celebrate life…every day

Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic C...

Image by sarowen via Flickr

It’s kind of a running joke in the Catholic Church, actually it’s probably true of all religious denominations, that there’s an explosion of attendance on two annual occasions, Christmas and Easter. Regular churchgoers have to literally suck in their breaths to make room for the masses of people who join in celebrating the birth of Jesus, and then His resurrection from death. But all are welcome, regardless if they only come once or twice a year.

I acted as a meet and greet person for 8 a.m. Mass this morning. Seems to be a volunteer job I’m becoming more and more adept at doing. No cowboys here though, like there was at my previous gig. Just regular folk in their Sunday best. My husband helped usher people. We arrived about 15-20 minutes before the start of services, so there weren’t a ton of empty spaces left in the pews. I had a hunch we’d be one of the many standing the entire time, which we did.

After fulfilling our tasks, I remained in the vestibule where I’d been welcoming fellow worshippers with “Good morning. Happy Easter.” Meanwhile, hubby stood directly opposite me at the other end of the church. We could’ve waved “hello” but we didn’t. We were respectful, and minded our “P’s and Q’s,” or at least I did. He’s always reverential. Did I tell you he was a seminarian studying for the priesthood when he was in high school? God decided he had a more difficult job to undertake…keeping me on the straight and narrow, which he’s done, at times with difficulty. I’m not the kind of sheep who’s easily led. I like to ask “but..why?”

Because I was standing where families gather, outside the glass doors that separate them from the other parishioners, I couldn’t follow the priest’s words very well. With babies and toddlers cooing and talking, or parading up and down the aisle, or running in some cases, I quickly decided that God was also present among them and all of us standing on the periphery, not just within the main body of the church where the altar was. So I watched, and enjoyed, the children and their parents interact. Jesus, Mary and Joseph must’ve carried on like any one of these normal families.

La vierge aux raisins

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A young couple whom I had brought over to an empty chair in front of me, were wonderful to watch. The husband encouraged his wife to sit with their baby in her lap. Taking off his jacket, and draping it over the back of the chair, he gently stroked his wife’s back as she tended to the little one’s needs. At times, he would lift the girl up into his arms to give the mother a little respite. Once he left, taking his daughter with him. They were gone a little while so I wondered if he’d taken her somewhere to change a diaper or use the restroom. Of course I didn’t know for sure, but he seemed the considerate type who wouldn’t flinch at the task. At the kiss of peace,” I wished them a “Happy Easter,” and told them how much I enjoyed their wonderful family.

It’s always rewarding to notice God’s handiwork in the smallest moments of daily living. Happiness, I think, is an accumulation of all such worthwhile minutiae. Approaching life this way has meant that I’m able to sustain ongoing joy. I’m better able to keep the “valleys” in perspective, not letting them drain me of my positive resolve. It’s an ongoing struggle, for sure, but one which I’m determined never to lose.

My favorite author, Leo Buscaglia, makes the best case for celebrating every day as though it were Easter, or Christmas, or any other sacred occasion.

A Rose to Brighten Your Day

Image by TT IN THE DESERT via Flickr

Life is meant to be a celebration! It shouldn’t be necessary to set aside special times to remind us of this fact. Wise is the person who finds a reason to make every day a special one.

hugs for every day of your life being special…hugmamma.

   

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“life’s flavor,” ethnicity

Father Edmunds, I’m almost certain that’s the name of the priest who regularly assists our pastor at saying a few Sunday Masses. Charismatic in a more soft-spoken manner, Father gave an interesting homily last weekend.

The Gospel’s message was that we, God‘s disciples, are the “salt of the earth,” and the “light of the world.” Father began his sermon telling of a book fest he’d attended where an acquaintance, a Muslim, was speaking to a predominantly Muslim audience. The man had authored many books based upon his life experiences.

Born in Egypt, the speaker was raised in Switzerland. Now living in the U.S., he’s very familiar with living in a society unlike his own. Initially he tried to fit in, setting aside his cultural idiosyncrasies. In time, with the advice of friends, he realized he should celebrate his Muslim heritage, sharing, rather than hiding it.

Father likened one’s ethnicity, to the salt used by Middle Easterners to heat their earth ovens. There, children set to work mixing together salt and the dung of camels and donkeys. The result is spread over the stones covering the bottom of the earth ovens. The salt acts as a catalyst in igniting the fire. As the flames burn, the catalytic quality in the salt is expended. The salt, its flavor intact, is then scattered on the ground outside the oven.

Just as salt flavors the food we eat, so too our individual differences bring a vibrancy to the world in which we live, explained Father Edmunds. He went on to say that God gifts us with our distinctive traits, as part of His greater plan to bring “light” to the world.

Moving to New York from Honolulu, where I’d graduated from the University of Hawaii, and gotten married, was like moving to a foreign country. Most New Yorkers I encountered didn’t look like me, nor did they share my mannerisms. Being of Chinese-Hawaiian descent qualifies me as a Pacific Islander with the census bureau, but my habits and attitudes are generally like those of the Asian population, and very unlike those of Caucasians. Living in the Big Apple compounded my dilemma, for its residents are unlike those in any of the other 50 states, or so I’m told.

It took me a while to develop a stiff upper lip, not to mention a spine. Orientals in Hawaii in the 50s and 60s, were “invisible.” We had no problem adhering to the golden rule, “children should be seen and not heard.” So finding myself among New Yorkers who were aggressive, ambitious, and often ill-mannered, left me feeling like a doormat. I tried to fit in, by setting aside my ill-equipped Asian mentality. I was like a scared chicken let out of its coop, left to flounder among long-time, cage-free residents.

Slowly, inevitably, I began owning my culture once again. I wore it like a badge of honor, telling everyone within earshot, “I’m from Hawaii, born and raised on the island of Maui.” As whites and blacks warmed up to me, I wore my pride and humility equally. I came to love The Big Apple. Visiting relatives commented that I was becoming a New Yorker, exhibiting more confidence and “hutzpah.” Working in New York City for 10 years, my personality underwent changes in order to survive. I even joked that the stork must have made an error, delivering me to Pacific Islanders. It seemed I should’ve been “dropped” on the island of Manhattan, alongside the Hudson River.

Of course I’d never relinquish my unique heritage. It embellished my experiences in the Big Apple, and being Hawaiian continues to flavor life’s journey wherever I go.

savor one’s heritage…life’s salt, life’s “flavor”…hugmamma.

family, “warts and all”

At last Sunday’s Mass, Father Bryan began his homily sharing some family drama between his younger brother and mom, nothing catastrophic, more like what we all experience with certain family members through the course of our lives. Probably the key ingredient to the prickly relationship is that Father’s family members are very much alike in personality. That, for sure, is something many of us have in common. It’s probably like having 2 pieces to a jigsaw puzzle that fit together in every way, save one. That difference will forever keep them at odds. But unlike a board game, familial relations can be sorted through, and the rough edges made smoother, if not perfect.

As Father pointed out, not even the Holy Family was perfect. An angel appeared to St. Joseph three times, dictating what he and his family should do. First, he was going to marry the Virgin Mary who would conceive a child of God. Second, he and Mary must leave their homes, families, and all that was familiar, to move to Egypt. And then finally, they were to return home to Nazareth where they would settle into daily living. Surely as human beings, father, mother, and son must have had their moments of frustration, which spilled over onto one another. How they weathered stormy times together, while maintaining love and respect for one another, is what’s important, and a valuable lesson for all of us.

After Mass, my daughter and I approached Father Bryan to express appreciation for his homily. In reply, he looked at me exclaiming that our family probably didn’t experience any of the normal angst he mentioned about most families, including his. Before I could respond, someone offered him words of thanksgiving. If we’d not been interrupted, I would’ve told Father that no family is exempt from “baggage.” But like the Holy Family, we forgive, and move forward with compassion for one another, as well as ourselves.

The holidays seem to bring added pressures to families, insisting everyone “get along,” whether that means squelching decades old animosities, jealousies and rivalries, or feigning affection for those we barely know. Because I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve, and my feelings lie near the surface, I don’t squelch or feign very well. I can overlook and be fine. My mother use to want me to be other than who I was. Growing up I had no choice, but as an adult I can only be honest.

I don’t think we have to lie to get along, I believe we can be who we are and hope that others accept us for that, and not what they would like us to be. I don’t like to layer my expectations upon someonelse, nor do I want anyones’ expectations to rest upon me. Among the many things I took away from Dr. Amen’s book, “Change Your Brain, Change Your Life,” is that I want to live my best life. In order to do so I must dwell on the positive, not the negative. Of course it’s an ongoing effort not to get caught up in the daily grind of living, as witnessed on the news reports: wars, foreclosures, unemployment, natural disasters, a bad economy. While it may be impossible to control the macrocosm, I can manage the microcosm. And so I try to make my environment as positive and hopeful as I can.

Family are who they are. While liking them may be difficult at times, accepting them is not open for deliberation, in my opinion. Being with them, however, is another matter, again my opinion. No matter family or friends, people should respect one another in their dealings. “Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you,” is still a great way to live. One’s perspective may differ from another person’s, but respect for all viewpoints should be a given. Unfortunately that’s not always the case. Rather than “beating ourselves up,” tying to force relationships to fit like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle, it might behoove some, like me, to do what I can do, and be contented with that much. Progress can be made bit by bit, it need not occur in one fell swoop. It can, but it needn’t.

I’ll take small moments of happiness as often as they occur, rather than pine and stress at never attaining the perfect family portrait. All those in our families are striving to live their best lives, given their particular circumstances. I love them all, and will always wish them life’s best, whether I’m physically in their lives or not. And I’m certain they wish the same for me and mine.

for all families who are nearly perfect…or far from perfect, huge hugs…hugmamma.

“mary did you know”

Written by Buddy Greene, Mark Lowlry. Copyrighted 1991, 1993 Word Music LLC. “Mary Did You Know” is one of my very favorite Christmas songs. We sang it in church today, during the “Preparation of the Table.” Telling of the miracles her son Jesus will perform, and that when she kisses him, she’ll “kiss the face of God,” evokes the tender love all mothers feel for their own, special children. For I truly believe that when we look upon the face of an innocent child, God looks back at us, as if to say “This is my child in whom I am well pleased. Love him. Love her. And you will love Me.”

MARY DID YOU KNOW

Mary did you know, that your baby boy, Would one day walk on water.

Mary did you know, that your baby boy, Would save our sons and daughters.

Did you know, that your baby boy, Will come to make you new.

This Child that you are carrying, Will soon deliver you.

Mary did you know, that your baby boy, Would give sight to the blind man.

Mary did you know, that your baby boy, Would calm a storm with His hand.

Did you know, that your baby boy, has walked where angels trod.

And when you kiss your little baby, You’ll kiss the face of God?

Oh Mary did you know.

Oh the blind will see, the deaf will hear, the dead will live again. The lame will leap, the dumb will speak, The praises of the Lamb!

Oh Mary did you know, that your baby boy, is Lord of all creation.

Mary did you know, That your baby boy, Will one day rule the nations.

Did you know, that your baby boy, Is heaven’s perfect lamb. The sleeping Child you’ll hold,

IS THE GREAT I AM.

 

hug your child, hug God…hugmamma.

standing ovation, unexpected

The last Sunday before Christmas, Liturgically there are no surprises. Advent, the season in which we Catholics prepare ourselves for Christ’s coming, has been celebrated in the same way ever since I was a child. Actually, there might have been a change after the Ecumenical Council.If there was, I couldn’t tell you specifically what. I do remember that as a result of the Council, Mass was no longer spoken in Latin, but rather in English, and the priest faced the congregation, instead of having his back toward them. Both changes were memorable when they first occurred, and for some time afterwards.

But today’s Mass unfolded as usual, until Father Bryan introduced us to a group known as REX, or Religious Experience. It had been organized by a handful of female parishioners to benefit disabled Catholics. They numbered between 10 and 12 individuals, with their ages ranging from the mid-teens to the mid-fifties. There were more men than women. Several had Down Syndrome, with other disabilities not being as readily identifiable. But it was obvious they were all handicapped.

Father Bryan explained that for the past couple of years, the REX had entertained him with their version of the Nativity in the basement of the church. This year they agreed to Father’s request to perform for the congregation, which they did during our Mass.

One of the founding ladies narrated the story, while members of the group enacted the roles, the angel who acts as guide, Mary, Joseph, the innkeeper, the shepherds and the 3 wise men. The infant Jesus was a very realistic-looking, baby doll. The story was simple, and while the actors were not overly expressive, they were still engaging. What garnered them a standing ovation was their genuine commitment to do a good job, which they did, in spades! The looks on their faces were priceless. They seemed not to expect such affirmation of their work. In that moment, they were the least accomplished of God’s children, uplifted to the highest.

The REX bestowed a great gift upon us who have so much more, and oft-times forget that we do. Their joy is simple. Their pleasure is in the small things they achieve, and receive, like our standing ovation which lasted for several minutes. I went to church expecting nothing life altering, and came away changed, if only in a small way. But big enough to instill in me a new appreciation of Christmas, and the liturgy.

father bryan is always full of surprises, ones that make us better christians…hugmamma.

like family, church

Our parish has a very special “shepherd” in Father Brian. He brings us together like family. If you’ve followed me through my other church-related posts, you know I’m more about what’s going on around me, than I am about the rituals of the Mass. I know those more or less by heart since I was born a Catholic, more than half-a-century ago. What constantly changes, on the other hand, are the dynamics of the congregations in the churches I’ve attended.

It is my fervent belief, one which I’ve extrapolated on before, that the “sheep” in any organization behave according to the management style of the guy with the staff in his hand. Remember Moses? Granted, some follow better than others. I’m one of the peripheral “sheep,” not buying everything I’m being fed. I follow, but in my own way, in my own time. Give me a charismatic “shepherd” like Fr. Brian, and I’m on board 98%. The remaining 2% I retain on behalf of my own counsel. I think my husband and daughter are of a like mind. We don’t “bite,” when someone says “chew.” Sometimes we’re in the mood for meat, other times grain.

My perception of how well a boss is doing, is garnered from how well those he manages appear to be doing. From what I could see at Mass this morning, and truthfully at all I’ve attended, Father rallies everyone around him like a real father who cares about his children. And that’s saying a lot, since he’s only in his late 30’s!

Parishioners who left because of the “fire and brimstone” style of the previous pastor, have returned. Everyone is relaxed. Children are children, but quietly. They talk amongst themselves, or with their parents. We smile at one another, nodding our heads in acknowledgement, even toward complete strangers. Father Brian tells jokes to further a message. The responding laughter is easy, comfortable. This morning he explained that despite his wearing a purple vestment with gold trim, he was not advertising his support of the Huskies football team. From Bellingham, he neither roots for them, or WAZOO.

Then like a patriarch, Fr. Brian reminded us of those less fortunate. He spoke of the Catholic Services Society and all they do for the needy in our area, welcoming its director to address us personally. Unaware of the specific contributions made by CSS until now, our family was moved to make a donation on the spot. One recipient of the organization’s aid, Joan, wrote a letter of thanks. Explaining that she’d been poor all of her life, then finding herself pregnant at age 40, she was unsure where to turn. Thankfully CSS reached out to provide housing and food for Joan and her newborn. They provided her hope, and isn’t that what we all need to survive another day?

Looking across the aisle from where we sat, my daughter and I watched the obvious love between a mother and her daughter. Arms entwined around one another; whispers back and forth between the two; both “canoodling” as if no onelse existed. The charm of this Rockwellian scene? The mother was white; the daughter as black as night. But it didn’t seem as though either noticed the difference in their skin color. All my daughter and I could see was the extraordinary love in their eyes.

Behind this mother and daughter pair, was a family whose mom was Asian and whose dad was White. The young boy and girl were a mixture of both. I commented to my daughter that they looked to be Mongolian. Since I’m Hawaiian-Chinese, I’m very conscious of the differences in Asian features. I mention this family for their mixed heritage, but also because they too were smiling upon the mixed-heritage pair in front of them. A couple of pews behind the family were young parents with a newborn. Both were cooing to their baby, oblivious to those sitting nearby.

As we strode past the font, dipping our fingertips in the holy water to bless ourselves before leaving, my daughter recalled an incident which we both perceived as significant. In line to receive communion, she noticed 2 women, one in front of the other, gently holding hands. If they were lesbians, they were evidently comfortable admitting so before the entire congregation. Their simple gesture is momentous in that it speaks to Father Brian’s tolerance for all who come to worship. These women felt he would not condemn them. No fuss was made, so I didn’t take notice. We were all one, receiving Christ into our lives.   

Such scenes as I’ve mentioned, warm my heart, and make me very grateful for Father Brian. He enables us to be better people, better parents, better spouses, better neighbors, better bosses, better workers. There’s something to be said for the generosity of enablers. I don’t only toot my own horn, for I enable my husband to be the best boss he can be, and my daughter to be the best ballerina she can be. But the world is full of enablers, those who happily work from the sidelines, cheering others on to greater glory. The world needs both, those who do, and those who enable. And God blesses both.

Father Brian was the emcee at the recent inaugural ceremonies for our new archbishop, which took place at St. James Cathedral in Seattle. Unfortunately for us, his “sheep,” Father is not long for our parish. Having worked in the corporate world for many years, I can spot an “up-and-coming,” personality. And Father Brian is a star on the rise. He would make an excellent archbishop, cardinal, even Pope. Of course, these predictions are just that, predictions. No one has so much as voiced these opinions in public. Except perhaps the former archbishop whom we met at a farewell party in his honor. I seem to recall that he made a comment acknowledging that Father Brian’s talent hasn”t gone unnoticed.

While the Church needs men such as our pastor who has the passion, ambition, youthful energy, intelligence, people-skills, generosity and grace to lead the institution, I personally think more men like Father Brian are needed as pastors. The Church, after all, rests its weight upon the shoulders of its “sheep.” Without charismatic shepherds, sheep have a tendency to stray, even becoming tantalizing meals for wolves, and the like.

Of course the decision belongs to Father Brian and ultimately, the Pope. Father’s a young man, with a long journey ahead of him. He must answer his calling. Whatever it is, he has touched our lives along the way, and we’ve been made better for his gift of service.

prayers for Father Brian, and hugs…hugmamma.

“juxtaposition,” the holiday and the preparation

As we prepare for the holiday season, we were reminded in Mass yesterday that we are embarking upon the journey towards Christ’s birth, Christmas. As is Father Bryan’s custom, he related a personal anecdote that brought the message home.

As a seminarian, Father and others, were given the task of removing the stump of a huge, old tree that had been cut down because it was diseased. An all day job, they labored mightily to extricate every bit of remnant that remained. That included the use of crowbars, and burning the core of the stump, attempting to soften it. As he said, their voices reached skyward in prayer, as they undertook the painstaking chore. Was that his subtle way of saying that if they could swear, they might have? I’m positive most men, and women, would’ve mumbled a few choice words, and not necessarily “under their breath.” Ahhh..but Father Bryan’s on the path to sainthood, so he must mind his p’s and q’s.

The following morning, Father wandered through a garden on the property, sipping his tea, and enjoying the beautifully maintained haven. When his gaze fell upon the hole where the stump once was, and the surrounding unkempt area, he reflected upon the juxtaposition of what was lovely, and what was ugly.

During the weeks before and during Advent, we must rout out all that remains of “the ugly stump,” so that we can fully enjoy the beautiful “garden,” Christ’s birth. Father’s metaphor is probably one of the most vivid I’ve ever encountered, so that it’s imagery will probably remain with me as I prepare myself for the holidays.

Another part of the homily which was an “aha” moment, was Father Bryan’s affirmation of something to which I already subscribe. The minutiae of our daily lives is who we are, and upon them we should focus our efforts and energies. We may not always enjoy what we’re doing, but we should do them nonetheless.  I’m sure he was referring to having to remove the tree stump. 

What we do, day in and day out, as a matter of course, is the source of our happiness. Singular events come and go. They may give us a temporary boost, helping us to soar momentarily. But we always return to the mundane, the every day, the minutiae. It’s best if those things are uplifting, and positive, so that they help us move forward, living our best lives. Disapproval and negativity encourages fretful, less fulfilling lives.

preparing for the holiday season, hugs…hugmamma.

gray skies above, warm hearts below

Our “signature” weather here in the Pacific Northwest never goes out of style. So it’s with little fanfare that we welcome the return of menacing gray skies, upon whose heels arrive the downpour of “angels’ tears.” Our family has learned to take it all in stride.

The dismal weather gives us a chance to burrow under blankets, read a mountain of books, piled high magazines and Wall Street Journals, sup on homemade soups, play endless rounds of Bananagrams, and just recently, cribbage.

Once-in-awhile, my daughter and I settle in to watch old films on DVD, like “Anna and the King of Siam,” starring Rex Harrison and Irene Dunn. Totally different from “The King and I,” the colorized version with Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr, my daughter was enthralled with the more serious story told in the older version. Unlike its successor, it was a drama, not a musical. In it the king does not dance with the teacher, nor does Tuptim stage the story of  “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”

After Mass yesterday we decided to drive out to Snohomish, where antique stores abound. Enroute we stopped at a favorite haunt, Maltby Cafe. It’s not a restaurant we frequent because of its distance, and because the meals taste like mom’s cooking, which means lo-cal is not a high priority. The few times we’ve driven to partake of this gastronomical feast, there has always been a lineup of hungry customers. But everyone minds their manners. We put our names on a list, and wait patiently, the cafe’s “monster” cinnamon roll making me salivate at the thought of biting into it, melted icing escaping out the corners of my grinning lips.

The Cafe is cozily ensconced in the basement of a building. After 20 minutes or so of eager anticipation,  we were comfortably seated at a table. We took our time looking through the menu, deciding what to eat. My husband is always the first to make a selection. His pick was some gigantic omelet, whose name  escapes me. Meanwhile, my daughter and I read the menu as though it were a novel, poring over each page from top to bottom.

I started with “desserts” on the back of the menu. The “melted caramel sundae” sounded divine, and loaded with calories! Coming to my senses, I chose French toast with marionberries and creme fraiche on the side. With it I ordered a dish of red, fried potatoes, onions, mushrooms and diced ham. Of course, half of it came home in a “doggie bag.” The same was true of my daughter’s meal, homemade Italian sausages with  scrambled eggs, and biscuits with gravy.

While awaiting our main courses, we began with an appetizer. We sliced the long-awaited cinnamon roll 4 ways. We still brought home half of it. As we “oohed and aahed” and hungrily devoured morsels of the heavenly pastry, our eyes wandered around the spacious dining room. Devotees of HGTV, we agreed that the Cafe could easily be transformed into a basement apartment. The long breakfast bar along one side of the room could serve as informal family dining, while the main room could easily house a living space, office space, dining space, and perhaps spare sleeping area. Through a door towards the back would probably be a bedroom. At the very back of the restaurant were a men’s and women’s restroom. And, of course, there was a kitchen through a door behind the breakfast bar. Beams running the length of the ceiling added to the warmth and charm of the room. I think our family qualifies for its own designer show on HGTV. My husband and daughter would probably say “Yeah, right.” They’re not as full of ideas as I am. Or am I… just full of it? Hmmm. Whatever…

Tummies full, we drove on to our final destination. Hunting for bargains in antique shops is a “high” for me. Most dealers, if not all, thrive on finding treasures for unbelievably fabulous prices, in other words, cheap. Once upon a time it was possible, and it may be again, given the current economy. But the difficulty now is that while something may be a bargain, how much of a markup can the market bear? Where nearly 2 decades ago I could double the price of what I paid for an item, I’m no longer able to do so in most cases. So the profit margin has shrunk considerably. Why remain in the business?

All antique dealers are passionate about “old” stuff, their history, their  craftsmanship, and the idea that these items are very much relics of the past. Walking through aisles of artifacts usually stirs up memories of bygone days, before all the modern conveniences like dishwashers, clothes dryers, refrigerators, computers. Instead, my eyes linger over dishracks and colorful dish towels, vintage clothes drying racks or clothes lines that unwind from a green or blue tin box, pie safes that use to store perishable foods from pesky flies, and typewriters, Royals and Underwoods.

With the holidays approaching, I opted to purchase several silver plated serving platters of various shapes and sizes. The prices were reasonable, most $12, a couple $16. They’re not in mint condition, but for the right price, customers will purchase them as beautiful accents for festive celebrations. Shabby chic is in these days, especially at stores like Crate and Barrel. Why pay their exorbitant prices for “knock-offs,” when the real thing can be bought for half the price or less? “Used” means it’s been loved in its former life.

Meandering the back roads under a threatening, gray sky in verdant Washington State, is as special as lazing under the tropical sun, on a white sand beach in Maui. 

found anywhere, blessings…hugmamma.

“blessed are the children”

Fr. Bryan was his usual, charismatic self. At 38 years old, he’s got the talent and ability to run a business, so the Catholic church is lucky to have him, especially at the salary they must pay him. I’m betting it’s less than $20,000 a year. Today’s homily was proof of his capability to manage the “firm.”

Our parish must submit a 20 year plan for its projected growth. Father indicated that we are a suburban congregation on an urban plot of land. Physical expansion is nearly maxed out. To assist in his plan, Father conducted paper surveys during masses, over the course of 2 weekends. The first dealt with the demographics of the churchgoers; today’s asked which of 4 options we favored. Should we maintain the status quo? Should we stay put, expanding to the max, including constructing a parking garage? Should we consolidate the elementary, middle and high schools on one campus? Should we consolidate all of the church buildings, and the schools onto one compound? Of course, the price tag escalates with each option, from half-a-million dollars to $18 million. 

Father explained that when parishioners asked how soon various and sundry items would be fixed or initiated, he would tell them “We need to come up with a plan.” Interestingly enough he made more sense than my husband who tells me to show him a business plan, when I’ve expressed the desire to open an antique/gift shop. Another question often asked of Father is how long he’ll continue to be our pastor. He told us today that his 3 year contract is up in the spring. We’ll know then whether or not he’ll be renewed for another 6 years. 

Maybe parishioners are wondering  whether or not they want to commit millions of dollars, if Father Bryan is not around to enjoy the “fruits” of his labor. That’s what happened with the parish’s last major church remodel, about 10 years ago. Father Clark accomplished the task with a league of faithful volunteers. He was soon reassigned, and when another priest took his place, many left because the new pastor was not blest with people skills. Even my patient, long-suffering husband experienced moments of frustration. And that’s saying something.

While Father Bryan was speaking about our parish’s “mission,” since today was Mission Sunday, I was admiring the loving relationship of adoptive Caucasian parents for their Hispanic, 7 or 8-year-old son. Sitting in the pew in front of us, I first noticed the husband rubbing the small of his wife’s back in a very loving way. Initially I thought they might have had a little spat, and he was trying to get back into her good graces. But then I noticed the youngster between them, arms wrapped around his father’s waist. For a few minutes, I was distracted by something Father said. When my eyes returned to watching the family, the boy had his arms around his father’s leg. The man looked to be a little over 6 feet tall. Later, mother and son had their arms around one another, she stroking the arm he held across her tummy.

If ever I felt a child belonged to his parents, he was standing right in front of me. The aura emanating from that family was so organic, their love so natural. The difference in their ethnicities meant nothing to them, and yet it spoke volumes about them. I couldn’t help but lean forward, touching the mother on her shoulder, and telling her “I love how you love your son.” She smiled her thanks, sidling over to her son, both of them moving closer to her husband, his father. Tears welled in my eyes, which I had to quell before they trickled down my cheeks. My daughter put her arm around my waist, love in her eyes. She too smiled upon the family, and understood what a blessing they were, especially for those who beheld them.

While I listened to the wisdom of one mother’s son, I beheld another who was so loved by his parents. God touches us, when we least expect it.

all God’s children, hugs for…hugmamma.

portuguese bean soup, recipe

Here in the Pacific Northwest autumn doesn’t sneak up on us, it merely takes a coffee break letting summer step in for a quick 15 minutes. So while elsewhere around the country citizens were barbecuing for months, we never once took the cover off our grill. And regardless what month of the year, I’m always perusing cookbooks and magazines for cold weather recipes, especially soups and stews. Because some of my relatives are faithful readers I decided to share the following recipe, which is a staple of some Hawaiian families. Having said that, I can’t explain why our family ate such hearty fare in the hot tropics. Never thought of it until now. But there’s really no rhyme or reason to why island locals eat what they eat. If it’s “ono,” (tasty) it’s a no-brainer, we’ll eat it.

The first time I can recall eating Portuguese bean soup was at the monthly “Hui Akoni Hemolele” meeting. As the name implies, it was a club to which native Hawaiians belonged, although there were members of other ethnicities, like Japanese and Portuguese. A few men belonged, but the majority were women. My mom had served as an officer a couple of times. Once a month they would all attend a particular Mass to worship. Immediately afterwards they would gather at the church hall, where everyone would be updated on the club’s current affairs. My brother and I would accompany my mom, waiting impatiently until the breakfast of Portuguese bean soup and Portuguese sweet, or white, bread, with butter, would be served. I can still picture the huge steaming pots, from which the serving women would ladle spoonfuls of the thick, homemade soup, heavily laden with chunks of meat, potatoes, carrots and cabbage. It was heaven on earth to eat food that even God would want served at His table. I exaggerate, but that’s how wonderful it tasted, especially for my brother and I who weren’t use to eating an abundance of red meat in those days. I think we thought ourselves extremely lucky if we ate hamburgers.

When the talking finally ceased, members seconding the motion to adjourn, and the short capes of yellow and red bird feathers removed from around their shoulders, we knew that signaled “Let’s eat!” My brother and I didn’t need to be asked twice. We made a beeline for the food. I think my mom would bring up the rear, because she’d always get sidetracked talking with this person, and that person. But the soup never seemed to run out before everyone got their helping. Sometimes there was enough leftover, so we took a potful home. Lucky, lucky us!

I have several recipes for this soup, this being one of the simplest. I’ve not made Portuguese bean soup since Christmas, so I’m starting slow. At some point I may cook the version that has many more ingredients, including papaya which is a natural meat tenderizer. So as the cold season unfolds, I’ll post one or more recipes for this delicious concoction. If you’re wondering why Hawaiians cooked a food traditional to the Portuguese, the short answer is decades ago they were brought to the islands to serve as “lunas” (bosses) on the pineapple plantations. They oversaw the laborers, first the Chinese, followed by the Japanese and finally, the Filipinos. With the influx of these nationalities, came a melting pot of foods, which became Hawaiian food as we know it today, a smorgasbord of this and that. Still my favorite, I’d easily double my body weight if I were a resident. I’d have a plate lunch of beef teriyaki, spam, portuguese sausage, macaroni salad, and rice, instead of a Big Mac and fries any day of the week. Bring it on…

Meanwhile hope you try this recipe, enjoying its hearty flavors near a blazing fire on a cold, wintry Fall evening, or on your lanai, in the shadow of the setting Hawaiian sun, the gentle ocean breezes lightly caressing your cheeks.

PORTUGUESE BEAN SOUP

  • 2 lb Portuguese sausage, cut into 1/4-inch pieces (if unavailable, try another sausage, like Kielbasa)
  • 1 lb ham hock
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 quarts water
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 3 potatoes, diced
  • 1 small cabbage, chopped
  • 1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
  • 2 cans (15 oz size) red kidney beans, including liquid

Put sausage, ham hock, and onion into a large pot; add water. Cover and cook on low heat for 1 hour. Remove meat from ham hock. Put meat back into soup and add carrots, potatoes, cabbage, and tomato sauce; cover and continue cooking for 1-1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Stir in beans, including liquid, and cook a few more minutes, adding more water if necessary. Makes 12 servings.

hmmm, onolicious…hugmamma.

meditation, “down time”, hope

My earliest memories of sitting through Sunday Mass as a child was leaning my butt against the bench, forehead  resting on folded arms on the pew back in front. Before long, my mom pinched my backside prompting an immediate reaction. I’d jerk into an upright position, sleepy eyes wide open if only for a few moments before I relaxed against the bench once again. At the time, the ceremonial ritualism was probably the only thing holding my attention: vestments embellished in gold and silver threads, exotic incense scenting the still air, angelic voices singing words beyond my comprehension. When the magic of showmanship wore off, however, boredom for adult activities quickly took over. Not understanding the Latin spoken by the priest, not seeing what he was doing with his back toward the congregation, and awaking early (never my strongpoint) made church attendance another chore. Didn’t I already have enough of those?

Attending a Catholic girl’s school meant Mass was a regular event, whether weekly or daily, I can’t remember which it was. The only time I was overwhelmingly grateful for the habit was when President Kennedy was assassinated. Upon learning that our Catholic president was dead, the entire student body and school administration filed mournfully into church, seeking comfort within its hallowed, marble walls. It was incomprehensible that the man seen by Americans to have ever-lasting youth and charming, good looks was forever gone. I’m certain school girls and women around the globe identified with Jackie as she bid farewell to her partner in “Camelot.”

Of course marrying the man of my dreams in a Catholic church was a coup of my own. I’d captured his heart and left “wannabe me’s” out in the cold, “eating their hearts out.” Being suppressed by the teaching of nuns didn’t mean my natural instincts were dead, sublimated maybe, but not extinct. Knowing how to catch a mate is in the genes, having been passed down through the ages, beginning with Eve. Our wedding Mass was beautiful, like millions of others before and since. What made ours special was the ensemble of friends from my husband’s seminary days who accompanied the ceremony with song and music. Con-celebrating the Mass were 3 priests, the church’s pastor, a priest who’d known my husband since childhood and a priest who’d been an instructor at the seminary. Having grown up in awe of the religious, I felt privileged to have so many witness my humble marriage. And humble it was for a friend of my mother-in-law’s made my simple gown, another fashioned my bridal bouquet, I made my own headdress as well as my bridesmaid and flower girl’s dresses, our few wedding pictures were taken by my sister and a friend of my husband’s, and we paid $75 for the Chinese food prepared by my sister-in-law’s mother-in-law, a caterer. The reception was held on the rectory lanai, since my mother-in-law worked part-time for the priests. Less than 100 guests visited, and ate with us. There was no music, no band, no dancing. But still a very happy occasion, especially for my husband and I who were grateful to be starting a new life together.

Baptizing our only child in a 100-year-old country church was another dream come true. A miracle baby after a fruitless 16 years of marriage, she was a welcome addition to our relationship. Raising her as a member of the church family meant our daughter had many who cared about her welfare. They followed her growth, were swayed by her charms, bestowed her with tokens of their love, and baby-sat when asked. She learned at an early age that the church was a place of solace from the oft-times unfriendly, “rat race” in which we all find ourselves entrenched.

Church has been, and always will be, a welcoming environment where our family de-stresses and decompresses. Sitting quietly, emptying our minds of worldly cares, providing a blank slate for spiritual thoughts, opens us up to compassion for our fellow-men and women, and restores our positive energy through hope. Humbled before our Creator, we feel His benevolence and forgiveness. All He asks in return is that we continue in our attempts to live our best lives according to His tenets. We are asked to be Christ-like towards all species of His magnificent creation.

Every Sunday, I recommit to being the best I can be, and doing the best I can do. But what older age and experience have taught me is to “cut myself some slack.” Throughout the years I’ve done what everyone is prone to do, “beat myself up” over what I perceive as failings. Habitually seeking approval engenders self-deprecation, which engenders low self-esteem, which engenders dissatisfaction with one’s life, which can harm loving relationships. I came to realize that the latter were what mattered most in life. So preserving them became my life’s purpose. Shedding negativity in my surroundings, including persons who cared little for my well-being, was a necessity. Therapists may call it self-survival; I call it loving myself.

It seems from an early age we learn not to love ourselves. Why is that, I wonder? Against what image of perfection are we measured?  Is it something our parents or others instill in us, consciously or unconsciously? Or is it our own perceptions of what others want us to become, or not become? Whatever the answers, we seem to steamroll through life accumulating so much negativity, toward ourselves and others. There are positive moments for sure, but they can be overwhelmed by the “luggage” we drag around with us, so that peeling through the layers of bad stuff can wear us down, physically, mentally and spiritually. At some point we MUST erect a barrier against more negativity, begin discarding the “baggage”, and replace it with mountains and mountains of positive experiences. These eventually become the thoughts and memories with which we occupy our lives. When negativity seeps back in, we must fight back, never again letting it gain a foothold.

All easier said than done, but so necessary for our own happiness and well-being, as well as the happiness and well-being of those we love. Of great consequence to them is that we fight to love ourselves. Value yourself, and you value them. Isn’t that all God asks of us?

compassion and hugs, for ourselves…and others…hugmamma.

return to venice

During a recent visit to Venice I felt a longing to return someday and spend more time, perhaps a month. Living as a local, I wanted to wander the narrow alleyways as if time were a luxury. Traveling the globe as a tourist is not my idea of experiencing the real face of a country. Doing so seems more like being on this side of the glass in an aquarium, observing underwater creatures swimming blithely through their sea world. With eyes wide, face pressed close, my imagination wanders, piercing the “barrier” separating me from them, be they natives of the sea or of the land. Momentarily, I’m one of them. Excitement lures me in, but fear of the unknown pulls me back into the comfort of my own skin. I envy those who can abandon themselves to what’s new, undeterred by the consequences. Like the “I Love Lucy” episode where she, wanting to “soak up local color” to prepare for a small part in an Italian movie, is drenched in grape juice when she wrestles with a villager in a vat of grapes. I’m up to scheming like Lucy, but lack her bravado in following through. What is it that holds me back? Is it my island mentality, older age, my husband’s antipathy for “dancing on the edge,” or my dysfunctional past? Whatever it is, I am fine living within this “moment.” But life has a way of changing things up, so I never say never.

A Thousand Days in Venice is the author’s story of her life-altering, middle-aged marriage to a Venetian. “He saw her across the Piazza San Marco and fell in love from afar. When he sees her again in a Venice cafe’ a year later, he knows it is fate. He knows little English; she, a divorced American chef, speaks only food-based Italian. Marlena thinks she is incapable of intimacy, that her heart has lost its capacity for romantic love. But within months of their first meeting, she has packed up her house in St. Louis to marry Fernando–“the stranger,” as she calls him–and live in that achingly lovely city in which they met.”

There are revealing moments in their relationship. When Fernando makes his first trip to America to see Marlena in St. Louis, she asks why the hasty visit, since she’d just arrived home a couple of days before. In response he explains that he was “…tired of waiting. I understand now about using up my time. Life is this conto, account,” said the banker in him. ‘It’s an unknown quantity of days from which one is permitted to withdraw only one precious one of them at a time. No deposits accepted. …I’ve used so many of mine to sleep. One by one, I’ve mostly waited for them to pass. It’s common enough for one to simply find a safe place to wait it all out. Every time I would begin to examine things, to think about what I felt, what I wanted, nothing touched, nothing mattered more than anything else. I’ve been lazy. Life rolled itself out and I shambled along sempre due passi indietro, always two steps behind. Fatalita, fate. Easy. No risks. Everything is someone else’s fault or merit. And so now, no more waiting,’ …”

Laughing until she cries at something he said, Fernando asks ‘And about those tears. How many times a day do you cry?’ Later Marlena’s thoughts return to his question, “Much of my crying is for joy and wonder rather than for pain. A trumpet’s waiting, a wind’s warm breath, the chink of a bell on an errant lamb, the smoke from a candle just spent, first light, twilight, firelight. Everyday beauty. I cry for how life intoxicates. And maybe just a little for how swiftly it runs.”

My daughter has said more than once that my tear ducts are intertwined with my heart-strings. My tears flow easily when she is ecstatic or unhappy, during old films, when listening to sad, or happy, news. I don’t think I cry as much as I laugh, but it probably runs a close second. During Mass yesterday, I braced myself for a hymn that always brings a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes. “Be Not Afraid” had been a favorite of the pastor who presided over our 100-year-old church in Redding. He’d baptized our 5 month-old, walking her proudly down the aisle, showing her off to fellow parishioners.

Father Conlisk was a close family friend who dined with us regularly. During a visit I asked our toddler to go and find her father, in answer to which she readily climbed up onto the priest’s lap. One particular Christmas morning as we sat in the front pew at church, he asked her if she’d been visited by someone special. Without hesitation she showed him Dumbo the elephant, her new stuffed animal. He held it up for all to see; the congregation broke into peels of laughter.

When Father died as a result of lung cancer, I took our daughter to the funeral Mass at our small church and later, to one held in a larger church at a nearby parish. Both times I allowed her to stand just outside the pew, so she would have a better view of the proceedings. In preparation, I explained that Father Conlisk had gone to Heaven where he would be free from pain, and find happiness with God. We  followed others to the gravesite, where I showed our 5-year-old Father’s final resting place. I think she found closure because from then on, she seemed to accept his absence from our lives. Perhaps it also helped that we became good friends with the priest who replaced Father Conlisk.

So like Marlena, I tend to shed tears for “Everyday beauty…for how life intoxicates. And maybe just a little for how swiftly it runs.” What we may all have in common with the author is “this potentially destructive habit of mental record-keeping that builds, distorts, then breaks up and spreads into even the farthest flung territories of reason and consciousness. What we do is accumulate the pain, collect it like cranberry glass. We display it, stack it up into a pile. Then we stack it up into a mountain so we can climb up onto it, waiting for, demanding sympathy, salvation. ‘Hey, do you see this? Do you see how big my pain is?’ We look across at other people’s piles and measure them, shouting, ‘My pain is bigger than your pain.’ It’s all somehow like the medieval penchant for tower building. Each family demonstrated its power with the height of its own personal tower. One more layer of stone, one more layer of pain, each one a measure of power. I’d always fought to keep dismantling my pile, to sort and reject as much of the clutter as I could. Now, even more, I made myself look back straight into that which was over and done with, and that which would never be. I was determined to go to Fernando, and if there was to be some chance for us to take our story beyond this beginning, I knew I would have to go lightly. I was fairly certain the stranger’s piles would provide enough work for both of us.”

We all seem to emerge from childhood with “baggage.” Perhaps a lucky few escape, body, mind and spirit intact. But spending our adulthood living in the past, wastes what’s left of a good life. As we peel away the layers of yesterday’s disappointments, we make way for tomorrow’s possibilities. Better that we declutter, rather than hoard negative experiences simply to have someone, or something, to blame for our inability to cope or our downward spiral. The process may vary for there are probably as many paths toward resolution, as there are individuals in the world. One size doesn’t necessarily fit all. However the common denominator should be compassion and a positive attitude, toward oneself and others. We all deserve to live our best lives, going forward. Maybe when we disavow our mountains of past pain, we’ll be able to abandon our fears of the unknown, and…return to Venice. 

live our todays and tomorrows, never our yesterdays…hugmamma.

humility, with a southern drawl

I was invited by a very, dear friend to attend Sunday Mass at her church, the diocesan Cathedral. I’d been in it before, some time ago. Upon entering the nave, I was surprised for I hadn’t remembered its simplicity. The seat of the diocese from which the Bishop administers to local area churches, usually instills awe and if not fear, then certainly timidity. Rather than gazing upon impressive architectural details, I noticed the people sitting quietly in pews, others walking down the central aisle looking for seats. When my eyes came to rest upon the front where Mass would be celebrated, I was perplexed by its lack of ornamentation. The altar was empty; 3 wooden chairs sat to the right. To the left stood the podium, partially blocking another wooden chair. And across the back, imposing in size, was a white marble sculpture of Jesus on the Cross, the Blessed Virgin standing beneath and to his left, eyes gazing upon His face, and St. John standing on the right. Cradling Jesus’ feet was a woman, perhaps Mary Magdalene. 

In contrast to the starkness below, the dome over the altar displayed colorful paintings. The lone, central figure was God, left hand extended holding the world with a cross on top. The figures to His left and right may have been of a risen Virgin and St. John, but I’m not certain for I only glimpsed them momentarily. Having seated ourselves, I continued to look around for other tell-tale signs of grandeur befitting the Bishop’s Church. They only seemed apparent beyond the pillars that flanked either side of the nave. Structural details such as cornices, sculptures and stained glass windows enhanced the otherwise, unassuming house of worship. Use of soft pastels in hues of blues, peaches and beiges both in paint colors and floor tiles, imparted an air of serenity.

Awash in calm, I observed those around me. Smiles lighting up faces as friends recognized one another. Young sons kept separate by a mom, as the family of 4 made their way into a pew. A middle-aged, silver haired couple, husband with his arm lovingly draped about his wife, fingers massaging her shoulder. Two 30-ish year old women with ebony, straight, shoulder-length hair, dressed similarly in print skirts and simple black tops, quietly stepped into a pew a couple of rows ahead. One turned her head looking over her right shoulder, a smile lifting the corners of her lovely face. Was she part-Asian, part-Caucasian, or part-Hispanic, part-Caucasian? It was difficult to tell, but she was pretty nonetheless. The single element which disrupted the contemplative surroundings was the couple seated directly in front of us. Blonde hair in a short pony-tail, the woman, dressed in short jean skirt topped with a white, slightly off-the-shoulder blouse, cinched at the waist by a beige, elastic belt, spoke in non-stop whispers to her male companion. I found myself repeatedly focusing my attention elsewhere, trying to assimilate the peacefulness that enveloped me. It wasn’t difficult.

For me the “jewel in the crown” is always the person celebrating the Mass, and I wasn’t disappointed. Different from youthful, 38 year old, 6’4″ tall, dark and handsome Father Bryan, the pastor of my church, Father Edward Steiner, the Cathedral’s rector, was nearer my age, 5’10”, bespectacled, pleasantly rotund, with silvery-blonde hair, mischievous eyes and a ready smile. When he began his homily his voice, not booming like Father Bryan’s, but soothing and comfortable, invited me to rest my back against the bench, to sit-a-spell. With a lilting, southern drawl, Father Steiner spoke of humility, the Gospel’s lesson.

I’m certain I’ve heard this particular Gospel many times over many years. Perhaps maturity gained with age and a lifetime of experiences, coupled with Father’s engaging demeanor kept me hostage throughout his homily. Drawing our attention to the calendar, he reminded us that there were only so many days left until Christmas. The congregation joined in his chuckles. Continuing on, Father said that most of us give obligatory gifts, among these are those to teachers, secretaries. Not intending to dissuade us from gift-giving, he encouraged that we do it for more substantive reasons than obligation. He then explained the cultural premise of the Gospel reading.

According to Jewish practice whoever was positioned directly across from the host while dining, was held in the highest esteem. The remaining positions were then distributed with consideration for the host’s regard toward those invited, the least favored being seated at his feet. Mediterranean practice had diners lying on their sides, dipping torn pieces of bread into serving dishes shared by all. Western practice is less stringent, with the hostess assigning, or not assigning, seats at the table. If in the latter case, a person seats himself across from the hostess and is asked to move, then that guest is humbled. Where if a guest is moved from a lesser position to the most prominent seat, then that person is rewarded for her humility.

Rather than inviting guests to dine based upon a sense of obligation for their having first invited us, Father Steiner suggests we invite those who are unable to return the favor. By bringing the humble (“low in status” according to Webster) to our table we are advancing their honor, and our own. In giving gifts, we should do so not with the expectation of receiving, we should give because we want to honor those to whom we give, knowing that they are unable to give in kind. We honor them, and we honor ourselves.

Among Jews, striving for honor was a constant. But it seemed to be a subsequence of humility. When Mary told Jesus that a wedding reception was running low on its supply of wine, she intended that he do something. Knowing that he would help to preserve the groom’s honor, Mary was advancing her own Son’s honor. Without fanfare and with only a handful bearing witness, Jesus performed a miracle to keep the wine plentiful. This act, done with humility, brought honor to Himself while maintaining the honor of His host.

After Mass I thanked Father for his sermon. The same warmth that emanated during the eucharistic celebration continued to flow from him as we chatted. When my friend and I took our leave, allowing others patiently waiting to speak with Father, I hugged him in Aloha. Comfortable in returning the gesture, Father elevated a humble follower to share his proximity to God, thus honoring me and in the process, advancing His honor as well.

I meant it when I told Father Steiner that my experience with southern hospitality is that it is akin to Hawaiian Aloha. Both have their faults for sure, but they have their blessings as well. Rather than use a broad stroke to define a culture, I prefer to use a fine brush to detail their compassionate and positive qualities. Focusing upon the humbler side of human nature advances its honor, and the honor of all mankind, and ultimately, God’s.

hugs for a humble southerner, Father Steiner…hugmamma.

discipline and community

My mind may wander during Mass, I may glance around looking for familiar faces among the congregation, smile when a friend recognizes me, admire Father Brian’s recently purchased vestments, puzzle over the types of flowers arranged in vases around the altar. But when we sit and Father begins the homily, he has my undivided attention. My husband agrees that our pastor has a gift for public speaking.

I’m sorry to say I’ve no idea what the Gospel was about. I was lost in thought attempting to make sense of the previous reading, the Epistle. The woman seemed not to understand what she was reading so she stumbled over the words, saying “disciple” instead of “discipline.” I’m always impressed by these volunteers who must appear to understand the words set in front of them, even though they may not grasp their full meaning. Some may take a few minutes before Mass to familiarize themselves with their task, but it’s not always possible to do so, I’m sure. So while Father was reading the Gospel, I was probably feeling sorry for the previous speaker, and thanking God that I had not been in her shoes. Unlike her, I would have been blushing to my white roots.

My ears perk up when I hear Father speaking “regular” English for it makes comprehending simpler; narratives in the Bible require that I focus. And as I’ve said, my mind is multi-tasking. When Father begins with some personal anecdote everyone seems to straighten up, and tune in to what he’s saying.

Father spoke of his early days as a seminarian, and how difficult it was to learn discipline. He did not relate well with the first person charged with instructing the novices. He did better with the next person, the “student master,” who would explain the reason for leveling discipline upon those in his care. When students at the UofW Newman Center asked Father Brian to join them for a weekend retreat, the ‘student master” denied the request. When Father asked if he might attend the wedding of friends elsewhere, he was again denied. The explanation given for the denials was that he needed to focus on the vocation he had chosen, and the community in which he lived. He needed to learn discipline, understanding that he could not have his way in everything. As Father’s words washed over me, I pondered their meaning for me.

Over breakfast my husband and I discussed the homily.  I explained that as Father spoke, I could feel myself turning inward, humbling myself as Catholics of my era are wont to do. Talk about “glass ceilings,” I think Catholicism cornered the market on that centuries before it ever occurred to feminists trying to work their way up the corporate ladder.  Throughout the 12 years I was schooled by nuns from Boston, we students were constantly reminded about our need for humility. So I wondered if I was confusing the need for discipline with the need to be humble, as taught by my religion. 

I was interested in my husband’s perspective since, having been a seminarian, I assumed he’d had more theology than me. Ever the pragmatist he replied that his theological schooling had not exceeded mine and furthermore, every person needed discipline within himself, that it had nothing to do with religion. He was right.

Without self-discipline, we usurp the rights of others, including other species which share our natural resources. Without self-discipline, personal happiness eludes us because we are never satisfied unless we have more. Without self-discipline, we set ourselves apart from our community. Without self-discipline, we are unable to teach our children the values necessary for their evolution as good citizens. 

I think having humility might make it easier to learn self-discipline; but having self-discipline doesn’t guarantee humility. Being a Catholic raised in the 50’s and 60’s, I have to be careful not to mistake being humble with self-reproachment. Catholics of my generation bought into the guilt trip, “hook, line and sinker.” So while I humbly acknowledge my gift for writing, I realize that with it comes the need for discipline, knowing that I have a responsibility to my readers in what I say, and how I say it. I think all writers have that responsibility, though some may not think so.

While I paid no heed to God’s gospel, I think I got Father Brian’s homily. I think I’ll need him as a middle-man to gain entrance to Heaven. Father speaks my language, “regular” English.

pray for me…hugmamma.

acknowledging trivia

We tend not to notice the “small stuff” we accumulate as part of our daily routine. Sometimes it’s good to pause and take note, for these things must be worthwhile if they’ve become part of our lives. So here’s what makes me “tick.” 

  • Biofreze was recommended to me by my chiropractor for use when I’m too lazy to pull out an ice pack for my aching muscles, which is always. Its label reads “Penetrating, long-lasting pain relief from: Arthritis, Sore Muscles & Joints, Back Pain.” From time to time, I have all of the above, often at the same time. I use it in spray form; my daughter uses a roll-on. This product is a lot easier to use than rubbing on BenGay or Tiger Balm. There’s no residual smell and I don’t need to wash it off my hands so I won’t inadvertently rub some in my eyes. I would imagine it’s obtainable on the internet.
  • Here’s an update on my “dry mouth.” I guess you could say I healed myself when I stopped using antihistamines. Doctors beware!  Here I come!…Interested in being my first patient?
  • Run, don’t walk to your local Trader Joe’s. If you don’t have one, then petition for one! Their merchandise is the closest thing to homemade that I’ve ever tasted. And my taste buds are really finicky, ask my husband, my daughter, my in-laws. My mantra is “If it doesn’t taste great, it’s not worth the calories!” It’s become my husband’s and daughter’s philosophy as well.
  • About my stack of Wall Street Journals, there must be at least 25 shoved into a cupboard waiting to be perused. Yes, I have difficulty tossing them out without so much as a “look-see.” Then there’s the stack of 6 or so in front of me on the computer desk. I looked at them, and saw some interesting articles, which I have yet to fully read. Now you know why I don’t subscribe to anything.
  • Probably won’t read this book for some time, but its title intrigued me “Hero of the Pacific – The Life of Marine Legend John Basilone” by James Brady. Has anyone ever heard of this man? My husband hasn’t, and he’s a walking encyclopedia about World War II. Well, I wanted to read this bio with “…revealing stories of Basilone’s youth in the Rockwellian any-town of Raritan, New Jersey, in the 1920s and 1930s; his first cross-country railroad trip with fellow soldiers in 1935; and his decisions to leave the Army and, later, join the Marines.” Basilone would go on to be a “…Marine gunnery sergeant known to his buddies as ‘Manila John’ ” who “first displayed the courage, tenacity, and devotion to duty that would define the remainder of his brief life and the manner of his death two years later on…Iwo Jima” Sounds like a story about men for men, but it’s also about a small town guy just doing his best with what life served up. Mightn’t this be any man, or woman’s, biography?
  • Had unexpected company for dinner this evening. A nephew and his girlfriend “Facebooked” me asking if we wanted to meet for dinner since they’d be in our “neck of the woods.” We invited them to dine with us. So I set aside blogging for a few hours, and my husband eased out of his recliner where he was watching “Patton” on TV. We drove to Trader Joe’s for a few groceries, came home and threw together a nice meal. It was a pleasant change to spend time with young folk. They’re in their 30’s, so they were old enough to “get” our humor, like my husband teasing that he’d trade me in for 2 – 30 year olds, a running joke since we were in our 40’s. They seemed to enjoy the side dish of sautéed, seasoned Portobello mushrooms, for  they ate them, without squishing up their faces in disdain. And they didn’t rush off when friends texted asking what time they’d meet up at a local tavern. I think they enjoyed our company too. Our house always rings with laughter, even when my husband and I are the only ones here.
  • Was just cuddling one of my Maine Coone-mixed breed cats, Juneau. He’s so desperate for attention that he tends to body slam anybody or anything nearby. Picking him up is like lifting a Costco size bag of potatoes. Watching him as he burrowed down into my chest, eyes closed as I stroked his head, these lines came to mind: “Three kittens, no mittens, no home, no mom. Three kittens found mittens, found home, found mom, found love.” How can I not love my pets, who give so much and expect so little in return.
  • As you can see, I’ve returned to blogging and my husband is snoring in front of the TV with the “movie looking at him.”  Our nephew informed us that that’s what his dad, my husband’s brother,  said happens when he falls asleep watching TV. I guess like brother…like brother.

will say a prayer for you at Mass…hugmamma.