Wednesday, January 29, 2014

And the Winners Are....

You won't find The Breadbox Letters in the list of final winners of the Sheenazing Award.  But as I wrote two days ago, I have won, and won big.

In fact, I have one more thing to add to the list of winnings.  That is:  a new appeciation of the writings of the Venerable Servant of God Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen.  It is for him that the Sheenazing Awards are named and presented; because of this, I've dug into his writings just a bit more over the last few days. 

And all I can say about that is:  well, take a look at what I mean.....

"Moral principles do not depend on a majority vote.  Wrong is wrong, even if everybody is wrong. Right is right, even if nobody is right." 

"Not many men want to die to their lower selves; it costs so much. Some prefer to have a cosmic religion, which neither puts restraint on their pride nor curbs their passions." 

"A spirit of license makes a man refuse to commit himself to any standards. The right time is the way he sets his watch. The yardstick has the number of inches that he wills it to have. Liberty becomes license and unbounded license leads to unbounded tyranny. When society reaches this stage, and there is no standard of right and wrong outside of the individual himself, then the individual is defenseless against the onslaughts of cruder and more violent men who proclaim their own subjective sense of values." 

"The Western world has been attempting to preserve the fruits of Christianity after having surrendered the roots."   
(all quotes from Archbishop Sheen)

Thanks be to God for the Sheenazing Awards!  I continue to be deeply honored by my nomination. 

All of the winners of the Sheenazing Awards can be found by clicking here.  Congratulations all! 

Monday, January 27, 2014

It's a Major Award!

No, this is not an announcement of a win.  Voting for the Sheenazing Award won't close for a few hours yet, and anyway - this new kid on the blogk definitely doesn't consider herself an actual contender.  After all, there sits little breadbox letters among the ranks of the biggie-blogs like... well, you know.  THOSE.

Which is why I consider the nomination itself a major win.  I feel like a starsblogstruck extra finding herself on the set of a movie starring Meryl Streep.

It's enough just to gaze open-mouthed at the amazing Sheenazing work being done in one's presence.  It's also enough to say to whoever nominated this blog:  thank you.  Sometimes a blogger wonders if she's composing (or in my case, often quoting) anything that truly touches anyone "out there."  The person who nominated this blog...  my new BFF... probably knows this, because you're likely to be a blogger yourself.  You know it's nice to, every now and then, get an "attagirl" to help you keep on going.

Thank you to everyone who reads, everyone who comments, everyone who subscribes, everyone who nudges me toward the keyboard.  Because you're here, I'm encouraged to live chunks of my days steeped in:

1)  Scripture

2)  Writings of saints

3)  Magnificent artwork 

4)  Prayer (I pray every time I look for a match up of picture and post; yes, every time)

5)  You, my blog friends

6)  And sharing in The Sheenazing Awards!  I hope to visit, in time, every single nominee.  What a treasure trove of wisdom and inspiration and fun!

I look forward to congratulating the winners in each category.  As for me, I see six things I've listed above and know for certain:  

I have won a major award. 

Saturday, January 25, 2014


I am enchanted by snow when it softens a city.  It's like the gentleness of God blanketing all that is sharp and angular, and somehow this is magical to me.  Maybe that's because, in grade school, I rode the city bus twice a day, and I got to see a chunk of my town in its sooty as well as whitewashed conditions.

The bus made stops and starts along Main Street, its doors whooshing open to let in soggy passengers toting briefcases and shopping bags.  I could hear sighs of relief as these weary ones fell into seats; I knew they were grateful to simply let chilled bones thaw.  

The magic of bus windows was that they weren't stationary.  Views changed incessantly, just like on a television.  City sidewalks, storefronts of tall department stores, tree-filled neighborhoods lined with cozy brick homes.  The perfect backdrop for a young daydreamer.

I don’t spend time on buses anymore, but I look out windows.  Oh, indeed I do.  Today I glance out toward my street and am unable to find it.  There is only a field of white, with sunshine bouncing so strongly that it hurts my eyes.  I might as well be living on a farm.  Tonight there will be pink and blue and amber sprinkles under streetlights; I hope I remember to enjoy them.

Snow is, to me, the gentleness of God trumping the clamor of man.  No matter how sharp the angles of our buildings, they are softened.  There is a hush of city sounds. 

In the darkest months of the year, the ones in which we may feel starved for light - that's when snow comes to brighten our paths.  Yes, snow might change our plans.  Yes, it could cause some disruption.  

But if it’s here, we might as well enjoy the view.

“Praise the Lord... fire and hail, snow and mist, storm winds that fulfill His word…”  (Psalm 148:7-8)

Portions of this post are (edited) from our archives. 

; in US public domain due to copyright expiration

Friday, January 24, 2014

Purifying Prayer

'Since prayer
places our intellect
in the brilliance
of God's light
and exposes our will
to the warmth
of His heavenly love,
nothing else
so effectively
purifies our intellect
of ignorance
and our will
of depraved affections.
It is a stream
of holy water
that flows forth
and makes the plants
of our good designs
grow green and flourish,
and quenches
the passions
within our hearts.'

St. Francis de Sales

Painting: Thomas Moran, 
Mountain of the Holy Cross
(the cross is in original - 
it is NOT a Photoshopped alteration!)

The Breadbox Letters has been nominated for a Sheenazing award.   This has come as a complete surprise.  I now know what people mean when they say it is a privilege simply to be nominated for thus-and-so.  There is no 'simply' to it; it is a genuine honor to be listed on the same page with such truly exceptional bloggers.  The Breadbox Letters is in the category of Most Inspiring Blog.  Anyone can vote by clicking here. Voting continues until Monday.

This is especially timely for me, as today is the feast of the patron of Catholic writers.  Over twenty years ago, I took this saint as my personal patron as well.  St. Francis de Sales, pray for us.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Pledge of Immortality

'A child is a pledge of immortality, 
for he bears upon him in figure 
those high and eternal excellences 
in which the joy of heaven consists, 
and which would not thus be shadowed forth 
by the all-gracious Creator,
were they not one day to be realized'  

John Henry Cardinal Newman 

Painting:  Hermann Knopf Gut bewachter Schlaf, in US public domain due to age

Sunday, January 19, 2014


A person could get used to this.

Anabelle at Written by the Finger of God has been kind enough to honor The Breadbox Letters with three blog awards!  One of which is the glorious, beautiful, gleaming, red-carpet-worthy, Best Moment Award.  


All I can think of to do, in my blushing, head-ducking, shyly smiling flusterment, is to quote a character from my favorite BBC program.  So, in words of Camilla Fortescue-Cholmondeley-Browne Noakes:


Because this is called the "Best Moment" award, I think I'll get all thematic AGAIN (I'm having fun with that) and make my list about the 10 best moments of my own life.  

That I can think of.  We all know that fifty other obvious ones will pop into my mind as soon as I click "publish."  Because I have shared many of my more significant holy moments either here or on my other blog, I think I'll stick to some "lighter" things for this list.  Which will be random, as (and if) I think of them.....

(do I have to limit it to only ten?  Gosh!  Maybe I can combine a few...)

1.  My wedding day.  Every moment was a best moment.  Even the one in which I tried to place the ring on my groom's right hand.  He kept giving me his left and I kept giving it back and grabbing for his right.  Poor thing, thought I, he's so nervous and confused.   Thankfully I gave up and humored him.  

2.  The moments when my children were born. 

3.  The moment I learned my first grandchild had been born.  I set this one slightly apart from the births of my other grands because I was there, within "hearing distance" of the delivery room, straining for the sound of my grandchild's first cry.  We'd been told the labor wasn't progressing smoothly.  I was stressed.   My interior prayer was constant and intense.  Then: the moment of joyous relief.   

4.  The moments when I learned that grandchildren numbers two and three had been born.  This news was delivered by phone, because both times I was at home caring for the older ones.  The prayer had been just as intense, however, and I sobbed both times.  

5.  When my grandchildren's parents were married (which DID happen before the grands were born, but I'm just now thinking of it.  Told you this would be random).  I sobbed. 

6.  (My Best Moments tend to be damp).

7.  The first moment I tore open an envelope to read: "thank you for your article.  We would like to publish it..."  I had never submitted an article before.  I'd never WRITTEN an article before.  No one, including me, even knew I was writing an article.  I was just clacking out thoughts on my handy dandy electric typewriter (Yes. This happened That Long Ago) during hours when the kids were in school.  On a whim, I sent it to a Catholic magazine.  I told no one I'd done such a reckless thing.  I didn't even tell my husband.  

When I called Hubby at his office to say that, um, I'd had an article accepted for publication, his immediate response was "I didn't know you wrote articles!"  I replied "I don't."  

There was a moment of puzzled silence from the other end of the line.  Which is understandable.  ("she couldn't tell her left hand from her right, and now she's having articles published without writing them?!?   What next...?" )  He recovered from his puzzlement when he learned I was being paid.

8.  The moment my husband proposed.  He simply got down on his knees and asked me to marry him.  This was long before proposals involved videos and skywriting and choreography.   

9.  I know I said I'd keep this list to the lighter, less "holy" moments.... but you know what? 

Every one of the above moments was holy.  Every single one was a marvelous work of God.  I look over this list and see the holiest moments of my life.  It would not be a complete package, however, if I didn't mention one moment that was utterly life-changing.  That was the moment, the instant, when I realized for sure that God was real. 

Having spent several years as a "closet agnostic," then having told God I didn't believe in Him but that if He were real I'd like for Him to show me, and then having begun reading the Gospels, I suddenly believed.  It was a moment beyond time, a moment beyond all I'd ever known before or since.  Jesus was real and I knew it.  That one moment has gloriously altered every moment since.  

It was the most significant moment of my life.  

And moment number ten?  I'll get to that in a minute.  First, I'd like to pass this award along to a few bloggers who brought me special moments of reading enjoyment in 2013. 
The envelopes please...

Moments of Humor, Smiles, and Outright Laughter:  The blogs of Sue Elvis.  Since she has just accepted this very same award on Sue Elvis Writes, I pass this on to another of her blogs:  Stories of an Unschooling Family.  

Moments of Prayer:  I don't think this blog accepts awards, but I cannot help myself.  So here is a nod to the ever inspiring Truth Himself.  

Moments of PoetryThe Mad Eyed Monk.  It is simply amazing.   

Moments of Photography:   Totus Tuus Family and Catholic Homeschool. I especially love what Allison does putting text into pictures... wow!

Moments of Classy Catholic Womanhood:  The Feminine Gift

Moments of InspirationI Want to See God 

Moments of Being Inspired to Cook:  (and for me, that doesn't happen easily).  Reasons for Chocolate has shared two of my favorite recipes ever.  I'm linking this directly up to one of them (because I make this often!).  Patty shares beautiful family moments as well.

There are so many blogs I love, but I've decided to stick to just these categories.  For now.  (wink)

And my last random best moment?

10.  Right now, right here, as I write this.  For, looking at the above list of moments, I realize how utterly blessed I have been.  Grabbing a box of tissues, I know I can say (for real) EXACTLY this: 

Thank you, Anabelle.  I've had great fun. 

Appendix:  "the rules for acceptance" via Anabelle

Post a picture of the award on my blog (check)

Link to who nominated me (check)

List ten random things about myself (check)

Pass the awards on to other bloggers and inform my awardees via their comment boxes  (check..... and away we go.....!)


This post is linked to Catholic Bloggers Network Linkup Blitz

Friday, January 17, 2014

Awards, Kisses, and UH OH! SHARKS!

I am terrible at titles.  Had I been a world famous novelist, I would not have been one.  I'd just be an aging collector of rejection slips for things like Fun With Elizabeth Bennett and Mockingbirds Shouldn't Be Shot.

That could change, however.  After reading the last two posts on Sue Elvis Writes, I am seriously inspired.  I mean:  wouldn't you like to read a post called "Man Bites Shark?"

Of course you would.  And you should.  Which is why I am starting my "acceptance post" with a mention of the very first blog I'm going to pass the award on to.  Acceptance post for what? (I know you're asking). Welll...

Gloria at A Life Dedicated to Prayer has generously passed along the Sunshine Award to The Breadbox Letters.  As part of my acceptance, I am to divulge ten pieces of information about myself. 

In the interest of keeping up with the Elvises and thus offering a noteworthy subject, I choose that all time greatest attention grabber:  Romance! 

Yes. I've decided to share 10 ROMANTIC Things About Me.  

How's THAT for intrigue?

1.  I am a former Art major who married a mechanical engineer.  It happens.  Especially when said engineer is good hearted, quietly devout, super intelligent, lots of fun, and the love of one's life. 

2.  I had a "sock hop steady" when I was twelve, at dances held weekly in a local school.  I wouldn't dance with him to Ricky Nelson records though, no sir.  I had a big crush on Ricky, and dancing with another man to his songs would be just - wrong.  

3. You're too young to know who Ricky Nelson was (admit it). 

4.  On my first date, I panicked at hearing the doorbell, so I hid in my closet.  My skirt got caught in the door as my mother called out in a loud whisper "Nancy!  Get OUT here! I don't KNOW this boy!"  I eventually untangled my cotton skirt from the doorlock, and headed out to the guillotine afternoon date.  We walked three blocks to a neighborhood movie theatre in utter silence.  When we got back to my house, I said "thank-you-very-much-I-had-a-lovely-time.  Goodbye."  (I read Teen magazines, I knew how to behave).  I was thirteen.

5. My first kiss was in the springtime.  A boy brought me home from a date and looked shockingly handsome in the moonlight as it fell across my porch. He leaned in close to ask "can I kiss you goodnight?"  I gazed into his deep brown eyes and uttered the most romantic words I could think of: 

"I can't think of any reason why not...." 

I was older than thirteen by then, but am too embarrassed to tell you by how many months years. 

6.  I did not kiss on first dates... at least, not in my teens (okay, I made it to eighteen with that).  I read Teen magazines; they told me how to act (and kissing on first dates was Not How Nice Girls Acted).

7.  Teen magazines in "my day" were a far cry from what they are now.  Which tells you two things:  a) I grew up a long time ago, and b) I'm glad I grew up a long time ago.  

8.  Teen magazines are extremely influential.  About that, I am utterly serious.  They present life as they want you to think it should be .... complete with ads.  I shudder to think of what advice I'd be taking if I were a young girl dating now. 

9.  I had glasses, but never wore them on dates (or anywhere else).  After getting my glasses locked with a boy's during a movie (we'd both snuck on our specs when the film began, and I don't know how in the WORLD we managed to "lock frames" as he bent his head toward mine), I decided that hearing a movie was just fine with me.   

10.  Several friends have told me I should write about "my dating experiences," as they tend to be a bit... .. different ...from those of other people.  Ah ha, girls!  It has been done!  

But I gotta admit:  they look pretty lame in print.  Not like the shark attacks or dead bodies in Sue Elvis' world.  

To pick up the pace a bit, I will direct you to where you can read of sharks, and of bodies in the woods.  SO - my first nominee for The Sunshine Award is the ever entertaining

Sue Elvis Writes 

I also nominate:  

The Beautiful Gate 

Praying for Grace

These Joyful Mysteries

Reasons for Chocolate

My Desert Heart 

Contemplative Homeschool


Campfires and Cleats

And I hope I nominated my other faves a few weeks ago, from my other blog.  O dear O dear, I hope I did!

I look forward to seeing what the rest of you do with this....

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Healthy Shade

'Always walk in the presence of God, because His shade is healthier than the rays of the sun.'

St. Francis de Sales

Painting:  Julius Leblanc Stewart, Flower Girl, 1890

Thursday, January 9, 2014

A Thousand Arrows

'As soon as the children of this world perceive that you desire to follow a devout life,
they will shoot at you a thousand arrows of mockery and detraction.
The most malicious will calumniate your change as being hypocrisy, bigotry, and artifice.
They will say that the world has frowned on you and that, being rejected by it, you turn to God.  
Your friends will make a world of objections which they imagine to be very wise and charitable.
They will tell you that you will fall into a melancholy state of mind;
that you will lose credit in the world...
that your domestic affairs will suffer;
that you must live in the world like one in the world;
that salvation may be had without so many mysteries....

All this is nothing but foolish and empty babbling.'

St. Francis de Sales

Painting:  William Paxton, The Sisters, 1904

Monday, January 6, 2014

This Cloud of Witnesses

I had occasion today to step out of the mold on my other blog, just rambling on about whatever came to mind.  And you know what?  I enjoyed it.  So much, in fact, that I'm going to try an experiment right here, where you usually find a very brief post with a picture.

I do like matching words with paintings.  Maybe I'll even find an illustration to go along with.... well... with whatever tumbles out as I click away here on a keyboard, determined to make this a ramble of whatever comes to mind.

Which is a scary thought indeed.  I feel like an acrobat performing without a net (note to self:  look for a painting of an acrobat performing without a net).  

Let's see.  It's cold here today.  Very.  The snow that fell overnight sits right where it landed; it isn't going anywhere at these temperatures.  Nor am I, for I don't go out much anymore in snow.  I had to drive through it, however, back when my children needed rides home from school.

It was during one such drive when God let me know (again) that He loved me.  Inching my vehicle through a sudden snowstorm, I panicked when the car's back started to fishtail.  I panicked anew as I watched a school bus skid through a stop sign and spin totally around in the intersection.  

I had a small child waiting for me eight miles from my home, but could I reach him safely?  My toddler, meanwhile, sat beside me, humming happily.  In those days, little ones could ride in the front seat with Mommy, in regular seat belts.  And in those days, cell phones were far in the future. 

Totally lacking in driving-confidence, I was pretty hopeless in snow.  But my husband drove in anything - he could make it through a storm like this.  He'd have to leave work to help us out, but that would be better than my plowing our little ones into a tree.  Realizing I needed his help, I pulled (slid) into the parking lot of a pizza restaurant.  Only to see, in the window, a sign.

"Restrooms for customers only.  No public telephone."

I did what any sensible "me" would do under the circumstances.  I sat in the car and cried.

And then I felt guilty about crying, and hopelessly un-adult, and most of all lacking in faith.  I mean, I trusted in God, I knew I did, and I believed He was watching out for us, and He could get us through anything, and this was just snow after all.  It wasn't a famine.

But I was a failure.  I was, I just knew it.  I didn't have enough confidence to keep on driving.  I felt I was failing my children, myself, my husband, my God.

My tears turned out to be an asset when I finally slogged into the restaurant with a three year old in tow.  I was allowed to use the non-public phone and then go back to the car to wait for my husband to round up us all.  As my toddler ("Frankie") sat oblivious to my lovely pity party, he continued humming, thankfully unconcerned.  

I, meanwhile, was praying.  Not aloud - this was happening inside my heart, where I was apologizing to God for not having enough faith to keep on driving, and where I was feeling embarrassed, and even secretly asking God how (if) He could possibly love a scaredy cat like me.

"Mommy?"  Frankie's little voice interrupted my silent confession.  "Mommy, Jesus loves me!"

Yes, He indeed did, I said to my little one (who'd been humming "Jesus Loves Me" all this time).

"And Mommy," Frankie continued, this time with emphasis. "Jesus loves YOU, too!"

Out Of The Mouths Of Babes.

It is now years later, and I have made my peace with snow.  And with the truth that God loves me, even if I can't make myself drive when the weather is bad.    

And notice the painting I found to go with this ramble.  There the lady stands, perched atop the high wire, which obviously isn't all that high.  One stumble and she'd be in the arms of the people all around her. 

One stumble, and I find God's love waiting for me.

I need not fear reaching even for so marvelous a goal as holiness, for all around me are the saints of God.

"Since we for our part are surrounded by this cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every encumbrance of sin which clings to us and persevere in running the race which lies ahead."  (Hebrews 12:1)

Painting:  Forain, The Tightrope Walker 

Friday, January 3, 2014

But Only When We Do

"God, Who does nothing in vain, 
does not give us either strength or courage 
when we don't need them, but only when we do.  
He never fails us."  

St. Francis de Sales

Painting:  George Henry Boughton, c. 1896, The Lady of the Snows

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Whoever Flees from Prayer

flees from prayer 
flees all
that is good.'

St. John of the Cross


James Tissot painting, cropped