FO: Stripe Parade for Laura

It was my beloved C.S. Lewis who once said, “Friendship … is born at the moment when one man says to another ‘What! You too? I thought that no one but myself…'” A few years ago, I became friends with a young woman with whom I share many common interests. We share (among many other things) a love of fashion and creating clothing. She sews; I knit.


So when she asked me to knit her a sweater, I jumped on the opportunity. This is someone who I knew would I appreciate what I knit for her. She’s always admiring my knitting. She likes to look at my patterns and feel my yarn. She once took the yarn from my Birkin to pet-and then her mother took it and started petting it. She’s knitworthy.


We agreed on a pattern-Stripe Parade, one of my favorites. She picked out the colors she wanted, and I bought the yarn. Then, I knit the sweater.

Man, that sweater traveled while I was knitting. It went to several baseball games. It saw Bridget Jones’s Baby three times. (What can I say? It has the hots for Colin Firth.) It went to Canada and saw three plays. (It really likes Sondheim musicals; Arthur Miller plays make it cry.) It went to Canada a second time and learned that I get really cranky during the last day of the baseball regular season.


And then, I finished it early in a day of Poldark binge watching. I blocked it. And last night, I gave it to Laura. Okay, first I let several of our friends touch it, and I got a lot of praise for it. But the best compliment of all? I gave it to Laura and she immediately went to the bathroom to put it on.


I think she likes it. She definitely looks good in it.


Raveled here.

He asked me my name

In the Eastern Catholic Church, the Eucharist is distributed with both species together. The priest or deacon places the Lord’s Body and Blood in the recipient’s mouth saying “The servant/handmaid of God, [Name], receives the Precious Body and Blood of our Lord God and Savior, Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins and unto life everlasting, Amen.”

I’ve grown up with this. At my home parish, I’ve always heard my own name. When I’m a guest, I usually just get “The handmaid of God receives…” because most priests that I’ve encountered don’t ask guests their names. My deacon dad always asks guests at our parish their names, and I always thought this a bit odd because no one else seems to do it. As someone who was used to being an anonymous guest, I didn’t see the point in asking the name. I had gotten used to anonymity.

Then I recently was a guest at a parish where there were many guests and several guest priests, and the priests were asking the name of each recipient. You went up to the priest, whispered your name, and he included that in the prayer of distribution. It didn’t take but an extra few seconds, and it touched me. I attended two liturgies at this parish, and two different priests each did this. I walked up, I whispered “Cecilia” softly, and they said “The handmaid of God, Cecilia, receives…” I was deeply touched by this.

Initially, I couldn’t figure out why I was so struck by this. Why did it mean so much to me that two priests I’d never known and I’ll probably never meet again in this life asked me my name? The answer is simple: It gave me a sense of belonging. I felt welcome and wanted. I wasn’t an anonymous guest. I was a wanted and welcomed guest. Those priests will probably never remember that they gave the Eucharist to a dark-haired young woman named Cecilia, but I will remember that they asked me my name. I will remember that they made me a named guest rather than an anonymous guest at the Lord’s Supper.

The Lord calls us to welcome the stranger. He asks us to receive all guests in His name. That’s what this gesture was. That was a simple gesture, but it was a welcoming one. It was a gentle voice saying, “You are wanted here.”

It is easy to find and stay in our comfort zones. It’s easy to overlook the guests or strangers in our churches. It’s easy to assume that someone else will welcome the guests. But that’s not what Christ asks of us. Christ asks us to step out of our safe boat and engage the world around us.

I’ve slid in and out of countless churches unnoticed over the years. I may not be planning to join a parish that I visit while on vacation, but it’s always nice to have someone come up to me and welcome me, to help me find pew books and such. When I studied in Spain, I attended the same church almost every Sunday for three months. No one from the parish ever spoke to me. I nodded and smiled at an older gentlemen who sat near where I always sat. But no one ever engaged me in conversation. No one ever even learned my name.

I’ve been struck by a desire to change that for people who visit my church. I’m only one person, but the world is made up of many people who are “only one person.” I think that we all need to work in our own way to stop letting people slide out of our churches unnoticed. Let’s learn names. Let’s offer hospitality. Let’s offer friendship. Let’s strive to offer a home and a welcome to all those who enter our churches. Let’s offer the loving hand of Christ to all those we meet.

Let’s welcome every person who walks into our churches in the same way that we’d welcome Jesus if he was a guest in our churches.

Heaven on Earth

There’s a famous story among Eastern Christians that says that Prince Vladimir/Volodimir of Kievan Rus sent emissaries to Constantinople who visited the Hagia Sophia. When they returned they told the Prince that during the Liturgy they knew not whether they were in Heaven or on earth. The story says that this helped to bring Christianity to Kievan Rus; it also in part explains why the Eastern Churches at times call our Liturgy “Heaven on Earth.”


I had a heaven on earth moment about a week ago. I had the opportunity to attend the consecration of the new temple of St. Elias the Prophet Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Brampton, Ontario. Twenty-one years ago, I attended the consecration of the first temple at the age of seven, and I don’t remember much of it. Sadly, that building burned down two and a half years ago. So when the opportunity arose to attend the consecration of the new temple, I leaped at it.

It wasn’t really convenient for me. I was tired, and I wouldn’t get much time to rest/sleep in during the weekend. I was stressed, and I wouldn’t get much introvert time during the trip. It was a several hour drive each way. I’d been out of town the weekend before, and I didn’t particularly fancy packing up my suitcase for another weekend trip. There were many reasons to not want to go. But I knew that in spite of all that I would regret it if I didn’t go. I knew that I needed to be there. As someone recently told me, we need to be where God is, and I knew that God was going to be there.

The weekend didn’t disappoint. The church is beautiful, and the Church is beautiful. I’ve heard it said before that the Church is not the buildings but the people. This weekend was a hope-filled reminder of that truth. The building is beautiful, and it will be made more beautiful as more icons are added to the space. (Icons are awesome; I love icons.) But the people of God are more beautiful because in us dwells the Holy Spirit. In his homily, Patriarch Sviatoslav said, “When the church was not yet consecrated, only YOU were living temples of the Holy Spirit. It was like I was facing God, one in the Holy Trinity, who lives in your hearts, in your souls. And because of you, because you are a living temple of the Holy Spirit, of our invisible and powerful God, this visible temple was today reconsecrated.”

It was so true. God was there. He was present in His people. His Holy Spirit was present. He was present through the Eucharist. He was there, and he acted. The church was packed to the gills. I couldn’t see much of what was happening. But it didn’t matter because I was able to hear and to experience it. I heard the beautiful singing. I heard the Rite of Consecration. I heard the Lord being praised by his people. (And I participated as best as I could.) And I did not know if I was in heaven or on earth.

Throughout the weekend, I heard reminders of God’s love for his people. I was reminded of the beautiful gift that the Lord gives us in the Ever Virgin Mary. He has given us His mother as our protector. I was reminded of the hope that our Lord offers us. The church building itself is a reminder of that. It is a reminder of how God provides for His people, how He hears their prayers and answers them. He does not abandon us. He mourns when we mourn, and he rejoices with us in our joy. He wants to draw us to Himself; he wants to bring us to a deeper experience of His love for us.

I was particularly struck by a comment that the parish priest made during Vespers on Saturday evening. He said that “God wants to celebrate with us. In moments like this, he dances with us.”  God wants to share in our joy. It was a reminder of the personal nature of God’s love. For me, that was the theme of the weekend. It was an experience of God’s embrace, of God’s love for us. God offers us hope and joy. He wants to know us and love us in deeper ways. We need to be open to His love. We need to allow Him to know us and to strive to know Him.

The weekend was an experience of heaven on earth. It was a reminder of how God loves His people, how He provides for us. I’m not a member of the parish, but I was still welcomed into their joy. I was able to partake of their joy, to share in it. I felt like I was able to take some of that joy and that hope with me when I came home. Now I want to bring that joy and that hope to my own life and to my own parish.

Book Review: Nutshell

I like Ian McEwan’s books. I’ve read pretty much everything he’s ever written, and I’ve never disliked anything that he wrote. I’m sure that some of my love comes from the fact that one of the main characters of Atonement is named Cecilia; I really love that there’s a strong literary character in a great work of fiction who shares my name. I also love the way in which McEwan looks at the major issues of life and morality in his books. He’s engaging, insightful, and thought-provoking. (I said much of this when I reviewed The Children Act in January of last year.)

I bought McEwan’s latest book, Nutshell, about a week after it came out. I’d been wanting to read the book from the moment that I heard that McEwan, one of my favorite authors, was writing a modernization of Shakespeare’s Hamlet in which Hamlet is an unborn baby whose mother is having an affair with his father’s brother. Oh, and Hamlet is the narrator of the story.

Well, color me intrigued. I bought the book. I was immediately captured by McEwan’s narrative style and the characters he brought to life on the page. I read it every time I had two seconds to rub together. The book deepened my love of McEwan. He is intelligent, and he has to know that. But he never seems to rub it in your face. His modernization of Hamlet isn’t absurdly highbrow or elitist.

Rather, it deals with the mundanities of real life adultery. How does one comfortably have sex with one’s brother’s pregnant wife? How does a woman handle being pregnant with one brother’s child but involved with the other brother? What is it like to be the unborn child in the middle of all of this?

It is the characterization and development of the unborn baby that most intriguing. McEwan creates a child who is weeks from birth, who understands what is happening around him. The baby is sentient. He cannot yet see color, but he knows what it is. He has opinions on what his mother eats, drinks, and hears. He has opinions on politics and philosophy. The idea of writing a novel from the perspective an unborn child is complex and difficult. Many writers could have tried it and come off as pretentious or trying too hard. McEwan makes it work. The child is a well-developed character and a believable (if not entirely reliable) narrator.

The book is a smooth read. It does, as all McEwan novels do, present challenging ideas. It is a worthwhile read. I enjoyed it, and I can’t wait until I have another new McEwan novel to read.

Someday May Never Come

Early this morning, three men died in the water near Miami, Florida. I don’t know much about two of them, but I know that one of them was an amazingly talented pitcher named Jose Fernandez. In twenty-four years, Jose had fled Cuba for the United States, played professional baseball, and been a friend, a son, a boyfriend, and an expectant father. Everything that I’ve read about him describes a man who loved life, who loved other people, and who lived with great joy. He did what he loved, and he made sure to share that joy with others.

I was particularly struck by a quote I read from the managed of the Pittsburgh Pirates. (Emphasis mine.) “If you use your eyes and ears, there’s reminders throughout your week that life’s short and you don’t call all the shots. A sense of gratitude and a sense of joy needs to be more prevalent. … It’s just sad. It’s so horribly sad on so many different levels that there’ll be no more of that, there’ll be no more of him, there’ll be no more of that emotion on the mound, that skill set, that human being, that young man with such a gift, such a great smile. … Be where your feet are. Enjoy the moment. There’ll be a day where there won’t be another day.

Let me repeat that. Be where your feet are. Enjoy the moment. There’ll be a day where there won’t be another day. 

Our days are numbered, but none of us know the numbering of our days. Arnold Palmer died today at the age of 87. Jose Fernandez was 24. There was a numbering to each of their days. Arnold was allowed the long path; Jose was given a shorter path. But for each of them, there came a day when there was not another day. That day will come for each of us, and the same question that is being asked of them today will be asked: How did we use our days?

It’s easy to say “Someday I will…” but lately I’ve been thinking that someday doesn’t always come. It’s easy to say that you’ll do something when you’re older or richer or healthier or thinner, but the reality is that we don’t always get a someday. We eventually run out somedays, and we don’t always find that day when we’re prettier, richer, or more successful. We have to make the most of what we have. Our lives are judged by what we have done, not by what we might have done.

For me, the lesson of Jose Fernandez’s death is to make the most of the time that we’ve been given. Don’t wait for someday. Don’t procrastinate on life. We don’t know how many days we have. We can’t assume that there will be a day when we’re richer or smarter or thinner. We need to act now. We need to live now. Choose joy. Choose passion. And live. For God’s sake, live. We don’t know how many days we have, so we have to use those that we have as best we can.

So teach us to number our days, That we may present to You a heart of wisdom.

-Psalm 90:12

Can a mother forget her child?

I need to come clean about something.

Guys, I really LOVE hummus. You know that tahini/garbanzo beans/garlic mash that you put on pita bread or toast or chips or eat out of the container? I love it. I love it more than reason.

Got it?


Now I need to tell you something else.

Are you ready for this?

I also really LOVE guacamole. You know that avocado/tomato/garlic/onion mash that you put on chips or burritos or tacos or salad or eat out of the container? I love it. I love it as much as I love hummus.

So, I really like these two condiments. That’s okay. I’d never put guac on my falafel, and I’d never put hummus on my burritos. So far, so good, right?

Right, we’re all good. We’re all fine. I can eat one sometimes and the other at other times. It’s all good.

Until a BuzzFeed article asked me to pick between the two.

Seriously, I had to pick my preference.


Just not together.

Don’t make me choose. I love them both.

They are both smooth and delicious and garlicky and beautiful. Parents shouldn’t have favorite children. And I can’t have favorite condiments.

Book Review: The Paris Wife

Ernest “Papa” Hemingway is one of the best known writers in the American literary canon. We know a good deal about him-four marriages, three sons, some remarkable but volatile friendships, some serious struggles in both mental and physical health. But as a woman, I’m interested in those four wives. We know a good amount about Zelda Sayers Fitzgerald, the only wife of Hemingway’s contemporary F. Scott Fitzgerald. But who were those four women who married Papa?

In her 2011 novelThe Paris Wife, Paula McClain attempts to answer that question with regard to Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley Richardson. Hadley married Papa when she was 29, and he was 22. The pair were married for about five years and had one son together. The book covers the span of time from their meeting in Chicago in 1920 until their divorce in 1927.

The novel is primarily told from Hadley’s point of view. We see Ernest as she sees him. Now, I had background knowledge about Ernest and the fate of their marriage, so I couldn’t look at him as optimistically as Hadley did. From the beginning, I knew where their relationship was headed, and a part of me definitely wanted to protest against their marriage. I wanted to warn Hadley not to marry Ernest.

One clever device used by McClain is giving us an occasional glimpse into Ernest’s mind. This allows us to see events that Hadley might unaware of as well as showing us some of the darkness with which Hemingway struggled for much of his life. We often see and understand more that darkness than Hadley did. Perhaps this is because we’re looking back on this with more knowledge than she had, but perhaps it is also because we have a window into Ernest’s mind.

The book was an enjoyable read. I loved seeing the Lost Generation from the perspective of a wife who sat next to them and spent time with them but felt that she didn’t completely fit in with them. It was interesting to see how Hadley felt about sitting with Alice Toklas (Gertrude Stein’s partner) and others like them while the “husbands” sat around talking about their art.

On the other hand, it was difficult to see Hadley’s behavior at times. I know that various Hemingway biographers have described her as somewhat childish at the time of her marriage to Papa. She seems naive about the world and about Papa. From my perspective, she seems to need someone to look after her-although she would probably resent that. She had little or no real independence prior to her marriage, and while she claims to want independence, she seems perfectly content to let her husband govern her life. She moves to Paris because that is what he wants. She follows him around Europe. Her only real act of rebellion is getting pregnant with their son, Bumby, and she often shrugs off her maternal responsibilities on nannies and such in favor of getting tight with the Lost Generation.

If the above paragraph implies that I found Hadley to be weak, that would be accurate. The only act of strength that I ever saw from her was the decision to leave her husband in light of his affair with Pauline Pfieffer. I found Hadley to be a guide of how not to act as a woman. Do not marry based on passion as she did; wait for a man who is capable of being unselfish. Papa was always a selfish being; that can be seen in his friendships, his affairs, his marriages, his relationships with family. While Hadley needed him, he did not need her, and that was one of the downfalls of their marriage. Hadley needed Papa, but she also wanted him to need her.

From my perspective, when she got married, Hadley seemed to believe that it was better to be unhappy and partnered than happy and alone. As someone who disagrees with that premise, it was interesting to see how that perspective impacted her life. I don’t think that she ever regretted marrying Hemingway, nor do I think that she should have. However, I think that she came to see that negatives of their relationship outweighed the positives. For her sake, I wish that she had seen that when she was twenty-eight rather than when she was thirty-four. However, she did find love again, and I have to believe that her second husband (Paul Mowrer) made her happier than Papa did.

Do I recommend the book? Yes, I found it to be an interesting adventure in history, art, and life.

Should you read it? Yeah, probably, if you like reading historical fiction.

Why did I only give it only four stars on GoodReads? The book was really well-written, but I spent too much of it wanting to hit Hadley upside the head. Now, that’s way more Hadley’s fault than McClain’s fault, and it’s a sign of a well-written character.