Friday, July 31, 2009

Beauty in the Granite Sky

It started out as a muggy, hot and humid day. I was stuck inside with work to do on my computer while waiting for my cable modem to be installed. The kids were tremendously patient, having a ball making mud pies in the backyard. My eldest one was away for the weekend and they were hoping to do something exciting to make her jealous.

“Can we go to the beach?” they asked me repeatedly.

“Maybe…we’ll see…let’s see when the guy gets here and how the weather looks…”

I looked at the newspaper and secretly planned to take them to the movies at 3:20. That time came and went and the installation was still not done. I grabbed my Flannery O’Connor book and sat on the couch, fighting sleep because I hadn’t slept well the night before.

Finally, at 4:30 I was free to leave the house. I looked up at the sky. There were dark grey clouds in one direction. If I drove in the opposite direction I might be able to beat the storm to Smith Point Beach.

“Okay everyone,” I finally declared, “If you want to go to the beach get your suits on and meet me in the car in five minutes.”

It’s amazing how fast kids can get something done when properly motivated.

We drove all the way down William Floyd Parkway. It was remarkable how different the blue sky in front of me looked in comparison with the darkness in my rear-view mirror. By the time we crossed the bridge, the grey was right on the other side of the bridge from the beach.

We walked through the tunnel as the lifeguards were clearing the water. People were leaving in droves, giving us odd looks as we walked in the opposite direction. As we walked onto the beach, the darkness completely covered us. We had traveled light (carrying nothing but cell phone, keys and glasses) and were prepared to run to the tunnel if there was thunder or lightning.

As the ocean came into view, we were struck with awe. The waves were huge in the blue-black water. The huge, billowing granite clouds came almost down to the water, leaving a strip of blue directly over the water as we looked straight ahead. To our sides, light grey came all the way down to the ocean.

“Maybe it will blow over,” suggested my ever-optimistic ten-year-old who has an uncanny tendency to be correct.

“Somehow I doubt that, but it was definitely worth coming just to see this. Too bad I didn’t bring my camera.” I checked the time on my cell phone. 5:05. We’d probably be out of there by 5:15.

The kids climbed on top of a mound of sand. “You stay on top of there,” I warned my three-year-old. I could see the force of the rip tide. Ever daring, she tried to step off. “The ocean wants to take you away,” I said jokingly but meaning it quite seriously, knowing with her personality this comment wouldn’t scare her but give her a healthy respect of the ocean, “Do you want to go out there or stay here with your Mommy?”
She gave me a smile and a hug that meant, “Definitely here with you, although that sure looks fascinating.”

“Too bad you didn’t bring your camera,” my daughter said.

“You should write about this on your blog,” said my son.

“Well, sometimes it is good just to take in a scene and store it in your memory. I can definitely describe this in words,” I promised.

At 5:15 it started to rain, lightly. The few families around us left. Apart from a few surfers, we were alone on the beach. “Let’s go,” I said. I turned around and saw that the shades of grey were lightening, letting in bits of blue. “Or maybe not. Let’s see what happens.”

By 5:25 it had stopped raining and the sun was making its entrance through a hole in the clouds behind us. The blackness in front of us had turned to dark blue. The waves became calmer and I allowed the kids to put their feet in. “Just your feet, if you get your clothes wet we’ll never do this again.”

I tucked my ten-year-old’s glasses into my shirt for safe keeping. Last time we came at night she lost them under a wave and these were a replacement pair. I had made the same threat last time, but this is one that they know I don’t follow through on. I held onto both my three-year-old hands and kept vigilant watch that the eight- and ten-year-olds didn’t go past their knees. I hoped I wouldn’t drop my daughter’s glasses myself.

Now the sky above us was such a pretty pattern of changing blues and whispy white clouds. I hated that we would have to leave soon, but we still had to shower, eat dinner, and get to the library.

At 5:45 we went up to the boardwalk to clean off. The showers were too cold, so I washed the little one’s feet and shoes (as well as my own) in the warm water fountain. We had forgotten to take towels, so we got into the leather seats of the car as we were.

On the way back, we re-entered a uniform grey mist. The rain increased as we came closer to our house.

We’d salvaged a little beauty from what most would call a really crummy day.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Small Successes Cryptic Edition


I’ll be speaking in riddles in this edition to protect the innocent and not-so-much-so. I think most people can think of their own situations to which these might apply.

This week my small successes include:

1. Getting my children away from a sticky situation before it turned into something serious. “A wise man sees trouble and hides.” (Proverbs)

2. Helping my children to develop new friendships.

3. Keeping quiet when speaking would contribute to more strife between people.

This week I am thankful for:

1. My marriage to a man who always seems to be on the same wavelength as me on just about everything. It really seems like a miracle when two people can meet when they are young and stay on the same page for 18 years. (Met 18 years ago, married 16 years ago.)

2. Neighbors who can carpool with me to sporting events.

3. My new laptop and the soon-to-be-installed wireless.

For more small successes see volume 28 of Faith and Family Live’s Small Successes.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

No Loitering Please

As I sprinted from King Kullen to my car with the morning’s milk, I was accosted by a middle-aged blonde woman with glasses.

“I don’t want to keep you for long,” she said as I opened my car door, “It looks like you’re doing double time.”

She held out two brochures. I read the headlines “Depression” and “Bible Stories” and knew she was a Jehovah’s Witness. I usually can spot these a mile away and am able to escape them by simply not answering the door.

I said simply, “No thanks. I’m Catholic.”

“That’s okay, but…”

“I’m sorry, but I’m really in a hurry,” I said in a cordial but firm tone, now in my car with my keys in the ignition, “I really have to go now.”

I started up the car and drove away.

My Dad used to have a sign in his window that said, “No Trespassing”. I suppose the proper sign would have been “No Loitering” as what he was trying to prevent was door-to-door sales. Whenever someone came to our door trying to get us to buy or sign something, he would said abruptly, “Can you read?”

They would stop and give him a confused look. They’d say “What?” or “Excuse me?” and he would repeat himself (“broken record” was one of his mottos).

“Can you read?” he would say again, pointing to the sign.

“Oh,” they would usually say, and walk away.

I definitely inherit my Dad’s ability to say “No” but am a little kinder and gentler about it. When God told us to love our neighbor, I don’t think He meant for us to let them trespass on every facet of our lives.

An Anniversary, a Birthday, and a New Computer

It was a very busy, exciting weekend here at the Miller home. First, we celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary. Typically we celebrate by doing our normal day-to-day activity: working, softball, etc., even the mundane covered dish (lamb chops) for my husband’s dinner as he will still work his normal hours. We have a cake at the end of the day with candles.

Then we got to work preparing the house and yard (in between thunderstorms) for my three-year-old’s birthday party. When she woke up Sunday morning, I told her it was her birthday and her response was “CAKE!” She was happy when some little girls joined her in the pool, and I was happy to get the adults out of the air conditioning and two of them into the pool. It was a lovely day.

In between all this, I finally got to PC Richard to buy myself my anniversary present, a new laptop, my first new computer since 2001. I purchased it Saturday night after softball practice, put the box away, and kept up with my food preparations.

So I finally opened up the box after midnight on Sunday (technically, Monday). With a small school scissor, I gingerly sliced upon the sealing tape. I peeled back the protective clear plastic to reveal the shiny black casing of the computer. With great excitement, I popped open the laptop to reveal the 17-inch screen. I turned on the power and listened to the background music as the machine powered up. It asked me to create a name and password.

With finality, I typed in “Elizabeth-PC”. Yes, this one is all mine. No kids will use it as a CD or DVD player or for school work. This machine will contain my whole life: family, softball, home business, writing career, finances, educational. With “Phantom of the Opera” playing in my bedroom, I started up the recovery disk program. I had an old bath of DVDs and put in the first one. As it loaded up the backup files I paged through the manual.

A warning popped out at me just in time. Apparently you are not supposed to leave a laptop or the adaptor on a soft surface such as a bed. My sheets were red-hot. I propped up the machine and adaptor on some books and turned on The Honeymooners. Ralph Cramden decided to purchase a summer cottage, a great deal that went sour. Around 2 a.m. I was informed that there was an error verifying the files on the disk. I closed down to start again in the morning.

Monday morning I got a fresh start, with a new disk. We went to get my tires for my husband’s vehicle and came back to the same error message. I put a call into two friends who were more expert than me in computers; they were perplexed. Three times was a charm though, and after several more hours my disks were completed. (Later when I told our friend how old the disks were he said that probably explained it.)

So I’m up and running with the laptop, but still working on the old desktop while waiting for my wireless connection to be installed. Now back to Mavis Tire to get the tires on my minivan.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Small Successes Wedding Anniversary Edition

This week my small successes include:

1. Remembering to make my husband lunch every morning.

2. Keeping our 11:00 t.v. date every night.

3. Getting my husband to let me cut his hair.

This week I am thankful for:

1. My marriage: 16 years today.

2. My children: the littlest one turns 3 this week.

3. Wireless service and the new laptop I will be shopping for this weekend.

For volume 27 of Faith and Family Live’s Small Successes click here

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


My 500th post is dedicated to the memory of my “Poppop”, John S. Nagy. It was he who passed on to me a love of newspapers, especially the “funnies” section. Every summer I would visit him and Nanna in their Apollo Beach, Florida home for two weeks. He would wake up at around 5:00 every morning, make coffee for Nanna, and walk with Penny to get the newspaper. Then he would make eggs and sausages for breakfast. He taught me how to do the cryptoquote, and would cut them out for me and mail them in an envelope because we didn’t get the paper at home. To this day I do the cryptoquote and read Peanuts daily, and recently published a Wordy Gurdy rhyme in Newsday. When Poppop learned that I was a writer, he became one of my biggest fans and encouraged me to do it professionally. I know he is up in Heaven cheering me on.

As great as the Internet is, I hope that newspapers never die. We love to spread ours out on the kitchen table as we eat breakfast. The kids read the sports section, I read the weather and news headlines, and my husband goes through pretty much the whole thing. We cut out Peanuts cartoons that have to do with baseball and put them up on the fridge. Newspapers are also great for wrapping presents, lining pets’ cages, making kites, insulating drafty garages, and making you feel like you’re doing something for the world by recycling them.

My friend Leticia has been my greatest inspiration when it comes to publishing on the Internet. Loren Christie leaves uplifting comments on almost every one of my posts. My mom is my biggest fan and is helping me to build a book that is based on my best devotional essays. Julie lets me know when she really likes what I’ve written, and passes it on to others. My siblings Joanna and James have always encouraged me. My husband supports me in all my endeavors and my kids of course are the source of all my writing ideas. Last but not least are my readers. Knowing that you are clicking over expecting another post keeps me writing every day. Thank you.


The rain came back to Long Island today, like an old familiar friend who might be annoying but whom you feel comfortable around. I had been dreaming about softball, and woke up thinking about what had gone wrong with our travel team this year.

Commitment. It’s a word that people throw around and pretend they have, but how many really do? Last night I showed up for 6:00 12-and-under game at 5:15. The opposing team and their families, all in red, were all there. I sat there all alone in my greenery, notebook in hand to record our attendance. They started straggling in at 5:30, which is supposed to be the latest time that our girls get there.

Our managing coach was camping with his family that day and started getting phone calls in the late afternoon. “I decided to surprise my daughter with a ticket to the Jonas Brothers Concert tonight.” Repeated phone calls of this nature brought the roster down from 15 girls to 8.

At the same time, the mother who was supposed to bring my 10-year-old daughter to her practice (at a different location) had to cancel because she had to help another mother with her infant. There was some alternative plan of getting her there that involved leaving her an unknown person’s house. Something told me there was a reason she needed to stay with me that night, and I called her coach to explain; it was her first missed practice this season.

She came in her uniform – which matches that of the older team – and good thing she did, because they needed her to make 9 players. She held her own in the outfield, walked to first, and stole to second. I was proud.

Our girls were hitting last night, the fruits of the intense batting practice they had in the 90-degree weather this past Saturday. My 12-year-old hit a homerun. But the errors in the outfield were such that we just kept letting the other team score runs, and we ended early under the Mercy Rule. (After the fourth inning, if the other team is up by 10 points, the umpire can end the game.)

The parents who were there were all on the same page as me. You sign up for a team, you are responsible to the team to be there. All other plans should be made around the schedule you committed to. If you have too many commitments, maybe you should reprioritize.

The only reason we would miss a game (other than sickness) would be for religious sacraments within the family: marriages, burials, First Communions, Baptisms. God trumps sports. But He also is in all things including sports, and calls us to do all things in such a way that glorifies Him. In spiritual things Revelations 3:16 says, “So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” Either do it all the way or don’t bother. There will be much pruning of the branches of this team’s vine come the fall.

Chapter 15
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.
He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.
You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.
Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.
Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned.
If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.
By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sunday Snippets Carnival July 19, 2009

This week I…

· Participated in Gae’s “Hearts for Home” forum

· Wrote about maintaining a State of Grace while others misuse their tongues

· listed my Small Successes for the week

· wrote about passion and softball, concluding with a quote from Sirach

For more faith-filled Sunday Snippets please go to This That and The Other Thing

Friday, July 17, 2009

Passion: Softball Fever

I feel like I must be boring everyone now because all I can think about is softball. Not only do we play it every day. Everywhere we go we bump into people from one of the teams: at the beach, Wal-mart, King Kullen. I often forget which team they are from. We just call them softball people.

When friends and family call and ask me what is new, my mind is a blank. Life seems to be just one continuous softball game, abbreviated by meals, sleeping, and swimming. When I get on the computer, the first thing I do is my daily updates for the team website, before any writing or personal emailing.

I think it is important for people to be passionate about something. All my life I have been drawn to people who threw their energy into one particular cause or activity, even if it was something I was not interested in. One of my friends in college was a horsewoman. I am not at all interested in horses, but my first conversation with her (on the plane to Budapest, where I spent a semester) she spoke with such brilliance in her eyes about her love of horseback riding. We became fierce friends from then on.

As an adult I am naturally drawn to people with similar interests, and my closest friends tend to be dedicated to the pro-life cause or writing. When you spend a great deal of time with people watching softball games or cross-country meets, you develop a comraderie of sorts. In softball, you are all dedicated to the success of your children in the sport. In running, many parents simply want to keep their children in good physical condition, and the goal is always simply to “do your best”.

I want my children to be well-rounded; so we participate in a great variety of activities, but all is scheduled around their first love. Meals are scheduled at 9, 12, and 4, so we can be well-nourished before the evening’s practice(s) or game(s). All friends are on notice that we are only available between 10 and 3. These summer nights they are permitted to go to bed late and sleep late, so they can be well-rested for the next day of activity.

Made in God’s image, we are called to build and maintain strength of mind, body, and spirit. This is just one way of going about it.

Chapter 17
The LORD from the earth created man, and in his own image he made him.
Limited days of life he gives him and makes him return to earth again.
He endows man with a strength of his own, and with power over all things else on earth.
He puts the fear of him in all flesh, and gives him rule over beasts and birds.
He forms men's tongues and eyes and ears, and imparts to them an understanding heart.
With wisdom and knowledge he fills them; good and evil he shows them.
He looks with favor upon their hearts, and shows them his glorious works,
That they may describe the wonders of his deeds and praise his holy name.
He has set before them knowledge, a law of life as their inheritance;

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Small Successes Foul Ball Edition

This week my small successes include:

1. Posting my four-article weekly minimum at my new column

2. Getting to the beach several times in one week

3. Getting to the ball field every night this week and keeping all the non-playing children safe and productively occupied during games and practices

This week I am thankful for:

1. My kids didn’t get hit by any foul balls – and that the kids that did get hit are okay (we are now moving our field to one that has a fence)

2. Beach weather

3. Good health for my whole family

For volume 26 of Faith and Family Live’s Small Successes click here.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

State of Grace

As I sat scrutinizing my ten-year-old daughter’s every move, I was vaguely aware of the comments parents around me were making. In the outfield, she never let a ball get past her, but occasionally hesitated while deciding where the play would go. This is her way – never hasty, always thinking before acting. Through practice, these plays will come automatically to her and the thought processes will connect like lightning.

“Get the ball to the pitcher!” a mother behind me yelled.

It was an overthrow, and another parent groaned.

I felt my blood boiling. How quickly they forget the great plays my kid made last game, and the errors their own daughters frequently make in the field. I knew that they were feeding off the intensity of the assistant coach that day. If the always-calm head coach were there the whole atmosphere would have been different.

One of the mothers walked away and two others immediately started whispering about her. “She’s the most disorganized mother I ever met,” said one to the other.

So she was a little late to the game. She came with her truck loaded with toys and food to keep the younger siblings occupied for the next four hours; it was a double-header. I couldn’t believe how people could act so friendly to one another and say mean, unfair things behind their backs.

Many of the parents decided to stay for pizza and a parent-child game. “I have dinner planned,” I said, which was true. Even truer was the fact that I had had enough of these people for four hours.

A good friend of mine talks about living in a “state of grace”. This is the sort of person that displays a Christ-like attitude and is lost as to an explanation for others’ non-loving behavior. The more one listens to the Holy Spirit, the more the world is going to bother you. This is best explained by this passage in Romans 6.

Chapter 6

1 What then shall we say? Shall we persist in sin that grace may abound? Of course not!
How can we who died to sin yet live in it?
Or are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.
For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection.
We know that our old self was crucified with him, so that our sinful body might be done away with, that we might no longer be in slavery to sin.
For a dead person has been absolved from sin.
If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.
We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has power over him.
As to his death, he died to sin once and for all; as to his life, he lives for God.
Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as (being) dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus.
2 Therefore, sin must not reign over your mortal bodies so that you obey their desires.
And do not present the parts of your bodies to sin as weapons for wickedness, but present yourselves to God as raised from the dead to life and the parts of your bodies to God as weapons for righteousness.
For sin is not to have any power over you, since you are not under the law but under grace.
What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? Of course not!
Do you not know that if you present yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?
But thanks be to God that, although you were once slaves of sin, you have become obedient from the heart to the pattern of teaching to which you were entrusted. 3
Freed from sin, you have become slaves of righteousness.
I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your nature. For just as you presented the parts of your bodies as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness for lawless ness, so now present them as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.
For when you were slaves of sin, you were free from righteousness. 4
But what profit did you get then from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.
But now that you have been freed from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit that you have leads to sanctification, 5 and its end is eternal life.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Resolved: At the next game, I will try to rein in my own hurt feelings if I overhear comments about my daughter, and do my best to be a positive influence on those around me.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Hearts for Home July 14, 2009

Gae at Cherished Hearts and Home

”In my weekly 'Hearts for Home' post I am encouraging myself and others to commit to thinking about what 4-6 things we can do each week to bring our thoughts, prayers and actions to keeping our 'Hearts for Home'.”

I have not been doing well with keeping these weekly resolutions. This week I am going to keep things really simple.

1. Action: Water my flowers and vegetables – now that the rain has eased up, these are drying up.

2. Prayer: Pray for grace when I am about to lose patience.

3. Thoughts: Think of something to be thankful for when I am about to complain.

4. Action: File the children’s report cards and awards from last school year.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Sunday Snippets Catholic Carnival July 12, 2009

This week I…

* wrote a review on a young reader about Thomas Aquinas

* wrote about how Brideshead Revisited badly represents the Catholic faith

* listed my Small Successes for the week

For more faith-filled Sunday Snippets please go to This That and The Other Thing

Friday, July 10, 2009

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh is an Anti-Catholic “Classic”

I have been taking notes as I read through this book and will uncover some of the plot in this review, discussing my own reactions as the story unfolds. If you want to read this without knowing what happens, please come back and read this later. I would love to hear my readers’ comments.

The title of this book was so mysterious to me. I love going to a movie or picking up a book with an enticing title, the plot of which I know nothing. And so I started off reading this selection with an eagerness of discovering where it was going. A non-Catholic had also said to me, “You haven’t read Brideshead Revisited? You really should. It’s all about your religion.” I was curious about what it had to say about Catholicism.

The book starts with a forward during which an officer is traveling with his infantry to some unknown location. When he gets there he finds they are in the neighborhood of Brideshead and he reveals that he has been there before. Then he goes back twenty years to revisit his memories that the place invokes. Hence the title.

Captain Charles Ryder reminisces to his first year at Oxford, where he fell in with a “bad set” and thoroughly enjoyed it. One of his bosom buddies is Sebastian, of the infamous Brideshead family, and he spends a good part of the summer vacation at his home of Brideshead Castle. He accompanies him to Paris before starting the next year at school.

I must confess that, although I admired the detail, which was both impeccable and revealing, I could not take too much of it at one dose. Like in Great Gatsby, there are no truly admirable characters. The characteristics of the time and place are shown in the behavior and language of the various people introduced, which are many.

Sebastian and Charles “shake off” their old friends and stick to themselves during the second year, trying to clean up their act. They get into a bit of trouble with drinking and driving. They hang out with some girls and my thoughts are finally clarified as to their sexual inclinations. There is quite a bit of talk of how much they love each other and they address each other as “my dear”, so I had my doubts for a while there. (Later in the novel I would discover that some of their set actually were gay, although clearly not Charles.)

Charles discovers that Sebastian has a real drinking problem – separate from the binge-drinking-for-fun typical of many college students. He is drinking to escape his family and acting sad and withdrawn. His family has Sebastian go live with a trusted friend of the family, a priest, and Charles decides to drop out of their current school and attend art school.

At this point I started to suspect that Charles will have his own dreams deterred in some way, as we all know he ends up a Captain in the Army, truly a non-artistic career choice. I also wondered if Charles was truly an unimportant character, a story device such as the narrator in Great Gatsby, standing helpless as he watches his friend destroy himself.

Then, halfway through the novel, he goes into great detail on the love life of Julia, Sebastian’s sister, whom he had previously largely glossed over. We are told that he was, in fact, in love with her at that point. In the preface we were told of his six-year-old marriage that had been on the outs while he was away with the army. I had to wonder if he did marry Julia and, if so, would there be a remedy to their present problems.

Once he gets onto the storyline of his relationship with Julia and the deteriorating relationship with Sebastian to the rest of the world, Sebastian drifts farther and farther out of the story. Charles and Julia have an affair and initiate divorce proceedings. What is most disturbing to me is that Charles seems to have no relationship whatsoever with his children.

When Julia’s father Lord Marchmain is dying in the hospital, he refuses to see a priest. He says he hasn’t practiced Catholicism for many years and it would be a farce. His son Brideshead has one come anyway, and for that is taken out of the will. Charles, an agnostic, doesn’t see the point, and tries to persuade Julia not to force the issue. But right before Marchmain’s death she tells the priest to go in, and her father accepts the blessing.

They both see that this is the end of their relationship, because she sees she must embrace her faith, the same faith that Charles cannot understand. The prologue returns him as Captain, going through the Brideshead mansion to set up camp for his troops in the lower rooms of the building.

I saw the entire novel as an anti-Catholic treatise. None of the characters are likeable and the conversation is pretentious. The lifestyle is all surface, as is the practice of Catholicism, which is all on the surface. Reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church at the same time, I saw none of my true faith reflected in this novel.

At one point, speaking of architecture, Charles says that he can say a building is good although it is not to his taste. That is my opinion of this novel.

On a side note, on July 4 the Sci-Fi channel was playing a Twilight Zone marathon and there was an episode entitled “Deathshead Revisited”, obviously a play on this title.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Review of “St. Thomas Aquinas: For Children and the Childlike” by Raissa Maritain

“St. Thomas Aquinas: For Children and the Childlike” by Raissa Maritain, originally published in 1934. Illustrated by Ted Schluenderfritz. New edition published by Sophia Institute Press, Manchester, New Hampshire, 2009. Available from The Catholic Company.

This young reader introduces children to the lofty notions of saints, angels, and theology in poetic terminology that they can understand, and yet does not condescend. Each brief chapter includes an appealing illustration done in soft charcoal that demonstrates one of the many virtues of Saint Thomas Aquinas. With all his amazing attributes, he still comes across as a humble fellow that one would like to have known personally.

The story of his life starts in childhood, describing the unusual graces and influences that the boy carried as he embarked on his education. It describes how he was called to the Dominican Order and obeyed that calling despite the opposition of his parents. His mother even had him held captive to thwart his actions, but he escaped. She would eventually remember that his calling had been foretold to her long ago.

St. Thomas was so humble that he allowed himself to be known as the “Dumb Ox”. Time would tell that he was wrong, and he brought so much Divine Knowledge to the Church that he is now widely known as the “Angelic Doctor” or “Angel of the Schools”. Although there is no reference section, it is clear that the author drew on many original documents for her information.

Maritain does not talk down to children. She knows that many ideas are within their grasp, and presents them in a way that whole families can benefit. Parents of younger children might want to read this aloud, stopping often for discussion. Middle-grade children would enjoy reading this alone. Parents who would like to know about St. Thomas and are afraid to pick up an adult text on this awesome giant will enjoy the brief chapters and the focus on one-idea-at-a-time.

Separate chapters are dedicated to each of his outstanding virtues: his search of Truth, the Holiness of his Intelligence, Charity, Divine Wisdom, and Humility; the behavioral characteristics of his constant preaching, prayer without ceasing, frequent weeping, and distractibility when focused on a certain problem; the important work of The Office of the Blessed Sacrament, the Miracles of the Roses and the Star, and his Divine Favors. Most biographies end with death, but this book goes into great detail about the special way that he died, how he was glorified afterwards, and his final canonization.

Children and adults alike can glean much from this character study. The message comes through that everyone has a calling from God that he or she must listen to and follow.

This classic work was originally published under the title “L’ange de l’eicole (Paris: Desclee, de Brower, & Cie, c. 1934)”. An English translation by Julie Kernan, titled “St. Thomas Aquinas: The Angel of the Schools”, was published by Sheed and Ward, NY, in 1935. This 2009 edition, which includes minor editorial revisions to that English edition, is published by Sophia Institute Press, a nonprofit institution dedicated to making knowledgeable works more available to the public by publishing out-of-print books, translations of foreign works, and new books.

For more about Raissa Maritian see Brenna Moore’s
Feminized Suffering in Modern French Catholicism: Raïssa Maritain (1883–1960) and Léon Bloy (1846–1917)
. Spiritus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality - Volume 9, Number 1, Spring 2009, pp. 46-68.

This review was written as part of the Catholic Book Reviewer Program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on “Saint Thomas Aquinas”.

Small Successes Independence Edition

1. I officially started writing as The Long Island Motherhood Examiner

2. My toddler moved into a big girl bed

3. I successfully disassembled the crib; now I just have to find a place for it!

This week I am thankful for:

1. My new column

2. My daughters’ good softball plays

3. My blog readers’ patience as I am distracted with getting my column going

4. A nice day at the beach

For volume 25 of Faith and Family Live’s Small Successes click here.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Nature Walk at Cedar Beach

I had a great deal of trouble with the original article that I published on Cedar Beach. I had 22 pictures and most of the images were broken. After much trouble and the submission of a "ticket" to the help center, I discovered that I had a maximum of 10 pictures per article. Therefore I was forced to redo the article and cut it into two. I removed most of the pictures of the nature walk (the best part) and made a whole new article out of it. You can view this companion article here.

Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai: A Photojournalistic Piece

On Monday I took the children to Cedar Beach, on the North Shore of Long Island. I published this photojournalistic piece at my new Examiner column. I think you will enjoy the pictures even if you are not from the area.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Hearts for Home July 7, 2009

Gae at Cherished Hearts and Home writes:

”In my weekly 'Hearts for Home' post I am encouraging myself and others to commit to thinking about what 4-6 things we can do each week to bring our thoughts, prayers and actions to keeping our 'Hearts for Home'.”

Last week I only succeeded in doing #2 (“Not yell if someone knocks over a vase of flowers.”) and that was only because no one did knock over a vase last week. I am going to try this again, with a focus on tidying up work areas so they are more serene and set a good example for the kids in keeping their own work areas tidy.

1. Find a gentle or funny way to remind the children (and husband too!) of their housekeeping duties. (This morning I said, “I know you all think you’re special and don’t have to put your shoes away, but there are a lot of special feet around here.”)

2. Re-organize the bookshelves and donate some unused books to the library. (I actually already have a box full that I was going to give to a homeschooling friend for her group, until I found out her group had dissolved.)

3. Keep my desk clean. (I have been clearing it on a regular basis, but those piles find a way of creeping back.)

4. Go through the basket of papers and other stuff I cleared off my desk.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Long Island Motherhood Examiner

My new column is now live!
This summer I will be writing mostly about regional topics, such as things for families to do on Long Island, but will post the link here whenever I write on topics of national interest.
My first article is about a free science show and tour at Brookhaven National Laboratory.
My column can be found at:

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Sunday Snippets Carnival July 5, 2009

This week I…

* postulated whether there might be baseball in Heaven

* talked about teaching children how to swim independently

* listed my Small Successes for the week

Happy Fourth of July Weekend!

For more Sunday Snippets please go to This That and The Other Thing

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Honest Scrap Blogger Award

Thank you Leticia for awarding me the HONEST SCRAP blogger award.. I have now officially known her for a rather long time (over 5 years) and honesty is one of her outstanding virtues. keep this award, I must do the following:

1) Say thanks and give a link to the presenter of the award.

2) Share "ten honest things" about myself.

3) Present this award to 4 others whose blogs I find brilliant in content and/or design, or those who have encouraged me.

4) Tell those 4 people that they've been awarded HONEST SCRAP and inform them of these guidelines in receiving it.

Ten honest things about myself.

Here goes:

1.) When I get overwhelmed with demands from everyone I sometimes make comments (not in front of the kids) the like of, “What was I thinking having four kids?” to which my husband says, “Don’t you write a blog called The Divine Gift of Motherhood?” and I am forced to be quiet.

2.) My garage is an absolute mess. I kept it tidy until I was pregnant with my second daughter and when it started to get cluttered I could not safely walk in there. From then on it would get worse, then a little better, and then worse again.

3.) I haven’t worked on my novel in a really long time (months, I guess).

4.) I used to be a perfectionist, but have become much more mellow due to being married to a very mellow guy and having kids who prevent me from doing things perfectly.

5.) I wanted to major in English but my Dad said I wouldn’t make any money, so I majored in Psychology instead.

6.) I was an atheist for a few years in college. I even argued against Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica (5 proofs of God’s existence) in my Philosophy of Theology class. It was one of the things that made me interesting to my husband-to-be the night we met, and he always knew I would change my mind. That happened when I became a mother.

7.) I have difficulty saying the rosary by myself, but love saying it with others.

8.) I’m lifting this one from Leticia, who says, “I have WAY too many books and stuff”. I have been donating things in dribs and drabs to Birthright, St. Vincent de Paul, and my local library. I don’t buy anything except books and food, so I’m not sure where it all comes from. I got rid of 100 cubic feet of stuff during Lent.

9.) I didn’t know anything about baseball/softball until I met my husband, and now I am obsessed with it because my kids love it.

10.) I barely ever talk on the telephone and only use a cell phone for emergencies. I delete voice mails without listening to them.

Now, I nominate the following honest bloggers:

1. Loren Christie, at Dude Where Am I, for her daily essays in which she examines herself with excruciating honesty.

2. Karen at Karen’s Adventures in Mommyland, whose refreshing descriptions of her daughters’ antics always make me smile.

3. Lisa at Unexpected Journeys, whose photography lets us in to her California backyard and even her kitchen in progress.

4. Leticia at Cause of Our Joy. I know you were nominated for Causa Nostra Laetitiae. Now you can post ten more telling things about yourself on your family blog.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Small Successes Rainy June Edition

These are my small successes for the week:

1. We made it through the rainiest June on Long Island ever, without complaining about the weather.

2. I kept the pool clean in spite of the weather.

3. I took advantage of the indoor time to work on establishing my career.

4. I kept my sense of humour when my daughter broke a window with a golf ball.

This week I am thankful for:

1. Wonderful siblings who call when I really need them.

2. A terrific family in our neighborhood with four lovely girls.

3. Tan legs.

4. My cesspool has held out despite the heavy downpours.

5. A good pool filter.

6. The sun has finally come out.

7. Tan arms.

For volume 24 of Faith and Family Live’s Small Successes go here.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Independence in swimming and other skills

Although I had the pool ready a month ago, it was not until this week that the weather allowed us to use it. Now we are in every day, for hours at a time. Our neighbors’ children have an open invitation, so it’s always a pool party over here.

My first on-the-books job was as a pool lifeguard for the Town of Oyster Bay. While I have the confidence that I could save someone and administer CPR if necessary, it is the last thing I want to have to do. I think I am a little more wary and vigilant than the average adult, because I know that it only take two tablespoons of water in the lungs to drown a person.

My almost-three-year old refuses to use her baby float, the kind that has a seat to keep the child up in its flotation ring. She sees the other kids using the other kind, and insists on being like them. I didn’t quite know what to do when, as I stood with my arms ready to steady her as she entered using the pool ladder, she commanded, “Go away Mom!” while gesturing for me to swim “over there”.

I backed off but was ready to spring on her at the slightest mis-step. She did fine, and improved with practice. Within a few days, she was able to swim with confidence with the other children, using only her swimming ring.

A seven-year-old girl in my neighborhood came over with her sisters, wearing a swim vest. After the first hour, she decided she didn’t need it anymore. “You can’t swim!” declared her nine-year-old sister. “I can too!” she answered.

I stood by, a little nervous because she was still unsure about herself. Then she went off with my twelve-year-old and after another hour was swimming just like the other kids. When her mother came by, she was astounded. “She was afraid of the water!” she said, very pleasantly surprised.

I was surprised too, not having known the extent of this sudden change in her, because I really hadn’t done a thing. Sometimes that is the best thing for parents to do, is to stand by vigilantly while their children test the waters, whether in swimming or using the stairs or climbing a tree.

Chapter 40

1 A great anxiety has God allotted, and a heavy yoke, to the sons of men; From the day one leaves his mother's womb to the day he returns to the mother of all the living,
His thoughts, the fear in his heart, and his troubled forebodings till the day he dies--
Whether he sits on a lofty throne or grovels in dust and ashes,
Whether he bears a splendid crown or is wrapped in the coarsest of cloaks--
Are of wrath and envy, trouble and dread, terror of death, fury and strife. Even when he lies on his bed to rest, his cares at night disturb his sleep.
So short is his rest it seems like none, till in his dreams he struggles as he did by day, Terrified by what his mind's eye sees, like a fugitive being pursued;
As he reaches safety, he wakes up astonished that there was nothing to fear.