Thursday, August 25, 2011

Irene- Wimpy or Wicked?

See that's the thing with Hurricanes, you just never can tell.
About a week before, you hear about a tropical depression that could form into a tropical storm.
A few days after that, you read that the depression has become a storm, with a name, that could threaten the Bahamas, various small countries, or eventually the east coast. They say this every time.
So then the maps and all the tracking data come out, and nine times out of ten the storm either fizzles out or it turns and chugs off to sea, never to be heard from again.
Once in a while, the maps and tracking data stick around and, within hours, The Weather Channel actually has ratings! The guys that stand there all year, doing their "partly-sunny-with-a-chance-of-rain" schtick, all of a sudden become celebrities. Everyone wants to know what they think.

The weather guy or gal becomes rather like an announcer at Churchhill Downs. The outcome is still fuzzy and impossible to predict, but oh, how they do predict. They call it as they see it about every fifteen minutes.
Comparisons, charts, maps with many-colored tracks to attempt to cover every possible path that the unpredictable weather event may take. With these maps you can whip the maximum number of people into a frenzy, because, well, it could go anywhere...
With things like tornadoes and thunderstorms, you really only have the aftermath to discuss.
A hurricane, however, can pull in a huge number of viewers for days on end.
All the worst case scenarios, pictures from Katrina, the stories of devastation from storms decades in the past are pasted in front of a population starving for something "exciting", served up by an unpredictable mother nature.
And any one of these could, indeed, be "the storm of the Century". Disaster on a scale that will provide footage and fodder for predictions in years to come.

We are now in the final days of the latest disaster in the making, and Irene, the guest of honor this time around, has indeed settled into a path that looks like it could provide for a real wild ride. She is bearing down, all 436 miles of her. She looks like a nasty piece of work, and we have our bottled water, cash, toilet paper and batteries, just in case. It's not looking like she is going to tuck her tail between her legs and run whimpering out to sea.
So we are watching and tracking and predicting. The grocery store weather talk has the sustained winds at anywhere from 35 to 110 mph. Some have heard that it is slated to crash into the outer banks, and others say that it is going to chug up the coast until it hits Boston. Plans have been changed, picnics canceled, family members far away are worrying about the threat to their loved ones.
Some folks are thrilled with the uncertainty, others just want it to pass and be over with.
No one really knows what will happen this weekend. I'll be watching and wondering right along with everyone else.
If there is anything interesting to blog, I'll be sure to post it!
One thing is for certain, we'll pray for safety for all of our friends and family.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Hiking and Skating and Earthquakes, Oh My!

It's been a wild couple of days for the Merkel family and the Eastern Seaboard, as a whole.

We have been trying to pack the last couple of weeks of summer full of things that we'll remember.

So yesterday we hiked back up to Kilgore Falls with a big group of our TORCH friends.

It was really a wonderful day. We had lunch up on the rocks,

having fun being with friends,
and the older kids spent the whole day wandering the trails, climbing rocks,
and swimming in the pool beneath the falls.

Apparently a LOT of other people had the same idea...

Today we went down to the ice rink in Abingdon, and the boys got to skate for an hour and a half.

Brendan wants to go back ASAP. There is a "Sticks and Pucks" class that he can drop in on any week, so I think we will definitely do that soon. I think we may have found PE for him for the winter.

John and Paul had fun, but they weren't quite as quick to catch on. Paul definitely wants to go back soon, and maybe John will too, if we take a friend.

So, on our way home we missed the "Big One" of '11. I guess you really don't notice earthquakes when you are driving, unless something falls on you, which, Praise God, didn't happen to anyone.
This one wasn't big by west coast standards, but it surely got everyone's attention!
Hopefully hurricane Irene won't be much to write home about either....we shall see.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Over The Weekend...

Well, we got a lot done this weekend.
Yesterday was a hot one, but we worked outside all day anyway.
I have been trying to spruce up the patio area and, while it's still a work in progress, it's getting better.

Tim did a lot of projects that he has been wanting to get to.
He still wants to put in a fire pit behind the house and we are thinking about just building it ourselves. Wait did I include myself in that? I usually don't do any of the building, but I add a lot of dialogue just to make things more complicated.
I have the sofa in the basement on Craig's List. We are eventually going to get carpet, and I want to get a different furniture set up. Yeah, it will be more CL stuff, but why not? The price is right, and I have lots of time to find stuff. I just play musical furniture, but when you don't pay very much for it, it makes it possible to switch it out when you need to.

Oh, very cool, John caught a katydid last night across the street. He said there were lots of them. It was getting dark, so the pictures aren't very clear, but they are really pretty!

I don't know if we are saying "good-bye" to Summer now, or what, but the weather is sure wet, and moody. Seems like thunder is always grumbling through. I guess the chill of Fall will be in the air soon. I am usually in the mood for it, but somehow, I feel like summer was just a bit too short this year....

Friday, August 19, 2011

Once More, Craig's List Comes Through!

After we finished the new face on the old school room, we decided that we needed to finally buy a computer chair. We have put it off for years, because the old kitchen chairs had been working just fine.
Well, they aren't working fine anymore because all the backs are falling off.
So I started haunting CL again. I have gotten so many good deals over the years, that it's always the first place I go.
A couple of days ago I found an ad put up by an office suite in Hanover. They had some really good quality office equipment for really, really low prices. Some of it has been sitting in unused offices!
So, I found a new office chair,
a guest chair,

and THIS chair, which for some reason I love, but which doesn't fit in the office! So I am going to find a place somewhere in the house....
I also got a stool/bench for the piano so that we don't have to keep going around a big chair.

I have most of the materials list for Science finished, now I just have to buy/save/collect all the items on it. I cleaned out the game closet and two of the shelves are going to hold Science supplies for this year. I really like the book that I got for Brendan. It is going to be a great science year, I think!

Tomorrow will hopefully be clear so that we can put down the landscape cloth and mulch and plant in the back. I got new Mums and I hope they will do OK now that the weather is so much wetter. It appears that we are through the hottest part of the summer.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Nun on the run: Sister to leave convent for the first time in 84 years to meet the Pope

  • Nun entered convent on same day Pope Benedict XVI was born
By Chris Slack

Last updated at 11:02 AM on 17th August 2011
She has spent every day of the past 84 years inside the walls of her convent in central Spain.
Now, however, 103-year-old nun Sister Teresita will finally emerge into the outside world on Friday for a very special occasion.
The nun will meet Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to the Spanish capital of Madrid to celebrate World Youth Day.
Devout: Sister Teresita will leave her convent in central Spain for the first time in 84 years this week
Devout: Sister Teresita will leave her convent in central Spain for the first time in 84 years this week
Sister Teresita is a member of the Buenafuente del Sistal Convent, which is located around 60miles north of Madrid.
She has been a resident at the convent since April 16, 1927. This, by coincidence, is the same day that Joesph Ratzinger - now Pope Benedict XVI - was born.
The last time the centenarian left the compound was during the Spanish Civil war, which took place between 1936 and 1939.
Even then she only fled for a few hours at a time to escape the overnight fighting.
Secluded: The nun has lived at the Buenafuente del Sistal Convent since 1927, only leaving for a few hours to escape fighting during the Spanish Civil War
Secluded: The nun has lived at the Buenafuente del Sistal Convent since 1927, only leaving for a few hours to escape fighting during the Spanish Civil War
The convent's mother superior, named only as Maria, said: 'She said she thinks she will make the trip with her eyes closed, so that nothing will distract her.'
Meeting: Sister Terestia will meet with Pope Benedict XVI in Madrid
Meeting: Sister Terestia will meet with Pope Benedict XVI in Madrid
Sister Teresita is a minor celebrity in the area around the nunnery after a book was published detailing her life inside the convent.
In the book, titled "What is a girl like you doing in a place like that", she is quoted as saying: 'Who can spend 84 years in a convent without being happy? Of course I’m happy.'
She adds in the book that she was encouraged into the Church by her father, who said that it was a way for them to escape extreme poverty.
She claims that when she entered the convent she only had a vague idea of what life would be like and that over the years she found happiness.
Sister Teresita's visit to Madrid comes as thousands congregate there to welcome the Pope.
Pilgrims will camp out under the stars in an area the size of 48 football pitches ahead of his visit, which begins on Thursday.
The city has been transformed with yellow and white banners lining the streets, while religious events and concerts have been planned. Huge screens have also been erected to broadcast the events across the city.


1959-1973: Economic boom known as the 'Spanish miracle'
1975: Death of Franco following 36-year dictatorship
1978: 33-day reign of Pope John Paul I
1981: Assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II
1992: Summer Olympics held in Barcelona
2004: Madrid train bombings
2005: Death of Pope John Paul II and election of Benedict XVI
2010: Spain win the football World Cup
Sister Teresita has also lived through the reigns of seven different Popes, including Pius XII, John XXIII and Paul VI.
An air-base in the south west of the city has also been transformed to hold a huge open air mass on Sunday at the end of the papal visit.
Hundreds of priests, speaking 30 languages, have also been called in to listen to sins in 200 specially constructed confessional booths.
However, the visit has stirred up tensions in the country, with many asking how the Government can afford to spend the money on the visit during its economic crisis.
One group of protestors have set up camps in Madrid to vent their frustration at unemployment and political corruption.
A spokesman for the movement said: 'With the economic crisis we are going through, we can't pay for this. The Church should set the example.' 
However the organisers of the event say that an estimate 50m euro cost will be met by  pilgrims’ registration fees and corporate sponsorship.
They added that the event could inject around 100m euros into the Spanish economy.

Who Needs Captain America?

The Twelve Most Important Things to Know about Angels

AngelsThe Twelve Most Important Things to Know About Them
  1. They really exist. Not just in our minds, or our myths, or our symbols, or our culture. They are as real as your dog, or your sister, or electricity.
  2. They’re present, right here, right now, right next to you, reading these words with you.
  3. They’re not cute, cuddly, comfortable, chummy, or “cool”. They are fearsome and formidable. They are huge. They are warriors.
  4. They are the real “extra-terrestrials”, the real “Super-men”, the ultimate aliens. Their powers are far beyond those of all fictional creatures.
  5. They are more brilliant minds than Einstein.
  6. They can literally move the heavens and the earth if God permits them.
  7. There are also evil angels, fallen angels, demons, or devils. These too are not myths. Demon possessions, and exorcisms, are real.
  8. Angels are aware of you, even though you can’t usually see or hear them. But you can communicate with them. You can talk to them without even speaking.
  9. You really do have your very own “guardian angel”. Everybody does.
  10. Angels often come disguised. “Do not neglect hospitality, for some have entertained angels unawares” — that’s a warning from life’s oldest and best instruction manual.
  11. We are on a protected part of a great battlefield between angels and devils, extending to eternity.
  12. Angels are sentinels standing at the crossroads where life meets death. They work especially at moments of crisis, at the brink of disaster — for bodies, for souls, and for nations.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

He Is the Almighty
"I pray . . . that you may know . . . his incomparably great power for us who believe."
Ephesians 1:18-19, NIV
What problem are you facing that is bigger than you are? Praise God for the omnipotence of Jesus Christ! He is the Almighty - mightier than all. Greater, more powerful, than any problem or situation you or I will ever face. In fact, one reason God allows us to have problems and be in situations that seem bigger than we are is so we can discover His "incomparably great power for us who believe."
If our lives are easy, and if all we ever attempt for God is what we know we can handle, how will we ever experience His omnipotence in our lives?
It is when we are in over our heads . . .
when we are cornered with no way out . . .
when we are facing the Red Sea in front of us, the desert on either side of us, and the Egyptian army in back of us . . .
that's when we discover His power!

Monday, August 15, 2011

From Mission Moment....So Beautiful!

All Shall Be Well

Today, Catholics throughout the world celebrate a feast and sing a hymn of praise for the gift and beauty of the human body.

This is a feast of hope in the resurrection of the body, and our eyes are gazing in wonder at the beauty of a human body: the Ark of the Covenant, the New Eve, the Mother of Mankind, the Woman clothed with the Son. Mary.

We revel in the beauty of her body, not as the world does, with a beauty only skin deep; we see the big picture, not parts but the whole. Like a crystal that shines throughout, it's the body "capax Dei" - capable of the Divine. The body as a temple, God's dwelling place, open to Grace, now glorified and divinized! Mary is taken up into glory today. It is the Solemnity of the Assumption!

For some this seems a mere fantasy, or wishful thinking, since this mystery seems not to appear in the Bible. Truth is, it's the Song that suffuses the entire Bible! This song of Mary's rising is the crescendo in the original score, the song of life, the Song of Songs, and the music that sin tore apart and twisted. (It's also in the Bible, see Revelations 12)

But even though sin may have torn up the sheet music, we still in this valley of tears remember the melody. Mary's Assumption into Heaven is God's promise for sinners that for us too, if we hold fast in faith, all shall be well. And so we gaze in wonder, and reflect on the fact that for us too, by His Grace, what has fallen shall be raised up, what went sour shall be sweet again, what was broken will be repaired in us. And not by our merit, or by Mary's alone. In the end it is all and always the Son who supplies the Light in this darkness. And it is in Mary that this Light shines the brightest!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Ordinary Time- Marie Bellet

I truly and honestly don't understand why some moms rejoice in the fact that school will start soon, and they will say "good-bye" to long days with their children. I am one of the strange folk that actually revels in the activity, noise, laughter, and even the bickering. It's living the life.
I am not criticizing those that await the school bus with giddy hearts. God Bless you! I just don't understand.
This song kind of says it...

It Can't Happen Here....

....but it could.
Excellent article by Mark Steyn. Really.

Mark Steyn
The New Britannia
Big Government corrodes the integrity of a people, catastrophically.

The trick in this business is not to be right too early. A week ago I released my new book — the usual doom’n’gloom stuff — and, just as the sensible prudent moderate chaps were about to dismiss it as hysterical and alarmist, Standard & Poor’s went and downgraded the United States from its AAA rating for the first time in history. Obligingly enough they downgraded it to AA+, which happens to be the initials of my book: After America. Okay, there’s not a lot of “+” in that, but you can’t have everything.
But the news cycle moves on, and a day or two later, the news shows were filled with scenes of London ablaze, as gangs of feral youths trashed and looted their own neighborhoods. Several readers wrote to taunt me for not having anything to say on the London riots. As it happens, Chapter Five of my book is called “The New Britannia: The Depraved City.” You have to get up pretty early in the morning to beat me to Western civilization’s descent into barbarism. Anyone who’s read it will fully understand what’s happening on the streets of London. The downgrade and the riots are part of the same story: Big Government debauches not only a nation’s finances but its human capital, too.
As part of my promotional efforts, I chanced to find myself on a TV show the other day with an affable liberal who argued that what Obama needed to do was pass another trillion-dollar — or, better yet, multi-trillion — stimulus. I think not. The London rioters are the children of dependency, the progeny of Big Government: They have been marinated in “stimulus” their entire lives. There is literally nothing you can’t get Her Majesty’s Government to pay for. From page 205 of my book:
“A man of 21 with learning disabilities has been granted taxpayers’ money to fly to Amsterdam and have sex with a prostitute.”
Hey, why not? “He’s planning to do more than just have his end away,” explained his social worker. “Refusing to offer him this service would be a violation of his human rights.”
Why do they need a Dutch hooker? Just another hardworking foreigner doing the jobs Britons won’t do? Given the reputation of English womanhood, you’d have thought this would be the one gig that wouldn’t have to be outsourced overseas.
While the British Treasury is busy writing checks to Amsterdam prostitutes, one-fifth of children are raised in homes in which no adult works — in which the weekday ritual of rising, dressing, and leaving for gainful employment is entirely unknown. One tenth of the adult population has done not a day’s work since Tony Blair took office on May 1, 1997.
If you were born into such a household, you’ve been comprehensively “stimulated” into the dead-eyed zombies staggering about the streets this last week: pathetic inarticulate sub-humans unable even to grunt the minimal monosyllables to BBC interviewers desperate to appease their pathologies. C’mon, we’re not asking much: just a word or two about how it’s all the fault of government “cuts” like the leftie columnists argue. And yet even that is beyond these baying beasts. The great-grandparents of these brutes stood alone against a Fascist Europe in that dark year after the fall of France in 1940. Their grandparents were raised in one of the most peaceful and crime-free nations on the planet. Were those Englishmen of the mid-20th century to be magically transplanted to London today, they’d assume they were in some fantastical remote galaxy. If Charlton Heston was horrified to discover the Planet of the Apes was his own, Britons are beginning to realize that the remote desert island of Lord of the Flies is, in fact, located just off the coast of Europe in the north-east Atlantic. Within two generations of the Blitz and the Battle of Britain, a significant proportion of the once-free British people entrusted themselves to social rewiring by liberal compassionate Big Government and thereby rendered themselves paralytic and unemployable save for non-speaking parts in Rise of the Planet of the Apes. And even that would likely be too much like hard work.
Here’s another line from my book:
“In Britain, everything is policed except crime.”

Her Majesty’s cowed and craven politically correct constabulary stand around with their riot shields and Robocop gear as young rioters lob concrete through store windows to steal the electronic toys that provide their only non-narcotic or alcoholic amusement. I chanced to be in Piccadilly for the springtime riots when the police failed to stop the mob from smashing the windows of the Ritz and other upscale emporia, so it goes without saying that they wouldn’t lift a finger to protect less prestigious private property from thugs. Some of whom are as young as nine years old. And girls.
Yet a police force all but entirely useless when it comes to preventing crime or maintaining public order has time to police everything else. When Sam Brown observed en passant to a mounted policeman on Cornmarket Street in Oxford, “Do you know your horse is gay?”, he was surrounded within minutes by six officers and a fleet of patrol cars, handcuffed, tossed in the slammer overnight, and fined 80 pounds. Mr. Brown’s “homophobic comments,” explained a spokesmoron for Thames Valley Police, were “not only offensive to the policeman and his horse, but any members of the general public in the area.” The zealous crackdown on Sam Brown’s hippohomophobia has not been replicated in the present disturbances. Anyone who has so much as glanced at British policing policy over the last two decades would be hard pressed to argue which party on the streets of London, the thugs or the cops, is more irredeemably stupid.
This is the logical dead end of the Nanny State. When William Beveridge laid out his blueprint for the British welfare regime in 1942, his goal was the “abolition of want” to be accomplished by “co-operation between the State and the individual.” In attempting to insulate the citizenry from life’s vicissitudes, Sir William succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. As I write in my book: “Want has been all but abolished. Today, fewer and fewer Britons want to work, want to marry, want to raise children, want to lead a life of any purpose or dignity.” The United Kingdom has the highest drug use in Europe, the highest incidence of sexually transmitted disease, the highest number of single mothers, the highest abortion rate. Marriage is all but defunct, except for William and Kate, fellow toffs, upscale gays, and Muslims. From page 204:
“For Americans, the quickest way to understand modern Britain is to look at what LBJ’s Great Society did to the black family and imagine it applied to the general population”.
I believe it is regarded as a sign of insanity to start quoting oneself, but at the risk of trying your patience I’ll try one more, because it’s the link between America’s downgraded debt and Britain’s downgraded citizenry:
“The evil of such a system is not the waste of money but the waste of people.”
Big Government means small citizens: It corrodes the integrity of a people, catastrophically. Within living memory, the city in flames on our TV screens every night governed a fifth of the earth’s surface and a quarter of its population. When you’re imperialists on that scale, there are bound to be a few mishaps along the way. But nothing the British Empire did to its subject peoples has been as total and catastrophic as what a post-great Britain did to its own.
There are lessons for all of us there.
Mark Steyn, a National Review columnist, is author of After America: Get Ready for Armageddon. © 2011 Mark Steyn

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Hard Times and Good People

Thanks to Matt Archbold at National Catholic Register for sharing this beautiful piece!
Yes, I cried....

Monday, August 8, 2011

New Digs....

So Tim spent the last two weekends putting a new look on the schoolroom, and boy, does it look great!
It was really in need of a face-lift. He did the ceiling a while back, and it looked way too nice for the dingy walls and ratty old carpet.
We thought we'd just paint. But after he got the painting done, the carpet looked even worse.
The edges were really bad because the basement is so damp. So he ripped all the old carpet out and we put down new flooring and he painted the baseboards. I put all the stuff back in, except for a few items that we are giving away.
It is going to be so nice to start school this year in a fresh new space!
I also reformatted the computer, because something went wrong with the hard drive. We got Dell to put in a new one, and I upgraded to Windows 7. It runs again! I may have lost a little bit of stuff, but using Google docs for everything really paid off. I had already backed up all the pictures, but we will see if we can get someone to get the things off of it that are still there.

Oh yeah, and speaking of new digs....
 THESE have taken up residence in our yard.
They are Cicada killing Wasps, and, indeed the evidence is on my porch.

 They like the area in front of the little patio.

They dig burrows like this...
Fortunately, the only thing they harm is the cicada population, so that works for me!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Painful Truth

I have this friend.
She is a dear friend, and I am really worried about her. She has such a wonderful heart and she is always so generous, but I am very concerned because she has gotten herself into some serious trouble.

See, she is so generous that people have been taking advantage of her for a long time and she just won't say "no" when they ask her for money. She used to be very well off, but things just haven't been going well for her, and since she is afraid to be honest with the people that come to her, she has been borrowing money so that she won't have to say no.
I'm not sure why, maybe it's pride, or maybe she is afraid that if she doesn't give them what they want they won't be her friends anymore. The problem is, there just isn't enough to go around. She has made these people think that she can support them, and she is being dishonest with herself, and with them.
I know that there are people that have tried to talk to her and explain the situation, but she won't listen.
I also know that the people that she owes money to are not going to be patient when it becomes impossible for her to make her payments. They are going to exact payment one way or the other.

I love her, but I feel like she is just being pigheaded in allowing herself to be bilked over and over, and in letting these "friends" of hers suck her dry to the point of ruination. Maybe she doesn't see how serious the situation has become, or maybe she is just in denial, but the facts are the facts.
She has so many people giving her conflicting information, and she seems unable commit to a plan that will help her solve her problems.
It breaks my heart to watch her go through this, but at this point that's all I can do. She has refused to listen to people much better at helping her than me.

I will pray for her. I hope you will pray for her. She is a great lady and she is in serious trouble.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Bitter and the Sweet.....

Life is such a mix of sorrow and joy right now. It seems like the pendulum is swinging so fast that I can't catch my breath.
Last week our friends, the McLanahans lost their unborn baby. They were so excited, and we had been rejoicing with them. Then the news came suddenly, and we were mourning. We pray, make a meal, hope for God's comfort and pray some more.
Then in the midst of the sorrow, there was a time for celebration and fun, as we went up to a local waterfall to join the Hoppels on Kevin's birthday. We are so blest with the friendship of this family and Kevin's friendship with the boys.
Even as we were enjoying the beautiful day and great people, I received word that another sweet baby had passed into the arms of The Lord. It broke my heart. Calvin and Katherine are just the greatest young couple, and they were so thrilled with the gift of little Gabriella. She was only 26 weeks old. Such a sword has pierced their hearts. We pray, again, for the comfort and peace that surpasses all understanding.

We have had the good news that Pat and Ann Waltenburg have a new grandson. Praise for His safe arrival and the Blessing of a safe delivery for Kate!

Lilly's grandpa is very, very ill and is undergoing a very serious surgery. We have been praying for success, and hopefully a time of better health for him.

Yesterday I got a call from Nina, and when I got on the phone, Nina was so upset that I couldn't understand what she was saying. I thought I was going to get more tragic news. I was prepared for Nina to tell me that Lilly was in the hospital. It wasn't as tragic as it could have been, but at the time it must have seemed like a disaster. Lilly had cut ALL her hair off. Not just her bangs, but everything, except a small tail in the back that she couldn't reach. I know that it will grow back, but it is going to be awhile. I felt so bad for Nina!

Last night we had our final session in the "Road to Emmaus" book study that we have been doing on The Mass. Such grace and blessing. The Mass is such an incredible gift and we have been given the opportunity to study it with some of the wonderful people of the parish. More prayers that our fervor will hold on, and that we can share it with others.

Today was another fun-filled day as we traveled to Lancaster County to play laser tag at a place up there. The boys had such a great time! They were with their friends, they were doing something that they love, it was really good.

Tomorrow morning is the service for the McLanahan baby, and then the boys are going to spend the afternoon with their friend Henry, which is something they have been wanting to do for weeks.

Such a mixed bag of emotions, and God is there for us in the midst of it all. He shares every moment with His children. I pray that I will always be aware of His presence and His love through every swing
of the pendulum of this life. He is the point that it swings from.