*waves to 2022* *Welcomes 2023*

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As I struggle to write this last post of the year, I think on the last few weeks. (Because honestly, I can’t remember much further back from then without looking at my calendar or camera roll.) My husband and I started watching Wednesday, the Netflix series. I wasn’t sure I wanted to watch it, but one episode later, and I’m hooked. We’re also finishing Derry Girls and tonight we’ll be watching Banshees of Innisherin for our New Year. This is the first year we are home alone with no kids, and I have a series of stress induced stomach flips thinking about where they are and if they’re safe. One is at a hockey game, and two are out with friends. They’re all responsible, but I still worry. That’s the nature of parenting I suppose.

So a few pictures:

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~ Christmas Eve ~

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The first Christmas Eve Mass I attended was memorable for several, distinct reasons. I had been attending the daily masses pretty regularly since March and the regular pastor had returned in May from his sabbatical and the very first mass I attended with him presiding was one that I had intentions said for my friend’s death one year prior. His homily resonated with me in so many ways that from that moment on, he was my pastor, whether he knew it or not. This Christmas Eve, I was continuing to attend mass and yet had no intention of conversion. My attendance was in complement to my Jewish traditions. It was important to me. I didn’t kneel or cross myself, but the readings and the homilies spoke to me in a way that I was needing at that time.

Not knowing how holiday masses worked, I didn’t realize the amount of people who would be attending, especially the early mass when the kids were in abundance. The kids weren’t any problem, but the seating was at a premium as was the parking. I arrived at what I thought was on time, but which was late if I wanted a parking space conducive to my wobbly knee and a seat. I arrived and Father Jerry greeted me. He was happy to see me, and I him. He looked around to see if there was a seat (there wasn’t) and I said that I was fine to stand. He knew that this was not true as we had spoken about my knee in previous months. He asked a family in the last row if they could squeeze me in, and the grandfather mind you, stood so I could sit with his family, and he stood behind the pew.

This was not my first experience of the hospitality of my parish to be.

This wasn’t the first time that I knew I belonged here, whether I converted or not. Again, I wasn’t in the market for a new church or religion, but we often will get what we need when we need it rather than what we want or are looking for. This season was definitely one of those times. My conversion came before my baptism by more than a year. In my mind, while receiving the sacraments are an important part of the faith journey, for me it was something of a formality. In my heart, I was already Catholic. However, on this Christmas Eve, I wasn’t there yet.

All families have holiday traditions, whether they be in their nuclear family, their extended, their chosen family, traveling for the holiday, or staying home. One of ours from my husband’s side was Christmas Eve Chinese take out for dinner as well as a newer tradition of the Doctor Who Christmas special. My family was delayed for both by my choice to attend Christmas Eve Mass. I had already decided not to attend the Christmas Day Mass, not knowing that attending the Vigil Mass was the same in regard to the “obligation” to attend the next day’s mass. Of course, I was not under any obligation, but it still made a difference to me in knowing the distinction.

Tonight’s Christmas Eve Mass will be different from previous years. I won’t know how until I get there. We belong to a family of three parishes, and so in my church there will be only one Eve mass. We have a new pastor who I like very much but he is different, and that’s okay. The anticipation is both exciting and anxiety inducing. Instead of the last row, I’ll sit in one of the first rows with my friend in her usual seat. My family will pick up the Chinese food and I’ll meet them at home after. We have Napoleons for dessert as well as some leftover cookies once we make them for Santa. Our youngest is sixteen, almost seventeen (two more weeks), but Santa still expects his cookies. There is eggnog chilling in the fridge. Tomorrow’s dinner is planned as is the next day’s lunch with my oldest son who is working today.

Christmas Eve is preparatory, getting the church ready, getting the tree ready, getting the food ready, but also reliving a child’s birth in a manger in a cave halfway around the world, which resonates around the world. It is also preparing for the birth of a new year, looking ahead while also glancing behind, bringing forward the good, leaving the not so good. While some churches have already decorated, the inside of ours won’t be ready until we arrive tonight with wreaths and trees, wound with white lights, dim lighting makes way for brighter tomorrow, tonight the skylights are dark with the night sky. Garland and plants and flowers and of course, the empty manger that will be filled before the end of the night.

Happy Christmas Eve. May your night be peaceful and your tomorrow glorious.

Friday Food. December.

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This has to be the worst week for deciding what to eat. Nothing goes as planned, not to mention that the age old question, “What’s for dinner?” is almost impossible to answer in a week of unpredictables. We know what’s for dinner for Christmas Eve; we know what for dinner Christmas Day, and we even know what’s for dinner the day after Christmas, but the rest of the week? *throws hands up* Who knows?!

The other day we put off ground beef to have fast food after shopping and work.

Yesterday we finally had the ground beef as tacos.

Tonight? Pasta and meatballs. Unless we opt for cold cuts which are already in the fridge, but after the hassle of finding the almost non-existent ricotta cheese (which I love on my pasta and sauce), I’m leaning towards the pasta, although to be honest, we’re all a little tired of pasta – it’s our go-to when there’s nothing else and it’s snowing out or the paycheck is next week.

I’m pretty sure it’s pasta tonight though.

Like 95% sure.

Our holiday food follows my husband’s family traditions, but this year I did manage to make latkes on Chanukah, which is a feat since it’s a drain to stand over the stove. And there are never any leftovers. These were probably the best ones I’ve ever made. They were crispy on the outside, hot and soft on the inside, and they were perfect with the applesauce and sour cream. Yes, both.

Have a wonderful holiday weekend and week that follows.

Latkes
(c)2022

Election Connection – Year End Wrap

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What a Year from Vote Save America

Let’s look at the list of the races we were following here for the 2022 Election, and see how we fared:

  • Senate Races
  • AZ – Mark Kelly
  • CO – Michael Bennet
  • CT – Richard Blumenthal
  • FL – Val Demmings
  • GA – Rev. Raphael Warnock
  • HI – Brian Schatz
  • NH – Maggie Hassan
  • NV – Catherine Cortez-Masto
  • NY – Chuck Schumer
  • OH – Tim Ryan
  • PA – John Fetterman
  • WA – Patty Murray
  • WI – Mandela Barnes
  • Also, keep an eye on Iowa and Kentucky
  • House of Representatives
  • AK – Mary Peltola
  • MI – Elissa Slotkin
  • NY – Matt Castelli
  • NY – Sean Maloney
  • VA – Abigail Spanberger
  • Governors
  • CA – Gavin Newsom
  • CO – Jared Polis
  • FL – Charlie Crist
  • GA – Stacey Abrams
  • MI – Gretchen Whitmer
  • NY – Kathy Hochul
  • PA – Josh Shapiro
  • TX – Beto O’Rourke
  • Mayor
  • Los Angeles – Karen Bass

Looks like the majority of them won their races. Beto and Tim Ryan were close. We need to keep pushing in Ohio and Texas. In that endeavor, follow Olivia Julianna on Twitter (while there’s still a twitter). She is a Gen Z political activist, doesn’t back down, and speaks her mind.

Have we learned anything from the last several years?

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O Chanukah, O Chanukah

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Light the Menorah….

Today is the first night of Chanukah. It is also the fourth Sunday of Advent and the eighteenth year since my Mother died. I always say that she died intentionally on this day – 25th of Kislev. On the Julian calendar she died on December 8th, which was the 25th of Kislev. Her yartzeit will always be on the first night of Chanukah. I know she did this on purpose; there is no excuse to forget her candle. I’ve seen others with anniversaries on other important days have mixed feelings on the sharing of a sad day with a happy one, and I do feel the sadness from eighteen years ago, but I also think fondly and lovingly on this day, remembering my mother and her ways. I see her in myself especially as I get older. I said something to my daughter tonight, and I had to pause because I sounded exactly like my mother. I think when I was younger this would have bothered me, but today, it made me feel not only closer to her, but closer to my daughter. We used my childhood menorah tonight, which will feel like putting my hand in a fiery piece of the sun by the end of the holiday; it radiates heat when all nine candles are blazing brightly.

My husband managed to find some gelt. It’s nearly impossible in this area, and I did order a small batch online, but it won’t be here until later in the week. I really like to give the kids their dreidls and gelt on the first night, and we were able to. I even found colored (blue and clear) plastic dreidls (at Target) that I could fill with the chocolate coins and one Maccabee chocolate soldier each. I’d never seen those before (from Bed, Bath, and Beyond).

I also made the best latkes I think I’ve ever made in my life. They truly were perfect and that never happens. I eat them with applesauce and sour cream, both. Why should I choose between them?! I also fried up some chicken cutlets, which were also excellent. The whole house smells of oil: olive for the chicken; vegetable for the latkes.

Here’s to the light of the season, no matter where it’s coming from or what holiday you’re celebrating this month.

(c)2022

Friday Food. December.

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December is full of different types of food to fill the days of the different types of holidays we celebrate throughout the month of December. Recently, I went to a Festival Of Learning and had Latkes with applesauce (personally I love applesauce AND sour cream with my latkes) for Chanukah and Mexican Hot Chocolate with Molasses cookies for La Posada, and tonight (if it doesn’t snow) it will be something wonderful to celebrate Kwanzaa.

Our family Christmas traditions revolve around food and my husband’s traditions. Christmas Eve is Chinese take-out for dinner and Christmas morning breakfast is Dunkin’ Donuts. For dinner, it’s his mother’s tradition of a proper British carve up: roast beef, mashed potatoes with gravy, carrots & peas, plus a few of our own favorites. One year I made Yorkshire pudding which is both intimidating and easier than you think it is. She always made Trifle, which I have not even attempted.

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Inspire. December.

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For nothing will be impossible with G-d

Luke 1:37

It’s been a rough one, and so it’s been a little rough getting to the inspiration portion of our post, but we will get there. I have been enjoying the little things of Advent: the readings, the faith enrichment I’ve been attending, the multicultural program on holiday lights, a workshop on the Redemption of Scrooge which links into our own priorities for this holiday season.

I’m also seeing how close G-d is to the surface of my life. In recent years, I have truly felt His presence, but the number of actions that had to take place recently really shouted out loud that G-d is everywhere. I believe that, and have always believed that in my heart, but to see it in tangible action can be overwhelming and the gratitude for that is at play and it sings out and amazes me.

Despite only recently finding Jesus Christ, I’ve always been a religious person in my own way, teaching my family our traditions, lighting candles at Chanukah, eating matzoh at Passover, fasting at Yom Kippur, but in finding Jesus, I have also found other ways to see G-d’s presence that I wasn’t always fully aware of.

Some back-story. On the home page is a personal update that included my falling down the stairs. I have been healing, slowly but surely, and I haven’t been able to drive. I’ve only just started driving locally. My husband has been alternating between vehicles depending on which car has more gas, where it’s going, or just arbitrarily choosing which car to take. He picked up my daughter and her friend from work the week of Thanksgiving, and was waiting in traffic, completely stopped with his turn signal on, when a pickup truck slammed into the back of the car. At the last minute, the pickup driver realized he was too close and moved to the right, trying to avoid us, but hit our car on the rear right side rather than dead on in the middle of the trunk. I think this caused more damage than it would have the other way.

Fortunately, no one was hurt.

Because of the holiday it took nearly a full week to get an estimate and find out that the insurance company would not repair it but deem it a total loss.

The idea that a car that we used multiple times daily, trying to teach two kids to drive, and get us from here to there in a town with limited public transportation isn’t worth the cost to fix it is something I will never understand. I do understand the cost-benefit analysis that goes into the decisions, but for us that car was worth much more than its monetary value and I don’t mean sentimentality, but necessity.

We were reasonably upset.

As it was before the accident, my husband was driving me (and everyone else in the household) everywhere; some days he was driving from one place to the next, never leaving the car until we were all home for dinner.

For one of the faith enrichment evenings, I got a ride from some friends of mine. (This is where G-d comes in). Afterwards, we were going back to their car when another mutual friend walked with them and was talking to them, asking if they knew anyone who was looking to buy a car – she was selling her father’s car. I immediately asked how much she was selling it for.

One week and a day later, we had a new (to us) car. We’re waiting for the insurance money to pay her for it.

Had my husband driven me, I would not have known about the car.

Had another friend driven me (as was the plan), I would not have known about the car.

Had the woman been parked in a different area of the parking lot, I would not have known about the car.

For me to be in the back seat of my friends’ car when this woman told them about her father’s car, and them just hearing about our car accident (and that we only found out that day it would be totaled) was nothing short of a miracle.

It was G-d’s hand in everything, and sometimes we stay aware of His influence just enough to recognize it and jump on it, and of course, when something like this happens, proclaim it.

Have a blessed finish to your Advent and a Merry Christmas.

Blessed are the Peacemakers

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I was out this weekend for some breakfast and holiday shopping, and I saw a man wearing a dark hoodie with an American flag on it, although it was black and white with a blue stripe for the middle stripe. I recognize this as a call out in support of law enforcement. I don’t disagree with supporting law enforcement when it’s called for, however there is a lot to be done to improve their strategies, especially when it comes to working with people of color and the mentally ill and people not necessarily mentally ill but in crisis in the moment they meet up with LEOs.

I am certainly not going to solve this problem in one blog post.

On the back of this hoodie, above and below the black, white, and blue flag was the phrase:

Blessed are the peacemakers,

For they will be called the children of G-d.

Matthew 5:9

I was drawn to it in a negative way. It bothered me. It bothered me enough to start writing about it here. Part of that is some of the study I’ve been doing this Advent season through readings and a couple of faith enrichment and scripture classes throughout the month of December.

I recognized that phrase as from Scripture, although my initial thoughts were incorrect in assigning it to Isaiah (his readings are quite prominent during Advent) rather than where it actually comes from: Matthew 5:9; the Beatitudes.

The entirety of the Beatitudes is contained in Matthew 5:3-11

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

I won’t relay them here. You can google or open any Bible and read all of them. There is also an addition that Pope Francis expressed on an Ecumenical trip to Sweden in 2016 that can be read here.

Reading through this part of Chapter 5 of Matthew and getting to verse 9, it is clear to me that this Scripture is entirely misinterpreted by the people who created (and wear) that hoodie. The implication that law enforcement and military are the peacemakers is inconsistent and contradictory.

I also found it ironic that I saw this on the hoodie during Advent when we are reading the Book of Isaiah who prophesizes an unlikely peace among foes: the wolf and the lamb, the leopard and the kid, calf and lion, cow and bear, children and snakes (reversing Adam and Eve’s punishment in the Garden of Eden). (Isaiah 11:6-8)

When I see these types of scriptures on hoodies that promote law enforcement and military soldiers as peacemakers it just fills me with exasperation and even a touch of anger. The misinterpretation that soldiers are peacemakers and not warriors first is simply wishful thinking. This isn’t to say that all soldiers are bad; I don’t believe that, and I understand the need for a military. I understand that when the UN sends its soldiers they are called peacekeepers, and I get that too. Peace is the goal. The UN tries to be neutral despite arguments of its futility and the presence of its flaws. I think that neutral isn’t the objective though as much as fairness and the desired overall good of society.

Are the peacemakers the ones with guns? Or are they the ones with food? With books? With pens and clothes and shelter? The pen is mightier than the sword is it not? That aphorism (as wella s many others) credited to author Edward Bulwer-Lytton has been known similarly as far back as before Biblical sources including an Assyrian sage in 7th century BCE and Greek playwright Euripides using different words in place of pen: word, tongue. Talmudic and Islamic sources also reference words, both oral and written, a means of knowledge and peace as being stronger than the strength of the sword, a means of war. The implication being that with the pen/word being mightier, peace is also mightier than war.

It’s important that we call out these misuses of words and reclaim our Scriptures that have been corrupted and used in opposition to what they actually say.

War is sometimes necessary, but it shouldn’t be considered inevitable, nor should it be considered the path to the kingdom of heaven and to the discipleship of G-d.

Blessed are the poor in spirit; blessed are those who mourn; blessed are the meek; blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness; the merciful; the pure in heart; those who are persecuted; those who are reviled and persecuted falsely on the account of Jesus.

And blessed are the peacemakers; those who make peace. They don’t force something they call peace on others; they create a lasting peace, an eternal peace.

Those are the peacemakers; they are the children of G-d.

Holiday Shopping 2

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My apologies to my friend, Alyssa. I inadveertanly left off her online shop in my previous post. That has been rectified, but I wanted to draw attention to her store, which I’ve added to the main shopping post here:

Holiday shopping

Rain City Handcrafts Glass Can Tumbler.
Click the photo to bet taken to the store.
(c)2022

Rain City Handcrafts can be found online and on Etsy.

Holiday Shopping

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Some of us are finished with their holiday shopping. I am not one of those people. We’ve had a few mishaps since thanksgiving week, but we’re hoping to get our tree up this week and possibly put a few gifts under the tree then.

One of our traditions was to buy the kids a pair of new pajamas and a book to read for opening on Christmas Eve. One selfish reason for that was to get them into bed, but also to have them appropriately dressed for Christmas morning photos.

Other ideas are gift cards. I know that gift cards are one of those gifts that people feel strongly about in both directions. Some love them, and some would rather have a physical present. I love gift cards if they’re thought through. My brother-in-law gets me an Amazon gift card and I use it to buy a bunch of e-books. Couple that with a Starbucks card and I have hours of entertainment alongside my Hot Chai Latte.

If you’re still looking, check out some of these super people. I know most of them personally even if I haven’t ordered from them all. The books recommended in this post have all been read and enjoyed by me.

These are some people who I know personally even though I’ve not ordered from all of them. They are all creative and talented and making their way with their small businesses. If you’re looking for gifts for this holiday season; whatever holiday you’re celebrating or birthdays coming up, take a look at these friends and do yourself a favor.

My most recent purchase from Ms. Creation Soap. They smell so fragrant; it’s bold and soothing.
(c)2022

Ms. Creation Soap Artisanal Soaps from Ms. Creation Soap; hand crafted in small batches

The White Rabbit’s Glove Crafts from the creative mind of D.

Courdorygirl Crafting and Gaming Handmade toys, puzzles, and plush.

Samantha Wallace, ColorStreet Nail polish strips, nourishing hand and nail care products, and premium makeup.

Rain City Handcrafts Glass and Stainless steel tumblers. More selections at her Etsy Store.

Books!

Carolyn L Huston is an author of several books. Writing and educating others about autism has enabled her to be available for her son’s needs while pursuing her writing career.

Empty Shoes by the Door: Living After My Son’s Suicide by Judi Merriam

The Truth and Legend of Lily Martindale: An Adirondack Novel by Mary Sanders Shartle

A Prisoner and You Visited Me: Homilies and Reflections for Cycle A This is a book to read weekly throughout the liturgical year. I’m friends with one of the authors and the artist. This is the third in this series (one each for Cycle A, B, and C) that I’ve read. It is excellent opportunity to expand your spiritual life.

From the same publisher: The Best Present Ever: A Sinner’s Guide to the Holy Land by Sean Gunning I read this book through the fall, and I loved it. The realistic way he wrote about his journey made his spiritual awakening that much more emotional to witness.