KITCHEN TABLE CHATS

Pull up a chair in my domestic church and let's chat!

I have worn many labels (Not in any particular order): Catholic, Wife, Mom,Gramma, Doctor, Major, Soccer Mom, Military Wife, Professor, Fellow.

All of these filter my views of the world. I hope that like St. Monica, I can through prayer, words and example, lead my children and others to Faith.
"The important thing is that we do not let a single day go by in vain without putting it to good use for eternity"--Blessed Franz J├Ągerst├Ątter

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Walking the path of St. Monica

St. Monica by Gozzoli, 1464


St. Monica has always been a favorite of mine. You will notice I have her as a patron of this blog. I dearly love Mother Mary, but let’s face it, she was “full of grace” and was the Mother of God. I can often relate much more to St. Monica who had her own set of failings and was the mother of a real hellion,( Not that I am saying any of my children have come close to the exploits of the young St. Augustine). 

My prayer list used to include young moms with intentions for safe pregnancies, babies that sleep through the night, toddlers with fevers, and grade school struggles. Now that my circles have aged I am praying for elderly parents, sick spouses, college admissions, job applications, and holy spouses for grown children. And I am praying for a plethora of good and holy mothers and fathers who are having their own St. Monica experiences. Today on the Feast of St. Monica I knelt in Mass with a heart full for prayers for so many mothers and fathers whose hearts are breaking from wayward children. 

In today’s society it is counter-cultural to be a faithful Catholic. We do our best to teach our children and give them the tools they need to stand firm in their faith. But faith is a gift that must be accepted. The Sacraments are not magic. Individuals have free will to cooperate with the grace of the Sacraments or not. Unfortunately, too many of our children forge their own way, ignoring the gift of faith they have been so lovingly offered and choosing instead the lures of shallow pleasures in a secular world.

This is not a new problem. St. Monica walked this path as a mother in the fourth century. She is the model for mothers grieving from the sinful choices of their children. She never compromised her own faith in order to entice her son to return to the fold. She never enabled his sinfulness. But she also never stopped loving him. She never stopped praying for him. She never gave up hope. 

Dear St. Monica, please pray for all mothers and fathers whose children have rejected the faith. May these parents persevere in faith, hope, and love as you did and may they see their own children find their way back to a life of virtue in Christ. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.




Friday, August 21, 2015

Looking for Air Fryer recipes

                                                                    


I really did not think I needed another kitchen appliance. But then I got an email suggesting I try this air fryer. I had no idea what an air fryer was but this sounded intriguing. Using a convection heating system I could get crispy results just like deep frying while using little or no oil. I have a wonderful Calphalon deep fry pan that is perfect for Friday fish dinners but I have to buy an extra large bottle of cooking oil every time I use it. If I am just cooking for two that is a bit much.

My E'Cucina Air Fryer arrived yesterday. It is amazing! I made french fries from fresh potatoes. The instructions said to toss those with a little oil before cooking. They came out crispy and delicious. For lunch today I made my husband a Monte Cristo style grill cheese. Again, turned out wonderfully. He enjoyed the first one so much he asked me to make him another. Tonight I made coconut shrimp using one of the recipes in the pamphlet that came with my fryer. It was amazing. It was a three step breading process just like I have done before. Then into the basket and into the fryer. In 10 minutes I had perfectly crispy coconut fried shrimp. Absolutely no oil was added to the fryer. It is all done with circulating air.

I am wondering if any of you dear readers have experience using an air fryer and have a good resource for recipes. I've looked a couple of cookbooks on Amazon but none of them looked very inspiring.

This machine takes up about as much room on the counter as a bread maker. I could cook about a pound of shrimp in a single batch.

I do get a little kick-back if you enter Amazon through one of my links and buy anything (not just what is featured in the link) but the real reason I am writing is to share my discovery of this appliance and find out if anyone can steer me towards some good air fryer recipes. Look forward to hearing from you!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Gramma's House

Woman Preparing a Meal by Vincent van Gogh, 1885

This morning I tackled my wildly overgrown backyard garden. The garden is such a hodge podge of flowering plants. There is no master plan. I see something at the nursery or in a garden catalog that I just have to have and I make room for it. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. And while I have cured myself of my packrat tendencies in many areas of my life, the garden is not one of them. I need to thin out some of the plants but just hate throwing away perfectly good plants so I am always looking for a new home for the extras.

Today was more weeding than tending to established plants. There is something therapeutic about ripping weeds out of the ground by their roots. I had thought about taking my phone outside with me to listen to an audio book as I worked, but I decided I needed the silence. Nothing but the natural outdoor noises and my thoughts filled my head.

After so many years as a nomadic Air Force wife I find myself just now realizing I am settled. We have now lived in this current house longer than I have ever lived in any other house in my entire life. It is not a temporary lodging in a long line of other temporary lodgings. It is my home. Anyone who gets to know my home also gets to know me. I love watching the HGTV programs about renovating and decorating houses. I look around my own home and I am sure an interior designer would click her tongue at how many of the cardinal rules of decorating I have broken. I have too many photos and too many knick-knacks. There are little shrines everywhere as the saints accomany me from room to room. This house will never grace the pages of Southern Living but that is ok. I hope it will grace the memories of children and grandchildren.

Of course, my children have varying attachments to this house. The oldest never really lived here. He just visited during college breaks. The Army now has he and his family completely on the other side of the continent so spending time in my home is impractical as well as near impossible. And besides, there is nothing about this particular house that draws him so he is just as happy to have us visit him as to share this house with his children.

I find myself feeling a little sad about that. This is not his childhood home but it is now my home. I want it to be Gramma and Granddad's house where so many happy memories are made. I still have the blocks and the wooden toy trains and the kitchen playset waiting to be enjoyed by grandchildren. Every time I bake cookies or make applesauce or can jams I imagine what it would be like to have grandchildren helping me in the kitchen. As I watch my garden bloom I think about sharing the love of gardening with the next generation and having them by my side as I plant and weed.

There is certainly no reason to think this will never happen. But I also know I can't just wait around for the tableau I created in my mind to materialize. I do what I can to build a relationship with my grandchildren across the miles. I visit when I can. I video chat with them. I write them letters. I pray for them. Parenthood and family life took a much different course than I envisioned when I started the journey. There is no reason to expect grandparenthood to be any different. I will always do my best to be a good Gramma even if that means being Gramma somewhere other than Gramma's house.

Friday, August 14, 2015

The taint of abortion on fetal tissue donation

The Doctor by Gerrit Dou, 1653


The donation of human tissue and organs, including fetal tissue, for research and therapeutic purposes is not intrinsically evil. In fact, if done according to strict moral standards it is a very positive and generous act. However, tissue recovered from an abortion bears the stain of the evil of abortion and must be rejected. In my latest article at the HLI Truth & Charity forum I try to get past the "ick" factor and delve into the roots of why the use of tissue from aborted fetuses fails the test of moral acceptability.

Here is a snippet:

... Celebrity Sarah Silverman distills the support for this with her Twitter message that it would be “insane” not to use the fetal remains of abortion for the greater good of science and education. Her utilitarian ethos decries the waste of perfectly good fetal tissue. 
But there is the rub. Organs and tissue obtained from aborted fetuses are not “perfectly good”. We need to apply the same moral principles to the use of fetal tissue for scientific research that we apply to other uses of human organs and tissue for either transplantation or research. The fact that the tissue proffered by Planned Parenthood was obtained by the intrinsically evil act of abortion renders this tissue morally unsuitable for medical and scientific purposes.
Please head on over to the forum and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

A Mother's Heart: When things go awry

Sorrows by Titian, ca 1554

My latest article is up at Catholic Stand. Perhaps because I am working on a presentation that deals with how a mother relates to adult children, Pope Francis' general audience last week struck a chord with me. He used the imagery of a mother's heart to describe how the Church deals with the civilly divorced and remarried. Here is a snippet of my response:

Those of us who have children have felt the pain of a child’s misbehavior. It may be something minor such as the disobedience of a young child. It may be something more significant during the rebellious teenage years. It may be something heartbreaking as our adult children make poor life choices and face devastating consequences. No matter how old our children are or how badly their actions hurt themselves or us, they never stop being our children and we never stop loving them. 
I believe that is what Pope Francis was trying to convey about the relationship of the Church with those who have divorced and remarried. They are no different than the rest of us, in the sense that they are sinners as we all are. The Church does not condone the sins but does love the sinners. Perfection is not required to sit in the pews or participate in the life of the parish.

The article has only been up a few hours and already there are comments that prove Pope Francis was right to address the issue. The tone of these comments reflects a hostility towards these families that certainly would not make them welcome in any parish. I am even being accused of trying to negate explicit Church teaching because I endorse the Pope's view that those in irregular marital situations need to be welcomed into the fold of the parish to the full extent that Church doctrine allows.

To digress to another issue, perhaps the problem is that we think going to Communion is automatic if one attends Mass. Actually, every time  attend Mass one must discern the state of our soul. Are we in a state of grace to receive Communion? Have we observed the Eucharistic fast? Should we go to confession before we receive?

The usher driven pew-by-pew style of going up to Communion puts a spotlight on anyone who does not receive. There was a time when people prayed silently first then approached Communion when they were properly disposed. Since everyone is coming forward in a somewhat random order it is not so obvious when someone stays in his pew. I have to wonder if our drive for efficiency has taken away from the solemnity and gravity of receiving the Eucharist as well as kept some from attending Mass for fear their avoidance of Communion will stigmatize them.

There are so many children whose parents are in irregular marital situations and who are being deprived of Sunday Mass. For the sake of these children as well as their parents we should do what we can to make these families part of our parish families. Holy Mother Church loves all of her children.




Tuesday, August 04, 2015

The Intergenerational Domestic Church

The Holy Family with St. Anne by El Greco, ca. 1600

I have a new project I am excited to share with you. I will be speaking at the Together in Holiness Conference in Houston on April, 2, 2016! I am very excited to be working with the wonderful folks at the John Paul II Foundation for Life & Family who are organizing this event.

I started this blog in 2006. It has gone through a couple of iterations. In the beginning I was writing as a Catholic mother and doing my best to keep my kids Catholic and maintain our domestic church. But time marches on and the kids are grown and now my husband and I are looking at an empty nest. What does "downsizing" the domestic church look like?

My presentation at the conference will focus on three main areas. First, how does my relationship to my spouse change once the kids move out. Secondly, How do I relate to our adult children especially in matters of faith? And finally, where do I fit in, or for that matter, do I fit in at all into the domestic churches my grown children have established in their own homes? 

From time to time I will probably be working out the answers to these questions on the pages of this blog. I would love your input. If you are going to be in Houston this spring, I hope to see you at the conference!



Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Some Thoughts After Teaching College Freshmen

Baby Marcelle Roulin by Vincent van Gogh, 1888

Where did July go? It seemed to disappear as I taught a very fast paced 100-level course to mostly college freshman at a four-year university. I have been teaching this same course in a community college for over five years. It was an interesting and perhaps even an enlightening experience.

I would first like to say that about a third of my class was a joy to teach. They came to class well prepared. They were attentive, inquisitive, diligent, and motivated. They give me hope for the coming years. I am sure they will do great things in the future.

I am really not sure about another third of the class. They never came to lecture. I saw them on testing days but that is about it.

Another third came to class but never really seemed engaged. They were always looking for a shortcut. Their most frequent question was, "Do we have to know all of that?"

Since this was a summer course the students had various motivations for attending. Some, I think, were hoping a summer course would be less intense than a semester-long course. Wrong! We cover the same amount of material but you have less time to absorb it. One day in summer is the equivalent of a week during the regular semester. One week during the summer session is the equivalent of a month during the regular semester. If the regular semester was trying to drink from a fire hose, summer is trying to drink from Niagara Falls!

Some of these students really resent having to take a summer course and cannot believe I expect them to study during their summer vacation. I received questions like, "Do you really think we should read the textbook?"

I am left wondering if the experience of so much standardized testing during their primary and secondary school years has perverted their understanding of what it means to learn. For so many years the focus has been on teaching to the test. Their purpose for learning information was to perform well on the SAT, AP exam, or some other metric. Now they are in college and I am asking them to learn a subject matter. I am not teaching to a test but trying to give them the foundational knowledge they need to apply when they take advanced courses in nursing, physical therapy, or medical school and ultimately engage in their future occupations. Yet for every one time someone asks me to clarify a fact I am asked at least six times, "Is that going to be on the test?" They are very annoyed when I teach them something and then do not include it on the test. How dare I waste their time with non-testable information!

I also have a sense that too many of these students have never faced the consequences of their actions. They have never been allowed to fail. Someone always bailed them out. I received multiple emails from students saying "I need to get at least a B to get in to program XYZ. This is not happening. You need to do something so that my grade improves."  I spent hours outside of class helping students who requested help or needed tips for studying the material. I offered study guides for each chapter. It was clear that some students felt this was insufficient and I should provide test questions ahead of time so they could simply regurgitate the answers on an exam. But this is college. You have to learn a body of knowledge and show you can apply that knowledge.

Which brings me back to my community college students. I teach them the same material and use the same sort of study guides and exam questions. While not everyone excels in my community college classes there is far less wailing and gnashing of teeth and far better performance on the exams. Most of these students have faced hardships of one kind or another and they know their choices have consequences. Performance matters. Failure is a real possibility.

I do not think we are doing our children any favors when we are constantly cushioning their falls. At some point the safety net goes away. Wanting to do well is not enough. There has to be enough drive to make the sacrifices of time and energy to study and learn. And not every student has the aptitude to get an A or B in every class. Grades are not participation trophies. They are earned. The sooner students understand that, the sooner they will be mature enough to realistically evaluate their own strengths and weaknesses and select a path that leads to success.











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