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Showing posts from 2014

Old Dog--New Tricks

I am trying to figure out how I missed out learning about the the food mill. I just bought one and it is wonderful! I've been making lots of fresh applesauce with the wonderful apples I've been getting from local farmers. With this handy gadget it is super easy. I just quarter the apples and fill up my stock pot until it is about half full. No peeling, coring or seeding is required. I add a cup of water, cover and simmer on the stove until the apples are very soft--mushy soft. Give the apples a stir every now and then to make sure the bottom apples are not sticking to the pot.  I position my food mill over another stock pot and ladle the soft apples in. I just start cranking the handle and beautiful applesauce comes out the bottom. Peels, stems, and seeds stay up top. You turn clockwise to get the applesauce but remember to give a frequent counter-clockwise turn to reposition the apples. You can process the applesauce for canning if you like, but I just ladled it into freezer…

Evangelize Like A Star

My latest article for Catholic Stand is up.  Head on over and read the whole thing.  Here is a snippet:

While the gifts of the Magi offer worthy and valuable meditations, I would like to concentrate instead on the star.The Wise Men were drawn to Christ by the light of a single Christmas Star. The star made no sound. There were no blaring trumpets or chorus of angels. There was only light. In that sense, the star’s role in the Christmas narrative seems passive and almost unintentional. Yet it was enough to inspire three kings to leave the comfort of their homes, traverse an unknown path, and bow down in homage to a child.

Lessons Learned

As I mentioned in the previous post, we have now reached the empty nest phase of our lives. Children still come through our doors but they are visitors, not residents. Overall, I feel very blessed by my children. I know I did the best job as a mom I could do at each stage of their lives. Of course, that does not stop me from musing about "what if's". There are definitely some things I would have done differently if I had the wisdom at age 25 that I now have some three decades later.

The Advent and Christmas seasons bring this to the forefront. I did always mark the season of Advent with a nativity scene and an Advent wreath. But I was probably ten years in to this parenting adventure before I really appreciated the value of the liturgical calendar. The rhythm of the liturgical seasons with their special feasts and traditions keep a family focused on God's time, not the world's time.

So just looking at Advent and Christmas there are some things I wish I had done …

An Empty Nest Advent

This has been a very different sort of Advent. For the first time since 1986, I have no children in the house as we wind our way towards Christmas. The good news is that the house will be once again filled on Christmas Day. But that does not change the eerie quiet of the last few weeks. There was no discussion of who lights the Advent wreath or where the penguin ornaments should be hung or whose turn is it to mark the Advent calendar. Even one grown child living at home gives me more incentives to mark and observe the season well. My husband went out with no kids to help him and bought the tree. He put the lights on and I put the ornaments on. Just two old adults getting ready for Christmas.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. This is just a different thing. After decades of Advents with traditions geared towards keeping children focused on the true meaning of Christmas it is interesting to continue the motions and realize that I am doing this for my husband and myself now. The musi…

Gratitude for Imperfections and a lost potato masher.

As a military wife for 30 years I dealt with the unpredictable life of short-notice relocations, deployments, and household emergencies. It just seemed to be the rule that major appliances break when my husband is away. Blizzards, earthquakes, tornadoes, and hurricanes are all more likely when I am on my own.

Perhaps because there was so much disorder that was out of my control, I was very protective of the order I could control. This was and is still especially true of my kitchen. (When my husband retired he was given strict orders to keep his engineering optimization tendencies away from my kitchen!) Family members only visited one or two times per year because we lived so far away. They would often try to help me in my kitchen. I found it very stressful. They did not know my system and it seemed a futile exercise to try and teach them the system when they were going to leave soon and probably not visit again until we were in a new house with a new system. Once they were gone, I fe…

A "Gruber" Moment?

Upfront admission. I dared to disagree with Simcha Fisher on her Facebook page a few months ago and was thoroughly castigated by her friends and  fans. I swore I would never try to have a reasonable discussion in a Facebook combox again. I was called uneducated, a wannabe writer, and a troll who was just trying to get clicks for her own blog.  Which is why I am writing here. Her most recent article for the National Catholic Register, Broken Windows and Depersonalization is actually very good. So it is really frustrating to see the following exchange between her husband and Register columnist Mark Shea in her Facebook comments about this article: 
Damien FisherThe Register commenters are living up to expectations. The real culprit in Garner's death seems to be the welfare state. Also, fatherless homes require a police state, so what are you gonna do? Plus, the protesters are making people late for work, which is really inconsiderate. 17 hrs · Edited · Like · 6

Where have I been?!

I have been at my keyboard but the words have been showing up in places other than here. I thought I would catch you up.

My most recent article is up at Catholic Stand today. I've covered the topic on this blog before, but it is always good to remember that we are all prodigal sons and daughters so when lost sheep return home for Christmas we should welcome them with love and mercy.

I still have a monthly column at Zenit.org. My November column looked at the many ways our culture diminishes femininity and demeans women.

In October my Zenit column argued against the perception that physical and intellectual challenges make life disposable. Read Down syndrome Does Not Make Life Disposable.

In September I looked at the next issue to be advocated by the architects of Obamacare: age based rationing of health care. See When Utilitarianism Designs a Healthcare System.

I have tons of ideas for blog posts swimming around in my head. I hope to get more of them on paper.

Advent blessings to …

Decluttering my heart

I just returned from a visit to my father's house. It is still hard saying, "to my father's house" instead of "to my parents' house". This February will mark four years since my mother died. For some reason, I felt her absence in the house more acutely than I had on previous visits. Maybe it was because I was there with my daughter who as the only granddaughter held a very special place in my mother's heart.
As I do every visit, I picked a corner of the house and helped my Dad sort and purge. This time it was the room my mother had used as her office as she worked tirelessly for Gabriel Project or promoting the Divine Mercy devotion. Amidst the stacks of papers and prayer cards was the evidence of decades of service. I wish I had expressed to her my admiration of her work. Though in hindsight, I am not sure I really appreciated all she did. I was far too focused on our mother-daughter relationship to be cognizant of the world she inhabited outside …

Occupations and Vocation

Today at Catholic Stand I revisit a topic I have written about several times: balancing professional and domestic life. This most recent reflection approaches the topic from my role as a teacher of college students.

Another semester is beginning, and I am back in the classroom, teaching young college students about the parts and pieces of the human body. I stand before them and introduce myself as “Dr. Hunnell, a family physician”. At some point in the coming weeks, I will begin to get the questions:
“Why aren’t you seeing patients anymore?”
“Don’t you feel like you are wasting your education?”
“Couldn’t you make more money being a doctor?”
They come every semester, and I still hesitate a little bit when I answer them. How do I encourage them to push themselves to reach their professional goals when I have walked away from my own career as a doctor?
Head on over to Catholic Stand for the answers to these questions! 

God's Handwriting

Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful. Beauty is God’s hand-writing—a way-side sacrament; welcome it in every fair face, every fair sky, every fair flower, and thank for it Him, the fountain of all loveliness, and drink it in, simply and earnestly, with all your eyes; it is a charmed draught, a cup of blessing.--Charles Kingsley
We went to Mass last night so this morning offered an opportunity to walk through my garden. I haven't tended it as much this year as in other years because we have done so much traveling, but the beauty is still there.













7 Quick Takes: The new and the old

--- 1 --- Teaching a college anatomy and physiology lab from 7pm to 10pm on Wednesday night followed by two Thursday morning labs from 7:30am to 1:30pm sounded like a good idea at the time I was arranging my schedule. When the alarm went off at 5:45am on Thursday morning I had second thoughts. However, enough coffee conquers all and all three labs went smoothly.
--- 2 --- Walking around somewhat lost on a college campus brings back memories of my college freshman year. That was over 35 years ago. It must be easier for introverts these days because no one is making eye contact. They are all walking around looking at their phones.
--- 3 --- In addition to starting a new teaching job and still continuing my old teaching job, I have started a new fitness program. I am tracking my food intake and exercise with MyFitnessPal.com. I had done this before and really did lose weight but eventually my tracking trailed off. Now my husband has joined me in the effort and it is a lot easier to keep up…

Marking Time

Clock Tower, Piazza San Marco, Venice Italy

After a 30 year military career, we are used to marking time by our assignments. Memories are labeled according to where we were stationed. We were always on the move staying anywhere from one to four years in one spot. Stories usually begins, "When we were stationed in...".  The last twelve years, however, have been in one place. My husband came to the DC area thinking that it would be a one-year assignment. Instead, it ended up being three back-to-back DC assignments that spanned nearly 10 years. We put down a few roots over that time and when retirement came, we stayed put.

This past week I realized that when we moved into our previous assignment in Florida, my youngest child was the same age my granddaughter is now! How did that happen? That was just one assignment ago but it is actually a whole generation ago. In this new phase of our lives we have to mark time a little differently. I now think about events in terms of their r…

7 Quick Takes!

--- 1 --- The youngest moved into the dorm this week! The house is eerily quiet and food is staying in the refrigerator for an amazing amount of time! --- 2 --- The youngest moved into the dorm this week! The 85 pound Lab/German Shepherd mix who shared his bed at night has decided he is lonely and wants to sleep with Mom, Dad, and the 65 pound Lab/Springer Spaniel mix who has already claimed a spot in Mom & Dad's bed.
--- 3 --- The youngest moved into the dorm this week! Apparently so did my laundry baskets and laundry detergent. I guess I wanted new ones anyway.
--- 4 --- The youngest moved into the dorm this week! But he is only 20 minutes or so down the road. And guess what?! I just got a job as an adjunct professor at the same university. I think I will be reclaiming some laundry baskets.
--- 5 --- The youngest moved into the dorm this week! It is so hard to cook for just two people. I think it is time to invite the other empty nesters in the neighborhood to dinner.
--- 6 --- The you…

Assisted Suicide is not Authentic Compassion

My latest article is up at Zenit.org. I address a bill being considered by the British Parliament to authorize physician assisted suicide. The article is being passed around a bit and the phrase that seems to be catching the attention is : "In every other instance, suicide is viewed as a tragedy...Why should it be any different for the disabled and dying?"  I wrote and submitted this article before Robin Williams committed suicide. However, after the very public and passionate discussions of depression and suicide that followed his death, the publication of my article and that particular phrase has struck a chord with some. Here is an excerpt, but do go over to Zenit and read the whole article. It is mental anguish, not physical suffering, that is the impetus for most patients requesting physician-assisted suicide. The legalization of assisted suicide suggests these fears are reasonable and hastening death is a viable solution. There is nothing compassionate about legalizing…

A Blessed Feast of the Assumption of Mary to All!

The Assumption of Mary by Pietro Perugino (1513)

Today is the Solemn Feast of the Assumption of Mary. This is a glorious day. Mary is the first to experience the resurrection of body and soul and join in the eternal joy of Heaven. But this is experience is promised to each of us who is saved through Christ. 
This feast day can be confusing for those who are not Catholic. The dogma of the Assumption does not make Mary a deity. It is not a new dogma that was invented by Pope Pius XII in 1950. The dogma of Assumption was promulgated in the Papal Apostolic ConstitutionMUNIFICENTISSIMUS DEUS on November 1, 1950 but it has been part of the Church teachings since the early centuries. It is part of the dogma of both the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church. The wonderful folks over at Aquinas and More Catholic Bookstore have a nice, concise recap of both the dogma and the history of the celebration of this feast.
I would also recommend the reflections of  Fr. Dwight Longenecker on 10 …

TBT: Sacramentals for college students...and college grads

It has become all the rage on Facebook to post TBT (Throw-back Thursday) items. These are usually old photos or accounts from "back in the day". I thought I would do something similar on my blog today. Back in 2006 I did a post on sacramentals for college students. As many college students are in the process of packing I thought I would re-share these thoughts from sending a son off to college:

As I reviewed his final round of packing I made sure he had a good supply of sacramentals. He received a small desk-top crucifix for graduation. He has at least one Rosary. I kept pressing holy cards on him. St. Michael, St. Monica, St. Augustine, St. Benedict. He had already packed his Bible.He is very patient with me as I fret about his spiritual well-being. I really am not worried. He seems to be pretty grounded in his faith. I was also interested in his take on all the Catholic paraphernalia I was sending with him. He told me appreciated it but he would let his Catholicism publicl…

School Daze for us Martha types

In just over a week it will be back to school for me. Of course it is a different sort of back to school when you are the teacher instead of the student. Once again I will be teaching Anatomy & Physiology at the local community college. However, I am also adding George Mason University to my teaching venues. I will be teaching three sections of the Anatomy & Physiology lab.

In addition to the teaching I have added Catholic Stand to my regular writing gigs. And I am hoping to revitalize this blog a bit. I still have a monthly column at Zenit.org and I still contribute to the HLI Truth & Charity Forum.

A few days ago I blogged about my empty nest. I guess this is what happens when you no longer have soccer practice, Scouts, high school science projects and college applications to oversee. I am one of those who has a problem sitting still.

So my struggle during these upcoming months of empty nesting is to face the quiet time. I will force myself to look away from the compute…

When LIfe Begins and Why it Matters

Head on over to Catholic Stand and read my latest article about when life begins and why it matters. 

Gratitude in Public

Saying Grace by Norman Rockwell
Recently, Mary's Gourmet Diner in Winston-Salem, NC was in the news because the staff often offered a 15% discount to patrons who publicly offer a prayer before eating. Even a simple silent bow of the head before chowing down could earn the discount. It was just a feel good story.

Apparently, not everyone felt good about this practice. The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) has forced the restaurant to discontinue the discount on the allegation that it is illegal and discriminatory. Rather than become embroiled in a lawsuit, the restaurant has discontinued the discount.

Well, patrons may not get a discount, but they should still feel free to take time to bow their heads and thank God for the food in front of them. I say grace any time I sit down to a meal. It doesn't matter if I am by myself at the kitchen island, with my family around the table, or at a public restaurant. When we are in public we merely take a moment to bow our heads and q…

The case against oral contraceptives continue to grow!

My opinion is that oral contraceptives are following a path parallel to tobacco products. Initially they were presented as something healthy and enjoyable. The government endorsed it. Corporate interests churned out the propaganda and suppressed reports that something might be amiss.

But the case against oral contraceptives is growing quickly. In my latest article at the HLI Truth & Charity Forum I take a look at the latest study that links hormonal contraceptives and breast cancer. This is a large, well designed study and its results need to be widely disseminated. Women have a right to know that the little pill they take every morning may be doubling or even tripling their risk for the more aggressive pre-menopausal form of breast cancer. I found it interesting that the pill that was most dangerous was the triphasic pill that tries to mimic the natural rhythm of estrogen and progesterone of a woman's reproductive cycle. Man cannot replicate what God has created so perfectly…

End of an Era

Today marks the last day I will be the mother of a teenager. My youngest turns twenty tomorrow. My oldest turned 13 in 1999 so I have been doing this teenage thing for a while. I don't have any great words of wisdom or profound reflections. I survived and my kids survived the teenage years so it is very doable.

Looking back, I guess our teenage years were relatively tame. We didn't have a lot of drama. I don't remember a lot of sulking or pouting. There was never any arguments about going to Mass. I didn't even have any issues with what they wore. Time spent on the computer and video games probably created the most tension but it wasn't that significant. I do remember a lot of praying, at least on my part. You think you are going to get more sleep once your babies get older. But then they get a social life and then they learn to drive. I cannot count the number of candles I lit and the Hail Mary's I said for their safety and for them to use good judgment.

My k…

St. Alphonsus and the virtue of diligence

Today is the Memorial Feast of St. Alphonsus Liguori, founder of the Redemptorist Order of priests and brothers. St. Alphonsus was a prodigy who could master almost any subject placed before him. By the age of sixteen he was a lawyer. However, after ten years without losing a case he made a mistake and lost a significant legal dispute. He had an epiphany and realized that the accolades of men were meaningless compared to the Glory of God. He left the practice of law to become a priest. He was a prolific writer and was eventually declared a doctor of the Church.

Of course, many virtues can be attributed to this brilliant saint. However, the one that struck me today was diligence. St. Alphonsus Liguori could not stand the thought of a moment being wasted. Every free moment was put to good use praying, writing, reading, or teaching. I think I need a picture of St. Alphonsus to place near my computer as a reminder to think before I plug in. Am I being productive or am I just whiling away…

Catching up

I am still here. We have been doing far more traveling this summer than usual. In what seemed like a blink of an eye after we returned from Italy we were back on a plane flying to Alaska to visit our kids and grandkids. I have been writing but the words just haven't shown up here so I thought I would provide a few links to catch you up on my recent thoughts.

The Supreme Court Hobby Lobby decision caused a stir so I have a couple of pieces over at the Truth & Charity Forum:

Abortion and advocates including the Guttmacher Institute went nuts after the decision so I thought I should offer A Reasoned Response to Guttmacher Hysteria.

While the decision is certainly something to applaud, it is not the end of the fight. This was One Victory, but Many Battles Remain.

As an HLI fellow, I still pen a monthly column for Zenit.org.

My July column looked at the scourge of human trafficking as a pro-life issue. We need to heed the call of Pope Francis and do what we can to combat this assau…

What exactly is a wedding

I am not a regular reader of advice columnist Carolyn Hax but when the column ends up on the same page as the daily crossword puzzle I often give it a quick scan. Today's column deals with a bride and groom's decision to make their wedding a no-kids affair. They included this stipulation on their save-the-date announcements and are already getting feedback that this restriction will keep some of their friends from attending. Carolyn Hax states that the friends are out of line.

I am not sure if I would say the friends are out of line. The bride and groom have their priorities and the friends have theirs. This is the big day for the bride and groom and they have decided it is very important that their wedding be an elegant adult affair with no distractions from crying babies or fidgety children. However, they are inviting guests, not commanding guests to attend. If the invitees prefer not to attend if their children are not welcome then that is their prerogative as well. No harm…

Lessons from Italy

I just returned from a seventeen day tour of Italy. There really are not enough superlatives to adequately describe our trip. It was a tour sponsored by the Smithsonian so we had the benefits of both a tour director and a tour study leader.  All of the logistics were expertly handled and we were well prepared to appreciate the sites we visited. I will try to get a few pictures up in the next few days.

I can honestly say that I grew spiritually, philosophically, and intellectually on this trip. Returning to the routines of everyday life, I see them through a little bit different lens. I could easily wax ad infinitum on our trip and this may be only the first of several posts on lessons learned, but there are definitely some impressions I can immediately share. Some are admittedly trivial, while others offer a bit more cerebral heft.

First of all, there is absolutely no reason for any American fast food chain to have a presence in Italy. Every time I walked into a little trattoria or os…

Playing trains and making memories

My grandbabies are at the other end of the continent since my son is now stationed in Fairbanks, Alaska. While nothing can replace being able to give them a big hug, technology has made it possible to stay connected. We usually use the FaceTime app on our desktop computer since that gives a big image of the children. However, quite by happenstance I learned mobility is also a good asset when speaking to a three-year-old.

Once I answered the FaceTime call on my cell phone. My granddaughter, who is 3 1/2 years old asked me if we had any toys. Well, as a matter of fact we do! Cell phone in hand, I trooped down to the basement and started pulling out the Rubbermaid totes filled with wooden blocks, Duplo, and most importantly, trains! Over the course of four children we amassed a large tote filled with all sorts of curved, straight, inclined, and forked wooden train track pieces. It was compatible with the Brio sets, but was made by an American company, T.C. Timber. We also have a smaller…