriend, not the kitten), so we decided to make concrete plans to physically be together. We got married and the rest is history. Oh, we were so young and so stupid, putting our careers above our love. Now I tell young people that love is more important, to not sacrifice it.

Moje was a great cat. A feisty little thing. Adventurous. When I finished my PhD I couldn't bear to be parted with him, so he came to Belgium with us for my postdoc at the Max Planck Institute in Germany. He's been well-travelled. He's been everywhere I've been and a great companion. I've missed him terribly when my husband I got married and went on our honeymoon. Luckily, our hosts had just gotten a kitten and I got to play with it.

Here's a photo of him when he was five years old and still not quite happy about getting the black cat. I was pregnant with our first baby at the time. But they became great friends after the baby was born and I was busy. She misses him the most now and follows me around quite a bit.

Then the babies came. He didn't like them at the beginning either -- but he was curious and wanted to be in the middle of everything.

He was the best babysitter ever, putting the kids to sleep.

He endured being treated like a stuffed animal.

He checked the homework routinely so that I wouldn't have to.

He taught both my kids to read.

In his later years, we added a puppy and two kittens. He tolerated them. But he was always top cat. He spent much of his time curled up, sleeping, but even so, he had his daily heebie-jeebies. He still nipped my toes and demanded to be picked up. I always did, no matter what I was doing.

Moje loved a good time and enjoyed Christmas and being part of the fun.

We miss you Moje. I am sure you are enjoying kitty heaven, chasing angel toes and sitting in all the available laps.

Monday, November 1, 2010

High Mass

Today we had the opportunity to attend High Mass at the Church of the North American Martyrs in Ballard. I cannot even express how amazing and wonderful it was. The Altar was magnificent with our eyes naturally drawn to the crucifix that was mounted on what I think was a malachite slab, backlit. Six candles were already lit. Someone was praying the rosary and we joined in. The atmosphere was intensely devotional and prayerful.

The entire service was in Latin and the congregation responded minimally. One could read in the little booklets that were printed, and although we were requested to return them, I confess I took one home to study, the Latin and English, printed side by side. I do know a little bit of Latin, since I used to sing in Concert Choir and many of the pieces we sung were by Bach and Verdi and Mozart and specifically composed for the Church. So I knew where we were during the liturgy. I love the Kyrie and the Sanctus, for I am a sinner and I cannot help but ask for mercy, and the Lord is Holy!

If you want to see a video clip and photos go here. The biggest difference is that the priest faces the Altar because he is leading the flock to Calvary. This is a much more sacrificial tone to the whole liturgy. The priest and altar servers move in a perfectly choreographed manner. We take communion by kneeling and on the tongue. There is something very different -- you are being fed the Lamb of God. Again, I cannot quite express how I feel. But I loved it and it evoked some very deep down memories that I didn't even know I had of going to the Cathedral as a child. We shall definitely go again. I think it is important to have exposure to this rich and traditional service as well as the vernacular.