Monday, August 24, 2009

Metaphor Monday

What if we lived the way she does?
Explored each thing as though for the first time...
Peered intently into the depths of the sand...
Looked not just with eyes, but also with heart...
And felt everything as though with a baby's hand?
How much more would we see, would we love, if we opened our eyes wide like hers?
Or if once in a while we would just look down, would we love where we are in the world?

Sometimes, I just know I'm being tapped on the shoulder. I believe that God loves me enough to talk just to me from time to time. Slow down, he says, and look at all that I have made. Soak in the beauty. Remember that I created everything, and that I proclaimed it all to be good.

Humankind was created for His pleasure and delight. But what wonders are around us that He created for our delight?

Like this
and this
and these
and this

Find your childlike faith. Look with the eyes of your heart, and see that He makes all things new.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Wrapping it up

The week, that is.

Last weekend, I had two of our precious Godchildren with me here while My Darling assisted Mama Midwife and her husband and assorted others move their earthly possessions to the other side of the planet about 45 minutes north of here. We all ended up there for supper, and then the Frog and the Pudgy Bug and I stayed with Mama Midwife while her husband gave some of the help a ride home. I continue to wallow in my denial of the fact that I no longer have a geographical neighbor who can come over on a moment's notice for a cup of delicious tea and help me finish salvaging the day's crossword. Good thing we live in the age of technology, so we can do those things over the phone.

Still. It's just not the same. She should move back.


Sunday was such a beautiful inspiration! Our family volunteered for our diocesan celebration for couples observing their 50th year of married life together. My Darling and I will be celebrating 12 years of marriage tomorrow, so these folks are definitely heroes to us!


The rehearsals for this choir are trotting along at a pace. I've found that it's best to prepare myself mentally before heading in to the choir room. It's just really intense--you know those days where by bed time you feel like it's been an entire week since the day began? Yeah. Like that. Only musically. Again with that whole music nerd thing. But the totally cool thing is that our rehearsal director can give us a 7- or 8-note example of what he doesn't want, followed by what he does want, and the entire choir just does it. It's the way a choir should work, and it's absolutely mind-blowing. I lurve it.


I discovered an awesome blog, written by some very knowledgeable fellow from Madison, WI, having to do with all things Liturgical. Great for the GIRM nerd who wants some good, relevant reading, and excellent ideas for music, general intercessions, understanding anything to do with the Church and why we do what we do liturgically. Give him a read. I hear he's a superb musician, as well.


And now for the best part of my week.

Last night, as we settled down for our Rosary, I was feeling a bit ruffled. The evening was one full of domestic challenges, minor squabbles, small bits of disrespect, and general family life late on a Friday evening. I was at that point of just wanting the kids in bed so I could catch up on some reading or something--I was looking toward morning with the hope of things being better...or as He tells us in His Word, "His graces are new every morning." I love that promise.

BUT. (Always with the "but".)

In the book I finished reading not long ago, Death on a Friday Afternoon, by Fr. Richard Neuhaus, we are admonished, "Don't rush to the joy of Easter!" In other words, to some extent, savor the suffering. Be with Our Lord in His suffering by not rushing through our own. Find Him in the small moments of frustration just as we seek Him in greater earthly sufferings. (A decent review of this wonderful book is here; another, more in-depth can be found here.)

So I sat on the couch with my Monkey in my lap, his plastic Rosary clutched in his little fist, his head leaning back against my shoulder. The Pickle and the Reepicheep curled up with their blankets in their customary spots, and the Frog held the Pudgy Bug close.

I held my Rosary stretched between my hands, to show the Monkey how it goes. We've been encouraging the kids to each lead "their" decade. Always, we go through the children, asking them what the Mysteries are for the day: "Frog, what's the first Luminous Mystery?" "Reepicheep, what's the third Joyful Mystery?" -And so on. So this week, I've been asking them what the mystery is, and then, "Would you please lead the decade?"

My Darling holds the Pudgy Bug and leads us in the Rosary. Months ago, mind you. The Pudge is far pudgier now.

Last night, though, I was leading, because I just wanted to immerse myself in the prayers, meditating on Him, and be more interior than having to monitor the kids. Sinful, I know. But there it is. As we came to the third Sorrowful Mystery (the crowning with thorns), I said to the Monkey, "Now we pray the Our Father, because there is a bead here all by itself." He pinched the bead between his little fingers, and began, "Our Father, Who art in heaven..." (Except that in his little toothless way, he says, "Our Fazzer..."--like he's German, but without too much accent...terribly adorable...). I hadn't asked him; it was completely unprompted.

Now, just the other night, it had been next to impossible to get him to even pray out loud, much less lead anything. But here he was, leading first the Our Father, and then the entire decade of Hail Marys. We came to the fourth Sorrowful Mystery, Our Lord carries His Cross, and he did it again. He led the decade.

And then the fifth Sorrowful Mystery, the crucifixion and death of Our Lord. And he led that, too.

I was dissolved into tears. I was a pile of mushy heart. I was laid bare by a three-year-old dear boy.

You know, sometimes, if you wait just long enough, being with Him in your suffering, He shows you His mercy and love in such concrete ways that you can't not be aware of His presence.

Thanks be to God.

Friday, August 14, 2009


A couple of months ago, I received an e-mail in my inbox with an invitation. It had been sent out by my choir director to a few members of each of the choirs which he directs, and was meant to gauge our interest in singing with a collaborative choir to perform Handel's Messiah in December. Not a sing-along, mind you--a performance.

At the time, I weighed the opportunity carefully, decided I would like very much to participate, and responded affirmatively.

I had no idea.

I knew that we would be performing with the city's symphony orchestra. I knew that the conductor was an international sensation, because I followed the news when they were searching for a new director. What I didn't know was that this vocal group is comprised of the best of the best in the area. From professional musicians to members of the city's opera company to musicologists to university professors...and apparently to little me, homeschooling Mama of five delightful children, with no degree, and very little vocal training--just the desire to praise my Lord.

Apparently, my choir director thinks this is enough. He himself is a professional, so it's not as though his opinion is a minor factor here. It's a little hard to swallow though. I guess I just don't hold myself in the same esteem as the singers around me. I very much enjoy singing in my regular choir, and I have cantored for nearly 20 years because I love being involved so intimately in that form of worship. It is the outlet which draws my heart in most strongly, and which truly engages my mind the best. I love attending rehearsal--the fellowship before and after, the attention to musical detail, the fact that we sing exclusively sacred text--all these things make it a time of deep spiritual and personal reflection for me. I feel so much closer to Our Lord when all of those components come together. Then add to the mix that we rehearse in the chapel from time to time, which means we directly face the Tabernacle.

Man. A professional choir?? Last night, I felt the claws of the devil starting to sink in. It was as though he had his hands so close to my flesh that he was snagging my skin with each pass. You know you're not really that good. Those people are all way better than you. Smarter, too. Not a single one of those women are bland enough to stay home with their kids. They're all out in the professional world, with multiple degrees and high-paying careers. Just who do you think you are, to be sitting in that room with them, with an internationally renowned conductor, singing one of the most beloved works ever written? You can't keep this up, you know. Just drop it. Just walk away. Just tell them you're too busy. Tell them this is no place for a Catholic mom with a mess of kids at home. Go back to your little life, your little house in your little town. Sing in your little church, but don't think it means anything to anyone, especially not to HIM.

He's rotten to the core.

It's true. This is an incredible group. Our first night of rehearsal, there was never a point during which we stopped to tune--ever--and still managed to produce overtones (link warning--music theory nerd alert!) in an acoustical nightmare of a room (padded carpet, heavily padded pews--enough to seat 600). I have never heard such an immediate blend--most choirs take at least several rehearsals to meld their voices together this well. It's a true honor to be among them, even to rehearse.

And the people in the group are amazing. Last night, I met a research fellow with the university, a science teacher, an astro-physicist, for Pete's sake (uh, that would be "rocket scientist"--!!!), and a woman who works for the symphony.

Didn't meet any other stay-at-home moms. Felt kind of dwarfed by these voices. Kind of wondered what in the world my director was thinking.

Brooded all the way home.


After singing the sacred text of the Messiah, straight from Malachi and Isaiah, words which foretold the coming of the Savior, Christ the Lord, then from Matthew, Luke, John, Psalms, Hebrews, Romans, Revelation, and I Corinthians--the words that tell the story of Our Lord....even then, I could feel him creeping in and taunting.

I said to My Darling, "What is this that I've been asked to do? I thought it would be such a joy to be part of this, such an exciting endeavor. Why am I even there? I can't hold my own with those people. I'm not of the same caliber as they are musically, let alone intellectually."

And the Lord touched his heart, and he spoke to me.

"What you have is an incredible gift. It's the gift of humility. Why do you need to be on anyone else's level? You are exactly where God intends and needs for you to be. He has given you what you need to fulfill your role in His Plan. Just sing for Him and let it be enough."

Folks, I just need to say it again. I am married to Saint Joseph.

And so...............

I will let it be enough. If this is where He wants me to be, living this life as a wife and mother, raising up His children in my home, teaching them about Him and bringing them to Him every chance I get, singing His Psalms at Mass, praising Him with my small voice in whatever way I can muster, then it is enough for me.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

First things first

I absolutely must apologize for my extended absence. Suffice it to say it's been busy here, busy there, busier than I would have hoped, for Pete's sake.

Construction inside and out has been the order of the day, with camping and furious play interspersed. Our gas lines are being converted from old-style metal lines to new-fangled PVC. This means digging. And with digging must come pictures, because I have a three-year-old Monkey who grunts at the mere thought of big orange constructiony things.


And in the middle of it all--I have discovered an embarrassing but delightful truth: the tree in my front yard with beautiful pink flowers in spring and purple leaves spring, summer and fall is not a crab apple tree! Purely by accident, I happened to stoop down yesterday after retrieving the mail. There on the ground was a fruit of the tree, fallen from its stem, and split open. The juicy, sparkling fruit inside was certainly not crab appleish, and so I plucked one from the tree to take inside and bisect. Understand, we've lived here for years and never picked the fruit--because what in Heaven's Name would I do with crab apples?? I've left them for the appreciative winter birds, and have been completely unaware that my very own tree in my very own front yard is, in fact, a PLUM TREE!!!


I am now on the hunt for delicious recipes for my lovely plums, and shall be experimenting. Praise God!

The saga of camping deserves it's own entry, but I refuse. If I promise a story and one is not forthcoming, you'll be sad, and I'll feel guilty. So on we go.

We camped at a county park two hours north which was rumored to have several sites right on a lovely beach, sloping down to a clear lake with shallows going 50 yards out. Well, the beach part was true enough, but the clear lake left a bit to be desired. It had been drained (a year ago? two years ago?), and tall weeds have now grown throughout the shallows. The kids didn't care; they spent most of the weekend on the beach anyway, mucking in the weed sludge, frolicking in the water, and kayaking through the weeds pretending to be pirates. (Of course, pirates need good hiding places and don't care about mud and sludge, so they were happy.) They fished (with my Monkey hollering at one point, "Dad! DAD!! Something stole my worm!!") and we ate fish. They roasted marshmallows and ingested more sugar than a vendor could spin into cotton candy.


When we arrived to set up camp on Friday afternoon, the rain had just lightened into a sprinkle, and the weather in general was much cooler than we had expected. I kept my jeans on and my sweater close at hand. Even the work of keeping house didn't warm me into a sweat. My Darling popped up the camper, and I busied myself making the beds, spreading the the rugs, setting out pajamas, folding out chairs, and making sure that everything was just so. The kids ran off to explore the four adjoining sites and play with their cousins. It looked like a normal weekend of camping with My Darling's sisters, cousins, and all of their kids. Supper was a delicious fish fry, and everyone had more than enough to eat.

When bedtime rolled around, the Pickle headed to the tent he shares with the only other boy cousins there, and the girls and the Monkey settled into their beds in the camper. The Monkey fell asleep in the middle of our prayers, and the Reepicheep and Frog were not far behind. The Pudgy Bug snuggled in with me for her milkies and was soon snoring lightly. My Darling was sleeping almost immediately, because as we all know, his only requirement for sleep is to start out awake. As usual, I laid awake, with dozens of thoughts swirling in my mind like an eddy. As the minutes crept silently around, I began to hear gentle rolls of thunder far off in the distance. It wasn't until about midnight that I noticed lightning flashes. I counted the seconds between flashes and booms, applying the common rule of one mile for every seven seconds, and estimated that the storm was better than ten miles off.

By quarter past midnight, though, the storm had closed in to only about two miles away. I nudged My Darling awake and asked him if we were set for a thunderstorm. Not having television available anymore, I only had the internet forecast to rely on, and since we were two hours from home, I didn't know what was coming for the county we were in. He stepped outside to roll up the sides of our canopy and put the stroller underneath the bunk end of the camper to keep it dry.

We figured we were safe.

We were wrong.

Beginning at about 12:20 AM, there was constant lightning, thunder, and downpours of torrential rain. The let-ups, when they happened, lasted for five or ten minutes. And by one o'clock, everyone but the Monkey was wide awake. The Bug, wide-eyed, was snuggling with her Daddy. The Reepicheep and the Frog were playing notebook games with a flashlight. I was praying fervently, and worrying, as usual, about everything under the moon and stars, because goodness knows there was something I had forgotten to put away or that would be completely ruined by the rain. This time my neurosis wasn't too far off track, although mercifully, nothing was ruined beyond repair.

Around 1:30, we heard a crack of thunder accompanying a flash which seemed to light the sky more brightly than the sun. The explosion which followed rattled my teeth, and caused me and the girls to yelp as though in pain. It was the kind of thunder boom that makes you think you'll see a charred pit right behind your house. Again, we weren't too far off the mark.

The storm continued the entire night. It finally let up at around 6:00, leaving a stiff wind in it's wake to usher out the front. By this time, we were utterly soaked, the battered canvas having given way to the six hours of continuous rain. Our pillows, sheets and blankets were dripping, and the breeze was welcomed by everyone as we hung our bedding out to dry.

We gathered around the picnic tables to find breakfast, and heard the news shared by each family as to how they had weathered the storm. The Pickle and the boy cousins had found refuge in my sister-in-law's camper. My other sister-in-law reported that the three inches of water beneath the floor of her tent made it feel like they were atop a giant, tented water bed. Because there was little wind during the actual storm, there was no damage, really--nothing lost to the lake or blown over the fire (what little there was left of the coals)--but the rushing water was host to sand, seeds, sticks and general crud. Rugs from outside campers and tents were in need of a good hose-down. Shoes which had been left underneath campers--in otherwise safety--were completely soaked through. And my stroller had succumbed to the river of rainwater which had coursed beneath the camper, washing away the formerly solid ground and creating a mini mud slide. The stroller was on the ground, covered with clumps of dirt and sand, sopping wet, and looking pitiful.

The day remained cool enough that after hanging out items in need of drying, many from our group ventured out to see how the rest of the park fared.

About a half-mile down the road from our site, this was the view.


The crack which had shaken the earth beneath us was the result of an actual explosion. A forty-something foot tall pine tree had been split down the middle. The bark laid in strips as though a giant vegetable peeler had sliced down the length, exposing the smooth, wet wood beneath. The smell of raw pine and singed earth hung around the remains of the tree, and the thought that it could have been any tree in that park was the unspoken sentiment. Miraculously, though there were hundreds of people camping, there was no one on this particular site. The tree fell in shards and splinters all around, but no one was hurt. The people in the site across the road reported that their lips literally tingled in the charged air.

The sunset that night was gorgeous--a comforting reminder that all storms do, eventually, come to an end.


The gentle rain which fell on Saturday night was barely noticed.

I must say, we were all happy to camp together, but vastly relieved to be home on Sunday night. We even had enough time (and almost enough hot water) for everyone to have a shower before we went to Mass on Sunday evening. The laundry is all finished, folded, and put away, and the next camp out is being plotted.

Heaven only knows what weather adventures we'll face next time.