Saturday, March 31, 2007

Mission Statement for My Blog

So, why, then do I write this blog? The following is what I've been working on for a week or so. The items are not necessarily in order of priority. As a matter of fact, if you would like to know, I put them in the order I thought would look best visually.

To promote joy in everyday living;
To promote healthy, happy relationships;
To share resources for innocent online recreation;
To share ideas for economical and healthful eating;
To share resources for the education of our children and ourselves;
To share the beauty and joy of the Catholic faith with people of any creed;
To promote respect for the individual, regardless of race, creed, ability, etc.

My Little "Secrets" about My Blog

1) How did I keep up the blog with our daughter here from out of town? Well, yes, I did get on the computer some while she was here...but I also had most of the blog posts sitting in Microsoft Word, ready to go. (Smile).

2) I have secret fears about my blog. (I guess they're not going to be secret anymore.) What if I run out of things to say? Or what if no one is really interested? Should I be spending my time some other way?

3) I began posting on a daily basis rather than an occasional basis when my second son became visually impaired (this past January). There wasn't anything I could do for him, and I had to "do something". Now I realize I was probably doing what Elwood N. Chapman suggests in his book, Attitude, Your Most Priceless Possession. He says that all of us deal with both positive factors and negative factors in our lives. He says that in order to keep our attitude postive, it helps to "play our winners"...whether it's taking a walk in nature or listening to classical music, or a hobby or sport. Whatever we do well, or whatever is a happy influence for us, can help to keep the positives stronger than the negatives in our lives. Neat, huh?

Country Bean Soup

Country Bean Soup

This soup is pretty quick to make.

2 cans Great Northern beans, 15 or 16 oz. each, drained
1 can potatoes, 15 oz., diced or sliced

1 cube or teaspoon chicken bouillon
1 ½ cups chopped celery
¾ cup diced carrots
½ cup chopped onion

Sauté the vegetables in a little vegetable oil.
Add some water and the bouillon, and simmer until vegetables are tender.

Combine with the Great Northern beans and potatoes and heat through.
Serves 4 to 6.

Friday, March 30, 2007

About My Family

In the last post, I said, "My three boys are teens". I mean the three boys who still live at home. Also, recently I posted a picture of Mary visiting us, and previously I posted a picture of Paul. There's one person missing from the pictures but not from our hearts or our own private pictures. Joe just prefers not to have his picture online. (Now I hope he doesn't mind having his name online. Smile.).

Teen Tea

Teen Tea

I’m calling this Teen Tea because my three boys are teens; however, there’s nothing here that wouldn’t be good for children. I just haven’t tested it on the taste buds of children.

3 tea bags of naturally caffeine-free fruit tea
(such as Celestial Seasonings brand Tangerine Orange Zinger,
Wild Berry Zinger, or other brand or flavor of tea)
1/3 cup sugar
2 quart pitcher

Fill the 2-quart pitcher with water.
Put 3 tea bags in the water, and cover the pitcher.
Let sit at room temperature for about three hours.
Squeeze the tea bags against the side of the pitcher with a long spoon,
and then remove the tea bags.
Add the 1/3 cup sugar and stir.
Chill in refrigerator.

This is easy for me to remember: 3 tea bags, 3 hours, 1/3 cup sugar (not 3 cups! Ha).

Using name brand tea and name brand sugar, at regular price, I figured the cost at just over 7 cents per 8 oz. cup or about 56 cents for the pitcher. Of course, I buy generic sugar, and buying the tea on sale provides even more savings. This is cheaper than soda pop or juice drinks, without the harmful chemicals. And they’re even getting “good stuff” such as rosehips and hibiscus.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Fort McHenry

The War of 1812 was precipitated by British ships capturing Americans to help sail her ships in her war with France, and conflicts over the Northwest Territories and the Canadian border.

In 1814, British troops attacked Washington D.C., burning important buildings. Americans frantically moved documents to safe places. Then the British troops moved up the Chesapeake Bay, where their next target was the important city of Baltimore. American troops were ready at Ft. McHenry, the water entrance to Baltimore. Infantrymen and sailors exchanged cannon fire through the night of September 13, 1814.

An American lawyer, Francis Scott Key, had been on a British warship when the battle started, trying to effect the release of an American doctor. Dawn brought him the moving sight of our flag flying over the Fort. The American troops had triumphed. Key jotted the Star Spangled Banner on an envelope, and passed it around later that month as a handbill.

We got a feel for this era of our country, during our visit to Fort McHenry, where we saw canons similar to the ones that had been used, and visited the barracks where the soldiers had lived and worked.

The Battle for Baltimore had been the turning point of the War of 1812. Our young nation had once again proven our liberty from Great Britain as a separate country, so we could then move on to become allies. Today we can work side by side; and learn from one another's literature and other contributions to society.

One More Picture

Greg had to work when we went on our field trip yesterday, so I got his picture with Mary today in the courtyard.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

More Pics from Our Field Trip

Here's Mary with Robert and Peter.

Guess Who Came to Visit!

Mary is here! We went to visit Fort McHenry today. What a neat field trip!

The Elements of Style - Book Review

The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White

When I first saw The Elements of Style at a used book sale, what caught my eye was the fact that it was co-authored by E.B. White, the author of Charlotte’s Web, and other classic works. I wasn’t disappointed.

Even the introduction was fascinating, as Mr. White tells about a publisher asking him to revise a little book written by his own former professor, who had since died. He makes the professor come back to life in our imaginations, as we read his story.

The book is divided into several parts:
Elementary Rules of Usage (This tells the rules, but also when and how you can break the rules.)
Elementary Principles of Composition (Some tips are obvious, but obviously forgotten at times, such as “Use the Active Voice”. )
A Few Matters of Form (This includes Exclamations, Hyphens, Margins, Syllabication, and more.)
Words and Expressions Commonly Misused (This is a fun section that I re-read in nuggets…often with my mouth open in amazement at what I “didn’t know”. )
An Approach to Style (This section was added by E.B. White himself. There’s nothing like having a great author to teach us in the comfort of our homes.)

Monday, March 26, 2007

Greeting Cards

Have you ever searched for just the right e-card to send to a friend? Or have you ever wanted to slow down and just relax a bit?

You might want to check out these “movies” from Inspiring Thots . They are actually more like slide shows, except that you watch beautiful pictures as the words slowly appear, disappear, and reappear, while you listen to soothing music in the background. There are many themes: friendship, encouragement, happiness, parenting, and so forth.

Another great source of online greeting cards is Franciscan Peace Cards. Sister Patricia has provided Catholic postcards for just about any occasion: birthday, sacraments, feasts, inspiration, and even just fun.

Both of these resources are provided free, but - in both cases - donations would be helpful to keep the sites going, if we’re able and inspired to contribute.

Happy News for Us

I am posting again tonight (on Monday night), because tomorrow morning we are picking up our daughter from the airport. Woo, hoo. I don't want to be trying to post in the I'm going to post tonight what I want to share with you for tomorrow.

Cocoa Copycat

After yesterday's post about cocoa, my sister sent me this link to a Starbuck's (registered name) copycat recipe. I haven't tried it yet, but want to share it.

Feast Day

May you all have a blessed feast of the Annunciation...the day on which the Angel Gabriel appeared to the Blessed Virgin Mary, asking her to be the Mother of Jesus...and God, the second person of the Blessed Trinity, became Man in her womb.

Thank you, Dear Jesus, for making the supreme sacrifice of becoming Man to redeem us. Thank you, Mother Mary, for cooperating in God's sublime plan.

The Story of the Trapp Family Singers

Book Review of
The Story of the Trapp Family Singers,
By Maria Augusta Trapp

Until I first read this book (many years ago), The Sound of Music was my favorite movie (many years ago). It’s always interesting to see how Hollywood can take a book and change it into a movie. Come to find out (from another, later book), Maria wasn’t happy with how they portrayed Captain Von Trapp in the movie…not the Georg she knew and loved. And there were other discrepancies between the original book and the movie. However, I “got over it” and learned to just enjoy both: the book and the movie, as two somewhat different stories. After all, the movie had helped me come to love Catholicism when I was a non-Catholic youth.

While Georg was not portrayed accurately in the movie, Maria herself was definitely the strong-willed, vivacious personality, similar to the way she was portrayed in the movie. The book also covers a wider range of time than the movie, telling all about their lives in America. It chronicles the Trapp family's love of their Catholic faith, their family and their music, as they escaped Nazi-occupied Austria, emigrated across the sea, and sang their way across America. Sometimes sad, sometimes hilariously funny, it’s a good read for adults and teens alike. And if you haven't seen the movie, The Sound of Music, I highly recommend that too.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Speaking of Chocolate

Richer Cocoa

Love that Starbucks Cocoa! Umm. I used to try to duplicate it at home, but without success. But I did learn how to make a richer cup of hot chocolate. Very simply. Very cheaply. I make up my hot chocolate from generic hot chocolate powder mix, but then I add about a teaspoon of instant powdered milk and stir. Now it doesn’t taste like water. It tastes like hot chocolate!

Sometimes (when it's not Lent--smile), I also add a squeeze of Nestle's syrup.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Does Dove Count?

For Lent I gave up pop and sweets...execpt, I said, for chocolate milk or hot chocolate. Part way through Lent I bought a bag of small Dove chocolates. Another little exception wouldn't hurt. I would just be having one or two a day.

Today I bought another bag, opened my piece of candy, and read the saying on the inside of the wrapper: "Keep the promises that you make to yourself."

The Dove chocolates have been zipped into a bag. It's nice to have something to look forward to eating during the Easter season!

Avatar Fun

Do you use the computer only for very worthwhile and thought-provoking activities? I do try to share some “very worthwhile” and “thought provoking” resources and ideas. But sometimes I like to include the lighter side of life, as well.

If you ever use your online experience “just for fun”, then you might like to make your own “avatar” at Yahoo. I found out that if you don’t have a Yahoo email account, you can still sign up for Yahoo, and you can still make an avatar. What IS an avatar? My old dictionary says, “an embodiment, bodily manifestation”. We can make a manifestation of the kinds of styles we might like to wear, pets we might like to have, places we might like to go some day. It becomes sort of a personality sketch.

After sending mine to two geographically-distant family members, they made their own; and we’ve been having fun sending them to one another as e-postcards. When I first shared my avatar with my (adult) daughter, she said it’s like playing paper dolls -- and then she spent an afternoon making hers. I think she was right; but who says we adults can’t play paper dolls? Ah, getting in touch with our youth…

I’m going to stick my neck out now and say this was not entirely frivolous, after all. Something inspired me yesterday to make an avatar of my (deceased) mother…a much younger mother, of course, than I last remembered her (all the avatars are young)…probably about as old as when I was a very young child. I dressed her in her favorite colors, with the facial expression I thought she’d have, in a beautiful house with a glowing fireplace (she loved to read house-beautiful magazines). I, who can’t draw a box, made such a “real” picture of my mom that I cried…the healing-type cry. For me, playing with avatars went from “just for fun” to “very worthwhile”.

If you have time (only if you have time; please don’t blame me if you lose an afternoon--smile)...if you have time, enjoy!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Cincinnati Homeschool Convention

To my friends in Cincinnati, hopefully you are ahead of me on this information! I just discovered from Carol at Homeschool CPA that a A homeschool convention is going on in Cincinnati right now, this weekend.

Registration is at the door. I see that Dr. Jay Wile, the author of Exploring Biology with Creation, and other great science books, will be speaking.

If you attend, please share with us about your experience.

Joy, from Melissa

You probably know the Little House books, written by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Did you know that prequels have been written about Laura's grandmother and great-grandmother? Melissa Wiley wrote these wonderful books, in two series, called The Martha Years and The Charlotte Years.

I was so happy, a couple years ago, to discover that Melissa Wiley is a Catholic homeschooling mother with a blog. She's such a good writer, I almost think she should charge us to read her blog. Of course she won't, and of course I'm only joking, Melissa...about charging us, but not about how much I enjoy your writing.

Yesterday's post on Melissa's blog, for March 22, is so inspiring that I'm excited to share it with you. It's not a subject that you would necessarily think of when you think of joy: the serious illness of a child. At first glance, it reminds me of St. Francis of Assisi's definition of joy. But it is also about making a decision to be joyful, and shows how our own joyful attitudes can bring joy to our children. I hope you will run right over there to read it.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Fun Quiz on the Web

Found this fun quiz, "What Type of Writer Should You Be?" Well, my results are similar to what my family has been telling me for years. Actually, neither I nor they thought of my being a film writer, but my kids have told me I should be a fiction writer. Maybe someday!

You, too, can take this quiz. Just click on the link at the bottom of this post.

You Should Be a Film Writer

You don't just create compelling stories, you see them as clearly as a movie in your mind.
You have a knack for details and dialogue. You can really make a character come to life.
Chances are, you enjoy creating all types of stories. The joy is in the storytelling.
And nothing would please you more than millions of people seeing your story on the big screen!

Meatless Split Pea Soup

This is probably the most economical dinner my family has. I figure it makes up for the relatively expensive pizza night! (That's frozen pizza from Sam's club, though.)

This is my method for cooking pea soup when I have an afternoon to work around the house and go back and forth to the kitchen. I have also made pea soup concentrate for my freezer and made the soup from that, or made pea soup in the crockpot. But the following method works better for me than any of the other methods I've tried. (That's better, as in tastier.)

Soak 2 cups split peas (about a half pound) in 12 cups water for several hours in a large pan (I use a Dutch oven). The peas will absorb much of the water as they soak. Add some more water if needed, a little more than enough to cover the peas but not too much; as if you were boiling potatoes. (You can always add more water later, but it's hard to redeem watered-down soup.) Bring almost to a boil, stirring frequently. Simmer.

While the peas are simmering, chop and add 2 cups of a variety of finely diced vegetables of your choice, such as onion, bell pepper, celery, or carrots. Continue to simmer and stir until the peas are tender and the carrots and celery can be cut easily. Mash the peas with a potato masher or a spoon. If soup becomes too thick while you are cooking the vegetables, you can add more water, a little at a time. You will probably need to do so.

Add salt to taste (I start with 3/4 teaspoon). I like to add about 1/4 teaspoon thyme in my pea soup.

Take a look again at the consistency. Dip your spoon in the soup and let it flow off the spoon back into the pot. If you already know and love split pea soup, you will know what consistency you want. If not, my recommendation is to get it as thin as a rich gravy (a rich gravy for potatoes, not a thick gravy for biscuits). But in my opinion, the consistency is definitely a matter of personal taste.

I like to serve split pea soup with biscuits. And for the ones in the family who want meat with their soup, I will sometimes warm and chop a few weiners, and serve them in a bowl like a garnish.

This recipe serves about six people. If you want to make more, you can double the amounts. Good luck and God bless.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Last night we finished our second evening of watching the classic movie, Ben Hur, starring Charleton Heston. It's a long movie (3 1/2 hours), produced in 1959 when our attention spans weren't coddled. It was also produced when no expenses were spared, with an extensive cast and superbly realistic sets.

This historical fiction movie focuses on Judah Ben-Hur, who is a wealthy Jewish man living at the time of Christ. We get a glimpse of the iron bondage of the Roman conquerors over the Jewish people, as we watch Judah sent to the galleys to row the Roman ships, and his mother and sister imprisoned, all because of an accident...and because of the ambition of Judah's former friend who is now a Roman military commanding officer.

Periodically throughout the story, we are given glimpses of the life of Jesus affecting the lives of some of the characters, until the climax, when the glimpses become the profound reality. Reverence for Jesus is paramount throughout the movie, with his face never shown and the very music calling for awe. Each episode involving Christ brought tears to my eyes and a meaningful silence to my guys.

As the end of the movie nears, we watch the characters witness the Crucifixion. The final theme is that of the hope and joy that this supreme miracle brings to us.

Our copy of the movie was one that we videotaped from t.v. about twenty years ago, but the movie is available from Amazon.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

My Avatar

Hmm, I'm not certain what an "avatar" IS. But it was fun creating this figure on my Yahoo page. For those who don't know what I look like, I don't even begin to look like this! And I don't have a dog. But it was fun inventing a "me" that's young and slim; and if I had a dog, this would be the one. And the 50's or 60's diner is my dream kitchen decor.

Monday, March 19, 2007

One Dark Night, One Lonely Road

Rain pelted the car in torrents as we drove on and on. At each motel, in the little town of Long Beach, Washington the sign was the same: No Vacancy.

My Dad had reservations for a campground, but how would he pitch a tent and give his wife and two young daughters any shelter in this unrelenting storm? Yet where else could he go?

Finally he pulled into the campground and talked to the owner.

“You and your family can’t sleep out in this weather!” she said. “I have an old dining hall that isn’t used anymore except to store hay. You must sleep in there tonight,” she urged.

We hoped there were no mice among the bales of hay. Perhaps our hostess had cats, for we heard no signs of any mice. We slept peacefully, snug and dry, my Dad grateful to have shelter for his family.

Years later, in a different part of the state, on a lonely stretch of highway in the Columbia River Gorge, my Dad was once again driving on and on. This time he was making a long commute home from work. On the side of the road he saw a car pulled over, with a flat tire. In it were two women. Always the Good Samaritan, he wanted to stop, but the fact that there were two co-workers with him made him hesitate. Would they mind the delay?

“I hope you don’t mind if we stop to help these ladies,” Dad said to his companions. “We’re miles from the nearest phone. If we don’t help them, I don’t know when someone will.”

“Would you like me to change your tire?” he asked as he came up to the ladies’ car. They were very grateful.

“Now I remember who you are!” exclaimed one of the women when he had finished. He looked at her more closely and then he, too, remembered. He remembered one dark night when he needed shelter for his family and she had given him a hand. And now, providentially, he had come along at the right time and place to give her a hand on a lonely road.

Happy Feast of St. Joseph

Oh, St. Joseph, whose protection is so great, so prompt, so strong before the throne of God, I place in you all my interests and desires. Oh St. Joseph, do assist me by your powerful intercession, and obtain for me from your Divine Son all spiritual blessings, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, so that, having engaged here below your heavenly power, I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most Loving of Fathers. Oh St. Joseph, I never weary contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms; I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press Him in my name and kiss His fine Head for me, and Ask Him to return the Kiss when I draw my dying breath. St. Joseph, Patron of departed souls - pray for me.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

St. Patrick's Day Cake

Boy, do I miss my cake decorators! Can you believe I've been able to raise kids for 27 years without decorating cakes? Usually either Mary or Paul decorated the cakes. Missing them, and Joe, too!

Today after I made the cake and Peter frosted it, he said, "Now you have to decorate it." I took a deep breath...

Well, we enjoyed it and I hope you do, too. Happy St. Patrick's Day!

(And yes, Chris, that's the lasagna pan you gave us. )

If you like visiting blogs, you just might like Bloglines! offers ready access to the blogs you like to visit. After the easy-peasy, free sign-up, you add the blogs you like. (I then just stay logged in to the site on my computer, with my Bloglines page bookmarked in my "Favorites".)

When you go to your personalized bloglines page, you can see right away who has posted something new at their blog. You click on the blog name and "voila"! The new post appears in a nice neat format, pictures and all. If you'd like to go to the blog itself, with the blog owner's personal template, you simply click on the title and there you go!

For me, this saves multiple visiting to see if so-and-so has posted anything new lately. Very nifty.

Hat tip to my new friend Holly at A Woman Seeking Grace. Thanks, Holly!

Happy St. Patrick's Day

My monitor is temporarily out of the house (long story), and I'm briefly on my sleeping son's computer, trying to tick instead of click on the keyboard.

I will probably post something else later on, but for now I just wanted to say Happy Saint Patrick's Day to all! May the luck of the Irish be with you! And God's blessings of course!!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Our Mutual Friend

My "love affair" with the writings of Charles Dickens was definitely not "love at first sight"! In high school, when I HAD to read A Tale of Two Cities, I hated it. (It's still not my favorite, although I appreciate the theme very much.) When my oldest child was a baby, I checked out books from the library to read while nursing...and decided that Dickens was a socialist and I didn't like him. Probably about ten years later, I decided to read a Dickens' book again. I don't remember which one it was, probably David Copperfield, but I do remember that I liked it. Not bad. Good characterizations. And he effected great social change by his writings. I read another one. And another one. His writing got better with each reading. I was hooked. Learning to like Dickens' writing was, for me, a slow ponderous process (like his writing; like my writing).

Even if you haven't read Dickens' books, you've probably heard of A Tale of Two Cities, and Great Expectations, and David Copperfield and Oliver Twist. And I'm sure everyone is familiar with A Christmas Carol in some form. But when I discovered Our Mutual Friend, I had never heard of it. It quickly became my favorite!

As usual, there are multiple plots and subplots, and a whole parade of characters who all inevitably come to know each other or to have an effect on each other. As usual, his characters are larger than life. There are the same dark places, the same sinister types of people. There are those "bad characters" who are rushing slowly toward what you would expect them to "achieve". (Yes, I said "rushing slowly".) As usual, there are those characters who are shallow, as well as those who are selfish.

So why is this book any different? Through it all there are a great number of characters who are refreshingly gallant; primary characters who are already "good", but who grow -- and, best of all, who come to happy...I won't say endings but "continuings" at the end of the book. While this book does show some ponderously melancholy examples of the darkest side of human nature, it is also - in contrast - the "happiest" Dickens' book I have read.

If you can read a book in parts, if you can devote some hours on the weekend, or give up a few evenings, head on over to your library or bookstore... And when you're all done, please come back and let me know what you think.

Sudden Enlightenment

Last night I was contemplating reviewing a Dickens book. I was thinking of saying, "It's laborious in places. That's Dickens," when I realized that's me, also. And then I thought about who my favorite author is. Whose books do I read and re-read and wear out? Ah, what a "school" to attend if I wanted to be even more wordy than I already am by nature. Maybe I need to find an author who writes, what's the opposite of verbosity?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Watch Those Answer Keys

Thank goodness I understood Peter's math for today, because the first couple problems in the answer key were obviously wrong. Finally exasperated, I said to him, "This answer key is out to lunch!" and in the next breath, in a lower volume, "I'm on the wrong page..."

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Beautiful Day

Today was a beautiful day to have the back door open. This picture is one of our views from the balcony. I love that I can see people coming and going, but yet have wonderful leafy, mature trees right outside our window.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Meal Plans & Grocery Lists

Years ago I read a book called Sidetracked Home Executives, written by Pam Young and Peggy Jones, two women from my own home town of Vancouver, Washington. The best idea I got from them was to have an ongoing week plan for menus. Chicken on a certain day of the week (however you might like to cook the chicken that particular week), Beef another night, Leftovers another night, and so on. It made it so much easier to plan the menus each week.

Over the years I have tweaked the plan. I find it so much easier if I don't have to sit down each week and plan what chicken dish we will have on Monday, what beef dish we will have on Sunday, and so forth, and then have to look up the various recipes and list all the ingredients needed for each meal. Instead I made a master plan for two weeks, with two master shopping lists to go with the menus. Before it's time to shop, I simply go through the appropriate shopping list and check inventory. If it's on the list and we have it, I cross it off. If we don't, we know we need to buy it. With this plan, I have sometimes made my list for the week in as little as five minutes.

Our tastes and needs will be very different from someone else's, but just to demonstrate the idea, here is my dinner plan for two weeks:

Week 1
Monday-Nacho Chicken Casserole
Tuesday-Country Bean Soup
Wednesday-Tuna Noodle Casserole
Thursday-Bean Burritos
Friday-Pasta Extravaganza
(that's a pasta dish with cheese
and tomato sauce created by two of my sons)
Saturday-Clam Chowder, Homemade Bread

Week 2
Monday-Chicken Chow Mein
Tuesday-Split Pea Soup, Biscuits
Wednesday-Macaroni & Cheese
Thursday-Chicken Rice Broccoli Bake
Friday-Fish, Potatoes
Saturday-Pizza (frozen pizzas from Sam's Club)

Monday, March 12, 2007

When We Love a Friend

I hope you all enjoy my (very) amateur, (very) free-verse "poem". I'm not even sure what free verse is supposed to mean, but here it means it's free of both rhyme and rules! I think of pairs of words: "rhyme and rhythm" and "rhyme and reason", and I hope that this verse has a little smidgeon of the second halves of the pairs... Except for feeble and unsuccessful attempts to write rhymes as a child, this is only the second time I've tried my hand at poetry, and I can't believe I'm going public with this attempt. But it's from my heart, and a thank you to my friends for your friendship.

When We Love a Friend

When we love a friend, we want to be needed.
We wouldn't wish the one we love any needs,
In order for us to have needs to fill...
Not for anything in the world!
But if she has needs,
We want to know.

When we love a friend, we want to be helpful.
We may not always know the best things to do,
In order for us to be helpful...
We may even say the "wrong" thing.
But if we can be helpful,
We want to be there.

When we love a friend, we want to share.
We want to tell our stories, our joys and sorrows,
In order to hear her sympathy and her laughter...
We might even feel we've been a little selfish.
But we know she has stories, too, and
We want to hear them.

When we love a friend, we want to be thankful.
We want her to know how much it means to have her friendship,
In order to grow, to be a better person...
We may not always be able to show it,
But we want her to know that
We want to thank God...
When we love a friend.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Potato to the Rescue

Meal planning used to be my nemesis. With one family member who has gastric reflux disorder, someone who has a strong gag reflex for certain textures, and the need to be thrifty, it was always a challenge to figure out what to serve for seven days' worth of meals. Enter the baked potato.

I could plan a meal that would suit almost everyone. The one who couldn't eat it could have a baked potato (or two). He could even make it himself. (And yes, in my family, it often is a "he"!).

A baked potato can be served with the same salad or vegetable that everyone else in the family is eating, but the potato itself can also be individualized regarding protein and condiments. Some have cottage cheese on the side. Some have shredded cheese on top. One son even adds ketchup to his potato.

Meal planning is so much more fun now!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Remember the Time Change

We're setting our clocks ahead early this year. Remember to set them one hour ahead tonight! And yes, those cars on the clock are my Corvettes! Vroom, vrooom. I also have a few model cars. Couple years ago, while on a break at my part-time job, I was making a list of decorations and memorabilia to keep if we moved. I wrote at the top, "Stuff to keep" and under it I had: '63 Thunderbird, '57 Corvette. I didn't mean anyone to see my list, but my young friend, the 18 yr. old stock boy, saw it and got big eyes. Of course I explained that they were models and we laughed together at what he thought I had meant... (and no, I don't have Corvettes in my garage or parking lot, either; only images of Corvettes in my home).

"Vegetative" State?

Did you see this article the other day about a woman in a so-called "persistive vegetative state"? Her mother, who is her caregiver, said she has come out of the coma before. It must be really hard to have her slip back into it after three days. But what a consolation it must have been to her mother, daughter and grandchildren to have her come out of it, even for awhile, and say, "I'm fine." There are certainly mysteries in life. But one thing we don't have to be puzzled about is that human life is very precious!

Friday, March 09, 2007

Lest We Grieve

Lest anyone, who read my last post about the seventh century monk, be sad about anyone they know who has died, I have to share with you some other thoughts. First of all, I believe that we can never look at the greatest sinner on earth and judge that person's soul. Jesus himself said, "Judge not." We can say that was a heinous crime that someone committed, but we can't know what was in his heart, and we especially can't know what was in his heart a day later, even a moment later. God's time is not like our time, and it takes only an instant - an instant that we can't even measure - for someone to turn to God with his whole heart and soul.

According to the Church, we don't know the precise moment at which the soul leaves the body. It is not necessarily the same moment at which the person is pronounced dead. So, what happens during those moments between when the person is no longer conscious of this world and yet is not quite in the next one? Ah, with what love must Our Lord, then, meet that soul...Our Loving Lord who died on the cross so that each one of us could be saved!

Let us pray for sinners on earth, that they may return to God, that they may trust in His great love...that we may trust in His great love. But let us simply trust in His great mercy for those we know who have died.

Seventh Century Monk

Those who know me, probably know that there is one topic I don't talk about. I never understood "meditating" on this subject. Why would we want to meditate on what we don't want? Yes, that topic is hell. Imagine your surprise then, as well as mine, at today's topic. No, I haven't "flipped". I have come across something astounding from a seventh century monk, who validates what I've always thought...that God doesn't angrily "send" people to hell. Everything about God has to do with love. Let me stop talking and let the monk talk. And you can be sure that it will be a cold day in the hottest place on earth before I ever bring up the topic of hell again.

Saint Isaac the Syrian (7th Century), monk at Nineveh Discourse, 1st series, n°84
«I am suffering torment in these flames»

"As for me, I believe that those who are tormented in hell are tormented because of love. Is there anything bitterer or more violent than the torments of love? Those who feel they have sinned against love bear inside them a much bigger condemnation than any other punishment. The suffering caused by sin against love is the most heartbreaking torment.It is absurd to think that sinners in hell are deprived of God's love. Love is the child of truth that is given to everyone. By its own power, love acts in two ways. It torments sinners, as here on earth a friend may torment another friend. And it gives joy to those who have done what they were supposed to. Such is, in my opinion, the torment in hell: regret. But the souls of those who are up high are in the ecstasy of delights."

Thursday, March 08, 2007

"Carrying Our Crosses"

Today I would like to enourage you to read an article at Catholic Exchange, written by my friend Maureen Wittmann.

It's called "Carrying Our Crosses: Homeschooling with a Chronic Illness". Whether or not you homeschool, I promise you will be inspired.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Free Books Online!

Many people have worked hard to get classical books onto the internet, so they will be available to as many people as possible. These are books that are in the public domain. "Public domain" means that a book is past its copyright (usually published in the early 1900's and before).

Librivox provides books that are read orally by readers for your - or your child's - listening pleasure. If your computer is equipped to read an MP3 file, you can simply click and read. Alternatively, if you wish, you can download a file onto your hard drive.

If you would like for your student to read the text on the computer, or if you want to print materials for him or her, you may also like the more plentiful options available at This site provides: Kid's Classics, Short Stories, Novels, Nonfiction, and Poems.

Another resource I would like to share is the Gutenberg Project. These are files that you download onto your computer. I haven't tried them yet, as I had an overloaded computer until very recently; so I got used to using only things that we could just "click and read"; but the advantage here is the scope. The Gutenberg Project has 20,000 free books available. If you like the Gutenberg Project, you may like some of the curriculum ideas from Miss Maggie at her Old Fashioned Education website.

Another resource where downloading is required is At this site, they will be happy to sell you downloads to your MP3 or other personal player; however, they also offer free downloads to your computer.

I hope something here will be helpful to you!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

John Newman or John Neumann?

Have you ever wondered whether it's spelled Newman or Neumann? Or perhaps you knew these are two different men. But do you know who they were and which one was which? For years I tended to get them confused. At last, now that I attend a church where St. John Neumann was once a pastor, and now that I can do research on the internet, I can learn more about these two great men.

These two intelligent, dedicated saints lived during nearly the same years of the nineteenth century, but were an ocean apart.

St. John Nepomucene Neumann became a priest in his native Bohemia and then immigrated to the United States. Having studied Italian in the seminary, he pastored the first Catholic church in America where Italians could hear the sermon and go to Confession in their native tongue. Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman was born in London and became an Anglican priest. He later converted to Catholicism, and became a Catholic priest. He lived and died in Great Britain.

St. John Neumann, as Bishop of Philadelphia, was best known for establishing the 40 hour devotion to the Blessed Sacrament in parishes, and for beginning the parochial system of Catholic education in the United States. In the meantime, in England, Venerable John Newman was perhaps best known for his book, Apologia Pro Vita Sua, his explanation of his life and conversion.

St. John Neumann is commemorated at the National Shrine of St. John Neumann in Philadelphia. He is commemorated in a lesser way in other places, such as St. Alphonsus Church in Baltimore, where a replica of the bedroom he used (while a pastor there) is preserved. Cardinal Newman is commemorated - in this country - by the Newman Centers on college campuses, which aid Catholic students in living their faith.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Can You Believe...Sulfur?

Before you begin reading this post, let me say that I do not give medical advice, and nothing in here should be misconstrued as medical advice. (I hope that's a good enough disclaimer. :) ). I am not in any medical profession, nor do I have any interest in any vitamin or food supplement company. I just want to share with you something that's been a terrific help in my life. And it came about almost "by accident"...well, I didn't plan it, but maybe God did.

Sulfur! That's what comes up from those springs at Yellowstone Park, isn't it? That's what you read about being in the bowels of the earth..and what some authors use to represent hell. Sulfur. The smell of rotten eggs. When someone recommended that I take MSM, a sulfur compound, I remembered DMSO. A couple decades earlier, I knew someone who was taking DMSO and smelled of sulfur at public meetings. Uh, uh; no way was I taking this stuff!

But somehow I found out that MSM is formulated differently from DMSO and it doesn't make you smell like sulfur at all. And the capsules don't smell like anything; they go down easy. Okay, so far I've told you what it's not: smelly. Now I should tell you why I'm talking about it.

One day, several years ago, I woke up with my toe hurting so badly I could hardly walk. I was sure I had fractured it. The doctor examined it and said, "Gout." Hmm, I hadn't done any of the dietary "things" that might cause it, but who knows about nature and disease. But when the x-rays came back, the office staff called me and said, "It's not gout. It's just arthritis." I said, "Just?" She said yes, arthritis can be very painful. Oh yeah. "Just" simply meant it's nothing to worry about or treat. A friend said to me, "PLEASE try taking MSM." Okay, if you put it that way.

I began taking one capsule every day. Of course, my acute flare-up with my toe subsided, and of course, being a skeptic, I figured it would have anyway (and quite possibly it would). But I just kept taking my capsule of MSM each day.

Suddenly one day something dawned on me! I hadn't had a cough for months! I hadn't had a cough since I began taking the MSM! From childhood I could set the calendar by my annual coughs, that later turned into semi-annual. More recently I had begun having them at least four times a year, usually lasting about six weeks each. Sometimes I'd go to the doctor: no bronchitis or pneumonia or anything, "just a cold". But then I'd go to the grocery store and begin hacking and gagging so much that people would avoid me or ask me WHAT I was going to give them; why I was there and not at home or in the hospital. (I kid you not. People asked me that.) When I was diagnosed with dust allergy, I began taking allergy shots, but quit taking them... long story. After stopping the shots, the four-times-a-year prolonged coughs had resumed. But now they were gone.

So why would sulfur, "an important component of joint cartilage and other body tissues", according to my bottle from GNC, have anything to do with allergies? It was the only thing I had done differently, the only thing in my life that had changed. And then I remembered that allergies were one of the topics in the book I'd borrowed from the library, The Miracle of MSM: The Natural Solution for Pain, by Stanley W. Jacob, M.D.

I'm not sure how I would have gotten through the other stresses of the past four years - while coughing (and hence, not sleeping). Who would have thought that I could keep my allergies at bay for about ten cents a day? I am SO grateful to God, and to my friend, for introducing me to MSM. So I decided that I really ought to share my story. If you have arthritis or allergies, or know someone who does, I suggest you get this book and read it.

Two cautions I would like to mention. First of all, if I had a medical condition that required checking before taking drugs, I would also check before taking a new mineral supplement. Also, I remember reading in The Miracle of MSM that if you are on a blood thinner, you shouldn't take MSM on a regular basis...or was it in the higher doses the author recommends? I would have to read the book again. (And I have now requested it from the library again.) You see, I am not recommending that you run out and buy the bottle and start taking MSM. I am recommending that you get the book and read it. :) (You may be able to get it from your public library.) Then decide for yourself what you think is best.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Free Online Catholic Books!

Many classical books and other out-of-print books in the "public domain" are available for free online. These include older Catholic books.

You can read the Douay-Rheims Bible, the Catholic Encyclopedia (of 1910), the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas (1920 translation), and much more at New Advent.

If you're looking for something for Lent, you can read The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ by Anna Catherine Emmerich or The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis.

One important book that is NOT "old", that is available online, is The Catechism of the Catholic Church. It is even searchable.

More on Angels

Isn't it awesome to think that God, in His love, gave each of us a guardian angel to watch over us and be at our side! How often do we think of our guardian angel? How often does it occur to us to ask our angel for his help? How often does it occur to us to thank him?

Jesus Himself mentioned our guardian angels when He said, "See that you despise not one of these little ones: for I say to you, that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 18:10).

St. Gemma Galgani conversed familiarly with her angel...and was granted a miracle, as he appeared to her throughout her life.

According to an article in the Catholic encyclopedia of 1910 , our angels are not only with us throughout life, but "they are not separated from us after death, but remain with us in heaven, not, however, to help us attain salvation, but 'ad aliquam illustrationem'."

What a wonderful friend we have, always by our side!

Friday, March 02, 2007


How I wanted to write something really terrific about our guardian angels for you today! But I've been hit by something that rarely strikes me, the counterpart to speechlessness, writer's block. Everything I write just doesn't seem - at least to me - to "work". So, just for now, I will just share with you the following beautiful webpage about the angels.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Deadline "Fun"

Aren't deadlines fun? No? No, I don't think so either. Why does February only have 28 days to begin with? Yesterday was a big deadline for ALL the adults in our family.

For my husband, it was a deadline at work that he'd been working 65 hour weeks to attain. He made it. Yay! Now he can take it a little easier for a little while.

The adult kids in Kentucky were moving out of their shared apartment into three separate places...and were stressed and tired with all the arrangements to be made along the way. Who borrows or rents what truck for which move, and on what day? Plus cleaning the "old" apartment. Somehow they got it all done. I think they are probably exhausted by now. One good thing is that they are definitely still speaking (for anyone who heard my joking comment when they moved in together, that I just hoped they'd still be speaking after living in an apartment together). As a matter of fact, they all worked together to help each other move.

For my 18 yr. old here in Maryland, the deadline was for a college application. The University of Baltimore was offering free tuition for the first long as he applied by February 15 and got the federal application for financial student aid (FAFSA) done by February 28. Our tax man got the taxes ready for us in time and sent the numbers we needed in an email; but the email ended up in my bulk mail, so I couldn't find it for awhile. (Yes, I knew to put the tax man's email addy in my address book...but when his assistant called last Friday, when I had a migraine, I forgot to add HIS address, too.)

Then we needed pin numbers to electronically sign the for the student, one for a parent. Does anyone actually REMEMBER their pin number? My son retrieved his a few days ago, but who remembered (in advance) about us needing one? (Answer: No one.) We applied to retrieve it around 3 p.m., and it was supposed to come "within four hours". But the system, of course, was overloaded. So we searched through papers, papers, papers to find that pin number from last year...all to no avail. Emotions were running high (very high for one middle-aged woman who just happens to have hit an emotional stage of life!).

At 10:45 p.m., the pin number arrived in the email! The FAFSA got signed, and all the deadlines have been met! This morning I've been letting the two who are not adults sleep in, the two who probably need it least. Or not - as maybe listening to all of us, without being able to do anything about it, was just as stressful. But I think what I'm really doing is giving myself a morning off. And I am not even going to feel guilty about it! We have worked through snow days, so this will be our "snow delay". Hmm, there's still a little snow around that tree out there...