Friday, February 25, 2011

Fun with Monks- 7 QuickTakes

1.  We were at a monastery day before yesterday and prayed vespers. Priest-husband and the big girls also prayed the "Jesus prayer" before vespers; the monks do most of the Jesus prayer silently so I didn't have the little children in the chapel. Twenty minutes of silence is not possible with them.

2. This is the "Jesus Prayer"--- "Jesus, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner." It can be prayed on a knotted prayer rope.  You can start with saying it about 100 times and then slowly try to increase it so that it becomes an unceasing 'prayer of the heart.'

3. To monastery retreatants- stop feeding the raccoons. They look cute, but no matter what, they will stay wild. They'll just expect food from innocent 20-month old toddlers.

4. To good Catholic men who want to remain unmarried- please seriously consider the monastic life. The monks seem to have an aspirant or two (I didn't really get details- don't want to 'jinx' anything). I pray that he will hear God's will for his life-- and I pray that many more men will find their way to this faithful family.

5. It is hard to be in church when your kids are the only children there.  Baby Girl especially loves to hear her own voice echo. The next time I go to the monastery, I hope to go on an actual retreat by myself!

6. a sad (to me) story- while at an Orthodox women's monastery in the old country last summer, we visited with the mothers and told them about this Byzantine Catholic monastery in the States. We said that their special ministry is to work towards the unity of all Christians and the preservation of true Byzantine spirituality while being in union with the Catholic Church. The mothers could not contain their disgust and asked us why would we ever pray for unity- the Orthodox are happy without being diluted by liberal faith. But our monks keep praying and being faithful to Byzantine spirituality and the Catholic Church.

7. Here is a vegan recipe from one of the monks (they are vegan year-round Wednesdays and Fridays and tougher still during actual fasting periods):

Lentil Vegetable Pasta
Saute a chopped onion, 2 chopped bell peppers, and a few cloves of crushed garlic in a teaspoon of olive oil in a heavy pot. When onions are softened, add 2 cups of lentils and 2 peeled carrots along with 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil and then cover. Turn to low. While the lentil vegetable mixture is cooking, prepare 2 cups of dry pasta according to package directions in a different pot. After 20 minutes, add a can of crushed tomatoes to the lentil mixture. Drain pasta and then add to lentil mixture. Add salt, if needed. Serve with garlic bread and a green salad.

a post about posting

What to write when there isn't much to write about? I feel like I don't even have seven short thoughts for Jen's Friday quick takes. I could try to be profound like Anne or practical like Leila and crew, but there is just not much there in the past weeks. I suppose my primary problem is trying to maintain a bit of anonymity on the web. It might be correct, but it makes it nearly impossible to share about what is going on with life. I could write about where I went and what I did these past few days for 'family fun;' Priest-husband had a few days off from his paying job. If readers knew where I was, they would know who I am. And that's okay because I have never written anything here that my husband has not seen and the important people in my life would be hurt by- a few things might be controversial simply because I have shown a bit of life's imperfections when 'church-type people' are supposed to be holy at all times, but I am okay with that. I started writing this blog to 'vent' a bit but mostly so that those people interested in religion would know that we Byzantine Catholics exist. So I have put myself out there, in my own very small way, as an authority of sorts on being Byzantine Catholic. And this is paralyzing to me. I don't want to disappoint anyone or be a scandal to anyone. But no matter what- no person is perfect. God alone is perfect, so I'll just write what I know with as much charity and dignity as possible and leave the rest to God.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Films to Enjoy Again- 7 QuickTakes

Here are a few secular choices for your pre-Lenten viewing pleasure. You can't go wrong with any of these recommendations; I would say that none of these films are appropriate for the littles. Save them for when the kids go to sleep!

1. Rope- Choosing my favorite Hitchcock movie is like trying to choose my favorite child. Rear Window is also superb as are The Man who Knew Too Much, North by Northwest, and Vertigo. But I am naming Rope as my favorite today. The stage direction, costuming, casting, music, theme- all are perfection. And Jimmy Stewart doesn't make one misstep. Watch it with your favorite pro-choicer.

2. Minority Report- I love novels about the future that is basically already here (Fahrenheit 451, 1984, Brave New World, Children of Men), realistic, sort-of-depressing science fiction. Minority Report fits the bill. Sitting in highway traffic, I dream of the transportation system in place in this movie. The special effects work really well here.

3. The Man Who Knew Too Little- Most comedies just make me smile. This one with Bill Murray has me laughing loudly and needing to stifle myself; I don't want to wake up the kids. I prefer this movie over What About Bob (can't get over the house exploding).

4. Enemy of the State or The Fugitive for semi-mindless action- It is a rare action movie that I will watch again. Both of these fit the bill for a relaxing no-brainer that isn't completely brainless. Does that make any sense at all?

5. Cinema Paradiso- a movie about movie lovers, this Italian film is abashedly over-the-top romantic. It certainly met my needs during college for a melancholic movie about love and loss. He does not get the girl.

6. Au Revoir Les Enfants- This is an autobiographical movie based on the director's life in Nazi-occupied France. The main character befriends a Jewish boy who is being hidden at the boarding school by the headmaster, a monk. Beautiful cinematography and music; bring your tissues.

7. Children of Heaven- This Iranian movie is about a sister and a brother who share one pair of shoes between the two of them. It is more about relationships than poverty, but the normalcy of poverty is a part of it. The brother enters a race and tries to win second place; the second place prize is a pair of shoes.

Looking at this list, I notice that there are very few girl-power roles. It is what it is- this is the list I am coming up with at this time of the year. I am looking forward to the newest Jane Eyre. That should be an enjoyable escape to 'Olde England' while sitting on the couch, waiting for a kid to squawk. Here are some bonus movies that I really enjoy and can watch again:

The Lord of the Rings trilogy, To Kill a Mockingbird, Memento, Moulin Rouge (any Baz L.- of course Australia is my least favorite), A Room with a View, Up (all Pixar- Toy Story movies are my least favorite), new Narnia movies- even the old ones (don't judge me), Jean de Florette,  The Count of Monte Cristo, Enchanted April, Henry V (Branagh's  version- yes, he is an egoist, but he makes great films), any 'old' musical (Sound of Music, State Fair, just no Carousel) almost any Austen adaption, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (my grandfather was in it)...I guess I could go on and on...

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Garlic, je t'aime

All this St Valentine talk reminds me of the first time I met my future father-in-law. Future priest and I were dating seriously (basically engaged except he hadn't met my family yet), and we went to visit his parents. My future mother-in-law served a delicious meal, as usual. After the soup, she served pork loin, mashed potatoes and more veggies. A delicious-smelling garlic sauce was in a bowl at the middle of the table. My boyfriend (funny to call him that) took a large spoonful of the sauce. I felt the table rattle and he had to stifle an 'OUCH'- my future father-in-law had kicked my boyfriend under the table. He assumed I wouldn't be kissing his son if his son ate garlic. We laughed, and I took a big spoonful of the sauce, too. It has been a staple on our menu ever since and required whenever we eat pork. My girls put it on their mashed's the recipe- it is very simple, but please use fresh garlic- nothing pre-minced!

Classic Garlic Sauce 
Crush 1 large head of garlic and place in either wooden or ceramic bowl. Cover with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Sprinkle half a teaspoon of salt and one teaspoon of mild paprika over garlic mixture. Mash with a wooden pestle or plastic spoon (metal might react). Add 2 tablespoons of water or white wine. Blend.

Garlic Sauce with Sour Cream
Crush 1 large head of garlic and place in either wooden or ceramic bowl. Sprinkle half a teaspoon of salt and one teaspoon of freshly minced parsley over garlic mixture. Mash with a wooden pestle or plastic spoon. Add 3 or 4 spoons of sour cream and blend.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

St Valentine's = Thanksgiving

WHAT- you say? Has priest's wife gone around the bend??? St Valentine's Day is like Thanksgiving? Yup- here's how: Both holidays are not really holy days; they are basically secular days that industry uses to encourage us to buy things. Thanksgiving is a reminder to thank God for our blessings, and St Valentine's day is a day to focus on love.  
A big difference is this:
Everyone celebrates Thanksgiving. Everyone sits down to a big dinner with as many family and friends that they are inclined to invite. In high school and college, I worked at a high-end grocery store. The day before Thanksgiving is the biggest moneymaker of the year. Families that would normally spend $100 on their groceries would spend at least double that amount. Carts would be filled with extra-special food and drink along with floral arrangements and liquor. No one would comment on 'big food' constructing a conspiracy of Thanksgiving. No one refused to celebrate Thanksgiving because 'if they aren't equally thankful to God every day, then they aren't thankful enough.'
But- look at St Valentine's Day...
Some people boycott the holiday and have anti-love webpages or groups. Husbands and wives refuse  to celebrate St Valentine's Day because 'if they show extra love on this day, they aren't treating her well the other days' or 'it is a conspiracy from Chinese communists that want us to buy cheap, tacky goods (then DO something kind and then say Happy Valentine's Day) or 'the day is really Saints Cyril and Methodius on the calendar.' 

I have been having an IRL exchange about the day on Facebook with a friend who, like me, didn't date at all until she met her husband and then got married happily ever after and had a bunch of kids. She seems to detest the day and the forced romanticism. They don't celebrate it at all. My Valentine's =Thanksgiving argument has not convinced her. Perhaps she remembers those times when the Valentine box was almost empty. She remembers during college when everyone seemed to be going off with a boyfriend and she was alone. Maybe she remembers that the only treat she got on the day was Mom's waffles and cherries (thanks, Mom!). My friend says that in her country, the holiday is only about consumerism. That is probably true about the States as well. But still....

But the Church is well-known for taking something not-so-perfect and sanctifying it (example: Christmas trees). So, in my not so humble opinion, I say that we take St Valentine's Day back and celebrate all the people in our lives that we love. If we feel like buying chocolate and flowers, fine- but the only 'requirement' is to show and spread love to friends and family.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

just the same old sad story

The majority of Catholics in the United States did not make it to Mass this past Sunday. The freedom to worship is wasted on us. We and the rest of the world ignore the cries of dying Christians in Iraq, Egypt and Afghanistan. Read on and weep. At the very least, let us offer any sacrifice we make today for Said Musa's soul, for he is not long for this world.  
“To the international church of world and to the President Brother Barak Obama President of the United States and to the head of ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] in Afghanistan!
“My name is Said Musa 45 years old. I have been working since 15 years as a Physiotherapist in I-C-R-C [International Committee of the Red Cross] orthopaedic centre in Kabul, Afghanistan. About four and a half months before by security force of Afghanistan I [was] captured, due to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, Saviour of the world.
...Since that time I am in jail. The authority and prisoners in jail did many bad behaviour with me about my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. For example, they did sexual things with me, beat me by wood, by hands, by legs, put some things on my head, mocked me ‘He’s Jesus Christ’, spat on me, nobody let me for sleep night and day. Every person spat on me and beat me. Also the prosecutor wrote something wrong against me. He told from himself something wrong against me on my file.
“He is stimulating every day the prisoners against me, ‘He is also in jail due to spy for Iran country’, to reveal the church in Kabul. I’m in a very and very bad condition in the jail.
“I agree with long imprisonment about my faith even for long life. Because I’m the sinnest person in the world. Because sometimes they treated for died I refuse my faith due to died. Sometimes I tolerate the persecution but immediately I acknowledge my sin before Lord Jesus Christ: ‘Don’t refuse me before your holy angels and before your Father.’ Because I am very very weak and sinful man…
I am alone between 400 handlers of terrible values in the jail like a sheep. Please, please, for the sake of Lord Jesus Christ help me. Please send a person who should supervise my document and my file, what I said in it. My prosecutor has told something wrong to the judge because he asked [for] money but I refused his request. Please, please you should transfer me from this jail to a jail that supervises the believers. I also agree with died on cross of my pride. I also agree with the sacrifice [of] my life in public, I will tell the faith in Lord Jesus Christ son of God and other believers will take courage and be strong in their faith. Hundred percent I am stable to my word. I have family of seven - one wife, three daughters and three sons. My big son [is] about eight years old. One of my daughters can’t speak, she has some mental problems.
“This is a request from me to all over the world, people please help me. I could not have any person to help. For [the] sake [of] Lord Jesus Christ please pray and immediately help me and rescue me from this jail. Otherwise, they will kill me, because I know they’re very very very cruel and hard hearted!
“Your destitute brother in the world.
“Please my English writing is not enough good. If I did some mistake please forgive me! From Kabul Provincial jail.”

Monday, February 14, 2011

My St Valentine Wish for You- A Dish of Herbs

Better a dish of herbs where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred. (Proverbs 15:17)
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. (Deuteronomy 6:4-6)

Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away. If one were to give all the wealth of his house for love, it would be utterly scorned. (Song of Songs 7)
"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matthew 22:36-40)
"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:9-12)
I hope that today for you is a day filled with love- love of God, family and friends. Reading these Bible verses, I am struck yet again at how important LOVE is to GOD- because GOD is LOVE.  One exercise we did at a retreat long ago was to read the following chapter of the Bible- replacing the word LOVE with the name of the person saying it ("John" is patient, "John" is kind, "John" does not envy, etc). Then, you will realize that only God is love, but it is still an ideal worthy for which to strive.
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13)

and because we all need a little St Valentine cheesiness....I wish whomever read this far (and especially 'official followers') a very happy St Valentine's Day!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Saints Cyril & Methodius- Pray for us!

Divinely-wise Cyril and Methodius,
equals-to-the-apostles and teachers of the Slavs,
entreat the Master of all
to strengthen all nations in right teaching and unity of mind,
to grant peace to the world and to save our souls.

Let us honor the sacred pair, who translated divine scripture
pouring forth a fountain of divine knowledge from which we still draw today.
Now as you stand before the throne of the Most-high
we call you blessed, Cyril and Methodius,
as you fervently pray for our souls.

click here for a short biography of Saints Cyril & Methodius.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

St Valentine's- Why & How

St Valentine's Day is almost upon us. We could argue legend versus history and the futility of buying  red roses (bred for their long stems they don't smell like roses much). I'll leave the debate to historians, theologians and Silver Lake hipsters too cool to celebrate anything that people can prepare for at Walmart. I'm a wife and a mom, so I'll explore the issue from those vantage points.

Celebrating the Day- Why

Years ago, I knew a lovely family- mom, dad, and about six children.  The day before Valentine's, we were talking and the dad said, "I never give my wife gifts or cards for Valentine's or Mother Day- I'm nice to her everyday." The wife looked crestfallen. So why celebrate St Valentine's Day? Whether we are single, dating, married- there are people in all our lives who we can remember on this day. The world is so sinful and hate-filled that we should take advantage of any opportunity. God is love, so let's celebrate St Valentine's Day as a way to show God's love to those around us. Don't let a loved one go without some memento of your love because you are taking a stand against commercialism.

 Celebrating the Day- How

So- I have convinced you to officially remember your loved ones this Valentine's Day. How will you go about it? First of all, ladies, we should remember our husbands on this day (see comic above- let's stop complaining about our husbands!). And moms, help your children have a good day. My mom would make us waffles with cherries (yum), so even if I didn't get many Valentines at school, I had a good day.
  • It IS the thought that counts. Yes, giving a coffee in bed while saying "Happy Valentine's Day" is a great way to start the holiday.
  • If you want to buy flowers, steer clear of  over-priced red roses. I used to work in the flower department of an upscale grocery store. Red roses cost double during Valentine week, and the quality wasn't that great. I say- go for potted tulips on your husband's desk and a mixed bouquet for mom and wife; you could go over-the-top romantic and buy a few bulbs to plant in the yard. Then 'your love will grow'- cheesy, yes. The world needs more cheese.
  • I temporarily lost some Christmastime coffee shop gift cards for my kids' ballet teachers and the like. I thought Valentine's Day would be a fun time to give the cards to them. Most people don't expect something on the day- except from their husband or wife- so it will be fun to surprise them.
  • A friend goes to a nursing home regularly with her kids. What a wonderful time to visit- along with handmade Valentines for the residents. Everybody needs to feel loved. 
  • The internet is full of good ideas that won't break the bank- has some ideas and you can go to sortacrunchy to print free Valentine cards
  • We never go to a restaurant around Valentine's Day- babysitters are too expensive and it is just too much pressure. My big girls for the past few years have set up dinner for us on the balcony. Isn't that sweet? So, the kids might be downstairs watching a video, and we will eat dinner provided by the girls and the microwave. Just about perfect, in my opinion.
  • Quality counts, too. Don't buy a big box of waxy fake chocolate (unless that is what your loved one likes)- a few pieces of the good stuff will be more appreciated. 
  • For boyfriends only: If you decide to get your girlfriend some jewelry, make sure it is wrapped in a big box. Many a girl has been disappointed when unwrapping beautiful earrings, thinking that an engagement ring was inside.
  • Once again- it is the thought that counts. Just do something. You can be elaborate one year and simple the next. Consider celebrating this day as a little rebellion against the cynicism of the world. 

this post needs more development, but my mouse is dead- 
I personally hate using the touch first-world problems...

Friday, February 4, 2011

Before Lent- 7 QuickTakes

Now that the Christmas season is really, really over (40 days after, etc, etc)- it is time to start planning for Lent (the Great Fast)! Now, of course, Lent (of course, we Byzantines are different AGAIN- the Great Fast begins for us after Sunday Liturgy before Ash Wednesday- future blog material) is pretty far off, so I thought I would share how I will be spending my Mardi Gras 'season' 

1.  Watch movies for fun- TV goes off during the Fast.
2. Plan Mardi Gras party for the big girls- invite their fellow 'Little Flowers'
3. Invite guests over for dinner as much as possible. And then the house will be magically cleaner than usual
4. Print new booklets for church for special liturgies during the Great Fast.
5. Practice new songs for the Divine Liturgy and Pre-Sanctified Liturgy
6. Clean the fridge of non-fasting foods
7. Plan menus for the fast- be as vegan as possible.

WOW- These 'quick takes' were truly quick!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Righteous Simeon & Anna the Prophetess

The story of Simeon and Anna the Prophetess is one of my favorites in the Bible. They had waited faithfully for the Messiah, and they were given the amazing gift of seeing the 'Sun of Justice' in the flesh. Simeon could leave this world in peace. Anna was rewarded for her faithfulness. While the New Testament is filled with relatively young people and their adventures in traveling and ministry, elderly Simeon and Anna are unabashedly at home waiting and praying quietly in the temple for the Messiah's coming. The lessons we can learn from them? respect your elders and never cease waiting on the Lord.
a beautiful icon from the convent of St Elizabeth

Rejoice, O Virgin Theotokos, full of grace, for from thee arose the Sun of justice, Christ our God, lighting those who are in darkness. Rejoice and be glad, O righteous old man, carrying in thine arms the Deliverer of our souls, Who grants us Resurrection.

In the Temple thou didst embrace as an infant God the Word Who became flesh. O glorious Elder Simeon, who didst hold God in thine arms. And also as a prophetess the august Anna ascribed praise to Him. We acclaim you as divine servants of Christ.

Let Simeon the Righteous and Anna the Prophetess, that godly pair, be praised together; well-pleasing to God, they became witnesses of the Incarnate Lord. When they saw him as an infant, together they worshiped Him.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Simple Woman's Daybook for February

Outside my window...ominous, grey clouds that might let rain loose- I hope so; I just love rain

I am thinking...about 6th grade geometry vocabulary (parallel, intersecting and skewed lines)

I am thankful for...clean, hot water- what a luxury!

A thought to share... "I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble." ~Helen Keller

From the kitchen...roast chicken, baked potatoes and mixed vegetables

I am new black skirt that doesn't need to be ironed (!)
I am creating..some PDFs to share and print at this site

I am get the vacuum repaired

I am reading...George MacDonald fairy tales

I am hoping...for unity of all Christians (a girl can dream, right?)

I am listening to...Voices: Chant from Avignon, a CD from Mom

Around the, purging, decluttering, ordering of blackout drapes so we can get some sleep

One of my favorite things...Trader Joe's Bedtime doesn't help me get to sleep, but it is delicious

Another thought to share... "The most extraordinary thing in the world is an ordinary man and an ordinary woman and their ordinary children." (GKC)

A few plans for the rest of the week: more decluttering and cleaning, our 'learning meeting' with our charter school teacher, printing press field trip, feast day on Tuesday, St. Valentine's Day park day- it is going to be a busy week!

Still another thought to share...
Presentation of our Lord Jesus Christ 
in the Temple  (Feb 2)
Troparion: Rejoice, thou who art full of grace, Mother of God and Virgin, for from thee arose the Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God, to give light to those in darkness. Rejoice thou also, righteous elder, who didst take in thy arms the Redeemer of our souls who also gives us the grace of resurrection.
Kontaldon: Thou Who didst sanctify the Virgin's womb by Thy birth and bless Simeon's hands as was fitting, hast now come to us and saved us, O Christ our God. But grant peace in the midst of wars to Thy community, and strengthen the Church which Thou hast loved, O only Lover of mankind.

inspired by a simple woman's daybook