Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Ten Practical Steps to Improved Spirituality

Last night we had the first of a four-night parish mission at my church, and Father Meoska (who has been in religious life for twenty-five years) gave a talk about practical spirituality. He gave us ten easy steps to leading a more spiritual life:

1. Live more naturally.

2. Live more deliberately.

      a. Don’t let the day just happen.

      b. Be faithful to the ordinary.

     c. Live an ordered existence.

3. Begin and end your days well.

      a. Get up earlier and set a quiet tone for the day.

      b. Say a morning offering.

      c. Examine your conscience at the end of each day.

4. Live each moment mindfully (i.e., in the present).

5. Slow down and live more leisurely.

6. Work more leisurely – busy but not frenetic.

7. Take time for silence and solitude

8. Exercise your whole body, mind and soul.

9. Cultivate a sense of adventure and play.

10. Celebrate the Sabbath with a day of rest.

While these are lessons he learned from the monastic life, I believe they can apply to the rest of us too, and so I am posting them for all my readers.

Famous Hat

Monday, February 27, 2012

Wine and Chocolate Weekend

Friday night Anna Banana II, OK Cap, Jilly Moose, and I went to a fish fry and had huckleberry cosmos before praying the rosary. Saturday was a busy day for me. Hardingfele and I went to hot sweaty yoga (which is a literal, not figurative, description – it is not one bit sexy), then Tiffy came up and we went to an outdoor party thrown by the Daughter of Denii. Brr! Good thing there was a bonfire! The highlight of the day was in the evening when Tiffy, Jilly Moose, OK Cap, and I went to the Wine and Chocolate Tasting Fundraiser at our local indoor gardens. A large wisteria was blooming in the atrium, making the place smell heavenly, and in the conservatory a band played calypso versions of 80’s hits. This year they had not just wines from local wineries to sample, but also some products from local distilleries. The vodka with lime juice was a favorite, and there were several chocolate liqueurs. Lots of good chocolates too, including a local bakery that brought brownie samples. What a divine (as Jilly Moose would say) way to spend a winter evening! Then we went to OK Cap’s house to sober up and play Mad Libs, which is just as funny now that we are adults as it was when we were kids. Sunday after brunch, Rich, Tiffy, and I went to the zoo to enjoy the beautiful weather. It was also Luxuli's husband's birthday, so happy birthday to him. (I had to go to band practice and missed out on angel food cake.) So it was a great weekend, but much too short.

Famous Hat

Friday, February 24, 2012

Patchwork Leather Purse

My office mate Light Bright’s mother makes purses from scraps of different-colored leather. She made one for me – check it out. This is a scan of the back of the purse.

Famous Hat

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Writers at a Coffeehouse

Monday night I got together at a coffeehouse with some fellow writers, which sounds like such a cliché. We each read an excerpt of our writing, and they really liked mine, which was this novel treatment by Keith the Plant (actually the Prologue to a murder mystery I am working on), although two of them said they never read prologues. Then we did a twenty-minute writing exercise using one of three themes:

A man and a woman are having an argument about his ex. Don’t mention the man, the woman, the argument, or the ex.

Write a scene on a lake with some trees and stuff (only they used the other S word).

Imagine that your favorite historical figure has an imp behind their right ear prodding them forward to greatness. Write from the point of view of this creature.

I have not been feeling very creative lately, so this exercise was just what I needed. I wrote a short story weaving together all three story lines, with two people arguing by the side of a lake and the imp telling Vivaldi that it’s such a beautiful summer day, he should write a concerto about it… and then ones for the other three seasons, while he’s at it. The others said it was very creative, but they all wrote about the first one and came up with some amazingly poetic descriptions. That is why it is good to get together with other writers: they help you see what you could be capable of if you stretched yourself.

Famous Hat

Monday, February 20, 2012

At the Model Train Expo

Saturday I went with Richard Bonomo, Katzooks, her boyfriend, and another friend of hers to the Model Train Expo at our local Expo Center. There were lots of model train setups, some of them very elaborate, and we were fascinated looking at all the detail people put into them. I just loved the miniature worlds of each layout, built to various scales. Our favorite even had a little expo center with tiny model trains running in it! One layout had a “train cam” that showed what the train saw as it ran around the track, and the cities and farms it passed almost looked real from that perspective. Then we saw ourselves looming giant in the background, so we waved. Being at the Train Expo really brings out the kid in a person! There were lots of actual kids there, of both genders. Trains may appeal a little more to boys, but there are plenty of girls interested in them too. Being an engineer, Rich loved the actual steam engines. There were lots of things for sale too, but none of us actually bought anything, even if Katzooks said she thought building layouts would be a cool hobby. It was fun just to look.

That evening Katzooks and her boyfriend made dinner for Rich, Jilly Moose, Kathbert, their other friend, and me: pasta with alfredo sauce and cauliflower. They wanted to make a frosting recipe from Katzook’s book of “Grandma Recipes,” so they also made a Black Magic cake, and with the frosting it was amazing. This book has recipes from all kinds of Grandmas: Jewish, Polish, Italian, Mexican, Dutch, and Czech that I can remember, and maybe some others too. It looked like a really old book, so those grandmas might have actually been our great-grandmothers.

Sunday Anna Banana II and her fiancĂ© made brunch for a bunch of us, including all of us Rosary Ladies, then Luxuli wanted Rich, Kathbert, and me to look at a house she was interested in. It was a beautiful plot of land, right on the lake, but the house needed too much work. It was a gorgeous day out, so Rich and I took a walk before going to Lutheran Cathedral’s Mardi Gras party, which was fun as always. The Youth Group served us gumbo and king cake and then put on a musical about the Old Testament.

Famous Hat

Friday, February 17, 2012

Beethoven: I Don't Get It

The group I sang Handel’s “Messiah” with is now singing Beethoven’s 9th Symphony (or at least the final movement), and I went to the first rehearsal on Wednesday night. The director was going on and on about Beethoven and how great he is, and how the 9th is the pinnacle of human achievement, blah blah blah, while I asked myself, “Why am I doing this?” I am very aware that many people love Beethoven, and maybe I am doing this in an effort to figure out why. Is it a waste of time to try to appreciate music you don’t like right away?

I loved Schuetz from the first hearing. I love his rhythmic variety and constantly shifting modality. Last night at Lutheran choir practice we sang his “In Te, Domine, Speravi,” where the plaintive opening line contrasts with the wild tango rhythm of “non confundar,” and the music really seems to mean what we are singing: “In you, oh Lord, I have hoped; never let me be put to shame.” Non confundar in aeternum. The Beethoven has an admirable sentiment about all men being brothers, and this moved the director at Wednesday’s rehearsal deeply. Why does it not move me like Schuetz does? So now I have to decide if it is worth it to go back to Beethoven rehearsal: will I learn to love the music or just be torturing myself?

Famous Hat

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Mad Props to IT

The IT people where I work usually do not seem to be very helpful. Every time I contact them, it seems like their advice is to reboot. Obviously I know by now that they will suggest this, so by the time I contact them, I already know rebooting isn’t solving the problem. But I have to give mad props to them this week because they really came through for me with some saved data. For reasons I cannot explain, a folder I had full of subfolders suddenly only had documents in it – the subfolders had completely disappeared. I asked IT if they could get me the folder from a month ago, but that didn’t help – the subfolders were still gone except for two of them. So then I asked if they could go way back… and they could! Thanks, IT people! You really came through when I needed you. I’m so glad they save all that backed up data. Of course, whoever made the subfolders disappear the first time might work their magic again, but now I know that IT will be able to help me out.

Famous Hat

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

How to Make a Poinsettia Rebloom

Most of us, at one time or another (usually Christmas), have had a poinsettia plant. Some of us have been known to keep them long after they have become green and leggy, and a few of us have even tried to get them to bloom again. The story always told is that they need 14 hours of darkness, and one stray light beam will ruin everything. When I worked at a research greenhouse back in my university days, we would force poinsettias to bloom by covering them for a certain amount of time each day. I tried to replicate this with my own plants by hiding them in the bathroom for hours, but they just died. I had given up on the idea of ever getting a poinsettia to bloom again, but I didn’t have the heart to throw them away.

Rich has gotten a poinsettia from our church organist for the last three years, and last summer I set them out in his garden, where the newer one died but the older one flourished. I brought it in for the winter and set it in his atrium area, where it gets plenty of sun along with my plants The Professor, Dr. Cheung, Jolly Bob, and Greg. Rich forgets about it, so I water it at the same time as my plants, more or less once a week, and otherwise we ignore it. Then an amazing thing happened: some of its leaves began to get red spots on them. I was afraid it was sick, but it looked very happy. Then it got buds! Now it is blooming, and I will try to get a photo soon to prove it. The leaves are smaller than when it was forced to bloom in the commercial greenhouse, but they are just as red. So I guess the secret to getting poinsettias to rebloom is to ignore them in a sunny room and keep the temperature cool! Who knew?

Famous Hat

Monday, February 13, 2012

Forbidden Planet Birthday Party

Saturday we had a birthday party for Richard Bonomo with a “Forbidden Planet” theme. Check out the sweet Robby the Robot cake made by an alto in our choir:

She also made beer cheese dip and pulled pork. My contributions were a garland of allegedly glow-in-the-dark inflatable moons and stars which did not glow in the dark and a ton of jambalaya which turned out much better, thanks to lots of help from Luxuli and a financial contribution from Tiffy. (I think I have covered all my shout-outs there.) Thanks to Anna Banana II for lots of help as well, with decorating and food.

Rich got some crazy presents, like a baseball cap that says “Jesus Christ the Supper Star” with a tag on it that has an eagle and an American flag but does not actually say anything, and inside of the cap is a little label that says “Made in China.” He also got a book called “Meat: A Love Story,” which is perfect for a carnivore like him, and a book of Latin quips for all occasions. (No worries, he got some serious gifts too.)

You may be wondering what else we had for the “Forbidden Planet” theme besides Robby the Cake and some nonfunctional moons and stars. We also had an exercise ball for the Forbidden Planet, and Katzooks brought a robot eraser, a robot game, and rocket balloons which we tested out after almost everyone else had gone home. They scream while flying straight up in the air, although the first one Rich tested just exploded.

Mr. Icon was talking about an old ad called “The Heartbreak of Psoriasis,” and El Vegetariano was confused. “Why would psoriasis be heartbroken?” he wondered.

Yesterday Rich and I went to the Garden Expo, and we had to laugh because you pay to park, you pay to enter (unless you get free tickets, like we did), and then all you do there is buy stuff, so it's all about spending money. I bought a little succulent plant; Rich bought nothing, but he did look at some of the tools with interest. They had everything there from $3 plants to $45K backhoes, depending on your gardening needs.

Famous Hat

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Positively Challenging

My office mate Light Bright is taking a class on Counseling, and she said I should issue a challenge to all my readers to incorporate these exercises into our thinking to make us more positive and responsible.

Challenge #1: Add “and I take responsibility for it” to the end of each sentence. For example, “Today is sunny, and I take responsibility for it.”

Challenge #2: Use “and” instead of “but” in your sentences. For example, instead of saying, “Chocolate has a lot of calories but I love it,” say, “Chocolate has a lot of calories and I love it.” Not too hard, is it?

Challenge #3: Replace “can’t” with “won’t.” Take ownership of the issue! For example, instead of, “I can’t walk through walls,” say, “I won’t walk through walls.” It’s your choice!

Challenge #4: Use personal pronouns, so replace “people” and “they” with “I.” For example, instead of saying, “People sometimes win the lottery,” say, “I sometimes win the lottery.” That is so much more positive. It is positively positiver.

Challenge #5: Add “now I am aware” before each statement. For example, “Now I am aware there is a box of chocolate in the other room and the door is locked, and I won’t walk through the wall no matter what I say."

So, gentle readers, go forth and think positive thoughts!

Famous Hat

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

This Is What Democracy Looks Like

…after being buried under a blanket of despotism until our Constitutional rights have eroded.

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Monday, February 6, 2012

Serious Post

Today the B Boys’ father passed away. It was not a surprise, since he had been ailing for a long time, and last week he took a drastic turn for the worse. While the family was in a conference with the doctor, Cecil Markovich and I prayed over him. It was a very long conference, so we prayed all four sets of mysteries of the rosary and a Divine Mercy chaplet, and then Cecil had to leave so I sang hymns. I do not know what hymns Mr. B particularly liked, so I sang him my favorites. Every time I stopped singing, he got restless, so I kept singing until the family returned. We were unsure how much he was aware of at that time, but Richard Bonomo and I went to see him a few nights ago, and he was conscious and nodding and even trying to pray the Divine Mercy chaplet with us. This is a man who will probably not have to spend much time in Purgatory, and I feel honored that I was able to pray with him before he slipped away. Hopefully he is now praying for all of us.

Famous Hat

Friday, February 3, 2012

Gray Hair

I can’t think of anything to blog about today, having said everything there is to be said about winning a coin and getting a coin rosary, so Toque McToque suggested I blog about the conversation I had with my current office mate Light Bright regarding gray hair. (An interesting side note: yesterday was Light Bright’s second anniversary at this job, so it was #2 on 2/2.) I don’t remember how this topic came up, but Light Bright cannot wait to go gray. She has six gray hairs so far and says they are a lot thicker than her dark hairs, so she is hoping to have thick, silver hair soon.

“My dad went gray when he was sixteen,” she said. She is nearing thirty herself and is getting impatient to go gray all the way.

I am a bit older than Light Bright and am not excited about the idea of going gray, but my hair is so light I honestly can’t tell if there are any grays in there. My father is the same way, and Ma Hat still has mostly dark hair at seventy. Light Bright looked at the top of my head (she is also quite a bit taller than I am) and said I have three gray hairs. Maybe it’s from this job, although now that hubie got demoted and FOX got another job, things are much more pleasant. I guess it is just the result of a number of years on earth. Sigh.

Famous Hat

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Winner's Coin

Here is the coin I won from Public Radio. Remember when I said it would be cool if it had a flapper on it? Doesn't Lady Liberty look a little bit like a flapper? No? Well, that's okay, 1922 might be too early for flappers anyway. Still, it is a very cool coin.

Famous Hat

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Coin Rosary

Here is an interesting addendum to yesterday’s post: when I went home and got the mail, there was a free rosary in it. Not just any rosary, but one made of St. Anthony medals that look like coins. What a wacky coincidence after I won a collector’s coin!

Famous Hat