One more reason to love U2

I’m already a big fan of U2, but here’s one more reason to like the group, at least as far as I’m concerned. Bono says that U2’s recent song Magnificent was inspired by the Blessed Mother.

“Magnificent was inspired by the Magnificat, a passage from the Gospel of Luke in the voice of the Virgin Mary that was previously set to music by Bach,” says Bono. “There’s this theme running through the album of surrender and devotion and all the things I find really difficult,” Bono said in Rolling Stone.

Read more at, or read the full interview in Rolling Stone HERE.

7 Quick Takes Friday


I am just back from my 5:45 a.m. yoga class. Great way to start the day. Too bad my teacher is away for the next two weeks. Will I get out of this good habit and fall back into my sleepy morning ways? Well, in an attempt to ward off that possibility, I have borrowed a gazillion yoga CDs from the wonderful woman who gently but firmly makes us bend and stretch into places and positions we would not otherwise go. I’m downloading them now. Stay tuned to see if I can actually motivate myself to do this at home. If Deanna is not standing in front of me, reminding me to tuck my chin and lift my tailbone and BREATHE, will I take the easy way out and allow my shoulders to round and the crown of my head to tilt in all the wrong directions? We’ll see. If you’re interested in trying out a yoga class, check your local YMCA or classes offered through your town. Kripalu is a gentle form of yoga, especially good for beginnings. Ashtanga will get your blood moving since it is a progressive series of postures. Bikram, also known as “hot” yoga, will really make you sweat since they turn the heat up to 105 degrees. Iyengar uses more props — blocks and belts — to get you in perfect alignment. That one was never one of my favorites. And yoga does not have to be contradictory to whatever faith you profess. It can be spiritual, if that’s what you’re looking for, but you can adapt it to your own spiritual practice. For example, when we were doing breathing exercises at class this morning, my inhalation was focused on “Be still” and the exhalation on “and know that I am God.” Then the next breath in was “I am with you always” and the out breath was “until the end of time.” Ever since I started yoga 20 years ago, I have woven those Scripture quotes into my practice.
In case you didn’t see my post yesterday on our summer ‘to do’ list, here it is again. We can already check off “water slide,” “play games,” and, after tonight, “sleepover,” although I expect we will be doing all of these things again throughout the summer, so I’m not crossing them off our list just yet. Sit down with your kids and see what you can come up with. Even if you’re not sure you can get to something, write it down. Maybe seeing it there day after day will inspire you. “Family camping” is that item on our list.

If you are a regular or long-time reader of this blog, you know that I am constantly moaning about how I just can’t connect with the Psalms. (HERE and HERE, for example.) I try to pray the Liturgy of the Hours — out loud, in silence, sitting, kneeling, with incense, with candles. No matter what I do, the Psalms remain off in the distance, just out of my reach. Well, it turns out I’m not the only one who feels this way. What a relief! Conversion Diary posted about this same topic this week and there are lots of suggestions in the comment section to help the Psalm-challenged. Take a look by clicking HERE.
On a completely unrelated and unspiritual note, I cut off all my hair this week. I kind of knew going in that I wanted/needed a change. Part of it is that I just like to mix things up every once in a while. But part of it actually might be somewhat spiritual if you really stretch the definition. I think it’s part of this urge as I get older to simplify and strip away the unnecessary stuff. My hair, being about as curly as curly gets, has to be left to dry on its own — at least that’s the only way I can handle it, which means, when it gets long, I’m sitting around for 90 minutes before I can touch or style it. It started getting more than a little ridiculous, and I was never really happy after all that waiting anyway. I can’t say I’ll keep it this way forever because eventually I’ll get bored and start looking for something else. Unless it really is part of my inner efforts to find a simpler, more peaceful me. Maybe I’ll realize that the ease of this cut should make it a permanent fixture for me. Here’s what it looks like:

Donna Cooper O’Boyle has a great post on incorporating prayer into our busy and fun summers. It’s easy for prayer time to get lost in the packing and driving and swimming and camping. Head over to Donna’s newest blog, View from the Domestic Church, for some tips by clicking HERE. And check out one of her new books, The Domestic Church: Room by Room. (You can see the cover, designed by her daughter, over on the left.) And yours truly wrote the foreword, which was an honor.
Here’s a snippet from what I had to say about this lovely book:
“Through stories from her own life, including the personal friendship she shared with Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Donna demystifies the domestic church, offering concrete ways to find joy and spiritual fulfillment in the ‘nitty gritty humble work’ of our daily lives.”


About a week ago I noticed a big, fat woodchuck near the end of our deck, nibbling on a weeping mulberry tree. (That’s him in the somewhat blurry photo to the left.) I’ve seen him running here and there over the past few days and noticed a big hole dug out near the base of our deck, so I’m guessing he’s living underneath. I found it all kind of cute and back-to-nature-ish until I went outside and realized that the little beast ate all of my green leaf lettuce, even the thin, pale stuff, and my parsley and the tops of my beautiful red astilbes. I’m guessing it’s him because no other animal has been brazen enough to come up on our deck for grub and astible are deer resistant, which is why I planted it in our deer-infested yard. Now what? This thing is too big to trap in the Have-a-Heart box we have. Any suggestions?
Although the wicked woodchuck (notice how the adjectives are getting progressively worse) is eating some of my plants, he has not eaten everything. Here are some shots of the stuff he hasn’t snacked on — yet. Marsh marigolds, spirea, lamb’s ear, day lilies and more spirea.

Our ambitious but fun summer ‘to do’ list

I found this fun approach to summer on Whatever, a blog that has become a new favorite of mine. That’s our list in orange above. My kids liked the idea so much they sat right down and got to work. And trust me, I did not come up with the one that says, “Paint the kids’ bathroom.” Olivia chimed in with that, which gives you some idea just how ugly the kids’ bathroom is.

Click HERE to see the Whatever post on this and the list that started it all. I actually did something similar to this with the kids a few summers ago, but on loose leaf paper. I’m sad to say, we never really made it through much of the list. I think I’ll give it another shot this year. Maybe if it’s poster size it will be harder to ignore. It’s now hanging on the basement door, where it will be in plain sight all summer.

And when you have a minute, go visit Whatever. The photos are amazing.

A new summer strategy

OK, you know things are crazy here when it’s Tuesday and I’ve still got a Friday blog post up. Could have something to do with summer vacation, which began on Friday at 3 p.m. I am up to my ears in work and kids at this point and realizing that if I don’t come up with a plan, I might not survive the next two months.

So how to juggle three kids and blog jobs, direct mail writing, feature stories, columns and revisions to my third book? I’m not completely sure, but I think it’s going to require restructuring the hours of my day. As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve managed to find the motivation to get up twice a week for 5:45 a.m. yoga class. Maybe I could set the alarm and get up at that hour two other days each week and work until Dennis leaves for the office. I could get more done before 8:30 a.m. than most office workers get done in several days. (Working from home with kids around makes you very efficient — and crazy. Have I mentioned crazy?)

One reason I hate to make this move is because it means I can no longer keep up my favorite morning ritual: Dennis and I have our coffee at the kitchen table while he reads the New York Times and I read the Times Union, each of us alerting the other to interesting stories to check out later. The kids eat breakfast while this is going on. When my day doesn’t start like this, I feel deprived and disconnected. But something’s gotta give and I think it may be this routine. By taking my coffee down to my basement office cave, I can squeeze in time to work while the kids are otherwise occupied.

Maybe giving up the routine on weekdays will make it that much sweeter on weekends. You’ll know it’s working if you see more frequent blog posts. If I disappear for a few days here and there, you’ll know I’m treading water here in the deep end.

7 Quick Takes Friday

This is the first week I’m participating in something known as “7 Quick Takes Friday,” started and hosted by Jen at Conversion Diary. The idea is that on Friday I’ll post seven short items that might not make it into a full post but deserve some space. Let’s see how you like it…


My favorite bring-home item at the end of the school year has to be the kids’ classroom journals. I love the hand prints and paintings, the stories and homemade books, but nothing can compare to reading my kids’ thoughts on a day-by-day basis. I find myself laughing, sighing, crying and, yes, sometimes cringing. This year Noah didn’t do a journal, which makes sense even if it’s disappointing. I can’t imagine the junior high kids would be too keen on sharing their innermost thoughts for their teachers and parents to read. Olivia brought home her journal yesterday, and as I waited for dinner to cook, I stood there reading and smiling, wanting to read entries aloud to Dennis but knowing that he will want to sit down and read the journal for himself. I love the honesty, the imagination, the innocence and the really deep thought that is obvious in so many of the entries. It is that little glimpse into what’s going on in my daughter’s head. Those journals are like treasures to me. I have saved every one over the years, and some day, when the kids have passed through the self-conscious stage, I’ll pull them out and let them revisit their own childhood memories. I so wish I had journals from my own childhood.


Ever since I read the book My Cousin the Saint: A Search for Faith, Family, and Miracles by Justin Catanoso, I have been meaning to blog about it. Now that the book came out in paperback this week, it seems like an appropriate time to tell you to GO GET THIS BOOK TODAY. It is a wonderful book that will make you want to get on the next plane to Italy to find your long lost relatives. At least that’s how I felt. It is like a tour of Italy and a spiritual pilgrimage rolled into one amazing book. You will feel like you can taste the food and feel the heat. You will wonder how it is possible that Padre Gaetano, the saint the book celebrates, was not known worldwide long before this book was published. From the scenes set in Wildwood, where my family vacations every summer, to the scenes around the table in Italy, where my grandfather was born, I felt a deep connection to this book. Here’s one snippet that I just loved:

“There were now more than twenty of us in this kitchen, standing and sitting, in a space that would have been overcrowded with less than half as many. No one cared. Through the fish, the bread, the calamari, the bottles of red and white wine, and the baskets of fresh peaches, pears, and nectarines all picked on Catanoso land outside Chioro, the hand-waving and chattering din around the table, now completely in Italian, escalated to a pleasant roar. The words flowed over and around me in a comforting rush and I felt on the very edge of understanding everything that was said, like I was just a half-step away from fluency. But I wasn’t. So I sat back and relaxed and listened one last time as if it were opera, the most beautiful opera imaginable on a stage filled with the liveliest characters.”

See, you need to read this book.


I am completely off track in my efforts to pray at least Morning Prayer every morning. I had been in a nice rhythm for a couples of weeks there, but now? Nothing. And I can feel the disconnect. Somehow, even with the three kids home for the summer and my work deadlines breathing down my neck, I need to make regular time for prayer. In fact, I need that time more than ever. Anyone have any pointers they can share for squeezing regular and meaningful prayer time in between the household chaos?


Somewhat related to that is my renewed commitment to yoga, something I first started twenty years ago but let go over the years — except for the occasional class during pregnancy and such. Now I have found the energy to get up for 5:45 a.m. class twice a week with a third class on Monday nights. What a difference it is making, and it really is a natural segue into prayer. I need to harness that peace and serenity in my physical being and allow it to permeate my prayer life once I get home. Baby steps, baby steps. I’m trying to accept where I am in all of this without frustration or disappointment.


I am so proud of all three of my kids as the school year finishes today. Chiara, of course, has been off from school for a couple of weeks at this point, but she had a great first year of preschool and was amazing in her first dance recital. Noah and Olivia can make me crazy with their bickering and their inability to put away a pair of shoes or empty a lunchbox. But the reality is that they’ve accomplished so much over the past 10 months. Both have achieved high honors, meaning their overall averages are above 94. I haven’t seen the final numbers yet, but they are usually well above that number. (Update: One got a 95+ and the other a 96+ overall.) On top of that, they juggled soccer and baseball, dance class and piano lessons, Boy Scouts and Brownies, flute lessons and service projects. We ran ourselves ragged this past month as everything wrapped up, but, overall, it was a great year.


Every spring into summer I buy soil and fertilizer, seeds and seedlings, pots and planters so that I can get back to the earth and grow some of my own food, despite a yard that is almost entirely in shade. I think this year is my agricultural swan song. Nothing grows. Except my basil, which, as far as I’m concerned is most important because otherwise how will I have homemade pesto in February when the snow is as high as an elephant’s eye. I think with all the money I spent on supplies, I could have joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), as we have done in years past, and had fresh, organic vegetables delivered to a nearby porch. Next year I think my money and effort will be spent on filling out my perennial beds, which are really my favorite parts of my yard anyway.


As we head into Father’s Day weekend, I am at a complete loss as to what to get for Dennis. I know he usually feels the same way when Mother’s Day rolls around. We have been so blessed. We have so much already. It almost feels silly to scrounge around for ideas just to have something to wrap up. Still, I’ll head out to the store with the kids later today to do just that. Really, there is nothing I could buy that could adequately show my gratitude to Dennis for all that he does as a husband and a dad. He is truly my partner. Our relationship is a constant give-and-take, and no grill accessory or shirt or Apple gift card could show him how much he means to me, to us. OK, maybe the Apple gift card. Happy Father’s Day!

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