Dec 30, 2016

Friday Feasting: Pasta Bake with Italian Sausage

1 lb Italian sausage (we use turkey)
2 TBSP oil
1 large onion, diced
1 TBSP minced garlic
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 orange bell pepper, diced
2 tsp Italian seasoning
1 qt chicken stock
1 TBSP corn starch
16 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
1 lb rigatoni (or other tube shaped) pasta

1.  Add  oil to skillet and heat over med high heat. Remove sausage from casing and add to pan, cook until brown, about 10 minutes.

2.  Remove sausage to a plate and add onion and peppers to pan with reserved oil. Sauté for 5-8 minutes, until translucent.
3.  Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute until fragrant.

4.  Add sausage back to skillet and stir to combine.

5.  Add 2 stock and simmer for 5 minutes.
6.  In a small bowl combine cornstarch and ¼ C stock. Add to simmering sausage and gently cook on med for 5 minutes.
7.  In the meantime, cook pasta as directed, drain, and return to stockpot.

8.  Add sausage mixture and remaining broth, along with mozzarella to pasta.
9.  Mix to combine then pour into 9x13 baking pan and cook in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, covered.
10.  Remove foil and cook an additional 5 minutes or until brown. Serve with garlic bread.

Dec 28, 2016

O Holy Night

Do you ever feel weary, like the weight of the world is crushing down upon you? Do you find the weight of your personal “crosses” seemingly unbearable? I do.

It seems like more often than not lately that I feel weary.  I feel like there's just no more of me left to share or to give.  That feeling in itself is draining.  There are days when I've been so overcome by what lays before me that tears stream down my cheeks.
Early mornings and late nights. Endless loads of laundry. Piles of papers to sort through and file away. Bits and pieces of random stuff just everywhere. A spouse that deserves my attention but always gets the dregs at the end of the day.

Surely I'm not alone.  What mother or father hasn't felt that overwhelming sense of weariness?  It's completely human to feel weak, because we are.  We weren't made to go on and on, doing and going, and never resting.  We weren't made to carry our burdens alone.  God sent His perfect Son into the world to make our burden light.

I was listening to my favorite Christmas hymn, O Holy Night, the other day when for the first time I actually heard the words  Here's the line that God wanted me to hear, “A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.”  I'm weary, you're weary but on the night of our dear Savior's birth, in that moment when Heaven meets Earth, it's all wiped away. A sweet, holy baby, so small and innocent, swaddled and laid in a manger, embraces our weariness, our burdens, and we rejoice with the angel choirs.

We can believe in the power of His love that makes all things new.  We can celebrate all that His life has done for us.  Jesus Christ, our Savior, our King has come to Earth to make all things new. He restores us, renews our faith, and gives us the hope of Heaven.  Merry Christmas!

Dec 26, 2016

Monday Meme: Christmas ~ Meshing the Secular with the Spiritual

How does a “Good Catholic” rectify celebrating Christmas with The Nativity and Santa Claus?  My answer is simple:  EASY.

My dad calls Santa Claus the Father of Socialism:  a kid gets something for nothing and that is a bad lesson for anyone, let alone kids.  My cousin claims that Santa is Satan in disguise.  He represents greed and materialism.  My response is no; Santa is the opposite.  He is a saint.  He gives and expects nothing in return.

I can see how some people do not understand how we give our children presents from Santa, yet we are Catholic and profess that Christmas is about the birth of Christ.  My husband is agnostic, and three of my five boys have autism.  I have to mix my Catholic beliefs with a secular outlook in order to include all of my family members.

When asked years ago, my husband said that celebrating Christmas is the right thing to do.  He grew up associating family with Christmas, and it was always celebrated, but I needed to ensure that my boys understood the true meaning of Christmas.   I taught my boys what Christmas is—the birthday of Christ.  We incorporated the simplest rituals of a birthday:  baking a cake, singing Happy Birthday, and giving of presents.

We then delved into who was Santa.  Our boys learned the history of Santa, who was based on St. Nicholas. He was a Greek bishop back in the fourth century who lived in Asia Minor.  My boys learned the legend of St Nick’s gifts as a dowry for three daughters so they could be married.  However, I emphasized that he brought gifts, without thought of receiving anything in return.

One of my favorite ornaments is St. Nick bowing before the Christ Child.  This image clarifies everything:  Christ is the focus.  His birth, life, death, and resurrection is why we celebrate Christmas, and St. Nick lived his life as a Christian, witnessing the life of Christ.

As a family, we do much more to celebrate the birth of Christ.  We celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas because the season begins on December 25, not ends.  We add the Christ Child to our Nativity Scene on December 25 and leave it up until January 6.

It all comes down to Christ.  He brings us together.  He is why we celebrate. He is why St Nick brings us gifts.

Dec 24, 2016

Saturday with the Saints: St. Stephen, First Deacon and Martyr

Saturday with the Saints: St. Stephen, First Deacon and Martyr
Feast day: 26 December
Patron Saint of Bricklayers, Deacons, Hungary

Reading 1     ACTS 6:8-10; 7:54-59

Stephen, filled with grace and power,
was working great wonders and signs among the people.
Certain members of the so-called Synagogue of Freedmen,
Cyrenians, and Alexandrians,
and people from Cilicia and Asia,
came forward and debated with Stephen,
but they could not withstand the wisdom and the spirit with which he spoke.

When they heard this, they were infuriated,
and they ground their teeth at him.
But he, filled with the Holy Spirit,
looked up intently to heaven
and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God,
and he said,
“Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man
standing at the right hand of God.”
But they cried out in a loud voice, covered their ears,
and rushed upon him together.
They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him.
The witnesses laid down their cloaks
at the feet of a young man named Saul.
As they were stoning Stephen, he called out
“Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

Advent is almost over. The time of preparation is almost over. The plans have been made, the tree has been trimmed (or will soon be), the candles are burned, the gifts have been purchased and wrapped. We have been able to spend the last few weeks in deep devotion and reflection, as humanly possible according to our circumstances, and we have acknowledged our longing and our searching for the gift that is to arrive. Even if you’ve come to the table late, rattled by holiday stress, overcome by traditional family angst or limited funds, the Lord has still prepared the way for us to find Him: in Mass, in Reconciliation, in Adoration and Devotion. Tomorrow, we will find him as a newborn infant, who will tug at our hearts for comfort and consolation, cuddling and protecting.

Then, Wham! The next day, the first Monday of this joyous season of Christmas, we honor St. Stephen, the first deacon and martyr. Well, that can be a downer…. No resting on our laurels here, says Mother Church. She, in her infinite wisdom and divine direction, urges us to keep the Infant Jesus in mind – embrace those feelings of love and protection that a newborn stir in us, but also gently asks us to reflect on how have we lived? How far will we go on this journey? How long will we last in the fight for that Newborn’s life within us?

St. Stephen was chosen – using the apostle’s litmus test – one who was well respected, full of the Holy Spirit, and wise.  He was close to our Lord in mind, body, and spirit. He embraced that Infant Jesus to death. He embraced that Infant Jesus when others abandoned him and misunderstood him. His words could not be refuted and he spoke the truth because he allowed the Holy Spirit to work within and through him, in all matters both big and small. In life, St. Stephen accepted the calling to baptize, to preach, and to spread the gospel. Then, in death, he looked up to the Lord. He offered his life up for the Lord as a gift, with complete forgiveness in his heart. Like the Magi who brought offerings to the Infant, like the shepherds who came to adore Him in the cradle, St. Stephen’s life and death became a gift to the Lord. St. Stephen was a true imitation of Christ, in life and in death – our supreme goal!

So, as we close out this Advent season and begin the Christmas journey into the New Year, let’s challenge ourselves to be more like St. Stephen by embracing the Infant Jesus, accepting the Holy Spirit, and living a life with honor and purpose. Ask yourself these questions -

  • Am I honorable, faithful, with a good reputation that uplifts all that I hold dear and true?
  • Am I humble, repentant, prayerful and open to the Holy Spirit?
  • Can I preach the Gospel, spread the Word, spend time in prayer over scripture?
  • Do I share my faith, my witness, my time and my energy on others who are less fortunate, less knowledgeable, and in need?
  • Do I meditate on my words before they leave my mouth?
  • Am I forgiving of others who hurt me in words and actions, holding no ill-will to anyone who persecute and revile me?
  • Am I willing to, in the end, offer my life (full and complete) to our Lord, with a humble and contrite heart?

Let’s also pray:

Saint Stephen, pray for me that I may one day glorify the Blessed Trinity in heaven. Obtain for me your lively faith, that I may consider all persons, things, and events in the light of almighty God. Pray, that I may be generous in making sacrifices of temporal things to promote my eternal interests, as you so wisely did.

Set me on fire with a love for Jesus, that I may thirst for His sacraments and burn with zeal for the spread of His kingdom. By your powerful intercession, help me in the performance of my duties to God, myself and all the world.

Win for me the virtue of purity and a great confidence in the Blessed Virgin. Protect me this day, and every day of my life. Keep me from mortal sin. Obtain for me the grace of a happy death.


Dec 23, 2016

Friday Feasting: “Not My Family's” Spiced Cider

"This warm, delicious holiday drink is a perfect addition to any celebration this time of year.  Not only does it taste super yummy it also smells wonderful!  Enjoy." 

“Not My Family's” Spiced Cider 

-1/2 gallon apple juice
-1 cup cranberry juice
-1 cloved orange or tangerine
-3 cinnamon sticks Sprinkle ground cinnamon, too
-1/2 cup sugar

1.  Place all ingredients into crock pot.
2.  Heat on high until bubbling, then reduce to low.

Dec 21, 2016

Look at the Tree, Tired Mama

Look at the tree, tired mama

Our tree is up, decorated by nine of my children, big helping little, with lots of love and care. It doesn't quite fit in our small living room and everything is a little more crammed together. But I love my Christmas tree.

Today, my third child turns nineteen. His is the fifth birthday we have celebrated among my children this month. Needless to say, December is crazy busy and crazy stressful. Ironically, my most peaceful Advents have been those five years when I was awaiting and then holding a new baby. I was forced to prepare early and be ready when baby arrived. And even if it wasn't ready, when baby came, I was forced to stop, to sit, to gaze at my baby and to look at my tree.

Other years, I tend to not stop until that last chance to order from Amazon, or even until Christmas Eve. There is always one more gift to buy, one more stocking item to get. Sometimes the wrapping runs right into Christmas Eve dinner and Mass. Our Christmas Eve dinner tradition is take out Chinese, because a few years back I finally gave in to the fact that I couldn't get dinner on the table and stopped beating myself up for not making a seven course meal involving fish!

This year feels a little more peaceful. Maybe it is the longer Advent, it doesn't feel as rushed. Maybe it is age. Two more kids may leave the nest in the coming year. My internal voice says, "savor each moment", "smile more- fake it if you have to". I'm looking closer at the lit Advent candles, searching for the spiritual depth I need to find for myself. I am trying to be more mindful when the stress builds up, and I'm taking extra care of myself, especially nutritionally, instead of indulging in cookies and birthday cakes and sabotaging myself.

We moms take on so much during Advent, especially as Catholics because while we are tending to the material aspects of the "season" like most Americans, we know that it is more important to tend to the spiritual. We pray the prayers, we light the candles, we read the picture books,  we celebrate the feast days. Our kids know "the reason for the season".

But, tired mama, are you tending to your own spiritual needs? Will the Baby Jesus find a warm, cozy dwelling place in our hearts? Or will we hit Christmas morning worn out and empty, with no room at the inn because the inn is a run down ruin? Will those mom tears we cry (y'all cry at Christmas Mass, right?) be tears of joy or tears of exhaustion or disappointment?

I can promise you that you can't get it "all" done and things won't be perfect Christmas morning. I know my house won't be clean enough for my liking and inevitably I will forget something for a stocking or misplace a gift. But if you and I stop today, four days before Christmas, turn the lights low, maybe light a candle and make some tea, meditate on what we are preparing for, and beg for grace, the less than perfect can be part of the beauty instead of the straw that breaks the mama's spirit.

Tired mama, He is coming for you, to bring you His peace and His rest, as much as He is coming for your children. Be ready, anticipate as your children are anticipating. So, tonight, when they are all in bed, sneak back downstairs in your pajamas and slippers, and sit in the light of the tree, and soak it in. Look at your tree, tired mama, and be filled with the beauty of all it represents.

Merry Christmas! May your Christmas tears be sappy tears of joy that embarrass your kids! 🙂

Dec 19, 2016

Read To Me Monday - Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes

Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes by Eamon Duffy

A disclaimer:  I have not yet finished this book.  (And there are about 50 other books in the same predicament on my bookshelf and sitting beside my bed and chair.)

This is a 400 page book, and I have gotten through about 200 pages.  I have had to read chapters over and over as my ever-distracted brain tried to digest and comprehend where it all falls in history.  Fortunately, Mr. Duffy does an outstanding job of placing each papacy into its historical context.

This book is a nice balance of meaty and readability.  (Kind of like the Old Testament?)

What I like best about this book is how it puts our present papacy in perspective.  Pope Francis ain't got nuthin' on Pope Vigilius!  We must always remember no matter what we hear on the news (even the Catholic news) that our Faith has overcome so much tumult from as close as the See of Peter himself.  Perspective...perspective.  I feel this book is a must-read for our current times.

Dec 16, 2016

Friday Feasting: Pulled Chicken (BBQ chicken sandwiches)

8-12 bone-in chicken thighs
2 C water
2 tsp salt
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder

Ingredients for BBQ Sauce
1.5 C ketchup
½ C prepared yellow mustard
1 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp onion powder
¼ C brown sugar
2 TBSP honey
1 TBSP lemon juice
1 TBSP liquid smoke flavoring
1 C reserved chicken broth (from Instant Pot)
Salt and pepper to taste

1.  Add chicken and next 4 ingredients to Instant Pot and set on poultry for 12 minutes. When done, natural release for 10 minutes then quick release.
2.  Take chicken out of pot and set aside until cool enough to handle, and shred.
3.  Reserve 1 C broth for sauce.  Add sauce ingredients and 1 C reserved broth to saucepan, stir and cook for 15 minutes.
4.  Add shredded chicken to sauce, simmer for 5 minutes. Serve on hamburger buns (or slider buns for the littles) with a side salad.

Dec 13, 2016

Keeping Christmas Alive with Christ

When my kids were younger, I was concerned if they understood the real meaning of Christmas. Three of my boys were diagnosed with autism, and I was doubly concerned.   With society removing every notion of spirituality and stores marketing the perfect gift, I needed to emphasize the birth of Christ.

Before December 25, we prepared!  The first tradition we tackled was Christmas Cards.  My boys were visual learners, so I capitalized on pictures.   I took my kids to purchase the cards, and they could pick any box, as long as the card had a religious image.  Their favorite was always the Three Wise Men, but occasionally, an angel or Madonna and Child would be chosen.  The boys signed the cards and stamped the envelopes.  I purchased religious stamps, so they would see multiple images of Christ’s birth.  The cards were then ready to be mailed, AFTER December 25.

On Christmas Eve, we celebrated by going to Mass.  The boys were excited to stay up for the midnight mass (which was really 10pm).  Then we went home to our immediate family gift exchange.

On the day of Christmas, our boys with autism needed structure, so we had a schedule.  In the morning we opened a few gifts from relatives or from St. Nick.  In the afternoon, we celebrated with a birthday party.  My kids understood the traditional rituals of a birthday party:  gifts, cake, candles, and singing. So, we celebrated the birth of Christ like all other birthdays. We baked a cake together. We all blew out the candles and sang "Happy Birthday" to Jesus.  In the evening, we opened gifts from the grandparents.

After a few years, we added our third tradition, the celebrating the twelve days of Christmas. We gave gifts every day from December 25 to January 6. We have a box labelled for each of the 12 days. Again, this was to emphasize that Christmas Season starts on December 25, not ends.

So what did I give each day when the boys were younger? The gifts varied, from necessities to fun.  Anything could be in the box:  shoes or socks, gum or soda, DVDs, board games or a deck of cards or homemade items. Some presents were very individualized, like sheet music or CDs.

As the boys have grown, we have moved toward the gift of self, meaning time we spend together.  The gifts in the box are now dinners out, a day at the beach, movie tickets, bowling, miniature golf, and even Disneyland.

Now, our kids are almost grown; only two remain at home. They have a niece and nephew to teach, so they still bake a cake.  They volunteer to provide a gift for the 12 days, ie what is the family going to do.  Last Christmas, I heard my 16 year old son explain to his girlfriend why we celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas.  He simply stated, "We celebrate Christ, not just Christmas.  So, the traditions have taught the lesson well.

We are linking up today's post with the Siena Sisters Blog Hop on {{Putting Christ in Christmas}}.  Feel free to click on the image below to see what other 
Catholic women are writing about on the same topic....

Dec 12, 2016

Monday Meme: Nothing is Impossible… with God


We hope to attain what we do not have.

Little ones write letters to Santa about what they want.  Moms and Dads try to shop without breaking the bank.  Preparations for Christmas abound, and we can easily be distracted from what is really important.

Our salvation.  That’s the end game.

That is so easily forgotten during this season, but now is the exact time to incorporate our end game into our busy schedules. That’s when God comes in.  Who knows what role he’ll play?  We don’t have to worry about that.  We have a great example.  A young woman trusted him 2000 years ago to become a single, unmarried mother and gave birth to God.

So while we have our daily toil and special plans for Advent and Christmas, we still need to focus on our souls.  That is why we do what we do.

We hope to attain the beatific vision:  heaven.

Dec 9, 2016

Amazing Almost-Flourless Chocolate Cake

This cake is to DIE for!!

Great substitution: Oreo cookies for the graham crackers!

Amazing Almost-Flourless Chocolate Cake

1 cup Pecan, Toasted And Coarsely Ground
1 cup Graham Cracker Crumbs
1/4 cup melted butter
2 tablespoon White Sugar
16 ounce semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup Whipping Cream
6 Eggs, Beaten
3/4 cup White Sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour

For crust- Combine pecans, cracker crumbs,melted butter, and the sugar. Press into bottom and about 1 1/2 inches up sides of greased 9-in spring form pan. In large saucepan cook and stir chocolate and whipping cream over low heat until the chocolate melts. Transfer mixture to medium mixing bowl and set aside. In large mixing bowl combine eggs, the 3/4 cup sugar, and the flour; beat 10 minutes or till thick and lemon colored. Fold 1/4 of the egg mixture into the chocolate mixture; fold chocolate mixture into remaining egg mixture. Pour into crust-lined pan. Bake cake in 325 degree oven about 45 minutes or till puffed around edge and halfway to center (the center will be slightly soft). Cool in pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Remove sides of pan. Cool for 4 hours. Cover any leftovers and store in refrigerator. Makes 16 servings.

Dec 5, 2016

Read To Me Monday: The Last Straw

We got out our Advent/Christmas books this weekend which is always super exciting around here!  I wanted to share one of our (my) favorites that we've read so many times the pages fell out everywhere when I picked it up.

The Last Straw by Fredrick H. Thury, is a fantastic story for all ages.  Kids love the unusual name of the camel, Hoshmakaka, and the colorful illustrations of his journey.  Adults can relate to his weariness, his weakness, his feelings of inadequacy as he tries to please others and do it all.  Everyone can benefit from the lesson, which is twofold, one the reminder that Jesus never asks us to do anything alone but to let him help us carry our burdens and two, that when we aim to serve Him, to show Him honor, all things seem easier.

I hope you decide to check this book out of your local library or borrow a copy from a friend.  It's a great read!

Dec 3, 2016

Saturday with the Saints: St Andrew

St Andrew
Feast Day: 30 November
Patron Saint of Fishermen, Greece, Russia, and Scotland

Image result for apostle andrew

John 1:35-42
The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples; and he looked at Jesus as he walked, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”  The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.  Jesus turned, and saw them following, and said the them, “What do you seek?”  And they said to him, "Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?”  He said to them,  “Come and see.”  They came and saw where he was staying; and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.  One of the two who heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother.  He first found his brother Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ).  He brought him to Jesus.  Jesus looked at him, and said, “So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Ce'phas” (which means Peter). 

I imagine St Andrew as a quiet, but friendly and outgoing guy...maybe the strong, silent type? He was the older brother of Simon Peter and a fisherman.   Before he learned of Jesus, St Andrew was a follower of St John the Baptist, but from the day he met Jesus, he was in Jesus' inner circle.  He heard Jesus speak and followed Him without hesitation or question. 

The Gospels do not tell us too much about St Andrew, but we do have several accounts of Andrew bringing people to Jesus...most famously, his younger brother Simon. When Jesus wanted to feed the multitude, St Andrew brought the boy with the barley loaves and fishes to Jesus. And, again, when a group of Greeks approached Philip about meeting Jesus, Philip brought them to St Andrew, and St Andrew brought them to Jesus. 

Legends tell us that St Andrew preached in modern day Greece and Turkey and was crucified in Patras. 

St Andrew can bring us to Jesus through the St Andrew Christmas Novena. When we meditate on the the Birth of Christ, on the time and the mean circumstances, we draw closer to our Savior.  We, in turn, can imitate St Andrew, and bring others to Jesus.  Tell of Jesus Christ and the Good News, in a quiet, friendly, easy-going, and open St Andrew.  


(It is piously believed that whoever recites the above prayer fifteen times a day 
from the feast of St. Andrew (30th November) until Christmas will obtain what is asked.)

+MICHAEL AUGUSTINE, Archbishop of New York
New York, February 6, 1897

Dec 2, 2016

Friday Feasting: Easy Chicken

"This is our go-to meal when we are hungry, and nothing is ready.  With four teenage boys at my house, this became a favorite—so much that they learned to cook this meal.  YES, it is that easy! 

We’ve done variations on this.  We’ve used chicken thighs instead of breasts.  Simply reduce the simmering to 7-8 minutes per side.  We have also used this sauce for pork chops and steak.  It works well.  Just adjust cooking/simmering time so the meat does not dry out.  I highly recommend using Bragg Liquid Aminos all purpose seasoning in place of the soy sauce.  It is gluten free!  Sugar can be used instead of honey, but we found raw honey and fresh lemon juice really perk up the flavors.  I do use my own homemade ketchup, but any ketchup is fine."

2 Tbs olive oil or coconut oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
3 Tbs ketchup
2 Tbs soy sauce
2-3 Tbs honey
2 Tbs lemon juice
1 tsp ground black pepper


1.  In a big frying pan, saute chopped onion in oil just until the onion becomes soft and tender.

2.  While onions cook, combine ketchup, soy sauce, honey, lemon juice and pepper.  In a mixing bowl.   I use a whisk, but a spoon will do.  The sauce can be done before cooking the onions if desired.

3.  Add chicken and sear.  It takes just a few minutes on each side.  I move the onions to the side to accomplish quickly.  The onions continue to cook, but on the side.  Once chicken is seared on both sides, add the sauce.  Make sure it is well mixed with onions and coat the chicken on both sides.  Bring to a boil.  As soon as sauce starts to bubble, reduce heat immediately and cover the pan.  Simmer for 15 minutes and then turn chicken over.  Simmer for another 10-15, depending on the thickness of the chicken.

Garnish with fresh basil if desired.  Enjoy!!

Nov 30, 2016

How to Become an Expert Apologizer

Step 1: mess up a lot.

Not a problem.

I am currently on the outs with my beloved husband.  Nothing major, just one of those weird sudden shifts in mood where we are both tired and don’t really understand what’s going on with each other, and we expect a different reaction than the one we get, and then we say stuff we kind of mean, but mostly don’t.

They say not to go to bed angry, but we both kind of passed out in the middle of the argument, from sheer exhaustion. “Oh yeah? Well this is what I think of YOU! zZZzzzzzz.”

Husband (we will call him Thurl for the purposes of anonymity). Thurl has to leave very early for work so I woke up just as he was leaving, with no time to do any repair work, I hate that.  He rides in a van with several other people so we can’t even talk by phone.

So I just watched him leave, obviously still hurt, or upset, though he rejected both those adjectives along with the nuanced “mad” that I offer, as in, “You still mad?”  “I’m not mad.” Oh good.

A little context: we have a really lovely marriage. I think he’s adorable and he thinks I’m hilarious; he calls me “Beauty” despite all evidence to the contrary and I call him “Love”- please feel free to be nauseous.

 We have learned how to get along pretty well over the course of 25 years, despite a couple of important differences that must have had God chuckling as we stood at the altar.  When things are stressful, I NEED to talk. He HATES to talk when he is stressed.  Note: the past several years have been fraught with illness, death, and financial strain for us, as they have for so many I know.  So, stress. So, more opportunities to learn how to bring our different selves into some kind of harmony.

So right now he is on the stupid Michivan, we are hosting 35 people for Thanksgiving tomorrow and did I mention we are just getting over influenza? What to do, what to do.

In my younger days, I was a fan of the Big Gesture. I would have been in my car driving to his work to apologize.  I still like that approach- it has the virtue of showing the person that you have set aside your life to make sure everything is ok between you. It tends to smash the little ice walls before they get very big.  Sadly, that won’t work today: sick kids, house needs cleaning and food needs preparing.  Other options.

Get to confession and call him after. I was going to go this morning anyway and I need some grace and clarity, which may be redundant.  This has possibilities, though I hate apologizing on the phone. A really good apology involves some form of touch if possible.

I could wait till he gets home, but I hate to let things fester, so phone call it is, and I’ll smooch him later.

I need to remember what I said and try to put myself in his shoes. Right in the middle of an argument, that is so hard to do- you just want to win, or break through, or accomplish some personal goal.  Arguments are about agendas- be they emotional, practical, whatever- the idea of just setting the agenda aside during a fight is heroic. I think I have managed it fewer than ten times in the course of our 30 year relationship, and it has always been incredibly healing and lovely.  I love the shock on his face when I suddenly pull up, calm down, and say, “I see your point. I do. I am sorry I am not really listening right now. Can we start over and just talk about this?” It’s so Dr. Phil.

The problem is I can never remember to try this in the heat of the moment. I am a hothead from Hotheadsville, USA.  Like the Heatmiser from The Year Without a Santa Claus. For that matter, Thurl is the Snowmeiser.  He gets chilly fast, and I get frozen right out the minute my fahrenheit increases.  It’s a defense mechanism, part temperament, and part born of our family cultures.

No one ever, ever yelled in Thurl’s family growing up. No one ever talked about anything important, either. If by some accident, something important came up, and somebody felt hurt or angry, there followed a lockdown where everyone fell silent and watched the game.  Then, later, when everyone was ready, they just calmly and rationally ignored the whole thing for life.

In my family, we had two approaches: one parent was quicker to anger and quicker to forgive. The other was slow to anger, but Katie-bar-the-door once the anger arrived. And forgiveness was, let’s just say, longer in happening. “Dad? I’m sorry I stepped on the freshly poured driveway concrete when you expressly said not to and left my footprints in in for all time. Am I still grounded for two weeks? (cry).”  “Oh, it’s ok. I know you’re sorry. (Hug.)”  vs. Mom being patient for months until we are finally such jerks that she lets loose on us, quite deservedly. “Mom? I am sorry I didn’t clean up the playroom for three years even though you asked me to one thousand times. Am I still grounded? Mom? Mom??”

So I have lifelong experience with the Snowmeiser Way- and I respect it. It has it’s upsides- but it makes apologizing rather a strenuous affair. You’ve got to be really good at it.

Being a Hothead, I have said and done a lot of junk in the HOTM (heat of the moment) that I regretted, sometimes even while I was saying or doing it. So I have had decades of practice at apologizing, and I have gotten pretty darn good at it.  I remember reading somewhere in a story that an older gentleman was reminiscing over his apologies, and how they had made his relationships with people better, so much so that sometimes he would commit a small offense just for the pleasure of making a good apology.  So that’s probably a little mentally ill, but it has its points.

A good apology, a really sincere, warm apology from the heart, is very endearing.  First of all, it’s humble.  To do it, you really have to swallow a giant helping of ego and self-will, and that is hard, and everyone knows it. Second, it shows more concern for the other person than for self, or for carrying the point. This is genuinely sweet, and hard to resist. It’s taking the Lemon of your fight, and making the Lemonade of Love with it. What a tortured, saccharine metaphor.

Once your stomach has settled from that last paragraph, consider this: give the other person a chance to be ready to receive your apology. I am by nature a speedboat: I want to zip in, apologize warmly, and be done with it already. My husband the Ocean Liner takes longer to turn. I had to learn to respect that, and give him a little space to be angry in. If he’s really mad, he takes a nap. Afterwards he is much more amenable to a reconciliation. I used to get my little feelings all hurt because I would say something like, “You are such a big jerk, you understand nothing and I am really sorry I said those hurtful things and I don’t mean it, will you forgive me?” Okay, it probably wasn’t EXACTLY like that, but close enough where he would look at me like, I am not ready to make up yet, and I would have more stuff to be angry about. Lose, lose.

And then sometimes the other person is so egregiously and singlehandedly wrong that a good apology seems like a lie. “Sorry, but Clive is just one hundred percent wrong, and the children’s welfare is at stake. If I apologize, he takes that as confirmation that he is right, and nothing changes.” Sometimes this is true, or almost true (few of us achieve perfection in a disagreement and have nothing whatsoever to concede).

But most often, it’s not. We moms tend to get all dramatic about our kids’ emotional well-being and feel we need to defend them from their hard-hearted daddies, when often what they really NEED is a dose of tough love (please do not read “abuse”) and we are just too empathetic to see it.

Or if it’s just between us, it is rare that the other person has just acted completely unprovoked, unless they are a total creep, in which case you’ve got bigger problems.

In any event, even if the other person IS mostly wrong, there is always something to apologize for if you are interested in finding it.

Nan’s Argument Examination of Conscience:
Was my tone respectful?
Did I slip immediately into a pattern of talking that has never been helpful (“You always.. You never... the problem with your family is that…)?
Did I try, really try, to see it from his point of view?  
Did I bring up all kinds of other things because they are distantly related, and fog the issue? (“I remember back in high school, when you…”)
Did I make it about him personally rather than about the topic (“Why are you so unable to see this?”)?
Did I do something I know he hates during the argument, out of spite? (For us it’s the word “simply.” He hates that word. And I do use it, God forgive me.)
Was I emotionally manipulative (can’t think of what to say = time to cry or withdraw into a stony silence to compel instant guilt and contrition)?

So now that I am writing this, I am thinking of several things I might have done better. I won’t beat myself over the head with it- I was exhausted, he said/did some upsetting stuff too- ok, he was mostly silent, but I find that very upsetting and he knows it.

But I will think clearly and specifically about what I can honestly apologize for. (Dangle away, preposition.)

Then, I will make the actual apology. A couple of rules: no passive aggressive apologies like, “I’m sorry you got so upset.” Um, better to say nothing than that little firestarter.

Really mean it. You have to really BE sorry- this isn’t a formulaic thing: “I did x and x is wrong therefore I apologize. Beeeeep.” If you don’t feel it, even just a little, it is insincere, or just from the Brain. Nobody wants an apology from the Brain. You don’t say, “I love you with all my brain.” When someone hurts you, you don’t say they have broken your brain. You have to apologize from the heart. It takes generosity- you are giving something of yourself away. It is an act of love.

I can’t drive to Lansing today, but I can meet him at his Michivan stop tonight. With the highway under construction, this is an act of True Love. Now, off to confession. Prayers appreciated.

*Incidentally, Thurl Ravenscroft was the voice of Tony the Tiger. Why his name popped into my head I shall never know. Maybe I want Frosted Flakes...

**Thurl called (my husband, not Tony) and apologized while I was on the way to confession. Love wins!

Nov 28, 2016

Monday Meme: The Power of Women

Because this is my “safe” place, I’m going to go ahead and speak what’s been eating at my heart since the election of our new president.

I have friends and acquaintances who voted for the Democratic nominee, and I am saddened and perplexed at the level of their devastation on the election of the Republican nominee. Do you think we were overjoyed at the person we had to vote for? Do you think we – and our party – looked to the personal lifestyle of our nominee and voted him in for those reasons? I was as shocked as the next person as it seemed more assured that he would be our nominee. I could not believe it. That being said, when the chips fell, he was the one on the ticket for the Republican Party. He was the one I HAD to vote for.

“Why?” You say. “You could have voted for the Democratic nominee. Don’t you want a woman president? Let’s break that proverbial ‘glass ceiling’!!”

Yes! I would like to see a woman become president of these United States one day. Yes! There are many attributes of the Democratic party that I support: care of our earth, welcoming the immigrant, and helping those who need a helping hand.

BUT (ah, c’mon you knew it was coming)…

As a Catholic, I am led by my Faith (notice that capital “F”) that is written in that beautiful book, the Catechism, to believe that without LIFE, no amount of environmental protection or immigration reform or welfare is going to amount to a hill of beans. If I am not standing with THE MOST INNOCENT, MOST VULNERABLE among us FIRST, then I cannot stand for anything else.

Historically, the party that has been on the side of the unborn child has been the Republican party. You know this, I know this. Our priests and bishops know this. They spoke about it from the pulpit. (Well, at least ONE priest did. I’m sure you saw this circulating on Facebook, as I did. Best 20 minutes of the election. 

Our bishops wrote on the USCCB website about prioritizing issues, and the Right to Life was at the T-O-P. The priest in the above video went so far as to say you put your soul in imminent danger by voting for the party that upholds the right to an abortion. “Can he say that???” Yup, and he did.

I’m sorry. Can you just IGNORE that??? Can you really just say to the people sent by GOD to shepherd you to Heaven, “Excuse me. I know better than you. Thank you, and God bless.” This is what has bothered me the most: the blatant disregard for the counsel of our priests and bishops.

The other topic about this election that has bothered me goes back to my original meme. We women are powerful, and we know it. As God made us different physically, he made
the source of our strength different, too. I have listened to panels of women trying to analyze the reasons why the Democratic nominee did not get elected. Why the white women of the country couldn’t vote for another white woman to lead them. They mused that we just “weren’t ready” to have a woman in as powerful a role as the President of the United States, that the ones who came out to vote were “uneducated,” or that maybe we’re still fighting with some subconscious interior racism.


The majority of my Christian Catholic friends voted for Trump because of the party he represented and the values that party represents, MAINLY the right to life. Yes, I recognize the faults of my party. It does most certainly have them. Again, however, under the guidance of my Faith and my bishops, I turn to which party is going to stand up for the unborn, and that is the Republican party.

For my friends who think we’re going to Hell in a hand basket now that Donald Trump will become our president, I beg you not to despair. I double beg you to stop posting articles analyzing how this happened. I triple beg you to discontinue labeling those of us who voted Republican as the heartless people you are making us out to be.

You know me. I know you. Not only do I not think you’re baby-killing, liar-loving tree hugger; I completely LOVE you for the compassionate, patriotic, hopeful person you are.

All women should follow the example of our Blessed Mother, the most powerful woman ever created was the most humble of servants. 

Nov 25, 2016

Friday Feasting: Apple Cranberry Casserole

photo source...

Everyone likes dessert. Especially on Thanksgiving. Especially when it’s actually served with the regular meal like it’s a healthy side.

Growing up I always wondered how my Aunt Trudy could slide this “casserole” in beside the turkey - NOT on the dessert table - and get away with it. But then again, Aunt Trudy got away with a lot…just because of who she was.


Apple Cranberry Casserole

3 cups chopped apples
2 cups fresh cranberries
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 ½ cups sugar
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup brown sugar
½ cup melted butter
1 1/3 cups oatmeal

Place apples and cranberries in greased 2 qt. baking dish. Sprinkle with lemon juice. Cover with sugar; set aside. Combine oats, walnuts, brown sugar and butter in a small bowl to moisten. Place over fruit. Bake uncovered in 375 degree oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Great with chicken or turkey.

Nov 23, 2016

Advent Traditions in the Large Family

photo credit ...

Here we are, the day before Thanksgiving, and just a few days away from the first Sunday in Advent! Are you ready? Do you have traditions that you do with your family each year? Or are you looking for ways to live the season that keep the focus on preparing a place for Christ, both in the form of the Baby Jesus and Christ the King whose return we await?

Advent in our home has evolved over the years. As a child, we had an Advent wreath but that was it. I don't remember a real emphasis on celebrating Advent as opposed to preparing for Christmas. So, the Advent wreath is where we started, with a little booklet of prayers and Scripture my mom put together for her religious education class of Kindergarten

When my older kids were very young and we were just starting out with homeschooling, I went to an Advent Seminar, led by exciting, faith-filled women. I still have many of the handouts they put in the purple folder, almost twenty years later!!! There were crafty talks (not my thing!) and spiritual talks. There was a husband and wife, parents of a large family, talking about praying together, just the two of them. My husband wasn't Catholic yet and the idea was so foreign but so appealing!

I left the seminar with a dozen ideas, and knew I had to pare it down. We bought a book about the Jesse Tree, with symbols to cut out. We bought a book with prayers and activities for children, which we still use today. A few years later, we learned about the O Antiphons and the Christmas novena.

Probably my biggest source of Advent inspiration is Elizabeth Foss , who blogs at In the Heart of My Home. Really, you should go there now! :-) Elizabeth prepared Advent lesson plans centered mostly around Tomie dePaola books, with lots of reading and crafting. Those books have become an integral part of our Advent traditions. And now, she has a lovely devotional ebook for moms, because in the busyness of trying to make sure our kids "get" the meaning and beauty of Advent, we moms can miss the opportunity, actually the need, to prepare our own hearts. So, when you are done here, make haste to Elizabeth's blog and search for "Comfort and Joy"!

So, here's is what our Advent looks like with kids aged twenty to three in the house:

Advent Wreath

We light and pray after dinner every night. We still read the simple devotions my mother wrote, and a little prayer from Advent for Children (not sure if it is still in print, but there are many good prayer books for Advent. We also have The Essential Advent and Christmas Handbook, with prayers a little deeper for the older people at the table.

Jesse Tree

I still use our Jesse Tree paper ornaments from the Jesse Tree Kit. Again, I've had my resources for decades and they are harder to find, but several other good resources are out there. This one looks good: Jesse Tree Ornaments. We used to have a little fake tree to hang our ornaments on, but in recent years I have just drawn a big tree on butcher paper and hung it on the wall. The kids then tape the ornament for each day after reading the Scripture verse. We just go in order of age, each child getting a couple of chances each year to hang an ornament. 

Advent Calendar

We have a nice wooden Advent Calendar that has held up for years from Catholic Child. It has little compartments, each with a piece of a Nativity scene and they are magnetic.  Again, we take turns taking the piece out and putting it on the Nativity scene background. The littles enjoy moving the pieces around so it is not uncommon to see sheep floating in the sky! 

Nativity sets

We have several sets, a couple for the kids, including a Little People one that they just love and a peg doll set my daughter painted last year. I have "my" set that goes on the mantle and we have a huge Bethlehem village set that we put on the entertainment center. It's a little hard to see, but it's very tempting to little people and not sturdy enough to be played with. Someday, we will put it somewhere more visible!


During Advent, "schoolwork" takes a backseat and we just read and read. We have built up a library of both religious and some not so religious books, for many age levels. I've drawn heavily from Elizabeth Foss' recommendations. Each year, we read either Jotham's Journey, Tabitha's Travels, or Bartholemew's Passage. They are set in the days leading up to Christ's birth and are adventure stories that lead all the way to Bethlehem. There is a reading for each day. It keeps the children excited and interested, even after years of reading them!

Straw for the Baby Jesus

My favorite Advent activity! Way back, my oldest covered a shoe box with construction paper to be a crib for the Baby Jesus. We keep a ball of straw colored yarn next to the crib. When a child does a good deed (extra chore, helping a sibling, making a sacrifice), he or she puts a piece of straw in the manger. The goal is a comfy, warm bed for Baby Jesus! Such a great visual to encourage preparing our hearts!

St. Andrew Novena 

This is a prayer tradition that begins on Saint Andrew's feast November 30th and goes until Christmas Eve. It consists of praying the prayer fifteen times throughout the day. I have the prayer printed out and placed on the refrigerator. I also make it the wallpaper on my iPad, and I have a lovely chaplet with a St. Anthony medal on it from Loreto Rosaries.

Christmas Novena

This is a little more of a commitment, especially if you have all little children but we have managed it for sixteen years. We originally found it on a Knights of Columbus website, but you can find it here at Catholic Culture.  My husband typed it up assigning different sections to different children so everyone has a part. It begins on December 16th and incorporates the O Antiphons which start on the 17th.

O Antiphons

We have never made an O Antiphons house or ornaments, but we celebrate them through the novena and by singing the corresponding verse of O, Come Emmanuel each day, and on Christmas Eve we sing the whole song. Here is an article by Jennifer Miller explaining the significance of the Antiphons better than I can.

Advent is full of great feast days, too! But I will save those for another post just about the saints!

Lastly, here are some books I've enjoyed for myself over the years:
Advent and Christmas with Pope John Paul II
Behold, He Comes
Joy to the World, How Christ's Coming Changed Everything (and Still Does)

Wishing you all a blessed Advent!

Nov 18, 2016

Friday Feasting: Baked Potato Soup

Fall has finally come to North Dallas, and that means it is time for soup!  
Baked Potato Soup!
This is an all-time family favorite.

Melt 1 cup butter in a large, heavy pot.  Add 1 cup flour and stir. 

While the roux is bubbling away..."bake" 6 large potatoes and cook the bacon, bacon, bacon.

My new favorite way to cook the potatoes...
steamed under high pressure in the InstantPot for about 14 minutes.    

(If you don't have an InstantPot, wrap the potatoes in foil and
bake in a 400 degree oven for about 45 minutes.)

Gradually stir 9 cups milk into the roux.  Continue to stir until smooth, thick, and bubbly.

Stir in the potato pulp, salt, pepper, and most of the onions, bacon, and cheese.  Heat through.

Stir in the sour cream and garnish with the remaining onions, bacon, and cheese.

Baked Potato Soup

6 large baked potatoes
1 C butter
1 C flour
9 C milk
1 1/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp pepper
6 green onions
18 slices bacon
3 C shredded cheddar cheese
12 oz sour cream

Cut baked potatoes in half and scoop the pulp into a bowl.
Melt butter in a large pot.
Add flour.
Gradually stir in milk.
Continue to stir until smooth, thick, and bubbly.
Stir in potato pulp, salt, pepper, and most of the cheese, onions, and bacon.
Cook until heated.
Stir in sour cream.
Top with remaining cheese, onions, and bacon.