Sometimes life just gets too hard and we want to run and hide from the world. But we can’t. We have little people depending on us for their every need and we simply need to mother them, even if all we want is for someone to mother us. So, how do we keep going?
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Saturday, June 11, 2011
By Sue Elvis
It is a pencil drawing based on Raphael’s Madonna della Seggiola. Vicky gave it to me, and for many years, it remained rolled up in a protective cylinder awaiting a frame and a picture hook. When we moved to a house of our own, several years ago, and I was allowed to knock as many nails into the walls as I desired, I unrolled my treasure. I framed the drawing and hung it in the lounge as part of my ‘gallery’, a row of pictures that are especially dear to me.
I cannot draw. My penciled people don’t even look as good as stick figures, and so I am in awe of Vicky’s talent. It seems rather miraculous to me that she is able to create such beautiful images. I watch transfixed as her pencil flies confidently over the paper.
But even though I am not an artist I feel a bond with Vicky. I understand her need to create. I also have an urge to make something unique, something beautiful, something that expresses the inner me. I guess that drive, to bring something individual and beautiful into being, is a faint reflection of God’s creative ability. We, who are born in His image, want to imitate our Maker. But for me, creation does not result in exquisite works of art. On the days when I am bursting with the need to make something, I will sew an embellished skirt for one of my daughters, or a fluffy rabbit with clothes for all occasions for my Goddaughter, or an intricate, redwork embroidery for a friend. Or create a story. What satisfaction there is in finding just the right words to convey an idea or conjure up a picture in the mind.
For a mother, there are often times when creativity must be put aside. The demands of children take first place. That longing to create when it is impossible can be frustrating. There have been times in the past, when I’ve wanted to sew but my arms have been full with a needy baby. Or I have wanted to sit at my computer and let the words flow onto the screen but I have had to nurse a sick child. There have been times when I have just entered that higher plane of creation and then had to bump suddenly back down to earth at the cry of, “Mum, I need…” How difficult that can be. But recently, with my children growing up, I have regained my own quiet time. And how I appreciate being able to use it to create.
I think of Vicky and her talents. I know there are many times she’d like to move into that other world of creation together with her paints or her pencils, but she can’t. Her little creations here in the real world are still demanding her attention.
I came across a poem by Jan Owens which expresses this dilemma perfectly. In Young Woman Gathering Lemons, a young pregnant mother notices the light gleaming off the lemons she is gathering from a tree. She has an urge to capture the colours on canvas but she knows she hasn’t the time to create, and so tears fall from her eyes. Then her child tugs on her dress and she gives her attention to what is really most important in her life.
‘Who’s got a silly old mother, then?’
She kneels to hug him close and breathe him in:
It dizzies her, the fragrance of his skin.
He nuzzles under the hair come loose.
The fallen lemons, nippled gold,
wait round them in the grass.
Vicky has drawn many pictures of Mary. It is one of her favourite subjects which makes me smile. I remember when Vicky, my sister-in faith, told me she believed in the truth of the Real Presence. She knew she wanted to join the Catholic Church. But there was still so much she felt uncomfortable with: “Sue, I am not at all sure about Mary. I don’t think I could have a devotion to her. It doesn’t feel right.”
I told Vicky not to worry. “Give it time, Vicky. Keep reading and keep praying. I am sure you will come to love Mary. You will soon think of her as a mother.” And as the Holy Spirit worked within Vicky, she came to accept and be thankful for the gift of Our Blessed Mother, whom she’d previously been wary of.
And looking at Vicky’s artwork and her favourite subject, there is no doubt in my mind that my sister loves Our Lady so very much.
Vicky once said to me, “Sue, what will I do with all my time when I no longer have a baby who needs me?” Again, I told her not to worry. I am sure my sister is going to be very busy sharing her talents. She will create beautiful religious images that will capture our hearts and turn our thoughts to God. Or she will delight us with her unique portraits.
Update: Vicky has created her own blog, Victoria Leach- Portrait Art and a connected website. You can visit Vicky's website to enjoy a gallery of her work. Vicky is sharing her works in progress, as well as her entertaining articles of artistic hints, on her blog. Please visit and stop and say hello. She will be most encouraged if you take the time to make a comment.
Please share more of my stories at my own blog Sue Elvis Writes
PS Vicky's drawing is much more beautiful that my blurry photo.
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
By Erin @ Seven Little Australians and Counting
Table Manners is an ongoing process and something my husband and I believe important. Growing up I remember my father being emphatic that boys should not turn up to the table bare chested and your chair must remain on four legs, my mother was emphatic that each meal was worthy of a tablecloth, my husband's mother is emphatic as to what is regarded as 'polite table talk'. These habits are ingrained in my husband and I, and in turn we have passed these on, but we still have other areas to cultivate.
Table manners add or detract to the atmosphere of a meal. Whether it is your own child or a visiting child, behaviour at the table can't help but be noticable.
It appears that our six year old feels rather strongly about table manners too as she has been begging me to hang a 'manners chart' on the wall. To this end I have been searching for one, I found a list but after discussion with some of my favourite people, I decided to adjust the list as I realised that each family have their own unique areas that need cultivating.
I share with your our list, please feel free to take it and adjust to suit your own unique needs.
I'd also like to draw your attention to a fascinating good manners chart which covers far more than just table manners. The 'Good Manners' chart was first issued to Queensland schools in 1898 by the Department of Public Instruction as part of the systematic teaching of conduct and manners. The chart was based on rules formulated by the Children's National Guild of Courtesy which had been founded in UK elementary schools in 1889.
Come to the table when called.
No books at the table.
Sit up straight, knees down and forward facing to the table. Sit on your bottom.
Wait until everyone is seated and served before beginning Grace.
Wait until Grace is said before beginning eating. Do not interrupt during Grace.
Don't interrupt conversations; wait your turn to talk.
Only engage in 'polite table talk.'
Look after other people; do not help yourself only.
Ask politely for dishes to be passed. Never reach across the table.
Do not be greedy.
Keep your elbows off table.
Turn your head away from table and cover your mouth to sneeze or cough.
Wipe your hands on your napkin, not your shirt or tablecloth,
Never chew with your mouth open.
Never talk with a mouth full of food.
Use utensils quietly without banging them on the table or plate.
Use a bread and butter plate for your bread.
Do not eat off your knife.
Ask to be excused from the table before you leave.
Thank your hostess for the meal, thank all for their company.
Clear your plate from the table and take it into the kitchen
Please read more of Erin's posts at Seven Little Australians and Counting.
Monday, June 6, 2011
When one of our daughters was eighteen months or so, a fellow parishioner referred to her as ‘the one with attitude’. This was mildly amusing (especially since it must have been fairly impressive to have been that obvious from about fifteen pews back!) but lately I have been thinking that it shouldn’t have been. There is nothing to admire in strident wilfulness, and whilst it might be temporarily permissible in a child of that age, the temporary should be stressed. The bumper stickers one sees so commonly which emphasise vulgarity, discourtesy and self-importance, or the slogans on t-shirts, of which I need not give examples but with which most will be familiar, quote the twenty-first century description of ‘attitude’ (i.e. bad attitude) as if it were a virtue.
Bad attitudes are responsible for a great deal of the troubles with which we are forced to contend in our present social set-up, especially bad attitudes to authority, honesty, gentleness and modesty. Yet these bad attitudes are exactly what is held up as worthy of striving for! Examine almost any magazine available in the newsagent, almost any television show (including the news), almost any literary curriculum in schools, indeed almost any recent example of any art, and the underlying thrust is the same: defiance of authority and glorification of self. It is often subtle enough that we don’t even realise how greatly we are ourselves influenced by it. It is connected with the modern idea that anything novel is of necessity good, and that individual self-expression is essential to the flowering of the personality.
How peculiarly this is opposed to the traditional Catholic ideal that self-denial is essential to the flowering of the personality – that true maturity, the uncomplaining carrying of one’s own little crosses, brings wisdom!
I am frustrated and saddened that so many people assume there is necessarily a conflict between young people and older people. Of course youth must learn, and of course wisdom must not oppress – parents, do not drive your children to resentment – but why is it assumed that our young people must become these monsters called ‘teenagers’? What is special about the teenage years other than inexperience, enthusiasm and idealism? These are ripe to develop into good attitudes. The conflict is not necessary. Sometimes we can inadvertently make it so by expecting our youngsters to be ‘teenagers’; but why not expect them to be worthy, charming, reliable and pleasant people instead? I do not speak here of youngsters in school, because the pressures upon them are so extensive and difficult to combat; I am treating specifically of home-schooled young people. Most youngsters allowed to develop normally in a secure family, that is without being crippled by having thrust upon them the attitudes and expectations of secular society, will develop attitudes of decency, even without the rigorous teaching of the Church.
Haven’t you observed even young women dressed in short tight skirts and ‘crop tops’, unconsciously constantly tugging at the hemlines to try and cover their exposure?
Despite the persistent message pushed at them from all directions, despite their anxious efforts to fulfil what they have been taught to yearn for, they are somehow subconsciously aware that they are immodestly dressed. The instinct for good has been subverted.
These youngsters have been betrayed into believing that liberty lies in doing what one pleases. Of course true liberty lies is doing what Christ pleases, and the Catholic Church is the custodian of that Truth. So of course our disciplining of our children’s attitudes, as of our own, must be the disciplining of the self to Christ. We must accept the authority of the Church. Humility is a necessity; obeying someone else means subduing our own pride. Our children will not accept our authority if they do not see that we accept higher authority. If they are to be co-operative and self-disciplined it will only because they observe the same qualities, or at least a striving for the same qualities, in ourselves. What a daunting challenge! But we could not face it alone. We will only succeed through Christ. A striking example of that self-discipline which we can provide is for our children to see us go to regular Confession.
I love the companionship and joy of my older children as they grow up. I love the easy expectation among our homeschooling families that our young people are simply that; our youngsters, growing from childhood to adulthood. I love the happy relationships that our little ones have with the older children, their trustful expectation of love and tolerance. I earnestly pray that it will not be riven by bad attitudes, but rather strengthened and reinforced by good ones.