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Lent Already?

I am still basking in the limelight, or should I say, pink light of Valentine’s Day. My husband and I usually celebrate at home with dinner, greeting cards, and chocolate, etc. It’s probably a holdover from when the kids were growing up because we always liked to celebrate the holiday with them as well.

Now, we are empty nesters, and this year we went out for dinner and then to a local bar to play pool. It was fun. We were going to stay and dance but the DJ wasn’t playing our kind of music so we left shortly after he started playing. Plus, the bar scene is not one where we usually hang out but my husband knows I like to dance, so he put in the effort to try and find a place.

Lent is almost here! It’s one of my favorite church seasons and I usually run toward it. Having previously been a member on the liturgy committee at my church, I always helped organize the Ash Wednesday services and Lenten décor. It’s been a few years since I’ve been involved with it so I’ve gotten out of the habit of always having the church seasons in the forefront of my mind.

Our then committee started a tradition that is still in practice today of having the parishioners bring in their old palms to be burned and used during Ash Wednesday services. The burned palms did not spread easily so we ended up just purchasing the ashes. However, the tradition is still alive, because like clock-work, the old palms appear every year before Ash Wednesday. At the time we thought it was a good “visual” for people to help them prepare for the upcoming season. I guess they liked the idea because the palms show up year after year.

“Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

The main reason why I like Lent is because it is a turning inward to examine what we need to throw out, just like the old palms. Every year, as the sun begins to make more of an appearance, the dust on the furniture stands out, the clutter in the corner beckons, and the scale tips a few pounds over. It is time to wake up through observing this penitential season, to conversion and striving to reconcile with the Church (confession), creation, and our relationships. The best way to do that is by the three pillars of Lenten observance: praying, fasting, and almsgiving.

We can meditate upon the Passion during Lent by attending Stations of the Cross or walking “The Way” on our own. Of course, the rosary helps us meditate on the Passion as well. Many parishes have retreats and missions that help draw us closer to Christ. We can look to the stark decor of the church and our homes to remind us that hope in the Resurrection is not that far off. There is beauty in starkness.

Aside from fasting from meat on Fridays and Ash Wednesday during Lent, in or culture, we can fast from many things. Many people give up chocolate, alcohol, or TV, just to name a few. Some people are creative and purge items from their homes or give of themselves more by helping at a homeless shelter or visiting the sick. One biggie to give up or curb is social media. It really has become a drug for many in our society. In fact, that is one area that I am going to concentrate on curbing to become more productive with the myriad of little projects I have and to address areas in my home that need cleaning, purging or organizing. Perhaps saying a prayer before starting a project will lift minds to God so He can become part of the project.

Almsgiving is a harder one for me but this year, I have been focusing on my own family so I will continue that by perhaps attending to them spiritually through prayer and otherwise.

Even though I feel like I am not ready for Lent, it comes like clock-work and my body and mind will “kick into gear” to prepare my heart for the journey..

Time for the Lenten Season

 

Lost in the Fog

I’ve been thinking about the last moments for Kobe Bryant, his daughter, Gianna, and the other passengers on the doomed helicopter flight. I read an article related to flying in fog and how a pilot can lose their bearing because they can’t tell which way is up or down and the best course of action is to rely on the flight instruments or other instruments that the aircraft was not equipped with.

I remember while on a cruise that my husband and I were on, I was awakened late at night by the fog horn blasting. We had a cabin with a balcony and I opened the sliding glass door and was greeted by a thick, ominous fog like I have never seen before. It was so thick, barely making out the hand in front of my face, peering into the darkness trying to make something out in the fog only to have my eyes begin hurting. There was nothing to see. The ship sounded the fog horn every 30 seconds it seemed, with good measure.

This continued for about two hours as I recall. It came to be annoying, but more importantly, necessary. We were at the tail end of our cruise and heading back to port. I couldn’t sleep. It was eerie hearing the ship cutting through the water but not able to “see” it moving. It was scary, especially because I kept thinking we could end up running into something or running aground. I was thankful when we pulled into port. The fog began to lift in the pre-morning light but it was still hard to make out the dock even though you could just make out the obscured lights.

Sometimes we don’t see things clearly in our lives either because we don’t want to face certain situations or we are blinded by something else and can’t see it. Either way, just like with the fog horn blaring through the unseen, it seems unbearable not to see through the fog of uncertainty in our lives but we still need to keep moving forward. Just like in the fog, you need to trust that the captain knows what he is doing just like we need to trust God knows what he is doing because he has a plan for our lives.

Blessings friends,

The Importance of the Posterior Chain

Hold that plank!

Ok, during the holiday season, I took the Christmas boxes which held the decorations out of the garage and could feel that my stomach muscles were weak lifting the boxes!
How can this be!? The boxes are not that heavy. I have let myself and my core get out of shape.

I decided to get back to the gym. I normally lift weights but decided I needed a good stretch to begin the new year. I opted for the yoga class. At yoga class this morning there was a substitute instructor and he was very detailed and explained what muscles were being worked and gave detailed instructions on how to achieve the correct posture and what to look for to achieve the goal of the posture which is either working the muscles for strength or stretching. This really made sense to me.

My yoga practice over the years has been spotty at best but I am familiar with many of the postures. The substitute instructor really explained, in detail, the posture for downward dog and forward bend (this instructor called it forward fold) to where I felt the most control I have ever felt doing these yoga poses. He also brought up the posterior chain and explained that it is not the abs that are as important for core work as is the posterior chain.

I am really glad I went today. I saw on the gym schedule that there was going to be a sub and was leary about spending the time with someone who might not be what I was looking for. This instructor was formerly an airplane engineer for a major company so I can see where all the detailed instructions were coming from.

What is the posterior chain?

The posterior chain is the powerhouse of the body and acts as a foundation of our body where all the largest and most powerful muscles are located and are responsible for holding you upright all day long. Our body is a mountain and our head sits atop of it. Since many jobs are sedentary where we sit most of the day, we begin to reap the problems that come with that, namely, lower back pain.

The posterior chain are all located on the backside of the body and includes the muscles that run from your foot, up through your calves, along the back, through your seat, lower back, along either side of your spine and finishing under your skull.

Posterior Chain Muscles

  • Calves
  • Hamstrings
  • Glutes
  • Multifidus
  • External Obliques
  • Erector spine muscles
  • Trapezius
  • Posterior deltoids

At the bottom of the page there is a link to click for the yoga postures that I use the most. During the positions for the plank and the downward-facing dog, try it with your hands turned slightly outward, legs together and gluts pressed together. The instructor stressed that the plank is not a push up. You can also do a plank with your elbows on the ground like the models pictured above.

For the forward fold, hang the hands down in front of your feet, toes turned upward and fingers curled around toes. This move is actually quite relaxing

The hips take the brunt of the bodies weight (we are a mountain)and the spine sits atop the pelvis. Downward-Facing Dog is a yoga pose that works the flexibility of the hips, and stretches the calves, hamstrings, glutes and muscles along the spine. To start, come on to all fours. Place your hands under your shoulders and your knees hip-distance apart. Curl your toes under. Lift your hips up and back, working to create a triangular shape with your body. Relax your head in between your arms. Hold this stretch for three to five breaths. Do not practice this pose if you have a shoulder or wrist injury.

Just with any new exercise regimen always consult your physician before beginning.

Web link with yoga postures below.

https://www.healthline.com/health/posture-exercises

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Epiphany 2020

20 + C + M + B + 20

There is an almost forgotten tradition for the Feast of the Epiphany (6 January) when the family gathers together to ask God’s blessing on their home and family. It is a constant reminder for Jesus to be present in our homes.

Take a piece of white chalk-one that is blessed is preferred- and mark the lintel of your front door as follows:
20 + C + M + B + 20 while praying the following:

The three Wise Men, Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar were guided by and followed the star of God’s Son who became human two thousand and twenty years ago.
May Christ bless our home and remain with us throughout the new year.
Amen.

Then say the following prayer:
Blessed Lord, visit this home with the gladness of your presence. Bless those who live here and all who visit with the gift of your love; let us display your love to all whose lives we touch. May we come to know you more intimately in the knowledge and love of you; comfort us, guide us and strengthen us , Jesus Christ, now and for ever. Amen.

The lintel inscription represents the initials of the Magi — Caspar, Malchior, and Balthazar — who came to visit Jesus in His first home and also mean: “May Christ bless this house.” The “+” signs represent the cross, and the “20” at the beginning and the “20” at the end mark the year.

This special marking is a request for Christ to bless the home and stay with those who dwell there for the entire year.

I Wore a Face Mask and I Liked It

Renewing Regimen

I don’t normally use facial masks but a sample facial mask packet arrived in the package of an online order for a different product. I gave it a try and I liked it. I don’t remember the brand but it was a light-weight mask and my skin felt truly luxurious after I applied it and rinsed it off. It reminded me of applying mud masks when I was a teenager. I think it was a fad then–at least for teenagers. There is a benefit to taking care of our skin as we age.

Masks aside, my absolute favorite skin care product is Yon-ka which I have used for a number of years. The Yon-ka toner which the company calls lotion is what I live for in the morning! The toner is infused with essential oils and paired with the Yon-ka moisturizer for my skin type keeps my skin feeling its best. Occasionally, I get a Yon-ka facial that includes a hydrating mask. If any men are reading this wondering what a great gift for their wives might be, look no further than an esthetician’s chair. I don’t get a facial as often as I would like but when I do, I go for a Yon-ka facial. The essential oils in the products take me away and the deep hydration is pure heaven! Plus, the facial uses steam to help deep-clean pores. If you are interested in using steam look for a classic European facial and better yet a Yon-ka European facial.

The tried and true

A new year skin care ritual that is easy to perform at home and that I take great comfort in is my skin sloughing regimen. Whenever I tell anyone about it, they get a big kick out of the word sloughing, but honestly, when one takes a bath to soften the skin, the dead skin cells come off more easily, especially if using a towel that is a little on the “rough” side. Towels that are line-dried have this quality or not using fabric softener also works. Since the weather is dismal and the flurry of activity before, during and after the holidays has me feeling a little spent, this ritual gets me revitalized to take on the new year in all its’ newness. Time to clear the old skin away, the old clothes, old papers, old mindsets. etc.

If you purchase a product by clicking on it on this website you will be routed to Amazon to purchase it. As an Amazon Associates affiliate marketer I earn from qualifying purchases. Thank you in advance if you link to Amazon through this page. Thank you in advance if you purchase it here.

I Wore a Face Mask and I Liked It

Renewing Regimen

I don’t normally use facial masks but a sample facial mask packet arrived in the package of an online order for a different product. I gave it a try and I liked it. I don’t remember the brand but it was a light-weight mask and my skin felt truly luxurious after I applied it and rinsed it off. It reminded me of applying mud masks when I was a teenager. I think it was a fad then–at least for teenagers. There is a benefit to taking care of our skin as we age.

Masks aside, my absolute favorite skin care product is Yon-ka which I have used for a number of years. The Yon-ka toner which the company calls lotion is what I live for in the morning! The toner is infused with essential oils and paired with the Yon-ka moisturizer for my skin type keeps my skin feeling its best. Occasionally, I get a Yon-ka facial that includes a hydrating mask. If any men are reading this wondering what a great gift for their wives might be, look no further than an esthetician’s chair. I don’t get a facial as often as I would like but when I do, I go for a Yon-ka facial. The essential oils in the products take me away and the deep hydration is pure heaven! Plus, the facial uses steam to help deep-clean pores. If you are interested in using steam look for a classic European facial and better yet a Yon-ka European facial.

The tried and true

A new year skin care ritual that is easy to perform at home and that I take great comfort in is my skin sloughing regimen. Whenever I tell anyone about it, they get a big kick out of the word sloughing, but honestly, when one takes a bath to soften the skin, the dead skin cells come off more easily, especially if using a towel that is a little on the “rough” side. Towels that are line-dried have this quality or not using fabric softener also works. Since the weather is dismal and the flurry of activity before, during and after the holidays has me feeling a little spent, this ritual gets me revitalized to take on the new year in all its’ newness. Time to clear the old skin away, the old clothes, old papers, old mindsets. etc.

If you purchase a product by clicking on it on this website you will be routed to Amazon to purchase it. As an Amazon Associates affiliate marketer I earn from qualifying purchases. Thank you in advance if you link to Amazon through this page. Thank you in advance if you purchase it here.

“O Antiphons” of Advent

The waiting is almost over.

O Antiphons refer to the seven antiphons or short sentences sung or recited preceding the Magnifcat during Vespers, evening prayers, of the Liturgy of the Hours (or the Divine Office). In the Roman Catholic church, they are part of the special preparation known as the Octave before Christmas, December 17-23. December 24th is Christmas Eve and Vespers for that evening are for the Christmas Vigil.

The O Antiphons are prophetic titles for the Messiah and refer to the prophecy of Isaiah of the coming of the Messiah, the soon-to-be-born King of Kings.

The Liturgy of the Hours are beautiful prayers, prayed by monks and religious and also by the laity. They are best prayed in a group. There seem to be different versions of the O Antiphon prayers but the following prayers are from the USCCB.org website.

December 17

O Wisdom of our God Most High,
guiding creation with power and love:
come to teach us the path of knowledge!

December 18

O Leader of the House of Israel,
giver of the Law to Moses on Sinai:
come to rescue us with your mighty power!

December 19

O Root of Jesse’s stem,
sign of God’s love for all his people:
come to save us without delay!

December 20

O Key of David,
opening the gates of God’s eternal Kingdom:
come and free the prisoners of darkness!

December 21

O Radiant Dawn,
splendor of eternal light, sun of justice:
come and shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the
shadow of death.

December 22

O King of all nations and keystone of the Church:
come and save man, whom you formed from the dust!

December 23

O Emmanuel, our King and Giver of Law:
come to save us, Lord our God!

Preparing the Way

Sunday marks the advent or arrival of the first season of the Christian year leading up to Christmas and the four preceding Sundays. Advent is the beginning of the church year and it is interesting to note that, in the Catholic tradition, we are at the beginning of the 3-year cycle with Year A. Each cycle contains different readings from the Old and New Testament, Psalms and Gospel so essentially we read the entire bible every three years. The Sunday Mass readings are covered in three years, Cycle A, B, and C. The daily Mass readings are covered in a two year cycle. To really hear the majority of scripture at Mass you would need to attend daily Mass for two years and Sunday Mass for three.

As the new liturgical year begins, Christians are called and invited to examine their lives and reflect on how they can become more Christ-like and selfless. It’s less about Me and My and what I want for myself and more about We and Us and how can I help someone else. Better yet, we can ask the question, what does God want for my life? In a society that encourages to only look out for ourselves first, we are challenged by the Gospel to bring Christ’s light to others.

This liturgical season is all about light and darkness as outlined in the Scripture readings, hymns, vestment and liturgical colors and we are told to prepare a way for the Lord. “…it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the days is at hand. Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light;” (Rom 13: 11-12). Light helps dispel the darkness. Light the traditional Advent candles for each Sunday of Advent to keep track of the weeks before Christmas and to remind us of what the season is about.

Light a candle for the first Sunday of Advent. Violet reminds us of the penitential aspect, while the pink candle represents joy on the third Sunday of Advent also known as Gaudete Sunday.

Advent is both a joyful and penitential season of preparation for the Lord’s coming where we remember the Lord’s first coming during the Solemnities of Christmas and a preparing of our hearts and minds to look forward to Christ’s Second Coming at the end of time. “Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come” (Matt 24: 42).

How can the end of time ever cross our minds? Do we even think that all life on earth will ever end? Perhaps, not in our time on earth. But it will end for us individually someday. It’s hard to focus on anything at this time of year with all the activities, parties, decorating, events, shopping, etc. between Thanksgiving and Christmas but somehow the penetrating darkness of the season, where the winter solstice marks the shortest time of daylight for the year, helps us draw inward. It is the perfect time to SLOW DOWN! Yes, you heard that right. It is OK to sit in silence to be with our inner-most thoughts and confront ourselves or to pray and listen to God speaking in our lives.

Advent can also be a time to reach out to others, the homeless and the downtrodden, even our own family members, and in doing so, lift their spirits as well as ours a little closer to heaven. It is also a wonderful time to attend daily Mass as the readings and hymns are beautiful and help us along the path to Christ’s birth. Check to see what Mass time fits in with your work schedule. Attending morning Mass helps set the tone for the day. Try it!

Suggested Paths to a Meaningful Advent

  • Attend a weekday Mass
  • Attend an Advent retreat for spiritual nourishment
  • Attend a tree lighting ceremony
  • Get involved with Liturgy
  • Decorate your home for Advent with an Advent wreath and candles and with the liturgical color of the season, violet.
  • Pray the rosary or a novena
  • Go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation
  • Pray the Liturgy of the Hours with a group of people
  • Lectio Divina (reading Scripture and meditating upon the Word of God)
  • When watching TV, mute the commercials as most of them are loud and there are so many of them. Better yet turn off the TV and read a spiritual book while sipping a cup of tea or go for a long walk.
  • Turn off the lights and make the room as dark as possible. Keep your eyes open to the silent, darkened room. Remain this way for a period of time. Meditate on the dark areas of your life where you need to wake up from the darkness, things that are off-kilter in your life and that need light shed upon them. Notice how you feel when you come back to the light. Meditate on Jesus as the Lord of life and light.
  • Pray for the special people in your life and ask God how you might interact with them more fully.
  • Use your phone less.
  • Clear clutter from your surroundings. It helps clear the mind.
  • Look people in the eyes when you talk to them.
  • Smile–it is the season of joy!
  • Sing Advent hymns

Advent Hymns to Google

O Come, O Come Emanuel

Let the King of Glory Come

Alleluia, Hurry the Lord is Near

Ready the Way

Blessings friends,

Cover photo: Shutter stock. Advent candle and Christmas tree photo credit Mary Perkins.

Painting our Way Closer

With all things in life, most people try to belong to something. We belong to our families–that’s a given–hopefully. We belong to our places of employment and the people we work with. We belong to our church. We belong to different organizations. We belong to the planet at large. We carve out a place or a niche to belong to but how does this happen? Most likely, we are showing up day after day.

I find it interesting as we go through life how things change–jobs change or we retire, people move, kids grow up, and more often than not, many of the relationships that are built upon the places or niche we inhabit dwindle or vanish. As humans, our time on Earth is finite and most times is limited to working, caring for family and maintaining a household so maintaining relationships is not always at the top of the list. Thank gosh for Facebook, eh? Then you can keep up with your friends’ latest vacation and what they ate for dinner that night. Frankly, I like to know these things and even though it’s passed on through a digital medium it is a way of sharing what is human about us as individuals. Humans are made for relationship and connections can be made this way.

One relationship that remains constant is the one we have with God. At times, we either grow closer in relationship to him or more distant, or sometimes it is non-existent on our part, the choice is ours to make. He is always there like a backdrop to a painting, accepting all the lines and dabs of color we paint in life. At times, the painting can be quite colorful, at other times it may be dark and brooding. We must remember that whatever hue, light or dark, that we subject ourselves to, He, in turn, is subjected.

Sometimes we get paint on each other. If we are in relationship with our surrounding family, community, etc. it is only understandable that our paint will mix and often times create new colors. The experiences in our lives color us. We are affected by the many and varied experiences that go into our masterpiece. If it’s a paint we don’t like or want we can wash it off or paint over it. One way to get a white wash is through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I could probably go on and on with analogies.

We can create a masterpiece or a dud with the life choices we make and the experiences we hold, but He is there to accept it all–Jesus, the spotless Lamb of God. Jesus makes all things new, every day, every hour, every minute! If one lacks hope, one just needs to find fresh paint to apply to the brush.

Getting Caught in the Rain and Encountering Bigfoot

When is the last time you deliberately got caught in the rain? We were at Suncadia Resort in Cle Elum, Washington. The weekend we were there proved to be more like “Raincadia” vs. “Suncadia.” All in all it was a pretty good weekend weather-wise.

The mornings were peaceful and our room was on the ground level so we could just walk out of our room and overlook the hills streaming with wisps of fog that were so beautiful. Also, out our back door were the 1000 steps to the river below. It wasn’t actually 1000 steps like the sign indicated but it was a good number seeing as we were panting on our way back up.

Right out the back door of our hotel room at Suncadia Resort
“1000 steps”

At the resort, there are many activities–hiking, swimming, golf. We chose to take a walk. When we started out the weather was decent, even sunny, and the fall colors were starting to come on. An hour into it, dark clouds spelled impending rain was rolling in but we chose to forge onward. It began to rain and we were getting soaked. We eventually took shelter under a pine tree for about 1/2 hour. Time seemed to stop then.

The rain stopped and we headed to the golf course lodge for a glass of wine by the warm fire and then eventually back to our room. The same day we headed into Roslynn, WA. You may remember the television show “Northern Exposure” which was supposed to be based in Alaska. It was actually shot in Roslynn, Washingon and I immediately recognized the signature mural on the town wall and a quick google search confirmed that this was the town. There were other people also taking photos in front of the wall but the town and show, I believe, have been forgotten. There wasn’t too much else going on. I suppose it was that way in the show, too.

We carefully walked down the steps that led to the river and on the way at each landing were interesting facts about local wildlife and a casting of their footprints in the cement. They even had a casting of “Bigfoot’s” footprint. What a hoot!

Bigfoot print

I would definitely recommend this resort, especially being so close to Seattle. It is comfortable, clean, and close to nature. It is a good place to relax and catch up on life.

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