Thursday, August 29, 2013

Weekly Dose of Chesterton

On my lunch break today, I discovered a gem of a blog: 
Consider this little poem -- isn't it a delight?

This is the sort of book we like
(For you and I are very small),
With pictures stuck in anyhow,
And hardly any words at all.
You will not understand a word
Of all the words, including mine;
Never you trouble; you can see,
And all directness is divine —
Stand up and keep your childishness:
Read all the pedants’ screeds and strictures;
But don’t believe in anything
That can’t be told in coloured pictures.

But the deadlines are pressing down around me, so I must write instead of read, even as my cat paws me to pet her (I do think cats are an essential writer's companion). Why yes, I'm typing with just one hand ...

A few days ago I also learned that a bishop is opening a case for the sainthood of Gilbert K. Chesterton. This is beyond cool ... I've already begun asking him to pray for my writing endeavors. As I do JPII and Teresa de Avila.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Two-Part Invention

I received a lovely gift in the mail for our wedding anniversary: Two-Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage by Madeleine L'Engle. And what a joy it has been to read. I knew that her husband Hugh was an actor, but in this book, we get to peek into their courtship, their heartbreaks and their beautiful marriage. Because much of this book was written while Hugh was undergoing treatment for cancer, it has a touch of pathos. When the cancer was first mentioned, I thought, Oh please, don't let this be a memoir of his death. Oh, over the years, I've pondered death, my own and those of whom I love. This happens during times of separation and I've endured enough to last a dozen lifetimes. Now that we are together, I am not ready to let them go ... the doctor in this book says it best: It is hard to let go of beloved flesh.

I still remember vividly the last five months my mother lived. Five months from diagnosis to death. She chose palliative care only, and I am thankful. She was home except for the last week when we were unable to control her pain. She slipped into a coma shortly thereafter. My sister told me that before she was admitted to the hospital, she had a vision of her first-born son, our brother, waiting for her, all smiles. He died right before his fifth birthday well before we were born. Reading about Hugh's treatment and all the setbacks made me weep, but I also took pleasure in all their small pleasures, and the myriad ways we make love. The very writing of this book was an act of love.

This is a memoir of a marriage, a not-so-typical one considering that Madeleine was a writer and Hugh an actor, at a time when most women did not have a career. But they survived and thrived through separations, poverty, riches, illness, tragedy. They raised three children. I love it when one of the librarians asks, "What do you think you and Hugh do that is best for your children?" and Madeleine answers, "We love each other."

Truth has a way of delighting!

When they returned to the city so that Hugh could pursue acting, she say tells the children: "Your father needs me more in the evening when he comes home from the theatre than you do in the morning before school. We don't like each other very much in the morning, anyhow." So the children got themselves dressed and off to school, but Madeleine was all theirs when they came home. And she had time to reconnect with Hugh every night.

So much resonates in this book. It makes me want to write a memoir of the love Michael and I share, of our enduring marriage, of how we've lived our wedding vows -- to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.

My only criticism is the bad theology regarding heaven and hell. Madeleine has a very difficult time believing in a God who would punish us forever. She doesn't want to believe in hell. But of course. We all want heaven for ourselves and those we love. Hell must be for people like Hitler or Stalin or Pol Pot, but not good people like us. However, hell isn't some place God sends us, rather we reject God and send ourselves there. Hell is eternal separation from God, the One for whom we long for, even if we do not realize it.

I remember reading Death on a Friday Afternoon by Richard Neuhaus and the first chapter dealing with this very thing. We hope that nobody is in hell, but no one talked more about hell than Jesus. Oh, I pray for Divine Mercy, but today's readings (coincidentally) make it clear that the path through the pearly gates is narrow, that it isn't enough to have faith and be good, that we have to strive to live according to His laws. Msgr. Pope writes eloquently on this. And so, I found myself praying for both Hugh and Madeleine, for the witness of their beautiful marriage and their strong faith. May I meet them in heaven one day.

Parce Domine.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Summer Blessings

Last night, both kids were in bed around 9 pm. My son, in Grade 9, had his first full day of school followed by football practice. My daughter and I went to the beach to play in the ocean and came home exhausted and a bit sunburned. My kind and considerate husband went off to school for parent night after a full day at work.

I'm looking forward to falling in a new routine. I will be starting a work-for-hire project tomorrow, so the timing couldn't be more perfect. And I hope to finish the revisions on my novel in the coming weeks. Then there are other little writing and conference related things to catch up on as well. But I will miss our time together ... 

We've had a wonderful summer. No family vacations, because of a rambunctious guest cat, but an unexpected writing retreat for me at Honesdale and the FSSP camp for my son. I am in search of a similar traditional camp run by nuns for my daughter. However, I am so thankful our children are content to take pleasures in the things offered right here, right now. The beach, the pets, our porch, watching movies and thunderstorms, hanging out with family and friends. My daughter loved her riding lessons and she took an Asian cooking class at the community college as well. We'd pore over her cookbook the evening before, thinking about all the rolls, noodle dishes and curries she'd prepare. When she came home, we'd be like vultures, swarming around her to try all the food. She loved sharing, as we all enjoy good food and cooking. She also participated in the church choir camp and let me tell you, the children sounded like angels at the Feast of the Assumption, their voices sweet and high as they sang O Sanctissima ... I wish I had a recording, but this will have to do. And below, some choice pictures (food and water photography by my son).

Lewey enjoys some samples too

Swimming for kids, writing for me

Quiet times for my daughter ... drawing
Riding ... a dream come true

Watching thunderstorms off the porch ... and the drama at the droplet level

Playing with hair :)

Fun in the sand and surf
Salmon by Smoky Daddy
Feta in basil leaves with blueberries and crackers --
My daughter's concoction

Summer's not over yet ... but with the start of school, new routines. I pray that all who are experiencing changes will have a smooth transition. Peace and joy!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Wedding Anniversary

Photo by Fr. Fitzgerald
My husband and I woke up earlier than usual, leaving the children in bed still, and went off to an early morning Mass to celebrate our wedding anniversary. It is also the Feast of Maximilian Kolbe, the Catholic priest who gave up his life to save the life of a young husband and father in Auschwitz. Our firstborn is named Max, and it is fitting, even though we didn't know all this 19 years ago.

We knew nothing. Except for making a lifelong commitment, there was nothing different in the way we lived before and after marriage. It is only when we stopped using contraceptives and I became a mother, that I finally *felt* married. Natural law is the law of God, and it is stamped onto our hearts!!! The Church rightly calls marriage 'Holy Matrimony' -- holy because it is set apart, matrimony, because it is the state of being open to motherhood. But I digress. During my pregnancy, I went to the courthouse to get my name legally changed. I belonged to my husband and the child I was carrying and to my future children. And eventually, I would know I belonged to Jesus too.

And the children! What blessings!! It is through them that we discovered our utter dependence on God. How in the world do you raise children without supernatural help? I do not know ...

So I thank God. Despite the unholy start between my husband and I 29 years ago, He managed to work on us. He never gave up on us. He poured down His grace on us even though we are undeserving. We are all works-in-progress and we are living witnesses that no matter where you are at, you can turn away from sin. God is always ready to forgive. There is nothing that you can do that will make Him stop loving you. Nothing. Listen to Christ is Risen by Matt Maher. It should bring you great hope.

I am so thankful for my husband who is becoming a man after Jesus' own Heart, and for my children who led us to Christ and His Church. I love that Holy Matrimony reflects the relationship between Christ and His Bride, the Church. Is it any wonder that we wanted to celebrate our wedding anniversary by first going Mass and thanking Him for everything?

Today, the priest blessed us and prayed over us in front of the beautiful statue of Mary. Please say a prayer for all married couples and families, that they be strengthened in their love and commitment to one another and to God. In this country, families are falling apart, and we need to pray, pray, pray to restore the family, the unit of society. Even Jesus came into this world in the context of a family.

Tomorrow is the Feast of the Assumption. It should give us all hope that just like Mary, we too will be rewarded with heaven when we say "yes" to God.

Here's a picture of us Max took of us at dusk before the July 4th fireworks. Happy!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Gardening Workshop

I had a lovely time with the kids at the library. My son took all these pictures so that I can show-n-tell. Enjoy!


The kids were a lively bunch, already having some experience with planting seeds. They sampled the basil and loved a reading of Eve Bunting's Sunflower House, and were so excited to make their own.

Yay for awesome librarians who find creative ways to get kids into the library. We're planning to do this workshop in the spring when the kids can really be inspired to dig in the dirt.

Aren't these beauties?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

FSSP Summer Camp

For ten days this summer, our son was at St. Isaac Jogues Camp. It's run by the FSSP (Fraternity of St. Peter) a brotherhood that is devoted to the preservation of the traditional Latin Mass. They celebrated their 25th anniversary this summer. You can imagine it's not the usual kind of summer camp one thinks of with a bunch of outdoor activities. Here, they camped out, hiked, played games, as well as went to daily Mass, studied the catechism, prayed the rosary, and other prayers. The focus is to grow in all virtues, and to discern whether one is being called to a religious vocation. The boys had a great time. Enroute, they went to Mass at the National Shrine, and made a one day trip to Gettysburg.

Below, I share some pictures, all taken by my son. You can see they travelled in style.

My son took a lot of pictures of the National Shrine, the alcoves housing different and varied religious art, and prayer candles.

No pictures at Gettysburg. But here's camp!

Men in Black. The seminarians took the boys to the local ice cream shop.

The boys had inchworm wars.

Don't you think this seminarian is rather Father Brown-esque? The boys loved their shooting lessons. Us Catholics are more wild and dangerous than you think we are.

I was looking at this same moon down in South Carolina. So lovely. I could imagine the boys on their backs watching the beautiful sunsets, clouds and moon, singing songs.

This huge bonfire was a pyromaniac's dream.

The boys had such a good time. My son wants to go back next summer.
God bless all the seminarians and priests.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

My Back Porch

I now have a clothesline out on my back porch. So convenient and fresh to have the laundry hanging out there. I love it. Rarely does a day go by when I do not do the wash, or write, or pray. All bring joy and peace. May your life be filled with simple joys.

And because I cannot resist, I will recommend a little gem of a book by Kathleen Norris: The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy and Women's Work. It's a must for writer-mamas.

Have a very blessed and beautiful Sunday.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Cover Girl

My son took the shot. My daughter chose it amongst the hundreds of pictures we have for the Daniel Island Pets in Action Contest. Here's what the editors had to say. "This photo is beautifully framed and captures the sun, the beach, and the dog in just the right perspective. This earned our top honorable mention vote and was the unanimous choice for the cover." The judges also said, "Although there is not a lot of action in this photo, all the judges agreed that Sunny was guarding the beach and ready to jump into action ... awesome photo!"

My daughter chose three other photos, two of which were published. Here they are:


Below is the action shot my son took, given the theme of the contest. It made it in the paper too. But I was surprised to see the cover shot and the winning entries (only one was an action shot, but the others were stills very well composed). My son was so proud of the judges comments. He has been very gracious letting my daughter have the credit for the cover photo, but I did want to give credit where credit is due. He is the photographer for all these pictures, and is mighty pleased that all our pets got in the newspaper.

And so, I must ask. Have you ever had to relinquish recognition? If so, how did you deal with it? Do you ever pray to be freed from the desire to have worldly validation?