On Giants' Shoulders

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Planning for a Wedding

Yup, that's what we're doing around here. We've been dress shopping, photographer shopping, DJ shopping, cake shopping, restaurant shopping, etc. It's gotten me thinking about another wedding feast, however. As we look at the guest list for this wedding and sadly look at the fact that it must be limited due to expenses, I've thought about a wedding feast where many who've been invited will fail to come.

We are invited to the marriage feast of the Lamb. The invitations have been mailed out. The wedding garments have been provided. The only gift we have to bring is our submissive hearts and our praise. The meal has been prepared, and we've even been given a foretaste of it, so we know it's going to be fantastic. No photos will be needed for the feast will be unending. No DJ will be required for the hosts of heaven will be putting on a command performance.

The bridegroom has already given himself for his bride. No expense has been spared. Who will say yes to the invitations? Who will find themselves otherwise occupied, too caught up in other things to say yes? Who will be too set on their own way to offer the gift of submission?

In fact, at this wedding those who come will not simply be guests. They in fact will make up the Bride at the feast. However, those who say no to the invitation will find themselves shackled to their own passions and sins forever, instead of being a part of the spotless bride. If we want ourselves more than the bridegroom we will be allowed to make that choice. This bridegroom does not want an unwilling bride. The gift of submission, however, is one that many who have been invited will be unwilling to give.

I'm sure that we will receive some "regrets" to the invitations we will be mailing out in a few months. There will be some people for whom the distance is too far or the date inconvenient. These people will miss a day that for us is of great importance. However, far more important than whether they say yes to our invitation is whether they say yes to God's invitation. For to send "regrets" to that invitation is to end up with regrets forever.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Path Taken

Sometimes when you look back on your life you can see particular moments where a move in one direction makes all the moves after that different, even though at that exact moment you have no idea of the import of the move. There were a number of points in my path to becoming Catholic that were like that. They didn't look like moves in the direction of the Catholic Church. They certainly weren't intended to be moves in the direction of the Catholic Church, but in fact by taking the path of ordering Bob Jones history books, or encouraging my friend Liefe to go to the Episcopal church in Rutland rather than the UCC one, I was unknowingly making moves towards the Catholic Church.

Today as I sat in the pew with my daughter and her fiance, I realized that those particular moves had also brought us to this particular moment. Without our becoming Catholic Abby would probably never have met Jim (she met him at the Catholic Center at her university). We would not be having him join our family in just a few short months. If a book hadn't fallen off a shelf and landed at his brother's feet, Jim probably wouldn't be Catholic today. So it is by very small things, a history book ordered, a book falling off a shelf that we find ourselves where we do today.

I truly believe that God has had His hand in all of this. I believe that it was God who inspired my friend Linda to recommend Bob Jones curriculum to me, that it was God who inspired me to pick up Scott Hahn's Rome Sweet Home at the bookstore, that it was God who made sure that Augustine landed at Jeff's feet. Yet through all of this we made decisions that were free as well. I didn't have to take Linda's advice, I didn't have to go to Trinity with Liefe and fall in love with liturgical worship, Jeff didn't have to read Augustine, and Jim didn't have to follow his brother's advice to look into the Catholic Church. Abby could have stayed Congregationalist like her dad. So many places where God's grace made the opportunity. So many places where different choices would have brought us to a very different today than the one we had.

In geometry we learn that intersecting lines intersect at only one point. Having intersected they go on from there never to meet again. It's rather like that with paths in our life. One decision heads you in a new direction which leads to more new decisions and you wake up one day to realize how important a very small decision was. So it's important that even in our small decisions that we listen to the still small voice of the Spirit. Because, sometimes, even small decisions can change everything, eventually.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Just Not Our Night

My husband very sweetly suggested we go out to dinner last night. We rarely do that, just the two of us anyway. So I got stuff for the "kids" to have for dinner, got dressed up (well sort of), put stuff in the oven, and we headed out. Our first choice was the restaurant where I'd just paid a hefty deposit towards a wedding reception. Unfortunately, there was no getting in there without reservations. We toured around town checking out one place after another, but unfortunately between skiers and people who had gotten out earlier than us every place was packed. So we headed for what should have been a safe choice. It's more a diner/family restaurant than fine dining, but we've eaten there loads of times and the food is good, if not fancy.

Well last night was obviously not our night. We asked for water with lemon to begin with. We got the water, but no lemon. We had to wait a long time for our food (despite the fact that it was on the specials list). The waitress reappeared before the food arrived to inform us that the squash was going to take awhile to heat up in the microwave. Then she reappeared again to inform us that they were out of squash and the vegetable choice was now corn. This was still ok, so we continued to wait. Finally the plates appeared along with the rolls (which ordinarily come out while you are waiting for your food). It was now nearly 8 o clock and we were worried about getting back in time to feed the animals before the horses got too restless, so I dove right in to the grilled salmon. BIG mistake. One bite of the salmon was enough to prove it was spoiled. David took a whiff of his, it was spoiled too. Well now all we wanted to do was get out of there, but to snag a waitress took another nearly 15 minutes. When we did (and it wasn't even "our waitress") she took the plates back to the kitchen and came out and asked us what we'd like to do. Did we want more salmon (uh, no, probably won't want salmon again for a long, long time). Would we like coffee?? No, thanks. We simply got up and left. There was no heartfelt apology. They didn't offer a free meal to make up for the poor one. Oh, and the corn that came with the meal - I tasted that while we were waiting for a waitress to take our bad fish- and it wasn't all that good tasting either.

So now a friendly family restaurant, run by local people has apparently gone downhill in quality of food and even worse in quality of service.

We ended up getting frozen pizza at the grocery store and heading home. We'll try again this weekend. We certainly have learned our lesson about not going out on St. Valentine's Day without a reservation. But it clearly was not our night! At least we were able to see the humor in the situation. The only problem is that we have weeks and weeks of Lent left (and we've given up meat for Lent) and I don't think I can face another piece of fish for a long, long time.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

A New Knitting Experience

I'm trying something new this week: a top down sweater. I have this book with patterns for "fitted" sweaters that I've been waiting to dive into. After I finished the infamous purple sweater (and ended up having to add on inches at the bottom to make it long enough) I decided that time had come. So yesterday I pulled out my bag of "plain vanilla" yarn (from yet another unknitted too large sweater) and started in. I think I'm going to enjoy this top down process. The seaming for the raglan sleeves is so very easy. I'm almost to the place where the front joins together and the sleeves get "taken off" just a couple of rows after that. So I've almost got the shaping down and I can look forward to hours of mindless stockinette stitch (my favorite sort of knitting to watch movies to). If this goes as easily as it looks like it's going to, and if the sweater fits well this may become my favorite type of sweater to make. Elizabeth Zimmerman used to say that top down sweaters were boring because all the interesting stuff happened first. I'm beginning to think I disagree. I think I like getting all the shaping done right up front. The prospect of being able to try the sweater on as you go and know whether it actually fits is also pretty attractive.

One other nice thing about this sweater is that it's being knit on size 10 1/2 needles. Since the purple sweater was knit on size 3's the contrast is striking. Don't get me wrong, I like the final result of the purple sweater. It fits well, it was worth the months of effort, however, I think I can finish this one off in about a week. That will mean I can move on to yet another reknitting job. I might even get all of my unraveled sweaters re-knit before the end of the winter. I must admit that is a pleasant prospect. Lest you think that re-knitting is a boring thing to do, I must disabuse you of that notion. It's actually fun to take the same materials and turn them into a totally different garment. I feel a bit like the little kid who takes the play dough they've sculpted into something, smooshes it into a ball and sculpts something new. This plain vanilla sweater is going to be totally different from the former plain vanilla sweater. The only common element will be the yarn. The sleeves will be different, the shaping will be different, even the neckline will be different. The neat thing is that when I'm finished no one who sees it will even be able to guess that it's a salvage job.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Outcasts of Eden

I've been reading a most remarkable biography these last couple of weeks: Outcasts of Eden by John Matteson. It is the story of the Alcott family, especially Louisa and Bronson. This book has covered more ground than any other I've read on the subject. It has left me with a far better understanding of L.M. Alcott and the forces that went into making her the author she was. It has also helped me better understand the New England Transcendentalists and the impact that people like Alcott may have had on later education. For one tiny tidbit: did you know that Louisa May Alcott suffered from Calomel poisoning after her short stint as a Civil War nurse? It was a slow death by poison for her, but it was with her during nearly her entire writing career.

The book paints interesting pictures of Hawthorne, Emerson, Thoreau, and John Brown among others. Louisa Alcott was influenced by a number of notable 19th century figures and drew on her experiences with them in writing her fiction.

Most people are most familiar with her children's stories (especially Little Women and Little Men), but this book also discusses her adult fiction. It's a marvelous piece of background for any teacher who wants to teach Alcott and it would probably also be helpful to any teacher of general 19th century American literature or history.

This is both a sympathetic and a very honest portrait of both Bronson and Louisa Alcott. I recommend it.

Dress Shopping

Yup, that's what was on the agenda yesterday. Abby and I spent 3 hours in the store looking at bridal gowns. She tried on around 20 different gowns, we took pictures of her in half a dozen of them. We came away with a totally different picture of what she wanted than she had when she went in. The one thing that didn't change was the designer she liked. There were elements she thought she didn't even want that when she actually experienced she found she loved. There were also some elements (like halter tops) that still stayed on the list of things she didn't like. One of the dresses that had been on her list of favorites turned out to be too plain, not pouffy enough. One of the ones on my list of favorites turned out to be pouffy enough, but the skirt looked much plainer in person than in the photo. The dress we both liked best (thus far anyway) was on neither of our lists, although to be fair it was somewhat similar to at least one dress that was on my list.

We still have at least one more place to look, so we'll be going shopping again this next week. Meanwhile, I think we both are dreaming of tulle, beading, organdy, and lace.

There's something incredible about looking at your grown up little girl in a wedding gown (even the wrong wedding gown!). I felt almost as if I were playing Barbie dolls as we looked at one after another. The mother of the princess was there in full force wanting something special, something very decorated, something, in short, worthy of a princess. We aren't necessarily looking for the most expensive gown out there (in fact her favorite was less expensive than she had thought we'd have to pay), but we are looking for something that truly befits her special day. I think when we began that we had somewhat different ideas about what would look best, but by the end of the day we seemed to have come to a real meeting of the minds. Our original lists had very few dresses in common and one of the few that was (the first dress she tried on) was immediately rejected by both of us. Our meeting of the minds wasn't even a matter of compromise, it was a matter of seeing what different dresses looked like and actually both of us seeing which ones looked best on her. She agreed with me that ivory was better for her coloring than stark white, after seeing a stark white dress next to her skin. I agreed with her that the general style she was choosing was more attractive than some of the ones (like the halter top) that I thought I might like better. We both realized that we loved beading (which we hadn't necessarily known before). We both rejected sweetheart necklines, even though some of the dresses we might have otherwise liked had them.

Anyway, it was a fun afternoon, although trying all those dresses on made her both tired and hungry. Wedding dresses weigh a lot! We also realized again how tiny she really is. The smallest sample dress was at least one size too big. The poor sales people had a dickens of a time lacing them tight enough for us to get a good idea of how they looked.

She tried on one veil as well. I didn't really like it, but hesitated to say anything. It had been such a nice afternoon that I figured I could live with a veil I wasn't crazy about. After we got in the car and talked about it she revealed that she didn't like it either. We both were looking for the same sort of veil and it simply wasn't that type. It just felt so good to be on the same page. Do you think that praying a couple of decades of the Rosary as she was trying on the first gown was helpful? I certainly think that just perhaps the intercession of the Blessed Mother helped avoid our turning into Momzilla or Bridezilla and allowed us to be just mom and daughter having a fun time.

So the shopping will continue. However, a decision needs to be made shortly since it takes 5 months to make a gown and get the alterations accomplished. So onward and upward and off to New York state for one more round of try ons. At least now we both know what we're looking for and we're looking for the same thing.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

No Ashes For US!

Yesterday the weather was pretty yucky. The Mass options were 9 A.M. and 4:45 P.M. In the morning it was sleeting and my husband called to say it had taken him 40 minutes to get to work (ordinarily takes 15). So dd and I decided we'd wait for afternoon when it was predicted to just be snowing. DS, on the other hand decided to go to the 9. He got back and said it had taken him only 20 minutes to get to church (ordinarily 15) and that we should have gone then because the weather was getting worse. At noon the lit girls came, roads were fine. So at 4:15 we headed out (needed to stop at the post office to mail a bill and were trying to take our time). The roads seemed pretty good in town. Then, outside of town, we headed up a big hill. The cars coming from the other direction were all going really, really slowly and had their hazard lights on. It was pretty clear there was an accident up ahead and that the roads were getting slippery. So we decided to turn around and go back home. Far easier said than done. The turning around went fine, but when we headed back down the hill the car simply wouldn't go straight. I managed to keep it out of the ditch, but when it simply refused to go straight down the hill I turned it up hill (where I actually had some traction and then pulled off into the nearest road. We watched accidents happen and other people slip and slide. After one accident we actually pulled further down the road we were on so that we didn't get hit. We watched people coming up hill fast not realizing what was going on. Finally the salt truck came by and the police as well. We sat for a long, long time trying to decide whether to venture down the hill again. My husband arrived and said that the road was ok for us to try it. So very slowly we did. We were so glad to get home where it was warm. However, we were sorry to miss our ashes. We were gone from the house for two hours and we traveled probably only about 3 and a half miles each way. We actually contemplated leaving the car and walking home, but that wasn't an attractive option either.

Note to self: do not go out in the winter again with only a quarter of a tank of gas. For if you are stranded you will hesitate to run the engine for long and you will get very, very cold. Also, the blankets probably should go back in the trunk of the car. It's a good place to store them for a beach trip next summer, and they would come in handy in a storm.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Lent Starts Tomorrow

Lent begins tomorrow and I wish that I had marvelous advice for all of you. Most of what I will be doing for Lent is deja vu all over again. I'm adding the same good things, giving up the same bad things (hopefully for good this time), even giving up the same good things, and hoping for a fruitful period of growth. But Jen over at Et Tu has a far better reflection than anything I've thought of. So I'll simply recommend that you all skip over there and read it. If you don't usually "do" Lent, and think it's just some weird Catholic thing left over from the Middle Ages, her current post might help you to see why we do what we do.