Life is Worth Living

Paul is Home!

For those of you following Paul’s plight…he’s home!  He and my husband just pulled into the driveway a few hours ago.

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We are rejoicing.  The children are running around the yard, playing baseball, and chasing this painted turtle around.

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My husband and I are drinking wine.  Yes, it’s only 3:30pm, but seriously, it’s been a long 4 weeks.

And now, it’s time to celebrate.

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Thank you for praying for us!
Life is Worth Living

Paul’s Suffering: Updated

Dear Readers,

We cannot thank you enough for your kind words of encouragement and more importantly, for your prayers.

We have good news today.

After 5 surgeries, and ever since late last Thursday, the Feast of the Assumption, Paul has steadily been getting better.  His heart rate and breathing are normal.  He hasn’t vomited.  He hasn’t had any seizures.  His head does not hurt very much.  He sat up, and he smiled.  He ate and is gaining weight.  He even went for a little walk around the ICU.

And he lost a tooth.

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See that gaping hole on the left?

A good friend of ours drove 8 hours to bring Paul’s two brothers to see him yesterday.  This was a great boost to his morale, which had been waning after 3 and a half weeks in the hospital.

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Here they are, eating dinner together last night with another friend of theirs.
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Paul’s twin, Michael, is in the upper left.  Johnny, Paul’s younger brother is on the right.

If he continues to feel well, the doctors will remove the tubing in his spine, and he may get to come home sometime later this week.  We certainly hope this will be the case.

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Tubing in his spine, which measures pressure levels in the brain.

Again, we cannot thank you enough for praying for him and for our family.  This has been the most difficult trial we’ve ever experienced.

Nevertheless we feel God’s love, and we thank Him.

 

 

Life is Worth Living

Paul’s Suffering

Well, I am back at it, after taking a 3 week break.  During this break I had intended to vacation with my family, attend my brother’s wedding, and enjoy some carefree timelessness.

But nothing has gone as expected.

Rather, two days before we were to leave for South Dakota, my husband and I had to rush our son, Paul, to our local ER.  His incision from last May’s surgery had become infected.  And before we knew it, he and my husband were driving straight through the night to St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester.

And thus began 3 weeks of the most excruciating suffering I’ve ever known–watching a child suffer.

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Paul Endures Surgery After Surgery

During these last 3 weeks, Paul has undergone surgery after surgery, with almost everything going wrong that could go wrong.  His shunt tubing became blocked.  His heart rate kept dropping dangerously low.  He quit breathing for 10-15 seconds at a time and would struggle for breath, for hours upon hours.  Blood leaked into his brain.  One shunt malfunctioned.  Another shunt slipped out of place.  His left ventricle collapsed.  He hasn’t eaten for days upon days and is losing weight.  He is suffering seizures.  And then there’s all the vomiting.

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All of these things have been happening in addition to the most excruciating head pain.  And we sit helplessly by him and watch and pray.  I’ll never forget the terrible day and night I had to watch his heart rate slow, his breathing cease, and then the trembling of his body to grasp a breath.  It was terrible.

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And it’s still going on.  I beg of you, dear Readers, to remember him in your prayers.  But remember the other children too.  They are suffering in a different way.  They wonder, where is Paul?  Why can’t Paul just come home?  Why can’t the doctors fix him?

We don’t know the answers.  We only know that for some mysterious reason God is allowing this suffering, and we can choose to accept it, or we can drive ourselves mad with endless, unanswerable questions and blame God for ruining a perfectly healthy little boy.

But we choose to trust in Him.  He who is the beginning and the end of all things.  He who created the heavens and the earth.  He who loves us so much that He died for us.  And His name is Jesus.  And all knees on earth and in heaven will bend to Him at the end of time.  May His kingship reign forever and ever.

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Paul Prayer Intentions

In the midst of his suffering, Paul has been praying.  He has been asking Mary to hold him.  And he has been praying for Ex-Cardinal McCarrick and for my cousin, Tony.  Up until today, Tony had been in psyche ward of a hospital.  All within a few years, his brother died in a motorcycle accident, his wife died from cancer, and his father just died last week.

Tony was released this morning.  He drove to his father’s house and killed himself.

Please, Jesus, You have a most merciful heart.  We pray, that in those briefest of moments before his death, Tony in his agony turned towards You.

 

 

Life is Worth Living

Summer Vacation: Weddings & Books

Dear Readers,

I will be taking a break from this blog for about 3 weeks.  Firstly because we’ll be doing some traveling in the tropics of South Dakota, and secondly because I have a few books that I’d like to get through.

Firstly: A Wedding

My brother is getting married on the Feast of St. Martha, July 29th.  He and his fiancé have a devotion to this great saint, hence a Monday wedding.  We are very excited for them both and will be traveling down a few days prior to and then staying a few days later.  I am looking forward to toasting glasses of wine and visiting with my family.

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My mom snapped this photo of The Eldest, me, and my dad when we last visited for the Bridal Shower a few weeks ago.

After the wedding, we’ll be driving to my parent’s lake house to watch the children splash around, and then after they go to bed, we’ll play endless card games.  It promises to be a lovely few days of no internet.

Secondly: Lovely Books to Read!

Lately I’ve been enjoying a number of James Herriot’s books.  It all began when I stumbled upon a cheap paperback of his at a used bookstore.  It was All Things Bright and Beautiful.  I picked it up because my children and I love to read his Treasury for Children.

Anyway, All Things Bright and Beautiful was such a charming and entertaining read for summer that I decided to check out every book I could find at our library.  I can’t wait to get at them.  If you need something light and bright, then definitely read some Herriot.

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Lastly, A New Book Club

Lastly, I’ve started a new book club for moms in my area.  I had been thinking about doing this for awhile now, but I just never did for the logical reason that I already belong to a book club–a good one, too.  My current book club follows the reading suggestions of the Well-Read Mom website.  They’re generally great reads, but even better are the women in the actual group.  But the meeting time is very difficult for me, and so I’ve done it.

Saturday Morning Book Club

Yep, you guessed it, we’re meeting on Saturday mornings, once a month.  I chose Saturday mornings because this is when I happen to have free time.  In fact every Saturday morning, once I finish my cleaning chores, I leave for the day, and so I thought, why not see if other mothers would like to join me to discuss books?

I didn’t think there would be much interest, as many families tend to be busy.  In fact, I really thought I’d only have one to two other moms interested.  But I was wrong.  I’ve got 12 moms on the email list.

For those of you who might be curious, I’ll list this year’s selection of books below.  I chose these books for the simple reason that I wanted to read them, or reread them in some cases.  I’ll try to post a word or two about the books, when we get to them.  Maybe you’ll want to read along with us?

August:  Michael O’Brien, Father Elijah
September:  Taylor Marshall, Infiltration
October:  Gertrud von Le Fort, Song of the Scaffold
November:  Cardinal Sarah, The Day is Now Far Spent
December:  Sigrid Undset, Ida Elizabeth
January:  Joseph Pearce, The Unmasking of Oscar Wilde
February:  Hilaire Belloc, The Path to Rome
March:  Michael Richard, Tobit’s Dog
April:  G. K. Chesterton, St. Thomas & St. Francis
May:  Gereron Goldmann, The Shadow of His Wings

 

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Happy Summer!

See you all in 3 weeks.

Life is Worth Living

Date Night: You Need It

A week ago, my husband and I enjoyed not just a Date Night, but a weekend away by ourselves.  Except that, it wasn’t really away, as we stayed at home, and the children went across town to Grandma and Grandpa’s.  (A “stay-cation” vs. a vacation.)  It’s a lot cheaper that way.

There is a danger, however.  One may be tempted to work on home projects and ignore each other, instead of simply enjoying carefree timelessness.  But we didn’t, and we had a great weekend.

A Word About Date Nights & Weekends Away

If you’re married, when’s the last time you sat outdoors with your spouse and enjoyed a drink?  Or played Scrabble together?  Or hiked a nature trail?  Or reclined under a tree and read a book aloud, without the children?

It’s time.  You need to schedule it.  Your marriage is more important than running around to baseball games or swimming lessons.  It’s more important than mowing the lawn and scrubbing the kitchen floor.  Shoot, it might even be more important than sleep.

After Jesus, this spouse of yours just happens to be the most important person in your life.  Then your children.  Many people mix this up and end up running themselves ragged, as the expression goes.  Life is too short.  If you can’t do a whole weekend away, surely you can manage a few hours on a Saturday night?

Our Recent Stay-cation

For those of you who’d like an idea, here’s what we recently did.

On Friday, I picked my husband up early from work with cappuccinos in hand, and we wandered around Menards.  We had a great time laughing and shopping together for trees stakes, mouse traps (now there’s a story for another time), and Mike and Ikes – just the essentials.

Then we parked the car downtown and strolled around some more.  We perused isles of used books at a local book shop and found a few good ones–Immaculee Ilibagiza’s Left to Tell and an authorized biography of Tolkien.  Then we were thirsty, so we enjoyed a cocktail and an appetizer.  Lastly, we made our way to a local pizzeria.

Saturday morning, we drove a mile down the road to Harmon Lake Recreation Area, and we hiked the 9-mile loop that we’ve always wanted to do, but never could because of the children.  And here’s what we saw:

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This single-file dirt trail was breathtakingly beautiful.  It wove in and out of trees and prairie.  We took our time, and quite literally, stopped to smell the flowers.

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Like these prairie roses, which were everywhere in bloom, along with many other wild flowers.

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Shell Leaf Penstemon
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Scarlet Globemallow

We also saw patches of wild strawberries, and we tasted them.

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Wild Strawberries

We crossed a bridge over a swampy area and looked at bluegills swimming in the water.

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We saw gnarled oak trees.

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I love these beautiful tree trunks.  One must reach out to feel the bark.

We saw cacti and yucca.

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Cacti, almost ready to bloom.  Did not reach out to feel these things.
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Yucca.  (In the wild is the only acceptable place for this horrid plant to be.  See HERE.)

And there was so much more.  We saw deer, bunnies, birds, and snakes.  Yes, snakes.  A garter snake and then a bull snake.  The 2-3 foot-long bull snake was sunning himself on the trail and was not about to move for us.  So we walked around him on the grass while my heart pounded away.

But more than everything we saw, heard, smelled, and tasted, we just felt God’s presence around us and experienced His blessing in our marriage.  It was just the two of us, meandering along, not worrying about anything.  Not necessarily doing anything.  Just being together.

My husband is my best friend, but he wouldn’t be, if I never spent time alone with him.  All relationships require time together.

Want my advice?

Make time for God in prayer every day.  And make time for your spouse too.

 

Life is Worth Living

Airing My Dirty Laundry: Room Tour

As any mother knows, there must be a method to the madness of laundry.

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My Laundry Room.  I even left some clothes out for you to see, with a dirty pile of whites on the counter.

It just so happens, however, that the chore of laundry is one of my favorite things to do.  And why?  Because the machine does all the cleaning.  All I have to do is calmly shut the laundry room door and fold the clean clothes in peaceful solitude.  So, I hog this chore all to myself, and then I make the children put their clean piles away later.

Of course, someday soon, I will have to make sure the children know how to open the lid, put the clothes in, and press the correct button.  But I can go over that process later.

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So back to the laundry room.  Now this is the first year of my life that I’ve actually had a laundry room.  When my husband and I were first married, we lived in a beautiful, old craftsman-styled house in Duluth.  This house was lovely, but it had the scariest, creepiest dungeon of a basement that I’ve ever seen.  Of course that’s where the washer and dryer were.  I made my husband douse the place with Holy Water before I even set foot down there, and I shudder to think of it.  I don’t know how I made it that year.

Then in our second home, the washer and dryer were in a closet.  This wasn’t so bad, especially since there were two shelves above the machines, and I was just happy to not be in a dungeon.

Our third home featured a shared laundry room/bathroom.  Now this was almost worse than the dungeon.  Almost.  Because every time I wanted to shut the bathroom door and fold clothes in silence, someone had to use the toilet.  It never failed.  And then this bathroom/laundry room was right by the back door, so the children were constantly in and out of it.  With dirt and mud everywhere.  Just thinking of it makes my stomach queasy.

But finally, in the 13th year of our marriage, God saw fit to provide an entire room, dedicated to blessed chore of laundry, and I will forever be thankful.  It’s my favorite room in the house.  Now I can fold clothes, gaze at my Virgin Mary pictures, and drink my wine in peace.  The only thing that’s missing is a lock on the door.

So without further ado, I’ll post a few more pictures, for those of you who might be interested.

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These are the cabinets above the machines.  The bottom right shelf features piles of socks, missing their matching pairs.  Amazing how that happens.
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These lower cabinets store extra toilet paper that I buy in bulk.  The drawers above have gift-wrapping paraphernalia in them.

Opposite the machines, there is a closet.

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This side features coolers on the bottom, our extra blankets that the children use for forts in the middle, and my sewing box on the top shelf.
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This side has more sewing stuff on the top shelf, our extra “puke” towels in the middle, and my ironing board down below.
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The cabinet under the sink stores all the basement cleaning supplies.

That’s all for the laundry room.

Advice About Doing the Laundry?

The best piece of advice about actually doing the laundry, however, I think I picked up from Holly Pierlot, years ago.  (If you’re looking for a great book on how to order your days, click HERE.  This book changed my life.)  Pierlot said something about waking up and immediately putting a load of clothes in the wash.  Then, after lunch, switching it out to the dryer.  And finally, folding it after supper and doing this every single day.  Our days must be ordered.

It’s genius advice though – having a routine for laundry.  I’ve been doing it for years.  I put a load in right away in the morning and so forth.  I used to only have one load a day, with Sundays off.  Now, however, I do 2-3 loads a day, depending on the season, always with Sundays off, and I’m never behind.

Parting Trifle

And this is what we ate for supper tonight, in addition to a pork chops and lemon noodles.  It has nothing to do with laundry per se, except that after supper, when all the children were doing their chores–washing and drying dishes, sweeping the floor, chattering away–I hid in the laundry room and folded the clothes with my glass of wine.

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Avocado, red onion, blueberries, and feta over spinach with a homemade lemon/olive oil dressing.
Life is Worth Living

First Communion, Mud, & Tulips

Our fourth child, Johnny, just celebrated his First Holy Communion this last Sunday.  He was very happy and proud.

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Johnny

This was the first time we’ve had one of our children receive First Holy Communion at a Traditional Latin Mass, and it was simple and beautiful.

The two first communicants knelt at the altar rail while Father lifted the host and said, “Corpus Domini Nostri Iesu Christi custodiat animam tuam in vitam aeternam.  Amen.”  This means, “May the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ preserve your soul unto life everlasting.  Amen.”  Then they received Him on the tongue and were forever changed.

I’m often quite distracted at Mass attending to the children or foolishly forgetting what I’m doing.  But that day, after I received Jesus and was kneeling in the pew, I was so thankful.  I felt the love of Jesus surrounding our family.  As the chant schola moved into the Communion Antiphon, my heart soared.  He is so good to us!

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Here we all are.  It’s impossible to get everyone to look at the camera and smile!  Johnny’s twin brothers, Michael and Paul, were 2 of the 9 altar boys serving at this Mass.

Lately it’s been a little difficult to be thankful, as I seem to be falling into this trap again, and it only seems to rain around here.  My yard is a muddy mess!  Seriously, we can’t get even plant the grass, because it just rains and rains.

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My front yard.  The backyard is worse, trust me.

But my tulips are beautiful.

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And my children are too.

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Watching the rain.

If you’ve been experiencing some hard times, you might want to listen to Sterling Jaquith’s brief 20 minute podcast, “Hardship & Discomfort.”  It’s part three of her “Less Stressful Summer Series.”  Click HERE for it and scroll down a bit.  It was just what I needed the other day.

May God bless you this Spring!

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Life is Worth Living

May Day Baskets, Wine, & Guns N Roses: May Favorites

Welcome to the month of May!  And to celebrate, I’ll offer a few of my favorite things.

My May Favorites:

  1. Every year I forget about May Day and May Day baskets, but my children don’t.  They gave my husband some of their own money and directed him to buy a particular chocolate turtle, found at a local chocolate shop, knowing it’s my favorite.  Then they wove a basket from construction paper and lined it with drawings and notes.

    That night, while my husband and I were enjoying a Brandy Alexander, and I was losing at Gin Rummy, they snuck out of their window, ran to the front door, rang the bell, ran back laughing, and I had a May Day basket waiting on the front steps.

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Here it is.  Except the chocolate is gone; I ate it.

2.  I love drinking wine.  And lately, I’ve been enjoying a wine named Josh.  Their merlot is fabulous, especially when I can get it on sale.  I think it runs around $16 normally, but I found it for about $11.

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Here it is, empty.  We drank it all.

3.  Speaking of wine, I also enjoy drinking Dreaming Tree, but when I crack that bottle open, my husband just rolls his eyes and barely deigns to drink it.  For you see, this wine is a collaboration of Dave Matthews and Sean McKenzie.  Dave Matthews is, of course, the famous lead singer of the Dave Matthews Band, and my husband can hardly tolerate him after spending his college years being forced to listen “to that sappy crap” all day long from his obsessed roommate.

Me?  I only ever listened to his song “Crash Into Me.”  While it’s not highly offensive, I don’t recommend it.  But I do recommend the wine.

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This bottle is usually around $16, but I found it at Sam’s Club for $12.88.

 

 

4.  The other day, I got sick of the Magnificat.  I had been using it to read the Mass readings to the children every morning, but I wanted something more beautiful.   I wanted the Old Mass readings and prayers.  So I grabbed my 1962 Missal and haven’t gone back.  Wow, are these prayers beautiful.

So, the 1962 Missal is one of my May Favorites.  In fact, when I’m forced to attend the Novus Ordo, I just bring it along and pray the the TLM prayers instead.

5.  Since we cancelled our Magnificat subscription, we had funds available for a different publication.  What do subscribe to?  The Remnant.  Seriously, this newspaper is a hidden gem.  It’s based out of St. Paul, MN, and is pretty traddy.  Some of you may not care for it, but for the rest of you, click HERE for their website.

6.  The other Sunday, as we were sitting through another banal Novus Ordo Mass, complete with horrible music, we were accosted with a particularly bad song called, “Somebody’s Knocking at Your Door.”  (Click HERE for it on YouTube, if you dare.)  Anyway, after Mass my husband hopped in the van with a big smirk on his face, and I asked, “What’s so funny?”

“You know that terrible song about knocking on doors at Mass?”

I groaned, “Yes.”

“Well, all I could think of was the Guns N Roses’ 1990 song, “Knocking on Heaven’s Door.”

Naturally, we pulled that song up on the phone, plugged it into the van, and blasted it for the posterity and education of our children.  Just picture it – a white, 15-passenger van, spilling over with kids with crazy parents, windows down, while THIS graced the streets of Mandan.

In between singing as loudly as I could and laughing uncontrollably, I had to thank God for my insightful husband.  He’s my All-Time May Favorite.

Life is Worth Living

Spring is here! A Poem to Celebrate!

Awhile back, like in October, I published the following poem, which I found in an obscure South Dakota centennial book.  I was thinking about it this morning, as I was checking out the bad, horrible weather in South Dakota, where my extended family lives.  (Glad I’m not there!)  It’s just snowing and snowing and snowing.  So I thought they might need a little poem to cheer themselves up.

It is spring, after all.

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This was the view out my parent’s front window this morning.  Ok not really.  I found it on Wikimedia Commons.  But I’ve been informed it’s just as bad.

Without further ado, here it is, dedicated to you poor people suffering from an April blizzard.  My remarks are bracketed.

Winter [read spring] in South Dakota

It’s winter [spring] in South Dakota
And the gentle breezes blow
Seventy miles an hour,
At thirty-five below.

Oh, how I love South Dakota,
When the snow’s up to your butt. [Goodness, the language of some people!]
You take a breath of winter [spring] in
And your nose gets frozen shut.

Yes, the weather here is wonderful.
So I guess I’ll hang around.
I could never leave South Dakota
I’m frozen to the ground!

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Now I know that some of you live in warmer climates.  You know who you are.  You’re probably reading this on your iPhone, sitting on your deck, listening to birds sing, while the rest of us are freezing our tushies off and drinking anything hot to stay alive.  I’ll have you know, we currently have an outdoor windchill temperature of 19 degrees, but at least it’s not snowing here, yet.

Furthermore, the little children requested Christmas music this morning.  Christmas music.  They thought that maybe it was December again?

Oh, dear!

Life is Worth Living

My Favorite Dress: A Tale of Pride & Woe

The other day I put on my favorite dress.  I haven’t been able to wear it for awhile, due to the fact that I was pregnant and then had a baby.  And you must remember, most dresses are not conducive to nursing babies.

So I finally shook the dust off of it and slipped it over my head.  It fit!  Miracle.  Wow, I felt almost glamorous.  My husband gave me a double-take.  This was going to be a good day.

As the day wore on, however, I found myself thinking of…myself.  Yes, considering my dress, how neat it looked, how neat I looked.  Every time I passed a mirror, I checked myself out.  Still looking good.

Later on my husband and I loaded up all 7 children and drove to church for Stations of the Cross.  My husband and two of the boys were serving, so I was in the pew with the remaining 5 children. Do I need to say, that I didn’t expect to enter deeply into this devotion?

After about the second or third station, I had to take the baby out into the narthex, where I put her on the floor, knelt down, and attempted to pray from the St. Alphonsus Liguori booklet.  Then I was bombarded with thoughts of…my lovely dress.

This was obsessive.  This was not good.  All day my thoughts were of my dress and how I looked.  What was going on?

Then a thought whispered to my soul, “Do you love this dress more than Me?”

Whoa.  My heart pounded.  What?

“Do you love this dress more than Me?”

I was holding that booklet and staring at a picture of Mary, holding Jesus.  He was completely emaciated, and I realized how stupid and foolish I had been.  How blind!  Do I love this dress more than you, Jesus?  No, of course not.  Forgive me, Jesus.  Forgive me.  What shall I do?

But I knew what I had to do, even before I finished the thought.  This dress must go.  It will be a sacrifice in atonement for my pride and vanity.

And so that evening, I took my favorite dress off for the last time.  It will be given away.

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Not much of a dress, I know, but nevertheless, goodbye, dress.
Life is Worth Living

7 Things I’m Grateful For

In the traditional calendar, today is the feast day of St. Gabriel the Archangel.  He immediately precedes the Annunciation, which is tomorrow.  This makes perfect sense, as he appears to Mary, asking her to be the mother of Jesus.  Happy feast day!

In honor of St. Gabriel, I’ll offer 7 things I’m grateful for.

  1. The Canada geese have been flying overhead all week.  (Yes, it’s Canada geese, not Canadian geese.  I’ve been corrected!)
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    Here they are above our home.

    And here is a close-up of what they look like for those of you not familiar.  These things are big.

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    This is not my photo, it’s Chuck Szmurlo’s from Wikimedia Commons.

    We greatly enjoy their raucous honking and the fact that they all land in the cow pasture across the road.  It’s great fun.  The children and I like to walk down the gravel road to see how close we can get to them.

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    This is a look into the cow pasture yesterday morning.  If you look closely, you can see geese flying above the dead tree and some more out on the ice, waiting for it to thaw, I suppose.
  2. As you can also see from the photo, our snow is finally melting.  This is not only glorious, but great fun for the children, as they  stomp around in the mud and make “rivers” for the water to flow down into the ditch.
  3. We’ve seen other birds too–little chickadees and killdeer.  No robins, though.
  4. The ducks will all be returning soon, and we’ll be doing our annual Duck Day tour wherein we listen to Peter and the Wolf and identify ducks by name.  I’ll be sure to keep you posted.
  5. I am currently reading Fr. Calloway’s 10 Wonders of the Rosary, which came out earlier this year Maybe I’ll post more on it later.
  6. I gave up wearing my winter coat, for the most part.  Anything above 30 degrees is spring-like enough for me!
  7. My favorite local restaurant, Anima Cucina, has some great meatless entrees.  My husband took me there a Friday or so ago.
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    My husband’s dish.  These are sardines with cherry, basil, and mint.

    And even though I am not a vegan, I ordered their vegan sandwich.

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    This thing features meatless chicken (whatever that is), brie, radicchio, and an olive tapenade.  Delicious.

    What are you grateful for?