About Me

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Douglas, Alaska, United States
I have lived in Alaska since 1978, having come to Juneau as a Jesuit Volunteer. I fell in love with Alaska and now live on Douglas Island with my husband and two dogs.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I Feel Like I've Lost A Friend: RIP, Maeve Binchy

Portrait by Maeve McCarthy, National Gallery, Dublin

Maeve Binchy, one of my favorite authors, died yesterday in Dublin at the age of 72.   She was a gifted writer, and depicted Ireland, rural and urban, past and present, in such a way that it came alive for me.  Her main characters were strong women faced with difficult situations and decisions, but who always prevailed in the end.

I was introduced to Ms. Binchy's writing by my Mom (an avid reader herself), who gave me her copy of Firefly Summer after she finished reading it.  She wrote in the front cover: "Good book!", and I agreed!

I read every book that Maeve Binchy wrote, along with her some of her short stories, essays and non-fiction books.  When we went to Ireland, I found a couple of books that were published there that I wasn't able to find in the United States (Aches and Pains and Maeve Binchy's Writer's Club).  I was lucky enough to see her portrait (above) in the National Gallery in Dublin.

Her best writing happened after 2000, when she announced that Scarlet Feather was going to be her last book, which prompted a huge protest by her readers.  She went on to write several more novels, which featured new characters, but also brought back some of the most beloved characters from Scarlet Feather and her subsequent books.  Scarlet Feather is my favorite of her novels, featuring, again, a strong woman, Cathy Scarlet, and her colorful family and friends.

I loved reading Maeve Binchy's books, and I was happy to hear that her last novel A Week In Winter, will be published later this year.  I will miss her writing so much!  It has meant a great deal to me over the years.

Rest in peace, Maeve, and I hope you are in heaven, drinking a cup of coffee with Mom, discussing your books!

Scarlet Feather

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Mary Garden

The Mary Garden bloomed in its full glory a couple of weeks ago when a picture would have been amazing:  daffodils and tulips in full riotous color, so bright it almost hurt our eyes.  Unfortunately, I didn't take a picture (sorry).

But, for the past few weeks, Charles has been painting an icon to put in a shrine in the corner of the Mary Garden, and he unveiled it recently.  The garden was full of dead daffodils and tulips, and some almost blooming lilies and just emerging Forget-Me-Nots.

The icon he painted features Mary sitting with the Christ Child on her lap, surrounded by flowers, including the aforementioned Forget-Me-Nots.

He wrote about it in his blog: Loaves and Fishes and I am happy to share it with you, finally!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

You Asked What My House Is Made Of

You Asked What My House Is Made Of

My house is made of dust and dog hair
Of freshly washed clothes, unfolded
Of dishes in the sink from a good meal
Of things strewn about with reckless abandon

My house is made of quiet and noise
Of a guitar strummed at midnight
Of a dog barking upstairs
Of a dog barking in our bedroom

My house is made of fun house colors
Of dishes stacked on a FreeCycle find
Of doors painted the green of a Granny Smith apple
Of icons hanging on the wall

My house is made of laughter
Of the same old jokes told again
Of descriptions of people and things
Of conversations and confrontations

My house is made of love
Of a husband and wife
Of a daughter and son
Of two dogs
Of dust and dog hair
Of quiet and noise
Of fun house colors
Of laughter
Of love

(With thanks to Mary Lauren at My 3 Little Birds for the inspiration)

Saturday, July 21, 2012

From Death To Life

After the harrowing news of yesterday's tragedy in Colorado (and with the people of Aurora in our prayers), it was like a cooling balm to my soul to read this beautiful post by my friend Katy about how God brings us to new life.  She is a wonderful writer, and one of the best mothers I have ever met.  Please read it and see if you agree with me!

Blessed, Broken and Shared

Friday, July 20, 2012

Eternal Rest

There are no words to describe the horror of senseless violence.

No words to express the pain and grief of the families of victims of violent crime.

May God be with the poor souls in Colorado who were killed and wounded last night, and with their families.

May God be with the mother and father and sister of a young man killed by a gang of thugs in Arkansas a year ago.

May God be with us all.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Lemon Brownies And The World's Best Chicken

Yesterday, while passionately perusing Pinterest (note the use of a lot of alliteration by a bodaciously beautiful [Charles' suggestion for an adjective starting with B] blogger), I found two recipes.

One was for The World's Best Chicken, which was good and had interesting flavors (from the most unlikely ingredients), but I wouldn't call it The World's Best.  I think my oven baked chicken is The World's Best, but that's just my opinion.

But the Lemon Brownies!  Oh, man!  They are a wondrous wonder of lemony lusciousness (again with the alliteration: sorry, I can't help myself)!

They are sweet, but not too sweet, tart, but not too tart, and not crumbly like lemon bars can be.  They have a brownie-like, not cakey texture.  I couldn't wait until they cooled completely to try them, but I didn't mind dripping lemon glaze on my shirt.  Charles, the kids and their friends agreed that they are great.  I can see them nestled side by side with chocolate brownies on a platter.  This will be my new potluck item, I think.  They are amazing.

My lemon brownies! lemony delicious!

I rarely try two brand new recipes on the same day, but I was feeling energetic, and I felt like experimenting!

If you try either of these recipes, let me know what you think!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Stuck In The Middle

A Pushmi-Pullyu

It is very difficult to be both a progressive thinker and a faithful Catholic.  To be both pro-life and a Democrat.  To be both a feminist and to be pro-life.

One one hand, I am opposed to the HHS Mandate that will change the definition of "Church" so that Catholic hospitals, universities and social service agencies will be required to provide health insurance that will cover contraception.  But on the other, I am fully supportive of the Affordable Health Care Act, which will provide much needed health insurance to previously uninsurable folks like my 18 year old nephew with Juvenile Onset Diabetes.

On one hand, I am completely in favor of the Democratic platform for more jobs, a more fair tax structure, and increased help for the poor and marginalized.  On the other hand, the Democratic platform is strongly in favor of keeping abortion legal.  I usually vote Democrat, however, because the Republican platform is not in keeping with the principles of Catholic Social Teaching, which includes a preferential option for the poor (except for their anti-abortion stance).

On the one hand, I fully support women's rights in the home, society and the workplace, but on the other hand, I am not fully convinced that women should be ordained priests in the Roman Catholic Church.  

I had two very difficult conversations recently - one last night and one this morning.  The one last night was with two religious sisters who are upset about an article that Charles wrote recently, about the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's recent assessment about the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.  I was saying "apples, apples, apples", and they were saying "oranges, oranges, oranges".  It pretty much went nowhere, and we agreed to disagree.

The other conversation was this morning, with my best friend.  We usually don't talk about religion - she was raised Catholic, but fell away and now practices Buddhism.  We usually don't talk about politics - she is a extreme liberal and I am, well, it's hard to describe (see above).  

But, I needed to talk about the conversation last night, and how hard it is to express what I believe.  We ended up talking about how women religious, being women, are being oppressed by the male Roman Catholic hierarchy (her opinion), and how regardless of the women religious leaders' personal opinions about women's ordination, they are required to uphold Catholic teaching (mine).  She kept saying "apples, apples, apples", and I kept saying "oranges, oranges, oranges", until I said, "I can't do this anymore", and left.

It has been a hard couple of days.

Pray for me.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

It's Time For A Cooking Post: Fiddlehead Brown Rice Salad

Nancy and John Decherney, Deborah Marshall, Susan Brook The Fiddlehead Cookbook

It's been a while since I posted a recipe, so I thought I would share what we had for dinner last night - Fiddlehead Brown Rice Salad.

It is a surprisingly filling meal, considering that it is a vegetarian dish and consists of mostly salad greens.

It is a family favorite, and pretty quick and easy.  Don't be put off by the tofu (if you don't like/haven't ever tried tofu) - it is really delicious and it takes on the flavors of the vinaigrette and soy sauce.

The recipe is from the Fiddlehead Cookbook - my absolute favorite, well used source for recipes from this one to Whole Wheat Bran Bread, Pasta Greta Garbo, and my go-to vinaigrette recipe.

Brown Rice Salad

2T vegetable oil
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced green pepper (I use red pepper or sliced mini peppers for color)
1/2 cup thinly sliced mushrooms
2 1/4 cups cooked brown rice
2/3 cup diced firm tofu (4 ounces)
1/2 cup Fiddlehead vinaigrette ( or other good vinaigrette dressing) -DIVIDED
2 tsp. tamari or soy sauce
4 cups clean and torn fresh romaine lettuce

2/3 cup grated cheddar cheese
fresh tomato slices or wedges
1 cup alfalfa sprouts (I always forget them at the store!)
I add avocado wedges to mine but the recipe doesn't call for them

1.  To prepare salad:  Heat oil in a large deep pan over high heat.  When oil is hot, add onion, peppers and mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until they are tender but not browned.

2.  Add cooked rice, stirring until thoroughly combined and hot.

3.  Gently stir in tofu, 1/4 cup vinaigrette, and soy sauce until well combined and warmed.

4.  Make a green salad with the lettuce tomatoes and avocado (if using), and toss with the remaining 1/4 cup of vinaigrette.  Serve on salad plates with a generous serving of the hot rice salad over the greens.  Garnish with grated cheese and sprouts (if using).

This is a wonderful combination of sour and salty and warm and cool.  We absolutely love it!  Any leftover rice salad is great for lunch the next day, with or without the greens.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Question Of The Day (Or, Two Questions)

Mary Engelbreit I'm Fine 1997 Greeting Card 5x7 with Envelope
Illustration by Mary Engelbreit
When someone comes up and asks how you are, if you are not feeling well, do you say: "Fine, thanks"? or do you tell them that you're not feeling well?

How about if you are feeling depressed?  Do you say: "I'm depressed.", or do you say: "Fine, thanks."?

Why is is OK to complain about having a cold, but not OK to be truthful about depression, which is just another physical condition that manifests itself emotionally?  Just wondering.

All that being said, I woke up this morning feeling like I had a brick tied to my chest.  (No, I was not having a heart attack!)  But I have noticed that I have been slowing down a lot - I get up in the morning and promptly curl up on the couch and fall back to sleep.  My get up and go took off about a month ago.  There are several factors at work, the weather, some changes (good, but still, change is hard), deaths of close friends, local, national, and global Church stuff...different things that add up to stress and depression.

So, I will be proactive, call my doc, get some more exercise and avail myself of help from the Holy Spirit.  In the meantime, pray for me!

Friday, July 6, 2012

And Let Perpetual Light Shine Upon Her

We lost a dear friend last week.

Sr. Helena Fox, PBVM was a Presentation Sister.

We were lucky enough to have her working in the Diocese of Juneau for a little over 10 years.

She was born in Ireland and taught in Irish schools for many years, until she had the opportunity to come to Juneau and serve in the Tribunal office.

She was such a lovely person!  Very gentle, kind and a bit puzzled by Alaska and Alaskans.

She especially loved Charles, who took Irish language lessons from her for many years.

When she first came to Juneau, we invited her for dinner and then an Irish music concert.  I had been told that she didn't like spicy or exotic food, so I made Clam Chowder.

After dinner, we were at the concert and another friend greeted us and asked Sr. Helena how she enjoyed her dinner.

"Oh, t'was lovely!", she replied.

"What did you have?", the friend asked.

Sr. Helena paused for a moment and then said: "I don't know, but t'was lovely."

During the concert, the singer sang a song about the San Patricios, the Irish soldiers who fought in the Mexican war, and how they were lured to change sides because the Mexicans, who were Catholics, offered the Eucharist.  They also had beautiful, dark haired women and the soldier in the song fell in love with a Mexican woman and went to the other side.

Sr. Helena listened to the song and then turned to Charles and said: "Just like another Irish lad I know!"

Charles asked what she meant and she said: " You're an Irish lad and you did the same thing - you fell in love with a beautiful Mexican girl!"

When Phoebe was a baby, Sr. Helena would see Charles walking with her in the stroller and said: "Oh dear God, would you look at her!  Oh sweet Jesus, she looks just like her Mammy!  Oh dear God!"

She left Juneau in 1997.  We missed her so much and were really glad to be able to visit her in Ireland in 2006.  She had returned to Cork, where she was working with elderly chronic inebriates and with Polish immigrants.  She took us out to lunch and while were were walking to the restaurant, we were constantly stopped by drunk old men, who would greet her enthusiastically and would call out as we walked away: "God bless you, Sister!"

On our next to the last day in Cork with her, we asked if we could see her once more before we left.  She said that she couldn't, as she had to work the next day.  After we said goodbye, we watched her  square her shoulders as she walked away, wiping away tears.  We all knew it was that last time we would see her.

She lived a life of service to the People of God, to children, to those struggling to find their way out of darkness, to immigrants, to the poor.

We loved her so much.

She was in in her 90's when she died.  Nobody knew her exact age (well, her family did, perhaps) because she never shared that information with us.

She will be missed.

Eternal rest grant unto her O Lord.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

"America the Beautiful" Is A Prayer

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!

America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood

From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
Whose stern impassion'd stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!

America! America! God mend thine ev'ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness,
And ev'ry gain divine!

O Beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam,
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

Happy Independence Day from our corner of America!