Sunday, January 31, 2010


You may know of emotional eaters who reach for sweets when they're upset. I am fortunate enough not to be one of these, or else right now I would weigh far more than I do. No, I am an emotional baker. Hence the chocolate cake sitting on the counter downstairs right now. Perhaps I'm reassured, when all else seems hopelessly jumbled, that the boxed cake mix will always turn into a cake if I follow the directions on the back. And finished cakes are so lovely. After I iced this one with gooey chocolate frosting, I stepped back to feast my eyes upon its beauty and then covered it up so it wouldn't dry out. Not even a nibble. I didn't even want a nibble! How strange. My family is going to start keeping me in a constant state of distress so they'll always have cake around...

Saturday, January 30, 2010

In Springtime...

I meant to write this blog on Thursday, but alas ran out of time. There are not enough hours in the day lately. Honestly.

I know that the arctic weather of the past few days may have many despairing of ever feeling the warmth of springtime, but a few days ago I experienced a taste of that beautiful season.
That morning I woke up with a song in my head. It's a madrigal arrangement of Shakespeare's sonnet...

This carol they began that hour,
With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino,
How that life was but a flower 15
In the spring time, the only pretty ring time,
When birds do sing, hey ding a ding, ding;

Sweet lovers love the spring.

I came down the stairs singing the darling lilting melody and at the sound of my voice, my little bird began to sing for her breakfast. The poor dear had only shells left in her bowl, so I traipsed to the back door to blow them into the snow. (I know it sounds silly, but that's how I make sure I'm not dumping out good seed with the shells.) The porch was sunny and bright and lo, my amaryllis had burst into bloom seemingly overnight! So of course I ran for my camera so I could share the glory with you. :)

And then, after I had filled my birdy's dish, she took a few bites and sang her thank-you while I ate my own breakfast in the next room. What a pleasure to have such a cheery bird in the house! And such a cutie, too!

I renamed her Jacqueline (pronounced in the proper French "zhak-LEEN" of course) since I found out she's probably a girl... "Jack" just wasn't going to cut it anymore. So now when I go into the den I give her a pleasant "Bonjour, Jacqueline!" (even though that's all the French I know and she is technically of English descent) and she twitters her reply. My mother made the astute observation that she really is a one-person bird, because she pretty much hates everyone else in the house and usually sings when she hears my voice. Thus, if I move back to Oakland next year, I will try to arrange for the bird to come with me. I would hate to leave her when we are just starting to get along again, for I must admit that after Elli died I left "Jack" to my family's care for a while. :( But that's all in the past now. New name, new beginning. And spring just around the corner!! ;)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Some Excerpts

from the book Jesus, Our Eucharistic Love by Fr. Stefano M. Manelli, F.F.I.

on the Eucharist:
With the Eucharist, God has truly given us everything. St. Augustine exclaimed: "Although God is all-powerful, He is unable to give more; though supremely wise, He knows not how to give more; though vastly rich, He has not more to give."
One day an Arabian prince, Abd-ed-Kader, while passing through a street of Marseille with a French official, saw a priest who was carrying Holy Viaticum to a dying man. The French official stopped, uncovered his head, and knelt. His friend asked him the reason for this gesture.
"I adore my God, whom the priest is carrying to a sick person," replied the good official.
"How is it possible," the prince said, "for you to believe that God who is so great, makes Himself so little and lets Himself go even to the homes of the poor? We Mohammedans have a much higher idea of God."
The official answered, "It is because you have only an idea of the greatness of God; but you do not know His Love."
That is the answer. In confirmation of this, St. Peter Eymard declares, "The Eucharist is the supreme proof of the love of Jesus. After this, there is nothing more but Heaven itself." Yet, how many of us Christians do not know the vast extent of the love contained in the Eucharist!

on the Mass:
Only in heaven will we understand what a divine marvel the Holy Mass is. No matter how much effort we apply and no matter how holy and inspired we are, we can only stammer if we would explain this Divine Work, which surpasses men and angels.
One day, Padre Pio of Pietrelcina was asked, "Father, please explain the Holy Mass to us."
"My children," he replied, "how can I explain it to you? The Mass is infinite, like Jesus...Ask an Angel what a Mass is, and he will reply to you in truth, 'I understand that Mass is offered and why it is offered, but its value, its worth, are beyond my comprehension.' One Angel - a thousand angels - all of Heaven knows this and think like this."
Wonderful are the saving effects which every Sacrifice of the Mass produces in the souls of those who participate. It obtains sorrow and pardon for sins. It lessens the temporal punishment due to sins. It weakens the influence of Satan and the untamed impulses of our flesh. It strengthens the bonds of our union in the Body of Christ. It protects us from danger and disaster. It shortens the punishment of Purgatory; and it obtains for us a higher degree of glory in Heaven. "No human tongue," said St. Lawrence Justinian, "can enumerate the favors that trace back to the Sacrifice of the Mass. The sinner is reconciled with God; the just man becomes more upright; sins are wiped away; vices uprooted; virtue and merit increase; and the devil's schemes are frustrated."
And so St. Leonard of Port Maurice did not tire of exhorting the crowds which listened to him, "O you deluded people, what are you doing? Why do you not hasten to the churches to hear as many Masses as you can? Why do you not imitate the angels, who, when a Holy Mass is celebrated, come down in myriads from Paradise and take their stations about our altars in adoration to intercede for us?"
One day Padre Pio of Pietrelcina said to a penitent, "If men were to understand the value of the Holy Mass, for every Mass such crowds would come to church that police would be needed to keep order."
Perhaps we, too, belong to that great number of Christians who have not understood the value of the Holy Mass, and for this reason we lack the zeal and fervor that encouraged and inspired the saints to attend Mass every day and even several times a day.

on the priesthood:
We know that St. Francis of Assisi was unwilling to become a priest because he considered himself unworthy of such a high vocation. He honored priests with a special devotion, considering them his "lords," because in them he saw only "the Son of God." His love for the Eucharist blended with his love for the priest who consecrates and administers the Body and Blood of Jesus. He paid special veneration to the priest's hands, which kneeling he used always to kiss very devoutly. He used even to kiss a priest's feet and even the footprints where a priest had walked.
St. John Bosco exhorts all in this manner: "I urge you to have the highest respect for priests; take off your hats as a sign of reverence when you speak with them or meet them in the street, and kiss their hands respectfully. Keep especially from showing contempt for them in word or deed. Whoever does not respect these sacred ministers should fear a great punishment from the Lord."
The veneration of the priest's consecrated hands, reverently kissed by the faithful, has always existed in the Church. It is noteworthy that during the persecutions of the first centuries, an outrageously cruelty practiced in particular on bishops and priests consisted in cutting off their hands so that they could no longer perform the consecration nor give blessings. Christians used to search out those amputated hands and treating them with spices preserve them as relics.
Kissing the priest's hands is also a delicate expression of faith and love for Jesus whom the priest represents. The more faith and love one has, the more he will venture to kneel before the priest and kiss those "holy and venerable hands" (the Roman Canon), in which Jesus lovingly makes Himself present every day.
"Oh the venerable dignity of the priest," exclaims St. Augustine, "in whose hands the Son of God becomes incarnate as He did in the Virgin's womb!" The holy Cure' of Ars said, "We attach great value to objects that are handed down and kept at Loreto, as the holy Virgin's porridge bowl and that of the Child Jesus. But the priest's fingers, which have touched the adorable Body of Jesus Christ, which have been put into the chalice where His Blood was and into the ciborium where His Body was - might anything be more precious than these fingers?" Perhaps we never thought of it before. But it is really so. The examples of the saints warrant this affirmation.
The holy Cure' of Ars used to say, "If I met a priest and an Angel, I would first pay my respects to the priest, and then to the Angel.... If it were not for the priest, the Passion and Death of Jesus would not be of any help to us.... What good would a chest full of gold be if there were no one to open it? The priest has the key to the heavenly treasures...."
St. Nicholas of Flue, a famous Swiss saint, father of a family, bluntly told anyone too ready to point out the faults of priests: "And you, how many times have you prayed for the sanctity of priests? Tell me: what have you done to obtain good vocations for the Church?"
One time, a spiritual daughter of Padre Pio of Pietrelcina accused herself in Confession of having criticized some priests for their less than worthy behavior and heard Padre Pio forcefully and decisively reply: "Instead of criticizing them, think of praying for them!"
And in particular, every time we see a priest at the altar, let us also pray to Our Lady, in the words of the Venerable Charles Giacinto, "O my dear Lady, lend your heart to that priest so that he can worthily celebrate the Mass." Let us also pray, as St. Therese did, so that priests at the altar may touch the most Holy Body of Jesus with the same purity and delicacy as Our Lady. Better yet, rather let us pray that every priest is able to imitate St. Cajetan, who used to prepare to celebrate Mass by uniting himself so closely to Mary Most Holy, that it was said of him, "He celebrates Mass as if he were her." And, indeed, as Our Lady welcomed Jesus into her arms at Bethlehem, similarly the priest receives Jesus in his hands at Holy Mass. As the Immaculate offered Jesus the Victim on Calvary, similarly the priest offers the Divine Lamb that is sacrificed on the altar. As the Virgin Mother gave Jesus to mankind, similarly the priest gives us Holy Communion. Thus St. Bonaventure rightly declares that every priest at the altar ought to be intimately identified with Our Lady; for, since "it was by her that this most Holy Body has been given to us, so by the priest's hands It must be offered."

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Working Wireless???

I spent the last few days of last semester and the first few of this semester fighting a losing battle with Pitt's wireless internet. The whole reason I got the thing was so I would be able to avoid the computer labs and set up camp anywhere, in addition to the fact that I wanted to be able to word process while commuting.
This lil' baby of a laptop doesn't have a CD drive, though, so I couldn't just pop the CD in and let it go. I asked the software distribution desk and they said I might be able to borrow an external drive from the technology help desk, but when I called the help desk the guy insisted that it would be easier to set it up manually.
So, last night instead of studying (yes, I studied on the first day of school: I'm taking this "good student" bit seriously!) I had to take the time to download VeriSign something from Pitt's website and then go through numerous steps which I don't even remember to list here just so I could connect to the internet on campus. AND I still never got an external drive, so I still was unable to upload Microsoft Office, so I still can't word process while commuting unless I download Open Office from the internet which is a sucky word processor that's not compatible with anything. How frustrating.
But, lo and behold, today when I pulled little laptop out of its protective sleeve and swung the top into place, I was finally able to go online while on campus with just a few clicks of "ok" buttons and the entering of my username and password. And now I am blogging to commemorate this momentous occasion. That's all. :)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

First Day of School. Sigh.

Last semester ended horribly. I left school feeling stupid and lazy and utterly defeated in almost every class. My grades were the worst they've ever been in my life, and I hate that. I know I shouldn't tie so much self-worth to my performance at school...
But this Christmas break was exactly what I needed. I spent a lot of time doing absolutely nothing. And it was perfect. It really was like having a little summer plopped right in the middle of my year, except it was cold and slushy instead of warm and sunny.
Today was the first day of classes for Pitt. This morning as I waited for the trolley, I felt just like a freshman again. I couldn't put my finger on it until later this evening. I'm... scared. I'm afraid that this semester is going to whup my ass just as bad as the last one did, so afraid that I didn't even want to begin. But begin I did this morning, like it or not.
I can't say that I'm any less afraid just because I got through one day of classes and work. The beginning of the semester is never the hard part; that comes later when you have 2 papers and an exam all due the next day and you have a choir concert that night and of course you've put it off because you're so afraid to begin because you want it to be perfect.
I've organized so so many schedules and techniques to ease the transition and to help make me a better student. I still don't know if any of them will work. It's too soon to tell. And honestly, I don't have any faith in myself anymore, no hope that I will be able to stick with it when it counts. I don't believe that I can change the person I've been for so many years, depending on her smarts to coast through school.
But I can't be that person anymore! I've reached a point where I need to grow and to become more than what I am now. I'm just so afraid of failing at this, too.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Things of Beauty

"A thing of beauty is a joy forever."
- Mary Poppins

How true, how true indeed. Lately I realized that I have been surrounding myself with beautiful things for quite some time now, and they continue to bring me joy every time I use them or see them. Here are a few that I've been enjoying very much this holiday:

Making Gingerbread

This year I have developed a great appreciation for the taste of fresh gingerbread and so decided to make a batch of my own. The molasses and spices laid out on the table with the cookbook and citrus and my sister's homemade bread made for quite a picturesque little scene. I really should have taken a picture of the finished cookies; they were beyond adorable. My aunt even kept two to use as decoration in her house!
I do so enjoy cooking in our kitchen. There's nothing like dancing around to some good music while whisking together something tasty.

My Amaryllis

While I was out Christmas shopping one day, I came across a boxed bulb with a beautiful picture on the front and the words "Indoor Amaryllis" across the top. It was a complete kit including a pot, some peat mixture, and the bulb itself. I didn't buy it right away, but I thought about it so much that a few days later I came back and picked it up. I planted it as soon as I got home, and every few days I check its progress. It is absolutely thrilling for me to watch the sprout grow little by little, even in the dead of wintertime. In time, it should end up looking something like the picture to the right. It is a "Cinderella" amaryllis. As soon as it blooms I'm going to take it upstairs (right now it's on the porch where there's more sun) and put it on the shelf by my desk, where it can cheer me through my long winter course load.
Apparently it's possible to replant these bulbs every winter with the right care, and I am getting so much joy out of this little plant that I'm sure I will try it come fall.
In fact, I am so pleased with amaryllises (is that a word?) in general that I have a blown up picture of two gorgeous red blossoms as my background on my mini laptop.

Fabric and Feathers

I am generally a fan of unconventional jewelry. Bits of fabric, buttons, feathers, and lace all seem to me to be such delicate and classy touches. Actually I've had an absolute obsession with lace lately. I want to sew it onto everything! But that is beside the point.
I have been longing for a pair of peacock feather earrings for goodness knows how long, and finally, my wish came true this Christmas. Never mind that "Santa" got them at a Halloween store in the 70s section. I think they're beautiful! :) I am quite at a loss as to where to wear them, though. Perhaps for the first day of school on Wednesday...
Also worth mentioning is that my dear friend has opened an etsy shop called "Peculiar Jewelry" where he makes exquisite pieces out of fine fabric scraps, feathers, and beads. I browsed through it yesterday and wished I could have bought everything in it! Hopefully he'll be posting more items soon! Here is the link: and here are a couple of my favorite pieces from the shop!

Do check it out!!

Well, that just about wraps it up. First multimedia post ever! How exciting. Except that pictures are a pain in the rump to upload. Oh well. I think they brighten the post considerably.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

My 2010 Reading List

I suddenly find myself drowning in new books that are calling for my attention! Here are the ones that I hope to read in the near future:

Italian Folktales selected and retold by Italo Calvino
This was God's birthday present to me! I entered Half Price Books on a whim that day and exited with an exquisite book of fairytales, bound in earth-colored canvas with a gold peacock stamped on the front! And only $8! There are no less than 200 tales in the 763-page volume, and so far I have only read 102 of them.

William Shakespeare: The Complete Works, Wells and Taylor Second Edition
Alright, so I know I won't be able to read all of these anytime soon... but a good priest friend of mine is an avid Shakespeare fan and last year he gave me the audio recordings for all of Shakespeare's major works. Unfortunately I lost the recordings in the Great Computer Crash of Fall Semester 2009, so I can't listen and read along as he suggested. I hope to find the recordings somewhere, perhaps in some library's collection, so I can get to it. People who read Shakespeare are so well-rounded, don't you think?

The Autobiography of St. Margaret Mary: Translation of the Authentic French Text by the Sisters of the Visitation
This saint is my middle-name saint, and I love her very dearly. Her devotion to the Sacred Heart is quite humbling and inspiring. Although I've read other versions of her life story, I've never read the official text. Apparently when cloistered nuns die it is customary to release a brief story of her life to other orders and sometimes to the outside world. That is how 'Story of a Soul' by St. Therese (my confirmation name saint!) got out in the first place and I'm assuming that this book is the same. My parents gave this to me for Christmas along with the next book on the list...

Thoughts and Sayings of Saint Margaret Mary for Every Day of the Year
This is, as the title suggests, a day-by-day book that offers some little morsel of St. Margaret Mary's writings every day. Today's: "You know that there is no middle course, and that it is a question of being saved or lost for all eternity. It depends on us: either we may choose to love God eternally with the Saints in Heaven after we have done violence to self here below by mortifying and crucifying ourselves as they did, or else renounce their happiness by giving to nature all for which it craves." Is she not wonderful??

for women only: what you need to know about the inner lives of men by Shaunti Feldhahn
This book explores and/or overturns some of women's "surface understandings" about men such as "men need respect," "men are visual," and "men are unromantic clods," among others. It's actually my sister's book (someone gave it to her for Christmas) but she enjoyed it and is lending it to me. She said it would be a quick read, but it's not holding my attention very well. I guess I just don't care about men enough. Ha! Favorite quote so far: "Notice that one of the main biblical passages on marriage - in Ephesians 5 - never tells the wife to love her husband, and it never tells the husband to respect his wife (presumably because we each already tend to give what we want to receive). Instead, over and over, it urges the husband to love his wife and urges the wife to respect her husband and his leadership. Women tend to want to control things, which, unfortunately, men tend to interpret as disrespect and distrust (which, if we're honest with ourselves, it sometimes is). Marriage is about putting the other person's needs above your own (he's required to do that, too, remember), and it does tremendous things for your man to know that you are choosing to trust and honor him."

The Canary Handbook by Matthew M. Vriends, Ph.D. and Tanya M. Heming-Vriends
Yes, I am giving some thought to becoming a canary fancier (a flowery way of saying canary owner) so I picked up this book real cheap off of to get some background info. (Internet research only goes so far I've learned.) I've kept budgies for many years, so perhaps I'll be expanding my aviary again. Canary song is quite beautiful!

Rediscovering Catholicism by Matthew Kelly
My aunt heard someone speak at her church and they handed out these books. She was inspired and picked up one for all of us. I'm a little skeptical, because last time I tried to read Matthew Kelly I didn't finish the book (something about being called to joy, I think?) but I'm willing to give it a whirl, I guess.

Smart Women Finish Rich by David Bach
One of my goals for 2010 is to organize my finances (draw up a budget, perhaps do some investing) so this book, a gift from my engineer sister, came at an opportune time. I'm not very far along, but so far I like the tone and I am eager to soak up the information contained therein. It's not so much that I want to "finish rich" (although that would be nice) but rather that I have heretofore relied entirely on my accountant father to manage my money because I've always been completely clueless about all things fiscal. This book should be a good antidote to my ignorance. I am using my great-grandmother's lace handkerchief (crocheted by hand!) as a bookmark; I come from a long line of strong women, and I wish to join their ranks asap!

Preparation for Total Consecration according to Saint Louis Marie de Montfort
Yes, I am making my consecration at last!! I was going to start in November to be ready by the feast of the Immaculate Conception, but on the very day that I was supposed to begin I fell ill with the flu. So now I begin again to be ready by the feast of the Presentation of our Lord. I have made my consecration vow many times with my family, for we do the devotion every Lent, but I've never done one on my own and I think it is about time. I could ask for no better mistress than the dear Mother of God, Mary Most Holy. Today's meditation is from Matthew chapter 7. A snippet: "Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For the one who asks always receives; the one who searches always finds; the one who knocks will always have the door opened to him."

The World's First Love by Fulton J. Sheen
I ordered this book from a while ago and it finally came! It's a blue hardcover with gorgeously aged pages that don't quite match up at the edges. I just love that. It's copyrighted 1952, but this is a special 1953 reprint edition. Fancyyy!
I read a few paragraphs from this book one day in the library of our Newman Center and I was totally hooked. It's all about Mary, the Mother of God and the world's most perfect woman. The dedication alone is enough to make me sigh with love and devotion for her:
"Dedicated to the Woman I Love, the Woman Whom even God dreamed of before the world was made; the Woman of Whom I was born at cost of pain and labor at a Cross; the Woman Who, though no priest, could yet on Calvary's Hill breath, 'This is my Body; This is my blood; - for none save her gave Him human life. The Woman Who guides my pen, which falters so with words in telling of the Word. The Woman Who, in a world of Reds, shows forth the blue of hope. Accept these dried grapes of thoughts from this poor author, who has no wine; and with Cana's magic and thy Son's Power work a miracle and save a soul - forgetting not my own."
She is so beautiful! And I hope to discover more of her beauty through the reading of this book.

Well, that about sums it up. And these should keep me busy for quite a while; I don't read as often as I used to, very rarely now, in fact. But sometimes the easiest way for me to fall asleep is still to open up a book and read until my eyelids are heavy. So there's always that, I suppose. Or perhaps I can read a bit during my commute, much as I hate carrying extra books around during the day.