Julia Child, Five-Alarm Chicken, and the Humility to Be Just Ok

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When I host a dinner party now… I serve tater tots!

I am not a good cook. Raw meat makes me squeamish and I panic when there are too many things boiling and steaming and sizzling on the stove all at once. I lack the gift and skill to know how to balance flavours or thicken a sauce. And this used to really bother me.

In fact, this used to be the start of most arguments between my husband and me. As the primary caregiver of our children and the stay-at-home parent, I felt like it was my job to make perfectly tasty, healthy, and budget-wise meals from scratch every night (all while caring for four kids only five years apart in age). The problem was, I was terrible at it. Nearly every evening, my husband, Jamie, would come home to his tearful wife juggling what felt like a thousand pots and pans at the stove, trying desperately not to burn the sauce while the noodles were already ruthlessly overcooked, or pulling a pan of blackened bread from the oven while an accusing timer reminded me of yet another failed dish that needed my immediate attention. Continue reading

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The MET Gala and the Indelible Mark on our Souls

metConsidering how volatile opinions are about the MET Gala the other night and the fact that I’m Canadian, putting my own opinion out here publicly the morning after the night before either means I am sleep deprived by the demands of a May end-of-the-school-year schedule, or that I feel strongly enough about what I think God is teaching me that I can get over any fear of sharing my thoughts.

I watched the opening of the new exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art with interest. Entitled Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination, I wanted to see what this meant both to the curators who had the idea, and to the Church who lent the museum over 50 religious articles and vestments from the Vatican Museums collection. Continue reading

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The Art of Modern Man

artI’ve never understood modern art. Last week when we were visiting the MET, one brother leaned toward me and whispered, “It looks like a waste of good paint.” What could I say to that? But while somewhere staring quizzically, I felt something stir in my heart. And as I continued through the rest of the museum, I discovered something that changed my view of modern art forever. Modern art is a priestly art.

When I reluctantly turned the corner into the modern art section of the museum, I prepared myself for a bombardment of random and unintelligible works. I entered the first room and scanned the walls for something interesting. I saw a description of the exhibit on the far side of the room. It said that for the modern artist it is not enough to simply represent nature. (That’s what the world has been doing since the 14th century.) They’re not aiming for something merely “different”, but for something “beyond”. It said that they try to express the “Psyche”, their inner self. Continue reading

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May and the Unravelling of Biblical Proportions

Ah, May.

The month that valiantly holds all of the events, deadlines, celebrations, exams, and stress that every other month has shaken off in order to maintain life at a sane pace 11 months a year.

Even December doesn’t come close to the heavy lifting May does with a schedule that is impossibly packed, stress from kids’ exams, end-of-school projects, sports tournaments and playoffs, celebrations and awards ceremonies.  And look out if your family has May birthdays on top of that…

Throw in massive doses of necessary planning for summer- whether it’s for vacations, childcare or just how to keep the kids creatively occupied for 2 months.

At the end of April, we parents get our game faces on, create our color-coded calendars for the month ahead and believe that through sheer willpower, excellent organization and a go-go-go mentality we will triumph over the monster of May. Continue reading

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Rose of Lima, Patron Saint of Working Moms, Stressed-Out Parents and Chaotic Households

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Nailed it! (me as St. Rose of Lima at the All Saints Day Party)

I was really excited a few years back when I got St. Rose of Lima as my patron saint. I didn’t know much about her, but most of the images I found of her were lovely: she was usually portrayed in a garden, almost always with a beautiful crown of roses on her head. I didn’t know what she’d done to become a saint, but she sure looked good doing it! In January, I had already started planning my St. Rose of Lima costume for our church’s All Saints Day Party in November, sourcing fake roses from the dollar store for my crown. I was sure Rose and I would become great friends over the year.

And then I met her. We had absolutely NOTHING in common. She made a vow of virginity at the age of five (I did not). By the age of six, she had already given up eating fruit for two years and was now subsisting on a diet of stale bread and tepid water (at that age I refused to eat anything that made “a weird noise” when I chewed). She performed extreme mortifications of all kinds: she rinsed her mouth daily with sheep’s gall, wore a horse-hair shirt, scourged herself several times a day, and allowed herself only two hours of sleep a night (which is not surprising, since her bed was an atrocity she lovingly hand-crafted out of tree roots and broken crockery, with a piece of wood as her pillow). She even kept her eyes lowered when visiting a new place, denying herself the joy of curiosity and wonder. Continue reading

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Twin Persons

Study subjects at beginning of research project.

This is the first in what I expect to be a continuing series of reports on my long-term study of the effect of genetics and environmental conditions on the development of twin human beings.

Let me make an important disclaimer (actually several) at the start:

  • I am not a scientist but I did own a chemistry set and a microscope when I was a kid.
  • I’m not a theologian but I did minor in philosophy in college.
  • The sample of subjects I’m using in my study would not qualify as statistically significant.
  • I’m likely to let my emotions influence my findings.

The title of this study: Grampa Jim Watches the Twins. Continue reading

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Internship: The Write Tools for Priesthood

writing“A writer will do anything to avoid the act of writing.” – On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction.

Author William Zinsser knows me well; the blinking cursor of a white computer screen infuses dread. What am I going to say in my lecture tomorrow? I open my email, check my calendar, get a drink of water, scan the newsfeed—anything to avoid the act of writing. The fear of writing trash paralyzes me. But I know I have to confront the monster of writer’s block, precisely because I am a teacher of Legionaries studying humanities, and my lecture tomorrow is on writing. Continue reading

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How Not to Pray Like a Toddler

toddlerI know Jesus said that unless we become like children, we’ll never enter the kingdom of heaven (Mt 18:3). Fulton J. Sheen in The Eternal Galilean was speaking of heaven when he wrote: “No old people enter it…. There are only nurseries there!” But surely neither of them was talking about the two-year-old who is having a tantrum on the grocery store floor, nor the three-year-old who refuses to get dressed so you throw him completely naked into a snowsuit and hope it doesn’t somehow get unzipped while you’re out running errands (hypothetically speaking). Whether we call it being stubborn, strong-willed, or spirited, I doubt that’s the childlike quality Christ is looking for when he welcomes us into heaven! Continue reading

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Living the Our Father at the Regnum Christi General Assembly

Every morning at the Regnum Christi General Assembly in Rome, we had the grace of beginning the day with Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, next door to the General Directorate of the Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi.

It was so refreshing to be there, in Mary’s house, under her smiling gaze in the quiet morning hours. She welcomed us, smiled at us, filled us with courage morning after morning, telling us to ‘Do whatever he tells you to.’

On one of these mornings, while we prayed the Our Father in the Mass, I was reminded line by line of how very closely our Father was walking with us, and guiding us in His will.

What follows is my reflection on how Christ led us to live the prayer he taught us during this significant moment in the history of the Regnum Christi Movement, at the General Assembly. Continue reading

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Heirs in Valor of the Champions of Old

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L’Enfant du Regiment by Sir John Everett Millais

Struck is the heart when the realization that the young girl in the foreground lays wounded on a tomb as a war rages outside the place where she sleeps. There she is, beautiful and innocent as can be on a cold tomb of marble, a soldier’s coat the only giver of warmth. Gone are the days when children could sleep in peace on a warm bed and be cuddled by their mother’s embrace. However, it is wartime now and even the youth are liable to pay the high price of being on “the wrong side of the war.”

Her little hand wrapped in bandages makes us hope for the best while preparing for the worst. Has L’Enfant lost her hand? Has she been badly wounded? Will she recover? We might never have these questions answered for they belong to an uncertain place and an uncertain time. This painting depicts no one little girl. It is our lack of precise knowledge of the scene that makes it all the more painful as we recall that this might not represent a single child but the many pained by the atrocities of war. At best they will be scarred for life, at worst paying with their own life-blood for the sins of the nation. Continue reading

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