Archives

Pilgrimage Day 53: St. Agnes, Pray for us!

January 21, 2014: the feast of St. Agnes.

File:St Agnese in Agone Rome interior 02.jpg

Way back in 1984 or so, I chose St. Agnes as my Confirmation saint (or did she choose me?). I had read about her in a book in my school’s library, and was struck by her courage, and her love for God. I wanted to be like her!

Here is the Antiphon from today’s Vespers:

The blessed Agnes stood in the midst of the fire * and stretched forth her hands unto the Lord, and prayed, saying O Thou Who Alone art Almighty! Who Alone art to be adored! Who Alone art to be worshiped! Who Alone art to be feared! I bless thee, and glorify thy Name for ever and ever!

I STILL want to be like her!!

Product Review:

For Christmas, my Mother-In-Law gave me a 5-Mile Walk at Home DVD with a set of hand-weights, which I have been using when the weather does not permit me to go outside for a walk. It takes about 1 hour and 10 minutes to do the 5-Mile Advanced Walk workout on the video. It keeps my heart rate close to where I want it to be during the workout, so I am really training my heart and burning the fat.

Stay tuned for some exciting news!

Advertisements

Pilgrimage Day 39: How are the New Year’s Resolutions Coming?

I just re-read my New Year’s Resolution post from a week ago. I had already forgotten some of them! The dangers of putting promises on public display!

Well, resolutions do me no good without frequent review, so let’s get to it:

1. Save money monthly for Chartres. CHECK. I have a certain amount I am saving each month, but I really don’t know how much I will need. I’ll just keep saving until I figure out all the expenses I am likely to incur.

2. Set monthly goals: endurance while walking, weight loss, diet adjustments to level of activity. CHECK. My personal Trainer gave me a little device called a Fitbit last week. It is amazing. It links to an online account, which helps you keep track of goals, caloric intake and burning, number of steps taken, intensity of activity, etc. If you have a heart rate monitor, you can enter that info here too, to keep all your motivators in one place. I just received my first weekly report in an email, which gives best days, worst days, and averages for all this stuff. By the way, I have lost 6 lbs. since I first logged in last Thursday. Yay!

3. Learn to use the heart rate monitor Ian gave me! No, I have not done this. I have it right here, and I downloaded the owner’s manual, though. Counts for something, right?

4. Set goals and start training with a friend who has agreed to be my personal trainer. See number 2 above. Today I took my walk (70 minutes at a brisk pace. It was supposed to be at 50 – 60% of my maximum heartrate, but since I have not done #3, I do not know if I reached this.) My Trainer wants me to get to the point where I can run a marathon at abut 5 mph. I am not there yet.

5. Stay accountable with my “loser buddy.” I sent her a note today, telling her what I am doing. 

6. Walk or exercise every day. Set a specific time for this. I do not have a specific time. I am not sure I can do this yet, since the weather and temperature fluctuate so much this time of year. As the weather warms, I can set it for the same time every morning, but for now it will depend on whether my breath freezes and falls to the ground as soon as it comes out of my nose, or whether there is a blizzard going on. I have thought about walking at the mall, but that would require at least one and a half hours of driving to get there and back, and would only give me level pavement to train on. Out here, I have gravel, mud, snow, ice, hills… and my Mother-In-Law gave me a DVD and a set of wrist weights for walking at home! I will use that during bad weather.

7. Drink enough water every day. I can make this part of a daily check list on my phone. I have not been drinking enough water, and I have not put it as a reminder on my phone. 

8. Learn more about how to exercise effectively and safely. I am doing this little by little. I am glad I have the running shoes I do. They are incredibly comfortable and supportive while I walk. Today while walking, since I did not know how much my heart was working, I wondered if I should jog. But because I was alone on a country road, I thought I had better not until Ian can make sure I don’t sprain my ankle and have to lie in the gutter until someone passes by.

9. Find out about pool membership and swim regularly if not cost-prohibitive. I did find out about this, and I think we might do it closer to summer if we go with the outdoor pool, or sooner if we go with the indoor pool with the possibility of swimming lessons for the kids.

10. Schedule time to spend one-on-one with each of the kids, especially the girls! I have some Girls’ Night In/Out activities on the calendar for my daughters. The next one is this Saturday: home manicures and pedicures! I took them the other day to pick out some nail polish.

11. Make time to go to the museum with our new family membership which we received for Christmas. Have not done this yet.

12. Try to minimize or consolidate doctor and dentist appointments so I have more time at home. Well, the appointments have slowed down a bit. At least for now.

13. Dedicate a specific time to grading school papers. I am trying to do this while the kids are doing their school work, but I frequently have to stop to teach a lesson or explain something, or even to stop a fight between the younger kids or lie down with a little one so he’ll take a nap.

14. Schedule Confession for the kids and take them. Have not done this officially, but some of them have gone recently. Some have not and need to.

15. Blog every day, or at least once a week, on the Liturgical Year/Feast Days, Family, and/or Pilgrimage Prep. Set specific time to blog. Obviously I have not done this since January 1. 

16. Set specific times for prayer (Divine Office and Rosary), spiritual reading, examination of conscience, and Scripture daily. Keep prayer area clear of distractions.  I have specific times I am supposed to do the Divine Office, but I do not always follow the schedule. The rosary I pray while on my walk and in the evening with the kids. I have not been diligent about the rest, and my prayer area is a mess. I’ll clean it up this week and try to get into a better routine. Also, at my last confession, the priest suggested I add the Angelus three times a day. I already do it at noon, but he said I should pray it at 6 AM and 6 PM also, to help structure the day.

17. Schedule regular Spiritual Direction and Confession. I went to confession last night, and have put it on the calendar for every two weeks, ,which my Spiritual Director recommended. As for having regular Spiritual Direction, he is a busy man and I take what I can get. Every 2 – 3 weeks would be ideal, but not possible.

18. Find a quiet place for a desk that is just for correspondence and bills. Keep it clean. Nope. Maybe once we move.

19. Save up for a Breviary since I had to return the one I borrowed from Fr. O’Neill. Or at least get a good app for my phone. Ian found an app that might work on my phone, but we have not gotten it yet. I have not started saving for a set of books, although this is something I really would like. I will have to look at the budget.

20. Read the Etsy-preneurship book Ian gave me, and refurbish my shop. Make more dolls and things to sell. Enlist the older kids to make things as well! Schedule time for reading, making, and doing. I have not done this.

21. Set regular time aside to sew the kids’ Christmas stockings. Goal: have Susan’s, Peter’s, Maria’s and Nana’s done by Thanksgiving! That means finish Susan’s in January, and then have a stocking completely done every 3 months. Enlist the help of the older kids. I have not done this either! And I am adding more to it: I want to learn how to crochet lace, and how to play the harp if my brother makes me a harp! Oh! and I want to have a flower garden.

22. Save up for a new Bosch motor so we can make bread regularly again. I have not budgeted this in either, but it needs to take priority over the Breviary set.

I guess that’s not too bad, but I need to crack out that calendar and start doing some of this stuff! The year is 7 days old already!

Epiphany 2014

Adoration of the Magi

God has come to us as an infant. He came, after having been prophesied since the beginning of the world, king of the Jews. And yet, the Jews rejected Him. The Scriptures tell us that when the 3 Magi (pagan followers of Balam) came to Herod to ask where the King of the Jews was, he, and all of Jerusalem with him, were “greatly troubled.” Why were the Jews, to whom this King was promised, greatly troubled and not rejoicing? Why did they not go with the Magi to adore the newborn King? What is our response to His birth into the world? Does it make a difference in our lives, as it did in the lives of the 3 Magi who dropped everything in order to find this King and give Him their best gifts, and adore Him? Do we seek Him? Do we give Him our best, or do we reserve that for ourselves and give Him lip service only? Is your life different from those around you who do not know Christ? Do they see you and wonder who this King is that reigns in your heart and makes you joyful, even in tribulation? Do they see the faith you have in all of your actions? Do they find hope in your words? Do they experience love just by knowing you?

Pilgrimage: Day 31: What is a Pilgrim?

pil·grim
ˈpilgrəm
noun
  1. 1.
    a person who journeys to a sacred place for religious reasons.
    synonyms: worshiper, devotee, believer

How much meaning is in this simple definition! Are we not pilgrims all our lives, if we seek God? And isn’t our God good to want to be found? He hides Himself for our good, but lets us find Him if we really want to. In fact, He seeks us and waits for our response. He is Love, and does not force Himself upon us.

“O gentle pilgrim of love, You stand at the door and wait!  How many doors in Bethlehem were closed to You: there was no room for You except in a wretched stable.  And is not my heart still more wretched, more squalid, more unworthy of You than that poor stable?  And yet, if I open it to You, You will not disdain to make it Your dwelling and the place of Your repose, as You did the stable where You were born.  O my Jesus, give me the grace to open my heart wide to You, to adhere with all the strength of my will to Your grace, to give You all my liberty, because henceforth I desire but one liberty: the liberty to love you with all my strength, to give myself wholly to You.  O Lord, how much You have loved us, and how few are those that love you!  Grant that at least these few may be truly faithful to You, and that I also may be of their number.”  ~Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, Divine Intimacy

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

A friend at my parish offered to be my “loser buddy” to keep each other accountable. We will tell each other our monthly goals, and encourage each other to keep going. She decided to make a punishment for herself if she does not meet her goal for the month: to clean the basement of the church. I have never heard of doing this, as I think not reaching the goal is punishment enough, but I’ll think about it. Any ideas?

She also suggested setting rewards for accomplishing each monthly goal. That’s easier for me, but she could not think of anything except being able to wear her favorite dress this summer. My monthly rewards might include: taking a leisurely walk at a park or garden by myself or with Ian, planting flowers this spring, reading a favorite magazine cover-to-cover without a single distraction; and a more long-term incentive is to be able to wear a pretty blue velvet skirt my Sister-In-Law gave me next Christmas.

// Great Gardens & Ideas //

Today’s walking assignment: 30 – 60 minutes in the fat-burning zone at 60 – 70% of your maximum heart rate. Finish your walk at a moderate pace with 5 minutes of cool down at a very easy pace.

So I guess I need to figure out how to use the heart rate monitor Ian gave me.

FR70

After my walk: I walked more or less briskly for about 40 minutes, south on Phoebe, west on Cooper, south on Black Forest, then turning east and then north on Phoebe again, stopping for a stretch at the mail boxes before heading back home. UPS had left a package, which turned out to be Ian’s new phone, so I think he will give me his old one. I am looking forward to using it in conjunction with my exercise program and for keeping better track of my tasks!

FYI: It was about 43 degrees. I wore synthetic long johns from Land’s End, a long, navy poly/cotton skirt, my casual red windbreaker, black gloves, scarf, and knit hat. I was pretty comfortable until turning east on Phoebe. Then I removed my gloves and was fine. I noticed my right foot hurt a bit along the outer edge, perhaps because I was walking on the left side of the road, which slopes up toward the center of the road.

Pilgrimage Day 21: O Key of David

Day 21: December 20: Ember Friday

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow, in the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Frosty Wind Made Moan

This morning, we awoke to a cold, dark world outside. The fog was so thick that we could not see the neighbors’ houses.

Cold and chill, bless the Lord.
Dew and rain, bless the Lord;
Frost and cold, bless the Lord.
Ice and snow, bless the Lord.

Thick Frost

The hoar frost was thickly blessing the Lord!

Lots of family members are coming this afternoon, and my daughters will serve an impromptu tea party. Lucy made ginger snaps, Margaret is brewing tea, and Andrew made a special gluten-free dessert for Aunti Mimi. Meanwhile, Susan mopped the bath room and Anne washed dishes. Peter and Thomas cleaned the boys’ room while Robert messed it up, and Maria cleaned up the living room. When they arrive, Aunti Mimi will cut the girls’ hair while we all visit. The kids, especially the younger ones, can’t wait for their cousins Bella and Benedict to come!

Today’s Novena prayer:

20 December: 

O Key of David, 
and Sceptre of the house of Israel, 
that openeth and no man shutteth, 
and shutteth and no man openeth, 
come to liberate the prisoner from the prison, 
and them that sit in darkness, 
and in the shadow of death. 

Our Father...
Hail Mary...
Glory Be...

Pilgrimage: Day 6

Day 6: Thursday, December 5, 2013: St. Sabbas, pray for us!

Outside the world is quiet, cold, and white. The air sparkles with tiny bits of ice mimicking the stars that shine sharply against the deep velvet sky, and not even the many rabbits that live on our land dare to disturb the silence and the smooth surface of the snow covering the ground (and a multitude of sins, like the child’s wagon not put away before the storm). Ian has driven away, after coaxing the minivan into life, screaming and complaining (the van, not Ian).

Today I will exercise inside the house again; the high temperatures outside promising a meager 12 degrees at the summit of today’s heat. Right now it is negative 4 and feels like it. The sun is starting his ascent, turning the sky into an immense opal before  he sets it on frozen fire.

The kitchen is starting to warm up with oatmeal and cinnamon on the stove, and little feet are starting to pitter-patter around the house. Today is St. Nicholas Eve. Today is a school day. If the kids and I finish today’s work, we will have tomorrow off to bake Nativity cookies!

Today’s walk: 15 to 30 minutes.

Advent and Christmas at Home

Autumn is the time in our family’s year when our thoughts turn towards the coming winter and all the festivities and visitors we will have – the time when the family does more that is “out of the ordinary” than at any other time of year.My beautiful picture

Canned Applesauce

Every August we meet with my In-Laws to pick chokecherries, peaches, grapes and apples on the roadsides and in friends’ yards. Then we make applesauce and pie fillings, chokecherry and grape juice and jelly, and peach pie fillings. Whatever we preserve by canning, we use throughout the coming year and send as Christmas gifts to faraway relatives.
 
Every September I vow to have one more stocking finished for the kids, although I do not always finish in time. I have been making these felt-applique Christmas stockings since my first child was born 14 years ago. I have 5 finished, and am working on number 6. For years now I have wondered if I will ever catch up and have one for each of my 10 children, but, since I am about to turn 44, I think I might catch up one day. Nature being what it is, and God having made me the way He chose, I will eventually leave the child-bearing years.
 
Every October we get together with my In-Laws to make our traditional Christmas tamales. We work all day to make as many as we can, put them in bags by the dozen, and eat some with refried beans, Spanish rice, and other goodies for dinner. Then we take our bags home and put them in the freezer to be enjoyed on Christmas Eve and throughout the coming year.
 
During November, my children and their local cousins spend time with my Mother-In-Law (their “Nana”), making Christmas cookies, especially her traditional biscochitos (Mexican Christmas cookies), which will be available for snacking starting on December 24 until they are gone!
Nativity
 
Advent here starts with St. Andrew’s day, November 30. This is our wedding anniversary, and before we were even married, Ian and I vowed to name our first son Andrew after this Apostle and martyr. We set up our Nativity set, which was a gift from my family to us on our wedding day. We only put Mary and Joseph in it, with maybe a few sheep and shepherds close-by. Our Three Kings figures are set up somewhere else in the house, and they travel to the manger throughout Advent and Christmas, to arrive on Epiphany.
Advent Wreath
We also set up our Advent wreath on the dining table, with its rose and violet candles. A friend of mine makes beautiful ones made of pure beeswax, so I always use hers if I order them in time.
St Nicholas Day
 
Next comes St. Nicholas day, December 6. The night before, the children place their Christmas stockings on the dining room table. In the morning there are always mandarins, nuts in their shells, and spice cookies with an image of St. Nicholas himself on them! Sometimes he brings socks or other small but needed items. This day is also our first son’s birthday – I bet you can guess his name: Andrew Nicholas!
St LucySt. Lucy table
 
Then St. Lucy’s day comes and we make every effort to bring home-made goodies to my In-Laws. Our eldest daughter, Lucy, of course, dresses in white and serves us all by candlelight. Usually I have made something with honey (a honey cake made with strong coffee has been a favorite), but this year the girls want to make some authentic Swedish St. Lucy Cats. 
Advent Tree
 
After St. Lucy, Advent really starts going fast. We make gingerbread cookies in the shape of nativity figures, and some years we even have time to “paint” them with food-coloring-and-egg-yolk “watercolors.” Depending on how early we get a tree, it might hold pink and purple Advent lights as well as Jesse Tree ornaments.
Christmas Tree
If we wait until the end of Advent, it gets white and/or colored lights (depending on which strands work when I plug them in), and we have a tree-decorating day usually Gaudete Sunday or the last Sunday of Advent. We have ornaments from Ian’s childhood, and I have added an ornament of some significance to the children almost every year of their lives. For example, when the older girls were doing Irish Dance, I gave them each a shamrock ornament. The year we all climbed Pikes Peak, I gave each child a key chain with the mountain depicted on it. They will each have a box of their own ornaments to take with them when they eventually set up their own homes. We turn on the Christmas tree lights every night during Christmas for our Night Prayers, and if we have any activities in the living room in the evenings.
My beautiful pictureMom & Uncle James
Each year sometime during Advent, when all of my husband’s siblings can gather, we have a Family Talent Show. Everyone works on some sort of presentation, from singing to Irish Dance, from a short skit to poetry recitation or instrumental music.
Christmas Table Setting
 
On Christmas Eve, we all gather at my In-Laws’ house and eat our traditional Mexican dinner (remember the tamales we made in October?)! Each family brings something for the meal: some of their tamales, refried beans, calabasitas (squash sauteed with chiles, corn, spices, and topped with cheese), Mexican or Spanish rice, Ensalada de Noche Buena (a traditional Mexican salad for Christmas Eve) and home-made biscochitos for dessert.
Twas the Night Before Christmas...Christmas Stockings All Lined Up
After dinner, the patriarch of the family reads “A Visit from St. Nicholas” to the children. During the recitation of the poem, St. Nicholas lands on the roof with his reindeer (we have heard footsteps and bells up there), and sometimes we even see St. Nick himself running by a window outside. The saint fills everyone’s stockings while we listen to the story, and afterwards we all open them up and enjoy the goodies (oranges, nuts, candy canes, chocolates, and the kids get a little toy or useful item like a hair brush or pocketknife). Sometimes the adults get useful things, too, like gift cards to the grocery store or a nearby restaurant. If we have extended family with us for the day, we will exchange gifts with them on this night. Sometime during the evening, the Baby Jesus mysteriously appears in the Nativity scene between Mary & Joseph. Sometimes Angels appear also!
Christmas Spice Bread
 
Some years we have gone to (and even sung in the choir for) Midnight Mass, but with young ones still very young, we have mostly gone to the Christmas Morning Sung Mass at our parish. We take homemade breads and cookies to distribute to our priests and friends there, and bring home goodies from them as well.
 
After Mass, we have a wonderful brunch at home. Last year we made a sausage-and-egg casserole and French toast, which we served with coffee, orange juice and milk. The Advent wreath that has graced our table gets moved to the door and becomes a Christmas wreath. The candles get put away until next year it they still have plenty of wax on them.
Eggnog Shootout
 
That evening we have all the family over for a turkey dinner. Typically, we have a home-made egg nog contest between my husband and his brother Mike. Ian makes his child-friendly so all of our kids can have some. Mike puts in a lot of rum (and other spirits), so he usually wins, even though the kids all vote for Daddy’s. I serve a turkey and everyone brings a side dish or dessert. Uncle James always brings the drinks (because when I send out an email asking everyone to sign up for a dish, he waits until the end so there is only one thing no one signed up for), and a can of cranberry jelly( because he likes to slice it very thin, even though no one eats it). If we have gifts from friends and relatives who are not with us, we will open them on this day so that thank you notes can be sent promptly.
 
Christmas at our house comes to a close on Epiphany. During the night, the Three Kings have come, and left a family gift on the dining table (a game we can all play or a movie we can all watch together). Then we have everyone over again (usually at our house, but sometimes at my In-Laws’) for a Kings Cake or some traditional Epiphany treat from a European country. (I am thinking of making a French Galette des Rois this time) If we have not opened all of our presents either on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, we save the ones from each other for this special day. 
 
Shortly after Epiphany we take down the tree and Christmas wreath. If we have friends with goats, they get these delicacies as a Christmas treat. The decorations get put away little by little, until the only significant relics of Christmas consist of the way we treat each other and those around us. 

Paula and Tree

Merry Christmas!