Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Thing About Beauty

When I look back at old yearbooks or photo albums, and see "girl Heidi" or "young woman Heidi," I'm sometimes struck by how darn cute I was back then. I didn't believe it at the time, of course ... I grew up convinced that I was both ugly and fat, and would never have a boyfriend.

In truth, there was nothing wrong with how I looked; the trouble was on the inside. I found it hard to make friends ... a hyperactive sense of responsibility (a backlash from my sister's illness) combined with an obsession with school work made it hard for my peers to relate to me, and I lacked the social skills to bridge the gap from my side. I had no athletic skills, and didn't speak the language of my peers, who chattered endlessly about movies and television programs I hadn't seen, music I'd never heard, parties I hadn't been invited to, and adventures to the mall and ball games I only dreamed of.

I felt alone, disconnected. And that disconnection made me feel ugly.

These feelings of disconnectedness came back to me as I watched Martian Child, in which a widowed foster father (John Cusak) attempts to connect with his new son. The boy felt so disconnected from the real world, so convinced that this man, too, was going to leave him that he pretended to be from Mars. It was the father's job to make those connections, convince the boy that he was never, ever, ever going to be left alone.

It's a task I'm now trying to accomplish with my own kids. They are undeniably cute. Like many girls, Sarah is obsessed with her version of beauty: the princess dresses and other extraordinary outfits, the makeup that languishes on my vanity, the pictures in magazines in which the models are graded "ladylike" or "not ladylike." My son goes gaga over pretty girls, especially ones old enough to be his babysitter if not his mother.

And so I find myself trying to teach them about the beauty that lasts, the kind that radiates from the inside. I remind them that no matter how cute they look, it won't matter if they are mean or unkind or hurtful to others.

And then I search for ways to connect with them, convince them that (unlike their first parents) Craig and I are never going to disappear. We try to ensure that these kids, who have lost so many important figures in their lives, feel as connected as possible to Craig and me. Some days I think we succeed. Other days, not so well. And yet, the intention remains ... and that, combined with understanding, is going to make a difference in the end.

Today at "Behold Your Mother," Kate Wicker shares her own thoughts on beauty, and how she transmits that sense of true, inner beauty with her daughters. Be sure to check it out!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Minimum Basic Skills ... for Mass

Today Lisa Hendey posted an article at "Faith and Family Life" entitled Catechetical Etiquette. She would like to create a list of expected behaviors, which catechists can pass along to students.

Last weekend we skipped our (nearly) weekly trip to McDonalds after Mass because I felt the deportment of our children had been ... well, unseemly. Growling at other children on their way back from giving Father their gifts. Refusing to shake hands at the sign of peace. Whispering about what we were going to do after Mass during the prayer of consecration.
True, they had remained in their seats and listened attentively (for them) when I went forward to do the reading, and had followed along in the hymnal during all the hymns. Still, I thought they could do better.

Then again, I had to acknowledge how far they had come. There was a time when it would have been imprudent to allow Sarah out of arm's reach even for a moment, to bring Father the can of soup for the homeless shelter. A time when it was all I could do not to bring a tranquilizer dart in the diaper bag to regain control over my three-year-old son when he started flicking Cheerios onto the floor and diving on them like grenades.

But just as I was pondering whether my expectations were overly high, I overheard a mom admonishing her five-year-old for crossing his arms and looking grumpy during the homily. He had been right behind me, and I hadn't heard a peep out of him the entire service. Even so, he got no donut that week.

What are the MBS required to avoid the raised-eyebrow brigade Mass? Different families have different expectations, but here are a few points to get the conversation started:

* Dress to show respect. You are going to spend time with God. Think "Sunday dinner with Grandma" (or someone else you respect), not "Showtime at the Apollo." Minimize distractions (jangly jewelry or fussy accessories, no electronics of any kind).

* Remember that our bodies reflect what is in our hearts. When we genuflect as we enter the pew, it is to recognize that we serve the King of Kings. We cross ourselves with holy water as we enter and leave the church, and again (without the water) at the beginning and end of Mass to remind ourselves of our baptism, our "birthday" in the Church. When we stand and sit, sing or pray aloud, hear the bells or smell the incense, we use all our senses to worship our Creator. It is not enough to just "go through the motions." If it's all just for "show," it does not honor God.

* Come expecting to hear from God. If you can, get there a little early to prepare yourself. Light a candle if you wish. Kneel down before the service begins and commit that hour to God, inviting Him to speak to your heart. The message might come from a song, a line in the reading, a story in the homily ... or some other way. But if you come expecting to hear from God, He will never disappoint you.

* Be mindful of how your behavior affects others ... either leading them closer to God, or farther away. Whispering, poking a sibling, scowling, fidgeting, and thumping the kneelers are all examples of distractions to avoid. If you are finding it hard to concentrate, tell God about it. Ask the Holy Spirit to come and calm you. He will. Ask the Blessed Mother to help you. She will.

* If you're not sure what to do, just follow the people in front of you or on either side of you. You can find the words to the prayers in the front of the hymnal. Everyone has a job to do in church, if everything is going to go smoothly and in order. Young children can sit quietly ... but the bigger kids get to pray and sing with the grown-ups!

* Shh... Jesus is here! Jesus whispers to us in the readings, and gives Himself to us in the Eucharist under the forms of bread and wine. During those times especially, we need to pay close attention ... We are never closer to heaven as when we receive the life of Jesus in the Eucharist. If you listen very closely, you can hear the angels in heaven bursting into song at that moment, rushing down to carry the intentions of our hearts straight to the throne of God. If you need to ask God something, that is the best time of all to make your request!

* Mass is not over until the priest leaves the sanctuary AND the music stops. Don't cut your worship short just to be the first out of the parking lot. God has been waiting all week to spend some time with you ... Don't cut your visit short. You never know what blessing is in store!

* If you find yourself at church during the week, why not stop by and say hello to Jesus in the tabernacle, or light a candle? Tell Him how your week is going. Stop and breathe, and whisper a little prayer if you're having a particularly good or bad week. The Lord Jesus loves you, and looks forward to your visit!

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Monday, September 22, 2008

I Love Your Blog Award

Thank you to Therese from Aussie Coffee Shop for passing on I love your blog award to me! I love your blog too.

As a recipient of this award, there are rules to follow. I have to answer the following questions with one word answers and one word only! Then I must pass it on to seven others! The questions are as follows:

1. Where is your cell phone? Table
2. Where is your significant other? Sleeping
3. Your hair color? Auburnish
4. Your mother? Atlanta
5. Your father? Retired
6. Your favorite thing? Tea
7. Your dream last night? Sporadic
8. Your dream/goal? Podcast
9. The room you're in? Living
10. Your hobby? Baking
11. Your fear? Death (my husband's)
12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Syndicated
13. Where were you last night? Restaurant
14. What you're not? Skinny
15. One of your wish-list items? Painter
16. Where you grew up? NJ
17. The last thing you did? Awakened
18. What are you wearing? Casualwear
19. Your TV? Hi-5.
20. Your pet? Needed
21. Your computer? Old
22. Your mood? Achy
23. Missing someone? Sister
24. Your car? Messy
25. Something you're not wearing? Earrings
26. Favorite store? Sale
27. Your summer? Over
28. Love someone? Craig
29. Your favorite color? Blue
30. When is the last time you laughed? Hmmm...
31. Last time you cried? Movie

Here are the rules for you people:Now, for you recipients of this award, here's the deal:* Display your award.* Link back to the person who gave you the award.* Nominate at least 7 other blogs.* Put links to those blogs on yours.* Leave a message on the blogs of the people you've nominated.* Enjoy your award!

Friday, September 19, 2008

What does your name mean?

Today's quiz is courtesy of "Mighty Mom"!

What Heidi Means

You are truly an original person. You have amazing ideas, and the power to carry them out.

Success comes rather easily for you... especially in business and academia.

Some people find you to be selfish and a bit overbearing. You're a strong person.

You are friendly, charming, and warm. You get along with almost everyone.

You work hard not to rock the boat. Your easy going attitude brings people together.

At times, you can be a little flaky and irresponsible. But for the important things, you pull it together.

You tend to be pretty tightly wound. It's easy to get you excited... which can be a good or bad thing.

You have a lot of enthusiasm, but it fades rather quickly. You don't stick with any one thing for very long.

You have the drive to accomplish a lot in a short amount of time. Your biggest problem is making sure you finish the projects you start.

You are balanced, orderly, and organized. You like your ducks in a row.

You are powerful and competent, especially in the workplace.

People can see you as stubborn and headstrong. You definitely have a dominant personality.

What I really want to know is ... how did they get my mother to write this for them?!?

Mary Moments Carnival...

... is now up at Behold Your Mother. This month's "Birthday Edition" Carnival -- created by expert blogger Sarah Reinhard -- is dedicated to the birthday of Mary, the mother of Christ.

Come on over for some more great recipes and other spiritual "food for thought."
Photo credit: This photo was taken from this University of Dayton website, where you can find additional information about this Marian feast.

Apple Dumpling Day!

It's Apple Dumpling Day!!!

According to tradition (ours), the first forey into an apple orchard each fall is followed by a breakfast of apple dumplings with vanilla milk.

So, since the kids had a day off of school today, and the Cortlands were in season ... we headed to Wasem's for apple picking and cider swilling. Not to mention the tasty pumpkin donuts!

In honor of Apple Dumpling Day, I'd like to share with you this time-tested recipe, passed down through at least three generations of my family. (And while you're eating them, check out EMN, where our guest poster "Pops" talks about another great American tradition ... military service, and what it's like to be the parent of a soldier.)

To make Heidi's Apple Dumplings, you will need...

8 fresh-picked apples (peeled, cored, and cut in quarters)

3 C flour
1-1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbls baking powder
1C plus 2Tbls shortening
3/4 C milk

2 C sugar
2 C water
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 C butter
a dozen little cinnamon candies (optional)

First, make the dumplings. Cut together flour, salt, bp, shortening together to course crumbs; add milk to make dough. Roll thin like pie crust (handling as little as possible to keep it tender). Place hand-sized (fingers spread) circle of dough in one hand, cupped slightly. Put apple quarters on top, then draw up dough around apples, squeezing with both hands so that dough covers entire apple. Place each "doughed" apple in baking dish, making sure there is space (at least an inch) between each apple. Continue with remaining apples.

Next, bring to boil the sugar, water, cinnamon, nutmeg, and butter. Stirring constantly, continue to boil, adding cinnamon candies (if used) in the last minute. Pour hot syrup over apples, making sure some of the juice gets on each one. Bake 375 for 35-40 minutes, until golden.

To make vanilla milk, take a pint of milk and add 2 tsp vanilla extract and 2 tsp sugar. Pour over warm dumplings. Yum!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Breaking the Migraine Cycle

Today I found an article at "Everyday Health" that described the relationship between migraine headaches and sleep deprivation.

The article gave the following recommendations on how to regulate sleep, so that you can get at least eight hours every single night:

In a 2006 study of about 40 women who experienced transformed migraines (chronic daily headaches), researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill asked half the group to make the following behavioral sleep modifications (BSMs):
  • Go to bed at the same time every night to allow for eight hours of sleep.
  • Eliminate TV watching, reading, or listening to the radio in bed.
  • Use visualization techniques to shorten the amount of time it takes to fall asleep.
  • Eat dinner at least four hours before going to bed, and limit fluid intake within two hours of bedtime.
  • Take no naps.
After six weeks, the women that modified their sleep habits reported a 29 percent reduction in headache frequency and a 40 percent drop in headache intensity. The other group of women, who were given instructions unrelated to sleep, did not experience any improvement in headache frequency or intensity.

Now, it is counter-intuitive to eliminate naps when operating on a couple of hours of sleep ... or when actually fighting a migraine. And yet, this study shows that we need to "educate the body" to optimize the rest time we do receive ... so hang in there!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Gillian & O'Malley: Why "Cheap" is not always good.

I don't like to shop for clothes. Whenever possible, I do it online -- saves the hassles of the crowds, the lines, the irksome music. Once or twice a year, I "gird up my loins" and hit Target to buy essentials (and try not to pass out when the bill ... well, reflects the fact that I only do this once or twice a year).

Yesterday was one of those days. I had to get a few essentials ... including the support variety. I had just been measured at Curves last week, so knew my exact size. Then I found this "Ultimate" line of Gillian & O'Malley for about $10, and was so excited about how soft they were I bought 2.

That's $20 I'll never get back. After only a day, I'm walking around with this welt on my ribcage, even though (a) it fit fine in the store and (2) it was precisely the same size as my other bras (which do not leave welts).

Soft, shmoft. I'm going back to Playtex!

Who Am I? Wisdom from my Mother-in-Law

I am under 45 years old.
I love the outdoors.
I hunt.
I am a Republican reformer.
I have taken on the Republican Party establishment.
I have many children.
have a spot on the national ticket as vice president with less than two years in the governor's office.

Have you ever heard of me before now? Scroll down to see . . .

I am Teddy Roosevelt. Sarah's in good company!

Inlaws, Outlaws, and Other Family Issues

Today at Catholic Exchange ... yours truly!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

EMN Writer's Contest: "Weird Mom Stories"

What's the strangest thing thing you've ever done for love ... of your kids?

Care to share? Write it up by September 20, and you could win some cold, hard cash!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

And Mercy Above All

Seven years.

Seven years ago, my daughter had not yet opened her eyes upon the world.

Seven years ago, my son was still living with his birth family, hardly more than a baby himself.

Seven years ago, Craig and I had been married a little over two years, and had managed to iron out most of the wrinkles of newlywedded angst.

And then the planes erupted in a flash of smoke and fire.

And then the Towers disintegrated in piles of ash and regret.

And then, as the demons cheered, the rest of America wondered just where God was.

And the angels wept as they led those souls through the smoke and clouds to ... forever.

Wept for the children who would wait forever for Daddy to tuck them in.

Wept for the husbands who would wait forever for wives to tell them where the mittens and hats were stored, and what time was their daughter's dance class, and how to put the soap in the washing machine, and...

Wept for the wives who would have to figure out how to run the mower and find the life insurance and online bank accounts ... and how to sleep in the middle of the bed.

Wept for the parents who wished the last words they said to their grown children weren't, "If you do that, I'll never speak to you again."

Human beings, we're such a fragile lot. We spend so much time obsessing about things that a year from now or even a day from now will matter not a whit.

And the angels weep. And they lead us toward forever ... where there is mercy above all.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

A Heavenly Birthday Treat: Pavlova

Sarah at "Behold Your Mother" is gathering posts related to Mary's birthday for the "Mary Moments Carnival" Sept 15 ... for more information, click here. Hurry ... all Carnival posts are due September 10!

Years ago I went to school with a group of “Kiwis” from Christchurch, New Zealand. One of them, Roger, was a professionally trained pastry chef; Roger and his wife Sylvia taught me of the joys of Pavlova. This light-as-air dessert, made of whipped egg whites and cream (some add custard as well), got its name in the 1920s from Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova. For more information about the history of this dish, click here.

Two “secret ingredients” whipped into the egg whites and sugar of this classic dessert give it its marshmallow-y texture. The first is cornstarch – soft, powdery most often used in the kitchen to thicken and bind. The second is vinegar.

Cornstarch and vinegar make me think of the Blessed Mother. The soft, binding power of cornstarch makes things stick together … invisibly. And the vinegar reminds me of all the ways she endured great suffering during her lifetime, all for love of her Son, Jesus.

So … in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s birthday (September 8), why not whip up one of these cloud-like confections? This dessert is traditionally topped with fresh fruit, so pick a few raspberries. Not only is this berry now in season, but the raspberry is also related to the rose, Mary’s flower! (A mix with other berries will also make this a treat for the eyes as well as the palate).

To make your Pavlova, you will need …

4 large eggs, chilled
1-1/4 sugar (preferably fine castor sugar)
4 tsp cornstarch
4 Tbs boiling water
pinch salt
1 tsp vanilla
1-1/2 tsp vinegar
1 pint heavy whipping cream, chilled
2 Tbs sugar
4 C fresh fruit (raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, kiwi, etc.)

Separate eggs; set aside yolks for another purpose. Allow the egg whites to come to room temperature (30 minutes or so). Meanwhile, form a 9-10” ring from waxed paper fastened with a paper clip. Put a 12” circle of waxed paper on a lightly greased cookie sheet, place the ring on top. (You could also use a spring form pan lined with parchment.) Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Beat the egg whites, gradually adding sugar, cornstarch, water, salt, vanilla, and vinegar. Beat at least TEN MINUTES, until VERY stiff (this is the secret to a high, light dessert). Pour beaten whites into the wax paper mold, mounding high and smoothing top slightly.

Bake at 250 degrees 90 minutes, then turn off oven and leave door slightly ajar. Leave in oven overnight. The next morning, remove waxed paper and place pavlova on dessert plate. Beat cream and sugar until soft peaks form. Chill. Just before serving, decorate the pavlova with cream and fruit.

To serve, use two forks (inserted back-to-back) pulling in opposite directions to separate the pieces into serving sized portions. Enjoy with a good cup of tea!

Monday, September 01, 2008

Sarah Palin: Future Mother of a Nation?

Sarah has the next Catholic Carnival up at "Another Day of Catholic Pondering." Check it out!

Craig and I just returned from a week-long (more or less) technology break in northern Michigan. One nine-inch TV with two fuzzy channels (for kids videos -- hey, it was supposed to be OUR vacation, too!), a cell phone for emergencies only ... and blessed peace and quiet.

In the interim, we totally missed the announcement of Senator McCain's VP pick.

My first reaction: Sarah who?

My second reaction, after just a couple of clicks: Sarah wow! The clincher was Barbara Boxer's quote: “The only similarity between her and Hillary Clinton is that they are both women,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). “On the issues, they could not be further apart.”

Hallelujiah! A ringing endorsement indeed.

For the first time in weeks, I'm actually looking forward to the election. I actually bought a bumper sticker. (That would be a first for me.) AND the matching lawn sign and polo.

And Craig and I are planning to head over to Sterling Heights on Friday to hear the senator and governor speak at Freedom Hill. Another first.

Governor Sarah Palin ... A woman with enough gumption to oust a four-term good ol' boy by a two-to-one margin. A woman who is unapologetically and unreservedly pro-life ... and who has the gifts and the integrity to do more than just talk about it. She is principled. She is tough.

She's a mother. This bothers some people. "What about her family? What about her children, who need her?"

And yet, if we want someone who lives out her convictions ... doesn't it stand to reason that children are going to be involved? Yes, she has a special needs infant (whom she breastfeeds). Yes, she has a seven-teen-year-old daughter who is pregnant out of wedlock. (My mother, the original SAHM, endured not one but THREE out-of-wedlock pregnancies among her children.) She also has twelve years of experience in public service in a state half the size of the continental U.S.

In the end, it is up to the Palins to decide what is best for their family. If parenting special needs children has taught me nothing else, it's that no one else can understand the internal dynamics of a family better than the individuals within that family. Ultimately, it is up to Todd and Sarah to decide before God what is best for their family. It's a choice they made when she ran for governor ... and a choice they have clearly committed themselves to making now.

Ultimately, it's not up to us to decide what is best for Palin's family. It's up to us to decide who is best suited to run our country, defending the needs of the weakest and most vulnerable members of our society. Will it be the fast-talking junior senator from the state of Illinois ... or the man who has the foresight and wisdom to take as his running mate a woman who is personally, unapologetically and unreservedly ... pro-life?

Already the media has done their best to discredit her. Governor Palin has retained council in connection with an investigation regarding the firing of Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan, who was terminated some time after refusing to fire her rogue brother-in-law, Mike Wooten, whose record contains multiple charges of improper conduct in both his personal and professional life. Wooten, now divorced from Palin's sister, and is on record as having threatened that his father-in-law would "eat a f-g bullet" if he tried to retain council to defend his daughter.

Hmmm... let's see how the Democrats play this one. Do they REALLY want to appear to be on the side of a child and wife abuser, even one dressed in blue?

In point of fact, based on what I've read so far, Mrs. Palin showed admirable restraint. Instead of having the man who used a taser on her nephew and threatened her father taken out and beaten senseless in a dark alley (a feeling I would have completely understood, from what my own sister went through) she restrained herself and trusted the commissioner to do his job.

By the sounds of it, he didn't. And yet, the governor stands accused.

Keep your eyes on the prize, Mrs. Palin. We're counting on you.