Wednesday, August 29, 2012

On Speaking Truth

Today we remember the martyrdom of St. John the Baptist. Read the Gospel reading for an account. He died because he preached the truth about Herodias’s adultery and she couldn’t stand it. Yes, he was judgmental. But he called her to repent. She wanted him silenced, and so used not her own womanly wiles but the charms of her daughter, Salome. You all know the story. Herod is so pleased by the sultry, sexy dance, he offers her anything, and she demands the head of the Baptist at her mother’s request.

Although we have nothing so dramatic today silencing the prophets of today, I notice that those who speak against abortion or gay marriage are labeled bigots. The people who want to sin are intolerant of the people who speak against it, in the name of freedom. Yes, we have free will. But as I tell my children, you are better off when you choose to do the *right* thing. It may be harder to be chaste, but it comes with great blessings. Even married couples are called to be chaste, for example, when a spouse is ill.

Sometimes it can look as though the religious are overly concerned over sexual misdemeanors. I think these are some of the easiest sins to conquer. They form the lower level of Dante’s Inferno. Much more difficult sins to conquer are the sins of pride. The father of lies – satan – lets us believe that we are like God. We should decide what’s good and bad. That’s pride. Much harder to conquer than any habitual sin.

I love the line: Abandon all hope, ye who enter here. It is very perceptive because hope in the Lord Jesus Christ is what saves us.

I came across something wonderful a couple of years ago: Divine Mercy. I’ll direct you to a brief biography of St. Faustina here, but the essence of Divine Mercy is that even if you have a smidgen of goodwill towards God, a speck of hope, God will allow His mercy to work. If the soul rejects this last grace, then God allows eternal separation. In St. Faustina’s Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul, she describes the interaction of a despairing soul, falling farther into the abyss and how the Divine Mercy saves this soul. We pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy often for those who are sick, suffering, and dying.

Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered and died for us. In His name, My God, have mercy.

So, do not despair. Always have hope.

And speaking of hope, did anybody watch the Republican National Convention? I do not watch TV, but this was too good to pass up. So instead of finishing a new chapter, I was glued to the TV with my family for a couple of hours. Oy. I was struck by the humble beginnings of so many of the leaders, their accomplishments, and their drive to succeed. I can’t wait for Mitt Romney to lead this country to prosperity in a prudent manner. He has a balanced budget in MA. Whoa! That alone impresses me. Historically, governors make good presidents, for the simple fact they know how to govern! I especially loved listening to Chris Christie (governor of VA) and Nikki Haley (governor of SC, yeah!). I waited for Bobby Jindal (governor of LA), but I think he had more pressing matters, like dealing with Isaac.

So, there you go. A post in which I talk about religion and politics. Can you feel the heat?
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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Confessions

Converts to Christianity might especially enjoy reading St. Augustine's Confessions. Oh, how he speaks to my heart.

“Too late have I loved you, O Beauty of ancient days, yet ever new! Too late I loved you! And behold, you were within, and I abroad, and there I searched for you; I was deformed, plunging amid those fair forms, which you had made. You were with me, but I was not with you. Things held me far from you—things which, if they were not in you, were not at all. You called, and shouted, and burst my deafness. You flashed and shone, and scattered my blindness. You breathed odors and I drew in breath—and I pant for you. I tasted, and I hunger and thirst. You touched me, and I burned for your peace” (St. Augustine, Confessions).

Today is his memorial day, and yesterday was his devout mother's (St. Monica). Sometimes they feel inseparable to me, and biologically speaking, they were one flesh for nine months, just as Jesus was inseparably one Flesh with His mother. St. Augustine reminds me what a great role mothers have in bringing their children to Christ. St. Monica prayed unceasingly, pleaded, and even nagged Augustine to lead a life of holiness. God answered her prayers. He is one of the greatest fathers of the church.

Pray for us, St. Monica, that we may bring our children to Christ.
Pray for us, St. Augustine, that we may bring all those whose lives we touch to Christ.

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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Two Hard Readings in One Day

Today's Bible readings are difficult for us with our modern sensibilities ... but I urge you to read Msgr. Pope's reflection on them. He speaks with clarity.

Wishing you all a very blessed Lord's day.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Cypress Gardens and the Swamp

I have visited several butterfly gardens, and I especially enjoyed this one at Cypress Gardens because they had all the stages on the plants -- eggs, caterpillars, chrysalids, and butterflies. So pretty. They also had these fluffy quail. I dearly wanted to cradle them in my hands.





There was also an indoor swamparium with alligators, snakes, frogs, and various other critters, including this enormous catfish.



We got into a small flat-bottom boat and paddled around in the swamp. It was so much fun, we've got to do this again. It'd be scary at Halloween.



My husband did most of the steering, so we wouldn't crash into the trees, but of course, he was looking up at the sky ...


We do love our flying creatures, both natural and man-made. Here's a dragonfly resting on my salty leg.



We took a walk later and I could've sat on that bench for a long time ... alas a storm was brewing ... so we wanted to get home before then ... but simply had to stop to stick our heads in the alligator's mouth!






















We waited out the storm in the car ... but look! A double rainbow. So beautiful. I have my son to thank for taking all these pictures. He's got a great eye and I love being able to share them with all of you.




Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Back to School

The kids started school today ... and it was hard getting up early this morning. But everyone got out the door on time, and we even had time to pray all together as a family. We usually do this in the evenings, but I like this new schedule with my husband bringing the children to school, and me doing the afternoon pick-up.

As befits a school post, I had my son write out his thoughts about a couple of books we've been reading.

A Whole Lot of Lucky by Danette Howarth is an interesting book about how a relatively poor girl named Hailee wins the lottery and her family suddenly becomes very rich. She gets lots of stuff like computers, smartphones, and new clothes, things she's never had before. However, her parents transfer her to a private school and suddenly she realizes how much she liked her old public school. She has to learn that not all luck is good and that not all change is bad. It is a very good book because it shows how you can be happy without having the latest toys. Hailee has to learn that her best friend is better than her new friends, even though her new friends are a lot richer and have more stuff. The ending is happy.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein is about a spy who gets caught by the Nazis in France during WWII. She bargains with them so that she may live. The interrogator agrees, provided she tells them confidential information on paper. Meanwhile resistance fighters rescue her pilot, Maddie. As Verity weaves her tale on paper, which is funny and heartbreaking, we learn about her and Maddie. I liked the writing because Verity never really dwells on her capture. She just tells the story of how she came to be here because of the Nazis or "idiot fascists." The book has many twists and turns and the ending is sadly surprising. It made me laugh and cry.

Both kids have been reading a lot and I've had to confiscate books from them so that they got their chores done in a timely manner. You'd think I wouldn't have to do this anymore, but we are all a bookish bunch. My thanks go to Danette for writing A Whole Lot of Lucky and to Christina for sending me her book. When we pray the rosary, we often pray that God will protect us from the worship of material things, and this book is spot on for showing this. Relationships are far more important.

Code Name Verity has got to be the BEST fiction I've read this year. Hands down! I love historical fiction, but to have a book where I have to revise everything I thought I knew as I read the second half is brilliant. I was never once confused, but the sense of adventure and mystery remained, not to mention the deep friendship between these two brave young women. I've read a few WWII books, but never one that features female pilots or their contributions. This is a book I will read again. Thank you, Ms. Wein for writing this book.

Other things I've been reading Word Among Us. A friend prompted me to get a subscription, and after reading some of their reflections online for a month, I did. The little magazine is perfect to have at home when I don't make it to daily Mass. It has all the Scripture readings as well.

Another friend gave us a subscription to Latin Mass Magazine, and I am floored by the in-depth articles. We shall definitely resubscribe. I also like the FSSP newsletter.

For those of you gearing up for school, don't you just love the smell of new notebooks and pens and pencils? I'm looking forward to having more time to write during the day, making some submissions, and having some acceptances. I have a lovely little Bear Card from Highlights (they ask to bear with them as they review a story). They are a class act, through and through. If any of you get a chance to go to any of their writing workshops, do it. It's a great investment.

Here's wishing you all a great school year, and I hope we grow not only in knowledge but also virtue and holiness.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Until Death Do Us Part

Today, my husband and I celebrate 18 years of marriage, and 28 of knowing one another. These married years have been the best, since we have each other, our two children, and the assortment of pets. Best of all, we (re) discovered Christ together. What a wild and joyous ride!

I'm glad there's not much drama in our household. Even while having heated discussions, we don't elbow one another or sling insults (by the way, the Shakespeare insults are taped to my office door, along with Hoehne's First Law, and a picture of my husband while umpiring -- You're Out!).

The kids still remember the BIG FIGHT we had about who was going to clean the cat box. I was either pregnant and nursing for a good four years, so I happily dumped this chore onto my husband, along with all the digging one has to do in the garden, the oil changes in the car, the finances, and numerous other small things, like changing light bulbs. But my husband has always done everything graciously. I've reformed my ways since then and taken over the cat-box cleaning.


Without so many words, my children are learning about what to look for in a mate. My son is learning to be a man from his father, and my daughter is learning what kind of a man she ought to give her heart to. And so we pray, not just for our own marriage and family to remain strong and centered in Christ, but also for the children's future spouses and families for the remaining generations. Since God stands outside of time, I find myself praying for the generations before me as well.

Today is an ordinary day, really. I've done my morning chores and cooked a big pot of chili and an apple crisp for this evening. We'll probably go swimming for a while. But I can't forget it's also the Feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe, that he gave up his life to take the place of a man who had a family.

It is a good day to celebrate marriage and family. It is a good day to celebrate a book birthday: The Voice of Thunder by Mirka Breen.

Congratulations!!!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Hamster Wars

These two adorable dwarf hamsters were a birthday present for my daughter. Well, all was going well -- we watched them run on the wheel, hide in toilet paper rolls, shred toilet paper, stuff their cheeks with food. But kind of like my own children, they started fighting as they grew older. We have them in two separate cages and they are much happier. Gee, I hope we don't have to do that with our kids (they do have their own room, and that should be enough). 

The good news is that my daughter is happy to give one of the hamsters to a good friend. I can't think of a better ending to hamster wars.

Below is a picture of my son playing with a microprocessor, learning to do some basic programming. This particular test is to determine response time. My daughter has gotten the highest score so far ... and she needs it to catch those fast little hamsters, for corporal cuddling and kissing. Check out the movie clip ... see those little legs? Robos are fast!


                                                                                                                                      
 

 


 
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Today we made a visit to Cypress Gardens and the best part was paddling around in the swamp. I'll post some pictures when I get a chance. We got caught in another thunderstorm on our way home ... this seems to be a daily occurrence and you can be sure I get soaked on a regular basis when we walk the dog. I don't really mind because it's so hot here, so the shower feels great. I didn't realize this but SC gets more rain than WA per year.

I hope you're all having a lovely weekend. Happy Feast of St. Clare. This upcoming school year, one of the books that my son will read is The Road to Damietta by Scott O'Dell, a historical fiction account of the girl who loved St. Francis. Of course, St. Clare's dramatic escape from home to become a follower of Francis is in the book. Oh, to write historical fiction with such depth and detail so that it is accessible to the modern reader while preserving the sense of time and place the events take place. I have my work cut out for me. Thank goodness for amazing writers like O'Dell to show us the path.


Friday, August 3, 2012

Of Tea and Trees

Last weekend, we went to a tea plantation -- the only one in America! I didn't realize that this hot, humid climate is perfect for growing tea. I was thinking of the foothills of the Himalaya, but it gets plenty hot there. I willl be planting a bush this fall. If I could be any kind of farmer, I'd want to be a tea farmer. That's because tea has no natural predators. So no need to spray with pesticides or what-have-yous even if you grow it on a large scale.

We had a great time sampling the teas and I took lots of notes on the tour. Why, of course, I'm going to write it up for a magazine :) You know shorts are my biggest distraction from the novel-writing, right? And what better way than to curl up in the branch of a giant oak to do so ...

Some of the books I have enjoyed recently, which I read on my back porch (not this giant oak below) are: A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly and Emily's Fortune by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. And I'm loving Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. All historical fiction. I enjoyed NL for its complexity, EF for it's rollicking good fun, and the voice in CNV is AMAZING. I trust this author to spin a yarn so good even the Gestapo will buy it. 

Anyway, this tree is the largest and oldest oak on the East Coast, only a few miles away from the tea plantation. What a beauty!





 


On our way home we got caught in a thunderstorm. You can be sure we prayed our Hail Mary's. We were so glad to be home to watch some Olympics (I still remember we did not have a TV for the last set of games, so we are enjoying watching a few of the events -- swimming, diving, gymnastics).

I have some great revision notes to ponder from my writing friends. Thank you! I wish I could just hole myself in my office for the next two weeks to make the final round before I send it out, but we have less than a month off from school, so we want to know this beautiful lowcountry better. Hard to believe we've been here nearly a year. Living here has exceeded all my expectations regarding the people and place. Thanks be to God.

Have a great weekend, all. And get outside ... even if it's hot and humid. Have a picnic. Catch a storm. Steal a kiss.

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