Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 Meme

Stolen from Alana:

What did you do in 2009 that you’d never done before?

I can't think of anything

2. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

My usual resolutions are to get my prayer life in order and to get fit. I worked on the first and ignored the second.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Two of my little cousins had babies this year

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Yes, it was a terrible year for death: 1/23/09 my father, Edmour Joseph Babineau died; 7/22/09 my dear bff Ellen died; 11/22/09 my dearest best friend and ex-husband, Gerald George Norman died.

5. What countries did you visit?

Does California count as a different country? No, didn't think so.

6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?

Peace of mind and contentment. Also, money.

7. What date from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

See #4

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Being faithful to meeting with my spiritual father

9. What was your biggest failure?

So many failures, day after day.... fall down, get up, fall down, get up....

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Does grief and depression count?

11. What was the best thing you bought?

A few bus tix so that DD could come home for the weekend

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

DD. She has grown and matured so much this year. I'm so proud of her.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

My own behavior, over and over again.

14. Where did most of your money go?

I always buy too many books, and stock up on too much food.... But most of my money has gone into my house and to take care of Jerry's final affairs.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

I don't remember getting really, really, really excited about much of anything in 2009, at least not excited in a good way.

16. What song(s) will always remind you of 2009?

Come, let us give a last kiss to the dead....

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

* Happier or sadder?

Sadder, definitely

* Thinner or fatter?

- Way Fatter.

* richer or poorer?

- I am the poorest I have ever, ever been.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Laughing and knitting. I had forgotten how therapeutic knitting is

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Worry, stress and cry. I also wish I had simply done less.... I need to work on saying no to projects that I really don't want to do because meeting everyone else's needs takes time away from music and iconography and knitting

20. How will you be spending Christmas?

I spent it at DD's church and apartment

21. How many one-night stands?

None. I'm not a one-night stand kind of person

22. What was your favorite TV program?

Royal Pains, House, and.... my guilty pleasure is 18 Kids and Counting - its so wonderful to see a large homeschooling family that truly works!

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

No hate.

24. What was the best book you read?

Inside Inside - it was great. Its so rare to find a book that expects you to understand the English language.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Infected Mushroom

26. What did you want and get?

I wanted a better relationship with my daughter and we have that

27. What was your favorite film of this year?

Julie and Julia, definitely.

28. What did you do on your birthday?

Went to work, and then went to dinner

29. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009?

like a comfortable old shoe...

30. What kept you sane?

Prayer, particularly the Jesus Prayer

31. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Can I confess that Antonio Banderas is slowly losing his grip on my.... heart, yes heart.... ?

32. What political issue stirred you the most?

Middle Eastern politics

33. Who did you miss?

Dead people

34. Who was the best new person you met?

Dan and Liana Condratov

35. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009:

Keep praying, no matter what.... its the only life line there is

I'm not tagging, but if you want to, feel free. :)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Endings and Beginnings

Yesterday morning, I received word that my ex-husband suffered a massive brain bleed and that there is no hope for any recovery.

I spoke with a dear physician friend who was by Jerry's side, the nurse, and Jerry's priest. I felt rather numb after the initial shock, but then he enormity of this loss for our daughter, and for me as well, hit. I spoke with my spiritual father, and just the sound of his voice is so calming to me. After that, I was ready to telephone dear daughter at college and broke the news to her. It was hard, very hard and we both cried. Then I called Jerry's brother, soon to be the last of the three Norman boys, my cousin/sister Roseanne, and a few others. I asked for prayers from some online women's groups and sent an email asking for prayer to many of the people in my address book.

The next task was to get DD and me to Mountain View, CA, where Jerry is in intensive care. It seemed impossible to gather the funds necessary until a dear friend/sister offered her credit card for the tickets. God Bless You Joan! Next, I needed to make arrangements for the care of my pets, which was shouldered by my friend/sister Cindy. God Bless You Cindy!

The day was spent in prayer, pleas for prayer, phone calls, internet searching, bank visits, laundry and packing. Its a blur, really.

Finally, I got on the road, and in the darkness, I had four hours to unwind, pray and think, punctuated by two long conversations with dear, dear Mat. E and Fr. K. It was so necessary to speak with both of them - Fr. K because he's known Jerry and me for 30 years and that shared history and memories of Jerry at his best cannot be replaced, and Mat. E because she knows me - we are twins in so many ways.

I've been thinking a lot about death the last few years, and I've been feeling my mortality - just read my last post if you want proof. I've been thinking about what it means to be ready, about what kind of change of heart God wants. I've been pondering the meaning of grief and loss and separation.

Jerry is leaving this world for the next very soon, maybe today, maybe tomorrow, maybe in a couple of days. As I look back on all that we shared over the last 34 years, the fun, the heartbreaks, the joys, the sorrows, I understand that part of me will go with him. Alex told me something very wise yesterday, something someone told him when his wife died a year and a half ago: the day of your death is a joyful day because that's the day that God has chosen for you to be born into Heaven to live with Him, one of two birthdays chosen just for you. So, its a joyful day.

I get it. I believe it.

But still, there is pain at the parting for those of us who remain. Still, there is the pain your child feels at losing her father at such a young age... and when your child hurts, you hurt as well.

I'm the only one awake at DD's apartment, and soon we will get ourselves to the airport and begin a journey that is the end of the journey that Jerry and I began so long ago. Its a new life for him, and in some strange way, for us as well.

Jerry is a good man, an honorable man, who loves his daughter more than anyone, more than anyone. He has much to be proud of, and I pray that he has no regrets. I pray that he is ready with a good defense before the dread judgment seat of Christ. I pray that he will be counted among the just and take his place in the mansions of the Lord. I pray that I will see him again at the last.

I pray that God and the Most Holy Theotokos will give me the strength to do whatever needs to be done over the next couple of weeks, and that I will be a strong comfort for our daughter. I pray that I will be able to graciously and humbly accept love and assistance when offered.

I pray for our daughter, that she remain strong and faithful, and that she have only good memories of her father, particularly at the last. I pray that, when the enormity of this loss hits her, she will know that its not forever and have the strength to reach out to me and to others to comfort her in her grief.

But mostly, I pray for the servant of God, Gerald George, who goes to meet his maker today. I will pray him into heaven, while I miss him here on earth.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The sting of Death

I haven't written anything since last March, shortly after Dad died. I realize that there was something healing about his death, something that allowed me to close the book of grief over my mother's death that overwhelmed me since she died four years ago. Its a mystery...

But death is everywhere. In just the past couple of months, my cousin T died. Poor T, who made all the wrong choices, always comparing herself to her sister and never thinking she measured up. Poor T who at the core of her felt that she was unlovable. Poor T, who was so afraid of doctors and hospitals and pain, yet died in cancer ridden agony, and so afraid of death, but died anyway. Poor T.

Another piece of my childhood and of my heart gone.

And then there is E. We chatted on the phone just the day before she went into the hospital where she died a couple of days later. E, who never told a soul that she was failing, and that cancer was choking her insides off. Such a shock to hear of her death. I've picked the phone up a dozen times, thinking that I needed to tell her something, and then remembered that she's dead. Its hard to take in. Its hard to believe that there are no more emails and no more phone calls from her.

So, I keep in touch with her husband instead. He is such a mess, but he won't say it. He says he's great, and that things are going swimmingly, but then you hear him tear up on the other end of the phone and he suddenly has to go, so you hang up. This is the most emotional man I have ever met, yet he is trying to remain stoic, living alone in that beautiful house.

We all grieve in different ways.

I've decided to stop grieving. There is so much good in my life, that I'm wasting it with grief and depression. So many good things.... and am I truly grateful for them? I spend so much time looking at the spaces in my heart and my life where people used to be and now there is nothing, that I think I'm missing the goodness that is there instead. I do have so much to be thankful for: my daughter, my family and friends, my health, my pets, my job. Its all a gift really.

Sometimes I wonder why God allows us grief? I think I "get" death.... but I've been wondering about why God allows us to hurt and mourn the one who has gone, the way that we do. That I do. Its so painful. I can truly believe that we will meet again at the resurrection, and I do believe that, but it feels like forever. The forever of the missing seems almost cruel. But we know that God isn't cruel - how could He be? He created us!

Maybe it has to do with us understanding the depths that He went to to save us by sacrificing His only son. I wouldn't do that - I can't conceive of it - my heart stops beating if I even think of sacrificing Elisabeth.... Yet, that is exactly what He did for us. For me.

Its all almost too much to bear.

I keep meeting with my spiritual father, and that has got to be the reason that I don't spend hours writing in this blog any more. He has been wonderfully patient. Its weird, because I really want someone to know me even more than I want to know myself, and he seems to be the chosen one. But sometimes I think to myself, who am I kidding here? Spiritual direction is more than me blubbering all about myself week after week. Somehow it doesn't seem "hard" enough and then there is the odd meeting when it seems too hard to continue. I struggle during these meetings to remain real and honest, and not over dramatize as I am wont to do, or sink into telling a good story which I sometimes do, or whine. I hate whining. But he never complains...

I think I can see a few changes over time. My spiritual father says he can, and I guess I just have to trust his judgement. I know its hard to be objective about yourself, but I think I can see some changes from when we started meeting. For one thing, I am much calmer and I think I'm a little happier and more content. I see more patience and love in my heart for everyone, even people who drive me crazy. This is a definite improvement.

But the more we talk, the more I realize that we are taking the tiniest of baby steps in the spiritual life. I've been thinking about this for a long time and I can see that we are taking baby steps because I really can't handle going any faster. I'm too comfortable in my cocoon of competence to do anything more than stick my baby toe in the water. Pretty sad commentary, really.

Is it wrong to keep thinking about death? Is it pathological? I don't feel like I'm grieving hard anymore, but I understand that death happens all the time, and eventually, it will happen to me. I need to be ready for that day. That's the whole point of the spiritual life, isn't it? To get ready to die? Not that I'm constantly contemplating death and not truly living, because that's not what I'm doing at all, but death seems to have an immediacy to it, a nearness, that really brings me up short. Will I be ready?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Simple Woman's Daybook for March 23rd

For March 23, 2008

Outside my Window…dusk is falling

I am thinking… that my life is changing, but I don't know if its for the better or not, at least not yet

From the learning rooms… I am reading the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) in preparation for my new work assignment

I am thankful for… my spiritual father

From the kitchen… I am missing cheese in the worst way! Especially brie!

I am wearing… flowered capris that DD says look like pajamas and a white tee shirt

I am creating… a new vision of myself

I am reading… ADA

I am hearing… silence

Around the house... the floors need sweeping

One of my favorite things… sleeping

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week… Tonight: laundry and sweeping; tomorrow: Akathist in the evening; Wednesday: My Feast Day!!!!

A Picture Thought I am Sharing:

"In Church" by Nikolai Bogdanov-Belsky

Monday, March 09, 2009

Simple Woman's Daybook for March 9th

For March 9, 2008

Outside my Window…A beautiful, warm and sunny day

I am thinking… and praying about my parents, and a coworker whose father died today

From the learning rooms… Dear daughter says that she is finally caught up with her schoolwork from the week she took off when my father died

I am thankful for… the free and easy communication between my daughter and me

From the kitchen… tonight I had veggies with olive oil and garlic, with jalapeno corn bread

I am wearing… flowered capris that DD says look like pajamas and a pink tee shirt

I am creating… a new life for myself

I am reading… Orthodox Psychotherapy

I am hearing… my little doggie snoring by my feet

Around the house... the floors need sweeping

One of my favorite things… relaxing with a good book

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week… Tomorrow, DD will take her driving test (I hope, I hope, I hope), then dinner with her two "evil aunties". Wed we will probably go to Fernandina Beach for the day, with Presanctified Liturgy in the evening. Thursday, DD has plans with a friend and I will go to work, then we'll watch a movie in the evening. Friday, after work, I will meet with my spiritual father, followed by Presanctified Liturgy. Don't know what DD is doing yet. Saturday, DD is going to a birthday party, and I will go to Vespers. Sunday, we will go to church, followed by trapeza, followed by choir rehearsal, and then DD will return to college while I go home to my cats and little doggie.

A Picture Thought I am Sharing:

Still Life with Lilacs by Nikolai Petrovich Bogdanov-Belsky. It reminds me of the lilac bush/tree in my back yard on Shute Street.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Memorial Wheat Meditation

My father, Edmour Joseph Babineau, died January 23, 2009, and tomorrow we will celebrate the traditional 40 day memorial (in greek: parastas, in slavonic: panikhida) for him at church. We Orthodox remember the dead at every service, and on specific "soul" Saturdays in Lent, but tomorrow is special. There are special prayers for the soul as it departs from the body at the moment of death, and we hold what is called a memorial service on the 3rd, 9th, and 40th day, as well as at the 3 month, 6 month, 9 month and one year mark, and every year following. The 40th day is a echo of Christ's Ascension into heaven, and we will pray that Dad will also ascend to Heaven to spend eternity with God

I just finished making the memorial wheat for this service. This is variously known as koliva, hilbee, or kutia, depending on your ethnicity. A plate of this sweet wheat rests on the memorial table throughout Divine Liturgy and during the Memorial itself, after which all the congregation will partake of it. We boil wheat as a remembrance that mankind is placed in the earth like a seed, only to be raised up and blossom forth again through God's plan and power. This is a powerful reminder for Orthodox Christians of the words of St. John 12:24 "Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." The symbolism of death and resurrection, between that which is planted in the ground and that which emerges, is deeply embedded in the making and eating of koliva.

My father really loved memorial wheat and sometimes I would make it for him and mother as a breakfast treat. As I was chopping and toasting the nuts and seeds, I remembered happy times around that very same kitchen table: the four of us laughing and eating, or helping Elisabeth with her school work, or doing the crosswords, or just sipping coffee and deciding where to picnic the next day. Happy times, gone now.

But I'm not sad, I'm really not. My father was trapped in a body and a mind that failed him, and he's free now. I miss him, but that is nothing new - with Alzheimer's, the missing starts very early. And its not forever, you know. We'll meet again at the last. I am thinking a lot of him today, though. Here is the eulogy that I wrote for him and which was read so very beautifully by my dear friend, Carla McCurry:

Edmour Joseph Babineau
April 25, 1916 - January 23, 2009

Here are some remarks that Denise wrote about her father, which she has asked me to read to you today.

How do you measure a man’s life? Is it in the days, months, years? If so, at 92 years old, my father was rich. Is it in his possessions? If so, then I look at my father’s few mementos, the fishing poles, handles worn smooth through many years use, or maybe his trusty camera with all the lenses and filters and tripods, and think that perhaps my father was poor. Is it in the memories that a man leaves behind? Over the last few days, I’ve heard from countless people who knew my father, all of whom had their favorite, funny “Eddie” story. Maybe it was the one about the tomatoes that were so big that he had to cut them in half to get them in the door, or maybe it was the liver Popsicles, or maybe it was a memory of going fishing or golfing with him. Always, the memories were of laughter and fun. If memories measure a man’s life, then my father was rich.

Those of you who met my father when he was an old man missed out on so much. He was a real character - a great storyteller, unfailingly good humored, very smart, funny, loyal, brave, loving, a steadfast champion of the underdog, and could fix anything. He had a gluttonous love of cherry ice cream and Boston baked beans, though not together!

He loved his family more than anything. He passed his love of yardsaleing on to his granddaughter, Elisabeth. Together, they would hit the yardsales early on Saturday mornings, and haggle over prices, bringing home their treasures.

All his life, he loved traveling to new places and meeting new people. His Sunday drives for ice cream – to another state! – were legendary. He always said that someday he was going to buy a trailer and travel around the country. How many people get to live their dream? Well, my father did. He loved traveling in his motor home and did so for 15 years before settling down in Savannah. In that 27 footer, he traveled throughout the US, Canada and Mexico with my mom. He loved fishing and golfing, and was a seeded tennis player and professional boxer in his day. He was a real war hero, decorated in WWII and written up in the newspapers of the time.

My favorite memory of my parents is creeping downstairs early in the morning to the kitchen, and finding them dancing all alone to music only they could hear. He took tender care of my mother for many years, and never once complained.

He was a wonderful, loving, devoted husband, father and grandfather. He was a true gentleman, a charming raconteur and practical joker. He was honorable and true. He was everything a man should be and seldom is. He was one in a million, and we were so very lucky to have had him in our lives for almost 93 years. The world will be a sadder place without him. My daughter and I will miss him very much.

But right now, I think he’s standing just inside the pearly gates, the host extraordinaire, greeting newcomers as St. Peter’s right hand man, saying as he always used to at the Inn: “Welcome! Come on in. I have a special room just for you.”

Here is my recipe for Koliva, enough for home. For my church, I usually double it. I do not like it to be dry, so I leave out the zweiback or graham cracker crumbs.

1 C soft wheat (very important - it must be soft, not hard, wheat)
1/2 C chopped nuts, like walnuts, toasted
1/2 C sesame seeds, toasted
1/2 C golden raisins
1/2 C chopped fruit (I like to use craisins)
1 heaping tsp ground cinnamon
1 C powdered sugar
zest of one orange
1 tsp anise seed, crushed a little

Simmer the wheat in 4 cups of water for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until very tender and cooked all the way through. Drain well and place in a large bowl with all the other ingredients. Stir very, very well to make sure that all the ingredients are mixed well. Let cool.

Once it is cool, place it in a flat serving platter. Smooth the top and decorate with silver dragees, jordan almonds, or other white candies in the shape of a three bar cross. I've used yogurt covered raisins when I couldn't get jordan almonds here in Savannah, and these work very well.

Enjoy. And if you make this, please, say a little prayer for my father as you eat it.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Fr. Alexander Schmemann on the Prayer of St. Ephrem the Syrian

The Lenten Prayer of St Ephrem the Syrian
By Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann
Of all lenten hymns and prayers, one short prayer can be termed the lenten prayer. Tradition ascribes it to one of the great teachers of spiritual life - St. Ephrem the Syrian. Here is its text:
O Lord and Master of my life! Take from me the spirit of sloth, faint-heartedness, lust of power, and idle talk. But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to Thy servant. Yea, O Lord and King! Grant me to see my own errors and not to judge my brother; For Thou art blessed unto ages of ages. Amen
This prayer is read twice at the end of each lenten service Monday through Friday (not on Saturdays and Sundays for, as we shall see later, the services of these days do not follow the lenten pattern). At the first reading, a prostration follows each petition. Then we all bow twelve times saying: "O God, cleanse me a sinner." The entire prayer is repeated with one final prostration at the end.
Why does this short and simple prayer occupy such an important position in the entire lenten worship? Because it enumerates in a unique way all the "negative" and "positive" elements of repentance and constitutes, so to speak, a "check list" for our individual lenten effort. This effort is aimed first at our liberation from some fundamental spiritual diseases which shape our life and make it virtually impossible for us even to start turning ourselves to God.
The basic disease is sloth. It is that strange laziness and passivity of our entire being which always pushes us "down" rather than "up" -- which constantly convinces us that no change is possible and therefore desirable. It is in fact a deeply rooted cynicism which to every spiritual challenge responds "what for?" and makes our life one tremendous spiritual waste. It is the root of all sin because it poisons the spiritual energy at its very source.
The result of sloth is faint-heartedness. It is the state of despondency which all spiritual Fathers considered the greatest danger for the soul. Despondency is the impossibility for man to see anything good or positive; it is the reduction of everything to negativism and pessimism. It is truly a demonic power in us because the Devil is fundamentally a liar. He lies to man about God and about the world; he fills life with darkness and negation. Despondency is the suicide of the soul because when man is possessed by it he is absolutely unable to see the light and to desire it.
Lust of power! Strange as it may seem, it is precisely sloth and despondency that fill our life with lust of power. By vitiating the entire attitude toward life and making it meaningless and empty, they force us to seek compensation in, a radically wrong attitude toward other persons. If my life is not oriented toward God, not aimed at eternal values, it will inevitably become selfish and selfcentered and this means that all other beings will become means of my own self-satisfaction. If God is not the Lord and Master of my life, then I become my own lord and master -- the absolute center of my own world, and I begin to evaluate everything in terms of my needs, my ideas, my desires, and my judgments. The lust of power is thus a fundamental depravity in my relationship to other beings, a search for their subordination to me. It is not necessarily expressed in the actual urge to command and to dominate "others." It may result as well in indifference, contempt, lack of interest, consideration, and respect. It is indeed sloth and despondency directed this time at others; it completes spiritual suicide with spiritual murder.
Finally, idle talk. Of all created beings, man alone has been endowed with the gift of speech. All Fathers see in it the very "seal" of the Divine Image in man because God Himself is revealed as Word (John, 1:1). But being the supreme gift, it is by the same token the supreme danger. Being the very expression of man, the means of his self-fulfillment, it is for this very reason the means of his fall and self-destruction, of betrayal and sin. The word saves and the word kills; the word inspires and the word poisons. The word is the means of Truth and it is the means of demonic Lie. Having an ultimate positive power, it has therefore a tremendous negative power. It truly creates positively or negatively. When deviated from its divine origin and purpose, the word becomes idle. It "enforces" sloth, despondency, and lust of power, and transforms life into hell. It becomes the very power of sin.
These four are thus the negative "objects" of repentance. They are the obstacles to be removed. But God alone can remove them. Hence, the first part of the lenten prayer; this cry from the bottom of human helplessness. Then the prayer moves to the positive aims of repentance which also are four.
Chastity! If one does not reduce this term, as is so often and erroneously done, only to its sexual connotations, it is understood as the positive counterpart of sloth. The exact and full translation of the Greek sofrosini and the Russian tselomudryie ought to be whole-mindedness. Sloth is, first of all, dissipation, the brokenness of our vision and energy, the inability to see the whole. Its opposite then is precisely wholeness. If we usually mean by chastity the virtue opposed to sexual depravity, it is because the broken character of our existence is nowhere better manifested than in sexual lust -- the alienation of the body from the life and control of the spirit. Christ restores wholeness in us and He does so by restoring in us the true scale of values by leading us back to God.
The first and wonderful fruit of this wholeness or chastity is humility. We already spoke of it. It is above everything else the victory of truth in us, the elimination of all lies in which we usually live. Humility alone is capable of truth, of seeing and accepting things as they are and therefore of seeing God's majesty and goodness and love in everything. This is why we are told that God gives grace to the humble and resists the proud.
Chastity and humility are naturally followed by patience. The "natural" or "fallen" man is impatient, for being blind to himself he is quick to judge and to condemn others. Having but a broken, incomplete, and distorted knowledge of everything, he measures all things by his tastes and his ideas. Being indifferent to everyone except himself, he wants life to be successful right here and now. Patience, however, is truly a divine virtue. God is patient not because He is "indulgent," but because He sees the depth of all that exists, because the inner reality of things, which in our blindness we do not see, is open to Him. The closer we come to God, the more patient we grow and the more we reflect that infinite respect for all beings which is the proper quality of God.
Finally, the crown and fruit of all virtues, of all growth and effort, is love -- that love which, as we have already said, can be given by God alone-the gift which is the goal of all spiritual preparation and practice.
All this is summarized and brought together in the concluding petition of the lenten prayer in which we ask "to see my own errors and not to judge my brother." For ultimately there is but one danger: pride. Pride is the source of evil, and all evil is pride. Yet it is not enough for me to see my own errors, for even this apparent virtue can be turned into pride. Spiritual writings are full of warnings against the subtle forms of pseudo-piety which, in reality, under the cover of humility and self-accusation can lead to a truly demonic pride. But when we "see our own errors" and "do not judge our brothers," when, in other terms, chastity, humility, patience, and love are but one in us, then and only then the ultimate enemy--pride--will be destroyed in us.
After each petition of the prayer we make a prostration. Prostrations are not limited to the Prayer of St. Ephrem but constitute one of the distinctive characteristics of the entire lenten worship. Here, however, their meaning is disclosed best of all. In the long and difficult effort of spiritual recovery, the Church does not separate the soul from the body. The whole man has fallen away from God; the whole man is to be restored, the whole man is to return. The catastrophe of sin lies precisely in the victory of the flesh -- the animal, the irrational, the lust in us -- over the spiritual and the divine. But the body is glorious; the body is holy, so holy that God Himself "became flesh." Salvation and repentance then are not contempt for the body or neglect of it, but restoration of the body to its real function as the expression and the life of spirit, as the temple of the priceless human soul. Christian asceticism is a fight, not against but for the body. For this reason, the whole man - soul and body - repents. The body participates in the prayer of the soul just as the soul prays through and in the body. Prostrations, the "psycho-somatic" sign of repentance and humility, of adoration and obedience, are thus the lenten rite par excellence.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

42 Things Italians Grew Up With

01. You have at least one relative who wore a black dress every day for an entire year after a funeral.

02. You spent your entire childhood thinking what
you ate for lunch was pronounced "sangwich."

03. Your family dog understood Italian.

04. Every Sunday afternoon you eat lunch at nonna's house

05. You've experienced the phenomena of 150 people fitting into 50 square feet of yard during a family cookout.

06. You were surprised to discover the FDA recommends you eat three meals a day, not seven.

07. You thought killing the pig each year and having salami, capacollo, pancetta and prosciutto hanging out to dry from your shed ceiling was absolutely normal.

08. You ate pasta for dinner at least three times a week, and every Sunday, and laughed at the commercial for Wednesday is Prince Spaghetti day.

09. You grew up thinking no fruit or vegetable had a fixed price and that the price of everything was negotiable through haggling.

10. You were as tall as your nonna by the age of seven.

11. You thought everyone's last name ended in a vowel.

12. You thought nylons were supposed to be worn rolled to the ankles.

13. Your mom's main hobby is cleaning.

14. You were surprised to find out that wine was actually sold in stores.

15. You thought that everyone made their own pomodoro sugo

16. You never ate meat on Christmas Eve or any Friday for that matter.

17. You ate your salad after the main course.

18. You thought Catholic was the only religion in the world.

19. You were beaten at least once with a wooden spoon or slipper.

20. You thought every meal had to be eaten with a hunk of bread in your hand.

21. You had pet rabbits and chickens in cages in the backyard that always dissapeard in winter...

22. You have at least one relative who came over on "the boat."

23. All of your uncles fought in a World War.

24. You have at least six male relatives named Tony, Frank, Joe or Luigi

25. You were taught to call people Zio even though they weren't even your REAL zio

26. You can recite all the names of the saints off by heart

27. You drank wine before you were a teenager.

28. You relate on some level, admit it, to the Godfather and the Sopranos.

29. You grew up in a house with a yard that didn't have one patch of dirt that didn't have a flower or a vegetable growing out of it.

30. Your grandparent's furniture was as comfortable as sitting on plastic. Wait!!!! You were sitting on plastic.

31. You thought that talking loud was normal.

32. You thought sugared almonds and the Tarantella were common at all weddings.

33. Your Dad owned 4 houses,10 acres of land and drove a caddie but still drove a 1964 impalllla ( still pimmmmmp)

34. Your mother is overly protective of the males in the family no matter what their age.

35. There was a crucifix AND/OR a picture of Padre Pio in every room of the house.

36. Wakes would be held in someone's living room.

37. You couldn't date a boy without getting approval from your father. (Oh, and he had to be Italian)

38. You called Canadian kids Cakers (Not in MY house, we didn't!!!! We called them relatives!!!)

39. You dreaded taking out your lunch at school.

40. Going out for a cup of coffee usually meant going out for a cup of coffee over Zia's house.

41. Every condition, ailment, misfortune, memory loss and accident was attributed to the fact that you didn't eat something.

42. Those of you who get this...YOU KNOW who to pass it on to!


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

What's in a Name?

What's In A Name

Denise Marie Babineau

2.WITNESS PROTECTION NAME:(mother and fathers middle names)
Elena Joseph

3.NASCAR NAME:(first name of your mother's dad, father's dad)
Vincenzo Edward

4.STAR WARS NAME:(the first 3 letters of your last name, first 2 letters of your first name)

5.DETECTIVE NAME:(favorite color, favorite animal)
Red Dog

6.SOAP OPERA NAME:(middle name, town where you were born
Marie Everett

7.SUPERHERO NAME: (2nd fav color, fav drink, add "THE" to the beginning)
The Black Vodka Shot

8.FLY NAME:(first 2 letters of 1st name, last 2 letters of your last name)

9.ROCK STAR NAME:(current pets name, current street name)
Poochie Montclair

10. PORN NAME: (1st pet, street you grew up on)
Maybelle Shute

11.YOUR GANGSTA NAME:(first 3 letters of real name plus izzle)

12.YOUR IRAQI.. NAME:(2nd letter of your first name, 3rd letter of your last name, first two letters of your middle name, last two letters of your first name then last three letters of your last name)

13.YOUR GOTH NAME:(black, and the name of one of your pets)
Black Kyo

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Daybook Journal

Outside my window the sun is just starting to come up.

I am thinking that I really need to get going on my day, starting with breakfast and a shower

I am thankful for a new day and a new life. I wonder what direction life will take me?

From the learning room was running appeals yesterday. I like to help out other departments.

From the kitchen is breakfast - homemade egg mcmuffins and coffee

I am wearing my jammies that Elisabeth usually makes fun of, and my beloved, ratty old terry cloth bathrobe.

I am creating a new life for myself.

I am going - I have no idea, but God will point the way.

I am reading or rather, last night I finished The Open Door by Frederica Mathewes-Green which was rather disappointing.

I am hoping to see my parents again on the last day.

I am hearing my little doggie snore by my feet.

One of my favorite things is going food shopping, which I will do this morning.

A few plans for the rest of the week: birthday dinner with Cindy and Joan tonight, choir rehearsal tomorrow, Doc and Mari's tomorrow afternoon, I Cantori rehearsal Monday night, working, unpacking, cleaning, laundry.... and I thought that I'd have oodles of free time once dear daughter went off to college! Yaright!

The Simple Woman’s Day Book

Books I read in 2008

Here is a partial list of books that I read in 2008. I read more, but I was so frazzled that I didn't write most of them down.

Julie Andrews: An Intimate Biography - Richard Stirling

Defeating Sin - Fr. Joseph Huneycutt

Living in Christ - Mother Raphaela

My Life In France - Julia Child

Iconography, A Writer's Meditation - Susan Neville

World Vegetarian - Madhur Jaffrey

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Edmour Joseph Babineau 1916 - 2009

Edmour Joseph Babineau, 92, of Savannah passed away peacefully on Friday, January 23rd at Riverview Nursing Home, after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s disease.

He was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts on April 25, 1916 to Judith and Edward “Red” Babineau who preceeded him in death. While still a toddler, he and his parents moved to New Brunswick, Canada and returned to New Bedford several years later where he followed his father into the plumbing and pipefitting trade. During World War II, he first served as bayonet instructor at Ft. Benning, GA before seeing combat action in North Africa, Italy, France and Germany with the 45th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army. During the amphibious landings at Anzio, he commanded a small group of soldiers, and did not lose a single man. His bravery and flawless French soon secured him a reconnaissance assignment and translation duties where he excelled, eventually earning him two purple hearts and Staff Sargent rank.

After the war, he returned to Massachusetts where he married Beatrice Elena Cieri and settled in Everett, Massachusetts where his only child, Denise Marie Babineau was born. After the war, he worked for Boston Gas Company, where his favorite memory was of building Julia Child’s first demonstration kitchen. His charm and facility with the French language soon made him her favorite technician, and he shared many wonderful meals with her. In 1953, he and his wife purchased Clearwater Inn on the shores of Lake Sunapee, NH, which they operated for 25 years. The role of Innkeeper and Host was tailor-made for Eddie, who was the quintessential “people person.” During his time as Innkeeper, he also was a fishing guide and wrote a regular fishing column for the Boston Globe newspaper which he illustrated with his own photographs. Some of his photographs were used by the State of New Hampshire in their marketing materials.

After his retirement, he and Bea followed their daughter to California in 1980 where the light of his life, his beloved granddaughter Elisabeth was born in 1990. During his 18 years in California, he and Bea traveled via motorhome throughout all 48 continental states, every province of Canada and Mexico, and Puerto Rico. Traveling was one of his passions.

In 1997, he moved to Savannah, Georgia with his wife, daughter and granddaughter where he cherished his time with his family and made new friends and became a communicant at St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church. He was an active member of the St. Francis Cabrini’s Primetimers, DAV, VFW, San Jose Grandmothers and Grandfathers Club, Savannah Italian Club and the Knights of Columbus. He was preceeded in death by his beloved wife of 59 years, Beatrice, and his parents. He is survived by his only daughter and granddaughter, Denise and Elisabeth Norman of Savannah, his brothers Gerard and wife Joan Babineau of Rochester, MA, Leonard and wife Francine Babineau of York, PA and Daytona Beach, FL, his sister Anita and husband Conrad Bernier of Rochester, MA, and many loving godchildren, nieces and nephews. His charm, intellect and sense of humor will be sorely missed by all who knew him.

In lieu of flowers, a remembrance may be sent to: Ed and Bea Babineau Memorial Fund, St. Mary Magdalene Church, 1625 Fort Howard Rd., Rincon, GA 31326

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Welcome, 2009!

Last year, 2008, was a very difficult year on many levels; not as bad as 2004 and 2005, but still, it was pretty tough, so I'm happy that its over. I have a standard by which I measure difficult times, and 2008 is probably a 9 out of 10, with 10 being the worst. I've been considering why I thought it was so bad, and I think its because, after all the events of the last 5 or 6 years, I had little physical, emotional, or spiritual strength left in reserve, so everything just knocked me down and I couldn't get back up.

Some difficulties were of my own making, some were the inevitable growing pains and changing relationship between dear daughter and myself, some were thrust upon me by others (the whole trashed rental house saga), some were financial (rental house again), some were intensely personal having to do with my spiritual life and my spiritual father prodding me to rely more on God and less on my own abilities. The positives included my relationships with people - the wonderful people who make up my family (especially dear daughter), my friends, my church family, my I Cantoristas, and even my on-line friends. I'm so thankful for each and every one!

But, this is a new year. In some ways, I've taken a few steps backwards and in some ways, I've taken a few steps forwards. Such is the human condition.

For example, I am now living in my rental house. This is the home that dear daughter and I shared with my parents for many years and which I rented out after my mother died and my father entered a nursing home. This is the home that was totally trashed by the renters from hell. I have spent all my money fixing it, and it still is not rentable, so I have rented my beloved, cheerful little house in a suburb to a lovely military family and have moved back here.

Now that I am living here amidst the boxes and other moving paraphenalia, I realize that my worries about memories good and bad making it impossible to live here were unfounded. I don't see my mother in every shadow, though I do feel her here in an existential sort of way. Its a good thing, though, and not something to be feared - and I was, indeed, fearing it. For dear daughter, though, its another story. She despises living here. The two weeks she spent here over Christmas were horrible for her. Everywhere she looks, she sees another unhappy memory and she can't stand being alone in this house, either. So, it looks like her visits home from college will be short ones. I'm trying to rearrange the house in way that is totally different from the way it used to be. I think that is helping me live here comfortably.

Then there was the moving at the end of the year...... Yikes! When I first moved into my cheerful little suburban house, I had to hire packers to pack everything because my back was out. So everything got moved and placed into my garage. Everything. That includes two households worth of stuff, my stuff and my parents stuff. So, before this move, I decluttered. I estimate that more than half of the contents of that house were either given away, thrown away, or donated. I thought I was doing extremely well with the decluttering until all the boxes needing to be unpacked were put in my den - its FULL OF BOXES!!!! I feel overwhelmed by stuff again, but as I unpack, I am continuing the decluttering process and getting rid of more stuff. I have decided that from 2009 onward, I am never going to be held hostage by stuff again.

In 2008, I had to put my iconography aside because I had no time and no heart for it, but I miss it so. As soon as I get completely unpacked, I'm going to set up the smallest bedroom as my studio and will get back to working hard at it. I have two commissions, a St. Melangell and a St. Thomas, to complete. Both families have been very, very patient, and I need to reward their patience by prayerfully completing these commissions. One of my goals for 2009 is to work harder and more steadily at iconography.

2008 was the year that I finally got my prayer life in order and prayed daily for at least 45 minutes in the morning. This bore such wonderful fruit, but also pointed out how very far from the mark I am. 2008 was the year that I began working seriously and consistently with my spiritual father to grow spiritually, and this has born much fruit, though I find it very, very difficult to be so transparent. He bears with my groanings and moanings, though, and patiently keeps pointing me towards the goal. 2009 is clearly throwing a wrench into my prayer life, though, since my morning routine is different now that I am living in a different place. The challenge for 2009 is to establish a new prayer rule that I can consistently keep, and it is, indeed, turning out to be a challenge. I feel like I'm moving backwards in this regard, but first things first, though, so I'm working at it. Once I get my icons unpacked and get my icon corner set up again, it will help.

One thing I learned in 2008 is that I am very prideful. I find it almost impossible to ask anyone for help, even when I am drowning, and when help is offered, I find it very difficult to accept. Before 2008, I didn't realize how much pride I had in my own competence - and I am very, very competent at many, many things. I didn't realize how much I needed to be considered competent by others. In working with my spiritual father, it became apparent that at some deep emotional level, I feel unloveable, even by God, so the best that my subconscious can hope for is to be considered useful through my competence. What a kick in the pants! I learned that I can't earn God's love - He freely gives it. He gives it because He created me to be His own possession, part of Him, like Him, with Him. He created me because He wanted *me* to exist, to live with Him. He wanted me to exist, so He created me. I get it now. It took me a long time, but I get it now.

2008 was also the year that I finally began letting go. Letting go of foolish pride, of control, of dear daughter, of expectations. This is a good thing. I have a long, long, LONG way to go, but at least the journey has begun. Perhaps in 2009, God will show me the path I am to walk. In His time, not mine. I'm learning that hard lesson called patience, too.

I know that 2009 will bring its own sorrows and difficulties. The nursing home just told me that my beloved father, who suffers from an advanced stage of Alzheimers, qualifies for in-patient hospice care, which basically means that he has a life expectancy of less than six months, and I am grieving already. If I'm honest, I've been grieving him for long time now, because he hasn't been "him" in a very long time, and I miss him. But, I'm determined to leave this to God, and celebrate who he used to be, and celebrate that his body is still here for me to hug and to love, at least for a little while longer.

I don't know what else 2009 will bring, but I pray that it brings peace to everyone. Peace in the world, peace in peoples' hearts. Peace in my heart too.

Have a Blessed New Year, everyone!