Friday, July 31, 2009

7 Quick Takes Friday: Volume 5


Why is it that our eating habits tend to get better or worse according to our stress levels? Well, at least mine do. The whole eating thing intrigues me, especially since I'm seeing it more and more as part of my spiritual journey, not just part of what I will loosely refer to as my health "plan"? I found that when I went on silent retreat and was spending hours in contemplation and solitude, I didn't really want to overeat, even when there were delicious treats in front of me. I sipped corn chowder in silence or slowly ate an apple as I listened to a babbling brook. No need for cookies or that extra cup of coffee or a handful of almonds. But put me back into what I consider my high-stress world where freelance writing and three children and housework and volunteer responsibilities all collide to leave me blinking back tears, and suddenly I'm ravenous. I need sweet. I need salty. I need pasta, and lots of it. And even as I mindlessly scarf down whatever catches my eye in the pantry, I am aware of the fact that I should stop, or at least slow down and enjoy the food I'm eating. Anyway, this week I'm feeling less stressed (not sure why since the work is still there) and more mindful (maybe it's the return to yoga) and so I'm finding it easier to slow down my eating and, when I do eat, make better choices. (See that healthy dinner above: baked lemon pepper wild-caught sockeye salmon, stuck-in-pot lentils and rice with pita crust, and fresh steamed string beans.) I'd like to reach a point where I don't want two helpings or two cups of coffee or two cookies, a place where I can enjoy what I need and stop there, a place where food is not filling my spiritual void.


We had Luau Birthday Party: The Sequel last weekend. Chiara had her first official birthday party (Note: I don't count her second birthday, when the guest list was made up of two priests and one seminarian. Quite a bash for a toddler. Yes, we're just weird.) At this year's party we did the limbo, we passed a coconut around like hot potato, we decorated beach buckets, and ate fruit kabobs and a beach cake, and sipped juice out of coconut cups. It was fun, but I sure am glad the parties are over for a while.


If you are a regular reader of Not Strictly Spiritual, you know that I am on a constant quest to pray the Liturgy of the Hours with some sort of regularity (like when I posted about it HERE and HERE). Even keeping up with Morning Prayer alone seems to be too much for me most days. And some of you have emailed me asking for guidance on how to get started with LOTH. Melanie over at The Wine Dark Sea has a great post on this, sort of a LOTH primer with lots of information and resources. Check it out by clicking HERE. And thanks to Amy at Via Media for bringing it to my attention.

Two days ago in this space I talked about the difficulty I have living in the present moment. Along those same lines, I am always trying to figure out how to blend a Franciscan mindset with my "normal" life, which is not at all Franciscan. I have a tendency to obsess with worry over the future, all while living in the relative luxury of a warm (or cool) home with lots of good food, a healthy family and steady work. How do you learn to trust enough to just let go of the worry and really, truly put it all in God's hands? HERE is a beautiful story about a group of Franciscan Friars who did just that. They took almost nothing with them and set out on a pilgrimage in an attempt to really live the ideals St. Francis preached and lived.

From the end of the story:
"Their message will be simple: 'Anything can happen when you live in the moment, one step at a time," said Mark Soehner, 51, one of the mentors to the young friars. 'But to find that out, you have to be willing to take that one step.'"
It's really worth your time to read the whole thing. So, if you didn't listen the first time around, click HERE to read it. And thanks to Maria Ruiz Scaperlanda for the heads up on this one.


When I went to 5:45 a.m. yoga class today, my teacher reminded us, as she always does at the outset, to think about whether we had any "intention" for our practice. Today the first thing that came to mind was "peace." I wanted my energy to go toward peace -- in my heart, in my family, in my home. As I was breathing in and out and finding that calm, quiet place, I felt confident that today would be a peace-filled day. Well, that lasted about 30 minutes after arriving home. Maybe less. Why is it so hard to let all those minor annoyances roll off us? I would say that I'll have more peace when school starts in six weeks (SIX MORE WEEKS), but, really, I think I'm supposed to learn how to find peace even in the midst of this circus life of ours. I am a long way from that moment, but I haven't given up.


I got to see a childhood friend last weekend. It was a highlight of my summer. Kari and I met when we were both in fifth grade and volunteering as "kindergarten aides" in our elementary school. We stayed friends through high school and have kept in touch semi-regularly, more so since we joined Facebook. It was great to spend time with her and her family. It's amazing how a friendship like that can just pick up where we left off. It's a gift. And I don't plan on letting that many years go by again before our next visit.


We actually have nothing planned for this weekend. Nothing. Not. A. Thing. No parties, no picnics, not even much cleaning. We may take on the smallish painting project from our summer "to do" list, or we may just revel in doing nothing at all.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

It's never tomorrow

I have always had a hard time making good on the knowledge that to be truly happy I need to learn to enjoy the moment I'm in rather than always looking forward to some other moment in time when I might be happy. It's that whole idea of finding peace and joy even in the menial things -- washing the dishes, sweeping the floor, finishing a work project, driving the kids to soccer camp. Even those seemingly mundane moments can be fulfilling if we approach them with the right attitude, a here-and-now attitude. But, boy, that's a hard attitude to live with on a regular basis. It's easy to cultivate it on retreat or on vacation or maybe even on a slow weekend. But day after day, chore after chore, it can be difficult to stay right here, right now. Our minds want to race ahead. Once I finish the dishes, I can relax. After I clean the bathrooms, I'll go for a walk. If I can just finish this story, I'll feel less stressed. But what happens? We finish the dishes, clean the bathroom, write the story, and suddenly we are in a new present moment worrying about the next thing.

One morning not long ago, 4-year-old Chiara woke up and asked, "Is it tomorrow?" The night before she had been trying to understand the concept of yesterday, today, tomorrow. I said, "No, now it's today." She looked confused. "It's never tomorrow," I said, finding myself just as intrigued by that notion as she was.

It's never tomorrow. It's always right now. Which is a really beautiful reality, if we can learn to embrace it.

I was working on something for the Benedictine Sisters yesterday and was reflecting on the Rule of St. Benedict and the fact that the great saint did not say, Pray, pray pray. He said, work and pray. Ore et labore. In other words, our lives must be a balance and we must become aware of God's presence not only when we are kneeling in a chapel or sitting in silence but when we are scrubbing a floor or making lunch for our kids.

Balance. Our lives will always involve chores and responsibilities, moments of busyness as well as moments of rest. If we can enter into each moment with an awareness of God's presence, every action -- even eating a sandwich or washing a window or mowing the lawn -- becomes a prayer.

It's never tomorrow. It's always right now.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The slippery slope of assisted suicide

My latest OSV Daily Take post:

I held my mother's hand as she took her last breath in our family room in 1988 after a courageous and difficult nine-month battle with colon cancer. It wasn't pretty. It wasn't easy. She was only 47 years old and I'm still not sure what was worse -- the chemo or the cancer. She suffered. We suffered less, but we still suffered as we watched her die. And yet, her death was one of the most powerful experiences of my life, right up there with the birth of my children. To watch as she held on to life, fighting -- literally -- for every breath at the end was spiritual, awesome, sorrowful and life-changing. Even in her suffering, she did not want to leave us, even as we told her she could go.

So when I read about people choosing assisted suicide over a terminal illness, or, even worse, loneliness, I want to cry or scream or both. Renee Schafer Horton has an excellent piece on the frightening progress of the assisted suicide movement over on God Blogging today. Using her own family perspective as a backdrop, she drives home the point that this dangerous attitude -- that we should be able to choose our time of death based on increasingly less tragic circumstances -- has to be shifted before it's too late.
"The debate over health care reform is raging and while nothing new will come too soon, one of the scariest things I heard President Obama say in his discussions of the need for reform was that the elderly and those near the end of life account for “potentially 80 percent” of the total health care bill for the nation. OK, so what? Is my father in law’s life worth less than mine? Less than my son’s? Who gets to choose? And will there be pressure, ever so subtle (one imagines ads on TVs played in all the retirement villages across the country with a pleasant voice cooing about the benefits of no more suffering), for the elderly, the infirm, the disabled, to make life easier on the healthy, the young, the able-bodied by visiting their neighborhood “kill-me-now” center?"
Go read the blog post in its entirety by clicking HERE.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

True 'adult faith' takes courage

When I saw that Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York was writing about so-called 'recovering Catholics' in his Catholic New York column, To Whom Shall We Go, I had to stop immediately to see what he had to say. This same group, adults who were raised Catholic but are now separated from the Church for one reason or another, has been the focus of talks I give at various catechetical conferences. I call them the "lost generation," those Catholics who came of age after Vatican II and often missed out on the core teachings of the faith. Now as former Catholics they buy into the secular world's version of what the faith of their birth is all about.

Archbishop Dolan writes:

"No, unfortunately, when I hear personalities on the TV or radio, Hollywood stars, newspaper columnists or famous authors remark, 'I used to be Catholic,' or, 'I was raised Catholic,' they then continue, 'But, I'm beyond that now. Thank God I'm now enlightened and liberated from those silly, irrational, superstitious shackles, and now I'm a 'free-thinker', a mature, adult individual.' They might then smirk and remark that they are 'recovering Catholics' who are trying to 'get over' such a dark, oppressive part of their childhood.

"I'm afraid there are a lot of them these days. Recent scholarly religious studies show that one of the largest groups in American society today identifies itself as 'ex-Catholics.' While there is also a glimmer of good news in such studies that most people 'raised' Catholic faithfully remain so, and that some of those who do leave, in fact, do come back, there's still no denying that it's a chilling statistic to read."

The archbishop goes on to note that Pope Benedict XVI has observed that it doesn't take much courage to stand against the Catholic faith in general and the magisterium in particular, since that is what society wants to hear. What takes courage is sticking with the faith even when the world is against you.

"Yep, it hardly takes courage to brag that you 'used to be a Catholic, but have now 'grown up' and are enlightened.' Big deal. Join the crowd. The audience will applaud. The critics will rave about your book. The talk shows will invite you on as a star. You can snicker about the Church and get laughs and cheers," Archbishop Dolan writes.

"I wonder, though, if the really enlightened, mature, liberated, brave, prophetic folks are those who are humbly, joyfully and gratefully confident in their Catholic faith, who are well aware of the Church's struggles and imperfections, but still eager to live it sincerely, and pass it on to their kids and those they love."

Read his full column by clicking HERE.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Happy Birthday, Baby

Four years ago today my beautiful baby girl, Chiara Elizabeth, was born. The years have just flown by. When she arrived on the scene, I was so grateful for her presence, for the gift of new life at my ripe old age (just about 43). Today she continues to amaze me with her funny statements -- like the time I told her she she was a pain in the butt and she responded, "I am not a penguin butt." And her keen observations -- like when we were on vacation last week and she felt the need to ask her new-found friend's baby-sitter why she had a ring through her belly button. And her unique personality and quirks -- like how she starts every sentence with "Well..."

Here's a quick look from day one...

It's not as bad as it sounds

Well, I received a new title today: Apostle to the 'Idiots,' which is the headline from an In Person feature on me in this week's National Catholic Register. On the surface that might not seem like a good thing, but since it is a reference to St. Paul, who was the Apostle to the Gentiles, I'm going to look at the bright side of things and feel good about it. (Get it? It's a play on the fact that I wrote The Complete IDIOT'S Guide to the Catholic Catechism. Very witty.)

Thanks to Jesuit Father Matthew Gamber for taking the time to interview me, and thanks to the National Catholic Register for publishing it. Check it out HERE.

As the interview points out, I feel blessed to have written this book because it re-opened my eyes to my lifelong Catholic faith. It started as a professional experience and quickly became a spiritual one. But you can read all about it in the Register.

Friday, July 17, 2009

7 Quick Takes Friday: Vacation Edition


We made our annual pilgrimage to Maui's Dog House, which has the best hot dogs -- including the best veggie hot dogs -- you will ever eat. That's a photo of my favorite: the Chicago veggie dog with a side order of "salty balls," small potatoes cooked in brine and spices and served with drawn butter. Delicious! (Note the dog bowl serving dish.) When my kids made their poster-size list of things they wanted to do this summer, "Eat at Maui's" was right up there.

It's a great family-owned little shore restaurant whose owner used to be a chef in Maui. Hence, the name. It's not only the food that's great, though. We love the atmosphere and attitude. This year we actually wrote our order down ahead of time since you're kind of expected to know how it works when you walk up to the window to rattle off your dinner wishes. When Noah said he wanted cheese on his BBQ burger, I refused to place the order, sure that this substitution would be unacceptable. I made Dennis do the ordering. But it was cool, and dinner was great, and the place was more crowded than we've ever seen it. Could have been the hour, or the fact that Maui's was featured on the Food Network. The show will run again today (Friday, July 17, at 10 p.m.) and again at 1 p.m. on Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday if you want to check it out. And if you are in the Wildwoods, or anywhere near the southern tip of NJ, make sure Maui's is on your itinerary.


Let's start a movement to ban smoking on New Jersey beaches -- all U.S. beaches, for that matter. This week, every time we settled down to breathe in the ocean air, all we got was second hand smoke. I am amazed at the number of people here who apparently haven't heard the news that smoking can kill you and that it ain't so great for the rest of us who have to put up with others' smelly addictions. And that's before we even get to the fact that the beach is littered with thousands of cigarette butts. It sort of takes away from building sandcastles or lounging in the sand if you're constantly digging up butts. At one point today, when we were completely surrounded by smokers who seemed to have timed their fixes so that one of them was always lighting up at a different time, I had to close all the "windows" in our beach tent so that napping Chiara didn't get smoked out. It was disgusting. When I got back to our rented condo, I immediately joined two Facebook pages promoting a smoking ban on beaches. One of those sites, Campaign for Smoke-Free Beaches, gave the following statistics:
"4.5 trillion cigarette butts wind up as litter every year. That's over 1.69 billion pounds! Considering it takes 10-15 years for one cigarette butt to break down, it's no surprise that cigarette butts make up an amazing 30% of waste on U.S. beaches."
The butts alone should be reason enough to start a ban, but the fact that one person's unhealthy and unpleasant habit can ruin things for so many others makes it that much more important. Can we do something about this? I love the New Jersey shore, but this could be the thing that drives me away for good.

Our L.L. Bean Sunbuster Shelter is the envy of beachgoers. We've had it for three years and still people come up to us to admire it and ask where we got it. It not only offers the obvious respite from the summer sun, but it also offers much-needed protection from hungry seagulls when breaking out the snacks and lunches. Other people are eating chips under sandy towels or running down the beach with a sandwich in hand chased by a flock of seagulls. We hunker down in the Sunbuster and eat in peace and relative quiet. And this year the tent was especially important when I developed a case of sun poisoning. I did not set foot in the sun today. I sat in my beach chair in the sun shelter, reading and complaining about the smokers. The tent has three screen windows with covers that can roll up for privacy. And newer versions have an extra privacy screen to allow you privacy for changing or napping. It was a great investment. Highly recommended.


Why can't we pump our own gas in New Jersey? We have the technology. We can do it. Really. In fact, we prefer it. When you're sitting in a long line waiting for one guy to serve eight pumps, it can get a little frustrating to those of us who regularly pump our own gas. We could have filled our own tank twice in the time it took to have the attendant pump for us tonight.


After a week away from home, all of us are ready to head north and get back to our "normal" routine, although it would be really nice to have just a few days off at home. I think that should be built into vacation time, don't you? A week away and then three days at home to catch up on laundry, email, snail mail, and all the other stuff that's piling up while I'm sitting on the sand. I have to admit that I'm already starting to worry about the work awaiting me when I return. If I just had even two days to get things in order once I'm home, I'd feel better.


We took a wonderful "starlight dinner cruise" the other night from Wildwood Bay around Cape May. It was two and half hours and included a buffet dinner, which was the most challenging part of the trip. Paper plates and plastic cups do not hold up well to a boat speeding across the Atlantic. Chiara's dinner ended up in my lap. But, once dinner was done and we were at a more reasonable cruising speed, the trip was fantastic. We saw dolphins and brown pelicans, a great blue heron, the Cape May Lighthouse, a sunken ship, a gorgeous sunset and more. That's St. Mary by the Sea in front of the Cape May Lighthouse in the photo above. I do some work for the Sisters of Saint Joseph, who run the retreat center, so I feel a connection to this place. What a beautiful location!


We've had another great vacation in North Wildwood. Perfect weather, beautiful beaches, loads of fun on the boardwalk, and too much good food. Although we're just about ready to go home, we'll be just as ready to come back again when next summer rolls around.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Postcards from the edge -- of New Jersey

We're still hanging out in North Wildwood and keeping very busy. Hence, the lack of blog posting. Plus I've got a very weak wifi signal, so I'm kind of limited. The kids are having a great time. The weather has been perfect, save for a thunderstorm last night that cut our visit to the boardwalk short. But we had already eaten dinner and done all the rides -- or at least all the rides we wanted -- on the first pier. So it didn't ruin the evening.

First full day here we did the Raging Waters water park on Morey's Pier. If you are coming to Wildwood with kids, I can't recommend it enough. I have to admit that every year, as we're about to head to the water park, I feel a sense of dread. With three kids at very different stages, the water park can be a bit overwhelming -- keeping track of Noah, who goes off to the biggest, baddest slides on his own; keeping Olivia happy with the middle-of-the-road slides; and playing with Chiara in the kiddie section. But as soon as I grab a tube and get on that first slide of the day, I remember how much I love, love, LOVE going to the water park. It really makes you feel like a kid again. You're slipping and sliding down a giant slide through tunnels, around bends, all with the ocean in view, only to be dumped out into a big pool. To top it off, this particular park is immaculately clean and well-kept. Workers are cleaning trash cans and skimming pools and even making sure the cracks in the picnic tables are spotless. Check it out if you're in the area.

Of course, we've been spending a lot of time at the beach, at the inlet, which is rough enough to feel like the ocean but calm enough to keep me from completely freaking out when Noah is out in the waves alone. Plus it's more family friendly, so there are lots of kids for Chiara to play with when she's building sandcastles or making "soup" in her bucket. Yesterday it was wonton.

I'll be back again with another vacation update before we wrap up at the end of the week. Tonight we're taking a dinner cruise from Wildwood to Cape May. Should be fun, as long as I'm not seasick, which isn't completely out of the question.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Greetings from the Jersey Shore

I've been without wifi for the first two days of vacation, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. No email, no Facebook, no Twitter, no blogging. That means I've had lots more time for other non-high-tech things, like fishing, climbing Barnegat Lighthouse, playing miniature golf, eating too much food, speeding across the bay in a friend's boat, watching the kids swim in an amazing pool right off a lagoon, and now, since we've arrived at our rented condo in North Wildwood, hanging out on the big, wide, beautiful beaches.

I didn't get to do my 7 Quick Takes Friday post yesterday, but here are a few quick photos from our first two days near Long Beach Island as a substitute:

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Where am I going again?

If you took one look at the small extra bag I'm bringing with me on vacation, you would swear I was going on retreat and not to the New Jersey Shore with its miles of sandy beaches, boardwalk rides and fried Oreos. I don't know what comes over me every time I venture away from home, but I always pack as if I'm going to be able to cram a year's worth of prayer and reflection into the few quiet hours I have between swimming and tide-pooling and walking and eating.

Here's what I've got in my bag -- so far:

July issue of Magnificat
Praying the Psalms by Thomas Merton
Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales (for spiritual and work-related purposes)
A blank journal
Come to the Quiet: The Principles of Christian Meditation by John Michael Talbot
A Retreat with Brother Lawrence and the Russian Pilgrim by Kerry Walters
No Moment too Small: Rhythms of Silence, Prayer & Holy Reading by Norvene Vest
Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating by Mark Bittman (lest you think I'm taking only spiritual reading)
And finally, my own book manuscript (spiritual, of course), which I am hoping to edit during "down" time

In addition, I'm packing my trusty battery-powered candle, a triptych (that's it in the photo above) and a small cross. I had to skip the incense, unless I want to get myself voted off the island.

I am fully aware of the fact that I will most likely never get to most of this, or any of it. Some of it won't even make it out of my bag. Other things will get a cursory glance. But there is a chance -- and a good chance -- that at least one thing will strike a chord and give me some much needed spiritual food for thought. And, as far as I'm concerned, spiritual time while sitting on the beach or near the beach has ten times the power of the spiritual time I spend sitting in my basement (where I have my little sacred space) or bedroom. The vastness of the ocean and the magnificence of the natural world around me -- and yes, I'm still talking about New Jersey -- just makes vacation prayer time a little bit sweeter than regular prayer time.

I'll tell you how it goes. Or doesn't.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Just add water

Chiara is getting ready to hit the waves. Right now she's "riding" her boogie board across the family room floor and up the couch. This girl is obviously ready for vacation.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Fastest labor in the west

Well, maybe it wasn't the fastest ever, but it was the fastest for me. Nine years ago (actually the real anniversary happened at 2:57 a.m. today), I was waiting -- not so patiently -- for my second born to arrive. She was a week overdue and predicted to be quite large. They were preparing to induce me since my blood pressure was starting to rise. But I didn't want any medication whatsoever. So my wonderful midwife -- the same one who helped me birth Noah -- called me up around 7:30 p.m. on July 5 and told me that if I really wanted to do this without intervention, I could drink a castor oil-orange juice-baking soda cocktail and see if it worked for me. I drank it about an hour later, and around 1:30 a.m. I woke up in hard labor.

With Noah labor went on for a while. The first time around, I ate an egg breakfast, took down our Christmas tree, paid some bills and did some cleaning, all with contractions about five minutes apart. I expected more of the same with Olivia. When Dennis called the midwife around 2 a.m. and told her I was already on the floor, she told us to high-tail it to the hospital, which we did -- with me insisting that we could park in the regular garage instead of emergency. But, fortunately, calmer heads prevailed and we parked in ER, zoomed up to labor and delivery and waited for my sister to arrive to watch Noah and the midwife to arrive to catch the baby. Midwife got there and immediately put on scrubs, which confused me since I expected to walk around and breathe heavily for a while. Nothing doing. We called my sister to find out why she wasn't there yet (We wanted Noah present for the birth but knew we needed an adult to keep an eye on him). The car was still parked in ER. The camera was nowhere to be found. Noah was shoeless because of our mad dash out of the house. It was all a blur.

Less than 30 minutes after I entered the hospital, and only minutes after my sister arrived to hold Noah's hand, Olivia Irene blasted onto the scene -- all 10 pounds of her. I don't really even remember pushing. Maybe once. She just powered her way out and then proved herself to be a champion nurser to boot.

Nine years later, I look at my girl in amazement. She is smart and funny and beautiful and artistic and athletic and curious and kind and all of the things I had hoped she would one day be. She was a gift when she arrived in that Austin hospital in the wee hours of the morning, and she is a gift today. We are blessed. Happy birthday Olivia. We love you. Here's a brief look at Olivia's life in photos...

Her baptism in Austin in the chapel at St. Edward's University with Deacon Orton and godparents Aunt Linda and Uncle Fred:

At E-ma's 90th birthday party almost seven years ago:

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Corn on the cob, DeTurris style

When I was young, I thought everyone ate corn on the cob this way. Then a friend came for a visit and looked at us as if we had lost our minds. I don't care. I still think it's the best way to butter corn on the cob.

Place corn in a piece of aluminum foil. Add some butter and salt. Roll or twist corn in foil. Voila! Perfectly buttered and salted corn. Yum. And no mess. Go get you some. That's whole wheat couscous and sauteed peppers, onions and mushrooms on the side. The corn was from the Catskills, and it was quite tasty for so early in the year.

Friday, July 3, 2009

7 Quick Takes Friday: Volume 3


Short hair fever has taken over the Poust house. Olivia had her long locks shorn just yesterday. Here she is looking sophisticated yet adorable.


My yoga teacher has been gone for one week and I have NOT followed through on my plan to use her yoga CDs and do the practice at home. I did, however, get back to running and using my exercise ball. Problem is I decided to do 100 crunches after not doing crunches for quite some time. Now I can't sneeze without being in agony.


We are gearing up for summer vacation. As I write this Dennis and the kids are in the kitchen debating the pros and cons of General Mills cereals vs. Kellogg's cereals. (One of the big treats of vacation is that we buy the kids those little individual boxes so they can eat a different forbidden cereal every day. Yeah, we're wild and crazy.)

Anyway, Noah was going to the computer to use the "dictionary" search feature to get more information on the cereal crisis, when Dennis stopped him. I thought Dennis was going to be the voice of reason, but instead he said, "Don't use Dictionary. Use Google." Sigh. The great cereal debate rages on...


Fred the Cat and Mirabella the Kitten continue to entertain us with their antics. We surely are going to miss them when we go on vacation and have to leave them behind.


Every weekday I get an email-generated spiritual thought called Word of God Everyday. Here is a quote from St. Teresa of Avila that came up this week and stuck with me:

"Before beginning to pray and while praying,
let your interior glance rest
on the One who is there."

I am on a library book kick these days. Used to be I had to own every book I read. Now, in my older and more simpler age, I prefer to borrow the books and not add to the clutter. I still love the smell and feel of a new book just waiting to be cracked open, but I am much more willing to save that experience for the really special books I want to keep on my shelves. Right now here's what I'm reading:

"Running to the Mountain: A Journey of Faith and Change" by Jon Katz. An interesting book about a non-religious person's search for the spiritual through solitude and an infusion of Thomas Merton.

And here's what I will be reading:

"Come to the Quiet: The Principles of Christian Meditation," by John Michael Talbot. This one explores the often-overlooked meditation and contemplation of Christian tradition in relation to the highly popular Eastern forms of meditation. I think this one might come on vacation.

And then there's this one waiting to be picked up at the library:

"Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating," by Mark Bittman. This one, which will also get packed with the sunscreen and flip flops, focuses on smart eating -- eating that won't harm the environment and is good for you and is, above all, tasty. I have his vegetarian cookbook; it's the only thing I trust when cooking tofu since I figure if a meat eater came up with a tofu recipe that passes muster, it has to be good. Great stuff. Check out The Minimalist, his recipe column, and Bitten, his blog, in The New York Times.


PACE Magazine, the publication of my alma mater, Pace University, featured a little blurb on my second book, The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Catholic Catechism in its current issue. They sent me not two, not three, but eleven copies of the magazine. What could I possibly do with that many copies of one little blurb? I feel bad for all the trees that had to die for my clip box.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A gift from a technology glitch

When I went downstairs to work today, I sat at the keyboard and realized the computer had shut down during a power outage the previous night. Suddenly I found myself with a couple of spare minutes. I realize that sounds rather pathetic, but it's true. Waiting for the computer to reboot gave me a chance to turn my chair around to face my "sacred space," light some incense, turn on my battery-powered candle, sit/kneel on my little prayer bench and bask in my unexpected down time.

So I sat, just briefly. It's amazing what a few moments of silence can do for the soul. Even in my limited prayer time, however, my mind wanted to wander far away -- to blog posts that need to be written, to the list of things I need to get before vacation. I ever so gently coaxed myself back to my silent place, saying Jesus' name and feeling a calm come over me.

Why don't I do this more? I mean, really, can I not find three minutes a day to just be quiet. OK, usually I can't what with three kids clamoring for food and fun and who knows what else every minute of the day. But today, Chiara was playing in her room, Olivia was reading a book, Noah was playing a video game. Ahhhh. Silence. Go get some. It's better than ice cream. Unless you're eating Crumbs Along the Mohawk, then nothing is better than ice cream.