Friday, April 27, 2018

Reading: Du Iz Tak? Du Iz Tak? The last children's writer who's read this marvelous book by Carson Ellis. I just love it. The illustrations show wonder perfectly. They're also very funny! Love the little house in the hollow and the fort, complete with pirate flag! And the creatures are having a conversation in a made-up language (though it sounds suspiciously like Dutch to me) and I think kids must love figuring out what the words mean. It's no surprise this was a Caldecott Honor book! I share a few spreads to give a sense of the drama occurring right in our backyards. This is a book to read over and over, pore over the detailed illustrations, and inspire people of all ages to enjoy life at the pace of nature. 

"A small pet is often an excellent companion." ~ Florence Nightingale, Notes on Nursing, 1912.

"Try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the question now." ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, 1927.

I found this gem at the library sale in the food section (and no, I do not like to eat escargots, thank you very much) The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey. The above quotes caught my attention, and as I began to read I knew I'd want it near my bed. This book is an account of the time Ms. Bailey was bedridden. She had a potted plant to keep her company along with a woodland snail. "It was not of much interest, and if it was alive, the responsibility--especially for a snail, something so uncalled for--was overwhelming." But she watched the snail explore its new environment. She discovered it liked to eat paper. It made square holes in it. She gave it some withered flowers. "I watched, transfixed, as over the course of an hour the snail meticulously ate an entire purple petal for dinner. The tiny, intimate sound of the snail's eating gave me a distinct feeling of companionship and shared space..." And later, "But the snail...the snail kept my spirit from evaporating. Between the two of us, we were a society all our own, and that kept isolation at bay." Her observations and comparison to her own state wrap us in the mystery of life. 

"Under the microscope the translucent egg-envelopes present a beautiful appearance, being studded with glistening crystals of lime, so that the infant within seems to wear a gown embroidered with diamonds." ~ Ernest Ingersoll, In a Snailery, 1881. I learned quite a bit about snails and remembered the little glass cube we kept on the kitchen counter for a couple of years. It housed three fish, a snail, and a water plant. We would spend hours watching the fish swim, the algae grow, the snail feed on the algae and then making many, many baby snails! We marveled at this little ecosystem. I, too, have spent many hours in bed, and it's the pets who kept me company, quiet and steady, and gave me the chance to observe their varied habits. It slows me down, giving me the opportunity to be still and know God. "Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer." ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, 1927.

My most recent purchase, Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz, delves deep into the tiniest microorganisms that make some of the most interesting foods--bread, wine, beer, cheese, yogurt, kimchi, idli, dosa, and many, many more. Do you know we have trillions of bacteria that live in our gut and on our skin and keep us healthy? That's why antibiotics, though life-saving, can also really mess up your bacterial community and make you more susceptible to the really nasty bugs out there. A natural way to repopulate your gut with good bugs is to eat foods that have microorganisms in them--yogurt, sauerkraut, ciders--fermented foods. Last year we pickled our bumper crop of cucumbers. We also discovered we liked kombucha, which is fermented tea. Given that I still have chronic migraines, the kids still suffer from acne, we thought we'd include more fermented food in our diet. There's much evidence that many of the 21st century ailments happen due to disruption of the gut microbiome. So what better way than to cook, experiment, and eat our way to better health. I can well imagine guests looking at all the bubbling pots and asking, Du Iz Tak?  

Monday, April 23, 2018

On Truth and Discernment

I am always so amazed by the prayers of the Church. Our priest unpacked yesterday's for us. 
1. Truth exists.
2. You can know it.
3. It's relationship to justice, which is the precursor of peace.

He offered some thoughts on higher education and how it has failed our children. There's such an emphasis on deconstruction, which is a good method for understanding the various bits; however, there is no rebuilding, reconstruction, and no search for the truth. It's good to question, but at what point does it become absurd? How do I know something is real? Catholic philosophy is based upon reality. If it conforms with reality, then it's true. And if something is true, it doesn't matter whether you believe it or not, it remains true. And I must admit, it's very difficult to discuss anything nowadays given how emotional everybody gets. Reason has been thrown out the window. People talk about being kind, but I have to wonder what kind of kindness is letting someone remain in sin or their delusions. Lord, help us all. 
Good Shepherd Sunday is one of my favorites. And I will never forget how our Catholic community on Daniel Island began with the Good Shepherd Club. Within two years, we became a parish--St. Clare of Assisi. God is so good! 
Good Shepherd Sunday is also devoted to praying for religious vocations and here our priest offered some thoughts and observation. Vocations arise from the following:

1. Good theology
2. Eucharistic Adoration--knowing and spending time in the Real Presence of God
3. Good understanding of what the priesthood is--offering Sacrifice of the Mass
4. Where the traditional Latin Mass is offered--liturgy reflects teachings of the Church
5. Knowing priests
6. Families open to the gift of children
7. Homeschooling--seminaries have 4x more men who were homeschooled than those educated in public or private schools.

Of course, no discussion of a religious vocation can be made without discernment and our priest offered some thoughts on it as well, which is good advice for all, not just those considering a religious vocation.
1. Can I picture myself doing this and being happy?
2. Test of time--if it is from God, it will endure the test of time.
3. Thinking about it. Duh. He recalls lying in bed on a hot summer evening with the window open (this was before air conditioners) and thinking about being a priest. And it occurred to him that no dove was going to fly in through a window to let him know for sure :)
4. Encouragement from others--friends and family who know you 

Harvesting the first of our lettuce! Yum!
And so we pray. The Master will send workers to work in His vineyard. Of course, I had to share a picture of my sweet Benny--he always wants to be on my notebooks. It's a wonder I can write or type anything at all. He's so purry and demanding, I have to give in!


Friday, April 20, 2018

Easter Fun

I like to see the big kids having fun at Easter, too. Michael's Aunt Lois died during Holy Week so Michael and Dagny went to Illinois for the funeral. The bunny looks cosy, as does Dagny in my mom's jacket. Max was busy plotting another takeover :) He lost but gosh, he sure looks Presidential! And below is our newest member of the family enjoying TEE!!! He's the happiest baby I know.


Wednesday, April 18, 2018


My azaleas have dropped off, but I am enjoying our neighbor's flowers :) The penitence of Lent gives way to Easter joy that can hardly be contained as we sing Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!!! Not even a week of wonky weather that wreaked havoc on my head can mar my joy, though today's reprieve was most welcome! Went to Mass to give thanks and then sat out on my porch to listen to the birds, read and write. No deadlines to speak of, just a few self-imposed ones if I'm to be productive. I was thinking of how the productive writers all write first thing in the morning. I've tried many times but except for throat-clearing, random thoughts, and dreams I don't write all that well in the morning. But I try to do "morning pages" for tapping into the subconscious. My best time is in the afternoon and in the evening after supper. Sometimes I get a burst of energy at night and can stay up well past midnight. I'd tell the kids to go to bed but stopped because they were following my example. What's that saying: do as I say, not as I do? Still, they are the ones who changed my habits from an early morning prowler to a night owl. And Michael became a family man, rising early to go to work so that he could spend more time with us in the evening. And I'm thinking, once we are empty nesters, I'm totally sleeping in every. single. morning :) 

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Nine Years!

My reflection is up on Catholic Mom today. Imagine having to say something about John 3:16. Entire homilies have been written about...for God so loved the world. We sing this on Good Friday. Yet, I cannot fathom the depth of His love. Only that I am immensely grateful that Jesus is with me and will be with me forever, that each passing day I am a step closer to Him. I'm so young...but no longer a neophyte! I love this life so much, yet death holds no fear nor sorrow. Only the joy of knowing I will finally be home, reunited with beloved family and friends as well as the new friends, like St. Gemma, St. Stanislaus, and more. When I was searching for a picture of St. Stanislaus, I came upon this beautiful reflection at Vultus Christi. Oh, to see Gemma's face think I had one thought in common with these monks! I am on the right path. Oh how my heart beats with love for these saints who show me how to live! Pray for us, St. Gemma and St. Stanislaw.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Picture Books by Demi

I discovered Demi many years ago when my kids were little. We loved her folk tales, but especially her art. It is so distinctive and fine and we'd spend hours just looking at the pages. I was working on a folktale and decided to revisit her books and again, I was lost in them. She's got the rhythm of the stories just right. When she writes a biography, she chooses the best details. Even her endpapers are gorgeous! If you write picture books, biographies or folk tales, she's an artist to study. And one can only hope that the work is so good that a Pope will give his Apostolic Blessing. Wow!  


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Adoration--Stirring Slumbering Souls

Jesus my Lord, my God, my all.

I am so grateful to have Adoration right here on Daniel Island. Today was the first time in several years that I came close enough to the altar to really see the lovely monstrance and the small consecrated Host within. I know it must sound strange--transubstantiation--how we Catholics worship. I think of Mary cradling Him in her arms, of Mary washing His Feet with her tears, anointing His Feet in sweet perfume, and this is the same Jesus now enclosed in all the tabernacles in the world. And I *feel* His gaze upon me. It is indescribable.  

A couple of months ago, I received my very own copy of Stirring Slumbering Souls: 250 Eucharistic Reflections by Michael Seagriff and it's been my companion whenever I make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament. I'm so grateful because I can mark it up as I wish :) I only use it at Adoration to make it last. 

Here are some quotations:

"...I remember once having two hours between trains in Paris. I went to the Church of Saint Roch to make my holy hour. There are not ten days a year I can sleep in the daytime. This was one. I was so tired, I sat down at 2:00 pm--too tired to kneel--and went to sleep. I slept perfectly until 3:00 pm. I said to the Good Lord: 'Did I make a holy hour?' The answer came back: 'Yes! That's the way the Apostles made their first one.'" ~ Blessed Ap. Fulton J. Sheen.

I loved this so much because I confess to having dozed too many times during Adoration, but if I can't rest in Him, then when? I love knowing that I'm surrounded by holy angels who are all adoring our dear Jesus.

"...You see the same Body, not in a manger, but upon the altar; not carried in His Mother's arms, but elevated in the priest's hands. Let us, therefore, be roused, and tremble, and bring with us more devotion to the altar than those Eastern kings did to the manger, where they adored their newborn Savior." ~ St. John Chrysostom.

 Today, the two of us were together alone for a while (usually there are 2 or 3 more adorers at any time) and I read this: "Here--all alone, He and I--He with all His greatness, and I with all my miseries--He, all fire; and I, burning in the midst of His Divine Passion!...My darkness is lost in the midst of His light...and my icy heart melts inside of His. Here my sins are forgiven and my sorrows--O! my sorrows are united to His own, giving them value...How many treasures are enclosed in this holy place, consecrated through the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament! Heaven is here, because He is here!" ~ Concepcion Carbrera de Armida.

This is a gem of a book! Truly, these reflections do more than stir this slumbering soul; they set my heart on fire. I thought I'd write a while with Jesus but I was lost in my daydreams, just the two of us together, the only necessary thing. Because Seagriff has compiled these reflections from many, many sources, I now have a bibliography of over a hundred saints or saints-in-making. For instance, the author of the third quote is a new discovery. I highly recommend this book.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Easter Octave

This entire week is Easter and the season will last 50 days until Pentecost (again borrowed from our Jewish ancestors). I'm loving the warm weather, azaleas in bloom, birds and squirrels singing with me: Exultate justi in Domino 

I did Storytime at B&N on Easter Vigil and although I only had two children show up, it was still fun to read with them and visit with the parents later. And then I signed stock so if you're local and want signed copy, head on over to Mt. Pleasant B&N. 

And I love seeing my friends' books in the wild. Here's Jody Jensen Shaffer's new book: A Chip Off the Old Block, a story about a pebble and his various adventures. Rocks lead such interesting lives! The illustrations by Daniel Miyares are gorgeous! Jody was kind enough to send me some postcards (she knows I'm old fashioned and mail hand-written notes) so a few of you will receive them.
After all the busyness of Triduum, it was wonderful to hear the quiet and beautiful, low Latin Mass Sunday evening. Afterwards, a picnic on the beach. You just can't beat this life. Wishing you all a very happy and blessed Eastertide.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Christ is Risen!!!

I love Easter Vigil beginning after sundown, the faithful in the darkened church and the deacon singing Lumen Christi as the Paschal candle is lit and the light spreads! Darkness isn't some thing. It's the absence of light. In candlelight, he chants the Exultet!!! I love all the readings telling the greatest story in the world--I will never tire of all the marvelous things God has done for us. I cannot get through this night without crying because to have personally experienced the saving grace of our Lord Jesus, to remember that I was dead and now I'm alive, cannot be contained. It harkens to an office reading from Holy Sat. “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”
Msgr. McInerney spoke about the shape of our baptismal promises. Before professing our faith, we must first reject Satan and his works--sin, dysfunction, division. He made a very interesting observation. The greatest obstacle to faith isn't intellectual, rather behavioral. People simply do not want to change their behavior. We cling to those empty promises of the devil.

Matt Maher's song Christ is Risen is a great encouragement.

Let no one caught in sin remain
Inside the lie of inward shame
We fix our eyes upon the cross
And run to Him who showed great love
And bled for us
Freely You've bled for us
Christ is risen from the dead
Trampling over death by death
Come awake, come awake
Come and rise up from the grave ...
My friends, have a very happy and blessed Easter!!! Here's a link to many of my favorite Easter hymns. It's a marvel to have such good theology in rhyme and song :)