Monday, November 28, 2011

My Favorite Catholic Things: Rosaries

There are few things more self-indulgent than a blog.  Here, I can express my opinion, and if no one cares, it's no big deal.  If someone disagrees, I can delete his comments.  The name of the blog, after all, is "MacBeth's Opinion" and nothing more ought to be expected.

The name itself is a joke, after my brother Pete's appreciation of film critic Leonard Maltin. Maltin's Movie Guide is often referred to as "Pete's Opinion" in the family; when we want to know about a film, we consult "Pete's Opinion."  The idea so amused me that I took it for the blog in honor of a stupid joke.  I know, that's absurdly stupid, too, as there is no critic whom I consult.  Yet, here, my opinion is actually what you'll find...only, this is actually my own opinion.  Still with me?

Now, to the point.  Oprah has episodes of her show that reveal her favorite things.  I have favorite things, too.  So here is the first post of my Favorite Catholic Things.

Still here?  Read on.


Favorite Catholic Thing:  The Holy Rosary

I love my fingers.  There are ten of them; they are quite flexible.  They are beginning to resemble my mother's fingers, but I guess that's just the way of things.  They are great as a wake-in-the-middle-of-the-night rosary.  But, you know what?  I like real rosaries better.  And I like beautiful ones.  Sure, it's really all about the prayer, but we are tactile and visual people.  A lovely set of beads is a help...and I need all the help I can get.

It just so happens that in the wonderful world of social media, one finds lots of like-minded people.  Fortunately, one also finds lots of quite skilled people.  Some of my friends actually make gorgeous, inspiringly beautiful rosaries.  If you have a chance, take a look at these sites and see some real beauty.

From Jennifer's site:  (this lovely bead had me interested immediately)      

Miracoli Rosaries | Designed with Centuries in Mind

From Ruth's site:

From Anne's site:

And check out Darlene's friend's site.

Sometimes, the beauty of the rosary is in the intention of the makers...Divine Twine provides twine and instructions for making knots, for the cause of Autism Awareness.  The beauty is in the colors, the task of knotting, and the prayers, of course.

More information on the Rosary.

My favorite online virtual rosary site.

Rosary for Android 
Rosary for iPhone

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I Love Lewis!

Today, on the anniversary of his death, I would like to share some favorite lines, not from his more popular books, but from some many folks might not have read.

"In Greek, I have started to read Homer's Illiad, of which, of course, you must often have heard.  Although you don't know Greek & don't care for poetry, I cannot resist the temptation of telling you how stirring it is.  Thos fine, simple, euphonious lines, as they roll on with a roar like that of the ocean, strike a chord in one's mind that no modern literature approaches." from  The Collected Letters Of C.S. Lewis.  It's rather like a spell to induce one's students to read Homer, don't you think?

"No lawgiver, inner or outer, gives laws in a vacuum; he always has real or supposed facts in mind, an idea of what is, which influences his rulings about what ought to be.  Thus the outer lawgiver ceases to make new statutes against witchcraft when he ceases to believe in it, and does not make vaccination compulsory till he thinks it will prevent smallpox.  It is the same with the inner lawgiver." from "Conscience and Conscious" in Studies in Words (Canto).

"The knight is a man of blood and iron, a man familiar with the sight of smashed faces and the ragged stumps of lopped-off limbs; he is also a demure, almost a maidenlike, guest in hall, a gentle, modest, unobtrusive man." from "The Necessity of Chivalry" in Present Concerns.

"You can eat the local food and drink the local wines, you can share the foreign life, you can begin to see the foreign country as it looks, not to the tourist, but to its inhabitants,  You can come home modified, thinking and feeling as you did not think and feel before.  So with the old literature." from De Audiendis Poetis" in Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature (Canto)

And my personal favorite Lewis quote:  "Are you looking for an ashtray?  Use the carpet." from an interview, "Unreal Estates" in Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories (a wonderful and eclectic collection).

I wanted to add quotes from Reflections on the Psalms and Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, but it seems as though someone has borrowed them (I suspect daughter #1).  Perhaps next year.

And a little advice to my children seeking spouses:  Ask a potential mate in which order the Chronicles ought to be read.  If he or she replies, "The order in which they were published," you have an excellent match.  If the answer is, "The order in which they were written," it will work out well.  An answer of, "Chronological order," means some couples' counseling will be in order.  But if the answer comes quickly, "It doesn't matter," run for the hills.

RIP, Jack.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

...Under my Roof...

I heard some folks complaining about the new translation of the Roman Missal. Certain passages seem to be sticky bits that make some people (including, unfortunately, bishops) squint and squall and wonder why we are changing anything.  I have even heard some people point to this specific phrase, "under my roof," and joke that it refers to the roof of ones mouth.  Yet, I was delighted when I heard the whole revised prayer:

Lord, I am not worthy
that you should enter under my roof,
but only say the word
and my soul shall be healed.

I had heard it before.  It is from my very early memories of Mass; I remembered that I did not understand what that meant, so I asked an adult (my father's aunt).  She told me the story from Matthew 8, the Centurion's servant:

And when he had entered into Capharnaum, there came to him a centurion, beseeching him, And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, and is grieviously tormented. And Jesus saith to him: I will come and heal him. And the centurion making answer, said: Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldst enter under my roof: but only say the word, and my servant shall be healed. For I also am a man subject to authority, having under me soldiers; and I say to this, Go, and he goeth, and to another, Come, and he cometh, and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. And Jesus hearing this, marvelled; and said to them that followed him: Amen I say to you, I have not found so great faith in Israel. (D-R)

(Faith like that always makes me pause and gasp.)

So, here's a cool thing that happened then, and it can now happen again:  A passage is interesting enough for a child to ask an adult what it means, and the adult has the story to tell off the top of her head.  How great an opportunity is that?

But, who will answer the child today?  Do Mom and Dad have the knowledge?  The catechetics of felt banners and happy-smiley photos has never had to answer questions like this.  Have we lost that opportunity through 40 years of  poor translation?  Fortunately, we have more resources than ever to fill in the gaps.  We have scripture, and we can find passages in seconds using the internet.  Let's not let questions like this go unanswered.

Hooray for the new translation!

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Very Model of a Modern Diabetic

I wanted to post this yesterday, but college apps got in the way. [Apologies to any expecting more poetic wit--post-app brain fry varies in duration, and renders the writer prosaic.]

My grandmother was a diabetic, and as a young child I was fascinated by the whole thing, from her reusable glass syringe, to the little bottles of insulin, to the process of injection.    I also learned that she had a special diet, from which she never deviated.  Nonetheless, she sometimes fell ill, and would have to be taken to the hospital.  It even happened on vacation once, and it was sometimes frightening.

Grammy, 1988 (such a tan for an Irishwoman!)
I know that Grammy was diagnosed with type 1 Diabetes as a young woman.  She told me that one day she did not have the energy to climb the stairs of her church, even trying on her hands and knees.  Doctors quickly discovered the problem, but insulin therapy was experimental, and only crude animal derived insulin was available then, and for much of her life, until synthetics became easy to manufacture.  Despite following every protocol and instruction to the letter, her blood sugar was erratic.  But because she did exactly as she was told, she became a great resource for those researching pancreatic function and insulin reactions.  I understand she has been cited in numerous papers (anonymously).  Pretty cool.

Despite these ups and downs, she lived into her nineties, with all her extremities intact, though she did lose sight in one eye.  She was a daily communicant, and knew everyone in her parish.  She sat in the front pew, sang boldly out of tune, and always wore a hat.  She worked in a yard-goods shop, made all our clothes when we were little, always knit argyle socks for my grandfather, and quit smoking her Lucky Strikes cold turkey.  A glass of wine before her nap, and a cup of black coffee after dinner were the only things I remember her drinking.  She kept a glorious flower garden, which had a swing entwined with morning glories.  And she made great apple pie and blueberry pancakes.

Grammy never complained about her diet or injections.  But one day, when we were at the mall, she saw the candy counter and paused.  She pointed to a particular candy, and said, "Those are my favorite, but I can't have them."  It wasn't a mournful, but a thoughtful comment.  She smiled.  "But," she continued, "I know what they taste like.  I feel sorry for anyone who has never tried one."  (I tried one, and didn't like it at all!)  One does wonder how much of health is attitude, eh?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Deeper Nature Study: Bacteria at Yellowstone

I know this is a field trip that won't happen for my small group of homeschooled bacteria hunters anytime soon, but we traveled to Yellowstone a few years ago with my own family, and have photos to prove it.  This was taken before our bacterial-hunting days, but it's a fine photo of hyperthermophilic bacterial (archea) growth patterns, demonstrating iron oxidation (rust colored sediment).

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Margarita Pear Tart

My friend Maria (who makes lovely earrings!) boasted of a pear tart in her oven today, and I wished I were  at her house!  Suddenly, I remembered the bag of too-long-forgotten pears in the fridge.  Well, they were pretty soggy pears, I realized as I examined them.  What to do?  I cut off the bad parts, and looked at her recipe. I then despaired, having no buttermilk for the crust...

Heh...but started to think...

OK, I cheated on the crust.  I had some prepared pie crust in the fridge, and it was fine, and not at all soggy.  I look around at a few different recipes for tarts, considered the ingredients on hand, and thought about what spices might taste fine with pears.  Then I saw the word "roasted" and moved ahead!

Basically, I cored and sliced up the pears thinly, and placed them on a broiler pan, and added about 1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves, 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon, and grated fresh ginger over the lot.  I put them under the broiler until the edges of the pears were browning, and threatening to turn black.

Meanwhile, I took 2 tablespoons loosely packed brown sugar, a shot of tequila, and the juice of a lime and heated it to dissolve the sugar.  I grated more ginger into the mixture (the kitchen smelled amazing at this point--I thought someone was burning a seasonal candle!), and added a bit of flour for thickening, so I could use the mixture to coat the roasted pears.  And that's what I did next.  All the pears went into the pot, and I stirred it about gently (the pears were pretty delicate by now).  I sprinkled a bit of flour on the crust, and poured in the whole mixture, which was juicy, but not runny.  I turned the edges of the crust over the pears at the edges, leaving the tart mostly open.  Baked at 375 til the edges turn brown--you know--like crust...35 minutes?  More or less?

Pear tart!


4-5 overripe pears with the bruised and bad bits removed, peeled and cored, sliced thinly
1/4 tsp ground clove
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 slightly short shot of tequila
juice of one lime
2 tbs brown sugar
a tsp of flour+a bit for dusting the crust before adding the pear mixture
more ginger, more clove...maybe a pinch of salt
some kind of crust in some kind of pie tin or tart plate


Friday, October 21, 2011

Deeper Nature Study: Stalking Bacteria in the Wild Part 1

Nature study is the core of many a homeschooler's science studies.  Nature study for the younger set is often simple and un-directed; the children find what they can find and bring it to Mother for examination, or home to observe and preserve.  The child and parent try to identify specimens, and often learn how to use a field guide together.  It's fun and informative for the younger children, but what about older kids?  Just as highschoolers can benefit from intensive copywork using great books and technical articles, so a high school student can get laboratory credit for nature study that is specific and directed towards a more quantitative goal.

This year, I chose a few victims (I mean students, of course) to try out an addition to our biology curriculum using more advanced living books.  This is the first in a short series of blogs on "Deeper Nature Study."

A few years ago, I came across a terrific book called A Field Guide to the Bacteria by Betsey Dexter Dyer.   Dyer is a biology professor at Wheaton College in Massachusetts, and has recorded a Modern
Scholars lecture series on this same topic called Unseen Diversity, which is top-notch and available from Audible.  Both are fine alone, but combined they make a formidable mini-course in bacteriology that is easily used by homeschoolers.  You will be relieved to hear that Prof. Dyer suggests that we not grow things in petrie dishes in our kitchens, so we won't; instead, we take our search outside.  In the wild, we have been able to discover evidence of bacteria everywhere.  And we are only 1/3 the way through the outdoor portion of the course.

The best thing about this short series of hikes is that it can be done anywhere, almost any time, with little modification.  Since bacteria are plentiful everywhere, and very few are pathogens, it's a safe and nearly fail-proof study.  You can study bacteria where you are, because they are there, too.

We began with a brief lecture on different kinds of bacteria, and the environments in which each thrives.  A quick version--cold, temperate, and hot are three measurable but wide temperature ranges for bacterial growth (one can get way more specific, and we did, but I don't really want to write out the entire lecture, and Prof. Dyer does it in more depth).   pH is another variable for determining the types of bacteria we are likely to discover.  The third environment we are exploring varies in oxygen content.  We could also add salt, and more, but these are the basics.  After my brief lecture we went outside and found some regular every-day common clover to examine.  We dug up the roots to find nodules of nitrogen-fixing bacteria in the root system.  These are terribly EASY to find!  We found some lichen, that combination of fungus and bacteria that grows so well on rocks and tree trunks.  And we found some cyanobacteria growing in patches large enough to identify by color alone.  Then we hopped into the car and took a quick field trip to the local Quaker cemetery, where the old tombstones yielded more evidence of bacteria at work.  And that was day 1!  NB:  It is very difficult to pry teens out of graveyards...go figure.

Day 2 brought us to a local swamp, where quick running water, deep muck, and hard trails all had perfectly detectable bacteria for our viewing--and sometimes smelling--pleasure:
The light leaf litter smells fresh even though it is full of bacteria.

Miss A. is encouraged to take a deeper will have a different odor.

Right along the trail are worm castings, full of bacteria fresh from  the gut of  worms.  Slugs approve.

Intrepid Miss B. strives for the best sampling spots, mid swamp!

OK.  Crossing the swamp by log is just fun for Miss B., Miss C.,  and A.

Slow, clear water reveals a nice bacterial mat, with large air bubbles!

Miss C. discovered that the faster running water was cold.

Yet, who could resist? Neither P nor Miss B.

Bubbly beer-like bacteria!!

Ha-ha!  Miss M. captures millions of bacteria.

Tempting...but no, she didn't.  ;)

Next stop?  The salt marsh...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Yes, it is YOUR Homework, Too

I have a great religion class this year!  There are 6 students in my 4th grade; each is a very interesting person, and each is interested in the class.  Today we discussed posture at Mass (and viewed the very fun That Catholic Show video Sit, Stand, and Kneel).  The students know what posture is appropriate for each part of the Mass, so that was an easy part of the class.  We discussed what happens during each part of the Mass, and even touched on the Real Presence.  A discussion of sin and forgiveness followed, providing the first entry on our Old Testament timeline.

Each week, in addition to the main lesson, we begin the class by writing the psalm verse for the upcoming Sunday.  This gives the students who arrive early something to do while waiting for the latecomers, and gives them all the answer to one question on the homework.

Ah...the homework.  For the past few years I have been using the Mass worksheets from  For the mostly 9-year-olds in the class, I use the worksheets for the 7-10 year old level.

Those of you who know me, STOP's true that I hate worksheets, but they work for this classroom format.  And the worksheets are easier to complete if the children go to Mass.  The worksheets are very easy, and the kids enjoy them.

And no parent has ever complained.  Until today.

She caught me in the parking lot, this Disgruntled Mother (she told me on the first day that she pulled her kids out of the last CCD program because the people were "snooty" so I guess I have to be non-snooty if I want to keep her kids in the program).  The conversation went something like this:

Disgruntled mom:  Do they still have to do those worksheets with the stuff from Mass?
Me:  Yes.  That is the format of the homework every week.  The answers are all found at Mass...
DM:  Well, we missed Mass this week (I stopped listening there...the kids had told me the reason).  So I had to look up the answers.
What snooty-me wanted to say:  There are 5 Catholic churches within a mile of ours.  Our own parish offers 8 Masses every weekend.  You could not make any of them?
What I actually said:  The answers are also online on the USCCB website, in case you miss Mass.
DM:  Well this is becoming MY homework, not theirs.
What snooty-me wanted to say:  Yes, and so it should be, if you need a refresher!
What I actually said (laughing in the nicest way):   Yeah, but it's not that hard for the kids once they get in the habit of...
DM:  Is it OK if I take a missal home from Mass?  The priest won't mind?
Me:  I'm sure he'd be happy to know you were taking a second look at the readings!  So, have a good week!


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Jewel Weed's Jewel

The younger kids visited Thomas More College during the open house this weekend.  They had an opportunity to stay overnight in the dormitories, eat and chat with students, and attend classes.  While they did that, Don and I had a pleasant time in Nashua.  Later, Don went to find cheap gas with supermarket gas points...he paid $1.09.  Woohoo!

Meanwhile, I explored the grounds of the college.  I must admit, I was quite surprised by the small size of the campus, and the wooded area surrounding the buildings.  The flora and fauna are typical smelled of pine!  

Behind the library, I found some jewel weed.  It has a pretty orange flower that sometimes attracts hummingbirds (though I saw none today).  Most of the plant had gone to seed, but a few blooms were left.

Jewel weed flowers

The real jewel of the weed is not the flower, though.  There are a few tales of how the weed got its name, but I like to think the seed hidden inside a spring-loaded pod is the reason.  Here's the pod on a small branch:
A few leaves with a seed pod

And here is the pod after I touched it (some people call the plant a touch-me-not).  As the sides of the pod peel suddenly away, the seeds shoot away.  If you release it correctly (I hold my hand around it) you will catch a seed or two.  The mature seed is covered with a green or brown coat.:
The seed revealed, with the pod peeled away

The small seed is less than a cm long, but if you carefully peel the coating off...
The jewel!
A tiny blue-green "jewel" of a seed is revealed.  Then, you can eat it!  It tastes a bit like an almond.

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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs and One Christmas Eve

No, this isn't a post about the cool Apple products I own.  In fact, I do not own any Apple products, though my daughter has an old iPod that she loves.  But I have always admired Apple products.  Instead, this is a blatant pro-life post.

By now, most people have read his story, along with his birth mother's story, and the story of his adoption as well as his path to success.  If you haven't, do so here; it's beautiful.  And it reminds me of a Christmas eve back in the 80s...

I was working at a medical laboratory, a BIG one, in the accessioning department.  In case you have not heard of such an occupation, accessioners are the first folks who sort the specimens when they arrive from doctors' offices.  Basically, the doctors leave the specimens in a lock box (you've seen them outside closed offices), and drivers from the various labs collect the specimens and bring them to the lab where accessioners send tubes of blood, bottles of urine, and specimens of other sorts to the appropriate departments for testing.

I worked evenings with some fun people.  There was always music.  We took breaks in the garage and laughed and joked with the drivers.  Most of the drivers were men, and many had interesting pasts.  Some were divorced dads working nights so they could spend days with their kids.  Some were recently paroled prisoners.  Many were immigrants.  They were always quick with a joke, or a story of traffic, life, or family stuff.

Those of us who were young and without children worked with a small skeleton crew on holidays so our coworkers could be with their families.  One Christmas eve, I volunteered to work with a few of the twenty-somethings until midnight.  Work was light, and we played Christmas carols, and shared our plans for the next day.  We were surprised when one of our favorite drivers, "Louie," came in crying.  Louie was an immigrant, right "off the boat" as they say, from Italy.  He did not speak much English, and we were never really sure he knew what was going on, or what we were all gabbing about.  On that Christmas eve though, he figured something out.  He brought in boxes of large bottled "specimens" that night, and through his tears we heard names as he gestured towards them.  "Einstein!" he cried in his thick Italian accent, adding vowels as needed to the end of each phrase. "Edison!  Galileo!  Tesla!  The babies!!  On Christmas!!"  He broke down; we suddenly understood every word.

The "specimens" he had brought in on Christmas Eve, were called "POC" on the forms we filled out--Product of Conception.  Louie had just had an epiphany that night (and so did I, and several friends):  As a driver for that lab, he was collecting aborted fetuses from "clinics" and delivering them for examination, so the lab could assure doctors they had gotten it all.  He was crying for the lost geniuses. He was crying for souls. He was crying for the mothers who would do such a thing. He was crying for the love and mercy of God on Christmas eve.

I imagine that Louie might add "Jobs!" to his cries if he were driving tonight.  But Jobs, Einstein, Galileo, and Tesla all lived to enhance our knowledge, change the world, and make our lives better.  The babies aborted that Christmas Eve were not so lucky.  Maybe a Steve Jobs was aborted that day.  Or, maybe just a Louie.  Either way, our world lost someone wonderful that Christmas Eve; may they all rest in peace.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Crazy Homeschooling Meme

Tagged by Lindsay at My Symphony, who has great answers of her own--go see!

One homeschooling book you have enjoyed...
So many.  How about, the first homeschooling book I enjoyed:  Better than School by Nancy Wallace.

One resource you wouldn't be without...
The library.

One resource you wish you never bought...
The set of 36 plastic counting bears in 3 sizes.  We were renting a house on the eastern end of Long Island for the summer, and I am pretty sure that every one of those bears is still in the air conditioning vents of that house.

One resource you enjoyed last year...
Teaching Textbooks Algebra...changed things up a bit.

One resource you will be using next year...
This year, as it has started already.  Teaching Textbooks Geometry!

One resource you would like to buy...
More bookshelves.

One resource you wish existed...
I wish more mid-century elementary science books were still in print.

One homeschool catalog you enjoy reading...
Not necessarily just for homeschooling, but I do enjoy Dover's catalogs.

I know I am suppose to tag folks...but everyone has done this, I think.  If you haven't, consider yourself tagged.  ;)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Painted and Petrified

A few more photos from our journey out west...Libby's choices for places to stop were beautiful.
(My favorite stop was a 7-11 in Albuquerque, which served the BEST coffee I have ever had.)

This doesn't look petrified.

This looks painted.  Those pink hills are far away.

L sits safely on the wall.

T assures me it is not a sheer drop.

Other colors.

Evidence of water run-off.

A beautiful formation.

Where the petrified wood is.

Scenic Overlook.

There's some.

And more.

Examining scraps of a former forest.

Look happy, L!

That's better!

Just sitting on a petrified log.

Pretty amazing.

Admiring the rings.

This would make good outdoor furniture.

Camouflage fail.

Our last view before finding the back exit.