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Happy anniversary to me and my blog

It was nine years ago today that I launched this blog. Although it looked very different when it started out and I posted much more frequently, the overall style and substance of Not Strictly Spiritual have remained the same. I have shared my struggles, my stories, my opinions, and quite a few recipes, covering everything from the ridiculous to the sublime. Thank you to all of you who have visited this site over the years, especially those of you who come back time and again. Even if we have never met in person, you are special to me, and I am grateful. Read more

It’s déjà vu all over again…

OK, I’ll be blogging from my blogspot location again for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately, it’s not because I’ll be watching the waves crash in Wildwood or hanging with my family. My iMac is sick and has to go in for a check-up. Hopefully it won’t have to be admitted. To keep up with my blog until this site is back up again, click HERE HERE.

Have I mentioned that I really appreciate your patience with this constant bouncing around? Thanks for hanging in there. I’m starting to wonder if maybe the universe is trying to tell me something.

The best kind of lost weekend


OK, so I disappeared for a few days without notice, without giving you a forwarding address, without even mentioning I was heading out of town. Sorry. My sister and her family were visiting my hometown of Pearl River, N.Y., for the past few days, and we high-tailed it out of here to spend some quality time with them. Look at that photo of me with my brother and sister on the tube, surrounded by our cousins. If that ain’t quality time, I don’t know what is. Yes, we’re balancing on a rubber raft in the middle of my cousin’s pool. Not bad for almost 46, eh?

This was the first time I’ve seen my sister and brother-in-law and two nieces in three years! How crazy is that? Siblings should not go that long between visits, but getting back and forth between Austin, Texas, and upstate New York can be expensive and time-consuming when you’re dragging two or three kids in tow, so it doesn’t happen very often. But when it does….look out! Read more

The Zen of the Aquadoodle

Chiara received an “Aquadoodle” for her birthday from Grandma Mary Ann and Popi Neil this week. Basically this is a mat that comes with a special pen that allows kids to draw with water. It even includes little step-by-step instructions on how to create cats and dogs and houses. The beauty of this, for parents at least, is that kids can’t draw on the carpet or couch or counters because the pen, which is loaded with water, works only on the Aquadoodle mat. Read more

My Birthday Baby

Chiara turned three years old today. Hard to believe. That’s her up there in her princess outfit and tiara, looking very birthday girl-ish. This photo captures the moment she was waiting for. Earlier this morning, when her godfather called to sing “Happy Birthday,” she told him, “It’s not happening yet.” She was referring to the arrival of the “Happy Birthday Party Cake.” As far as Chiara is concerned, it’s not a birthday or a party until there’s cake. She has a point.

Every once in a while since late last night she would say, “After I wake up will it be time for cake…After I get dressed will it be time for cake…After my nap will it be time for cake.” By the time dinner rolled around and the cake was sitting on the counter taunting her, it was all she could do to maintain control. She could barely eat dinner because she was so focused on that cake. Read more

There’s no place like home…

Well, we arrived home from vacation last night, and despite the fact that the house is a mess and there is laundry to do and groceries to buy and bills to pay, it’s good to be back. I enjoy going away, but I enjoy coming home even more.

This morning we hit the 10:30 a.m. Mass at our parish. The stifling humidity in our un-air conditioned church could have made for a very unpleasant experience, but our pastor gave a homily so brief it must have broken some sort of preaching record. It wasn’t just brief; it was really good. That’s pretty hard to do. He was able to say in one minute what many other priests can’t seem to say in 15 minutes. Reflecting on the parable of the weeds sown among good seeds, he talked about how God allows good and bad to co-exist alongside each other, open always to the possibility that change could come about at any point along the way. God always sees the potential in all of us, even when we don’t see it in ourselves — or in others. Read more

We didn’t sleep much, but we had fun

Well, we survived Olivia’s birthday sleep over. The weather held out and the girls were able to do the water slide, which was way more popular than I expected it to be. We didn’t have too much excitement before dinner, except for a small inchworm found crawling across one of the baby carrots on the vegetable platter. Needless to say, the rest of the carrots went uneaten — at least by the girls.

We had lots of giggling and screaming and little girl politics, which can rival anything going on in the presidential campaign these days. People often think that girls are so much easier than boys. The reality is that girls are just different than boys but certainly no less challenging. When it comes to boys, what you see is what you get. There are no hidden agendas, no whispering, no hurt feelings. Girls may not be as loud — although these girls certainly held their own — but they are just as active in their own ways. Read more

Countdown to the slumber party

In just two hours — TWO!! — five little girls will descend upon my house to join Olivia for her big birthday sleep over blowout. What was I thinking when I said yes to a slumber party for that many 7- and 8-year-olds?!? It sounded like a good idea at the time, but now, as the bewitching hour approaches, I’m starting to wonder. Our plans to set up the big backyard water slide are on the rocks as the clouds settle in. We’ll see what we do instead. Crafts? Games? Singing? Tune in tomorrow to see how things worked out, how many girls had to get picked up by parents in the middle of the night, and how many of us get any sleep at all.

A word of caution

In case any of you have taken my advice and have started downloading daily podcasts from Pray-as-You-Go, I feel the need to print what I hope is only a temporary disclaimer. Back when I first mentioned my new obsession with the 10-minute podcasts that offer reflections on daily Scripture readings set to an eclectic mix of music, I mentioned that as soon as I heard the soothing female voice with the British accent, I could feel my tense shoulders starting to relax. Well, I don’t know what they’ve done with that woman, but they’ve replaced her with Eliza Doolittle — before Henry Higgins set out to turn her into a proper English lady. Read more

What’s all the fuss about St. Paul

We have just begun the Jubilee Year to the Apostle Paul, which, I have to be honest, really didn’t mean that much to me at the outset, but now, with every priest I know talking about it, I figure maybe I should educate myself and see what it’s all about.

This past weekend was the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, and my pastor began his thoughtful homily with 10 words that have stuck with me:

“Believe as Peter. Preach as Paul. Love as the Master.”

It was an inscription someone wrote to him when he was ordained a deacon in Rome. I really like it though — so succinct and yet so full of clarity and challenge. In fact, I jotted it down in a journal so I wouldn’t forget it, seeing as these days I’m so forgetful that yesterday I almost returned my own books to the public library by mistake. Yes, it’s been that kind of week, and it’s only Tuesday. Read more