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Archive for the ‘7 quick takes friday’ Category


I am new to Facebook and have been rediscovering old friends from my childhood and high school days. Trying to summarize how I have spent the last 30 years since I last saw a certain group of friends, I rattled off things like going to college; studying Tibetan medicine in India & Nepal; living in a teepee on an organic farm; going to graduate school; studying Chinese Medicine in Maryland, New York, and England; practicing Chinese medicine in New York City; owning a dairy goat farm in North Carolina; selling antiques in Massachusetts; training to work with students with learning disabilities; and raising three kids (still working on that). A couple of friends commented on my “accomplishments” compared with their simpler, more consistent lives. I was immediately struck by the difference between “doing a lot of stuff” and real accomplishment. I may have “done a lot of stuff” in my life, but let me tell you some REAL accomplishments of seven people I know. I am not casting my net to include missionaries in third world countries, Olympic athletes, or other exceptional people. In fact, my point is, the ordinary IS the exceptional. These are a few real people from my real life; one of them might be you.

— 1 —

A mother who, every school year, prayerfully considers each of her many children, their personalities, their souls, their gifts and struggles, and diligently visits and interviews schools, teachers, staff, to find just the right school where each child will be nurtured and challenged in the ways that they need. While I am homeschooling, I think of this mother and how, though she chooses to enroll her children in school, she is mothering them every step of the way.

— 2 —

A woman who has had one husband and one job for 26 years. They have four children; two “came with the package” as she says, two they had together, and all four they have guided to a happy adulthood. When I think of my years spent flitting around the world pursuing various ephemeral somethings, she stands out as a model of stability and peacefulness.

— 3 —

A young man who has been searching for a job for two years. Not a week goes by that he does not pound the pavement, send out resumes, fill out applications online, check back at placed he’s applied. After two years of apparently fruitless searching, he has never become impatient or frustrated, and continues to say each day “God has a plan; I just have to trust in God and everything will work out.”

— 4 —

A woman on welfare who started long before Christmas each year, quietly setting aside a dollar here and there, seeking, finding, and tucking away special treasures for her children’s Christmas gifts, refusing to let poverty keep her from giving joy. An English teacher before her marriage, she trained to become a secretary, quietly supporting the office cleaning woman on her small salary. She also prepared and delivered a homemade holiday meal to an elderly couple each Christmas and Easter, delaying her own family meal till they enjoyed theirs.

— 5 —

A priest who was paralyzed on one side after a stroke. When his parish was closed, he broke down and wept, and retired as a pastor, but continues to serve Mass at other churches and do works of charity despite severe and incurable pain which he offers for others who are suffering.

— 6 —

A woman who, with her husband, carefully packed her family’s belongings and her young children for a move to South America, leaving behind home and friends. A year later, shortly after the earthquake, they again uprooted and moved their young family back to the U.S. This woman is remarkable to me because, in all the many homes she has lived in, it is she who is really “home” for her family, creating grace and peace wherever she is.

— 7 —

An elderly man who looks at his wife as if she was a new bride. He holds her hand whenever they are sitting together and uses terms of endearment whenever he speaks to her or about her. Though he can barely stand without tottering, he pulls out his wife’s chair at the table and remains standing until she is comfortable seated. He planted a flower garden outside her kitchen window so she would always have beauty to look at. At almost 90 years of age, he still tells his wife he is a lucky man to have her.

I might have done a lot of stuff in my life, but when I look at these examples, I think: maybe some day I will actually accomplish something.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

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Alas, there was no winner for my first Giveaway Quiz. Maybe I’ll try this again sometime, but for all of you who are dying to know, here are the answers to last Friday’s quiz:

1. The drawing room in the post “the wounds give life” was the drawing room in the old TV version of “Dark Shadows” which ran from the late 60s to the early 70s. I always felt right at home there!

2. My banner photo shows Flirtation Point in Pine Orchard, Branford, Connecticut.

3. The town in the first photo in “no lasting city” is Greenfield, Massachusetts. That’s Main Street, and the current name of the business on the right is Baker Office Supply.

4. The artist of the sketch in “failure” is Vincent Van Gogh.

5. Besides the New Testament, St. Therese always carried a copy of the Imitation of Christ by St. Thomas a Kempis.

6. Three books Branfordgirl likes: see my sidebar for a selection of books I like which are available on Amazon (and Branfordgirl will earn a few pennies if you navigate there from this site and make a purchase). I also listed a number of books in my post “it’s all for you.”

7. What’s so special about Branford, Connecticut? Well, here’s my answer: it’s Branfordgirl’s hometown!

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— 1 —

I am continually caught off guard by my 9 year old daughter’s little discoveries that remind me of my own girlhood. When she shows me a sewing shortcut she figured out, or how to make a flower chain, it could be me 41 years ago. Is it wired into our family genetic code? Or the universal code of girlhood? I don’t know, but it makes me feel young again.

— 2 —

We are going to Lake Wyola today for the first time this season. Lake Wyola is a beautiful sandy beach here in western MA with pleasant swimmable water and the occasional duck family. We go at least once a week all summer. For the kids, Lake Wyola means fishing off the little dock with a pole or net; trying to position themselves just right so their shadows don’t fall across the little schools of fish in the shallows that they are trying to catch with their hands; building in the sand; swimming with snorkel and goggles; and sometimes (but not today because I’m broke) Bobby’s Hamburger Stand for hamburgers, hot dogs, ice cream, and ring pops. For me, Lake Wyola is sitting and reading with the sound of children’s laughter in the background; abandoning myself to the gentle tide, floating with my eyes closed, and opening them to see where I have ended up; not talking or being talked to for long stretches, which is rare in my life.

— 3 —

I have a little patch of herbs in a wooden frame outside the kitchen door. The easiest thing for me to do at dinnertime is to go out with a scissors and pick some parsley, thyme (we have lemon thyme), oregano, sage, rosemary, and basil, wash them, snip them into little bits, and put them into whatever I am cooking with fresh garlic, salt, and pepper. I tell you, I have thrown a handful of those same herbs into half a dozen meals over the past couple of weeks, every one has received accolades, and no one tells me that all the food tastes the same!

— 4 —

Speaking of herbs, my new discovery is chocolate mint. If you are at a garden center, rub a leaf between your fingers and sniff. It really smells like an Andes mint candy, or a delicious chocolate truffle with a mint center, or mint chocolate chip ice cream, or…well, just try it! You will immediately think of several great summer desserts that could use this! I have a plant growing in a pot outside that keeps sending new tendrils down to the ground that want to take root in the wider world. How do they sense where to go? How do they know “there’s soil down there?”

— 5 —

After my last blog post, the one I wrote after a funeral, there is no hiding the fact that this practicing Roman Catholic and Third Order Carmelite is, well, a little weird. Now that I’ve stepped out of the shadows, who knows what I might find myself writing?

— 6 —

Speaking of shadows, I have no interest in the new Dark Shadows movie. The reviews I’ve read and the trailer I watched make it seem, well, puerile and trashy. But I am addicted to the old black and white TV series from the late 60s and early 70s, which I own on DVD. My maiden name is Collins, I grew up in a spooky house (there I go again) by the water, and visiting Collinwood is a little like going home. My take is: it’s not really a vampire story. After all, he’s a reluctant vampire, tormented by the evil from which he is trying to free himself. It’s really a Gothic romance.

— 7 —

She’s done it again. Evangeline just walked in with a paper chain and said “it’s me friendship chain.” (She uses “me” instead of “my” a lot.) “It’s got the names of all me friends on each link.” Evangeline is the initiator of a number of neighborhood clubs: a Girls Club, a Friendship Club, a Health Club, a Garden Club. One club morphs into another as moods and seasons change in our neighborhood. We are alike in many ways (see item 1), but unlike her reclusive mother who constantly seeks solitude, she is constantly trying to find ways to bring people together, a trait for which I am thankful.She even started a blog: http://www.avisitwithevangeline.wordpress.com.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

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When I was a kid, I had a nature book that recommended choosing one square foot of grass in a typical backyard and observing the life forms that traverse that square for a whole day. In true scientific fashion, I decided to observe what crosses a square foot of the kitchen table of a typical home school family at seven points during a typical day. (A future study might compare the backyard results with the life forms that populate our kitchen table, but I will save that for another day).

— 1 —

A book on Vladimir Lenin my ten-year-old history-obsessed son bought at a book sale. Plus salt and pepper shakers.

— 2 —

Our fluffy orange cat Virgil (she’s a girl) batting at some wildflowers in a juice glass with her big paddy-paw. Samuel says “What a sweet smile. Oh, look, she’s doing Devil Ears!

— 3 —

My daughter’s spiral bound short-story notebook, corner wet from plunking it down in the same spot where the cat spilled the wildflowers.

— 4 —

Things my daughter is using for a project: pieces of grass, a mortar and pestle full of macerated flowers, tiny bits of yarn, tape, a small doll, scissors, paper scraps, and eggshells from our bantam hens.

— 5 —

Virgil, sitting placidly on the scissors.

— 6 —

A bowl containing cilantro stems, tomato tops, bell pepper cores, stale bread, and other scraps waiting to be carried out by whoever is feeding the hens today, on top of the Solutions Manual for Saxon 54.

— 7 —

Catalogs from various home school curriculum providers which I am neurotically perusing after having already purchased next year’s books. (This is a little penance I perform faithfully each year from May well into October…)

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

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