Forward into 2014!

Looking for an extra bit of good luck in 2014?  Try starting the year off with a pork dish.

I'm not a particularly superstitious person, but I'm ethnic enough to believe that there are a few family traditions best kept, and eating pork on New Year's Day is one of them.

Boar, and domestic hogs (pigs, to you city folk), forage for food, by putting their nose to the ground, and moving forward. Many european cultures believe, that your chances of good luck, good health and good fortune increase, if you move forward into the new year with a belly full of pork.

It doesn't have to be anything special.  A traditional pork roast is the obvious choice of many, but we've made due in past years with bratwurst, knockwurst, pork sausage, and an occasional hot dog.

This year, I'm baking a ham I picked up from a great little smokehouse just up around the bend from our cottage.  I'll glaze it with a recipe I found in Ree Drummond's new cookbook (the recipes in this new one are divine) which features, a can of Dr. Pepper (I don't have any Dr. Pepper, but I do have a renegade can of Cherry Coke in the frig).

In keeping with the 'rooting forward' theme of the day, I thought I'd throw in a resolution or two before signing off for the day (the grandkids are expected to arrive at any minute and I'm already late in getting that ham in the oven).

With the eighth grandchild on the way, I've decided its time to make an honest attempt at scrapbooking again (I'm about five grandbabies behind now), so I'll be dragging out the Cricket, and moving some of my supplies downstairs for a few months (might as well enjoy the fireplace and big screen tv set while I work).

I'd also like to spend a bit more time writing, so resolve to post at least one new blog entry per month (a cautiously optimistic goal).

Gotta run now!  I've got a ham waiting!!


Frank Sinatra Got It Right

With the promise of warmer temperatures, I climbed out of bed a little less reluctantly this morning, grabbed my bathrobe and hurried to the thermostat.  A child of the energy crisis of the 1970's, I still ascribe to my parents' 'dial-down-at-night' philosophy.

I lit the furnace (anyone remember those days), turned on the coffee pot ('coffee-maker' sounds so urban), fed the dog, and sat down at the computer to check my e-mail and facebook page ( so I'm not as discerning as I'd like to think I am when it comes to the 21st century).

A click later, I was listening to Frank Sinatra's beautifully simple ode to Christmas past, An Old Fashioned Christmas (click here to listen).  The song was posted by a close friend, another refugee of the real-world (we both live, by choice, with one foot deeply rooted in another century).

Strangely, before Frank even warbled a word, I was overwhelmed with melancholy (I'm sure that wasn't my friend's intention).  I contemplated moving on to a brighter post, when my melancholy took a nostalgic turn.

Somewhere between the first and second verse, I was no longer a groggy, fifty-something, sipping coffee before a cold computer screen, but a little girl, bundled in winter woolens, awaiting a pick-up from school on the last-day-before Christmas break (they actually called it 'Christmas-break' in those days).

I stood waiting, my book-bag stuffed with colored-paper-Christmas-decorations we'd cut and pasted together in days preceding.

One mitten-clad hand clutched a paper plate piled high with sugared cut-out cookies, and foil wrapped chocolate bells and santas (the room-mothers always made too much).

The other held a clumsily bundled, hand-made gift I'd proudly crafted in school for my parents, probably a decoupaged paperweight or ashtray with my freckled-face school photo pasted to the bottom (imagine, stubbing-out a cigarette on a grinning child's face!)

The snow fell heavily as I waited for the big Ford Country Squire Station Wagon to pull around the mounds of snow, and up to the curb.  I knew, from previous experience, that it would be packed to the brim with luggage and gaily wrapped Christmas gifts (without the bows of course).

In a protected corner, my Dad will have placed the big, yellow and brown-speckled, Charles Chips can, inside of which Mom had lovingly layered her delicately beautiful Christmas stars (ethnic pastries).

There'd be pillows and blankets waiting in the backseat, a big old metal Thermos (filled with black coffee, of course), waxed-paper wrapped, white-bread, bologna sandwiches, potato chips and pretzels, in a brown-paper grocery bag, and Duncan, the family dog (a little black, Scottish moppet we all adored).

I couldn't wait! Along with thousands of others, we'd be making our way along America's highways and by-ways to Grandmother's house.

Along with the forced-air heat, there was always an air of anxiety in the car. Most of the drive would be made in the dark, and the weather was always a concern, whispered about between Mom and Dad.

With threats of 'Santa's watching' hanging over our heads, my brother and I, were generally reluctant to make too much of a fuss in the backseat. But threats wouldn't stop us from trying to sneak into the cookie tin in the cargo hold.

As the sun set on the slushy, two-lane interstate highway, we'd burrow contentedly beneath our button-front wool coats and blankets, secure in the knowledge that we were in good hands with Daddy at the wheel . . .

Too quickly, Sinatra's song ended. I blinked, and found myself staring once again, at a post on the computer screen.

Thank you Cyndi for the unexpected trip down memory land. You and Frank got it just right . . .

(the photo above, is of my brother at age two, with Santa)


A New St. Francis?

The Prayer of St. Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born of Eternal Life.

Attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, in the 13th century.

Yesterday, the Catholic Church announced the selection of a new pope, the Argentinian Cardinal, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, forever onward referred to as Pope Francis I.

Regardless of my personal feelings toward the scandal plagued, culturally conservative Church, I find myself whole-heartedly hopeful, and satisfied with the Cardinals' selection.  Honestly, who wouldn't?

By all accounts, Cardinal Bergoglio distinguished himself as an outwardly humble and devoutly, holy man; a champion of the sick and poor he lived amongst. His first request, as the head of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics, was for a blessing from his expanded flock.

It disappoints me to hear disaffected Catholics, and others denigrate this simple man with snarky comments, and negative commentary.  Sadly, many can't see beyond their own pain, or cultural agenda.

What harm is there in having an open heart, and mind? What harm will come from praying that God will bless and guide a humble servant, charged with shining His light upon a world grown dim?  What does it matter if there are cracks in the foundation, as long as the beacon shines forth from the top of the tower, guiding its ships to safe harbor?  Cracks can be repaired.  

Only God knows what's in a man's heart (I seem to remember quoting that before). Cardinal Bergoglio appears to be a right, and just man.  What possible good can come from mocking him?

This Pope chose the name Francis.  God willing he will leave footprints in the sand, next to those of the saints of the same name, for a new generation of men to humbly follow.


My Board of Grace

"The board itself doesn't impact reality; what changes your life is the process of creating . . . "  Martha Beck

Vision Board (page one)

Once upon a time, I reluctantly set out to complete what I believed to be a cheesy little arts & crafts project, and wound up (much to my delight), on a spiritual journey.

As a one-little-word traveler, I was prompted to create a vision board - a personal collection of representative words and images, of things or concepts, that I'd like to welcome into my life. In theory, a vision board is a poor man's Field of Dreams . . . if you build it, he will come!

I trekked to the book store, grabbed a handful of magazines (the one's with the most fun photos I could find), and headed home to cut and paste!

At some point, it occurred to me that I paid a ridiculous amount of money for magazines I was going to destroy.  I hoped the end result was worth it.

Back on task, I started through the pages, looking for images that spoke to me (made me ooh! or ah!).  Nothing!  Struggling, I reread the directions, followed the suggested links, and tried again.

This time, to my surprise, I finished with a substantial collection of words, images and phrases. I spread them out, and planned how I'd arrange them on paper. I began trimming my treasures to fit the page, but opted to tear them to fit instead.  Go figure!

Vision Board (page 2)

Once finished, I was pleased with myself, but still had a hard time seeing anything more than two fairly decent scrapbook pages.  Humph . . . I must have missed something. I photographed them, and filed them away in my scrapbook. Done!

Two weeks later while lying in bed, I had an epiphany!  The ragged (torn, not cut) words, phrases and images I struggled to mine from magazine pages, are metaphors for goodness - faith, light, love, joy, beauty, courage, creativity. 

In my brokenness, I've struggled to recognize God's blessings, often taking what I have for granted. My vision board was a celebration (my one-little-word) of goodness! In the process of creating the board, I was visualizing God's grace in my life. 

The real miracle of my vision board happened a few days after my mid-night epiphany, when I received a phone call that was so full of goodness, it flooded and mended my wounded heart. The call was an an answer to my prayers, something I thought would never happen.

It worked! My vision board worked! I made it. I prayed it. I dreamt it. It happened. And in the end, it was worth every penny I paid for it.


What's In a Man's Heart

"A father should be his son's first hero, and his daughters first love."

When I was a child of five or six, I climbed into my father's lap as he sat waiting for my mother to finish dressing. Without objection, he stubbed out his cigarette, and pulled me close; his right arm held me protectively against his chest.

Freshly showered and shaved, Daddy smelled of Skin Bracer, and Lucky Strike cigarettes.

Comforted, I breathed deeply, and burrowed my cheek into the front of his crisply, starched shirt.

We sat there, just the two of us, in the quiet, semi-darkness of twilight. Safely wrapped in my daddy's arms, I was profoundly content. In my innocence, I knew what it was to be loved.

Ba-boom, ba-boom, ba-boom . . . with my ear pressed warmly against his chest . . . ba-boom, ba-boom . . . I could hear the rhythmic beat of my father's heart . . . Ba-boom! Ba-boom! Ba-boom!

Suddenly, and unexpectedly, I was afraid.  Ba-boom! Ba-boom! Ba-boom! I couldn't help but wonder . . . BA-BOOM . . . what would happen if . . . BA-BOOM . . . it stopped?  The thought was too painful to consider!

Panicked, I sat up, and broke the spell.

In every lifetime, there are defining moments. In that moment, I knew death, and understood what it meant to be mortal. My daddy, the person I loved more than any other, wouldn't be mine forever.

I was overwhelmed with fear. I simply couldn't bear the idea of a world void of my father's love.

Daddy's heart beats on into it's eightieth year, a milestone I tearfully celebrate with the little girl I once was. Our relationship with my father didn't end overnight in an exchange of angry words, and the slam of a door. It slipped away like water through the fingers of a cupped hand.

I accept responsibility for the role I played in the disintegration of our relationship, but still I wonder, did Daddy just forget who I was? I tried to remind him that I was still here, but he didn't seem to recognize the face of his child in the adult I'd become. I could speculate forever on the whys and wherefores, but in the end, only God knows what's in a man's heart.

For most of my life, my father made me feel loved, and for that I will always be grateful.

Happy Birthday Dad - we will always love you.


Black Leather and Lace

Thanks in part to Beyonce's half-time burlesque performance at this year's Super Bowl, I've officially declared the Women's Liberation Movement, the defining cause-celebre of my youth, a train wreck!

To be honest, I was never a big fan of the feminist revolution, fearing it's leaders were throwing the proverbial baby out with the bath water.  So while I supported gender equality, I cautiously watched from the sidelines as my contemporaries rallied around the ERA, defiantly marched on Washington, and triumphantly burned their bras.

I began to wonder a few years back, if the wheels hadn't slipped the track when the painted, powdered and plumed, Madonna shot to super-stardom.  Apparently, along with gender equality, and reproductive freedom, we have a God-given right to publicly express ourselves, intellectually, and sexually. Who knew?

The train rolled further along.

My suspicions were affirmed last year when Lady Gaga writhed her way through a stilettoed S&M parody on the American Idol stage. Clearly, cultural acceptance of what was once considered deviant behavior had evolved right along with the feminist agenda.

Considering the brouhaha surrounding Janet Jackson's purported costume malfunction, (dubbed, Nipplegate) at the Super Bowl in 2004, I was frankly surprised that the NFL would deliver another sexually-explicite half-time performance.

Silly me!  When one considers the demographics of the viewing audience, how can one blame the NFL for giving the consumer, exactly what HE wants - provocatively clad, beautiful, young women, spreading their legs to the strains of throbbing music.

Leather and lace!  Um-um!  Just listen to them slobber on ESPN!

As far as the feminist movement is concerned, correct me if I'm wrong, but radical feminism was supposed to free women from the sexual, intellectual, and economic bondage of their male oppressors?

I would dare to guess, that Madonna, Lady Gaga, Janet Jackson and Beyonce are among the wealthiest entertainers of their perspective generations.  I suppose we should celebrate their success - modern women, daughters of the feminist revolution, make good!

Certainly these women have learned how to successfully compete economically on the world stage - literally - in front of millions, but escaped male bondage?  They're selling the same old product, packaging it differently, and making a whole lot more money!

Three cheers for the feminist revolution!  Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to turn on Lifetime, pour myself a Skinny Girl cocktail, light up a Virginia Slims, and wait for the fourth book in the Shades of Gray series to be published.


Celebrate! One Little Word

"I celebrate myself, and sing myself."
Walt Whitman

"Do we need any other proof of being spiritual-beings, than watching a child grow, and a personality blossom?"  
Fr. Jonathan Morris

I began this post with life affirming quotes from what would appear an odd-fellowship, American poet, humanist and author of the esteemed, Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman, and television personality, Fr. Jonathan Morris, a Catholic priest, spiritual advisor, and author of the best selling book, The Promise: God's Purpose and Plan for When Life Hurts. 

While one hundred years, life-styles and religious philosophies separate them, the quotes of both men enthusiastically celebrate the human condition. The passages, along with the whimsical photograph of my uninhibited, three-year-old grandson, make me smile!!

All in all, not a bad way to begin :)

In my last post Dancing in the Rain, I made reference to the One Little Word concept of selecting a single word each January to reflect and meditate on throughout the year.  
I stand at the threshold of the new year, in my pink wellies (English rain-boots) and raincoat, umbrella in hand, with a new companion -a new word - CELEBRATE!
As a child of God, created in His image, I am called to walk in His light - to seek out, recognize, and celebrate the good in my earthly life.

I purposefully chose a word that I felt would enrich not only my physical-being (the human condition), but my spiritual-self (soul) as well.  I looked for, and chose a word I believed to be life-affirming.

To this end, I have put forth the following twelve, monthly-intentions beginning with January's Celebration of a New Year, and continuing on with celebrate love, celebrate my faith, celebrate myself, celebrate motherhood, celebrate the earth, celebrate my freedom, celebrate the summer, celebrate God's bounty, celebrate family tradition/ritual, celebrate God's grace, and finally, to prepare for and celebrate the birth of Christ at Christmas.  

I'll be documenting my journey through written word, and photographs in a personal photo/journal inspired by Ali Edward's, One Little Word, prompts.

Pages from the journal will be located in the filmstrip at the top-right hand corner of this blog (click on the film-strip for full-sized, easy to view, copies of the pages).

For more of my OLW story, you're invited to read the short post, Dancing In the Rain,