Life in Every Limb

Just Like That

I’m sitting here in my office working on bills as if it were any other Saturday even though a seismic shift occurred in my world less than 24 hours ago.  Because life does, in fact, go on.
Twenty-two-and-a-half years ago, give or take, we welcomed our third child.  This was our second baby in just over a year, and we brought him home to a 2.5 bedroom apartment and placed him in the cradle by our bed, which we hadn’t even bothered to put away between babies.
We named this 12 lb. bundle of joy Richard Theodore because I’d always wanted a boy I could call Teddy, and the name suited him well as he grew from big baby to roly-poly toddler who filled out 4T rompers by the time he was a year old.
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Teddy was my baby for six years.  I developed extremely toned biceps from toting around my 75 lb. four-year-old.  He was none too pleased about the arrival of his baby brother, but he was in kindergarten by then and already building a reputation as the smart, academic achiever that he would continue to be all the way through college.
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You know the rest of the story.  The days are long but the years are short and all that.
Teddy (or to use his preferred name, Theo) graduated from college in May.  Yesterday I dropped him off at the airport.  Now he’s in San Francisco, where he’ll start his first professional job on Monday.
Right now I feel like posting a comment on every baby picture I see on Facebook saying enjoy them while you can they grow so fast but that’s not a thing that anyone really understands or wants to hear when their kids are fretful infants or whining toddlers or stubborn preschoolers.  I’ve read many a thread and post complaining about the meddlesome old ladies who say those kinds of things.  But here’s the deal:  we aren’t trying to be bossy or irritating or to minimalize the work and stress of coping with small children–we just want you to realize what we didn’t; we want you to fully experience the joy of what you have, because we would give anything just to have one more day of it.
Because twenty-two-and-a-half years ago I brought a baby boy home from the hospital.
And just like that, he was gone.
Teddy Leaving for SF

Trusting in God; Giving up Control

Leaps of faith are a fact of life in our family.  Our family life has been built on radical acts of trusting that everything would work out one way or the other.
John and I had been married eleven months and had a baby on the way when we abandoned good jobs in Washington, D.C. and moved back to my hometown, where we had family but no prospects at all.  Oh, we tried to find jobs before moving, but our failure didn’t put a damper on our plans in the least.   In the year it took for John to gain resident status so he would be eligible for in-state tuition at the University of Tennessee College of Law, he worked at the UT Traffic Office by day and sold shoes by night.  I got a secretarial job just weeks before I could no longer conceal my pregnancy, which would have severely limited my ability to find a good job.
We had one kid by the time John started law school and the third was on the way by the time he passed the bar exam.  There were hard and scary times, uncertain times, and often it was only looking back at what we’d been through that we could see how our prayers were always answered.  Not necessarily in the way that we thought we wanted them to be, not always immediately, but always, in God’s time.
Read the rest at Everyday Ediths!

Unexpected Vacation: Harpers Ferry and the Baltimore Museum of Art

A little over a year ago, almost all our family (Jake excepted) took a short vacation together.  Going on vacation all in the same car was something we thought we’d sworn off forever, but this was a quickly planned journey.
John’s uncle was sick, and he wasn’t getting better.  John felt strongly that we needed to get up to Baltimore to see him, and soon.  It turns out he was right.
We had a wonderful couple of visits with Uncle Boh.  He’d been in the hospital right before we arrived, and had to go back almost right after we left, but he was home while we were there, and we were able to share meals and conversation.  It was truly a blessing, as he died less than two weeks later.
We couldn’t burden Uncle Boh and Aunt Barbara with our company the entire time we were in town, obviously.  So we took the opportunity to see some sights.
Even when you’ve spent as much time visiting one place (Baltimore) as we have, there’s always something new to explore if you look! We visited Harpers Ferry, West Virginia one day and the Baltimore Museum of Art the other.
John and I had been to Harpers Ferry close to 30 years before, but I had only the vaguest memories of that rainy day visit.  We were blessed with incredible weather this trip, which made for some beautiful pictures that I am excited to share here.  Unfortunately, my waiting so long to memorialize this trip means that this post will be long on pictures and short on explanations.
If you’ve heard of Harpers Ferry at all, it will be in connection with John Brown and his failed attempt here to abolish slavery via armed insurrection.  You’ll learn plenty about those events if you visit.
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That, obviously, is the man himself!  Below you’ll see the building where he and his men holed up.
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Harpers Ferry is full of history with displays in several of the buildings on the main street.

There are also shops and restaurants to explore along the main thoroughfare and side streets.  Harpers Ferry is a stopping point along the Appalachian Trail so there is some serious hiking gear available.
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There’s an historic home to visit and a church (and the remains of a church) to investigate.
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Situated at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, it’s also a place of extraordinary natural beauty.
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Looking back at this visit one year later, I still remember how beautiful everything was and how happy we were.  It was one of those perfect days.
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The next day we stuck closer to home base, and visited the Baltimore Museum of Art.  I can’t think why we’d never been there before.  It’s not because of the kids, because our kids like that kind of thing.
Here’s some of what we saw outside:
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Inside there were several sections to explore.  We saw sculptures and other three-dimensional expressions of art:
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The collection of the kind of paintings most people probably think of when they hear the words “art museum” was indeed impressive:
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But they also have interesting collections of art from Africa and Asia:
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They also had a great modern collection that we had to rush through because we were supposed to be somewhere.
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But that’s okay, because now I have a reason to go back there!
And don’t worry, we didn’t leave Baltimore without taking part in the essential summertime ritual:
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Why I Love My Catholic Faith

As I do every month, I’m linking up today with the Siena Sisters Catholic Women’s Blogging Network Hop.  You can see from the title of my post what I am supposed to be writing about.  And wouldn’t you think I’d have been brimming over with things to say?  Yet I’ve found myself struggling and wondering why.
I’ve written before about why I remain a Catholic, and reiterated many of those sentiments in a later post where I explained how intrinsic my faith is to my very identity.   And maybe that’s why this is hard.  Maybe it’s because being Catholic isn’t something I ever consciously chose.  Maybe it’s because it’s too much a part for me to see it clearly.  It’s like being asked why I love my mother or father.  I could tell you things I like or love ABOUT them, but that’s not WHY I love them.
It’s entirely possible I am overthinking this, but I’m going to change focus just a bit and write about some things I love ABOUT my Catholic faith.  Even that is hard, since there is nothing about it that I don’t love! But I’ll try to focus in on a few things, in no particular order.

  • The Church is not a cult of personality.  My feelings about a particular priest or even a particular Pope don’t affect my allegiance to the teachings and truth of the Church.  The Church has survived all forms of corruption and we have Jesus’s own assurances that the Church shall prevail: “And I say to you: That you are Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)
  • The Church is a repository of incredible wisdom.  Just the other day, my husband I were discussing something we’d heard or read (I can’t remember what it was) and he said he wished that the Church had explained whatever it was.  And I just laughed at him and said, “You haven’t looked it up, have you?” Because I knew that of course the Church has written about and explained it somewhere because the Church has explanations for everything!  I take comfort in the fact that great minds have been exploring the mysteries of the universe and explicating the faith for centuries.  The Church doesn’t rest on one person’s interpretation.
  • Related to the above is that the Church has very clear rules, principles, and precepts, and they don’t change.  The Church rises to the challenge of the modern world with nuanced explanations or interpretations or the application of old rules to new issues.  It isn’t always easy to live up to the demands of the faith, but there is plenty of guidance available for those of us who want to try.
  • All of the above sounds dry and intellectual, but I also find great solace in the fact that the Catholic faith has endured for so long and that it is practiced by so many around the globe.  It is strengthening to know that I am united to so many other believers, past and present, especially the Saints, whose examples we as Catholics are blessed to be able to follow.
  • Finally, I love the Church’s engagement with the world.  I love that we are to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16) and that the Church provides us with clear directions on how to do that through the instructions of our Bishops.  I love the Church’s commitment to social justice and its defense of life and human dignity from conception to natural death.

I’d love to hear from you! If you are Catholic, tell me in the comments why YOU love the faith, or what you love ABOUT it! If you aren’t tell me what you love about YOUR church! And if you’d like to read more reflections like this one, click the picture below.
why I love my catholic faith
 

Shopping at the Farmer's Market

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My mother used to take us with her to the farmers’ market when I was a little girl.  This is how I remember it:
We’d drive into a big warehouse on the way home from church.  We’d stay in the car while my mother got out to shop.  Through the windows we’d catch glimpses of old men in overalls offering their wares.  After a long and boring wait my mother would come back, her spoils in brown paper bags, and we’d drive away, the sunshine outside blinding us as we left the stuffy dimness of the market behind.
It wasn’t a whole lot of fun, although we liked the vegetables.  The farmers’ market my girls and I visited recently had the vegetables and much more.  Even better, it was outside in the sunshine.
Read the rest at my friend Ginny’s blog, where I’m contributing to her Summer Life Skills Bingo series.

Out-of-Control Mothering: Putting It All in His Hands

Last night I told my daughter I felt like I had lived at least a month in the past week or so.  Have you ever felt that way?
Because of all that I and my family have been through in the last twelve days, I find myself starting at my computer screen this morning praying for inspiration for the blog post I should have had ready to go last night at the very latest–last night when I was completing a 550 mile drive back from an unexpected funeral.
Wait a minute . . . inspiration is coming . . .
Read the rest at Everyday Ediths!

Love Thee, Notre Dame: Teddy's Graduation

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We’ve just returned from an epic weekend of graduation festivities as Teddy’s Notre Dame adventure has come to a close.  Four years flew by, as they are wont to do when you have kids, and it won’t be long before I’ll be writing a melancholy post about having a child leave the nest for good to start adult life very far away.
But I won’t go there today! This weekend was fun and I didn’t feel melancholy, or too stressed, or anxious, or any other way I expected to feel.  And I took lots of pictures!
We (and by “we” I mean me, John, Emily, William, and Lorelei) left Knoxville Thursday night and drove about halfway, stopping in Florence, Kentucky just outside Cincinnati.  This enabled us to get a (relatively) early start the next morning and make it to Notre Dame by around three, because Teddy had plans for John and me.
We left the “little people” (which is surely a ridiculous thing to call them at this point) with Emily, who took them out to eat at a conveniently located (actually in the parking lot of the hotel!) Asian restaurant and then to the hotel pool, and headed for campus, where one of Teddy’s favorite political science professors had invited him and other students to attend a Mass and reception.  This event was really for kids who were in a program that Teddy was not a part of, but it was lovely to start off the weekend with Mass in one of Notre Dame’s many beautiful residence hall chapels and then to meet some of his professors.
We didn’t get to stay long, though, because we had another event to attend.  This one was a party hosted by Scott Malpass, Notre Dame’s CIO, for students in a program he sponsors at the university.  These students were allowed to invite some of their friends, which was how we ended up at this utterly amazing party held downtown at Cafe Navarre.
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Alcohol of all kinds flowed freely, along with canapes, caviar, a raw bar, a full buffet dinner . . . y’all, it was insane.  Many people were having a VERY good time, and I enjoyed the people-watching and the music as well as the food.
Predictably, John and I tired of this before Teddy did, so we left him there and went back to the hotel, to get some sleep before the next full day of activities.
The next morning we were all invited to brunch at someone’s lake house, but I bowed out of that and Teddy took John, Jake, and Jessica (that’s Jake’s girlfriend–they had arrived late the night before and were crashing with Teddy at the house where he lived off campus with several friends).  The rest of us drove over to campus because Lorelei and William had never seen the place and I wanted to show them a couple of things.
We started at the Grotto, then walked up to the Basilica, made sure we saw the Golden Dome, and stopped by Teddy’s residence hall, Saint Edward’s (called Steds by the boys, and the oldest one on campus).  Then we took a short walk by one of the lakes.  Notre Dame’s campus is huge, so if you are ever up that way and have limited time to spend, those are the sights I recommend you see.  Of course, I took some pictures:
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Then it was back to the hotel to change clothes and meet up with the rest of our people and time for the serious stuff to begin.
First up was the Political Science Senior Recognition Ceremony.  Teddy is a Business School grad, but he double-majored in Finance and Poli Sci.  We enjoyed this relatively short and low-key ceremony, where we were encouraged to clap and walk down as close as we could get to take pictures.


From here we walked straight across the parking lot to the Joyce Center, where so many of the events that have made up our Notre Dame experiences have taken place.  We were attending the Baccalaureate Mass in the Purcell Pavilion, and we wanted to get there early enough to find a seat and avoid being placed in the overflow room.
We sat very high in the arena and had an hour to wait for Mass to begin. (There was a LOT of sitting and a LOT of waiting over this weekend, y’all!)  There was music to make it more bearable–throughout the weekend the musicians were amazing and added so much to the experience.
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There’s something special about attending Mass with thousands of other people.  And, as always, we ended by singing the Alma Mater.  I’ve said this before, but anyone you’ve ever heard complaining about Notre Dame’s lack of Catholic identity can’t have ever been there.
Next we attended a much-anticipated event:  a catered dinner in the vacant lot across from the row of house where Teddy and 15 of his friends spent their Senior year.  This event was planned by one of the mothers and many other families pitched in to help with the arrangements.  I’ve met some of the mothers before, and it was great to get to see them again.
All the family joined us for this celebration, as well as my friend Mary Jo, who was in town visiting family.  It was certainly a highlight of the weekend to catch up with her, and she came back to the hotel with us when the kids grew weary and wanted to leave (we left John and Jake and Jessica there with Teddy and they continued to have a great time!).
The threat of bad weather hung over the entire weekend, and it was raining pretty hard when we left the party (thankfully we had sprung for tents!).  The administration decided to delay the start time of the commencement ceremony the next morning, for which we were very grateful!
Because of tight security, we needed to arrive around 8 a.m. and wait in a VERY long line (it moved pretty quickly, though).  There were many items we were not allowed to bring inside, including umbrellas–but rain ponchos were provided! (It sprinkled at one point for maybe five minutes.)  Once inside and seated we had a long wait ahead but it wasn’t so bad as there was music and several screens with pictures of the graduates lining up outside the stadium.
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As is customary, the ceremony began with the academic procession, which took awhile as there were 2,081 graduates plus the faculty who had to get to their seats.  Here is a picture showing the Business School candidates starting to come in.
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The ceremony followed the usual predictable format for such events.  If you’ve ever been to one you don’t need a description.  I came expecting to be bored, to be honest.  But I was wrong–very wrong–and this turned out to be a highlight of the weekend for all of us.
It started with the introduction of Vice-President Pence, who was the Commencement speaker.  Around 100 kids stood up and quietly left the stadium as part of a previously planned protest.  This wasn’t a surprise to many people, including the administration, who had already indicated there would be no repercussions for those who chose to participate, but it was a surprise to me!
Before you ask, no, Teddy did not walk out.  And while I don’t have any issue with peaceful protests, I have a feeling Mr. Pence (who graciously took no notice of the protest and gave a largely unobjectionable, if unremarkable, speech) was more impacted by the other two speeches we heard than by the walkout.
The valedictory address was amazing.  What kind of bravery must it take for a 22-year-old to stand on the same stage with the man who may well be President one day and say, “Our generation must stand against the scapegoating of Muslims. Our concern for freedom of religion must mean freedom for all religions, not just our own, otherwise none of us is free. . . . If we are going to build walls between American students and international students, then I am skewered on the fence . . . Our mission calls us to act on behalf of justice. It is precisely in response to the suffering of Syrian refugees, fleeing war, that the arms of Jesus outstretched on God Quad call for a courageous response.”
And then there were the words of Laetare medal winner Father Greg Boyle (who is a Jesuit so I already had a soft spot in my heart for him): “You go from here to dismantle the barriers that exclude.  And there’s only one way to do that: and that is to go where the joy is, which is at the margins, for if you stand at the margins, that’s the only way they’ll get erased, and you stand with the poor, and the powerless and the voiceless. You stand with those whose dignity has been denied, and you stand with those whose burdens are more than they can bear, and you will go from here and have this exquisite privilege once in a while to be able to stand with the easily despised and the readily left out, with the demonized so that the demonizing will stop, and with the disposable, so the day will come when we stop throwing people away.”
We all felt blessed to have had the opportunity to hear such wisdom, and that’s what I am still thinking about days later.
One unfortunate consequence of the rain delay is that there was no time for lunch before the next and thankfully last event:  the Mendoza College of Business Diploma Ceremony, otherwise known as the ceremony that wouldn’t end.
Y’all, this is the one where they call out the names.  I don’t know how many names there were but it was a lot.  We were there for an hour waiting for it to begin on extremely uncomfortable bleachers, and then I think it was at least 2.5 hours before Teddy’s name was called and there were about an hour’s worth left to go.
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I felt rude but I couldn’t stand it.  I took Lorelei and William out and went to the student center and got them snacks and drinks.  Then I went back inside to watch Teddy walk out and then thank God in Heaven it was over and time to take pictures!
Teddy (and I) would have appreciated a more scenic background but we were pressed for time and there were members of our party for whom walking long distances is an issue.  Jake was like, “Here’s a nice tree.  Stand in front of it,” and we got the whole thing done in maybe five minutes.
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And now, AT LAST, it was dinner time!
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Y’all have heard of Studebakers, right?  My Uncle Charlie had one MANY years ago, as I recall.  Well, they were once manufactured in South Bend, and the guy who founded the company lived in this 40 room mansion.
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Only now it’s a restaurant–Tippecanoe Place–and I hope y’all will indulge me because I just couldn’t stop taking pictures:

I didn’t get any interior pictures except for the group shot below because it just seemed kind of awkward but it was as beautiful as you might imagine–grand staircases, marble fireplaces, fancy woodwork everywhere.  And the food largely lived up to the surroundings, as did the service.  It was the perfect special spot to end our celebration.
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Teddy (who I should tell you goes by Theo everywhere other than with family and old friends) graduated summa cum laude.  He received the Raymond P. Kent award for outstanding work in Finance courses.  He’s had a job lined up for months and will be heading to San Francisco in July to start work as an investment banking analyst.  As this chapter closes, a new adventure is just beginning for him.
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Junior Parents' Weekend at Notre Dame

Our Notre Dame adventure is about to come to a close.  The day this is published, we will be in South Bend for Teddy’s graduation, and I’m sure there will be stories and adventures to share!
But before that, let’s go back to last February, to Junior Parents’ Weekend, which for some reason I did not write up at the time.
Many colleges have special weekends each year for families.  Spring Hill did, and I attended four Family Weekends, bringing along various family members each time.   Because Emily did not have a car and we had to pick her up for every vacation, our visits to Mobile were quite frequent, and we grew very familiar with and fond of the city.
Our Notre Dame experience has been different.  In contrast to the over 20 times one or the other of both of us drove back and forth to Mobile, we’ve been to Notre Dame maybe six times.
So JPW was a big deal.  It started off rockily, as we were a little late to the big dinner gathering Teddy’s friends and their families–three tables full of them, with Italian food served family style.
JPW 27JPW 28JPW 29 Afterwards, we headed to the Joyce Center for the Opening Gala, but we only milled around there for a bit because we were tired.
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The next morning we attended the Open House at the Business School (Teddy has double-majored in Political Science and Finance).
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We spent the rest of the day walking around campus and seeing sights.
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We’ve visited Notre Dame in summer, fall, and spring, and for this winter visit I was hoping to see some snow, but I suppose I should be grateful that it was unseasonably mild as you can see.
Notre Dame boasts its own art museum, the Snite Museum of Art.   We thought we were going in for a quick look but remained for some time, impressed by the size and quality of the collection.


Of course, I couldn’t pass up the chance to walk around one of the lakes with Teddy.
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There’s no such thing as a special weekend at a Catholic college without a special Mass, so next we headed back to the Joyce Center for Saturday evening services.
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Then it was just a short trip to another area of the building for the President’s Dinner.  Check out the Irish detailing on the dessert below!
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The REAL fun happened after the dinner and the speeches, when Teddy and a group of his friends hosted a party for us at one of their off-campus residences.  Some of dads in particular had a lot of fun reliving their misspent youths.  There was certainly much alcohol, and beer pong was played, but what I enjoyed much was talking to Teddy’s friends and renewing friendship with some of the moms I had met on my last visit.
It was a LATE night, and then there was brunch in the morning followed by the long drive home.  I can’t believe that it was more than a year ago already, but what is even more unbelievable is that Teddy’s four years at Notre Dame have gone by so quickly.

How I Learned a New Way to Pray

Like many Catholics, I am extremely uncomfortable at the thought of extemporaneous praying.  Fortunately, I am married to a former Protestant who excels at it and is happy to preside over any occasions (Thanksgiving, for example) when it seems called for.
My husband has prayed aloud in the the car with the kids on the way to school each morning for many years.  When we leave town to go on vacation he always makes sure that we say a prayer for safe travels (and we’ve added a prayer for the safety of our home in recent years), and sometimes he makes me say it.
As for me, I’ve always thought the rich treasury of traditional prayers and the emphasis on memorizing them to be just one more awesome perk of being Catholic.  My go-to prayer for the past 30 years or so has been the Prayer to Saint Jude.  That may be overkill since most things aren’t hopeless, but I don’t think he minds.  This dates back to receiving a prayer card in high school, and then saying the prayer in preparation for exams in college.
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My non-rote prayers have mostly consisted of spontaneous private petitions silently sent up throughout the day, pleas for help, promised prayers for friends and family, quick “thank yous” for answered requests.   And other than praying at bedtime each night, I’ve never engaged in any kind of regular, daily, formal prayer practices.
That changed this Lent when I discovered Prayer Journaling.    In last month’s hop, I shared how journaling has helped me with worry and anxiety.   Although I don’t yet find time to journal daily, I’ve been doing it every few days since the beginning of Lent.
It all started when I joined an online group of Catholic social media influencers and met Amy, who is an enthusiastic proponent of the practice.  After reading many of her posts on journaling, I went from feeling like the kind of person who would never do that sort of thing to longing to have one of my own.
Fortunately I had a beautiful blank book–covered in flowers and with gold-edged paper–a Christmas gift from my oldest son’s girlfriend.  I’ve always been fascinated by blank books but also a little afraid to write in them, as though I had nothing worthy of defiling their clean white pages–but I’ve had no trouble writing in this one.
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I took a trip to the dollar store to get colored pens and a few packages of stickers, and I was ready to go!
Journaling is very personal, and what I do with mine varies from day to day.  At first I relied on prompts Amy provided, but I quickly found myself coming up with my own ideas.  Sometimes I print off pictures of saints from the internet, or other pictures that inspire me.  Sometimes I copy out prayers that I like.  More and more often my entries take the form of letters that address my anxieties and concerns.  Usually I know long before I sit down to write what I need to focus on.
Not only do I feel a new confidence that my prayers are being heard and answered, but I find myself developing a more personal relationship with Jesus (yes, Catholics can have that!) than I’ve felt in the past, since He is the one my letter-prayers are addressed to.
I don’t have a prayer corner in my home although I’ve often thought of making one.  But for now, my journal and my rosary sit on the corner of my desk, where I can always see them, reminding me that God is available to me through prayer any time I need Him.
Click the image below for other entries in this month’s blog hop!
holiness in our daily lives
 

Living Hopefully vs. Hopefully Living

Although I graduated from college almost 30 years ago, I still say I AM an English major rather than I WAS an English major.  That self-identification is probably indicative of why I enjoy usage manuals like The Elements of Style by Strunk and White entirely too much.
Thinking about writing on this month’s theme of Hope, I kept coming back to this passage:
Hopefully. This once-useful adverb meaning “with hope” has been distorted and is now widely used to mean “I hope” or “it is to be hoped.” Such use is not merely wrong, it is silly. To say “Hopefully I’ll leave on the noon plane” is to talk nonsense. Do you mean you’ll leave on the noon plane in a hopeful frame of mind? Or do you mean you hope you’ll leave on the noon plane? Whichever you mean, you haven’t said it clearly. Although the word in its new, free-floating capacity may be pleasurable and even useful to many, it offends the ear of many others, who do not like to see words dulled or eroded, particularly when the erosion leads to ambiguity, softness, or nonsense.
Read more at Everyday Ediths!

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