Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spring has sprung

Wow...in spite of the rapid onset snow storm we had this weekend (which did not, fortunately, drop the anticipated and predicted 6-8 inches on us), we are definitely in the midst of spring. We've spent the last two days cleaning out a chicken coop (still not even half way done, as the bedding was very wet and difficult to move after the blowing snow/rain of two days prior), cleaning up SuperCow and Willie Boy's manure from the yard proper, and putting all of that onto the house garden, which El Husbando kindly broke for me, last Friday.

The cows are actually doing a pretty reasonable job of keeping the grass down in the yard, which is a nice bonus...of course, they also discovered my small clump of iris....and ate it down to the rhizomes in places. Iris that were quite well leafed out, too. I am....well, disappointed. God willing, they will grow out again, in their new, protected area (I had EH put out some t-posts and some heavy metal mesh fencing, to keep them from getting to the vulnerable plants).

I have discovered one very nice part of the cows being in the yard...manure collection is *much* easier. Instead of having to tramp over 8 acres of pasture, and having to work *much* harder, I get to wander about the yard in a somewhat orderly fashion, cart in tow, with my large pitchfork....I got three decent cartfulls today. Didn't do anywork on the coop--I figure I will tackle that some more tomorrow, after giving it some more time to dry out a bit....

Tonight is the night that EH starts a new work schedule. It is most unfortunate that he has to go back to shift work, but we are blessed in that he has a job, with the economy the way that it is going..

I made an experiment this morning...EH, while he enjoys the money savings of the homemade laundry soap, has not been too thrilled with the scent (citronella-ish). Alright, I thought, I will try something different...

Here is my recipe link for the laundry soap I make. I use recipe #1, and double it. I also use it for my dishwashing detergent, and it works very well..especially with white vinegar in the rinse aid cup (cheap, and it does a great job--who could ask for anything better?)...


Having gotten to the bottom of the large 5 gallon bucket I use for storing the laundry soap in when doing laundry and dishes last night, I knew that this morning held a soap making chore...so I got started on it as soon as breakfast had been cleaned up from. This ended up working out very well...since I had to grate the soap, I started the inital "soap melting water" on the stove, and threw chunks of grapefruit rind into the water, to hopefully extract the scent....then I proceeded to grate the soap, and made the soap as usual. While I am not sure about the scent yet (the soap is still warm and setting up in the laundry bucket), it sure did turn it a pretty orangey-pink color! I will hope for the best. I only used one grapefruit this time, If there is a change, but not enough of one, in the scent, and EH likes it well enough, then I will make sure to use two grapefruit rinds next time.

After the laundry soap, it was time for housework, and then the yard clean up. EH made a wonderful lunch, of a wilted lettuce salad, with a dressing we made for the first time last night. It was quite delightful, and we're definitely going to add it to the family repetoire.

Here's a link for anyone wanting to try it:


This is a good low carb dish with a lot of flavor....definitely worth adding to your list of things to try, if you're trying to lose weight and are watching your carbs like I am....

Yes, I am back to carb watching. I have PCOS, and should be doing it all the time (basically, PCOS means I need to be eating Atkinsish for the rest of my life...in conjunction with other alterations to my life. I love my desserts, but I'd really like to be able to have a decent skirt size. So if you would please pray for me? As much as I enjoy being in better shape, I also enjoy food, and that makes any sort of dietary changes uncomfortable, at least.

I'm also revamping how much (okay, how little) exercise I was getting, so I'm going to be doing a good bit more work out of doors--which is natural enough with it being spring, and God willing, we'll be able to get the garden in soon. We've got more rain predicted for Wednesday night into Thursday, and I am praying for very minimal amounts...we've just got to dry out some more...it is hard getting the cart into the garden, for dumping the manure and bedding, as it gets stuck in the mud and muck, if there is too much of a load in the cart...and yet, it isn't worth it to just haul a little bit.

Our latest chicks will hopefully be arriving in about another 3 wks. I am keeping my fingers crossed that they will be healthy and that there will be no more cold snaps. We will be keeping them under the brooder lamps anyway, for a little while, until they are big enough to handle normal temps. But the less time that that takes, the better, obviously enough.

With SuperCow and WillieBoy still doing their regular escapes into the yard, I will have plenty of opportunity for manure gathering this spring, and that will be good enough work for me, at least once a week or so. Upper and lower body. :-)

We are finally over the stomach bug we had been graced with a week and a half ago, and of course we did not go camping...or paint the family room. Or do much of anything else, except prepare for the "blizzard" that only slightly appeared in our vicinity (I think we ended up with an inch, max).

So, hopefully I will be able to get to the painting sometime this spring. EH's job schedule will be switching over to days, come the first of May, and so I will hopefully get a chance to do it then...good weather permitting, of course.

For now, though, just trying to keep my spirits up (I was shocked at how many grams of carbs there are in a single Almond Joy candy bar...sigh), and hopefully lose a little weight in the process of getting the garden up to speed...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

And, to add to the project below...

Gleaned from another crafty lady, here's an idea of what to do with said large frame, when I find it....


Now, let's see how much gets done this spring...


I do hope you are having a beautiful day. The calendar may not read "spring" yet, but it sure does feel like it today, around here. We're supposed to have even better weather tomorrow, and then a chance of rain and some COLD weather on Saturday. Then back to warm weather on Sunday. Don't ask me, I didn't make the weather schedule (otherwise, I'd have a good three week period with no rain right now, just so some folks, ahem, could get their gardens plowed and tilled up and ready to plant).

Yes, our garden plots are still too soft to work. All of them (we checked). Our cows are still jumping the fences. El Husbando is still under the weather. The camping trip was called off due to illness, incoming bad weather (it causes El Husbando's back to flare something fierce, especially on top of driving out there). So, we're all at home. Goodness knows, I'd love a few more days of warm sunny weather, with NO rain..nary a sprinkle.

But, since that's unlikely (please pray it by passes us, please), I'm going to be working on a few small projects around here (God willing I can get to them without having to deal with spiders, mice, or small children getting into the things I've just cleaned/organized/put away...lol).

So, what are your weekend plans? Staying home? Finishing up spring break? Enjoying some family time? Gardening, traveling, or something much more exciting??

Fill me in!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I am *SO* going to do this when I stop feeling so bad!

First, go over here:


Skip the wreath thing---not "all that" into wreaths.

But CHECK OUT the tutorial! Oh. My. Goodness.

I won't be writing anything, goodness knows, that's hard enough for me to do forwards, much less backwards! lol..but the reverse image? SO FLIPPIN' EASY!!!!!

And it looks SOOO cool!

Yes. I will do this. Oh, yeah, baby..I've got a HUGE window in the dining room..faces south...lots of light (especially this time of year)....

Shh. Don't tell El Husbando I have to go thrifting for big frames with glass in them. Or about any of my other projects. His health you know (its very delicate ;-) ). He *is* still recovering from the miserable fluish "thing" going 'round.

In case you cannot tell, I feel much better this afternoon. Amazing what some fresh air, sunshine, and a couple of slices of colby-jack will do for you (lots of protein, ZERO carbs, ladies!).

Tis not anticipation...

Oh, no...

I've spent the morning in bed, and only reluctantly dragged myself out of there just after noon (mostly because DH dragged me out, but hey, he got to stay in there until he came out of his own free will and volition!)

I'm feeling better...but achey and sore and not really wanting to be dealing with anyone or anything.

So that's it for today. I'm sick. Please pray I recover swiftly.

Thank so much...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

I'm doomed, doomed I tell you!!!

El Husbando got hit last night. Which means, in all likelihood, that I am next. My stomach is already not feeling 100%.

Is it the anticipation, or something else?

I hope it is just anticipation...reallly....

The children are doing much better. The girls have been outside in the fresh air and sunshine. The twins are still running around inside, driving me nuts.

El Husbando was home from work today, and chances are, well, I *know* he is going to be home tomorrow...

Just pray I make it.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Sit-rep...or, how things are going today...

Well, contrary to my thoughts last night, El Husbando and Twin#1 did *NOT* explode simultaneously last night. No sponaneous combustion...nada.

Child #1, however, exploded just after midnight. Fortunately, only a few times, and she made it to the bathroom. She is having a slow day.

Twin #2 is sleeping again. He fell asleep on the carpet in the dining room, and I carted him off. Twin #1 is busy plaguing his sisters in their room.

I am doing laundry and cleaning and otherwise supervising the ill offspring.

Supercow, put back into the pasture this morning, is now back into the yard. It will make the manure removal easier, at least, in so far as getting it and putting it on the garden is concerned. But still. I also need to clean out the coop...still...but we're waiting on that a wee while longer.

Our mouse issue in the feed room (did I mention that I hate mice?) is settling down. The bait packs I put out must be doing their work. Well, I'm all about overkill when it comes to pestilence bearing rodents, so I put ten packs out. Hey, I saw probably 30 mice Saturday night! No, not the same one 30 times. UGH.

Before you ask, yes, the feed is kept "put up". But the little boogers don't give up trying. And, while I would prefer to use a trap and drown them (I am planning on getting one of those "catches 20mice" traps Lehman's sells, bungee cording it shut, and tossing it into the pond for a quarter hour or so...pull it out, dump out the mice, and go on about my day), I do not already have the trap, and would therefore have to wait until I did. Bait traps work better, and more surely. I will undoubtedly need to reapply the bait before too much longer, but I'm trying to take care of it now...

Let's see...what else is going on? If we still have sick children tomorrow, I am going to be cancelling our long-scheduled dinner with our priest, much as I hate to do it. I cannot risk him getting a bug from my children. Not ever, but especially not at this time of year, with Easter so close, and so much going on at the parish between now and then...

If you all could please pray for us, in general, not just about the sickness, that would be...much appreciated...

I do hope that you all are having a good start to your week...

Sunday, March 14, 2010

No...not that...anything but THAT!!!!


A stomach virus.

That is one of those things that, when 'going around', makes mothers quake in their pretty slip ons (or in my case, the purposeful, dark, slip ons that aren't so much pretty as they are useful and comfortable).

Especially mothers with "more than the average" number of children...


Because one child throwing up is bad. Only, start spreading those germs around, amongst 3, 5, 7 siblings...and you end up with a pile of laundry the size of Mt St Helens, Kilimanjaro, K2, Mt Blanc, and Mt Fuji, combined. Oh, and toss in Ayre's Rock (for you Aussies).

Fortunately for us, this bug seems to be taking it slowly through the family.

It started (as these things are wont to do) at 3am. With the 7 yr old. Who, using 7 yr old "logic", decided to head to the kitchen for a dishtowel to "catch" anything, before heading to the bathroom (which was about 10 steps from her doorway...sigh). She didn't make it to the bathroom. SO I was cleaning carpet and little girl at 3 am. Then, one of the twins started up about 15 min after I had finished cleaning up #2 and gotten some laundry started, and slid back between the sheets.

I'm sure you mothers know that sound...that cough. The one that tells you "Forget sleep, Rachel--you can sleep when you're dead, cause you sure aren't going to be doing it *tonight*!".

I heard that one from two doors down and raced to the twins room to find Twin 2 in full 'stomach virus glory", as only an almost 3 yr old can do it. Oh mercy maud...Got him cleaned up, fresh bedding, pjs, blanket, etc...switched the laundry over, and got back into bed...when 20 minutes later...#2 child got to the bathroom this time--but not quite to the toilet. I'd laugh if it was funny.

But cleaning bathroom floors is not something I enjoy at 4pm. Much less at 4am. UGH.

So went my night/morning--whatever you want to call it...a blur of towels and pajamas and washcloths and laundry being switched over and spray bottles of white vinegar, rubbing alcohol, and dish soap combination (kills a lot of germs, that stuff), bottles of pedialyte chilling in the fridge for children's consumption later...

Twin #2 is doing okay, as of this point. It was touch and go through most of the day, and after a nap this afternoon (long, and late) he seems to be doing better. Now, it is Twin #1s turn at bat. Child #2 (the seven year old dishtowel child) also seems to be doing a bit better--although she did take a several hour long 'nap' this afternoon. And is back to bed already. I'm praying the other two girls don't come down with it, but I won't hold my breath. They share a room. They share EVERYTHING. Germs included.

And of course, now El Husbando says he isn't feeling so hot.

At least he can change his own clothes and get himself to the bathroom. Whew.

Please. Pray that they are okay. I don't mind doing laundry. I don't mind cleaning up various bodily fluids. I'm a mom, I've already had them either spit on me, leaked on me, or landing on me in some odd fashioned--or heck, just plain old wiped on me...it's not enjoyable, but hey, it comes with the territory. I just don't want/need dehydrated children who cannot keep anything down...ER visits are not my friend (we picked up a really vile stomach bug when we went in once for a broken collarbone--but that is a story for another day). Especially not when chances are, I'd be in there with more than one fidgety child. That's a real horror show for you...

So far, we're holding our own, though, so prayers would of course be much appreciated....

Thanks in advance, btw...

In better news, I will *not* be going camping. Supercow has made it her mission in life to spend time on the "greener side of the fence", eating the yummy short tender 'candy' grass, as opposed to having to search it out in the pastures--which we need to mow, but we need a better tractor set up for that, to be honest. Between that, and the several other animals needing care/attention twice a day, well, there's just no way we're going to ask our friends to come here twice a day to take care of our critters.

This also enables me to get a few things done that I won't be getting done once El Husbando and the children are back home...as El H's job schedule has reverted to a prior, and much despised 'shift" schedule, instead of being normal hours. So he'll be working some really oddball hours, and we'll have to adjust. I have to get everything done that I can, while I can, before that starts back up...pray I can get through most of it....

That's the Sunday Night Update for our neck of the woods. I do hope that there is no stomach bug at your house, and I am hoping I can come on here tomorrow and say "I got a full night's sleep and everyone is bright eyed and bushy-tailed this morning!" (but I doubt it, lol)...

God bless!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A couple of prayers needed

First off, if you could pray for a small matter for me personally. I'll leave the details vague, but if you would, it would be very much appreciated.

Secondly, for my friend Rebecca, who is going through some awful elimination diet. This is bad stuff, cause she's a foodie. Only, she doesn't *look* like a foodie. *I* look like a foodie (okay, I look more like Aunt Bea, but hey, work with me here). Rebecca looks like a svelte, athletic, mom. Hip. With six children. I know. I'm not aiming to be her (no thanks, but I've got my own "computer geek" :-), but she's a wonderful woman, and I know this is really driving her nuts (at least, Rebecca dear, it is during Lent, not during the rest of the year...). Do pray for her, that the time will pass swiftly. And that there will be some definite conclusions reached.

Okay, I said a "couple" of prayers, but really, there's a long list...

My friend S is expecting her first grandchild, and mom is being induced tomorrow morning--a prayer or two for a speedy, safe delivery would be very much appreciated by the entire family.

For my DCF friends, if you would PLEASE ask for prayers for me, from amongst the prayer warriors. I am still unable to access the site, and I'm not sure when I'll be able to get on there...thanks! :-) Miss you guys!!

For my friend Mary Ann, who has dealt, and is dealing with, so much, as she tries to find a way to "downsize" her home, and her family as they deal with the ongoing grief of great and tragic loss.

For JoAnn...who lost a wee one a little over a week and a half ago...oh so many prayers my dear friend...I wish that there was more I could do...

And for all those, whose prayer needs we do not know...

Please pray...


It was a dark and cool night in mid-March...

And one of the last babies to be born in the old Womack Army Medical Hospital at Fort Bragg, was born...after 19 plus hours of labor...in the middle of the night...12 days "post dates"...a 7 lb, 11 oz bundle of joy, with her daddy's cheekbones and beautiful olive skin, mommy's dark brown eyes, and a future full of promise...

The nurses all looked at her, and looked at her daddy, and said, "There's no denying this one" (not like he would have anyway)...our firstborn is a 60/40 split of her daddy and her maternal grandmother...

We called her "squidlet" before she was born...afterwards? She was our "Baby Burrito" (only if you have seen an olive skinned, dark haired baby all tightly swaddled up in the receiving blankets by the maternity ward nurses, would you know what I am talking about)...

And today, she turned 10. Mercy, where has the time gone? My little bitty girl...on the verge of young womanhood. Getting taller, more self-assured by the day. She still has her daddy's cheekbones and my eyes...she tans like a dream, and is 'brown as a nut' by the end of summer...swims like a fish, reads voraciously, and is as hard a worker as you can get...

I can only pray that she continues to grow, to be the woman she promises to be, today. When she had her First Communion last year (we moved right smack when they were having them the year before), it was startling to see her all in white, with a beautiful veil on her head--I told El Husbando then, that I'm practicing for the wedding...lol. Yes, I cried. I can't help it. Baptisms, weddings, funerals, now add First Communions (and we've got another one this year! EEK). Something about a beautiful young girl, all dressed in white...sniffle.

So, firstborn, daughter-of-mine, know you are loved more than words can say. Rest in the knowledge that while we drive you hard, it is because your "engine" will handle it...and in fact, needs it. Enjoy being young...you'll miss these days when you are grown and gone...you laugh when I tell you "Hush!" when you speak of being a teenager, and grown up and gone and married...but that day will come far, far too soon for your father and I, and we love you so much.

Continue, my dear one, my sweet little "Princess Lilani", to grow up, learning best how to know, love, and serve Our Lord and Savior. Stretch your mind, and learn, while the learning is easier. Enjoy the fresh air and sunshine, the birds and the trees, while all the world is still fairly new to you...

In the meanwhile, your daddy and I will be praying for you, for your future husband (should there be one, God willing), and your children and their children...

God bless you, my precious girl-kin...

And happy birthday...

Your Mom

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Oh--and did I mention...

I am still without any caffeine?

I made a homemade (from scratch) chocolate fudge pie (baked, not chilled). YUM. But that is not nearly satisfying the need for something dark...cold...bubbly...

AH, I need to see a doctor...Dr Pepper that is!!!

Storms a'comin. Better go before the internet goes down...

Rain, rain, go away--come back in three weeks!

Well, folks, we're up for some pretty strong weather. At least, that is what the weather men are saying. And it looks it right now.....

It looks as if I *will* be going camping...we'll see. I keep praying. Hard. I hate camping. No. Really. Camping ranks right up there with dental work without novocain. Abdominal surgery, without benefit of full anesthetic (I have experienced this one, and believe me, I am not exaggerating, this is a very true statement).


I'd rather stay home by myself, with twin almost three years olds, and a spring cleaning/painting agenda. Going out into the woods, with none of my normal, at home conveniences, with no convenient sleeping room for the children away from the parents, with no safe area to put the twins so I can have 5 minutes to myself...for days on end.

Yeah. That's *real* fun.



Some folks take that "hate it" thing as, well, a slight exaggeration. NO. I would rather be cut up like a Christmas goose again (and feeling it on the right side of my body, thank you Mr "the epidural only took 1/2 way" anesthesiologist!), on a cold operating table, and finally when they realized I was feeling it, drugged me enough that I heard one of the twins crying and thought, oh good, one of them survived. I thought I had died, folks. Yeppers. I'd rather go through *THAT* again.

But for the love of my husband? I will do what he wants. And offer it up as a Lenten penance...maybe one or more of the Holy Souls can use it...I go in to the woods, they get out of purgatory...who knows...I hope we all come out of it a lot.

The main reason, is that El Husbando is going to be having a change in his job coming very soon. Not the good change we had hoped for, unfortunately, but one we had really really really hoped to avoid. It will limit his time with the family severely, and so....I *get* to go camping. In the woods. With ticks. And bugs. And lots of dirt. And no bathtub (for the children, there will be showers for us grown ups). It is time for him to spend with us..before the awful job starts up.

So, here is what the next week looks like around here. I have a birthday, a day in town, come home and hostess a bday party, go back to town (and back), go to Mass, have our priest over for dinner, pack and go camping.

I was really hoping for spring cleaning and painting.

So. Please pray for me. I know I am going to need it. Between being hideously busy, and being stressed about the changes in El Husbando's job, and our family life, and having to go camping--because you love someone more than your own personal comfort and convenience (okay, abdominal surgery with minimal anesthetic, isn't a convenience thing...really).

Lord, have mercy. I think I am going to be in desperate need of every drop of mercy I can get....

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Oh. Joy. NOT!!!!! and the facts of life...

Annabelle (aka, SuperCow) and Willie (aka, Willie-boy) are still confined to the corral. They are permitted hour long, supervised snacking at the hay bar. Then back into the slammer they go.

The rains have not yet arrived. We've been "sproinkled" as some of my children would say...not really sprinkled...but not drizzled, either.

I'm low on caffeine, and El Husbando will have the very important, and sacred, duty, to provide such brain sustenance for me asap tomorrow. Afternoon. After work.

This will make for a very long Monday. In which we have a 90% chance of rain. Thunderstorms. All day.

Did I mention that the cows must be supervised in the pasture? And then prodded back to the corral, as they are unwilling to go on their own, back "to stir"? Yes. Someone will "get" to sit outside tomorrow, likely on the tractor, watching. And waiting...

Today it was Child #1. A good thing she had a good book with her along to read, and fortunately, the cows were not too sure about this brightly jacketed, brightly hatted "person"...so they ate, with one eye towards the tractor and lean to, and the other, on the hay.

Tomorrow, it will likely be me. I don't like the rain. Especially not when it is--again--going to prevent us from getting the needed work done in the gardens. Dang it. It was overcast today, and the Low Front coming through, sent El Husbando's back into spasms of something far less than joyous anticipation. Actually, it was well near "immobile agony". Not fun. For him, or me. It is kind of difficult, to be the "well" spouse, when the other is lying there in a pain you can really only imagine, and wish you could get rid of, forever. Unfortunately, the only 'remedies' available seem to be temporary, and pharmaceutical in nature. Not our first choice, but surgery isn't an option for his problems. Too many years carrying your own weight up and down the Himalayan foothills, jumping out of airplanes, etc, will do that.

Now that I have completely and totally depressed you, let's talk about something *F*U*N*!!!


And no, I don't mean a pretty oil still-life (something I hope to take up "one day", when finances and timing permit, lol). I mean, painting my family room. I've known what color I wanted since before Christmas. The same yellow as in my dining room..it is a variable, almost "neutral" yellow, to me, since in some light it is a pale butter, in others, almost a parchment brown...different light sources, different angles, different times of day/year..all play a part in it...

El Husbando and the older three are going camping in another week and a half or so. Nothing too rustic, but fun nonetheless. That's a great thing about homeschooling, btw, is the ability to take advantage of the "off seasons" for various venues/activities.

However, that means it will be just the twins and I...for 4+ blessedly wonderful days...the twins still take naps. And go to bed earlier than their older siblings. It makes for a greater opportunity to get work "done".

I'd like to see about hanging some "mistreatments" a la "The Nester" at "The Nesting Place" (go check her out, she's in my sidebar). I've had the fabric since we moved in (no joke--the day after we got here, the UPS driver showed up, said, "Hi! My name is ______, and I'm your UPS driver...are you Rachel _____?" And thus started a wonderful relationship). I'd ordered the material from Fabric.com, and had it delivered to our "new" address...talk about wonderful. Shoot, I didn't want to bring the furniture in til I had things painted--glad I opted for going ahead with the move-in! (It will be 2 years April 1 since we arrived here).

A good thing about the timing of El Husbando's trip with the children, is that it occurs after my weekend in a large city north of our home, with our eldest--who will turn 10 this coming week. We are planning a day out, just the two of us, to do "girl" stuff, and have some more "grown up" type conversations...some of which is going to center around biological facts she is not 100% aware of, and the ramifications there of--you all know precisely what I am talking about...with this being the first child, well, it is going to be an interesting conversation, as I've not deliberately set down to have one of these before. We've let the questions--and the answers--come as they will...age appropriate, and specific to the question being asked. However, age, and development, requires a more "pro-active" approach now, sooooo...it shall be interesting, to say the least (wish me luck, and pray pray pray!!!).

However, we'll be able to go into genuine, bonafide, CRAFT stores. Michaels. Hobby Lobby. JoAnns. Hancocks. Oh me oh my. I've restrained myself--you have *no* idea how much I love to SHOOOOPPPP!--since we moved here. I have confined my need for the occasional expenditure to reasonable levels, and tried to do it with a plan in mind, either at a yard sale or the thrift stores. I've done pretty well, in that regard, for the most part. However, this is a once in a very rare while (one child? With me? In a BIG city? With *REAL* stores? Catch me, I think I'm going to faint). She will have her bday money. I will have a bit of the Friday paycheck. I've got a few things I know I am looking for already, but we'll have to see if I can find it all, or not. Some of that good museum level putty sticky stuff, to help some platters stick onto the walls over the windows (maybe). Some upholstery tacks (maybe, again). I need some sort of curtain rods, at least in two rooms (the dining room and family rooms are very much open to one another, so I'm taking care of both rooms at once). I've seen several ideas I'd "like" to try, but given time and budgetary constraints, well, let's just hope I get it right the first time!

I will certainly try to remember to post some pictures as I go. Right now, the walls are a very "lait" color of cafe au lait. Not tan, not beige, not white...just some weird shade in between. I prefer the yellow.

That's bringing to mind a whole 'nother train of thought (can you tell I am one of those people, whom you had better hope doesn't shut up mid-conversation, because you know I'll end up down a whole different track from you? ;-) )....

Seriously--I grew up in one of those houses. You know, the sensible ones, where the walls were white, the carpets were beige, and oh my goodness, don't go in the kitchen, you might make a mess.

Now, as an adult, I've had walls that were yellow, green (two shades, striped, and with an opalescent glaze on top of the darker stripes), purple, two shades of blue...yeaaahhhh. That was *just* in the old house! In this one, I've got yellow, and red, that I've put up, a neutralish (but workable) green in the bathrooms, and tan everywhere else. I've not decided what, if anything to do about the hallways (no natural light? needing new light fixtures? Difficult to think about right now). The master is going to eventually be painted a nice dusty shade of blue (works with the material for the windows). The boys' room is going to stay tan (it works with the cowboy theme we're going to be working on in there. The girls...it may be a soft pink, it may be some more blue, or it may go green. I've got the fabric. Just don't have my mind made up yet! LOL.

All of the rooms could use new light fixtures/ceiling fans (if you live in Oklahoma, or anywhere south of the Mason Dixon, you know why these rooms *will* have a ceiling fan to replace the older nasty "antique brass" ones that are up there now--none of that HGTV frou-frou nonsense around here! If you want to strap a chandelier underneath a ceiling fan, go right to it, but there *will* be ceiling fans in as many rooms as I can get them in, in *my* house, tyvm!).

Can you tell I feel strongly about this issue? ;-)

Anyway, there's a lot of cosmetic stuff to be done, but nothing to do, but bite it off one bit at a time...tiny bites, around here. LOL. I wanted to replace the doorknobs. There were 8 exterior doors. EIGHT. The interior doors--another 9. Yes, I said NINE. N-I-N-E. I found some lovely ones, on clearance, in the finish I liked (oil rubbed bronze), at Home Depot. They had the numbers of them I needed. But when you tally up, 9 times $21...and then another 8 times $30...that's a car payment!!! ACKKKK!!!!

So yea, it will be very teeny tiny bites. Unless I can convince El Husbando that mis-matched, pretty girly glass door knobs are the way to go. Or milk glass. Or cast iron. Or all of the above depending on what we can afford. And somehow, I doubt it.

So much work to do, so little time! And money!

Anyway, ladies, what are you house plans for this spring? Enjoying what you have? Renovating? Rehabing what you've got and repurposing things? Chucking it all and moving to a shack on the beach in Tahiti (can you take me? I tan easily, and could get used to wearing a sarong style skirt, very easily, with a linen blouse!--and I like drinks with little umbrellas in them, esp if they are the size of a fishbowl...and have cute names like "Margarita" or "Jumbo Fishbowl sized Margarita". Or "Call Your Husband to Come and Get You Sized Margarita"--Note, I have never finished a jumbo sized fishbowl margarita, although I have tried. And I wasn't driving, so I didn't have to call El Husbando to come get me.

I like raspberry by the way, in case you need to stock up!


Okay, folks, I'm out of here, I think I've given you enough to read about tonight. I do hope that you all are having a beautiful start to the week...and that *your* gardens are going better than mine is, right now...


Saturday, March 6, 2010

SuperCow strikes again!

Seriously, folks. This is really getting old.

Yesterday evening, because he didn't want to haul hay, El Husbando decided that he'd pound in a few more stakes, and let the cows loose.

Bad bad idea. Before we went to bed, Annabelle (aka, SuperCow) had gotten out of the pasture and into the yard (remember, I just cleaned up the manure from previous adventures of SuperCow and her sidekick, Willie-Boy). So, now I have more manure to clean up in the yard. Okay, I can handle that. We've got a cart.

We got SuperCow back out of her SuperCostume, and back into the pasture. She's got a jump that an Olympic level figure skater would be proud of, btw.

So, we put them into the pasture, and El Husbando is content to leave them there while we go to town (we passed on the gun show, and went to the garage sale--lots of overpriced antiques--so we passed on buying anything there). We come home, 2 hours later. Willie (sidekick's mild-mannered every day normal persona) is still in the pasture. SuperCow, however, has donned her SuperCostume, and jumped the fence. Again. Only she also got out of the yard, and crossed the road. Sweet mercy, I'm glad it is Saturday (our neighbors with the busy home-based business aren't working on the weekends)...So we (the oldest three children and I walking, DH driving the van with the twins), carefully get her back to the pasture. She jumps the fence back in...and she reassumes her every day persona...Annabelle. The big brown eyed girl. She and Willie mosey on back over to the corral, on their own, where I locked them again. Because, as I informed El Husbando, I was *not* going to spend my day getting that cow out of the road time and again.

I will be hauling hay later.

The rains are still not here, but the sky has definitely covered over with clouds, and we're supposed to get "something" before midnight. The garden soil is still too soft to drive on, or otherwise work, so we're stuck. Again. Waiting for a long enough dry period, that we can work the soil...

Yes, we need to lighten up the clay with some sand. And a truck load really isn't that expensive. But a dump truck (which is what we need) would still get bogged down in the clay, trying to get to where the sand would be best placed. At least, best for those of us who would be hauling it cart load after cart load. LOL :-)

We're adding material as we can, to hopefully help with lightening things up, and getting better drainage as a result. But that takes time. We got here April 1, 2008. We've had two full garden seasons here, and that first year, was *just* ground breaking year. Whew. We added 5 tons of manure and bedding to the soil in what is now the house garden. And added more last year. And we're *still* working on it. Next year, we are contemplating just over-wintering the cows on the house garden so that they can fertilize it as they go, lol. Makes it a lot easier if one isn't having to haul the manure, and just having it put there in the first place!

But for now, we're still working a little bit at a time, hoping and praying we can get a few more things done every month, and trying to get a bit more experience under our belts...

SuperCow, however....she must be stopped. Now that we are sure where she is jumping, she *will* be stopped. It just takes time to get that fence taken care of...and unfortunately, we're in the midst of some serious desem and regular artisan bread making right now (up to our elbows, so to speak, lol).

I'll see if I cannot get some pictures of our brick oven set up taken when we actually do some baking in it today (last night I was a bit preoccupied with our guest arriving, etc, so no pics of the pizzas, sorry! :-( ).

Til later!

A wonderful article on the importance of modesty..

An online friend (Hello, E!) brought this article to my attention today, and I thought I would share it with you all...


I do hope you will read it and that it gives you something to think about...

I have long thought that the way we dress, affects the way we think about, and carry ourselves--not just the way that others treat us...

Interesting to see my thoughts regarding the way people dress for the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, compared/contrasted with the way they will dress for dinner with a potentate...

Maybe it is a matter of great mind's thinking alike? ;-)

No, its a weekend. I do hope that you are having a good one. Our weather is going to turn nasty, the garden has *not* dried out enough to enable us to till (unfortunately!) and so we are putting off the chicken coop cleaning right now. We're going to load the family up, and go to the large garage sale/gun show in town (same venue, different areas).

Maybe I can convince El Husbando take the twins with him? Hmmmmm.....No, I doubt it...lol.

Better run--I've got to get the children set up and ready to go...diapers and wipes and cups and more cups...potty trips, appropriate footwear, and a clean-up of the house, before we leave.

I'm planning on making a post about the brick oven pizza we made here at home last night, but it will have to wait until later today, when I will have more time to dedicate to the task. Maybe while the twins are napping...

Til then dear readers, enjoy your day!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Interesting situations I find myself in...

Obviously....I live on a farm. With animals. Some of them large.

A few of you have asked "Well, okay. Skirts for dealing with manure, and small critters like chickens, sure. What about the cows and pigs?"

Well, I'll tell you... (insert Monty Python soundtrack..."she's going to tell, she's going to tell, she's going to tell.." for someone who really rather detests musicals, I sure do have a lot of them in my head, don't I? ;-) )....

Cows, pigs, and other large farm animals, are a whole 'nother ball game. A cow that weighs in at 500-1000+ lbs charging at you, with hooves? NO WAY I would want to get my feet caught up in a skirt. That's D-E-A-D! Horses, same thing. Pigs, well, for as big as they can get (we butchered three of them well over 250 lbs) can be *incredibly* fast. And they are VICIOUS. Even gilts (castrated boars)--which is what we had here--will take a chomp out of just about anything and everything. God forbid you pass out, or get knocked out, in a pig pen by yourself. You may very well not come out of there alive. No joke, folks. Pigs are not cute, bumpling Porky Pig...They are large, they are fast, they have very sharp teeth, and they WILL EAT you. Imagine if "porky" grabbed a chunk of your skirt, floating in the breeze...and yanked. Not a pretty picture, is it?

Cows and horses are far more obvious concerns for many people. Being far larger, it makes sense to take those precautions with an animal as large as that. Hooves, horns, and sheer size make them dangerous, and it is important to be able to get away swiftly if need presents (of course, as often as possible, you should take precautions, but sometimes, no precaution will be enough...

There are other situations on a farm, where I would--and have!--worn a pair of pants. Such as, working on my roof, nailing down shingles after a VERY gusty windy night of storms. It was still gusting 35-40mph. This is, after all, Oklahoma. "Where the wind comes sweeping down the Plains" (a musical, btw, I have *never* seen, although I have it on DVD). Nothing like exposing one's self to the entire passage of traffic, in front of one's home. Which, considering that my neighbors run a very successful, very BUSY business out of their home? Um, yeah. Don't need my pretty white "Hanes Her Ways" showing off to the entire world. So pants it was. Not to mention, the kneeling on fiberglass shingles is FAR less than enjoyable, and I don't like fiberglass getting all over my legs. Pants, as much as I dislike them (and even more so, dislike the way I look in them), *do* provide me some coverage in that situation. Tights, or leggings, would not hold up well, and would be destroyed before I got half done.

The main thing, about wearing skirts, is, to my mind, remaining open to the possibility that, circumstances *may* in fact, dictate that at some point, I wear a pair of pants. The work I wore pants for on the roof, would have normally been work my darling El Husbando would have done...except for the fact he was leaving for work when we discovered the damage, and waiting another 8 hours to repair it, was not an option.

There are certain subjects, such as Church doctrine, that are non-negotiable. Period. Ever. Skirts/dresses are not Church dogma. Modest and feminine, yes. Certainly, a fine ideal, and a goal to shoot for. But the realization that everyone's life does not, in all situations, safely permit a skirts/dresses only, ever, stance, is important as well. Christian charity dictates that I understand that while the Church certainly is concerned with modesty and a proper understanding of the differences in the roles of the two genders, the Church is also most certainly not going to tell someone "Women must always wear skirts/dresses, else they be damned to Hell, regardless of their personal safety and well-being". It may be a matter of discipline, in some religious orders, it may be a matter of personal conviction. However, it is not a doctrine of the Church--not even a discipline, and therefore, we must, in all loving-kindness, remember that our sisters in Christ, who are on the same journey we are in this world, are not all at the same point we are. We are all going down the same road, but we have different perspectives on it, and our experiences of that journey, along it, are going to be radically different in some ways, and very similar in others.

It may be, that a given woman of your acquaintance, dresses what she considers "modest" (and many in the world would also consider it such). But you do not. Maybe her skirts are too high (or close to the knee) for your tastes. Maybe she doesn't wear skirts at all (for reasons you may know nothing about). But it remains incumbent on us, to love her just the same, to kindly, and charitably, remember her in our prayers for all the Church militant. Because God is, hopefully, working on her life, the way He has worked, is working, and will continue to work in your own. To pointedly denounce a sister in Christ, for her lack of dressing according to your standards, is not a good thing. It is, to my way of thinking, injurious. What are you showing her (and those who may be privy to your thoughts on her in particular)? Are you showing her a loving, kind, and modest spirit, understanding that her situation is not yours, that Christ may be working with her in an entirely different area than He is working with/in your own? And that perhaps, in time, with a proper attitude of loving kindness, charity, a faithful adherence to a non-judgemental attitude, and above all, JOY! she will come to see a different level of modesty and femininity for the treasures that they are (one not being exclusive to the other?).

It is difficult, because there are times I find myself very much tempted to denounce the failings of others--even if only in my heart of hearts. Like the Pharisee in the temple, who 'prayed', thanking God that "he was not like those others"...it is a wrong attitude to have, and I strive (sometimes harder than others) to root it out. Unfortunately, like all such sinful tendencies, it is extremely difficult to root out. Like Johnson grass (and if you live in the country for very long, you know very well what Johnson grass is, why you hate it, and how difficult it is to be rid of). In some cases, where tendencies are not caught early, it is more like Kudzu (growing up south of the Mason Dixon, I know all-too-well what kudzu is. And how fast it grows (up to a foot a DAY under ideal conditions!). Kudzu was once thought of as the "end all, be all" of erosion control...oh my, how we have learned *that* lesson!

A judgemental attitude on any non-dogma issue, is one that can be JUST like kudzu. We feel justified in our stance (we felt like importing an 'erosion specialist' was a great idea). After all, modesty and femininity are wonderful things, and in this world, we can use all of it we can get--the more modest, the better (Erosion control is needed, badly! We're losing acres of prime topsoil and farmland every year!)! Everyone should know how wonderful these ideals are, and everyone should, if they have any sense at all, 'see the reason' behind a call for greater modesty and femininity in modern life (If you don't use the latest and greatest erosion control 'treatment' on the market, then you're just stupid! A joke! Why do you call yourself a farmer?). And if they don't, well, they are just...wrong! They need to be told, precisely, why modesty is a virtue that they NEED--RIGHT NOW!!! And, btw, they need to accept *your* idea of what modesty and femininty means. Right now. Or they are wrong. Damned to hell, because their skirts are three inches shorter than yours. Because they wear short sleeves in the summer, instead of suffering through 110+F heat in August, wearing longsleeves and 'offering it up'....

None of my readers are like this, I am sure. But I am, unfortunately, equally sure we've all seen the type. The "I'm going to suck all of the joy out an issue, by insisting on everyone doing it my way, regardless of their current needs, their current 'location' on their journey towards (God willing) perfection in Christ, or any other particulars of their individual life (that you/we are very likely not privy to)." I've been around a few. And they *do* suck the joy right out a room...they can suck all of the joy out life itself, by making it seem like nothing more than rule upon rule upon rule...Catholic, Protestant, Jew, or Hindu, it wouldn't matter a bit. People who elevate a non-dogma issue, to dogmatic level, on their own 'say so'? Nope. Don't want to be around them. Try to run screaming in the other direction as quickly as I can, because they have a way of poisoning the happiness of all around them. A pity, because many of them are, in other respects, perfectly wonderful people.

I've been a Protestant. I've been a Catholic. I've seen that 'self-proclaimed authority on all things "X" ' type a few times in both groups. No group is immune. I've seen wonderfully happy Christians, living out their beliefs, as well...I've yet to see one group have a monotony on one extreme or the other...we're all afflicted by this same "disease"...

A return to a greater understanding of our femininty, is vitally important. And with that, a return to a more modest mindset, as to how we approach not just our external lives, but our internal, spiritual ones as well. We are NOT 'the authority'. No one died, and made us God. Or pope. Modesty cannot just be externals. Understanding that we, individually, do not have all of the answers...understanding that where we are on this journey with, and TO, Him, the Creator of all things, is where *we* are...not where everyone else is. Our journey is just that. OURS. Not my sister's, my next-door neighbor's. Not my best friend's, nor my husband's.

And that, dear readers, is that. Concentrate on your own journey. Be supportive of other's journeys. Show them LOVE. Show them CHARITY (in thought and in deed). Remember, we are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves...and while love sometimes requires us to point out sin...we need to be very very careful that what we are pointing out is, in fact, SIN, and is not just an offence to our personal sense of 'whatever'.

For now, dear readers, I am off to the inaugural attempt at "indoor brick oven" pizza...but more on that, later...have a very safe and blessed weekend...

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Cow flops, chicken bedding, and skirts...

Now, there are those of you who find the title to be a tad, well...odd.

However, for those of you who are more inclined to the "skirts/dresses only" mindset (I have pants to wear in extreme cases. I've worn them once in two years, I believe), there is a certain sub-current of thought. That farm chores, and farm/country life, are not something that co-exists happily with a skirts only lifestyle, and that to attempt it, is, well, taking one's life into one's hands, risky, and ridiculous.

That, my dear friends, is completely, and totally, incorrect.

Today, for instance...I had some serious farm chores to do--the first real chores of the springtime...

Since we have now managed to confine Annabelle and her handsome assistant Willie, to the corral that they have yet to break free from (and won't, please God!), we had the issue of "cow flops in the yard" to take care. We have, however, a two acre 'yard'. So, cart dragging behind me, pitchfork in hand, I went over the entire yard. Throwing three cart loads of cow flops, into the cart. This is no small yard cart, btw, this sucker is HUGE. Big, big, bicycle wheels. Not, indeed, a cart for a small job...this is a 'manly' cart, as some might say...

Three times I filled it up, and three times, it got emptied onto the garden area.

What was I wearing as I patrolled my yard? A pretty A-line brown linen skirt with ruffles (made of same) on the bias. Pretty, and functional for this kind of work. As a shirt, I wore a nice, coordinating buttondown, white with brown and three shades of rosy pink, vertical stripes--3/4 sleeves of course, with a tailored look to the lines of it...

Before you go "GASP! Rachel! Linen? And a buttondown????"...let me explain something. $1.25. At thrift stores. I very very very rarely will buy a brand new, off of the retail rack, item of clothing (and it is usually underthings). One dollar, and twenty five cents, bought me that outfit. At two different thrift stores. Does it *look* like it cost me $1.25? Um, no. Linen generally does not. Being an A-line skirt, makes it far more workable for out of doors and farm chores maneuvering. And being a breathable, easy care material? Perfect for the warmer temps we have coming on, and the heat produced while one is working hard...

Now...lest you forget the rest of the title...

Chicken bedding. No, not flannel sheets with chickens on them! Silly! Chicken bedding is the straw (or really bad hay) that gets thrown into the chicken coop to absorb all of the chicken manure, etc. It keeps it from simply getting absorbed into the dirt underneath, and so we can clean out the coop at the end of the winter, throw all that delightfully fertile 'stuff' onto the garden plot, till it in, and watch the plants GROW.

We don't have a huge coop, but it was HARD work. With many months, including several very wet, and windy storms (which blows the precipitation into the coop from above, well, we've developed a very hefty, THICK layer of chicken bedding. I got about 1/5th of it out today. The oldest three children got to help haul the bedding out and spread it in the garden (where the chickens were very busily helping spread the bedding even farther afield, as they searched for bugs and grubs and worms and such...). I'd fill up a bucket a wee bit, and one of the children would haul it off, dump it, and meanwhile, I'd be filling a second bucket, and then a third.

All of this, in a pretty buttondown shirt and a nice linen skirt.

Now, did I get sweaty, in spite of temps in the lower to mid-6os, and a moderate breeze? Yes. Do I still need a shower (cause I was working until dinner time, and now I'm too stiff and sore to move myself to the bathroom)? Yes, most definitely! Is my skirt or shirt ruined, stained, or otherwise rendered "unfit for public consumption in the future after a good thorough visit with the washer and dryer"? Nope. They are both still perfectly presentable.

It is possible, indeed, to do farm chores in skirts. Goodness knows, after the chicken bedding, I bucketed up hay and hauled it off for the cows (like I said, they are in the corral), and then bucketed up manure from the pasture and hauled *it* to the garden, too.

The children, the oldest three who worked exceedingly hard today, have bathed and changed and are in their beds. I am soon to be heading there myself, after a very much needed shower.

But before that? My sweet El Husbando is going to bring me a Smirnoff. So that maybe, just maybe, when I go to get up and realize that I have sat in my recliner a touch too long, I won't feel it as much...lol. Doubtful, but one never knows!

Please, ladies. Don't let the feeling that "skirts are just for city girls with no children, who never clean, or dig in the garden, or get dirty or work hard in any way" get in your way of wearing a pretty skirt. Especially if you are smart, and go via the thrift stores, and find some in your size, suitable for you. I only get machine washable things, because of what we do around here, and the life I lead (five small children, numerous farm animals, lots of outside chores? Yep, machine washable it is!). Well, let me correct that--I do have some wool. Which *technically* can be machine washed, just not on hot, and not dryed in the dryer on a heated cycle. But it is spring, God willing I can put my woolens away for the year into my cedar chest, and not see them again til next fall!

Skirts are versatile, skirts are feminine, and skirts *can* be worn to do 'dirty' work, housekeeping, shoveling manure, or simply digging in your flower beds. Just don't use your brand new, $50 skirt to do it in! :-)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

It is almost as good as my Monty Python collection...

Minus the men in ladies clothing and falsetto voices, it is such a hoot to watch this...

Limp dishrag...lol...

Okay...you have to laugh at this.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Hooray for Archbishop Chaput!

I know not all of my readers are Catholic, but this speech is one that will likely resonate with all of you...this speech was made last night, btw...

The Vocation of Christians in American Public Life

Archbishop Chaput delivered the following address, titled "The Vocation of Christians in American Public Life," on Monday, March 1, 2010 at Houston Baptist University.

One of the ironies in my talk tonight is this. I'm a Catholic bishop, speaking at a Baptist university in America's Protestant heartland. But I've been welcomed with more warmth and friendship than I might find at a number of Catholic venues. This is a fact worth discussing. I'll come back to it at the end of my comments. But I want to begin by thanking Drs. Sloan and Bonicelli and the leadership of Houston Baptist University for their extraordinary kindness in having me here tonight. I'm very grateful for their friendship.

I also want to thank my friend Dr. John Hittinger of the University of St. Thomas. Part of my pleasure in being here is to encourage his efforts with the John Paul II Forum on the Church in the Modern World. The Forum is hugely important – and not just for Catholics, but for the whole Christian community. I'm grateful to the leadership of the University of St. Thomas for supporting him.

I need to offer a few caveats before I turn to the substance of our discussion.

The first caveat is this: My thoughts tonight are purely my own. I don't speak for the Holy See, or the American Catholic bishops, or the Houston Catholic community. In the Catholic tradition, the local bishop is the chief preacher and teacher of the faith, and the shepherd of the local Church. Here in Houston you have an outstanding bishop – a man of great Christian faith and intellect – in Cardinal Daniel DiNardo. In all things Catholic tonight, I'm glad to defer to his leadership.

Here's my second caveat: I'm here as a Catholic Christian and an American citizen – in that order. Both of these identities are important. They don't need to conflict. They are not, however, the same thing. And they do not have the same weight. I love my country. I revere the genius of its founding documents and its public institutions. But no nation, not even the one I love, has a right to my allegiance, or my silence, in matters that belong to God or that undermine the dignity of the human persons He created.

My third caveat is this: Catholics and Protestants have different memories of American history. The historian Paul Johnson once wrote that America was “born Protestant.1” That's clearly true. Whatever America is today or may become tomorrow, its origin was deeply shaped by a Protestant Christian spirit, and the fruit of that spirit has been, on the balance, a great blessing for humanity. But it's also true that, while Catholics have always thrived in the United States, they lived through two centuries of discrimination, religious bigotry and occasional violence. Protestants of course will remember things quite differently. They will remember Catholic persecution of dissenters in Europe, the entanglements of the Roman Church and state power, and papal suspicion of democracy and religious liberty.

We can't erase those memories. And we cannot – nor should we try to – paper over the issues that still divide us as believers in terms of doctrine, authority and our understandings of the Church. Ecumenism based on good manners instead of truth is empty. It's also a form of lying. If we share a love of Jesus Christ and a familial bond in baptism and God’s Word, then on a fundamental level, we're brothers and sisters. Members of a family owe each other more than surface courtesies. We owe each other the kind of fraternal respect that “speak[s] the truth in love” (Eph 4:15). We also urgently owe each other solidarity and support in dealing with a culture that increasingly derides religious faith in general, and the Christian faith in particular. And that brings me to the heart of what I want to share with you.

Our theme tonight is the vocation of Christians in American public life. That’s a pretty broad canvas. Broad enough that I wrote a book about it. Tonight I want to focus in a special way on the role of Christians in our country’s civic and political life. The key to our discussion will be that word “vocation.” It comes from the Latin word vocare, which means, “to call.” Christians believe that God calls each of us individually, and all of us as a believing community, to know, love and serve him in our daily lives.

But there’s more. He also asks us to make disciples of all nations. That means we have a duty to preach Jesus Christ. We have a mandate to share his Gospel of truth, mercy, justice and love. These are mission words; action words. They’re not optional. And they have practical consequences for the way we think, speak, make choices and live our lives, not just at home but in the public square. Real Christian faith is always personal, but it’s never private. And we need to think about that simple fact in light of an anniversary.

Fifty years ago this fall, in September 1960, Sen. John F. Kennedy, the Democratic candidate for president, spoke to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association. He had one purpose. He needed to convince 300 uneasy Protestant ministers, and the country at large, that a Catholic like himself could serve loyally as our nation’s chief executive. Kennedy convinced the country, if not the ministers, and went on to be elected. And his speech left a lasting mark on American politics. It was sincere, compelling, articulate – and wrong. Not wrong about the patriotism of Catholics, but wrong about American history and very wrong about the role of religious faith in our nation’s life. And he wasn’t merely “wrong.” His Houston remarks profoundly undermined the place not just of Catholics, but of all religious believers, in America’s public life and political conversation. Today, half a century later, we’re paying for the damage.

Now those are strong statements. So I’ll try to explain them by doing three things. First, I want to look at the problems in what Kennedy actually said. Second, I want to reflect on what a proper Christian approach to politics and public service might look like. And last, I want to examine where Kennedy’s speech has led us – in other words, the realities we face today, and what Christians need to do about those realities.

John Kennedy was a great speaker. Ted Sorensen, who helped craft the Houston speech, was a gifted writer. As a result, it’s easy to speed-read Kennedy’s Houston remarks as a passionate appeal for tolerance. But the text has at least two big flaws.2 The first is political and historical. The second is religious.

Early in his remarks, Kennedy said: “I believe in an America where the separation of Church and state is absolute.” Given the distrust historically shown to Catholics in this country, his words were shrewdly chosen. The trouble is, the Constitution doesn’t say that. The Founders and Framers didn’t believe that. And the history of the United States contradicts that. Unlike revolutionary leaders in Europe, the American Founders looked quite favorably on religion. Many were believers themselves. In fact, one of the main reasons for writing the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause – the clause that bars any federally-endorsed Church – was that several of the Constitution’s Framers wanted to protect the publicly funded Protestant Churches they already had in their own states. John Adams actually preferred a “mild and equitable establishment of religion” and helped draft that into the 1780 Massachusetts Constitution.3

America’s Founders encouraged mutual support between religion and government. Their reasons were practical. In their view, a republic like the United States needs a virtuous people to survive. Religious faith, rightly lived, forms virtuous people. Thus, the modern, drastic sense of the “separation of Church and state” had little force in American consciousness until Justice Hugo Black excavated it from a private letter President Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1802 to the Danbury Baptist Association.4 Justice Black then used Jefferson’s phrase in the Supreme Court’s Everson v. Board of Education decision in 1947.

The date of that Court decision is important, because America’s Catholic bishops wrote a wonderful pastoral letter one year later – in 1948 – called “The Christian in Action.” It’s worth reading. In that letter, the bishops did two things. They strongly endorsed American democracy and religious freedom. They also strongly challenged Justice Black’s logic in Everson.

The bishops wrote that “It would be an utter distortion of American history and law” to force the nation’s public institutions into an “indifference to religion and the exclusion of cooperation between religion and government . . .” They rejected Justice Black’s harsh new sense of the separation of Church and state as a “shibboleth of doctrinaire secularism.”5 And the bishops argued their case from the facts of American history.

The value of remembering that pastoral statement tonight is this: Kennedy referenced the 1948 bishops’ letter in his Houston comments. He wanted to prove the deep Catholic support for American democracy. And rightly so. But he neglected to mention that the same bishops, in the same letter, repudiated the new and radical kind of separation doctrine he was preaching.
The Houston remarks also created a religious problem. To his credit, Kennedy said that if his duties as President should “ever require me to violate my conscience or violate the national interest, I would resign the office.” He also warned that he would not “disavow my views or my church in order to win this election.” But in its effect, the Houston speech did exactly that. It began the project of walling religion away from the process of governance in a new and aggressive way. It also divided a person’s private beliefs from his or her public duties. And it set “the national interest” over and against “outside religious pressures or dictates.”

For his audience of Protestant ministers, Kennedy’s stress on personal conscience may have sounded familiar and reassuring. But what Kennedy actually did, according to Jesuit scholar Mark Massa, was something quite alien and new. He “‘secularize[d]’ the American presidency in order to win it.” In other words, “[P]recisely because Kennedy was not an adherent of that mainstream Protestant religiosity that had created and buttressed the ‘plausibility structures’ of [American] political culture at least since Lincoln, he had to ‘privatize’ presidential religious belief – including and especially his own – in order to win that office.”6

In Massa’s view, the kind of secularity pushed by the Houston speech “represented a near total privatization of religious belief – so much a privatization that religious observers from both sides of the Catholic/Protestant fence commented on its remarkable atheistic implications for public life and discourse.” And the irony -- again as told by Massa -- is that some of the same people who worried publicly about Kennedy’s Catholic faith got a result very different from the one they expected. In effect, “the raising of the [Catholic] issue itself went a considerable way toward ‘secularizing’ the American public square by privatizing personal belief. The very effort to ‘safeguard’ the [essentially Protestant] religious aura of the presidency . . . contributed in significant ways to its secularization.”

Fifty years after Kennedy’s Houston speech, we have more Catholics in national public office than ever before. But I wonder if we’ve ever had fewer of them who can coherently explain how their faith informs their work, or who even feel obligated to try. The life of our country is no more “Catholic” or “Christian” than it was 100 years ago. In fact it's arguably less so. And at least one of the reasons for it is this: Too many Catholics confuse their personal opinions with a real Christian conscience. Too many live their faith as if it were a private idiosyncrasy – the kind that they’ll never allow to become a public nuisance. And too many just don't really believe. Maybe it’s different in Protestant circles. But I hope you’ll forgive me if I say, “I doubt it.”
John Kennedy didn’t create the trends in American life that I’ve described. But at least for Catholics, his Houston speech clearly fed them. Which brings me to the second point of my talk: What would a proper Christian approach to politics look like? John Courtney Murray, the Jesuit scholar who spoke so forcefully about the dignity of American democracy and religious freedom, once wrote: “The Holy Spirit does not descend into the City of Man in the form of a dove. He comes only in the endlessly energetic spirit of justice and love that dwells in the man of the City, the layman.”7

Here's what that means. Christianity is not mainly – or even significantly -- about politics. It's about living and sharing the love of God. And Christian political engagement, when it happens, is never mainly the task of the clergy. That work belongs to lay believers who live most intensely in the world. Christian faith is not a set of ethics or doctrines. It's not a group of theories about social and economic justice. All these things have their place. All of them can be important. But a Christian life begins in a relationship with Jesus Christ; and it bears fruit in the justice, mercy and love we show to others because of that relationship.

Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets” (Mt 22:37-40). That's the test of our faith, and without a passion for Jesus Christ in our hearts that reshapes our lives, Christianity is just a word game and a legend. Relationships have consequences. A married man will commit himself to certain actions and behaviors, no matter what the cost, out of the love he bears for his wife. Our relationship with God is the same. We need to live and prove our love by our actions, not just in our personal and family lives, but also in the public square. Therefore Christians individually and the Church as a believing community engage the political order as an obligation of the Word of God. Human law teaches and forms as well as regulates; and human politics is the exercise of power – which means both have moral implications that the Christian cannot ignore and still remain faithful to his vocation as a light to the world (Mt 5:14-16).

Robert Dodaro, the Augustinian priest and scholar, wrote a wonderful book a few years ago called Christ and the Just Society in the Thought of Augustine. In his book and elsewhere, Dodaro makes four key points about Augustine's view of Christianity and politics.8
First, Augustine never really offers a political theory, and there's a reason. He doesn't believe human beings can know or create perfect justice in this world. Our judgment is always flawed by our sinfulness. Therefore, the right starting point for any Christian politics is humility, modesty and a very sober realism. Second, no political order, no matter how seemingly good, can ever constitute a just society. Errors in moral judgment can't be avoided. These errors also grow exponentially in their complexity as they move from lower to higher levels of society and governance. Therefore the Christian needs to be loyal to her nation and obedient to its legitimate rulers. But she also needs to cultivate a critical vigilance about both. Third, despite these concerns, Christians still have a duty to take part in public life according to their God-given abilities, even when their faith brings them into conflict with public authority. We can’t simply ignore or withdraw from civic affairs. The reason is simple. The classic civic virtues named by Cicero – prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance – can be renewed and elevated, to the benefit of all citizens, by the Christian virtues of faith, hope and charity. Therefore, political engagement is a worthy Christian task, and public office is an honorable Christian vocation.
Fourth, in governing as best they can, while conforming their lives and their judgment to the content of the Gospel, Christian leaders in public life can accomplish real good, and they can make a difference. Their success will always be limited and mixed. It will never be ideal. But with the help of God they can improve the moral quality of society, which makes the effort invaluable.

What Augustine believes about Christian leaders, we can reasonably extend to the vocation of all Christian citizens. The skills of the Christian citizen are finally very simple: a zeal for Jesus Christ and his Church; a conscience formed in humility and rooted in Scripture and the believing community; the prudence to see which issues in public life are vital and foundational to human dignity, and which ones are not; and the courage to work for what's right. We don't cultivate these skills alone. We develop them together as Christians, in prayer, on our knees, in the presence of Jesus Christ – and also in discussions like tonight.

Now before ending, I want to turn briefly to the third point I mentioned earlier in my talk: the realities we face today, and what Christians need to do about them. As I was preparing these comments for tonight, I listed all the urgent issues that demand our attention as believers: abortion; immigration; our obligations to the poor, the elderly and the disabled; questions of war and peace; our national confusion about sexual identity and human nature, and the attacks on marriage and family life that flow from this confusion; the growing disconnection of our science and technology from real moral reflection; the erosion of freedom of conscience in our national health-care debates; the content and quality of the schools that form our children.

The list is long. I believe abortion is the foundational human rights issue of our lifetime. We need to do everything we can to support women in their pregnancies and to end the legal killing of unborn children. We may want to remember that the Romans had a visceral hatred for Carthage not because Carthage was a commercial rival, or because its people had a different language and customs. The Romans hated Carthage above all because its people sacrificed their infants to Ba’al. For the Romans, who themselves were a hard people, that was a unique kind of wickedness and barbarism. As a nation, we might profitably ask ourselves whom and what we’ve really been worshipping in our 40 million “legal” abortions since 1973.

All of these issues that I’ve listed above divide our country and our Churches in a way Augustine would have found quite understandable. The City of God and the City of Man overlap in this world. Only God knows who finally belongs to which. But in the meantime, in seeking to live the Gospel we claim to believe, we find friends and brothers in unforeseen places, unlikely places; and when that happens, even a foreign place can seem like one’s home.

The vocation of Christians in American public life does not have a Baptist or Catholic or Greek Orthodox or any other brand-specific label. John 14:6 – “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me” – which is so key to the identity of Houston Baptist University, burns just as hot in this heart, and the heart of every Catholic who truly understands his faith. Our job is to love God, preach Jesus Christ, serve and defend God’s people, and sanctify the world as his agents. To do that work, we need to be one. Not “one” in pious words or good intentions, but really one, perfectly one, in mind and heart and action, as Christ intended. This is what Jesus meant when he said, “I do not pray for these only, but also those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (Jn17:20-21).

We live in a country that was once – despite its sins and flaws -- deeply shaped by Christian faith. It can be so again. But we will do that together, or we won’t do it at all. We need to remember the words of St. Hilary from so long ago: Unum sunt, qui invicem sunt. “They are one, who are wholly for each other.”9 May God grant us the grace to love each other, support each other and live wholly for each other in Jesus Christ – so that we might work together in renewing the nation that has served human freedom so well.

Here's a link to the speech, posted on the Archdiocese of Denver's website (which includes the footnotes):


Groundhog Day...

I know. It was a month plus ago now. But I'm talking about the movie. Bill Murray? Andie MacDowell? Yeah. That one.

I've been living it, these last two weeks. When I wake up in the morning...there is a cow in my front yard. Enjoying the rising sun. Its warmer you know, in the east, first thing in the morning.

I have hoofmarks in my yard. Big deep ones, thanks to the rain we've had and the nice thick clay soil we have here. I have hoofmarks on my front porch. On top of my lawnmower. All over every pathway. In the chicken coop, of all places. Because chicken feed is apparently very tasty to cows, dontcha know?

I have *lots* of hoofmarks.

Now, I am sure you are thinking, "Rachel, silly girl, get yourself outside, put the cow back into the pasture, and have it done and over with!".

I have done that. Every. stinking. morning. And sometimes, in the afternoons, too, when I go to get the twins up from their naps, and she is sneaking peeks in their bedroom window.

Admittedly, Annabelle is a good girl, other than her Houdini tendencies, her inability to get pregnant (okay, so we've only tried once so far), and her general dislike of doing anything other than what she wants to do. Really. She's quite pretty. Black brown, with a nice red highlight down the middle of her back.

But the E&E she's been doing lately (that's "Evasion and Escape" in military-ese)...well, its at best a bother, at worst, a health hazard (for her, and the general public). Yesterday, Miss Annabelle not only got back out of the pasture--again--but decided to go force her way through a spot *I* would be hard pressed to get through...and go onto the road.

Now, fortunately, our road is not a busy one, and a kindly passerby stopped to help me get her headed back into the property, and up the driveway...but....

And I've had to put Annabelle onto strict confinement in the corral, something I really do not like to do. El Husbando spent the greater part of Saturday trying to firm up fences...only to have her jump, push through, and otherwise make it known she was laughing at the paltry human attempts to cage "HER"...she who is (in her own mind, at least) SUPERCOW.

Annabelle is just her mild-mannered everyday persona, in case you had not already guessed. I'm sure that somewhere in the pasture is a cape, tights, and some sort of a body suit. Maybe some special bracelets like Wonder Woman has...

Regardless of costume, however, we have really only got two choices as far as Miss Annabelle is concerned. Even further, more tiresome work on the fences (which will need to be done regardless, but this makes it an immediate necessity), or...Miss Annabelle joins Master Willie as 'freezer bait'.

Lest you think I am coldhearted, bear in mind, we've had her for almost a year now (11 mos). She's lived a very nice life out here. Lots of clean water, fresh air, and good native grass pasture. She even was granted a 24 hr stay with the neighboring stud bull...only nothing has happened as result, it appears (if it has, she's acting convincingly *not* pregnant).

Personally, I'd be more than happy to trade her off as a beef cow (she is probably 1/2 Angus) for a good Jersey, Brown Swiss, or Dexter cow. We've got Willie (Annabelle's pasture mate, confidant, and steer extraordinaire) for the freezer. She'd be ready to butcher now, and some farmer wanting to rid himself of a dairy cow, could have a freezer full of grass fed, as organic as we could get her, beef. That being said, however, we bought her to breed her and make a milker out of her (being 1/2 Angus and 1/2 Jersey, well, we had our hopes). That, however, may not be, and if we cannot find some sort of accomodation that we are all happy with, well, it will be a very very very long spring/summer.

If you know anyone in southern Oklahoma or north Texas, looking to find some grass fed beef still on the hoof, and is willing to trade off a good solid, youngish dairy cow for it, well, email me. I think that we can come to some sort of arrangement.

Cause right now? I'd much rather have fresh from the cow milk, than more hoofprints in my yard.