Ladybug Blunders


When the hibernating ladybugs appear on the inside of my window frames I know spring is just around the corner.

These ferocious mini-carnivores are the darlings of my gardens. As a child I would tip the leaf they were crawling on so the ladybug would fall onto my soiled hand.  Then I would rotate my hand as it scurried across palm and fingers, tickling as it went. Eventually the little red bug would tire of my game and suddenly rocket into flight so fast that I never saw from where its wings had come.

I delight in seeing a few of them appear on my windowsills in late winter. My Franciscan heart won’t let me squish the little visitors, so I end up attending to their needs. Yes, it’s true; I give food and water to a bug. Plucking a leaf from a nearby houseplant, I place a droplet of water in the center and then lay it near the wandering red dot. Invariably these tiny creatures are thirsty and motor quickly aboard to have a drink.

After placing the leaf with its passenger onto the soil of a houseplant I lay a very tiny piece of apple nearby. I am not surprised when I check back on my tiny pet I find it sharing a meal with a few of its buddies. Eventually, weather permitting, they are released outside.

So there it was, a ladybug on the sill of the kitchen window. I was happy to see one after a long winter and I placed a drop of water near it. I laughed out loud as it latched onto the side of the droplet and was suddenly set afloat with its tiny black legs swimming frantically while its pincers sucked the water thirstily.

It must have tried to fly off because the next thing I knew it was upside down in the drain to the sink. To avert the impending doom I placed my fingertip nearby for it to latch on to, which it did, and pulled it to what should have been safety.

But my elderly hands desensitized by arthritis had moved in too hard and unintentionally injured the little creature. While lifting it back to the sill it slowly released itself from my finger and fell on to the counter and stopped moving. I was disheartened and chastised myself for being upset…it was JUST a bug for goodness sakes!

Reflecting as I tossed the expired ladybug into the waste-bin, I was reminded that at times our good intentions can go awry. Our desire to help and encourage if brought forth too abruptly can harm. The response “I didn’t mean to do it” says a lot about not having thought things through. And sometimes it’s impossible to undo what’s been done.

When I’ve done something wrong, something I can’t undo and I feel discouraged and despondent, I am reminded of the words from St. Francis de Sales that encourage me. He guides me to know that it is important to acknowledge what I have done, in all my weakness and humanness, and having done what I could to remedy it—move on with awareness to avoid its repeating.

And when I screw up it is usually much bigger than a ladybug.

(Originally ran 4/2013, and I liked it…so here it is again!)

Image by Myriams-Foto at

The Secret of Grandmother’s Violin


The black leather case hinges and latch were stiff and flaky with rust. Inside was my grandmother’s violin. The case had been unearthed during the archaeological dig in my basement that began in February. I was reluctant to open the case. I didn’t want to know if mildew had grown inside. For over thirty years, from one house to the next, I’d carted around this violin.

I moved back in with my grandmother when I was in my early twenties, and she in her mid-seventies. She allowed me to live with her while I regained my footing after a divorce. I brought very little with me, not wanting to keep reminders of a marriage that ended with infidelity; he had run off with my brother’s wife.

The peace filled home of my grandmother was decorated with memories of a devoted husband and family. Beveled glass doors led the way in to the house and in to the living rooms. The walls of those rooms were painted a soothing silver-sage, the color of perennial lambs-ear, and is the only color I remember them ever being painted.

Not wanting to disrupt her home, what little I brought with me needed to be stored and not in the basement. The small crawl-in attic would do just fine.

We both are women of short stature, me being the taller at five feet. Gaining access to the attic required a step ladder and a boost from my grandmother who stood on the ladder with me. Once inside I rearranged her boxes to one side and came across the violin case.  Crawling back and leaning over the access hole I asked her to whom it belonged. “Oh, that was mine. Before I started a family I played for a symphony orchestra.” I was shocked and stared at her in disbelief as she thrust one of my boxes up and into my arms.

Once my boxes were situated I opened the case and saw a violin in pieces; not maliciously so but unglued. Again leaning over the attic entry I mentioned to her the condition. She was not surprised and commented she probably should have unstrung it before grandfather tucked it away some fifty years ago. She stepped off the ladder and motioned for me to come down as she held onto its rungs. She wasn’t interested in discussing it further.

Soon enough the time came for me to move on and out of her home. Back into the attic I went and as I handed down my boxes I asked her if I could have her violin. She gave me a quizzical look and asked “What on earth for?” and I didn’t know why, really. It just seemed important.

I don’t think her children were aware that she had been a classical violinist. I never heard anyone ever speak about it. I knew she loved music and we would often listen to jazz, the Big Bands, or symphonies on the radio.

Whenever I looked at the broken violin, an Austrian-made knock-off of an Antonius Stradiuarius, I imagined my grandmother in a long black gown with wavy black hair bobbed above her shoulders—a radical cut in the 1920’s. I can see her arm moving rhythmically with the orchestra, nimble fingers deftly sliding along the fingerboard.

Grandmother rarely spoke of her life, her accomplishments and history. She was always a wife and mother first, then church lady and business owner. She possessed and projected grace and confidence even when angered at being confronted with something immoral or illegal. She tried to instill in her grandchildren a trust in God’s love. She said that to despair was to turn ones back on God. Though she cried deeply at the loss of her beloved husband, I never remember her despairing—ever.

Walking across the basement, I sat the dusty violin case on top of the dryer and gently opened it. The green velvet lining shined in the naked light of the overhead light-bulb. There was no smell of mildew or mold. All the pieces were still there and I touched each of them. While doing so I smiled at the former beauty of the instrument and the woman daring to be all that God had intended her to be; the diminutive Italian violinist, devout Catholic, and dedicated wife and mother…my namesake.

Image by Margaret Rose Realy, Obl OSB, all rights reserved.

No Escape, the Tortured Entrapment of a Fetus


I don’t know how to manage this, how to process the intrusive images hammering my consciousness. Being prone to nightmares I am careful about what I read and watch. Having battled with PTSD—though I’m not so sure it can ever be said in a past-tense—I have been trained to recognize potential triggers and disarm anxieties. Most times I succeed, other times horrors are so pervasive that they cannot be escaped; to be concise, Unplanned and Dr. Gosnell.

Years have passed since the last time I’d had nightmares about neighborhood boys torturing animals or grown men abusing dogs. I was just a little girl and helpless to stop the frequent crimes. My screams at the abusers, my screams for the suffering animal, only seemed to excite the abusers and increase their abuses. Feeling frightened and helpless, I would run away and hide. But the images were already burned into my psyche and the sounds of the violence echoed in my mind.

I think there is a sort of numbing that takes place, a kind of dissociation between the abuser’s self and another living creature. There seems to be a thrill in their ability to exert power over a thing. Control and manipulation appears to be at the heart of abuse, and the heart of the abuser shrivels.

Is this what the pro-choice people have produced and encouraged in their desire to control life? Have they created heartless creatures with shriveled souls?

Like many women I too have been exposed to conversations about abortions that are framed with a sort of perverse etiquette. The politeness of discussing abortions, and the right to choose to remove a parasitic fetus, is like inducing a bowel movement…it’s a procedure. There’s no connection of what a fetus is, not for the mother or the abortionist, for if there were a connection the horror of torturing a baby would not take place.

I cannot be part of these discussions; the reality of confined torture is too deep. I am not equipped to be a warrior or a soldier is this battle. The most I can manage to say from my self-protective stance, as I prepare to walk away, is “I disagree. Abortion kills a baby.”

This past week with the movie Unplanned, I was overexposed to the abominations of abortion and the memories from 2013 of Gosnell. Nightmares rob me of sleep, intrusive images destroy my peace. I find myself hiding in my prayer space as the horrors of these events pierce my mind. There was no escape from the emotional firestorm; there is no escape for infants tortured to death during an abortion.

I don’t know that I want to understand the dissociation and the full-on disconnect of abortion advocates.

Through these days of struggling to regain mental balance, I pray hard. Yes, I pray a little for me to persevere, but pray more for the shrunken damaged souls of abortionists and post-abortive parents. For in my faith I’ve been taught that the soils of their souls are still viable as long as they draw breath. My challenge is to see in those desert soils, in that ravaged land of their souls, the potential of fruitfulness.

May the Lord save all of us trapped in this storm: For those with words of fire that reveal Truth that they not despair. For those nearly paralyzed by the horror, that they find a way to pray through the suffering. For those who perpetuate the torture of abortion and for those who realize too late what they have done and live in shocked remorse.  And may the Lord embrace us when, as in the hymn, we cry out “Come, Lord, for faith is growing cold…Need make us bold.”

This is about as bold as I can get.

Image by Ilona Gr from


Draw Down the Tips of Spring


I am hungry for spring, for the scent of black loamy soil, for the sight of yellow-green tips of hardy bulbs, for the return of determined blue-birds and argumentative red-winged blackbirds.

I long to feel the warmth from sunlight on the smooth bark of poplars and willows, to draw down the tips of budding trees and deduce the patterned bud to be leaf or flower.

I have loved the fierce beauty of this winter’s storms. But I am tired of the grays and browns that remain once the snow is gone. I need the soft sun of spring to draw pigment into my world, to give me the beauty of “dappled things” as Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote in his familiar poem:

Pied Beauty 

Glory be to God for dappled things –
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him. 

It often seems the longer I hunger the sweeter the gift once received. I may shed tears of joy when spring begins to birth.

Image by KRiemer at


Parsnips and Apples Soup, a Sweeter Fare for Meatless Fridays



I love apples! Seriously. Love them almost more than chocolate. Biting into a warm, crisp, just picked apple in autumn is only one step away from doing the same in summer with tomatoes.

Living in Michigan, where apple production ranks number three in the States, the harvest of this fruit peaks in late September through early October. There are so many apples to choose from that I would have a great time every week at the farm markets buying mixed bags. I’ve long since given up storing a bushel of apples through the winter, buying instead a few specialty varieties each week.

Apples are wonderful to teach the youngest of children about our faith. When you cut an apple in half along the equatorial plane, the cross section in the core looks like a star; the five-pointed Epiphany Star. The five seeds inside the five-pointed star stand for the five wounds of Christ.

Children love stars, and while stars are not traditionally associated with the Lenten season, there is a weekly program for children, six and up, called The Seven Stars of Lent. This worship resource helps to prepare children’s’ hearts to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ.

A second apple story used to teach about the Trinity is cut an apple in half from top to bottom and note the three parts: skin, meat and seeds. The outer skin represents the Father who encompasses all, Jesus is the meat of the fruit that feeds us, and the seeds are the Holy Spirit that when planted, will bring new life. An apple wouldn’t be an apple if any one of these elements was missing; so, too, with the Trinity.

Now, since you’re cutting up all those apples for educational purposes, how about a recipe! This is a savory and sweet soup more for the adult pallet; try cutting the spices by half for kids.

Parsnip and Apple Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup chopped sweet onion (Vidalia is best)

2 1/2 cups (about a pound) peeled and chopped Pink Lady apples (or any slightly tart apple is fine—Granny Smiths are too sour!)

1 tablespoon curry powder

1 1/2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger or 1/2 teaspoon dry

3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

3 1/2 cups (about 1 1/2 pounds) chopped peeled parsnip

1 clove garlic finely chopped

4 cups chicken broth

1 cup apple cider (don’t use apple juice)

1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Sour cream dollops when serving

In a stock pot, sauté onions in oil until tender. Add apples, curry, ginger, and cardamom.  Simmer for about a minute to dissolve spices, stirring constantly. Add broth, parsnips, garlic, and cider. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes or until parsnips are tender. CAREFULLY blend soup until smooth using a blender (or use an immersion blender). Serve with sour cream.

A side note here, I like to use oven roasted parsnips. They tend to be sweeter and lend a fuller flavor to the soup. Of course, your stove-top cooking time will be reduced.

Photo, by marybaird.