Friday, January 31, 2014

Meet Melissa: mama, farmer, author, Catholic

Thank you Melissa for this guest post! Melissa has an amazing natural living blog; click on over to Dyno-mom and enjoy so much information. She usually talks food, homesteading and homeschooling, but I really enjoyed her post titled 'Why I Love Sunday Mornings.' Inspirational! 
How long have you been a practicing Catholic?
I am a cradle Catholic. While my parents are not practicing, I am so blessed my paternal grandmother was an ardent Catholic and she took her Faith very seriously. She served as my primary example and role model and made certain that I had a Catholic childhood.  She bought the Baltimore Catechism for me, even though she did not comfortably read English. She passed away before I was married, so she will not be angry with me for saying her English wasn’t great because now she gets it. It never was that the people at Pizza Hut were stupid, it was that she didn’t know the correct words for the toppings.
Care to share your conversion, reversion story?
I never really reverted or converted but there was definitely a point in my life when my faith began to deepen.  I met and married my husband when I was a freshman in college. He was in RCIA at a parish close to the school and a hot shot young intellectual and pretty darn cute. We had our home and our own family and we wanted to shape our children and I was the only one with any family practices. This meant that all those pious practices of my grandmother came out and we did them together. My faith, which had been very superficial before, suddenly become so much a part of our lives that we actually lost a lot of friends. At first, we were confused by it and then hurt but eventually we just stopped worrying about and decided that maybe this meant we needed new friends. 
How does your faith inform your day-to-day life?
Since we have been very open to life and never used contraception, we had eleven children in nineteen years. That is probably the biggest thing. When you marry young and have scads of children, it changes everything. We cannot pretend for even a minute that we are like anyone else. I mean, really, just leaving the house means putting our hands on twenty-six shoes that match. My life is a heck of a lot like the “Memory” card game I played as a kid.  But more than just the logistics of having a large family, what we eat, the kinds of books we read and the prayers we say at night are shaped by the calendar of the Church.
We do the things my grandmother encouraged me to do like praying before meals and praying morning and evening prayers. I also read aloud the lives of the saints during lunch each day using the feast of the day. We also have a plastic sleeve hanging on the wall and we change out the icon of the day or season (using a prepared packet) and we talk about the symbolism in it. I also sit with the littlest kids as they fall asleep and I either pray or read edifying books aloud while I do it. When I cook, I make the sign of the cross with ingredients. When we eat, we try to very often make sure that we save something to offer the mail carrier or the snow plow driver so that we are feeding others. I keep an image of Christ’s mother in every room of the house so that I can always look to her for guidance which is what I was always reminded to do before I lost it. Let me tell you, The Seat of Wisdom has saved us all when my kids have done terrible things like flush bars of soap, use pencils to cram toilet paper into the sink drains or locked themselves in my bathroom and gotten naked before covering all exposed skin with their older sister’s blood red stage lipstick from a dance recital. Good times.
What is your greatest challenge in practicing your faith?
Right now it is the isolation. There are not many Catholics here to share our faith with and even fewer Ukrainians. It leads to weird tensions like over fish on Fridays, Holy Days of Obligation, and the children receiving Holy Communion.  But the funniest thing was how many people asked if “my people” have Christmas trees. I cannot tell you how many people have very politely and delicately inquired if I would be offended if they asked my children about their tree. Uh, nope. Not offended. We do Christmas trees. In fact, we freaking invented Christmas trees!
Favorite Bible verse?
I have always loved Roman 8:38-39 because it reminds me that even as the chief of sinners, I have never excluded myself from the love of God and that He is always there waiting for me to return to Him. I love the Psalms.  I love that I am praying them over thousands of years will people who felt the same way that I do. They are new every time I pray them.
Favorite saint and why?
My bestie has got to be Saint Anthony of Padua because as a child I always misplaced everything and he always found it and to this day, I have never misplaced one of brood despite their proclivity to day dreaming and wandering about. It could only be divine intervention.
Do have a living spiritual mentor?
We have a friend who became a priest but he is back in Colorado. I miss him terribly. I am currently shopping for his replacement (no offense, Father Dave).
What is your ministry in the church?
I am the chief baby holder and vomit catcher. For reals. Twice, twice in my life I have used my hands cupped together to catch my children’s vomit during the service. I think that my talents are quite unique and I imagine greatly appreciated.
Education and job:
I dropped out of law school because it interfered with my primary job of always being pregnant. My husband was working on his PhD on philosophy at the time and decided to follow suit. I do freelance writing, develop recipes on a contract basis, and maintain a blog where I thrill people with my delightful vignettes about big family life coupled with atrocious photography all sprinkled with acerbic wit.
Favorite movie, book, music:
My favorite movies are Babette’s Feast, The Island and One Magic Christmas. I love Babette’s Feast not only because I love to cook but also because the strength of fidelity and humility of Babette are edifying. I love The Island for pretty similar reasons even though there is no cooking. I love One Magic Christmas because how you can you not love a Christmas movie where the protagonist’s husband and children are all killed on Christmas Eve? If pressed enough to admit that there are cheesy movies I like, I will tell you that I also like Nacho Libre, Napolean Dynomite and Elf.
The subject of books is a tricky course. My favorite novels are EVERYTHING by Willa Cather, my favorite piece of classic literature is Crime and Punishment, my favorite history book is Women in the Days of the Cathedrals, my favorite knitting book without patterns is All Wound Up, and my favorite knitting books with patterns is The Knitter’s Almanac. I am completely loving what I am reading right now and that is Everyday Saints. One of my proudest skills is my ability to turn pages in my Kindle with my elbow while I nurse a baby to sleep and knit at the same time.
Hobby? 
Yarn is my crack. I knit until my wrists and thumbs ache and are numb. Then I crochet until they are like 75% better and then dive right back into the knitting. Anytime you see me, I am knitting. I have literally carried mittens with me while I cook which combines the best of everything in one giant ball of great fun. I also bake bread as a hobby, which people always tell me is not actually a hobby, but I love it anyway. Lastly, when I am in a bad mood, I clean the crap out of anything, organize and attack it with my label maker. Bad mood averted.
What is 'cool'/interesting about you?
Um. My biting polemic tone? Oh, oh, perhaps my clever wit? Or it could be how my grandmother made sure I was single when I met my husband? For reals. A young Romanian man came with his grandmother to ask my grandmother if he could take me to the movies. After he did, he brought her a dozen and a half home grown roses from his mother’s garden. My grandmother was filling her vase (the kind with big handles on the outside) and my young aunt (who was already married) and I watched as she filled it with hot water from the tap. She would not be interrupted as she talked about how great this boy was. She put the flowers on her home altar and never noticed how hot the vase was. Minutes later my young cousin shrieked and pointed at the flowers which were fading and drooping and the petals falling off. My grandmother looked at me and said, “We speak of him never again.” I met my husband a week a later. Done and done.
Thanks again- Melissa- Dyno-mom
Click on the "I'm a Catholic" tag below for more in this guest post series

Friday, January 24, 2014

a Christmas moment

 linking with soulemama's 'this moment,' memories of Christmas 2013
after walking 'Christmas tree lane' with friends from church
dancing a no-stress parks and rec mini-Nutcracker!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

To Life! wordless wednesday...

me...
still me....
still me again...
joining wordless Wednesdays! here's to LIFE!
(baby girl is our 4 1/2 year old- born at 32 weeks & 4 pounds)

Monday, January 6, 2014

a daybook for January

Outside my window...the orange tree has split one of its largest branches and stray oranges are cluttering up the patio
 

I am thinking...that I wasn't successful at all with my blog fast for Advent and Christmas.....not one draft or idea lingers on a document waiting to be polished and posted....ah well...
 

I am thankful...for hot water and electricity! It is such a luxury to take a warm shower and then read a book by lamplight.
 

In the kitchen...just plain rice, applesauce, bananas and teas....guess how we are spending our new year!
 

I am wearing...a very trendy coral chevron 'infinity' scarf. I like it even if it is trendy!
 

I am creating...lesson plans for my college ESL students. We are going to be in the computer lab one out of four evenings. I am looking forward to mixing up my methods.
 

I am going...to be on stage with my husband! We are in the 'parent class' of our daughters' Shakespeare program- our class will perform a scene from Much Ado about Nothing- the girls are doing the entire play of Two Gentlemen of Verona
 

I am wondering...why scented candle wax darkens in color when it melts. Does anyone know? I got some great new candles at Christmastime!
 

I am reading...Regina Doman's Alex O'Donnell and the 40 Cyberthieves - Catholic YA lit at its finest!
 

I am hoping...that we will travel to the old country this summer...
 

I am looking forward to...my parents coming for the theater performances...hint...hint....
 

I am learning...more algebra...trying to help my two eldest. They are studying math that I do not remember forgetting
 

Around the house...we are doing very well not depending on random video watching during this flu. Puzzles, UNO, Scattergories, and random reading of Christmas books are working wonders
 

I am pondering...health care and economic systems. blech.
 

A favorite quote for today...
"Since it is so likely that children will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage.” C S Lewis- “On Stories: And Other Essays on Literature” (1966)
One of my favorite things...waking up at 6 AM to pray and exercise! This isn't really true- waking up early is hard for me because it means going to sleep by 10, but I really need 8 hours of sleep. When I do wake up at 6, I feel really good. I just might sign up for a Zumba class at 6 AM close to home to forcce me to continue waking (for me) early.
 

A few plans for the rest of the week: to get better! and to enjoy our temperate weather (60 in the day- 40 at night) with a walk at the dog park
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