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Manic Monday: It may not be pretty, but it’s life

It really is a manic Monday, no way around it. It was a pretty manic Saturday and Sunday to be honest. Just one thing after another. So as I ponder my usual Manic Monday posting topics, I realize life has simply taken over everything else that I normally squeeze into a week.

As John Lennon said, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” And life is definitely happening these days.

Bookshelf: (See photo of my office below) As you can see in the very scary shot of my office, or half of my office, most of my bookshelf is on my floor. Not a whole lot of reading getting done here lately, at least not novel-type reading. Bits and pieces of all sorts of other stuff related to cooking, eating, praying, exercising, writing. Which is really not a bad combo now that I look at it. I guess I’m pretty lucky that even my work involves such fun topics. If you were to zoom in on some of those books on the floor, you’d find The Rule of St. Benedict, the Sivenanda Companion to Yoga, and the Artist’s Way, among other things.

Soundtrack: Hmmm…In the car, I’m tuned to K-LOVE, which is Christian music. At home, it’s mainly Gregorian Chant, with some occasional forays into jazz during the day. On the family soundtrack this weekend, we had Frank Sinatra, U2, and some selections from Guys & Dolls (for Olivia’s audition this week). Quite an eclectic mix, no?


Olivia takes to the ice at YMCA.

No fear.
Only Chiara’s second time on ice skates.


What greeted me when I went to the basement to do laundry this morning. Apparently this crew is headed to the airport for their flight to Paris. Barbie is living the good life.

And then there’s real life. My office, which does not usually look this bad. It’s a sign of things to come. Many, many months of intensity. I’ll fill you in as we go along. But, no matter how crazy it’s going to be, in the end it’s all good. Right? RIGHT!?!?!

Appointment Book: We break up the usual meetings, deadlines, and general insanity with a Daisy trip to Five Rivers this evening. In other words, a very specific type of insanity. Nine 6-year-olds on a nature trail near a big pond. No problem.

Manic Monday: Pumpkins and other fall fun

So I’ve been rather scarce around these parts lately. Sorry about that. Typically that means one of two things: Too much work or too much kid-related stuff. In recent days, the two have converged to make life totally crazy.

Between deadlines, soccer practice, soccer games, dance classes, meetings and fund-raisers for our big youth ministry trip to Indiana next month, plus the usual school events, it’s been more than hectic. And, truth be told, I’ve got two big projects in the offing. Shhhh….can’t say much about them now. But if both come through, the next year should be the craziest year ever for me in terms of work. I’ll keep you posted as that situation develops. Until then, please be patient with me and keep checking back here. I promise to show up as often as I can.

Without further ado, here’s this week’s Manic Monday…

Soundtrack: It’s been quieter than usual around here. The kids haven’t been blasting much music this week. I guess because we’re just not here enough to be singing and dancing. As for me, I’ve been keeping Pandora on my work computer tuned to my Gregorian chant channel. I needed music to soothe and inspire while not tempting me to sing along. So a little chant and a lot of incense have kept me in line while I write.

Bookshelf: Believe it or not, I am just finishing up Genesee Diary. I’ve been reading a little before bed each night. Usually I find some pearl of wisdom to contemplate as I drift off to sleep. I did dip my toes into Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, but I’m not sure I should undertake such a heavy book when I know I’ll have so little time for luxury reading in the weeks and months to come.

Viewfinder: Well, first of all, let’s talk viewfinder in general. I finally started shooting with my new Nikon 3100 SLR digital camera. Dennis and the kids gave it to me for my birthday last month — after years of listening to me whine about our point-and-shoot while constantly mentioning how much I wanted this particular camera. Then, once I got it, I said I was going to bring it back. I didn’t think I could justify the expense. I didn’t think I deserved the extravagance. I let it sit unopened next to the door in our family room for more than a week. Finally, tentatively, I opened the box and peered inside, thinking that maybe, just maybe, I could find a way to keep that camera. And I did.

I took it out this weekend for some pumpkin picking shots and other random outdoor photos. Here are a few photos from the new camera. Still haven’t given the zoom lens much of a workout. Maybe you’ll see those next week. Click on any photo to see it enlarged.

A bumble bee taken with the macro setting.

Chiara in mid-jump thanks to the sport setting.

Olivia taken with the portrait setting.

Cross in the garden with toad lilies.

Chiara trying to catch a yellow butterfly.

Pumpkins galore, on landscape setting.

The great pumpkin?

Menu: The menu around here as been dullsville. Hence, no Foodie Friday posts lately. I’m joining Dennis for a bout of Weight Watchers. I didn’t officially join, but I’m tracking those stupid points and not very happy about it. Lots of fruits and veggies, which now cost no points, but not much else worth mentioning. Oatmeal and brown rice might as well be cheesecake on this new point system, which I hate. If I was going to write about food, I’d tell you about the hot cider donuts we bought at the farm yesterday. The kids said they were the best they’ve ever tasted. Not surprising since we got them within minutes of them coming out of the farmhouse kitchen. Two weeks in a row we’ve bought cider donuts and I’ve yet to have one. So if you’re out at a farm in the coming weeks, eat a cider donut for me, please.

Appointment book: Busy week ahead. Again. Faith formation, dance, ice skating, soccer, parent meeting for high school. Oh yeah, and I’m speaking at St. Thomas on Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. Stop by if you’re in the neighborhood. I’ll be discussing spiritual friendship.

Manic Monday: Crunch time, and I’m not referring to apples or leaves

Well, I’ve reached that moment in September when I am officially overwhelmed by what I see on the calendar — a total absence of white space. Just one event after another, many of them simultaneous.

September is my favorite month, because of the weather, because of birthdays, because it feels like the start of a new year, but it’s quickly losing points for becoming one of the most-feared months in our family’s rotation. There’s no time to appreciate the beauty of September. Or to breathe.

That’s a good introduction for this week’s Manic Monday post because it will explain a lot, like the fact that there are no new photos to share (but some really nice old ones). Not that I haven’t seen plenty worth sharing this past week — soccer games, dance classes, and more. I just haven’t had time to snap photos of anything.

Soundtrack: Devil Went Down to Georgia. Yes, by the Charlie Daniels Band. Noah loves this song and was demonstrating for us how he knows all the words, well, with a substitution for the one bad word. You gotta admit, that’s some good fiddle playing there.

Bookshelf: I’m well into The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, and I will say this: Lewis was a GENIUS, which I already knew from some of his other works but this book just floored me. Originally published in 1941, it could have been written yesterday. It’s that relevant to our times and our Church. Wow, what a powerful book. And a fast read. How had I not read this before now?

Viewfinder: Okay, this wasn’t in my viewfinder this week, but it was just about one year ago. And, oh, how I wish I was there right now. At least once a day, every single day, I wish I could be back in Rome. I left a little piece of my heart in St. Peter’s Square, I think.

One of my favorite spots: Ponte Sant’Angelo

I was so struck by the Coliseum’s presence right there
in front of me as I walked down the street.

Piazza Navona, which felt like home by the end of 11 days.
I walked it every day on my way to and from Santa Croce University.

The view of St. Peter’s from a bridge crossing the Tiber on the way to
Trastavere, my favorite neighborhood in Rome.

Thought for the week:

“You must never grow weary of doing what is right.” 2 Thessalonians 3:13

Manic Monday: September is in full swing

First full week of school. Not sure how the big kids are going to continue carrying backpacks filled to overflowing with notebooks of every shape and size. Back when I was a kid, you had one binder with dividers for each subject. Now they need big binders for every single subject.

Olivia needed eight dividers for her French notebook alone. Noah needed seven in his science notebook. What, exactly, are they going to be dividing into so many sections? Stay tuned…We’ll probably need the name of a good chiropractor within a month or so.

So here’s what’s happening on this Manic Monday…

Soundtrack: Still listening to religious music, a remnant of my retreat drive. I had used my eight hours of driving (total) to extend my retreat, so I listened to religious music and a Henri Nouwen talk on the “Spirituality of Waiting” on the way out and more religious music on the way back. Nothing else. I’m still in that mindset, so the van radio is set to a Christian station, believe it or not.

Bookshelf: Still working my way through The Genesee Diary by Henri Nouwen, which has taken on such special meaning since my retreat at the Abbey of the Genesee and my meeting with Brother Christian, who is mentioned in this book.

Just took The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis out of the library. I’ve never read this classic. Not sure when I’m going to find time to fit it in, but I’m going to give it a shot.


Noah’s first day of high school/Lab School. That easel has been our first-day photo spot since he was in preschool. It’s a little worse for wear, thanks to Chiara, but we’re keeping the tradition as long as we can (much to Noah’s chagrin).

Olivia’s first day of middle school. Lots of firsts around here this year.

Chiara’s first day of first grade.

Every morning Fred the Cat comes into the kitchen and hops up to this window to see what’s going on outside. He prefers when the window is open. He thinks he’s a person.

Appointment Book: Another crazy week ahead. Chiara starts ballet/tap/jazz dance class; Olivia starts hip hop. Noah goes on a three-day “retreat” with Lab School. Open houses, doctor and dentist appointments, dessert nights and more. Somehow, in the midst of all that, I’m going to try to maintain at least a little daily silence for prayer and spiritual reading. And sanity.

Thought for the day:

“There is no time with God. A thousand years, a single day: it is all one.” 2Peter 3:8

Manic Monday: The calm after the storm

It’s been quite the weekend. Not much was accomplished, other than staring at the swaying trees outside and praying they didn’t land on our power lines. Oh, and The Weather Channel. Lots of wasted time spent listening to national and local people explain for the thousandth time that a flash flood means water moves in quickly. I’ve got a weather report hangover this morning, as I look at everything I didn’t do while waiting for the power to go out and our basement to go under water. And none of it happened.

So here’s what is going on this week…

Soundtrack: “Hey Jude” and “Sweet Child O’Mine,” both of which Noah was playing for us on the piano last night. Nice.

Bookshelf: The Genesee Diary by Henri Nouwen. I haven’t started this one yet, but it is ready and waiting for my own weekend retreat at The Abbey of the Genesee. I leave on Friday for three days of silence and prayer. Woo hoo!

I’m also finally finishing up the last few days of the 12-week program known as The Artist’s Way. I’ve found it really helpful, creatively speaking. Morning Pages have become part of my daily routine, which is some sort of evidence of the strength of this book. I have a really hard time starting new morning routines.

I will maintain and then expand on the morning writing/creativity routine by jumping into a book I mentioned in this space weeks ago, The Artist’s Rule, which looks at creativity from a monastic perspective. I plan to start that right around the time I head to Genesee, which seems like perfect timing since I’ll be hanging out around monks. That’s also a 12-week program. I’ll let you know how it’s working as I get into the heart of it.


This was our view at the start of the week,

sitting on the sands of Long Beach Island, N.J.
By Saturday morning, Our Lady of Guadalupe was stored in the shed, along with all of our other outside chairs and such. She may be the Mother of God, but she’s not taking any chances in a hurricane.

We lucked out. No power outage. Just lots of small branches down. Here’s the deck the morning after. The tarp? Well, believe it or not, our deck was painted one day before the hurricane and we were attempting to protect it from the very severe drip line that develops due to rain/snow/ice. Two things on our shopping list: a generator and gutters for the top roof line.

Appointment book: This will be a very busy week between work and kid stuff. I’ve got a bunch of jobs to finish before I head to my retreat and lots of back-to-school shopping that still needs to get done. On top of that, I’m checking day by day to see if I have to report for jury duty. Ugh. So far so good, but it’s only Monday. Fingers crossed I don’t get called in because that will just throw life into a total turmoil here.

Have a good one. Prayers for those who are suffering in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene.

Manic Monday: A whole lot of nothing

I had hoped to make this a visual post, but, alas, I forgot my camera cord so there’s no way to get the photos from there to here. Some other time.

In lieu of that, just a few notes…

Bookshelf: I’m still working my through — more like savoring — The Journal Keeper by Phyllis Theroux. One gem after another here, especially for those who write and/or have a spiritual bent. Jackpot for me.

Weekly Wisdom:

“I thought about how most of us are asleep while waking, how we open and shut our mouths making conversation, but we are still asleep.” — The Journal Keeper

Soundtrack: Atlantic Ocean. Nothing like the sound of waves crashing on the shore again and again and again.

Viewfinder: Oh, if only you could see what I see. Sand and surf and seagulls and sailboats. Blue sky and water stretching on forever.

Appointment book: Nothing official. Unfortunately, there’s too much work packed in with the sunscreen and beach hat. I’m going to try to keep that to a minimum.

Manic Monday: Life in music, words and pictures

It’s a lovely rainy and cool August day here in the northeast, the kind of day that makes you want to curl up with a good book while the drops pitter patter against the windows. If only. I’m in my basement office instead, far from the sound of rain. Where is your day going to take you? What’s on tap for the week ahead? Here’s where I’ve been and where I’m going…

Soundtrack: Wicked, in particular the song “Popular.” It hasn’t been my choice, although I certainly don’t mind. The girls have been blasting Popular for days, and dancing around the basement as if they’re on a Broadway stage. Olivia and I went to see Wicked on Broadway last month, courtesy of her Grandma Mary Ann and Aunt Alison. Obviously, it left a lasting impression. Actually, I used “For Good,” from the Wicked soundtrack for a spiritual friendship retreat I gave back in May. Great music from a great show.

Bookshelf: The Journal Keeper: A Memoir by Phyllis Theroux. I just started this book, on the recommendation of a friend of a friend on Facebook. I borrowed it from our library, but I already know that I will buy this book because I’ll need to go back and re-read it, or at least portions of it, now and then. I find myself re-reading even now, only 37 pages in. So much here to savor. It’s a wonderful reminder that even the mundane moments of our lives can be magical. Theroux certainly makes them feel that way.

Blog Bits: Kathy Schiffer over at Seasons of Grace gives us some nice food for thought regarding yesterday’s Gospel and Jesus’ “mean streak.” Why couldn’t Jesus have been “friendlier, more loving, more Christ-like?” Kathy asks. Click HERE and find out the answer.

Weekly Wisdom: “Taking a new step, uttering a new word is what people fear most.” — Fydor Dostoyevski

Appointment book: Lots of chore-type stuff this week — eye doctor, orthodontist, hair cuts, school shopping — on top of the regular work. And yet I am managing to keep up with my daily Morning Pages (part of the 12-week journey of The Artist’s Way) and Morning Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours. Slowly but surely these things are becoming so engrained in my daily morning ritual that I would miss them too much to skip them. That’s some kind of major breakthrough for me, even if it might seem minor in the grand scheme of things. Bit by bit, that’s how we grow. Baby steps.


Middle child demonstrates her archery skills at the Heldeberg Workshops.

Fresh fruit from Our Family’s Harvest of Stanton Farms. The muskmelon was out of this world. Then again, so was everything else.

Our Lady of Guadalupe is a favorite resting place for our backyard squirrels.

Manic Monday: I wish it were Sunday

Here we are at the start of another week. It’s just another Manic Monday…

Soundtrack: Perfect for a Manic Monday, two songs on opposite ends of the emotional spectrum: Good Life by One Republic and Let the Waters Rise by Mikeschair. The latter is a Christian song that I first heard when my Cornerstone sister Lenore used it at our retreat. I just love it, and sometimes it’s a perfect fit for my mood, my day, my journey. I’ve posted it on NSS before. If you’d like to listen, click HERE.

Bookshelf: Still working my way through The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. I’ve got a couple of weeks to go. I’m hanging in there with my daily Morning Pages, and it’s finally starting to become a habit. A good one.

But…I just got a copy of The Artist’s Rule: Nurturing Your Creative Soul with Monastic Wisdom and, after reading the introduction, I can’t wait to start this one. I’ve decided to do it right, however. So I’m waiting until I finish the first 12-week book before I dig into the next 12-week book.

I can think of several NSS reader friends who might like this book, so if you’re in the Delmar area and want to get a copy and join me on this journey starting in September, email me and we can get a group thing going. Wouldn’t that be fun?

Blogworthy: Related to the Artist’s Rule, check out author Christine Valter Paintner’s blog and website, Abbey of the Arts, by clicking HERE.

Quotables: “What other people think of me is none of my business.” – Dr. Wayne Dyer (Oh, to be able to believe and live that one.)

Appointment book: We’ve got quite the full slate this week with Noah away at Boy Scout camp, Olivia heading to archery camp, and Chiara taking a camp called Walking the Native American Path. Add in a visit from a friend, family night at Boy Scout camp and two birthday parties on top of everything else and you’ve got one busy summer week.

Viewfinder: Here are a few scenes from the past week…

Vicky, an unbelievably beautiful chestnut mare at Krumkill Stables where Olivia was attending horseback riding camp. There were lots of horses there, but I only had eyes for this one. She looked right through me, like she was peering into my soul.

Check out this wonder of nature. A family of dirt daubers has taken up residence next to our front door. They finished the fourth tube of the nest yesterday. It’s so beautiful I don’t have the heart to get rid of it.

Things that make you go hmmm…You probably can’t read the sign unless you click on the photo to enlarge, but it says: “Construction vehicle. Do not follow.” Not “do not follow within 50 feet” or “do not follow too closely,” just “do not follow.” Well, since it cut me off, I wasn’t quite sure what I was supposed to do. Turn around and go home? Turn right just for the heck of it.? Stop? So I did the next logical thing, I followed and took pictures.

Manic Monday: the first of many

As a complement to my new Foodie Friday weekly post, I’ve decided to add in Manic Monday, sort of like bookends for the weekend. What’s Manic Monday? It’s a bunch of quick blasts that will cover different topics, from music I’m listening to and books I’m reading to photos and interesting quotes. It’s a blog buffet. All you can read.

Soundtrack…Adele, Adele and more Adele, courtesy of my two girls, who love, love, love this young and talented artist. Specifically they play and replay Rolling in the Deep, Rumor Has It, and Turning Tables. I’ve got cool kids.

Bookshelf…I just finished Everything Beautiful Began After: A Novel by Simon Van Booy. I discovered this book by accident in a shop at the Orlando airport when our flight was delayed for hours and hours — a reminder that having a book on a shelf where people can catch an interesting cover, feel the pages, read a few paragraphs is how you sell books. I never would have found this book just scrolling around Amazon. I loved it — beautiful, poetic, thoughtful. Everything I want in a good novel.

Favorite line: “Loneliness is like being the only person left alive in the universe, except that everyone else is still here.”

I’m also re-reading I Will Not Die an Unlived Life by Dawna Markova. This is an amazing book about living life to the fullest and being true to yourself and the people you love. I couldn’t pick a favorite line from this one because the whole dang thing is my favorite. If you could see it, you’d know by the ridiculous amount of underlining throughout.

Viewfinder…A scene from Chiara’s sixth birthday party at Del Lanes. Thirteen kids, four lanes, three pizzas, one cake, lots of fun. This one captures all three of my kids in motion, and yet none of them are actually bowling:

Roll tape…This weekend I finally got around to watching Of Gods and Men, the true story of a group of Cistercian monks living in Algeria under the threat of death by Muslim extremists. I won’t tell you much more about the plot because I don’t want to post any spoilers. I will say this, as I said on Facebook this weekend: I wish everyone I know could see this film. It is an incredibly powerful film about courage, faith and love. If you’ve ever wanted to know what’s the big deal about the Catholic faith, what that faith looks like at its very best, watch this movie. Even if you don’t like movies with subtitles. It’s a truly beautiful film. By the time I got to the scene near the end where they are listening to Swan Lake and taking a sip of wine, I was sobbing.

Mangia…Cross another item off our Beach Bucket List. We finally had homemade waffles and ice cream. Doesn’t this look yummy?