Saturday, August 25, 2007
Have a wonderful week, everyone. See you next Monday, September 3rd.
I hadn't noticed the lady in the SUV situated perpendicular to us, also in first position to claim the space, just from a different angle. But when I saw her children in the back seat I couldn't regret that she got the spot and we didn't. We moved on, and Gianna was perplexed.
"Why did Saint Anthony give that lady a spot and not us, Mother? Did we do something wrong?" she prodded. Her questions reminded me so much of the way in which we all approach God at times, and I felt she deserved an answer. I gently explained that sometimes it is best to be last, and that very often, if not always, what is most beneficial to us is not something that gratifies us immediately. The thoughts were tough for a four year old mind to comprehend, and it seemed I was going around in circles providing examples to convince her.
We finally did find a parking spot, it appeared the very last one, way in the back. We finished our business and left for home. On the drive back to the house I felt I had failed miserably in explaining an important truth to a daughter who depends on me to do so. At this point Gianna still thought St. Anthony chose another person's good over her mother's.
Though I relayed to my husband that very night what had happened, after that day I'd entirely forgotten about the incident. That is.....until yesterday afternoon.
We did something we haven't done in a long, long while. My husband had pulled out some old analog video footage of Gianna's early infant months, and the girls had a blast enjoying her funny baby laugh, her chubby cheeks and her cute baby sounds. I enjoyed the footage too, but more from a mother's perspective - missing those early days with my first baby, wishing I could hear that crazy laugh again and squeeze those plump cheeks once more. I lamented how quickly my girls have grown, and observed the strikingly present absence of a baby in the house. But I digress.
So we're watching these old videos, when Gianna heard me reminisce about how I'd spent years in prayer for a baby, how I'd cried myself to sleep at times while waiting for one, but when she finally came she made me the happiest mother in the world, and had I been given another child I would have missed out on the very best little girl for me. I explained that God loved me so much that He ensured I wait long enough for her to come along.
Turning her face toward mine with wide eyes as though a light turned on inside her four year old mind, "You mean, like the spot in the parking lot, Mama?" It took me a few seconds to catch up with her, but I soon realized exactly what she was referring to. "Yes, yes", I said, and I asked her to explain what she meant by the reference. "Sometimes", she answered, "it's good if we don't get what we want right away 'cause God has something better for us." Astonished and speechless, I nodded and gave her a huuuge hug. When I finally extracted the lump from my throat I remarked plainly, "That's exactly right, Gianna."
This morning as the girls and I implored our favorite saint-for-the-job to find us a parking spot, I heard from the back seat, "Don't worry, Mama. It's good for us if St. Anthony gives a spot to someone else."
Yes, indeed, it is.
Friday, August 24, 2007
So much for short-cuts. Those little ones never cease to amaze me, really.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
If you are preparing a dinner which requires finely chopped Serrano chile peppers as a significant ingredient, please, do not dice the peppers with your bare hands! The sensitive skin under your fingernails will burn for HOURS afterward. In addition, after you've washed and soaked your hands several times in soap and water, hoping to relieve the sting, do not disregard your agony and proceed to rub your eyes with those fingertips!!
Monday, August 20, 2007
Next to the Children's Garden is the Botanical Conservatory - very exciting for school-aged youngsters with its fascinating exhibits, experiments and learning stations. My girls love the Venus flytraps featured there.
I recently visited the gardens with the girls while in the Pasadena area, and included photographs below. The Children's Garden and Conservatory are but a small part of the overall Huntington, which includes a Rose Garden, a Shakespearean Garden, a Tea Room and much, much more. Patrick and I have visited the spot frequently since before we married, and never tire of the experience.
[I'll do future installments on the various gardens at The Huntington to give a fuller perspective in the next few weeks.]
Sunday, August 19, 2007
Saturday, August 18, 2007
Friday, August 17, 2007
Thanks, Grandma, for watching the girls!
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Well, I can say for my own part, being at the bottom rung on the Ladder of Divine Ascent, I much prefer polyphony to chant, and for the very reasons mentioned above. I am incredibly moved by the four voices combining so intensely to glorify God in a way that stirs up every good emotion in me. Polyphonic music, and especially Renaissance polyphony from composers like Palestrina, Byrd, Victoria, etc. grip me in such a way that I can think of nothing but desiring Heaven, where I imagine myself in the company of the saints and angels at the feet of Mary and Jesus. (Until Madeleine tosses and turns enough to pull me out of my dreamery!)
So, it came as no surprise that we would attend mass for The Feast of The Assumption at the San Juan Capistrano Mission Basilica, where a special liturgy would be celebrated for the feast with the De Angelis Ensemble singing Palestrina's glorious Missa Assumpta est Maria, rather than our usual Abbey mass. I am so glad we went. It was......heavenly!
Here is a small excerpt from the Credo. There is no choir loft in the back of this church, so the vocal ensemble was placed in front. Forgive the shaking camera, I held the camera with one arm and a child with the other!
*Then again, we do get our bodies back when we reach heaven. Perhaps there's an argument for polyphony in the afterlife! :)
[A final note: in case you think I am completely off my rocker with these crazy thoughts and love of such music - I was first introduced to polyphony in high school, where I sang soprano in the choir. Years later, three friends and I - who all loved beautiful music - started a small schola. With the four of us, two guys and two girls, we had a soprano, an alto (me), a bass and a tenor. It was a lot of fun.]
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
*taken from Catholic Culture
Monday, August 13, 2007
The balloon is part of the renovation of an old Marine Corps air station, now being transformed into a huge metropolitan park in Orange County. From what I understand, the completed park will include a botanical garden, a lush canyon with streams, dramatic bridges and native plants, and a wildlife area among other attractions. We're looking forward to seeing the development of each phase and visiting often when the park is completed.
Sunday, August 12, 2007
In essence, he asked how often is it that we are distracted at mass, whether by our neighbor in the pew ahead and what she is (or isn't) wearing, by our children, by the memory of earlier morning events or by anticipation of fun to be had later in the day. And how is it possible we can be so close to Jesus Whose graces we came to mass for, and judge the modesty of our neighbor or the parenting of the couple next to us with rambunctious children, while the Precious Blood is poured right in front of us which was shed to remedy each and every one of us.
Much, much to think about. This morning, though I was not distracted or annoyed by a fellow parishioner, I certainly gave my mind over to eagerness for the recessional hymn so I could strap my girls in the car (where they couldn't cause trouble), and head for our Sunday trip to the donut shop. But today, I was mercifully reminded of why I was there and what Grace was offered me - for my own sanctification and that of my children, who will have no temper tantrums in Heaven. All I had to do was choose it.
Saturday, August 11, 2007
What do you recommend that has worked for you in the past and captivated your children?
Thursday, August 9, 2007
|You Belong in Spring|
Optimistic, lively, and almost always happy with the world...
You can truly appreciate the blooming nature of spring.
Whether you're planting flowers or dyeing Easter eggs, spring is definitely your season!
Aahh yes, Spring. I love the smell of fresh young flowers and grass, the joy of new life all around, Nature's resurrection after Winter's death, the mild weather, and the glory of Easter. Summer can be hot and overbearing, Winter cold and lonely (though I enjoy it for about two weeks), and Autumn picturesque, but too brief and too much a sign of impending death and barrenness. I am convinced, Heaven must be an Eternal Spring! :)
(Don't get me wrong, I love the beauty of all the seasons and their striking correspondence with the liturgical year. But I do have a favorite of the four! :)
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
One early spring years before, on the very day we finalized Gianna's adoption and brought her home for the first time, I quit working. It really was not a significant event on the one hand, as I had ached for what seemed an eternity to be a mother at home with her children. On the other hand it was a huge step, as I had been supporting us entirely on my income while my husband finished his graduate studies. So, the day we brought our Gianna home was also the day we ceased to have an employed adult in the household. Some may have thought we were imprudent, and perhaps they were right from a monetary perspective. All I knew was we had a beautiful new baby to love, a miracle beyond any good I had ever comprehended, pure sweetness personified. An income seemed insignificant.
I remember having a discussion with my husband in our apartment living room about money one evening, contemplating how on earth we would support ourselves with a new baby after having just quit work and exhausted our savings account on the adoption. I recall him distinctly using the phrases, "Money doesn't grow on trees." and "Money isn't going to appear out of nowhere." I knew he was right. I understood that we had a family to provide for. But I also believed we would be provided for, without either of us needing a salary. God blessed us with this beautiful baby - surely He would fill our empty baskets. That very night, less than an hour after our talk, we opened our front door for an evening walk and found....
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~....a five dollar bill....
...on our doorstep. I grasped the Lincoln in my hand, raised it up exclaiming, "Look! Money does grow on trees! It blows right to our front door!"
The next day we learned that the money had been dropped off by a good friend of ours who had gone in on a bottle of wine for a party we'd hosted the previous weekend. Not wanting to disturb us in the evening, he left his contribution on our front doorstep. Little did he know his seemingly insignificant "drop-off" would settle anxieties and fortify our trust in Divine Providence for the next many months to come.
Not so long after, we found ourselves overcome with intense wonder and excitement, celebrating the end of graduate school, anticipating the daunting California bar exam and relocating our new family of three from the Great Lakes region back to the West Coast. The adventure would have been approached with unreserved enthusiasm if we could have ignored the reality of beginning a new life in a new place without the promise of work to support us or a roof over our heads. I recall feeling like an old pioneer family, making our way through treacherous mountains and arduous valleys with nothing but the clothes on our backs and a covered wagon to sleep under.
Our pioneer adventure would soon become less unnerving one Sunday morning when we shared brunch with our good friends - fellow classmates of my husband. We learned they had grandparents in southern California whose home boasted a small attic above the main living space, with its own separate entrance and room for us to stay until we found suitable employment. Unsure how this would play out but with no other options, we gratefully accepted their generous offer and began packing our belongings for the Pacific. My husband was reasonably concerned about our prospects. I was unhesitatingly excited.
The attic was quite petite and she wore a rather unpleasant perfume. We couldn't tell where her odour was coming from - perhaps it emanated from her bright green and heavily stained carpet, or it might have wafted in our direction from the local sewage plant nearby. She was about eight yards long and four yards wide, and she was short enough that we could only stand up straight in her center. The master mattress laid in a little crawl space in the corner, and the bathroom had no door (she did have a small shower, though). Perhaps her biggest deficit was her lack of a kitchen, but we had a tiny refrigerator to keep food cold and a microwave to heat it up. She possessed a strange sense of humor - being situated less than a mile from Los Angeles International Airport (yes, LAX) the sound of airplanes became our most cherished music, day and night. But I must say above all this, she was rather bright and sunny for an attic, with not one but three large skylights on her ceiling letting tons of light inside, and the lovely Pacific Ocean could be seen from her balcony as its waters were, like the airport, less than a mile away.
Our tight surroundings grew on us much quicker than I had anticipated. We got used to the funny smell (after having attacked it with every possible cleaner/deodorizer on the market), the roaring of airplane engines and not being able to stand up straight in our new "home". Our friends and family reached by telephone quickly grew accustomed to being placed on hold when a plane would fly overhead. We ate an offensive quantity of take-out food and microwaveable meals. I tried desperately to cook a nice dinner every once in a while with our electric skillet, but the work and the mess involved made such undertakings completely unappealing. With no kitchen sink, all our dishes, glasses and silverware had to be washed in the tiny bathroom sink. Lastly, Gianna's early bedtime routine gave us about three evening hours to kill in perfect silence so as not to wake her up. We would often go downstairs to the garage where the owners had a TV, to watch movies or television or just talk.
Our time in the attic lasted almost six months. At times we felt cramped and awkward, but for the most part we were content and grateful of our generous hosts. We learned to appreciate space and privacy, a kitchen and a home-cooked meal, things we had taken for granted in the past. We learned that accepting charity is very humbling, but in doing so one exalts the love of God through his neighbor. We learned that we can do without and still enjoy many, many blessings. We learned that God sometimes gives us what we need, and not more or less than we need, to live a good life and see His presence in every detail.
In many ways it is good to have less. No one ever wants to have so little that they go hungry, or cannot provide for basic needs. Too little for a family can cause great strain. But with less abundance it can be much easier to remember what is important in life and to focus on eternal realities. I will always remember "the attic" with good thoughts and happy memories of my new baby's first "home" on the West Coast. It was a perfect starter home, both for body and spirit, for our new life out here.
*[I hope it is clear that I am not in any way likening this experience to our truly poor and hungry brethren of the world. My chat with Gianna simply led me back to our beginning as a family of three, and it is a portion of our life I would like to remember.]
Monday, August 6, 2007
Friday, August 3, 2007
Now I not only warm up my favorite mug every morning (three times so far, today), I thoroughly enjoy it. And I understand that in all those years watching my parents sip on stale beverages, I was observing the sweet tasting of a mother and father's love for their children. Our needs always came before their good coffee! :)