Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Computer Mittens

It's officially fall in the CatholicMom.com workspace! I've broken out the space heater and heating pad on my desk chair in an effort to stay warm (yes, I'm a wimpy Californian who gets cold when the temps dip below 60!). Well, my knitting teacher Cindy has come to the rescue with these, a pair of mittens you can wear while knitting/designing web sites! I'm not good enough to knit them myself, so I've ordered up a pair - I'll let you know if you can actually type while wearing them! My knitting skills are limited to rectangular objects that can be made while watching Survivor or Lost! If you love to knit, you've got to visit Cindy's blog Yarn, Paper, Scissors, where she and her sister Carey discuss all of their super creative endeavors. It's nice to have crafty friends!

Irish Blog

If you're Catholic and you love Notre Dame, you'll want to pay a visit to the blog called Fighting Irish Thomas. You know it's a winner when the second you hit the page you hear the fight song playing (beware if you're surfing at work!). I discovered Tom's blog through a great article he had at Catholic Exchange last week called "Running the Rosary" which reminded me of the World's best Daddy!

A Huge Thank You

To the secret saint who purchased a large quantity of Children's bibles yesterday at Amazon through the CatholicMom.com site!!! Did you know that when you click through our Amazon link on the home page of CatholicMom.com, you make a small donation to CatholicMom.com?! Every little bit helps to pay our everygrowing hosting fees as the site continues to grow!

More Book Buzz

Another of my favorite authors, Maria Ruiz Scaperlanda, wrote to share a column about her latest book The Complete Idiot's Guide to Mary of Nazareth - I haven't been able to read this book yet, but I've loved everything else Maria has written so I feel great about recommending it. Click here to read the review of Maria's book from the Archidiocese of Indianapolis.

Book Buzz

You might want to take a time out today to read my latest Book Spotlight interview with Catholic children's author Beth Ann Mammola-Koravos about her book Good Night God, Love Olivia. So many of us think that we're inspired by things our children say that could be turned into great stories. Well, Beth Ann is a Mom who actually acted on that inspiration. She's also the author of another new children's book about a little cricket named Lilly who learned to play the violin - you know I loved that one too!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Resting on the Sabbath

I always find a lot of inspiration in the writing of Catholic Mom columnist Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur. This week, Patrice's column looks at the concept of keeping holy the Sabbath. I admit to being a Sunday busybody. When we come home from Mass, I normally break my fast with a quick glance at the Sunday paper and then get busy around the house. My weekdays are typically packed to the gills, so Sunday becomes a "catch up" day. Greg is frequently gone working in the Emergency Room and the boys enjoy a day of hanging out while Mom scurries around putting away laundry, mopping, or generally moving stacks around.

Yesterday, we had a wonderful afternoon. Eric and I spent an hour "jamming" - him on guitar and me on fiddle. It seems I am going to "perform" in a recital in December. We'll see if I actually decide to participate, but he was helping me to practice my new songs. Next, the three of us (minus Dad) went on a little Geocaching adventure. The cache we found this week was an easy one, located in a large park near our house. The hunt was so simple that Eric and I decided to take the long route back to our car. We had a nice, thirty minute walk through crunchy leaves under a sunny sky. Adam prefers to walk thirty paces behind, scouting for sticks and taking the path less traveled. As I spent this time with Eric, talking about his week and generally getting caught up, I said a quiet thank you to God for the blessing of these precious boys.
I agree with Patrice that Sunday rest is essential to our spirit - I told her in an email that I'm going to read her column again Saturday night to give myself a boosted resolve.
p.s. can you spot the Cache in this picture? It was an easy hike, but for some reason it took us a few minutes to spot it! In fact, I almost walked right into it without seeing it - maybe it's time to start wearing glasses all the time!

Note To Self:

Dine Without Whine - Weekly Meal Planning In the future, do not skip lunch prior to posting Christine's new Dine Without Whine recipes at CatholicMom.com - those Pumpkin Pudding Squares sound pretty yummy!

Just In Case

In case you're still looking for activities for Halloween, All Saints and All Souls, we have some great resources, projects and recipes at CatholicMom.com. I'm feeling a touch of the motherly blues this week leading up to Halloween. Adam is all ready for the big day with a new troll mask (wait until you see the picture) and lots of Daddy's old "troll like" clothing. Imagine being told that one of your favorite sweaters looks like something a troll would wear. The cause for my blues is the fact that big Eric, high school freshman, has officially reached the age where he'd prefer to spend the evening in the company of his friends than watching his younger brother roam the neighborhood. I agree that he is too old to dress up, but it breaks my heart a little that he's getting so independent. One of the moms is taking a group of them to our local corn field maze for a couple of hours. I remember those days with my boys when Halloween meant a week of parties, sometimes even multiple costumes (which later doubled as jammies) with playgroup friends, preschool classes and at Church. I remember sewing pirate costumes and dressing babies as pumpkins. I remember being able to swipe their candy without them realizing that suddenly all of the good chocolate stuff was missing. Watching my boys grow up before my eyes is fun, but sometimes a little bittersweet - today is one of those days when I wish God had blessed us with five or six little ones so I'd have someone to dress as a dinosaur tomorrow.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Spiritual Blindness

At mass this morning, our retired Pastor offered a wonderful homily on today's Gospel - now that I can no longer see to read without my glasses, I feel an even greater empathy towards Bartimaeus. How incredible it would feel to have perfect sight restored, especially after having lived a lifetime without vision.

Our homily this morning dealt with Spiritual Blindness. I walked away from Mass pondering Monsignor's words and asking myself a few pointed questions. Do I ask for healing from the moments of spiritual blindness that fill my life? I am spiritually blind when I neglect to stop and appreciate God's many blessings in my life. I am spiritually blind when I overlook those around me who are suffering through stress, pain, loneliness or other afflictions. I am spiritually blind when I envy my friends or covet material goods. Have I asked Jesus lately to have pity on me, to touch me, and to heal me from my spiritual blindness?

Opportunities to open my eyes and truly see God around me abound - Just as clarity comes when I don my reading glasses, I pray for a heart and mind open to see God's blessings in my own life and to reach out to those around me who may need me.

May I have open, seeing eyes and a heart to truly follow Jesus.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

I wish Chicago and Fresno were closer

Aren't these two of the cutest little boys you've ever seen? At least once a day, I lament the fact that my family is spread all over the country. Seeing this picture of my Chicago nephews, Evan and baby Tyler, makes my heart leap and sigh all at once. I can't believe Tyler is already six weeks old, and I haven't even been able to hold him yet. When I'm out and I see a mom with a new baby, I mentally compare the baby to Ty (of course, none of them are ever as cute!). Evan looks more grown up and full of spirit every time I lay eyes on him. I imagine what life might be like if all my siblings lived close to one another and we could gather my two boys and my five nephews all in one room on a regular basis. We'll have the chance next month at my brother Michael's wedding in Chicago, but I'm not sure I can hold out that long to cuddle this baby!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Heart of Motherhood by Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle

I'm midway through the new book by CatholicMom.com columnist Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle entitled The Heart of Motherhood: Finding Holiness in the Catholic Home. I love everything Donna-Marie writes, so I'm not surprised that I'm enjoying this latest book so much. It may be a while before I get a full review posted, so I thought I'd point you to two reviews of Donna-Marie's book by Patrice Fagnant of Spiritual Woman and by Pat Gohn at her Write In Between blog.

Speaking of Pat, she celebrates a year of blogging this week - drop by and congratulate her! Any mom who can find time to write like Pat does "in between" is a stud in my book!

We have a new column by Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle today at CatholicMom.com if you'd like to sample some of her lovely writing.

Being More Organized

Whenever I lament the lack of time I have to get everything done in the too few hours that fill my day, I like to visit Mike St. Pierre's Notebook for a kick in the behind. He talks a lot about time management, getting things accomplished, and being organized. I especially liked Mike's post today about things that you can accomplish during a break. Moms frequently have small segments of time, spread throughout the day between other jobs like driving and cooking. I sometimes feel that if I have less than one hour to accomplish something, I might as well not start it. That's wrong - there are many things that only take a few minutes to do, if I set my mind to them. Each moment is a gift from God - I just need to remind myself to make the most of each of them!

Meet a New CatholicMom.com Angel

We all know that the Holy Spirit works overtime helping CatholicMom.com stay afloat and running. Our CM tribe of guardian angels have protected me from viruses, computer crashes, nasty internet stuff and more. But the backbone of CatholicMom.com is a group of selfless women who contribute their talents freely and generously to help the site to grow and prosper. I'm constantly grateful for all of our CatholicMom columnists, who never cease to inspire me. My friend Elyse has touched kids all over the world with her weekly Mass Worksheets. Lisa and Maria have been creating Puppet Shows in both English and Spanish. It goes on and on...

Now, we have a new angel, Laura Grace, who is contributing a TON of great Religious Education material. Laura is a teacher at St. Nicholas Chapel at the Pax River Naval Air Station in Pataxent River, Maryland. Over the past week, she's been sending me great material which I've been posting in our new Lesson Plan area at CatholicMom.com - you won't believe it when you see all that she's contributed, and I'm less than halfway finished posting her lessons and activities! I hope to have them all up by the end of the week and to post her weekly gospel resources each week too. It's such a tremendous resource for all of the teachers, religious ed. folks, homeschoolers and families who visit CatholicMom.com.

Every once in a while, when I'm tired and overwhelmed, I wonder if the effort put into one little web site like CatholicMom.com makes any difference in the world. I contemplate hanging up my keyboard and going out to lunch and shoe shopping like the other moms at school do while their kids are at school. And then the Holy Spirit sends along someone like Laura Grace to remind me that the efforts of each of us do indeed matter - that when we work together to shine Christ's light, when we give it our very best even in our own little ways, we lead others (and ourselves) closer to Him.

Thank You God for Laura, and for all the others who make up the heart and soul of CatholicMom.com. I am blessed for having them in my life!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Eureka! We've found it!!

It's official, the Hendey family is now geekier than ever! This weekend, after Adam's fencing tournament, we engaged in our new family hobby - Geocaching.

For the uninitiated, Geocaching is kind of like a high tech combination of hiking and hide and go seek. You use a GPS unit to track, locate and locate a box full of "stuff". When you find the cache (i.e. the "stuff" box), you open the cache, sign a log, retrieve one of the many "stuff" items in the cache, put in a "stuff" item of your own, and rehide the cache for the next person who comes along.

Eric's been talking about this for over a year now, and used his recent birthday money to purchase a GPS unit. With our planned trip to San Francisco, he thought it would be the perfect family time to go on our first geocaching adventure. I told him where the tournament would be (Golden Gate Park, San Francisco) and set him loose on the Geochaching web site to locate a cache near the park.
I should have gotten my first clue to "beware" when we discovered that the nearby cache he wanted to go after was not in SF, but rather ten miles south in Pacifica (near Golden Gate National Park????). We made the drive south along the coast, taking in the stunning views. After a long day of fencing, sightseeing along Fisherman's Wharf and already one three hour drive, we arrived at the site of the parking spot for the cache. This particular cache had been ranked a 1/4 - one of five for difficulty in finding the cache and 4 of five for difficulty of terrain. We parked and looked up a hill covered with tall, dry grass and bushes, not seeing an obvious path in site. Eric consulted the GPS and determined that we were within a third of a mile of the cache, so we thought, "No problem, we can do it!". It was 4:45 when we left the car and we were sure we had plenty of daylight.
We've read the instruction manuals that say always hike in long pants, with a flashlight and water. We didn't have any of those - instead we had a camera, shorts on both boys, no water and one poorly charged cell phone. We hiked a third of a mile straight up through pretty rough terrain, scratchy bushes, and steep dirt. Adam started to falter - he'd been up since 5:00, had fenced nine bouts, and wasn't too thrilled about his brother's new hobby. Greg, Mr. Voice of Reason, began to be concerned with the daylight and the fact that we were probably going to have to slide back down the steep hill to get down. Mom was busy breathing in the ocean air and admiring the view. Consulting the GPS, Eric pointed due West, across a cavern filled with more bushes and treacherous footing and said, "Uh, I think it's actually over there...we're farther away now than when we started."
At this point, Adam and Dad were ready to turn around and head down the hill/mountain and call it a day.
They forgot how persistent Eric is - he said, "Go ahead, Mom and I will meet you back at the car." Greg glanced at his watch and the gorgeous sunset to which we were being treated. I could hear the wheels churning in his head. But somehow, he looked at Eric and knew how important finding the box of "stuff" was to him. We encouraged/bribed Adam to continue with the knowledge that the box was rumored to contain a small panda figurine.
Sparing you all the gory details, we ultimately located the cache and retrieved the panda, replacing it with a small leprechaun pin and a shark's tooth. Eric signed the log immediately after a 65 year old grandma who had visited the cache right before us - she must have been one tough grandma to navigate the climb!
We took a quick photo and then Greg decided on a different path down the hill. We had come up the direct, but unmarked path. He chose a well traveled path going downhill in the opposite direction from our point of origin. About 45 minutes later, we descended the hill and landed next to the highway. We had another half hour hike (albeit on a road!) back to the car. We stopped for gatorade and to wash Eric's legs (yes, he walked through poison oak to get to the cache!).
The walk back to the car was so uplifting - both boys talking about the importance of persevering towards a difficult goal. Adam said he would keep the panda as a reminder that when times get tough you shouldn't give up! Mom smiled ear to ear and Dad did too, now that he saw that we'd all lived through the adventure.
I'm not sure where our next trek will lead us, but I know it will be fantastic - the joy is in the journey, and in what you learn and experience along the path to the goal!

Helpful New Blog

I've long been a fan of the work of Therese Borchard, so I'm pleased to recommend her new blog at BeliefNet, Beyond Blue, which is a blog chronicling the daily spiritual journey of life with depression and anxiety. Therese bravely chronicles her ongoing battle with depression and offers support and encouragement for others who may be struggling too. Many Moms battle silently, caring for others in their family while neglecting their own mental health and well being. I'm praying that Therese is able to reach many people through this important venue and that she continues to persevere in her own challenges.

New Project

If you'd like to see why I've been such a neglectful blogger for the past week, take a peek at my latest project - I have been updating the web site for this very special organization, All About Care. My new friend Cynthia, the founder and executive director of AAC, is one of those amazing role models who turned personal tragedy into triumph. The work she is doing to support women and children with AIDS in my community is amazing. It's an honor to play a small part in supporting her mission. Thanks for your patience with my less than prompt Blog updates lately. I need more hours in each day!

A Great Sport

On Saturday, Adam fenced in his very first tournament, a Regional Youth Circuit event up in San Francisco. Truthfully, I was a little concerned over how the day would go. Adam is a novice fencer, having just started last November. His teammates are all younger than him chronilogically, but have been fencing for years. I wasn't sure how he would hold up to the pressure of this "learning experience". Together with his coach, we decided that he was ready to participate in a tournament, but that he should go into it with the right attitude - he was there to learn, to gather experience, and to have fun.

Our day started with a 5:00 am wake up call to get on the road for the three hour drive to SF. Of course, Adam awoke with a smile - as always! We decided to make it a family day, touring the city after the tournament. I can't say that Eric, Greg and I were anywhere near as spunky as Adam that early in the morning!

The day went so beautifully. Our morning prayer was for a fun, safe and positive experience for Adam - God listened, and provided! Adam did his best in the initial round of pool bouts - fencers of all experience levels are grouped together into pools of six. You meet each of the five others in a five touch bout. Adam won a few, lost a few, and scored some great touches. He faced off with the young fencer who would eventually win the tournament and held his own even though Adam's Mom feared the boy would slice Adam in half! Despite the outcome of the bout, Adam shook hands with each of his competitors, smiled and walked off the strip with his head held relatively high. At the end of the pool bouts, he was the only fencer in his pool to walk up and shake hands with the strip Director, who had been refereeing the bouts. On a nearby strip, one of the top fencers was busy protesting a call, yelling at his Director and crying...my pride in Adam glowed, watching this display.

Adam didn't win the tournament, but he fenced his best and gave it his all. In the car after the tournament, he mentally reviewed a few close bouts, thinking about what might have made a difference. He plotted about improving his conditioning. He remembered some high points of the day, asking when he could compete again. Then he asked for a McFlurry from McDonald's and a trip to Pier 39 to visit the Sea Lions. In his book, the day was just getting started.
I'm so happy that Adam has found a sport that he enjoys and connects with positively. He's never been a "sporty" kid - that doesn't really matter much to me. We encourage our children to participate for the level exercise, both mental and physical, that sports provide. For a guy like Adam, fencing is about fun, fitness and doing your best. He may not have walked away with a medal, but Adam was definitely a winner on Saturday!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Spoon Saints

If you're looking for a wonderful craft idea for All Saints Day, you have to take a look at Alice's Cottage Blessings blog and her wonderful Spoon Saints Craft - it's truly amazing what can be done with a package of wooden ice cream spoons! I know that when I show this to Adam, he's going to want to go immediately and buy wooden spoons and fill our mantel with "projects"!

Both of my boys have done many fun All Saints projects in the past - everything from dressing and speaking as their favorite saint to decorate a 2 foot poster-board cut out of their favorite saint in 3D. Those are treasures! What do you do to commemorate All Saint's Day? We have a few ideas listed at CatholicMom.com, but I'd love to add more!

Busy, Busy, Busy

The week is off to a great, but busy, start! I've just finished posting new columns by all of our wonderful CatholicMom.com columnists. Take a few minutes to start your week off with a great perspective - You can access them all through the home page at CatholicMom.com.

  • Teaching Moments - Mirror Time
  • Where do Possessions Rank in Our Lives? by Patrice fagnant-MacArthur
  • More Important Things by Michele Howe
  • Permissive parents always bug my pest guy by Marybeth Hicks
  • Mom Standard Time by Lisa Barker
  • Tuning In . . . and Tuning Out by Heidi Hess Saxton
  • What's In a Name by Natural Family Planning Columnist Sara Fox Peterson
  • Violence Unleashed by Charla Belinski
  • A Child-Friendly Parish by Melissa Martz
  • Halloween Treats - Kid Tested and Mom Approved Treats for the Young and Old by Jodie Lynn

New Puppet Shows in Spanish - I have just finished posting our first four puppet show scripts in Spanish! Thanks so much to author Lisa Mladinich and translator Maria Rivera for their hard work in making this dream a reality! Maybe I will re-learn Spanish by reading these scripts!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Sharmane Interview

You might recall my recent interview with beautiful (inside and out) Catholic musician Sharmane Adams. If you're a Sharmane fan, like I am, you'll want to listen to a full length conversation between Sharmane and my pal Susan Bailey at Sacred Heart Radio.

Susan is the editor of Grapevine Magazine, the host of the Grapevine News Minute Podcast, and a fabulous musician too!

Take five, and listen to these two inspirational women. You'll be impressed!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Altar Server Chic - Encouraging My Sons to Serve

From the knees up, they look like normal teens. One dons a black concert t-shirt and the other is garbed in a Notre Dame Football jersey. Both wear crumpled khaki shorts that have surely been pulled off the floor next to their beds.

But it’s the shoes that are the giveaway. Who wears black dress shoes and dad’s ribbed black socks with shorts and a t-shirt? At my Church, it’s the Altar Servers who pull off that look on a weekly basis. Hair perfectly combed and shoes shined to a sparkle, they arrive at Church twenty minutes prior to Mass and disappear into the Sacristy. It is there that the transformation from typical teen to Altar Server takes place. When they emerge twenty minutes later, garbed in Cassock and Surplice, these young men set themselves apart from their peers.

Blessedly, at my home parish, we have an abundance of Altar Servers. Our students wait until fifth grade to be admitted to the ranks, and serve on teams of four approximately once a month. In the Hendey household, we wait until sixth grade to start serving, to ensure that our boys understand, commit to and value their role in our parish. With both of my boys, the added year of maturity has helped them to take their Altar Serving duties seriously.

This weekend, my youngest son Adam served for the first time. As I watched him process down the aisle, his face glowing from the soft light of the candle he held, my heart caught in my throat. This was a day he’d anticipated and trained for with his team and our parish coordinator. Adam admitted to a case of nerves in the car on the way to Mass, so we paused for a prayer. Asking the Holy Spirit to be with Adam, I was relatively sure I was the more nervous of the two of us! Adam serves on a team with his older brother, so he knew he’d have Eric’s watchful eye and coaching to help him with any parts he might forget. I, on the other hand, feared the worst – Adam dropping his candle and lighting the carpet on fire, Eric bossing his brother around in the way an oldest child does sometimes, Adam neglecting his paten duties… I needed that prayer as much as Adam did.

Ask, and you shall receive – I won’t say that Adam’s serving was flawless, but he comported himself perfectly and handled his duties with reverence and care. His big brother lovingly and gently prodded him the few times he missed his cue, but I was probably the only person in the congregation that noticed.

In many parishes, Altar Servers are scarce or are dominated by female participants. I recognize how wonderful it is that in our church home, there are older high school and even college aged servers that my sons look up to and respect. I want my sons to serve for many reasons, but the following are some of the most compelling:

  • Love of the Liturgy – In committing to their Altar Server duties, my boys truly participate in the Eucharist. They learn the order of the Mass, the aspects of the sanctuary, and the various altar vessels used in the Mass. My boys love serving, looking forward to each year’s “promotion” to a higher level of responsibility.

  • Service to the Community – Through their Altar Serving roles, my boys contribute to the Body of Christ present in our parish. They learn that each area of ministry in the Mass is vital, from the greeters to the Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist. They see their role as essential and learn the importance of both commitment and of service to others.

  • Healthy Relationships with Clergy – When I was growing up, my family had a very close relationship with our pastor. He was a frequent visitor in our home and a trusted friend. Today, I belong to a parish with 5,000 families in an era of dwindling vocations. The priests of my parish work round the clock to meet the needs of our community, but that feeling of closeness is not always present. Through Altar Serving, my sons have frequent interactions with our priests in a positive environment. If either of my boys is called to a priestly vocation, Altar Serving will surely be a fundamental step in their journey. If they are called to family life, their experience as servers will help them to foster a love of our faith in their own children.

Next time you participate in the Eucharist at your parish, take time to pause and thank the young men and women who serve the Mass. They are probably the only teenagers around who can tell you the difference between a corporal and a thurible. They are the ones who wake up early on Sundays to prepare the Altar for the Eucharist, who give up Saturday evenings with friends to serve the Lord. They honor their commitments and enter the sanctuary with care and reverence. They are the good guys – you can tell by the shoes!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Nick's Bar Mitzvah

This weekend, our family celebrated a very special occasion: the Bar Mitzvah of our friend Nick. Nick's mother, Mara, is one of my very closest friends. Our friendship dates back to "playgroup" days when we stood next to each other pushing Nick and Eric together in swings, discussing the finer points of teething, sleep schedules and solid foods.

Nick worked so diligently in preparation for his big day. This was our first opportunity to attend a Bar Mitzvah, and quite honestly I didn't really know what to expect. I had in mind something akin to a Confirmation or a Quinceanera, but mostly in Hebrew. The ceremony was so special! Nick's diligent preparation for this rite of passage was apparent. As he stood chanting his Torah portion in Hebrew flawlessly, I thought about the gift of his family's friendship in our life. I've known Nick since before he could walk. So to see this fine young man leading the ceremony brought tears of pride and gratitude.

My friend Mara has worked for a months in anticipation of her son's big day. All of her efforts paid off, as every detail seemed perfect. One of the highlights of Nick's ceremony was the wonderful music led by cantor Julie Silver One of my favorite songs of the day was a beautiful tune entitled "Count Me In", which talks about the journey to Bar Mitzvah. It speaks eloquently about our children's growth into mature, accountable members of our spiritual communities. Nick's journey to become a "Son of the Commandment" has prepared him to live out his faith and to share it with others through love and service.

Surely, Nick was buoyed by the many family members and friends who gathered to witness his special day. He seemed not a bit nervous as he preached about the meaning of his Torah portion dealing with the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, the harvest festival of thanksgiving, which we celebrate in this season. Watching my dear friend embrace her son, a Jewish man now, reminded me again of the tremendous value of sharing our faith with our children. Nick's father, while not Jewish, has been supportive of his spiritual development. But the true rock behind Nick's faith formation has been his Mom, my friend Mara. I know that at times Mara has felt lonely and frustrated in this role and that it has been a challenge for her. But on Saturday, embracing her son as he enters this new phase of his spiritual life, I know Mara was glowing with pride and realizing that all of her hard work was well spent.

Mazel-tof Nick! We are very proud of you!

Chaperone Overdrive

I'd love to blog today at great length about the weekend that just passed, but it's not going to happen! At the moment, my son Eric and two of his football buddies are surrounded in my backyard by sixteen cute, squealing freshman girls. The boys are "coaching" the freshman Powder Puff football team this year and the first practice is being held today at our house.

I'm used to having boys around. They are sweaty, they eat a lot and they smell, but they don't screech or squeal! The "coaches" have the girls split into three units and are attempting to teach their players the basics of flag football. Eric is the line coach, and he's actually trying to teach the girls a lineman's stance. It's pretty funny!

OK, time to go back on watch, so hopefully I'll have time to write more later!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Christmas in October

I love my weekly violin lessons so very much! My teacher, Patrick, is a talented young man in his early twenties. After having had other teachers who were very scary, scattered, or not too great, it is wonderful to have Patrick as my teacher. True, I was probably destined to love him from the start owing to his first name, but it is really his incredible talent that continues to astound me.

With one of my former teachers, I used to dread my lessons. I was so nervous and afraid that my hands would literally shake during my lessons. My teacher would scold me:

"You're so stressed out! You're never going to be a good violinist unless you learn to relax. Calm down!"

Strangely, having a grown up scold me did nothing positive toward the end of decreasing my stress level and only made my hands shake more!

I actually quit taking lessons at one point a year ago, giving up on a long held dream to learn to play the violin/fiddle. I know that a forty three year old woman is never going to learn to play well, but I seriously love my instrument and am content to be able to play several easy songs. Those others teachers made my lessons feel more like work, and I lost the motivation to play because I wasn't having any fun.

With Patrick, my weekly lessons feel a bit like a cross between a warm, musical hug and a personal coaching session. We typically start off by chatting about whatever gig he played the weekend before. He's a young man, soon to be a college graduate. He plays all over town in many different venues, but lately frequently as a headliner. I've heard him play jazz, fiddle, mariachi, salsa and rock. It's fun to hear about how his career is blossoming.

Then we play - he will usually have me play through the piece I'm working on once or twice, and then he plays along with me. This is when the real fun begins! He's so good that when I play with him I find myself smiling - I still sound pretty terrible, but somehow I imagine I sound better when I'm playing with Patrick.

Lately we've been working almost exclusively on fiddle tunes. Last week, however, I told Patrick that I'd love to learn some Christmas songs. My dream is to spend December evenings in my music room with my boys, jamming to some wonderful Christmas standards. Today, we got started with Silent Night. It felt a little funny to be playing that in October, but if we do a song a week I should have a small repertoire built up going into Advent. Patrick's violin version of Silent Night is so lovely that it almost brought me to tears. Perhaps that's one of the reasons that I love my lessons so much - I have a private weekly concert with a very talented musician who is truly passionate about his art. The joy of it is that he's also passionate about sharing it with others - he is never condescending or pompous, despite the fact that he would deserve to have that type of attitude.

My time with Patrick always flies by and I find myself anxious to rush home and practice. The lesson today made me stop and think about how freely and positively Patrick shares his talents. True, he is paid for giving me lessons. But part of what makes him such a good teacher is that he is so positive and never intimidating.

In this respect, he's a lot like my good friend and knitting teacher Cindy, who loves nothing more than teaching people to knit. Yesterday, a new friend joined us for our weekly knitting group and Cindy spent a good portion of our time together teaching this new knitter how to do a simple garter stitch. She's a patient and nurturing teacher, which is why the people she teaches get hooked on knitting so quickly. My time with Cindy yesterday and with Patrick today made me wonder about how I share my own talents. Do I exude the joy they do when I'm engaged in an activity I love? Do I openly and lovingly share my talents with others? Would someone feel comfortable coming to me to learn something new?

Learning new things is part of what makes life so wonderful - I'm particularly blessed to have great teachers in my life. Today, I'm grateful for lessons well learned and for the blessing of friends who teach me how to be a little better every day by their loving examples of using God's gifts to the fullest.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Cardinal Blogs

Thanks to Pat Gohn for giving me the heads up about the new blog of Sean Cardinal O'Malley of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, Pat's hometown.

What an amazing thing to be able to read the blog of a Cardinal as he travels through Rome! Thanks for the tip Pat!

Are You Spiritually Mature?

This was in my inbox today, and has me really thinking. I thought I'd share it hear in case you missed it:
Weekly Meditation
10/2/2006 5:17:00 AM

By Bishop William R. Houck

A few thoughts on Spiritual Maturity I found recently --

MATURITY is the ability to handle frustration,
control anger and settle differences without
violence or destruction.

MATURITY is patience. It is the willingness to
postpone gratification, to pass up the immediate
pleasure or profit in favor of the long-term gain.

MATURITY is unselfishness, responding to the
needs of others.

MATURITY is humility.the ability to be able
to say, "I was wrong," "I am sorry." And when
proven right not having to say,"I told you so."

Words of Claude Buchanan, SP, in the Servants of the
Paraclete News Letter, September 2006.

Odds and Ends

With all the business of the past few days, I sadly did not find time to blog in celebration of two of my favorite feast days, Friday's feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, archangels and yesterday's feast of St. Therese of Lisieux. I will remind you again to take a few moments to read a great article by Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur at CatholicMom.com entitled "Lessons from St. Therese". Unfortunately, at the time of my confirmation, I wasn't wise enough to select St. Therese as my patron saint, but since then I've adopted her as one of my favorites. St. Michael has been a favorite owing to my fondness for a certain Irish priest named after him. Also, I will never forget the sight of my second grade Eric dressed up as St. Michael for his All Saints Day presentation.

This Sunday, we celebrated Respect Life Sunday at our Parish. The focus at our church this year is on supporting Project Rachel, which ministers to women following abortion. Click here to learn more about Project Rachel and their work.

Today, we celebrate the feast of the Guardian Angels. My mother loves to remind me that my guardian angel works overtime. It's true! He's either one severely overworked dude or he has a tribe of part time assistants. He watches over me, my children, my SUV (he's happy with my recent attempts to eradicate cell-phone talking while driving) and my computer! "Angel of God" remains one of my favorite prayers - a gift passed to me from my own parents that I now share with my sons daily.

In football news, perhaps you saw the Irish convincingly defeat Purdue (35-21) on Saturday. In a moment of sudden clarity, I finally figured out why I keep hearing the stupid Michigan Fight Song at my son's high school football games following every touchdown. One of my fellow football moms, noting my distress at hearing it played, informed me that it is the official Fight Song for San Joaquin Memorial high school. For Irish fans who are still recovering from this year's devastating loss to Michigan, that song is almost as bad (but not quite) as the USC fight song. I guess I'm going to have to get used to it - no one is taking my suggestion that Notre Dame's fight song would be a more appropriate selection for our Catholic high school.

Eric's team, still looking for a victory, did a little better Friday night but still lost. He started at Center and played there for about half the game. I need to figure out a legal and healthy way to help him grow six inches and gain fifty pounds if he really wants to be an offensive lineman. He looks so big at home, but very small out on the field!

Speaking of Eric, he and I participated in the annual Heart Walk on Saturday to raise needed funds for heart research. We always walk together in honor of my dear friend Michelle who suffered a freak heart attack eight years ago. From the AHA website:

Did you know that heart disease kills more people in America each year than any other disease? And that stroke is a leading cause of disability and the No. 3 killer? Read on to discover ways that you and your loved ones can help reduce your risk. And learn how to recognize and respond to the warning signs of a heart attack or stroke. Just 30 minutes a day of physical activity can lead to a stronger, healthier body. Take a small step toward better health by being physically active just 10 minutes 3 times per day. Click here for some heart healthy tips. An hour spent walking and talking with my wonderful fifteen year old did my heart a lot of good on Saturday!

This morning, I had a weird moment when I was reading my daily "Google alert" email. I have it sent to me daily, and it contains headlines from major news stories containing the word "Catholic". I typically just scan the headlines and hit delete. This morning, one of the headlines sounded familiar: it was for my recent story on Apprentice contestant Tarek Saab. That was kind of exciting for me - I hope it brings more attention to Tarek's new company Lionheart Apparel.

In the last news note for Monday before I have to go pick up Adam at school, I am happy to announce that we're about to begin posting Spanish translations for some of the wonderful Puppet Show Ministry scripts at CatholicMom.com. Lisa Mladinich has been working with the talented Maria Rivera to make this dream a reality. I would love some day to have all of our kids resources available in Spanish (and Chinese, Japanese, and Russian would be great too!). I continue to receive emails from around the world from teachers and families who are using the CatholicMom.com resources and it never ceases to amaze me how the Holy Spirit is using the internet to reach hearts and souls.