A birthday (accompanied by musings on my face and a new year of life . . .)

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JMJ1

Yesterday was my birthday . . . I turned 22 years old, and I seem to have also turned the corner of reaching any really “special” age milestones until 33, when, in accordance with a long-lived joke amongst some of my dearest friends, I leave my “irresponsible tweens” at last and become a proper adult! (If you know of hobbits, you know of what we speak.)

Maybe we’re sticklers, but in our family, we children know the precise hour and minute in which we were born. Until it reaches that miraculous moment on the clock, we’re not legitimately our new age. Being the first baby, I took the longest, unsurprisingly . . . and so my brother set alarms in several places, all of which went off at 5:02pm and I officially became 22. The Dash had walked in only minutes before and so (with amusement at our oddball Donellan traditions) was able to join in the ecstatic outcry that I was finally 22.

It was a wonderful, wonderful day, spent with the people I love most in the world. I was able to get up fairly early, have my usual prayer time, eat waffles with my youngest sister and have a good workout before leaving with Mom and the siblings to Adoration, Confession and Mass for the feast of the Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist, my dear patron. The Dash had a break between classes and was able to join us for Mass ❀ I couldn’t have been happier or more grateful to God for that time! Afterwards we ran into several friends, and I even got a beautiful priestly blessing from Fr. A., who was delighted to hear that the young man I was with was “connected” to me πŸ˜€

Later on, my family, The Dash and I all had dinner together (oven chicken strips, homemade biscuits, salad . . . an amazing combination you really should consider), and we had the usual candle-blowing, present-opening ceremony. Lemon cake with vanilla glaze . . . perfection. The presents and cards were all incredibly sweet and lovely and so thoughtful . . . books such as Harry Potter and the Paganization of Culture (I’ve wanted this FOREVER!) . . . the most heartmelting hanging photo, handmade by Lena, with The Dash and I’s special song lyrics handwritten around it (pictured at the top of this post) . . . makeup and nightgowns (I really wanted nightgowns–my erratic brain finds them charming and feminine), Oolong tea, beautiful monogrammed stationery, and football tickets for The Dash and I’s one-year courting anniversary next week (a total surprise!!). We spent some time outside, then came in and danced for a bit, watched a movie . . . it was just such a wonderful day. I’m so grateful to simply be alive and surrounded so undeservedly by such love and goodness and grace.

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A super sweet handmade card from my youngest sister

It’s such a staggering mystery of love–life, that is. In Adoration, it was impossible for me not to contemplate how God could never have made me. And yet He drew me out of nothingness, impelled by Divine love, by the thought of me in His Mind that had been in existence for all eternity. Poof! When the time was right, He fashioned my immortal soul and my teeny body. With all of my idiosyncrasies, quirks, endless facial expressions, temperament, faults, strengths, and every single action and choice I will ever make . . . I was meant to live from all of eternity.

It’s just a mind-boggling thought.

Especially when you take into account my facial expressions.

This morning I was looking through all the pictures taken last night, and I was constantly caught in that middle ground between squirming embarrassment and humbly amused acceptance for how God made me . . . I have a remarkably expressive countenance. HIGH expression production. If you watch a video of me, it makes a little more sense. The fluidity of motion and transition between expressions has a tolerably softening, normalizing effect. If you look at frozen pictures, however, it looks like I own dozens of personalities that emerge at the most insane but highly amusing moments.

Some photos are a little too much, but I did pick out several of the moderate ones . . . and no, it’s not at all my intention to degrade all these expressions, but rather to happily poke fun at them πŸ˜‰

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Firstly, the cake. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the countenance of an impish little kid.

The initial bites of ice cream were incredibly cold against the roof of my mouth, for some strange reason, however, which brought on this expression:

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Cold!!!

As you can probably gather from the following shots, I am caught mid-sentence quite often.

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Then there’s the wrinkled-nose laugh . . .

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The subtle smirk . . .

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Lastly, the pensive moments . . .

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Needless to say, I was having a great deal of fun yesterday πŸ™‚ “The best birthday ever,” as the saying goes, but it truly was, because 1) The love of a family just keeps growing, which sweetens every single birthday, and 2) It was technically my first birthday spent with The Dash, and with us being “us” (although we were on the brink of courtship on my last last birthday and he called me that night *sigh*, it still wasn’t nearly so lovely as this was πŸ˜‰ ) To have him at the table while I read his card and opened his gifts, and being able to hug him, was such a gift! Courtship birthdays are awesome! I am so richly blessed in the love of my family, The Dash, and my friends ❀

Sig

 

 

 

 

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This moment in time (#1)

JMJ1

Thank you, Emma, for the inspiration! πŸ™‚

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What I’m doing: Soaking in some early Saturday afternoon calmness πŸ™‚ Just for fun, I snapped a quick picture of myself here in the girl’s bedroom (I’m the only one in here right now). Behind me is my bed . . . hanging over it, you’ll see several holy cards, the picture of “Song of the Angels” that The Dash gave me last year–he built the frame himself–, and right beneath it, a blessed image of the Blessed Virgin that friends brought me from Rome. The rest of our room is decked with similar sacramentals πŸ™‚ It’s so much fun for sisters to share a room . . . even in spite of very different personalities and tastes πŸ˜‰ However, Lena and our youngest sister are already considering and comparing color swatches for what they’re going to paint this room “once I’m gone.” I guess it’s imminent enough to start looking at paint!

Apart from a little laundry and a quick errand, today hasn’t been busy at all, and so right now I’ve been catching up on reading a few of my favorite blogs. I might write a little bit more of fiction soon. After having wrapped up my projects on deadline last week (and although I have another one due next week that I’ll try to tackle Monday), I decided to dabble in something slightly more relaxed and right-brained. I picked up a story I had worked on for years (I initially came up with the idea when I was 15-16 years old) and I jumped in at an, until now, unexplored plot point that was really always the beginning of the story (only, I’d been habitually engrossed in backstory). I haven’t even finished the second scene yet, but it’s been pretty fun πŸ™‚

What I’m listening to: “Beyond the Stage” by Dario Marianelli. The soundtrack forΒ Anna Karenina,Β along with Romeo and Juliet by Abel Korzeniowski, are the two major bodies of music that are the guiding inspirations for this story. (Let it be known that I have no interest in watching the corresponding films . . . forbidden love, despair, and suicide aren’t really my thing πŸ˜‰ ) I don’t think I would have ever written fiction at all in my teen years if there wasn’t guiding music behind it.

Both soundtracks are primarily waltz-form and brim with themes of tenderness, darkness, intrigue and suspense–really, almost like a Russian ballet, especially Anna Karenina, which only makes sense. They’re marvelous.

What I’m thinking about: Here we go . . .

  • I finished my re-read Sophia House this morning and, all throughout the final scene (of the story proper, anyway . . . there’s an epilogue afterwards, not exactly necessary but interesting), I cried my eyes out. I hiccuped and grew completely congested and made all sorts of whimpering noises. I wasn’t expecting to cry. But once I reached a certain sentence, my mouth twisted once and it all just came tumbling out. I can count on one hand the books I’ve cried over . . . My temperament isn’t exactly conducive towards such. And I’ve already read Sophia House before (though it must have been several years ago, by my memory), so there weren’t any plot-related surprises.

    But, curled up on the couch after having run over to the post office for Mom, I read that scene and cried and cried. My brother came downstairs and was slightly shocked to find his oldest sister a whimpering, puffy-faced victim of profound fiction. “Are you okay??”

    In this instance, I had sought to re-read Sophia House because I was in a place of personal difficulty and struggle, and so joining my thoughts to the tale of Pawel Tarnowski, a true sufferer, brought a deeper perspective and an acknowledgement of sufferings far greater than my own. And also a reminder of a hope of healing and peace that no suffering is beyond, but which only comes in proportion to one’s willingness to sacrifice all that he is and has to God.

“To be a father in the realm of the soul,” Pawel said. “I would like to be this for you. May I be this for you?”

“Yes, Pawel,” David said in a tone of calm deliberation. “This would be good.”

As if standing on a threshold of radical departure, they faced each other without speaking, gazing now into a dimension that seemed for both to be wholly undiscovered. This sense of embarkation into a fathomless mystery was in no way daunting; neither was it fraught with emotion. It was a moment of perfect stillness.

At last the boy said, “It is a blessed gift to be a son in the realm of the soul. May I be this for you?”

“Yes,” Pawel nodded.

S O P H I AΒ Β  H O U S E

  • Well, I’m always thinking about The Dash πŸ˜‰ I’m excited to see him in a little bit and kick off our miniature summer break, now that he’s finished his internship, and that stretches until he starts his final semester of college and I start tutoring next month. It’s always fun to have a little break, especially with your favorite people ❀
  • And I’m also thinking about how very, very good Our Lady is. I have brought so many intentions to this novena to Our Lady of Pompeii (on Monday, I’ll be halfway through!) . . . and even more consoling than the increasingly answered prayers, or the graces for endurance, is the growing awareness of her motherly love for me and every soul. What a beautiful thing it is, to be able to trust in Our Lady.

I pray you have a wonderful weekend!

Sig

July is (random observations) . . .

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. . . hot!!!

As in “put my hair into a bun every day” hot.

I snapped the above picture after a (hot) day of cleaning, laundry, and canning pears on Monday (although I was one of the much lesser contributors to the whole canning enterprise. I was cleaning the bathroom, dusting, vacuuming, doing dishes after the canning, etc…) Lena is in the background, her hair also in a bun. We Donellan women are putting our hair up, people. In the words of The Dash, “Look out.” πŸ˜‰

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A delightfully clean bathroom. Unfortunately, I am too proud to show the “before” picture. I did send the “before” photo to The Dash, so you can rest assured that however proud I am, I’m not that proud.

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At one point during the canning process, they called me downstairs to factor an accurate(ish) ratio of pectin to pears, based off an online ratio table, which was oriented around 7 cups of pears per batch. We eventually discovered we were dealing with 12 cups per batch. So how much pectin would that be?? (13.5 tablespoons, more or less.)

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We have been canning fruit practically ever since we moved to our current home (seven years ago, this September). The builders/previous owners of this home planted blueberry bushes, horse apple trees, pear trees, and a fig tree. We were thrown into “Canning 101” when we wound up with more fruit than we could consume in cobblers. (Although we can consume a lot of cobblers, I assure you.)

Monday, Mom, Lena and youngest sister made jar after jar of Holiday Spice Pear Preserves (or pancake syrup, depending on how much pectin was used per batch; either way, a success!) . . . which are, frankly, sumptuous. Cloves and cinnamon and nutmeg heaven.

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Here is banana pudding, replete with milk and preservatives and rich deliciousness: once-a-year dessert finery. We always make it for one of the summer American holidays (4th of July, or Memorial Day, or Mother’s Day . . .). I’ve had the honor of making it the past couple of years. So far, it has survived me mixing the wrong ingredients together and mildly scorching the pudding. That’s what strainers are for.

However, right now *sigh* I’m done with sugar . . . I know it’s been affecting, at least somewhat, my hormonal health (or, really, lack thereof) and how I’ve been able to deal with stress. Taking it away won’t fix everything, but it will certainly improve the landscape a little!

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Here I am, cooking (enchiladas) with my favorite guy, Tuesday night ❀ For the curious-eyed, The Dash is wearing an apron I received for my eighteenth birthday, bearing a picture of Johnny Gage and the phrase, “Genius at Work” (a reference to theΒ Emergency!Β episode “Dealer’s Wild.”) When I wear the apron, it’s a joke. When he wears the apron, it’s the truth πŸ™‚

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Us in the backseat with my sister . . . slightly cramped . . . but we still leaned in for this picture πŸ˜‰

We’re only a few days away from our 10-month courting anniversary! Each new month is a blessing. Tuesday night, my family and I showed The Dash a treasured secret of our secluded mountain road: a fantastic yearly fireworks show on top of a nearby hill. We pull off onto the side of the road, arrange ourselves on the grass with the help of some lawn chairs, and soak in the display like villagers watching castle parties from afar. At first, we thought They (The Party People) would be setting off the fireworks last Saturday night, but after pulling off the side of the road and listening to the frogs croak for an hour with nary an explosion, The Dash was (understandably) rather skeptical of their existence (the fireworks, that is–not the frogs). Fortunately we were able to regain his faith πŸ˜‰

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There is a beautiful (if intense) 54-day novena in honor of Our Lady of Pompeii that fell into my lap only a few days ago, thanks to a friend emailing me this homily.Β It is challenging, consoling and uplifting–and, as with all things under God’s Providence, perfectly timely. The whole text is here.

Yesterday I took some time to read a little of the story of the origins of devotion to Our Lady of Pompeii, along with the story of Blessed Bartolo Longo,Β as well as prepare a long list of intentions for this novena. Something that’s dawned on me is that, the greater your intentions, the greater your suffering or anxiety or desires . . . the greater your prayers should often be. Prayer is our most powerful recourse, and it should grow in proportion to our needs.

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And finally, a walk this morning! Much-needed and very brisk. I somehow managed to walk to the cadence of two poems the entire time, mumbling them under my breath . . . hopefully I didn’t look too insane . . .

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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.

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Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth . . .

A blessed feast of St. Anthony Mary Zaccaria to you all, and happy Thursday! πŸ™‚

Sig

7 Rambling Monday Takes, Vol. 15 :: Photo journal edition

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Enjoy previous rambling installments here πŸ™‚

JMJ1

1.

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Today has been fairly busy . . . I got up, somehow managed to wash all my laundry by 10am or so, dusted and vacuumed the bedroom, cleaned the girl’s bathroom (and finally scrubbed the shower! Ugh!), ran errands with my brother, talked with The Dash on his lunch hour ( ❀ ) and then settled in for an afternoon of catching up on multiple correspondences (which I’ve neglected pretty badly, and I’m still not caught up all the way . . .). I also continued work on a project due next month . . . and I played around with *guilty cough* an iPhone that was generously given to me by my aunt (Mom and Dad were also given ones).

Currently I can use it for anything other than calling or texting, as Tracfone is still engrossed in transferring my phone information to the new SIM card. (Earlier, I actually did my first online chat with a worker, trying to troubleshoot . . . a new experience! And now I am doing it again. First it was Genevieve, now it is Rick. It is much better than being on the phone . . . sanguine though I am, I’m still too shy for that!)

However, right now I can use the phone to take pictures! (And eventually text them!) I find this rather ridiculously exciting, as this has been something I’ve been unable to do previously.

But anyway. I’m rambling way too much, even for aΒ Rambling TakesΒ post. I took this picture while taking a quick rest on my bed. Over the past few days, The Dash and I have had conversations about courage and St. George: how, in a certain sense, courage isn’t something you receive that then enables you do something you’re afraid of, but is rather something you gain after acting while afraid.

Last Advent, Lena was my Kris Kringle, and she secretly left me this beautiful holy card of one of most well-known and best-loved of the Fourteen Holy Helpers. Just simply looking at this image inspires me with the courage that comes from Christ; the courage St. George exemplified by his holy martyrdom: the courage I need today and always!

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There were lots of thunderstorms today . . . but now we have a lovely, tranquil summer evening! It reminds me of the prayer of Sarah out of the book of Tobit: the prayer I prayed so many times while waiting to meet The Dash, and the prayer we have started praying together recently:

For Thy counsel is not in man’s power. But this every man is sure of that worships Thee; that his life, if it be under trial, shall be crowned: and if it be under tribulation, it shall be delivered: and if it be under correction, it shall be allowed to come to Thy mercy. For Thou art not delighted in our being lost: because after a storm Thou makest a calm, and after tears and weeping Thou pourest in joyfulness. Be Thy name, O God of Israel, blessed forever!

It is a prayer of beautiful trust in the midst of any difficulty.

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A goofy picture, taken by my (obviously taller-than-me) brother while I was cooking supper.

My hair: as of a few days ago, I’ve been trying to wash it less. For years upon years, I’ve been in the habit of washing it every day (which, of course, makes it produce an insane amount of oil after just one day sans washing). I know that if you go a little longer and only wash it a few times a week, it helps your hair grow healthier by improving and regulating oil production. In fact, I’ve recently really enjoyed showering right before bed, pulling my hair back, and letting it air-dry overnight. I wake up and the curls are softer and bouncier and easier to style.

In this picture, however I’d done neither of those things πŸ˜‰ A mid-morning shower and a blow-dryer. Such is life.

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Ahh, our blueberries. I have literally been having homemade oatmeal (with almond milk), a little granola, and blueberries almost every morning. They are too good. Thank heavens the couple who owned our house before us had the inspiration to plant numerous blueberry bushes. If we’re blessed with a good year, we get gallons and gallons of them.

Needless to say, this is a good year!

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This was my aftermath of prepping chicken strips to go into the oven. (I am notorious for cleaning as I go [and annoyingly cleaning up after people when they aren’t], but this was one process in which I couldn’t…)

It took longer than I thought it would . . . but it’s a good recipe. For us, we cut three chicken breasts into strips, then season them with salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder. Dredge the strips in a little flour, dip them in 2 eggs beaten together with a splash of milk, and then dredge again in breadcrumbs. We bake them on 375 degrees for 25 minutes or so, on cooling racks placed over our cookie sheets (which are covered with aluminum foil) and are sprayed thoroughly with nonstick spray. (Although I never seem to spray thoroughly enough. I’ve had a rash of things sticking lately . . .) We also spray the chicken with the nonstick spray. It may seem weird, but it does help it get crispy.

I couldn’t seem to decide if using my hands or metal tongs was the slower method of doing all the dry-to-wet dredging . . . either way was messy . . . but delightfully domestic. It’s the third meal in a row I’ve cooked (Lena and I went in together Friday night, though). My siblings are being heroic in enduring my “it’s-not-quite-Mom’s-cooking.”

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However, the chicken strips turned out pretty good! We cut them up and ate them on salad with homemade chipotle sauce . . . long ago, my uncle let us in on the secret that you can replicate it wonderfully by mixing Ranch dressing with Louisiana hot sauce.

They stuck to the racks, though. And I won’t entertain you with the Story of the Homemade Fries I Baked On Aluminum Foil On Friday Night, Thinking Olive Oil Was Enough to Keep Them From Sticking.

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The Dash bought me some dark chocolate the other day . . .”Just because I love you.” ❀ He couldn’t be more wonderful, I know.

The funny thing about these chocolates: they have “inspirational sayings” printed on the underside of each foil wrapper. I am tickled by them (and their relative, well, lameness). In fact, yesterday after Mass, I was so tickled by one that I had to text The Dash while sitting at the kitchen table and snickering at the little foil wrapper. Our paraphrased-from-memory exchange was as follows:

Me: My Dove Chocolate of the Day states: “If life isn’t going right, go left.” I knew you couldn’t live without that priceless gem of wisdom.

Dash: So your chocolate is telling you to become a leftist?!?

Me: I presume so . . . or at least a terrible relativist.

Dash: I don’t think this chocolate is a good influence on you.

Me: I know. But what’s the alternative? Give this bag full of bad advice to (younger sister)? I couldn’t do that with a clear conscience.

Dash: It seems the only clear way to preserve the minds of your loved ones is to ensure you’re the only one influenced. You’ll have to sacrifice and eat all the chocolate yourself.

Me: That’s what I was thinking. Since I’ll be acting in the face of fear, I’ll expect that with each chocolate I eat, I’ll receive the courage to eat another one. By the bottom of the bag, I’ll be super brave.

Dash: . . . or, if not, we’ll try again with another bag.

This guy knows what he’s doing πŸ˜‰

A blessed feast of St. William to you all!

Sig

 

 

More about our courtship!

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A little plaque I photographed on our family trip to Missouri . . . how true it is . . . πŸ˜‰

JMJ1

Hello, friends! Happy feast of St. Vitus! I’m just quickly dropping in to announce that . . .

1) The blog has a new look! (Gray/purple/blue . . .? My sisters and I can’t decide. But in any event, I really like it!)

2) There are several brand-new pages up, with more details about our courtship!

I wasn’t planning to accomplish either of these projects, but I rather fell into them yesterday morning and didn’t climb out again for several hours. I’m so happy it worked out for me to bury my head in the blog for a little while . . . while I’ve been able to post here and there this month, I really haven’t had time to have a nice sit-down with Benedic for too long.

You may notice that my blog’s “subtitle” (for lack of a better term) has changed a little. I started this site almost two years ago . . . and a lot has (happily) changed in my life since then! I find myself scribbling so often about topics relating to Catholic courtship and healthy relationships, and that wasn’t something on my radar in 2016. So now, my subtitle reads:

Endless ramblings of a young Catholic woman at home, especially on all things relating to courtship, femininity, and the beauty of home life.

I think it strikes a nice note πŸ˜‰

And under my blog banner, you’ll now find a new tab, called “Our Catholic Courtship (Click here to start!)”, and beneath it, “The Rational Side of Courtship,” “Boundaries,” and “Spiritual Life.” More pages are forthcoming as I extract time to write them πŸ˜‰

(In case it piques your interest, I also brushed up the ubiquitous “About me” page a touch . . . πŸ˜‰ )

I pray you have a blessed weekend!

Sig