Saturday, November 15, 2014

Welcome to the Hotel West Virginia

Well, yeah, it's been awhile since I have blogged.
It seems like it's been longer actually, because so much has happened since I blogged last, but I'm not going to try to write an update. I'm just going to jump in again, starting with a story that I have to get down in writing while it's still fresh in my mind.

Julia was coming home for her break, for All Saint's Day, and so John and I decided to go pick her up.
It is a pretty easy drive, and I have been wanting to see the Franciscan campus.
John just wanted to see Julia.
So I thought that I had better find a place to stay in the area.
I looked on Expedia, and went through all the available options.
A lot of the rooms were more than I wanted to pay, but most of those were places that we have stayed before, and been happy with. I did find one place that had a single room for 60.00 and sounded really cool!
It had great reviews, and the pictures online were just amazing. The story was so interesting.
It is called the Aspen Manor Resort. You have to look at the website to see why I was so taken by the chance to stay there. I was thinking that I was going to be able to experience local history, and soak up the warmth of old woodwork and antiques. I was looking forward to the amazing views and walking through the chapel.
I had no idea what a totally bizarre experience it would be, just to check in. I am still shaking my head...

We were running a little late, but I had spoken to someone a couple of days before to confirm my reservation. I wanted to call and just let them know that I would be checking in a little on the late side, but there was no answer just a recording that said that their office hours were 8:00 to 5:00 and if this was an emergency (emergency?) to call this other number. Well, it wasn't an emergency, but I thought it a little odd that there wouldn't be someone to pick up the phone.
I dropped John at the college so that he and Julia could spend some time together while I went to check in.
I had to drive back across the river into West Virginia to get on the right road, and then I had to drive about five miles through a couple of very tired little steel towns. The neighborhood looked pretty rough, but I turned off the main road and up a gated driveway. The driveway was very dark and the road was winding and bumpy. It was about a mile to the place where you could start to see signs of habitation. The places that I could see looked rather shabby and worn, maybe they were caretakers homes or something. I got to the main building, and I must have been at the back, because it looked nothing like what I saw in the pictures. At all.
I went into the "lobby" which was really just a hallway with a desk in a recessed area. It really looked pretty thrown together.
I looked for someone to check me in, but there was just a sign on the desk with a number to call, so I called it. A male voice said that he would be right down.
 I was looking around and wondering where all the antiques were. This hallway and reception area looked pretty institutional and a lot like an old run down nursing home, which, as it turns out, it was. When the guy got there he seemed to be a bit confused about where to put me, and whether or not he was going to be able to find a clean room. My concern was growing as I looked around and really couldn't recognize anything that looked like what I had seen on the website. The guy finally found a key to the room that he said was reserved for us, but when we got to it, after wandering down several twists and turns and hallways, he turned right around and said "No, this won't work." and when I looked around behind him to see what the problem was, I could see that in the bathroom the toilet was lying in pieces. Back up to the front desk, through nursing home halls painted a calming pinkish beige. Past several "guests" that looked like they might possibly just live there, and well, just made me rather uncomfortable. It was like everyone there knew each other and I was kind of a curiosity. I'm not kidding, it was like a very odd dream.
When the "concierge" finally found a key to a room that was apparently going to suit us, we traced that long hallway once more and as we were passing through one of the sitting areas I saw a guy standing over a table covered with magazines, peering at them intently. I was shown into a room with two twin beds and a bath with a "shared" shower. "Oh, but you don't have to worry, no one is in the other room." Umm....yeah.
So, we left the room, and my bad feeling just kept getting worse. I looked at the table that had held so much interest for the guy that was loitering in the halls. He was gone, but on the table were at least a dozen "GQ" magazines, just the type of reading material that I want my son walking past on his way to our room. I took the key from the guy, and he promptly disappeared. I had pretty much made up my mind that I was going to have to find another place for us to stay, even sleeping in the FUS Chapel on a pew would be fine.
I called Tim and told him what I had just seen, and he said to just write it off and try to find a room in another hotel. There was Hampton Inn about a block from the college, and I walked into the lobby at about 10:30. God is good. The place was clean, friendly, and they had a nice double room on the ground floor. The doors were all on the inside.
I didn't even care about the price tag, and they did give me a pretty good discount. I think the guy at the desk felt sorry for me.
I still had the key from the other place, so I went back to the school, picked up John and Julia, and we all drove out the the Aspen Manor Resort, where I got out of the car for about 30 seconds, ran inside, threw the key on the desk, and ran back to the car.
I wish I had taken pictures....

Welcome to the Family!

On Halloween weekend, two new little kitties were added to the family.
John has been wanting another cat for awhile, and his girlfriend Julia is such a cat person, that it seemed like a good idea.
As it turns out, it was.
We looked around and found a rescue that had a sibling pair looking for a home.
They are a male, Sterling, and a female, Autumn.
They are settling in very well and making themselves right at home.



Sunday, August 31, 2014

How Inconvenient....

The speech by former US Vice-President Al Gore was apocalyptic. ‘The North Polar ice cap is falling off a cliff,’ he said. ‘It could be completely gone in summer in as little as seven years. Seven years from now.’
Those comments came in 2007 as Mr Gore accepted the Nobel Peace Prize for his campaigning on climate change.
But seven years after his warning, The Mail on Sunday can reveal that, far from vanishing, the Arctic ice cap has expanded for the second year in succession – with a surge, depending on how you measure it, of between 43 and 63 per cent since 2012.
Scroll down for video 
To put it another way, an area the size of Alaska, America’s biggest state, was open water two years ago, but is again now covered by ice.
The most widely used measurements of Arctic ice extent are the daily satellite readings issued by the US National Snow and Ice Data Center, which is co-funded by Nasa. These reveal that – while the long-term trend still shows a decline – last Monday, August 25, the area of the Arctic Ocean with at least 15 per cent ice cover was 5.62 million square kilometres.
This was the highest level recorded on that date since 2006 (see graph, right), and represents an increase of 1.71 million square kilometres over the past two years – an impressive 43 per cent.

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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Six Miles

John and I did a six mile walk tonight.
We walked up 155 to Earlton rd, down Earlton to Chapel, and down Chapel to Tydings.
It was a perfect night for walking.
The temperatures have been so perfect. Almost no humidity!
The traffic is noisy along the highway, but there are few cars on the other roads, so it was very peaceful.
I really want to get out and do more of the long walks. I would love it if Maggie could go, but it's too warm and too far. Hope to get out on some trails soon!

Saturday, August 16, 2014


After a long wait for the right day, John finally got to go parasailing on the gift certificate that he got, through me, for his birthday last year. I got it for my birthday, but I'm not a real water sports kind of gal, so we thought John would really enjoy a ride in the sky.

He Did.....

Friday, August 15, 2014

Romeo, O...Romeo!

This year's Shakespeare production was a famous play with a different twist. Paula, her sidekick John Andrews, and the cast decided to turn to film this time.

I think that many of the kids, and certainly the directors, thought that they had bitten off way more than they could chew about the middle of July, but it is going to be a fantastic accomplishment once it's finished.
They have been all over two states and several counties.
The locations have been historical and an education in themselves!

They have filmed at Tudor Hall in Bel Air...

An ancient barn on an historic farm that The Balint family is blessed to be living on...

Swan Harbor Farm near Havre de Grace....

A very old church at Old Bohemia near Warwick, MD....

A beautiful mansion in Bel Air called Liriodendron....

An Historic old house in Havre de Grace that is now the Spencer Silver Bed and Breakfast....

An actual castle called "The Cloisters" that was built as a replica of medieval castles in Europe....

The Susquehanna Players have just done an amazing job of memorizing and remembering lines for literally months! They have had to rehearse scenes and then re-rehearse when a location would fall through, or a scene had to be changed. They have had to show up on short notice.
They have learned how long it can take to film just a few minutes of footage. Multiple takes and angles, over and over. Lines repeated from different places and with a tweak here and there.
Everything is set and ready to go, John calls "action", the acting begins....and a jet goes over, or a sheep bleats in the stall next door, or someone is roofing their house....
They filmed in all kinds of weather. One night when we were filming in the barn, a storm came through and the thunder and lightning were right over the barn, and the rain was so loud on the roof that we couldn't hear the lines. Then one of our families had a flat tire, and another had their car battery die while the car was parked in the barn. What a night that was!
At the Spencer Silver the kids had to be really quiet because there were other guests at the bed and breakfast. They were absolutely perfect.
The costumes had to hold up for months. And the beards.....everyone that needed one had have it put on before each filming session.

The moms had to drive hours and miles to locations all over the place. Everyone has been so wonderful.
We have Paula and John to thank for their vision, persistence and willingness to see it through.
Once it is edited, and we are able to sit down for the big premier, everyone involved is going to be so proud of what they did!

The 95%

That's the number of Christians in Iraq that refuse to deny their Faith in Christ.
They are being slaughtered in the streets and in their homes, and yet they refuse to convert to Islam.
Something like 3% have converted.
These people are losing their homes, their lives, and their children's lives, but they are still clinging to their Faith.
If the Blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church, then there is going to be a new springtime of Christianity right there where so much of the Old Testament took place.
I wonder what would happen here?

Happy Feast Day Blessed Mother!

What a special Feast day for Mary!
She goes to be with her Son, Jesus, and to bring to her children so many Graces and blessings.

We had a nice day today.
John and I got out the door early to go to the college to get his student ID.
When we got back I got a text from Paula saying that a bunch of the homeschoolers were over at the school spreading the mulch that had come a week early!
So we went over for a couple of hours and the boys got some good exercise!
Then we came home and I got out and mowed the lawn. It is a lot of work these days, what with the cooler temps and the rain every so often. The grass is still growing like it's Spring or something!
We had a thrown together dinner and then it was time to get ready for Mass.
We decided to go downtown to St Patrick's because they were having a 7:00 pm mass.
John decided to walk down. It only takes about 15 minutes.
We are going down there for Confession tomorrow.
Paul is going on a birthday camping trip for his friend Timmy, and John is going Parasailing!
I'll blog that tomorrow!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

He Loves Us, Oh How He Loves Us...

Have you ever gotten a note or letter from a special someone? What is that like?

You get it and you just can't wait to sit down and read it. You want to be alone with it, and you open it with such anticipation.
You read it through quickly the first time, just to get the tone, and to see how long it is, and what the key words are. Then you go back and read it again, more carefully, taking time to savor the feel, the sense of the person that cared enough to take the time to write it.
You look at the handwriting, you think about that person, trying to picture the place and the time in which they were writing.
You look for words that might mean something new to your relationship. What did they mean by that word? Why did they choose that particular phrase?
You find such joy in the thought that the time it took to write this was devoted just to you.
You feel so special to be the one that is in the mind and heart of this person.
Maybe there are poems, or song lyrics, written just for you. Maybe there are special promises that point to the future. Your heart sings, and you have a serious case of butterflies.

You are the focus of someone's love and attention. You are learning about them and sharing yourself.
You hold nothing back, because they have shown you that they are committed to you, and they want to be with you forever.

Who wouldn't want to get something like this? Who wouldn't read, and reread, it? Who wouldn't treasure it, and keep it in a special place, close at hand?

Quite a few of us, actually....

It took 1600 years to write, and it is a personal love letter to each and every one of us.
He was thinking of you. He was planning for you. He was loving you from the beginning of time.
His Word is THE WORD and it is His love letter to you.

Where is that letter, anyway?

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Congratulations to Our TORCH Seniors!

Last night we were so Blest to attend the TORCH graduation Mass and ceremony for seven wonderful Seniors.
These kids are so special to all of us.
We have known most of them for much of their lives and they are like family.

It was a beautiful evening.

Will, Andrew, and Jerry

Andrew, Hannah, and Olivia

Savannah and Hannah

Jerry and Andrew

The Boyz

Julia, Hannah and Erin

Hannah and Andrew

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Health Insurance, It's Not For Everybody

This is a letter from my friend Kim, to the Washington Post, copied to Bill O'Rielly.
 Kim is one of the finest people I know. She has no desire to be a victim. She is not ignorant, or lazy. She is a Registered Nurse, a homeschooling mom, and her husband is an accountant. She has never had a reason to believe that seeking medical care should be in question, because she and her husband have worked hard to ensure that there would be affordable medical coverage for the family. Now she finds that this isn't possible. She is frustrated, and afraid of the next illness or accident. 
So, you say it won't happen to you? She is you. She is me. We are living in a place that we never expected. 

Dear Mr. O'Reilly , 
I sent this letter to the Washington Post and I wanted to share it with you:
I'm not sure if this is the best place to post my health insurance journey but, as I sat reading articles by Dr. Carson, I felt inspired. We are a family of 11, yes 11. My husband and I are greatly blessed with nine children. Over the course of our almost 21 year marriage we have always had health insurance, until now. Now, with all these wonderful new healthcare laws, we are without health insurance. We had bought private insurance for about 10 years. My husband works for a small local business and about 8 years ago they were able to get a group plan. In the past few years our rates have skyrocketed, along with the rest of taxpaying America. 
We were informed about two weeks ago that it was time to renew our policy, and of course there would be an increase in our premium. This increase now exceeds our monthly mortgage payment. It is impossible for us to pay this premium without sacrificing food or shelter for our children. So we were told that we could purchase our own coverage through a very reputable company. When I tried to apply I was told to go to the healthcare marketplace because my family was entitled to a substantial subsidy. This really does not sit right with me as I don't feel entitled to anything except my rights as a law abiding, taxpaying citizen. I then spend a total of 10 hours on the phone over the course of the next week and a half trying to apply for health insurance. I am told that because we no longer participate in the group plan we can get a new one, but the website  does not accommodate my family size so I must give the information over the phone. This process takes an hour because I am constantly asked, with each of my children, their race, citizenship and if they are employed. Only one of my children is old enough to be employed but I am asked these questions over and over. Then I am told that this must be done manually, as they cannot calculate for my family size. I am assuming math is not a qualification for this job. I then proceed to call back daily checking on the status of my application, the same application that should take less then 24 hours to process. Four days later I am told that my application was denied. Of course I ask why. 
The answer is "I don't know we are not given that information." 
So I ask who can give me that information? 
I am told "I don't know ma'am it is just denied. I hope you have a wonderful day" 
So I try again the next day. I have nine children so I can be patient. 
Two days before my deadline to sign up, so that I can have coverage when my old coverage expires, I am told to do a new application. This one takes 2 and 1/2 hours to complete. This person typed much slower. I finish this process on Friday, June 13th and I am told that I have until June 18th to apply. 
"Do not worry ma'am that is plenty of time. Call on Wednesday morning". 
So I do, and the answer is "Your application has not been processed and you have missed the sign up period and you must reapply in November for open enrollment." 
I asked, very panicked, "What about all these things I have been told?"
 I go on to quote dates, and names, and times (nine kids makes you patient, and thorough) but I am interrupted abruptly, and told that the cut off was a rolling date and they chose for it to be the 16th not the 18th "sorry and have a wonderful day." 
So here I am with the choice, I can pay for insurance I can't afford, but I cannot purchase my own until January 1, 2015. Or my family can go without. 
I can't help but cry. I watch my husband who, during his busy season, works 14-16 hours a day. During the slow season it's 10. We pay our taxes, raise our children to be good citizens, and tell them that hard work always pays off. I am not upset that I can't get a subsidy, I'm upset that because we are not immigrants, or criminals, we can't purchase our own health insurance, and that this is perpetuated by a law that the majority of Americans didn't want. 
Immigrants founded this country. They came willing to work, not holding out their hand. I'm upset because our nation, that was founded on the backs of those willing to work and give their lives for the greater good, is being run by a tyrant and his band of merry idiots who think they can manipulate the Constitution. 
I'm upset because I can't buy health insurance for my children, and I have no options and no freedom to choose, so to speak. I can chose to kill my unborn child, but I can't get him health insurance. 
I'm upset because I am Catholic and I believe life is precious from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death, and I am being forced to pay for murder, but I can't buy health insurance for my children. 
I'm upset because the people who have been receiving entitlements, and sucking off the system continue to vote these people into office and are stealing the integrity of a great nation. 
I'm upset because both of my grandfathers fought in WWII. One was a POW in Germany. They fought to stop people like this and it seems to be in vain. 
I hope and I pray that we can turn this around, so that our children can be proud Americans and be given the opportunity to work hard and serve their God, and their Country, with pride and dignity, instead of waiting for the next handout. 
We are One Nation Under God, and I hope He will have mercy on us.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Saying Goodbye

It seems like there have been an awful lot of people in our lives saying "Goodbye", one way or another, to loved ones, places, and ways that they have lived.
Things do change and the only thing that is certain in life is that it is very uncertain.

A couple of weeks ago our next door neighbor, a very elderly gentleman who has lived in that house since it was built, fell in the hallway and couldn't get up. His son called, from San Francisco, to see if his truck was there and if we had seen him. I told him no, and then we really started to worry.
We finally had to call the police, who broke in and found him and called the EMS people. It was one of those things that happen to older people who live alone, and it could have ended much worse than it did, but it is still not good. It's unlikely that he is going to be coming back to live in that house. He has just always been there. It's the end of something certain.

A few of the families we know have lost parents, and other family members, recently, and yesterday I heard that my good friend, Tonya, said "Goodbye" to her dad, after a long illness. It was kind of shocking. I thought he would be here longer.

When these things happen we naturally think about where the ones that we love are now. We can't picture it, and we can't begin to know what they are experiencing, but we know that they are...still.
We know that every soul that comes into being is eternal and that after death they go on in an existence that isn't what we know, but is.
When my Mom passed from this earth, I just couldn't feel that she had died. She is gone from here, and she isn't able to call me and chat, or hear about how the kids are doing, or come over for a visit, but she is every bit as alive as when she walked the earth. She is in another place, and she can pray for us, and she can be with the babies that we lost in a way that we don't get to, until we get there.
I just can't see that as a bad thing. The last few years of her life were filled with physical pain, and while she was still enjoying life, we all knew that it was coming to it's earthly end. The thing is, that is really why we are made. We are an eternal people. We believe in a life in eternity that NEVER ends, ever.

Now not everyone chooses to be in the same eternal place. That is up to the choices that we make while we are here. If you choose a life of self-centered worldliness, then God isn't going to force you to spend an eternity with Him and others, you will have the eternity that you have chosen by closing the door on Love. That's free will.

Nina is moving to Texas, away from Maryland, where she has lived, worked and raised Lilly for most of her life. They are very excited about making a fresh start, and I am excited for them, but it means a huge change for us, and a "Goodbye" even as we know that it is a good thing. I am praying that she finds everything that she needs to move into the life that she has been working so hard for. A good job, a better economy, good schools for herself and Lilly, and a love to walk through life with. I am looking forward to our visits and being able to hear that they are stretching their wings.

So many Goodbyes, some harder than others, and so many adjustments.
Life is just one long adjustment.
Thank You Lord for the Grace to be flexible, and the Hope that we have in You!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Happy Birthday John!!!

Today our oldest son turns 16!!
What a great kid he is!
I am so proud of who he is and all that he stands for.
God Bless you in the coming year, and always, John.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Summing up the Day

Monday started with a trip to the service dept. at the dealership for a 10,000 mile check-up and oil change...still waiting to see how that ends up, since when I got home the van was leaking oil. They are coming here to look at it in the morning. Ugh.

Then I came home, and the storms that we thought were coming didn't materialize, so we headed up to the pool and had a very nice afternoon. We were almost the only ones there!

I went to the grocery store and bought stuff for Sour Cream Noodle Bake and put it together, and then Nina and Lilly joined us for dinner.

The boys had a Karate lesson downstairs, while I worked on a few things around the house.

Now it's getting dark and it's still really warm out, but the clouds are coming in, maybe it will rain.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Love My Family!

Right now...

Tim is working on the computer in the office, trying to get caught up on work, and not feeling very well. He is so responsible. He is such a loving and special guy.

Laura is probably relaxing after a long day of caring for her large, busy, and adorable family. They are a lucky bunch of people to have such a devoted and loving wife and mom!

Nina is certainly not relaxing. She is hard at work helping people get healthy, after a day that started with Lilly walking in a parade at 9:00am! She is such a wonderful mom and daughter! Lilly is also very, very blest!

John is at the home of his friend spending time with some of the best guys I know. I am so proud of how hard he has worked this past year. School was tough and complicated by some unexpected challenges.
He is such a caring and responsible son!

Brendan, playing video games at the moment and having a very strenuous chat with someone. That intensity and passion in him, that seemed to be a temper in his younger years, has become part of a young man with a spiritual focus that keeps us all on track. He is so in tune with God and committed to our Catholic Faith.

Paul is preparing to watch a movie in the basement. Our sweet youngest who is always saying nice things and thinking about his mom. He says "I love you" so many times a day, and means it! He is so sharp!

And Maggie... who loves everyone without reserve. We are so happy to have her in our lives.

Pentecost 2014

Happy Birthday Church!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

What Would Happen....

....If we really got serious about changing our eating habits around here? Not to lose weight, or get into some crazy self-improvement fad, but to really improve the way that our bodies and minds function?
It is an idea that I revisit more often all the time.
Obesity is fast becoming a world-wide epidemic.
Our family isn't dealing with that right now, praise God, but we have so many other reasons for becoming more intentional about the way we eat. So many auto-immune disorders in the family, and so many things that are going on that might not be eradicated by eating better, but might certainly be eased.
I have always felt that it's important to treat our bodies according to the intentions of the Designer. We were made to wander, hunting and gathering is what our ancestors did for thousands of years, as our bodies developed into the form that we have now. Jogging and lifting were things that were done sporadically. Walking and climbing are natural exercise for us.
Foods that one can collect and eat raw were what our predecessors ate most often, for the longest period of our evolution. Meat was hard to come by, and it required skill to kill and dress large animals, so it isn't meant to be a daily thing. Fish, more likely, but still it requires skill and a certain amount of luck. I am thinking about people before there was cultivation and animal husbandry. Eggs could be found, and plants were everywhere. and there was an abundance of these things during the growing season.

Now, I know people didn't live very long, due to many factors, but food and exercise went hand in hand and there was a LOT of the latter and less of the former, which is the reverse of the way we live today. For us, food is too available, too attractive, and too much a part of our social patterns.
It's not that eating paleo was a formula for a long life, at the time, because there were a lot of other things that could kill you, but it was the way our bodies were designed to function best.
Which brings me to the way our family is eating today, and why it is so hard to get out of that rut.
We eat WAY too much fat and sugar.  We eat way too many refined foods. I feed our family meat or chicken on a much too regular basis. It's just the way we have always eaten. I grew up eating healthy, but probably too much.
Our expectations for regular, generous meals are probably way out of line, but that's what we have come to expect, and so anything else seems like a radical move.
So I am pondering, and researching. I will have to broach the subject with the boys, and that's something that might work well over the Summer, when we are all crazy-busy and outside a lot more. More veggies, more fruit, less meat, and more creativity. That's on me.
I just want everyone to think before they eat, and to feel good being active. For a long time.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Our Lilly

Nina took Lilly out for a photo shoot with a friend who is quite a photographer!
He got so many beautiful pictures!
I think this is my favorite though.
This really captures our beautiful girl.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Pileated Woodpecker

This Woodpecker came for dinner on the stump out back!

God Bless you Brendan!

Brendan Joseph Anthony Merkel was confirmed on May 15th, 2014!
What a great day!
He is so happy and proud to be adding Anthony to his name. He loves him, and between Sts. Brendan, Joseph and Anthony, Brendan is going to have a fantastic team to go through life with!

Brendan Joseph Anthony Merkel

John Andrews, Brendan's sponsor, and Bishop Malooly, after Confirmation