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Thursday, March 08, 2012

My New Blog is Up! Swing by when you're done here.

In a quiet house with all five kids in bed, I can now sneak off and wrap up one last loose end. As I mentioned on here in August, I was working to create a new blog, one more in tune with how my day is now spent. It was a crazy fall, full of homeschooling, medical appointments, family birthdays and then Christmas. I was so thankful for January and a less hectic routine. But by then I had committed to performing in a play (yes, really!) and so it was not until late February that I finally got my new homeschool blog up and running.
It's really meant to be a humorous look at homeschooling. There's already so many other great homeschooling moms out there producing inspirational Catholic homeschooling sites with great resources, I knew I needed to find my own niche. I couldn't compete with the experience and advice these ladies could offer! But I do have some book lists and history resources I developed available to download for free. As I create lessons for my homeschool, it's easy to share the files with the world, so if it can benefit someone else, why not?
Mostly, though I want to get back in the habit of writing, and to write happy, fun and joyful work that makes others smile. I've made a conscientious decision to be an optimist; to not let my sons illnesses shape me, or my family, in a negative way. I have every reason to be a pessimist, but I choose to focus on all the wonderful things that happen in my home on any given day and share that smile or laughter with someone else who may need it.
So check me out over on my new site 'This Ain't the Lyceum'. It's where classical homeschooling meets the real world and my motto is, "Around here, it's ain't the Lyceum, but it's home education that works for us." Hope to see you there!

Monday, August 15, 2011

My Inspiration and My Vocation

August is a month of great fruition around here. Mother Nature is at her grandest and the long days of summer are filled with picnics, vacations, bonfires, swimming and drawn out, watercolor sunsets. After almost four summers here, it has yet to get old.
Since August is also the only summer month we don't homeschool, I have extra time to reflect on the present and ruminate on our future. Four Augusts ago, I had a newborn and was preparing to homeschool a 1st grader and a Kindergardener. Today, I was hashing out lesson plans for a 4th grader, almost 3rd grader and a Kindergardener. I could not have anticipated then how much time homeschooling would consume and how little free time I would have to give to homesteading. And most surprising to me now, is how little I enjoy spending my free time on what would be considering homesteading skills. It did not take me long to view canning, breadmaking, gardening, sewing and the like, as the time consuming chores that they are.
When school is done, and the house is in order and the children are all content, if I happen to find myself with a quiet half hour, you will not find me in the garden, in the kitchen or at my sewing machine. While I can enjoy doing all these thing, I do not find them to be relaxing or stress relieving as others may. I now finally understand why many people who head 'back to the land' soon head back to wherever they came from. Thank heavens our food supply is not dependent on our efforts at self sufficiency. I try to console myself with the thought that as the kids get older, they will be able to contribute to, and hopefully take more of an interest in homesteading, in addition to becoming more independent, allowing me more time for chores and hard earned rest. Having a baby who sleeps through the night, will also be a huge help.
And the sobering fact is that for as long as we're in NJ, with this mortgage and these taxes, homesteading will never be more than a second job for my husband. Paying the bills without outside employment is impossible. Consequently, after two hours of commuting on the train each day,Tony, like I, has a hard time spending his few precious hours of free time on chores.
Thankfully, Tony enjoys his new software position more than the job he was laid off from. I love homeschooling and it has become my job in a way I could not have predicted when I began this blog. The needs of my children have directed my time and attention away from the Catholic Worker Movement, and much of my original enthusiasm for the back to the land movement. The writing of Day, Maurin and the Distributists have shaped who I am and how I live, but for now, that enthusiasm must be placed on the backburner.
I'm not giving up this blog. My husband and I still have much we hope to do with our land, albeit at a much slower pace than we originally anticipated. I still feel there is much that should be done to educate Catholics about the Worker Movement, it's unselfish charity, it's simple message, and it's relevance to the world today. So my journey as The Next Worker continues but my focus must shift for the time being. As time allows, we'll keep updating this site with news and photos on our homestead and all things related to the message of the Catholic Worker Movement. In the mean time, I'm anticipating starting a new blog/website focused on homeschooling. It will hopefully produce it's own fruit in due time.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Changing Seasons

Over the years I have come to have a greater appreciation for the changing seasons, both natural and liturgical. One of the most monotonous aspects of modern office work is that the environment is always the same. All year round you do the same kinds of tasks in the same "weather." Even an enjoyable job can become a grind under those conditions. Even with the small amount of homesteading we do, we have to be attentive to the seasons, and I am grateful for the variations they provide.

I used to hate Summer. I still do hate humidity, but I don't mind the heat as much anymore, and I like the long slow days. Of course, "slow" is a relative term. The time still goes by too fast. But in Summer it does seem slower. When it is not too humid the Summer nights are especially pleasant. Although I don't do it often enough, I like to sit outside after the kids are in bed and listen to the sounds of the Summer night and enjoy a fine drink. Those pleasant nights seem to invite you to just relax and and take time to reflect. And that is something most of us probably need to do more.

Different seasons bring a different focus to our homesteading activities. Summer brings a lot of outdoor manual labor. Usually it is very satisfying to get this work done, and see it blossom and bear fruit (sometimes literally). At times it can be tedious too, like when you are weeding. But even at these times, you know you only have a few months of it before the season changes again. So you plod through the work, and hopefully you get a worthwhile harvest.

The Church's Liturgy works in concert with the natural seasons. Time after Pentecost brings a slow and steady pace to the liturgy after the highs and lows of the first half of the liturgical year. Even the chants of the Mass are slower and more drawn out (honestly I am not a huge fan of these, but I do appreciate the way they mesh with the season). Christmas, Lent, and Easter, are all great, and generally my favorite times of the year. But you can't always be in high gear. In the Liturgical Cycle, Time after Pentecost represents the time of the Church in the world. It is the time from Pentecost until the end of the world, that the Church plods along and does it's work, hoping for a good harvest.

For ourselves, it's time to do what we need to do in our spiritual lives. Nothing special or flashy, just buckle down and attend to our spiritual duties. There are still plenty of feasts to give us rest from our labor, but they serve to punctuate the season, they don't dominate our attention the way the events of our Lord's life do during the other seasons. Of course every season has ample opportunities for spiritual growth. But this season has more of a "slow and steady wins the race" feel, as opposed to the intensity of the other seasons. I am convinced that the Liturgical Cycle is ordered that way because we can all benefit from the change of pace that different seasons bring.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Moving Forward - Ash Wednesday

It's a new year, a new liturgical season and like many people I've come up with some resolutions for 2011 (and now Lent.) I'm moving past the pain of 2010 and taking each new day as it comes. I'm still struggling, but then again, aren't we all? Who can't find some sorrow or tragedy in their life to spend every waking hour anquishing over? I see people with so many reasons to be happy, hunched over and scrutched up with bitterness because they allow the bad to overshadow the good. The storm clouds may be heavy, but there is always a silver lining and I'm reaching for it. So here goes; my resolutions are as follows
Remain Positive. Rebuild Faith. Restore Hope. Reaffirm My Belief in Miracles.
It's a mission statement, motivational statement and slogan all in one. If my resolution was only to lose 10lbs by May, I'd have broken it already. The goal this year is to not be defined by the tragedies in my life.
And now Lent, how do I take this mindset into the penitential and sacrificial season leading up to Easter? Here is where I really start working on rebuilding my faith, a faith that has sustained me but yet been greatly shaken. Thank God I have built this faith on the rock of the true Church and not the shifting sand of my past wishy-washy beliefs. It is nose to the grindstone time. Fasting, prayer, avoiding worldly distractions-those are the general goals. I like to keep the specifics between me and God.
I hope to come out of desert on April 24th with a true feeling of hope; a value I am so quick to cast aside nowadays, fearful of being hurt again. May God carry us all through this Lenten season.
How shall we have the means to help our brother who is in need? We can do without those unnecessary things which become habits, cigarettes, liquor, coffee, tea, candy, sodas, soft drinks and those foods at meals which only titillate the palate. We all have these habits, the youngest and the oldest. And we have to die to ourselves in order to live, we have to put off the old man and put on Christ. That it is so hard, that it arouses so much opposition, serves to show what an accumulation there is in all of us of unnecessary desires. -DD

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Why Bother?

It's been awhile since I have posted anything (for all the same reasons Kelly hasn't posted much), but diving back in...

I started reading The Church and The Land by Fr. Vincent McNabb. Almost right off the bat, I was struck by something he wrote:

"seek first the Kingdom of God, and his justice. First things first, for God's sake; or you will crash at once... Leave the garden cities and the flesh pots, not in order to scorn suburbia or to lead a simple life, but to worship God."

It can be easy to get caught up in homesteading and simple living for their own sake. After reading that passage above, I realized that at some point I started thinking about the homestead as an end in itself. When we first became interested in simple living, it was to reduce the clutter of modern life, so we could focus on the important things, God and family.

I am trying to wrap up my homesteading plans for the coming year, so reading this could not have come at a better time. I had been thinking in terms of, "what can I do to grow the homestead." But now I will be more careful to consider what will better enable me to worship God. That is the highest goal of the back to land movement. To restore a society that is centered on God.

Saturday, December 11, 2010


New Little Brother, originally uploaded by KMantoan.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Struggle

In case you're wondering...yes, I had a baby. Surprise. Today was my official due date but my son Theodore Anthony arrived a wee bit early. Since his arrival on Oct. 8 at 2:14am I've been off bed-rest but, obviously, a bit preoccupied. Birth at 34 weeks meant Teddy was in the NICU for two and half weeks. During that time we received the difficult news that Teddy will also have Spinal Muscular Atrophy like his older brother Fulton.
Since that day in the NICU when the doctor gave me the results I have been struggling to figure out what the hell is going with my life. I've been overwhelmed with sorrow, furious with God and numb to everything around me. My faith, which sustained me during the period following Fulton's diagnosis, is suffering. I've stopped reading and writing. And, most upsetting, I've given up hope.
You wouldn't know it to look at me. I still love to be with my children, most especially Teddy and Fulton. I love spending time with my husband. We all enjoy the company of friends. But when I am still, and think of my situation, I am as I have mentioned.
Time will lessen the pain and I hope it will bring understanding of WHY, God WHY?! rather than more misfortune. Fulton's diagnosis made me a different person. I'm not sure what Teddy's diagnosis means for me now.
I will write again. I'm sure I'll need to in order to sort out my thoughts and heal but don't look for me on here too much. Perhaps a hibernation is in order.
You may take away this from my experience, because God willing you will never experience anything half as horrible- Nothing in life is certain. Time is short. You are more blessed than you believe so suck it up. Sorry if those sound cliched but any deeper meanings escape me at the moment. If there is something profound to be learned, I have yet to be enlightened.
I know that it is only through my faith that I will come through this, even though right now it seems that it is God alone who has caused/allowed this tragedy to befall me and more horribly on my children. I am trying to persevere and force the prayers to come. Your prayers, as always, are welcomed.