Monday, September 29, 2008

Working with Passion: Major and Minor Calls

One thing I always knew I had to do, and that is to write. The urge to write stories, letters, articles, novels, poems, lists, etc. is omni-present. For me, that was my first big call in life. It came when I was about eight years old and received my first diary.

My second big call was to motherhood, and from then on all I did had to stem from that. For all mothers, their primary ministry must be the care of their young, until they leave the nest. There may be other major and minor calls, but they cannot conflict with this most urgent one.

Some minor calls included homeschooling for several years, and teaching religious education. Anything I took up outside the home had to have some benefit for the children in order to justify the time and energy taken from them. All that I did, I threw myself into with passion, as I did when employed for pay, in my former life (before kids).

[I do not wish to say a woman cannot work for some other cause while being a mother. I was in such awe when I read the story of “Madame Curie”, by Eve Curie, translated by Vincent Sheean. This is a story of a woman who threw her whole life into the work that included the discovery of radium and the primary research in atomic fission, as well as the real-life application of these with X-ray machines and radiological treatments. You could see how her daughter worshipped her for her great accomplishments; and yet she let the reader into the sadness that was their life. Marie Curie often failed to eat, sleep, and otherwise care for herself. She was often absent to her family, and had very little spiritual life. She lost her life to disease from the exposure to elements she studied, those same elements that would ultimately save countless numbers of human lives. I wish for her and her family’s sake that she could have found some sense of balance in her life. Perhaps she could have lived for another decade if she had taken the proper time to sustain herself physically and emotionally.]

When I think back on some of the other things I spent my time on, I must confess I may have been tempted to follow false callings. The biggest example I can think of was a homeschooling field trip group I started with a friend. It was her idea, and I persuaded myself that it would be a worthy cause to take up.

When I look back, I think my time could have been better spent on my writing. I had no time to do any actual creative writing during that time. Someone else could have done what I did – my special talents were not required here. I am not sorry for the work I did, but I did learn an important lesson on keeping my priorities straight, and not affirmatively answering every call that came my way.

After the birth of my youngest child, I began to form new friendships here and there. I also caught up with a few friends that I had fallen out of touch with. Within a few months, I realized there was a connection among these friends from seemingly different arenas: they were all active in pro-life ministry!

I could not believe I had not noticed it before. God had led me to these special people for a reason, and I caught onto the passion they had for their pro-life work. Then I read my old homeschooling friend Leticia Velasquez’s blogs and realized I could take my two big calls and put them together, writing about motherhood for other mothers, while also serving the pro-life cause!

Writing about motherhood is something that comes so naturally to me that it requires little effort. In fact, the more I do it the more free I feel. I feel uplifted and energized. As I seek to impart insight, I gain more into my own soul and the mysteries of God’s creation.

I wonder: If I had listened for the call, could I have figured this out a few years ago and used my gift to better advantage? If someone has never heard a calling, how do they go about finding it? I will this explore this topic further in my upcoming posts, with the highlights of some intriguing Biblical calls.

Picture: “God Calls Samuel”, Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, 1851-60.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Answering the Call

Matthew Chapter 21 (NAB)
1 "What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He came to the first and said, 'Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.'
He said in reply, 'I will not,' but afterwards he changed his mind and went.
The man came to the other son and gave the same order. He said in reply, 'Yes, sir,' but did not go.
2 Which of the two did his father's will?" They answered, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you.
3 When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did. Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him.

Once again the Gospel hit home with my train of thoughts for the week. I had committed to the 40 Days for Life Fast, and had broken my fast. I had a whole string of excuses.

1. The school was requiring us to sell 50 chocolate bars. We do not feel comfortable doing this, so we are forced to eat them ourselves. This year there were dark chocolate almond bars – how could I resist? Oh, I am so weak.

2. I had headaches every afternoon this week, lowering my resistance to stress-reducing foods.

3. I can try, but really I can’t blame breastfeeding for this one. I may need 3 square meals to sustain us both, but the baby definitely does not need chocolate.

This scripture encouraged me to get back on track and start the week anew.

I thought further on answering God’s personal calling for us. Had I ever ignored a call to do some work I was hesitant to do?

I connected this to the story of Jonah. Boy did he resist. His work was so important that God would not allow defiance, and turned his shoulder in every way until the mission was completed – and attitude adjusted.

I have known several persons whose lives were changed for the better after meeting some sort of calamity or illness. Does God allow these pitfalls at times to turn us onto the course he has planned for us?

I encourage my readers’ thoughts on how they have heard and answered God’s calling to them; I will be focusing on this topic over the coming week.

Picture above: "The Parable of the Vineyard", Matthaeus Merian the Elder, 1625-30. Biblical Art on the WWW.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

I Love Your Blog Award

Leticia Velasquez, my blogger model, has given me this award.
As a recipient of this award, there are rules to follow. I have to answer the following questions with one word answers and one word only! Then I must pass it on to seven others!

The questions are as follows:
1. Where is your cell phone? unsure
2. Where is dh? couch
3. Your hair color? brown
4. Your mother? home
5. Your father? home
6. Your favorite thing? silence
7. Your dream last night? rain
8. Your dream/goal? novel
9. The room you're in? study
10. Your hobby? gardening
11. Your fear? unpublished
12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? published
13. Where were you last night? home
14. What you're not? patient
15. One of your wish-list items? Kitchen-aid
16. Where you grew up? NY
17. The last thing you did? track
18. What are you wearing? shorts
19. Your TV? news
20. Your pet? Bear
21. Your computer? annoying
22. Your mood? irritated
23. Missing someone? yes
24. Your car? Mini-van
25. Something you're not wearing? Make-up
26. Favorite store? King Kullen
27. Your summer? lazy
28. Love someone? yes!
29. Your favorite color? Blue
30. When is the last time you laughed? today
31. Last time you cried? summer

I nominate the following bloggers:
1. Loren Elizabeth Christie at Dude Where Am I?
2. Angie at Many Little Blessings
3. Heather at Doodle Acres
Now, for you recipients of this award, here's the deal:
* Display your award.
* Link back to the person who gave you the award.
* Nominate at least 3 other blogs.
* Put links to those blogs on yours.
* Leave a message on the blogs of the people you've nominated.
* Enjoy your award!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Discerning Your True Calling

“Therefore, brothers, be all the more eager to make your call and election firm, for, in doing so, you will never stumble.”
2 Peter 1:11

“No way, Mom,” said my two-year-old, in a frank tone.
“Yes way,” I replied.
She was not being defiant, and I was not encouraging argumentative. We were having a little exercise in independent thinking.

I can clearly remember myself playing a similar game with my own mother. Two of my favorite phrases were “no way”, and “yes way”. The fact that I am able to say both “yes” and “no” are partly attributed to her good humor and her wisdom in the fostering my voicing of both important decisive words.

Erik Erikson’s eight stages of psycho-social development always rang true with me. The second psychosocial crisis involves learning Autonomy vs. Shame, between about 18 months or 2 years and 3½ to 4 years of age. Resolving this stage results in a proper feeling of pride and self control, rather than a feeling of guilt or shame. It occurs to me now that many women must not have resolved this stage properly, and thus in adulthood are constantly feeling pulled in too many directions. They feel “spent” while also feeling that they are “not doing enough”.

During my homeschooling years I was rather involved in several volunteer activities. After the conception of my fourth child, I had to refocus all of my energies on the health of myself and my newborn child, while continuing the end of that current year of homeschooling. I looked back on the past in awe at the time and energy I had had to devote outside of the home. How ever had I done it? As I dropped out of the world of volunteerism, and made myself less available to help others in need, some were understanding, and some were not. I had changed – what a shocker!

“God has a purpose for all of us, and from time to time that purpose must change,” my father assured me.

I knew what my priorities were, and was not ashamed to say NO. For that time-being, any activity outside of the service of those inside my four walls received that same answer: NO.

As the children entered school, and the sign-up sheets were passed around, I quickly passed them on to the next person, with no twinges of guilt. God knew, my family knew, and I knew what services I had given in the past years. I needed a few months to feel out this new life and see what, if anything, I could give.

I looked on the oft-volunteers in a new light, now that I was not one of them. There were some who seemed to step up to the plate more than others, chairing multiple committees. They were energetic, but tired at the same time. I wondered if they had anything left to give to their families at the end of the day.

Now that my toddler has become more independent and we have gotten into the swing of family life with four children, I have found I do have more pockets of free time throughout the day. I use those to read, write, or pray. Lately I also discovered opportunities to be a shoulder and prayer warrior for those in great need, just by being in the right place at the right time with an open ear.

We are in the midst of the track and cross-country season, with lots of chauffering to meets – and more calls to volunteer. I am asked to contribute to bake sales, fundraisers, and snack time at school. I revisit my list of priorities yet again and ask the questions so many women must ask themselves repeatedly:

Am I allowed to have some free time during the day?

What activities do I give my time to without sapping the energies I need to give to my family?

What about time I need for prayer and reflection?

Am I being called by God to minister in this area?

The ability to discern is addressed in great depth by St. Paul in I Corinthians. “The spiritual person, however, can judge everything but is not subject to judgment by anyone.” (I Cor. 2:16) I encourage you to read the first four chapters of this book while prayerfully reflecting on what God is calling you to do at present.

While pondering this topic, I read from a book of rhymes before putting my toddler in for her nap. I was puzzled by this one’s shockingly negative ending and had to re-read it. I thought of how some can lead enthusiastic youngsters on a foolish mission, causing them to fritter away their gifts and energies and perhaps lose sight of their true callings. In this story, the poor victims are literally eaten alive. I will end off with this classic, imploring my readers to heed your true calling.

The Walrus and The Carpenter
Lewis Carroll
(from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872)

The sun was shining on the sea,
Shining with all his might:
He did his very best to make
The billows smooth and bright--
And this was odd, because it was
The middle of the night.
The moon was shining sulkily,
Because she thought the sun
Had got no business to be there
After the day was done--
"It's very rude of him," she said,
"To come and spoil the fun!"

The sea was wet as wet could be,
The sands were dry as dry.
You could not see a cloud, because
No cloud was in the sky:
No birds were flying overhead--
There were no birds to fly.
The Walrus and the Carpenter
Were walking close at hand;
They wept like anything to see
Such quantities of sand:
"If this were only cleared away,"
They said, "it would be grand!"
"If seven maids with seven mops
Swept it for half a year.
Do you suppose," the Walrus said,
"That they could get it clear?"
"I doubt it," said the Carpenter,
And shed a bitter tear.
"O Oysters, come and walk with us!"
The Walrus did beseech.
"A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
Along the briny beach:
We cannot do with more than four,
To give a hand to each."
The eldest Oyster looked at him,
But never a word he said:
The eldest Oyster winked his eye,
And shook his heavy head--
Meaning to say he did not choose
To leave the oyster-bed.
But four young Oysters hurried up,
All eager for the treat:
Their coats were brushed, their faces washed,
Their shoes were clean and neat--
And this was odd, because, you know,
They hadn't any feet.
Four other Oysters followed them,
And yet another four;
And thick and fast they came at last,
And more, and more, and more--
All hopping through the frothy waves,
And scrambling to the shore.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Walked on a mile or so,
And then they rested on a rock
Conveniently low:
And all the little Oysters stood
And waited in a row.
"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings."
"But wait a bit," the Oysters cried,
"Before we have our chat;
For some of us are out of breath,
And all of us are fat!"
"No hurry!" said the Carpenter.
They thanked him much for that.
"A loaf of bread," the Walrus said,
"Is what we chiefly need:
Pepper and vinegar besides
Are very good indeed--
Now if you're ready, Oysters dear,
We can begin to feed."
"But not on us!" the Oysters cried,
Turning a little blue.
"After such kindness, that would be
A dismal thing to do!"
"The night is fine," the Walrus said.
"Do you admire the view?

"It was so kind of you to come!
And you are very nice!"
The Carpenter said nothing but
"Cut us another slice:
I wish you were not quite so deaf--
I've had to ask you twice!"
"It seems a shame," the Walrus said,
"To play them such a trick,
After we've brought them out so far,
And made them trot so quick!"
The Carpenter said nothing but
"The butter's spread too thick!"
"I weep for you," the Walrus said:
"I deeply sympathize."
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.
"O Oysters," said the Carpenter,
"You've had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?'
But answer came there none--
And this was scarcely odd, because
They'd eaten every one.

Pre-natally and Post-natally Diagnosed Conditions Awareness Act PASSES IN SENATE!

This could be just the beginning of the spiritual rewards for prayers going around the nation during the 40 Days for Life, which started Wednesday, September 24. Following is the official press release from Washington, D.C.

"Brownback, Kennedy Celebrate Passage of Pre- and Post-Natally Diagnosed Conditions Awareness Act

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) celebrated Senate passage of the Pre-natally and Post-natally Diagnosed Conditions Awareness Act, legislation which would require that families who receive a diagnosis of Down syndrome or any other condition, pre-natally or up until a year after birth, be given up-to-date information about the nature of the condition and connection with support services and networks that could offer assistance.

"I am very pleased that the legislation co-sponsored by Sen. Kennedy and me passed the Senate," said Brownback. "This bill will greatly benefit expecting parents who receive the sometimes overwhelming news that their unborn child may be born with a disability. This legislation will provide parents with current and reliable information about the many options available for caring for children with disabilities." The Pre-natally and Post-natally Diagnosed Conditions Awareness Act would provide for the expansion and further development of a national clearinghouse on information for parents of children with disabilities, so that the clearinghouse would be better equipped to assist parents whose children have recently been pre- or post-natally diagnosed. The bill also provides for the expansion and further development of national and local peer-support programs. The bill also calls for the creation of a national registry of families willing to adopt children with pre- or post-natally diagnosed conditions.

"One of the hardest moments in the life of an expectant mother is when she receives news that she is going to have a child with special needs," said Melissa Wagoner, spokeswoman for Senator Kennedy. "Access to the best support and information about the condition, and the quality of life for a child born with that condition, can make all the difference to a woman trying to make an informed and difficult decision. Senator Kennedy believes this kind of support is a vital element to strengthening a true culture of life in America."

Currently, 90 percent of children pre-natally diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted. That percentage is similar for children pre-natally diagnosed with other conditions such as spina bifida, cystic fibrosis and dwarfism.

Monday, September 22, 2008

40 Days for Life, 2008

During October we celebrate Respect Life Month. The 40 Days for Life program is a time of fasting, prayer, and increased vigil and community outreach for the pro-life cause. The Official 40 Days for Life starts on September 24 and ends on Nov. 2.

This year a group of us have decided to take it to the next level, praying fervently for the election of a pro-life President and Vice President. We will act during the 40 Days for Life as we would during Lent, making sacrifices, and eating on Wed. and Fri. as we would on Fridays during Lent. We will continue this fast until the Presidential Election.

I try not to repeat myself in this blog, but whenever I write about fasting I remind pregnant and lactating women that they are exempt from physical fasting. Instead, treat the constant physical care of yourself and your baby as a prayer; offer it up to God as your sacrifice. Please see below for the Catholic rules on fasting.

I encourage everyone to look at the website to find out what kick-off events might be going on in a city near you for 40 Days for Life. Also, keep in mind the gospel for this week. The owner of a vineyard went out to find laborers at 9:00, 12:00, 3:00, and 6:00. At the end of the day, those who started work in the evening were paid as much as those who started working in the early morning. “Your ways are not my ways. . .Last shall be first, and first shall be last.”

I always took this passage to mean our final reward in heaven would not be dependent on how long in life you served Christ; as long as you turned to Him in the end you would receive everlasting life. But in the context of this time of prayer, I interpret it to mean that you can join in the fast at any time. Keep telling your friends about it, and even if they join in at day 39 or 40 their prayers will do the Lord’s work.

I will be following a modified fast because I am a nursing mother. Please read on for the Catholic rules of fasting. (Emphasis added by me.)

"Fasting. The law of fasting requires a Catholic from the 18th Birthday [Canon 97] to the 59th Birthday [i.e. the beginning of the 60th year, a year which will be completed on the 60th birthday] to reduce the amount of food eaten from normal. The Church defines this as one meal a day, and two smaller meals which if added together would not exceed the main meal in quantity. Such fasting is obligatory on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. The fast is broken by eating between meals and by drinks which could be considered food (milk shakes, but not milk). Alcoholic beverages do not break the fast; however, they seem to be contrary to the spirit of doing penance.

Those who are excused from fast or abstinence. Besides those outside the age limits, those of unsound mind, the sick, the frail, pregnant or nursing women according to need for meat or nourishment, manual laborers according to need, guests at a meal who cannot excuse themselves without giving great offense or causing enmity and other situations of moral or physical impossibility to observe the penitential discipline.

Aside from these minimum penitential requirements Catholics are encouraged to impose some personal penance on themselves at other times. It could be modeled after abstinence and fasting. A person could, for example, multiply the number of days they abstain. Some people give up meat entirely for religious motives (as opposed to those who give it up for health or other motives). Some religious orders, as a penance, never eat meat. Similarly, one could multiply the number of days that one fasted. The early Church had a practice of a Wednesday and Saturday fast. This fast could be the same as the Church's law (one main meal and two smaller ones) or stricter, even bread and water. Such freely chosen fasting could also consist in giving up something one enjoys - candy, soft drinks, smoking, that cocktail before supper, and so on. This is left to the individual.

One final consideration. Before all else we are obliged to perform the duties of our state in life. Any deprivation that would seriously hinder us in carrying out our work, as students, employees or parents would be contrary to the will of God."

---- Colin B. Donovan, STL

For other posts I have written on the topic of fasting click here.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

An Open Letter to Bernie Sanders

Dear Mr. Sanders,
I am extremely disappointed that you chose to dissent to the recent proposal of Calendar No. 701, S. 1810, the Prenatally and Postnatally Diagnosed Conditions Awareness Act. I have a close friend who chose to keep her Down Syndrome child and had to go through her pregnancy with little positive support or counseling. That child is now 6 years old and a shining light to all who know her. I also have several friends who received false positives on prenatal tests, and went through the entire pregnancy expecting to have a Down Syndrome child. They were pressured to abort and refused. What pregnant women need is information and compassion. I think you have some explaining to do on this, and hope that you will reconsider your position when the measure is reintroduced to the floor.
Elizabeth K. Miller
Blogger, The Divine Gift of Motherhood
P.S. I am printing this letter in my blog and will happily print your response.

You can read all about this issue here

You can click here to send your comments to Senator Bernie Sanders

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Movie Meme

I was tagged for this fun Meme by Leticia Velasquez…

1. Which actor do you think hasn't gotten the attention he/she deserves?

Emmy Rossum, who played Christine in The Phantom of the Opera (2004).

2. What is your favorite movie line?

That would have to be from “Gone With the Wind”, which is the favorite movie of both me and my husband. Rhett Butler, after Scarlett O’Hara Butler discovers, too late, that she loves him,
“That’s your misfortune.”
My Second favorite line is oft delivered by Scarlett O’Hara:
“Tomorrow’s another day.”

3. What is the absolute worst movie you've ever seen?
Dumb, Dumb, and Dumber

4. Is there a movie you hated when you first saw it and then later had to admit you were wrong?
Fight Club. I can watch this over and over and still be mesmerized by it. I can easily switch my answers with these last two questions…

5. What is your biggest guilty pleasure movie - the one you're ashamed you enjoy?
The 40-Year-Old Virgin
. (Are you shocked?) It is definitely an adult-only movie and full of perverse humour, but at least they waited until they got married (even if it was for all the wrong reasons)! It also demonstrates that a woman can “start over” with being chaste, and shows role reversal in that it is the man who wants to wait this time.

I tag Loren Elizabeth Christie for this meme.

A Trip to the Library

Yesterday we made a long-overdue visit to the library. Our last visit was the first Wednesday of August, whereupon we had added dozens of borrowed books to our already growing collection. I got these together before the start of school, piling them into a corner of my dining room, hoping to rid myself of some clutter before September. However, we were unable to get ourselves together for a visit before school started, and the pile proved to be too enormous for me alone to cart in with my baby.

So I kept renewing them all every Wednesday online. This online renewal system has been both a boon and a bane. Although it is helpful to be able to do so, I tend to lean on that ability too much. It is especially helpful when the library closes at 9 and you can still renew online until midnight. But then I inevitably miss the date to renew and all of a sudden I owe lots of spare change in overdue fines; plus then I HAVE to get there to return them because you can’t renew a book once it is overdue. Sometimes the book is lost by that time; then I have to turn the house upside down to find it.

In the olden days, I would have a printed receipt that I would post on my refrigerator. Every time I returned a book, I would check it off. I NEVER had an overdue book. There also was a reasonable limit to the number of books you could check out – say, 20 items per family. Then, with the dawn of online everything, the library started to allow an unlimited number of books and old movies.

Every time I went to the library, I would set a limit, telling my children, “three each”, or something like that. But they would have their three so quickly, and see something else they HAD to have. How could I say no to a child so enthusiastic about reading something? For the movies, the limit was more severe. “I think the library has a limit of 2 per card,” I tried once.

“Oh no, you can take out 10 DVDs per card, and as many VHSs as you like,” a librarian had to tell us.

“Thanks so much,” I replied, shooting darts at her with my eyes.

We are such a sight coming home. I do tell them they must carry whatever they pick out, and very often my seven-year-old son repeatedly tips his pile as we trip out to the parking lot. I must look like a real meanie, making my kids carry all those heavy books! But I just have my meager five or so – I will only have time for one, but my eyes are too big for my brain sometimes as well.

Early yesterday, I attempted to renew everything once again. However, “That’s Not My Dinosaur” came up with a red ON HOLD, which meant it could not be renewed. So it was time to go. Right after dinner, I ordered the children to pile up all the books in the trunk and get going.

We came back with a moderate sized pile this time. I limited myself to ONE book of rhymes that I can read to my toddler. The others followed suit. My son got five books on tigers for a report on the animal of his choice. The original “The Time Machine by H.G. Wells” and “Madeline” (not the animated series) were the only movies we took home.

We did no recreational reading today, but we did watch “Madeline” and count the number of Ludwig Bemelmans’ stories that they were able to fit into the production. It was a real hoot, with nothing I found objectionable. My toddler turned out the lights and pretended to look for Pepito.

“And that’s all there is; there isn’t anymore.”

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Rosary in the Windshield

Relaxing on the couch after a long afternoon of painting, I looked up to see my toddler crouched over something, looking intently. Not having my glasses on, I had a hunch it was a frog or a toad. What it was doing in my living room is anyone’s guess. “Girls!” I called. My nine-year-old with the heart of a lion came to the rescue, catching the amphibian and letting it out the back door.

I was not sure whether the baby had touched it, but I figured she was due for a bath anyway. Lately she has not been liking the bathtub, and stands in it screaming until the unpleasantries are done with. Over her screaming, I heard the telephone ring. The answering machine picked up.

“Hello, you have reached the Miller residence. Please leave a message and have a nice day.”

I never say I will call you back or anything like that. I don’t say I’m sorry I missed your call. Many of the times I am not sorry I missed the call (as in telemarketers, usually) and have no intention of calling back. But I do hope you have a nice day, no matter who you are.

“Liz, are you there? If you’re there could you please pick up?”

It was my husband. I yelled to the girls to get the phone. They were supposed to be in the kitchen making lunches, but they were playing upstairs and were unable to get to the telephone on time.

From his tone, I knew it had something to do with the car. Recently his car passed the 300,000 mile mark and expired. He bought me another mini-van and took mine for work purposes. As soon as he took possession of it, the engine light came on. “Figures,” he had said.

I quickly rinsed off the baby, dried her off, dressed her, and called him back.

“I just got into a car accident,” he said.

Kevin is an excellent driver, but there is no accounting for people who will drive through red lights and stop signs in the areas he has to drive through for business on a daily basis. He has had more than his share of such episodes, and this was one of them.

“Are you all right?” I asked.

“Yeah, just aggravated,” he answered.

He was not too far from home, and soon everyone was able to kiss him hello before heading off to bed. We all inspected the dent where he had been t-boned, on the passenger side.

I thanked the Lord he was able to drive away from this one, and wondered how much the rosary had to do with it. The first thing I always put in a new car is a rosary, which I hang from the rear view mirror, wrapping it around so it is not too much of an obstruction.

I recalled a small but significant detail that I had left out of the story of my own car accident. I told of how, parked in the post office parking lot, I looked up and saw a white minivan FLYING directly at my windshield. I ducked and instinctively reached for the baby, who was in the rear carseat. I thought we were done for. For some unaccountable reason, it suddenly veered in mid-air, like a curve ball, and hit the left side of my car rather than the windshield. I think that was the protection of the rosary.

A quick google search has shown me that there is actually such thing as an automobile rosary, which you affix to your steering wheel so you can contemplate the mysteries as you drive. Hmmm, I don’t know about that; there are enough mysteries driving other cars to look out for. We are to “pray always”, but there is a certain kind of praying that allows one to be retain full attention on the road, and I do not think the rosary is that type of prayer. I did find this Blessing of an Automobile on

Blessing of an Automobile

V. Our help is in the name of the Lord.
R. Who has made heaven and earth.
V. The Lord be with you.
R. And with your spirit.

Let us pray.Lend a willing ear, Lord God, to our prayers, and bless this vehicle with Your holy right hand. Direct Your holy angels to accompany it, that they may free those who ride in it from all dangers, and always guard them. And just as by Your deacon Philip You gave faith and grace to the man of Ethiopia as he sat in his chariot reading the Sacred Word, so, point out to Your servants the way of salvation. Grant that, aided by Your grace, and with their hearts set on good works, they may, after all the joys and sorrows of this journey through life, merit to receive eternal joys, through Christ our Lord.

R. Amen.(And it is sprinkled with holy water.)

Monday, September 15, 2008

UNICEF this Halloween?

A reader commented on one of my UNICEF posts, which was a quote from LifeNews 2006, asking for evidence about the link between UNICEF and abortion providers. The most current report from LifeNews is still warning against giving to UNICEF. For more on this see my detailed comments on last year's post on this topic, which I have updated today in response to the reader. Thanks to a dear friend for her help in getting me the links for these reports.

"Parents Warned Against Giving to UNICEF this Halloween - UNICEF Still Promoting Abortion
By John-Henry Westen

TORONTO, October 30, 2007 ( - Halloween is here again, and with it the fundraising drive for UNICEF, the so-called children's fund of the United Nations, which has been mired in abortion support for the last twenty years. The organization has not learned from its past and continues to engage in the anti-life agenda. Earlier this month UNICEF joined Planned Parenthood International and the UN's population control arm UNFPA in sponsoring a women's conference, one thirds of which was dedicated to promoting abortion. ( )

UNICEF has been implicated in population control and "family planning" measures for many years as thoroughly documented in Winifride Prestwich's 1993 pamphlet UNICEF: Guilty as charged. The organization descended even further in 1995 when Carol Bellamy, a radical pro-abortion activist, became the executive director of the organization, a post she held till April 2005. From her elevated position, Bellamy turned UNICEF into a more direct force behind the promotion of abortion and abortifacient contraceptives working hand in hand with the notorious UN Population Fund (UNFPA) in such activities. (See's archive on such UNICEF activities: )

The change in focus at UNICEF quickly became apparent causing the Vatican's UN Mission to issue a press release in 1996 noting that it was withdrawing its symbolic donation of support to UNICEF. The release noted that UNICEF had "begun to divert some of its already scarce economic and human resources from the care of the most basic needs of children" to abortion supporting activities. (see the Vatican release: )

Jim Hughes, Vice President of International Right to Life Federation suggested that pro-lifers use the opportunity to give support to international aid organizations assisting mothers and children in the developing world, and at the same time respect the right to life.

Such organizations include:

MaterCare International

Canadian Food for Children

The Holy Childhood Association

Pro-life supporters looking for a home for their donations can also send assistance to directly through our website:

Thursday, September 11, 2008

“Invisible Chores”: The White Picket Fence

I love to just “relatively loaf” around for a few weeks in between tackling major chores. Fall and spring are both my busiest seasons, so I like to give myself a “reading vacation” in August to gear up for September, and in January or February before Spring. “Relatively loafing” means that, relative to my normal activity level, I consider myself to be loafing. A “reading vacation” means that only minimal maintenance is accomplished. The most major task I will tackle is the act of reading a complete novel.

This week, with the first full days of school, I began the gargantuan task of painting my white picket fence. This is what I call an “invisible chore”. Like dusting and vacuuming, it is a task that does not get noticed unless it is neglected. Painting a new color is much more glamorous because everyone is bound to notice. But white on white is not too rewarding.

Still, it must be done, and when I get up close and see what a real difference I am really making in the condition of the wood pickets, I am really glad I did not skip another season. I am certain I have not coated the fence since before my last pregnancy, and it is a job that really should be done every other year.

As I painted, I recalled a quote that I had read in the paper during Christie Brinkley’s public divorce proceedings. She said, “I thought I had the white picket fence.” What she meant was, she thought she had the perfect marriage until the horrendous revelation otherwise. The white picket fence has always represented the suburban American dream, usually going along with marriage, 2.5 kids, and a dog.

When we see a white picket fence dividing front and back yards on a luscious green lawn, we usually do not think about what goes into its maintenance. It is menial. It is not glamorous. It is not romantic. You have to get your hands dirty, and maybe even paint in your hair. The same goes for marriage – especially with kids. Not until you are in it do you realize what really goes into it from day to day.

If you don’t keep up with those invisible chores, the white picket fence starts to gray a bit. Another season and a layer of mold begins to grow. Yet another and the paint begins to peel. Next comes the weather rot, which invites the termites to come have a party. Then you have to start replacing pickets. If you don’t, the whole fence might just come down.

And you don’t want that.

So just keep up the good work to keep up your strong fence, and family.

“Garden Roses White Picket Fence” Painting by Heidi Malott

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Elizabeth’s Pudding-Filled Chocolate Chocolate Chip Meringue Pie and Drops

I am taking credit for the creation of this new concoction, although it is based on a combination of recipes found in The All New Joy of Cooking. This is what we did while waiting for Tropical Storm Hanna to blow over our house.

Start with the recipe for Meringue I, which is based on granulated sugar. Beat 4-5 large egg whites, enough to make ½ cup; 1 teaspoon vanilla; and ½ teaspoon cream of tartar. Gradually add 1 cup of superfine sugar (I used regular granulated sugar). Beat until the meringue holds very stiff peaks. (Because I failed to wait until my eggs had achieved room temperature, mine never did form proper peaks.) Optional: add 3 tablespoons of Hershey’s unsweetened cocoa during the last step to make it chocolate.

This is what the pre-cooked chocolate meringue looks like without the proper peaks:

To make the meringue pie shell, butter a pie form and spread the meringue into the form with the back of a spoon. Optional: sprinkle with chocolate chips before baking. Use a spoon to drop the remains onto wax or parchment paper on a cookie sheet.

This is what the pre-cooked crust looks like:

Bake in a preheated oven at 225 degrees F for 1 ½ to 2 hours. To test, take one of the small drops out of the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes. The middle should be crisp. Leave in turned-off oven to cool and serve immediately if possible.

This is what the pre-filled baked crust looks like. The middle will become crispy as it cools:

In the meantime, prepare the Vanilla Pudding filling. You could use a mix, of course, but this recipe is so simple and the ingredients readily available; you are certainly to find the results superior to any mix you have every made. In a heavy saucepan, mix ½ cup sugar, 2 1/2 tbsp. corn starch,and 1/8 tsp. salt. Gradually stir in 1/3 cup whole milk or half-and-half until you have a runny paste. Whisk in 1 2/3 cup whole milk or half-and-half. Heat over medium heat, stirring until mixture thickens. Reduce heat to low; stirring briskly, bring to a simmer and cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in 2 tsp. vanilla. Pour the pudding into a container, pressing plastic wrap onto the surface to prevent film from developing. Cool in refrigerator for about 2 hours.

The cooling of the crust and the pudding should coincide. Once the pie crust has cooled, fill it with the pudding. If you like, top it with chocolate chips. Serve immediately. The house will smell so heavenly you are bound to have plenty of customers lined up by this time.

This is the baked and filled pie ready to serve:

Drops can be stored in an airtight container. Pudding-filled pie must be refrigerated and will become soft overnight, but it still tastes good.

These are the baked drops ready to serve:

All pictures and recipe medley owned by Elizabeth K. Miller.

Monday, September 8, 2008

What Ever Will I Do With Myself?

My favorite outspoken cashier was at it again today. My long-time readers may remember the story about the cashier who, upon noticing my then-blossoming pregnant tummy, remarked, “Oops!” She always has something to say about the type and amount of groceries I buy. “The Millers are buying out the store again!” she’ll announce, thinking it is funny for the hundredth time.

Today, we were discussing how all our children were getting along in their new school year. She leaned over to my toddler and said, “Mommy won’t know what to do with herself once you go to school.”

I said jocundly, “Oh, I always find plenty to keep myself busy.”

“I know, cleaning and stuff. . .” she trailed off.

I knew better than to correct her. But as I went home the thought horrified me, that people think all stay-at-home-moms-with-school-aged-kids (SAHMWSAK) do is stay at home and clean! What horrified me even worse was that I used to be once of those who wondered what stay-at-home mothers did when their children were in school all day. I did think life must be dreadfully dull.

That was back in my homeschooling days, when I had more than my hands full with three children constantly in my care. I commented about one such SAHMWSAK in my neighborhood to another homeschooling mom.

“I wonder what she does all day?” I mused.

“I bet you could eat off her floor. . .,” answered my friend.

“But she has a house cleaner come every week.”

“She probably does charity work,” reasoned my friend.

The fact of it is that, although it may seem that we clean all day, we do not. A friend of mine who keeps a lovely, tastefully decorated and well-organized home, actually clocks her housework at 3.5 hours per week! That leaves an awful lot of time for do more intellectually fulfilling activities!

Once I had the children in school and “just” a newborn baby at home, I thought my life would be one of luxury and constant streams of creative writing. I learned all too well, too quickly, that that was not to be so.

Those of us whose husbands work overtime to afford us the ability to stay at home often turn into do-it-yourselfers, out of necessity. Jobs normally relegated to the husband or a hired handyman are taken on by us tough super-moms. The more we learn to do, the more we see of what we would love to learn to do, if only we had the time!

I look at my yard and fill in the empty spaces with raised garden beds that I will build, fill in, and plant. I see in my imagination brick walls around groves of trees, overflowing with bulbs. On every fence are roses of every color, climbing, falling, blossoming. . .

I look at my bathroom walls and sigh, thinking of the free How To Tile clinic given at Home Depot on Saturday mornings. One day I will take that course and have bathrooms a millionaire would envy.

And of course there are my novels, books and books of handwritten pages just looking to be edited, word-processed, and proposed about.

Oh, if they only knew. . .

The funny thing of it is that my own mother, who worked as a per diem registered nurse when I was younger, defied categorization. Some days she was a stay-at-home mom. Some days she was a working mom. I always knew she filled all too many shoes. Later we would earn our masters’ degrees together!

But still we fall easily into stereotyping, especially when we finally find a clique of moms “just like us”. (I have yet to re-find that – and am not sure I want to.) We need to justify our own decisions to work, not work, work part-time, work-at-home; send our kids to private or public school, or homeschool, or maybe a little bit of both. If we are not too sure about ourselves we must by necessity see “the other” as wrong so we can be right.

I see Palin as one role model that will help bring together all mothers. Already I see the stay-at-home moms blogging in favor of Palin’s decision to be involved in politics at the highest level while also tackling the tough problems of mothering. She has shown us, just by being who she is and proud of it, that when you point your finger, three are pointing right back at you.

So what will I do when I am a SAHMWSAK? A little bit of this, a little bit of that, a whole lot of the other. I publicly pledge than not more than ten percent of my time will be spent on cleaning. I am sure it will be quite fulfilling.

Painting, Mary Cassatt, Mother and Child against a Green Background (Maternity) , 1897

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Joys of Homemade Bread

With dozens of varieties of bread readily available in the supermarket, why on earth would anyone want to slave over homemade bread? My personal reasons, not in any particular order, include:

1. I made a birthday resolution to try at least one new recipe per week.

2. My toddler loves bread and can easily devour enough so that there is not enough to make sandwiches the next day.

3. The cost of a loaf just keeps rising.

4. Just about every commercially made bread out there – even the “natural whole wheat” varieties – contains high fructose corn syrup and preservatives with suspicious-sounding names.

My first attempt was a semi-success. We used a recipe calling for fast-acting yeast. The dough was supposed to double in volume. We put it in the garage, which was the warmest room in the house during the evening. The kids thought it was really “cool” how “huge” the dough got – but it did not even rise a third. It was also “doughy”, according to my husband. I thought that if it had risen enough it might be lighter – and perhaps large enough to make an actual sandwich.

So we repeated our attempt. I let my two older daughters have a hand at following the recipe themselves. This particular recipe (from The New Joy of Cooking) was “Fast White Bread”, which can easily be made into whole wheat bread simply by substituting whole wheat flour. This time we let the dough rise out in the sun, with spectacular results. The first loaf was gone by dinner (during which my husband ate a piece and did not complain;) the second by breakfast the next day.

“I want to eat this kind of bread for the rest of my life!” my daughters declared.

Of course, we ran out of flour, and are back to eating store-bought bread until we have the resources of both time and ingredients.

I think the best reason of all to make homemade bread is that it is an awesome experience!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Before the Storm

The first week of school is always like a whirlwind, especially with the typical introductory half-days of Catholic school. The children come and go so quickly that I do not even attempt to get anything done that will require too much time or attention. My husband, toddler, and I take the mornings slowly, eating a leisurely breakfast while reading the newspaper. I do some light housework in the main living area, before bidding my husband goodbye and taking my little one out in her red wagon to wait for the bus to return.

School supplies having been purchased long ago, each child has a very specific list of exactly which supplies and books are to be brought in on which day. This used to drive me absolutely crazy. Fortunately, they are now responsible enough to take their own lists in hand and pack their own bags. Our summer work was not due until the second day of school, and so the first afternoon was spent putting the final touches on book reports and math assignments.

The second day we were free to go to the beach; our timing could not have been better. (On Friday the beaches were all closed in anticipation of a middle-rate hurricane expected to hit on Saturday.) The high tides over the weekend from Hurricane Gustav had wiped out a third of the beach, which dropped off steeply into the ocean. By Thursday the beach was clean and clear and the tide had dropped. The haze was so incredible; it settled down on the water so that swimmers seemed to disappear into another world.

We took our red wagon and settled ourselves among three deep holes that others before us had dug. The youngest one was afraid of the waves, and rightly so. She was happy to slide into the holes and find her way back up, over and over again.

Our fellow patrons were mostly middle-aged and older, with the exception of a few mothers with pre-schoolers in tow. A small group of college-aged youngsters showed up and shook things up for about fifteen minutes, taking movies of everyone with their cell phones and annoying us with their cigarette smoke. But they were easily bored and we were soon left in peace once again.

I had planned on leftovers for dinner and had a little free time on my hands after everyone had showered. I decided to try my hand at home-baked bread. I used the recipe for "quick bread" in The New Joy of Cooking. I mixed together the dry ingredients and let my eleven-year-old finished up. She was so excited to see the dough rise. Now I know why unleavened bread was used at Passover. Even quick-rising bread takes all night! They were all in bed by the time the loaf was completed.

My toddler loves bread, and this loaf looked enough like cake that she thought she was getting a real treat for breakfast. My husband thought it was good but a little “doughy”; and opted for store-made rye bread for his lunch. But when the kids got home from school, they finished off that loaf and my two older girls decided to make two more for the weekend.

I do not usually watch prime-time television, but my computer time has been taken up by the Republican Convention this week. I am so excited about Palin, a pioneering woman we can all aspire to emulate. Seeing the families of Palin and McCain together - What a tribute to a Culture of Life! I also loved when McCain said, "I hate war". People thought he was a war-monger but his position is so much more understandable after his life story has been expounded upon this past week.

While I work on my post, the girls come into the study every few minutes asking me questions to clarify the cookbook’s directions. I am trying to catch up on all my computer work for the week. After I clear out my e-mail box I then will set about removing all loose objects from the yard.

Hurricanes on Long Island are always fodder for excitement and speculation. The weather experts have long predicted another “hundred year storm” to hit us directly. Most of the time we get away with a few downed trees and power lines. We love to watch the weather channel. The kids hope for an electric outage so we can put our candles and batteries to good use. It seems like we’ve been cheated if we just get a little downpour; yet we are thankful when we are spared a catastrophe yet again.

Photograph taken September 4, 2008 by Elizabeth Kathryn Miller.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Where would all the Faeries Go?

We decided to take an impromptu trip to visit relatives in Massachusetts this weekend. We took a different route on the way up, along the shoreline. It was the most ugly road I have ever traveled on. Although the ocean was less than a half-mile away, the landscape was marred by cement and machinery. My head was full of nostalgia and fanciful notions from reading the Anne of Green Gables series. In that time and place, one would walk for miles through the woods to get to a friend’s house. Technology was not present to interfere with social calls and the aesthetics of nature. I started thinking about faeries. If they could live on earth, where would they live? I looked in various groves of trees, trying to picture little pixies trying to make their abode there. How could they stand the noise and pollution? No, they would likely be pushed further and further north, quite possibly to Prince Edward Island.

[Note: I do love bridges and have included this painting of the Throgs Neck Bridge at Sunset because that is the bridge we took; it was the road we took through otherwise lovely Connecticut that spoiled things for me. ]

A watercolor by Antonio Masi, "Throgs Neck Bridge: Sunset.", 2006