Ready or Not…

…the Triduum is here.

I confess, I am mostly not.

I think a late Easter, now coming in the full swing of kids’ sports and other activities hasn’t helped.  Neither has living in this part of the country where spring comes early and the outdoors is calling.

Neither has two straight weeks of house guests helped.  But, I assure you, sister, extended relatives, and friends, it is worth it to see you.

So, my house is not top-to-bottom spic and span spring cleaned.

So, tonight we have our quirky not-Passover meal with lamb and matzohs where we talk about the symbolism of Passover and what it means to us as Christians, and celebrate the birthday of the Church…only I don’t happen to have lamb or matzohs yet…and the kids are old enough to know what today is and what we always do and won’t be happy or fooled with substitutions. 

So, I don’t have any Easter candy purchased, except for the expensive, good stuff made at a local family, chocolate shop which is definitely not for the kids.

So, the kids will not be in matching or color-coordinated outfits this Easter.

So what.

We have prayed, we have sacrificed, we have confessed.  The important things are done.

Have a peaceful, stress-free Triduum, as I plan to.  And have a blessed Easter.

Thinking about Lent, Part 3 (The Last): Change

Happy Ash Wednesday.  I did not get the chance to write this yesterday.

Besides extra prayers and developing fortitude, Lent would not be complete without an attempt to change something undesirable about myself.

I’ve got plenty to work with.

Naturally, as sainthood should be our goal, no bad behavior should be intentional.  There are plenty of things we all do as easily as we breathe: complaining, nagging, wasting time, buying things we don’t need.  It is too much to expect near perfection, even for the relatively short duration of Lent.  If I target just one thing, perhaps by establishing good patterns in my life, that change will continue on well past Easter Sunday.

I’m going to work on tardiness.

I used to be really good at being on time, all the time.  Most of the time.  In the last year especially, I’ve noticed a huge decrease in my punctuality.  I seem to be surrounded by people who do not begin things on time.  It is frustrating to be on time and then have to wait.

Oh, well.  This is not about them.  It’s about me.  Punctuality is a habit.  If I allow myself to develop a bad habit (as I have), then at some point, I will be the one making others wait.  Besides, if I am running late, the mood in my home, my car, and my family is not good.  Anger, frustration and impatience dominate as I hurry hurry hurry the children along.

There are techniques to be on time.  It doesn’t just “happen.”  I know what they are; I just need to do them.

How to be on Time Almost all the Time

1.  Set the most of the clocks in your house to the correct time.  Use your computer or cell phone for an accurate time.  Don’t try to set them forward to fool yourself into being on time.  You will only say, “Oh, that clock is 10 minutes fast,” and quickly learn to ignore it.

2.  Set one or two key clocks 2 minutes fast.  For me, this is the clock in my bathroom.  Two, or perhaps three minutes, is just fast enough to hurry you up, but not fast enough to make you start to ignore it.

3.  Set the clock in your car 2 minutes fast.  This is just enough for you to say, “No, I DON’T have time to run that side errand along the way.”

4. Know the time.  Not paying attention will make you late.  Have clocks predominant in your home.  Use your kitchen timer if you are working and may get distracted.  Wear a watch, especially one that has a timer or an alarm.

5.  Know how long it takes to get somewhere, and add 20%.  It’s easy to think, “Oh, it only takes 5 minutes to get to church,” when it actually takes 6 or 7.  The 20% fudge time will help account for unexpected traffic or other things that come up.

6. Add time to get yourself and your children in and out of the car.  Depending on the age of your children, this could be as many as 5 minutes on both ends.  Even if you have helpers to carry out the library books or buckle younger siblings, some ages are prone to dawdle and other ages have a tendency to daydream.  And if it’s you and 4 children under the age of 5, the whole process of traveling, even for a short drive, is quite a production.  Account for it.

7. Be ready to go.  Shoes on, hair combed, clean shirt.  Then check the kids.  Have things you need to take piled at the door.  Put the 3 year olds’ shoes at the door and not on her feet or they will be lost by the time you leave.  I won’t let my children watch videos on Sunday mornings until they are ready for Mass.  I can do the breakfast dishes, in my apron, until my kitchen timer goes off knowing that when I say, “GO!”, everybody can go.

8.  Keep things in the car.  I have a bag in the car with some extra sweaters and a change of clothes for the youngest one.  It used to hold diapers and wipes.  In summer, it will have sunscreen and bug spray.  Not having to assemble the same basic supplies before every trip saves time.  I also keep a crossword puzzle book in the car to make the waiting go faster.

9.  Store your purse and keys in the same place all the time.  I am bad at this, and it makes me run late.  Searching for necessary items at the last minute is never fun.

10. Plan to be early.  My husband says, “Five minutes early is ten minutes late.”  It’s an Army thing.  I’d be happy if everybody were 5 minutes early; I think 15 is excessive. 

Be sure to bring something to occupy yourself while you wait for everybody else.  Perhaps spend the time praying for a terrorist.

Thinking about Lent, Part 2: Penance

“It is well to deny ourselves that which is permitted, in order to avoid more easily that which is not.”  — St. Benedict

That quote, sent to me from Jenn Miller, has been in my inbox since September of 2009.  It’s the oldest email there, and now I can delete it, since I’ve been waiting to do a post on it for that long.  Thank you, Jenn.

St. Benedict sums up one purpose for “giving up” something for Lent (or any other day of the year).  It would be difficult not to accuse most Americans of being overindulged.  Not when 1 in 4 Americans is obese

Several years ago, our pastor gave a pre-Lenten homily suggesting a mortification of the senses.  Pick something to give up that targets each of the 5 senses.  For example, sight: to give up a favorite TV show; hearing: to give up the radio in the car; taste: to give up a favorite food; smell: to give up scented candles; touch: to set the house temperature a few degrees off from where we normally would.

I’ve been discussing penances with my older children, asking what they plan to “give up.”  I have one kid who has a long list of things he plans to do.  The others are very reluctant to sacrifice things they enjoy.  It’s too hard to give up chocolate in their milk; they don’t like it plain.  It’s too hard to give up time on the computer.  It’s too hard to give up treats and snacks.

As adults, we say, It’s too hard to give up smoking.  It’s too hard to lose ten pounds.  It’s too hard to get up on time.  Or stay married.  Or live within our means.

It is hard.  But not too hard.  We must practice.  Now.  When it is easier.

Thinking about Lent, Part I: Prayer

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”  Matthew 5:44

It’s not politically correct to wish the entire Muslim world would convert to Christianity, but it is something I pray for most days.  It’s better than wishing for their annihilation, a thought I frequently forbear to have.

For 9 1/2 years, I have been praying for those in the military in harm’s way.  Most of that time, I have had specific names and faces, friends and family, included, making it a very personal intention.  And every year that it goes on brings me closer to the possibility that my children will follow in their father’s footsteps, join the military, and become one of those names on my prayer list.

I’m tired of it.  I want it to stop.  I don’t want the US to become isolationist – that isn’t going to help.  Then I will have to worry about everybody, especially those who live in populated areas of our country.  We can’t just turn our backs and walk away.  They will simply follow us home and do more damage.

So I pray that they will convert…God is love, turn the other cheek, etc etc etc.  Then perhaps they won’t feel the need to force women accused of adultery to be suicide bombers.  Just a thought.

My sister found this website: Adopt a Terrorist for Prayer

Why Pray for a Terrorist?

Why Pray for a Sponsor of Terrorism?

Where is the Christian response to terrorism? If the struggle against violence done in the name of Islam is primarily spiritual, then defeating it requires a spiritual response.

This site features FBI and State Department identified terrorists and terrorism sponsors. Terrorism inspires fear. According to Jesus, the antidote to fear is love.

When we hate, we are reactive victims. When we love we seize the initiative. Love for country helps soldiers to risk their lives. Love for children enables parents to discipline them without being intimidated. Love for us took Jesus to the cross. Love for enemies will give courage to face, overcome, and transform them and the environment that breeds them.

I love it.  This Lent, besides praying for my own sorry soul, I’ll be praying and sacrificing for the soul of an enemy.

Stations of the Cross for Children

If you are interested in a Way of the Cross for Children, I have one here. I wrote it, so please give me credit if you share with others. If that link doesn’t work (I’m new to this file sharing technology), email me and I will send it to you directly.

I love the stations of the cross, and we do them every Friday during Lent. If you have never tried it, maybe this is the year to start.

I’ve been trying to put together a booklet with these stations plus tips and suggestions for doing them at home or in a group setting. If you have any questions about the stations or comments on how your family does them, please leave them here so I can be sure to address them or incorporate them in this future work of mine.

My stations are intended to be flexible for different ages. I do not think that a family with all children under the age of 5 should read every single word in the document and say every single prayer. But most children are fascinated by the movement from station to station and the genuflecting. And many 3 and 4 year olds are quick to pick up the line “Because by Your Holy Cross, You have redeemed the world.” I have lots of other ideas about doing the stations with children, so perhaps I will do a special post every Friday this Lent to hopefully inspire you.

Valentine’s Day

My sister’s children sent us inexpensive pre-done valentines – the kind you get at any drug store. One of them came with a small tattoo. My girls have placed their tattoos on their ankles.

Oh, how I long for the days of my youth when the only tattoos I knew about were on the biceps of brawny sailors or scary motorcycle men, and my knowledge of them was gained through TV and movies and not real life.


For the first time ever, my husband took the early shift with Mary and let me stay in bed. She was most unhappy. “Daddy, go back to bed,” she ordered. In his defense, he was deployed for 6 months and our last house had a master bedroom right off the living area. Since I’m naturally an early riser, sleeping while people are talking (or babies are screaming) right outside my door is impossible. Last night I made sure my iTouch was charged and in my room. Not only did I get an extra 90 minutes of sleep, I got to check email and headlines without interruption. That’s a lovely Valentine’s Day gift.


Yesterday, my husband anchored our living room bookcases to the wall, and we unpacked the boxes of books and the knick-knacks that were on the bookshelves. When I saw that the packer had wrapped a small porcelain rose in a single piece of paper, I knew things didn’t look good for my larger porcelain rose grouping. Sure enough, a single piece of paper was used to protect this one as well. The small rose survived; the larger grouping was destroyed.

Other victims included my statue of St. Nicholas, now with an amputated arm, and my favorite statue of Mary, armless, handless, and decapitated. I’ve googled and been unable to find statues like these, so if you have any clues, let me know. The bodies are wood, the capes are metal and the arms and head are porcelain. Not only do I want to replace them, I want to claim their cost with the moving company.

While every move incurs some damage, this is over the top. I had more paper around inexpensive drinking glasses than I did around those flowers. It makes me mad. It’s not the attachment to the things as much as it is the complete disregard for my belongings. The flowers are irreplaceable. Bill gave them to me in the early 90’s when we were dating, and they aren’t made any more. I don’t want to replace them anyway. Bill has learned: you don’t give knick-knacks to an Army wife, especially not ones that break. I’ll take the money we get for them and buy a cookbook. Hardback. Useful and sturdy.


Speaking of cookbooks, with Lent approaching, I’m planning a menu and heading to the grocery store today. I like to go meatless for Lent, which doesn’t really fly in this house. I tend to make meals like tacos where everyone can have meat, but I use beans. This year, though, I’m determined to subject them to more meatless meals. I don’t know why, but they don’t like soup. Too bad. I’ll make bread or rolls, so they can fill up on that if they don’t want what I’m serving. For inspiration, I’m digging into two of Brother Victor-Antoine d’AvilaLatourrette’s books: From a Monastery Kitchen: The Classic Natural Foods Cookbook and Simplicity from a Monastery Kitchen. I do not own his Twelve Months of Monastery Soups, but maybe I’ll take the St. Nicholas and Blessed Virgin blood money and buy it. Most of the recipes in these books are simple. All are meatless.

Shrove Tuesday

My church had a Mardi Gras party in the basement and confession going on in the church. It’s a great way to start off Lent.

Billy’s birthday is tomorrow. This is the first time I can recall it has fallen on Ash Wednesday. Fortunately, he is old enough to understand and accept relocating his celebration to a non-fasting day. We had some friends over today for pancakes with toppings like strawberries, blueberries, chocolate chips and whipped cream.

I’m not much of a cake decorator, but every birthday I give it another shot. For Billy, I made a cake to look like a Cincinnati Bengals jersey. I do not approve of his fondness for this team (hello, Cleveland Browns? GB Packers?), but because I love him, I will decorate a cake the way he likes. I think it came out ok.

Carson Palmer is the quarterback for the Bengals, and Billy wrote him a letter inviting him to his party. We never heard back. Carson, you missed a lot of fun, especially once the boys started playing with Billy’s new double barrel Nerf shotgun.
For Lent, I’m limiting my time online to an hour a day, so I probably won’t blog every day…not that I currently blog every day. I’m also turning comments off, but my email address is up top.
Have a blessed Lent.

Get Ready, Get Set…

And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown. And the people of Nineveh believed God; and they proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. Jonah 3:4-5

This Wednesday begins Lent where all Christians, from the greatest to the least, are called to proclaim a fast. It is a time of atonement. A period where we stop, admit our sins, and beg for God’s mercy, a mercy which has been promised to us, but which we may not take for granted.

Should not we be mindful of our sins at all times? Yes, but. Knowing our human failings, the Church does not demand a constant hyper-awareness of our sinfulness, nor expect ongoing exceptional sacrifices. Such deeds are noble, but not required. The Church merely asks that we remember Our Lord’s suffering on all Fridays, and during this special time of year.

Why is Lent so long? 40 days is a special time period, recurring in the Bible. It rained for 40 days. Jonah gave Ninevah 40 days notice of impending doom. Jesus fasted for 40 days in the desert. To sacrifice for one day is easy. To sacrifice for a week, maybe two, is not too difficult. But to sacrifice for 6 1/2 weeks is hard. In fact, after 6 weeks of dedicated sacrificing (no cheating), humans will tend to have developed new habits. If, for example, you opt to take very short showers as a sacrifice, by Easter you will have to remind yourself that a long shower is now permitted. If you give up snacking between meals, you will forget to be hungry at 3 pm. And if you give up cream and sugar in your coffee, after 6 weeks, your taste buds will think coffee is meant to be drunk black.

In other words, you will have successfully detached yourself from those earthly things, which is, after all, the main point of Lent. “Growing closer to God” is merely another way of phrasing “Putting things of the earth behind you.”

You can not do too much, nor pray too much, nor sacrifice too much during Lent. Our prayers and sacrifices are to be united with the prayers and sacrifices of Christ. Imagine yourself keeping Jesus company in the desert. Could you eat a bountiful meal while he fasted right next to you? Could you watch Oprah while he prayed?

Obviously, we are limited in what we are capable of doing. But at the same time, we should not behave as though Lent were barely different from any other time of year. Does the 4 year old need to attend the birthday party that the entire preschool class was invited to? Is a drive-through run on that busy night necessary or could everyone make do with PB&J sandwiches eaten en route?

Life does go on and the Church does not expect everyone to become hermits during Lent. But at this time of year, we are called to keep Christ’s suffering in the very forefront of our minds. Just as when a loved one goes unexpectedly into the hospital – chest pains, a possible stroke – and the day progresses but the mind turns repeatedly to prayers for his health, hope for his longevity, and a desire for an update of his condition, so, too, should our Lenten thoughts be ever “distracted” by Christ, His Passion, and our unworthiness.

If the only time of day you think about suffering is after dinner when you wish you could have some dessert, you are missing out on the great Lenten opportunity. The chief means by which we satisfy God for the temporal punishment due to sin are: Prayer, Fasting, Almsgiving, all spiritual and corporal works of mercy, and the patient suffering of the ills of life. (Baltimore Catechism Q.221) This is the time of year when we focus on our souls, on eternity, and on what really matters in this life. Our small penances, such petty gifts when compared to the magnanimity of God, are the least we can do in humble gratitude.