Catholic Family Vignettes

A collage of literary snapshots from the life of a large traditional Catholic family


September 2011

Honesty is the best policy…

The following event took place at least ten years ago…just one of those days I want to remember and the topic of choice for a writing assignment I was given this week:


Standing in a check-out line with four young children in tow was certainly not my idea of the perfect end to an already frustrating day. The cashier was quite young, as evidenced by her uncertainty as to how to look up price discrepancies, process WIC vouchers and deal, in general, with the growing displeasure of the long line of customers that stretched beyond that black belt and endless stream of merchandise. The children whined, the inevitable fallout of such a long wait, surrounded by the devilishly clever enticements that daily torment parents undergoing the same hellishly long wait, their plaintive cries for ‘this and that’ only added to the irritation of the other shoppers. Yes. I was “that mom,” the one with “too many kids” and not nearly enough patience an hour before dinner time. I looked at the flustered face of the cashier as I slowly approached the place of liberation. She couldn’t have been more than seventeen, a petite girl with mousy brown hair and freckles; she looked a lot like me at the same age. As much as I wanted to feel compassion, the glares of the other customers directed towards my noisy children and the endlessly long wait seemed to preclude that possibility. Finally, face to face I muttered my own frustrated and not-so-sincere “how are you?” She didn’t reply, intent upon the job at hand as she rang up products as quickly as possible, no doubt aware of the rude comments uttered from the long line of those who still waited. I placated my tired children with promised treats after dinner, which temporarily quieted them and with great relief, handed the cashier a $50 bill for the total. At this point, one of the children wailed, and I just couldn’t stand it any longer. The equally flustered cashier practically whispered “sorry for your wait…” I didn’t acknowledge her apology, but grabbed my change and fled the store as quickly as possible. Three steps from the door, I counted the cash in my hand.

Hmm. I looked at the receipt and noticed that the cashier had mistakenly given me change for $100 instead of the $50 that I had handed her. The children looked at me expectantly: “What’s wrong, mommy?” was the unanimous response. “The cashier gave me too much money back. Rats. Now we have to go back…” I said. “Can we keep it?” the youngest innocently queried. Ah. Yes. The temptation. A chance for retribution. I could have punished the corporate beast and the inept cashier in one fell swoop and simply walked out with compensation for my ridiculously long wait. I looked at the expectant faces around me. I am an honest person, but it would be patently dishonest to say that I didn’t seriously consider the aforementioned scenario. Those sweet, innocent faces…what message would I convey by my lack of mercy and, let’s face it folks, theft? And then I looked at that poor cashier. What would happen when her register turned up on even $50 short? She would be out of job, labeled a thief.


I couldn’t do it. I pondered taking the money directly to the service desk, but knew that she would probably receive a reprimand and perhaps even dismissal. So I stood in that long line again and waited to give her the $50, so she could slip it back into the register, hopefully unnoticed. As I explained to the children what I was doing and why, they were blessedly quiet, even patient. The look on this young girl’s face when I told her what she’d done and then handed her the money was priceless. I purchased a pack of M & M’s for the children so she’d have a reason to open her register and slip in the fifty. “Thank you! Thank you so much…I can’t afford to lose this job!” she tearfully whispered. “No problem,” I joyfully replied and sincerely offered “have a nice day!”

The four children present that day still remember. It has served as an example in so many different ways for all of us. An act of kindness and mercy can undo so much. Honesty is and always will be the best policy. Maintaining grace under pressure is a challenge that every human being on this earth will be called to exercise more than once and even small acts of kindness can turn the most seemingly insignificant event into a life lesson.


September’s fleeting…

Where, oh where, has September gone?  In a mad swirl of falling leaves and temperatures, it seems the days have been born aloft upon the wind, tumbling quickly out of sight.  Yesterday, we journeyed to the creek, to taste the last bit of Indian Summer and sample Fall in her burgeoning glory…and glorious it was!    Tiptoeing  creek side, wading through fields of goldenrod and reveling in the beauty of a nearly perfect Sabbath…

Here’s an ode to September…we must mark her before she slips away into October’s Bright Blue Weather!


The goldenrod is yellow,
The corn is turning brown,
The trees in apple orchards
With fruit are bending down;

The gentian’s bluest fringes
Are curling in the sun;
In dusty pods the milkweed
Its hidden silk has spun;

The sedges flaunt their harvest
In every meadow nook,
And asters by the brookside
Make asters in the brook;

From dewy lanes at morning
The grapes’ sweet odors rise;
At noon the roads all flutter
With yellow butterflies–

By all these lovely tokens
September days are here,
With summer’s best of weather
And autumn’s best of cheer.

~Helen Hunt Jackson~


Daybook…sweet September

Visit Peggy at The Simple Woman for more Daybook entries!

FOR TODAYSeptember 13th, 2011

Outside my window: delicious breeze tossing leaves, blowing zinnias and impatiens.  Bright blue sky speckled with swiftly moving cumulus clouds

I am listening to:  scholars at work.  Conversations regarding the Constitution and states’ rights…chattering siblings discussing cumulo-nimbus clouds and whether teepees are really waterproof…windchime outside the classroom window…

I am wearing :  blue jeans and a soft ecru j jill sweater…

Gratitude list:  Relief on last Tuesday.  For news that my sweet Abigail does not have an optic nerve tumor.  After a weekend of nightmarish proportions, following a disturbing trip to an inexperienced optometrist, a very thorough examination revealed that the “anomaly” in Abigail’s right eye is congenital Optic Nerve Drusen.  Combined with astigmatism, intermittent esotropia and farsightedness, we now have an explanation for her blurry vision…and one that we can most certainly live with.  We also learned a very important lesson:  when it comes to eye health, an ophthalmalogist is the best bet…we’ll save our visit to the optometrist for filling glasses and contact lens prescriptions.  Praising God for such good news…you never know real joy until you’ve imagined the very worst…thanking my dear friends for all their prayers and encouraging words!

I am reading:  Consoling The Heart Of JesusA must read, do-it-yourself retreat.  I had the extreme privilege of attending a weekend retreat with Fr. Michael Gaitley…it was amazing…life changing.  I feel so very privileged to have had such good spiritual food this year:  from the Dayton Homeschool Conference, to the Christian Mother’s morning retreat and then Fr. Gaitley’s retreat last month.  God is so good…

From the kitchen:  Ah, me.  It appears that I’m truly and horribly wheat allergic.  All those wonderful bread recipes…biscuits, cakes and cookies…are no more.  At present, I can’t even place my hands in flour.  This is heartbreaking, but I’m learning a new normal and so far, so good.  No more rashes and hives.  No more pain and joint swelling…and, yes…all of this came to light after I completed my juice fast.  I tried to go back to my pre-fast diet…changing the quantities, but hoping against hope that gluten or wheat was not the problem.  When I began experiencing hives all over my body, I tried to blame it on everything except the one thing that remained a constant in my diet.  Bread.  Wheat.  This Sunday I received the confirmation that I’d been dreading…so now I’m wheat-free.  I won’t pretend to be “on-board” with this.  I’m so frustrated.  But so much has changed since I’ve cut out wheat products.  So…tonight’s menu:  Meatloaf (no italian bread crumbs…sigh), garlic mashed potatoes, fresh green beans with rosemary, spiced peaches.  No too bad…

I am thinking:  about school.  Two days in now…things are going quite well!  Also…thinking about being a student.  Yes.  I’m enrolled full time as a college student…finally pursuing a degree.  Every time I’ve tried before, life has stepped in.  The last time I enrolled full time, I discovered shortly after that I was pregnant with my second child…and quickly dropped out.  As challenging as my daily schedule is, I think I can manage this…at least I’m going to try.  Most of my courses are online (thank Heaven for community colleges!) and I’ll attend one lecture per week on campus.  St. Thomas Aquinas, patron of students…pray for me!

I am creating:  I can knit!!  I can crochet!!  I can use scissors!! The sky is the limit…since the juice fast and now the elimination of all wheat products, I’ve regained the use of my hands!  It’s wonderful…I’ve crocheted slippers and I’m knitting a super-cute headscarf/neck kerchief.  Oh…it feels so good!

Towards a real education:  Weather units and beginning Latin.  Algebra and Physics.  US History and Composition…and for mom:  Philosophy and Writing…with an ugly dose of Algebra to make it all worthwhile…certainly odd to teach Algebra and take it at the same time!

I am praying:  for continued good health for friends and family.  So many are suffering…so many with children facing so many challenges.  For the unemployed.  For the brokenhearted and friendless.  For our world and church leaders…

In the garden:  my poor, poor garden.  We have summer squash.  We have zucchini and the saddest looking tomatoes, ever.   But nothing else…we lost all to a horrible fungus that took over the garden and destroyed all our other crops.  For the first time in thirty years, we’ll have very little to preserve.  Unless I make it to the farmer’s market and purchase fresh veggies for preservation, this is where it all stands…

Around the house:   a nice, tidy, reorganized classroom.  Everything needs a good coat of paint, but I’m loving the new art center we set up and the functionality of the space.  I realize that I’m truly blessed to have a space devoted to the education of the children.  They spend so much time in this room…even after school.  It seems to invite creativity…

On keeping home:  A new development!  Mom no longer does any kitchen work, other than cooking!  My guys are cleaning the kitchen from top to bottom every night…I can’t begin to tell you how wonderful this is…this is their contribution towards mom going to college.  Everyone chose a task to give me a couple extra hours per day…my heart swells with their generosity!  It makes all the difference…

One of my favorite things:  beautiful, windy, September days.  A hot bowl of ribollita, eaten on the front porch in the midst of this fallish weather.  Delightful!

A few plans for the rest of the week:  continue to establish our daily school rhythm.  And prepare for a good deal of homework…

A few picture thoughts I’m sharing:

Lovely September sunset…


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