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Give Us This Day: Always Room at the Table

My Gospel reflection from today’s Give Us This Day:

I come from a big Irish-Italian family, one where the food was always delicious and plentiful. On any given night, an entire extra family could show up for dinner at our house unannounced, and no one would go hungry. There would be chicken cutlets or pasta in abundance, and probably a batch of freshly made chocolate chip cookies. My mother wanted everyone to feel welcomed and loved. It didn’t matter whether you had an invitation, whether you were a close relative or the high school boyfriend of the resident teenager, whether you wanted a cup of tea or a three-course meal, she would smile and put out another place setting. Or five. Read more

Note to my younger self: Don’t pack the Dante books

A former editor, current friend, and perpetually great writer posted an essay — What Fresh Hell Is This? — about the advice he’d give to his 22-year-old self knowing what he knows now. It’s a wonderful weaving of Dante, disappointment, and discovery that will make you think and probably make you nod your head in recognition at least once or twice, regardless of what you and your 22-year-old self have experienced over the course of a lifetime. Read more

What’s in your gratitude journal?

I haven’t kept a gratitude journal with any long-term success over the years, despite knowing the benefits. In my latest Life Lines column (now running in the current issues of Catholic New York and the Catholic Spirit) I explore why and give you a peek inside: 

The Advent and Christmas seasons tend to make us more grateful and more giving. At this time of year, when we’re abundantly aware of children who want nothing more than a pair of mittens or a warm winter coat, we seem to recognize how lucky we are. We collect boxes of stuffing and bottles of gravy for our parish food pantry and take tags off the Giving Tree so that others will have for one day what we have every day. And in those moments we are humbled by our blessings and all too aware of the fact that we often remain blissfully unaware of those same blessings the other 11 months of the year. Read more

What are you chasing?

Time for a little honesty. I woke up this morning feeling beyond down in the dumps. Actually I’ve been waking up that way a lot lately, save for a few days on vacation when I was able to deny reality. But now, with summer winding down and reality breathing down my neck, it’s hard to plaster a smile on my face and pretend it’s all great, even if it sounds great on paper. I mean, we’ve got our health, we’ve got a big trip to Italy in the offing, I’ve got one book project halfway done and another ready to go as soon as the first is complete. What could possibly be dragging me down? All of it. Read more

Wisdom Wednesday: ‘Go back to blue’

I’ve decided to continue our Lucinda Williams theme by choosing her song “Blue” as our Wednesday Wisdom. One of the few “poems” I’ve written in my life is titled “Blue,” so more Lucinda connection for me there.

Here are the lyrics and then a YouTube video of her performing the song live from a show in 2009. Enjoy.

Go find a jukebox and see what a quarter will do 
I don’t wanna talk I just wanna go back to blue 
Feed’s me when I’m hungry and quenches my thirst 
Loves me when I’m lonely and thinks of me first  Read more

My long love affair with Lucinda Williams

When I moved to Austin, Texas, the first time… (I actually moved there twice, first in 1988 and again in 1995. Almost moved there a third time. It’s that kind of city.) Anyway, when I moved to Austin, Texas, in 1988, I took only what could fit in my un-airconditioned Chevy Chevette, which wasn’t much. Some clothes, a typewriter (Yes, a typewriter, not a computer!), a rotary dial phone (goodness I’m old), my favorite books and some pots and pans. Left behind were both of my beloved guitars (the beat up $3 find my grandfather bought at a garage sale and the shiny 12-string I used to play in the folk group at the 9:30 a.m. Mass at St. Aedan’s in Pearl River.) I simply couldn’t fit them in the car, and I guess on some level I figured I was starting a new life and maybe my guitar-playing wasn’t going to figure into it. Read more

Six years and counting here at Not Strictly Spiritual

Happy Feast of St. Francis de Sales and Happy Anniversary to Not Strictly Spiritual. It was six years ago today that I decided to launch this blog, choosing the feast of the patron saint of journalists and one of my personal favorites as the perfect day to jump into the wild and wacky world of blogging. Read more

Well played, Facebook, well played

It was hard enough staying off Facebook for two days when I had multiple people emailing, texting and calling to ask why I had disappeared. Apparently when you deactivate, even when you tell Facebook it’s just temporary, your entire page vanishes, like you’ve been sucked into some black hole, like you never existed in the first place, which is a whole other existential blog post I’m not up for writing today. I heard from a few friends and relatives who wondered if I’d unfriended them or if they’d accidentally unfriended or “erased” me after they tried unsuccessfully to send me a message or write on my wall. Oh, the tangled worldwide webs we weave. Read more

Facebook, we have a problem

I’ve been off Facebook for only 36 hours and already I can see a monumental difference in the way I’m working, thinking, living. Sounds ridiculous, I know, but it’s true. I feel more like my old self, much more efficient, focused, forward-moving. Read more