Friday, July 29, 2011

Mahtha, Mahtha

I know I said I don't blog about the saint whose feast day it is, or about the Mass readings for the day, but listening to today's Gospel on the radio this morning (and I had every intention of going to church, too, but that didn't happen) I started having flashbacks to my younger days, when I was a Baptist, and when our house was the frequent venue for epic family gatherings.

This is one of my favorite stories from the Gospels:

Jesus entered a village
where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.
She had a sister named Mary
who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.
Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said,
“Lord, do you not care
that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?
Tell her to help me.”
The Lord said to her in reply,
“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.
There is need of only one thing.
Mary has chosen the better part
and it will not be taken from her.” (Luke 10:38-42, NAB)

Every time I read or hear that I always think of my minister growing up, Reverend A. Reverend A, being a Southerner, had an unmistakable drawl, and whenever he would tell or read this story, he'd always pronounce Martha's name as "MAH tha." It still makes me smile remembering how Reverend A. would quote Jesus: "(SIGH! -pause-) Mahtha, (pause) Mahtha..." I picture Jesus just smiling at her and shaking his head.

Often on special days like Thanksgiving and Christmas, or a family reunion, or an 80th or 90th birthday party for a family member, our house would be the place where everyone would gather. Mom would cook the main dish--the turkey or whatever--and maybe a couple of other things, and everyone else would bring something. We all knew what would be on the menu, because everyone had their own "signature" dish they would always bring that everyone loved, and we would all eat until we were stuffed. The kitchen would always be full of women bustling around preparing food and putting it out to be served potluck style, all the while talking and chatting the way we do. Then when the food had been eaten, those same women would gather once again in the kitchen to wash dishes and put things away.

More often than not, I was in the kitchen helping with the food preparation and the cleanup, which I enjoyed because it was always fun to work together and catch up with each other about the goings-on in our family. Sometimes, though, I sneaked off to the other parts of the house where other family members were sitting around on couches and chairs and the floor, talking and laughing and joking around. I remember that certain "kitchen women" would occasionally complain that this or that woman should be helping too, instead of sitting "out there" shooting the breeze with the family. Those women (it was always the women, the men weren't expected to help--although some did anyway) they would sometimes say, were being lazy and rude. Didn't they know they were supposed to be helping in the kitchen? Instead they were sitting on their duffs not lifting a finger and expecting to be waited on. Hmph.

Personally I always thought the complainers were being silly. The way I saw it, the women who chose to stay away from the kitchen realized that everything was under control, and probably felt they would be in the way. I don't blame them for wanting to chat with people they didn't get to see very often. Sure, we socialized in the kitchen, but we also missed out on the conversations happening out in the living room or wherever. I usually tried to be one of the "kitchen women," because I didn't want anyone to complain about me behind my back. (If anyone did gripe they soon got over it anyway.) Besides, I was expected to help out, since it was my mother's house. Which I happily did, but sometimes I wished to be "out there" too.

Mary chose the "better part." She sat a Jesus' feet, just like I sometimes sat at my grandfather's feet while he told stories about his younger days. But if it hadn't been for the Marthas in our family, how would everyone else eat?

Which brings me to the other thing I thought of as I was listening to this Gospel reading, and to Gus Lloyd's reflections on Martha and Mary on his radio show. I've been thinking, as I shared in my last post, about ways to find authenticity and balance in my blogging, and about blogging in general. I suddenly remembered that from time to time I've seen something posted on a blog or web page about "Smart Martha." Therese from Aussie Coffee shop posts a meme (and I've seen it on other blogs too, I just can't for the life of me remember which ones) she calls "Smart Martha Monday," and she lists some of her personal goals for the week-- domestic chores she's going to tackle, mostly, but she also lists other things, like praying every morning and getting up at a certain time each day. I've always wondered if it had something to do with Martha Stewart (since she's the ultimate domestic guru) but I realized this morning that maybe it was about Martha from the Bible.

Today I found Smart Martha's website. Turns out Smart Martha is about finding the right balance in your life, between housework, feeding the family, work, family, and the spiritual life. Kind of a Fly Lady for Catholics. I think I'll be signing up for her newsletter. I want to be a Smaht Mahtha too.

And yes, today, is the feast of St. Martha. The one who said, "Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world." (John 11:27, NAB) Smart lady.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

7 Quick Takes: Burgers, Books, and Blogging


The other day Curly says to me, "Ya know that snake skin Moe brought home from Shenandoah? He wasn't supposed to do that 'cuz it's illegal to take things from a national park."


And just the day before when they wanted to collect sassafras on the hiking trail to make tea with back at the campsite, I wouldn't let them because we're not allowed to do that in a national park.

It's against the law to play with sparklers there, too. As I suspected.


After the 5 pm Saturday Mass at Our Lady of the Valley, we decided to check out the town of Luray and find something to eat. When we saw a sign that read, "The Best Burger in Virginia" outside the Artisan Grill on East Main Street, we just had to try it. Larry, Curly, and Joe all got burgers (Larry had the barbecue burger and Joe and Curly had the bacon cheddar; they all loved them), and Moe and I, because of our food restrictions, each ordered a bowl of the buffalo chili. Other than the beans being slightly undercooked, it was delicious. I also decided to try the Caprese salad--sliced tomatoes sprinkled with goat cheese and a balsamic vinaigrette. The tomatoes were obviously of the local, fresh variety--big, thick, slices with that unmistakable fresh tomato flavor. I wished there had been a little more cheese on them, but even though I was already full from the chili, I ate almost every bite.

We also checked out their daily dessert selections, and Larry and Joe decided to try the panna cotta. We had never heard of that--it's an Italian dessert made with cream, milk, sugar, and gelatin. It kind of reminded me of a cross between Jell-o and creme brulee. Larry got raspberry and Joe got amaretto. Of course I had to mooch a bite from each--both were amazing; although I liked the raspberry better. They also had small-dairy ice cream on the menu; Curly ordered chocolate and I ordered vanilla. This was definitely NOT factory-made ice cream, and the chocolate was even better than what we had made the previous weekend.

If you're ever in Luray, be sure to check out the Artisan Grill!

And there you have my first ever restaurant review.


This past weekend I started reading C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters. I've read almost half of it now. It's definitely not what I expected--instead of reading like a novel, it's a series of letters written by a demon (Screwtape) to his nephew Wormwood, offering advice on how best to turn a good man to the Dark Side. Very eye-opening. Screwtape could easily be talking about me.


I finished Stieg Larsson's Girl With The Dragon Tattoo trilogy, and I'm glad I did (a couple of times the graphic sex and violence almost made me quit reading. Almost.) I've decided that the main character, a troubled young woman named Lisbeth who has multiple piercings and tattoos and doesn't relate to people very well, is a female version of Jack Bauer. On second thought, she is a combination of Jack and his computer-savvy friend Chloe, without whom Jack would never have survived many of his run-ins with the bad guys. Not only does Lisbeth habitually hack into other people's computers, but she manages to survive a number of brutal attacks--including (SPOILER ALERT) being shot in the head point blank and then buried alive. My favorite part of this series? When Lisbeth (ANOTHER SPOILER) is about to be murdered by a monstrous villain who feels no pain, and she grabs a nail gun and shoots nails into the guy's feet, pinning them to the floor. Brilliant!


Moe is spending this week with Joe's parents. For about two days before he left, I kept finding myself on the verge of tears thinking about how much I would miss him. He's having a great time with his grandparents, of course, and even with only one of the boys gone the house seems quiet. He calls us every night and tells us about his day, and I know I won't sleep well unless I get a chance to say good night to him. I'm feeling a little guilty, though, because yesterday when I made my homemade hamburger buns (I've posted the recipe on Cooking Nick's Books here and here), I realized I could use a REAL EGG and REAL MILK since there wasn't anyone in the house allergic to them. We excitedly went to Chick Fil-A for lunch; a place we usually avoid because they fry their stuff in peanut oil. And the other day at Costco I grabbed a bag of tortilla chips--not our usual brand, but one we like better but never get because they're cooked in (you guessed it) peanut oil.

He's coming home Saturday, and I can't wait. Having everyone home is much better than getting to eat at Chick Fil-A.


I've been thinking a lot lately about this blog and how it has evolved over the past 2 1/2 years, whether for good or bad. My little byline reads, "I am a person who has a lot to say," but lately it seems I haven't had a whole lot to say. I don't know if that's a bad thing, necessarily. If you go back and look at some of my earlier posts, you'll see my thoughts and opinions about certain hot-button issues, or what I think about this or that public policy decision, interspersed with a few little anecdotes about my family and the joys and struggles of being a Catholic mom. Recently, maybe over the past year or so, I've been blogging about more light-hearted, even superficial stuff (even in this very post): How We Spent Our Family Vacation, Look At This Beautiful Church We Visited Last Sunday, Let Me Tell You About This Great Book I Just Read, Here's A Great Recipe You Just Have To Try.

The thing is, I like blogging about these things, and it's much easier and certainly less controversial than, say, writing about what I think about the gay marriage issue, or about Planned Parenthood and their diabolical agenda. Today when I went to daily Mass (for the first time this summer), I heard about how the Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, and someone finds it and goes off and buys the field; or like a pearl of great price that a person sells all that he has in order to obtain it. In his homily, Father L reminded us that if we focus on the treasure and the pearl-- eternal life with God--we can have the courage to stand up for what is right and true.

I need to find the right balance. This blog may be due for a makeover.


Which brings me (at the risk of being a navel gazer) to the question, "What Kind Of Blogger Do I Want To Be?" One of my favorite bloggers is Matthew Warner of Fallible Blogma. He's a frequent columnist for National Catholic Register, and recently he published a couple of articles (this one and this one) about being an authentic Catholic and what that means. He says that we need more Catholics online who don't claim to be perfect or know everything about Catholicism, but who are genuinely trying their best to follow the teachings of the Church and don't pretend to be all holy and pious when they're not. I've seen lots of those holy-and-pious blogs online, and they make me either a). envious of them, and wish I was as holy as they are or b). roll my eyes at their almost certain hypocrisy.

I follow lots of blogs, and between them and the bloggers I have on my Twitter feed, I know what kind of blogger I'm not--I'm not one of those who posts a daily biography of the saint whose feast day it is, or my reflections of the daily Mass readings, or someone who has an opinion about every single thing I see on the news. Frankly I don't have time for that, and thank God for the people who do. (For some, it's their job. I'm kinda jealous of them, actually.) And I don't think--at least I hope not--that I'm someone who comes across as a holier-than-thou Catholic; I'm just about as un-holy as you can get.

Matthew Warner says that our blogs should be a reflection of who we are. Maybe the question I need to ask myself is, "Am I the Person Who I Want To Be?"

In a future post I'll share links to some of my favorite, most authentic Catholic (and maybe even some non-Catholic) blogs. They are the people who inspire me to keep doing this.

For more Quick Takes, be sure to visit the Authentically Catholic Conversion Diary!!

UPDATE: I posted 7 Quick Takes over at Cooking Nick's Books, too; check it out if you're so inclined! Much obliged! :-)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Get Thee To the Church: Our Lady of the Valley, Luray, Virginia

At first glance it looks like a little country Baptist church, except for the statue of Our Lady out front, and the sign that clearly says, "Our Lady of the Valley Catholic Church."

I love this little shrine out front in honor of Mary and of the unborn.

It's no bigger than a chapel; I'm guessing it seats about one hundred people at the most.

It's where we go for Mass on the weekends we spend in Shenandoah National park. Lovely church, lovely people, wonderful pastor. I'm sure they didn't mind that we were sweaty from hiking and hadn't taken showers that day.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Not for the faint of heart


(From "Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, Part 1")

On Sunday before heading home from our camping weekend in Shenandoah National Park, we wanted to squeeze in a short hike. We drove about a half mile north from Matthews Arm Campground to an overlook called Rattlesnake Point, where Curly and I could pick up the Appalachian Trail. Joe then drove a couple miles south to a wayside called Elkwallow, and he, Larry, and Curly hiked along the AT as well, and we would all meet in the middle. (Click here to see a map.)

A little way down the trail we came upon one of several places where the trail intersects with a fire road. Just past the crossing point, I spotted a HUGE snake in the middle of the trail. We immediately froze, and Curly exclaimed, "It's a copperhead!" I got out my phone and texted Joe: "Copperhead on trail." Of course, there is no cell phone coverage in Shenandoah--at least not where we were--and I got a "Message Not Sent" alert. Great.

Then the snake began to move, and I could see its diamond-shaped head, and a distinct rattle on the end of its tail. I texted Joe again (as if he would get it this time): "Not copperhead. Rattlesnake. Thinking of turning back."

"Message not sent."

So we waited. The snake moved some more, wrapping its jaws more securely around the little rabbit it had most certainly just killed. It slowly dragged its prize off the trail, into the shadows under the base of a tree. Finally we heard voices down the path that we recognized. "RATTLESNAKE!" I yelled. The voices got closer. "RATTLESNAKE!" When Joe and the boys rounded a bend, they were walking more quickly toward us than I would have liked.


Finally they stopped, and of course Moe wanted to come closer to get a better look at it. (Fortunately he listened to reason.) I asked Joe if he thought we should all just walk back the way we came from and he could pick us up again at Rattlesnake Point (fitting title, don't you think?) He said the snake wouldn't bother us since it was busy eating. Reluctantly I tiptoed across the intersection and skirted our friend, keeping as much distance as I could, and Curly followed. Joe was right, the rattler didn't seem to notice us. We stood and looked at it for a minute or two longer, and went on our way. We met a few hikers coming the other direction and warned them about what we had seen. Fortunately I haven't heard anything on the news about anyone suffering any fatal snake bites in Shenandoah National Park this past weekend.

Look what Moe found along the trail.

I found it by the sink in the bathroom yesterday. Apparently he's been carrying it around with him.

And do you see what he found in the backyard on Thursday?

I had just picked the boys up from nature camp, and five minutes after we returned home he came running in the house with it hollering, "I caught a worm snake!! Quick, Mom! Get me a container!!"

"GET THAT OUT OF MY HOUSE!! Go outside and I'll bring you one."

"OK, but make sure you poke some breathing holes in it!!"

The things I'm willing to do for my kids. He eventually found a bigger container, put a couple of rocks and sticks in it, and took it to camp to show his friends on Friday.

And guess what Curly and Moe studied at their nature camp last week.

(Worm Snake)
Snakes are kinda cool in a creepy sort of way, I have to admit.

Check Small Things to see what Ginny's kids found in THEIR backyard last week.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Get Thee to the Woods, Vol. 30: Matthews Arm, Shenandoah

Who needs marshmallows when you've got Bisquick? Just mix with some water and make a biscuit on a stick.

Our weekends camping in Shenandoah National Park are never long enough.

(For highlights from last year's visit, click here.)

If you're not squeamish about snakes, tomorrow I'll show you what we encountered in the middle of the trail on one of our hikes. We felt like we were on Wild Kingdom.

We returned home today in time to catch the very last Harry Potter movie ever.

Thanks for all the adventures, Harry. You will be missed.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Get Thee to the Woods, Vol. 29: Caledon Natural Area, Virginia

Yesterday Curly, Moe, and I dropped Larry off at Teen Adventure Camp, and headed to Caledon State Park to do a little hiking and picnicking, and hopefully see some bald eagles. During the summer months, Caledon has quite a large population of them, one of the largest on the East Coast, in fact.

We headed down the fire road toward the Potomac River.

We spotted several deer bounding across the trail, but they were too fast for me to get any photos of them.

The boys enjoyed watching the tadpoles in the marsh near the shoreline.

Even the immature bald eagles are magnificent, aren't they?

On the way back

we stopped and had a snack.

There is much more to see and explore at Caledon; the boys are eager to return soon.

Larry, meanwhile, had a fantastic day hiking and canoeing with his friends at camp. We were all sweaty and tired after our adventures.

Today Larry is tubing on the river. That sounds like a lot more fun than laundry and errands and housework, which is what I'm looking forward to today.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


Bookmark and Share