Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Coup de Grace

When I was about eight years old, or nine at the most, they built (O joy of joys!) a library at the end of my street. It was less than half a mile away, so I could walk there whenever I liked. Since it was a small library with a limited number of books, we were only allowed to check out four books at a time, so I made the trip frequently. Being the kind of child who preferred curling up with a book to playing outside, reading four books didn't take me long at all. 

Neither did it take me long to get to know the children's department very well indeed. In fact, I can still remember exactly where to find the Andrew Lang Fairy Books, and the All of Kind Family series, and the Edward Eager books about four children having magical adventures. I pretty much read my way through the children's department and almost surely there was a time when my very favorite series was the one about P. L. Travers's Mary Poppins. 

I really need a new camera, but I can't get one because I have new dishes and a new Kindle.
I loved Mary Poppins and the books were great fun to read, so when I heard there was going to be a movie about Mary, even though I was 13 and thought I'd outgrown the books by that time, I looked forward to seeing it. This was because I was young and had not yet learned what usually happens to your favorite books when then make movies out of them. When I saw the movie, I was very disappointed because that, my friends, was definitely not Mary Poppins.

Mary Poppins comes when she is needed and she does what needs to be done. She can be counted on to take you to strange and fascinating destinations and get you involved in endless adventures, and give you lovely things to eat, but she doesn't, dance or sing or even smile at you. She's not nice to you. You might even think much of the time that she actively dislikes you, but she never bores you. When she corrects you, she doesn't have a nice little twinkle in her eye that lets you know everything is really all right, in fact, she has small, rather peering eyes.

So, when I heard an interview on NPR with someone involved in the making of Savings Mr. Banks, the new Disney movie about P. L. Travers and the making of Mary Poppins, and when I heard that Mrs. Travers hated the movie and about the conflict between her and Walt Disney and the movie's writers, I was interested. I knew that there was going to be a definite slant in favor of Disney, of course, and I knew that they would make things turn out nicely, but I thought there might be some truth in the movie, so we went.

I found the movie to be entertaining, although pretty sappy in parts. Emma Thompson was very good as P. L. Travers, and I could occasionally catch glimpses of the Walt Disney that I grew up with in his portrayal by Tom Hanks, although I also caught that Tom Hanks Nora Ephron movie character peeking through. From what I've read, the background material on Mrs. Travers was fairly accurate, and the relationship with the writers and Disney has some basis in fact.

A couple of days later, though I started thinking more about the movie, about how Disney changed the character of Mary Poppins. In fact, it was more like they created the character they wanted, and dressed her up as Mary Poppins. They had no respect for the character herself. And then it occurred to me that not only had Disney done this with Mrs. Travers's character, they had done the same with Travers. They created the character they wanted, and dressed her up as P. L. Travers. Game, point, and match for Disney Studios.


Friday, December 27, 2013

What More Could You Ask?

I don't know about y'all, but when I choose a dentist, there are certain things I look for--you know, like gift cards--or maybe a free iPad. Well, if you're as choosy as I am, this might be the dentist for you!

Not only that, but his/her giveaways are seasonal. In October, you could get free Halloween costumes. In November, where else would you go for your Thanksgiving turkey? (I have to admit that the Turkey offer somehow reminded me of WKRP in Cincinnati.) It almost makes you want to get a new cavity every month so that you can take full advantage this dental cornucopia. I'm thinking this dentist could teach the president a few tricks.

I can't wait to see what he/she has in store for the long dreary days of January. 


Thursday, December 26, 2013


In which I learn that it's a mistake to take oneself too seriously.

I had this all planned. I was going to go to Mass on Christmas Eve and make an act of renunciation, and then on Christmas morning, I was going to throw a stone in the river as a symbolic act to seal this renunciation.  So, I did go to Mass, but I don't really remember much about it except that I kept getting sicker and sicker by the minute. I don't even remember if I even prayed about this thing I'm renouncing.

Then, when Christmas morning came, I would not have been able to propel a stone into a body of water to save my life, even if it meant dropping a piece of pea gravel into the toilet. So, I sat in the corner while Christmas went on around me and waited. 

This afternoon I was feeling a bit better and it was warm enough to go outside, so I figured the time was right. I went outside and found a stone I liked, and even brought it inside to take a picture. Here it is.

And off I went to throw it in the river.

As I was driving down the highway that crosses over the Coldwater River to the place where I planned to throw the stone in, I noticed something troubling. The river wasn't there. The bed of the river was there revealed in all its glory, and there was one deep channel where people were fishing, but it was narrow, and just wasn't what I was looking for, and besides, I was afraid I'd hit one of the fishermen. So, I drove on to the site I had chosen, but no luck--barely any water. I was stymied for the moment.

Finally, I decided to go down the highway to place where we liked to walk before the highway was actually open. I have some pictures of it someplace on the blog, but the search engine doesn't seem to be working. This is the way it looked a few months ago.

Strangely enough with the river so low, the water here is deeper now, and all the flowers are gone, so I decided this would have to do. I stood near the top of the bank in a place you can't see in the picture and threw the stone as hard as I could. I heard a soft thud. I don't know where the stone went, but it didn't even reach the water. I climbed back up a bit, selected another stone. Walked down. Threw it. Thwack! It hit that plastic barrier you see there. Another try. Still no luck. By this time I had remembered a few things about myself: 1) I've never had any strength in my arms, 2) I'm missing one of the bones in my right elbow, and 3) I throw like a girl. I was also conscious of the people driving by wondering what the heck that crazy woman was doing. I was really afraid somebody would stop.

For the fourth try, I moved closer to the barrier. It's pretty soft down there, so I was worried about going too far down. I managed to get the stone in the water, but just barely. So, up I went again to get another stone. By this time I didn't care if the stone was round or square, beautiful or ugly, I was just trying to figure out whether a big or small stone would work best. Then I bent over and saw a white, heart-shaped stone. It wasn't a "use your imagination and close one eye and hold it in just the right way and you can see it's shaped like a heart" heart-shaped stone. Anybody would have recognized it as heart-shaped. So, I picked it up and walked all the way down to the barrier and flung it in. I have to admit that it didn't go a great distance, but it did go far enough, and it was the best I could do.

On the way to river, I had had this sort of tragic, romantic image of myself standing by the river and gracefully slinging this stone way out into the water--a saint, really--sort of like Joan of Arc walking up to the stake to be consumed in flames for the love of God. By the time I finally managed to do the deed, I was laughing at myself so hard that I couldn't even dredge up a little bit of self pity. The more I think about this entire experience, the more I see that it's an even better metaphor for what has been going on in my life than I thought. But that's a story for another day--and you won't see it here.


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Dorothy Day's Therese

Until last week, I didn't know that Dorothy Day had written a book about St. Thérèse, much less that I
owned a copy. The fact that I came across it at all is a happy accident of the book-dusting marathon, although I didn't really notice what it was when I was dusting it and putting it on the shelf with the saint books. I don't even remember now what finally made me realize what it was.

Whatever it may have been, I thoroughly enjoyed Ms. Day's retelling of the life of St. Thérèse. She says in the preface that she first encountered the Little Flower shortly after her own conversion when her confessor, Fr. Zachary, gave her a copy of Story of a Soul saying it would do her good. Ms. Day was still working for the Communist Party and thought that it was "pious pap," and that Fr. Zachary and other priests were insulting to women. She says it took her a long time to realize the value of Thérèse, and sadly, she never tells us what changed her mind. It's too bad because I would really like to know.

Although Ms. Day's political views make a few brief appearances in the narrative, for the most part it is all the Little Flower's story, and a very straightforward story it is. There's none of the sentimentality that one finds in some works about St. Thérèse, but Ms. Day's admiration for and devotion to St. Thérèse is always quietly obvious. On the surface, these two--the sheltered, innocent virgin who died at 24, and the wordly-wise activist who lived to the age of 83--seem to be an odd pair, but on closer observation one sees that insistent, unswerving determination to follow God's call that characterizes them both. There's also that willingness to buck authority when they are sure they are doing the right thing.

Most of the story that Ms. Day tells was familiar to me, as it would be to anyone who has read Story of a Soul and Last Conversations; however, she fills out the better-known facts with information from other sources. I particularly appreciated her biographies of Thérèse's family, most notably those of her sisters. Before reading this book, her sisters were just a sort of amorphous mass to me, but now they are individual personalities, especially Marie and Leonie.

In the last chapter, Ms. Day comes back to her roots. She tells us, and this possibly explains part of the Little Flower's attraction for her, that St. Thérèse is a saint of the people, that it was the common man who spread the devotion to her "Little Way" and clamored for her canonization. She quotes Pope Pius XI's homily at the canonization Mass saying, "If the way of spiritual childhood became general, who does not see how easily would be realized the reformation of human society . . . ." How sadly this statement rings down through the years to us. We who live in a time when even children are too sophisticated for childhood. But the promise is still there. The narrow road of the "Little Way" still beckons.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Spider Woman's Daughter by Anne Hillerman

I've missed Joe Leaphorn & Jim Chee, I really have, but when Tony Hillerman died in 2008 I resigned myself to their permanent absence. So, when I saw that Hillerman's daughter, Anne, had written "A Leaphorn and Chee Novel," I was tempted . . . tempted. Hillerman's daughter might know his work so well that she could step into his shoes. And I really wanted something to read that wasn't improving or serious. And it's so easy on a Kindle--one little click and there it was.

Is Spider Woman's Daughter the answer to every Hillerman fan's dream? Well, no. Is it a pretty good read? Well, I think so. I waver. I wonder if I just want it to be a pretty good read, but if she writes another novel, I will definitely read it. 

One thing that Ms. Hillerman did right was present most of the story from the point of view of Jim Chee's wife, Bernadette Manuelito. While we've met Bernie in a few of the Hillerman novels, we don't know her so well that we have exacting expectations for her character, and Ms. Hillerman's portrayal of Leaphorn and Chee is not as authentic as one might wish--I'm not sure it could be--so it's better that we see the better part of the action through Bernie's eyes. They are feminine eyes, and overall Spider Woman's Daughter has a more feminine atmosphere than its predecessors.

Unfortunately for the new novel, the atmosphere of the originals is one of the most important elements of mysteries. Gone is that dark, brooding sense of another world which is never entirely absent from Hillerman's work. Ms. Hillerman offers up plenty of Indian culture, but instead of drawing us into the Spider Woman's web, as her father did so well, she almost writes her lessons on a blackboard. She's more the teacher than the shaman.

Moreover, she hasn't mastered the legerdemain that's necessary for a writer of mysteries. It was obvious to me very early on who the villian was. I have to admit, though, that her father was sometimes a bit weak in that area, too, but I never minded much because his stories, his characters, and his ability to immerse one in the Native American ethos trump any shortcomings he might have had.

Despite the above weaknesses, and others which I haven't mentioned, I still enjoyed the book. Maybe I was just glad to meet up with Leaphorn and Chee again, even though they weren't quite themselves. Maybe, and I hope this is true, Anne Hillerman will be able to come closer to the mark in the future. We'll just have to wait and see. I obviously couldn't recommend this book unreservedly, but if you are a Hillerman fan, you might want to check it out. I have a sneaking suspicion that it might just be more of woman's book than a man's, and I'm curious to know if men find that to be true also, so I hope some of you will read it.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Off to a Good Start

This morning while I was eating breakfast and reading The Way of Perfection on my Kindle, I noticed that something was trying to download and taking it's own sweet time. I was a bit worried about what it might be and if I should try to block it in some way. First Things appears like this every month, but I think I just got one, so I didn't think it was that. Then when I checked my email at work, I had received a notice from Amazon saying that I had purchased Prayer Journal. "What the heck is that all about?" And then it was this! I'd forgotten that I pre-ordered it and that today was the release date. 

I've only had a minute to glance at it, but the first paragraph augurs well.
Dear God, I cannot love Thee the way I want to. You are the slim crescent of a moon that I see and my self is the earth's shadow that keeps me from seeing all the moon. The crescent is very beautiful and perhaps that is all one like I am should or could see; but what I am afraid of dear God, is that my self shadow will grown so large that it blocks the whole moon, and that I will judge myself by the shadow that is nothing.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Regarding All Saints

When I was writing the post on All Saints' Day, I was wishing I could show you a large work by Owen Swain called Saints Sung and Unsung, and now I can. I'm not sure why it goes to the bottom of the page, but if you scroll up just a bit, you can see the whole work and a gallery of the individual pictures. If you scroll up to the top, you can read a bit about the work. 


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Take Your Books Unto the Lord and Leave Them There?

St. Theresa of Avila in The Way of Perfection tells us:
It is when I possess least that I have the fewest worries, and the Lord knows that, as far as I can tell, I am more afflicted when there is excess of anything than when there is lack of it . . .
Moreover, the gospel from the second chapter of Luke today says, "In the same way, everyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.”

After I had been living in the condo for a couple of months with a minimum of furniture and just enough dishes for us to eat with one friend, it occurred to me that I was perfectly happy without the house full of stuff that was accruing bushels of plaster dust in Mississippi. It was amazingly easy to keep everything clean--to be honest, though, the almost complete lack of dust was a help--and there was never any trouble finding anything.

I remember that after I realized there was a tree on the house and that, thankfully, everyone was all right, my first thought was, "I'll never live in this house again," and my next, almost simultaneous, thought was, "All the books are going to get wet," and then I immediately realized that if that happened, a great burden would be lifted from my shoulders. And I was right--at least about the last part.

I think I've mentioned that we did not lose anything in the Great Fall except for a lot of carpet that had had too much exposure to a sick cat and some wallpaper that I've always hated. The furniture that was sitting on the wet carpet was somehow not damaged, and every book was dry. After sitting in a damp house in Mississippi in July with no air conditioning for a month, they were miraculously okay. Except for some rather fragrant books that I've picked up at book sales, none of them had any smell of mildew. I can't figure it out--unless all the plaster dust soaked up the dampness.

And boy was there plaster dust, which gets us back to St. Theresa. I'm pretty sure that if I hadn't had any books, the house would have been completely back to normal after a week or two at the most. As it is, it's been almost five weeks, and we're still working. The books are a burden indeed, but are they a necessary burden, or even a desirable burden? That's what I'm trying to figure out.

For a while now, I've been able to pray, "Do with me as You will," without being completely terrified, but I read something a few weeks ago that said we ought to pray everyday, "What would You have me do?" For some reason that's not entirely clear to me, that's a lot more difficult for me to pray. It's one thing to surrender yourself to something that is happening, and that you probably don't have any control over anyway. It's another thing to be given marching orders, especially when they are seldom very clear, and you aren't really sure if they are coming from the right direction. It was easy to renounce the books when I thought they were going to be destroyed anyway, but not so easy when I have to choose to do it.

So, after weeks and weeks of dusting and arranging, I've managed to get rid of something like 350 books and four bookshelves. Of course, this was only about a quarter of the entire library, but at least the books are no longer double-shelved or stacked on the floor, and some of the shelves could actually hold more books, but I hope not. I'm having to ask myself if I really need 30 volumes of the Church Fathers, or two different 10-volume surveys of world history or whether someone else could make better use of them. I just don't know.


Monday, November 4, 2013

Visually Similar

I was finally able to find who the artist of the picture I used on All Saints' Day was. His name is Ira Thomas and his website is here.

I found it by looking for visually similar images in Google. The first offering was this:


CORRECTION: Ira tells me that she is a woman.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Before and After

A few days before the tree fell, I took this picture to use as the cover picture on my Facebook profile.

Pretty close to the same shot today.

You can see the outline of the old barn in the top pictures, but, of course, the trumpet vine was green then. It actually does not look quite this desolate. The colors are pretty vivid, we're having a beautiful Fall, but they are washed out because the sun was so bright. You can see by the position of the small tree on the left and the birdhouse on the right that the scale is about the same. That's the stump of the tree under the birdhouse. It's about as tall as I am, so about 5.5 feet.

This picture was taken the day after the big event when they had just gotten the tree off the roof. You can see that the edge of the roof looks kind of chewed up and that the remains of the tree are lying across the yard. You can also see that the tree on the left, which had to come down a couple of days later, is definitely leaning closer to the ground than before. 

That little V-shaped trunk in front of the back of the truck is the remains of this, which was a beautiful ornamental plum tree. One of the things I loved about this house when I bought it was the trees, and so far we have lost six of them, and at least two more need to come down. I can't complain too much because the inside of the house is so much better than before, but it will take me a long time to get used to driving into the driveway and seeing that second view instead of the first. It will take me even longer to get used to driving up on a still winter night and not being able to look at the stars through the branches of the trees, or to waking up on a moonlit night and not seeing their moon shadows across the yard.


Friday, November 1, 2013

All Saints' Day

You keep using that phrase. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Actually, I think that even people who know what All Saints' Day really is--a day to honor all those Saints whose names and stories we don't know--have a very difficult time talking about, celebrating, or imaging this day without bringing famous saints into it. In our homeschool group, we used to have All Saints' parties where the kids dressed up as saints, and it never occurred to me to think, "Oh, but that's not what it's about." I wonder if it might be a good idea to have a party where the kids dressed up as, and told the story of someone whom they imagine to be one of those invisible saints. It might get us all thinking.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

On another note, I am currently imprisoned. There are men here fixing seams in my carpet. I was in the kitchen, and wanted to go work in the bedroom, but they were working in the living room and had moved the couch into a position that blocked the way to the bedroom, so I came down into one of the bedrooms where I had a few things to do, and now they are working right outside the bedroom door.  I wish I'd stayed in the kitchen, because that's the room next to the bathroom.


Monday, October 28, 2013

Making Holes in the Walls

I mentioned earlier that my walls looked very bare, but I was having trouble convincing myself to hammer nails into the walls. Well, you can see that we have started. The first nail holds a crucifix, and the second nail holds this. I wanted to hang this shell right away because the past few months have convinced me that we truly have no lasting city here--no lasting home--no refuge at all except for the heart of our Lord, and everyday is a pilgrimage on the way that Home. 

Underneath the shell is our Harry Potter closet. 

Just to the left of this picture, the wall joins the wall that you see in my profile picture at the corner of the room. Despite the way this picture looks, the walls are the same color, the color in the profile picture being correct, and, as you can see, the room really did turn out to look very much like the blog, as I suspected it might.


Sunday, October 27, 2013

What I Didn't Miss


That vehicle on the right, my friends, is what my husband and I call The Red Truck of Death. On a road where the speed limit is 50 mph and everyone goes 65 mph, he crawls along at about 30 mph (Bill says 30 is generous. He puts it at 20 or 25.). You can see that there is a double yellow line, and you can see as well that there is another truck passing him (he passed me too). This is not unusual. That double yellow line goes on for about 10 miles and after about the first 5, people would pass that guy on a curve on the top of a hill just to keep from losing their sanity. 

I'm convinced that this guy leaves his house at the exact same minute every day and he probably arrives at his destination at the same time every day. If you look at him when you pass him, he is staring straight ahead, expressionless, as if he were in a trance. I'm convinced, though, that he is laughing at us inside. I don't know where he goes, because I always pass him before he gets there--and I hardly ever pass anybody on that road.

One day on the way to work, I got behind another slow-moving truck, and I noticed that it looked exactly like the RToD except that it was turquoise. Could it be, I wondered, that this guy has two trucks that are identical except for the color? So, I passed him, and sure enough, it was either the same guy or his twin brother. Curiouser and curiouser.

Then, Bill and I were going to church one day on a road that runs in another direction than the work road, and we got behind the RToD, and actually got to see him turn into his driveway. I looked down the driveway, and YES, the TToD was parked next to the house. Well, maybe this isn't too exciting to you, but down here we take our excitement where we find it.

This picture was taken one day last week while I was driving to work. Yes, I was taking a picture while I was driving on a narrow two-lane road with a foot-wide shoulder that drops off into a swamp while a truck was passing me on the right. I hope y'all appreciate that I risked my life to bring you this enthralling blog post. Anyway, for the last 3 weeks I've been driving along thinking about how much I've missed this beautiful road, and how glad I am to be back. And I am, even when I'm following behind my friend here.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

St. Theresa and the Glory of God

While I'm waiting to get the house to the picture-taking state (very close) I don't want to let St. Theresa's feast day pass by without saying anything about her, but since I don't have much new to say, I will simply point you here and here.

This morning for the first time I participated in 40 Days for Life, standing and praying in front of Planned Parenthood from 6:00 to 7:00 a.m. For some reason it hadn't occurred to me that it would be dark at that hour of the morning, but once some other people showed up, I didn't really mind and it was surprisingly peaceful in this very busy part of town. There was plenty of traffic already, but there was still that quiet very early morning feeling, and there was a pleasant breeze, and many birds were singing, and the ugly business of the day had not yet begun. It reminds me that God renews His promises every morning, no matter how badly we mess them up during the day.

Later, I was the lector at Mass, and I was struck by how well the first reading from Romans spoke to those who are involved in the abortion industry.
The wrath of God is indeed being revealed from heaven against every impiety and wickedness of those who suppress the truth by their wickedness. For what can be known about God is evident to them, because God made it evident to them. Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made. As a result, they have no excuse; for although they knew God they did not accord him glory as God or give him thanks. Instead, they became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless minds were darkened. While claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for the likeness of an image of mortal man or of birds or of four-legged animals or of snakes. Therefore, God handed them over to impurity through the lusts of their hearts for the mutual degradation of their bodies. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and revered and worshiped the creature rather than the creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Jigetty Jig

Yesterday morning on the way to work, there was thick fog along the road: fog in the fields, fog in the swamp, even fog on the expressway. Today, there were lumps of cotton all alongside the roadway. Now I know I'm back home for sure.

We moved back into our house a week ago yesterday, Thursday, the 3rd. I didn't really have time to write anything then because we were so overwhelmed with all we had to do, plus my daughter and her friend were going to come to visit the next day, and we had to have the bedrooms put together. There are still some boxes of books to dust and put on the shelves (the wrong shelves--I don't know when I can get them back where they belong.); there are some problems with the gas line; the porch and yard look like a cross between a construction site and a slum; there's a lot of dusting and arranging still to do; but by and large we are settled in.

For a while, I had an absolute dread of going home. The house was really dreadful. There were sheets of white plastic hanging everywhere that didn't seem to protect anything, but made everything seem alien and hostile. My things were piled up and mistreated. The large kitchen was completely filled with boxes stacked two deep. We could barely forge a path to the  (only) bathroom. I felt like the house was actively hostile. 

Now, everything is peaceful and it feels like my home again. It looks so very much better than it ever has before that while the thought of the work to be done exhausts me, I am very grateful. I had gotten so used to living in the condo (almost 3 months), and it was such an easy life, that I was worried that I would miss it, but already those months seem to be rapidly receding into to the murky recesses of my memory.

So, thank you for your prayers.

I'll post some pictures when things look a bit more finished.


Sunday, September 1, 2013


Well, I see that it has been 18 days since I last posted anything. I have no internet access at home, and I am way too busy at work to be writing blog posts. It's funny, I was completely overwhelmed at the seminary, and felt like I would never catch up--I never did--but I sometimes seemed to be able to find time to write there--mostly at lunch and before 8:00. At the parish, I am very busy, but not at all overwhelmed. Still, I never have time to write, even when I'm there early, and if I finish eating early, I go back to work. 

It shouldn't be any suprise to anyone--if anyone is even still checking the blog except my devoted spambots--that I plan to put the blog on hold for a while. I need some distraction-free time to pray and--well, mostly to pray.  So, I won't be posting anything until at least Advent, and maybe until Christmas, but I don't know if I can resist the lure of Advent. I hope to be writing during my time away, but I frequently hope that without results.

I'll probably turn off the comments sometime tomorrow, but the blog will still be up. 

For those of you who are Facebook friends, I have most of you hidden now so I won't be seeing what you say. I'll basically only be using Facebook to connect with my adult children and a few others for the next few months. If you need to let me know something for some reason, you can inbox on Facebook, or I think my email address is on my blogger info page. But I suspect you won't need to reach me.

I've asked Maclin at Light on Dark Water to let the folks there know when we move back home and when I start up the blog again, and I'll put something on Facebook, too.

God Bless you all, and thank you for reading. I'll miss you. Pray for me.


It's a Jungle Out Here

I have my own parking place at the condo where I live. This is the car that parks to my left.

This is the car that parks to the left of the one above.

I didn't get a clear picture of this one, but you can make out the silver cat leaping on the trunk.

This one parks to my right.

Here's my poor Nissan in the middle of these beasts. I back out very carefully.

You can see the third one lurking in the garage behind the tree. This picture was taken from our friends' balcony.

This is the view from the balcony. We sit here sometimes and drink wine. Life is very tough.

I always tell people that living here is like living in Downtown Disney. The view from my balcony today confirmed it.

The truck is my husband's. We definitely don't belong in Downtown Disney.

When I turn out of the driveway everyday, this is what I see. It's the Mississippi. I want to go walk down there, but circumstances have prohibited it.

Here's a few more pictures that I've been meaning to post but I never have internet access for very long.

On my way to someplace or other one day, I passed my grandfather's old liquor store. I never went in there myself, but I always liked the little jugs. We used to sing "Little Brown Jug" in my house when we were little. I don't think my grandfather actually went in the store much himself. His partner managed it.

I wouldn't get out of my car in this part of town now, but I risked taking a picture.

This is a picture of a t-shirt that I saw in the hotel that we stayed in the first week after the tree fell. It was encouraging to see that scripture at that time. The girl was nice enough to pose for me, but I came up with a blurry picture anyway. That's okay because everything was looking pretty blurry then.

Another picture from the hotel. I was really glad that we weren't in Building D.

We began with a car and we end with a car. I saw this one at Starbucks. I don't know if you can see the little square bumper sticker to the right. You might be able to see it if you click on the picture. It says, "Love." So, love, coexistence and daleks.


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

So now I'm going to go pick out carpet. I guess this is the fun part.


Sunday, August 11, 2013


We see them everywhere: standing at the expressway exit with a cardboard sign that they seem to pass to one another in shifts, leaning on the wall outside the drugstore, sitting around in dejected groups in a park. We're afraid of them, or at least I was always afraid of them. Sometimes I would give them a couple of dollars, but I would never look them in the eye or speak, and I was never sure if I should give them anything. I could make a pretty good argument one way or the other.

Once I ate dinner with a former homeless person who had made it “all the way back.” I thought, “Great. Now I can ask somebody who really knows whether or not I should give those people money.” So, I asked, and he thought a minute and said, “I don't know.” Phooey. But I did have one friend whom I really admired and who said she just didn't worry about what they did with the money, it was just her business to give it. And one day, I was out with another friend and her daughter when a well-known homeless man came up and asked for some money, and they gave him some. The really remarkable thing to me was the way they gave it. They were happy to be able to give it. They were almost excited. That really made me think, and from then on, I would usually hand over a couple of dollars, but I can't say that I was at all excited.

The next challenge turned up at the seminary where I worked. Several years ago, a group of people began to meet there every Tuesday to make Burritos to distribute to homeless people downtown. Since my office was only two doors down from the small kitchen where they worked, I could always hear what was going on down there, and they always seemed to be having a great time. I always thought that I should go with them some time, but the time never seemed right.

This is an older picture, taken when they used to distribute burritos at a downtown park. Now, after some discussion with the police, they go to the parking lot of Catholic church.
Finally last November, I decided that as an Advent penance, I would go with them. I was really nervous though. I'm not really sure now what it was that I was afraid of, but there was something. I went to my boss's office and told him I was going to go, but I had to ride with him and that he better stand next to me every second of the time we were there. He laughed at me and said that was okay.

Well, I can't explain what happened when I got there, but all I know is that the second I stepped out of the car, my life changed. I lost every trace of fear and nervousness to the point that I can't begin to remember what I felt before. And the people were so different than I expected them to be. They line up quietly and stand waiting patiently even when the food is late getting there and it's 95º or 28º F. They seldom complain. I've hardly ever heard anyone complain even on the night when we ran out of food before everyone had eaten. They are very polite. They are very grateful. They say, “Thank you,” they say, “God bless you.”

I love handing burritos to these people. It's a sacramental action. I love looking straight into their eyes and touching their hands. I would love to get down on my knees and kiss their feet if it wouldn't embarrass the heck out of them. It's because I know they are Jesus.

I'm not saying that there is never a problem. Sometimes somebody is way too drunk, or once a couple of guys were fighting when they got there. I also know that if I met them in another situation, they might not be so nice. One of the women who used to come to eat was murdered in the church parking lot by another homeless person in the middle of the night. So, there's always an awareness that something could happen, but I never worry because I know I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing.

Then, there is that scripture. I think I've mentioned that before. You know, the one where the Lord says to those on His left hand, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, Naked and you did not visit me.” I used to worry about that quite a bit, but I don't anymore.

Since I changed jobs, I haven't been able to help with the burritos on Tuesdays, but I plan to start making cookies or something and going down to meet them at the parking lot. My pecan tree has put a dent in these plans, but as soon as I get home, I want to start. Also, at my new job, I am constantly challenged by those who don't have enough. They don't have food. Their utilities have been turned off. They need gas. They want money. So often I'm frustrated because there is nothing I can do. There is a group at the parish that has a clothes closet and that hands out food, but we recently sold our high school and the group's building sat on the property that was sold, so now all their stuff is sitting in a POD waiting for another space to be renovated, and the funds to renovate it are slow in coming. The pastor bought some food that we can at least hand out for people to eat then and there, but it's a far cry from all that's needed. Very few of our parishioners have much more than they need, but hopefully we'll be able to pull together a little something more to help. Pray for us.

So you see, in my current situation I haven't been able to use the word “homeless” to describe myself even in jest. I'm not homeless. I have generous friends, and a supportive family, and even if I had to leave this lovely place where I'm staying, I know I could find someplace else to go. I have so much more than I need. And every day on my way to work, I pass under an expressway where I can look up to the place that looks like this:

This isn't the expressway I am talking about. I thought it would be rude to take a picture of that one, like I was taking a picture through the window of someone's house.
There I see the “homes” of many homeless people. They have already left for the day, but all their boxes and bags and things are still there. It humbles me a bit. It makes me sad, and it makes me a bit fearful to think of all the things that I have that they don't. Fearful because I've been given so much, and so much will be expected. It's not just the possessions. It's the healthy mind and body, and the abilities and the family—and of course, the Faith, although I must say that that is the one thing that some of them have, and that's another humbling thing because how many of us could hold on to our faith in that situation?

Oh, and that phrase I used earlier—making it all the way back—I heard that from one of the men, Logan. He has a big addiction problem and he asked me one night to pray for him to make it all the way back. So, I do. Pray for him, too.


Tuesday, August 6, 2013


These are the divine wonders we celebrate today; this is the saving revelation given us upon the mountain; this is the festival of Christ that has drawn us here. Let us listen, then, to the sacred voice of God so compellingly calling us from on high, from the summit of the mountain, so that with the Lord’s chosen disciples we may penetrate the deep meaning of these holy mysteries, so far beyond our capacity to express. Jesus goes before us to show us the way, both up the mountain and into heaven, and–I speak boldly–it is for us now to follow him with all speed, yearning for the heavenly vision that will give us a share in his radiance, renew our spiritual nature and transform us into his own likeness, making us for ever sharers in his Godhead and raising us to heights as yet undreamed of.

Let us run with confidence and joy to enter into the cloud like Moses and Elijah, or like James and John. Let us be caught up like Peter to behold the divine vision and to be transfigured by that glorious transfiguration. Let us retire from the world, stand aloof from the earth, rise above the body, detach ourselves from creatures and turn to the creator, to whom Peter in ecstasy exclaimed: Lord, it is good for us to be here.
Anastasius of Sinai, from today's Office of Readings

I see that I didn't mention the Transfiguration last year and that surprises me a bit. I never quite know what to do with this mystery when I pray the Mysteries of Light. I pray for my own transfiguration, but I like even better this idea of escaping the world for a moment and "running with confidence" to the Lord so that we are filled with a vision of glory that sustains us in the darkness.

You can see the whole reading here.


Monday, August 5, 2013

August 5

Well, we have now officially been out of our home for a month. The only time in my life that I have ever been away from home this long was when I was about 8 and I went to camp for 5 weeks. I was completely miserable the entire last three weeks. I'm not entirely miserable now--probably because I'm not in a cabin with a stinky little girl name Jeannie who calls me names--but I would like to go home.

Saturday night, I sat down to say evening prayer. I got through the psaltery okay, but then when I tried to find the antiphon for the Magnificat, it wasn't there. I'd run out of brieviary. Ordinary time is divided into two books: weeks 1-17, and weeks 18-34. When I realized I'd brought them both--must have been around the 14th week--I thought how silly that was because surely I wouldn't be here until the 18th week. Oh well.

This morning, I read a letter by Carryl Houselander and she told someone that she was feeling very zeroish. That, I thought, is a great description of how I feel. But sometime around mid-morning, I got to feeling much better and I'm fairly cheerful now. I do wish I had a camera at the house so I could know if they are doing any work, but I guess I'll find out in a few days. I wish I had a camera here in Miss Cordelia's so I could show you what a $51.00 cake looks like, but since Bill and I both left our phones at work -argh!-I can't. I'll just have to let you imagine.

Time to go tell Bill that our neighbors invited us for margueritas. I'm afraid I'll have to pass and head for bed, but I'm sure he would enjoy one.


Sunday, August 4, 2013

Logan's Heart

Night before last, we had offered to take our granddaughter to a movie theatre across town to meet a friend, and then pick her up when the movie was over. It seemed to make more sense to just go see a movie ourselves than to make the trip twice, so I looked to see what was playing. The only thing that was even remotely interesting to me was Wolverine but I had seen some discouraging reviews somewhere or other, so I wasn't too enthusiastic. I decided to check around anyway and the first review I found was this positive one by Steve Greydanus in National Catholic Register. He mentioned Goodness, Truth, and Beauty (three of my favorite things), and said it wasn't a great movie, but that it was a good one, so off to Wolverine we went, and I was pleasantly surprised.

I hesitate a bit to try to write about the movie for two reasons. One is that I'm pretty sure that most of my readers don't know much about the X-Men or the back-story that's more or less necessary to understand what's going on. The other is that what I'm writing about is serious, but the movie is, after all, a movie based on a comic book about superhuman mutants, and you will quickly see that some of the things that I have to include are going to make it hard to take me seriously. Still, I'm going to try. I'm going to say as little as possible about the plot of the movie (although there will be some slight, necessary spoilers) and only discuss the aspects of the film that I found remarkable—remarkable in the sense that it was unusual enough to be worthy of note.

Before I start, I guess I ought to say that Wolverine's particular mutation is that although he can be wounded and feel the pain, his body immediately heals itself, so he is, as far as we can tell, immortal. He also has long “adamantium” claws which project and retract like a cats—thus Wolverine.

As the movie begins, Logan (the X-Man known as Wolverine) is a man with a wounded heart. He is overcome by guilt arising from the fact that he had to kill the woman he loved to keep her from destroying the world. This broken heart has broken him, and robbed him of the strength he needs to be the soldier he once was, and of his will to live—which you can see is an especially difficult problem in his case.

Soon, a rather unusual messenger, Yukio, arrives with a summons from a man whose life Logan saved during World War II, and he reluctantly agrees to go. The man, Yashida, who is dying from cancer, offers Logan a gift—death. He says that his doctor has discovered a way to transfer Logan's immortality to another person. Logan doesn't answer at that time, and later wakes from a strange dream to find that the old man has died.

At the funeral, a sort of gang breaks in and tries to kidnap Yasida's granddaughter, Mariko, who is also his heir. Logan naturally gets involved in the brawl that ensues, and manages to save Mariko, but in the process receives several wounds that do not heal. He knows that the old man's doctor has done something to weaken him, but he doesn't know what.

Eventually, we find that a small robotic device is attached to his heart, inhibiting his healing power. And this is what I thought was so great about the movie, that the writer or the director or whoever made this connection between the wound in Logan's body and the wound in his soul. Logan removes the invading device by a means which I won't reveal (but Mr. Greydanus does) and for a moment dies. And it's at this moment that he makes a decision for life and both his physical and spiritual wounds are healed. This just wasn't something I expected in an X-Men movie.

The scene reminded me in a way of the undragoning of Eustace, or even more of the man in The Great Divorce who has the nasty reptile on his shoulder whispering foul things into his ear. The difference, though, is that while both Eustace and the man in The Great Divorce are helpless to heal themselves, Logan is able to do it under his own power. Wolverine isn't a Christian movie, but it is a moral movie, even if it's the morality of a virtuous pagan.

At one point in the movie, Logan confronts Mariko's fiance, who is cavorting with a couple of scantily-clad women. He says something like, “I thought you were engaged. Isn't it time to be giving up this sort of thing?” Again, for an X-Men movie, it's a seriously moral comment. The movie isn't completely virtuous in this area. Logan and Muriko do make love, but it is that and not the hideous hooking-up that we are becoming used to, and we aren't made to watch.

Another strength of this movie, and I think that this is generally true about super-hero movies, is that there is no blurring of good and evil. The doctor who implants the robotic device is a female mutant. She's slinky, she's sinuous, and eventually, she's scaly. Viper is a cross between the femme fatale in a 40s detective movie and the Prince of Darkness. There's no question which side she is on. On the other hand, Logan has a sort of guardian angel cum ninja on his side. Yukio, the young woman who originally summons him to meet Yashida, appoints herself his bodyguard. She knows when he's in danger and she's pretty good at fighting the foe.

I've seen Hugh Jackman play Wolverine in at least two other movies, and I haven't been too impressed one way or the other. He was competent as Wolverine, but he didn't strike me as a great actor. He was very good in this movie, though, and I almost wonder if the role wasn't somehow informed by his very excellent performance as Jean Valjean in Les Miserables. It might be that, or it might be that this movie was as much drama as it was a showcase for martial arts, CGI and special effects. In fact, although there was a certain amount of all three of those, there was notably less than usual.

I wrote this review because I really liked the movie. I especially like movies (and books and music) that might be secular, but which have a subtle dose of eternal verities. I never know for sure whether the artists responsible for the film have the vaguest notion what they are revealing, or whether the Truth is so powerful that it just reveals itself without their knowledge. But the fact that I like it so much doesn't necessarily mean that I would recommend it. If you are familiar with the X-Men saga, you would almost certainly like it. If you aren't, it pretty much depends on what you expect from a film or for how long you can suspend your perception of reality.

But I really like it.


Saturday, August 3, 2013

August So Far

Well, we have a roof with shingles and electricity and water..

We also have a really clean refrigerator with no corn growing in it, which is nice.

I must say that probably the lowest moment for me in this whole experience was when I came back to the house the first time and opened the freezer and saw the above. I felt like my home had been overwhelmed with terminal squalor and grossness and probably alien life forms. My husband was good enough to remove the nasty things immediately, but since we had no water, we couldn't really do much else.

 When I get up from this chair, I'm going to wash all the refrigerator shelves and drawers and things while Bill goes to get some sushi. I would like to write something about the movie we saw last night which completely exceded my expectations, but I don't have time at the moment. I hope to do it soon.

I am also hoping, as I hope every week, that next week we will be back in the house, but I have to admit that life is pretty pleasant where we are. I'm just really getting homesick.


Wednesday, July 31, 2013

On Second Thought

Instead of praying for my teeth, pray for this young man and his family. He lives in this area, and has connections with members of St. Paul.


Tuesday, July 30, 2013


I am sitting at my own computer in my own house. There is electricity. There is a roof, but no shingles. The shingles get put on tomorrow.  The carpet smells kind of musty, but not very bad at all, and it will be leaving soon, so that's okay. My books seem to smell fine. I am excited. I almost believe that one day I can live here again. I can't wait until Saturday when I can come and clean things. Boy is my keyboard dusty!

When you have a well, no electricity = no water. Now there's water.  I can flush the toilet!! I can turn on the AC, but strangely enough for July in Mississippi, it's not hot.

I can weigh on my scales. I have lost four pounds since the roof got clobbered!

The reason I am down here is that I was supposed to have a root canal today. Now they think I probably don't need one.

All-in-all, this is a great day.

I love my house.


Friday, July 26, 2013

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Home Sweet Home Away From Home

So, this is where I live at the moment.

The little street that leads down to the corner where there is an expensive grocery store cum deli.

Miss Cordelia's, the aforemention store where I am sitting and drinking a coke so I can use the wi-fi.

What it looks like from my seat.

So, now we have been here a week. Yesterday, we went to the house to see how things are coming along and I was going to take a picture, but it was so depressing, I didn't have the heart to do it. The chimney is down. That's about it. It's a good thing we have a nice place to stay, even if it is a bit like living in Downtown Disney World. 

On the other hand, it's very relaxing here, and much closer to work, so I'm feeling very much more awake than usual. This is good because my job, although wonderful, wears me out. I do really love the job.

Okay, time to go. I have no internet access at my temporary home, and I'm really busy at work, but I'll try to get back soon.


Monday, July 15, 2013

Seek the Bridegroom and Not the Teacher

St. Bonaventure
Christ is both the way and the door. Christ is the staircase and the vehicle, like the throne of mercy over the Ark of the Covenant, and the mystery hidden from the ages. A man should turn his full attention to this throne of mercy, and should gaze at him hanging on the cross, full of faith, hope and charity, devoted, full of wonder and joy, marked by gratitude, and open to praise and jubilation. Then such a man will make with Christ a pasch, that is, a passing-over. Through the branches of the cross he will pass over the Red Sea, leaving Egypt and entering the desert. There he will taste the hidden manna, and rest with Christ in the sepulcher, as if he were dead to things outside. He will experience, as much as is possible for one who is still living, what was promised to the thief who hung beside Christ: Today you will be with me in paradise
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
If you ask how such things can occur, seek the answer in God’s grace, not in doctrine; in the longing of the will, not in the understanding; in the sighs of prayer, not in research; seek the bridegroom not the teacher; God and not man; darkness not daylight; and look not to the light but rather to the raging fire that carries the soul to God with intense fervor and glowing love. The fire is God, and the furnace is in Jerusalem, fired by Christ in the ardor of his loving passion. 

This comes from The Journey of the Mind to God by St. Bonaventure. The entire passage can be found here.

Wish I had time to say something, but I don't. Probably for the best.


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Moving On

Well, what we found out yesterday was that what had been done was nothing. Oh well. We did find out that it will be at least next weekend before we get back in the house, so now we are moving some of our furniture into an empty condo that some friends have been so generous as to offer us for the duration. It is in a very nice place on the river and everything one needs, except a church, is within walking distance. And, of course, I have my own church, so we're set.

I don't think I"ll be able to post anything from there, but hopefully I can post some pictures from work.


Saturday, July 13, 2013

We Shall See What We Shall See

So, I'm going to go to Mass now, and then I"ll drive down to the house and see what, if anything, has been done. The other tree--the one that is tilting towards my neighbors' fence is coming down this morning, so I know things will be buzzing there.

Also, I found out that we cannot stay here after Monday, because they are full for the rest of the week, so I've got to figure out where we are going to go. It's a good thing I like pilgrimages so much.


Thursday, July 11, 2013


Yesterday about 7:00 a.m., I was sitting on the porch of Cracker Barrel saying my rosary and waiting for Sally to meet me for breakfast. It was a nice breezy morning, and there was some kind of nice greenery blowing in the breeze in front of the restaurant. It was very peaceful and pleasant--a nice break from several days of moving around from place to place and making a million phones calls to the insurance company and the contractor.

There was Country and Western music playing on the speakers. One song called "Way Down South," had a line that went, "I kissed girls and I shot squirrels." I thought this was the quintessesence of C&W music. It made me laugh.Then, they played a song by Kenny Rogers that was based on an old hymn, "Love Lifted Me." Rogers has messed around with it a good deal and taken out all the embarrassing Jesus parts, but he left the refrain pretty much the same, and when he got to the refrain, it really got to me. The original lyrics go:

Love lifted me,
Love lifted me,
When nothing else would help
Love lifted me.

And it is Love who lifts me--Love who keeps me from feeling too sorry for myself and helps me to keep going when I'm feeling totally exhausted and befuddled. Love who keeps me from ever asking why this happened to me. I mean, why not me? Love who fills me with the belief that this is somehow His gift .

Yesterday, I had a few minutes and I looked around (listened around) some YouTube videos because I wanted to find a few different versions of the song and post them here, but I couldn't find any that suited me. The version that I really wish you could hear is Miss Gilmore's version. It was Miss Gilmore that first introduced me to the hymn. Almost 40 years ago, Miss Gilmore and I were in the same prayer group. I was a young mother in her mid-20s, and Miss Gilmore was a little old lady in the most wondeful sense of the phrase. She was really little, and she was really, really old. She lived alone on a former farm in rural Mississippi and raised chickens. Every now and then in the middle of the prayer meeting, she would raise her high, quavery voice and sing about how Love lifted her, and it always lifted us. Miss Gilmore didn't have much, but she had the one thing needful.

So here's B. J. Thomas singing "Love Lifted Me." It's not great, but if you've never heard the hymn before, it will give you an idea of what it sounds like.

I can't believe that actually worked. It's the first time I've ever had to type the html to embed something. This computer has a mind of it's own which, I suppose, is the reason that all this post had to be in italics, and you can't copy and paste anything. Also, it tells me that both Sally's and Maclin's blogs have questionnable content and therefore I can't access them.


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

What's Going On

I'm in the complimentary "Business Office" of the hotel where we have a suite, so just a quick update.
The adjustor came yesterday, and he seems to be doing right by us, so now we can get things moving. Our friend Terry is a contractor and his company is going to fix the house. They can do everything. Someone is coming today to see what's what and we should have some idea of how long we have to be out of the house. I want to move back in as soon as it's safe.
If it will only be a week or so, as the adjustor thinks (not for all the work, but until it's basically livable), we will stay here in a suite and get free breakfast and dinner and watch too much TV, which for me is any TV at all. If it's going to be longer, some friends have offered us an empty condo in a very nice community on the river and we will move some of our furniture down there. It won't be worth it to move the furniture for a brief stay. We should know something today.
By some miracle, none of the furniture seems to be damaged. The only piece that even got very wet was my grandmother cedar chest which got a lot of water dumped on it, but it's a very sturdy piece of furniture.
So my goal today is to go to a couple of doctors' appointments (check-ups) and figure out how to get my clothes washed.


Sunday, July 7, 2013

Another Big Change

One of the things I do in my job is to write the bulletin. There is always a little box in the upper left-hand corner that tells where we are in the liturgical year, and quotes a passage from that day's readings. Sometimes there are other quotes in other places when we need a filler. All last week, I was thinking about the quote in that was in the corner, "No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God." I probably should have been paying more attention to the quote in the filler that I deleted when a new announcement had to be squeezed into the bulletin, "Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head."

As many of you know, Friday evening (I can't believe it was just 48 hours ago.) a huge tree fell on our house during a storm. It was the tree on the right in the picture below. You would think the one on the left would have fallen, wouldn't you?

I wish there was something in the picture to give you some perspective, but the birdhouse on the right, which is about 10' high, and you only see about 2/3 of the tree, or maybe only 1/2. 

Here's a shot from the roots up. The house is completely obliterated. 

The tree fell on the front of the house. This is the back of the house. See the part on the right that's sticking out? That's the closet in a bedroom. The window with the air conditioner on the left of the closet is the bedroom window. The big room to the left is the kitchen. If you look closely, you can see the rest of the top of the tree is laying on the other side of the kitchen. It was hanging over the back porch. On the front of the house, opposite the bedroom you can see, is an identical bedroom. This is the room where my granddaughter (who took these pictures) was when the tree hit. Her room (which she had just spent a week painting.) took the brunt of the hit and the force of it knocked her down, but she was otherwise unhurt, thank the Lord. We were in our bedroom, which is on the opposite side of the house, and was unaffected.

Here's the chimney sans tree. There's a similar hole on the ridge of the wing which ends in the kitchen. It's over the dining room.

When I heard the storm coming, I was thinking the wind was really strong and, "Darn it! All the pool toys are in the pool and they're going to blow away. Then BOOM, and total darkness. Tessa came out of her room before I knew the tree had fallen, thank goodness, so I knew right away she was okay. Then water started coming through the living room and dining room ceilings, so we figured we needed to leave immediately. We grabbed a few clothes and left, and after a stop at the house of some neighbors who have been incredibly helpful, we drove to my Mom's, here we still are.

Now the tree is gone (the one on the left, too) and the holes are tarped (just this afternoon) and we await the adjustor tomorrow. I'll write some more soon, but now we are hungry and I'm going to let the insurance company buy me a hamburger.


P.S. Some of the pool toys are in the yard, but at least half are still in the pool!