Isn’t it wonderful?

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Today marked my last day of tutoring for this school year. My miniature adventure of a once-a-week sixty-mile round trip, of teaching in a classroom, of bonding and laughing and learning with a bright group of girls: an adventure that fell into my lap without me at all expecting it, is already (temporarily) over!

I feel as though, just this morning, I walked into the classroom for the first time, blinked once–and now I find myself home again, with my plastic blue bin of supplies sitting in the kitchen corner, in a state of semi-retirement. My two quarters of teaching are over; the year’s finished. How is it already over?! “Well, I’m back,” he said.

Until this evening, I hadn’t fully realized just how much a part of the fabric of my week all these young girls and their varied personalities and talents had become. And their mothers, too! They are all so unique and delightful in their own ways, and all so sweet to me. What an enriching experience these past four months have been for me; I’ve certainly learned far more than any of the girls I taught! Although I’m thankful for the break, I’m growing increasingly conscious of just how much I’m going to miss them!

Next week, there’s an end-of-the-year picnic for the co-op, so perhaps it won’t really seem “over” until that’s come and gone . . .

But that’s that!

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After I’d gotten back home this afternoon, I closed my eyes for ten minutes, drank some (much-needed!!!) caffeinated tea, played a card game with my two youngest sibs, and talked for a while with The Dash on the phone. And then I came downstairs and found my parents rummaging through old pictures, laughing at themselves, reminiscing over old days with the deep love and ease of a beautiful, seasoned marriage nearly twenty-five years old. It was a delightful thing to watch them and quietly drink in their example of love for my future marriage 🙂

After supper, I cleaned up the kitchen, using the CD player I’d employed every week for co-op to now play some Sinatra while I wiped counters. Words can’t suffice for the contentment I experience in cleaning the kitchen . . . though it’s a mystery to some I know . . .

A few minutes ago, from out in the backyard, Dad called the home phone from his cell, explaining he needed the container of gasoline that’s currently in the garage. I slid into some old shoes and walked down the slope of our back hill, feet squelching in the wet grass, carrying gasoline . . . and noticing the riot of flowers!

Having delivered the gasoline, (conscious of my reputation as a house cat) I paused to soak in the evening quiet, then slipped back inside to grab my camera.

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Isn’t it wonderful? Life, I mean! Life imbued with God’s love and grace, most especially in the small things; in the eager, animated face of a young girl; in an evening blooming with flowers; in a man and wife laughing over old pictures; in a walk down the hill with a gasoline can.

Today, by the way, is the feast of St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen, Martyr; the altar of my home parish holds one of his relics! I wish I could have visited it today, but in lieu of that, I’ll be praying especially for his intercession.

From Lena’s bedroom, I hear Voces8’s “Pie Jesu,” and am gently reminded of people who have recently passed away, including the souls of two holy shepherds, one a priest, the other a bishop. The bishop confirmed my younger brother and youngest sister and frequently visited our parish. The priest I never met, but was by all accounts a saintly father and very dear to The Dash’s family. Would you offer a small prayer for both of their souls? Thank you!

Pie Jesu, Domine; dona eis requiem, dona eis requiem.

I’ll leave this post with a quote from St. Fidelis:

“Woe to me if I should prove myself but a halfhearted soldier in the service of my thorn-crowned Captain.”

Let’s let his words inspire the rest of our week as we strive to sanctify, for God, all the challenges and work we must undergo!

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Sig

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Views from my afternoon walk

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Sixty degrees, breezy, sunny. . . that, my friends, is the recipe for a perfect afternoon walk by the lake, and I was blessed to have one just now! Recently, I have rediscovered how refreshing going outdoors is and how much it uplifts the spirit. It has pulled me away from stress, worries, and the hum of technology, and has helped me unwind my mind . . . and believe me, these past few days have certainly had their share of thoughts and considerations in need of un-winding!

Especially after the aforementioned 5K, I’ve found taking a brisk (yet still relaxed) outdoor walk to be such a simple thing, and yet so restorative. So please forgive the poor quality of these washed-out, unedited phone pictures and absorb the lovely scenery and the adorable little goslings 🙂 (And perhaps next time I’ll remember to take my actual camera, like one wise older gentleman had done! He was contentedly snapping pictures left and right while we were there.)

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Sig

“Nothing is so beautiful as spring . . .” (A Woman at Home post)

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. . . or thereabouts, anyway.

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What is all this juice and all this joy? A strain of earth’s sweet being in the beginning, in Eden Garden. Have, get, before it cloy, before it cloud, Christ, Lord, and sour with sinning; Innocent mind, and Mayday in girl and boy, most, O Maid’s child, Thy choice, and worthy the winning.

-Gerard Manley Hopkins, “Spring”

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This morning, we drove Lena and our dad to the airport, dropped them off, and drove home under a glorious blue-skied start to a beautiful, chilly March morning. Her visit to Our Lady’s House begins!

Upon returning, I cleaned up a few rooms, made some beds, switched some laundry . . . and then, quite spontaneously, snatched my camera and dove outside to capture some of the “juice and joy.” It was cold and windy, belying all the early-budding trees and flowers. Shivering in my bulky green coat, I only stayed out for a few minutes. But it was so very refreshing. There is intoxicating fun and a strange peace to be found in getting down on your stomach and viewing the world like a baby does.

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I am eighty or so pages into reading aloud The Fellowship of the Ring to my youngest sister, who is still recovering from her cold. This morning, we trekked with the irrepressible hobbits towards Woodhall, evaded the ominous Black Rider, and met Gildor Inglorion together in the quiet sunshine while other family members recuperated with naps from the morning that started in the 5 o’clock hour.

It is a delight: both the story, and reading it aloud to her. Nostalgic in that it brings me back to that time when I was her age (nine years ago!) . . . and new in that the story grows ever stronger and more potent in its images, its themes, its applicability (to use Tolkien’s word) the longer I leave it, like good wine. The Old Winyards, to be precise.

The road goes ever on and on, down from the door where it began; now far ahead the road has gone, and I must follow if I can, pursuing it with eager feet until it joins some larger way, where many paths and errands meet, and whither then? I cannot say . . .

-J. R. R. Tolkien

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Today is First Friday, and Friday of the Second Week of Lent. It’s strange to be praying my devotions and the Mass by myself, without Lena . . . but at the same time, it has its own beauty and stillness.

In fact, the above verse from Tolkien seems incredibly appropriate for today, the more I ponder it. Our paths are branching, little by little. My road is unfolding in one direction; in hers, another. This brings so much joy and excitement, mixed with the natural bittersweetness. All good things come from God, and to be nearing one’s vocation, one’s path of sanctity, to be able to smell it like salt in the air as one approaches the ocean, is such a very, very good thing. To Him be all the glory! We pursue our paths with eager feet!

Look down, O Lord, to help me: let them be confounded and ashamed together that seek after my soul to take it away: look down, O Lord, to help me.

-Offertory, Friday of the Second Week in Lent

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As I continue to pray for the one-day gift of daily Latin Mass nearby, earlier, I was reading this from Dom Prosper Guéranger, “An Explanation of the Prayers and Ceremonies of Holy Mass” and thought it particularly beautiful:

Having made the sign of the Cross, the Priest says the Antiphon: “Introibo ad altare Dei,” as an introduction to the 42nd Psalm. This Antiphon is always said, both before and after the Psalm, which he at once begins: “Judica me Deus.” He says the whole of it, alternately with the Ministers. This Psalm was selected on account of the verse “Introibo ad altare Dei: I will go unto the altar of God.” It is most appropriate as a beginning to the Holy Sacrifice. We may remark here, that the Church always selects the Psalms she uses, because of some special verse which is appropriate to what she does, or to what she wishes to express. The Psalm, of which we are now speaking, was not in the more ancient Missals: its usage was established by Pope Pius the Fifth, in 1568. When we hear the Priest saying this Psalm, we understand to whom it refers:- it refers to our Lord, and it is in his name, that the Priest recites it. We are told this by the very first verse: “Ab homine iniquo et doloso erue me: deliver me from the unjust and deceitful man.”

The verse here used as an Antiphon, shows us, that David was still young when he composed this Psalm; for, after saying, that he is going to the Altar of God, he says: “Ad Deum, qui laetificat juventutem meam: To God, who giveth joy to my youth.” He expresses astonishment at his soul being sad; and, at once, cheers himself, by rousing his hope in God; hence, his song is full of gladness. It is on account of the joy which is the characteristic of this Psalm, that holy Church would have it be omitted in Masses for the Dead, in which we are about to pray for the repose of a soul, whose departure from this life leaves us in uncertainty and grief. It is omitted, also, during Passiontide, in which season, the Church is all absorbed in the sufferings of her divine Spouse; and these preclude all joy.

This 42nd Psalm is an appropriate introduction to the Mass, inasmuch as it in our Lord whom it will bring among us. Who is He that is to be sent to the Gentiles, but He that is Light and Truth? David foresaw all this; and, therefore, he uttered the prayer: “Emitte lucem tuam et veritatem tuam.” We take his prayer and make it ours; and we say to our heavenly Father: “send forth Him, who is thy Light and thy Truth!”

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Small things are beautiful; folding a stack of laundry, brewing a pitcher of tea, wiping off a counter, sitting across the table from my mother, faking (very bad) English country accents for hobbit’s voices, kissing a sibling’s hair, praying the Rosary while driving, taking the time to capture moss growing on a log in a certain transformative slant of morning sunlight.

There is a stillness that, eventually, comes with simplicity. I don’t always have it, because I often go about things the complicated and absorbed way. When I have the brains to seek out the simplicity, that disconnecting from noise, and when I begin to hear in my heart a stirring of hope for a future family, a future life, a future culture built around the Holy Faith, around books and conversations and the old-fashioned, simple, homey things–then stillness comes.

The further I travel into this Lent, the more deeply I am drawn towards my future wifehood and motherhood being built upon simplicity and quiet of heart. I am at the very beginning . . . I don’t exactly know what all it entails yet. I’m sure I’ll be constantly learning as the years elapse. For now, I do know it means openness to life and radical unselfishness; it means the family table; it means cooking and singing together; it means reading aloud books together in the evening, discussing all of life’s aspects with enthusiasm and a desire for truth, engaging and building up one another in the warmth of the family heart as our means of recreation and leisure. It means daily Mass (God-willing!) and the daily family Rosary; it means a healthy and wholesome lifestyle of homeschooling and tradition and solid work and pure playfulness, of living in community while protecting the integrity of our family; it means service and sacrifice; it means steadfastness, fidelity, and prayer; it means wanting to be saints and believing that is very the purpose of our lives. A perfect quote from Mary Reed Newland’s We and Our Children made it into my Commonplace Book the other week:

Simplicity of soul is one of the prerequisites of sanctity, and it is one of the things our children already possess. We must be very careful not to contribute to the great cluttering-up. We must make a heroic effort to rid our lives of all but one motive, that “impractical” spirituality of the saints, a life in union with God. If this is the undercurrent of our existence, then we can expect the spiritual training of our children to bear fruit.

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Next week, The Dash and I arrive at half a year of courtship! That seems unbelievable! Half a year since I sat in the pew with him, the first Sunday of our relationship, and was greeted by the words of the Offertory:

The Angel of the Lord shall encamp round about them that fear Him, and shall deliver them: O taste and see that the Lord is sweet!

How overwhelming is God’s goodness! St. Raphael, ora pro nobis.

Smiling, I just now remembered a certain paragraph out of The Wife Desired:

Ordinarily, love begins for a young girl when she becomes well enough acquainted with a young man to develop a spiritual affinity with him. She admired his qualities and abilities. She likes his attitude toward life in general. She begins to feel at ease, at home in his presence. Then other things begin to happen. A simple phone call brings a flutter to her heart. Her pulse quickens when he calls at her home. She has eyes for no one but him.

With reason she wonders whether she is in love. Her doubts will vanish when she reaches the point of growth in love where all her being reaches out for him in the effort to bring him happiness. Her own whims and desires fade into the background. His happiness is her only real concern.

What a beautiful and brilliantly wise description of the God-given journey I am still undertaking! Half a year is a grossly insignificant amount of time when it comes to even beginning to get used to how much God has blessed me with The Dash, and how wonderful, steady and virtuous a man he is.

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The rest of today . . . well, for me, it’s quiet and full of sunshine, carrying the diffused scent of eucalyptus essential oil; I’ve got some tutoring planning to sort through, although that may spill over into tomorrow . . . then there’s the Daily Full Meal (should I trademark that Lenten expression?) and the evening with the family (hopefully Stations of the Cross will be part of it). May the rest of your day be very blessed! Please do pray for Lena as she visits Our Lady’s House 🙂

Sig

7 Rambling Monday Takes :: Vol. 7 (Thanksgiving Week)

MondayTakes

Explore previous rambling installments here 🙂

1.

Thanksgiving Week is here (already?!), and so I’m aiming my sights towards my usual contributions to the family table . . . apple pie and green bean casserole. (Oh, right, and the turkey breast [glad I remembered], but that involves so little comparative effort [literally, two or three ingredients] that I just now remembered I’ve been making that with my youngest sister for the past few years, too.)

Two apple pies for the benefit of others (which translates to my father), and one green bean casserole for the benefit of (mainly) myself. For whatever inexplicable reason, green bean casserole is the dish my tongue looks most forward to on Thanksgiving, tied only by Lena’s pumpkin pie . . . and no one else in our family, really, has such a friendly relationship with the GBC as I do. So for the past few years, in order to rescue it from The Thanksgiving Culling, I’ve taken it upon myself to make it.

Apple pies, on the other hand . . . I think I must have been making them for Thanksgiving since I was 11 or 12. (Oh . . . wow, that makes it almost a decade, doesn’t it?) It’s a tear-out recipe card from an old Crisco package, nicely stained with orange juice and brown sugar. It sings nostalgia!

I have a feeling my father will need to be buried with a homemade apple pie or two. He is so sweet to call it his favorite thing; and since he scorns both Redi-whip and ice cream with it, it must be the not-quite-complete-sugary-ness of the dessert that woos him year after year. But honestly, the only thing I do in the way of making it unique to me is to take care that the apples are sliced thin. Teensy-thin. Not quite paper thin, but (hold on, let me examine my helpfully nearby ruler) at least an eighth of an inch thin, maybe a little less if I’m being extra careful. (By the end of a dozen apples, the knife gets slightly less scrupulous.) But everything else is just how the recipe asks for it . . . with the addition of love, of course 😉

2.

Our family’s Thanksgiving traditions unfailingly include reading Cranberry Thanksgiving and making Grandmother’s Famous Cranberry Bread to go along with it. Our annual visit with Maggie, Grandmother, Mr. Whiskers and Mr. Horace never grows stale.

And let me reinforce the mental image that everyone in our family is present for the reading aloud of this tale. Dad, Mom, everyone.

Picture books seem to be essential for the celebration of a holiday in our household, and their timeless presence is something I will definitely carry over into my own future home. You don’t have to have little ones to enjoy picture books (although having little ones to read them to will be indescribably fun)!

And, although it’s nothing like Alcott’s original story, we always seem to watch An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving with Jacqueline Bisset, too . . . it’s a pretty sweet movie, but I think it’s safe to say we girls only watch it for Solomon and Gad, for which I don’t believe we can be blamed.

3.

Saturday, my guy treated my brother and me to a football game at the university he attends (last home game of the season); we feared a downpour but were thankfully spared the whole time from having to pull out our ponchos. I so thoroughly enjoyed it! It was a perfect back-and-forth match of fourth downs and several goal-line stands, and as our team won, it couldn’t have been better; it was such a special way to spend time together. Although I never fail to be so sad for the players who lose . . . they always look so crestfallen and I start nonsensically wishing that everyone could win!

My fourteen-year-old brother is continually growing in his photography skills and utilized the time at the stadium to capture some (by which I mean hundreds of) action shots with his new 75-300mm lens. In fact, he’s advancing so much in his general photographic knowledge that, this morning over breakfast, he convinced me (the until-now Av stickler) of the worth of switching over to Shutter Priority as opposed to Aperture Priority, and was also describing the benefits of Manual Focus in detail. All he had to do was show me some pictures he’d taken in our (not-optimally-lit) parish hall yesterday during potluck, and an interior conversion occurred.

Brother: Mary, I don’t want you to get married and leave us!

Me (flattered): Aww, because you’ll miss me?

Brother: Because I won’t know what to do without your camera.

Indeed, that is a pressing problem.

4.

Today I finally wrapped up work on my mom’s birthday present, which again, I hope to post about soon . . . a project which was fun, challenging, and (liturgically) right up my alley!

Also speaking of projects, yesterday morning (before leaving for Mass) I flung myself through a slap-dash brush-up of some old virtue cards in order to give them to a family friend who would be at potluck. This meant . . . that everyone . . . wound up waiting in the car . . . for me. Sigh. To be fair, I can’t remember ever having been the last one in the car before, because punctuality is definitely important to me. It was an uncomfortable occurrence, though they were all very forgiving and obliging towards their Mary. Unfortunately, in the rush of things, I left my veil at home and had to borrow a spare one from Mom’s purse . . . but my father is so excellent a driver that Lena and I still made it to choir on time 🙂 Thank you, Dad!

However, all the time I was frantically printing out the sheets of cardstock while everyone else was in the van, I had prophetic visions of being married and spiking my husband’s blood pressure by putting punctuality on the line in such a fashion. Ay yi yi.

The wording of these virtue cards (twelve, for each the fruits of the Holy Ghost) are slightly adapted from an old Confirmation lapbook download, the source of which is unknown to me, but I’ll try to find out. However, the simple (amateur) design is my own and I thought I would put the PDFs here for anyone who might like to print them out for use in their Ecclesia domestica. I’ll do that in a separate post in a little while . . .

5.

Today is a gloriously chilly late-November display of all that’s wonderful about autumn. Sunny, windy, increasingly bare and with temps in the low 30s this morning (at long last!). As it’s Monday, it’s also laundry day for me, and thank Heavens I finally had the wherewithal to remember to wash my sheets. I’m not sure what happened to my rhythm there, but suffice it to say, we’re back on track now! And speaking of which, I need to wrap this post up and get back to Merry and Pippin . . .

6.

One last Sunday after Pentecost remains before Advent! I can’t believe it’s almost upon us! Advent will always hold a special place in my heart and is one of my most favorite seasons of the liturgical year. The St. Andrew Christmas Novena . . . the beautiful sense of expectation, joy and penance . . . the gradual appearance of decorations . . . the wistful strains of Advent hymns . . . the Advent wreath . . . the “Kris Kringle” traditions of secret acts of goodness . . . the beginning of a new year, the approaching coming of Our Lord! I can’t wait!

7.

Remaining thoughts . . . well, I’m hungry and am thankful the heat just kicked on 😉 It’s a definitely day for sweatshirts, warm pants and tennis shoes. Off to get some more work done! Have a very blessed Monday and a happy feast of St. Felix of Valois, Confessor!

Latinsig2

I thought I would never look pensive (With a postscript)

Sometimes, a girl just wants one picture in which she looks pensive.

You know: the photograph where she looks quiet, emotional, slightly solemn, evocative. You wonder: what is she thinking? What does this picture mean?

However, this has been a real battle for me; a real uphill climb with many tears and much emotional scar tissue. Since birth, I have possessed a Rosie Cotton Countenance (that is, loads of curly hair, a happy rounded face, dimples, and a thousand potential expressions) which makes pensive pictures nearly impossible for me to pull off. For this sanguine, life is simply too amusing. And I’m not ashamed of it! It’s part of who I am . . . only, it makes Pensive Photos notoriously difficult.

Whereas, Lena is the Queen of Posing for Pensive Photography. She has one such pensive picture on her blog sidebar, and I have taken a million such pictures of her over our eighteen years of sisterhood. It all started on the old downstairs couch (remember, Lena?) where we each took turns posing (I wasn’t even ten years old then); we put a blanket and fake fruit in one another’s laps, put a wreath of fake flowers on one another’s heads, and posed for our very first Pensive Photo Shoot.

She was an elf. I looked absurd.

Well, now a little leaven has been added to my lump. My younger brother (Didacus Images) pulled off a miracle this afternoon. I present to you, as a sort of “birthday present” on my blog (that is, I would never have a reason for simply posting a picture of myself in this narcissistic fashion, except that today is celebratory and I might can get away with it), my one and only Pensive Photo to grace the history of the earth. Naturally, I made it black and white because that’s my obsession . . . but the work is his.

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Ta-da! I never look like this in real life–but I have one Pensive Photo to claim as my own! I can now die happy.

(Please ignore the pine straw needle on my shoulder. It’s all part of Being Evocative.)

***

And now, a postscript:

Sigh. Sometimes, you just do really embarrassing things. And you don’t mean to. Embarrassing things born of ignorance and haste. Such as . . . posting earlier today about how much I enjoyed a certain song (“It’s a Beautiful Day” by Michael Buble) . . . while actually not having the most marvelous grasp on what the lyrics were actually about. And then finding out after the fact. Yes. Not that is the worst or most scandalous song in creation, but still just rather unpleasant and not something I enjoy listening to! So I thought that was worthy of a mention.

I removed that mention of the song from my blog post and sighed heavily from embarrassment. I suppose cleaning the bathroom while listening to a tune isn’t the best way to get to know a song and all its lyrical layers 😉 Such is life!

Have a blessed rest of your day!

Sig2