Monday, December 31, 2018

Finding Beauty Amid the Messy

This year seemed complicated in many ways.  Relationships felt muddled.  Health was challenging for a number of family members and even our dog.  Work roles have been changing.  We lost an extended family member to a two year battle with cancer.  Even the car had issues.

But, on the other side of that were opportunities to see and appreciate the true and good.  We enjoyed the beauty of our flower gardens and the bounty of the vegetable one.  I had the opportunity to help my brother-in-law and his mother prepare for his father's funeral where I witnessed many people acknowledging a life well lived.  We enjoyed the music of a world class orchestra.  We discovered new authors and read scores of books.

We spent these last three weeks of this year fighting our own illnesses - the flu/cold/sinus infections/pneumonia.  One night was so bad that a call to EMS was required.  We had oh so many plans for the holidays.  We had wanted to go back to Stan Hwyet to see the decorated property.  I wanted to take my niece shopping for gifts for her parents and I planned on sewing matching "dolly and me" pajamas for one of her Christmas presents.  We planned a trip to the market downtown to get fixings for stuffed cabbage for our holiday dinner.  I wanted to write.

None of that happened.  No sewing.  A pared down dinner.  We were lucky if we left the house to make it to Mass, so seeing the lights was bagged.  Even our decorating around the house was a little less.

Friends remarked this past weekend that perhaps it was a good thing.  We had to take Advent and Christmas quietly, slowly.  We had to decide what was really important.  And, when you do that, you see the beauty as well.  Even if it is just a rainbow through the unwashed crystal!


Friday, November 9, 2018

Quick Takes (38): An Adventure or An Inconvenience?

- one -
“An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered;
an adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered.”
– “On Running After Ones Hat,” All Things Considered by GK Chesterton

- two -
I usually end my Quick Takes with a quote from Chesterton, but in order for this post to make sense, I needed to start with it.  This has been long one of my favorite quotes from the prolific writer.  But, after my work trip last week, I'm beginning to question that.

I had to go Las Vegas for a training class on new database technology.  I wasn't terribly excited about the location and the time it would take to get there.  But, thankfully, the class was held at a business about ten miles north of the strip so I wouldn't have to deal all the craziness that is Vegas. 

- three -
I booked my flight on a new-to-me airline because of the timing of their return flight.  I wanted a red-eye and they were the only one who had it.  On Sunday, I got to the airport with plenty of time to spare, checked my bag, and then wandered down to the gate.  Maybe five or ten minutes after we were supposed to start boarding, the gate attendant announced that the flight would be leaving late - by three hours.  And the reason?  The plane was still in Florida and hadn't left yet!

I was flying through Denver, so there was no way I was going to make my connecting flight.  There were about fifteen of us on the flight in the same situation.  They told us to line up at the desk and they would get us rebooked on other flights.  After twenty minutes of waiting only two people were taken care of.  So, I did what any self-respecting business traveler would do - I called our corporate travel agency. 

Since it was Sunday, I had to connect to the emergency support.  Mary Ellen pulled off a miracle and got me on the airline I usually fly, and it was only an hour behind my original schedule.

- four -
When I arrived in Vegas, guess where my luggage was?  Back at the original airport.  I spoke with someone at the airline's baggage office and she thought that it should arrive overnight and they would have a service deliver it in the morning.  Sometime after midnight I got a call informing me that the delayed flight had actually been cancelled and my bag would arrive on Tuesday. 

I could wear my travel clothes one day to class, but definitely not two.  A trip to the store was now on the agenda for after class on Monday.

- five -
If the airline issues were the only problems I had on this trip, I would have chalked it up to a rocky start.  My computer, which was needed for the class, gave me the "blue screen of death."  I forgot the power cord and my corporate card was denied when I tried to buy a new one.  A family member became ill and I couldn't find an earlier flight home.  An order at a restaurant was delivered with the wrong food. 

That red-eye flight home, the reason I chose this airline, was less than restful.  The flight attendants decided to catch up on their weekend plans, loudly. And getting a refund from them was a hassle.  They only wanted to refund about a third of the cost of the flight.

Last week felt more Jobian than Chestertonian!

- six -
The trip did, however, have some good points.  I was able to pick up an outfit at Macy's, on sale, at a great outdoor mall.  Oh to have an unlimited budget and more time.  There were some really great stores there, including one of my favorites, Lucky Brand.

On the way to the mall Monday night, the road I took to get to the highway dead-ended at a small mountain.  If you have ever driven out west, the mountains will seem reasonably close, but they aren't.  Usually, for me anyways, they end up being a couple hour drive.  So, during our lunch break on Tuesday I drove back to that mountain and snapped a few pictures.  There was a new neighborhood going in nearby, so I played looky-loo and toured one of the model homes.  The prices were in proportion to the mountains viewed from the homes, big.

- seven -
Class ended early on Wednesday, and I had time to kill before the aforementioned red-eye, so I decided to take a drive.  For all the times I have been to Las Vegas, I didn't realize just how close Red Rock Canyon was.  It was maybe a twenty to thirty minute drive.  I popped into Micky D's to get some beverages and took off.

What a glorious place! I had both the feeling of being insignificant in such a large place and in awe of God's majestic design where absolutely nothing is without meaning and purpose. 

Had I had a bit more time and a traveling companion, I would have driven the thirteen mile scenic loop.  It felt just a little too remote to do by myself.  It's definitely a place to which I would like to return.  I was able to get some beautiful photos while at the visitor's center.

An Adventure or An Inconvenience? How about both!

Don't forget to check out more Quick Takes at This Ain't The Lyceum.
Have a great weekend!


Tuesday, November 6, 2018

A Right Sized Celebration

Four years ago today I celebrated a milestone birthday.  I wanted a party and Tim obliged.  He invited our family and friends, some of which I hadn't seen in a number of years.  After dinner, when it was time for cake, I remember sitting at the kitchen table with my then two year old niece on my lap.  Standing, on the other side of the table, were all those people who came to celebrate with me.  It was a beautiful sight and, oh, how I wish I was the one with a camera!  It was everyone I loved and who was important to me.

This year's celebration was much more low-key.  I took the day off from work and we had planned on doing something.  For a bit we thought about taking a drive down to Amish country, but the weather forecast, with almost certainty of rain, nixed that idea.  A visit to the art museum was briefly a possibility, but I just wasn't in the mood for that.  I really wanted to stay closer to home.

So, after voting, we went out to breakfast at a local diner and then stopped in our church's adoration chapel for a "Holy Hi".  It's our version of a Holy Hour, only shorter.  How good it was to sit there in the presence of our Lord.

When we got home, Tim disappeared into the house while I was wandering the yard with the Hairy Beast.  He came out a few minutes later with my niece's kite that she left when she stayed with us a couple of weeks ago.  We had such fun - the two of us flying a Disney Princess kite in the backyard!

Later on we had a glass of wine by a fire.  I read, caught up on some TV shows online, and took the dog for a walk.

It was very different from four years ago and absolutely perfect.  It couldn't have been a better day.


Monday, September 17, 2018

Ten Years

I was browsing through Facebook earlier this evening when I saw a post published from a town nearby.  It showed the decorations and banner a family had put up memorializing their daughter as part of the Turn The Towns Teal campaign for ovarian cancer awareness.

I looked at the date on my computer and it hit me.  Ten years ago, tonight, we sat vigil with my mom as she lost her battle with that cancer.  Usually I am hyper-aware of this approaching date.  I remember most everything about that night - what we ate for dinner, talking with the hospice nurse, sitting quietly with mom, holding her hand.

Somehow, this year, it snuck up on me.  Maybe that is good.  Rather than being focused on when and how she died, after ten years it is more important to remember how Mom lived.

She was kind. Not nice, but kind.  Nice tells people what they want to hear.  Kind tells them what they need to hear, with gentleness and love.  Mom built relationships with people and saw the good in them, even when they couldn't find it themselves.  She wasn't one to be taken advantage of, but was generous with her time and talent.  She showed, through example, how to be a good wife, a good mother, sister and friend.

I love when we think of her, we remember her good traits and forget the bad.  It reminds me to work on those things that are true, good and beautiful so that someday, ten years after my passing, people will smile and do the same.


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Dirt Therapy

I don't think I have ever gone this long without writing.  Well, I guess I have, I just checked.

It isn't as though I don't have anything to say.  I do.  It's just a matter of sitting down and putting it down in some coherent fashion.

It isn't that I am so busy that I don't have time.  I do.  And, dare I say, I've been a bit bored.  I have been catching up on The Closer, by way of Amazon Prime, and there is only so much of Brenda Leigh Johnson I can take in one sitting.

It has been a weird summer. Quiet, mostly, punctuated with a variety of things - a death in the family, jury duty, a geriatric dog with health issues, a family member in ICU, a work trip to the west coast.  Life happening.

Tonight, after dinner, I put my grubbies on and headed out to the yard to finish a project I started a month or so ago.  I haven't been able to do much in the last couple of weeks because of the weather.  Either it has been in the nineties with high, horrid humidity or in the sixties and rain.  Neither of which I want to be out working in.

But tonight was perfect.  Seventy degrees and a pleasant breeze.  I dug out weeds and moved large rocks and planted grass seed.  I got dirty and sweaty and it felt good.

There is something about "playing" in the dirt that is refreshing and restorative.  It's quiet but it's not.  If I listen, really listen, I hear birds and bugs and other critters and the rustling of leaves.

Concentrating on the work at hand with the symphony of nature playing in the background helps quiet my mind.  Pulling weeds and planting flowers and watering the gardens provides an up-close glimpse into just a tiny part of God's great design.  It is a reminder of all that is good, even in the midst of what, perhaps, seems not to be.

We often refer to yardwork as Dirt Therapy.  It doesn't take much time outside to wash away the worries and aggravations of the day.  And, it's much cheaper than a shrink!

“Properly speaking, of course, there is no such thing as a return to nature, because there is no such thing as a departure from it. The phrase reminds one of the slightly intoxicated gentleman who gets up in his own dining room and declares firmly that he must be getting home.” 
The Chesterton Review, August, 1993


Wednesday, August 8, 2018

When Was the Last Time

Have you heard the latest Darius Rucker song "The First Time"?  For me, it's one of those tunes that just sticks in my head when I hear it on the radio.  I especially like the refrain.

When was the last time you did something for the first time?
Yeah, let yourself go, follow that feeling
Maybe something new is what you're needing
Like a real life, let your hair down, feel alive
When was the last time you did something for the first time?

I took it to heart and did something for the first time.  As I mentioned in the previous post, our county fair was this past week.  A couple weeks before, I bought our tickets to the Demolition Derby.  I had never been to one and wanted to see what all the fuss was about. 

I started out the evening with another first - a corn dog.  I have never had one before and was surprised at just how good it was.  It was gourmet fair food, folks!   After that, we settled in for the main event. 

When I bought the tickets, from the seat map I could tell not many tickets had sold.  By Friday night, though, just about every seat was taken.  

The event started out with the National Anthem (no kneeling!) and then the kids "derby" was held.  It looked like herding cats, trying to get a dozen little ones in their battery operated cars to the starting lines.  But, what a hoot once they started!

Then the main event commenced.  The precautionary fire fighters took their spots and the front loaders positioned huge tires around the perimeter.  In multiple heats, cars that looked like they shouldn't be able to move at all took the field and went at it.  Bumpers, if they still had them, fell off.  Axles broke and smoke spewed.  Most of the cars were hauled off by front loaders.  The few that lasted each round moved on to the final heat.    

Holy cow, it was fun!  You want to know something?  I can seeing giving this a try.

What have you done for the first time?


Monday, August 6, 2018

Kissed By a Cow

When I was a kid we never went to the fair.  I think the first time I went was well after college.  Mom was working for the local Soil and Water Conservation District and had to man their booth at the fair for a couple of shifts.  She gave me one of her "comp" tickets and I met her for dinner one evening after work.  I remember her drinking birch beer and me having some of the best onions rings ever.  We went to see the draft horses, but had to leave the barn because the smell of ammonia was so bad we were getting dizzy.

Fast forward a couple of decades and a different county.  Tim and I went to our fair last year for the first time.  We enjoyed it so much that this year I took a day off from work and we spent a good while just wandering the grounds and seeing what was there to see.  And, there was a lot to see.

Animals were definitely the best part. I don't remember ever seeing so many rabbits in one place. One cow seemed to like me, a lot.  She gave me lots of "kiss licks" as my niece would call them.  There wasn't anything dainty about it, unless getting kissed by 100 grit sandpaper counts. 

I've decided that I like goats much better than sheep.  Goats are cute and curious; the sheep were whiners, bleating loudly, just because.  When one of the sheep decided it didn't want to go to the ring for its showing, it took off running.  Through several barns it went, until it was cornered by nearly a dozen people and a movable fence.

The arts and crafts were okay.  As I wandered through both the photography and quilt exhibits, I kept thinking I could do better than that.  But, the exhibitors did one thing I didn't do.  They entered.  Maybe next year.

Who knew that there was a competition for alfalfa? And the choices in Fair food are almost endless, but once again we had Philly steak sandwiches.  Some things are just tradition.   Like watching poised young ladies, and one young man, make their big beastly horses dance in the ring.

We'll definitely be back next year!


Friday, July 20, 2018

Quick Takes (37): Lessons from an almost six year old

- 1 -
Back in June my sister and her girlfriends since high school were celebrating a milestone birthday reached by all of them over the last year.  Along with their husbands, they had rented a villa at a local winery.  By all reports, they had a good time catching up, relaxing and partaking in the winery’s tasty beverages, though not nearly as much as I would have thought.

My almost-six-year-old niece stayed with us, arriving at lunchtime on Friday.  Sara has been looking forward to this as much as we had been.  We had a blast.  That child is so full of joy and imagination.  It all comes out in nonstop chatter and little ditties that she frequently sings.  Let's just say we three, and I include the dog in this, are not used to such volume!  We are generally a quiet bunch.

However much we try to teach her and set good examples, there is always something we learn from her.  This weekend was no exception.
- 2 -
Entertainment comes in many forms
A friend made a few suggestions, pointing out a number of craft kits Sara might like. On the way home from work the day before, I stopped and bought this stepping stone kit. Sara loved working on it, especially since it had glitter that she could sprinkle, everywhere, on the stone and off. But that project lasted fifteen minutes, twenty tops.

What grabbed her attention were simple things.  We painted rocks, ran through the sprinkler, and used a spool of string to make a very large spider web around the garden.  And, of course, the spiders that lived in that web had to eat, so we hunted for "bugs", aka pine cones, and leaves to attach to the web.

Even one of our digital cameras entertained her for quite a while.  She could take as many pictures as she wanted, or at least as long as the battery lasted.  This is one of her masterpieces. 

- 3 -
Life’s a musical
She sings!  Oh, she sings!  For a while I thought she was singing what she had heard in school or on TV or the radio.  But, no, the songs are ones she makes up and describes whatever might have caught her fancy at the moment.  They are lovely, fanciful, pretty little ditties sung in her sweet voice.

- 4 -
Eat what you like and like what you eat
My niece is a picky eater.  There is no doubt about that.  But when she like something, she eats it with gusto and isn't afraid to ask for more, even if it is just a plain old hamburger bun.

- 5 - 
Sometimes things are scary in the dark
The first night she was with us, she nodded off to sleep fairly quickly, though not in her own bed in the guest room.  Shortly after I had tucked her in and said our evening prayers, she snuck out and crawled into bed with me.  The next night, she wandered downstairs where Tim was reading.  They talked for a while.  He figured out that she was feeling a little homesick and scared, which I never picked up.  What a beautiful conversation they had!  After praying and blessing everyone, Sara curled up on the couch and was out for the night.

- 6 -
Be kind and mindful of others' feelings
When her daddy came to pick her up, BIL asked her what her favorite part of the weekend was.  Without pause she answered, "Playing with Uncle Tim."  She glanced over at me and quickly added "and Aunt Donna."  She was worried that I would feel left out and made sure that I was included.  That girl has such a generous heart!

Posing with her "spider web"
- 7 -
“What was wonderful about childhood is that anything in it was a wonder. It was not merely a world full of miracles; it was a miraculous world.” 
― G.K. Chesterton

Don't forget to check out more Quick Takes at This Ain't The Lyceum.

Have a great weekend!

Monday, June 18, 2018

Reading Genius

A few weeks ago, my almost six year old niece was having a conversation with Himself.  She told him, "Mommy said that you and Aunt Donna are reading geniuses."  I stopped listening there.  I have never been called a genius at anything.  My sister thinks that?

I have always loved to read.  Growing up, I was the kid in class that got in trouble for reading too much.  Is there such a thing?  My family made bi-weekly trips to the library and when I finished reading the books I picked out I would start in on what my dad had chosen.  I think I read Surgeon Under the Knife and books by Dorothy Fuldheim when I was in Junior High.

I remember hiding my books between the mattresses.  After I got tucked-in for the night, I would slip them out and read by flashlight under the covers.

I track my books on GoodReads and set a goal for the year of forty books.  As we near the halfway point of the year, I am closing in on that goal.  I have read mostly fiction with just a couple of biographies thrown in for good measure.

At the beginning of the year I created a list on GoodReads, 2018-to-read, of a dozen books that I own that I have been wanting to read and haven't.  I think it is about time to get started on them.

There has been a lot of discussion of this book on Leila's FB book club.  I think it will be an enlightening read as one who grew up in an intact family.  I have a feeling, too, that will also be a bit depressing.

It's GKC.  What more needs to be said?

When I was young, the Little House books were my favorite.  So much so, I tried to convince my parents to plan one of our vacations around visiting the Laura Ingalls Wilder museum in Mansfield, MO.  That didn't happen, but I still have those books and look forward to passing them on to my niece.  I won this book on GoodReads and really need to get to reading and reviewing it.

I have see some of St. Catherine's quote, but I know nothing of her life.  I want to learn more.

It is reported that on several occasions GKC sent a telegram to his wife Frances from some distant (and incorrect) location, writing such things as "Am in Market Harborough. Where ought I to be?"  A woman married to such an eccentric and a genius has to be some sort of special herself.  I want to know more.

I read the first two books in this series and they were terrific.  I started on this one a while back and, while the writing is still excellent, I found it much darker than the first two.  I think it's one of those books that I will just have to be in the mood to read.

St. Therese is my confirmation saint and I have read her autobiography and her letter.  I would still like to know more about her.

Himself thoroughly enjoyed these stories and they come highly recommended. 

I have been lucky enough, albeit briefly, to meet and speak with Mr. Pearce.  I am awed by his life story and his brilliance.  One of the best books I ever read was his biography of GKC, Wisdom and Innocence.  If this biography of Hillaire Belloc is half has good, I am in for a real treat.

I have had my copy of this book since shortly after it came out and well before he became a Bishop. 

When we still had cable, this show was one of my favorites to watch on the Food Network.  I like learning the science behind cooking different foods.  I can see why technique makes such a big difference for some items.

We were going to read this for a book club that I was in.  But life got busy and I had to drop out of the group.  It's been sitting on the shelf for many years just waiting to be read, club or no club.


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

WIP(#14) - Done and Almost Done

They say time flies when you're having fun, so I guess I must be having a blast.  Actually, I think I am.  I love this time of year.  The weather is great.  The yard is bright and green and vibrant.  And there is always something to do.

I put the sewing machine away for a while, but not before finishing a few projects.  The gray fleece jacket turned out fairly well.  I had gotten partway through sewing it, then put it aside to work on the baby quilt.  And then it took me a while to get back to it.  Somehow I had convinced myself that the remaining sewing that I had to do on it was going to be difficult.  You know how long it took me to finish it?  Twenty minutes.  I don't know why I do that to myself.  Make something seem harder than it actually is.  Weird.

The fun project was the baby quilt below.  Once I figured out what I wanted to do and found just the right fabrics, it came together rather nicely.  The teddy bear print is a Boyd's Bear print and is just as sweet as can be.  I sent it off to the mom-to-be about a month ago, hopefully long before baby arrives.

The current in progress project is, of course, mulching the gardens.  This year I only had four yards delivered instead of the usual five.  I started it with great gusto and then got side-tracked.  As of yesterday, though, I probably have less than a yard of it to go.

Working in the gardens, weeding and mulching, has been therapeutic.  I don't deal with "stupid" very well, and lately I have been encountering a lot of it, both at work and on the roads.  I suppose the good  Lord is trying to teach me patience or some other profound lesson, but I'm having none of it.  Yanking weeks lets me work out my frustrations!

"Only" four yards

Mulched - Done on the left, Almost Done on the right!


Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Funny Foto #21: What's Yours?

On the way to work I pass a gas station that has a mobile sign out front that they update often.  The latest one amuses me.  Wonder why?

But I am reminded of a quote by GK Chesterton:
"We should thank God for beer and burgundy by not drinking too much of them."


Friday, May 4, 2018

QuickTakes(36): Beautiful Artwork and a Giveaway

- 1 -
We have attended a number of Chesterton conferences where they have something I refer to as "Merchant Row."  Different vendors set up displays or booths in which they sell their products.  More often than not, most of the merchants are selling books.  Back in 2011, we went to the conference that was held in St. Louis where artist and iconographer, Daniel Mitsui, had a magnificent display of his works.

- 2 - 
While he has different types of work, his religious drawings are what really pull me in. The detail in each one is stunning. 

Feasts of Christmas

St. Elizabeth

Sacred Heart

St. Damien of Molokai

- 3 -
He was commissioned to draw a set of altar cards, in ink on calfskin vellum with gold and palladium leaf details.  They are beautiful and incredibly detailed.

- 4 -
Daniel had created a series of Coloring Books that were published by Ave Maria Press. 

- 5 -
Since the conference back in 2011, I have been receiving Daniel's monthly newsletter.  He updates his readers with what is happing with his artwork and what new items he has recently created.  You can subscribe by sending an e-mail to

- 6 -
Daniel has graciously provided me with a set of his bookplates that I will give to one winner.  To enter, visit his website and leave a comment here on what piqued your interest.  I will draw a name next Friday, May 11th.

Drawing CLOSED.  

The winner is Lynda.  

- 7 -
"Art, like morality, consists in drawing the line somewhere."

 - GK Chesterton

Don't forget to check out more Quick Takes at This Ain't The Lyceum.

Have a great weekend!