Cat Paws

Today we welcomed a new kitten into our family. Mary has named him Twinkie. He’s three months old and very loveable. He’s staying in my bedroom tonight. Tomorrow morning, I plan to tidy up the main living areas and let him explore. But for now, I think I better go to sleep. I may be up early with this little guy.

Continuing This Blogging Streak …

I don’t have much time, but I can say a few things.

Though I didn’t like science in school, and I have a different worldview; I do find myself identifying with Sheldon Cooper of The Big Bang Theory. I appreciate: his desire for things to be chronological, his not wanting to lie, his discomfort with not finishing things, his difficulties with sarcasm and the expectation that people are speaking literally, and his pleasure in sorting, organizing, and labeling stuff. There’s probably more. I really hope I am not as immature, and annoying to other people as he can be.

My daughter, Sarah, is graduating from a local community college and she won’t be attending the ceremony. I did the same when I finished the classes for my bachelor’s degree. I remember when my diploma came in the mail. I sat down on the sofa in my apartment, opened the envelope and admired the large paper for a minute. I think I said, “Cool!” And then I went and did something else.

My daughter, Rachel, will be going to the prom tomorrow with her boyfriend. I didn’t go to any proms during high school. I didn’t have any boyfriends either. I remember my father taking me out to Friendly’s and talking with me about it. He thought that if I didn’t go to my senior prom, I would regret it. I can honestly say that I have regretted many things and that is not one of them.

My youngest child, Mary, just turned twelve. For her birthday this year, Bobby and I told her that we’ll adopt a kitten. It’s something she’s wanted for a long time. I haven’t wanted any pets since my cat, Roxanne, died around 21 years ago. I didn’t want the responsibility of caring for a pet, in addition to all of the responsibilities that I already have or that I just think are mine. Monday, Mary and I visited a woman who is fostering kittens. Mary chose one of them, and we’ll hopefully be able to adopt him. We’ve been getting prepared; and I’m actually excited about it.

I’ll finish with an idea I heard two times today from two different sources. It’s the idea of walking with God, and that it is my lifeline. I want to be alive today, not just existing. I don’t want to be shuffling through my days, on auto-pilot, or exhausted. I’ve done enough of that. So, it’s good to be reminded. It’s not sleeping in, or getting more done, or having more fun, that will give me the life I seek.

Thinking About Balance and Acceptance

Wouldn’t it be great if I could maintain a perfect balance of all the important aspects of my life?

I imagine a pie chart with colored pieces like: physical, spiritual, emotional, etc. Or, even more detailed, like: sleep, eating well, exercise, prayer, time with family, time with friends, chores, projects, recreation, etc. I have no idea what the ideal pie chart should look like. What pieces should it include? What percentage of the whole should each piece be given? And even if an ideal pie chart could be created, how would I ever measure or achieve such a lofty goal?

I’ve been tracking my food intake on MyFitnessPal for couple of weeks now. I entered some goals for macros, and as you can see in the photo above, the app can create a nice pie chart showing my results each day. So far, I have not once reached these simple goals; but I am happy with my imperfect results. My overall goal is to build muscle and lose fat, not to create perfect pie charts.

So, what is my overall goal in life? It’s not to maintain a perfect balance of all the important aspects of my life. It’s this sort of thinking that can make me crazy. Or at least, unsatisfied with my performance. It would never be good enough. How could it be? With my finite energy, abilities, knowledge, and my lack of control over circumstances…

Today I was recognizing that when I desire perfection, and I think I can attain it with the right plan, I’m relying on myself. I’m likely worried, angry if things don’t go as planned, disappointed in myself and others, and more unfortunate emotions. BUT, when I rely on God’s strength and guidance, I need not worry about such and such. I will work on it each day, with God’s help, and what does not get done, is how it is to be. I have acceptance of what is. I have progress and Love. There is nothing better.

Yes, I Still Do Want to Be a Blogger

It’s just that I get so distracted. Let me start with the quick update. How about a bulleted list inspired by my iphone photos?

  • Rachel and Hannah were nuns in Sister Act the Musical at their high school
  • Matthew bought a two family house
  • I’m on Season Six of The Big Bang Theory
  • jigsaw puzzles
  • movies
  • Joseph played a lead role in Much Ado About Nothing at his community college
  • snowshoeing with Mary
  • crossword puzzles
  • Edward’s birthday party
  • Hayden and H.R.’s baby shower
  • Mom’s 75th birthday dinner at our house
  • bought a new car
  • Rachel’s birthday party
  • weekend away (dinner with Manda)
  • trying to find new jeans
  • the Good Friday outdoor processional around town Stations of the Cross
  • Easter Dinner
  • trip to York, England, and London and more (lots of photos!!!)
  • The Lord of the Rings movie marathon with Hannah, ending with an extended cut at the theater
  • NYC with Jodie, Bob and Mary
  • MJ the Musical
  • Greenwich Village, Little Island, the Highline, MOMA
  • Brooklyn with Mary (Brooklyn Bridge, Botanic Garden)
  • The Lion King
  • loads of subway rides and a train ride
  • shopping
  • tennis matches
  • walking and strength training
  • Calaeb and his Dad’s birthday party
  • Rachel and Hannah’s Confirmation and the party

Phew! Sure, I did other things too, but these were what I found in my camera roll. And now it’s time for bed. I’ll have to start blogging again another day.

Plans for Lent 2023

My YouTube addiction seems to be getting worse. The plus side is that I’ve been listening to many homilies about Lent. It’s now one week until Ash Wednesday and all I know is that I want to make this Lent special. A couple of weeks ago, a friend sent me a video about something called 90 Days to Liberty. I passed it along to another friend. “I’m considering this…” I told her. She immediately said, “I’m in!” When I told her that I’m more indecisive than she is, she said, “You can do it!” So, there’s that.

Then I found an article called Lent: Growing in our love of Jesus Christ. More ideas.

And here’s a video I really liked: The Spirit of Lent is Not Self Help. In it we are told, “Don’t get too attached to your plan.” What great advice. He says sometimes God gives us something else instead.

This has been my experience, especially in the last five years. It was in Lent 2018 that the closing of St. Mary’s High School was announced. It felt like my family was in limbo for months. Whatever my plan was for that year, this unexpected trial increased my prayer life. During Lent 2019, Bobby was offered a job in New York City. It felt like my family was in limbo for years. Would he sell his business? Would we move? Whatever my plan was for that year, this unexpected offer upped my prayers. It was rely on God or live in fear. I went back and forth between the two. And everyone knows what happened during Lent 2020.

So, I do intend to make a plan for 2023. I want to be generous. I want to be disciplined. I want to be ruthless. I want to break the chains and cut the threads of all of my attachments. But most of all, I want to be open and willing to accept God’s plan -whatever that might be- humbly and gratefully.

Book Notes: Leisure-The Basis of Culture, II

This section was long and what I am going to write here will definitely not be a summary, but rather some thoughts on a few points.

“Intellectual activity used always to be considered a privileged sphere, and from the standpoint of the manual worker especially, appeared to be a sphere in which one did not need to work.”

(Pieper, 25)

I have this attitude now. It’s why, when I am trying to avoid unnecessary work on Sundays, I save intellectual activity for then. I don’t consider it work. It’s fun. It’s relaxing and it does feel like a privilege. Sometimes, I try to squeeze a little of it in during the week too.

“Only those arts are called liberal or free which are concerned with knowledge; those which are concerned with utilitarian ends that are attained through activity, however, are called servile.”

(Aquinas, 37)

I went to a liberal arts college. I changed my major a number of times. I was a foreign languages major, an English major, a math major… I was indecisive. I remember talking with my parents when I was considering majoring in art history, and it was not encouraged. What was I going to do with that? They suggested accounting. I could get a job right away. The world always needed accountants. True, but I didn’t want to sit at a desk all day.

I think I was majoring in philosophy when I dropped out of college and became a factory worker. I worked nights. The good thing about it was that there were not a lot of people around, so it was quiet. I fondly remember the hum of the injection mold machines. It was a good atmosphere for thinking, and I could read books one sentence at a time in between doing my work. Or I could read on my breaks. So, for me, there has always been a distinction between work and intellectual activity. I wonder if that would have been different if I had been paid to read, think, or study.

“We are not simply to devote ourselves to politics and economics or to making a living, however valid these are in their own spheres. Pieper is quite aware of these things as elements in human life. But he recognizes that when everything human is defined in terms of utility or pleasure, the enterprise of knowing what we are loses its centrality in our lives.”

(James V. Schall, S.J., 11)

I included this quote from the foreword because I think it summarizes for me what Pieper is aiming at in this section. He seems very concerned with our world of “total work” and especially that the once privileged “liberal arts” are being called “intellectual work.” He goes into detail about how we acquire knowledge. He says that Kant claimed it’s from our effort alone. My own experience leads me to agree with Pieper and the ancients, that sometimes knowledge can be received without effort. He goes further to say that without this belief, we’d be ruling out things inspired and given to us. Knowledge would be the fruit of our own unaided activity. AS IF!!!

“… can a full human existence be contained within an exclusively workaday existence?”

(Pieper, 39)

Or can a man be a worker and nothing else? To be continued…

Book Notes: Leisure-The Basis of Culture, I

I’ll admit I chose this book because I thought it would give arguments for ideas with which I already agree. I thought it would convince me of how important it is that I make time for leisure. I’m talking about leisure in the Greek sense. Making it a priority to appreciate things of beauty, to contemplate… Not being a busy little bee all the time – full of ceaseless activity. My motivation in reading this book was to increase my knowledge, awareness, and conviction… and to hopefully act in accordance with these beliefs. After reading section I, my new hope is that it will not be too difficult to understand.

This book contains two parts: “Leisure: The Basis of Culture” and “The Philosophical Act.” According to the writer of the foreword, these were essays given by Josef Pieper in 1947.

This is my super-simplified synopsis of section I of the first essay:

People nowadays have very different values from people in the past. Also, the meanings of words have changed. On the surface it looks like today’s concepts of work and leisure are very different from the Greeks, the Romans, the people in the Middle Ages, and even the people living in 1947; but there is a deeper (not so obvious) change that I’m sure will be discussed in later sections. It is a changing view of our nature and the meaning of human existence.

Whoa! Hang on… I wasn’t expecting all of THAT! I guess I was kind of distracted when I started reading this in the summer.

So rather than getting “Ten Tips of How to Make Sunday a Day of Rest,” (Yes, I am too hooked on YouTube.) I may be diving into the deep end. (Picture me tapping my temple with my index finger à la Pooh Bear, saying… Think, Think, Think…)

“We are unleisurely in order to have leisure.” (20)

This is what Aristotle said. And to the Greeks, leisure was something much more than it means today. It wasn’t simply a little free time from the work that takes up most of your life. The author states that it is closely linked to the Christian and Western conception of the contemplative life. And he points out that the distinction between the “liberal arts” and “servile work” came from this notion of leisure. I found it interesting that he was certain that everyone was familiar with “servile work” at least, because they speak of it as unsuitable on Sundays and holidays. Not in 2023!

One last point: if we are to uncover what brought about this big change, looking at it only historically isn’t gonna cut it. We’re gonna get to the root of the problem. I’ll be interested to see where and how this goes.

I’m Kicking My Basement’s Butt!!

I actually made this strange exclamation (not aloud, just in my head) last night after Bobby and I spent the afternoon going through our stuff. I was pumped up. I may have even swung my arms around enthusiastically, feeling powerful.

Of course, today I see the reality of the situation. We put a small amount of trash in the back of our truck. I’ll bring it to the dump tomorrow. We also sent lots of paper to the recycling bin. I have lists of items to post online and projects to be done. Some items were sorted into categories. The basement looks worse than it did before we worked down there. But I am hopeful and grateful. We made a lot of decisions together, and this week, while Bobby’s in New York, I can plug away at removing the excess from our home.

But not today! Today is Sunday, a day of rest. I don’t do it perfectly, but I try to avoid doing unnecessary work on Sundays and to spend some time praying and some time doing what I enjoy. Today, I finally finished a book I started last summer, Letters and Instructions of St. Ignatius Loyola. It wasn’t an easy read for me. It was sometimes interesting, but not a favorite. I’ve chosen another book I started reading during the summer to be my next book study. I hope to write about it here. It’s Leisure: The Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper. I was only into Chapter 3, so I plan to start from the beginning.

Gotta go now because some members of my family and I are going with my father to see Puss in Boots: The Last Wish. I hope to write again soon.

I Didn’t Know Complexify Is a Word

I can’t believe it’s been more than four months since my last post. And yet I shouldn’t be surprised, because long stretches between posts have been a pattern for me. It seems like when I “come here” in the mood to write, I feel obligated to explain where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing. So let me just get my excuses for not writing out of the way.

They are as follows: homeschooling, parenting, Italy, remodeling the half-bath, Plum Island, parties, NYC with Mary, decluttering, home maintenance, NYC with my sister, holidays, plays, deep cleaning, decorating, Christmas shopping, wrapping, movies, puzzles, cooking, celebrations, taking down decorations, and trying to maintain relationships and my spiritual condition.

So today is Day 15 of the Catechism in a Year, and I’m on Day 10. I’m also on Day 10 of a 30-Day Organizing Boot Camp, of which I’ve completed 16 of the assignments. If that didn’t make sense, it means I’m a little behind on my studying the Catechism of the Catholic Church and a little ahead on my decluttering and organizing my entire house. I expect to get behind on the latter when I get to the storage areas assignment, which for me is the dreaded basement. Maybe I’m being dramatic. It’s not as bad as I imagine it to be. I made a great deal of progress on it in November. The problem is that I always give up when it gets hard, and I don’t finish the whole house. Well not this year!!!

Let’s talk about books. The start of a new year always gets me assessing where I’m at in many areas, and reading is one of those areas. I find myself, as usual, with a list of books I am “currently reading”. This means I started them, but do I want to finish them? I’ve decided that 2023 is the year I will finally read The Lord of the Rings. I’m starting with The Hobbit. I also plan to finish the last few pages of Letters and Instructions of St. Ignatius Loyola. That’s all I have decided so far. There are so many good options. I will commit to one soon.

I’m not going to attempt to plan out my whole year as I did in the past, by setting goals and breaking them down and getting things done. While organizing crafts and hobby supplies, I found my old planners. The first one was an original Franklin Covey planner and the year was 2000. Yes, I have 22 years of them. Skimming through them I found it interesting that 2020 was noticeably emptier.

Anyway, I’m starting out 2023 by planning for the week ahead. I start by scheduling the activities that I already committed to, like giving rides. Then things important for my spiritual wellbeing, such as adoration. I also track daily habits I’d like to form or strengthen. I thought I’d ease into physical habits to make it easier for me to develop them. The first week I focused on sleep. I went to bed early and got up early. Yay! The second week I added drinking water. I met my daily water intake goals. Yay! But my sleeping plan failed miserably. I got into eating chocolate and staying up late reading or watching YouTube videos on my phone in bed. This week I’m going to try going back to the 5-0. (It’s going to bed and getting up at regular times, calorie counting, drinking water, exercising, and journaling. It’s basically taking care of my body.) I’ll need to take one day at a time and pray for help to do this. And a media fast wouldn’t hurt.

Speaking of media, and media fasting, today I watched a video I found fascinating. A man on a channel called Sips with Aquinas was interviewing Dr. Peter Kreeft. It was so interesting that I took notes. He listed the only three reasons why anybody ought to do anything according to Aquinas: 1. moral duty, 2. practical necessity, and 3. fun. There’s some food for thought. So, if I’m considering doing something, and it doesn’t meet any of these three criteria…

He was making the point that we make our lives more complex rather than simplify them. And why? Why are we so harried and hassled? Why do we complexify? And I like this one: Why do we put ourselves in a spider’s web? He says we are bored. I call it running away. The not wanting to slow down and sit quietly. He says it takes too much effort. It’s because of sloth. I’ve read about this before and would like to ponder it more in the future. And one last idea: If you don’t believe in a real Heaven, you have to try to make a heaven on earth, and that’s going to keep you very, very, busy forever.

In conclusion, once more, I was able to bring a bunch of wandering thoughts back to the theme of this blog: Slowing Down.

Tortoise to Hare, and Back

Wait. What just happened? I know today was the first day of school, but I feel so unprepared. It’s like I went from tortoise to hare overnight. I remember we were slowly creeping through Gilmore Girls: Season 1 with my mom, I was doing laps in my dad’s pool, going to daily Mass and frequenting Adoration… Then we went away for a week of not having to do anything; and came back to summer’s-over-get-busy!

I want to reflect on the season gone by in order to let it go and clear my head, making space for direction to come. I pray for clarity and the ability to focus on what’s important now.

This summer was enjoyable, but arguably the shortest one ever. Looking through my photos reminds me of some highlights. Hugh Jackman!! I’m so grateful I got to see him perform as Harold Hill. It was a fun weekend with Bobby, Joseph, Hannah, and Mary. Then there was the impromptu weekend in NYC with my father. I took him to Central Park and he took me to Yankee Stadium. I was surprised that he didn’t mind subways. We tired ourselves out climbing stairs, and walking, and we ordered a feast at an Italian restaurant that we ate for days. It was an unexpected blast!

The girls and I attended some summer concerts at a local park, I started decluttering the dreaded basement, there was a trimming the bushes weekend, and last week in the Poconos. It was relaxing, but it’s good to be back home.

Writing this out has helped me. It was a good summer. I’m realizing that I just did too much in the past few days. Once again, I want to slow down. Fall is a great time to get back to routines. I love order. It may take a little time to get there, so I won’t expect it to happen in one day. Slow and steady.