Sunday, November 27, 2011


This is from 2006.  No paper chain anymore!
It's time to get's Advent.

This weekend, my folk group was off duty, and my family attended Mass at the school parish. Father began the homily by confiding that he really wished that if Christ were to return during his lifetime, that He would find Father serving the poor or visiting the sick or celebrating Mass with due reverence--but he really fears that Christ would instead find him in the middle of a traffic jam.

It was a good point. Do we live our lives by making an effort to do our best wherever we are? Even in traffic?

Although I had time today to get my house ready for Advent, I don't feel ready. The wreath is on the table, and we lit the candle before dinner. The empty manger is in the place of honor in the living room, all by itself except for the stained-glass picture my dad recently made me (I need to find a good place to display that.)

The Big Kids helped TheDad put up the Christmas lights, which I could have waited for, but we had to take advantage of the fabulous weather today. I am calling it "no jacket November."

The house is ready for Advent, but the mom is not. I have been busy getting ready for the Festival of Lessons and Carols, and taking Little Brother to rehearsals so he can get ready to perform in Pippin. I haven't done any thinking whatsoever about getting ready for Christmas, which is pretty much fine with me.  I'm sure it wouldn't be fine with the kids, the cousins, or the grandparents, however.  And sooner or later people around here will want the tree up, even through I am lobbying to postpone that activity.  Usually we do the tree on Gaudete Sunday ("Pink candle Sunday") but since Big Brother will return from college on the 16th, and there is a full 4th week of Advent this year, I'd like to do the tree after he gets back.  It's more fun to have all the kids there, fighting over whose ornament gets the tippy-top of the tree and who gets to hang the ceramic pierogi.

For the moment, I'm unprepared.  I'll get there, though.  Wouldn't want Jesus to catch me while I'm sitting in traffic.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Thankful Day

I'm thankful for a happy and healthy family, for a sister who cooks an amazing Thanksgiving dinner, for a niece whose apple pie is beyond compare, for friendship, and for the full tank of gas that will get us to northwestern NJ and back today.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Not in My House

I love the Zits comic and read it every day.  Creators Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman really have a handle on what it's like to live with teenagers.

They got it wrong today, though.  Around here, Middle Sister is the one most likely to eat the leftovers.

For breakfast.

Even when those leftovers are Beef Enchiladas.  Especially when those leftovers are Beef Enchiladas.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Big Switch

One of the occupational hazards of being a musician at the last Mass in the building on a Sunday is that, every feast of Christ the King, you are enlisted to help switch out the hymnals.  Our hymnals don't contain the extra "daily Mass" sections anyway, so they get this job done on Sunday after the noon Mass when there's a captive audience of musicians and their kids to help with the job (not to mention the deacon's teenage grandson!)

A couple of people wanted to take home a copy of the old hymnal.  That's never a problem, as they're just going to be recycled anyway.  But I observed to a friend, after someone asked us if they could take an old book home, that these hymnals are even more out of date than the hymnal usually is, come Christ the King Sunday.

Our parish has done a commendable job of preparing everyone for the Big Switch, and I don't mean the new hymnals:  the change to the new translation of the Roman Missal.  Once a month, the priests would devote the homily to this topic.  Several workshops were open to the entire parish to explain the translation in detail, review the Scriptural connections, and go over what we can expect beginning next Sunday.

Before Mass yesterday, instead of singing a prelude, we reviewed the new Creed with the assembly.  My observation was that people were good sports about giving it a chance, and there wasn't even any audible stumbling over "consubstantial."

My only issue with the whole thing is a musical one.  Many changes have taken place in the words to the sung acclamations.  Some phrases are added, some subtracted; with the exception of the Great Amen and the Lamb of God, the acclamations needed to be rewritten to accommodate those changes.  I'm only familiar with two settings for the new Mass, and while Mass of God's Promise was done quite well, the retrofit didn't work as nicely with Heritage Mass.  Guess which one we're currently using at our parish?  Sigh...

The folk group I sing with is really going to miss the acclamation that the teenagers in the group call "The Happy Gloria"--the one by the St. Louis Jesuits.  Last I checked, this was not on the slate to be redone in the new form.  It's not our pastor's favorite, because it takes so long to sing, but it really is a happy Gloria.  We just can't help but sing it like we mean it--and isn't that the point of the Gloria, after all?  There have been many times, after singing the last notes of that acclamation, that we musicians have met each others' eyes and just known that we're all thinking the same thing:  we have BEEN TO CHURCH.  We have WORSHIPED.

So I really hope they fix that one, because we haven't found another Gloria that moves us to sing with such gusto that we don't have much voice left for the Responsorial Psalm.

Next weekend, we'll have to pay extra attention.  Musicians, especially, since some of our usual verbal cues might be different.  That's a good thing, though.  Every once in a while, you need to get off auto-pilot and pay attention.  Everyone will have to pay attention, and, for a time, read along.  It'll take time, but we'll get there.  Musically, too.  But most of all, I'll miss that Happy Gloria.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Are the Stars Out Tonight?

So my husband and I went over to the Boy Scout Spaghetti Dinner in 2 separate cars because the Cub Scouts are planning to leave right after spaghetti for an astronomy field trip.

I'd been gone all day, so at dinner, my husband (Mr. Cubmaster) gave me the scoop on the plans for the evening.

"After dinner I'm going over to where they're meeting and I'll make sure everyone has directions and see them off.  Then I'm going to come back here and hang out with the Boy Scout leaders.  Little Brother will be with me because he wants to help with the dinner."  (Translation:  Little Brother wants to hang out with the Big Boys.  And they put up with him, so it's all good.  And sometimes he actually helps, a little.)

So I ate my dinner and enjoyed the '80s music provided by the Troop's own DJs, the Clubmasters.  (Nice job, guys.  I particularly enjoyed "Addicted to Love," for the record.)

I asked my husband, the meteorologist, if this trip was even going to happen.

"It's cloudy," he said.  "There won't be anything to see.  Even if they go, I'm not going."

"What if Little Brother wants to go?"

"I'm not going.  After they all leave, I'll bring Little Brother back here."

OK.  Middle Sister and I finished our food; she visited with her friends among the Scouts and we left.  I wasn't expecting them back for about another hour anyway--and then my cell phone buzzed to signal a new text.

"We're in the middle of nowhere."

Yup.  They went.  Should be interesting to hear all about how that went down.

An Island Never Cries

When I first heard Simon & Garfunkel's "I Am a Rock" I felt an instant connection.  That's me!

A winter's day 
In a deep and dark December; 
I am alone, 
Gazing from my window to the streets below 
On a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow. 
I am a rock, 
I am an island. 

I've built walls, 
A fortress deep and mighty, 
That none may penetrate. 
I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain. 
Its laughter and its loving I disdain. 
I am a rock, 
I am an island. 
[ Lyrics from: ] 

I have my books 
And my poetry to protect me; 
I am shielded in my armor, 
Hiding in my room, safe within my womb. 
I touch no one and no one touches me. 
I am a rock, 
I am an island. 

And a rock feels no pain; 
And an island never cries.

Well, except for the poetry part (I prefer fiction, thankyouverymuch.  Failing that, a good cookbook will do.)

Sometimes, though, I find a few chinks in my emotional armor.  Today, I am not a rock.  Or an island.  And there is no perfectly good explanation for that.  I want to be in control of my emotions--and I pretty much knew, the second I woke up today, that such control is beyond my abilities today.

Unfortunately, I do not have the luxury of staying home and sipping tea and finishing the last book in the Hunger Games trilogy today.  It's going to take every ounce of strength I have--plus plenty of strength I do not have--to keep it together today.

It's easier, sometimes, to be an island.  But when you can't, make sure you bring along plenty of tissues.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Things Parents Say

...and an indication that Standards Are Slipping around here:

"When you eat a Hot Pocket in the bathroom, please clean up what you drop on the floor."

Monday, November 14, 2011

Prepositional FAIL

Little Brother misses his brother.  (We all do, really.)  And he doesn't understand that Big Brother gets more nocturnal with each passing year, so when we do get to see Big Brother, he spends half the day sleeping and half the night wide awake while most of the rest of us are sleeping.  Except for Middle Sister, who can be semi-nocturnal when she needs to, being a teenager and all.

The other day, Little Brother was complaining about this.  He said, "I hope that next time Big Brother comes home, he spends more time playing with me, instead of just sleeping around all the time."

The kid had no idea why I nearly drove off the road after he said that.  Bad choice of words, Little Brother.  But it did give me a good laugh.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

In Harmony

(I'm in this picture, but I'm not telling where.)
One of my favorite activities in high school was the choir.  We were probably about 60 strong--that's half the school!  I loved the chance to sing in harmony.

We only had 3-part harmony (soprano, second soprano, alto) since my high school was not coed.  I was a second soprano, but over the years I've migrated to alto.  (And I'm not above throwing in a tenor or baritone part now and again, just for the fun of it.)  I do not harbor any illusions of having a solo-quality voice, but I do just fine in a group and I can sustain a harmony line without being near anyone else who's singing that same part.

Right now, I'm thoroughly enjoying a chance to stretch my musical muscles.  Over at the school parish, preparations are under way for a Festival of Lessons and Carols, scheduled for the Tuesday before Christmas. It's a mixed group in many ways.  First of all, we've got soprano, alto, tenor and bass--and a children's chorus.  WOW!  It's amazing to be part of creating that wonderful sound.  We're coming from at least 4 different parishes and at least as many different choirs/ensembles.  There are kids (as young as second grade), teens, college students, young adults, parents with kids of all ages, and empty-nesters.  

Soon, we're bringing in the musical instruments!  And we all come together to make music.
Christmas music is wonderful, and there is a huge repertoire of beautiful Christmas music out there.  As a musician at church, though, I'm pretty much limited to standard carols.  And that's fine--people attending Mass during the Christmas season expect, and should find, those old familiar carols.  It makes things easy when people visit from other parishes, other traditions, or just haven't been to church in a while.  When we play and sing at Mass, we're there to lead people in prayer through song, not to perform for them.

This Festival of Lessons and Carols is a combination of Scripture readings and beautiful music, most of which is not your standard carol.  It's a performance, but don't think for a moment that it is not also worship.
Last year Big Brother played bass at this Festival.  The rest of us came along to be part of the audience.  I loved it and was thrilled to be asked to take part this year (along with Little Brother and Big Brother, who will participate again).

That whole "singing is praying twice" thing?  For me, it's completely true.

I love that we pray before we rehearse, thanking God for the gift of music, for the opportunity to share that gift and to give God honor and glory by using that gift.  (That's the gist of the prayer; the music director does a better job phrasing it than I just did).

And I love being a small part of this large group.  Some people in the group are like me, with ordinary musical skills.  Others are incredibly gifted.  When I sing with them, I am challenged beyond what I think I am capable of doing.

Great joy!

Saturday, November 05, 2011

High Anxiety

Remember that prayer that was on all those posters in the 70s: "Lord, help me to remember that nothing is going to happen today that you and I together can't handle"?

I've been letting anxiety get the better of me a little (a lot?) more than usual recently. And really, this has got to stop. When I was talking about this with a good friend, she mentioned that, lately, she has been making an effort to pray when anxiety starts to overcome her. She asks God to help her hand over the situation, to guide her words and actions.

Good advice.

But I don't want to pray that prayer from the 70s posters. To be honest, I find that prayer a little arrogant. 

As Father Cavanagh says in the movie Rudy, "I have come up with only two hard incontrovertible facts: there is a God, and I'm not him."

Better to pray that God will guide me through a situation. I prefer this prayer, attributed to Father Mychal Judge, OFM, who perished in the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center:
Lord, take me where you want me to go;
Let me meet who you want me to meet;
Tell me what you want me to say, and
Keep me out of your way.

There's only one thing I may need to add to that: "Keep my foot out of my mouth."


Thursday, November 03, 2011

For All the Saints, For All the Moms

In a month that begins with the celebration of All Saints, what better time to begin learning about the Saints of our Church?  And what better place to start than A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms by Lisa Hendey?

Subtitled "52 Companions for Your Heart, Mind, Body and Soul," this book is packed full of encouragement, challenges, and reflections about saints who can be especially inspiring to moms.

As soon as I received this book, I immediately opened it to the table of contents to see who's in there!  I had to check for my favorites, of course, and they were there in abundance:  Saints Francis and Clare of Assisi, Saint Martha of Bethany, Saint Anthony of Padua, and more.  But there were plenty of other saints with whom I'm much less familiar, such as Saint Sebastian, Saint Jane Frances de Chantal, and Saint Josephine Bakhita.

This book is bigger than I expected, with each chapter composed of a short biography of the saint, lessons from the saint's life and/or writings, traditions of the saint's feast day celebration, a quote from the saint, Scripture passages and reflections--one for each day for a week, activities for moms to complete on their own and with their children, a family prayer and thoughts to ponder.  That's a lot of inspiration packed into just over 300 pages!

This is not a book that you have to begin at chapter 1 and work your way through.  You can choose to read and reflect on the life of a saint that relates to a particular challenge you're having at the time.  That's easy to do, because the table of contents shows not only the saint's name, but a virtue for which the saint is well-known.

A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms isn't going to lose its place on my bedside table anytime soon; it's a devotional that will serve as inspiration for a long time to come.

I wrote this review of A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms for the Tiber River Blogger Review program, created by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods. For more information and to purchase, please visit Aquinas and More Catholic Goods.

Tiber River is the first Catholic book review site, started in 2000 to help you make informed decisions about Catholic book purchases.

A review copy of the book was provided to me. I did not receive other compensation for this review.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Kitchen Conversation

Little Brother's been on a rye-toast kick for breakfast these days.  Specifically Jewish rye, with seeds.

This morning when I was getting breakfasts and lunches going, I asked him if he wanted toast.  When the answer was yes, I said, "Regular, or Jewish?"

That's when the questions started.  (Not like I could answer them...)

"Why do they call it 'Jewish'?"  Aren't Jewish people from Israel?  Was it always called Israel?  What was it called before it was called Israel?"

And then we moved on to...

"Is Galilee a country?"  (No, it's a small town.)  "Is the manger where Jesus was born still there?"  (Well, they THINK they know where that is, but they can't be totally sure because it's not like Mary and Joseph made a big sign for it when they were running away from King Herod who wanted to kill Jesus:  "The Son of God was born here.")

"It should be easy to find." (No, there were lots of barns with mangers around Bethlehem.)

"Barns with mangers and a cow and a sheep and a pig?"  (No pig.)

"Why not?"  (Jewish people don't eat pigs.)

"Why not?  Are they afraid they're going to get gout?"