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The color before the storm

 
A lone red leaf amid the more dominant yellows and browns.

It’s been a weekend of leaves fading and falling fast — like giant snowflakes, covering the ground quicker than I can rake them away. We seem to have more leaves this year. Impossible, I know, but that’s how it feels. Perhaps it’s that they’re falling earlier than usual. Here are a few last shots of the beautiful colors.

A long shot of the mighty oaks, maples, and poplars that drop more leaves than you can imagine (especially if you don’t live in upstate New York).

Still plenty more to fall.

I loved this color combo in the late afternoon sun. Now those leaves are mostly gone.

Neighbor’s maple and our Korean dogwood.

 My favorite. I planted this Japanese maple soon after we moved here, just about 13 years ago.

Beautiful in every season.

 We don’t just have pretty leaves. We have fantastic fungi.

Hidden mushroom.
Lovely layers.

Here’s our autumn decor. It doesn’t look quite as picturesque now because the squirrels have eaten about one quarter of the pumpkin and a good chunk of the white gourd. No acorns this year. Not a one. So I guess the little critters are hungry.


Our house is a very, very, very fine house. With two cats, but not in the yard.

Embracing life, with death in sight

My latest ‘Life Lines’ column, which is running in the current issue of Catholic New York.

By Mary DeTurris Poust

Some people know how to live, even as they’re dying. I have a friend who is just that kind of person, and I am continually awed by her strength, her faith, and her grace as she journeys through each day knowing full well that what’s left of her life on this earth is coming to an end. Quickly.

When I saw Maureen this week, she told me the last thing on her Bucket List – now that she’s checked off a trip to the Cape with her husband– is to live long enough to see her newborn twin grandchildren when they visit in December. “I think I can make it,” she told me, and I believe her.

It was not that long ago that I sat in her living room and she told me her daughter-in-law was pregnant but she didn’t know if she’d be alive for the birth in September. Now September has come and gone and she has her sights set on a new goal, all the while managing her life and her pain from home, thanks to Hospice care and a devoted husband.

Maureen has been battling ovarian cancer for years. Long before she became ill, however, I saw her as an inspiration and a role model. Hers is a peaceful, prayerful presence. She’s quick with a smile and an offer to help in whatever way she can. Cancer has only increased those wonderful qualities, it seems.

When someone needs prayers, I email Maureen. I know without question she will remember my friends and loved ones in prayer, even as I often forget. Just this past week, she asked me about a little girl I had asked her to add to her prayer list. To be honest, I haven’t remembered that little girl in prayer in quite some time, but Maureen prays for her every morning, along with a laundry list of other people and problems I’ve asked her to remember. I have come to believe that her prayers – coming from a place of such deep faith amid such incredible suffering – are especially powerful.

Although she no longer receives any treatment, she mentioned that when she did have to sit through those difficult appointments, she’d pray for all those people who had much worse things to bear. And I found myself wondering, even as she spoke to me, who could have much worse things to bear than a woman dying of cancer before her time? But Maureen doesn’t seem to see it that way. As I sit with her, spinning tales of my kids’ latest escapades or my own spiritual struggles, I get the sense that I am in the presence of someone who is at an advanced and somewhat rare spot on the spiritual journey.

So often it’s not until someone is gone that we realize the impact they’ve had on our lives. I feel blessed to recognize right now the impact Maureen is having, and will continue to have, on my life even after she’s gone. Her example of courage and determination and faith will not fade, nor will her peaceful acceptance – when it was clear there were no more treatment options — of what life had handed her.

None of us know the day or the hour. Logically I realize I could die before Maureen, but I still can’t seem to wrap my brain – or my everyday attitude – around that reality. Life doesn’t always go according to plan, at least not according to our plan. Life goes according to His plan, and we can either embrace the journey or be dragged along kicking and screaming. Too often I choose the latter, but Maureen is teaching me another way, the only Way.

Life isn’t always pretty or easy, and sometimes the lessons are learned the hard way. We can either stay stuck in regret or move forward with grace. Choose grace.

Manic Monday: Halloween edition

It’s a Manic Halloween Monday. Boo! Guess I should go out and buy some candy, not that any trick-or-treaters ever ring our doorbell. Seriously. Not. One. Kid. Still, I feel woefully unprepared if I don’t have some real candy on hand — Kit Kats, Hershey bars. The real deal. Our former pastor gave us a bag of Tootsie Rolls and Dots, which would do in a pinch, but we all know that those can’t hold a candle to chocolate.

So, other than Halloween, here’s what’s going on…

Bookshelf: I just finished Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand, What an awesome and inspiring book. I could not put it down. Well, I had to put it down, but I grabbed it every chance I got. If you have not read this book yet, go get it and start reading. Now. The power of the human spirit to survive in the face of the most unbelievable treatment and torture is beyond comprehension.

Soundtrack: We’ve been kind of busy, so it’s been kind of quiet. Olivia just got her new iPod Touch, so she’s been testing it out with her favorites. But every night, as I go to bed, I can hear Mozart softly playing on continuous loop from her bedroom. That’s been her routine for months, maybe a full year. I wonder if that’s contributing to those stellar grades she’s getting in every subject.

Viewfinder:

From a distance, our front porch looks lovely, with the cornstalk and hay bale decorations. Pumpkins and gourds and corn, oh my.

On closer inspection, we see the damage the squirrels have been doing to the pumpkins. So much for pie.

Then there’s the Indian corn, completely decimated by the chipmunks, who hang there in plain sight, nibbling to their hearts’ content. That last ear of corn is just about finished at this point.

Friday night was the Costume Ball for Olivia the Vampiress,
and Halloween Happenings for Rapunzel.

Look up. It’s fall.

Look down. It’s winter. Although we were spared the worst.

Odds and Ends: This will be the first year Noah doesn’t don a costume and go out on Halloween night. Makes me feel old. Although he did dress up as Maximilian Kolbe at our parish youth ministry’s All Saints party last night.

Tomorrow I get to participate in Parent Reader Theater in Chiara’s classroom. I’ll be reading Falling for Rapunzel, which not only ties in with Chiara’s Halloween theme but is also a really funny children’s book. A favorite of mine.

On Saturday, Nov. 5, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., I will be signing/selling all four of my books at the St. Thomas Craft Fair in St. Thomas School, Delmar. Look for me to the left of the entrance when you walk into the gymansium. Tell your friends. Walking Together, my book on spiritual friendship, makes a great Christmas gift. My Essential Guide to Prayer and the Mass is a great resource as we change over to the new translation of the Roman Missal. And then there’s my Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Catholic Catechism, which walks you through the entire catechism in plain English, and Parenting a Grieving Child, which focuses on how to help children deal with death and loss. Look over on the left of this page for Amazon links for all of these books. Or contact me directly for signed copies.