Category Archives: Really random

Random Bits of Momness: Friday edition

1.  Is there any nicer feeling than the feeling you get on the Friday of a three-day weekend?  Ahhh.  While I’m on the subject, blessings on all veterans, past and present!

2.  Isn’t this a charming painting?

It’s called Bubbles, and it’s by the Victorian painter Sir John Everett Millais.  I remember seeing this painting when I was a child, and it was nice to encounter it again during a  Google Image search for something else entirely (don’t you love the serendipity of the Internet?).  It captures the sense of wonder that children have … don’t we all need to be more like a little child in this regard?  (I also  like the picture because bubbles figure prominently in my new book, too, both in the content and on the cover.  There’s something so evocative about them.)

3.  Fall has, at long last, come to Northern California.  The 80 degree weather of earlier this week has been replaced by rain and clouds.  I’m ready for it; there is something profoundly unsettling about sandal weather in November, which always makes me think of global warming and the melting polar ice caps.  But now, there is a lovely snap in the air.  

4.  Speaking of fall: have you ever tried the pumpkin pancake mix from Trader Joe’s?  It’s heavenly.  It’s amazing with maple syrup, but when you have it with warmed fresh cranberry sauce … well, if I didn’t already believe in God, I think this would be enough to convince me.   If you live near a TJ’s, trust me: go get a box and try it.  You’re welcome.

5. I was at the bookstore the other day, and was utterly psychologically unprepared for the sight of Christmas decorations.   And then I realized that if Thanksgiving is two weeks away, can Christmas be far behind?   I guess I’d better start looking for cute little holiday vests for the boys to wear.

Have a fabulous long weekend!

Random bits of momness

1.  Happy Ash Wednesday!  (That sounds odd, doesn’t it?  Maybe “Blessed Ash Wednesday” is better.)    In keeping with the day, here’s a great little two-minute video from BustedHalo.  They do a wonderfully succinct job of explaining the meaning behind the day, and even got me reflecting on Lent in a new way.

2.  Remember that housecleaning post I did a few weeks back?  I’m happy to report that our house is looking neater than ever before.   I think this is because I’ve made cleaning more of a priority than I used to, and because Scott is now willingly pitching in to help.  (We’ve also started demanding more toy pickup from the boys, which we should have done a long time ago.)   This house will never be mistaken for the set of the Martha Stewart show, but it is amazing how much even a half-hour of intensive cleaning/organizing can help.  (It’s also amazing how much  more relaxed I feel, without those bathtub rings gazing at me reproachfully.)

3.  ”Downton Abbey” is over.  Sniff.  The withdrawal is  painful — it’ll be a whole year before I find out what happens with Mr. Bates, and whether Mary and Matthew really do pull it off, and before I get to see whether poor overlooked Edith ever finds her man.   It is amazing how involved one can get in the lives of people who don’t really exist, isn’t  it?  (Thankfully, Scott gave me this book for my birthday, which is supplying me with a much-needed DA fix.)

4. Speaking of books, I was thrilled to be interviewed recently by Lisa Hendey about my book Mary and Me.   You can check out the interview on  ( More info about the book — plus a PDF guide of book club questions — is available at this blog page.)  It makes for great Lenten reading!

5.  Since I think that  any day is better with a little Mary in it, here’s an image to lift your spirits.  It’s from a window at Sacred Heart of Jesus parish in Boulder, Colorado, where we attended Christmas Eve Mass.    Beautiful, isn’t it?

Have a blessed Lent!

Three reasons to smile

1.  Thanks to all of you fabulous readers who weighed in with your house-cleaning tips last week.  You have given me much food for thought.  And since I’m promised to give you updates on how things are going, I’m happy to report that Operation Family Clean got off to a roaring start last Saturday morning.

After a suitable period of relaxing over breakfast, coffee, and episodes of “Curious George,” Scott and I announced to the boys that we were all going to pitch in and clean house!  And it was going to be fun!   Apparently we stink as motivational speakers,  because Luke regarded us solemnly and then proceeded to keep doing exactly what he was doing.  We let it slide.  (You get away with so much when you’re three.)

Matthew, happily, had a little bit more intrinsic motivation, namely the fact that his best preschool buddy was coming over to our house for dinner for the very first time.   He did a respectable job of cleaning his room, stowing things into bins under the train table.  So what if the Matchbox cars got all mixed up with the Thomas engines and the puzzle pieces?  There is a time to get hung up on the details, and a time to be grateful that you can, at long last, see the floor again.

Scott and I were the real stars, scrubbing and vaccuuming and dusting and finally getting around to moving old unused baby gates out to the garage. It was like the “Whistle While You Work” scene in Snow White, minus the dwarves and the woodland animals.  And the house looked great afterwards.  Overall, it was very, very nice to have a helper in my housecleaning endeavors.  It removed my put-upon martyr-Mom feelings and gave me a chummy sense of camraderie with Scott.

The downside?  I got zero grading done that day.   I guess something always has to give.

But at least the floors are clean!

2.  Yesterday, I was honored (and totally stoked) to find out that my article Between the Covers: On Loving Books in a Digital Age was chosen by the BustedHalo editors as one of the Best of 2011.   (I guess I’m not the only one who prefers to read on good old-fashioned paper pages!)     At any rate, it’s a piece that is very close to my heart, so this means a lot.

3.  Bad news: someone stole the Baby Jesus out of the manger at our parish. Good news: it inspired a fabulous homily from our pastor yesterday, who took us on his own journey from anger to reflection.  He finished with the great insight that God is something we don’t have to steal.  God is freely given, always, to all of us.

That’s a very nice thought for a Monday morning, isn’t it?

This, that, and the other

1.  Oof.  Am I losing it?  Tonight as I did my usual evening transfer of boys, coats,  lunchboxes, and bags from my car to the house, I inadvertently left my teaching bag on the front step.  I didn’t realize it was gone until literally hours later, when I was searching for my laptop and couldn’t find it anywhere.  Clearly, Mama needs a vacation.  (Stroke of dumb luck: it wasn’t raining tonight.  Phew.)

2.  After a gorgeous summer-like October, we are firmly in fall mode around here.  It was actually cold last weekend, and I loved it … it was so cozy to put on my new flannel pajamas at night, and I’m thrilled to see the trees turning color.  It’s California color, which is far less spectacular than the photos I’ve seen of my in-laws’ New York home in fall, but we are getting some change  (witness the Japanese maples in our backyard, above).   And it makes me happy. (Speaking of leaves, check out this wonderful post by my blogger friend Fran.)

3.  Matthew, at age five, is Schoolhouse Rock’s newest, biggest fan.  The album is playing all the time around here now, and I have to say, it’s pretty fun to see him get so into songs about interjections, conjunctions, and No More Kings — all those tunes I remember from my own childhood.  And if he hasn’t yet memorized the Preamble to the Constitution, he’s darn close.  (It’s not unusual to hear that song ten times in a row, which is the problem with giving your child temporary executive control of the remote.)

Last night he said to me,  “Mommy?  When I first heard the Preamble song, I didn’t like it.  But then I listened to it some more, and now it’s my favorite.”

“Matthew, isn’t that a good lesson about how we need to give things a chance before we decide we don’t like them?”  I asked pointedly.  (I’m a teacher and a mom.   I couldn’t help myself.)

4.  Have you noticed my new little sharing plugin at the bottom of each post?   If you like something you read here, it’s now super-easy to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, and email!  (Click on the arrows on the left to get to the email icon.)  So share away!

Another feature:  if you are looking for a book to read for your book club, what about Mary and Me?  Check out this  printable PDF file of reading group questions (it’s a great preview of the book, too!).

5.  Okay, I’ll admit it: I’m totally hooked on Dancing with the Stars.  It’s a joy to watch people who are so  athletic and graceful, because I am neither.  (Seriously, there are exactly two people in the world who think I’m a good dancer, and I gave birth to both of them.)   Plus the costumes are fun, and I love seeing all the different styles of dance.  Great stuff.  (Go J.R.!)

6.  I was reflecting earlier today on church, and community.   We’re making the trek into San Francisco for Sunday Mass these days, largely so that the boys can attend the preschool catechism they offer at our church there.  I have to admit, it’s tough to have a commute on Sunday mornings too, especially when there are churches so much closer to home.  But this is the parish where Scott and I got married, and where the boys were baptized; it’s the parish where Scott works, and where we know someone in nearly every pew.  And that sense of community matters to me.    It’s like the song for Cheers: sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name.   It’s a joy to worship with people who know not only our names, but also our history.  It’s worth the commute, even on Sunday morning.

Best T-shirt EVER for a writer (or a mother, or an English teacher) …

Monday’s random bits: file cabinets, root beer, and sinners who keep on going

1.  We have a new addition to the family: a lateral file cabinet!  Hurrah!

Office furniture normally doesn’t send me up the river, but I’m thrilled about this acquisition.   Our filing system (I use that term very loosely) was a mess of the first order, and we desperately needed more drawer space.  The cabinet came in a box, of course, so Scott had to channel his inner carpenter and put it together.  I have to say, there is nothing more attractive than watching your husband competently assemble a piece of furniture you have wanted for a very long time (unless, of course, you are watching your husband uncomplainingly wipe up your child’s vomit in the middle of the night in a tent in a state park.  On the scale of spousal irresistibility, that’s hard to beat.)   I had  a very happy busy night labeling hanging file folders and organizing and sorting and recycling.  It was a long process (I went to bed after one — aiee!), and in the process of shifting folders around I managed to pull some muscle in my left shoulder, but it was worth it.  I’m not going to say that this is the magic bullet  that suddenly makes my life a model of order, but I do feel that if I needed to find some paperwork from my past (my S.A.T. scores?  A resume from 1998?), I’d stand a fighting chance.

2.  I’ll admit that I’m struggling a bit with it being August already.  (How did THAT happen?).  One of my teaching colleagues used to say that June is like Friday, July is like Saturday, and August is like Sunday … and she’s right.  Sigh.  I really do like my job … but, like most working folk, I like vacation even more.

3.  Culinary observation of the day: root beer floats are really, really good.  They scream “summer,” even when it’s freezing cold  (the Bay Area seems to be the only part of the United States that has not received the “Summer of Sweat” memo).

4.  I was a very happy gal at Mass yesterday, because the choir sang this arrangement of the Litany of the Saints.

I adore this piece, and when there is a trumpet player adding his lovely embellishments (as there was yesterday), it’s enough to make me want to weep at the beauty of it all.  It reminds me of my boys’ baptisms, and of my changing attitude towards the  saints, whom I’ve come to think of as my homies — people who weren’t perfect, but who managed to integrate their quirks and struggles into an overall search for goodness.  As Robert Louis Stevenson once wrote, “Saints are sinners who kept on going.”  

Amen to that.


Friday’s random bits

1.  Oh, goodygoodygoody!   I just got the galleys (unpublished review copy) of  Mary Curran Hackett’s novel Proof of Heaven, to be released this fall by HarperCollins!  I am enormously excited to get an advance peek at this book, which deals with themes of motherhood and faith.   Check back in the coming weeks for an interview with Mary herself.   (So many things on my to-do list  in the next few days … must … resist … diving in … )

2. I was cleaning out my desk area (newsworthy in and of itself) and came across this great quotation by E.B. White: “I get up every morning determined to both change the world and have one hell of a good time.  Sometimes this makes planning my day difficult.”    Boy, I can relate.  The answer, I guess, is to find the job that lets you do both …although even the jobs that are a helluva lot of fun (teaching, writing, and parenting, to name three that I know well!) have periods where they are a helluva lot of yuck.  That’s just life.

3.  I’m still in “aw, shucks, thanks” mode  at having been mentioned on Mike Leach’s blog.  Mike, the publisher emeritus of Orbis Books (and author of the  terrific book Why Stay Catholic?) is giving a shout-out to his favorite Catholic websites/blogs (I was mentioned in connection with  Check it out, and keep going back for Mike’s posts, which offer tasty and deeply satisfying bits of spiritual wisdom.

4.  Every day, when I look in the mirror, I seem to find another gray hair.  Is this happening to anyone else?  My husband swears he can’t see them, which means he is either 1)  more chivalrous than even I could have imagined, or 2) going blind.   I am approaching the crisis point of having to make a decision about whether I will fight them or let them be.  A larger blog post on this very topic will surely be coming soon.

5.  File this under “Moments to remember.”  I was in the car yesterday with two-year-old Luke in the backseat.  Catching his eye in the rearview  mirror, I smiled at him and said, “I … love …”

Before I could get to the “you,” he grinned at me and filled in the blank for himself.  “Mommy,” he said.

You can’t really beat that feeling.

What’s on YOUR t-shirt?

My husband has had an unusual career trajectory, to say the least.  After many years in software programming, he got a theology degree and now works in ministry.  And when you are a techie who works in a no-tech environment,  you get a lot of requests for computer help.

“How was your day?”  I’ll ask.

“Well, it didn’t quite go as planned,” he’ll say.  “The church office harddrive crashed, so  I spent about two hours working on that, and then someone else got a new laptop and needed help installing a few things ….”  and so on.

So for Father’s Day, I got him this shirt, from the Signals catalog.

He loves it and has already worn it twice, including once to work, where everyone apparently laughed at it good-naturedly before asking him to fix a virus problem.

I’ve got my own favorite shirt.  This is a few years old and has some mystery stains at the hem (coffee?), but I love it like crazy.

If you’ve read Mary and Me, you  know that there’s a woman in there who talks about seeing a shirt like this on a guy in a San Francisco parish.  That story was all it took for me to Google the phrase and find this (it’s from, if there are any other Mary nerds out there).

Great slogans are not just limited to clothing, of course.  A student of mine gave me this bag as a gift (also from, I believe), and it made my day:

Even my boys got into the slogan game.  When they were infants, they sported  two very cool onesies, both gifts from my uncle.  Matthew got this one:

… and Luke got this one:

This may seem like a frivolous topic, but in fact, fun t-shirts can be a great point of connection.  I was wearing my Mary shirt to a local café a while back, and the barista behind the counter  saw it and grinned from ear to ear as he poured espresso. “That’s an awesome shirt,” he told me.

Who knows?  If I hadn’t been in such a rush, we could have gotten talking about all kinds of things, like faith and the general fabulousness of Mary. T-shirts like this help you out some part of yourself, whether it’s your identity as a computer geek, an English teacher, or a Catholic who believes that Mary has a pretty great sense of humor.   And when you do, you discover that there are a lot more of your kind out there than you thought.

I like [Mike and] Ike

1.  Well,  it’s the Memorial Day weekend.  This is a great weekend if  you are a teacher, because it’s a little whiff of the summer vacation that is just sitting out there waiting for you, if you can make it through the next few weeks.  At the same time, it’s a terrible weekend if you are a teacher, because it means that the end of the semester approacheth and your days for procrastinating doing your grading are numbered.  I will be celebrating Memorial Day in the time-honored way: hacking  through dense jungles of projects and papers, armed only with a pen and my own  grim resolve.

2. As I type this, I am eating Mike and Ike candies, which I bought on a rare impulse at the grocery store.  I don’t mind admitting that I am finding them to be really, really good.  Candy snob I am not.

3. This is a lovely image of Mary, isn’t it?  It’s a holycard I bought on eBay a year or so ago.  It’s remarkably soothing to me, during a week that has been filled with grading, some work drama, very sad news from Joplin (oh, those poor people!), and a few rude awakenings by Matthew, who has been getting spooked by vivid nightmares featuring mosquitoes (yes, really).  Our Lady of Peace:

4. Scott just moseyed over to table and picked up the Mike and Ike box  – which, it must be admitted, is now empty.  He looked so crestfallen that I offered him my one remaining Mike (or was it an Ike?  How does one  tell?), as well as a green one that I retrieved from the floor.  He declined both.  (In my defense, it was a very exhausting week, and they are a fat-free food.)

Happy long weekend to all.

This phrase brought to you by the Bible


On my Good Friday meditate-a-thon last week, as I read the Gospel of John, it struck me once again how many well-known phrases and expressions the Bible has given to us.

This first came on my radar several years ago, when a colleague at the public school where I teach was developing a Bible as Literature course.   He was creating a poster to advertise the class, and wanted to highlight common sayings that have their origin in Scripture, sayings that people would know even if they weren’t Jewish or Christian.   I had a blast brainstorming with him.  Alas, I’ve since forgotten most of what I shared, that brain space having been given over to remembering to bring Luke’s backpack to daycare.

But here are some that leap to my mind (and to Scott’s):

*Saying that someone walks on water
*“Am I my brother’s keeper?”
* Calling someone a Good Samaritan
*  The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak
*The last shall be first, and the first shall be last
*The blind leading the blind
* having the wisdom of Solomon
*reading the writing on the wall

What am I missing?  (I could look it up online, but I’d rather ask you!)