Tuesday, December 16, 2014

How a Secular Christmas Song Became Our Song (for Atticus)

from the archives:

We hadn't been married very long and we didn't have much money. It was almost Christmas and although we weren't Christians we always gave each other gifts. The pickings would be slim this year, though, as the budget for presents was non-existent.

Atticus knew that I loved Nat King Cole's smoky voice crooning The Christmas Song. I had described it as "almost perfect." But this was in the days before digital music and mp3 players. I could hear my favorite song of the season only if it happened to come on the radio, as I didn't own the album. Atticus wanted to buy it for me, but our budget was so tight that even a new cassette tape (remember cassette tapes?) wasn't a possibility that year.

It was Christmas Eve, and I had to work. Feeling a little disheartened that we didn't have much to give one another, I was nevertheless looking forward to the meal that Atticus would no doubt have ready when I got home.

When I reached our apartment, I put my key in the lock and thought, "It's awfully quiet in there." I opened the door and found a candlelit room, heard a click, and then Nat's smooth voice. Atticus took my hand and we danced.

My dear, sweet husband had scrounged around our apartment, found a blank tape, and then waited. He had vigilantly stationed himself by the radio all day long as he cooked, waiting to hear and capture that song. He waited and waited some more, and finally hit the "record" button when the coveted song made its appearance.

He captured it; he captured me again. And ever since, when Nat starts to sing, we dance.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

An Idea for the O Antiphons from My Girls' Godmother on this Gaudete Sunday

It's Gaudete Sunday! 

And here's something new for this Advent. I've mentioned many times that I have our daughters' godmother, Holly, to thank for the St. Lucia bread that we devour enjoy every year. Holly is so creative and artistic, and this year she surprised us with a sweet new tradition for the O Antiphons, which begin on December 17th

She sent chocolate coins, each with a symbol for one of the O Antiphons. 
She told the girls to say the accompanying prayer each day from December 17-23, and to know that she would be praying for them, too. 

Thank you, Holly! We'll be praying for you as well (but you already knew that.)


Updated to add: 
The prayers that Holly used are from Michele Quigley and can be found here
Holly found the illustrations for the coins at Catholic Cuisine and the artwork is here.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Feast After Feast!

Two wonderful feast days! 

Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. (My personal devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe began about nine years ago, and is chronicled here.)

Tomorrow is the feast of St. Lucy. Go this post for the recipe for the bread we make every year.

You can't ruin this bread! Don't be afraid of it. If I can do it, you can, too. And you'll be so happy you did. It's beautiful and delicious. And, it will be gone before you can say, "Gaudete Sunday."

Poetry Friday: December, by Gary Johnson

No need to add much commentary here -- just a lovely, lovely poem for this December day. 

by Gary Johnson

A little girl is singing for the faithful to come ye
Joyful and triumphant, a song she loves,
And also the partridge in a pear tree
And the golden rings and the turtle doves.
In the dark streets, red lights and green and blue
Where the faithful live, some joyful, some troubled,
Enduring the cold and also the flu,


The Poetry Friday round up is at These 4 Corners.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Conversation in My Kitchen

It's finals week here for my college girls.

Betsy: You know, Anne, there is such a thing as over-studying. You can study too much, and then the knowledge you've taken in liquifies and oozes out of your ears.

Me: Is that a Michael Scott-ism?

Betsy: No, that's me. I said that.

Me: It was alarmingly Michael Scott-ish.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

It's the Second Week of Advent and I'm Not Lamenting Anything

Mind you, I am perfectly capable of lamenting the passage of time. I did it here, when Ramona was six and I wrote a poem about wanting her to never grow up. I worried about it here, when I wrote about homeschooling just one child. I pondered time's passing when I considered what life will be like "When They're Older."

And it's kind of expected when we're in a big countdown such as Advent that exclamations of, "Where is the time going?!" and "It's HOW many days until Christmas?" will ring out. And it's true that I'm regularly taken aback by how fast the days wing by (although if you ask my daughters, that's my natural state of being year round. I say things like, "The other day, when I...." and they correct me: "You mean that time three months ago, Mom?")

Ahem. So, yes, I'm not the one to ask about the sands of time. It's all wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff to me.

Still. I am not immune to the laments, the pondering, the desperate questions about why the timey wimey stuff has to dribble away. Just the other day, a friend of mine (a much younger friend) said that this past year seems to have zoomed by and I gave her an urgent, "Just wait! It gets worse every year!" (Further proving that we all become the people we were once extremely annoyed by.) She immediately dubbed me the Debbie Downer of the gathering, and she was right.

But this Advent, I'm living my "No Panic" advice (I always try to, but you know I'm not perfect -- witness this post from the original No-Panic series in which I talk about scrounging up tights at the last minute and grumbling about the gift bags not being on sale.)

This Advent, I'm trying not to: 
  • Analyze how quickly time is passing. I have a predilection to analyze everything, so it's always a sacrifice to force myself not to analyze. 
  • Live in the past. Christmas with older offspring is different from the way Christmas was when my girls were little. I don't want to focus on that because these days offer their own gifts. 
  • Worry about the gift choices I've made, the presents I've already wrapped, the stuff I've already shipped ("Will she like it? Did I do enough? Will he think that's stupid?" Stop it, already, Karen.) 
  • Worry about having a Christmas card that brilliantly summarizes our year or our lives ("Should I have taken a family photo instead of slapping those three snapshots into a collage?" Again with the Stop It.) 
  • Berate myself for not baking for everyone I know. (I never bake for everyone I know. Am I a Grinch? I don't know, but I also don't know how this idea got started that we all have to bake for each other and take baked goods everywhere we go and give them to everyone we know. I mean, if we're all busy baking for each other all the time, then when will we find time to sit down and drink coffee? All that baking and all that tastefully-arranging-treats-on-a-plate is exhausting. And it leaves us less time to read Kristin Lavransdatter.) 
  • Think that everyone should be like me. Do you love to bake for everyone you know? Do you find it fun and relaxing? Do you enjoy arranging things tastefully on plates? And delivering said tasteful stuff to me? I'll take it. 
  • Waste time on the small stuff. And other than Jesus, it's pretty much all small stuff. 

This Advent, I am trying to:
  • Notice time, but not be controlled by it. 
  • Love the moment I'm in. There are so many to love. While it's fun to reminisce about what Christmas was like when my girls were tiny, or when I was first Catholic, or whatever, it's also bliss to revel in this moment, these ages, all this stuff that is right in front of me. 
  • Watch and wait. 
  • Bake. A bit. Gingerbread houses. Lucia bread. Things Ramona wants to learn how to make. 
  • Read all of our favorite Advent books
  • Pray. 
  • Notice. 
  • Love this wibbly wobbly timey wimey world that passes us by too quickly and not soon enough (which reminds me of this old post, in which not-quite-five-year-old Ramona told me why "earth is the specialest planet.") 

So, it's the second week of Advent. Have you noticed? 

Sunday, December 07, 2014

"As Long As the Candles Are in the Window, I'll Be Here."

After confession this weekend ... after some pondering of conversion (past and ongoing) ... after reflecting on what a gift the season of Advent is ...

From the archives:

Mrs. Patterson.

She was our speech coach when I was in high school. A sweet, grandmotherly sort, who hovered and cooed and generally let us know we were loved. We were talented. We were terrific. We deserved a Christmas party, and she threw one at her house over Christmas break every year.

She had a lovely, grandmotherly house, too. Her Christmas lighting was simple: candles in the windows. Electric candles, yes, but the effect on on me was magic. Subtle and cozy and lovely ... they beckoned. And, once inside, in the Patterson fold, she confirmed that beckoning: "When you have all graduated, and gone off to college, you can always come back to visit me. If you drive by my house when you're home for Christmas, I hope you'll stop and see me. As long as the candles are in the window, I'll be here."

I never did go back after I graduated. I remember driving by her house once or twice, to see if the candles were still in the windows. They were, but even then I wasn't one to drop in unannounced. Oh, I believed her when she said we could. But somehow I didn't think I could.  My day had passed.  The candles still whispered magic to me, but the magic of her home already seemed a lifetime ago, and I knew I couldn't recapture it. I was already, I thought, a different person.

Sometime later, I heard that Mrs. Patterson had died. Cancer, I think. I cried a little, thinking of her sweetness. Her light. Her gift of hospitality. Her sincerity.  I never drove past her house again because although I hadn't taken her up on her invitation, I couldn't stand the thought of those bare, dark windows.

And now, in these days of Advent, as we are waiting for His coming -- waiting to celebrate His birth, and as we contemplate His final Coming -- I think of the candles that still call to me. The flames I really do return to, again and again.

In the confessional.
In Holy Mass.
Flickering next to the tabernacle.

As long as the candles are lit, He will be there. Waiting.

For Mrs. Patterson. For you. For me. And this time around, when I feel like a different person, I know that it's true

The magic of Jesus beckons, and I will never be the same.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Poetry Friday: Merton's Advent

(Photo thanks to FreeImages.com)

I think I have shared this poem every Advent for the past few years, but it's so lovely I can never resist it. 

by Thomas Merton 

Charm with your stainlessness these winter nights, 
Skies, and be perfect! Fly, vivider in the fiery dark, you quiet meteors, 
And disappear. 
You moon, be slow to go down, 
This is your full!

The four white roads make off in silence 
Towards the four parts of the starry universe. 
Time falls like manna at the corners of the wintry earth. 
We have become more humble than the rocks, 
More wakeful than the patient hills.

(Read the whole poem here.) 

More of Merton's Marian Poetry can be found here, at the University of Dayton. Their page on Mary is here


The Poetry Friday round up is at Booktalking

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Quote for the First Tuesday in Advent

"We always want this thing or that thing, and even when we have Jesus Himself in our breast we are not satisfied. Yet He is all that we could possibly desire..." 

~~ St. Francis de Sales 

Monday, December 01, 2014

The First Week of Advent

Advent is my favorite liturgical season. I love the newness -- a new church year, a fresh start, a time to deepen our relationship with Christ. 

And we've started decorating. The Advent wreath is on the dining room table, the nativity set is on the mantle. On Thanksgiving Day (we usually travel, but were at home this year), as we were listening to The Splendid Table's Turkey Confidential (Ramona's favorite thing to listen to on Thanksgiving Day -- beats a parade), I did a quick-change on the artwork above the mantle. I've done this for the last couple of years. It starts out looking like this: 

Then, some burgundy colored fabric. Staples. Pretty easy, even for me. 

Then it looks like this: 

Then I add a beautiful printable from Lesley Austin/Small Meadow, set up the creche, and ... it's Advent! 

Thursday, November 27, 2014


What, you were expecting a turkey? 

Happy Thanksgiving!

So grateful for so much.

May your day be filled with every good thing (including coffee.)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Friday, November 21, 2014

Poetry Friday: This Magic Moment by David Kirby

I have a poem delivered to my Inbox every morning, thanks to Poets.org and I'm always grateful for the beauty this sleek little package adds to my day. I consider, at times, what a mess the internet can be -- the ugliness it puts on display, the unkindness that can be spread, the fights that are started on its playgrounds, the temptations it can stir up in us to prove to the whole world that we are right and they are wrong.

But then, but then ... it can also do this.

It can bring me a poem a day. Gently drop off a bit of loveliness, a dash of magic.

And I love it for that. Because you can never have too much coffee (no, coffee's not mentioned in the poem -- that's my addition),  too much poetry, or too much magic.

This Magic Moment
by David Kirby

Poetry does make things happen. A friend says, “I wanted
to let you know that my stepfather is chattering like
a schoolboy about a poem of yours on my Facebook page.
This may not seem like much to you, but this guy has been
giving me a hard time since I was two. You built a bridge
between people who never understood each other before.”
How’d that happen? Magic, that’s how. I know the poem

(Read the rest here, at Poets.org.)


The Poetry Friday round up is at Tapestry of Words.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Twenty-one Balloons: A Quick Review

Ramona and I just finished reading The Twenty-One Balloons, which we both found delightful. Written and illustrated by William Pene du Bois in 1947, it won the Newbery Medal in 1948, and has endured to become a classic. 

Set in 1883, the novel is part science, part fantasy, part light social commentary, and partly appealing to introverts ("As you know," says Professor William Waterman Sherman, near the beginning of the story, "I was a teacher of arithmetic for forty years. Forty years of being surrounded by a classroom of healthy prankish students. Forty years of spitballs. Forty years of glue on my seat, Sal Hepatica in my inkwell, and other devilish tricks. Long about my thirty-sixth year, I started yearning to be alone.") 

Professor Sherman builds a fantastic balloon home in which he plans to travel around the world. (Cue the Jules Verne references! Cue Up talk, and Dug imitations!) The introduction tells us that Professor Sherman's travels will take him to the Pacific island of Krakatoa, and that he will somehow be involved in the volcanic explosion that really did take place in 1883. How did he end up there? And how did he escape? 

Lots of unschoolish detours to take with this book -- the science of hot air balloons (though Ramona and I occasionally got a little bogged down in some of the descriptions of the inner workings), diamonds, mentions of the salt mines of Poland and the crystal caves of Bermuda, which had me sending Ramona to Google. Volcanos, the history and geography of Krakatoa ... plenty to talk about and explore on top of a good read. And it made us hungry! You'll have to read the book to find out why. 

My favorite quote: 

"It seems strange to me that mechanical progress always seems to leave the slower demands of elegance far behind. With all of the peace and spare time on this lovely island, why should any part of your lives be speeded up?"

I once took a hot air balloon ride and it was lovely. Now I just need to figure out how to get Ramona in a balloon one of these days. A quick Google check for companies and prices tells me that I'd better start the savings fund now.  :)

Friday, November 14, 2014

Poetry Friday: April Day in November, Edinburgh

It is decidedly not an April day in November here in Nebraska, where it was an unseasonable three degrees below zero when I woke up this morning. But, I can imagine, feel, grip, remember, and dream of the kind of day that Norman MacCaig wrote about in "April Day in November, Edinburgh." We've had those days here; today is just not one of those days, but that's okay. 

And, too, I can imagine, feel, grip, remember (in a fascinatingly powerful genetic memory sort of way) and dream of Edinburgh itself, which I will probably never see, at least not until I see it from heaven's vantage point. But that's okay, too. Because today I have these words, this poem, and a new-to-me poet to love. 

April Day in November, Edinburgh

The sun punches through the cloud gaps
with strong fists and the wind
buffets the buildings
with boisterous good will.

Bad memories are blown away
over the capering sea. Life
pulls up without straining

(Read the rest here, at The Writer's Almanac.) 


The Poetry Friday round up is at Keri Recommends