Sunday, November 29, 2015

Advent 2015 aka, trying again

Hello! And yes I am still alive! I thought advent would be a fitting time to rejoin all, er, both of you on the blogosphere once again.

Today's TLM was extra beautiful. We are blessed enough to always have confession available to us before mass, so I went. Perhaps this gave me an extra appreciation for the rest of the mass, since my heart was softer and more in tune than usual. I don't know, but I still say that Reconciliation is to me like a  good drink of cold water after a dry, dusty wait; or like the feeling after a workout when the  body feels stronger and the mind clearer, only spiritually. Okay, these are terrible analogies, I know. But I feel better. And ready to try again.

The scola was acapella today, and it was no sacrifice. we began with Creator of the Stars of Night, one of my absolute favorites. The motet they did Conditor Alme Siderum, by Charles H Griffen was breathtaking, but alas, I can't find a recording of it. It means "creator of the stars of night" but the music is different than the hymn in English. Gor.Jus.

All the prayers today were beautiful, here is just one:


To Thee have I lifted up my soul: in Thee, O my God,  I put my trust, let me not be ashamed: neither let my enemies laugh at me: for none of them that wait on Thee shall be confounded. Show me, O Lord, Thy ways: and teach me Thy paths.

I am receiving emails with daily Advent reflections from Dynamic Catholic. I read the first one today and really liked it. It also comes with a short video.
In case you would like to check it out:

And go here to sign up for the daily emails.

Happy Advent-ing everybody! Definitely share your Advent adventures with me, or even just what you had for breakfast. I'll take it.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The day of a lifetime

I had no intentions of going to the Papal anything, as crowds are Not My Thing, and Bob generally dislikes anything done outside, so we were pretty much in agreement.

But then, on Saturday morning, we started wondering if maybe we should go downtown and just wander about anyway. Something had stirred in us, but I hadn't been feeling well, so we were still very on the fence. We went to morning mass, where I proceeded to say a few uncomplimentary things about our new priest and his way of celebrating mass. Smallish things, but still.

After mass, we decided to "just go and see" if there were still any tickets at the rectory. We were told there were a few left for that day, for the events bridging the World Meeting of Families and the Pope's arrival. Father happened by outside the office door and said, "You looking for tickets? Hold on." To which, he disappeared for a few minutes, and came back with two tickets to the mass in his hand. He said he had done his Pope thing with John Paul II, had even appeared on TV with him when he came to Philly, and was glad to give them to us.

So, yes, as usual for me, foot in mouth disease, though Father didn't know it, And now we had tickets to EVERYTHING. It was starting to feel kinda meant-to-be-ish.

We decided to go down right away, so as soon as we were ready, off we went. We only stopped for some hand sanitizer, having seen the pictures of endless rows of porta-potties as far as the eye could see.

It was very strange to see the Philly streets devoid of cars, but full of people biking, running, walking dogs, even one enterprising guy piloting a taxi-bike. Then we got to what I like to call The Pope Zone.

As my friend, Manny, posted on his day at the Madison Square Garden Papal Mass, we also had to wait in rather long and slow security line. During which people were told they may not take any fruit inside, so folks were either eating up all their fruit (there was a surprising amount of fruit-toters) or giving it away, I was the happy recipient of a lovely banana. But then! A little later, the Fruit Rule was revised to just no Round Fruit. No apples, plums, oranges. Bananas were now okay! The woman did ask for hers back, but it wasn't readily available. We all did speculate on the Round Fruit rule for a while. It passed the time. As Manny also experienced, as we got closer, folks started to cut the line. Nobody said anything. Spirit of the day and all.  Our whole line experience was an hour, maybe hour and a half-ish.

Then we were In. With the idea we might get within sighting distance of seeing Papa leave the Basilica, we went in that general direction, only to find that all the fences and cattle chutes kept us literally corralled into certain areas. We spotted a place right up against the fence a little ways from the Basilica and just parked ourselves there to figure out what we wanted to do. Here was our view:

This one tells better where we were standing, the above one shows the beauty of the Basilica. You can see how people are mostly all hemmed in by fences.

Turns out, we were too late for seeing the conclusion of the mass, so after much speculating, we decided to stay put and hope we were on the parade route, for when Papa would ride around after speaking at Independence Hall, and before the evening's festivities. All we knew about that was that there were going to be musical groups. Beyond that, we hadn't a clue.

Just to illustrate how clueless we really were;  later, a lovely young lady from Pittsburgh, Katie, who was studying at Drexel took up a spot near us. When we mentioned we had tickets, she said, "you know you're not in the ticketed area, right?" Well, no, we didn't, actually. We thought our tickets had been to get through the security line. Haha, and duh! But still, we decided to stay put, and gave her one of our tickets to see the evening part. I hope she got to make good use of it!

While we waited, we were joined by many, many other Papal parade speculators. We had looked up the parade route and thought our chances were good. The police, when asked about anything, always said they didn't know. There were state troopers from all over. The one in front of us was from, again, Pittsburgh. We saw NYPD also. They were good natured, but apparently as clueless as everyone else regarding the movements of the Holy Father.

Here was one lovely addition to our cluster of neighbors for a day:

Yes! A Pope Baby! There was another one that made headlines because the Pope stopped and blessed her, but we liked ours best. People on the other side of the divide would chant Ba-by!Ba-by! so her father would hold her up for pictures. And everyone would cheer. She remained entirely placid throughout the long day. Much more so than some of the adults...

                                   Her name is Daniela Francesca. She stole our hearts.

So, eventually, we heard the speech from Independence Hall begin and end. We were not in sight of any of the jumbotrons, so it was just kind of a blur. Music groups began to play nearby over the loudspeaker. A young girl named Jackie Evancho (13!) sang like an absolute angel. But we were all getting antsy for the arrival of the Holy Father. Time dragged. We spent some time sitting directly on the ground, some children were stretched out on blankets, asleep. But the crowds were really gathering now, and if you gave up and inch of space, it got filled. Soon, I was pressed up against the fence and Bob directly behind. I started feeling kind of claustrophobic and asked him to move back a little, I was sorry I did though, because a group of young (college age-ish I guess) girls wormed up beside us. One reached through and grabbed the railing, causing me to have her elbow planted in my ribs until I moved. I still didn't want to ruin the general bonhomie that was prevalent there by saying anything, but yeah, it bugged me. We had waited upwards of seven hours at that spot. They had just appeared and wiggled their way forward.

It began getting dark, and rows of police-escorted vehicles started going around the circle, so we knew it had to be close. It was fully dark and fully 7:00 before the shouts began that preceded the Pope's procession coming towards us. Of course, both our phones were almost dead, and now Bob had been pushed back away from the fence, so his only view was over my head.

Nevertheless, we readied our phone cameras. He came FLYING by in the lit up Popemobile. Everyone erupted in screams.

Here is how my picture tuned out:

Tragic, isn't it? I don't even know if it is right side up. I like to call it, Flying, Picasso-ish Pope.

Well, thank God, Bob got a good shot. A video nonetheless! A miracle, I tell you!

And yes, the young lady to the right is my unwilling  "neighbor" whose hand and later, fist, appear in the video. And screams. In my ear. She inserted her entire body in a two inch space. So many ways to offer things up ...

But! All the logistics notwithstanding, we were in the same airspace as the POPE! He came within FEET of where we stood! I did offer the day for all my friends and family, and know those prayers and offering were well heard by God on this special day.

We did not hang around, for what turned out to be an incredible impromptu speech given by the Holy Father. Our feet and backs just couldn't do it.  We heard it live from home, though, and it felt as if we were still there. (I  hope Katie stayed!) We did not venture to the mass either, and I am told people waited up to four hours in the lines that day. I am sure it was well worth it, but we enjoyed it from home, still exhausted from the bit we did manage to do.

I still feel it was a divine appointment. I told you all the nuts and bolts, but in the end, this Pope managed to make each one of us feel he did everything for love of each and every one of us. He radiates so much love, and well, purity I think is the word that strikes me. He never looked bored, tired, or like he wished he were somewhere else. Well, except in this meme:

Haha. But really, Aretha, Nessun Dorma? Poor Puccini. My ears!

I think Pope Francis is exactly the right Pope for our time. We may not understand it yet. But this visit made me love him as much as I love Benedict and JPII. And I feel like I can trust him now better than before. I only was hearing about him. This time, we heard FROM him and saw what he did and the love with which he did it.

   If you were anywhere near him or even watched his events, you couldn't help but feel the love.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Under my Skin

Cranky. Edgy. Touchy. Cross. Prickly. Crotchety. Cantankerous. Grouchy. Over-sensitive. Quick -tempered.

All these are synonymous with irritable.

I don't see myself as a generally irritable person. But I have noticed that I do get irritated with certain things quite frequently. Usually small things. As I gave it some thought, I realized that being irritable over something is kind of indulging in a mini temper tantrum. Say, on the road when I encounter less than considerate drivers. (Inner city driving is a challenge unto itself, and I submit that the Philly and Jersey drivers are their own special breed. I'll leave it at that). (And if you take to the road on a Friday afternoon or evening, God help you). Anyways! You can see how my mind set might affect my outlook as I get behind the wheel. And how, just maybe, I think I that I know better and am, if not better, perhaps a more considerate driver than some.

So what I've got here is a way of thinking that assumes something.

Firstly, I am completely in my own head about what I am trying to accomplish, usually trying to get from Point A to Point B, and darn it, you are slowing me down. If you have stopped in the middle of the street to chat with someone you saw walking, especially if you did so right next to a parking spot the size of a football field, or if you shot out of one of the tiny side streets, causing me to slam on my brakes, only to immediately turn down another, I am either silently or out loud indulging in some Language. I am assuming you Do Not Care and are oblivious that anyone else exisits, and therefore my objective of Getting Somewhere is not on your radar. And really, how dare you. Now, on occasion, I have noticed that you are elderly, and have felt a little pang of guilt. If you are a young person, I have felt no such pang and have assumed you are an arrogant, spoiled little person who should have your allowance revoked.

Yes, these are some of the thoughts that go through my mind.

On a larger scale, being irritable kind of says, "hey, I am feeling a certain way right now, and I should not have to deal with X,Y, or especially Z." This ties in to my Red Carpet  theory. Ironically, in that post, I also used a "driving while in South Philly" example. I guess not much has changed, haha, and yikes.

But seriously, I have been trying to do a more frequent examination of conscience so that when I go to confession, I am not trying to remember everything from the last month or longer. Because I can't remember things from yesterday. So the quality of my confessions leave something to be desired. I can tell you I regularly confess a lack of discipline, especially in my spiritual life. I am working on it, pray for me!

My frequent bouts of irritability are telling of my thought patterns, and those are what I am trying to pay better attention to. Those thoughts that assign me the Higher Plane of Living Award, if you get my drift. You may occasionally have them if you ever think, "I shouldn't have to deal with this, or do this menial thing, or deal with so and so's faults, or have to rouse myself from this well deserved rest to (gasp) do something for someone else." I could go on.

What I really want is to be able to see people the way that God sees them. To see people the way that Mother Teresa saw them. To be able to use these tiny moments of service to humanity as offerings for my sins. To offer them for the souls of others. To get myself off that all fired throne.

I realize this may never happen, at least in any large way in my lifetime, and I am not beating myself up over it. But I do wish to live with this intention a little closer to the surface, again for which I ask your prayers.

Have you ever met a person that so shined with the love of Christ that you felt it? Who was so free of self absorption that they made you feel as though you were the only person on earth at that moment? Whose mind and heart were so clear of clutter that it shone right out of their eyes, who could look straight at you with no self consciousness at all? This is what I hope to be a fraction of before I leave this earth. I told this to my spiritual director when he asked what was my goal in spiritual direction. Yeah, we definitely did not achieve that, but, hey Father, if you're reading, we definitely did make progress.

So , as everyone knows, one should never talk about problems without talking about solution, right?

Here are some of mine, what I refer to as the Master Plan. (haha, the irony).

1.  Daily Mass.
I can't begin to tell you the benefit this is to my life, Once again, the Church provides structure for me to plug in to and do the work of prayer for my family that I just can't do nearly as well on my own. Add to that the rewards that go with attending Mass. I truly believe some of the blessings we have experienced as a family have stemmed from the prayers and attendance of mass done by us and others for us.
I have a new job that begins in October, If you have seen the TV ads, you may have heard of Visiting Angels. It is a company that provides home care for the elderly or home bound. One of the reasons I left my other job was to free up weekends to be with my family, and also because this new job will be part time, allowing me to go to daily mass again. I believe this is part of my work as a wife, mother, and grandmother and friend, so I am trying to arrange my life to make it possible.

2. Exercise.
                  some of these were birthday presents. I outgrew some of the lighter ones

I have been working out regularly for over two years, at least in this incarnation of working out. Back when I was suffering from depression and agoraphobia, I was told that to help combat some of it, that I should get regular exercise. These days, depression only lurks, but I do have to manage some anxiety and some of the wonderful effects of being a Woman of a Certain Age. Regular working out has truly been my medicine. I sleep better, eat mostly better, have much more strength and energy, am _somewhat_better balanced emotionally (just being realistic here)  and my clothes fit more comfortably. I use a free You Tube Channel called Fitness Blender, hosted by an adorable young couple from the Northwest. I never have to leave my house, I can work out any time I want, and there are so many workouts to choose from, of all different difficulty levels, types and lengths, I am never bored. I highly recommend them.

3. the Twelve Steps.

 Still twelve stepping along! I have mentioned before that I attend a NarAnon group. It has strengthened my faith and given me tools for life. I have also, and still do recommend the book, The Way of Serenity, by Father Jonathan Morris. A while back, I posted a song that I later learned and sang for my group, because I just thought it spoke so well about God's heart for us. I also recorded it and shared it with them, at their request. I will share it with you here with a huge disclaimer that I just whipped it off quickly, with no time to make it perfect or even better than I could do it that day in only one take. With allergies that made me stuffy. But it is such a nice song. And so I will leave you with this. Also with a request that you pray for my family, as we are walking through many challenges.

Here are the lyrics:

Top of Form
 All the Way, by Kat Edmundson

Bottom of Form
Don't feel bad, I'm so glad that you are here tonight.

Sometimes we lose our way.

Take a ride with me, and forget yesterday.

Way up high, and way down low. Most things we can't control.

But you don't walk alone. Wherever I may be, there you'll have a home.

If you forget the wonder that you are I will remind you.

And if you lose yourself, don't worry darling, I'll know where to find you.

I'm right behind you, all the way.

Da dada da, da dada da

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

photo album

Here are the rest of my trip pictures. Pardon that I have not done any editing. I usually try to make the photos the best they can be, but I am short on time, for all things, because I have to go to the dentist. (Gulp)

 Here is Kaden on the 4th. We had such  fun day, a small town parade, back yard grilling, and then culminating in fireworks. There was a drone taking pictures from the sky! I do have the video from the drone. I was able to find it online. It's kind of long and less spectacular than you might think. It was actually kind of distracting flying around as we watched the fireworks, which themselves were very good.

                                                                      the parade

The Beach.

I love the beach at Lake Michigan. We did all the obligatory burying in the sand, sand angels, and Malaika hiding from the sun.

The Beer Tour.

I may have mentioned that Kalamazoo is a big brewery town. This summer, there was a thing happening where you could get a passport book and have it stamped after visiting certain (not all) of the breweries. My kind and thoughtful daughter and son-in-law procured a passport for me, and whenever we found ourselves with a free evening, off we went in pursuit of the filling of these. I can't find my actual passport, but here are a few of my photo memories.

Here we are at Rupert's. And out friend here is the very one. He mostly just hung out on his bed, but would occasionally speak his chest rattling woof.

The Coaster is from a DIFFERENT place, the one pictured below outdoors. I got things mixed up and was ever so kindly corrected by Meghann. Thanks! So many dog-places. There was also the Old Dog, which I do know is where we heard Meghann's dad playing in his brass quintet.

Here are are chronicling shots of the various places.

I don't think I will remember every place we went. There are two shots from Olde Peninsula, and then the outside place pictured that had awesome tacos, (which I now know was Gonzo's), Bell's and the Beer exchange, which I don't think were even on the passports, another place in the downtown area that we only got tasters at, and another place we didn't expect to like but, maybe Meghann can weigh in on the comments?

The line up of glasses is from the Beer Exchange. It is operated like a stock exchange, so that there is a board up with a list of beers, and whatever is selling well gets cheaper. It resets every ten or fifteen minutes. Here we tried the mead, which at Bells is heavenly. This one was so so. But as you can tell,  we had a fun time trying to fill up our books.

A few other things we did--

                         Here we are out to breakfast one day at a favorite place, Studio Grill.

This is a church that is literally a stone's throw from their house that has a TLM. They are few and far between all over the country and here they have one in their back yard. It;s not really their thing, but I was very happy.

They went climbing at a place called Airway, which also has Laser tag and an arcade, which we also did on another day. I have the laser tag pictures around someplace...

I did not climb. I took as many pictures as I could before my neck gave out from looking up. Kaden did a great job after conquering his initial fears. Malaika zoomed around up there like she was a born circus performer. There was a zip line at the end, which they all did several times.

Meghann, who also had to swallow some fear, but did it!

Malaika in her natural habitat.

Malaika, Kaden and Jeff

                           Here is Kaden, still getting the feel of it, staying close to his daddy.

                                              Malaika, on the level above Kaden and Jeff

                 Malaika, on the zip line,in the background, going by Kaden and Jeff

Blurry, but this is what it looked like from the car, where I was resting my neck and warming up. The nights were still chilly in June!

Doing a little craft project on a rainy day--

--and playing outside on the sunny ones. This boy needs to be in motion!

Meghann's vegetable garden that we had fun with. I wonder what it looks like now...?

At the last little league game of the season--

                                         The master magician, doing his tricks for me

                            this is what getting a pedicure is like in the digital age, haha. :)

Their neighbors ( I have given them the Nicest Neighbors in the World award) allow us to swim in their pool. We were out there every day possible!
                                                       Again, this is Malaika in the sun.

Kaden is most definitely part fish.

Here, he snuggled up to me . I had to capture it. 
On June 22nd, (this picture may have been from that night),  all our phones went off at once, at 10:58 PM exactly, with  an "imminent extreme alert" that a tornado was spotted in the area, and we were told to take shelter. Well, let me tell you that my daughter is not one to miss her sleep, especially on a night before work. We had to coax her to the basement until the warning was lifted. And while down there she kept saying, in the twangiest twang, "here comes the tar-nade-a!" And she was back in bed two minutes before the time allotted. She is something else. Haha.

We went out to Jeff's dad's place in Battle Creek, a couple times during our time there. He has awesome tree-swing that goes out over a steep hill. Here is Kaden taking a ride on it.

Here is Tony taking Malaika for a ride on one of his motorcycles. Between this and the climbing, I guess you can tell what a daredevil she is. She also wants to skydive one day. Sheesh.

                                A few souvenirs--

                                                I have an awesome tank with this logo from Handmade Kalamazoo that I got at the Farmer's Market. Another favorite place. 

                                                                      Miss this place.

And this view with my car in the driveway.