Gathering My Thoughts

I find myself:

::noticing God's glory

I think I need another thick layer of topsoil on the front bed. When the girls planted tulips, I'm not sure they dug deep enoough and now I'm worried they'll freeze.

::listening to 

The hum of the dryer.

::clothing myself in 

Black. Again. When my aunt died in September, my sister urged me to buy a new black dress. By the fourth death this fall, I did. Funeral again today. That makes six dear souls for whom we are praying especially this November.

::talking with my children about these books

We're all listening to The Mysterious Benedict Society together. I can't recommend it enough!

::thinking and thinking




I'm pondering the Eastern tradition of St. Philip's fast and the wisdom there. Saint Francis De Sales counseled even lay people to fast beyond the minimum; "If you are able to fast, you will do well to observe some days beyond what are ordered by the Church".) Furthermore, Pope Paul VI raised the norm even higher in regions “where economic well-being is greater”, stating that in such areas, “so much more will the witness of asceticism have to be given in order that the sons of the Church may not be involved in the spirit of the world.” 

As grocery stores explodes with the abundance of Christmas, I'm doubling down on our efforts to look at the season through a different lens. The only catalog we've kept for list making purposes is the Food for the Poor gift catalog, where each of my kids is deciding what to give. They are debating the merits of soccer balls over chickens...

::carefully cultivating rhythm

I'm grateful to have thought through a November rhythm. I expected that it would be more at-home and more peaceful. But life--and death--happen. I'm still grateful to have had the plan.


::creating by hand

I have my list of gifts to make and I really thought I'd be merrily crafting them by now. Maybe I'll get to it by Friday. It's a pretty fun list and I am excited. But first, a pause to catch the last few rays of November light.


::learning lessons in

grief. We all experience it so differently. Grieving with someone and walking someone through her own grief--all very tricky. 

::encouraging learning 

Stephen is still faithfully writing for National Novel Writing Month. November seems like a great month for national initiatives. Stephen's writing a novel. Patrick's trying to grow a beard-- or something. I like Stephen's chances;-). Fortunately, Patrick is very secure in his manhood, with or without facial hair. He's looking rather like Shaggy from Scooby Doo.

::begging prayers

For my friend Megan and her family and for the repose of the soul of her beautiful mother, Cynthia McMullen.

For our dear friend Shawn Kuykendall, who is suffering terribly, and for his family and friends.

For Elizabeth DeHority, who faces a new round of very difficult chemotherapy today.

House fair

::keeping house

The basement is clean. Really clean. And the kids are so much enjoying the space downstairs that I think they'll help me keep it so. I am definitely an autumn deep cleaner. I still have a few more things I want to get to before Advent begins. My favorite Advent hymn is "People Loook East." Honestly, I love the phrase, "Make your house fair as you are able. Trim the hearth and set the table." It's been humming in my head all month. I do this when I am expecting a baby, too. The first couple weeks, after the positive test and before I start throwing up, I put meals in the freezer and try to get everything as clean and organized as possible to withstand the storm that is the first 16 weeks. Then, after the hyperemeis subsides, I seize the second trimester (what's left of it) and I clean and organize like crazy. I know that a newborn brings its own sweet chaos, so I do things that make that postpartum period easier. But I also want to have everything "just so" for the baby. The baby, of course, never notices. Still, I persist in this theory of getting my house ready for a noble guest every single time. The third trimester, I focus on baby "decorating" and readying baby clothing and supplies. I've recognized that I nest during Advent, too--and even before. November is all about that deep cleaning. I don't like to bring the trimmings out into a mess. Advent is readying for the baby.This year, as we grieve, we've thrown ourselves into the pre-Advent purging with considerable enthusiasm.

::crafting in the kitchen 

We've been making meals to take to friends. We brought dinner and basket of goodies to Megan last week. Tomorrow, we'll bring breakfast. And on Thursday, we're bringing dinner to Ginny, to celebrate new life. I figure dinner there is my ticket for unlimited baby holding. Looking very forward to inhaling that sweet boy. I'm looking for ideas. What are your favorite meals to bring or to receive? How do you make bringing meals something special?


::loving the moments

Patrick and the rest of the UVa soccer team defeated Notre Dame on Friday night to make it to the ACC finals. They lost to Maryland in a heartbreaking finish in the finals. I have lots of pictures to share, but time's really short right now, so I'll have to put them up here tomorrow. There were lots of very cool moments. The game was fairly local for us, at a park where my youth soccer players play all the time. So, it was like coming home for Paddy. My favorite moment was sweeping the stands with my camera and seeing so very many people there for him. At the first game, our friend from high school, MaryKay and her young family came to cheer. The second game we packed the stands. There were the regulars--my dad and his wife; all our kids (except the Sugar Plum Fairy); Stephen's godfather, Bill, and Beverly; Christian's godfather Jim and his daughter Rachel; and then there were old friends: families from Stephen's and Nick's former teams; the manager's family and the photographer from Paddy's youth team;  even a dad from Michael's youth team days. Several people came from Mike's office.  My friend Lisa (who started as an online friend and is now a flesh-and-blood friend) and her husband and son were there. Usually, Lisa and I live soccer games together via text. It was such a gift to have her right there! And, Mike's sister came and brought his mom. She rarely leaves the house and, though this game felt local to us, it was wandering far afield for her. It was good to gather together.

::giving thanks 

the comfort of the liturgy--from the Liturgy of the Hours, to the liturgy of the Mass, to the liturgical year--there is comfort in knowing that some things are never changing.

Advent button

living the liturgy

I'm having to reconcile myself to the fact that though we say we live the liturgical year, some of the things that "we always do" because they are part of our liturgical celebration, aren't really necessary to celebrate liturgy with the Church. I've worked super hard to establish traditions around the liturgical year. In those baby years, when everyone was little and Mike was traveling all the time, it was really hard to make sure that we did certain things on certain days. But we did it. I wanted my kids to go out into the world when they were big and know wherever they were that certain days are set aside to fast or feast and always, always to pray. I wanted the liturgical year in the domestic church to be an anchoring peg. I wanted traditions to be for them what they are for me--reliable, predictable, purposeful places of the heart when the world is turned upside down. And I was kind of passionate about it.

St. Nicholas day has always been really huge. I told you about my stocking meltdown last year. You offered great ideas in the combox. I had hoped we'd  press on better than ever. The reality is that we won't do stockings on St. Nicholas day this year, for some of the reasons I outlined last year. And for resons that never occurred to me. And we have a new reason it will be different that day. For 23 years, it's been stocking day. For 13 years, it's been Nick's Name Day. But for 90 years, it's been Granddad's birthday. It still is. But this year, our real life jolly old man won't be with us to celebrate. 

Michael and Kristin are making their own traditions. Patrick and Christian will be deep into exams. St. Nicholas day is in need of something new. Something enduring?

I've often considered the habits of celebrating the liturgical year to be the tracks upon which our family prayer life are laid.

We live an advent that is intentional and filled with meangingful activity and pockets of quiet peace. And even when they're grown and gone, I'll still live those days much the same way.

 I thought my children would travel through life, navigating twists and turns and always have the signposts of the liturgical year to keep them rooted in the faith of the Univeral Church. The reality is that academic calendars and NCAA tournament schedules don't consider the liturgical year. The reality is that they are going to choose to make new traditions in their own homes. 

So, while I don't regret a single early December scramble to ready myself for St. Nicholas day and I will always sing the candle songs for each day of Advent and I'm not one bit sorry for thorns on salt dough crosses during Lent, and by golly, someone will have to read me all the books when I'm too old to see, I urge young moms not to be so wrapped up in those traditions it rocks your world when they die or are abandoned. And please, please, don't let it all be about the cupcakes; you'd be amazed how quickly they are too old for cupcakes. Think hard about investing in traditions that at least have the potential to be adopted in the new homes of grown children. And when they don't adopt them, it's probably best to just look back fondly at the memories you created and not be terribly sad they're over, but be wonderfully glad they happened.

Really and truly, the liturgical year is much more enduring than cinnamon rolls on the Feast of St. Lucy. Those things bring great joy. They have great meaning and I still believe that they make for a childhood that is rich with wonder and reverence and joy. They are not the source and summit of handing on the faith.

::planning for the week ahead

Some visiting to do. More soccer. More Nutcracker. More later;-)..