Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Following a Death in the Family

Wait, don’t go away; it’s not all gloomy. Yes, my sister died early this December...totally unexpected, it was. As I said on Facebook, I am sad but not depressed. I’m not sure how to explain that. I cry sometimes. I wish I could pick up the phone. Something is missing from my very heart. But I am not surrounded by darkness. I don’t understand why my sister had to go away so suddenly; it doesn’t seem to make any sense. But life never does make sense, does it, really? As my seat neighbor on the flight to Boise said, “Embrace the moment”. I’ve been trying to learn that for ever so long, and I usually fail. Maybe now I will learn.


At the same time, I have no regrets. Chris and I embraced every moment we spent together. We worked together when my mom died, when my step-father died, when my dad had a stroke. We talked together on the phone every week in the past decade. We talked about our families, our jobs, our projects at home, some of our struggles and disappointments, and our dreams. Wherever we went with the conversation, she tried to be sure we brought it to a positive or optimistic conclusion before we got off the phone.


Chris was interested in everything you did, if you wished to share it. I went to Chicago with my husband on a business trip last fall. When we arrived, I let her know. She texted back, “About 5 min’s ago I told Jim that u guys were prob just about at Chicago. I guess I was right. Have fun!” How many people are that interested, and that selfless, to know right down to five minutes when you will arrive somewhere...on a pleasure trip, when she couldn't afford a pleasure trip?


Christmas was her favorite holiday, her favorite season. She put herself into giving joy to others all year long, but particularly at Christmas time. So, what would she want us to do...with Christmas right around the corner from her passing? I think she would want us to do what we’re doing: to decorate the tree; to make the good foods; and to wish every one of you a very Happy Christmas!

Friday, November 11, 2011

What Will You Do with the Old One?

Or Decluttering 301

I can't believe how long it is taking me to declutter! Of course, it might help if I didn't go off on rabbit trails. This morning I got online to get ideas about whether I could actually donate a somewhat raggedy blanket. What did I find but a controversy about donated clothing being sold to Africa. The websites I stumbled upon claim that we are putting African textile workers out of jobs. So I had to try to find more on this. Is it true? Which charities do this? I didn't find the answers, so I hope I'm not sending YOU off on any rabbit trails.

I did find a website (although it was a website in Australia) that said St. Vincent de Paul gives clothing to needy people and then sells the surplus in thrift shops. Oh, yes, I had forgotten. And their clothing donation bins are accessible here. I suppose I could get them to pick up other things, but for me, it's more convenient to donate my other stuff to Salvation Army, who sells their items at what I believe are fairly reasonable prices for today's thrift market, and who provide rehabilitation centers.

As I went back to contemplating the blanket, I remembered a woman I met through my local Freecycle who deals in dog rescue. So I emailed her, and she was grateful for the blanket.

But, looking for new homes for old items reminded me of an old story that my husband and I love. I would like to share it with you. I don't remember what book it came from, except that it was a book by Dr. Robert H. Schuller. I found someone quoting it again online. I hope it's a short enough quote not to break copyright as I post it here. But it is, after all, an old fable.

"There was a Chinese wife who said to her husband. 'I would like a new coat.'

Her husband said to her,’ What will you do with your old coat?' She said, 'I will make a bed cover out of it.'

He said, 'What will you do with your old bed cover?' She replied, ‘I will make pillowcases out of it.'

He said, ‘What will you do with the old pillowcases?' She said, ‘I will make new cleaning cloths with them.’

He said, 'What will you do with the old cleaning cloths?' She said, ‘I will tie them together and make a mop out of them.'

He said, 'What will you do with the old mop?' She said, ‘I will chop it up in little pieces, mix it with cement, and we will patch the holes in our cottage in the springtime.'

He said, 'All right. You may have a new coat.'"


Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Going to Hell in a Handbasket - Not!

Last summer as my husband and I met my fellow alumni at Diary Queen to kick off the weekend of my 40th reunion, I told someone that when I was in high school I thought “the world was going to hell in a handbasket”. Afterward, I was kind of sorry I made that statement without having time to explain it.


So what did I mean that night at Dairy Queen? I meant that I turned out to be so very wrong! Although I already realized I had been wrong, I see it so clearly now in the happy, generous faces and the caring, responsible lives of my former classmates.


While I blamed the adults, not my fellow classmates - back in my youth, when I thought we were all pretty bad - nevertheless, I looked at all the trouble around me and thought we were all pretty much done for. Not that I thought it out in those words.


That attitude landed me in a super-strict, isolationist cult straight out of high school. No, we didn’t drink poisoned kool-aid, and you’ve probably never heard of it, but it existed, just as surely as I changed my name (although I like my current name, so we gotta’ respect it, even though I don’t expect those who knew me in my youth to use it).


Sure, some of my classmates drank, smoked, cussed, all things I thought were “bad”, because I’d been taught not to do them, and I listened, being a people pleaser and not wanting to deal with my Dad’s “Why did you do it?” Sure, some of my classmates played around; some got pregnant out of wedlock (a bigger deal socially in those days); and a few did things they later regretted. But I always knew I was no better than any of them, because I had been abused as a child (not by my own family - just an FYI) -- and I thought for years that it was my own fault. After my experience with the cult, I knew for sure that I was no better because, at the time I joined the cult, I treated my own parents poorly. I figured you couldn’t get much worse than treating your parents badly.


But here’s what I learned over the years. Life is not all about following the letter of the law in every minute particular, nor is it about what we’ve done in the past, however wild or wooly. It’s about where we are now and maybe where we are going. Many of the saints had wild and wooly youths. On top of that, even the saints did not always agree about what were the best things to be doing on this earth. And the saints in heaven are not saints because they never sinned, never had any faults, or never did anything they regretted. They are saints because they practiced virtue to an extraordinary degree…because they loved greatly.


And that is what I see in the lives of my former classmates. They are so full of love…love for their families, love for their fellow human beings in general, and love for their classmates, some of whom have kept in touch with one another a lot over the years.


I see my classmates spending themselves, caring sacrificially for a spouse or child who is ill. I see them surviving after a difficult death of a loved one, so they can be there for others. I see them respectfully helping people with disabilities. I see them going to jobs that help others...or going to jobs they don't like but going nonetheless. I see them dealing with tremendous heartaches of various kinds and still thinking of others. I see the love - the giving, caring love - and I am in awe! I am proud to be a part of this class.


Not everyone in the world is good...or at least, they aren't always doing good things, doing good to others. But there are so very many good people. Praise God, when I was in high school, I was so very wrong about one thing. The world may be filled with strife and hurt, but as long as we have so many loving people in the world, the world will never “go to hell in a handbasket”, because love comes from heaven.


Monday, October 24, 2011

Prayer regarding a Former Workplace

Perhaps quitting a job is much easier than being laid off, because we usually only quit if we are prepared and feel we can handle it financially at that time. But it's often difficult, either way. I wrote this in the past after quitting a job (largely because I was needed more at home). I just decided today to share it with others. I'm "getting there" (the things I ask for myself in this prayer), and maybe that's why I began to realize that maybe there are others who might appreciate this prayer also.

Prayer regarding a Former Workplace

Heavenly Father,

Please take my sorrow at missing people at my former job and turn it to joyful memories. Please take away any confusion and feelings of unresolved issues and grant me peace. Bless all the people I worked with, and especially those who helped me and those who were helped by me. Please fill all their needs, physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional; and fill their hearts with peace.

Please help me to forgive from my heart - and forget - any words or other signs of unkindness toward me or toward others I love. And please forgive any unkindness I have spoken or thought. Grant that we may all gather together in harmony in heaven one day.

Please guide everyone, from the ownership to the management to hourly employees, as well as myself and other former employees, in all our decisions, both in our homes and in whatever work we do now or in the future. Please bless everyone with good health and medical care, and with the insurance and finances to receive the care they need. I ask this all in Jesus' Name. Amen.



Copyright Margaret Mary Myers 2011

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Prayer to the Holy Spirit by Cardinal Mercier

I was just updating my personal prayer notebook, coordinating the printed version and the Microsoft Word version. When I came to the Prayer to the Holy Spirit, by Cardinal Mercier, I thought I would check it out online. Much to my wonder (and frustration), I never found the long form online, the form I had copied into a blank page in the back of my prayer book about forty years ago, from...I don't know, anymore, from where. Was it an old prayer book? Was it someone else's hand-copied copy?

If you are not Catholic you might like the short form, or the first few paragraphs of the longer form. For those of you who are Catholic, when you have time you might enjoy the longer form. Incidentally, my long form, copied so long ago, said "Holy Ghost" and had "Thee" and "Thy". But I have updated it to "Holy Spirit" and "You" and "Your". If there is anyone who is bothered by that change, you can switch it back for yourself. If anyone knows where else this long form can be found, besides here, or whether or not it was all penned by Cardinal Mercier himself, I would love to hear from you about it.


Short Form of the Prayer to the Holy Spirit by Cardinal Mercier:
O Holy Spirit, Soul of my soul, I adore You. Enlighten, guide, strengthen and console me. Tell me what I ought to do and command me to do it. I promise to be submissive in everything that You permit to happen to me, only show me what is Your will.*

Notes:
(*According to several websites:
'This prayer is part of A Secret of Sanctity by Cardinal Mercier in which he said: "I am going to reveal to you a secret of sanctity and happiness. If every day during five minutes, you will keep your imagination quiet, shut your eyes to all things of sense, and close your ears to all sounds of earth, so as to be able to withdraw into the sanctuary of your baptized soul, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit, speaking there to that Holy Spirit, saying: "O Holy Spirit, Soul of my soul..." If you do this, your life will pass happily and serenely. Consolation will abound even in the midst of troubles. Grace will be given in proportion to the trial as well as strength to bear it, bringing you to the gates of Paradise full of merit. The submission to the Holy Spirit is the Secret of Sanctity." ')

I would add that the short form might even be more conducive to the above form of meditation, simply by reason of its brevity. But I have always loved the long form - I - who usually am not attracted by long prayers; hence, I decided to share it with you, the hand-copied version from my old prayer book.

Long Form of this Prayer to the Holy Spirit:
O Holy Spirit, Soul of my soul, I adore You, I praise You, I love You, I thank You. Enlighten, guide, strengthen, console me. Inspire me what I ought to do and command me to do it. I promise to be submissive in everything You permit to happen to me; only show me Your holy will, and fill me with Your grace and Your love to refuse You nothing no matter how hard it may be. I abandon myself entirely to You. Strengthen my will to carry out all my resolutions, and give me the grace of perseverance.

Teach me to pray. Grant me the grace to pray with unlimited confidence of being heard, according to God's holy will.

Give me true humility of heart.

Increase and strengthen my faith in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. Make me an ardent adorer and lover of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

Strengthen my love and confidence in Our Blessed Mother.

Holy Spirit, I offer You the loving Heart of Jesus to repair for all my offenses and negligences.

I consecrate myself unreservedly to You. I place all my trust in You. Help me to make You better known and loved throughout the world. Give me an intense zeal for souls, to console Jesus. Amen.

Praying for you all, and please pray for me.




Sunday, October 02, 2011

Prayer for a Workplace

When my oldest kids were teenagers, I told them "It's an employee's market." The market has changed. When I was in my 20's, someone could often switch companies or careers with little effort. Not so easy, anymore. From what I've heard, an awful lot of people find themselves stuck in a situation with fewer employees, longer hours, and more responsibility accompanied by either fewer hours or less benefits. Fear seems to abound, and people often don't trust one another in the workplace...and often it's more prudent not to be too trusting of co-workers. Owners, managers, and employees are often super stressed and it can affect their health, as well. Thinking of all the above, I wrote the following:

PRAYER TO THE ARCHANGELS FOR A WORKPLACE

St. Michael the Archangel, great warrior who battled Satan for the glory of God, please battle any evil that may lurk in this business. Please help overcome any errors or confusion which could perhaps prevent the business from prospering, or which could possibly cause innocent people to lose their jobs or reputations.

St. Gabriel the Archangel, glorious messenger who brought tidings of greatest hope and joy for mankind, please deliver hope and joy, as well as peace and prosperity, to this business: its owners, employees and former employees, and all their families.

St. Raphael the Archangel, powerful healer who healed the blindness of Tobias, please bring healing of mind, body, and spirit to each person who works in this business. Please promote a spirit of mutual respect among all levels of people, from owners to supervisors to hourly employees. Protect innocent people as you protected the young Tobias when you accompanied him on his journey; and guide everyone, as you did him.

We ask all these blessings from Almighty God Our Loving Father, through the intercession of the Archangels, and through Christ Our Lord. Amen.



Copyright Margaret Mary Myers 2011

Monday, September 26, 2011

Keeping Papers - EOB's

If you don't have medical insurance, you may want to skip this post. If you do, I hope that unlike me (for years), you've figured out what to do with those notices you get from the insurance company, telling you what they paid, what they didn't pay, what you should owe your doctor...in other words, your "Explanation of Benefits" or "EOB". You never know when you may need them to figure out (or occasionally to question) a bill from a doctor, dentist, or hospital.

I hadn't figured out quite what to do with my EOB's. Never do I throw them away, but I don't know how long it might take me to find the right one if I need it. I kept trying to figure out how to file them. File folders or notebooks? Medical specialty? Or...?

Finally it occurred to me! Why not take an idea away with me from the medical billing office where I used to work. There, they put them in notebooks by date. Of course, they have a whole lot more than I will ever have for a family. So I decided, instead of date, I will use month. Besides annual and occasional visits to other doctors and dentists, we usually have someone going to the chiropractor every month so, for us, doing it by the month does not make too many sections.

I put the most current month in the front, and prepared a few months ahead. So it goes: Dec. 2011, Nov. 2011, Oct. 2011, Sept. 2011, etc., going back for about two years (so far). Of course, I recycle old notebook dividers as much as I can. Do the dividers all match? No. Do I care? Not at all. As long as they do the job, I'm good with it.

If you were fuzzy about what to do with your EOB's, and think this might be an idea, you can, of course, have fun with it and adapt it to your own best filing methods. Notebook or file folders? Manila folders or hanging folders? Pretty notebooks? Colored folders? Monthly or quarterly? What works best for you in other areas of organization? Just do what's comfortable for you.

And if you have a backlog, don't let that discourage you. You can prepare the notebook and start with the next EOB you receive. And then go back through the older ones when you have a few minutes here and a few minutes there. That's my plan.

How do you do it? Do you have you EOB's organized? What method do you use?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Little Saint Therese Book

Added in August of 2012:

Exciting news!  The Little Saint Therese book is now available in a bound book with a little black and white picture for each story. I have also added a couple of prayers and a few suggestions of other book titles about Saint Therese for both children and adults.

Updated in September of 2013:

You can now get the Little Saint Therese book for $5.39 from Amazon.



*****
 The original post from September 2011 about the free pdf file (which does not have the pictures) follows: 

Happy Day! Red letter day for me here. Browsing around in Google search, I discovered that my previous Geocities website still exists, hosted by something called ReoCities. I can't edit the website but it's there.

What's more, that means that the link to my Little Saint Therese Book is there, and joy of joys, the link works! The link on that page takes you to the pdf file, which you can read or print or download to your computer...or even put to your Kindle, if you have one, via your Kindle to computer cable (yes, Kindle can handle pdf files, although you can't navigate as well as with a mobi file).

Click here to get the Little Saint Therese book as a free pdf file (without pictures or the added prayers and book lists). 

*****


But, if you are looking for the bound book, with pictures, prayers, and a book list, you can buy it here.


Enjoy, and God bless you always!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Read Well, Think Well - Book Review

Read Well, Think Well
Build Your Child’s Reading, Comprehension, and Critical Thinking Skills

Hal W. Lanse, Ph.D.

While browsing the shelves at my public library, this book caught my attention, and I’m so glad it did! Whether I’m tutoring children or advising parents, this book can help me immensely. If you are a parent or teacher, it might help you, too.

Mr. Lanse has truly done his homework and knows how to read well and think well, and how to teach us to help our children do the same. Even if you have already been doing just that for many years, you may find new insights to ponder and new techniques to try.

I love how he says, “Parents: Your kids are already smart. You just need the techniques to unlock their potential.”

He tells how to find books that are good for your young reader to be able to read alone. He says to pick a page in the middle of a book, have the child “read the page aloud and raise a finger every time she comes to a word she doesn’t know. If there are only one or two unfamiliar words, she will probably be able to read the book on her own with minimal help.” Otherwise, you would want to either read the book with her or wait for her vocabulary to grow.

Are you familiar with “graphic novels”? We used them for some of our history for a student who could read but not very much at a time…and he progressed from there to reading other books with greater word counts. The author of this book says, “Graphic novels are often a necessary step for children who need to build up their reading stamina.”

These are just two of the practical ideas he recommends. He has chapters about comprehension skills; the effect and use of modern technologies; relaxing the brain; ways to build background knowledge; and the value of timelines and drama and nursery rhymes for building memory. He talks about writing to improve reading, and how to effectively use our knowledge of multiple intelligences, as well as how to deal with learning disabilities. And then there are the lists: vocabulary lists, a list of proverbs and sayings, and more.

You may not agree with the author’s every word and that’s okay because this book is for you to read, not to give to your child. But I think you will find yourself nodding more often than not. I think you will come away from each reading with some fresh insights or ideas. I know I did. And that’s after teaching my kids – and other kids too at times - for thirty years…and with reading being my favorite subject to teach. Now - if I could recommend just one teaching handbook to teachers and parents, this would be the one.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Harry Potter and Courtesy

Courtesy. I am asking for that. And so, too, I will try for that. I promise I will try. I have to admit it’s not always the easiest thing for me to feel courteous when I feel like people have wanted to tell me what to think, what to feel, or what to allow my children to read or watch. I think maybe it’s especially difficult for someone who’s been through various cultish experiences in the past to let such strong criticisms of my choices “roll off”.

Even though I’m a convert, my childhood best friend was Catholic, so I’m old enough to remember when the Mass changed from Latin to English…and it wasn’t just the language that changed. Some people told us that it shouldn’t have been changed and that therefore the “new Mass” was not truly Catholic anymore. I thought I didn’t need to attend it or study it to know that it was inferior. That was a huge mistake. As soon as I did finally attend it and study it…as soon as I opened my mind, I realized that the important thing is the essence. The very same essence is there; the very same infinite value is there.

I didn’t want to make that mistake again, whether in religious matters or secular matters. And no, please don’t get the wrong idea; I am in no way comparing Harry Potter literature to the worship of the Mass. I am comparing letting someone else tell us what content is in something or what content is not in something…comparing that to…well, to checking something out for ourselves.

I’m not talking about handing our children a book that is doubtful. I’m talking about us, as adults, looking into something before they do, or at least along with them.

And, if you don’t choose to read this particular literature and to let them read it, that’s your choice and I respect that. I’m not telling any of you that you should read the Harry Potter books, if you don’t want to. Far be it from me. What I’m really talking about is not judging those of us who do. Some of you who are uncomfortable with the books do not judge those who are not. And I appreciate that. Some do, and if you’re one, I’m asking you to reconsider.

Even though fantasy is not one of my favorite genres, I have read all the Harry Potter books, as has my husband. I wanted to know if they were really okay for my kids. What we found was fantasy, just as the Lord of the Rings is fantasy…just as Hans Christian Anderson and the Grimm Brothers sometimes wrote fantasy…just as the Wizard of Oz is fantasy. What we found were characters who were fallible enough to be believable but who often exhibited heroic degrees of love, faithfulness, and courage.

My children, who were taught the difference between the occult and fantasy “magic” in books, enjoyed the books and I would say were even edified by the values in them.

But they were not edified by some people’s reaction to what should have been our decision to make. In the past decade, my family has gone through some setbacks, the tragic death of an extended family member, loss of vision of two of our sons, and some other concerns. One friend, who knew about some of these challenges as they happened, said to me one day, “If you would get everything Harry Potter out of your house, maybe God will bless your family.” Maybe things would go better for us? Is that how it works? It only occurred to me today that this philosophy almost sounds like “magic” to me. If we do everything “right” (as someone else sees it), will we “magically” be free from crosses? I don’t think so! That is not the concept I learned in my Gospel readings and my perusal of the lives of the saints. No, my crosses are unrelated to the choices I made for my children’s reading. Crosses are allowed by God to all of us at one time or another. And Jesus said that unless we take up our cross, we cannot follow Him.

This same person who advised me to rid my house of what she saw as the scourge of Harry Potter told me that she had participated in the occult when she was a young adult. I do understand having a strong reaction for that reason; I understand because of what I said earlier. I myself “react” particularly strongly to anyone – other than the official teaching magisterium of the Church - telling me what I should believe and do, and I react that way partly because of cults in my past. An evil or cross in your past can have a strong influence on your feelings in the future…and sometimes that’s okay. I also understand because I, too, dabbled in the occult as a child, completely in ignorance of what I was doing. And so, I made sure we taught our children to avoid the occult, not to use Ouija boards or incantations or anything where we might be calling on questionable or evil spirits. Hopefully, many Christian parents today know to warn their children about these things.

In the Harry Potter books, the “wizards” and “witches” do not call on spirits. They are born with “magic”, as some of us are born with musical or artistic talent. They use “spells” that are the Latin word for the action they want to happen. And we and our children discussed all these differences.

But, if you are more comfortable avoiding literature that uses witchcraft as a literary device, because any reference to “magic”, even in fantasy, bothers you, well, that’s all right. That’s your life and your choice to make. There are plenty of other books to read in the world, plenty of other great literature.

All I would ask is the courtesy to realize that those of us who don’t agree have made prayerful, well-thought out, informed decisions; that we discussed the books with our children; that we considered age-appropriateness; that we armed them with the knowledge of the Church’s teachings…and that we have read the books ourselves and found them to be excellent literature, worthy of our children’s time.

Friday, June 24, 2011

How I Learned to Appreciate the Beauty of Flowers

Grab a cup of tea or coffee. Come on over to my Reflections blog - and read about how I learned to appreciate the beauty of flowers.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Noise in My Head

I had never thought to describe it that way until yesterday when I was talking to a couple of my kids. I don't even remember the context of our discussion but I said, "I always have to deal with the noise in my head". Naturally, they wondered what kind of noise I meant. (My first thought was, "You aren't the same way? I kinda' thought everyone was like this."). And no, I don't mean a humming or anything like that. It's more like static, but no, not like radio static. By "static" I mean that it can sometimes run interference with focusing on the moment. Again, I'm not referring to something I "hear", exactly.

It's more like there are always words and sentences, and observations and concerns, as well as issues that beg to be resolved. Perhaps it's the head of a writer, that "thing" that makes me obsessed with punching my fingers on a keyboard or wrapping them around a pen. Whether it's journaling or writing to a friend, blogging or writing an article, it seems I have to process my way through all that has happens and all that I observe.

As I've worked my way through some issues, I've learned that sometimes it's better to just let some things go. Like the time we were driving by a pick-up truck and I looked into the window and wondered if the man driving was kind or if he was mean. Catching myself, I told myself it was none of my darn business! Driving by houses, I sometimes wonder who lives there and what their lives are like. Do they live happily in harmony with their families? How do they decorate? If it's winter, do they have a fire burning in the fireplace? (Hm, I could check the chimney for smoke.) Even as a child, if I saw a group of people at a restaurant, I would try to figure out the relationships. Are they family or friends? I loved being at an airport, seeing people embracing in farewells or - preferably - welcomes.

"You should write fiction," members of my family have often told me. Perhaps. But then there are all the other issues that call to me to write about them. So, I pray for guidance. What does God want me to write about? What does He want me to do with the words and sentences that burn to get out?

And that is why I need to keep working to still the noises. No, not to extinguish them, just to quiet them for a little while each day, while I take a walk in nature or read from Sacred Scripture or go to church and talk with God. I need the silence that tells me what God wants from me. I need to listen to Him tell me, with David, "Be still and know that I am God." (Psalm 46:10)

Thursday, June 09, 2011

A Picture Perfect Childhood - Book Review

“With all your children being adults, why would you want a book about picture books?” you might wonder when you hear that I just bought A Picture Perfect Childhood.

1. I want to review it for you!

2. I will probably have grandchildren some day.

3. I may want to write children’s books again, which means I should immerse myself in the best of children’s books.

“How would Cay Gibson’s book benefit me?” you might ask for yourself.

1. If you have children, she explains how you can enhance your child’s imagination and education in just 15 minutes a day!

2. You will find a plethora of lists of beautiful, meaningful picture books you can buy or find at your library.

3. Have you ever bought a “coffee table book”? I have found that some high quality picture books can grace our tables, as well as our lives, whatever our age. Cay Gibson explains the value of picture books for more than just young children, and she gives us examples of picture books for mothers and for teens, as well as for travel, for holidays, for cooking, and more.

For the Love of Literature - Book Review

In her friendly, warm style, Maureen Wittmann shares her depth of experience in "teaching core subjects with literature".

Maureen has a special talent for describing an entire book in just a sentence or two. In this thorough yet pleasant guide, she describes 950 of them. She explains various educational methods, from classical education to Charlotte Mason homeschooling, as well as how to make the best use of your public library and how to build your own home library.

Whether you have been homeschooling for decades as I have - or you just want to enrich your child's education - or wherever you are on the parenting spectrum: this is a book you will want to own and cherish.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Prayer Request

Please pray for the men and women who serve our country in the Air Force in Minot, North Dakota, as well as the community in which they live, as they face the danger of major flooding by June 2. The majority of our servicemen there live off base, and many of their homes are in danger. They will keep on going about their duties, regardless. Let's pitch in for them and their families with our prayers.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

What's It All About?

For years, I've wondered if my blog should have more of a focus. What is it all about? Is it about homeschooling? Is it about having kids with disabilities? Yes and no to both. It's about my life, not my past life - the autobiography some of my kids have urged me to write - but my current life and thoughts and the stories and books I come across that I think might interest you or help you in some way.

I'm not always perfect...and I'm willing to share that with you from time to time, because I know you're not either, and maybe sometimes you can learn from my mistakes, or maybe you can relate with me. But for the most part, I try here to share positive things.

We need people to take a stand on the issues of our day, and I admire my friends who do that...but that doesn't seem to be my calling. I feel more called - whether here at my blog or in my articles elsewhere - to take a stand on the issues of all time: the goodness of God; well-ordered love of ourselves; the closeness of family; the love of our neighbor; and the joy and resilience of the human spirit.

So, is it a Catholic blog? Well, I am unabashedly a Catholic Christian so, again, yes and no. My belief system undoubtedly influences who I am. But whether you share my particular beliefs or not, I respect you as you are. And much of what I write is not specific to the doctrines of any particular faith but to the universal spirit of love and hope.

Those who know me in person know that for me to be always positive is only a dream...a dream so dreamlike that it is like reaching for the stars. But here, in this blog and in my other writing, I try to lift my spirit to the positives for you...and for me.

In Philippians 4:8-9, St. Paul exhorts us: "Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, do; and the God of peace will be with you."

May we keep striving for all of that, with His help; and may the God of peace be with us always.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Senior Deadlines

I hate deadlines. Ouch, one of my sons (you know who you are) is going to tell me that you can only hate sin and the devil! Can you guess who he learned that from? I hate missing important deadlines, but I think maybe it might actually be a sin, so it's all right, son. Okay, dear readers, please don't take me too seriously. I'm speaking lightly here. And prospective editors, if you give me a deadline, I can meet it. The problem is having a whole year (or two or three) full of deadlines...and not knowing what they are! I speak of the senior year of high school!

You'd think by Kid #6 I would have it down pat. All figured out. No sweat. Nope! You know why? Because the parameters keep changing. Yeah, I didn't know what that word meant either but I thought it sounded good. (My dog-eared Webster says: "a quantity or constant whose value varies with the circumstances of its application". Perfect!).

With our first two, when we lived in Kentucky, there was one college to choose from (or that's how we saw it, anyway, as we wanted them to go locally). So they took their A.C.T., applied, had their transcripts sent from the home school program they were enrolled with, and they were all set (of course, they did most of the work in their high school years...not only getting through the schoolwork, but getting jobs, buying cars, paying for gas). Child #3 wasn't enrolled with a program, so I had to make up my own transcript for him and get it notarized. Just a little more work...but he went to the same local school in Kentucky.

After we moved to Baltimore, Kid #4 took a year off for the move, worked full time, and applied for college the next year. We heard they were offering very substantial scholarships - neither need-based nor merit-based - at University of Baltimore, because it was their first year opening up to Freshmen and Sophomores. Come Child #5, the very next year, they were still raking students into the new program with scholarships. So those decisions were no-brainers.

Enter Child #6. He would like to go to a really great Catholic college in another state. If that doesn't work out, he has a myriad of possibilities here in Baltimore to choose from. And no, I'm not going to tell you what deadlines we missed. I'm trying really hard not to kick myself too much, because I've done enough of that in my lifetime to...well, to last a lifetime. And if I tell you, I will have to kick myself. So we just take it from here...give it to God and move on.

But if you have any kids who will one day be seniors, I have a little advice that I wish I had thought of a long time ago. Put together (or find) a timeline...not a history timeline but a planning timeline. You can do a search. I found this one just now that looks pretty good, though I can't tell you how good it really is, not having used it (more's the pity). And when you're thinking about colleges (round about the beginning of the junior year maybe?), I would like to suggest you find out what their application deadlines are, because it varies widely from school to school. Who'd have thought?

When we get done with this, maybe I should put together (or find) a different type of senior timeline. When we get ready to retire, what do we need to do when? But I don't think I'm ready to think about that, just yet.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

A Catholic Woman's Book of Prayers - Book Review

I am very happy I had the opportunity to review this gracious book of short meditations, prayers, and scripture verses. So much more than “just” a prayer-book, A Catholic Woman’s Book of Prayers is a not only a book of prayerfulness, but also an affirmation of the value of each one of us as a woman, and a collection of lovely nuggets of wisdom. Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle shares snippets of stories of herself and those she knows, as well as original inspiring short prayers, and quotations from saints. The book is both universal and specific in scope, with many balanced and uplifting thoughts for you to ponder.

Even with only a little time on hand, a busy woman – whatever her state in life - can find much fruit in the pages of this little book, a book that may fit in your purse or coat pocket at only 4 1/4 by 6 1/4 inches. With a pretty hard cover, it will make a nice gift, as well. I found there are prayers and reflections I want to return to frequently, so I wrote their page numbers in pencil inside the back cover. This is a book you will want to use and to treasure.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Which Sabbatical Exactly?

I thought I would write a blog post, or maybe an article, or maybe a blog post after all. I had ideas, all ready to write. But first I thought I better answer a text (a question from a former co-worker who took over part of what I did), and then I thought I should check my bank accounts to see how much money we have in them.

I then logged into blogger and saw that I had comments that needed to be "moderated". I ignored the one that felt like spam and posted the other two, but one of the people who had commented had asked me to check out her blog. So I did, and I felt I should also comment on hers...and explain that I'd been too busy with life for my blog and that's why I hadn't posted her comment.

Finally, I was ready to write my blog post. But something caught my eye: my supplementary blog, "Reflections", which I had created for writing longer, more comprehensive, thoughtful posts. I began reading through the posts that I had written several years ago. "Wow", I thought, as I read one of them. "I like that writing." (I wish I could write like that. ;-) ). Well, what I wanted to write this morning might be long, so maybe this is where I should write it. I clicked on New Post and brought up the form to type in.

And that's when I knew. I had no idea, anymore, what it was that I was going to write! It was just gone...vanished. Totally and completely out of sight. Out of sight, out of mind. But I belabor the point.

Recently, when I quit my job to better help my son finish high school, I said in my resignation letter that I was taking a "sabbatical" from working a job. Now I realize that when I took that job and immersed myself in it, I took a "sabbatical" from my writing. What an eye opener! No wonder I don't even know what to write these days. I feel as rusty as the nails I used to step on as a child.

So I decided to write a Facebook comment about wanting to write and then forgetting what I was going to write about. But I thought it would be too long, so I decided to make it a Facebook note. But you know what? It's too long and formal for a Facebook note. So I'm going to log back into Blogger. Now, if I can just get this posted without getting side-tracked.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Life is a Journey

"Life is a journey," people sometimes say. Indeed, life is a journey, but just as you don't cross the country by car in just one day, similarly many different journeys make up each of our lives. We may travel through mountainous regions filled with the scent of evergreen, parched deserts, and verdant valleys. We may visit cities teeming with pedestrian life. We may drive through country places where miles and miles separate each farm. We may have days where the trip is fun and funny. We may have other days where the car breaks down or someone breaks in and steals our luggage when we stop to eat. But we just keep pushing onward, through all of it, knowing the destination is worth it all. And even the bad days - and the side trips we never expected - are blessed, if we remember Who is with us.

Of course we remember Who is with us! Of course we remember that. But how well we remember, and how we see Him, can profoundly affect the joy of our journey.

As we travel through the desert, the sun shines down on us and we wish we had shade or air conditioning (yes, I remember when we didn't have air conditioning in our cars). When we travel through fog, we wish we could see the sun. Yet through both conditions, the sun is there and it is good. The sun doesn't just shine on us. Without it, we would not exist for a moment.

And regardless of what's happening in our lives, God is there with us, both keeping us in existence and "there for us". Sometimes we feel that so strongly. Other times we hardly know (but like the foggy day, it is our vision that is obscured; He is there all the same).

Some of the saints went through dark times when they could hardly see the sunshine of God's presence and held onto it only by faith. Some think God allows this as a blessing (some of the saints found their greatest joy in suffering with Christ, Who suffered for us).

Sometimes, perhaps, the feeling of fog comes through illness or other problems. But other times, maybe, we need to understand better how much God loves us. As someone said, "Jesus would have died on the cross for you if you were the only one in the world". God loves each and every one of us individually. He loves each one of us more than our parents or spouses or children or siblings or friends can ever love us...more than all of them put together can love us.

Maybe I have exaggerated the picture I've gotten in the past from some people I have known. But it seems that some people think God is sitting on a throne, looking down, anxious to consign as many people as possible to hell...instead of weeping in the Garden of Olives, not only over the sufferings He would soon face, but also weeping over the way people would treat one another, His beloved children.

Sometimes it seems that people think God has gone into the desert and forgotten us, when in reality He is thinking of us every moment, and His very thought keeps us in existence.

Sometimes we might think that if we have sinned, God will abandon us. Perhaps we have forgotten the woman in the Bible who was going to be stoned. Jesus said, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone", and when they all walked away, Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you." Yes, He tells us to sin no more. I believe that He tells us that as much for our own sake as because it is the "right thing". We can't always be happy in this life, but it seems that the more we try to do the right thing, the loving thing, often the more at peace we will be.

If fear of God means we fear to 'hurt' Him because he loves us more than the greatest love we have ever known from any human being, then I think that's a justifiable fear. If we would never want to hurt our loved ones on earth and, in the same way, we would not want to hurt our loving God, then it seems to me that may be a good kind of 'fear'. I believe that is what the Bible and the Church really mean by "the fear of God".

But if we have fear that crosses the line into obscuring our trust in the good God, if we have fear that clouds our vision of God as the greatest Love and the source of all love, then maybe we need to re-examine that. Maybe we don't really think that way, if we stop to think about it, but maybe some remnant of that hovers over us as a shadow. Maybe that shadow even sucks the joy out of our lives. Maybe we need to quit thinking in our poor human terms.

Perhaps it would help to spend more time thinking about Our Lord's loving kindness when he walked the earth. Maybe it would help to think about the praise and trust of David the Psalmist. Sometimes maybe it would help just to slow down and stop thinking about the world around us for a bit...to think about the World inside of us, the Creator who made us lovingly and made us even more magnificently than He made the marvelous and majestic trees and skies and oceans.

Am I being preachy because I've watched people and want to help them? No, I'm sharing with you because I've watched myself be influenced by shadows. And if anything I have said here might strike a note with someone - if I can help even one person who may have a shadow hovering over them - I would be happy to help, as I have been helped...by God and by his human "angels". Lots of loving people have helped me, and I appreciate all the love of my family, but I also appreciate one close friend who has stayed with me through many ramblings over a number of years, and a newer friend who has continued to encourage me to "Remember what is important".

May we all remember - during each day's journey and through each side trip - what is important and how loving our good God is!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Reaping the Harvest

We tried to raise our children with love, faith, and positive attitudes. Sometimes I felt I wasn't doing so well at that...not based on results but based on my own less-than-perfect attitudes that I sometimes struggled with.

But now, I am in awe. Where did our children (now adults) get their optimism, their enthusiasm, their caring attitudes? I think they each took what we gave them, planted it, watered it, fed it, and let it grow like Jack's beanstalk.

After my son was hit by a car a few months ago, I expressed my dismay and he said, "My mother told me that God brings good out of evil."

Last night my daughter and a friend sat for nine hours on the freeway, where snow had crippled the traffic. I told her today that I had thought last night that if she had taken the bus home, she would have been home before the rush hour weather got bad. She pointed out that, then, our friend would have been alone, but instead she had someone to keep her company and make her laugh.

I was talking to a son about the job market and the "what if's": What if someone loses their job? He said, then God has something better for them.

Each of my children helps me in some way: one might negate my negativism, one might make me laugh; another time one will calm me, or encourage me, or strengthen my faith in God. With my husband, I gave my children life...and we gave them love. They give us back a hundredfold.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Little Lights

Little lights twinkle on the Christmas tree. Little lights shine through my computer so I can be in touch with friends and relatives. Little lights shine through my husband's laptop so he can come home for the evening and yet make progress on the January press of work. Little lights shine from my son's video magnifier so he can read, while little lights shine from the t.v., as he watches a football game. Outside, little lights go by on the freeway, as people go home to their own little lights.