Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Tuesday Tidbits #7

Listening To:

Hamilton. I am intrigued.

Grateful For:

Having everyone home for the summer. Though life is crazier in some ways (and everyone tends to stay up too late at night!), the interactions and shared activities, stories, ideas, etc. are really wonderful. For example, we've had a little retro-tech theme going on around here lately. Gus and I have been scanning old family photos and the oldest and youngest kids both got typewriters...

Everything Keeps Coming Up...

Balance. This concept has been on my mind and heart a lot lately. It is really an answer to many problems, including perfectionism, the need to be controlling of everything, and counteracting the effects of consumerism.

The problem of perfectionism, especially has come up in a lot of my reading lately, especially the book on eugenics I'm still working my way through (an important look at history as well as a  perspective on many modern issues!) and the solution as presented by Pope Francis: "The world does not become better because only apparently 'perfect' people live there."

I think is also a great perspective:

Most people tend to allow the truth they possess so to dominate their thinking that they see few others truths that place their one truth in perspective and balance it out. There is probably no heresy in the history of the Church that did not have its truth. The problem invariably is that the one truth so took over the heretic’s mind that he was committed to cast out any number of other doctrines that clashed with his interpretation of it. – Fr. Thomas Dubay, Authenticity


Nothing new to report here, but I've been spending a lot of time in the garden lately.


Still plodding through the same books at the moment. :)


I saw Captain America: Civil War a few weeks ago (I went in with a little trepidation, because of the conflict between characters that I like!). It exceeded my expectations, but there was a lot going on that I needed some time to process. Last week I got a chance to watch it a second time (Hurray for Marcus Theaters' $5 Tuesdays!) and was really glad that I did. It's a thoughtful and even important movie and very entertaining too. While movies about good guys fighting bad guys can be inspiring, oftentimes it's the battles we have to fight with ourselves that are the most important.

It is kind of nice to be at a stage where everyone in the family is old enough to watch this kind of movie. It's another fun piece that all of the "kids" (half of whom are adults now!) get to process movies like this together.

Quote I'm Pondering:

One of my favorite essays ever is one by C.S. Lewis on the importance of old books. In it he talks about the blindness everone tends to have to the errors of their own age (I was thinking of this especially in terms of the concept of balance mentioned above:

The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books. Not, of course, that there is any magic about the past. People were no cleverer then than they are now; they made as many mistakes as we. But not the same mistakes. They will not flatter us in the errors we are already committing; and their own errors, being now open and palpable, will not endanger us. Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction. To be sure, the books of the future would be just as good a corrective as the books of the past, but unfortunately we cannot get at them. (emphasis mine)

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Tuesday Tidbits #6

Well, I missed a week because of Memorial Day. Oh well!

Listening To:

Our teens and some of their friends meet on a weekly basis to work on a capella singing - including both secular and sacred pieces. They worked especially hard in recent months preparing Palestrina's Sicut Cervus and Byrd's Ave Verum to sing with the parish choirs for the Mass of Thanksgiving of our new associate pastor. I think it went really well and it sure was a lot of fun!

I've also been listening to a lot of Matt Maher lately. Favorites include: Abide with Me, Because He Lives, Lay It Down, and Lord, I Need You.

Grateful For:

Graduations! Terri has now graduated from high school and Kate from 8th grade. We had a beautiful high school graduation ceremony with our homeschool group (we tend to pass on the 8th grade graduation ceremonies since our kids have continued to homeschool during high school - but those are also available) and a lovely graduation dance in which all of the graduates were recognized.

Everything Keeps Coming Up...

Family pictures. My parents are celebrating their 60th Wedding Anniversary this month, so we are tackling the project of scanning the old family slides.

Me meeting the family dog, Patches, upon arriving home from the hospital.

Hanging out with Dad. :)


Baseball, Scrabble, Perspective and Sporcle. I don't think there's anything new on the list right now.


I started Fr. Michael Gaitley's 33 Days to Merciful Love a few weeks ago. My mom had bought it for me over Easter and one day when I was headed off to Adoration I picked it up on an impulse and decided to check what the recommended starting dates were. (They like you to set it up to finish on an appropriate feast day.) To my surprise and delight, I happened to pick it up on the only day in May (the 27th) that was listed as a recommended starting day.

It's a wonderful little book, very much in the same flavor as 33 Days to Morning Glory and intended as a follow-up to that book. In comfortably short daily readings, it offers a spirituality based on the writings of St.Thérèse of Lisieux which is particularly focused on appreciating how much we need God and how much he loves us.


Hail, Caesar! A Tale of the Christ

I've seen this movie reviewed in oddly different ways. As far as I can tell, it works if you can give it an uncynical viewing (and see it through until the end!), but if you try to read other things into it, it just doesn't work.

The movie is about Hollywood of the 1950s. Eddie Mannix (based on a real-life character) has a tough job at the studio holding together a cast of characters starring in various movies who are always getting themselves (and potentially the studio) into all sorts of trouble. With great artistry and a dry sense of humor, the story pokes fun at these various characters (and through them humanity in general) and their petty quirks and problems. 

The main movie being produced during the story is an epic story of Christ that looks an awful lot like Ben Hur. The movie studio is anxious to not offend anyone's religious sensibilities (which ends up involving a very witty conversation between Eddie Mannix and a group of religious leaders - a Catholic priest, an Orthodox priest, a Protestant minister and a Jewish Rabbi). Its production is unexpectedly halted by the disappearance of the main star, who has his own set of dramatic and intellectual adventures.

The story climaxes with a beautiful scene from the Ben Hur-like movie which is shown to impact not just the characters within that film, but also those involved in its production.

It's a quirky movie - very different from anything else I've ever seen, but we really enjoyed it.

Quote I'm Pondering: 

And if the good God wants you weak and helpless like a child... do you believe that you will have less merit?... Agree to stumble at every step therefore, even to fall, to carry your cross weakly, to love your helplessness. Your soul will draw more profit from it than if, carried by grace, you would accomplish with enthusiasm heroic actions that would fill your soul with personal satisfaction and pride. - St. Thérèse of Lisieux as quoted in 33 Days to Merciful Love

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Tuesday Tidbits #5

Listening To:

We picked up a selection of new music from iTunes in the last week or so, mostly for Ria's birthday. Some of my favorites include Bill Murray singing The Bare Necessities from The Jungle Book, On the Road by The High Kings,  Just Give Me a Reason by Pink (I wonder how many marriages have been saved by this song!), and Oceans by Hillsong United.

Grateful For:

Getting back to blogging! I am amazed that this is my fifth consecutive week of blogging! I decided to aim for some blogging on Tuesday mornings because that's my one "slow" morning of the week. It seems like having a little structure and a weekly goal is really working for me. I'm now finding myself looking forward to writing a blog post each week!

Everything Keeps Coming Up...

Being outside! Track, baseball, dogs, good weather, and not too many bugs yet. We enjoyed having our associate pastor and his sister over for dinner last week and got to eat outside with them. Father even played a little baseball with Frank. :)


We've pulled out our old Perspective timeline board game quite a few times since Gus got back from school. The game consists of historic event cards (pre-divided into four major time periods) and a board game on which the cards are played. Dates are on the back of the card (where you can't see them!) and the goal is to put them in order correctly. Others players can challenge your play and gain or lose cards depending on the wisdom of their challenge.

We've also added a few homemade cards over the years. This has been a family favorite for many years (maybe 10?). We also frequently make some adjustments to make it work better for us, like giving better players extra cards to start out with. I was so delighted to discover, when searching for an image for this post, that this game is now back in print!!! More information here: Perspective... The Timeline Game


Nothing new here, really. Still working on Sacramentum Caritatis with the high school catechism class and reading Emma and Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck on my own. Oh, and I've also grown fond of the Catholic website Aleteia.

After watching The Jungle Book, I am really eager to read the book.


 The Jungle Book

Gus and I went to see this in the theater last week and thoroughly enjoyed it. The music was wonderful - with plenty of nods to the original film. The storyline was terrific. Again, it kept most of the key parts of the animated movie, but without getting stuck in the mud. Bill Murray as Baloo and Christopher Walken as King Louie were fabulous. I loved how they let both actors really play it up as themselves. So fun!!!

The whole movie worked well in so many ways. I love how it portrayed mankind's relationship with nature and the other animals. Nature is beautiful and noble but also can be quite fierce. The animals are both afraid of man and in awe of him. Mowgli (representing mankind), in his turn is weak and vulnerable but also clever in a way that allows him to construct tools and strategies that make up for that deficit. He has the capacity for great destruction, but also for great good.

Quote I'm Pondering: 

The Montessorian and the liturgist in me were both made very happy by this quote from Sacramentum Caritatis (The Sacrament of Charity) by Pope Benedict XVI:

In the course of the Synod, there was frequent insistence on the need to avoid any antithesis between the ars celebrandi, the art of proper celebration, and the full, active and fruitful participation of all the faithful. The primary way to foster the participation of the People of God in the sacred rite is the proper celebration of the rite itself. The ars celebrandi is the best way to ensure their actuosa participatio. The ars celebrandi is the fruit of faithful adherence to the liturgical norms in all their richness; indeed, for two thousand years this way of celebrating has sustained the faith of all believers, called to take part in the celebration as the People of God, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.
So we've talked about the importance of beauty and fidelity in liturgy, but also spent a lot of time talking about perspective. Yes, we want really beautiful liturgies and we should do what we can to help build those up, but first of all, the Mass itself is perfect. Jesus comes to us and we receive the Eucharist and it is amazing! Never lose that most basic piece when thinking about the music or the homily or whatever you didn't really quite like.

It's also essential to remember that liturgies are a very human thing and will never be perfect and God understands that. After all, Jesus came down to earth as one of us and didn't in any sense of the word have the best of everything. I help out at our parish sometimes as a backup liturgist. In my mind this role could be considered to have two basic aspects.

  1. Set things up well to help things go as smoothly as possible, help people be comfortable/prepared for their various roles, etc. 
  2. Don't get upset that people will mess up sometimes, babies will cry, etc. 

That human aspect can actually be understood as a beautiful part of the liturgy too. I have long felt that a little baby noise makes things better in church. Maybe this is just because we are always praying and offering ourselves to God as seriously flawed individuals. It's good to have a little perspective and sense of humor about this!

One quote that has long been a guiding piece for me in understanding my relationship to the liturgy is  1 Samuel 15:22:

But Samuel said:
“Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obedience to the LORD’s command?
Obedience is better than sacrifice,
to listen, better than the fat of rams."

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Tuesday Tidbits #4

Running Through My Head Today:

Good Time by Owl City and Carly Rae Jepsen and Keep Your Head Up by Andy Grammer

I must admit that I didn't know who Andy Grammer was (though I did know some of his songs) until about a week ago when we found out that John had been given four tickets to the Brewer's Game which included an Andy Grammer post-game concert. The game was a lot of fun (even though the Brewers made the Padres look good, which is really saying something!) but went 12 innings and so the concert started really late - I think after 11. We stayed for 4 or 5 songs and it was a lot of fun.

Grateful For:

Having Gus home! He just finished his Sophomore year at Thomas Aquinas College. There are a lot of changes around here since he was last home and we were particularly excited to have him finally meet Zita! (They hit it off right away.)

Everything Keeps Coming Up...

Getting more active. John has had a Fitbit for awhile now and it has really motivated him to get in better shape. He does a lot of stairs during breaks at work. Terri is interested in becoming an EMT and wants to get in better shape for that, so she bought a Fitbit too. Most of the rest of the family were able to get pedometers on our cell phones and have been eagerly trying to pass the 10,000 steps mark each day. We are all wondering what would happen if we were able to track the steps of Zita the Space Dog. ;)


Baseball! Track season is winding down and Little League has started for Kate and Frank. Looks like we'll be rooting for the Cardinals and the Astros this year. :)


Aside from all the previously mentioned books that I haven't yet finished, I started re-skimming (i.e. going through the parts I've highlighted on my Kindle) Caryll Houselander's Reed of God. I made a little Marian notebook to try to help process and remember some of the wonderful tidbits from the 33 Days to Morning Glory Consecration and thought some of the choice quotes from Reed of God would be a nice addition. Unfortunately these kinds of things never end up as pretty as I'd like when I start copying out a lot of material (and I had picked out an un-lined notebook, which has its ups and downs) but I think it will be just ride to skim through when I need it.

The Reed of God is probably my favorite book about Mary. It's especially helpful for those who have grown up with misunderstandings about Mary or who have frustrations or misunderstandings about the role of women in the Church and in the world. 


Whenever our college kids come home, we are eager to share with them all of the movies and what not that they have missed out on since they were last home. For Gus, we started out with Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, which was enjoyed by all. John and I saw it on a whim last summer and were amazed at how much we enjoyed it. The opera sub-theme alone made it worth watching. :) It's the fifth in the Mission Impossible series, but the first one that we had seen. It stands up pretty well on its own. Also, the stunts, which Tom Cruise does himself, are phenomenal.

Other movies on his catch-up list:

The Martian
X-Men (especially Days of Future Past)
Cutthroat Kitchen
Kids' Baking Championship
Captain America: Civil War
Jungle Book 

Quote I'm Pondering: 

Something I found on Facebook recently:

Love one another.
Jesus; John 13:34

The only remedy against loneliness is communication,
to touch someone, not only physically,
but gladly, joyfully, simply, in a friendly fashion.
It is quite easy if you really love people
but you have to love your brothers and sisters as they are.
Servant of God, Catherine Doherty, 20th century
I was thinking about this partly in terms of how God wants us to help others. Not only do we have to love them as they are, but we also have to remember that our job isn't to change who they are. Even though we need to strive for virtue and good judgment and things like that, we still approach a situation as ourselves, with all of our particular strengths and limitations. (More about that here: Living Differently - Be Who You Are Meant to Be). This is one way in which we can begin to define what we should do and how we can help in a particular situation. But this is also critical to remember in looking at others (and especially our own children!). Everyone has their own strengths and limitations and needs to accept and work within that context. I also find it help to remember (particularly in working to understand and appreciate others) that with certain strengths tend to come certain limitations. Which reminds me of another wonderful quote...

I distribute the virtues quite diversely; I do not give all of them to each person, but some to one, some to others… I shall give principally charity to one; justice to another; humility to this one, a living faith to that one… And so I have given many gifts and graces, both spiritual and temporal, with such diversity that I have not given everything to one single person, so that you may be constrained to practice charity towards one another… I have willed that one should need another and that all should be my ministers in distributing the graces and gifts they have received from me. – The Catechism of the Catholic Church #1937, quoting the Dialogue of Jesus to St. Catherine of Siena

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Tuesday Tidbits #3

Running Through My Head Today:

A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes from Cinderella (2015; Lily James) and It is Well With My Soul

Grateful For:

The transitional deacon who has been assigned to our parish for the past two years has been reassigned to our parish as his first assignment after he is ordained to the priesthood in a few weeks. There is a very interesting article about him here: Higher Calling Supplants High Court Dream

Everything Keeps Coming Up...

Mary. Yes, I'm finishing up my (re)consecration to Jesus through Mary with 33 Days to Morning Glory on May 13th. Last time I met with my spiritual director, I had a list of things I was working on and realized that the answer to all of them was to be found in turning to Mary.

This consecration includes 33 days of preparation and prayer timed to be completed on a Marian feast day. (You can view a chart here.) John and I were married on the feast of the Queenship of Mary and did St. Louis de Montfort's Marian consecration leading up to that day.

33 Days to Morning Glory by Fr. Michael Gaitley has a simpler format than the original preparation material  (it only takes a few minutes to read each day - and I really look forward to the material) but it is very beautiful and substantial and leaves you with plenty to reflect on each day. It is a very doable devotion for ordinary busy people like me. :)


We have really enjoyed the quiz site Sporcle.com over the last few years. We have spent many hours learning basic facts (like Countries of the World and Elements of the Periodic Table), memorizing bits of beautiful poems and speeches (such as St. Crispin's Day Speech from Shakespeare's Henry V, Sam's Speech from The Two Towers and Eisenhower's D-Day Speech) and even working on some basic religious knowledge, such as the Catholic Books of the Bible and the Top 200 Characters in the Bible. We have enjoyed plenty of the more trivial quizzes as well. ;)

By the way, one way to make some of these substantial quizzes more fun is to do them as a group/family. Also, for the ones newer to a quiz, they will often use most of the time themselves and let others help them for the last minute or so. Have fun with it!

I am currently reading Jane Austen's Emma and Adam Cohen's Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck. The former is rather light and delightful. The latter is rather heavy (though very readable) and I think will turn out to be an important piece of history and perspective. It is certainly very eye-opening so far (more below on this).


We recently watched On the Waterfront and Life is Beautiful. Both are serious and thought-provoking classics that I hadn't seen in many years. I liked both of them more than I had remembered. Most of the kids enjoyed both of them (Frank, in particular, really enjoys substantial, clever and meaty things for his age), but it's not bad to remember that that kind of thing is not everyone's cup of tea. Others opted out of both movies.

I'm quite sure that it's not a matter of superficiality of character. Everyone deals with great stories and the battles between good and evil in different ways. For me, a serious movie with dire struggles against terrible evil can bring comfort and peace because it genuinely applies to the real evils that I'm seeing in the real world. But for me too, there are times when laughter and lightness is the best medicine.

Quote I'm Pondering: 

It's really easy for me to whitewash the past and think that the great moral and social dilemmas and crises of our times have no precedence before, say, the 1960s. I imagine it's a part of human nature to glorify the past and look down upon what "kids these days" are doing. This book I'm reading on eugenics is a good antidote to this problem. In every age, people are called upon to stand up for what is right in the midst of terrible societal trends. Back in the 1910s and 1920s in America, eugenics (and especially sterilization of those seen as "unfit") was all the rage to "purify" the human race of unwanted tendencies, like mental disabilities and criminal behavior, which were viewed as genetically fixed for future generations. There's a lot more that could be said on this topic, but here' a little quote about one man who resisted this awful way of looking at people that gives a sense of the complex issues people were struggling with in our country a hundred years ago or so:

There was another way of reading the cases, however: as an expression of general societal unease with eugenic sterilization. There had been enough enthusiasm for sterilization that in a short period of time laws were adopted across the country. Nevertheless, it was now clear that not everyone was caught up in the eugenic mania, and the resistance was not just coming from the courts. In several states, governors vetoed eugenic sterilization laws and delivered strongly worded indictments. Nebraska's governor insisted his state's sterilization bill seemed "more in keeping with the pagan age than with the teachings of Christianity", and he declared in his veto message that "man is more than an animal".

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Tuesday Tidbits #2

Running Through My Head Today:

Weird. I'm not sure that I have a song running through my head this morning.

Grateful For:

Gus and Ria at Mirror Lake in Yosemite

Homeschooling.  No, it's not perfect. Nor are any of the other options. And I question myself all the time about it. But the answer keeps coming up that it's been very good for us in many ways and my kids have always thrived with it and been pretty happy with it.

I love the closeness and camaraderie and interconnectedness it allows for.

Frank, Terri and Kate do science

Ria and Gus in college together!
 I love how much freedom it gives us to hang out with friends and family of all ages.

Frank and a little cousin
Michelangelo puzzle success with our friend, Joe.

I also love how much space it gives the kids for creativity and developing deep interests and talents.

They love making Halloween costumes!

Easter Cake by Terri, Bernie and Ria (with some help from Tolkien!)
Gus singing with an acapella group in college.

I love the ability to take the family on a three or four week road trip and see a bunch of amazing things in person, like the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, the Pacific Ocean and Meteor Crater. I love that we can pick some of the sites based on the Percy Jackson stories and Pixar's Cars.

We love our homeschool community in which we have found many fast friends and kindred spirits over the years and with whom we have enjoyed many activities, such as singing, group classes, park days, dramatic performances, spiritual activities and lots of just plain fun.

And we love our parish community, with whom we have many close connections, especially because of how they have welcomed us as homeschoolers and fellow Catholics. Besides Mass and the Sacraments and many friendships, we have done lots and lots of choirs and sports (mostly basketball and track) alongside our wonderful parish family. God has blessed us in so many ways!

Kate and her wonderful parish basketball team

Everything Keeps Coming Up...

Theology of the Body. Our youngest two are just finishing up the Theology of the Body for Middle School, which is being taught by my brother-in-law at our local parish. One of the incentives I've given my kids for taking this class (which is eight Friday nights in a row - not the most fun option in the world) is that there are certain movies they are allowed to watch with us after they take the class. Not ones with lurid sex scenes, of course, but certainly ones that get into complex issues relating to marriage and family, such as living together before marriage. The Theology of the Body background plus the opportunities for discussion brought about by some of these movies (which we really like, by the way) help us provide the kids with a wholistic understanding of the Catholic Church's teachings on marriage and the family without a judgmental attitude towards those who make decisions that we would disagree with.

For example, we watched Steve Martin's Cheaper by the Dozen this past week. One of themes present in the story is the oldest daughter living with her boyfriend, against the wishes of her parents. We had a great discussion about why the Church teaches against this partly because of the way they value marriage - to the point that they want each person to enter it in complete freedom, which is compromised by the commitments already present in cohabitation. It bears some similarities to why the Church won't let you get married while you are pregnant - because the expected baby can put extra pressure on the decision to get married. We also talked about how many couples who live together before marriage do so because they came from families that suffered from divorce and believe it will help prevent that kind of relationship (and how, unfortunately, the statistics indicate  that this is in fact unhelpful).


Still lots of Scrabble around here, of course, but I a great deal of our playing of late has been with the dogs. Did I mention that we have a puppy? Zita is her name (named after Ben Hatke's Zita the Space Girl series, which my kids love). She is a black lab mix and about four months old.  She really keeps us hopping but (and perhaps partly because of that) we have no regrets. We had to put our cat down last fall and our older dog is 11 and we have a LOT of energetic kid years left, so we decided it was time for another pet. We got her from our local humane society and were very impressed with the services offered there.


I am working my way through the 33 Days to Morning Glory Marian Consecration for my second time. I will be finishing up on May 13th, the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, which also happens to be the anniversary of my first communion.

I just started reading a new book by Bishop Barron called Vibrant Paradoxes: The Both/And of Catholicism. It's a lovely book so far and I particularly enjoy that the essays are substantial, but short.

And after almost ten years (here is my last post on it from our previous reading) we are once again reading Pope Benedict's Sacramentum Caritatis with our homeschool high school catechism class. It an apostholic exhortation on the Eucharist and it is wonderful. It seems like the perfect way to wrap up our year of studying the Mass (we used Ascension Press's Altarations program, which we enjoyed very much).


Last night we re-watched Yours, Mine and Ours with Dennis Quaid and Rene Russo. Now, I know that this is a corny movie in some ways and the acting is not always the greatest, but I really love this movie. Yeah, it's partly that it's about large families and that it's so gloriously positive about having kids. But that's not really why I love it so much. It has this wonderful irony, which we spent a bit of time discussion during my college years about how someone can intend something for evil but that God can use it for good (or if you're more comfortable with it, it can turn out for the good). In this case, two large families are suddenly thrown together when their parents (both widowed, but had been high school sweethearts) reconnect at a high school reunion and get married before the families have even met. After lots of conflict and angst between the kids of each of the families (who are raised with extremely different styles of parenting), the kids finally get together and scheme to split the parents up. They do terrible (and in some ways funny) things to covertly cause tension in the marriage, but end up coming to a double conversion. 1. Once the kids stop fighting with each other and start working together to a common purpose, they actually start to like each other. 2. They feel remorse for the pain they have caused their parents. So, enough spoilers, but it's a movie I actually end up liking better each time I watch it.

Quote I'm Pondering:

"Mary, lend us your Heart. Bring us the Spirit. Pray that our hardened hearts would burn with love for Jesus. Help set our hearts on fire with love for him." (from 33 Days to Morning Glory)

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Tuesday Tidbits #1

Running Through My Head Today:  
Gone, Gone, Gone by Phillip Phillips

Grateful For:
How the value of stories has played out in our family over the years. This is especially obvious with Ria, who wrote her senior thesis on the connection between stories and Salvation History and is now using stories and parts of stories (like movie clips) in her work as a Catholic campus missionary at a state university, and especially in her one-on-one spiritual mentoring of students. Stories are so universal, so applicable, so amazing, so true. 

Everything Keeps Coming Up...

Baseball/Jackie Robinson  We really enjoy baseball in our family. Though I have assimilated to Wisconsin football-wise (it's hard not to become a Packers fan after living here for more than 20 years), I will never give up my San Francisco Giants. The kids have inherited their baseball loyalties from me, which have certainly been helped along by the Giants' three-time World Series wins in six years! We try to get tickets to see the Giants when they come to Milwaukee (which we manage to pull off about every other year). We were thrilled to get tickets to one of the Giants-Brewers games a few years ago. Before the game, we were trying to make out which player was which when we realized that all of them were wearing the number 42 - it was Jackie Robinson day! We enjoyed how they introduced each player as number 42 throughout the game and it happened to be soon afterwards that the movie 42 was released. It soon became one of our favorite movies.

A few weeks ago, we made it to another Giants-Brewers game, which was a real treat. I told the kids I would pay for my ticket and parking if they paid for their own tickets. Three of them took me up on it and we got a great deal through a community fundraiser. Angel Pagan threw a ball to Frank, who, I'm sure, will remember it for the rest of his life.

Since I was in a baseball mood, I read a lovely children's story, written by Jackie Robinson's daughter, Sharon, called The Hero Two Doors Down, which is the true story of Jackie's friendship with a young neighbor. Then we watched the first half (so far) of Ken Burns' documentary on Jackie Robinson, which worked almost as a special features to the movie 42. My younger kids, who may have had just a little bit too much of the documentary genre in general, were quite engrossed. I especially enjoyed the interviews with Jackie Robinson's wife, Rachel, who seems even more lovely in real life than she was portrayed in the movie.  

And we are just about to start Little League season around here. We have two kids who play baseball (and yes, one of them is a girl, who plays mostly with boys - and she is good!) and are looking forward to the upcoming season. As much as I enjoy having my kids play basketball, the intensity of the game, especially since it's indoors and all of the noise and whistles and all bounce off the walls, makes me not entirely unhappy when the season is over. In contrast, I relish the baseball season (well, aside from the mosquitoes). It's really more my speed and it's a wonderful thing to spend all of that time outdoors.


Bernie and I have been playing a lot of Scrabble lately. I try not to get involved in computer games because they can be very addictive for me (I seriously need to keep Solitaire off of my computer!), but Scrabble works out pretty well. I play it through Facebook and usually have about a dozen games going. Because I have to wait for the other players, it's a reasonably limited amount of time at each sitting and it's good fun. I especially enjoy kibitzing with Bernie. I also learn a lot from the teacher. We also discovered that the British dictionary is a lot of fun to play with. Bernie takes it to another level entirely, but playing some games in languages she doesn't speak, like French.


I recently finished Miracles from Heaven by Christy Todd Beam. I got interested in the story after reading the movie review by Bishop Robert Barron: "Miracles from Heaven" and the Problem of Theodicy. I really enjoyed the book. The adjective that keeps coming back to me with regard to the book is genuine. Though I do believe the miracle to be genuine, I'm thinking of this terms especially with regards to how this mother shares the most intimate story of the suffering of her child (as well as the whole family) and their relationship with God. I especially appreciate that they aren't trying to put on a show or clean things up to improve the story. The little details of real family life in an imperfect world are poignant and much appreciated. I have not yet seen the movie, but am very much looking forward to it.

I also just finished (well, unless you count all the Appendices!) Fr. Michael Gaitley's The Second Greatest Story Ever Told: Now is the Time of Mercy. He interweaves the stories (and highlights the connectedness) of the apparitions of Fatima, St. Faustina and the Divine Mercy Devotion, St. Maximilian Kolbe and St. John Paul the Great.  It encourages devotion to both Divine Mercy and the Blessed Mother as the double-solution for bringing ourselves and the world to Christ. It makes especially great background reading for the 33 Days to Morning Glory Marian Consecration (by the same author). Though I was generally familiar with all of the stories, there were a lot of interesting pieces that I had never heard before.

Though I enjoyed the casual, conversational tone of the text, I especially appreciated the numerous quotes from the key players in the story.


X-Men: The kids got us a set of four of the X-Men movies for Easter. (And we have since borrowed or bought several more.) None of us had watched any of them previously. On the whole, we are really enjoying them, with Days of Future Past a clear favorite, probably followed by X-2. We especially enjoyed the interplay of personalities, the batting around of philosophical concepts, the playfulness and the character development in Days of Future Past. I believe all of the movies have been rated PG-13, with some a little heavier on the violence and mature content than others. Wolverine was particularly violent. Some of the kids think we could have just skipped it and not missed much.

Cutthroat Kitchen: We have long been fans of Alton Brown, since being introduced many years ago by Karen Edmisten. Since we don't have cable, it was only during a hotel stay a few months ago that we discovered Alton's newer cooking game show (which has apparently been out for quite awhile). We've never really gotten into the chef reality shows with all their drama and angst, though we've seen a few bits here and there. Despite the name, this is more light-hearted, interesting and, believe it or not, inspiring. Each show starts with four chefs. There are three rounds of cooking and one chef gets eliminated in each round. Alton Brown names a dish (which are mostly very familiar dishes, some of them surprisingly so, for example: taquitos, lobster roll, chocolate cake, chili cheese dog and breakfast sandwich), they have one minute to shop in a special "pantry" and then a limited amount of time to cook. Chefs get to bid on sabotages to inflict on each other and a food critic decides which chef to eliminate at the end of each round without knowing anything of the sabotages.

This is a very engrossing show and interesting for a lot of reasons. First of all, the chefs are of a very high caliber, so their creativity in working around the sabotages is really quite fascinating. Just watching them cook tends to inspire us to try new dishes and more interesting (and real!) ingredients and generally spend more time in the kitchen.

The human nature element of the show is really interesting too. First of all, it's rather amusing at how
An example of a sabotage: making crepes on a seriously warped pan.
the chefs who brag the most not only attract a lot of the sabotages, but often end up self-sabotaging by forgetting key ingredients in the pantry. It's also rather amazing at how often sabotages seem to backfire against the one who inflicted them.

Finally, Alton Brown is a really interesting and funny guy. His little comments and antics keep the show funny and light and we really enjoy his side comments about what good and bad ideas the chefs are trying out. We've been watching this on Netflix, but have also very much enjoyed the after shows on You Tube in which Alton and various judges try out some of the sabotages.

Quote I'm Pondering:

Suffering, pain, sorrow, humiliation, feelings of loneliness, are nothing but the kiss of Jesus, a sign that you have come so close that he can kiss you. Do you understand, brothers, sisters, or whoever you may be? Suffering, pain, humiliation - this is the kiss of Jesus. At times you come so close to Jesus on the cross that he can kiss you. I once told this to a lady who was suffering very much. She answered, "Tell Jesus not to kiss me - to stop kissing me." That suffering has to come that came in the life of Our Lady, that came in the life of Jesus - it has to come in our life also. Only never put on a long face. Suffering is a gift from God. It is between you and Jesus alone inside. -  Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta as quoted in 33 Days to Morning Glory by Fr. Michael Gaitley

Enjoy your day!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

On Living Differently today, a guest essay by Karen Edmisten and a book giveaway!

I highly recommend this terrific little book for those who wish to share their faith with others – especially with their family and friends. Karen is an atheist-turned-Catholic who shares in this book many common aspects of the conversion journey through her own experiences and those of a number of her friends. These stories are organized around a very practical set of “do’s” and “don’ts” that will help readers be better prepared to witness to and support those who are being drawn to the faith. Karen’s tone is gentle and friendly (and prayerful!), but not at all timid about tackling many important issues, concepts, teachings, relationships and potential misunderstandings. The end result is a very great set of connections to help believers be more loving, patient, understanding and supportive of others. - AVH