Theme Thursday: PANIC

Last spring, Moe and a couple of other seventh grade boys built a robot at school.  The kids were supposed to design a machine that would operate in the water, like a boat, and that they could steer and make it submerge itself and resurface, like a submarine.  On the last day of school, Moe brought it home, and of course he wanted to test it in the lake behind our house.

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When the cord became snagged on a log, trapping the robot underwater, there was a moment of panic when the boys tried to figure out how to retrieve it.  (Mind you, this lake is deep and full of snapping turtles, and I have no way to know how clean the water is.  We don’t swim in it.)  The next thing I know, Curly has stripped off most of his clothes, and he’s in the lake.  I’m yelling for him to get out of there NOW, and he’s saying, “Don’t worry, Mom, it’s FINE!”  (He’s fifteen.  He knows everything.)

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To make a long story short, they managed to retrieve the robot, but had to cut the cord in the process.  That’s that, and although they discussed how to repair the wire and make it waterproof, they never did.

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That was the last day of school.  The whole summer was ahead of us.  Now the summer is rapidly approaching its end; and although I’m not in panic mode yet, it’s only a matter of days (maybe hours) until I reach that point.  Today we start looking at school supply lists and begin our inventory of what we have and what we need to buy.  I have MUCH to do to prepare for the new year at preschool.

I’ll try not to panic.

Check out Clan Donaldson for more moments of panic.

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7 Quick Takes Volume 16 (and BBQ for Theme Thursday)

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–1–

Our faith community lost two beautiful souls this week, and much too soon.  Sarah was a young mom who was expecting her fifth child.  She was out in her backyard when she was stung by bees, had an allergic reaction, was rushed to the hospital, and now her husband and four children have had to say goodbye to her and their baby sister they never got to meet.  I did not know Sarah personally, but I have met her and have seen the family in church frequently.  I bought a couple of the beautiful clay rosaries she made as confirmation gifts, and a necklace for my mother on her birthday.  I only wish I had bought one for myself at the time.

Memebers of Sarah’s family have set up a fund to help her children in their loss; please click here and consider making a small donation.  You can also read more about Sarah here and here.

–2–

I’ve been in somewhat of a cooking slump lately.  That isn’t to say I haven’t been cooking, but for some reason I haven’t been quite as eager to try new recipes, and there have been many nights when I’ve resorted to digging through my freezer and my cabinets to see what kind of concoction I can come up with using the stuff that I have sitting around.  I suppose that isn’t so bad; last Sunday for dinner I chopped up some leftover Italian sausages and mixed them into scrambled eggs, and it was pretty good.  (OH, and the other night I decided to make this eggplant parmesan, and it was delicious.)

I have tried a few new recipes this summer, though.  Joe really likes scallops, so for Father’s Day I found this super easy recipe for grilled scallops wrapped in prosciutto.  We fired up the BBQ and had a easy and delicious dinner.

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–3–

I still have my subscription to Fine Cooking. I haven’t tried anything from the most recent issue, but the previous one had a recipe in the “Make It Tonight” section for spicy cod with polenta.

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 (Normally I would type up the recipe for you, but wouldn’t you know I misplaced the magazine it was in.  Can’t find it anywhere.  Luckily it’s online now, and here it is!)

The fish market at Wegman’s didn’t have any cod that day, so I used tilapia instead.  (I know; some people say you shouldn’t buy tilapia for various environmental and health reasons; but hey, it’s inexpensive and it tastes good.  Heck, I’ve even been known to buy conventional factory-farmed meat from time to time, especially when I’m cooking for a crowd.  So sue me.)   The recipe also calls for harissa paste–AS IF I’M SUPPOSED TO KNOW WHAT THAT IS.  After a little bit of Internet googling, I found out that it’s a middle-eastern chili paste that’s nearly impossible to find, that it’s extremely spicy, and if you’re like most Americans and don’t have any, you can use hot sauce.  Perfect.

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The boys had a couple of friends over that night, and I made enough for them as well–did I tell you that tilapia is quite inexpensive?–and guess what?  Everyone loved it.  And if you can make a bunch of teenage boys happy with fish, it must be good!  I made it again this week, too (with tilapia), and it was just as yummy. (Oh, and by the way, I never knew how easy it is to make polenta, either!)

–4–

BILLY JOEL IN CONCERT.

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OH. MY. GAWSH.

–5–

On the morning of the Billy Joel concert my friend texted me this:

Did you know special guest Gavin DeGraw tonight

WHAAATTT???

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I couldn’t believe my good fortune.  I’d seen Gavin twice already (I blogged a little bit about those concerts here and here), and both of those shows were great.  Getting to see him open for Billy Joel was a fun addition to an already great night.

–6–

The first time I saw Gavin DeGraw, Colbie Caillat was there too.  She was amazing.  I’m sure you’ve heard her new song “Try” by now, and seen the video, but I’m sharing it anyway:

I love her.

–7–

I’ll leave you with a stupid joke that came right out of my very own brain (ahem):

 What do you call watching all nine episodes of Sherlock pretty much in an endless loop on Netflix?

A Cumberbinge.

Badaboom.

Have a great weekend, and don’t forget to tip your server.

And please visit Conversion Diary for more Quick Takes…AND Clan Donaldson for her 7 Quick Takes/Theme Thursday mashup!  Click on the link in Take #2 for the linkup.  Peace!

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Mountains and Trails: Theme Thursday (New England, Days 2 and 3)

Smuggler’s Notch is a ski resort in the winter, and a fun family getaway in the summer. (Dang, I sound like a commercial.)  On Monday–you can read about Day 1, Sunday, here–Larry wanted to spend the day with other teens his age, and he joined a camp that took him hiking, had him playing games, tackling a ropes course, and generally socializing. (He wished we could have stayed the whole week.  There was canoeing and kayaking and rock climbing and all kinds of other fun stuff scheduled for the next several days.) The rest of us headed out early in the morning to climb the highest peak at Smuggler’s Notch.  We followed the winter ski trails for about 2 1/2 miles STRAIGHT UP to the top.  The spectacular views were worth the effort!

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(The descent was harder than the climb, to tell you the truth.  My knees and my toes were objecting loudly by the time we reached the bottom.)

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After lunch and a nap, I decided to drive up and down the main road and try and find some more geocaches.  I ended up finding five (and according to my stats on Geocaching.com, that’s the most I’ve ever found in one day), including the one under the covered bridge that I had searched in vain for on Sunday.

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For dinner we drove into Jeffersonville and had a DELICIOUS meal at a place called The Family Table.  During dinner we had a conversation about possibly coming here to ski someday, and about whether or not we’d ever been to a ski resort during the summer, and that once or twice Moe had been to Massanutten to the water park.  Our waitress asked “Are you from Virginia?” Turns out she was originally from Charlottesville.  Small world.

Tuesday dawned a little cloudy, and we quickly packed up our stuff, wolfed down some pop tarts (which we have ONLY when we’re on vacation), and headed West toward New Hampshire and Maine.  The highlight of that day was driving to the top of Mount Washington.

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(Yes, we have the big ol’ sticker now that says, “THIS CAR CLIMBED MT. WASHINGTON.”  I haven’t decided yet whether or not to actually put it on the car.)

Curly said that next time, he’s going to hike to the top.  I’ll gladly join him.  And did you know they have a foot race to the top?  It had just taken place the previous weekend.  My first reaction when I learned about it was, NO WAY.  But the more I think about it, the more it seems like an interesting concept. Could I have it in me to run 7.6 miles straight uphill? I don’t really have what people call a “bucket list,” but if I did…

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We arrived in the late afternoon, in the rain, at our lovely house on Moosehead Lake, and had another awesome dinner (The Stress Free Moose in Greenville) and discussed what we would do the next day, in the rain.  Stay tuned…

OH, and I totally forgot!  Don’t forget to visit Clan Donaldson and check out more Theme Thursday Trails!

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Get Thee To Church: St. Mary’s, Cambridge, Vermont (Or, New England Vacay, Day 1)

After our trip to Alaska, I published a summary of our vacation at Musings of a Catholic Mom in one long post, in the form of Seven Quick Takes (“7 Long Days: The Alaska Edition”).  I had planned to do something like that this week but I think I’ll break it up into several posts–and like I said the other day, I’ll try very hard not to bore you….and perhaps I’ll give you more than one post a week after all.

It was the first day of summer.  We had spent most of the previous day in the car, and everyone was exhausted.  I woke up at 4:30 am to find sunlight peeking through the curtains in our condo in Smuggler’s Notch, Vermont–which is a ski resort in the winter, and a fun place for a getaway during the summer.  I realized that we were quite a bit farther north than where we live, and it was in fact the longest day of the year.  After downing a cup of coffee and a little bit of food I threw on my running clothes and headed out the door.  I ended up running about six and a half miles, a little bit farther than I had planned, but what a beautiful morning it was, in such a beautiful place!  And there was a geocache just over three miles down the road–which was a good excuse for a 6+ mile out-and-back.  When I returned, everyone was still sleeping.

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When we go on vacation, we’re usually leaving on a Saturday, which means arriving late in the day and going to church on Sunday morning.  It’s nice to start a fun-filled week with Mass.  After I showered and we dragged the boys out of bed, we found this lovely little church a few miles away.

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At the beginning of Mass when the lector got up and said “Good Morning, and welcome to St. Mary of the Assumption Church,” Joe and I looked at each other and grinned.  When we lived in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, we attended St. Mary of the Assumption–it’s where I was received into the Catholic Church, in fact!

If you’ve been following my blogs for a long time, you probably know that when I attend Mass at a church other than my own, I like to take pictures and post them here.  So after Mass when Joe and the boys waited in the car, I stayed behind for a few minutes to snap some photos.  A nice gentleman asked me if I was vacationing from out of town, and I said yes, and that I like to take pictures of the churches where I visit.  He said, “Welcome to our little country church!”  And a lovely little country church it was, too; almost as little as Our Lady of the Valley, and Immaculate Conception in Alaska–and every bit as lovely.

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After Mass we stopped by a local winery to sample some of their fare (just me–Joe was driving), and the wine-tasting guy told us we should check out Burger Barn for lunch.  Just a little trailer with a few picnic tables outside that served 100% local grass-fed beef.  A long line and a long wait for our food (this blog was once called “Eating Slowly,” after all), and totally worth it!

In the afternoon we played our first ever game of disc golf.  We opted for the nine-hole easy course instead of the more difficult eighteen-hole course nearby.

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Later while the boys checked out the water park at the resort, I decided to head toward town (actually a village–Jeffersonville, pop. 731) and check out a couple of geocaches down the road.  To my delight I discovered that they were hidden near an old covered bridge that is still in use.  I found one geocache in the woods off a nearby trail, and looked for the other one underneath the bridge but couldn’t find it.

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After grabbing pizza for dinner at the resort Joe and I left the kids in the condo to play their video games and watch TV or whatever it is they do, and went to a pub to listen to some live music for a  while.

What did we do the next day?  Climbed a mountain.  And another one the day after that.  I’ll tell you about those adventures in a future post.  Thanks for visiting!

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Blog Makeover…a Bright Idea?

Last week I got an email from George, host of the New Evangelists Monthly link-up on his blog, Convert Journal. He said it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything there and I was missed.  I had to tell him that regrettably I had nothing to submit because I had all but quit blogging these last few months. That’s OK, he said (I wish I could find that email so I could share his exact words); even the most mundane of adventures are a fine excuse to get into a blogging slump. That made me smile, because that’s what life is, really, isn’t it? One big adventure. Most of the time it’s so mundane it’s hardly worth the teensy-est blog post, and when a bigger adventure comes along you hardly have time to blog about it.

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By the way, did you notice anything different when you opened up this post? Yes, I’ve gone and changed the title of this here little site. Lately “Eating Slowly” has been sounding more and more cheesy (it was starting to make me cringe, if you want to know the truth); and besides, I hardly blog about food anymore anyway–heck, I hardly blog at all. So this morning as I was running laps on our local high school track (Speedwork. My least favorite workout. Thank the Good Lord for Spotify.) I started to think, “I wonder if I could squeeze in one post a week? Just one? Surely that won’t be too hard!” I decided then and there that TODAY I would FINALLY get myself back into blogging again, start from scratch (hence the name change), and make an effort to put out one blog post every week–maybe somewhere in the Thursday-Friday time frame, but we’ll see. If I can get into a routine now, maybe by the time school starts I can keep it going, and who knows? Perhaps some weeks I’ll find the time for two posts.

Without further ado, I bring you the rest of this week’s post:  my entry for Cari’s linkup, Theme Thursday. This week’s theme? Bright. That was the theme the first time I jumped onto Cari’s blogwagon, so it’s perfect.

RANDOM BRIGHT PHOTOS FROM OUR NEW ENGLAND VACATION:

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(My 6-mile run in Smuggler’s Notch, Vermont took longer than it should have because I kept stopping to take pictures.)

 

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(From a covered bridge in near Smuggler’s Notch where I found a way cool Geocache.)

 

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(A funny little duck splashing around in Moosehead Lake, Maine.)

 

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(The view from the dock at our Moosehead Lake rental house. It had rained for most of our stay there, and the morning we left I could finally greet the sun.)

 

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(Boston: the Old South Meeting House, where the Boston Tea Party was organized.)

 

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(St. Stephen’s Church in Boston, where we attended Mass.  Oh, hello, Paul Revere.)

Maybe next week’s post will be more New England photos (I’ll try not to make it too boring–I know it’s not always thrilling to look at other people’s  vacation pictures); or perhaps I’ll give you something different like a recipe or some random thoughts about friendship or God or running.  Meanwhile, be sure to check out Clan Donaldson for more bright pics.  Thanks for visiting; see you next week, I hope!

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7 Quick Takes: The I’m Still Here Edition

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The other night at the dinner table I was taking a photo of my plate of food, because I had tried a new recipe and wanted to post it on my blog.  “Not that I have time to do that,” I said.  “I haven’t posted anything in like three months.”  Moe (age 13, boy does time fly) seemed shocked.  “REALLY??  What’s the point of having a blog if you’re not going to post anything?”

Exactly.

May I present my first post since February, a short summary of what’s been going on in my life recently:

1. My childhood friend who I hadn’t seen in years passed away from cancer.

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2.  I ran my first half marathon.

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3.  I’ve found thirty-four geocaches since my last post. (I took a selfie when I found my 200th cache.  People must have wondered what the heck I was doing taking selfies behind the Wawa at 7:30 am on a Saturday.)

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4.  We spent Easter weekend in Atlanta with my brother and his family, my brother-in-law and his family, AND Joe’s parents.  We had a wonderful time.

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5.  My Fitbit is my new favorite gadget.

6.  I had the privilege of running with some of my fellow LIFE Runners on a 5K leg along the length of the Mall in DC as part of their annual A-Cross America Relay.  The relay started on Ash Wednesday on at the Golden Gate and Brooklyn Bridges, and met on Palm Sunday in Souix Falls, South Dakota.  I also got to meet Jeanne Monahan, the President of the March For Life, which was way cool.

(Oh, and I signed up for the LIFE Runners’ national race, the Air Force Marathon in Dayton, Ohio on September 20.  Except I’m doing the half, not the full marathon.  I want to get a couple more 13.1-mile races under my belt at least before I start thinking about running 26.2.)

7.  Larry brought the house down playing Seymour in his high school’s production of Little Shop of Horrors.  And more recently Larry and Curly both starred in Romeo and Juliet, which was the school’s spring play.  It’s so much fun watching my boys on stage!

 

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Today was the last day at preschool.  As much as I’m looking forward to summer, I’m always a little sad to see the school year end.  I’m going to miss the kiddos, especially the ones moving on to Kindergarten in the fall.

My Catechesis of the Good Shepherd training has been going swimmingly.  I have two sessions left and I’ll be certified to teach Level I, which is the three to six-year-old program.  One of my tasks for the summer is to catch up on my homework and required reading because I’ve fallen behind.  Fortunately we don’t have specific due dates and our assignments aren’t graded!

Hopefully I’ll be able to post more often this summer.  I miss being part of the blogging scene.  (And I think it’s time to change the name, which I’ve contemplated doing from the very beginning.  “Eating Slowly” sounds cheesy, and it doesn’t seem to quite fit anymore…we’ll see.)  In these next few weeks I hope to tell you more about my friend Mary and how she touched my life more than I realized, and how random things remind me of her.  I’ll tell you about my new love for running and how I never thought I’d be crazy enough to run a half marathon and then I did, and I’m planning to do more.  I’ll tell you about books I’ve been reading, movies I’ve been watching (not many of either), geocaches I’m finding–yes, I’m a geek–and the shenanegans and craziness that comes with having three teenage boys in the house.  And of course I’ll write about my faith and the adventures of being Catholic.  And about food.  Have I left anything out?

Have a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend, and be sure to visit Conversion Diary for more Quick Takes!

 

 

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Ramblings of a Middle-Aged Mom

(I was going to name this post, “Midlife Crisis,” but it sounded too dramatic; and anyway I’m not sure that’s accurate.  More like a “Midlife Awakening.”  I hope I’m not being too navel-gaze-y here…)

Not long ago I realized something about myself:  Whatever I happen to be doing at any given moment, I tend to throw myself into it with my entire being (except housework) . I’ve been this way most of my adult life, and I guess I never realized it.  I’m not sure if this is a virtue or a vice, because I think it’s caused me to burn out in some cases.  My first job after college was as a teaching assistant working with special education kids.  I loved it.  I was in a small school, a tight-knit community of mostly low-income families.  I bonded quickly with the kids and the other teachers at the school, especially the special education teacher who I worked closely with.  I took on a second job for a few months that year as a checker at a grocery store, which (to my surprise) I enjoyed.  The following year I was hired as a kindergarten teacher at the same school, and went on to teach first grade the year after that.  My job was my whole life.  Sure, I spent the weekends with my family and went to church, and even started teaching Sunday School (which I also loved and threw my whole self into), but it was teaching that consumed me.  I met my future husband during this time as well, and since he lived in another state, every other weekend we made every effort to be together.  Oh, and this was around the time I got it into my head that I wanted to join the Peace Corps (I didn’t, and frankly I’m glad; because if I had I wouldn’t be married to the man I love or have given birth to my boys.  And I probably wouldn’t be Catholic, either).  For a while I wasn’t liking my job much, and when I moved to Maryland to be closer to Joe and got a teaching position there, it took me a few years to find a good balance between work and my personal life (and life was pretty stressful at that time too–what with getting married and starting a family and all).  Just when I was starting to enjoy my job again, I had a baby and stepped away from teaching for nine years.

I threw myself into raising my kids,  and those are years I will treasure forever.  For the last several years (to make a long story short) I have worked part time in various school settings, and looking back I realized I’ve thrown myself wholeheartedly into that as well.  This time, fortunately, I haven’t burned out.  Perhaps because the hours have been short enough that I can devote some time to my family and myself and stay relatively sane; or maybe as I’ve grown older I’ve learned to manage my time, to trust in God, and not to worry so much about certain things beyond my control.  And I’m learning to say “no.”  I think that’s a biggie.

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I’m not sure why I am telling you all this.  Six years ago I started blogging, and whenever anyone asked me what my hobbies were, it was the first thing on my list.  My family bought me a DSLR camera one year for Christmas, and I started to develop a passion for photography.  Of course, I’ve never done anything with my photos except post them on my blogs and on social media (and occasionally print them for Christmas cards and calendars), but that’s about it.  Yesterday I downloaded eighty-four pictures from my camera, and every single photo is of the kids at the preschool where I work.  There was not one of my own family, or anything non-work related.  I’m not sure what that says about me, but I do know I tend to take pictures of people and things that I love and find interesting and beautiful.  (Not that I don’t love my family and I haven’t seen beauty in other things; but for some reason I haven’t felt inspired to take a photo of them in the last month or two.)

A couple of years ago in the third grade religion textbook I was teaching from (something I’ve had to say “no” to recently–teaching CCD, which I love and hope to do again eventually), the question was asked, “What makes you feel alive?”  I don’t remember the objectives of the lesson at that time; perhaps it was the chapter on how God made us and gave us life.  Maybe it was about how he made us different from the animals by giving us a soul and the ability to reason and wonder and love.  Anyhow, I asked the kids to write or draw pictures of something that made them feel alive.  For some, it was playing soccer; for others, it was helping Mom cook dinner.  Ever since, I’ve been asking myself that question: exactly what makes me feel alive?  And what does that mean, anyway?  An activity that is exhilarating or exciting?  Something that gives me a great sense of accomplishment or satisfaction?  Something that gives me a profound sense of calmness and peace?

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Not long after I started pondering these things, I started a series of lists (I’m not sure why, maybe I’m entering my midlife crisis and feel a need to rediscover myself) of various things that I enjoy doing, things that make me feel “alive,” and things that I want to accomplish.  That last one is a doozie because they’ll require work on my part to make them happen.  I find myself looking at them from time to time, occasionally adding and deleting things, and moving things from one list to the other.   Here’s a small sample:

THINGS THAT MAKE ME FEEL ALIVE

Teaching others about the faith, especially children

Learning new things, especially about my Catholic faith

Being out-of-doors, especially when moving

Attending a live performance (play, concert, etc)

Reading a good book

Time spent with friends and family

Being at Mass.  Seriously.  At least most of the time, except maybe when I’m tired and want to sleep.

THINGS I ENJOY (Am I less passionate about these things than the ones on the first list?  I’m not sure.)

Cooking

blogging/writing

geocaching–this involves being outside and moving (see alive list)

skiing–also involves being outside and moving (see alive list)

taking photos and sharing them

My job at preschool.

(About that last one…I was somewhat surprised at myself for putting my job on my “enjoy” list instead of my “alive” list, and I made ANOTHER list–which I’ll spare you the boredom of reading–of things that would help my work make me feel alive instead of just something I enjoy; first and foremost “Love each as a child of God,” as well as among other things, “convey a sense of wonder for the world around us and for God.”   Oh, and update the school’s Facebook page more often.  I think it’s just about ready for that promotion, to tell you the truth.)

My passions have tended to wax and wane over the years.  A passion for blogging and photography became something I enjoy doing from time to time.  A loathing for running became a passion–although, the funny thing is, sometimes I still loathe it.  Just not enough to quit just yet.  I hope that one sticks.  Fortunately my passion for Jesus and all things Catholic hasn’t diminished–even though my efforts to deepen my relationship with God are often pretty pathetic or even nonexistent.   My passion for life at all stages and my desire to do more to promote the dignity of all human life is as strong as ever–even though I have never done enough.

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So, my dear readers, I guess my point is this:

My hopes and dreams are many, even more numerous than when I was younger, I think.  They’re constantly evolving and changing; some dreams growing, others fading into the background but not entirely vanishing.  When I’m blogging,  I’m sharing the snippets of my life–or in this case, my rambling thoughts–about things I hold most dear, the things I enjoy, and that make me feel alive.  When I’m not blogging, I hope I’m spending my time on things that nurture my passions.  (Or maybe I’ve just read something that makes my blood boil, or brings tears to my eyes, and I’m at a loss for how to put those feelings into words.  Or I just don’t want to start an argument–which is a cop-out, I know.  I’ll try and do better.)  Anyhow, perhaps someday I’ll share with you the lists I made of my hopes and dreams and goals–and how I hope to achieve them.

Now if only I could develop a serious passion for housecleaning…

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