Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Desert, Water, and Prayer

In my studies as a novice for the Benedictine Oblates I receive monthly lessons to read with questions to reflect on. There was one in the first 4-5 months that gave a little history of hermits and monks in the Christian tradition. It was interesting to read, but one particular part stuck out.

I learned in my reading that the first Christian hermits went out into the desert to battle evil spirits and to encounter the devil. In early Christian times the desert was thought of as the place where the devil lived. These hermits were not trying to escape the evils of the world (as if often thought, even today, of people who join a cloistered monastery or convent), but to pray for the world to be rid of evil spirits. They were doing the battles against evil so that others didn't have to.

It was a noble thing which took much perseverance and, let's face it, a lot of guts!

Eventually, hermits gathered followers and they were no longer as alone as they would have wanted. Thus monasteries started forming and we had the beginnings of Christian monks living in community.

[I am qualifying "monks" because the idea of monks is even more ancient than Christianity. I do not know the history of Buddhist monks or any other religious monks, I'm only speaking of monks in Christian terms.]

Yesterday I was thinking about this a lot. I decided for Lent this year to participate in the Lenten Photo Challenge hosted by Catholic Sistas. I am not a photographer and I am not super creative in the visual arts. So this has truly been a challenge for me. Tuesday's word was "desert." I was at a total loss, but I kept thinking about the early hermits and why they sought out the desert as the place to live their lives for God.

After dinner, a thought struck me as I was trying to guzzle down more water. Water!! Yes, the exact opposite of the desert is water.

As it turns out, I am currently in Denver, CO for a week-long conference. I learned, just before coming here, that due to the altitude, it is very important to drink lots of water. Altitude sickness is a real thing. So I bought some six packs of water at a local convenience store and will likely be getting more in another day or two.

I reflected on this tonight and thought about the need the body has for water, not just here in the Mile High City, but also in places like the desert. It occurred to me that water is necessary for the physical body in the desert, so the hermits of the early Church needed water just as much as they needed God. They needed to not only strengthen their spirit through prayer and a relationship with God, but they also needed water for their physical strength.

So, yes, I took a picture of water for today's desert theme, but it still works. For me, I see water as a symbol of life and you cannot survive in the desert without it. In the same way, we cannot survive spiritually without prayer, which leads us to a more intimate relationship with God.

Without water we would die physically, without prayer we would die spiritually. So drink up and don't forget to hydrate as well.

Friday, February 20, 2015

{7QT} Snow, Snow, Snow, and Fun Links

We've been cooped up all week due to the weather. No school, no work. We've had some days when we've all stayed in PJs and others where we all get ready with nowhere to go. We've watched a lot of TV, shoveled a lot of snow, and read a lot of books. A snowfall like this one (about 10" on Monday and another 2-3" on Wednesday) is very unusual for our area of Kentucky. My husband tells me it has been about 20 years since the last time KY had snow like this. So this Quick Takes is all about our week being cooped up together because of the weather.

We knew the snow was going to start before we woke up Monday. We knew it was predicted to be a big one (anywhere from 8-14"). We knew, too, that our garbage collection was Monday and they usually came early. So Sunday night, Hubby gathered the trash and got it all out to the curb before it got too cold (we were getting pretty cold temps, too). We hoped that maybe they would start earlier than normal to try to get routes done before the snow got too bad. No such luck. Our trash is still sitting by the curb.

So when your trash cans are down on the curb and you have about 10" of snow on the ground that is taking forever to clear off the wrap-around-to-the-back-of-the-house driveway and the diaper pail is starting to fill up again, what do you do??

I had to be a little discriminating on which diapers went into the pail and which had to wait. That's all I'm saying.

In anticipation of the snow, Hubby picked up some sweetened condensed milk at the store on his last run on Sunday and then put a large bowl out on our back porch Monday morning. Later in the day we gathered some snow from the large bowl and made snow cream. He put it all together but from what I understand it was basically the sweetened condensed milk, some vanilla, a little bit of maraschino cherry juice all mixed together and then mixed into some snow. It was actually pretty good.

Hubby got outside and shoveled a few times on Monday just in an attempt to keep up with it. He was able to do about 7 or 8 feet in front of our garage, plus the walkway between the driveway and the back porch, and cleared out the snow from in front of the drier vent. Each time he went out to shovel he was basically shoveling a few more inches from that same area. Just enough to get the small car out of the garage, but not quite enough to get the van out. As a result we had a mountain of snow sitting about 8 feet from the back of the garage.
You can see the pile starting to mount in the middle of our driveway.
The garage is actually just out of view to the right of the photo.

Tuesday I went out and helped. I'm completely out of shape, haven't exercised in forever, and I was out there chipping away at the layers and layers of snow. It was a great workout. One of the boys didn't want me to leave them in the house, so he told me I had 6 minutes only (why 6 minutes I have no idea). The two of them (baby was napping) sat by the large kitchen windows watching us for a while. At one point, I heard knocking on the glass, turned around, and through the glass one of the twins reminded me that it had been 6 minutes (in reality it had probably been 15 by then). I told him I still had five more. Eventually they both got bored and went back to watching TV.

I have not been good about actually showering every day this week. What's the point, really? I know I did one morning, another I skipped completely, and on Wednesday I showered and dressed while the baby took his afternoon nap. I didn't bother drying my hair after that Wednesday afternoon shower since I wasn't planning on going anywhere. So I walked downstairs with wet hair and Peter sees me and starts trying to ask about my hair. He kept pointing and saying, "Your hair it's, it's ..." I waited for him to find the right word. I was just about to say "wet" when he said. "it's not pretty."

Awwwww! Kids say the cutest things!

Okay, let's get away from the snow for at least one of these takes. Two quick links to share with you. First, my little blog here was featured on Wednesday in a new series on Catholic Sistas. You can check out the "Fabulously Featured" post HERE and be sure to follow Catholic Sistas to get all the great posts in addition to the "Fabulously Featured" posts to feature various Catholic bloggers on Wednesdays. Second, my post on Catholic Sistas today is the first interview I did for the Year of Consecrated Life series I started this year. Please go visit the post HERE and leave a comment for Sr. Anne Joan and share the post with others. I think this is a great way to honor this Year of Consecrated Life.

Thanks for stopping by and please go visit Kelly for more Quick Takes posts. I hope everyone has a good weekend. Stay warm!!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Snow Small Successes

It's been a whole lot of snow this week. The university I work for was closed Monday and Tuesday, open Wednesday (though they probably shouldn't have been) and Wednesday night they cancelled classes and called a "Plan B" for essential employees for Thursday and Friday. My kids' daycare has been closed all week so far and I expect them to be closed Friday as well. So I've been home all week. And the roads are terrible, so Hubby has been home too.

So far, I believe we've had 12 inches of snow. Ten of which all came on Monday, starting around 2 am and not ending until around dinner time or so. That's a lot of snow for one day. Heck, that's a lot of snow for Kentucky! Then we got two more inches between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning plus it snowed off and on (light snow showers) during the day Wednesday.

Now, I'm not one who gets cabin fever much at all. Maybe it's because I'm often away from home, so when I get a chance to spend a few days at home, I don't mind it. But it's been so cold and all this snow has made it hard, no, impossible to get out that I think I may be starting to feel the effects of a tad bit of cabin fever. Hopefully I'll get a chance to get out soon. Probably not today, hopefully by Friday.

How, you are probably asking yourself, does this have anything to do with my week's small successes? Well, I'm making it work. Here we go.

Saturday it snowed quite a lot in the morning. We were planning on family coming in from about an hour away for dinner that night and I really started wondering if we should cancel. I hate the idea of people putting in a long drive and then getting stuck somewhere. But we waited it out and I kept checking my messages for a cancellation on their part. Right about 3pm, the snow started to lighten up and the sun came out enough to melt things. It was actually quite impressive. By the time out guests arrived you wouldn't have known it had snowed much more than just a dusting. Anyway, the whole point here though was that I did some nice cleaning around the house for once. The nice thing was that Hubby occupied the children for an hour or so while I made beds and vacuumed our entire upstairs (two tasks that were long overdue). But it felt great to have those things done!

Tuesday's mound of shoveled snow,
almost as tall as me.
After our big snow fall on Monday, I got out on Tuesday and helped Hubby shovel the driveway. I haven't done anything physical in a very long time. It felt good, actually, to put in some physical labor. We didn't clear off our entire driveway, but we got enough to get the cars out of the garage (eventually).

Also on Tuesday, we helped a neighbor from up the street get his car moving. He had gotten stuck in the snow in front of our next door neighbor's house. So Hubby and I and the next door neighbor all helped push him out (after a lot of back and forth) and got him moving up the hill. He then got stuck at the top of the hill trying to turn the corner. Hubby and I walked up the hill to try again, but didn't have as much luck that time. Eventually some other neighbors came out and someone else got in the driver's seat and got the car moving. Lesson of the day: Don't leave the house!

What are your week's small successes? Come join the fun at

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Small Successes Again!

I don't know how Thursday always comes up so quickly each week. One minute I'm thinking it's the slowest week ever {It's Tuesday? Darn, I thought tomorrow was Friday.} and the next thing I know it's Thursday and it's time for Small Successes at Catholic Mom.

So here we go ...

I unpacked a box that has been sitting under the desk in our kitchen since we moved into the house in August 2013. I can push the chair in now! I tell you what, I am the queen of clutter. I'm trying to decrease it, but it is so hard. I was in pillage mood Wednesday night, though. One box done, 397827303 more to go.

I mopped the floor in my kitchen, specifically under the kitchen table. Sweeping and/or vacuuming are normal activities and Hubby usually handles steam cleaning the horrible, awful tile in the kitchen, but it had gotten really bad and I had had enough. I still don't know how the steam cleaner works, but I still have my old spray mop with some cleaning liquid still in it. So I grabbed that for a quick once over. It's not perfect, but at least it looks better.

I don't know how it happened but my writing list for February is kind of long. I also have a trip coming up for work at the end of the month, so not only is it a short month to begin with but my trip makes it even shorter (unless I bring the laptop with me, which I am trying NOT to do). And then, driving to work one morning this week I was thinking about how I've always wanted to write fiction but I'm my own worst enemy when it comes to ideas. I told myself I needed to stop thinking about it so much and let the Holy Spirit guide me. Two seconds later I was hit on the head with an idea that I know I could not have come up with on my own! I was actually seeing scenes play out in my head and I got chocked up, even. That's all I need is more writing on my to-do list. I managed to write out a 1400 word synopsis and brief character descriptions within a few hours, but now I'm letting it percolate.

So, where is the success here? Despite adding to my writing list (long-term anyway, not just February), I did manage to finish two items from the list. You can see one HERE. I have one week to finish up the rest of the list! And a related success (at least in my mind), I managed to listen to the Holy Spirit and not myself. Amen!

Join the small success fun at Catholic Mom today!

Friday, February 06, 2015

Seven Quick Takes: In Which I Finally Make an Appearance #7QT

I haven't participated in 7 Quick Takes in a long time, so this is my first one to link up with new host Kelly Mantoan at This Ain't The Lyceum. Hello Kelly and all of Kelly's readers!!

Check out Kelly's blog as well as all the link-ups to all the 7 Quick takes posts. Lots of Friday Fun!

QT 1
I have decided: the worst part of parenthood is potty training. We started out trying to work with both twins at once, which was a nightmare. A little over a week into it we had a brief sickness hit almost everyone in the house (thankfully it was brief for each person and mostly a minor bug). I went back to diapers temporarily because we weren't making any progress anyway and everyone already felt bad. Why make things worse. When all was better I started back in with only one twin. The other is happily in diapers for now. The one who is potty training is making very, verrrrrry, verrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrry slow progress. But it's getting better. {That's what I keep telling myself, anyway.}

If you see me around and I look defeated, this is why. I think it's going to take from now until the boys start kindergarten to get them both trained. {Words of encouragement are most welcome.}

QT 2
One of my coworkers retired this week. It was kind of sad to think that she wouldn't be around the office any longer. I know we'll still see her, I expect she'll be back to check out books and to say hi, but it won't be quite the same. She and I had adjoining office spaces for the first several years we worked together and would often be able to push our chairs back to the edge of the barrier to chat. She also helped me get involved in my parish when I was new to town and I'm incredibly grateful for that (met my husband there!). She will be missed, but I'm sure she is going to enjoy retirement!

QT 3
I updated the appearance of my blog. Do you like it? I wanted something a little cleaner looking and wanted to go back to a white background. I also no longer liked the look of having both a right and left sidebar, so I trimmed the sidebar content and moved it all to the right side. There is still a ton of stuff I want to do to clean things up, just have to find the time to do it. Haha!

QT 4
I have been so discouraged lately by the vitriol I see on social media regarding vaccines. I see so many people just downright attacking people on the other side of the issue and belittling and demeaning people. It's not right and it's certainly not Christian. I don't care what "side" you are on, be respectful. Just because someone chooses not to vaccinate or selectively vaccinate doesn't mean they just read an article or two through Google and/or are following the advise of some nobody Hollywood personality. Don't assume that those who make different choices than you are irrational idiots and certainly don't call them that. If you wouldn't say it to their face, don't say it to them on social media (or a radio program or whatever platform you are able to use to get on your soapbox). It's not nice, it's not Christian, and it's not the way to have a rational discussion on an important issue.

QT 5
And to add to the above, regardless of which side you advocate, I hope everyone will recognize that one of the biggest objectives many people have to some vaccines is that aborted fetal tissues make some of them unethical. Yes, we as Catholics can still use them, but if we do, we need to make our objections known to the manufacturer. That being said, there is a petition currently up on to ask Merck to bring back the single dose measles and mumps vaccines (i.e., not combined together along with rubella (MMR)) that were ethical alternatives to the combined vaccine (currently the only one available in the U.S.). If you want more people to receive the vaccine, sign the petition!! And also, write a letter to Merck expressing your concern for ethical vaccines to be made available so that more people will be open to receiving the vaccines (I plan on doing it this weekend). Pro-vaccines, anti-vaccines, selective vaccines, whichever side you fit into, IT DOES NOT MATTER! Go sign the petition and let Merck know you want them to offer ethical alternatives.

QT 6
Lately, each night when we put the kids to bed I give them one last kiss once they are tucked into bed and tell them I love them. I also then ask them, "Who else loves you?" And they answer back, "God loves me." It's so cute! They occasionally add other names too, like St. Teresa or St. Joseph. I really don't know where they picked up the saint names, but I love that they have remembered them from somewhere.

QT 7
We haven't gotten nearly the amount of snow as places like Chicago and Boston have the last couple weeks. But when we do get some, the boys love looking at it and touching it. Then I have cute conversations like this:

Ethan: "Who drops the snow?"

Me: "Who drops it?"

Ethan: "Who drops snow from the sky?"

Me: "You tell me, who drops the snow?"

Ethan: "God drops snow. And Jesus!"


Go check out more #7 QT posts over at This Ain't The Lyceum!

Thursday, February 05, 2015

The Week's Successes: Shoes, Cleaning, Prayer

Happy Thursday! The great part of "Small Success Thursday" is that it's almost the end of the week, but not yet THE end of the week. So you're still in the drudges, trying to make it to the weekend, but it is just out of grasp. What a great time to think about the things we have accomplished so far. Even if they are minuscule. Doesn't matter how big or how small, a success is a success.

There's your pep talk for the week. You're welcome.

For weeks I've been saying that we need to get new shoes for the boys. All three of them! This past Saturday we finally did just that (after a stop to get haircuts for all four boys, which was the first haircut for Silas). Even with both Hubby and I there, three small boys in a shoe store is quite the challenge. Especially with a new walker who wanted nothing else but to play on the stairs and ramp that led down to the children's section of the store. But in the end, all three boys got shoes. 

Silas was not sure what to think at first. Hubby described his attempts to walk in shoes for the first time as like a cat with duct tape on its paws.

I did some vacuuming. That's it. Success enough for me!

After weeks of thinking about it (or maybe the Holy Spirit was just bugging me about it) I finally went to church one night and spent an hour with Jesus in the Adoration Chapel. I need to make this a weekly thing, but for now it was nice to just get there and remember what it is like to spend a peaceful hour before the Blessed Sacrament. It also gave me a chance to do Evening Prayer without any interruptions. I do plan on getting on the schedule permanently, but since I'm going out of town in a few short weeks, I figure I'll wait till after that to make it a permanent commitment.

What are your small successes this week? Join the fun at