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Friday, January 31, 2014

"Behind the Silver Screen"......

is a new blog I have started for the specific purpose of seeking depth in motion pictures form a spiritual perspective. I know I've done a fair amount of movie reviews on here already, but they were always bunched together in groups, and I couldn't give each film the full time it deserved. I also tended to be more choosy about which films I reviewed, and only did ones which I could think of something nice to say about!

    With this new launch, I plan on doing a full-length post for each individual film. The lengths will no doubt vary regarding how much I have to say about a given flick, but there will be much more room to move than the style in which I have been reviewing here. Also, over yonder I plan on covering "the good, the bad, and the hoaky", taking jabs left and right as I see fit! Perhaps it will prove amusing.....;-)

    So, anyway, do check out my "new baby", in addition to frequenting LB&RB! Here's the new address for it:

Lights, camera, roar, MGM Lion! 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The rest of my 2013 yearly review.....

is finally ready to hit the public air waves! Sure, not everything can be covered, but here are a few of the highlights that I have not had the chance to go into depth about in other blog posts……

Easter this was particularly special to me because my friend, Wyndysascha, was received into the Catholic Church. I was so excited and rather nervous for him, that I kept mentally noting the time difference between Maryland and London, keeping tabs on when he would be at Easter Vigil Mass. I had listened to a whole radio program about converts aired on EWTN the night before, and I also had the opportunity to watch our own local batch of converts make the plunge at Easter vigil Mass. When we go home, I was thrilled to find an email from W. waiting for me, and the subject line, in bold, read: “I’M A CATHOLIC!!!” With all the uncertainly buzzing around with Pope Benedict’s resignation, I felt a new sense of reassurance and hope.

    Not long after Easter, “An Evening of Music” was held at St. Joseph’s Parish, with my dad having been selected by the Fund Committee to be the M.C. It was going to be a collaborative effort of a number of local Catholic churches, and I was scheduled to sing my original composition, “Our Lady of Britannia”, and an 18th century Scots-Gaelic lament, “Ailein Duinn”. Unfortunately, it was discovered just before the show that the bodran drum track for the latter was screwed up, my vocals having been accidentally recorded over it during the original session!

    Nevertheless, after a mini panic attack, there was little alternative but to sing it a capella. Not my favorite task by any means. And there were a few other troubled areas of paradise. Since there were so many different acts performing, and the Church tech equipment was less than ideal (think: bingo hall speakers and mic stands held together with Scotch tape!), it had been formerly assumed that the director of the Jazz Band would be providing the sound equipment. Not so. He didn’t even offer his mic stands to the rest of us. Nevertheless, my intrepid father, mid-show, had to use the power of “commandeer” in order to properly provide for the performers!

    In spite of all the hullabaloo, I can happily report that, for the most part, we had high-quality performances and a fair-sized audience. The choir groups were all lovely, as were a trio of church ladies from our own St. Joseph’s. We had one girl, dressed in sequence-studded attire, who was quite proficient in musical hits from such diverse productions as Le Miserables and Beauty and the Beast! The bands also did a good (if loud!!!) job, and I made it through my own pieces without any disasters to speak of, even though everyone had to endure the same life-or-death-struggle with terrible treble mics.

    Our deepest cravings were fulfilled at the end of the day, when were treated to refreshments by the kitchen in the back. Being someone who had endured a painfully long sabbatical from all things sweet due to an internal infection, it had a special resonance with me! I particularly recall a French Toast-like pastry filled with cream cheese and sprinkled with powdered sugar. Yum. No better way to break out of the Lenten Season in style, what? ;-)

    In April another big event for me was the formal dance. I say the dance because it became larger-than-life in the process of trying to evade going to similar functions for so many years. The facts I lay before thee: I’m no dancer; I’m not a party-animal; I don’t like to have guys I barely know putting there mitts on my person. There. I said it. Phew.

   Anyway, I was finally enticed to put aside my apprehensions by a friend who was serving on the ticket-selling committee. My mom was pleased at the prospect of getting me prettied-up for the occasion, and I soon found myself adorned in an ice-blue Victorian-style gown we had procured at a thrift shop. Quite lovely, really, though I didn’t quite feel like myself. 

    The prom itself was! The organizers had rented a really classy club house for the event, and as we drove up and saw the complex of well-to-do dwellings nearby, I muttered, "High society, huh?" We noticed some young guys in suits hanging around on a veranda outside one of the houses decked out with balloons and deducted that it must be the right place. I slumped lower in the car. Not my element, no, not mine……

    So my dad dropped me off at the door, and I was ushered in by the parental chaperones. Now everything started spinning because there were all these girls who I used to know when they were really little, coming up to me in brightly-colored attire and saying things like, "It's been so long! Do you remember me? Don't be a stranger....."     Honestly, some of them I didn't know right off the bat and had to kind of hint around or ask others to discover their identity. A few of them are heading off to University this year, so I guess they this dance was doubling as their personal self-promo project!
    I hunkered down at a table with a female friend and munched on the food provided (quite good.....ham, potatoes, green beans.....and cheesecake! I love cheesecake…) Plus, I used my wine glass for lemonade! I was given a wine-glass charm with my initials on it, so I have that as a memory of the event.  After eating, the girls had the unenviable task of waiting around for the boys to get inspired to ask them to dance. I made a few cracks about the possible necessity of using Morse Code to signal them over to our table, or the last ditch effort of tackling one who was strutting by......but these measures proved unnecessary, and we wound up getting asked to dance about four times. I think I did okay in that....I mean, no what got broken feet or thrown out backs! 

    However, I'm really not in my element dancing. Frankly, I don't like the usury attitude that some of the young people seem to imbue dancing with. Rather than sitting down to chat with you and sharing some quality time, the boys seemed more likely to "dance and run". They were polite, to the point of escorting the girls back to their chairs (unnecessarily, as they were only a few feet away from the dance floor!), but not prone to "hunkering in" for discussions, apparently. I think the only way I would ever go to another such dance would be if I had a friend who would consent to be my date.....or I might wait till I'll about to get married and learn with my fiancĂ©e!

    The morning after the prom, my father and I piled into Madame Maureen’s car and were whisked down to Catonsville to take part in a show for the Little Sisters of the Poor, a retirement home for elderly nuns. The trip was a rather tense affair, since The Z. Clan had come down with the contagion and could not attend with us, the sheet music they were to bring was never brought, Madame had to coordinate the “meeting” of the troupe, coming from some five different locations, in Catonsville, and she had misplaced her nerve medicine! In the backseat of her car, with various prayer litanies playing in the speakers behind my head, I got the feeling were we being driven to our execution!

    Upon arriving at the Little Sisters’ Care Center, we met with “our people” and headed for a big basement room where the stage was located. There was a hanging mic, which was none-too-good, but we had to make do and circulate it for group pieces. We also managed to obtain a hand mic, but it was nothing like the quality of Lutheran Home sound systems. Nevertheless, we forced ahead. I sang “I Know Where I’m Going”, “Sleeping Beauty Waltz”, and “The Sound of Music”, among other things. I also served as mic-holder for my friend, Liz, when she played her guitar and sang “Black Bird Singing in the Dead of Night.” We had our usual number of violin and piano pieces, and concluded our show experience with a sojourn at the snack table in the back of the room. Pound cake and pumpkin pie. Yum. Then a photo shoot with the Madame, and home we went.

    Over the summer, I had the honor to encounter Cardinal Timothy Dolan and a slew of other fascinating characters at Gettysburg during the 150th anniversary of the Civil War battle. I also got the chance to meet up with several of my friends who had returned from college or other journeys abroad. I met up with Jennifer at the mall, where we shared a cinnamon-sugar pretzel, window shopped, and discussed various subjects and updates, including the fact that her sister, Kathleen, had decided to become a nun! I met Danah at a local restaurant called Bullocks, where we indulged in peanut butter ripple ice cream and a discussion on SherlockStarTrek, and Katherine Lasky books. I had a reunion with Meredith, after her sojourn in Kansas, and enjoyed an afternoon at her grandma’s house chatting and searching for YouTube music of mutual interest on her laptop! I also had several long-awaited catch-up sessions with friends Rachel and Ian over the phone.

     In Autumn, I had the pleasure of having my wisdom teeth extracted. After being tied down to the dentist chair with a gas mask and blood-pressure cuff, and feeling rather claustrophobic as I was injected in the arm with a fair-sized needle, I blacked out only to wake up 45 minutes later feeling drowsy and lowsy. I remember very little from the time I woke up to the time I was back home, expect maybe shaking hands with a surprised dentist! After sleeping off the drugs, I woke up to the realization that my teeth were gone and it really hurt! The bloody gauze, ice packets, and oatmeal diet were no fun, but they were allayed by indulging in BBC period dramas such as Far from the Madding Crowd (really, really good). After going through a phase of looking like I had been socked in the face or transformed into a chipmunk, I must admit that I began to appreciate all the extra room I had in my rather small mouth.

    And lest we forget recent winter history…..I'm going to be representing Carroll County at the state competition for the Sons of the American Revolution Oration Contest!!! Okay, so the whole story is rather hysterical. As it happened, we went to the "audition" in December for the historical oration contest and discovered, quite to our amazement and bemusement, that I was the only contestant who came forward for Carroll County! Hence, they took me, enthusiastically, because our chapter had never been able to send anyone to state level before….ever! (I think they would have done the same had a chimpanzee stalked into the room with a gleam of authority in his beady eyes!)

    But anyway, I'm it! It's all rather exciting......and terribly nerve-racking! I seem to have been accidentally transformed into "the great white hope" for the chapter, even though I'm not exactly champion material. I'm basically going to be going through a form of training, tightening up my essay and speaking ability (and trying to suppress my giggling when I talk -- although, as you well know, that's sort of like not breathing for me)!

    So that’s my January review for 2013. Thank you to all who made last year special for me through your friendship and fun times spent together, whether in person, through the phone, or the internet. Thanks also to all my loyal blog readers who keep “Longbows and Rosary Beads” alive through their insightful comments and group participation.

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Marching into a New Year......

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Grandma's passing.....

took place on January 21, 2013, the Feast of St. Agnes, one year ago today. The news was a shock to as all. Grandma had been in the hospital for pneumonia, but she had been physically pretty healthy hitherto, and we didn’t really expect she would die. The suddenness of the event put us all in a rush. We had to borrow our friend Pat's van, since our car is far too old to have made the 5 hour road trip to Fort Lee, NJ for the funeral. We hocked several things, including my mom’s wedding ring. We stocked the house, not sure how long we would be gone. We packed quickly, thrust our things into the van, and then both my dad and I headed out when it was still dark, at 5 A.M.

    I remember feeling a sinking feeling of despair as we left mom behind. I have been away from her only rarely, and I was in a weakened condition because of the internal infection I had come down with just before. The weather was extremely bitter, the coldest day of 2013, and I had not slept at all the night before. I strained my arm just trying to put on the strange new seat-belt, and this, of all things, caused me to start to cry. But I held back the full flux of my emotions for fear of falling apart all together. It was going to be a long, long day. As we drove passed Gettysburg, I realized I was going farther from home then I had been in many years. New sights began to be seen.

    Further north into Pennsylvania, I saw the factories, with their red lights glaring in the darkness, like something out of The Lord of the Rings. We also noticed that the farther north we went, the more unfriendly people’s attitude got in general. Familiarity breeds contempt? Big cities? Too many people? Who knows! Give me Penn-Mar anytime!!! It was a long trip, spattered with some unusual scenery that did prompt some interest on my part, and a lot of toll booths, big trucks, rough roads, etc. When we finally reached Northern New Jersey, the sights blasted through my memory from my childhood. The skyline of New York! The Empire State building! The Hudson River! The Washington Bridge! Big, grand, epic things.
    We went to up to our hotel room and prepared ourselves to head to the church. For the moment, I was buoyed by an excitement at being so close to “the Big Apple” with all the accompanying hustle and bustle, running into people from all parts of the globe, asking directions from construction workers and policemen with thick New Jersey accents. I could tell my father’s own accent was coming back, just a tad. It was so exotic, for the time being. But going to Madonna Church assured that reality would strike. And it did.

   Not here, please not here, I thought. Not the family burial plot. We had taken grandma there many times before, to go to mass at her parish church and to visit the grandpa I’d never met, before returning home to a lunch of ham sandwiches on potato rolls and macaroni salad. Then we would embark on one of our drives across the area in search of adventure. Maybe to the bluffs, or down by the shoreline of the river. Maybe to a relative's home. There was something about my grandma that was so alive, feisty, real, she seemed the direct opposite of death. She was truly a dynamo that few could forget. 

    Now, back in Madonna Church for her funeral, people start coming up to us, old friends, acquaintances from our past, saying they were sorry, and so many nice things. Then came my family, Uncle Bobby, Uncle Donny, Nancy, Aunt Lori, Aunt Jacqui, Uncle Louie, Maryana, and Ducan. I realized suddenly how much I had missed them, estranged as we had been. And then there was the carrying in of the casket. We sat in the pew behind them, and my godfather, Uncle Donny, shook my dad’s hand. Blessed Mother! How long we’d prayed for that! The old grudge was finally breaking down, even as the priest spoke about a ship that sails into the horizon, beyond our sight, just as the soul leaves our sight when the body dies. And yet neither the ship, nor the soul, has ceased to exist. That is our stronghold life. Our last, ever-lingering hope.

    At the end of the mass, we went out to the graveyard and each put a rose on her casket. The air was extremely bitter, and I felt my cheeks going numb and my eyes drying out. Good, I thought. At least I won’t cry. The aunts and uncles were at their finest that day. They had worked so hard caring for Grandma, even when she had been impossible to deal with. She had always been stubborn, and the dementia had not helped matters. They had never left their native town, and she was their matriarch in a very localized sense. She was their hub. Now she was gone, and they had witnessed her dying, suffocating, so it was said. But in spite of it all, they handled themselves with true grace, staying above it to make others feel better, including myself.

     My dad went back into the vestibule of the Madonna Church and took a picture of a painting of the Crowning with Thorns hanging there. The pain in Christ’s face is so poignant, it seemed to epitomize my own emotions. Then we got back in the van and drove over to the restaurant where the family was congregating. There were long tables set up for all inside. My family always knew how to throw a good party, and this was just that. There were trays of breaded shrimp and onion rings, mozzarella and stuffed mushrooms, chicken and mashed potatoes, apple pie and cheese cake, not to mention an ample helping of alcoholic beverages that I, needless to say, did not partake in. Donny sat next to me and put his arm around me, as if I had always been his favorite niece. Nancy was oh-so-kind. Louie joked. Bobby and Lori hosted. Ducan and dad reminisced about their days as partners in show biz.

    It was almost as if nothing had ever happened between us and them, as if the divisions of the past were nothing more than a dream, as if we were indeed one big happy family. But I knew it couldn’t last. Their world was not mine. I’d have to go back, and they would forget this. Forget me and my father. Suddenly the moments became painful with the realization. Nancy’s parents began to give me the third-degree about homeschooling and how I could handle not "seeing people", living in the hills or whatever. Donny starting mocking my British friends and Medici popes, just to get reaction. Jacqui was stewing over her own recent loss of miscarried grandbabies, ready to lash out at someone but being soothed by Lori. Ducan, true to form, hammered me into handing over the rest of my cheesecake to be devoured by him. And I began to feel extremely drained.

    Out in the parking lot, the goodbyes sped by all too fast. It was like a film that goes over the budget. It was me and Donny, alone, me telling him I had missed him, and him playing his silly money-in-hand game like he had when I was a little girl, giving me a hundred dollars. Then we left, and I finally broke down in tears for a second time in the van. We started driving around Fort Lee, which suddenly seemed a menacing place. I wanted to see grandma, I wanted to see her so badly. And suddenly I felt the ghosts of the place, this place that had truly been my family’s home, from the time they had come over from Italy and Ireland. This place that my father had grown up in, that the bones of my dear one’s lay in, this place, this dead place. I wanted to go home to Maryland.   

    After struggling to get a proper hotel room (long story involving a trolley cart, an ice machine, and a convention of teenage talkers), we conked out from sheer sleep deprivation. But it was a fitful rest. Every few hours, I woke up with a start, wishing I was home and feeling very unsafe being so close to New York. The skyline was a vivid etching outside our 5th floor window, and I have always hated heights. I couldn’t stop thinking of 9-11, King Kong, the Titanic, and the Potato Famine as I looked out on the metropolis. Hoping to watch some TV to take my mind off things, I had the thrill of discovering that the TV channels wouldn’t come through!

    The next day we were promptly booted out of our hotel room at an unreasonably early hour and, still sleep deprived and emotionally unsteady, made our way out to locate our long-lost cousins who had been looking forward to reunite with for some time. The result was near pandemonium as we lost our way along the coast of New Jersey, begging directions from a variety of rather blunt individuals who gave us contrary instructions in their distinctive accents. I began to feel as if I couldn’t stand it any more, and wanted to go home. Now!!!!!!! But we forged ahead, getting cell phone directions from cuz which led us along the ocean (several times), over a few bridges (several times), in and out of the parking lots of shopping plazas, etc. etc.

    In the end, we finally made it to our destination, and were most glad of it. My dear Aunt Laney, Uncle John, and Cuz John (plus puppy, Candy) were most hospitable to us in their adorable home, and we dined on roast beef sandwiches and brownies whilst discussing the broad spread of a lifetime of experiences. Aunt Laney also gave me some lovely things from her closet, including a flower brooch and a lovely leather pocket book, both of which of make common use of. After bidding them a fond farewell, we finally started the trek home through the night and reached the land of Lord Baltimore in the wee hours of the morning.

    Thinking back on these experiences, I am grateful to God for giving us the strength to get through the ordeal and return home safely. I am especially thankful that there was peace and warmth among our family, even if only for a window in time. I still sometimes get waves of depression at Grandma’s loss. As I say, she was a person who was so full of life, her loss is particularly keen. To this day, I am likely to break down in tears when I hear the song “Erin Gra Mo Chroi”, which reminds me so intensely of her and of my own sense of being split between MD and NJ, my own “native land” and the land of my ancestors, many  of whom came from Ireland in the midst of the horror of the Potato Famine.

    I think it would appropriate to finish up this article with the words of that song, as well a request for you all to please pray for my grandmother’s soul, my family, and myself:

O Erin gra mo chroi
You’re the dear old land to me
You’re the fairest that my eyes dare behold
You’re the land St. Patrick blest
You’re the bright star of the west
You’re that dear little isle
So far away

At the setting of the sun
When my own day’s work was done
I rambled down the seashore for a walk
And me being all alone
I sat down upon a stone
For to gaze upon the scenes of New York

With the turf fire burning bright
On a cold dark winter’s night
And the snow flakes falling gently to the ground
When St. Patrick’s Day has come
My thoughts will carry me home
To my own native land so far away

O the day that I did part
Sure, it broke my mother’s heart
Will I ever see my dear one’s anymore?
Not until my bones are laid
In their cold and silent grave
In my own native land
So far away

O Erin gra mo chroi
You’re the dear old land to me
You’re the fairest that my eyes have ever seen
And if ever I go home
It’s from thee I never will roam
You’re that dear little isle
So far away

You’re my own native land
So far away

The Scenes of New York

Friday, January 17, 2014

Romantic Patriotism..........

according to my viewpoint, is not incompatible with Unionism. When combating Nationalist propaganda, Unionists often find themselves “myth-busting” romantic yarns and euphoric idealism hijacked for political gain. In the process, however, they can sometimes be seen as relying too heavily on a heady worldview devoid of emotional connectivity. This, in and of itself, can give the Nationalists a boon.
    The imagination is a powerful tool, and the abstract is as real, if not more so, as the concrete. There is a balance between the right and left parts of the brain, although in the middle of a crucial contest like this, it is sometimes difficult to grasp. Traditional story-telling, language-learning, and art-forms may be manipulated by some to create a divisive front, but if the Unionists reject them because of added connotations, I fear they will also disenchant many who appreciate in the human touch.

     As a romanticist and idealist by temperament, I do not feel that everything must have a direct “purpose” in order to be worthwhile. In fact, I believe that the most beautiful things in life have no trickle-down “reason” at all, but rather contain their own worth in their very existence. In my mind, such is the case with cultural gems such as the Celtic Languages. I see the veracity in the old Welsh proverb, “A Nation without a Language is a Nation without a Heart”, and I only wish that Scots-Gaelic and Irish-Gaelic were having as much of a resurgence in their respective countries as Welsh is in Wales. In fact, in spite of the fact that some Unionists view it as authoritarian, I do feel that Welsh language-learning should be mandatory in Welsh schools.

    As much as I believe in the Union, I also believe that the distinctiveness of all four nations contributes to its ultimate strength. Hence, Unionists should be careful not to get carried away with their ardor for similarity and neglect diversity. In addition to emphasizing common “Britishness”, the uniqueness of “Englishness”, “Scottishness”, “Welshness”, and “Irishness” should never be neglected, even at a time such as this. Perhaps I should say, especially at a time such as this. English is the main language of the UK, there is no question about that. But I do not see any incongruity in encouraging the individual nations of the UK to maintain a second language, as well.

    Another area of tension is different interpretations of history and legend. I, as much as anyone else, am repelled by blatant bias and misrepresentation to a certain political or personal end. However, revision and myth-busting can be taken to the extreme. For example, I am sick of seeing so many educated brains leap all over the Legend of Robert de Bruce and the Spider. In the end, it really doesn’t matter whether it is historically verifiable or not. The crux of the tale is very real indeed, and demonstrates the courage and tenacity of Bruce as king and warrior. The same applies to the Legend Alfred and the Cakes. Whether or not he actually had toaster-trouble is non-essential. The point is that he knew what it was to suffer for his throne and learned integrity from his experiences.

    The list of similar legends can go on and on. They are real because they teach our own human nature and highlight a certain aspect of historical reality using romantic embellishment. In olden days, it was the job of the bard to weave such tales as the collective “memory” of a clan or court. It was an art-form, clearly different from historical studies as we know them today, and yet no less valuable to the well-roundedness of the human experience. Besides, I’m not so sure I’ve ever heard a completely convincing case for why the stories of arachnids and crumb-buns are false, other than the fact that we have no definitive proof that they are true. The whole subject just rotates in a circle of silliness.

    Then there is the related element of historical continuity, connecting the past to the present. I would say there is a fine line to be walked with it. While it is certainly counter-productive to judge a time period by the yardstick of modern standards and expectations, this does not mean we cannot get a flavor of similar beliefs, hopes, and dreams shared in common by us and our ancestors. For example, within Unionism, there is often a shock-response against the Wars of Scottish Independence. With regards to Wallace and Bruce, whose stories were disturbingly remastered by Hollywood at the cost of balance and authenticity, I understand what got the ball rolling. But this should not administer an automatic license to ignore or diminish two undeniably heroic Scotsmen.

    True, they were flawed human beings in a violent and unstable age, just as their opponents were. There was no clear-cut “Celtic vs. Saxon” scenario, since both Robert Bruce and Edward “Longshanks” were of Norman French descent, trying to stake their claim to a country with a frequently-shifting border. But the war did engender a sense of national identity in the Scottish people, who came to identify themselves as “people of the lion”. There is no doubt that many felt Scotland had been wronged by England, and they were now in a fight for liberty. According to my personal sentiments, the Scots certainly deserved to win, and the English to lose.

    But all this does not create an inconsistency in my mind with the story of Britain as a “united kingdom”. In many cases, continuity is only as good as its flexibility, its ability to bend without breaking. A sense of shrewd deal-making and canny compromise is what brought about the union, as well as a far-sighted vision and ideal of better days to come for a single, united people. Both the concrete and abstract desires would be realized on many fronts for the British people. And I believe they can continue to be realized within the context of “E Pluribus Unum”, which can apply just as well to the Brits as it does to us Americans.

    In conclusion, while some might think that politics, by its very nature, leaves no room for romantic expression without treading the line of the ridiculous, I would say that, in their truest senses, realism and romanticism are supposed to compliment one another, like men and women are supposed to compliment each other in a marriage with their contrasting abilities, styles, and emotional make-ups. Unionists must give themselves enough room to move in both arenas if they want to fully project the truth of their cause and succeed in making others realize its worth.

(An adapted form of this article appeared on “Open Unionism”:

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The Symbolic Power of a Spider's Web

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Mini Anthology..........

of prayers, poems and quotations is here for you today. I hope you enjoy them, for inspiration, humor, and anything else you manage to take away with you!

A Christmas Prayer by Pearl of Tyburn
(From the “Open Unionism” Twitter Page)

God of Unity and of Liberty,

    In times of national crisis, internal or external, prayers have always been offered to be seen safely through the storm. This Christmas is the last one before a momentous decision is to be made, determining whether or not Britain will remain united as a single country. We pray now for the preservation of that union and for all the people working to remain as one. Bless the editors and contributors of “Open Unionism” that they may always conduct themselves with truth and charity. Bless Queen Elizabeth and the Royal Family, the parliamentarians and politicians, the writers and activists. Also, bless those who disagree with us politically, and no matter what the outcome, help us to see the best in one another as Children of God. The foundations of the first Christian church in Britain were said to be built on Christmas Day by Joseph of Arimathea, so many years ago. Let us never forget our shared heritage and celebrate this Christmas joyfully, growing closer to Thee and to one another. Amen. 

Irish Morning Offering

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead
His eye to watch, his mind to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need

The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, his shield to ward,
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard

Latin Meditation

I was longing, full of desire
More than life, to be with God
I was sinking into fire
More than death, to live with God

Eternity is now, always we are together
Ever now, alone, all one
Under the moments, crossing time,
Ever now, eternity is now

A Poem (and Quotes!) by C.S. Lewis

"From all my lame defeats and oh! much more
From all the victories I seemed to score;
From cleverness shot forth on Thy behalf
At which, while angels weep, the audience laugh;
From all my proofs of Thy divinity
Thou, who would give no sign, deliver me.

Thoughts are but coins. Let me not trust, instead
Of Thee, their thin-word image of Thy head.
From all my thoughts, even from thoughts of Thee,
O thou fair Silence, fall, and set me free.
Lord of the narrow gate and the needle's eye,
Take from me all my trumpery lest I die."

“Nature has that in her which compels us to invent giants: and only giants will do.”

“No man would find an abiding strangeness in the moon unless he were the sort of man who could find it in his own back garden.”

“But for our body one whole realm of God’s glory – all that we receive through the senses – would go unpraised. For the beasts can’t appreciate it and the angels are, I suppose, pure intelligences. They understand colours and tastes better than our greatest scientists, but have they retinas or palates? I fancy the ‘beauties of nature’ are a secret of God has shared with us alone. That may be one of the reasons why we were made – and why the resurrection of the body is an important doctrine.”

Quotes from George MacDonald

GOD IS SO TRUE and good and strong and beautiful! The God of mountain lands and snowdrops, of woman's beauty and man's strength-the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

GOD WILL NOT CONQUER EVIL by crushing it under-foot-any god of man's idea could do that-but by conquest of heart over heart, of life over life, of life over death, of love over all.

GOD CHOOSES to be good, otherwise he would not be God: man must choose to be good, otherwise he cannot be the son of God.

LET A MAN THINK AND CARE ever so little about God, he does not therefore exist without God. God is here with him, upholding, warming, delighting, teaching him-making life a good thing to him. God gives him himself, though the man knows it not.

IF YOU ARE NOT WILLING that God should have his way with you, then, in the name of God, be miserable--until your misery drive you to the arms of the Father.

THE BOND OF THE UNIVERSE, the chain that holds it together, the one active unity, the harmony of things, is the devotion of the Son to the Father. It is the life of the universe.

WHAT CAN BE THE PRINCIPLE which, in the boldest, most lawless, fantastically chaotic, apparently capricious work of nature, always keeps it beautiful? The beauty of holiness must be at the heart of it somehow.

NATURE'S SO-CALLED LAWS are the waving of God's garments, waving so because he is thinking and loving and walking inside them.

BECAUSE GOD IS SO FREE FROM STAIN, so loving, so unselfish, so good, so altogether what he wants us to be, so holy, therefore all his works declare him in beauty. His fingers can touch nothing but to mold it into loveliness and even the play of his elements is in grace and tenderness of form.

EVERYTHING BEAUTIFUL is but a bit of love frozen.

SOME CLOUDS RISE from stagnant bogs and pools, others from the wide, clean, large ocean. But either kind, thank God, will serve the angels to come down by.

THE BEAUTIFUL THINGS around us are the expressions of God's face.

THERE MUST BE TRUTH in the scent of the pinewood; someone must mean it.

THERE EXISTS A MYSTERY in the world, and in all the looks of it-a mystery because of a meaning. There is jubilance in every sunrise, a sober sadness in every sunset. There is a whispering of strange secrets in the wind of the twilight, and an unknown bliss in the song of the lark.

FRIENDS, cast your idol into the furnace. Melt your mammon down, coin him up, make God's money of him, and send him out to do God's work. Make of him cups to carry the gift of God, the water of life, through the world.

THE MOST PRECIOUS THING to a human soul is every other human soul.


More Super Quotations!!! 

 “Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off the goal.”

- Hannah More, English authoress and social reformer (1745 –1833)

“Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.”

- John Milton, English poet and political activist (1608-1674)

“Christmas is the day that holds all time together.”

- Alexander Smith, Scottish poet and essayist (1830-1867)

“The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes.”

- G.K. Chesterton, English poet and author (1874-1936)

“There may be Peace without Joy, and Joy without Peace, but the two combined make Happiness.”

- John Buchan, 1st Baron Tweedsmuir, Scottish author (1875-1940)

“It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”

- Ursula K. Le Guin, American Author

“A Journey of a Thousand Miles starts from beneath one’s feet.”

- Lao-Tzu

“If at first you don’t succeed, then skydiving definitely isn’t for you!”

- Steven Wright

".....skydiving definitely isn't for you!!!"

Saturday, January 4, 2014

The 2nd anniversary.......

of our beloved "LB&RB" has arrived! In honor of the occasion, the incomparable "blog bard", Mack from Texas, has honored us with some lovely verses  in honor of the mother country below. In addition, we have, for Little Christmas, an evocative poem from him about the magic and mystery of this Holy Season. Thank you, Mack, from the bottom of my heart! 

Longbows and Rosary Beads

For Pearl of Tyburn

Our happy England is Our Lady’s dowry
An island of longbows and rosary beads,
Where we are proud to work, to pray, to fight,
To love the land and sea and misty skies 

Our happy England is a thoughtful land
An island of writers, scholars, and rogues
Whose stories, sonnets, songs create new worlds,
A commonwealth of art for the ages 

Our happy England is not bound by coasts,
By distances or time.  
Our island is 
An empire of the mind, as Churchill said,
The blessed Avalon of our hearts’ desires.

Within the Octave of Christmas
For Eldon Edge,
Patron of Christmas Bonfires

The wan, weak winter sun has long since set
And on the edge of stars a merry fire
Sends sparks to play among the tinseled frost
That decorates the fields for Christmas-time.
Within this holy octave, families
Concelebrate with children, fireworks, jokes
This liturgy of needful merriment.
The Holy Child is safe in Mary’s arms,
Saint Joseph leans upon his staff and smiles,
The shepherds now have gone to watch their sheep,
And all are safe from Herod for a time.
Our Christmas duty now is to delight
In Him who gives us joy this happy night.

Robin Hood Will Scarlet
"An Island of Longbows and Rosary Beads....."

Houston-area happenings Dec. 14-21
"A wan, weak winter sun has long since set....."

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2014 is upon us...

and it's truly hard to believe! With Christmas sneaking up behind Thanksgiving, leaving behind a trail of greeting card glitter and flashing neon lights, the rapid succession of events has left me dazed with holiday overhaul. Just to let you know the updates, here are a few brief overviews of what's been happening in my life. Call it a make-up call for atrocious lack of posting over this Holy Season!

   To begin with Thanksgiving, this year was pretty rough. The night before we received a terrible shock when we learned, via phone, that the wife of our music director friend, Pat, had died. It was totally unexpected. I had just been feeling rather down recollecting the loss of our friend, Steve, who my dad learned had died the day before Thanksgiving last year. Now this felt hauntingly de ja vue. We went over and had Thanksgiving dinner with Pat and his family. The food was delicious, but it was hard to eat. Trying to stay buoyantly above the tragedy of the event was hard to bear, especially after overhearing the little granddaughter on the phone, asking over and over again for "maman." This sort of pain, I know, is the deepest kind, and will not subside for a long time. Please keep them all in your prayers.

    Then there was the story of the insufferable SmartPhone. Yes, we finally got one, in hopes of bringing all sorts of manifold blessings to our humble home such as online courses, youtube videos, job opportunities, skype conversations, and beyond. This didn't quite pan out the way we thought it would. First off, we couldn't get it to connect to the world wide web from the house. So, my eyes bright with anticipation, we starting testing it in the car. Even then, it took a while to find a place where it was comfortable enough to connect! Staggering through parking lots, trekking up grassy knolls, loitering in ladies' rooms, all in hopes of getting good service finally paid off to some extent when I was able to make contact with the mother country through skype in a tech store restroom and enjoy a conversation with friend and OU editor, Henry Hill!

   All this was well and good, but certainly not ideal or helpful in daily life in the least. Hence, our next plan of action was to sign up for a special internet/phone "deal" that resulted in us becoming victims to a tech scam which sabotaged our phone and internet connection and nearly scuttled our phone number for good! Thankfully, we were able to get everything restored after no small effort on our part. I also discovered that, during certain lucky hours, I could get internet access on the SmartPhone if I laid outstretched underneath the bedroom window on the upper floor.

    I was able to watch a few sequences from films, such as the famous yet agonizingly hoaky "Freeeeeeeeeeeedom!!!" sequence from BraveHeart, the Alice-jumps-off-a-cliff-for-no-apparent-reason scene from The Last of the Mohicans, the duel sequence from Rob Roy (Why is Rob so out of breathe? He hasn't even done anything yet!!!), and the trailer of Titanic, in which we're all supposed to fall head-over-heels for Jack, but fail to do so! The best thing I saw in this excursion was a little-known BBC docu-drama from the '60's on the Battle of Culloden. Filmed in black-and-white, it is a haunting, cut-dry depiction of the battle, and I give it two thumbs up for accuracy.

   Unfortunately, all this SmartPhone-ing laying prostrate under the window began to make me physically ill and hampered me with a bad case of vertigo which forced me to remain prostrate an hour almost every morning, and has still not completely subsided! The meds I took to cure myself only made me slightly worse, and I almost konked out observing the sparkling Christmas trees and purple ceiling light our beloved parish priest installed for Christmas Eve mass! Argh!!!

    In spite of all this, we wassailing wonders amassed for another extraordinaire production with the incomparable Madame Maureen at our nursing home. It was a nice full group this year, with enough people to put together a rounded out caroling crew in addition to our usual fiddlers, organist, and penny-whistle player (ehem......applause??? ;-). Once again, I got to pull my cavalier hat out of mothballs and lead the assembled throng in a chorus of the "Gloucestershire Wassail", and my dad and I teamed up for a duo on "I Wonder As I Wander." I also did my first-ever-lead-vocals "O Holy Night", with two younger galls to back me up. At the end, we exchanged Christmas cards and got a few nice group shots, which we await to be developed with bated breath.

    And then there was my appointment as representative for my county on behalf of the SARs (Sons of the American Revolutions)......but that's way, way too long of a story for tonight, and I promise to fill you in further on that story in a forthcoming post! Due to the many varied bunny-trails we were sent on these past few months, we haven't finished sending all our Christmas cards yet, so I must away!!!!

    Until I return from that Christmas/Epiphany Season (which lasts till Feb. 2, mind you!) mission, may you have a blessed Solemnity of the Mother of God, and a Holy New Year of 2014! That's Hogmanay to any Scottish lads and lasses skulkin' aboot ;-)

Fireworks by Edinburgh Castle
Ringing in 2014 -- Edinburgh style!