Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Almost there.....

Last year, for months leading up to November 1st, I was preparing.  Not for All Saint’s Day (though that IS important), not for the arrival of Fall weather in Florida, not for Thanksgiving plans to begin or Christmas shopping season to be official—but for the start of NaNoWriMo.  I literally counted down the days and hours, and as I waited I thought unceasingly about plot twists and character development.  I kept repeating my first sentence over and over in my mind until the day I could actually type it and make it real.  

This year, I debated about even participating-- deciding first that I would not then, deciding, maybe I would give it a go.  So, here I am just hours before the noveling is to begin and I have barely thought about it at all.  

The last five days my life has been a whirlwind of running here and there.  We have had Halloween parties, longer, busier than normal shifts at work, field trips for school, and so much more.  I am already behind on my laundry for the week and the kids are already behind on their school work.  I have e-mails to answer and dishes in my sink and first quarter grades to average.  I am having trouble keeping up with my regular duties and starting tomorrow I am going to add “writing over 1600 words of a new novel” to the next 30 days worth of to-do lists?!?!?!?!?!  

I cannot fathom how I will have time to even think about fiction when real life is so busy, yet I am still planning to give it a try.  

Last year, the noveling was such fun.  And the final result, my book, The Life I Dreamed, was so worth the effort.  It may be even more crazy this year than last, but I cannot fathom NOT trying it again despite my busy life.  

I don’t know if I will win, making it to 50,000 words by month’s end but…..we’ll see where the adventure leads this time around……

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Book Review-- The Green Coat

My children love to be read to. Ever since they were little, each of them has enjoyed sitting near me as I share the joy of wonderful stories and the bond of spending time together.  So, it is not surprising that read-alouds are an integral part of our home schooling.  We often start our school day by listening to devotional stories.  We read our science book aloud together. And we search for great books for history that make the subject come alive.

But, our favorite read-alouds are our literature selections.  For literature, we try to choose well-written books with enjoyable story lines and positive messages.  Our literature stories do not have to be classics (though fairly often they are).   Instead, what is most important is that our shared literature books capture our attention and inspire us to be better people.  

Sometimes we choose the right books and my children beg me to read "one more chapter" before moving on to other school work.  Upon occasion, we have chosen wrong and have struggled to even get through a book.

After hearing about
The Green Coat by Rosemary McDunn, I felt certain it would make for a great family read-loud.  It is sub-titled "A Tale from the Dust Bowl Years" and would work well as a supplement to a history unit on the 1930's, but we decided to read it for literature since we are not studying American History this year. 

The story of young Tressa and her family's struggle in the midst of the dust bowl era did capture our attention.  My children and I could all relate to Tressa's feelings of hopelessness as she is sent away to work for strangers while her parents attempt to get back on their feet after losing their farm.  We felt for Tressa in her loneliness and rejoiced with her when she eventually found a treasured friend.  The book was easy to read, well written, and filled with beautiful descriptive language.  Through the story, McDunn clearly weaves the message of perseverance,acceptance, and trust in God's plan.  She portrays Tressa's emotional growth and social maturing in a poignant and moving way.

We found "The Green Coat" to be a nice story.  It was perfect for multiple ages and enjoyed by both my children and me.  Though it does not stand out as one of our all time favorites and there were very few days, over the weeks we spent reading it, that the children asked for "one more chapter", overall it was a sweet and endearing tale.

You can purchase this book here.  I wrote this review for the Tiber River Blogger Review program, created by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods, your source for Baptism Gifts and First Communion Gifts. For more information and to purchase, please visit Aquinas and More Catholic Goods.
Tiber River is the first Catholic book review site, started in 2000 to help you make informed decisions about Catholic book purchases.
I receive free product samples as compensation for writing reviews for Tiber River.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Happy Anniversary

Today, my wonderful husband and I celebrate our 16th wedding anniversary.   Our sixteen years together have been filled with many joy-filled moments and many not-so-joyful moments.  

Every once in a while, I will look into the eyes of my beloved, when he and I are up to our ears in life (you know what I mean, right? financial challenges, disobedient kids, something else breaking in the house, conflicting schedules, petty disagreements, etc., etc., etc…) and ask him, “So, is this how you pictured our life together?”  

              The answer, of course, is no.  Sixteen years ago, we both pictured a perfectly idyllic life- with perfect children, a perfect house to live in, and day after day of nothing but happy moments together.

Our life may not be the "happily ever after" of fairy tales and Disney movies.  And, it is not always the perfect pretty picture we had in our minds when we exchanged our vows.  Instead, our life together is real, with good days and with bad, for better and for worse….. and we face it all together.  It is not perfect but even after 16 years, Tim and I still truly love and cherish one another.  We are still committed to each other and we still thank God for the blessing of our marriage.  I guess, that’s “happily ever after” enough for me.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

My very own Confessional

            The internet is awesome- on it you can connect with people all over the world, learn about garden eels, share pictures with far-away family members, and so much more.  You can even buy your own confessional!  Really!  I heard about it months ago and had to check it out myself.   I actually found a few.  Here is a source for purchasing new custom built confessionals online.

Now, the confessionals I found for sale online a few months ago (but had trouble finding again today) were not the kind they have around here-- small rooms in the church where they set up a chair for the priest, another one as an option for the penitent, a kneeler as the other option, and a portable screen.  Instead they were the old fashioned kind- taken from old churches and made of deep rich wood with a tiny space for the priest to sit on one side and another little space for the penitent who only had room to drop to his knees in contrition on the other side.  In between was a thick immovable screen.  

            They did not, of course, come with a priest who could hear your confession and confer the Sacrament of Reconciliation in the convenience of your own home, at any time of the day or night.  And though the space inside looked cozy and tight- they were not particularly small.  One would not fit nicely into a spare corner of the family room, especially my family room, which though it is a big, spacious room does not have any spare corners available.  

Nevertheless, as I thought about having a confessional somewhere in my house where I could go and be alone- peaceful and contemplative- I really wanted one.  

I thought about escaping to my confessional when my patience was wearing thin, when I was over stimulated and overwhelmed by the noise and the demands and the chaos around me.  I thought about stepping through the door and dropping to my knees and I could almost feel the peace and serenity that little place could offer in the midst of my not-so-serene life of raising/home schooling five children.   

I thought about all those walls would have seen- the humility, the contrition, the sorrow of soul for sins that should never have been committed, the tears, and the pain that sometimes accompany a genuine, heartfelt confession.  And then.... the joy, the beauty, the peace that come with absolution, the incredible gratitude and humility that flood one’s soul after being cleansed and forgiven and made new.  I could not help but wonder- how many miracles have taken place in those old confessionals?  How many people have come back to God and reconciled their relationships with Him right there in that place?  How many people really did kneel there and pour out their souls only to be lovingly forgiven and welcomed anew into God’s outstretched arms?

Yes, I wanted my own confessional, even if I did not have a place to put it or the money to actually purchase it or nearly as much time to spend there as I imagined. 

I shared this impractical desire with my family.  I showed them pictures on the computer of the confessionals available at the time.  It was quite a while later, that my son presented to me my very own confessional.  He had built it himself out of Lego’s and his version did come with a priest at the ready, and a penitent, on his knees in the very act of confessing as well.  I cannot enter my confessional in moments of stress or worry but I keep it in my room.  It is on my dresser where I see it every day and am reminded of the beauty of our Catholic faith and the amazing gift of peace that comes when I go before God and admit my sins to be given the gift of forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  

Friday, October 19, 2012

Our not-so-peaceful prayer vigil

            This afternoon we participated, for the fifth year in a row, in the 40 days for life prayer vigil.   There were a few years when Tim took the “big” kids and I stayed at home to offer my prayers because our youngest was just too little to have out on the side of the road praying in front of the abortion mill.  Last year we took her along, but really, she was still pretty little.  

This year, she went along again.   And, this year, she is a big girl (as she always tells us).  So, it should have come as no surprise to me that this year, she was very curious about the whole experience.  In fact this year, our peaceful prayer vigil was not as peaceful as it had been in the past, because my curious little big girl talked non stop the entire time we were there.

            As we arrived and greeted a few others from our church who were already praying quietly, their rosaries in hand, my little one started in with her questions.  “Mommy, why are we here?” she wanted to know.

            I tried my best to explain it to her in a way she could understand.  “We are here to pray for babies.”

            “I love babies,” she said adoringly at the mere thought of a soft, sweet baby.

            We picked out signs to hold before taking our place on the sidewalk.  “What does that sign say?”  she asked pointing to a white sign with big black letters.

“It says ‘Pray to End Abortion’.  Abortion is something bad that hurts babies.”

“Our friend ‘J’ is a baby,” she informed me wisely.

“Baby ‘J’ is safe,” I assured her, “abortion cannot hurt her.”

Then she saw a sign with a baby on it.  “Life is beautiful,” the sign proclaimed and next to the words was the adorable face of a chubby cheeked infant.  “I like that sign,” my own adorable chubby cheeked child told me.  

            “Okay,” I told her a few minutes later, “we are here to pray.  Can you pray for babies?”  She nodded and together we prayed, “God bless babies, ALL babies, especially the tiniest ones.”  We held our sign in silence for just a moment.

            It was not long before she had another question though.  “Mommy, why do some cars beep?” she wanted to know after a few cars drove past with the drivers laying on their horns in loud, obnoxious protest of our peaceful vigil and a few cars beeped a few friendly toots of their horns, waving as they drove by.  

            “Some cars beep because they love babies too and they want us to know they are praying with us.  But, some cars beep because they do not like what we are doing.”

            She thought about that for a while.  Then she looked up at me with her big brown eyes and told me quite firmly, “Everybody loves babies.”  

            Oh, if only that were true…….

God bless babies, ALL babies, especially the tiniest ones.

 photo credit: <a href="">wht_wolf9653</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Right here with me...

            “God is all present, that means He is everywhere, all the time.  He is right here with us even now.”  We were talking about catechism lessons with some friends this morning.  We discussed that God is eternal and that He is all good, and then we discussed that He is always present.  

I believe all these things.  I believe in God’s goodness-- His love, His power, and yes, His constant presence in my life.  I believe these things and always have, even from childhood.  But, I believe them mostly in my mind.  Intellectually, I know these things to be true.  I believe in my Church and I believe in the theology I have been taught.  

My mind is aware of, and fully accepts, the truths of my faith.  

My heart... sometimes doubts.  

So, as we talked this morning about God being present, right there next to us, I knew it was true.  In my mind there was no doubt.  But this week has had its challenges- a lack of motivation when it comes to school work, a few sleepless nights, a painful migraine headache, the daily struggle to be patient and selfless.  Just an ordinary week with ordinary challenges, but so often it is the little things that wear me out and fill my heart with questioning.  

Even as my mind believes and insists that God is present, my heart sometimes screams out- “God I know you are here but where?  I know you are near but I don’t see you working in my life, I don’t feel you here next to me.”

               It is amazing how often, while teaching my children, I end up learning, or re-learning, so much myself.  God spoke to me this morning- through my children’s catechism lesson.  He reminded me of His love and His presence when He knew I most needed the reminder. 

It is true that we do not always feel God nearby.  It is true we do not always see Him at work.  The greatest of saints struggled to see and feel Him at times too.  But it is just as true that God is here, and He is all good, and He is helping us through the struggles--big ones and little ones too. 


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