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Manic Monday: Our main goal is staying warm

It’s a Lenten Manic Monday, and it’s going to be a cold one. We’re starting at 12 degrees and working our way down to -11 by end of today. That’s -11 without any windchill. Why did we leave Texas again? It will be a busy week here at the Poust House both personally and professionally, but here’s what went down over the past few days. Hint: It included lots of sledding, as you tell by the photo over there on the left. That’s me coming down the big hill near our house. Read more

Lent: It’s not all about giving up chocolate and beer

So, I walked into my bathroom last night and found this message on my make-up mirror: “You’re beautiful!” I smiled because this wasn’t just any random note, this was the work of the Masked Lenten Post-It Bandit. Okay, that’s not what she calls herself, but that’s how I’m starting to think of her. Read more

Manic Monday: Oh, wait. It’s Twisted Tuesday.

Headline says it all. It’s going to be one of THOSE weeks. Between my out-of-town travel for a weekend retreat and the holiday for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I am totally thrown off. I’d like to put out a blanket apology for any appointments or events I miss today — or this week — because it’s going to happen. I will be one day off until next Monday. So here’s how things stand on this Twisted Tuesday. Read more

I should have known… An Ode to Olivia

I should have know you would turn out to be a determined, amazing, strong, daring girl…

…when you burst into the world in record time (less than 30 minutes in the hospital) and at a whopping 10 pounds and immediately demanded to be nursed.

You were ready for this world since before you were born. Read more

Centipedes and the sanctity of life

So yesterday I ran downstairs to the unfinished side of my basement to throw in a load of laundry, and there on the cinderblock wall in front of me was the biggest house centipede I’d ever seen. After my initial “ACK!” reaction, I looked for the biggest thing I could find with plans to smash it, but it got away, moving in that creepy way centipedes do, all swervy and fast with legs and antennae going every which way. Down behind the rack of off-season clothes it went, and I made a mental note to shake out my jackets the next time I plan to wear one.

The incident was one that made for fun Facebook fodder. A quick status update about my centipede – nicknamed Randall after the nasty centipede-like character in the movie Monsters Inc. — garnered 30 comments by the time evening rolled around. What started as silly I-hate-centipede humor turned serious as one friend with Buddhist leanings suggested that those of us in the anti-centipede camp consider why this bug is marked for execution when something, say, as beautiful as a Monarch butterfly would incite quite a different reaction. Should something – even as something as seemingly insignificant as a centipede – die an automatic death simply for being created ugly?

“We make light of killing bugs, but what we’re saying is that some of God’s creatures deserve to be killed, for no other reason than we find them ugly,” my friend wrote.

We went back and forth a bit, with me acknowledging that, yes, I want to kill giant centipedes because they are creepy and their movements aren’t nearly as endearing as a Monarch butterfly’s might be. But the friend who won’t kill the centipede will eat a hamburger, so that raises other questions, at least in my mind. If meat isn’t “necessary” to a healthy diet, is killing a cow to get dinner ingredients justified any more than killing a bug because it might crawl into our clothes or figuratively under our skin?

All of this got me to thinking less about the centipede and more about another issue that’s been rearing its head in my life recently. Although I’m a vegetarian who abstains from all pork, beef, chicken, and the like, with only occasional servings of seafood, I didn’t choose that path for animal rights reasons. Originally I chose it because my mother died of colon cancer and I wanted to do everything I could to avoid her fate, although I did have issues with factory farming and other cruel – and downright disgusting — practices within the meat industry. Later, when Olivia, at age 7, decided she didn’t want animals to die for her dinner, I rejoined the vegetarian ranks in solidarity with her. Since that time, I feel myself moving more toward an animal rights stance, although I’m not there yet.

But our vegetarian lifestyle, and Olivia’s increasing interest in animal rights, has led to some long and rather frank conversations lately about things that have surprised and confused my socially aware 12-year-old. I explained to Olivia that she is likely to be an anomaly in most vegetarian and animal rights circles as she grows up. Why? Because she is a pro-life vegetarian like her mama. She looked at me as if I’d lost my mind when I told her that many (most?) vegetarians do not share our view. How, she asked, how could it possibly be that someone who doesn’t want to eat a chicken would think it’s okay to allow a baby to be killed while growing inside its mother? She knows already that many people in the animal rights movement would fight tooth and nail to prevent an unborn piglet or panda or calf or eagle from being killed in its mother’s womb, and she honestly couldn’t fathom how anyone who feels the way she does about animals would feel differently about people. The two seem to go together like hand in cruelty-free glove.

It certainly is a contradiction of grand proportions, one that seems to get glossed over in all the conversations about life and creation and preservation and nature. I see it in the magazines I get, the emails I receive, the newsletters from various vegetarian groups that find their way into my mailbox. We will put bumper stickers on our cars to save trees and salamanders and whales, but a bumper sticker that suggests saving babies brands you as a “hater” in this day and age. And that’s not just intolerance meant to intimidate, that’s willful ignorance of a truth once proclaimed by Dr. Seuss’s Horton: “A person’s a person, no matter how small.” Even a person no bigger than a house centipede.

A little holy cleaning at Auriesville

We spent this beautiful August day doing a little cleaning at the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs in Auriesville. Various youth groups are going to the shrine to do some minor maintenance work to help get ready for the canonization celebrations that will take place this fall when Blessed Kateri finally becomes a saint. Read more

Manic Monday: Returning to ‘normal’ life

Our Christmas tree came down last night, along with the rest of the decorations. The magi hardly had time to settle down in front of the creche when I shipped them off to the basement. Such is the end of the season, at least around here. By this time of year, I’m ready to return to ordinary time and Ordinary Time.

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

The above YouTube clip is a follow-up to last week’s ‘Twinkle’ post. Someone captured the kids playing at Mary Jane’s funeral. (Thanks, Pam, for sending that to me.) When the clip is rolling, Olivia happens to be visible on and off over on the left in the cream-colored top.

Bookshelf: I’m reading about a dozen different books all at once as research for the two books I’m writing, but there’s one that stands out right now, a recommendation from a Facebook friend. It’s called Listening Below the Noise: A Meditation on the Practice of Silence by Anne D. LeClaire. Loving it so far. Here’s one piece that resonated with me because I have experienced it so powerfully myself:

“Over the years I had prepared meals in quiet rooms, in accidental silence, as I would later come to call it, but I was discovering that intentional silence brought a focus to everything. Ordinary acts — measuring oats and water, chopping walnuts, scooping out a handful of raisins, stirring oatmeal — were transformed into meditations simply by the attention stillness brought to the tasks. Later, scrubbing out the gummy saucepan, I found unexpected pleasure in this simple job. I was experiencing what Buddhists have always taught: Silence, along with the attention it fosters, is our anchor to the present, to the here and now.”

Perfect. Today when I make my silent oatmeal, as I do each weekday, I will do so with those words ringing (silently, of course) in my head, reminding me that this practice of still, slow eating truly does allow me to bring a depth and calmness to my day that is absent when I skip this favorite ritual. My meditative breakfast has become, without question, one of my best prayer moments of any day.

Soundtrack: Dreamland by Madeleine Peyroux, something Dennis discovered on The Coffee House on Sirius. A bunch of it’s in French. Very cool. Check it out.

Viewfinder: Below is a shot of my Christmas gifts, or most of them, collected on the dining room table. Makes you wonder if perhaps I’m planning to open a monastery or a retreat center. We’ve got prayer flags up front; the official Abbey Psalter from the Abbey of the Genesee; Yoga Prayer DVD by Father Thomas Ryan, CSP; Landscapes of Prayer: Finding God in Your World and Your Life by Margaret Silf; a cross candle holder; a Himalayan singing bowl; incense, lots of it; a tea set with Zen tea. I did get some other goodies that had nothing to do with prayer or spirituality, like the Midnight in Paris DVD and a flameless candle, although that last one borders on spiritual, too, doesn’t it?

My Christmas bounty.
The lovely Abbey Psalter.
Visiting my grandmother, who turned 99 on New Year’s Day.
Birthday boy.

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.