Tuesday, April 30, 2013

5 Favorites, vol. 4

Mmmm...now that I look at my list of this week's favorites, I'm thinking what an odd mixture it is! Here goes anyway.

[1] COTTON PLANTS. This is what cotton plants look like. They are indigenous to this area and around here they are considered weeds. I transplanted this from a waste area near our house, and now I'm constantly having to pull up baby cotton plants! (it's worth it though)

[2] GARLIC AND ONIONS. My philosophy of cooking is "first, chop up an onion and some garlic and saute them in olive oil. Then proceed with whatever you want to add..." I naturally fit right in with the Mexican cuisine!

[3] MY MACBOOK AIR. It's only slightly heavier than my Nook - I often carry it around with one hand - but it's a full computer.

[4] THIS ICON. This is called "Mother of God, Joy and Consolation". The gesture of the young Jesus stroking Mary's cheek to console her is so tender.

[5] STONE. I've always dreamed of having a house that has some stone in it. Boy, I hit the jackpot with this one! The entire foundation is stone and all our walkways are stone. I love looking out every morning and seeing all that rock everywhere!

If you'd like to see what other people's favorites are, go to Hallie's blog at Moxie Wife.

Beatitude Attitudes, vol. 2

I'm linking up again with Rakhi at the Pitter Patter Diaries for this week's Beatitude Attitudes.

[1] Blessed am I by the witness of many saints who had "prickly" personalities. Saint Jerome comes to mind, Hildegard of Bingen and others who weren't necessarily easy to get along with. They give me comfort that I too can be considered saintly even if I can't fully conquer the sharpness in my personality.

This is Hildegard - you can see that she didn't "suffer fools gladly", but she's one of my favorite saints! See why here.

[2] Blessed am I that our priest is also a spiritual director (he actually did his graduate thesis on spiritual direction!). Finding a spiritual director is hard enough but when you live in a foreign country it's a real challenge. God took pity on me and brought an excellent spiritual director right to my doorstep (figuratively speaking, of course)

[3] Blessed am I to have the gift of song. As St. Augustine noted, he who sings prays twice, and no matter what scriptures I'm reading, somewhere in the passage is a song that I learned decades ago when we were all so intent on "singing unto the Lord a new song". It's amazing how many scriptures our generation put melodies to!

[4] Blessed am I for the gift of health. I'm at the age where things in my body are starting to show their slow slide back to the dust from which they came, but overall I'm in good shape, especially when I think of all the people (young and old) I know who are having to deal with serious conditions like diabetes or heart problems.

[5] Blessed am I to love (and be able) to work with my hands: knitting, sewing, darning, crochet, etc. It is from these activities that I learned patience.

[6] Blessed am I to have a curious mind. Because of this, I have been enriched by learning about the native plants of every region I've lived in, and learning about ancient and medieval history (which helped to bring me into the Catholic Church and taught me much about human nature), among many other fascinating areas I've delved into.

[7] A thousand times blessed am I to have God as my father. I never knew my earthly father, who died when I was only 4 months old, but God has proven true to His word that He is a father to the fatherless and I know that He keeps me close to His heart always.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Monday Musings: the prayers of the Church

I've been learning all I can about the prayers of the Church. Until we became Catholics, corporate prayer was basically saying the Lord's Prayer during the service, along with some miscellaneous other prayers that someone up in front prayed and we answered with "Lord, hear our prayer" (at least, that's how we did it when we were in the Presbyterian church). Corporate prayer was missing totally in the nondenominational churches we attended, unless you count the congregation listening to people praying personal prayers out loud.

I actually didn't even know there was such a thing as "the prayers of the Church" until, as a Catholic, I began praying the Divine Office (actually only parts of it). At the front of the book of the Liturgy of the Hours that I purchased, there was a whole section devoted to explaining the difference between personal prayer and prayers of the church. You can find basically the same information in the EWTN library.

My Spanish-language Liturgy of the Hours book puts it this way (my translation):
'The purpose of the prayer of the Church is not the same as that of personal prayer, which is the conversation of a believer with God, but it is the dialog of the Church with her Spouse, of the people of God with their Father who has chosen them, of the community of those who have been sanctified by the blood of Christ with their Savior. This praying community is the Church in its fullest sense - the universal Church, the one who merits the title of "bride of Christ, radiant, without spot or blemish".'

To realize that throughout the entire world, literally millions of people each day are praying the same psalms and the same biblical passages, to know that the faithful have been praying in this same way for two thousand years, is truly wonderful (it fills me with wonder at the majesty of the unity that God calls us to). To know that people are not "reading" these psalms, these passages, but praying them (lectio divina) - and to take my place in this choir of prayer - is a taste of the eternal community of which we are participants. This is so much deeper and higher than the reading of the Bible in group Bible studies that I have been used to.

Not to say that group Bible studies aren't useful or important - they are - but they correspond more to the Bride reading a letter from her beloved, rather than participating in a conversation with Him. And of course, I'm not contrasting personal prayer or Bible reading with the prayer of the Church. All these are rich means of approaching God. I thank Him that He has provided multiple means of communing with Him, since not all who seek Him can read; not all can gather with other believers; not all have access to a Bible.

I know I have only touched the "hem of the outer garment" of the presence of Christ in the prayers of His spouse. I would love to hear from anyone who has been praying the Divine Office for long enough to give me further insight into this treasure of the Church.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

{p,h,f,r} vol.4


I was inspired to create a home altar by the photos that Sarah posted at her blog Faithworks. The wood statue was carved by my mother-in-law, who was one of my favorite people. The papers in it have the names of people I'm currently praying for. The framed picture is Our Lady Untier of Knots, which I love. The altar still seems to be needing something (flowers? candles?) but I suppose that the right things will present themselves as time goes along. I'm up for suggestions if anyone has any!


We just had this area of our property fenced in so the dogs will stop digging up plants, and I immediately went out and bought 3 fig plants to put in there. I love mission figs, and I'm hoping that by having 3 plants the birds will leave at least some of the fruit for us!


Our son (the one who lives in the forest with his family) decided it was time to turn over the soil in the vegetable garden in preparation for planting. So he took his excavator down there and REALLY did a thorough job!


The Pirate and I were reviewing our storage situation the other day and it became evident that having a single drawer to keep my yarn in is no longer an option. In our last house I had an entire wall of storage as well as a whole closet for my yarn. Most of that yarn went to my forest granddaughters when we moved (they all knit). But of course a yarn addict collects yarn wherever she goes, and I've bought yarn down here without having any specific project in mind. Unfortunately I've only been able to find one type of yarn in the entire state (knitting isn't a major activity here in Mexico). It's acrylic and polyester, fingering weight (which makes sense since it's really too hot down here for heavier weight yarns). Fortunately the colors this yarn comes in are DELICIOUS! Thus the excess yarn. I'm hoping that the Pirate will take pity on me soon and make some dividers to turn part of our bedroom bookcase into a yarn storage area.

For more lovely links, get thee to the LMLD blog:
round button chicken

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Beatitude Attitudes, vol. 1

Rakhi at The Pitter Patter Diaries just started a wonderful link-up, The Beatitude Attitudes. She's hosting it every Tuesday and I don't know about you all but I occasionally need a reminder to consider the many ways that God has blessed me! So here are my 7 Beatitude Attitudes for the week:

[1] Blessed am I to have a husband who continually finds new and interesting things to give his attention to. Here he is making jerky, which he sells at a local shop.

[2] Blessed am I to have our oldest granddaughter staying with us for a month, drawing me out of my normal navel-gazing routine to meet new people and do things I otherwise would not bother to do.

[3] Blessed am I to have all the members of my family committed to following Jesus.

[4] Blessed am I to be part of parish that is so strong in its love for God, with a priest who is the best pastor I have ever known in 40+ years of church-going!

[5] Blessed am I to live in a "walking town" - everything is close enough to walk to, and many people don't even have cars.

[6] Blessed am I to have long-time friends whom I've known all my adult life and who I still get to spend time with.

[7] Blessed am I to live in a place where it NEVER freezes! (I am SOOO sensitive to cold!)

I encourage YOU to hie thyself over to Rakhi's and join this link-up

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

{p,h,f,r} vol. 3

What a great framework to help us to keep our minds fixed on "whatever is lovely and of good report". Thanks, Leila & family, for creating this opportunity for us!


This is the view from my kitchen window. The big open space is a field of chili plants. That's the Pacific in the far background.


We've got bananas! Growing on one of our banana plants! One of the first things we did when we moved into our house in 2009 was plant bananas and so far we've gotten exactly 2, but NOW there's a whole hand of bananas (aren't you impressed with my banana lingo?) slowly....VERY slowly....ripening. We've discovered that it takes MANY months for baby bananas to get big enough to pick, and it's better to pick them green once they've reached the right size rather than to wait for them to ripen on their own. They actually ripen quicker if you pick them green! Bananas (actually plantains, not the regular type of bananas that we're used to in the US) are very weird in a lot of ways. The plants probably have the highest potassium content of anything, and the best fertilizer you can give them is their own cut up leaves and dead stalks. Once a particular plant has fruited it dies, and new plants are always starting up at the base of existing ones (they multiply through their rhizomes). It's been fascinating to watch their life cycle.


Where's my food? Are you bringing me my food?


This poor grape was planted at least 2 years ago, but unfortunately it's in a back corner of the vegetable garden and until recently was covered up by rolls of wire fencing so it was forgotten and never watered. I'm amazed that it has somehow managed to stay alive, and recently granddaughter Jordan removed all the junk that was on top of it and mulched it, so now it's visible and accessible. It's clearly relieved to have that attention and regular watering!

For more beautiful photos from other happy participants, visit Auntie Leila and family and friends at
round button chicken

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

5 Favorites, vol. 3 - Container Edition

I love containers - bowls, boxes, bottles, baskets, anything that serves to contain other things. Here are five of my favorites.

[1] This is a basket made by a man in our town who makes and sells baskets. We've had him make several different kinds of baskets for us, but this is the one we use the most. We mostly use it to bring vegetables from our garden.

[2] This is a wire basket I got at a junk store in the U.S. I put excess garden produce in it - mostly tomatoes! We've found what I think is the best tomato ever. It's called Black Krim and it not only has a better taste than any other tomato we've grown, but it also keeps well outside the refrigerator (and this is in a hot climate!). I've had ripe Black Krims in this basket without going bad for over two weeks!

[3] One of the Pirate's micro-enterprises is making woodenware (bowls, trays, spoons, etc.) which he sells at a local gallery. This is my favorite. It's made of red eucalyptus, and although it's hard to see in the first photo, it's not perfectly round. That's because eucalyptus distorts when it dries, and the Pirate deliberately made this bowl from green wood so that it would distort. BTW, the Pirate made the lovely table that these containers are sitting on. He hand-planed the top so it would look old and hand-made, which fits in with things around here. That man is SO talented!

[4] There is a small community in the mountains near us where a family carries on the traditional craft of pottery making as practiced for centuries in this area. I have a number of bowls from this area, but this particular bowl is the one I use most often. I put it directly over the gas flame on our stove with no problem. Of course, this pottery would have to be flameproof since for centuries the only way things could get cooked was in pottery bowls over an open flame.

[5] This is something I recently found at the local segunda (thrift shop). It's made of a length of bamboo, which someone had cut in half lengthwise, preserving the membranes at end end of the segment, and then decorated with a wood-burning tool. I'm currently using it to hold the embroidery thread for a project I'm doing.

Go to Hallie's blog for more Favorites.

What counts as suffering?

I've been thinking a lot about suffering recently - not because of all the horrible things that happen in the world, because we always have those, but because I don't want to miss any opportunities that God gives me to put an exclamation point on my prayers for other people.

Not being a cradle Catholic, I didn't grow up with the idea of "offering up" my sufferings, but even before I became Catholic it made sense to me that suffering must have a purpose or God wouldn't allow it. In 1 Corinthians 1:6 Paul tells us "Now if we are afflicted, it is for your salvation and consolation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer". And in Philippians 3:10 (one of my favorite chapters in the Bible) Paul says that he wants to know Christ "and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death if by any means I might attain to the resurrection from the dead".

I found that passage when I was a brand-new christian forty-something years ago and was strangely comforted by it. It put suffering into a purposeful context - it wasn't just random, or evidence that God was angry with me or had forgotten me. Suffering was something to be embraced for a greater goal - the GREATEST goal! I have never heard anyone teach on this passage, so it has dwelt quietly in my heart until it was revived by the Catholic church's teaching on suffering.

However, here's the rub: I don't seem to have any suffering to offer up. Oh I have as much pain as the next person, but it doesn't seem worthy to be called "suffering". It's either something I well deserve - the consequence of my own bad choices, like cutting my finger with the plant clippers - or it's something like having a cough for a month, which should certainly count as suffering for my husband, but I'm so used to it that I'm hardly conscious of it. I'd put any personal sickness in the category of "not really suffering" unless there was really intense pain involved. Throwing up doesn't count - that's just normal stuff. Headaches, sinus infections, etc. - they all seem to me to be simply the side effects of life. I guess I have too high a view of suffering - that it only counts if it's physical or mental abuse by someone. Martyrs suffer that way; they aren't considered to have suffered because of frequent viral infections or having bad eyesight.

What say you? How do you use these "small, daily sufferings" as a tool in prayer? What counts as suffering? I'd sure like some enlightenment on this. I'm aiming for this:

"For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him but also to suffer for His sake..." (Philippians 1:29)

Friday, April 12, 2013

7 Quick Takes, vol. 1

Oh boy! Now I'm in the big leagues, posting on 7 Quick Takes!

[1] I cut my left index finger really deeply yesterday while I was pruning a vine. I wrapped the finger in gauze & tape and now I'm afraid to change the bandage or take a shower because I'm a BIG wuss when it comes to looking at wounds of any kind.

[2] Although we finally got my wood cook stove - which doubles as our outdoor grill - set up we've only used it once since it's been so windy and cool in the evenings.

[3] What's with the weather anyway? I've been reading about how long and cold the winter was up in the States, and now we have had this seemingly unending cool weather here in my corner of Mexico. For me, that means wearing sweaters every day and having a blanket on the bed (both unusual for this time of year). For native Mexicans, it's a matter of getting out the polar jackets!

[4] I've totally changed the way I cook since I got this book. Now once a week I cook up a big pot of beans & another of rice, I roast a bunch of vegetables, and I'm ready for the week! Putting together pre-cooked items is quick and yet allows for last-minute creativity. I LOVE this book!

[5] I'm finding that just living here in Mexico has changed my color sense. I'm one of those people who is highly color-oriented. For example, all my notes are written in different-colored sharpies, on different-colored post-its. When we lived in the States, I was really comfy with my muted color combinations, both in our home and in my clothes. Now those colors seem too washed out, and I'm using brighter colors. This is a bought sweater that I am doing duplicate stitching on to get some color happening.

[6] WHOOPEE! I just found out that I WAAAY over-withheld on my taxes last year and we're going to get a big refund!

[7] Boy, SEVEN things is a lot, even if they're quick! I feel like I've just run a half-marathon (and I'm not even a runner!). I hope I get better at this!

Head on over to Grace's today for more Quick Takes

Thursday, April 11, 2013

What does it take to be a friend?

I'm an introvert, and like a lot of other bloggers who've admitted this, it's easier for me to connect with people virtually rather than in person. I love reading about other people's lives, and seeing the photos of their homes/kids/craft projects/etc. I love to share my life with others....but I'm not very good at it in person unless I've known you for a VERY long time, or you're a gentle extrovert who makes me feel safe about sharing my thoughts.

The problem is that my thoughts rarely seem to be about things that other people are thinking about or interested in. I don't seem to have much to share in normal situations. It feels like I think too deeply or too widely for most people to be comfortable in a conversation with me. I'd probably make a great college professor but that's not the way to have strong personal relationships.

This past week at confession, Padre said that my strong intellect is sometimes my enemy. That opened the floodgates and I ended up crying for the next hour at Eucharistic Adoration (a 7-kleenex cry!). This is something I've struggled with all my life and to have someone actually NAME it was such a relief. The Pirate (who of course has had to live with this struggle all our married lives) reminded me when I told him why I was so wrung out (of course I started crying again in trying to tell him) that my intellect is also a gift from God. At the moment I don't see it - I'm just so exhausted from wrestling that I can't imagine this thing being a help in my desire for real connections with people.

This is the season for a re-set in my life, since I just retired at the beginning of the year. In my professional life I needed a strong intellect and I could use it to help others, so my work was very satisfying. However, last year I realized that God was guiding me in a different direction, so I let go of my professional life and have been deeply happy to be able to be a full-time wife and homemaker again (I love that word - what could be more noble than being the one who makes a house a home?)

One thing is lacking - which truth be told has been missing in most of the seasons of my life: the regular communion of deep friendship. Happily, my beloved husband provides this, but I'm realizing that for many years my clients were the people that I spoke to most often and the most deeply (outside my marriage) and now I've got a big relational empty space in my life. I would love to be like Pope Francis, of whom someone said "He doesn't say much, but he's very warm." That's how I showed up for clients; why can't I show up like that for others? I recently read a post by another blogger that asked the question, "do you want to be special, or so you want to be connected?" BUSTED! I have a feeling that this is going to be God's theme for me until I "get" it.

In one way, living in Mexico among Mexicans is a great help with this struggle, since there's no chance that I'd want to (or be able to) engage in deep conceptual conversations with these warm and gracious people who are my neighbors and friends. Here I feel like I've really accomplished something if I can have a good conversation about the surface things that I can't bring myself to talk about with English-speakers because it all seems so trite. I'm beginning to see that the triteness is in my head, that the simple conversations are the necessary connectors between people.

I'm hoping that someone reads this post and responds to it. I really don't want to just be talking to myself.

{p,h,f,r} vol. 2

This is the Plants Edition:


I love the color of these bougainvilleas. We have several different bougainvilleas on our property, but this one causes my heart to sing every time I see it. It's outside my kitchen window, so I have plenty of opportunities to enjoy it throughout the day.


These are baby mangos. This mango tree was one of the first things we planted when we finished our house 4 years ago. The tree is only 4 feet high, but it's got a lot of baby mangos on it this year! Our town is famous for its mango trees, and when it's mango season there is so MUCH fruit dropping from trees everywhere that a lot of it is given to the horses/cows/goats, and a lot left to rot. BUT, we are excited to have our own mangos just 20 feet from our house! And eventually the tree will get quite large and give shade as well.


Sorry I couldn't figure out how to get a better picture of this, but it's a cactus that acts like a vine. It's managed to attach itself to the wall behind our house sign and is heading for the post so it can get onto the roof!


For the last couple of months it's been "leaf drop" season. I still don't understand how plant cycles work down here - why would they drop their leaves when they're getting watered and the weather is coolish but not cold (mid-60s to mid-70s in the day and low 60s at night)? But it happens here, not just with our plants, so right now we've got a nearly naked poinciana. Happily, it's already starting to grow new leaves so perhaps in a couple of months it will look pretty again.

I hope that you are enjoying seeing what our little corner of Mexico is like. For more lovely places and people, go see
round button chicken

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

5 favorite things, vol. 2

Wow! I almost missed this link-up - somehow I thought that the 5 Favorites happens on Thursdays. So, deep breath, think hard, what 5 favorites do I have to share today?

This is such an easy way to add color to a purchased sweater! It doesn't require any mental attention, unlike a lot of knitting and crocheting.

This is exactly like the stove I had and loved when we first moved to the forest in 1970. That stove is long gone but I found this one last year (just a few miles from where I lived when I had the first stove) and we brought it back home to Mexico with us. Is this the coolest outdoor grill you've ever seen, or what?

Pomegranates have been my favorite fruit forever and we actually have our own pomegranate trees which are producing right now! We got about 10 pomegranates in March and as you can see we'll be harvesting more soon!

Palo de arco is a type of bush that has lots of straight vertical branches, and it's used a lot down here for all kinds of things (a lot of the old ranches have houses and other buildings made of it, chinked with adobe). I love the look of a woven palo de arco fence. We spent most of our lives in redwood country, and I love old redwood fences, but there's something about the peek-a-boo look of woven fencing that is especially lovely.

It's such a treat to have her with us for 2 whole months! God is really using her to open my eyes to lots of blind spots. Here she is with the Pirate (aka my dh).

Thanks Hallie for hosting this link-up and muchas felicitationes on your squishy new baby! For more great lists of five, go visit Hallie at Moxie Wife.