Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Meditation by Metropolitan Philip Saliba


What shall I offer you on your birthday in return for your infinite love?

I have neither gold nor silver, neither myrrh nor frankincense.

My house is without a roof. I have no room for you; not even a manger.

My soul is even darker than the clouds of my passion.

My eyes are too dim to look beyond the horizon of myself.

Help me behold your bright star; "For in thy light we shall see light."


You have been knocking on my door for thirty-nine years, but I never dared let you in because my garment is not white as snow.

Forgive me if I do not invite you to my table, for my table is full of everything you despise. I have denied you more than Peter.

I have doubted you more than Thomas.

I have betrayed you more than Judas.

My hands are empty. My lips are not clean to sing your praise.

And my heart is wrinkled with sorrow like a withered leaf under autumn's wind.


The only thing I can offer you on your birthday is myself.

Drown me in the ocean of your love.

Feed me with your heavenly bread, for the bread of this world will never satisfy my hunger.

Quench my thirst with your divine fountain, for the water of this earth will never satisfy my thirst.

Give me your eyes to see what you see, your ears to hear what you hear and your heart to love what you love.

Take me with you to Mount Tabor and let me bathe in your eternal light.


"Create a clean heart in me. Cast me not away from Thy face. Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation, and strengthen me with a perfect spirit."

Teach me how to pray in simple words, for only through prayers I may overcome my loneliness.
Help me to care for the needy, the oppressed, the orphans, the sinners and the despised whom you love.

As I kneel before your manger with love and humility I beseech you to listen to my prayers.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas Edition of Getting to Know Your Friends

Okay, here's what you're supposed to do, and try not to be aSCROOGE!!! Just copy (not forward) this entire email and paste into anew e-mail that you can send. Change all the answers so that theyapply to you. Then send this to a whole bunch of people you know,INCLUDING the person that sent it to you......Tis the Season to be NICE!

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags??? brown paper lunch bags, stapled shut

2. Real tree or Artificial??? Artificial, alas. Real ones make me congested.

3. When do you put up the tree? The last few years since my mother died, its been later and later. I used to put it up on Thanksgiving weekend, but now it doesn't get done until mid-December.

4. When do you take the tree down? after January 7th.

5. Do you like egg nog?? Yes, I love it, even though I got a wicked hangover from Melvin's "special homemade" eggnog a couple of years ago. I think he "made" it in the bathtub.

6. Favorite gift received as a child? My annual box of 64 Crayola crayons

7. Do you have a nativity scene? Multiple ones!

8. Hardest person to buy for? My ex husband. Every year, including this one, I get him a DVD. DD just told me yesterday that he doesn't have a dvd player. Damn luddite.

9. Easiest person to buy for? DD - barnes and noble gift card does it for her

10. Mail or email Christmas cards?? I don't do cards of any type - never have. I will send email cards on occasion. friends and family who don't have an email address are out of luck.

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? I don't remember any, truthfully

12. Favorite Christmas movie? Hm.... I think its probably A Christmas Story or Miracle on 34th St. I almost wet my pants the first time I saw A Christmas Story.

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas?? When I can't avoid it anymore

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present??? Yes

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas??? Panettone and pizzelle

16. Clear lights or colored on the tree??? Clear lights that don't blink. The more the better. When I turn my tree on, there should be a brown out in my neighborhood, or I haven't don't it right.

17. Favorite Christmas song?? Most favorite is Lo, How A Rose Ere Blooming, and second favorite is O Holy Night in French

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? Home, but sometimes I think it would be fun to go somewhere unexpected, like Aruba or Lake Sunapee NH

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeers? No, but I can name all the Von Trapp children. There are seven of them. I can also name all the B Street children. Does that count?

20. Angel on the tree top or a star? I always have both. The tree is on the tippy top with an angel immediately below it

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning?? When I was a kid, we always opened them at night after midnight mass, but once I was a mother, I saw the wisdom of Christmas morning gift opening.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of year??? Office gift exchanges. Nuff said. Actually, I kinda think the whole gift giving thing is out of hand in our culture. I'm happy with just our Christmas stockings full of little things and candy.

23. Favorite ornament theme or color??? I've got enough ornaments to fill half a dozen trees, but I always start with red balls; sometimes they are red apples, sometimes they are two red balls, one dark red and shiny and the other bright red and satin, hung together. My favorite ornaments, though, are the ones that I've collected over the years to commemorate different places I' ve been, or events, or stages of DD's life, or pets. These ornaments tell the story of our life. I love the several grandmother and grandfather ornaments that I got for my parents. Now that my mother is gone, for the third year, I've gotten a pig with angel wings ornament. This year's pig is sparkly, with red lipstick! Mom collected little pigs because she was so grateful to have a porcine heart valve keeping her alive for many years.

24. Favorite for Christmas dinner??? My favorite Christmas dinner exists in my memory: chicken in wine, stuffed artichokes, ravioli, bracciola, salad, chocolate chestnut pizza. Nowadays, I prefer to keep things much more simple, esp since the ex visits over Christmas and I don't like to inflict him on guests

25. What do you want for Christmas this year? college tuition for DD

26. Person most likely to respond to this email? everyone responds to MOI

27. Who is least likely to respond to this? see number 26

Ok, tag! You're it!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Would you do it again?

Today I got an email from my "little" cousin Joe (his stage name is J. Maxx). That was a cause for rejoicing in itself because we don't really correspond much. Joe must be about 38 or so now, a grown up - imagine that! He married last December, so he's coming up on his first wedding anniversary, and he obviously was reflecting on that event, because here is what he sent me. He also sent it to his sister (Goddaughter #2), his female cousins that he grew up with and one of my first cousins. The photo above is of my seven sweethearts - my seven "little" cousins, and he sent the email to them and me and one of my other cousins that we are all very close with.

"Okay, ladies-Got a question for you (looking for honest answers here): if you could do it all over again, knowing what you know now, would you have kids? J. Max"

This is the reply that he got from his sister, Goddaughter #2, the lawyer - but I promise you, she's a NICE lawyer!:

"absolutely, no questions asked. My kids are the very, very best that has ever happened in my life. They bring me the most joy I've felt in my life. Of course there are days that you want to rip the hair out of your head, but that in no way even comes close to the love you feel.

It is the hardest and I mean the hardest job you will ever undertake and you have no idea how hard it is until you do it, but the rewards always outweigh the turmoil. LikeDina said, the first few months are so hard and because the baby can't tell you what's wrong it's very hard, but that time literally flies away and in no time it is a distant memory. Those first smiles, those hugs around your neck and the head that rests on your shoulder for comfort and support, you can't beat!!!"

Then I got this one from him:

Denise- I had your wrong e-mail address. Care to weigh in?

J. Max

I thought about it. Would I do it again? Would I be willing to do it again now, knowing all that went before? Here is my reply:

"Dear Joe,

I've been through a lot. When Jerry and I got married, I had dreams of the little house with the white picket fence, 2.2 children, a cat, a dog and a rosebush. Nothing special, just an ordinary, normal life. After the first year of marriage, we decided to try to have a baby. A year after that, I was 25 years old with a diagnosis of infertility. I was devastated. I mourned children I had never even had until I had Elisabeth in the 11th year of my marriage. By that time, I was 34 years old and felt my biological clock ticking... and remember, Jerry is 9 years older than me, so he was already in his mid 40s. I felt like the window for having a child was closing.

Then, miraculously, I was pregnant! Happy happy joy joy! But at 12 weeks, I was having a miscarriage. I'll spare you the gory details, but we really thought we had lost her. I remember sitting in the ER waiting for the infertilitiy specialist to show up to tell me that I was having a miscarriage, and I thought to myself.... at least I had the opportunity to be pregnant for a little while. At least I had the opportunity to have a doctor tell me I was pregnant, and I had the joy of telling my husband, and my mother, and my Auntie Anna. At least I had these experiences and it will have to be enough.

DD had other plans, though, and was born healthy. But you know the rest of the story - a 14 month old with cancer is pretty ugly. I really thought she would die during the surgery. I remember thinking, throughout that whole awful time, that at least I had the opportunity to know her and love her and nurse her and change her diapers, and nibble her toes for a little while, and a little while was a whole lot better than nothing. Then came the divorce and being a single mother which is pretty difficult. Add in two sick and elderly parents, death, nursing homes, never enough money, lost jobs..... life has been very hard. But the one consistent bright spot has been DD.

Now she is almost 18 and getting ready to fly the coop. She is a wonderful, wonderful young woman: kind, generous, understanding, sentimental, thoughtful, smart, funny, talented, beautiful inside and out. I couldn't ask for a more wonderful child. I'm so proud of her.

Was all that sorrow and pain and anguish worth it? Were the years that I spent on my knees begging God to let me be a mother worth it? Was the fear of screwing her life up worth it? The fear of her dying (I still have nightmares once in a while) worth it?

You bet it was worth it, Joe. Every second, every minute of every day was worth it, even the bad stuff. I'd do it all over again in a heartbeat, even at 52, even knowing all I know now that I sure didn't know then --- yes, I'd do it again. I'd have a whole houseful.

I have never felt such intense joy. I have never been so fulfilled. I have never been so challenged to mature and develop. My life has been so enriched. Watching your child grow and leading her in the way she should go has provided me with the most intense joy and fulfillment--- more than I could ever have dreamed of. I have grown so much. My faith has been strengthened - I *know* that God exits - I see the pattern of His love and care for me and for DD every day.

Go for it, Joe! You would make a fantastic father. I just know it!



You know, Joe was the most beautiful baby I think I've ever seen. He almost didn't make it - his mother was in a car accident and had him about two months early. He had a few problems, but he was the sweetest, most loving child. And brave! He was/is an actor/casting director in NY - I'm always amazed that he has the guts to get up in front of people like that. He was the only boy in the house - there were six girls. He learned to deal. All in all, he was an amazing kid, and now he's a wonderful man. His wife got very lucky when she met him.

And he would be a wonderful father. He would be patient and fun as a father, but he wouldn't be afraid to be strong enough to train his children the way they should go. He's got a lot of depth and a lot of class.

I don't know whether he and his new wife will have any children. I guess he doesn't know that yet himself. But, he'd be a great father. I just know it. And it would be worth it. Every minute of every day would be worth it. I really wanted him to know that.

Here is his reply, which just shows you how tenderhearted and loving he is:

Dear Denise- I am at work right now, and trying not to cry, as that was the most beautiful endorsement for parenthood I have ever read. If I am blessed with children, if I can be half the parent you are my children will be very lucky indeed. I love you and miss you. -Joe
J. Max

Oh ya, and he loves his big cousin Denise! The reason he loves me so much is because I gave him drums for Christmas when he was four. His mother still isn't talking to me! Grin.... that was BEFORE I was a mother of course!

Guess which one in the photo is Joe! And guess which one is Goddaughter #2 that I love so much and talk about all the time!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Autumn Reading Challenge: The Jesus Prayer - A Monk

This thin little book took forever to read - not because it was so difficult, but because I kept falling asleep. Now, don't think that the book bored me until I was comatose, because it was very interesting, but it was totally different from what I expected. I expected lots of how-tos regarding the Jesus Prayer and lots of mysticism. I would say the last 15 pages or so tackle the nitty gritty how-to of the Jesus Prayer. The rest of the book is an exposition of the history of the veneration of the name of Jesus. The monk author (Lev Gillett) starts with the names of God in the Old Testament, moves on to Jesus in the New Testament, and continues throughout history, showing the development of the prayer into its present form: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!

I don't think I'll be rereading this one, as interesting as it was. I need something on the more practical aspects of prayer, rather than the historical development of this prayer through time.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


What am I truly thankful for? On this day of national Thanksgiving, I wonder.... what am I thankful for?

1. That my daughter's cancer is still in remission and she is healthy
2. That she has grown into a thoughtful, intelligent, principled, kind young woman
3. That my father is still "himself" in a strange way, even though the Alzheimers has taken its terrible toll
4. My sister/cousins Rosanne and Ethel who I love and admire so very, very much, without whom I would have no one left to remember what it was like for us growing up
5. My family - my wonderful, crazy, loving, loud, raucous, opinionated, bossy family - which can be summed up in one word: B Street Kids. That includes Lisa with Olivia and Vanessa, Goddaughter #2 with Jeff, Jeffrey and Isabella, Andrea and Julia, Dina with Todd and baby George Anthony, Georgene and Erin, Joe and Sheilagh, Jen and Steve.
6. A long life with my mother, though I miss her so much
7. My church family who have become truly my family and who have brought so much in DD's and my lives, especially Uncle Ken and Auntie Janice, Baba and Papa, Joan, Cindy and FJ
8. In a weird way, I'm thankful for the last five years -- so much has happened, so much tragedy and angst, so much pain -- but still, I've learned so much that I wouldn't trade this terrible time
9. Noa perfume. I'm thankful for Noa.
10. That I had the opportunity to carry a child, to feel that child move within me, to give birth, to breastfeed that child - everything I wished for and dreamed of and prayed for came true.
11. That God made lobsters
12. That I've had so many opportunities to travel, to be exposed to great art and literature and music, to different cuisines, to meet new people. What a wonderful life I've had!
13. That God finally allowed me to be a mother, and to mother this particular child, who has been through so much but has emerged as a beautiful, deep, trustworthy young woman
14. That my ex and I have remained friendly for our daughter's sake
15. That here in the US, I have the freedom to express my opinion, worship God as I choose, vote as I see fit, pursue an education as I choose, and work as I choose. So far, my civil liberties are mostly intact. I pray that they remain so.
16. Gardenias, my favorite flower, and my grandmother's favorite flower as well. Whenever I see a gardenia, or smell its fragrance, so many memories are triggered. I'm thank for those memories of life and love with so many family members, all gone now...
17. My little house in RH. I love my little house, and I'm thankful that I was able to purchase it.
18. That I have had the opportunity to love a man deeply
19. Email. I'm thankful for email, without which I would have lost contact with so many friends and extended family members
20. Most of all, I am thankful for God's faithfulness to me, even when I was not faithful to Him, even when I railed against Him, even when I ignored Him, even when I blamed Him, even when I was utterly unloveable. How amazing His constant love for me is!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

On True Fasting

It is necessary, most of all, for one who is fasting to curb anger, to accustom himself to meekness and condescension, to have a contrite heart, to repulse impure thoughts and desires, to examine his conscience, to put his mind to the test and to verify what good has been done by us in this or any other week, and which deficiency we have corrected in ourselves in the present week. This is true fasting.

St. John Chrysostom

Friday, November 16, 2007

New Meme

On another note, Mimi at had an interesting Meme for bloggers that I’ll do. Here's how it works: I will answer some questions about you, if you want to play along.

1. Tell you why I friended you or put you on my Bloglines
2. Associate you with something - fandom, a song, a color, a photo, etc.
3. Tell you something I like about you.
4. Tell you a memory I have of you.
5. Ask something I've always wanted to know about you.
6. Tell you my favorite user pic photo of yours (or something about your avatar I like)
7. In return, you must post this in your blog.

That's it! So, if you want to play along, just leave a comment to this post and I will respond.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Three Quizzez

The Keys to Your Heart

You are attracted to good manners and elegance.
In love, you feel the most alive when your lover is creative and never lets you feel bored.
You'd like to your lover to think you are loyal and faithful... that you'll never change.

You would be forced to break up with someone who was emotional, moody, and difficult to please.
Your ideal relationship is open. Both of you can talk about everything... no secrets.
Your risk of cheating is zero. You care about society and morality. You would never break a commitment.
You think of marriage as something that will confine you. You are afraid of marriage.
In this moment, you think of love as something you thirst for. You'll do anything for love, but you won't fall for it easily.

You Have A Type A- Personality
You are one of the most balanced people around. Motivated and focused, you are good at getting what you want. You rule at success, but success doesn't rule you.
When it's playtime, you really know how to kick back. Whether it's hanging out with friends or doing something you love! You live life to the fullest - incorporating the best of both worlds">Do You Have a Type A Personality?

What Color Is Your Personality?

Your Results:
Blue Violet
Blue colors your world with emotion. You seldom jump right in, preferring to stand back and watch people and situations closely. Blue people are calm, but can also spiral into sadness. With so much emotion, tears of happiness, sadness, anger, or frustration are quite common.
View all LifeScript quizzes.
See how you rate against everyone else.
Email this quiz to a friend

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Uncle Ken

Two nights ago, dear daughter and I were talking about her boyfriend. For the record, I like The Boy Friend very much - I think he is a fine young man from a wonderful family, and I said so. We both remarked how much he reminds us of Uncle Ken, and then DD stated that if TBF turns into half the man that Uncle Ken is, he will be a fine man and she will have done very well. Then she got teary eyed and decided to tell Uncle Ken what she really thinks of him. She dialed and asked for Uncle Ken and she told him exactly that. He was touched, and little embarassed. He didn't know quite what to say. They chatted a little bit, he gave her advice about life and boys, they said they loved each other and they hung up.

What is unusual here is that Uncle Ken is not her uncle at all. He is a family friend. In fact, we haven't known him all that long - we met him our first Sunday at St. Mary's on November 16th, 1997 - just ten years ago. I clearly remember driving home from that first liturgy with my then 7-year-old DD, talking about our new parish and the nice people we met that day, and she kept talking about Uncle Ken and Auntie Janice. I didn't have a clue who she was talking about, and had to wait for Wednesday night vespers to find out. It was the subdeacon and his wife, and they seemed like really nice people, but Uncle and Aunt???? It was obvious, though, that DD and they instantly hit it off and felt sympatico. The next week they invited my family, including my elderly parents, to their home for Thanksgiving, where we met Uncle Ken's father and mother and youngest sister, and were instantly adopted by the whole family.

But this is not the main point of this story. A year or two later, DD was acting up a little bit, and I was having a hard time figuring out how best to handle her. I was getting advice from all sides and my head was spinning. One Saturday evening after vespers, Uncle Ken came to me and said that he knew I have having a hard time with DD, and that if I didn't mind, he would like to give me his opinion. I told him go ahead, because by that time I already knew that he was going to give his opinion one way or the other - one of the things I so love about him! He said that since the ex lived a continent away, he felt that DD needed a strong man in her life beyond her elderly grandfather who was more like a playmate than a father figure. He felt that need was part of what she was going through, and that he loved her as if she was his own, as did his wife, and he volunteered to be that man. In fact, he said that it was a life-long committment for him, one which he and his wife had discussed, and that they would be honored if I would accept this offer. Wow. I bawled my head off to think that somewhere in the world there are people who are so kind and so generous. I accepted. From that point forward, Uncle Ken has been wonderful, as have all of his family.

Now, what is amazing to me is that DD recognizes how rare it is to find a man and a family like that, and she is grateful, as am I. In the intervening years, Uncle Ken and Auntie Janice have added K to their family, who is DD's little sister and my niece. K hasn't quite noticed that although they are sisters, they don't have the same parents, though they do share Uncle Ken's parents as grandparents. Its hilarious sometimes, the way that K mimics DD.

So, the other night, DD recognized that Uncle Ken is a rare, rare man, and if her future husband is half the man that he is, she will have done well for herself, indeed.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Which Movie Star Are You?

Which Movie Star Are You?

Don't miss this if you need some fun!

Ever wonder which movie star you are most like? Well ~ A team of researchers got together and analyzed the personalities of movie stars. The gathered info has been incorporated into this quiz. There are only 10 questions so it doesn't take long. Number your paper from 1 to 10, then answer each question with the choice that most describes you *at this point in your life*, and then add up the points that correspond with your answers. Send this to all of your friends (including person who sent it to you ) with your star's name in the subject line.... And don't be a butt and ruin the fun by not responding ... Now, don't look ahead or you will ruin the fun!

1. Which describes your perfect date? a) Candlelight dinner for two b) Amusement Park c) Roller blading in the park d) Rock Concert e) Have dinner & see a movie f) Dinner at home with a loved one

2. What is your favorite type of music? a) Rock and Roll b) Alternative c) Soft Rock d) Classical e) Christian f) Jazz

3. What is your favorite type of movie? a) Comedy b) Horror c) Musical d) Romance e) Documentary f) Mystery

4. Which of the following jobs would you choose if you were given only these choices? a) Waiter/Waitress b) Sports Player c) Teacher d) Policeman e) Bartender f) Business person

5. Which would you rather do if you had an hour to waste? a) Work out b) Make out c) Watch TV d) Listen to the radio e) Sleep f) Read

6. Of the following colors, which do you like best? a) Yellow b) White c) Sky blue d) Teal e) Gold f) Red

7. Which one of the following would you like to eat right now? a) Ice cream b) Pizza c) Sushi d) Pasta e) Salad f) Lobster Tail

8. Which is your favorite holiday? a) Halloween b) Christmas c) New Year's d) Valentine's Day e) Thanksgiving f) Fourth of July

9 If you could go to any of the following places, which would it be? a) Reno b) Spain c) Las Vegas d) Hawaii e) Hollywood f) British Columbia

10. Of the following, who would you rather spend time with? a) Someone who is smart b) Someone with good looks c) Someone who is a party animal d) Someone who has fun all the time e) Someone who is very emotional f) Someone who is fun to be with

Now total up your points on each question:

1 a-4 b-2 c-5 d-1 e-3 f-6

2. a-2 b-1 c-4 d-5 e-3 f-6

3. a-2 b-1 c-3 d-4 e-5 f-6

4. a-4 b-5 c-3 d-2 e-1 f-6

5. a-5 b-4 c-2 d-1 e-3 f-6

6. a-1 b-5 c-3 d-2 e-4 f-6

7. a-3 b-2 c-1 d-4 e-5 f-6

8. a-1 b-3 c-2 d-4 e-5 f-6

9. a-4 b-5 c-1 d-4 e-3 f-6

10. a-5 b-2 c-1 d-3 e-4 f-6

NOW, take your total and find out which Movie Star you are:

(10-17 points) You are MADONNA: You are wild and crazy and you know it. You know how to have fun, but you may take it to extremes. You know what you are doing though, and are much in control of your own life. People don't always see things your way, but that doesn't mean that you should do away with your beliefs. Try to remember that your wild spirit can lead to hurting yourself and others.

(18-26 points) You are DORIS DAY:You are fun, friendly, and popular! You are a real crowd pleaser. You have probably been out on the town your share of times,yet you come home with the values that your mother taught you. Marriage and children are very important to you, but only after you have fun. Don't let the people you please influence you to stray.

(27-34 points) You are DEBBIE REYNOLDS: You are cute, and everyone loves you. You are a best friend that no one takes the chance of losing. You never hurt feelings and seldom have your own feelings hurt. Life is a breeze. You are witty, and calm most of the time. Just keep clear of back stabbers, and you are worry-free.

(35-42 points) You are GRACE KELLY: You are a lover. Romance, flowers, and wine are all you need to enjoy yourself You are serious about all commitments and are a family person. You call your Mom every Sunday, and never forget a Birthday. Don't let your passion for romance get confused with the real thing.

(43-50 points) You are KATHARINE HEPBURN: You are smart, a real thinker. Every situation is approached with a plan. You are very healthy in mind and body. You don't take crap from anyone. You have only a couple of individuals that you consider "real friends". You teach strong family values. Keep your feet planted in them, but don't overlook a bad situation when it does happen.

(51-60 points) You are ELIZABETH TAYLOR: Everyone is in awe of you. You know what you want and how to get it. You have more friends than you know what to do with. Your word is your bond. Everyone knows when you say something it is money in the bank.You attract the opposite sex. Your intelligence overwhelms most. Your memory is the next thing to photographic. Everyone admires you because you are so considerate and lovable. You know how to enjoy life and treat people right.

Now put your Movie Star in the subject line, then forward and share with your friends, including the person who sent it to you - PLEASE! I want to know who you are!!

So..... I got this from DD's godmother, Matushka Elizabeth Sylvia - she is Grace Kelly, as is Xenia, one of my best buds and DD's evil auntie. Diane is Doris Day. Mimi is Katharine Hepburn... Lyne is Grace Kelly. Paula is Grace Kelly. And *I* am Katharine Hepburn.

Let me know who you are!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Autumn Reading Challenge: Mr. Darcy's Daughters by Elizabeth Aston

This book was a good, but not great, read. I guess I expected the same richness of character found in the original by Jane Austen, but alas, it was not to be. The plot line was again a convoluted seriocomedy of manners and commentary on the social mores of the day - a la Austen - with overtones of modernity. Don't get me wrong; I did enjoy reading it, but its not a must-read and certainly not a re-read. There are another couple in the series, but I think I'll pass on them for now. Maybe next summer when I need some light summer reading.....

Dear daughter is reading it now; after that, Edie will read it. I'll post their comments soon.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Update to Autumn Reading Challenge

I really want to read We Shall See Him as He Is, but its way too expensive to buy right now, and I don't know anyone I can borrow it from, so regretfully, I am replacing that selection with something else.....

I'm going to choose between these two:

Abbess Thaisia, An Autobiography


The Ascetic of Love by Nun Gavrilia

Saturday, September 29, 2007

I'm worth $5775.00

I got this from a blog that I read regularly, Papa Herman's blog, which you can see a.

$5775.00The Cadaver Calculator - Find out how much your body is worth.

100% Free Personals from JustSayHi

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Autumn Reading Challenge

Kathleen over at Rock Creek Rumblings has an Autumn Reading Challenge which I've decided to join. The point is to be more intentional in reading. I've been trying to do that for the past year or so, and perhaps joining this challenge for the months of September, October and November help.

I'm keeping my list very short since I'm a whole month late starting, this is the first time I've done the Reading Challenge, and because I don't have much time to read anymore. I'll do my best, though.

Here's my list:

Mr. Darcy's Daughters - a birthday gift from dear daughter. I have to finish this one quick because she wants to read it, then Edie wants to read it, then Carla wants to read it.... It picks up the Pride and Prejudice story 20 years later. So far, its a good read.

The Jesus Prayer - a Monk. "To pronounce the name of Jesus in a holy way is an all-sufficient and surpassing aim for any human life...We are to call to mind Jesus Christ until the name of the Lord penetrates our heart, descends to its very depths...The Name of Jesus, once it hs become the center of our life, brings everything together."

We Shall See Him as He Is, a spiritual autobiography of Fr. Sophrony. I got this suggestion from Deb's blog, Deb on the Run. Here is what Amazon says of this book - who could resist reading it: Book Description¿Now at the close of my life I have decided to talk to my brethren of things I would not have ventured to utter earlier, counting it unseemly.¿¿ Thus wrote Archimandrite Sophrony, then ninety-two years old, in We Shall See Him as He Is, his spiritual autobiography. In this book Fr. Sophrony, one of the most beloved orthodox Christian elders of our times, revealed to the world his own experience of union with God, and the path to that union. drawing near to God with intense love and longing accompanied by struggle, self-emptying and searing repentance, Fr. Sophrony was granted to participate in the life of God Himself through His uncreated Energies. Like orthodox saints throughout the centuries, he experienced God¿s grace as an ineffable, uncreated Light. It was in this Light that Christ was transfigured on Mount Tabor before His Apostles, and it is in this Light that we shall see Him as He is (I John 3:2). Born into a russian orthodox family in Moscow in 1896, Archimandrite Sophrony embarked on a successful career as a painter in Paris. There he delved into Eastern religions for a time, before repenting bitterly of this and returning to the faith of his childhood. After a brief period of theological study in Paris, he left for the ancient orthodox monastic republic of Mount Athos in Greece, where he spent fifteen years in a monastery and a further seven as a hermit ¿in the desert.¿ on Mount Athos he became the spiritual son of a simple monk of holy life, Elder Silouan. It was under the guidance of Saint Silouan that Fr. Sophrony experienced divine illumination, knowing God intimately as Personal Absolute¿as the one Who revealed Himself to the Prophet Moses as ¿I AM¿ and Who became incarnate as man in Jesus Christ. In 1959, Fr. Sophrony founded the Monastic Community of St. John the Baptist in Essex, England, which has since become a major orthodox spiritual center for all of Western Europe. Elder Sophrony reposed in 1993, at the age of 97.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Julia's Survey

Best Survey
Name:: Denise
Birthday:: September 14, long before you!
Birthplace:: Everett, MA
Where you live now:: Georgia
Hair color:: salt and pepper, but it used to be very dark reddish brown
Eye color:: Brown.
Height:: 5'2.
Your biggest pet peeve:: People with a victim mentality
Your biggest flaw:: How much time you have?
Pepsi or coke:: Pepsi.
Water or Gatorade:: Water.
Do you smoke:: No. Not since 1976
Do you drink:: Very occasionally
Do you club:: No
Do you swear:: Too much.
Do you do drugs:: Only the kind the doctor gives me
Do you want to go to the military:: Never. No matter what.
Do you want to go to college:: I did and I did.
Do you want to get married:: BTDT
Do you want to have kids:: I did and I did have just one
Do you know how to dress:: Sometimes I need help with my zipper in the back
Do you think that you are attractive:: No, not any more
Are you moody:: Moi? Is the Pope Catholic?
Do you like rainy days:: Yes, I love them.
Can you cook a decent meal:: I'm a great cook

Ever been......
Beat up:: yes. Those Izzicupos were AWFUL. If you got in a fight with one of them, they all took a turn, even RICHARD! So of course, yes, I've been beat up. I mean, 1 against 4. What do you think?
Fired:: Nope.
Dumped:: Oh yeah. By Joe Wathen.
Hired:: Yup.
Lied to:: Bill Thompson
Cheated on:: Bill Thompson
Shot:: No, but I do know how to shoot!
High:: Oh geez.. on what?
Deathly sick:: Yes.
Depressed:: Am I breathing?
Homesick:: See Depressed
Locked up:: NO! But I do spend most of my time with felons nowadays
On a real date:: Yes

In the past month have you....
Been shopping:: Food shopping? Ya!
Been on a date:: Does Cindy count?
Been to the movies:: Yes.
Been to a party:: No
Written a song:: No
Been cheated on:: Only by Cindy now that she's back at school.
Are you a virgin:: Oh geez.
Gay/Straight/Bi:: Straight, except for Julie Andrews
Single or taken:: Single.

Your favorite...
Food:: Thai, Indian, Vietnamese
Drink:: Ice water
Car:: One with McDreamy AND McSteamy nekkid in the back seat
Place:: San Francisco
Color:: Unknown - no favorite
Show:: Hell's Kitchen
Store:: Point me towards a big bookstore, preferably used, like Powell's or Bell's
Movie:: Toss up between My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Moonstruck
Artist:: John Singer Sargent
Feature on a guy/girl:: honor, integrity, strength --- guys, give me something that I can actually respect!
Number of piercings:: four
Number of tatoos:: I'll let you see me naked and you count, ok? Didn't think so.
glasses/contacts/neither:: Glasses.
Love or money:: Love
Quiet or loud:: Quiet most of the time
Country or city:: Country, but near a very artsy fartsy cosmopolitan city

Ever been on the toilet and on the phone:: Can you say, "Ethel?"
Ever accidently peed in your sleep:: Hm.... I don't think so.
Ever get up in the middle of the night for a snack:: Ya
Ever wake up on the wrong side of the bed:: Figuratively or literally?
Do you wish you were a different gender:: Only in my work life
Do you believe in God:: Yes
Ever split a nail:: Yes

Did you like this survey:: Yes. I love these things.

Take this survey Find more surveysBzoink - The Original Survey Site

Sunday, August 19, 2007

What Color Crayon Am I?

Stolen from Meg's blog which I faithfully read here:

You Are a Red Crayon

Your world is colored with bright, vivid, wild colors.
You have a deep, complex personality - and you are always expressing something about yourself.
Bold and dominant, you are a natural leader. You have an energy that is intense... and sometimes overwhelming.
Your reaction to everything tends to be strong. You are the master of love-hate relationships.

Your color wheel opposite is green. Green people are way too mellow to understand what drives your energy.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Another one.....

001. Name? Denise Babineau Norman
002. DOB? I'd have to kill you. Suffice it to say that I could be your mother. But I'm a Virgo.
003. Eye color? Brown
004. Hair color? used to be dark reddish brown, but now its salt and pepper
005. Height? 5'2"

006. Country? I'd like to eat my way through the Mediterranean countries
007. Food? Um.... Thai
008. Movie? Moonstruck, The Quiet Man, My Big Fat Greek Wedding
Drink? Ice water
010. Animal? Puppies and kittens
011. Color? This is the most annoying question! For the record, every color has its beauty
012. Song? Psalm 134 by Ippolitov-Ivanov; Rejoice O Virgin - Rachmaninoff; Lord's Prayer - Kedrov Sr (in Slavonic); Annunciation Kontakion (To Thee our Champion) old Antiochian melody; Unto the Mother of God - Arkhangelsky......
013. Sport? Figure skating
014. Jewel? Pearls, sapphire
015. Subject? Liturature
016. Best thing that happened to you in the last few years? My church family
017. Do you want to get married? BTDT and once is enough for anyone
018. Kids? Got one already - too old in every possible way for another
019. Best place to go on a date? Stay home, eat dinner, listen to music, talk, cuddle
020. What is your dream? To be debt-free
021. What do you want to do when you grow up? I'm still not sure.... an iconographer
022. Play an instrument? used to play all brass instruments, particularly french horn, but its been a long time. Can play guitar some and piano a little. Sing a lot.
023. Ever danced barefoot in the rain? Oh, yes!
024. Friend you have known the longest? Hm.... well Keith is dead, so other than the exhusband, I'm going with Ellen.
025. Best friend(s)? Ellen, Joan, Cindy and Fudgie
026. Friend that makes you laugh the most? My cousin/sister Ethel!
027. Friend who you can talk to anything about? See #25, but mostly Fudgie
028. Friend with the best personality? Life is not a contest, as I used to tell goddaughter number five

Best? Opinions/ Thoughts
029. Abortion? Wrong
030. Gay rights? Right
031. Violence in the media? Wrong
032. Michael Jackson? REALLY wrong
033. Aids? We need to find a cure, and fast, before someone I love dies

034. Ever travelled anywhere? Across America, to Canada, to Mexico and to the Caribbean
035. What country do you want to visit? Anywhere in the Mediterranean, Russia, Japan
036. What state do you want to visit? California. I miss it. I'm homesick.
037. Do you want to live in a foriegn country? Maybe
038. Where do you want to live when you're older? In a male monastery muahahahahaha

Final Questions.....
039. Do you remember your dreams? Sometimes
040. Do you believe that there is such a thing as soulmates? Not in the usual romance novel definition, but yes, there are people with whom you are utterly attuned. So, yes
041. Do you believe in love at first sight? I believe in like and lust at first sight, but not love. Love is a verb - you have to give it time
042. What was your favorite childhood toy? My kewpie doll named Guadalupe
043. Thoughts on life??? Pollyanna and I both say that there is good in every situation if you look for it
044. If you were stuck on an island who would you want with you? A fairy godmother with a lot of books

Friday, August 10, 2007

Three by Frost and a Fourth


The day's coming
when I will no longer consider
my mere presence inexpiable.
I will place my hand in that flame
and feel nothing.
I will ask nobody's forgiveness again.
Or I will just go
among people no more --
I may writhe with
remorse in the night, but
the operation must be
undertaken by
me, anesthesialess.
No one must be asked to relinquish
a grievance that can't be removed
without further destruction,
it may be
it is lodged in who he is now
like a bullet in a brain
whose removal might only worsen its change.
The forgiveness! I know it
will be freely offered
or it won't, and that is all --
and no one may bestow it
on himself.
If it is to come
it will come of itself like a separate
a mystery, working
unseen as a wind causes still
leaves or water to move once again.
And hide me in the shadow of Your wings.
Let the heart be moved again.

by Franz Wright


Where had I heard this wind before
Change like this to a deeper roar?
What would it take my standing there for,
Holding open a restive door,
Looking down hill to a frothy shore?
Summer was past and the day was past.
Sombre clouds in the west were massed.
Out on the porch's sagging floor,
Leaves got up in a coil and hissed,
Blindly striking at my knee and missed.
Something sinister in the tone
Told me my secret may be known:
Word I was in the house alone
Somehow must have gotten abroad,
Word I was in my life alone,
Word I had no one left but God.

by Robert Frost

Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

by Robert Frost

Desert Places

Snow falling and night falling fast, oh, fast
In a field I looked into going past,
And the ground almost covered smooth in snow,
But a few weeds and stubble showing last.

The woods around it have it--it is theirs.
All animals are smothered in their lairs.
I am too absent-spirited to count;
The loneliness includes me unawares.

And lonely as it is that loneliness
Will be more lonely ere it will be less--
A blanker whiteness of benighted snow
With no expression, nothing to express.

They cannot scare me with their empty spaces
Between stars--on stars where no human race is.
I have it in me so much nearer home
To scare myself with my own desert places.

by Robert Frost

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

St. Anna, Grandmothers and the Cloud of Witnesses

I was listening this morning to a podcast of Khouriye Frederica Mathewes-Green talking with Ihumen Athanasiy, the pastor of the ROCOR church which has a miraculously weeping icon of St. Anna. Their brief conversation brought me to tears. To listen to the podcast on Ancient Faith Radio, look for the podcast of July 19th here.

The icon began to exude myrrh three years ago on American Mother's Day. Within three days, the entire back of the icon was totally soaked with sweet smelling myrrh. St. Anna had always been active in Fr. Athanasiy's life, beginning with when his broken arm was annointed with oil blessed in honor of St. Anna in a RC parish by his own mother, named Anna. He always had a special devotion to St. Anna since a child because of this. Eventually, he asked the nuns at the Mt. of Olives paint the icon of St. Anna about 12 years ago.

Many women were cured from the myrrh from the icon. Eventually, the icon began to cry, in addition to streaming myrrh. Many miracles: Russian boy cured from cancer; a baby dead in utero came back to life after annointing with the myrrh; many barren women have conceived; whereever she goes, she brings peace and love.

Fr. Athanasiy said: "She *is* the grandmother of Christ, and when we Russians say Babushka, Baba, you know with Baba, what Mom and Dad won't give you, Baba gives you... This is the grandmother of Christ. This is our grandmother. " I was immediately filled with the image of my own grandmother, and then, quickly, of Dorothy, who has given so much to my daughter. Without her unconditional love for my daughter, there would be no grandmother in her life to love and teach her. How blessed we are to have Dorothy - both of us - but especially Elisabeth. I had been thinking recently that as soon as I'm done with my commissions, I would paint an icon of St. Dorothy of Kashin, her patron saint, for her, but now I'm thinking that maybe an icon of St. Anna, the grandmother of Christ, might be a better choice....

We should ask her to intercede for us and not be afraid to ask her to. About saints interceding for us, Fr. Athanasiy said: "It says, 'The Lord is wonderful in His saints" doesn't it? The saints are God's holy people. WE are called to be saints... We have become part of God's holy people, and there are people that we identify with because sometimes they've fought the good fight and have gone through the things that we've suffered and we identify with the Church Triumphant. Those are the saints..... and they are not nobodies, they're somebodies and part of the human race...We say to these people that we know.... that have gone before us: I pray thee, speak a good word to Jesus for me, and they do. " I think I've been neglecting the saints... not only my own patroness, but all of them. Not neglecting, really, but not incorporating the reality of their existence on earth and in heaven into my own prayer life. Hm.... that's not really what I mean..... Maybe this is more accurate: not truly understanding or believing in their desire and ability to assist me in my own little portion of the world, in my own struggles, and instead, blindly trudging ahead on my own because, after all, I do know best, don't I? Sigh.

He went on to talk about the Theotokos: "We say in the service when we read the Gospel to the Mother of God, '....Yea, blessed are they that hear the Word of God and keep it.' Who, amongst all of humanity has kept the Word of God better than the Mother of God? She is humanities 'YES!' to God. She is the new Eve. She is 'Eva' spelled backwards: Ave... she is our Yes... She leads us - God chose her. He could have said, 'Here I Am" but he chose one of us. She is not to be put aside, either.... I've put her aside in my life, ignoring her example and her love for me, just as I've done the same thing with Christ. Spiritual laziness is what it is. Or maybe, just not wanting to give up my fascination with me long enough to look at where I'm going.... WHO I'm walking towards.... Selfishness. On my name day, Annunciation, every year I say YES again in my heart and rededicate myself, and this year was no different, but then as the days pass, I forget that and get caught up in the minutinae of everyday life with me me me me me. That's who I really worship. Me. That's who I spend time with every day - Me. That's who I love most - Me. That's where my treasure is - Me. Sigh. All my prayers have to do with ME, MY wants, MY needs, MY complaints, MY emotions. No wonder I can't hear anything He says - I'm always the one doing the talking, and I'm talking about my favorite subject: Me. Where is the gratitude? Where is the love? Where is the submission to His plan for me?

Near the end of the podcast, Fredericka said: "When we speak to the Lord, we are never speaking to Him in isolation. All the saints and everyone is standing around and we can be speaking and pleading with Him and we can say, 'Mary, help me out here....'" and Fr. Athanaisy responded: "In the scripture, we are surrounded by a choir of witnesses. We are rich, because everyone who has fought the good fight is part of us. We have a claim to their friendship, if we want it. All of heaven is ours because we are baptized in the church. I hadn't thought in these terms before. No matter how isolated I may feel, no matter how my groanings are prompted by my feelings of solitariness.... I am never alone, am I? I believe this intellectually, but somehow I'm not comforted by it. I must not truly 'get it'. Not internally. In a way, that's what practising iconography does for me - that's what the pull is for me - I connect with the person that I'm painting and the person I'm painting it for. I feel at peace and loving and loved. Sometimes I talk to the saint.... I guess that's praying. Maybe. Its so... grounding is the best word, I guess. Connected. I'd hate to give it up.

Who knew that when I clicked on a podcast about a weeping icon today, that I'd find all of this?

Monday, August 06, 2007

In the Month of the Theotokos

The Theotokos is my patroness, my mother. Dormition Fast is when I'm reminded of that. I realize that I don't call on her enough, and don't rely on her to intercede for me and mine.

Sometimes I wonder about her.... she was a woman, after all. A normal human woman, who found herself in extraordinary circumstances, and responded wholeheartedly, and without looking back, to God. But sometimes I wonder what her life was like, what she truly felt. Did she miss a normal family life? From the age of three, she lived in the temple, so even as a toddler, she didnt' have a normal family life. Did she ever wonder about having a normal marriage? I guess miraculously giving birth to your own creator must be so mindboggling and humbling that everything else is burnt out of your mind and heart. Every passion, every desire.

A long time ago, I read that she was very quiet, seldom laughed or smiled, and seldom spoke, yet she was filled with love for everyone, and everyone was filled with love for her as well. I have a hard time hearing myself over the cacophony of my own thoughts.

Sometimes I think that maybe I should adopt another Mary as a second patroness, or another female saint. Or even a male saint. Sometimes I think that maybe I need someone I can understand better, like Mary of Egypt, or Mary Magdalene, or Mary, the sister of Lazarus, or Maria Skobtsova. Or how about St. John Maximovitch?

No, I'll stay with Mary the Theotokos, who chose me herself. My mother said that she used to pray all the time to her because she wanted a baby so much, and when she was finally pregnant with me, picked only a boy's name. But when they showed me to her, she was inspired and said my name was Denise Marie after the Virgin Mary. Mom believed that the Theotokos chose me, and I do too.

I'm nothing like her. But she is mine and I am hers just the same. Its always been that way. I need to do better. I'm going to try harder.


O most holy Theotokos, O only Lady who art utterly pure in both soul and body, look upon me, abominable and unclean as I am, who have blackened my soul and body with the stains of my passionate and gluttonous life.

Cleanse my passionate mind; set aright my blind and wandering thoughts and make them incorrupt; bring my senses to order and guide them; free me from my evil and repulsive addiction to unclean prejudices and passions which torment me; stop every sin that works in me.

Grant my clouded and wretched mind the sobriety and discernment to correct my intentions and failings that, freed from the darkness of sin, I might be worthy to boldly glorify and praise thee, O only true Mother of the true Light, Christ our God; for all creation, visible and invisible, blesses and glorifies thee, both with Him and in Him.


(From the SPIRITUAL PSALTER of St. Ephraim the Syrian; publ. by The St. John of Kronstadt Press)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

I fear 9 out of 70 common fears

If you get more than 30 you're

If you get 10 or less you're fearless.

People who don't have any
are dummies who want people
to think they are tough stuff.

I Fear...

[] the dark
[] staying single forever
[] being a parent (or a bad one when it happens)
[] giving birth
[] being myself in front of others
[] open spaces
[] closed spaces
[] heights
[] cats
[] dogs
[x] birds
[] fish
[] spiders
[] driving or being in cars
[] flying
[] flowers or other plants
[] being touched
[] fire
[] deep water
[] the ocean
[X] failure
[x] success
[] thunder/lightning
[] frogs/toads
[] my boyfriends/girlfriends dad
[] my boyfriends/girlfriends mom
[x] mice/rats
[x] jumping from high places
[] snow
[] rain
[] wind
[] crossing hanging bridges
[] death
[] Heaven
[X] being robbed
[] cotton balls
[] cemeteries at night
[] clowns
[] large crowds
[] men
[] women
[] having great responsibility
[] doctors
[] tornadoes/hurricanes
[] diseases
[] snakes
[x] sharks
[] Friday the 13th
[] ghosts
[] poverty
[] Halloween
[] school
[] trains or railroads
[] odd numbers
[] even numbers
[] being alone at night
[] being blind
[] being deaf
[] growing up
[] monsters under my bed
[x] creepy noises in the night
[] bee stings
[] bees
[] not accomplishing my dreams/goals
[] needles
[] blood ( not my own)
[] dinosaurs
[] the welcome mat
[] feet!
[] having your heart broken
[] being rejected
[] whales
[] your mom
[] your dad
[X] rapists
[] gay people

post it with the subject:
i fear __ out of 70 common fears

Friday, May 25, 2007

A Book Meme! My two favorites in one!

Got this from Elizabeth over at The Garden Window. Loving books and memes the way I do, how could I resist?

Look at the list of books below:

* Bold the ones you’ve read,
* Italicize the ones you want to read
* Leave blank the ones that you aren’t interested in.

1. The DaVinci Code (Dan Brown)
2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
3. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
5. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien)
6. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)
7. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien)
8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
10. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling)
12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)
14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
16. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Rowling)
17. Fall on Your Knees (Ann-Marie MacDonald)
18. The Stand (Stephen King)
19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Rowling)
20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
21. The Hobbit (Tolkien)
22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
26. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
28. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)
29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
30. Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom)
31. Dune (Frank Herbert)
32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
34. 1984 (Orwell)
35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
38. I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb)
39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
45. The Bible
46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)
47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
48. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)
49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
50. She’s Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
52. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)
53. Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)
54. Great Expectations (Dickens)
55. The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)
56. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)
58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
59. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
60. The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrew Niffenegger)
61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
63. War and Peace (Tolstoy)
64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)
65. Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)
66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
67. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (Ann Brashares)
68. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
69. Les Miserables (Hugo) unabridged, thank you very much!
70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery) in French and in English!
71. Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding)
72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez)
73. Shogun (James Clavell)
74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
76. The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
78. The World According to Garp (John Irving)
79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
80. Charlotte's Web (E.B. White)
81. Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
82. Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck)
83. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
84. Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
85. Emma (Jane Austen)
86. Watership Down(Richard Adams)
87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
88. The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
89. Blindness (Jose Saramago)
90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
91. In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)
92. Lord of the Flies (Golding)
93. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
100. Ulysses (James Joyce) completely unintelligible, but I read it

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Standing Women

Dear Ones,

I have decided that I am going to do this. I am going to stand for five minutes in silence to save the world at 1 pm on May 13th. I invite you to do the same.

Go here for more information.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

What kind of nerd am I?

What Be Your Nerd Type?
Your Result: Musician

Doo doo de doo waaaa doo de doo! (<-- That's you playing something.) Everyone appreciates the band/orchestra geeks and the pretty voices. Whether you sing in the choir, participate in a school/local band, or sit at home writing music, you contribute a joy to society that everyone can agree on. Yay! Welcome to actually doing something for poor, pathetic human souls. (Just kidding.)

Literature Nerd
Artistic Nerd
Drama Nerd
Social Nerd
Science/Math Nerd
Gamer/Computer Nerd
Anime Nerd
What Be Your Nerd Type?
Quizzes for MySpace

Orthodox Saints Meme

From Elizabeth:

1. Name four of your favourite Saints.
2. Name one who was well on the way to sanctity, is widely venerated already and very likely to be made a Saint in due course.
3. Name one who isn't yet publicly declared a saint but probably should be made a Saint.

Here we go!

1a. the Theotokos, my patroness
b. St. John of San Francisco
c. St. Sophia
d. I have about 10 more and I can't whittle it down.... its like cutting off one of my arms: St. Joseph the Betrothed, Mother Maria Skobtsova, St. Mary Magdalene, St. Mary of Egypt, St. John of Damascus, St. Elizabeth, St. Nina of Georgia....

2. Blessed Olga of Alaska

3. Metropolitan Leonty Turkevich, Aristidi Chacho

Friday, April 27, 2007


Wednesday, April 25th, was my father's 91st birthday. Last month, I made arrangements to take that day off so that I could bring him a birthday party at the nursing home, like I did last year. Last week, Uncle Len said that he was going to drive up from Florida on the 25th to visit Dad.

When we got there, Dad was sitting in a jerry chair, though not strapped in. He was sitting with one foot on the seat and resting his head on one hand. He looked forlorn. He had no clue who we were, and he spoke mostly gibberish, though it sounded like he was really saying something. He was freshly showered and shaved, and even his nails were clean and neatly trimmed. They take good care of him there.

When I hugged him and kissed him and told him that I loved him, he said, "That's nice." I don't know if he understood what I was saying, but he knew I was there for him and that I was saying something nice and that I said it with a lot of feeling.

Then we pushed him around some and eventually went into the activity room where we had a little party. He loved the cake and ate two pieces. I fed it to him and he absolutely loved it. He was like a baby bird with his mouth open for more.

It was hard to get him to look at any of us, but eventually I got him to look into my eyes and I told him again that I loved him and made gestures to show him what I meant, and for a split second, he understood, and he knew me. He said "You are the head one that came from me!" And that made him happy for a minute. Me too. Francine and Uncle Len were kind of weepy, as was I.

Uncle Len tried to get him talking, using different languages, and Dad did respond, using some words, but all in all, his speech was random. It seemed that he thought he was saying stuff, though.

When we left, Uncle Len and I hugged, and I got into my car. Life does seem to be series of goodbyes. I felt sad and weepy as I always do when I visit my father. And as I always do, I pray specifically for him when I drive home. This time, though, I remembered something I had read in the Diary of a Russian Priest about shortening a prayer rule to just the three main prayers, prayed three times. So, I started with that.... I had a hard time attending and focussing on the Lord's Prayer the first time through, but on the second time, I realized something that I should have known all along -- its a corporate prayer, not a private one! "OUR" Father, not MY father. OUR Father. The Father of us all. The one who created mankind is Our Father. The Author of life itself is Our Father. I don't have an earthly father anymore, not really, but I do have a father don't I?

Since then, I've been turning over the Lord's Prayer in mind every spare minute. Its fascinating, really. Why was it translated exactly the way it was?

Try rewriting it in more colloquial language, or with more amplification:

Father, Creator of everyone and everything, who is in Heaven, that unknowable place, your name itself is holy...

Our Father implies not only sonship, but brotherhood with the people who make up the "our", so you could say, Creator of everyone and everything, through whom we humans are all connected, the source of community and brotherhood.....

And when Jesus was asked how we should pray, this is what he said. He told us to pray corporately, not privately, not for ourselves alone, but for and with everyone.

Its fascinating, really.

I've been thinking a lot about fathers this week. For a minute, I had mine back. It was good. But I really miss him. I wish I could visit him more often. Maybe the new Alzheimers care facility just 7 miles away from my home will work out for him, and then he'll be nearby so I could drop by a few times a week for a few minutes. And bring him ice cream.
He LOVES ice cream.

Happy Birthday, Dad. I love you.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Prayers by the Lake #41

by St. Nikolai of Ochrid & Zica

With fasting I gladden my hope in You, my Lord, Who are to come again.

Fasting hastens my preparation for Your coming, the sole expectation of my days and nights.

Fasting makes my body thinner, so that what remains can more easily shine with the spirit.

While waiting for You, I wish neither to nourish myself with blood nor to take life--so that the animals may sense the joy of my expectation.

But truly, abstaining from food will not save me. Even if I were to eat only the sand from the lake, You would not come to me, unless the fasting penetrated deeper into my soul.

I have come to know through my prayer, that bodily fasting is more a symbol of true fasting, very beneficial for someone who has only just begun to hope in You, and nevertheless very difficult for someone who merely practices it.

Therefore I have brought fasting into my soul to purge her of many impudent fiancé's and to prepare her for You like a virgin.

And I have brought fasting into my mind, to expel from it all daydreams about worldly matters and to demolish all the air castles, fabricated from those daydreams.

I have brought fasting into my mind, so that it might jettison the world and prepare to receive Your Wisdom. And I have brought fasting into my heart, so that by means of it my heart might quell all passions and worldly selfishness.

I have brought fasting into my heart, so that heavenly peace might ineffably reign over my heart, when Your stormy Spirit encounters it.

I prescribe fasting for my tongue, to break itself of the habit of idle chatter and to speak reservedly only those words that clear the way for You to come.

And I have imposed fasting on my worries so that it may blow them all away before itself like the wind that blows away the mist, lest they stand like dense fog between me and You, and lest they turn my gaze back to the world.

And fasting has brought into my soul tranquility in the face of uncreated and created realms, and humility towards men and creatures. And it has instilled in me courage, the likes of which I never knew when I was armed with every sort of worldly weapon.

What was my hope before I began to fast except merely another story told by others, which passed from mouth to mouth? The story told by others about salvation through prayer and fasting became my own.

False fasting accompanies false hope, just as no fasting accompanies hopelessness. But just as a wheel follows behind a wheel, so true fasting follows true hope.

Help me to fast joyfully and to hope joyously, for You, my Most Joyful Feast, are drawing near to me with Your radiant smile.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

I got tagged!

This is from my friend Kathy at church:

1.What is your occupation? Mother, choir director, iconographer, workforce development professional

2.What color are your socks right now? Socks? I don't DO socks. The last time I wore hose of any sort was a year ago Thanksgiving when I was home in Boston.

3.What are you listening to right now? The clatter of the keys on my keyboard and Poochie snoring

4.What is the last thing you ate? Lunch: Lidya's lentil soup, half a bagel and a yogurt

5.Can you drive a stick shift? Yes, but its ugly!

6.If you were a crayon, what color would you be? I can never answer this question - every color has its beauty!

7.Last person you spoke to on the phone? Elisabeth's Baba Dorothy

8.Do you like the person who sent this to you? Absolutely!

9.How old are you today? 51

10.Favorite nonalcoholic Drink? ice water

11.What is your favorite sport to watch? Figure skating, but its not as much fun to watch alone as it was with my mother

12.Have you ever dyed your hair? Oh yes! And Cat dyed my hair as well - first fire engine red, then purple. I mean, aubergine. Yes, aubergine. After that, I decided to wash away the gray myself with Copper Penny, until my white streak in my bangs turned pink.

14.Pets? Puccini, the fat and spoiled shih tzu and Maggie, the spoiled tabby

15.Favorite food? Lobster, chocolate, Thai, Indian, stuffed artichokes, my grandmother's gravy

16.What was the last movie you watched? I re-watched two movies the other night: The 40 Year Old Virgin and Bride and Prejudice.

17.Favorite month of the year? Not a favorite month per se, but I love fall.

18.What do you do to vent anger? Blog

19.What was your favorite toy as a child? Guadalupe

20.What is your favorite season? see #17

22.Cherries or Blueberries? blueberries

23 email you back? Yes

24.Who is most likely to respond? Not respond? To MOI?????

25.Who is least likely to respond? See #24

26.Living arrangements? I live with a lazy, demented dog, a spoiled evil cat who hates me with a virulent and painful passion, and my 17 year old dear daughter. Somebody help me!

27.When was the last time you cried? Yesterday

28.What is on the floor of your closet? Shoes, clothes hamper, clothes, water color paper, art portfolio, jar of loose change

29. The friend you have had the longest that you are sending this to? Ellen

30.What did you do last night? dozed on the sofa and then read

31.Favorite smell? bread baking, freshly bathed babies, puppies mouths, KL perfume (alas, no longer made), Bill's neck

32.What inspires you? Beauty. God is Beauty.

33.What are you afraid of? Success

34.Plain,cheese or spicy hamburgers? Yes

36.Favorite dog breed? Small couch potato lap dogs

37.Number of keys on your key ring? 1 car key, 1 house key, 1 rental house key, 2 church keys

38.How many years at your current job? Current job with GA DOL since August, 2006

39.Favorite day of the week? Sunday afternoons

40.What states have you lived in? MA, NH, CA, GA and Mexico

41.Favorite holiday? Pascha (Easter)

42. Ever driven a Motorcycle or heavy machinery? I've ridden on a mortorcycle, but never driven one. I have driven a huge truck and earth moving equipment.

43.Who's your favorite NFL team? What is NFL? Does it has to do with figure skating?

44. Do you have a house phone that is NOT cordless? no

45. 10 inches of snow or 100 degree weather? Neither. They both are unbearable.

Now you know your friends better! Make their day and do something you now know they would like!

Sunday, February 11, 2007


Beatrice Elena Cieri Babineau
March 13, 1919 - February 11, 2005

It has been two years since my mother died. Today, it has been two years. I keep replaying that last day in my head, that last day that I knew would her last day. I remember everything.

After two years, the constancy of the pain has ended. Now, there is only pain when I remember that I will never see her again, or smell her, or talk with her, or hear her voice, or touch her, and that is every single day. But its not constant. There are periods of every day when I'm busy doing something else, or reading, or painting, when I don't remember that my mother is dead.

Sometimes when I remember her, I remember good things and laugh. I tell stories about her to people. Once in a while, I do or say something very Bea-like and my daughter laughs and tells me that I'm channeling her. We laugh together over remembrances about Mom a lot.

But underneath it all, the forever of death is sharp and painful and neverending.

I read Sheila's blog yesterday, and she wrote: "I miss my mother all the time; it only hurts when I think about it, so I try not to think about it too much." I understand. I miss my mother too, and I miss her mother as well. Love is strong - it won't allow itself to be severed - so you go on loving but with nowhere to actually "put" that love, because the person is gone.

When Adam and Eve were thrown out of Paradise, they were told that the results of their sin would cause them to live by the sweat of their brow and to bear children in pain. That pain is not physical labor pains, I don't think, not at all. That pain is knowing that death and separation are inevitable, and you will be separated from those you love the most. You will die and those you love will die.

The biggest pain is this: Whatever I'm feeling, the pain and loss and loneliness and separation, my death will inflict on my daughter. Deep sigh.

Today, as is the Orthodox custom, my parish will serve a memorial service for my mother following liturgy. The words of the prayers are so beautiful -- I pray them for my mother regularly:

O God of spirits and of all flesh, who has trampled down Death and overthrown the devil, and given life to the world; Do Thou, the same Lord, give rest to the soul of Thy departed handmaid, Beatrice, in a place of brightness, a place of verdure, a place of repose, where all sickness, sorrow and sighing have fled away. Pardon every transgression which she has committed, whether by word, or deed, or thought. For Thou art a good God and lovest mankind; because there is no man who lives and sins not: for Thou only art without sin, and Thy righteousness is to all eternity, and Thy word is truth.

Give rest with the just, O our Saviour, to Thy handmaid, Beatrice, and establish her in Thy courts as it is written; not regarding her sins, as Thou art good, whether voluntary or involuntary, and all things commmitted in knowledge or in ignorance, O Thou who lovest mankind.

With the saints give rest, O Lord, to the soul of Thy handmaid, Beatrice, where there is neither sickness, nor sorrow, nor sighing, but life everlasting.

Thou only art immortal, who has created and fashioned man. For out of the earth were we mortals made, and unto the earth shall we return again, as Thou did command when Thou made me, saying: For earth thou art, and unto the earth shalt thou return. Wither also all we mortals wend our way, making our funeral dirge the song: Alleluia!

Give rest O Lord, to the soul of Thy handmaid Beatrice, departed this life.

With the spirits of the Righteous made perfect, give rest to the soul of Thy handmaid, Beatrice, O Lord, and preserve her in that life of blessedness which is with Thee, O Thou who lovest mankind. In the place of Thy rest, O Lord, where all Thy saints repose, give rest also to the soul of Thy handmaid, Beatrice, O Lord, for Thou only lovest mankind.

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.

Thou art God who descended into hell and loosed the bonds of the captives: Do Thou also give rest to the soul of Thy handmaid, Beatrice, O Lord.

Now and Ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

O Virgin alone pure and undefiled, who without seed brought forth God, pray that her soul may be saved.


Saturday, January 20, 2007

Do Not Resent, Do Not React, Keep Inner Stillness

by Fr. Jonah - St. John of Shanghai Monastery
OCF College Conference
January 11, 2007
College Conference Booklet

When I was in seminary I had the great blessing of becoming the spiritual son of a Greek bishop, Bishop Kallistos of Xelon. He ended his life as the bishop of Denver of the Greek Archdiocese. It was he who taught me the Jesus Prayer. The whole spiritual vision of Bishop Kallistos had three very simple points:

Do not resent. Do not react. Keep inner stillness.

These three spiritual principles, or disciplines, are really a summation of the Philokalia, the collection of Orthodox Christian spiritual wisdom. And they are disciplines every single one of us can practice, no matter where we are in life - whether we´re in the monastery or in school; whether we´re housewives or retired; whether we´ve got a job or we´ve got little kids to run
after. If we can hold on to and exercise these three principles, we will be able to go deeper and deeper in our spiritual life.

Do Not Resent
When we look at all the inner clutter that is in our lives, hearts and souls, what do we find? We find resentments. We find remembrance of wrongs. We find self-justifications. We find these in ourselves because of pride. It is pride that makes us hold on to our justifications for our continued anger against other people. And it is hurt pride, or vainglory, which feeds our envy and jealousy. Envy and jealousy lead to resentment.

Resentfulness leads to a host of problems. The more resentful we are of other people, the more depressed we become. And the more we are consumed with the desire to have what they have, which is avarice. Often we´ll then engage in the addictive use of the substance of the material world - whether it´s food or alcohol or drugs or sex or some other thing - to medicate ourselves into forgetfulness and to distract ourselves from our resentments.

One of the most valuable and important things that we can thus do is look at all of the resentments that we have. And one of the best ways of accomplishing this is to make a life confession. And not just once, before we´re baptized or chrismated. In the course of our spiritual life we may make several, in order to really dig in to our past and look at these resentments that we bear against other people. This will enable us to do the difficult work that it takes to overcome these resentments through forgiveness.

What does forgiveness mean? Forgiveness does not mean excusing or justifying the actions of somebody. For example, saying "Oh, he abused me but that´s O.K., that´s just his nature," or "I deserved it." No, if somebody abused you that was a sin against you. But when we hold resentments, when we hold anger and bitterness within ourselves against those who have abused us in some way, we take their abuse and we continue it against ourselves. We have to stop that cycle. Most likely that person has long gone and long forgotten us, forgotten that we even existed. But maybe not. Maybe it was a parent or someone else close, which makes the resentment all the more bitter. But for the sake of our own soul and for the sake of our own peace, we need to forgive. We should not justify the action, but we should overlook the action and see that there´s a person there who is struggling with sin. We should see that the person
we have resented, the person we need to forgive, is no different than we are, that they sin just like we do and we sin just like they do.

Of course, it helps if the person whom we resent, the person who offended us or abused us in some way, asks forgiveness of us. But we can´t wait for this. And we can´t hold on to our resentments even after outwardly saying we´ve forgiven. Think of the Lord´s Prayer: "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." If we don´t forgive, we can´t even pray the Lord´s Prayer without condemning ourselves. It´s not that God condemns
us. We condemn ourselves by refusing to forgive. We will never have peace if we don´t forgive, only resentment. It is one of the hardest things to do, and our culture does not understand it. It is to look at the person we need to forgive, and to love them - despite how they may have sinned against us. Their sin is their sin, and they have to deal with it themselves. But we sin is in
our reaction against their sin.

Do Not React
So this first spiritual principle - do not resent - leads to the second. We must learn to not react. This is just a corrollary of "turn the other cheek." When somebody says something hurtful, or somebody does something hurtful, what is it that´s being hurt? It´s our ego. Nobody can truly hurt us. They might cause some physical pain, or emotional pain. They might even kill our
body. But nobody can hurt our true selves. We have to take responsibility for our own reactions. Then we can control our reactions.

There are a number of different levels to this principle. On the most blatant level, if someone hits you don´t hit them back. Turn the other cheek - that ´s the Lord´s teaching. Now, this is hard enough. But there is a deeper level still. Because if somebody hits you, and you don´t hit them back - but you resent them, and you bear anger and hatred and bitterness against them, you´ ve still lost. You have still sinned. You have still broken your relationship with God, because you bear that anger in your heart. One of the things which is so difficult to come to terms with is the reality that when we bear anger and resentment and bitterness in our hearts, we erect barriers to God´s grace within ourselves. It´s not that God stops giving us His grace. It´s that we say, "No. I don´t want it." What is His grace? It is His love, His mercy, His compassion, His activity in our lives. The holy Fathers tell us that each and every human person who has ever been born on this earth bears the image of God undistorted within themselves. In our Tradition there is no such thing as fallen nature. There are fallen persons, but not fallen nature. The implication of this truth is that we have no excuses for our sins. We are responsible for our sins, for the choices we make. We are responsible for our actions, and our reactions. "The devil made me do it" is no excuse, because the devil has no more power over us than we give him. This is hard to accept, because it is really convenient to blame the devil. It is also really convenient to blame the other person, or our past. But, it is also a lie. Our choices are our own.

On an even deeper level, this spiritual principle - do not react - teaches us that we need to learn to not react to thoughts. One of the fundamental aspects of this is inner watchfulness. This might seem like a daunting task, considering how many thoughts we have. However, our watchfulness does not need to be focused on our thoughts. Our watchfulness needs to be focused on God. We need to maintain the conscious awareness of God´s presence. If we can maintain the conscious awareness of His presence, our thoughts will have no power over us. We can, to paraphrase St. Benedict, dash our thoughts against the presence of God. This is a very ancient patristic teaching. We focus our attention on the remembrance of God. If we can do that, we will begin to contol our troubling thoughts. Our reactions are about our thoughts. After all, if
someone says something nasty to us, how are we reacting? We react first through our thinking, our thoughts. Perhaps we´re habitually accustomed to just lashing out after taking offense with some kind of nasty response of our own. But keeping watch over our minds so that we maintain that living communion with God leaves no room for distracting thoughts. It leaves plenty of room if we decide we need to think something through intentionally in the presence of God.
But as soon as we engage in something hateful, we close God out. And the converse is true - as long as we maintain our connection to God, we won´t be capable of engaging in something hateful. We won´t react.

Keep Inner Stillness
The second principle, the second essential foundation of our spiritual life - do not react - leads to the third. This third principle is the practice of inner stillness. The use of the Jesus Prayer is an extremely valuable tool for this. But the Jesus Prayer is a means, not an end. It is a means for
entering into deeper and deeper conscious communion. It´s a means for us to acquire and maintain the awareness of the presence of God. The prayer developed within the tradition of hesychasm, in the desert and on the Holy Mountain. But hesychasm is not only about the Jesus Prayer. It is about inner stillness and silence.

Inner stillness is not merely emptiness. It is a focus on the awareness of the presence of God in the depths of our heart. One of the essential things we have to constantly remember is that God is not out there someplace. He´s not just in the box on the altar. It may be the dwelling place of His glory. But God is everywhere. And God dwells in the depths of our hearts. When we can
come to that awareness of God dwelling in the depths of our hearts, and keep our attention focused in that core, thoughts vanish.

How do we do this? In order to enter in to deep stillness, we have to have a lot of our issues resolved. We have to have a lot of our anger and bitterness and resentments resolved. We have to forgive. If we don´t we´re not going to get into stillness, because the moment we try our inner turmoil is going to come vomiting out. This is good - painful, but good. Because when we try to enter into stillness and we begin to see the darkness that is lurking in our souls, we can then begin to deal with it. It distracts us from trying to be quiet, from trying to say the Jesus Prayer, but that´s just part of the process. And it takes time.

The Fathers talk about three levels of prayer. The first level is oral prayer, where we´re saying the prayer with our lips. We may use a prayer rope, saying "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me," or whatever form we use. The next level is mental prayer, where we´re saying the prayer in our mind. Prayer of the mind - with the Jesus Prayer, with prayer book prayers, with liturgical prayers -keeps our minds focused and helps to integrate us, so that our lips and our mind are in the same place and doing the same thing. We all know that we can be standing in church, or standing at prayer, and we may be mouthing the words with our lips but our mind is thinking about the grocery list. The second level of prayer overcomes this problem, but it is not the final level.

The final level of prayer is prayer of the heart, or spiritual prayer. It is here where we encounter God, in the depths of our soul. Here we open the eye of our attention, with the intention of being present to God who is present within us. This is the key and the core of the whole process of spiritual growth and transformation.

II. So how do we do this?

The Prayer of Stillness
The foundation of the spiritual process is learning to keep inner silence, the prayer of stillness. On the basis of this, we gain insight into how to stop resenting and to stop reacting. Then the process goes deeper and deeper, rooting out our deeply buried resentments and passions, memories of hurt and sin, so that the silence penetrates our whole being. Then we can begin to
think clearly, and to attain towards purity of heart.

Before beginning this process, it is important to have an established relationship with a spiritual guide, a father confessor or spiritual mother, to help you. Confession is a central part of the spiritual life, and things that come up in prayer, as well as resolving resentments and other issues, are part of that. It is also valuable to expose obsessive or sinful thoughts to your confessor. Simply exposing them deprives them of their power. We always need to be accompanied on the journey within. Prayer is always a corporate action, leading to the transcendence of our individual isolation into a state of communion with God and the Other.

The Jesus Prayer, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner," or some form of it, can be used as a vehicle to help us bring our attention into a prayerful state. The Jesus Prayer states the intention of our prayer, and we use it first verbally and then mentally until it goes beyond word and thought and becomes pure intention in deep silence.

A prayer rope is very helpful to get started, not so much as to count prayers, but to keep the physical level of attention. We say one prayer on each knot, going round and round the rope, until our attention is focused in prayer. Then we can stop moving around the rope, and be still. The rope is not important in and of itself; one can pray just as well without it. It is an aid. Another aid is to follow your breath. What is important is not to get caught up in technique, but to pray.

The Prayer can be said standing, kneeling or sitting. If one is ill, lying down is acceptable; but it is hard to preserve focused attention while lying down. Prayer is not relaxation. It may relax you, but that is not the point. Posture is important to help keep your attention focused. If you´re sitting, it helps to keep your back straight and your shoulders back. One can also be prostrate on the ground, but it takes practice to let go of the physical distractions.

In beginning to pray, remember that God is "everywhere present and filling all things." In prayer, you make yourself present to God. Open your mind and heart, your awareness of God, so that the sense of God´s Presence fills your consciousness. At first, we may not have a sense of God´s Presence. But the more disciplined our practice of prayer, the more that conscious awareness of God will fill our mind and heart. This is not an image, a thought "that" God is present (though this is a place to start), or a feeling or physical sensation. It is simply an awareness. This is the beginning of spiritual consciousness, where our awareness moves from the head to the heart, and from God as an object to a sense of being rapt in God´s Presence.

How to Enter the Prayer of Stillness
In short, sit down and collect yourself, and remember that God is present. Say the Trisagion Prayers if you wish. Breathe in slowly and deeply a couple of times, following your breath to the center of your chest. Begin to say the Jesus Prayer quietly, slowly, until you have a sense of God´s Presence. Then let the Jesus Prayer trail off, and go into silence. Thoughts will come,
but simply let them go by. Don´t let them grab your attention. But if they do, gently dismiss them and bring your focus back to God´s Presence, perhaps using the Jesus Prayer to reestablish your intention to pray. Go deeper within yourself, below the thoughts, into the deeper stillness and awareness of Presence, and simply abide there.

The period of prayer should start out with a few minutes, and may entirely be occupied at first with the Jesus Prayer. Eventually, over a period of weeks or months, as you begin to master keeping your attention focused and dismissing thoughts, let it expand up to twenty or thirty minutes. Two periods of prayer, early in the morning and early in the evening are an excellent

Surrender and Detachment
The Prayer of Stillness is a process of inner surrender to the Presence and activity of God within yourself. Surrender your thoughts, feelings, emotions, ideas, agendas, plans, images and submit them to the Divine Presence. This is surrender of the ego, and the enkindling of our spiritual awareness. We stop our ego and its thoughts from distracting our attention, and permit God´
s energy to work within to heal our souls. This is a kind of active and willful passivity, so that God becomes the active partner in prayer.

It becomes obvious that we cannot hold any kind of rancor or resentment, lust or passion, in our minds while trying to enter into silence. In fact, all our attachments to things, people, concepts and ideas have to be surrendered during silent prayer, and thus, they are brought into perspective. The more we connect with God in prayer, the more detached we become. It is a
necessity if we are going to progress in prayer and in communion with God. All things that are obstacles to our living communion fall away, if we let them. The key, of course, is to surrender them and let them go.

The Emptying of the Subconscious
One critically important process that occurs is the emptying of the subconscious. After we have gotten to a point of stillness, over a period of days or weeks, we will be flooded by memories of past hurts, sins, resentments, images and sensations, and wrongs done to us. At first, we feel like we make progress in the prayer, and it is nice and peaceful. Then, with the flood of
memories, we feel like we are going backwards. This is progress! It is the beginning of the process of the purification of our soul. It is extremely unpleasant, at times, but the key is to not allow ourselves to react. These memories have been suppressed, and are now coming to awareness so that they can be dealt with. This purification is already the action of grace illumining your soul.

During prayer, make a mental note of the memory or sin, and then take it to confession. Sometimes these memories and the feelings connected with them can be overwhelming. This is why accompaniment on the spiritual journey is so important. You need someone who can encourage and reassure you, as well as help you resolve the issues that come to awareness, and forgive your sins. It is extremely distressing when suppressed memories of abuse and violent
emotions come up. It can not only be confusing, but it can dominate our consciousness. We have to deal with these issues, as they come up, in order to be purified and open ourselves to God. This means working through forgiveness, accepting forgiveness, and forgiving ourselves and God.

The Imagination
Another thing that comes up is images, which play on our mind and imagination. There are two main levels here: first, the memory images we have seen that are connected with our passions; the second, images from our imagination. All the images we have ever seen are stored in our brain. They range from the face of our mother from our infancy,and other joyful images, to
pornographic and violent images or those who have hurt us. These images are especially
powerful if they are attached to some kind of passionate act, of lust or anger. They can be a strong distraction from awareness of God. What is important is to remember that these are just thoughts, memories, and we can dismiss them. They have no power over us that we do not give them. The task is to get beneath them, and let them go, and eventually take them to confession.
The second level of images is what is produced by the imagination. We quiet down, and start to pray, and go into all sorts of imaginal realms, populated by angels, demons, and any and everything else. Many people take this as spiritual vision. But it is not. It is the realm of delusion, and there is nothing spiritual about it. This is especially dangerous if one has a past
with hallucinogens and other psychotropic drugs. The task is, first, to stay with the Jesus Prayer. Then, after much practice, go into silence and be absolutely resolute to allow no images, even of Jesus or the saints, into one´s mind during prayer. The imagination is still part of the mind, not the spirit (nous). Even icons are not to be contemplated in an objective sense,
bringing the image into the mind. As St John Chrysostom wrote, somewhere, When you pray before your icons, light a candle and then close your eyes! The icon is a sacrament of the Presence.

Spiritual work is very serious business. If we do not work through the issues that arise in a healthy way, they can literally drive us crazy. It takes a deep commitment to the spiritual process, so as not to be distracted by the emptying of our subconscious, and led into despondency or despair. The task is to persevere, and let the process take its course. This means confessing our thoughts and resolving our resentments, and receiving absolution of our sins. Eventually, it works itself through, though it may take months or years to do so. As Metropolitan Anthony Bloom said, somewhere, when it gets too heavy, sit back and have a cup of tea! God is going to be there; it is we who have to work through our issues so we can be present to Him.

Dealing with Resentments
Resentment and reaction are deeply interrelated. Resentment is an impassioned reaction, based on a judgment of a person (or the self), where our passions are ignited. Resentment is a reaction which we hold within ourselves, and allow ourselves to nurture. It comes from and feeds off our passions, from judgment of others. Resentment is judgment and objectification of a person
according to his actions which have offended us.

The real key to resolving resentment is to realize that it is not the other person who is causing it, but that it is our own reaction. The actions of the other person may have precipitated the reaction, his words or deeds, his sin; but the reaction to those sins, words or deeds is purely our own. We can only control what belongs to us; we cannot control another person. It is our decision to allow ourselves to be possessed by our passions and reactions, or to take control over our own lives. It is our decision to take responsibility for our own reactions, or to allow ourselves to be caught in the vicious cycle of blaming the other person, in resentment and self-righteousness.

Blame and resentment lead nowhere, except to bitterness and unhappiness. They make us into helpless victims, which in turn robs us of the power to take responsibility for ourselves.

Resentment comes when we refuse to forgive someone, justifying ourselves by our self-righteous indignation at being hurt. Some of these hurts can be very deep: abuse, abandonment, betrayal, rejection. Sometimes they can be very petty. We keep turning the hurt over and over in our minds, and refuse let it go by justifying our anger. Then we feel justified in hating or
despising the person who hurt us. Doing this, we continue to beat ourselves up with someone else´s sin, and compound the other person´s sin by our own resentfulness. We blind ourselves to our own sin, and focus only on the sin of the other, and in so doing, we lose all perspective.

We have to put things into perspective, and realize that the other person´s actions are only part of the equation, and that our own reaction is entirely our own sin. To do this, we have to move towards forgiveness. To forgive does not mean to justify the other person´s sin. It does not
mean that we absolve the other person-not hold them responsible for their sin. Rather, we acknowledge that they have sinned and that it hurt us. But what do we do with that hurt? If we resent, we turn it against ourselves. But if we forgive, we accept the person for who he is, not according to his actions; we drop our judgment of the person. We realize that he is a sinner just
like me. If I am aware of my own sins, I can never judge anyone. We can begin to love him as we love ourselves, and excuse his falling short as we forgive ourselves. It helps when the person who hurt us asks for forgiveness, but it is not necessary. We must always forgive: not only because God forgave us; but also because we hurt ourselves by refusing to forgive.

Our resentments can also be extremely petty. Sometimes we resent because we cannot control or manipulate someone to behave according to our expectations. We become resentful of our own frustration, where the other really had nothing to do with it. All our expectations of other people are projections of our own self-centeredness. If we can let other people simply be who they are, and rejoice in that, then we will have tremendous peace!

We have to be watchful over ourselves, so that we do not allow ourselves to project our expectations on others, or allow resentment to grow within us. This kind of awareness, watchfulness, is nurtured by the practice of cutting off our thoughts and practicing inner stillness. By this, we practice cutting off our reactions, which all start with thoughts. We can come to see what is our own reaction, and what belongs to the other.

Eventually, we see that our judgment of the other is really about ourselves, our own actions, words, attitudes and temptations, which we see reflected in the other person. To face this means to face our own hypocrisy, and to change. If we judge and condemn someone for the same sins, thoughts, words and deeds that we have ourselves, then we are hypocrites. We must repent from our hypocrisy. This is real repentance: to recognize and acknowledge our own sin, and turn away from it towards God and towards our neighbor.

We have to see how our sins distract us from loving our neighbor, and from loving God. Our love of our brother is the criterion of our love of God. St John tells us, How can we love God whom we have not seen, if we can´t love our neighbor whom we can? If you say that you love God and hate your brother, you are a liar. If we love God, then we will forgive our neighbor, as God
has also forgiven us.

The conscious awareness of our own reactions and judgments, of our attachment to our passions of anger and our own will, is the first level of spiritual awareness and watchfulness. We have to move beyond self-centeredness (oblivious to others), to becoming self-aware, aware of our own inner processes through watching our thoughts and reactions.

Repentance and Confession
Awareness of our sins and hypocrisy, our short comings and falls, leads us to repentance and the transformation of our life. Repentance, conversion, the transformation of our mind and our life, is the core of the Christian life. Repentance does not mean to beat ourselves up for our sins, or to dwell in a state of guilt and morose self-condemnation. Rather, it means to confront our sins, and reject and renounce them, and confess them, trying not to do them again.

What this does is, that to the extent we renounce and confess our sins, they no longer generate thoughts, which accuse us or spur passionate reactions. Sometimes we have to confess things several times, because we only repent of, or are even conscious of, aspects of the sin. Things that make us feel guilty, provoke our conscience, or that we know are acts of disobedience all
should be confessed. We have to train our conscience, not by memorizing lists of sins, but by becoming aware of what breaks our relationship with God and other people. We need to be conscious of God´s presence, and realize what distracts us from it. These things are sins. Of course, we are experts at deluding ourselves, when we really want to do something, and we know that it is not blessable.

Confession is not only Christ´s first gift to the Church, the authority to forgive sins in His Name; but is one of the most important means of healing our souls. Sins are not sins because they are listed in a book somewhere. They are sins because they break our relationship with God, other people, and distort our true self. Sins are sins because they hurt us and other people. We need to heal that hurt, and revealing the act or thought or attitude takes away the shame that keeps it concealed, and prevents healing. We need to confess the things that we are the most ashamed of, the secret sins which we know are betrayals of our true self. If we don´t confess them, they fester and generate all sorts of despondency, depression and guilt, shame and despair. The result of that is that we identify ourselves with our sins. For example, same-sex attraction becomes gay identity. Failure in some area becomes a general self-identification with being a failure.

What is critically important is that we are not our sins, thoughts or actions. These things happen, we sin, have bad thoughts and do wicked and evil things. But we are not our thoughts or actions. Repentance means to stop and renounce not only the actions, but to renounce the identity that goes with it. Thoughts are going to come. But we can learn, through practicing inner stillness, to let our thoughts go. They will still be there, but we can learn to not react to them, and eventually, simply to ignore them.

The process of purifying our self is hard and painful, at first; but becomes the source of great joy. The more we confess, honestly and nakedly, the more we open ourselves to God´s grace, and the lighter we feel. Truly the angels in heaven (and the priest standing before you bearing witness to the confession) rejoice immensely when a person truly repents and confesses their sins, no matter how dark and heinous. There is no sin so grievous that it cannot be forgiven. NOTHING! The only sin not forgiven is thinking that God cannot forgive our sin. He forgives. We have to forgive our self, and accept His forgiveness.

Preparing for confession is an important process. It means to take stock of our life, and to recognize where we have fallen, and that we need to repent. The following should help to prepare for confession, but it is not a laundry list. Rather, it should help to spur our memory, so that we can bring things to consciousness that we have forgotten. It is more of an examination
of conscience.

The Passions: Gluttony, lust, avarice; anger, envy, despondency; vainglory, pride.

The Commandments: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself.

Loving God
Do I love God? Do I really believe in God, or just go through the motions?

Do I pray, and when I do, do I connect, or is it just mechanical? Do I rush through prayers, Scripture readings, and spiritual literature? Do I seek the will of God in all things? Do I rebel against what I know to be God´s will, and the Christian life? Do I try to be obedient, and constantly surrender my life to God?

Do I go to church, go to confession and communion regularly, keep the fasts?

Do I try to be conscious of God´s Presence, or not?

Do I try to sanctify my life? Or do I give in to temptation easily? Thoughtlessly?

Loving our Neighbor
How do I treat the people around me? Do I allow myself to judge, criticize, gossip about or condemn my neighbor? Do I put people down? Do I look for their faults? Do I condescend and talk down to others?

Do I treat others with kindness, gentleness, patience? Or am I mean, rough and nasty? Do I try to control others, manipulate others?

Do I regard others with love and compassion?

Do I bear anger or resentments against others? Hatred, bitterness, scorn?

Do I use and objectify others for my own pleasure or advantage? For sex, for profit, or for anything else which de-personalizes him/her?

Do I envy and bear jealousy towards my neighbor? Do I take pleasure in his

Do I act thoughtlessly, oblivious to the feelings or conscience of the other? Do I lead my neighbor into temptation intentionally? Do I mock him or make fun of him?

Do I honor the commitments I have made? Marriage vows? Monastic vows? Do I honor my parents? Am I faithful in my relationships? Do I have stability in my commitments?

Am I conscious of how my words and actions affect others?

Have I stolen anything, abused or hurt anyone? Have I committed adultery?

Have I injured or killed someone?

Do I covet other people´s things? Do I lust after possessions or money?

Does my life revolve around making money and buying things?

Loving Our Selves
How am I self-centered, egotistical, self-referenced?

Do I take care of myself, physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually? Am I obsessed about my self, my image, my appearance, my desires and agenda?

Do I indulge in laziness? Do I get despondent, depressed, despairing?

Do I beat myself up, indulge in self-hatred or self-pity? Do I injure myself? Do I have low self-esteem, or think myself worthless?

Do I blame other people for my reactions? Do I feel myself a victim? Do I take responsibility for my own reactions and behaviors?

Do I engage in addictive behaviors, abusing alcohol, food, drugs, sex, pornography, masturbation? How do I try to console myself when I´m feeling down?

Do I have anger and resentment, rage, and other strong emotions and passions suppressed within me? Do I act out on them? How do they affect my behavior? Can I control them or do I abuse other people?

Am I conscious of how my words affect people?

How am I a hypocrite? Can I face my own hypocrisy? Am I lying to and deluding myself?

Do I have a realistic idea of myself? Am I honest with myself and others? What kind of façade do I put up?

Have I done things which I don´t want to or am too ashamed to admit? Abuse of others or animals, incest, homosexual acts, perverse actions? Have I abused drugs, sex or other things which I don´t want to acknowledge? Am I afraid that I am those things-an alcoholic, drug addict, gay, child abuser? Am I afraid to confess them? Can I forgive myself for these things? What do I feel guilty about? Does guilt control my life?

Am I being faithful to myself, to God, to others? Does my life have integrity?