Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Keeper of the Bees

We're learning so much since Michael started keeping bees. We now have two hives--a top bar and the more traditional box. This should ensure lots of honey and wax and bees for the garden. Such wonderful creatures. Life is sweet with bees! In fact, we'd all starve without bees. People don't realize that 75% of the plants we eat need pollinators. All the pesticides used in industrial farming are killing the bees. I'm so thankful we have many local farmers who practice regenerative farming and who are happy to share what they know. 

Our first batch of bees arrived in the mail about a month ago--they went into the top bar and they're doing well, building comb and filling it with brood. The new bees are hatching.

We picked up the second batch from R&R Acres and it's a fully functioning hive--almost ready to swarm--in fact, while we were at the farm, there was a callout to collect a swarm. Here, Michael is adding empty frames in-between the fully-formed ones so that the bees have room to grow. It's so nice to have bees humming and buzzing in the backyard again. Welcome, new bees! 

Some fun pictures from R&R family farm. We visited the store and I bought some soap and a face-toner (smells divine with rose and hibiscus and honey) and the chocolate covered honey was absolutely delicious! The striped bird in the cage is a young emu. The older ones were delightful to watch too. What a beautiful place to raise a family. It can look idyllic but it's a lot of work! I know I don't have the energy but it is such a joy to see young families succeed at building and sustaining a family farm.

Thursday, April 11, 2024


That's us, 15 years ago, at our reception into the Catholic Church! JOY! I could not have dreamed of all the blessings God has bestowed upon us as we journey to our heavenly home. Truly, it is as Jesus said, "Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit." John 3:5 

And He continues to explain, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life." John 3:16 is often emblazoned on billboards. Truth! But it's sobering to read further:

"For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God." John 3:16-21 Here it is in song by Sir John Stainer:

Because we were atheists, I feel the gravity of the Word. Word made Flesh. We did the most terrible thing in the world--killed God. "Forgive them, for they know not what they do," He cried from the Cross. When I cross myself, the first stroke is top to bottom (Father-->Son), I think how Jesus came down from heaven and entered into the depths of my sinfulness. He took upon Himself the punishment I deserved. And because He lives, I can say now I am free! Free! Free to be the person He created me to be. And He has done this for each of you, too! I cannot fathom a love like His. We don't deserve it. But over and over I experience His Love. St. Gemma Galgani, on whose feast day we were received, often signed "la tua povera Gemma" because she felt she loved poorly. Oh, Gemma, we're all poor compared to Love Himself.

It's also the Feast of Pope St. Leo the Great! He's a Doctor of the Church most famous for meeting Attila the Hun and for elucidating the dual nature of Jesus: fully man, fully divine, in complete union, with no confusion or division. It's also the Feast of St. Stanislaw of Poland. He was martyred because he dared to tell the king to not be an adulterer, to repent and live a moral life. Praise God for all His faithful who have the courage to speak truth. Our Lord Jesus has prayed for us to be consecrated in the truth (John 17:17). Let us never fear men and what they can do to us or take away from us. Let us only be in holy fear of the Lord. And pick up our Cross and carry it.   

The Cross! My second stroke is up and toward my right shoulder. I rise from the pit of sin, washed clean in His Precious Blood. And the third stroke is horizontal (Holy Spirit), I think of how His grace flows through me to others. My life has the shape of a Cross, the vertical dimension, eyes raised to heaven, and the horizontal, toward my neighbor. Worship comes first! Praise and thanksgiving! I am so thankful to be a child of Light. I'm always searching for truth and I found it in Christ. And so I sing Exultate justi in Domino... (Psalm 33:1-3) 
Rejoice in the Lord, O ye just; praise befits the upright.
Give praise to the Lord on the harp; sing to him with the psaltery, the instrument of ten strings.
Sing to him a new canticle, sing well unto him with a loud noise.
Rejoice in the Lord, O ye just; praise befits the upright.

Views in and from the choir loft at our 15th Easter Vigil.

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Easter, the Annunciation, and the Solar Eclipse

What a wonderful Easter Octave it has been! So much to celebrate. First Friday Mass is in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus followed by Divine Mercy Sunday. Fr. Jeffrey Kirby had a lovely meditation on how the message of both is the same: God's love for each and every one of us. Divine Mercy and the Sacred Heart Share a Common Message| National Catholic Register ( And then came the solar eclipse on the Feast of the Annunciation! I was so grateful I received the grace to get up early to hear morning Mass at St. Clare of Assisi and renew my consecration to Jesus through Mary. After Mass, the priest invited us to take some of the flowers home as well as venerate the relics of several saints: two of St. Clare of Assisi, one each of St. Francis of Assisi, St. Anthony of Padua, St. Bernadette of Lourdes, St. Francis Xavier Seelos, and the True Cross. Oh, to have these powerful friends in heaven praying for us, interceding to our Lord! It is true what my kids say--I have more friends in heaven than on earth :) 

Catholicism is full of strange practices, but they all make sense because they are steeped in truth and point to Truth Himself. The Immaculate Conception, the Annunciation, the Incarnation, the Passion, the Resurrection, the Eucharist, the Redemption--you can't make this stuff up. Fr. Raymond de Souza had another beautiful meditation, how the moon is like Mary, the sun, her Son: The Eclipse and the Annunciation - The Catholic Thing. Yet, Mary never eclipses her Son, so there the analogy fails. My first thought was how Mary hid Christ within herself for nine months. The Holy Family led a hidden life in Nazareth until Jesus begins His public ministry and revelation. All I can say is the beginning of Psalm 19: The heavens declare the glory of God!!! And the firmament showeth His handiwork. Here I am, Lord; I come to do Your Will. 

Below some pictures from my family. My sister (in Texas) said it was a cloudy day but every so often the clouds would part and they could see with their naked eyes the moon shadowing the sun. I really loved the colors. My sister-in-law, also in Texas, sent us this picture of her red lily! So pretty! It reminded me of the Sacred Heart of Jesus! And His Sacred Blood! Oh how He lets me know how much He loves me.  

Max and Dagny sent these from Washington DC and N. Charleston respectively. It was sunny in Charleston so Michael got the colander out. I love seeing the crescent sun patterns. It was a warm day but I could feel the temperature drop during the eclipse. And there wasn't any discernable change in the behavior of the animals, like the last time: Vijaya Bodach: Solar Eclipse 2017  

Please do share your thoughts and pictures if you got to see the 2024 eclipse. 

Friday, April 5, 2024

Book Reviews

It's been nearly a year-and-half since we had another issue of the STAR but I got my book reviews in the Easter issue. I enjoy sharing all the good books I read and especially with my parish family. I hope you find some treasures for your own family here. 

Thursday, April 4, 2024

Easter Joy! He is Risen! Alleluia!!!

We are enjoying a glorious Easter! I'm resting in Him, writing, and singing Alleluia!!! Michael is as busy as his new bees! My mother always said we are an Easter people and every year I gain a little more insight as we make the journey from the desert in Lent through the Passion of our Lord to His Resurrection! 

I'm a sinner with a past and I continue to be tempted and fail, but I run to our Lord with a contrite heart, tears of sorrow blinding me. He always catches me. We sing in the Anima Christi: Within Thy wounds, hide me. And He does. The devil may try to stake a claim on me because of my sins, but I hear our Lord's Voice--you are Mine! I love you. I have always loved you.  

My friends, run to Jesus! He loves you so much! He's already paid the price for you! And He is coming again in glory! Praise Him with all the angels and saints!

Saturday, March 30, 2024

On Holy Week and Triduum and Solar Eclipse

Some day I will have grandchildren, so I had to get my own copy of: My Book of the Church's Year! I know, excuses, excuses to buy books, especially children's books :) But Peter Kwawniewski echoes how I feel about giving children (and adults) the best books. Consider how we spend Lent with three practices: prayer, fasting, almsgiving. How beautifully Enid Chadwick shows that these are our weapons against the devil, the flesh, and the world respectively. She creates space to ponder the Mysteries of the Faith with all the details in her artwork.

This was perhaps the best Lent ever, bar our first when we were in RCIA; my niece is being received into the Church this Easter Vigil. Her marriage, too, is being convalidated. She will receive the Body and Blood of our Lord. So much to celebrate! Glory, glory to God! 

This Eastertide is special for another reason--signs from heaven. Fr. Ripperger has a wonderful reflection on the upcoming solar eclipse on April 8th, the fact that its path takes it through the towns of Jonah and Nineveh. If this isn't a call to repent and turn to the Lord, I don't know what would be clearer. I especially liked that at the end, Fr. Ripperger reminds us how God created. He calls upon the waters to bring forth the fish and the earth to bring forth plants and animals. But when He creates man, He says, "Let US create man in our Image." He points out that if you take a fish out of water, it dies; if you take a plant out of the earth, it dies; and so it follows that if you separate man from God, he suffers a spiritual death. Anyway, Fr. Ripperger packs a lot in 11 minutes. For a more detailed description of all the cosmological things going on, see: Guest post: Laramie Hirsch on the April 8 solar eclipse – Nurse Claire Says. Granted, I have a fascination with numbers and names and coincidences but I've come to believe that there are no coincidences, simply signs from God. We should do as He commands in the Garden of Gethsemane: Watch and Pray! A Blessed and Happy Easter to you! 

Check out these cool maps! I like the patterns they make, the letter A, which is the beginning of the alphabet (aleph; I'm reading a fascinating book Alphabetical: How Every Letter Tells a Story by Michael Rosen), or the X's where a place experiences two solar eclipses. Just don't ask me to explain the difference between annular and total solar eclipses :) 

Sunday, March 17, 2024

March Feast Days

Michael brews beer for the men's monthly group meeting at Stella Maris and always adds the name of the saint for the day it's held along with the type of beer brewed. This time he found a lovely pictorial of several March saints (found here) and I loved having some of my favorites all in one picture. Enjoy! 

Of course, I had to go down the rabbit hole to find out who made it :) The pictures are taken from My Book of the Church's Year by Enid M. Chadwick. Children's books are the best! Happy St. Patrick's Day! My baptism day too! Celebrating my life in Christ! I should decrease, He increase.

Friday, March 15, 2024


A friend sent me this poem by William Wordsworth because she knows how much I love cats and kittens and the way they play. And what a delight to be immersed in such a beautiful poem. It sings! I feel we've lost that in many contemporary poems. I picked up a recent book of cat poems because it was displayed at the library and I'm irresistibly drawn to anything with a cat. I read all the poems--they were funny, a couple were crass--but they didn't move me. The pictures did, however. So I wonder if we are becoming too visual to the detriment of developing our ear for beautiful prose and poetry. What do you think?

Monday, March 4, 2024

No Time to Waste

A friend sent me this beautiful quote. We were lamenting how much we feel the urgency to right things given our late entry into the Church and how much we fail. But what matters is that when we fall, we get up with God's grace and try and try again and again. 

So here I am writing again with purpose. So many stories upon my heart and not enough time for all of them. But two or three are rising to the top. A novel, a memoir, a nonfiction PB. I honestly don't know whether I can tackle all three at once, but I've been collecting and organizing my research. Then there are the numerous polished stories that I've not sent out--researching publishers takes time too. I remember when I first started writing, how I devoted one writing session per week to researching magazines and sending out my stories. It made for excellent balance for 10-20% of my writing time devoted to the business side of things. 

But right now, I have music to practice. So after I hit post, I'll be singing for the rest of the evening. 

Saturday, March 2, 2024

Books, Books, Books!!!

It's been much too long since I've blogged about the good books I've read, so without further ado, I'll begin with the most recent. Kids' books first :) I do try to post reviews on Amazon and Goodreads but I'm woefully behind on that as well. What are some of the best books you've read recently? Go ahead and add to my TBR pile!

Picture Books

A Hole is to Dig: A First Book of Definitions by Ruth Krauss and Maurice Sendak is simply delightful. See for yourself.

A Single Pearl by one of my favorite authors, Donna Jo Napoli, and Jim LaMarche's illustrations bring to life this retelling of a Persian folktale. A grain of sand feels hopelessly small and unimportant. But we get to see what occurs layer by layer as it is transformed into a pearl. Her book we are Starlings, written with her son, Robert Furrow, is another gorgeous book that delves into murmuration, beautifully illustrated by Marc Martin. I still remember the wonderful advice she gave at Chautauqua--write what you're interested in. It holds true, especially now, where there's so much emphasis of "staying in your lane." She inspires me with the depth and breadth of her work and I'm just tickled that she collaborates with her children. I hope to make more books with my kids too.

Farmhouse by Sophie Blackall, another favorite author-illustrator, captures the joy and jumble of a large family. It's bittersweet--children grow up, move away. How I wish it could've been kept in the family somehow. But I'm glad Sophie did and made a book out of it. A treasure! At the end, she writes about how she made the book. Check out Hello Lighthouse too. I wouldn't mind making a retreat in one.

Wally the World's Greatest Piano-Playing Wombat by Ratha Tep and Camilla Pintonato is such a great book about what a competitive spirit can do for you--strive for excellence. Plus it's over the top funny. I gave this to my barbershop leaders because we are preparing for the Regional contest in May... 

Hum and Swish by Matt Myers is a lovely book about creativity, not knowing what you're making yet, trusting the process.

Middle Grade

Mind Over Anti-Matter by Rose Green starts out with a bang and just keeps getting better. We have kid inventors, an aging inventor, and the bad guys who'll do anything to get their hands on the Infinite Storage Device. I loved how real the kids were, how smart, how much heart they had. Rose Green is a very talented writer and illustrator and I was smitten by the cover and delighted by the interior illustrations at the beginning of each chapter. I look forward to more stories from her. 

The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian's Art Changed Science by Joyce Sidman is a gorgeous book with reproductions of Merian's drawings and paintings. She was a mere child, doing what children do best, which is to observe the world around them and be in a state of wonder. She took it a step further--drawing what she saw. When she drew plants, she also drew the insects on the plants.

The Beatryce Prophecy by Kate diCamillo and Sophie Blackall (two of my favorites) is a beautifully illustrated story about a girl, a boy, a monk, and a goat. The gentle girl and the fierce goat stole my heart. 

Bazriel and the Frozen Bells of Noël: A Reluctant Angel’s Rescue Mission into France by local author Pringle Franklin is an imaginative Christmas story for the whole family with over 90 works of classic art. It perfectly captures the idea that each of us has a unique mission to fulfill in this world and we have our guardian angel beside us to help guide us. It speaks to the power of love, of music, and of hope. I remember reading the first chapter during critique group and how enchanted I was. I didn't read anything more until Pringle asked me to read a proof copy. I made a few corrections but hated parting with it because it is such a beautiful book. But a year later--I have my own! 

Christmas Blossoms by Priscilla Smith McCafferey and illustrated by Gwyneth Thompson-Briggs is a luminous story about a Chinese artist who makes Christmas ornaments for people in the West. When he makes these little masterpieces, he remembers the joyful times with his family going to the Midnight Mass before the cultural revolution, what they suffered for choosing the Christ Child, and the Hope that remains. Now in his old age, Christmas has returned to China once again. Overcome with emotion, he paints one last glass ornament after he returns home from the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. This bittersweet gem of a book lends itself to contemplating the meaning of Christmas.

I've bought multiple copies of the last two Christmas books to give away as gifts. They are timeless. It just so happens that all my favorite children's books were illustrated. But visual beauty draws me in more deeply into the story. I still sit and just look at the pictures. I guess I never grew up. But I'll focus on adult books in my next monster book post.