Monday, December 23, 2013

Veil of Trust

I thought I had nothing more to say on this topic, but this is the third time I re-started this post after not being satisfied with it. Finally I stopped and said a little prayer for inspiration, and now I want to approach the veil from this angle which is slightly different than I have approached it before. You can probably tell from my side bar that I have a devotion to Divine Mercy. Right this moment it's the hour of mercy and the Divine Mercy chaplet is being sung on my radio. The veil for me has become a symbol of my trust in Divine Mercy. I started this veiling journey with the attitude that the veil would be my own personal devotion to Jesus and it would not matter one whit whether anyone noticed that I was covering my head or not. I was going to use covers that were completely inconspicuous. Nobody would know. I would strive for invisibility just like I usually do everywhere I go. It would be nearly status quo.

Yesterday, wonder of wonders, I found myself wishing that someone would ask me about my very obvious, very lacy black veil so that I could proclaim Jesus's Mercy! I wanted to shake someone and say, "can't you see?! I was married. Right there. I was married right there at the same altar you see before you when I was a non-Christian. I was hoping that Jesus would not be mentioned by our Protestant minister at my wedding. In front of the tabernacle in the Catholic Church with the red candle lit and Jesus standing right behind me. Do you know what you have? Look what He's done for me!" I'm not sure I would ever be brave enough or articulate enough to say that, but my heart wants to proclaim his Mercy from the roof tops. I actually had a dream about my grave need to acquire a stack of Divine Mercy holy cards to keep on my person and hand out to strangers. It was odd, I'll grant you...but still. I have come to view the veil as a symbol for others as well as myself of Jesus's real presence in the Eucharist.

The visibility of the veil has become important enough to me that I actually told my husband about Veil Project! He said, "huh. So that's why my Grandma always wore a veil to church stuff." It made me laugh that he would notice such a thing. (Side note: Ollie's Grandma got to see JPII when he came to San Antonio in the 1980s. I would have liked to have met her!)

I have also started praying, "Jesus, I trust in You" (the prayer on the bottom of the Divine Mercy image) before receiving communion. This is something I haven't done before, but something which helps me focus on Jesus right at the crucial time before I receive Him into my body.

All that I wrote probably sounds like sickly sweet, overly pious nonsense. Maybe it is. Either way, I hear the baby awake in the other room which means my time to write is done.

This photo is actually from Gaudete Sunday, but I looked pretty much the same yesterday except that I was more sweaty from doing some professional baby wrangling which included a trip from my pew near the front all the way out the back door to my car and back into the church straight into the communion line. Lillian really tired me out, but I am grateful to have been at Mass anyway!

Have a Merry Christmas!

Back to Catholic Librarian for more veiling tales!










Friday, December 20, 2013

7 Quick Takes (volume 3): 7 Gifts



All month I've been thinking about joy and gratitude over little things, so in this QT I'd like to feature some of the gifts which have delighted me today!

1.

I went to the thrift store with all the cash I had: $1.35. Here's what I got with $0.10 left over!


A shirt and some brand-new looking pants for Lillian and Jan Karon's Shepherd's Abiding. The book will be traveling to cheer a friend who lives in Wyoming at a job she hates in a town she hates.


Seriously, how cute is that? Roses keep coming to me.

2.


I also crafted some earrings to send to the same friend as well as...

3.


...knit her a neck-warmer with big foofy yarn and a fat cable running across it. She says the people in Wyoming are immune to cold weather. She isn't.

4.


I found myself a new bandana in my favorite color: green! It doesn't look that great in the picture, but it is making me happy today! I frequently wear bandanas on my head, especially when cooking. Hair net, yo!

5.

St. Elizabeth of Portugal
I followed the lead of a certain Catholic Librarian and let the Saint's Name Generator choose my family a patron saint for the year. I said an earnest little prayer before pushing the "show me my saint" button, and feel that God really, really heard that prayer. Some of her patronages include difficult marriages and third order Franciscans. I have been praying lately about whether to join a third order, so maybe this is an answer as well. I don't know about that, but I do love my Franciscans. I named my daughter after St. Clare of Assisi and Mother Angelica who is a Poor Clare. One of my husband's and I first outings together was an art class field trip to a Franciscan mission in San Antonio. I look forward to getting to know her!

6.


Going in another direction, I recently checked out Tomie DePaola's book, Holy Twins about Saints Benedict and Scholastica. The artwork makes me soooo happy. It's gorgeous!

7.

 
I am almost at the end of my novena to Our Lady of Guadalupe and have to say, I'm sad to see it end! Plus, isn't this candle beautiful?

For more Quick Takes, back to Jen!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Offer It Up

Note: I hesitated posting this and to be honest there is a high probability that it will "revert to draft" at any moment. I don't mean it as a complaint against my husband, but I want to be real with the particular challenges that are going on with me and this blog is pretty much my only journal. I wrote it knowing that I can change me and my reactions. It's up to Oliver to change himself (He has. Quite a lot, actually).
He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. Isaiah 53:7
This is the scripture that came to mind as I prayed the rosary today, meditating on the scourging at the pillar. Although Jesus endured a terrible bloody trial, he took the lashes and opened not his mouth. I kept thinking about this in the context of marriage. Lately God has kept reminding me that it's a problem that I mistrust my husband when it comes to my interior life. The past three years have been a trial. I long for the intimacy that would allow me to speak to him about the things that are most important of me. Over time I've grown fearful that when I open my heart to him he will roll his eyes and toss it aside. It feels like this happens over and over. My heart has hardened and I live half my life in secret, skulking around corners and braced for emotional assault and harsh judgement. It occurred to me that I have been choosing my husband's esteem of me over my own integrity

I was reminded of the problem of my mistrust on the day my veil came in the mail. We had been having a great day. Laughing, loving and jiggling our baby. At one point he sweetly went to pick up some food for dinner. While he was gone I saw the mail carrier stop at our mailbox. I went out to check just as Oliver pulled back into the drive. I pulled out everything but left the veil in the mailbox because I did not want to have to explain it to him and face his displeasure. I was ashamed of my deception, but unwilling to face the conversation that the veil was sure to begin.

Today I read this line in St. Faustina's diary which slapped me in the face:
An insincere, secretive soul risks great dangers in the spiritual life, and even the Lord Jesus Himself does not give Himself to such a soul on a higher level, because He knows it would derive no benefit from these special graces. Diary 113
Perhaps my secret life is more of a problem than I ever thought. As I prayed the rosary I thought that maybe I should be as plain and open as can be and offer up the emotional jabs that I receive patiently and without a word for the intention of my husband's conversion or the softening of his heart. I should not respond in anger with hasty words that I'll soon regret. I should be simple and honest, praying for the grace to forgive when necessary and leaving justice to God.

Monday, December 16, 2013

A Veiled Offering

Veiling Reflection

Last week I had this moment of clarity in which I looked at my life from the outside. It's really hard to explain exactly what I mean, but I'll give it a try. It was a little bit of a step back. I could see myself and imagine a life without religion. Chucking everything. Just surrender the simmering contraception argument. Stop going to Mass. Throw everything away and live for my own pleasure, seeking after the goods of the world. What scared me most about this thought was just how easy it would be to do such a thing; how much easier my life would be if I would just revert to the secular version of me. I could see and totally understand how someone who had once been faithful to the Church could throw in the towel and stop fighting against sinful desires, throw away the notion of sin altogether. I was tempted to do it myself for a moment before the memory of Jesus, grace, Eucharist, answered prayers, my sisters the saints, and Mary. This Scripture bubbled to the surface of my mind after I reluctantly rejected that temptation:
"Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God" John 6:68-69
To whom would I go? Back to myself? That foundation is too shaky. I had this little exchange in my mind Thursday and was still mulling it over on Friday when I felt very lonely and sorrowful indeed.

Saturday I prayed the Joyful Mysteries of the rosary and was struck this time by the Presentation. What I love about the rosary is that different aspects of the mysteries jump out at me exactly when I need them. I was thinking about the way Mary re-affirms her dedication to doing the will of God even though she must know the sadness that she will have to endure and the brutal treatment that her son will receive. She knows the difficult road ahead, but she moves forward in faith to present her child as an offering to God. She is warned, "and a sword will pierce through your own soul also" (Luke 2:35) but she continues forward in a courageous example of faith and steadfastness. After the rosary I continued my novena to Our Lady of Guadalupe and found this prayer, just what I needed:

O Mary, whose Immaculate Heart was pierced by seven swords of grief, help me to walk valiantly amid the sharp thorns strewn across my pathway. Obtain for me the strength to be a true imitator of you. This I ask you, my dear Mother. 

I was wearing my new veil as I prayed the rosary and it reminded me that one meaning of the veil has been a physical affirmation that I'm putting my life in God's hands. My prayer for the Lord's will to be done cannot be conditional based on whether or not it produces hardship in my life. I must remain faithful throughout just as Mary was faithful throughout, finding peace not (only) in the pleasures of life but in the knowledge that I have been a good servant. This isn't to say that finding joy and happiness is wrong, but that seeking those things cannot be my primary motivation. I don't write this because it's anything new, but I write it because it's something that I seem to forget from time to time.

Journal

Shameless obvious selfie.
With these things in mind, I donned a very obvious veil Sunday morning, fighting the very strong urge to take it off and blend in. As I walked toward the church I just kept repeating in my mind, "I'm doing this for you, Jesus. For you. I'm doing this for you, Jesus..." I wore it as a deliberate re-dedication of my life to Christ. I meant it as an offering to Him. A deliberate attempt to show Him reverence. I wore the veil around my neck as I walked into the church and pulled it up around my head once I sat down. At that time I was just relieved; my little nagging fears drifted away. Melodramatic, I know. I'm a big chicken.

I enjoyed wearing it at Mass though, once I got over the suspicion that people were looking at me. I don't know if anyone was or not, but no one asked me about it. A practical concern was that it kept wanting to slide backward off my head. I'll probably sew in a comb or at least invest in some black bobby pins. Despite the slippage, it really didn't seem to be a distraction to me in Mass (as long as you don't ask about the moment during the Our Father when Lillian took the opportunity to pull on it when my hands were otherwise occupied!). It really helped me re-focus my attention at crucial moments because I kept seeing glimpses of it hanging down around me. I thought I would save this veil for Christmas Eve, but I'm glad I wore it sooner. I felt peaceful and joyful at Mass, and I did make an effort to be friendlier to people!

After Mass I was driving home listening to Advent at Ephesus and was struck by "Maria Walks Amid the Thorn". I needed to pay more attention to that song, for sure.

I'm hoping to get another veil at some point perhaps in a shade of brown, or blue. I'm entering the Veils By Lily veil giveaway. You should, too!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Guadalupe para Mi


Growing up in South Texas a short way from San Antonio, I've always had a lot of exposure to the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Unfortunately since I wasn't raised Catholic, most of it was in the context of racial pride and cholo style which I couldn't relate to. Not my ethnicity, not my culture. I had heard the story of Juan Diego but never thought it was the tale of a real apparition of Mary. I thought the story was made up to explain the image of the "Mexican Virgin Mary". I thought she was just an artistic rendering for the purpose of expressing a nationalistic or ethnic pride.

When I became Catholic and started reading about different apparitions, I was pleased and astounded to discover how wrong I was! I now love this particular apparition of the Blessed Mother. I am Catholic, she is my culture. And she is beautiful. The colors, the stars. Ah. I digress.

What most resonates with me is the way that her image is so gentle. It does not give the impression that she is attempting to toss out every vestige of Aztec culture. It celebrates it with the flowers on her robe, a tan complexion, the vibrant colors. She came to the people in a way that they would understand, a way that did not revile them with its unapproachable foreignness. Her humility gently called them forward. That's how I imagine the Blessed Mother still calling us forward in love and trust.

There is a special place in my heart for this apparition for another reason. The Mexican culture is my husband's culture (he says he's half Mexican and half hillbilly). I can imagine the Blessed Mother looking on him so tenderly: the son of a cradle Catholic; he never had the opportunity to know about the true Christ, Mary or the saints because my mother-in-law converted to Jehovah's Witness when she got married. Jehovah's Witnesses teach a created Christ, not the Eternal Word become flesh. None of that was his doing. I always imagine that Our Lady of Guadalupe would look on him with compassion, sadness and hope. It sounds a little silly typing it out, but I hope that she would some day draw him close to her gently like she did with the Aztec people so long ago. I told Oliver that I was going to make some crispy tacos and beans for the feast day today. He eyed me funny and then wondered if I would make some carne guisada, tortillas and guacamole instead. I am only too happy to oblige!

Here is the recipe for carne guisada that I use. This is from one of Oliver's co-workers. It's supposed to have won an award. I modify it a little because the original recipe calls for 10 lbs of meat. Here goes.

Carne Guisada

2 lbs roast cut into 1/2" cubes 
1/2 of a green pepper (minced)
1/4 of an onion ( minced)
1 clove garlic (minced)
1 TBSP Knorr tomato 
1/4-1/2 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp ground cumin
a little less than 1/4 cup tomato sauce
1 TBSP flour (optional to thicken the gravy)
1/2 c. water

Cook the meat and water covered on low-med heat for about 45 minutes. Add rest of ingredients, stir and cook on the same heat for another hour. Simmer covered for another 45 minutes to an hour. In the past I have eaten the carne guisada without the third simmering session and it tastes just fine. It turns out that I am just too impatient when it comes to carne guisada!

We make tortillas from a recipe that my husband made up after trying to approximate his mom's recipe. In the interest of full disclosure, my mother in law makes THE BEST tortillas imaginable. The best. No contest. Unfortunately she measures by eyeball, so he had to do some trial an error to come up with a recipe. Hers would still win in a fight, but we make do with these :)

Flour Tortillas

1 cup flour
1 TBSP vegetable oil
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
more or less 1/3 cup hot water

Mix the dry ingredients together. Stir in the oil. Stir in enough hot water to get soft but not sticky texture in the dough. Let it sit for a few minutes. Divide the dough into balls the size of golf balls or so. Roll out in flour. My MIL uses the rolling pin one direction, turns the dough 1/4 turn and repeats this motion until the tortilla is circular and as big as she wants it. Cook on each side on a hot griddle over medium high heat. Put finished tortillas on a plate under a towel and they will soften in the moist heat.

Guacamole is self explanatory I would hope (though I have heard of people putting mayonnaise in guacamole...ew). Mash up some ripe avocados, add some chopped tomato, salt or garlic salt, a squirt of lime and there ya go.

I will be starting a novena to Our Lady of Guadalupe today. It may be a good day also to watch Our Greater Glory on the ol' Netflix to follow our Mexican theme and pick up a Guadalupe candle from the grocery store! If I had the right colors I would totally paint myself a little peg doll just like this.

Anyway, happy feast day!

Monday, December 9, 2013

In Spirit and in Truth

Veiling Reflection 
"The worship 'in Spirit and in truth' of the New Covenant is not tied exclusively to any one place. The whole earth is sacred and entrusted to the children of men. What matters above all is that, when the faithful assemble in the same place, they are the 'living stones,' gathered to be 'built into a spiritual house.' For the Body of the risen Christ is the spiritual temple from which the source of living water springs forth: incorporated into Christ by the Holy Spirit, 'we are the temple of the living God.'" - Catechism of the Catholic Church 1179

When I decided to wear a veil during Advent, I didn't think it would matter which type of covering that I chose as long as I obeyed the prompting of the Holy Spirit and covered my head. I started with berets, tams and wide headbands. I discovered that those items did not make me feel much more reverent at Mass than I had been before. Last week at Mass I wore a cover that was more obviously a cover. I wore the same scarf that I had before, but tied it in a way that I would not usually choose to wear it. Consequently, I felt much more reverent and focused at Mass. I thought that was odd and that I couldn't put my finger on why that was, but it did finally dawn on me what the difference was.

The difference in the way I wore my cover spoke more symbolically to my heart than the other ways. When I wore something that I would wear any time in my daily attire, it felt less symbolic to me of my reverence for Christ in the Eucharist. I needed to wear something special for Mass that took me out of my ordinary mode of dress. Something special in commemoration and reverence of the re-presentation of Christ's sacrifice on the cross. The symbol of the veil speaks loudly to my heart, and that is why I am called to wear it.

The faithful are '"living stones" gathered to be "built into a spiritual house"'. We must present ourselves in a way that honors God with our bodies. I have been guilty so many of times of being sloppy and careless in the way I dress for Mass. I speak my love for Christ with my lips, but communicate something different with my attire and careless attitude. The same goes for the postures and gestures at Mass. I am careful to say the right words but too many times I have made a small, lazy sign of the cross. I need not only reverence but integrity to be a living stone befitting of God's spiritual house. My body needs to speak along with my heart.

I discovered the above Catechism reference when I sought to discover the meaning of John 4:24:
God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. - John 4:24
My father in law has become a universalist, abandoning physical church and embracing the idea that Christians need only pray to God in private. He uses this verse to justify this decision, bears it as a weapon to cut through my insistence that baptism or any other phyiscal action matters. When I was a Quaker I believed the same thing. I believed that no holy days mattered because all days were the same to God. I didn't approach meetings with special dress, because God as spirit didn't care about what people wore. We had no liturgy. No hymns. We sat together in a bare room in silence awaiting our personal encounter with God. I totally dismissed my physicality. As a Catholic I should be behaving totally different.

Human beings are a body and soul composite. As Catholics we believe that the body is not merely a house for the soul. They are a composite. What we do with our bodies has an effect on our soul. Physical things can point the way toward greater spiritual realities and as a physical being, I have to admit that I do sometimes need concrete things! We can see this when we look at the sacraments. The Catechism says "the sacraments are efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us. The visible rites by which the sacraments are celebrated signify and make present the graces proper to each sacrament. They bear fruit in those who receive them with the required dispositions." (CCC 1131). I'm not saying that veiling or dressing well for Mass is a sacrament or even necessary for all people regardless of circumstance, but the symbolism in these actions speaks deeply to my heart and has the power to change my disposition to toward the sacraments. Doing these things merely to look a certain way to other people would not have the same effect. The intention to glorify and properly worship God is key.

It is important be cognizant of this, especially during the time of Advent when we are reminded that Our Lord came in flesh and blood to redeem flesh and blood! Our Advent readings keep reminding us that He is concerned with our physical as well as spiritual wellbeing, and in these particular readings the two seem to be related. When I read Wednesday's readings this is the line that zapped me like lightening and then stood fixed in my mind for several days:
I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way. - Matthew 15:32
I was powerfully reminded of my gratitude for the Eucharist: a physical substance which appears to be bread but which really contains the body, blood, soul and divinity (!) of Jesus Christ, the second person of the Most Holy Trinity! When I read that line I felt as though Jesus was speaking to the peoples' spiritual welfare more than their physical, although he had already healed many and demonstrated his concern for their physical needs. Recall these words spoken during the preparation of the gifts at Mass:
"Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the bread we offer you: fruit of the earth and work of human hands, it will become for us the bread of life"
The Eucharist begins as a lowly physical morsel but at the words of consecration its substance transcends the mere physical and becomes a composite of physical and spiritual wrapped up in one.

This Advent I am determined to do my best to live with integrity. I need to understand the reasons for the different postures and gestures at Mass, and do them deliberately. My actions should mirror my beliefs. For me a this time this also involves veiling and dressing up for Mass even though there are no real rules regarding either. They speak to my heart and help me recall to mind the spiritual truths for which I converted. The veil for me is another gesture, like any other I would do at Mass. It speaks as loudly as the statues, candles, genuflection, sign of the cross, holy water, medals and stained glass. It helps me become the reverent "living stone" that I am meant to be.

Totally didn't mean to look like St. Faustina...
Journal

This is what I wore yesterday to Mass. It was beautiful and comfortable for awhile, but I ended up having to adjust it a bunch of times during Mass and I found myself getting too warm. My Lillian also grabbed it at one point and ripped a bunch of hair out of it. Definitely not where I want my focus to be!

I ordered an eternity veil off Etsy and it came in the mail, but I think I will have to modify it a little bit before I wear it. To me it seems like too much fabric and it hangs down too low. Lilian sits on my hip at Mass every time I stand up, and I think that veil would get in the way and become a distraction as it is now. It's so beautiful, though. I'm afraid I'll be too conspicuous when I wear it. I'm shaking in my boots a little at the thought. Really! It may make its debut at midnight Mass on Christmas Eve when the baby won't be with me.

I sort of think I might be a snood lady. I really like this one, and if I had the money I would definitely buy it! Love the color and lace.

Today I *tried* to go to Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Little Flower in San Antonio. Let me tell you, the baby was fussy in the car so I should have known it was a bad idea. I had never been there before, but it's been on my list for a long time because St. Therese is my confirmation saint. I made it in just before the Penitential Act, shuffling in from the cold drizzle. I pulled out every mommy trick that I had to keep my little one quiet, but ultimately we had to leave before communion. I had tears in my eyes as I left. I felt ashamed and rejected and so alone. Reflecting on this in the car I ultimately had to take my own advice (God does not owe me an smooth Mass experience or communion, even!) and derive some good out of the situation. The good was that I got to see the inside of a gorgeous church, discovered the location for next time, passed by a discalced Carmelite monastery that I didn't know existed, spotted some nuns, and spied a few other ladies in veils. I also discovered another veiling option that worked surprisingly well!

This is a shawl (ravelry link) that I knit from lace-weight wool in 2010. The pic is from then, but the shawl is not so stretched out now (it needs to be re-blocked). This shawl actually stayed on my head really well because it is not made from a slippery material. The wool is a little bit grippy.

Anyway, I highly recommend that option for all you knitty ladies. Shawls really aren't as difficult as they look...I had a lot of problems with that particular pattern at the time, but it was all the pattern's fault. ;)

Visit Catholic Librarian for more veily goodness!

Friday, December 6, 2013

7 Quick Takes For Ol' Saint Nick


This is my second Advent as a Catholic and really want to make an effort to celebrate the liturgical year in an earthy, sensual way. I love that Catholicism celebrates the physical along with the spiritual without separating one from the other. When I was a Quaker everything was spiritual. A traditional Quaker meeting consists of sitting in a room in silence with others and waiting on the Spirit. Looking back that practice seems to disregard that Our Lord came in the flesh, like the physical body of Christ was a mere trifle! In defiance of this, here are a few ways I've come up with to honor St. Nicholas today.

1
I've been waiting and waiting to decorate my house for Christmas. My plan was to wait until Gaudete Sunday to put everything out. Then I remembered that my Grandma gave me almost all of her Santa Claus figurines when she moved into a smaller house. Seems like a great time to put these babies out in honor of St. Nicholas! Here's a glimpse of this collection, forgive my dark picture.


That is not even all of them. My mom has some that look like an actual bishop, so maybe I will have to snag some of those from her for next year. Some of these are a little baffling, to tell you the truth...

2
...like these


Here is Santa in Noah's Ark. I have a little Noah that goes in there too, but you can change him out for Santa anytime the mood strikes you.


I quite like this one of Santa inexplicably riding a pig. In fact, I have 2 of that one.


And here is Santa hugging a bear. He brought the bear a fish gift, so it's okay. I really like that one as well.

3
The plan is to make some speculoos spice cookies. I have a recipe handed down from my great grandmother who was born in 1887 in Belgium. The cookies are traditionally made on the feast of St. Nicholas. In Belgium they put the dough into fancy molds, but I don't have one of those. I'm going to try rolling them out and using a Santa cookie cutter on them. Usually I form them into a big roll, refrigerate and slice thin with a knife before baking. Here is the recipe:

Speculoos 

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup sour cream

1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp cinnamon
2 1/4 cups flour
1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 cup finely chopped pecans

Cream together the brown sugar, shortening, butter and sour cream. Sift together the dry ingredients, then add to the sugar mixture. Stir in the pecans. Form into a large roll in wax paper and chill for a few hours or overnight in the refrigerator. Slice very thin and place on cookie sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes.

4
The plan is to wash these delicious cookies down with Arias Punch...nicknamed so for no other reason than to honor St. Nicholas who punched Arias in the face. Any other time I would call this punch sherbet punch. It's just sprite, a little pineapple juice and a scoop of lime sherbet. My hubs tells me he's been craving this punch so I thought it was as good a time as any to bust it out, especially when I could give it a such a moniker.

5
I'm also thinking about painting a little peg doll in the likeness of St. Nicholas. I have already done St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Francis of Assisi. I was inspired by Jessica at Shower of Roses so I totally ripped off her St. Therese design. You should check out hers, it's way cuter!


6
Here is a little tidbit that is only tangentially related to what I was talking about before. It may be a little difficult to bake my cookies because my oven door is broken. I did discover recently during a bout of cookie desperation that cookies can indeed be baked in the toaster oven with mediocre results. Juuuuust throwing that out there.


7
And now for something completely different! This is what I got when I paused 19 Kids and Counting at just the perfect moment yesterday. It may be immature, but made me laugh. Enjoy!


For more Quick Takes, back to Jen!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Five Favorites: Nuns and Other Stuff



1.


The hubs and I just picked up a couple of new bars of Nonnavita soap. The soap is made by some nuns who have plans to eventually build a monastery in San Antonio. These sisters used to live with Mother Angelica. Besides all that, the soap is wonderful. I have tried the lemongrass, blood orange and bergamot and the Rio Grande Valley (pink grapefruit). My favorite right at this moment is the RGV. You can order the soap here or wait to buy it in person if you live near San Antonio. Download A Good Habit podcast as well, while you're at it! 

2.
DIY Microwave Popcorn

I recently learned that you can make your own microwave popcorn using only a paper sack, popcorn kernels and a small amount of oil. It's a total lifehack. I don't often buy microwave popcorn, but this tastes better than that. The taste and texture of DIY microwave popcorn is better than stove-popped. I can't speak to an air popper because I don't have one of those...but this method is boss. All you do is coat about 1/4-1/2 cup of kernels with oil, dump them into the paper sack and fold the top down, place the bag upright in the microwave and cook for 2 or 3 minutes (monitoring the popping). I microwave a little butter separately and pour that over my corn. Delish.

3.


I seriously love this podcast. I feverishly wait for its arrival every week. In fact, there was no podcast last week and I am very anxious that there won't be this week. I'm getting the withdrawal shakes. It's that good. This is the only Catholic podcast that my husband will sometimes listen to because, "it just sounds like two dudes talking." Check out Father John and Deacon Nathan on One Million Stories. Then download the "Who Punched Arius" podcast in honor of the feast of St. Nicholas on December 6!


4.
Vision



I watched this movie on Netflix a couple of weeks ago and still can't stop thinking about it. It's been on my list for over a year, but I hadn't watched it because I judged it by its cover. I couldn't have been more wrong. The film is well made, has beautiful scenery, heavenly music and the story of St. Hildegard of Bingen is fascinating. She was a nun and mystic who lived in the 1100's in Germany. Added bonus: I was able to knit and watch this movie at the same time even though it's in German and I had to read subtitles. 

5.
Rosary Army Rosary


That's my first ever rosary which I received from Rosary Army for free in fall of 2011.When I requested a rosary on their website I couldn't decide what color to ask for. Awash in indecision, I selected the "surprise me" option. When it first came in I thought, "white...ugh.......ok." Since then I have come to love the white because it almost looks like a garland of white roses and I imagine giving each one to Mary as I pray. This rosary is my favorite this week because I just found it after months of it being MIA. It turns out it was in the pocket of some maternity jeans which I haven't worn in awhile. So glad to see it again!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Veiling and Advent Plans

I've written a few posts about my reasons for veiling. What it really all comes down to is that the veil is a physical reminder to myself of the gratitude, reverence and humility that I owe to God. I have been covering for a few weeks now and have noticed that the light pressure of the covering keeps me more focused on Mass (though I do my fair share of baby wrangling as well!).

I don't think anyone at church has noticed the covering, but I haven't worn a really obvious covering before. I've worn this pink scarf and a similar black one a couple of times like a wide headband. I wore a beret on one occasion. This Sunday I wore my scarf covering my bangs so the covering might have been more obvious. Still, I don't think anyone batted an eye. Whew!

One aspect of headcovering that I haven't thought about before was that it may help me be more charitable and sisterly toward other women. Really, I don't talk to too many people when I go to Mass. I go alone and I always leave at the earliest opportunity because Mass pushes the boundaries of Lillan's nap schedule and she gets pretty darn cranky by the time Mass is over. This Sunday I stopped to admire a baby who was going to be baptized and even asked what her name was. That seems like the tiniest thing, but it's really a struggle for me to reach out to others. I usually seek to mind my own business at all costs. Baby steps, people.

It seems an odd thing to say, but I felt as though the humility of wearing the veil helped me focus on the other rather than myself. I haven't thought a great deal about this aspect of veiling, but it's definitely something to think about. Veiling definitely doesn't make me feel "holier than thou". Just the opposite, actually!

Now I want to think more about how I will make my Advent more holy. Last year was my first Advent as a Catholic. I don't know what I did then, but I would like to make Advent more special and deliberate this year. My husband doesn't want to see any Advent decorations popping up, so I want to respect his wishes on that. My default is to study, study, study. I would like to do something more physical than intellectual. I hope the veil will help me there. I also intend to do a daily rosary and Divine Mercy chaplet during the hour of Divine Mercy (from 3-4 PM). I won God's Bucket List by Teresa Tomeo (lucky me!) from catholicmom.com and hope it comes in soon. Seems perfect for Advent reading!

Well. Food for thought.

Back to Catholic Librarian for more veiling tales :)


Sunday, December 1, 2013

Thank God for the Fleas

I have come to believe that the secret to joy in all circumstances is to abandon any sense of entitlement. Better to believe that you deserve nothing and then learn to be grateful for everything. Obviously it's easier for me to write that than to actually practice it, but I'm determined to spend this Advent cultivating more thankfulness in my life.

Last year I re-read Corrie Ten Boom's The Hiding Place. Although the subject matter was heavy and sad (duh, Holocaust!), it gave me so much hope just looking at the way that Corrie and her sister Betsie reacted to their circumstances with unwavering faith in God. It's been a year since the re-read, and still the most memorable part of the book is when the sisters and their friends made an effort to thank God in every circumstance, ending with "thank God for the fleas!" At the time the women in the concentration camp barracks were harassed unceasingly by the fleas, and so when Betsie thanked God for them Corrie couldn't believe there was any way to truly give thanks for the blood sucking creatures. Later it is revealed that the fleas were the only reason that the barracks had not been searched and the women were able to keep their contraband Bible! Thank God for the fleas!

Last night I had a nausea-inducing migraine. I couldn't do anything but lay on my side in the dark. I couldn't eat, couldn't drink much, and couldn't take any medicine. As I was laying there I thought of "thank God for the fleas" and said to myself, "thank God for this migraine!" After I said it I realized that there really was something to be thankful for. Because of the headache I saw my husband take charge with the baby and take care of me. He took the baby so I could take a hot bath. He put pajamas on her and changed her diaper. He kept her happy, playing with her until he laid her down in the crib. Then he got me some water and made me a bowl of ramen. When I couldn't eat it he said, "you go ahead and lay back down." It totally melted my heart. Too many times I take the role of the martyr, but last night he took good care of me.

Beyond little circumstances in life, I would love to be able to remember always that God does not owe me a thing. In fact I am truly the lucky one that he stooped down so low to concern himself with the salvation of human beings! He doesn't owe me good health. He doesn't owe me material wealth. He doesn't owe me a thing. Any good work that I do is a meager offering of thanks to Him, the source of all goodness and grace! Any good that comes to me from the hand of Divine Providence is a gift, not a right!

I sometimes feel like a side-door Catholic. I wasn't raised in a household of faith. I was cynical and negative. I exchanged my simple childhood Christianity for belief in the Goddess and the Horned God, nature, sex and magick. God used circumstances of my life to plant seeds which germinated and grew. I was chaff snatched from the fire. I was pulled in the side door, grateful to be let in from the cold! My heart is full of peace and joy when I remember the great thing that God did for me.

I am determined to be the leper that came back.


As he continued his journey to Jerusalem, he traveled through Samaria and Galilee.

As he was entering a village, ten lepers met (him). They stood at a distance from him

and raised their voice, saying, "Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!"

And when he saw them, he said, "Go show yourselves to the priests." As they were going they were cleansed.

And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice;

and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan.

Jesus said in reply, "Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine?

Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?"

Then he said to him, "Stand up and go; your faith has saved you." (Luke 17:11-19)

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Evangelization for the Timid

I've been thinking lately about my duty to evangelize. In the past I have always left evangelization to people who are gifted with words. Me, I get tongue tied. I get shaky. I allow fear of rejection to keep me from speaking my heart about the church. Even within my marriage, I find myself mute. My husband dislikes hearing about anything pertaining to religion.  My faith gives me such joy that I hope someday to share it with him, but I find myself censored a lot of the time. I know that the Lord is using the situation within my marriage and elsewhere in my life to teach me to find my contentment in Christ alone. Fortunately the Church has given me some sisters in heaven in whom I can draw courage and inspiration!

Saint Faustina was often pained because when she told people about her visions people became suspicious and snide towards her. She sometimes was afraid to follow the directions that Jesus gave to her because of this fear of being made a fool of. Eventually she was counseled thus by her spiritual director, "Sister, God is preparing many special graces for you, but try to make your life as clear as crystal before the Lord, paying no attention to what anyone else thinks about you. Let God suffice you; He alone."  (Notebook 1, 55). Later she was also told, "Sister, let simplicity and humility be the characteristic trait of your soul. Go through life like a little child, always trusting, always full of simplicity and humility, content with everything, happy in every circumstance. There, where others fear, you will pass calmly along, thanks to this simplicity and humility." (Notebook 1, 55). As I read this and underlined it a week ago I thought, "huh, that's true" and carried on.



Then I watched a movie about St. Hildegard of Bingen. St. Hildegard was a mystic in the Church who had visions and locutions from Jesus and who eventually ordered her to build a monastery for the sisters apart from the men's order, despite the conventions at the time and against the will of the Abbot of her order. As I watched and saw St. Hildegard being reviled by religious authorities and called a heretic, I literally said out loud, "thank God I'm not a mystic!" I have to chuckle now not only because this is the opposite reaction we as Christians are supposed to have toward great spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:31), but because in essence we are all called to be missionaries in the church and will all be persecuted in one way or another for being followers of Christ! A fear of being made a fool of has to be relinquished. We must learn to find contentment in Christ alone to be truly evangelistic. 

It seems a tall order for me, as I've always been a bit of a people-pleaser. I find myself constantly seeking approval from other people, especially my husband! Now that my husband definitely does NOT approve of my faith and in the past has made it difficult for me to be a Catholic (snide remarks, etc.) I have really begun to challenge myself to find contentment in Christ regardless of Oliver's disapproval of me. This has stretched me to realize that I have been hiding my light under the bushel basket, so to speak, to others as well. I have been guilty of not speaking because I don't have all the answers, unintentionally thinking that my words rather than the Holy Spirit will be responsible for reaching that particular person. I have shut my mouth in the belief that God could not use me as an imperfect vessel. What a limiting mind-set. 

My job as a Christian is to plant the seeds, not have all the answers! Pope Francis says it well in Evangelii Gaudium: 

"God's word is unpredictable in its power. The Gospel speaks of a seed which, once sown, grows by itself, even as the farmer sleeps (Mk 4:26-29). The Church has to accept this unruly freedom of the word, which accomplishes what it wills in ways that surpass our calculations and ways of thinking." 

This realization has already encouraged me to engage in a little apologetics this past weekend. Can't say I won an argument or anything, but I stepped out in a way that I haven't before. It also has me questioning my decision to approach Advent veiling in a completely inconspicuous way. Am I doing so only to avoid the questioning gazes of other people? Perhaps I should rethink that one and actually wear an obvious veil. To be honest, I'm questioning my motivation in almost everything. SO MANY of my "in what I have done and what I have failed to do" decisions come from my insecurity with its drive to gain approval of others regardless of my duty toward God.

"Eternal Father, I offer you the body and blood, soul and divinity of your dearly beloved Son, our lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world."

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Sin of Invisibility

Every time I pray the Sorrowful mysteries of the rosary I am particularly inspired by the carrying of the cross. I think of Simon of Cyrene who was forced by soldiers to help Jesus along his way to crucifixion. Simon shows me the compassion that I lack, my sin of always shrinking back when I should be coming forward.

My parents raised us to believe that privacy and independence are the highest ideals to aim for, and even now that I know this is not true I have the tendency to live as though I still believe that it is. I find a way to become invisible everywhere I go in the interest of minding my own business. This is clearly not the ideal in the Christian life. We have to carry our own crosses as well as those of our neighbor. It's about communion and community. We're meant to mind each other's business!

When I live the ideal of independence I refuse to carry my neighbor's cross. I also refuse to allow them to carry mine. I live in a little bubble and keep up appearances. As a Christian I should be wearing my bleeding heart on my sleeve. I should be open and plain about my hardships. I should feel compassion and not be afraid to reach out and rejoice or weep with others. I should offer up sacrifices for others. I should speak clearly and loudly words of encouragement, building others up and thinking not of myself.

At the same time, I have to live as though I believe that others care about me. It's difficult for me to express my opinion, reach out to others, or even express my esteem and admiration for people because I don't always believe that others care to hear from me. It's a script that runs through my head if I let it: no one cares. No reason to call my friends on the phone. No reason to comment on blogs or express a kind word online. No reason to invite someone to visit me, or show up to visit someone else. My initial belief is that to do any of those things would be an imposition on that person because I am intruding on that person's privacy and independence. My parents would complain if someone called them just to talk, or came over just to visit. So I just internalized the belief that I shouldn't do those things. As a Christian I have come to learn that it's not weak or disordered for my heart to crave fellowship with other people! It seems like an obvious  part of human life, but I had to learn it. God is always after me with His hammer and chisel!

The humility of Jesus comes out in the carrying of the cross. I am reminded that Christ, the eternal Word, allowed a human being a share in his burden. As God he could have come down from the cross to save himself. He could have carried the cross alone. He didn't. He allowed himself to be crucified by his creatures out of love for them, and perhaps he allowed Simon to share in his suffering also out of love. When we allow others to share our burdens we also give them the opportunity to step out of themselves and grow in holiness.

I am so grateful to be Catholic. We have such an awesome examples of community in the Church. Not only to we have recourse to God himself, but we can also associate with our brothers and sisters in heaven, the saints. With our mother, Mary. With other members of the Body of Christ. We all have our part to play. Humility for me at this time consists in actually living as though I am loved and that there is a particular place for me in the Body along with all of the other members.

I've been making an effort lately to live visibly. That means making more eye contact with people, offering encouragement, building up my husband, viewing others with an eye to how I can bless them instead of the other way around. Making more of an effort to pray for others. Participating more in the online Catholic community. I'm starting to feel like one aspect of this journey to be visible is to participate in the Veil Project without the element of deliberate inconspicuousness. I'm feeling called to wear an obvious veil.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Expectations



It just hit me this morning as I made a rookie parenting mistake that I could be a lot happier in life if I started expecting myself to make mistakes. This is so obvious to other people. The beautiful thing about the Christian life is that the Lord takes each person with all their imperfections and creates lessons tailored for that individual. That's what He's doing for me. I have always been stuck in this mire of people-pleasing. I have been so guilty of trying to look perfect so that people would think that I was smart and successful. I have been guilty of making mistakes and then trying to hide the mistake. I have been guilty of thinking that people would not love me if I wasn't perfect and then striving to present that image at all costs. What time I have wasted!

I mentioned before that I thought that God was calling me into the teaching profession. People have asked me over and over for years, "are you going to be a teacher?" I've always responded with a horrified, resounding NO WAY, JOSE. I took steps into that process this September and have surprisingly enjoyed learning about the job. It is so interesting to me the way the human mind works and the way in which a teacher can do particular things to help the kids learn more easily. I love that teachers have a creative job which constantly changes. It doesn't seem like it could ever be boring. I've been doing the work of becoming a teacher with the massive burden of fear on my shoulders of, "can I do this? Will I make a mistake? Will I be a failure? Can I even find a job?"

The revelation I received unbidden as I was driving instantly provided me with a beautiful peace. Of COURSE I will make mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. I just made the mistake doing something that I've been doing every day for 9 months. I would still call myself a good mother despite the mistakes I've made along the way. The mistake doesn't define me. The danger is making mistakes and not learning from them. Here are the top mistakes that I have given too much power to in the last 5 years:

1. Leaving the Appalachian Trail after only 204.5 miles. I felt like a failure for that for so long, but really I made it 204.5 miles! I trusted people like I've never trusted people before, and my departure meant that I chose my husband above the selfish desire to prove to myself that I could do it!

2. I went on 4-5 librarian job interviews and did not get hired. For a long time this made me feel like an unworthy, incapable person. I finally had to admit that the reason I kept failing was because I really had no desire to get the job. I still read librarian job descriptions and find myself saying, "ew". Maybe this was a huge indicator that the library route is not for me, or possibly that school librarian is in my future.

I am making a commitment to myself at this moment to no longer allow these mistakes to define me as a "failure". Fear of making mistakes has frequently kept me from trying new things. I hope to model myself after St. Peter in the future: acting without fear of looking foolish or making a mistake, being humble enough to admit when I do make a mistake and keeping my eyes fixed on Christ to keep me afloat during the difficult moments.

Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them - every day begin the task anew. - St. Francis de Sales




Saturday, November 23, 2013

Gratitude

"Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Isn't it strange how even in the most trying times there are things to be thankful for? Even in the very circumstances that we so fervently pray would change. Lately I am so thankful for the gift of a tough marriage. If everything had been smooth sailing all the way through, I might never have become aware of the God-shaped hole in me and become a Christian. Given, I have prayed many times since then that things would get better. They have gotten better in every instance in which I sought to change MYSELF and not my husband. I still do find myself besought by loneliness because I long for someone in the household to share all of these beautiful Catholic things with...and in those times I have to find my consolation in Jesus.

I know that God is working in my marriage, but I must learn to abandon myself to His will. Maybe he is using this circumstance for our greater good. He already has. My job is just to trust, pray and rejoice! 



At least one funny circumstance that I take comfort in is that O and I were married in a Catholic church by a Protestant minister while we were both anti-religious! It's so funny how things work out. I now go to the same church as a Catholic. Jesus was right behind us in the tabernacle witnessing our wedding and we didn't even know it! God is so good!




Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Five Favorites


My last couple of posts have been a little dour, so here's some of my favorites to lighten it up!

1. 
Royals



I almost never listen to pop radio so I am not too familiar with the original song, but I love this re-make. The sad clown is perfect and I can actually identify with the message.

2.
The 'One Thing' Is Three


I've been slowly making my way through The 'One Thing' is Three by Father Michael Gaitley and let me just say--it's fantastic! The thing I love about Fr Gaitley's writing is that he explains these heavy mysteries in a way that a distracted person with a short attention span can understand. At first I was a little put off by the conversational style of the book, but it turned out to be very beneficial because Fr. Gaitley says, "Remember....?" just when I need to be refocused.

3.
Sourdough Starter

I recently pulled my sourdough starter out of the fridge after months and months of disuse and discovered that it was pretty much dead. Womp, womp, wooooooomp. When I started that one I used regular bread yeast. I've now convinced myself that using regular bread yeast isn't hard core enough, and yet the old fashioned way of setting the dough on the counter and just waiting for any old wild yeast to come make its home in it doesn't appeal to me either. I've read that often a sourdough starter will not attract a good-tasting yeast and you have to start over again. LUCKILY a man named Carl Griffith kept a handed-down sourdough starter from 1847 when his family traveled the Oregon Trail. Even more luckily, you can send a self-addressed stamped envelope to Carl's friends and they will send you some of that starter. As a kid who played the Oregon Trail tirelessly on the computer, this is a dream come true. I haven't requested my starter yet, but it's definitely on my to-do list! 

4. 
Flip Diaper Covers


I use Flip diaper covers with pre-folds almost exclusively with my Lillian and have always been super happy with how they performed. I can't say that I've compared them with anything other than Thirsties covers, and I liked those as well. The only reason my Flips get my highest recommendation is that my Lilly has grown out of the Thirsties and I've found that for my money that Flips have been a better investment. I use disposables at night and sometimes when traveling and have found them to be almost useless in the face of runny breastmilk poo under pressure. That was gross, but yeah. My prefolds and covers work wonders with that, especially when I do a jelly roll fold!

5. 
Mexican Coke


I love to get my hands on a Mexican coke because these are made with real sugar rather than high fructose corn syrup. They also come in a glass bottle which has a cap that you need to use a bottle opener to remove. It feels like a real luxury every time I drink one. Especially with salty popcorn. I also like to use the empty bottle for a vase! 

Thanks for reading!


Back to Moxie Wife for more favorites!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Pre-Advent Veiling

Well, not exactly a veil. A covering. A slouch tam, to be exact. The benefit of the tam is that it's soft, comfortable and the baby can't rip it off my head. That's what I wore to Mass yesterday.

I thought of another reason why I feel called to cover, a nuance of the humility reason. Today I feel a little discouraged. My heart yearns to have a spouse who I can share every aspect of my life with, especially faith. Who loves and accepts me as I am now: a Catholic woman. My husband loves me in spite of my conversion. But he would never choose me this way.

I keep coming up against that same longing again and again. Maybe my need to feel accepted by him has become an idol in my life. Covering my head in humility at Mass reminds me that ultimately my life is not my own, I was bought at a price. Despite the struggle it entails, I have to surrender my plans and go with His. Ultimately it's an acknowledgment that He is the Lord of my life. My husband might never come to faith or accept my faith. I have to do my duties without resentment in abandonment to His will, trusting that Jesus will give me the grace to be patient, kind and forgiving. I also need to honor and respect my husband now and love him for who he is, recognizing his limitations and also recognizing every positive thing about him without letting this one deficiency cause me to lose hope.

I surrender.

The veil has come to symbolize my efforts to give up my controlling ways. To this end, I do sometimes cover when I'm at home when I need an extra reminder of that resolution. I love how Quaker Jane sums up her reasons to cover as I found the exact same thing was true with me. As I give up control and allow my husband to lead, he feels respected and more powerful and secure in the relationship. If I let him have a voice in my faith, then he feels less threatened by it. As I witness Oliver judiciously making good decisions for our family I begin to have more trust, respect and esteem for him. We all benefit from my surrender.

This puts me in mind of the obedience required by nuns to their Mother Superior. I have sometimes thought of my home as my cloister. It makes sense that I learn to submit to my husband in light of St. Paul's exhortation to wives in Ephesians 5:22-24. I have come to realize that it's my responsibility to do as God asks me. I have to faithfully submit to my husband regardless of whether my husband holds up his end of the bargain. I have to leave his faith between him and God, even though sometimes it pains me to keep my mouth shut.

In being obedient to my vocation I am surrendering myself to God's will as laid out in Scripture. Part of that surrender has been relinquishing my vision of what my life as a Catholic woman would look like. I have treasured in my heart the idea of welcoming children as they come, staying at home to raise them and possibly even homeschooling. I am now starting to let go of those preconceived notions. My husband wants me to work outside the home so that we can get debt free. He wants only 2 or 3 children. Ultimately I can express my desires to him, but I have to be open to the possibility that he will say "no". I have to accept that answer as though it comes from God himself, and trust that if God has other plans then He will work on my husband's heart.

In these difficult moments I must choose to be joyful and look to Mary and admire her courage and quiet strength despite the sword that pierces her heart. And just look at that humble veil, too.


Friday, November 15, 2013

7 Quick Takes: Love and Hate in this Yard of Mine

--- 1 ---
Lately I have felt resolved to work with nature in my yard instead of against it. I am trying to get rid of plants that require too much water and attention. They always look terrible because I have the tendency to kill plants, so only the tenacious ones survive. The ones we have in the front yard that have done well are xeriscaped Texas natives. I prayed the rosary outside today after I finally (!) located one of my lost rosaries. I adore the ecosystem of my yard. I live on a half acre in the country in South Texas. As I prayed in the cool air (finally, again!) I could hear the clicking of grasshopper wings, see tons of furry caterpillars inching around, watched a lizard walk the tight-rope that is the top of my wire fence. There were birds chirping. Notes of a wind-chime clamoring in another part of the yard. Even the glorious lushness of the unwanted weeds were beautiful to me today. Fall is the best!
--- 2 ---
I have an idea about how I want my yard to look. When I lived in Castroville, Texas many people had yards in a particular European style that seemed characteristic to that city more than any other. The city was colonized by Alsatian immigrants and still actively maintains that Alsatian charm. Many people live in the old historic homes of the settlers and the whole set-up is just charming! Picture flower vines, butterflies, brambles, sprawling nature. Tendrils. Spineless cactus. Mexican sage. Coral vine. Herb gardens. Lantana. Mountain laurel. Confederate jasmine. Pecan trees. Oak. Here is a picture I took a couple of years ago...it really doesn't do justice to what I'm talking about because it was taken in February. I still live about 15 miles from C-ville, so I drive around for inspiration whenever I am in the area!
--- 3 ---
A few weeks ago I checked out a book from the library:
This book is so fascinating! I've never been all that interested in entomology but it's so neat to learn about all of the local insects that I've always found so common that they were boring. Having lived within a limited geographical area all my life, it's refreshing to have an interest in what I have instead of indulging my wanderlust that cannot be satisfied. The best part of the book is that it tells you what different bugs eat, how they are beneficial to our native environment. It has kept me from killing certain insects, that's for sure. The author even has an affinity for insects that people would normally consider troublesome because they eat the even-peskier pests. That really speaks to the spirit in me that wants to appreciate the interconnectedness of all of God's creatures. Did you know wasps eat the web worms that love to make a mess of pecan trees? Did you know mud daubers love black widow spiders? Scorpions eat cockroaches? If you can't keep them out of your kitchen, at least there's that!
--- 4 ---
My hubby and I have been watching this show on Netflix called Call of the Wildman. I was hesitant to watch it because at first glance it looks like more junk Southern reality TV, but I have found it *highly* entertaining. Ernie Brown, Jr. rescues animals that are infringing on human habitation and relocates them to other locations. He catches them with his bare hands. Raccoons. Skunks. Possums. Snakes. His specialty is catching giant snapping turtles. Right out of the water. As if that weren't enough, everyone on the show seems so genuine, kind, and not in it for the money.
--- 5 ---
Unfortunately we have had critter trouble at our house lately, and we were not able to use kind Turtle Man's methods. We had chickens taken from our coop one night and eventually the predator came back for more. I truly wish we could have trapped and relocated this coyote but ultimately we resorted to frontier justice. I feel regrets about the whole entire matter. I also miss my favorite hen, Ginger and her companion Red Sonya. The yard has felt somewhat lonely without the bold and friendly hens around. We haven't had eggs in a couple of weeks, either. The other ladies seemed deeply disturbed by their nighttime visitor but are doing well now.
--- 6 ---
We have pecans this year! I am excited about the prospect of homemade pecan pie created with my very own pecans. The down side is that we have native pecan trees in our yard which produce very small pecans that are a little tough to crack. The upside is that they taste slightly different from their commercialized cousins and possess a slightly maple-like flavor. Delicious! The crucial thing I learned about pecan pie last year was this: check your brown sugar! I cannot emphasize that enough. I follow a recipe that uses real sugar rather than corn syrup. I found out last year that the life of your pie depends on you using LIGHT brown sugar rather than dark. This is directly opposite of my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe whose chewiness relies on your using DARK brown sugar. After a cookie debacle I demonized light brown sugar in my head. It was prejudice. And it was wrong.
--- 7 ---
I have recently cultivated an intense hatred of bermuda grass. I know I am not alone. The stuff barely grows in my yard but won't stay out of my flower beds. And no, I do NOT give my flowerbeds any special treatment. No extra water. No fertilizer. Nothing. Its only motive is to antagonize me. I have also decided recently that I'm going to stop weeding it from my flower beds. I will just fill these beds with tenacious Texas plants that can withstand a good weed-eating. Something with a woody trunk. That'll show 'em. Such is life in my little cloister. For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!