Thoughts on hospitality Sunday, Jun 12 2011 

My friend Amanda posted this on Facebook rather than on her blog, so I have pasted it here for people to see.  I have thought about the decline in hospitality over the years and think we are much poorer as a society as a result.  Amanda said it beautifully.

Hospitality Regrets

by Amanda Johnson Free on Saturday, June 11, 2011 at 3:17pm
Who doesn’t appreciate another’s hospitality?  How many of us are commonly hospitable?  We all know there is a talent for it that some have.  A gift of throwing the perfect party, of a generous spirit with a gracious and expectant hope that others will be blessed.  Yet, all those who are in the body of Christ are encouraged to be aware of those around us, serving, sacrificial and hospitable.

Last night I attended a party thrown by a woman who is my parent’s age.   I didn’t realize the plans she had!  Crystal, silver, china as well as the guests names were set at places with gifts.  A menu was planned and games were so organized that she matched playing mallets to colored and numbered buttons for her guests to wear.  The winner of the games were given choices of necklaces, bracelets, and rings to enjoy.  Dessert was cheesecake with berries, chocolate and other toppings.  Conversation was lively and the guests who attended were fun and wise.

What, then, was to regret?  The table set had perhaps ten place settings, adorned with names of desired company and gifts.  Only half the ladies who were committed to going were there.  Those missings had their titles proudly displayed at the head of their plates but the plates did not have the smiling faces behind them.

I have seen an attitude prevelent among people my age and younger.  The situation at this woman’s party is not rare.  I have no problem inviting 100 people to my parties, knowing only 20 will come whether their RSVP was ‘yes’ or ‘no’.  No doubt I have exhibited it myself: selfishness in the extreme.  Why do we not follow through with commitments?  So many reasons!  We think our presence is so important and desired that to tell a person who would like to bless us (or even who we might pity) “No, I’m busy (otherwise committed or even need to stay home that night)” would crush their delicate spirit.  We want to keep ALL doors open until the last two minutes so we can choose what most suits our tastebuds at that moment.  And more.  We’re so used to being catered to and taken care of and made-up for by friends and especially family, that we have no thought of other’s investment and sacrifice.  We do not see the importance of recieving grace faithfully, allowing others to express it in their service and love and devotion to the all gracious Lord.

Let me tell you what the consequence was for you who missed:

A decision by the hostess to NOT include women of your/my age bracket again.  So, not only did you miss out on a wonderful night but you have created a spirit of discouragement, a spirit who no longer desires to serve you and who will no longer bless others in the future because your lack of ability to either recieve a blessings or respond with a polite ‘no’.  You cost her quite a lot of money as she invested in the food and the gifts to serve you.  You cost her a lot of time and hard work as she neglected other responsibilities to clean and prepare for a night to spoil you.

May this be a reminder to me, who is guilty of this too often.  And may I say “Thank you so much”.

Let me encourage you to commit one way or the other to invitations, and requests for help, promptly so there is time for other parties to be invited if you decline, or for the host to invest and prepare.  Let your yes be yes and your no, no.

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Parade of Chicken Coops Sunday, May 16 2010 

I’m sure most of you have heard of “Parade of  Homes” tours  where you can visit numerous homes all expensively decorated for showing off.    It is kind of fun to see how “the other half” lives, and sometimes you can get ideas for fixing up your own home.

Today, we took a different kind of tour.   We were a bit overdressed, having come from church, but nobody seemed to mind. 

We are toying with the idea of having chickens so this caught my attention.

This is the egg box–so convenient for collecting the eggs in the morning after the hens have laid them for your breakfast

This was a very nice coop which was made out of a dog kennel and run.  Inside the high fence is the house in which the hens roost for the night, (aptly named the hen house)!

It was very orderly and even provided this cute little stairway to the nest!

Everywhere we went the city chicken farmers spoke about the problems with foxes–some even have bears and other wildlife to contend with.  Yes, I said CITY chicken farmers.  This was a tour inside Colorado Springs where people are allowed to have 10 chickens but no roosters.  Seems it’s OK to be waken by barking dogs but not OK to be waken by roosters.

The owner of this coop had to create a safe haven inside his coop for his chickens after an evil fox killed 5 of his chickens on Easter morning.   Foxes can stoop pretty low, or climb pretty high to get carry-out chicken,  so they present the biggest challenge to chicken farmers, even in the city.

While we didn’t pick up any ideas for decorating our home on this tour, we did get some ideas for creating our own coop, should we finally decide to do it.

Oh, Catholic Europe, where art thou? Friday, May 14 2010 

On first glance, one arriving in Southern Germany and Austria would assume this is a very Christian, and specifically Catholic part of the world.   There are the traditional roadside shrines with the crucifix or images of Our Lady at every turn.   Houses are beautifully painted with favorite saints.   Everybody greets you with Grüss Gott (God’s greeting be upon you);  there are statues in niches on houses and public buildings, and churches protected because of their age are almost as numerous as the Golden Arches of McDonalds.    And except for a few grocery stores, there were no stores open on Sunday.    It is very comforting and one is tempted to feel very much at home with all of this, particularly if he laments the secularism of the United States and mourns the loss of religiosity there.

But that would be a mistake.   For Europe, even Catholic Europe, is totally secularized.    All of these religious icons and gestures are cultural rather than religious.    The churches are on what is equivalent to our Registry of Historical Buildings, and as such are preserved by the government.    The statues and painting on the buildings add to their charm.    The churches are mostly empty on Sundays, being frequented mostly by older people.    We went to Mass and immediately noticed that there were NO CHILDREN and there were only about 6 young people under 40.    After Mass started, a family with numerous children came in.    What a surprise to us that they were Americans and people we actually had met in Colorado!    So without these foreigners, there were no children in the Church.    The handwriting is on the wall for the future when there are no young people to fill the void left by the deaths of the older people.

What’s it all about?    Why are there few children around?    Is there a lack of hope for the future?    Is socialism killing the spirit of the people so that they only live for the here and now?    Europeans laugh at Americans because we are “so religious.”    But are we any more so than Europeans?    They have the facade of religiosity which we, on the whole, do not.    Yet it isn’t unusual to see Americans pray before a meal, and church parking lots are still full on Sundays.    We are still  the biggest donors to charity in the world, motivated in large part  by the teachings of religion.

I am sure studies have been done as to who attends church in the United States, but I haven’t done any research on this.  I do know, however, that homeschooling is widespread in the United States and still affords parents the best shot at instilling religious faith in their children, while homeschooling in Germany violates the law.     I am sure that is a part of the picture, but certainly not all of it.

There are many people in America who are working overtime to insure that we become totally secularized.   We can only pray that they will not be successful, for secularism ultimately breeds the death of culture and society.  The icons of religion which are so common in Europe are under constant attack in this country.  That is because there are still enough people of faith here and they pose an obstacle to the total secularization of the country.  In Europe, there is no need to censure the icons, because people have already lost their faith and don’t put any religious importance on them.  What a sadness this must be for the older generation who tried and failed to impart the faith to their children.

Regurgitating a trip…a summary Tuesday, May 11 2010 

We flew Space-A knowing there was a possibility we would be stranded along the way.  We were determined to be flexible and enjoy a vacation with a bit of the unknown ahead.  No regrets!

We were “adopted” by a very nice couple in New Jersey after the flight we were booked on was canceled.  They had a car and invited us to join them for a trip to Delaware to try to catch a flight there.  After a night on wonderful leather couches in the terminal, we took off.  Our wait that day wasn’t too bad and  we caught the flight of our lives in a C-5 aircraft.  That was an experience I won’t soon forget and the cost was right.  (Note to Fran—skip the boxed lunch next time)

We arrived in Germany and after a good night’s rest, we rented a car and headed for Austria.  There we spent the better part of 2 1/2 days with some dear friends, fulfilling our promise of a visit after they retired there.  That turned out to be the highlight of our trip which I will write about later.

Leaving there we took our time heading back north.  The nerve-wracking part of the trip was every minute we had to spend on the autobahn, not helped by the fact that it was pouring rain a good part of the time.  There are a lot more of these super highways without speed limits than when we lived here before, and our Tom-Tom insisted on taking us to them, despite our efforts to avoid them.  It felt like a tug-of-war with a hand-held instrument no bigger than our camera, and that little piece of technology had the upper hand!  I have to admit, it could have been operator inexperience, but nevertheless…  I would ask it to find an alternative route which it would do, and then we would find ourselves near the autobahn noch ein mal.

Germany is such a beautiful country.  I was struck by the beauty of the endless fields of  yellow rapeseed plants–the source of canola oil.  I can only guess that canola is used widely here because of the abundance of the fields from one end of Germany to the next.  I wonder if anybody here is aware of the controversy surrounding the use of canola.  Health is not a top priority–Many people smoke but don’t you dare get caught tossing a green glass bottle into the trash, for the environmental movement is the new God here.  Take care of the outer environment but don’t concern yourself with what goes into your body.  It is a different point of view.

Sightseeing was fun–there is much to see and we did a lot.  More on that later.

Finally, we have been stranded because Mother Nature has shown us all who is boss.  She is spewing ash and smoke.  Could that be a warning to all of us?   The plans of countless people have been affected, proving that if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.  It is a good reminder that we are not in control like we think we are.

Using up the Matzo Saturday, Apr 3 2010 

We recently had a Seder supper and had a box of Matzo left over.  I love to eat Matzo with peanut butter or just butter.  But since I am trying to shed a few pounds before James’ wedding, I am not doing so.  But what to do with the leftovers?  I found this wonderful recipe for Matzo Toffee.   The blogger calls it Matzo Crack because it is addictive.   Giving away the toffee will be easier than than just giving away the plain matzos.  It is absolutely delicious.  

I was thinking this is an appropriate candy to make on this Holy Saturday when we are anticipating the sweetness of the Resurrection after having recalled the Last Supper and then the Passion of Our Lord.  The matzo is so simple, being made of only wheat and water, and yet it has many connotations to the Jewish people.  I am borrowing from this article to show just a bit of its meaning for them:

Matzo means “unleavened bread” in Hebrew. Matzo is both the symbol of affliction and slavery, the unleavened bread which the Hebrews ate as slaves in Egypt, and matzo is also a symbol of physical and political freedom which the Hebrews attained after leaving Egypt. Its place in the story of Passover or Pesach also makes it symbolize the transition from the bitterness of slavery in Egypt to the sweetness of physical and political freedom after leaving Egypt. Matzo also symbolizes the nearness of G-d to the Hebrews, for as the Hebrews were preparing to leave Egypt and only had time to bake unleavened bread, G-d was near to them, ready to guide them in the form of a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Finally, the simple ingredients of matzo – water and flour – as well as the flatness of the unleavened bread as opposed to the puffiness of leavened bread, symbolizes “poor man’s bread” as well as “humility” and “humbleness”, as opposed to the puffiness of one’s ego that characterizes a wealthy person as symbolized by leavened bread.

Many things and people in the Old Testament pre-figured what was to come in the history of our salvation.  The manna in the desert, as well as the unleavened bread, was a pre-figuring of our Holy Eucharist in which God has remained for all time.  This holy season of the Triduum has not come without the austerity of the 40 days of Lent preceding (prefigured by the time of the Jews in the desert).   Today is a time of preparation for the great feast of Easter–it is the day when we contemplate Christ in the tomb.  But we know the sweetness of His Resurrection is to come.  We symbolize that by putting aside the fasting of Lent and once again enjoying those things which we have denied ourselves (like chocolate, for instance!)

This blog is called “musings” for a reason.  One thought (or recipe) often leads to other musings and that is how you can have a recipe and a short lesson in one post.

Have a very blessed and Happy Easter.

Ireland Saturday, Feb 13 2010 

We made it to Ireland despite my fears of flying in this dangerous world, and we are so glad we did.  It isn’t often a couple celebrates 40 years, so we decided to do it up big.  Fifty years aren’t guaranteed to anybody, so we are marking the milestones in 5-year increments!

The first thing we realized when we got to Dublin was that we were going to have to take it easy.  No rushing, no hurry anywhere.  That is because except for the motorways, traveling is very slow—-around 35 miles per hour.  The roads are lined with rock walls which I was sure we would hit at any minute; they are winding; and they are narrow.  Frankly, I was glad for the slowdown in pace.  Larry did a fine job driving on the left and I managed to navigate him through the hundreds of roundabouts we encountered in the course of a week.  Roundabouts are more common than intersections with traffic lights and you have to be alert to stay the course.  And due to snow and ice storms the week before we arrived, the roads are full of potholes, making driving more difficult than usual.

The landscape begs you to take it all in slowly.  I couldn’t get enough of those Irish hills mapped out with rock walls everywhere.  There were roadside shrines to stop and see, and breathtaking views of steep cliffs dropping right into the sea.   There were lovely beaches, and of course, there were the lovely little villages which begged you to stop for a walk and a visit to the local church.

Perhaps because of the dreary weather, the Irish use a lot of bright colors to decorate their churches and homes, inside  and out.  One of the B&Bs we stayed in had an orange living room.  I think hot pink was used in every breakfast room and elsewhere the colors were equally as bold.  It was delightful to go from room to room because we never knew what color would greet us.

And the people lived up to the reputation the Irish have for friendliness.  More so in Galway than in Killarney, but most of the people everywhere were cordial and helpful.  Their pace is more relaxed than in the States, and we didn’t encounter many people in a hurry or racing down the road in their cars.

I loved it all,  but perhaps most of all, I was overwhelmed by the kinship I felt with the early Christians who inhabited Ireland from the very  early days of Christianity.   Visiting beehive “houses” and seeing the rocky points of Skellig Michael in the distance made me so proud of the lasting heritage of Catholic Christianity in Ireland.  Those people put up with Viking invasions, hostile weather, conflicts with pagans and then the forces of Cromwell who was determined to wipe out the Church.  He didn’t succeed but the ruins are everywhere and I have continued to ponder the lives of those determined people.

A few pictures will illustrate what I have described:

Computer update Wednesday, Jan 13 2010 

My hard drive for the VAIO is due in tomorrow so my daily computer usage (email and facebook) has been on my new mini.  I decided on the Toshiba because next to the ASUS, it just felt sturdier and I like the separated keys on the keyboard.  I chose the blue.  It has Windows 7 Starter Pack, and so far, it is very fast and has given me none of the dreaded warnings about having too many applications open.  I’m sold on this netbook.

My New Year’s Computer Saga Sunday, Jan 10 2010 

I have spent the better part of the evening dealing with computer connection issues.  I have gotten “this page is not available” messages, “no connection to the internet” messages, etc.  I have booted and re-booted my computer, had Mike get me connected only to lose the connection when he leaves the room.  I have even opined that computers are a big waste of time.

Then reality hits and I consider everything I do on the computer.  I write and re-write study guides, I connect with my family and friends through email and facebook,  I shop, I pay my bills and check my account balances, I upload pictures to share with others, and I get much of my news, both secular and Catholic, from the internet.  When I am at a loss for what to prepare for dinner,  I google Cooks.com for ideas instead of opening up my cabinet which is full of cookbooks.  What would I do without my 5-year-old Sony VAIO?

I would write letters that nobody would answer, I would spend hours at the library doing research, I would write checks for my bills and stand in line to buy stamps to mail them.  I would have to take my camera to the photo shop to have the pictures downloaded for printing, I would have to shop in person for everything, and I might even have to buy an occasional newspaper or magazine to get the news.  On second thought, I simply wouldn’t do that!  (Buy a newspaper)

At any rate, you get the picture.  The computer is part of my personal modus operandi.  So connection frustrations aside, I simply can’t imagine life without my laptop, even though I acknowledge that things could get so bad that I would have to change.

We are planning an anniversary trip and I had just decided to purchase a small netbook to take along rather than risk losing my precious VAIO which also weighs quite a bit more than the mini.  After referring to an article my oldest son has recently sent about choosing laptops, I chose an ASUS and found one available locally.  Then, I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP……a message popped up on my screen saying my hard drive is crashing and I better back it up NOW!!!

Is my VAIO jealous that I am considering getting it a little sister for the trip?  Is it telling me that I am being disloyal in some way?  I have reassured it that the bulk of my work will not be done on the mini, and just to keep the VAIO running, in all this activity, I have ordered a brand new-upgraded hard drive.

No Olympics for Chicago Friday, Oct 2 2009 

In case you haven’t heard, Obama didn’t get the Olympics.

Eco madness, coming to a restaurant near you! Saturday, Jul 11 2009 

Happy Eating!  This may be a spoof, but sometimes it seems like we are headed for this madness!  You might want to stop it right at the end to avoid the offensive trailer for the movie 500 Days of Summer.

http://www.theonion.com/content/video/taco_bells_new_green_menu_takes

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