Saturday, October 31, 2009

Treats Sans Tricks

Remember when video stores had a curtained off room for "adult" videos?

Given my recent sojourn to the costume store, perhaps it's time to do the same for Halloween stores. Between the leftovers from SAW I, II, III, XVI and LXIX, and the sexy nurse/cheerleader/DMV cashier and the single row of truly tasteless costumes designed for men, 90% of the store is rated R or worse.

Having a slew of children in tow, I asked for the 1-800 number to complain.
I called the number. It advertised 900 numbers and calling "friends" for by the minute fun. Waiting, I got a person who claimed if I wanted to complain, I needed to call this other number. I called it. I was on hold for 12 minutes at which point, when I pushed pound to leave a message, it hung up.

Some conservatives and some Christians fear Halloween's pagan roots and the references to magic and the occult. Some liberals and some atheists and/or agnostics resent the Christian roots and the celebration of a holiday period. Trust me when I say, all would be united in their loathing of this particular costume advertised as "Tricky Dick." I had to wonder, what self hating soul would design/create/purchase/wear this giant phallus?

October 31st should be a time of whimsy, imagination, a touch of fright and a swirl of creativity. It's supposed to be like the fall leaves, splashes of color and chaos before the blanket of long cold and snow to come. The next door neighbor that hangs out on his roof dressed as Batman, the family down the street that decks their yard out more and more each year, and the family that dresses in theme --the Wizard of Oz, the Justice league, and a basketball team; these are crafted moments of joy and memory worthy of a chocolate bar or two.

When we were trick or treating, my middle son summed it up nicely. Knocking on a door, the other children yelled "Trick or Treat." but when he came to the door, he said, "Just treats please." No tricks.

My sentiments exactly.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Conversion Diary: 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 56) - The diary of a former atheist

Conversion Diary: 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 56) - The diary of a former atheist

7 Quick Takes Friday

1) Middle daughter insisted on being Annabeth from the Lightning Thief series by Rick Ridoran. Fearful she would not be recognized, I kept suggesting alternatives. She came home discouraged, "No one knew who I was." I pointed out the movie would come out in February and that next year, they would. She shook her head, "Next year, I'm going to get real creative." I didn't say "I told you so." so I'm basking in that silent glory of a good parenting moment here. Excuse the victory dance.

2) Oldest son stressed about Halloween and wanting a costume. Rather than point out that he's a bit old for that kind of thing, we worked together to pick one that he probably wouldn't have picked but will insulate him from being bothered at school as a result. Protecting our children without them knowing they're being protected is hard work.

3) Got four kids hair cuts this week. Four of the others will get their hair done next. Then we'll go for broke and get one scheduled for me.

4) Said the Rosary 4 days out of 5 --not finished with today's yet. Tip: do ten in the car going to...and ten coming from.

5) Made muffins for oldest daughter's class party.

6) Two days this week, I exercised. Oh dear. Now I'm going to have to make it three.

7) Made a new friend, worked on strengthening older relationships.

The Congressional Health Care Plan

Congress has one of the best insurance programs in place in the world...for itself. Part of the reason they haven't voted to create this gold plated benefit for the rest of the nation, is there are a few procedures which are only necessary if one wishes to be a member of the House or Senate.

Here are a few of the special operations available to your elected Representatives via their health care program.

Selective Memory Enhancement:The Selective Memory Enhancement (SME) is required for all members of Congress by both parties. A single microchip is inserted in the brain with a perpetual bio feedback loop. To ensure fairness, the mantra is the same regardless of party: "All things done by my opponent are morally bad, intentionally evil and stupid. All things done by me or my party even if they were the same things, exponentially worse or just plain sick, are pure good and even beneficial for the whole world!"

Preventative Quarantines: While Flu shots and H1N1 vaccinations are in short supply, Fox News Inoculations are still available! See the White House for more details.

Spine Removal: mandatory for any Republicans wanting to be cloaked in the political cover of "Moderate" and obligatory if one wants to be considered one of the "good" Catholics in the legislative body by the mainstream media or appear on CNN or MSNBC.

Common Sense Bypass: Like the microchip, the CSB remains a necessary procedure for all incoming Freshman to either body of the legislative branch if one is to digest any of the pending legislation, rules of engagement or sit on the ethics committee. Also useful for television appearances.

A reversal of this procedure, the C.B.S. is still available upon request but only after one leaves Congress and is considered an "Out of Network" procedure. Deductibles apply.

Supplemental Gall Bladder and Kidney: These days this surgery is required for Democrats so they can lecture the American people on fiscal frugality and for processing the additional Kool-ade provided by the Executive branch. Used to be mandatory for Republicans. Because it takes a lot of gaul to spend 1.6 Trillion dollars in 9 months, and believing it's deficit neutral takes an awful lot of Kool-ade. (The microchip has its limits but R&D is working on that).

Over corrective Bias Contacts: Any member of Congress can chose the degree to which they wish to enhance their spectral analysis of reality by selecting from the:

1)Olberman special: Bush and all Republicans are worse than anything
2)the Rush Limbaugh Perspective: Obama is a Socialist and all Dems are liars.

They can also chose the color, Rose Colored or Seeing Red.

Shame-Wow!: Daily oral medication to remove all sense of any embarrassment at anything for any reason except when cloaked in righteous indignation is recommended along with a daily vitamin. The pill ensures that for 24 hours, one can say anything anywhere about anyone without feeling the slightest chagrin unless the party decides you should. It is particularly effective if washed down with alcohol (which masks the effects).

Note: In an effort to show some sense of fiscal restraint, the insurance policy has changed! Congressional Personal Space Bubbles designed to shield you from the meanies and opponents and general public shall no longer be provided gratis, see your health provider to apply.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

No one is Forcing You to Change

I know the President has said on many occasions that "If we like our current insurance policy, the government will not make us abandon it." He's said this in various ways and I believe he is sincere when he says this.

I also think about the fact that he has never run a business.

Most businesses are in the business of making money and most families are about turning out healthy happy capable adults. For the sake of this discussion, let's think of businesses as being like families, wanting to churn out happy customers and have a profit margin and succeed without being strung out by too many obligations or too many activities or too much overhead.

A business has operating costs. So does a family. A business will add to operating costs only if it is necessary to improve the business. It's called investment. Families add burdens of classes or an extra car to make the business of running a family easier, trading money for time or convenience or enrichment that will pay off both now in enjoyment and possibly later with a life skill.

There are some families who opt to put their children in Catholic schools and thus make an investment. They do not get to opt out of property taxes which pay for public schools. They do not re-coop on their investment of tax money fiscally, but believe the pay out of the extra cash for tuition,is worth it. After all, it's their kids.

Very very few businesses are going to say, "I want to pay taxes to finance the public option on top of paying for my own plan. While I was happy with the plan before there was a public option, now I must decide. Do I want to pay taxes for one health care policy I don't use in addition to offering one which I pay out of pocket pre-tax?" Very few businesses will want to pay double tuition as it were, taxes and private school even if they liked their plans before. Businesses, being about making money, will opt for the public option and only pay the tax once. With an additional tax if the plans they offered were premium, the businesses will say "No thank you." They're not going to say, "After all, it's my employees."

While no one is forcing them NOT to pay more, most of them will when given the option of not paying, will out of merely a sense of good business, opt for the public option.

While we may have liked our prior plans better, there will be no take it or leave it in this scenario. Businesses, being businesses, will opt for the public option that helps the bottom line, and so there will be no take it or leave it option, just "Take it."

Small Success Thursday

1) I got the knob on the car door fixed. (It fell off Sunday and was lost such that one could not open the most convenient means of vacating the van which meant loading and unloading 9 children plus their equipment/backpacks/stuff was a joyless experience at best).

2) Last night, I worked on Helen. The first four chapters, I'm very proud of and just emailed to my sister to read.

3) We got our Halloween costumes for everyone from age 16 to 1 and it isn't October 31st yet.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Too Much Perspective

Comedy is stress with perspective.

A few weeks ago, we paid our quarterly taxes using a credit card so we could save the prerequisite amount of funds owed to Uncle Sam. Due to various fiscal issues, we found we would need a loan to cover the difference and immediately set about at that point filing the paperwork to get a loan from ourselves via our 401k. One would think that securing a secure amount of money from a secure place where the bank would be taking no risk would take almost no time. Not so. With four days left, we were feeling rather nervous about getting hit with the high interest rate for not paying our bill but the check arrived and off we went to the bank.

It was after five, so I used the ATM. No biggie right?




You see, if you deposit a check at a teller, the funds even if they are large, are available sooner. If you deposit a check via an ATM, the funds are held until the check is verified and scanned. Meaning, A deposit on Friday is not looked at until Monday and possibly not scanned until Wednesday. Bill due Monday. Check arrived Friday. We didn’t know this, but we weren’t worried as I intended just to wait for Monday and pay by phone.

Monday, I called my card billing number. I explain that I’d like to pay by phone and give the necessary information to “SET IT UP.”

Thinking about the check, I paused and said, “Wait a minute, let me call my bank on the other line to make sure the check has cleared before we authorize the full amount.” I’d already begun pushing buttons on my home phone. It was then the man said, “I’m sorry, you can’t change the amount. The charge goes through at midnight and once you gave me the information it cannot be rescinded, altered or denied.” and I began to gain perspective.

“But I didn’t say “Yes, that’s my final answer.” Shouldn’t you guys have a “Are you sure you want to do this before you give a warning shot that things can’t be changed?” “When you give the account information, that is tacit approval.” “What about explicit disapproval?” No answer.

“So basically, I’m going to get popped for the overdraft I didn’t yet authorize by you on money I do have which the bank doesn’t want to acknowledge, which will also get me popped by the bank.”

“Yes. But we're not unsympathetic, we’ll wave the late fee.”

After an hour of going round and round including an unpleasant point when I lost it completely and then wondered if the call being recorded would be broadcast on the news. "Woman sobs insanely on the phone for hours..." I finally persuaded him say he'd send an email to the banking department requesting a change. He suggested I call my bank to see if they would release the funds so all would be well. Not seeing an alternative solution, I hung up and called the bank.

Two years ago, I could have gotten a 100K home equity loan from a five minute phone call. Today, I cannot get the bank to link my credit card which THEY issued me to my account without a five day waiting period. It takes longer to get a loan than to gain approval to buy a gun. Meaning if I held them up, I’d get access to my money faster. I also decided spending too much time on hold is not healthy for one's moral compass.

The absurdity of not having access to actual money I had loaned myself so I could pay a bill which as a result would have me overdraft at midnight on funds the bank refused to acknowledge but which I actually had was making my head spin. I finally asked over the phone if the woman could see the absurdity of the situation. Instead of answering, she suggested I call back the credit card place.

Calling the credit card place again, the woman immediately said she’d file a report with the banking department for review. I decided not to complicate matters by saying that had already been done. Instead I asked to speak to the banking department. She said there wasn’t an actual banking department but that my request would be reviewed. I asked who would be the reviewer. She said she didn’t know but she’d filed a report. I asked who got the report she filed. She said she didn’t know but they’d look at it within 48 hours. I said could I talk to one of the people who looks at the reports but isn’t part of the banking department because it doesn’t exist but does the reviewing of the email reports for review because I only had 8 hours with which to work. She said no again. I asked for the supervisor. She said there wasn’t any but I could call back in a few hours to see if my request had been reviewed.

At this point I needed perspective. I called Mom.

She suggested going to the bank where I had a friend. Lugging three children into a place that likes business attire did not sound like fun but it was now 2 o’clock, I’d been at this since 10 and wouldn’t sleep that night if this wasn’t resolved in a way where I felt our assets were secure. The bank has all these signs that say “We’re here to help. To solve problems. Money at the touch of a button, at the end of a phone line.” I signed in to talk to the bank representative.

Clearly shaken by the pre-school set in his office, the man listened to my story and suggested I take my credit card to the teller, take out a cash loan from my card and use that to secure the necessary funds to prevent an overdraft that evening if the credit card made good on its promise. The interest would be 19.9% with a 4% transaction fee on top of that, meaning I could take out another loan on myself for a usury agreement to cover money I actually had until the bank agreed to let it go. “You don’t use a gun but…” I thought to myself and the tiny vindictive part of me was glad that my two girls had gone through three lollipops each and left the wrappers on their carpet. I privately hoped one of the suckers would get stuck to a wall or something. I left the bank and decided to call back the credit card company again.

This time, I got another woman and she said, “There have been several reports about your account. The change was put through.” And just like that, tragedy became comedy. Getting to the school for pick up, I visited with another mother telling her the whole story. She said, “You know, you made my day.” She’d in a hurry to get to her daughter’s pre-school because they charge 5 dollars a minute after the first ten minutes for pick up time and took a corner too quickly. My guess is they’re frustrated bankers. She showed me the side of her mini-van.

“I was worried about 25$.” She said.

The side of her door was crushed in at the bottom and unable to open. “Now, I have about a $2000.00 repair.”

“Did the pre-school still hit you with the fee?”

“No. And so I don’t mind the door as much.”

And I thought about all of it and how laughter is a state of profound grace that allows us to tolerate the intollerable, to endure suffering and struggling, minutia and big things with a poise that otherwise would not be possible.

Next time I'm going to laugh first. It's cheaper and way less stress.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Time for a Scary Story

There is one person on the planet who hates shopping for clothes more than me.

My daughter.

The trouble is, she's growing. She's already taller than me.

Uniforms have saved our relationship thus far but there will come a day when she needs an entire wardrobe and that will be trouble.

When we shop and granted, such times are rare, it is often at a catch all shop like Target or a department store like Macy's. Now I know her size and I know something of what would look good on her so I used to occasionally throw out a "That looks cute." to see if she was interested. This simple statement rendered whatever outfit had been singled out, unworthy to even merit a momentary glance.

In an attempt to get her to just look and try things on, I experimented with reverse psychology. I told her complimentary things about outfits I hated. Being an adolesent, she simply disagreed. She'd tell me why this outfit was stupid or that one was too short or too scratchy, there would be a litany of reasons but there was no way she'd even bother to try one on for size. Seeing as I hated the outfits myself, it was hard to argue with her logic.

Buying her outfits without her present meant I either put up with her not wearing it until she could hand it down for her sister, or she'd wear it but I'd know it caused deep psychological pain to be dressed thus.

But this past week, we had an occasion where she couldn't wear her school uniform or customary sporty look and as such, we HAD to go to the store. After handing her a few outfits and getting that aggrieved LOOK, I finally lay down the law. "You have to have something. You can't wear a basketball jersey for everything. These clothes are designed to look good on someone your age. They won't hurt you. It's not like I'm handing you a poisoned porcupine that will shoot quills and render you motionless from the toxins. Just try them on and say "Yes" or "No" and try on the ones you want."

"Poisoned porcupines?" She was smiling. A good sign. She took the clothing. A better sign. She came back to me with a stack of rejected and accepted.

We got a few outfits. Her clothing needs for the next few months had been abated. I was feeling pretty superior as a mother until she said those six little words that could strike true fear into my stout heart.

"Mom? I still need new shoes."

Friday, October 23, 2009

Where Have All the Smart People Gone?

Remember when Hollywood declared if Bush were elected the second time that they would leave the country? Not one of them even filed a change of address.

Now, with a record deficit and no end of spending in sight and congress lining up not to craft thoughtful policy that the American people as a whole can support, but to systemically demonize anyone who still dares to say they are Republican, watch anything other than MSNBC or think anything other than "Obama's the Greatest!" at all times, I have to ask the question.

Where are all the smart people?

We have CNN doing fact checks on SNL but not on itself. We have the speaker of the house saying things like "It's not a tax increase. We're eliminating a tax decrease." and Whoopi saying "It's not rape-rape." Chris Matthews says "I have to tell you, Rush Limbaugh is looking more and more like Mr. Big, and at some point somebody’s going to jam a CO2 pellet into his head and he’s going to explode like a giant blimp. That day may come. Not yet. But we’ll be there to watch." and Keith Olberman trashes people for blood, money and sport on a nightly basis. Meanwhile Gore Vidal fantasizes about murdering the 43rd president while on live television.

The current argument by the media elites and the White House and Congress is "Yeah but when Republicans ran the show..." Memo: If it was wrong then, it's wrong now too. Obama freezes out Fox News but points out Bush sometimes ignored MSNBC. Saying he did it first does not fly in my house with my children when they start hitting. Congress and the White House and the Press ought to be able to behave in a manner more civilized and mature than grade school students just after school who haven't had snack.

So I have to ask another question. Why are you folks so ticked off?

You guys WON. Your guy WON. Your Party WON. You control the house, the senate and the executive branch and 95% of the media outlets of the United States. (I can say that because the President said Fox isn't a media outlet) and most of the entertainment industry. You guys could write and have written bills that finance the analysis of radioactive rabbit waste and people who disagree can just get together and be annoyed.

Yet even this is considered "suspicious or fishy" behavior. Even just this kind of thinking sets off those in power to no end, declaring those who don't march in line or who "ask questions" are Nazis, fascists, teabaggers, racists, neanderthals, idiots, wingnuts and fanatics that are worse for the country than militant extremists who strap bombs on children with developmental delays to kill our military and anyone else who happens to be standing near by.

We're not going to leave the country or take our toys and go home. This nation has worked for 200+ years prior to this Congress and this President despite periods of great turmoil, economic hardship and seemily intractiable foes, prejudices and public injustices that seemed would never cease. Republicans and conservatives are part of this nation that has done all these great goods not just here but around the world just as surely as Democrats. History did not restart in 2009 with the touch of a button, we are all part of the ongoing story that is America and deserve better than to be accused of every evil under the sun because politically it is expedient to do so.

So we disagree with you. Big deal. We think your guy is making promises he can't and in some cases shouldn't keep and writing checks we can't ever cash. We aren't being treasonous. We disagree. We disagree strongly and we have reasons that have nothing to do with the earth being flat or the existence of dinosaurs or God. I thought smart people who did debate and drama in high school and college and who studied law understood that there were nuanced elements to every argument, validity to multiple points of view or was that mere smoke and mirrors?

To presume that the only ones with intellect or ideas worth considering are those posited by people with Ivy League degrees is the height of hubris. But I must be part of that stupid people that doesn't understand so please explain. You want to get things done I get, but don't you want to get them done well? Your own committees and constituencies are not misinformed, they're more informed than ever and what they've read and what they've learned, they don't like. Shouldn't that matter?

People aren't elected to Congress to rule, they're elected to represent.

By the same token, the President isn't elected to browbeat his political opposition; he's elected to lead and to govern the whole country, to hold the whole American people with greater respect than even they will have for him. A president who wishes to be historic and Presidential must have greater love for the people he represents, than the office he holds, and greater respect for the whole people he governs than the party that helped him win.

It's time for those in power to prove themselves worthy of their titles and their perks and privledges. It's not too late if the people in charge let go of their grudges. We have plenty of politicians and platitudes. What we need at this point, is substance and statesmen.

Viva La France!

Most of the time, when I get into bed at night immediately before crashing I think “uh-oh!” I’ve made a mistake. Why? Because I lay down which means things aren’t going to happen. All domestic tasks seem to require my presence to be done. The kids will do the dishes, but I have to stay in the room doing something else. They’ll help with laundry if I’m folding too. However, if the phone rings or nature calls or a child in another room needs assistance, the children conscripted into working rabbit out of my line of sight the instant they think I won’t notice in real time.

I’ve taken to preemptive warning shots. “I expect to find you here when I get back in two minutes…still working.” When they complain that I am a tyrant, I put my arm in my coat and say, “I AM Napoleon.” I've explained that everywhere the general went, there was victory. The problem, was everywhere the general wasn’t.

But today I looked at the paperwork, the work work and the housework that I’ve put off and off and off and off, and I know what time it is. It’s later. Like looking at the scale and knowing that TODAY, one must start a diet, it’s that later time when I should get to it. There’s one problem.

I don’t wanna.

Currently, at least 12 loads sit atop that eight foot long battlefield. It has begun to sag slightly in the middle like a worn out horse. There are six loads in the cue, one in the wash, one atop the dryer and one in, and 11 laundry baskets half full of folded stuff. And yet I wonder, how is it then that their drawers are full of clothing and yet everyone needs help getting dressed? Supply lines are always a problem for large armies. Napoleon faced such obstacles too, I wonder if his laundry tables were concave.

Doing the things on the later list rots. I don’t like diets, budgets, time managers, daily planners, to-do lists or even that much planning ahead. I don't shop for Christmas before Thanksgiving, I'm just that way.

So staring at the table hobbled with laundry, I came to the realization, I’m tired of doing all the jobs that no one else wants, of being the dutiful eater of leftovers and complicit flusher of toilets, sponger of messes, payer of bills and doer of the pots and pans and not the easy parts of any chore. I don’t mind creaming the butter but I'd like to pour in the chocolate chips occasionally. I don't want to be Napoleon anymore.

The Laundry is my Waterloo, and the basement, the whole Russian frontier. The blizzard of paperwork in the fall of 2009 doesn’t help either.

Looking at all the things to do, I have just one question.

How soon can I get exiled to Elba?

Tune in tomorrow when I rant about why there aren't 12 labors of HERcules. Answer: She's not finished yet.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Small Success Thursday

Participating in the three successes on Thursday at Family and Faith Live! today I must list three small victories over minutia that took place in the past seven days.

1) Managed to say the Rosary three days out of this week. One Glorious, One Sorrowful and one Luminous. Yeah, I missed out on Monday but I'm getting better at getting to it daily.

2) Worked out this week for 30 minutes. Only once, but once is once more than last week so again, it's progress.

3) Read to youngest five four days in a row. (Yes, there's a trend to all of this. Incrimental process of being present even when I'm tired, even when I don't want to).

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Meet Marcel LeJeune

Fallible Blogma has asked that Catholic Bloggers interview Catholic Speakers during the month of October. I wish I were more tech savy so I could just link the videos and set up a picture, but these are not my gifts so I've added the links at the end.

Now it was a great delight to discover a person I'd known as a kid has become a dynamic speaker about Christ to people across the country. We both grew up with parents who thought it was fun to hang out with college students and talk about God. At the Lamar University Newman Center, my folks and his helped run the weekend "Happening Team" retreats. There was much more to those Saturday Sunday retreats than the name would convey.

Apparently, Marcel still likes doing it because he now serves as the Assistant Director of Campus Ministry at Texas A&M at College Station, Texas.

Me: Marcel,
I'd like to interview you for the Catholic Blog Chain for the Month of October.
But first, I need to do some homework. Are there any talks that you've given that are online that I could watch so I could better form some questions. Or lecture notes that would serve the same purpose?

Marcel: You can check out my website. It will answer a lot of questions.

So first and foremost, I watched the clip he placed on his website illustrating his style and substance. Then I checked out his blog, his Facebook, and sent a few emails.

What I noticed in listening to his words was his fearlessness. Many Catholics I've known may be tigers with the written word but find it a bit awkward to evangelize even to a friendly audience. It just feels unusual and almost not Catholic. So I give kudos for being willing simply to speak out because witnessing what should be obvious, what should be universal in a public manner, takes guts.

Me: How did you get started providing Catholic talks?

Marcel: I started by teaching the faith and found I have a gift and a passion for doing so. I started getting requests to do talks at other parishes, events, conferences, etc. So, I jumped into doing more. I now am on several speaker bureaus, regularly do national radio shows, travel frequently, and I have a new book coming out in 2010.

Me: What do you hope people take away from your lectures?

Marcel: I hope that people are challenged to think deeply about Christ and the Church. The ultimate goal of every talk is to help impart the Holy Spirit in a deeper way and to seek the conversion of those who might hear me.

Me: You have five children, if you were crafting this lecture for them, what would you want put into it?

Marcel: I wouldn't change my talks for my kids. I want everyone to hear the Good News.

Me: And having seen his talk, despite having attended (admittedly for only 9 graduate credit hours, UT), I have to consider this school for my oldest son who is a junior, and give a hearty "Gig'em Aggies" Thumbs up.

You can contact Marcel LeJeune via his website or at or via his email,

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Rare by Sherry Antonetti

Rare by Sherry Antonetti

Posted using ShareThis

Rerun of the Mensa Chimps! (4-15-2008)

Don’t get me wrong, I love nature shows on television. My kids are fascinated by the stories on Discovery and National Geographic. We encourage them to learn about the creatures of this Earth and to be stewards of all creation.

But sometimes, I think the narrators are in serious need of an intervention.

We were watching a show on PBS called "Primates" as told by a British researcher and nature hottie as she traipsed through the jungle in New Guinea and later in Matagascar to document the lives of various primates. One expects the researcher to love her subject. I can’t imagine braving the sub-topical heat, countless bugs, assorted necessary vaccinations and physical deprivations required of this type of research, unless one was in love with the subject matter.

However, this babe’s breathless descriptions of the various creatures and their habits and habitat paralleled that of the type of fan that is normally issued a restraining order.

In her first segment on orangutans, she was attempting to describe how these creatures move from limb to limb on a tree without suffering injury or breaking the branches.

"Careful judgment is called for, the orangutan must determine not simply the weight of the branches, but also the amount of force to be applied while taking into consideration his own weight. These calculations would be difficult even for a human." she whispered as we viewed said calculating primate move from branch to branch with nary a slide ruler.

Who knew orangutans could rival the engineers at MIT?

Still, the critters were pretty interesting so I watched the next segment on chimpanzees. As we viewed the "thoughtful stoic faces" of a family at peace with the world, she talked of how these chimps would sit for hours contemplating the world around them and showed footage of the chimps staring out at the jungle.

“Perhaps most startling about these pensive creatures is their sense of awe at nature.” She offered as she hiked to a local waterfall. “These chimps perform this same ritual every time they come to the waterfall.” The chimp on film is jumping from one side to the other in a zig zag pattern. “They do this whether they are alone or in a pack.” The footage shows the same chimp zigzagging with others over the waterfall. “This celebration of the water could be some form of ritual, signifying the higher awareness of the chimps, their sense of beauty, of wonder at the majesty of nature.”

She paused to look at the waterfall thoughtfully and then mentally went over the edge. “It could be their expression of essentially what for us would be religion.” The image of the waterfall blurred on the camera and the scene faded to black.

Following the religious chimps, she then took us with a war party from the same colony who set out to defend their territory. "The attack is brutal, unexpected, viscous and sends a clear message. But perhaps who are we to judge?" she posits as we are left with the shocking image of four angry chimps mauling a fifth for not showing due deference to their territory. Maybe the waterfall was a form of confession.

After the monkish monkeys, the film crew took us to an Amazon Utopia, where Pygmy chimps used sex as the dominant means of controlling behavior. Women (note not females) ruled the roost and over aggressive males were pacified with "a quickie." Also unique amongst this "chimp culture" was the use of tools and the occasional decision to walk on two legs instead of hunched over on four. The use of tools and the fact that some were left handed as versus right indicated "imagination, creativity, problem solving, intelligence and a sub culture." This particular cluster of chimps had determined how to open a kind of nut rich in protein that other chimp families could not open by using stones. More advanced than others, they had formed a chimp charter Mensa organization.

Though not the first to anthropromorphise the creatures she studied, I couldn’t bring myself to not see how far she would take it.

The silver back gorillas in Rwanda were obviously the grand prize of her documentary and she had us follow her through the bush to their territory, where the whole clan was having a "siesta." Seated less than five feet from one of the gorillas, she talked about these gentle giants that are so closely related to us, showing shots of the "children playing," the adults lovingly grooming, and others enjoying a well earned rest. I had to wonder, what exactly fatigues a gorilla, I mean besides nosy documenting film crews and the ongoing feud between the sex amazon monkeys, Mensa Chimps and religious sect.

When they woke from their rest, the lead silverback "sensibly" led them away from the camera but two adolescent males stayed behind as a rear guard and to "show off for the camera." She said. One knocked over a tree and thumped his chest. The second dragged the tree over to him and then went over and lightly tapped the intruding narrator on her back with his foot. She beamed with pleasure at having been brought into the game. "I’ve just been kicked by a gorilla!" she grinned impishly at the camera as though it had caught her first kiss. The second adolescent male, not to be outdone, charged at her and knocked her over before the behind the scenes guide could chase him off. She turned to the camera, breathless and hardly missing a beat, "Who knows what he might have tried if the guide hadn’t driven him off?"

After the sex chimp colony, I was certain I didn’t want to know.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Extreme Parenting

The Balloon Parents have landed.

Forgive me if I want to look away, to somehow allow these children to hold onto a family that for all its flaws, is theirs and thus entitled despite the parents attempts otherwise, to a bit of safeguarding. I would seek to shelter this family from its worst impulses, and to use this unfortuante incident to allow child protective services not to take away these children, but to investigate and ensure the long term health and stability and safety and security of this whole family.

The arm chair pundits have prepared for the ultimate drama of watching children be removed from a home. We should not be wishing such a public blow up on anyone, even a person who believes in UFO's, chases storms and now has finally caught the noteriety he so craved and found it far more dangerous than any of the real or imagined monsterous realities he sought.

As painful and frightening as watching a homemade weather balloon drift 8000 feet in the air possibly carrying a six year old was, watching a homemade television tornado destroy a whole family publically and probably permanently, is worse.

We've known trophy kids for years, children who are immersed in activities done more for show than tell, more for the awards and accolades and prestige than the joy of movement, pleasure from the experience or benefits of a skill. Competitive parenting has always existed in the fields of academics, athletes and the arts. Sometimes it was kid driven, but more often than not, there was a grown up reliving Glory days that never were, or dreaming for their child.

We have witnessed the fruit of that unhealthy impulse in this family. But they are a product of a society that seems committed to the demise of leisure. When we measure down time in billable moments, not allowing for dullness, we are not taking a break but announcing our change in schedule. Vacations ought to include times when one learns to entertain one's self and others, (road trips), rather than a spin of perpetual enrichment exercises that make for good photo-ops and bragging postcards, twitters and the like, squeezed in-between isolatory moments of self indulgent individualized entertainment. We are becoming islands within our own families with the iPods and DVD’s and game boys that mean the only human contact is the occasional demand for batteries or a bathroom break.

Even camping has become something that must include a Face book worthy posting quality, a blog about being along the Appalachian Trail, a green awareness epiphany or a Zen moment of clarity about one's future job. We should be praying for moments that are not definable by praise or appreciation from others in our lives and seeking them. All of life is not blog, twitter, face book, IM, text or YouTube worthy.

So read a story to a child not because it will improve their test scores but because you think they'll like the book. Brush their hair and put in the ribbons if they love them, even if they don't match. Allow an older one to take a break from studying even if there's more time, and break out the Rock Band. The pseudo accomplishments of play that aren't taken seriously have serious benefits that no ribbons, trophies or public "Like this" thumbs up can match. Play for fun. Write for fun. Create a hearth out of your home and do all the things you do, because you would do them even without the A's, without the accolades.

Life is not just about showing up, but about being present. Not about being noticed, but noticing others.

There are places where it is easy to see the creative heart of God. For some, it is in their children’s eyes. For others, it is found in hiking trails and breathing in the smells of a hardwood forest or on the ocean surrounded by the sheer force and energy and beauty of the sky and water. We are called to come to the mass and find Christ in our midst, and to learn see Him present with us in all our sufferings and in all our joys. We are called to come and be present and learn how to be present to others. Because ultimately, what creates childhood memories, what creates dreams and drives are not all the extra classes or ultimate experiences, but the times of everyday, the little touches and something extras that made the ordinary time sacred.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Mom's First Meal

Yesterday the kids had a case of the SLOWS in the morning, meaning even though they wear the same outfits every day, three of them needed directives about their attire. One sat looking at a lifeless television screen, as if willing it to begin entertaining. Turning off the cable box had thwarted the plans to watch cartoons but she still watched the television machine itself.

Putting a blanket over the TV, I explained that after years and years of going to the same school and wearing a uniform, getting dressed should not require much thought.

When my son came down with his shirt inside out and poorly buttoned, I revised my prior statement. It still requires SOME.

A second child came down in her pj's and sat in a chair, imitating the older one's actions. Annoyed at having a follower, the first child snapped, "You can't just sit down in the morning and mope and do nothing."

When I pointed out she was doing the same thing, her response was, "Well, I was doing it first! She's copying me."

You know how baby ducks imprint on whatever they see first and imitate that creature's behavior. Well, I keep wondering what impression I must have left all those years ago. Perhaps there was a flat screen tv in the delivery room that I missed that they mistook for me.

Now we were getting to crunch time. Five kids needed lunch made. Five kids needed breakfast. Having collected the socks for all those going to school, I spied a daughter working in the kitchen. The stove was on and a pot boiling. Cooking???? in the morning???? "What are you making?"

"Pasta for lunch."
Meaning she didn't like any of the lunch meats available for sandwiches and since they've outlawed peanutbutter, I get early morning dinner dishes.

So I turned to breakfast and began working the toaster. Two waffles. Two waffles. Two waffles. Two waffles...out of about raisin bread. There are three slices left. Two slices of raisin bread. Butter, butter, no butter, only butter, butter. Syrup. Syrup. Syrup. Syrup...oops. That was the only butter. A child cries. I have defiled his waffles. He agrees to swap out for the raisin bread.

The other child is okay with the substitution but begins picking all the raisins out. I give her plain toast with butter and put the plate of refused raisin toast at the table for the toddler set who have yet to dine. The younger toddler refuses raisin toast and pounds the de-raisined raisin toast with her fist. The older preschooler decides since the first refused to follow suit.

Why can't anyone "copy" me in something like making a bed, doing dishes or wiping a table instead of watching a dead television set, sitting and moping or pounding the daylights out of a perfectly fine before buttered piece of breakfast?

And so it was that around 8:30, when the baby and both daughters not in school had finally finished eating and been dressed for the day, that Mom finally got her first meal of the day. You guessed it, the Raisin Bread rejected by everyone else.

Only Mom can manage to get leftovers before 9 a.m. But now I know why no one copies me.

Small Successes

Over at Family and Faith, a favorite website, they have a weekly game of "Small successes." You write up three things that happened that were a success and post them on Thursday. So here goes:

1) Edited the first 100 pages of my WIP (work in progress), "The Book of Helen." It gives me no excuses for not pressing forward.

2) Got twelve hours of sleep on Monday. (Granted I was sick but Whohoo! I felt great the next day).

3) Read two books that have sat on my nightstand for several months. "The Alchemist" and "The Giver." Now I have to find "Lavinia."

Man that felt good. Think I'll start on next week's list now by getting to work on exercising, reading to kids and getting hair cuts today.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Today a friend lost her daughter to cancer.

My friend has as a gift in her parenting, the ability to be fully present to her children in all moments. That sort of focus and concentration comes and goes for me and often requires more discipline of will from my heart than I want to give. If a parent can approach the pending death of a child in a holy manner, my friend did. She was funny and frustrated and fought all the way and still, ultimately, she had to surrender so much along the way about what her daughter would hold in her future, and finally, she had to offer her daughter up at the foot of the cross and so she did.

There is a shell I sometimes pour over myself on what must be a daily basis to be sure I won't be cracked open and made to feel too much, but suffering shatters that quickly. So does love. So does grace.

I forget this all the time. Today things were not easy but I kept my tongue I hope more because I was caught up short, reminded that today is precious. My solace is that even though I know I will in some cases fail and fail and fail again, I must follow the example of my friend. I have to trust that when God keeps hammering at me, it is to shatter the walls I put up.

So when my four year old daughter came down in her best Christmas dress to eat waffles with butter and syrup, in memory of her daughter and in imitation of my friend,(I winced inside) but let it go. It wasn't easy but in retrospect, it should have been.

It was a long day filled with both the profound and the mundane mixed together in the same moments.

When the bathroom had an unexplained puddle and the kids played spagetti wigs with their lunch while I was fixing mine, requiring yet another shower, it was hard not to feel frustrated and laugh at the same time. There was at least three servings of angle hair on the floor and that's just murderously hard to pick up even with a 12.5 gallon 4.5 horsepower shop vac.

But today there were also momentary victories, like doing yoga with a toddler attached to the ankle. She spent the work out giggling as I tried to lift my leg.

My seven, five, four and two year old decided to begin water color painting at 5:30 in the afternoon. There is a stack of pictures next to the pan where I burnt dinner. Now I see I should have joined in the fun, and then the burnt rice and chicken at least wouldn't have been an accident.

I didn't get to read, to finish the laundry and I still don't feel motivated to tackle the burnt pots from dinner. But a friend has surrendered her child to forever and so it seems terribly petty to be irritated at anything and yet it happens.

Trusting God, shutting one's eyes to the world so one can take care of souls is hard. I'm not sure I could get out on the ocean, but I know if we believe, really believe, then we are called to run towards the star at the stable, run towards the Christ on the water, run towards the Crucified Jesus on Calvary and run to the tomb to discover Him ressurected.

So hug your family. Pray for your friends. Forgive yourself for your foibles with all the little things that pile up daily and allow yourself be cracked open a bit more. Most importantly, thank God for all the gifts that are gratis today.

Random Thoughts from a Friend

This is a list from a dear friend of mine. She has more, I edited down to 50. Enjoy.
random thoughtsShare
Thursday, September 17, 2009 at 6:08pm
*Random thoughts...* by Shelley Colquitt

1. -I wish Google Maps had an "Avoid dodgy section of town" routing option.

2. -More often than not, when someone is telling me a story all I can think about is that I can't wait for them to finish so that I can tell my own story that's not only better, but also more directly involves me.

3. -Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realize you're wrong.

4. -I don't understand the purpose of the line, "I don't need to drink to have fun." Great, no one does. But why start a fire with flint and sticks when they've invented the lighter?

5. -Have you ever been walking down the street and realized that you're going in the complete opposite direction of where you are supposed to be going? But instead of just turning a 180 and walking back in the direction from which you came, you have to first do something like check your watch or phone or make a grand arm gesture and mutter to yourself to ensure that no one in the surrounding area thinks you're crazy by randomly switching directions on the sidewalk.

6. -I totally take back all those times I didn't want to nap when I was younger.

7. -Is it just me, or are 80% of the people in the "people you may know" feature on Facebook people that I do know, but I deliberately choose not to be friends with?

8. -Do you remember when you were a kid, playing Nintendo and it wouldn't work? You take the cartridge out, blow in it and that would magically fix the problem. Every kid in America did that, but how did we all know how to fix the problem? There was no internet or message boards or FAQ's. We just figured it out. Today's kids are soft.

9.-There is a great need for sarcasm font.

10.-Sometimes, I'll watch a movie that I watched when I was younger and suddenly realize I had no idea what the heck was going on when I first saw it.

11.-I think everyone has a movie that they love so much, it actually becomes stressful to watch it with other people. I'll end up wasting 90 minutes shiftily glancing around to confirm that everyone's laughing at the right parts, then making sure I laugh just a little bit harder (and a millisecond earlier) to prove that I'm still the only one who really, really gets it.

12.-How the hell are you supposed to fold a fitted sheet?

13.-I would rather try to carry 10 plastic grocery bags in each hand than take 2 trips to bring my groceries in.

14.I think part of a best friend's job should be to immediately clear your computer history if you die.

15.-The only time I look forward to a red light is when Im trying to finish a text.

16.Was learning cursive really necessary?

17.Lol has gone from meaning, "laugh out loud" to "I have nothing else to say".

18.I have a hard time deciphering the fine line between boredom and hunger.

19.Answering the same letter three times or more in a row on a Scantron test is absolutely petrifying.

20. Municipal League baseball team is named the Stepdads. Seeing as none of the guys on the team are actual stepdads, I inquired about the name. He explained, "Cuz we beat you, and you hate us." Classy, bro.

21.Whenever someone says "I'm not book smart, but I'm street smart", all I hear is "I'm not real smart, but I'm imaginary smart".

22.How many times is it appropriate to say "What?" before you just nod and smile because you still didn't hear what they said?

23.I love the sense of camaraderie when an entire line of cars teams up to prevent a jerk from cutting in at the front. Stay strong, brothers!

24.Every time I have to spell a word over the phone using 'as in' examples, I will undoubtedly draw a blank and sound like a complete idiot.

25.-What would happen if I hired two private investigators to follow each other?

26.While driving yesterday I saw a banana peel in the road and instinctively swerved to avoid it...thanks Mario Kart.

27.MapQuest really needs to start their directions on #5. Pretty sure I know how to get out of my neighborhood.

28.I find it hard to believe there are actually people who get in the shower first and THEN turn on the water.

29.-Shirts get dirty. Underwear gets dirty. Pants? Pants never get dirty, and you can wear them forever.

30.-I can't remember the last time I wasn't at least kind of tired.

31.Bad decisions make good stories

32.-If Carmen San Diego and Waldo ever got together, their offspring would probably just be completely invisible.

33.-Why is it that during an ice-breaker, when the whole room has to go around and say their name and where they are from, I get so incredibly nervous? Like I know my name, I know where I'm from, this shouldn't be a problem...

34.-You never know when it will strike, but there comes a moment at work when you've made up your mind that you just aren't doing anything productive for the rest of the day.

35.-Can we all just agree to ignore whatever comes after DVDs? I don't want to have to restart my collection.

36.-There's no worse feeling than that millisecond you're sure you are going to die after leaning your chair back a little too far.

37.-I'm always slightly terrified when I exit out of Word and it asks me if I want to save any changes to my ten page research paper that I swear I did not make any changes to.

38."Do not machine wash or tumble dry" means I will never wash this ever.

39.-I hate being the one with the remote in a room full of people watching TV. There's so much pressure. 'I love this show, but will they judge me if I keep it on? I bet everyone is wishing we weren't watching this. It's only a matter of time before they all get up and leave the room. Will we still be friends after this?'

40.-I hate when I just miss a call by the last ring (Hello? Hello? Dammit!), but when I immediately call back, it rings nine times and goes to voicemail. What'd you do after I didn't answer? Drop the phone and run away?

41.I hate leaving my house confident and looking good and then not seeing anyone of importance the entire day. What a waste..

42.-I like all of the music in my iTunes, except when it's on shuffle, then I like about one in every fifteen songs in my iTunes.

43. As a driver I hate pedestrians, and as a pedestrian I hate drivers, but no matter what the mode of transportation, I always hate cyclists.

44.-Sometimes I'll look down at my watch 3 consecutive times and still not know what time it is.

45.-I keep some people's phone numbers in my phone just so I know not to answer when they call.

46.-Even if I knew your social security number, I wouldn't know what do to with it.

47.-Even under ideal conditions people have trouble locating their car keys in a pocket, hitting a baseball, and Pinning the Tail on the Donkey - but Id bet my last nickle everyone can find and push the Snooze button from 3 feet away, in about 1.7 seconds, eyes closed, first time every time...

48.-My friends 4-year old son asked her in the car the other day "mom what would happen if you ran over a ninja?" How does one respond to that?

49.-I wonder if cops ever get ticked off at the fact that everyone they drive behind obeys the speed limit.

50.-I disagree with Kay Jewelers. I would bet on any given Friday or Saturday night more kisses begin with Miller Lites than Kay.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Show Me

The Town hall meetings, the endless discussion and cycle of arguments from the left and the right have left us right where we started, with multiple bills none of which are the one which will be signed into law. Thus the Congressional Budget Office can declare the proposed bill to cost ONLY $829 billion over 10 years and that it would lower the deficit by $81 billion by cutting costs in Medicare payments, taxing insurance plans deemed too expensive and not providing coverage to 25 million of the currently uninsured.

But if health care is a right not to be withheld for moral reasons, the 25 million left out in the cold by this proposal are unjustly singled out. If healthcare is designed to ensure no one suffers from a lack of coverage, then isn’t the extra value added tax to higher end plans going to discourage people from getting the coverage they perhaps need? If Medicare payments are cut, who will make up the difference for the doctors? The patients who rely on Medicare? The doctors? These are not partisan hack questions, they are serious ones. Even proponents of the healthcare bills in all its forms do not seriously believe that increasing spending by instituting a new government entitlement will result in a deficit reduction without draconian cuts in other areas that may not be possible.

We keep hearing how unjust insurance companies are for saying “No.” but the government by paying pennies on the dollars to doctors, also says “No.” and in a substantial way. What are the protections for the patients, the doctors and the tax payers who in this circumstance absorb all the risks the insurance companies once handled. What will be covered? What won’t? And Why? Who decides? Will the government pay for a Down syndrome child to have open heart surgery the way my insurance did for my son? Will it pay for others home health care the way insurance did for my grandmother when she suffered the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease? Will it take care of a child who faces down death nightly because of an extremely rare condition that causes her autonomic functions to shut down when she sleeps? Will it pay for the medications my friend who is on her third kidney at the age of 43 because of Juvenal diabetes needs? Will it pay for a tenth pregnancy the way it pays for a first should such a thing happen? These are real and difficult situations I know of that insurance companies have handled. Will the government do the same?

As tax payers, we need to know what our government is proposing to do in creating this new added on value program that will seek to address real and pressing needs.

We can’t simply trust the government just because the government says “Trust us.” even if we have the belief that the current administration’s goals are purely benign. We can’t know that if the bill won’t be seen or read until it reaches the President’s desk after being reconciled in committee. We’d like the chance to see the bill, critique it, criticize it and ask real questions that need real answers not because we fear change or wish the poor to die quickly and decrease the surplus population, or because we wish people to suffer or society to be divided into the haves and have nots. We’d like to examine the bill because at 1000 pages each in its multiple draft forms, there is a lot to digest and not all of it is good and much of it gives cause for serious concern. The bill put on the President’s desk ought to represent more than the machinations of a few cherry picked legislators if it is going to count on the economic support of all the American people.

Insulting those who want answers like why the number of people affected keeps shifting and what the coverage provided by the government will cover, calling those who show up unpatriotic, racists, bigots, xenophobes, Neanderthals, tea baggers and idiots –to name only the polite terms used, does not constitute argument or legitimate discussion of legitimate issues. Nor does such ungenerous rhetoric by those in power engender trust or the presumption of benign motivations in the minds of people asking the questions. The American people deserve better from their elected leaders, the elected leaders’ surrogates and the press. Trust is a two way street. Show us the bill. Make your case to the American people based on factual issues rather than political posturing.

We may not love everything. We may object, but surely we can be trusted to look at what you have created rather than simply take it. If you want us to trust you with our healthcare and our tax money for the greater good, trust us with the bill, warts and all. Stop hiding behind insults and protocol and spin. Show us the real bill before it becomes law because it’s the right thing to do whether or not it is the prudent political thing to do.

Calling in Sick allowed Others to be Present

Yesterday I crashed.

It had been a big and long weekend what with the festival and the National Shrine for mass on Sunday and by the end of Monday, midway through softball practice after band, my body said or rather screamed, "STOP!" I was sick. My stomach felt as if it were in complete revolution and every bone ached. Praying I wouldn't throw up, I called my husband at work and simultaneously ordered my seven year old to fetch her two sisters from the baseball field to return to the car.

We stopped at a grocery store and I let the two older girls run in for snacks and a few supplies I knew we needed while I moaned in the car hoping to get home. The kids patted my shoulder and asked how I was doing. They kept the radio songs a coming all the drive home making sure I at least felt peppy because of the music.

By the time I reached our front door, my husband was cooking dinner and the two sons I'd left at home had started the laundry. My oldest daughter who had been struggling with the pervasive angst that is being an adolescent, came in and read to me until I fell asleep. My husband got to rock his youngest son and tuck all the littles into bed. My oldest four worked together to fold the clothes.

The touches included making lunches and a table wiped by a solicitous five year old.

This morning, they'd done the dishes and helped get us all out the door, business as usual. Yet it wasn't. The little things added up to my feeling healthy if only because of all the unexpected care.

"You okay Mom?" my two year old punched my thigh as if to will it so. Because I scooped up my youngest to feed him breakfast without answering my daughter's question, she punched me again. Caught in her sincere stare, I murmurred, "Mom's okay." She sighed a relieved smile and went over to grab her baby doll.

I still don't feel it's safe to eat, but it's hard to feel awful when wrapped in such love. Mom's okay.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Applying for a New Position

In this economy, every organization is looking to cut corners. Washington DC is no different than the rest of the nation. Now I am a patriot so I sympathize with the municipality in its thirst to trim budgets, spend less and get more for every dollar. As such, I am willing to make this sacrifice for the good of my family and the beltway crowd.

I will take on managing the Nationals, the Wizards and the Washington Redskins for the low low price of $400,000.00. I know I have no experience with coaching, with professional baseball, basketball or football but that wouldn't really matter. If I screwed up, I promise to let them fire me but they'd pay less for the same results.

Let's look at the hard stats.

The Nats: 59 wins, 103 losses. It's possible someone lacking baseball know how could rack up a worse record than the pro parasites currenty coaching but they'd have to be truely dedicated. Maybe management could have a fan appreciation day and let the 15,000th fan be coach for the day. It might improve attendance. The team might even get to the 15,000th fan. While batting 300 is a success in the major leagues, having a .341 winning percentage isn't.

The Wizards: In the 2008-2009 season, these guys racked up 19 wins and 63 losses. This is the stuff of legend. Statistically winning only 22% of the season, one wonders if it isn't just time to chuck it all and invite the President and all his men to come in and suit up. I hear they've got game and clearly these guys don't.

Redskins: They're only 2 and 4, but this was the easy part of the schedule, the seven years of bumper crop time. What do we have to show for it? We beat the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay has no wins, and the 'Skins beat them. Yeah us. The other team we beat, the also winless Saint Louis Rams. Before anyone gets too excited because we at least beat those two teams, the Lions who hadn't won since 2007, ended that streak against the Redskins. We gave hope to Detroit. 'Nuff said.

I promise to do as badly by taking naps in the dugout, blogging during practices and reading to my toddlers during training. All three teams will be in lousy condition, they will have no battle plan for the 2 minute drill, coming out of a fast break or to address the hapless fielding, sleepy bats and poor base running. Things will be no different than things are now, except, it will cost a lot less.

I'll be waiting by the phone expecting a call any day now.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Why I Took On the Fall Festival

"Sherry, you're nuts but in a nice kind of way." a friend said who agreed to provide baked goodies for tomorrow. I get that a lot.

So I thought, given that the event will happen and things have finally slowed down a bit, I'd explain how it is that a mother of nine took on planning a festival for 400 or hopefully, a lot more.

In 2008, I learned I was pregnant with our ninth child and honestly sat for a month and a half asking God why again, rather than giving thanks. It wasn't my proudest moment as a human being, let alone a mother.

Then we found out our youngest had Down’s Syndrome and nine children seemed suddenly like a walk in the park by comparison with facing an unknown "permanent" as one woman called it, handicapping condition. We were offered unbearable options. Then we learned our son in addition to everything else, had a heart condition that would need a major operation to correct some time after birth. Suddenly Down’s Syndrome seemed a cakewalk to staring down open heart surgery on a newborn. As I said at the time, any sentence containing the words "needs open heart surgery" in it, was a bad sentence.

So we progressed through the pregnancy but it was hard. There was a quiet in my mind that wasn't a happy quiet or a peaceful one. I knew I needed to reenter the world. The principal of our school talked of needing a chair for the Fall Festival and I felt as if a rope had been tossed with which to pull myself out of my dark heart full of feelings so I grabbed on tight.

Last year, the Fall Festival was wonderful and amazing and funny. The only person who used the first aid was me, and that was to lie down and rest, being ten days post-partum. This year, approaching it without the aid of Percocet or compulsory naps, it's a bit more daunting but that same rope has kept me discovering new people and pushed me to be more open to the community that demands all of us be cracked open, the Church.

To set this feast for all who attend the school and all who use the parish is a great privilege and to know all the men and women who have put in the hours to help bring it to being is also a great honor. I only hope it succeeds enough to further the cause of the school and secure a spot as a tradition that will grow and grow until it becomes a generational experience of being part of Saint Martin's.

The Fall Festival is a rare opportunity for the families of this school and Parish to come together to play. I hope it is a time when all of the faculty, staff, parents, children and parishioners can forget themselves in the timelessness of simple games and good food in good company and next year, I hope we can expand it so it goes until 4. Then we could all clean up and close with a bilingual mass.

Because all of these people are united beyond the barriers of school/parish, immigrant/citizen, English speaking and other, in our stewardship of our families and by our love of what the whole Parish is about, the Eucharist, our Faith, our Church.

So that's why. And yes, I also love it so I'm a bit crazy, but in a good sort of way.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

OVER Rated clap clap clap clap clap

My writing habit began with my father's suggestion that I write out my frustrations about potty training. It lead to a book of stories, "THE POTTY WARS." Since its inceception, I've added two more chapters revealing just how impossible this task remains for me in parenting. Two more children have made it to the point of no return but given my poor track record, I recognize I must jump when the opportunity beckons no matter how painful.

Monday, my two oldest girls have softball practice. It's already a full day with school and afterschool band, meaning I am throwing dinner together some time after 7 and homework is done in the car and anywhere I can persuade someone to sit down with a paper and pencil. Mondays are nightmares.

The plus side is I get to (while the weather is pleasant) take all my children not playing softball to a very nice playground. There are slides and rock walls and balance beams and monkey bars and everyone down to the baby (who happily pats the leaves and rolls in the grass) enjoys the break in the action.

Last week, the play time was cut short when a child needed to use the facilities which necessitated rounding up six children of varing degrees of willingness and marshalling them all to the oposite side of the field to the open school enterance and the boy and girl bathrooms. People were understandably upset.

So this week, trying to prevent such a catastrophe, I pre-emptively took everyone to the restrooms before going to the playground. Feeling like "Haha, you smart mommy you, now we can enjoy this experience," I fearlessly left the stroller in the car to be less burdened by things as we played.

Ten minutes of pure playground induced bliss and my son is dancing in his pants. I consider my options. "Use a tree." I offered. He readily complied while I winced at contributing to the crassness of my son but the memory of dragging two toddlers, one baby and two very irritated older siblings along so he could use the potty last time overrode the civility protocols.

Ten more minutes pass.

My son returns, doing a different dance.
"What's wrong?"
"I need to go." He says meaningfully.
"You just went." I'm impatient, he'd been annoying his sister by following her and her friend and I thought this was just another ploy.

"Can I use the tree for this?" and he points to his posterior.

I began collecting toddlers.

Dragging five unhappy people to satisfy one feels like bad math but by the time we get there, everyone else has decided, "Now that I'm here..." including my two year old who wears diapers. "Go potty Mom." I thought it was a command. "ME." she pointed at her chest. If this had been my first, second, even my fifth, I probably would have done a back hand spring, high fived and spent the next few minutes hearing the Halleluiah chorus.

But she's my 8th, and I'm holding my ninth. I can't help her on the potty if I'm holding a baby. "But you wear diapers." I try.

She insists that she needs to go. Steeling myself with the chide, "You can't ignore this or else you deserve another year of Huggies." I slung the baby onto one hip and one arm disrobed her. Using that same arm like a crane, I hoisted her up and onto the potty. It sounds much more seamless than it was. I waited expectantly, almost wanting praise for my part in the matter.

She sits and looks at me and after a moment narrows her eyes. "Go away Mom." she orders. "Shut the door."

I go out and wash my hands one at a time, shifting the happy squirmy baby, wondering how I'll diaper her back up. She then calls me to see that she has done nothing.

Potty training. "OVER-rated! Clap clap clap clap clap."

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Lost in My Vista

Back in the caveman days when I took “computer programming” in high school, it was considered a peripheral elective and I remember finding everything I learned in the one credit course to be utterly baffling. I could do the Start:Msdos: If A=(10-1) Then stuff that made the screen flash a message after two minutes but I had no idea why this was useful other than when the kids who got it rigged a program to flash a screen thirty minutes into a very dull lecture by Sr. T as she was known but not to her face, “God calling Sr. T, come in Sr. T.” It was sophomoric humor at its finest, but then we were sophomores.

For a time, I kept pace with the machines. Back in the 90’s, I even installed a modem to allow for faster internet access, something my husband considered an unnecessary luxury. We added a new sound blaster so we could better play “Masters of Orion,” and gradually added more memory chips, feeling rather like mechanics as we would unscrew the back of the case and insert chips. Our high water mark was the attempt to install a new processor, only to learn that SX at the end of a computer model meant the chips was unmovable. I would have preferred to discover this fact before we had removed the casing and unplugged multiple memory chips as part of the pre-op to installation.

The planned obsolescence in technology is nothing new. 8-tracks gave way to tapes which gave way to CD’s. Floppies became 3 ½ inch disc, became zip drives and usb ports and cd’s. Somewhere inbetween Dial up and DSL and Broadband and Wireless, I got left behind.

It seems every day, my computer needs some sort of upgrade though I haven’t the foggiest idea what the machine is tinkering with as it tells me very politely but emphatically not to shut down as it makes corrections. Maybe if the language used by the computer were more user friendly…like, “If you run this program, the entire system will self destruct.” Installing updates for programs so often, I have to wonder, what exactly are we fixing? Do I have a choice? It feels like I’m being given medication prescriptions without a diagnosis. The machine seemed happy and working before and seems no different now.

Now my brother lives and thrives by his management of computers. He can get all these things and bypass stuff. He gets binary code. I wonder why I’d want to. For a time, I viewed techies as the modern day equivalent of Mideval alchemists, hording secret knowledge, sometimes not entirely accurate or valuable and able to live well off the general public’s ignorance.

Having chalked up my 100$ for the restoration of my computer from a virus and preservation of all my documents, I feel a chastened awe at this profession, if only because I’d hate to lose all the stuff over the years I’ve written. My lappie is back in my possession and working. I don’t know what they did and I frankly don’t care. So I’m guessing I’m just like one of those peasants, that ignorance in this case really is bliss. The alchemists said their incantations and my machine got better so it must have been because of them.

Content to remain steeped in my ignorance, I will now begin crafting words once again and hope that the pumpkins I carved and put on the doorstep, ward off the evil spirits but I’ve uploaded a new security virus scanning program and installed a back up hard drive, just in case.

Friday, October 2, 2009

You Keep Using those Words...I do not think they mean what you think they mean.

The song "Isn't it Ironic?" isn't, but the fact that it isn't, is. This week, the theme as been, ironic quotes by people of power, influence and celebrity status who theoretically know better.

Michelle Obama: Thursday morning, Mrs. Obama thanked fellow Chicagoan Oprah Winfrey for joining her in the Olympic pitch saying: "We dropped everything — dropped everything — to be a part of this team." Praising the team work, the first lady said: "As much of a sacrifice as people say this is for me or Oprah or the president to come for these few days," the team has been working for years."

Who says getting a luxury lobbying trip to Copenhagen is a sacrifice? I want to know.

Documentary film director Michael Moore, who has become a millionaire thanks to the profits from his movies, told that “capitalism did nothing” for him.

Given his feelings, I won't torchure his soul by adding to his fortune via a purchase of movie tickets.

Whoopi Goldberg on "The View" offered a spirited if insane defense of Polanski by suggesting that whatever he was guilty of it wasn't "rape-rape".

Right! It was statuatory rape and child molestation and drug date rape.

Harvy Weinstein (circulating a petition for clemency or rather, no consequence) for Polanski engaging in a bit of odd reasoning. Weinstein said that people generally misunderstand what happened to Polanski at sentencing. He's not convinced public opinion is running against the filmmaker and dismisses the categorization of Hollywood as amoral. "Hollywood has the best moral compass, because it has compassion." He bases this on the fact that they did fund raising in wake of Katrina and the tsunamis.

Memo to Weinstein: moral rightness in one area of life does not erase moral bankruptcy in another.

And then finally, not to be out done, the Vice President Joe Biden say, "In my wildest dreams, I never thought it would work this well." talking about the stimulus package.

Res ispa loquitur. (The thing speaks for itself).

Leaving a comment is a form of free tipping. But this lets me purchase diet coke and chocolate.

If you sneak my work, No Chocolate for You!