"I heard a voice from heaven saying, 'Son, let this woman be a bride to you in the restoration of my people. Let her be a mother for these people, regenerating souls through the salvation of spirit and water.'" (Hildegard of Bingen, Scivias)

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Seven Quick Takes: Candlemas

1. It wasn't till I was in grad school at Notre Dame that I learned the traditional Christmas season extended a full forty days--beyond Epiphany and Baptism of Jesus to Candlemas/Presentation in the Temple on February 2. The Christmas decorations in the Basilica stayed up that long and there was a special evening mass which featured the ceremonial carrying out of the Baby Jesus, reversing the solemn procession at Midnight Mass for which Computer and I were torchbearers one year. It was a great honor--and also carried the welcome blessing I received for Triduum the year I was an RCIA sponsor--reserved front row seats at an absolutely packed liturgy to which people frequently came over an hour early. I especially love the wise prophetess Anna who blessed the child and grieve her frequent omission from liturgical art in comparison with Simeon, probably because he has such a crucial speaking role.

2. Candlemas is linked with the previous day's feast of Brigid and the traditional Celtic feast of Imbolc marking the first hints of spring and the midpoint between the winter solstice and spring equinox. The days are getting longer, the first lambs are born, and sometimes crocuses even peek through the snow--I'm kind of surprised we haven't seen any yet with this relatively mild winter in the Midwest. I am feeling right in tune with all three celebrations and am very grateful to have surfaced from some depression and PTSD lasting from shortly after Gaudete Sunday till just this week.

3. It's also a special time in our family because I gave birth to Nicholas (19, second child, first son) on the next day: Feb. 3, feast of St. Blase. We went out for a special dinner tonight with MIL, FIL, and one BIL to celebrate and are following up tomorrow with his cake. ComputerGuy has made two different chocolate-fest cakes this month since my birthday and Katherine Rose's (13, third child, second daughter) are just a day apart --I was still dealing with severe HG nausea at bedtime on my birthday and it finally left with the first contractions at 2 am! So I am experimenting with a red velvet cake and MIL's special vanilla buttercream frosting since Nick doesn't enjoy cream cheese frosting. And by this time next week he will be more fully launched into independence and beginning a great adventure as he spends several months working in TX and staying with a friend he met while playing League of Legends on a college scholarship.

4. Homeschool report pt. 1: Katie and I are almost to the first obnoxious proposal by Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice for our spring term "Novels of Jane Austen" course. We have a great system, begun with Shakespeare this past semester, of listening in the car on the way to her community college classes, errands, etc. while she reads along and we discuss it. She writes one paper per term--last time was the fascinating "how historical is Macbeth?" (answer--hardly at all! Did you know he had a strong claim to the throne both personally and through his non-psychopathic wife, slew Duncan in honest battle, and ruled well for years before being defeated in turn by Duncan, who was married to the marvelous queen and mama St. Margaret of Scotland?!) And we wrap up with an oral exam which she absolutely aced for the seven plays we read since August--it was one of those "God and I are rocking this homeschool" moments which help get through the doubt of self and kid which sometimes strikes.

Note to other home educators: the Barnes and Noble Shakespeare series is extraordinary: the full original text on one side, thorough explanatory notes on the other, and very affordable quality paperbacks. I am sad that even B and N employees push the No Fear version --trying to play on and increase people's fear--instead of this, which many big kids could handle especially when used in combination with listening to a good performance--the Arkangel series is particularly good and in many public libraries. I have continued listening to additional plays since we switched--five so far-- and my goal is to do all of them this year! The Jane books are a lot longer so I am glad we will have a four hour round trip south to make a lot of progress later in the month--definitely finish P and P and start whichever she wants to jump into next. She will see her BFF/male twin separated at birth in our old town and I will get in a couple days' retreat and see some friends, hopefully. She is a fanatic reader and writer of anime fanfiction, especially Naruto, and we are both excited about a Brave Writer class with that focus this summer.

5. Homeschool report pt. 2 If you are looking for excellent and affordable online classes for junior high and high school I totally recommend the North Dakota Center for Distance Education. She is finishing up the first term of World History and it's challenging because she seriously procrastinated on the research paper. She hates that kind of writing as much as she loves the fiction, which is why though I am a skilled and experienced writing teacher from my college and seminary professor gigs I am doing very limited instruction with her cause it's just no fun for either of us. She should be able to pull it off though because they have a well planned multi stage process for the paper and the teacher gave her very helpful feedback on the first draft. Only thing I need to do besides gentle reminders is finish jointly reading and discussing one of my favorite teaching texts, the short but fascinating autobiographical Passion of Perpetua and Felicitas--rocking African pregnant and nursing mother martyrs. It's providing the one actual book she is required to use with her online sources.

6. Cooking report: Really happy with my celebration dinner for Katie's purple belt in Tae Kwon Do on Friday: broccoli, cauliflower, and cheese soup--made especially fantastic with the large block of Tillamook extra sharp cheddar ComputerGuy got me for my birthday--banana nut muffins and bread, and salad. We will have a great dinner week with CG coaching Katie through my mom's chicken casserole Sunday, a farewell dinner for Nick at the other SIL and BIL's Monday, my coaching Nick through locro (super easy tasty Peruvian casserole) on Tuesday, and CG making bacon and mushroom quiche Wednesday followed by leftover quiche on Thursday. I got ground pork for an equally awesome chili verde for my next turn, which I'm grateful won't be till Friday since I aim to work hard formatting a prayer book for Kindle publication with the stretch goal of Lent availability, i.e. next week!

7. Health report: Lack of depression means back to light and healthy eating, which feels great. I also continue to love my 4-5x week kickboxing class with extraordinary instructors and sister students--it started as a trial by fire and continues to be very challenging in the couple month start up. So it felt amazing to come back from grabbing ankle weights today and be told by a couple of the long term excellent people that they were just talking about how great I am looking/doing ! Now that is established I just joined an LA Fitness to supplement and really take advantage of my informal sabbatical year (well, six months at this point). It was primarily for the pool which felt fantastic on Friday, but I also hope to slowly work up to a little running if my knees will cooperate and possibly try some classes and/or machines. It was a pricey initiation fee but worth it because the monthly rate is low and I can freeze it for the eight months next year I will be doing a scholar in residence fellowship at a rural Benedictine university. Then I can pick up again without the initiation fee in the area we hope to move to afterwards--there are eight locations and seven have racquetball courts, which means I might be able to talk DearSpouse into joining me cause we love to play together. I have been praying my way through many sessions and reflecting with great gratitude on how safe and sacred both my kickboxing dojang and the gym are: everyone pursuing their own call and striving for excellence, leadership supporting but not dominating, and warm community interaction when desired with space for those who prefer that. Just what church should be but doesn't always live up to!

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