Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Problem with Sublimation

Lent is supposed to be a holy time. Only two weeks old, my children have found ways to game the Lenten system. One son was being especially irritating to his sister. When I asked why he kept trying to provoke her when she'd decided to offer up her annoyance with him as part of observing Lent, he responded, "Mom, I'm just helping her with her Lenten promise." Another has helpfully marked all the "days off" on the calendar. A third has opted for a legalistic interpretation, indicating that he need not put himself out too much for Lent just yet. As one of his first two spiritual teachers, I over ruled, "You have to at least try something." but I understand and even sympathize.

I keep pointing out that Lent is hard.  I've asked them for help with my resolution.  Happy to comply with the opportunity to correct Mom,  I've had to freely acknowledge when they've pointed out, "I know I'm not following my resolution. I know it." and smile with my gritting teeth. Correction does not come easy for me, even sublimating the rest of the thought, the "yeah but" part of the phrase that follows in my head after being rightly called on my grouchiness requires a lot of wrestling.

Lent is hard in the way that exercise is hard, it is hard when we do it, while we're doing it, and equally irritating when we fail to do it because we have no one to blame for our failure but ourselves. For the better part of a year, I've written exercise down on the list and it keeps not being done. The same holds true for sublimation except I haven't written it down. Writing down "Sublimate Yourself" sounds sort of odd; like "Up with People" only Lenten style. It even looks funny on the planner.
The problem with sublimation is I want the credit. I want the "A" for not losing my temper, for not blowing off my obligations and relationships and all the things I'm supposed to be doing, but sublimation is supposed to be baseline, not the achievement. Like qualifying for the Olympics, it's big and it's important, but it isn't winning the gold, it's only a step towards the gold. Writing it down to remind myself is a bit like asking for credit particularly if I do somehow manage to check it off for a day. I'd admittedly want to show the check mark to someone, to show it off. Look! Look today I sublimated!
When you sublimate your personal will, that includes letting anyone know so you can get credit for being good. "I sublimated myself by doing the dishes." "Yeah, well I sublimated myself last week by cleaning my room." doesn't really fly. True humility means sublimation isn't even part of the thought process, it just is; like breathing. Then I thought, I could argue that having always had trouble with breathing, I could say, my sublimation is working just about as well. But if sublimation is supposed to be like breathing, then I know that there are only two things I'm supposed to do tomorrow or today; breathe in, breathe out.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Seven Takes Friday

1.  I have found a new sport that I love, the women's ski cross, a hybrid of motorcross and the super G, it looks insane and it is insanely fun to watch.  I am grateful it did not exist when I was young enough to think I was immortal as I might have been stupid enough to try it.

2.  The Percy Jackson movie is a giant disappointment if you loved the books; but I can see enjoying the film if I didn't know the text was so much richer and more fun.  If you haven't found them, fun reads for the cat days of winter.  (What other people call February).

3.  Just a Lenten question; why aren't eggs considered meat?

4.  Filet-o-Fish and their counterparts at other nation wide food chains are the #1 reason why Catholics opt to fast.   Knowing that some faithful succumb to the eating such things and that we care about those people deeply, it is also why Catholics remember to pray. 

5.  I love the Olympics and I love the local color tibits about the host country, but the segment on logging last night indicated at least to me, NBC wikipedia'd Canada to determine its assignments for such pieces and is trying way way way too hard. 

6. Why do my kids remember every time I say "We'll order pizza." but never remember, "Hang up your coat" or "put away your shoes?"

7.  I want spring.  I want grass. I want warm weather. I want baseball and grilled foods and berries and birds and rabbits in my back yard.   I want to be able to hand my kids chalk and send them out to draw on the driveway for hours instead of bundling them for the great artic adventure and then having them track back in half a foot of snow plus peel off half a load of laundry for me to do after five minutes outdoors.   

Top 10 Things that Took Place off Camera at Healthcare Summit

10) Acorn fills out fifty five thousand voter registration cards for the deceased sister's dentures.

9) President introduced the lawyer's billable hour process to the drafting of legislation. All Republican discussion is declared non billable. It still counts. It counts for....insert euphemism here.

8) Tale of the mean ice cream truck driver that was out of Dreamsicles such that Barry had to eat a lime pop was swapped for comparing the refusal of an auto insurance company to pay for his fender bender to health insurance limits. That being said, if I were the ice cream truck guy, I'd send a shipment of Hagen Dais to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue pronto.

7) Secret Service spirited away the mucus discharge by the POTUS to a secret lab for cloning. Long-term plot to replace all members of Congress and the media with "mini-me"s has begun. Keith Olbermann has received a special exemption from this process.

6) IPCC declares thawing in relationship between Democrats and Republicans to be real and a threat based on its very accurate and highly vetted data. In a parallel but unrelated story, reports of the extinction of Republican spines called into question.  Now it appears, Democratic will is on the decline due to overharvesting.

5) MSNBC dubs President's off mike remarks "I want this to create toadies, flunkies, lackeys and scapegoats." to sound like, "I welcome the spirit of bipartisanship begun today."

4) Apple and Microsoft issue new government patches to increase existing calculator capacities in the accessories of their computers. The new downloadable software allows users to work with even larger imaginary numbers.

3) Spin to justify Crystal Cube Surrounded by Moat Embassy in London because it doubles as a holistic medicine center results in an amendment to place 100,000 additional billion dollar type buildings in the U.S as part of the proposed health care plan.

2) Pelosi's 400,000 jobs created by the passage of health care in the entrepreneurial world discovered to be only for the Na'vi on the planet Pandora building crystal cube palaces with moats.

1) President catches up on Olympic news while Republicans are speaking and decides to order a platinum medal with diamonds added so he can one up Plushenko.

Had a Piece Run Yesterday!

And of course, the readings were, "Ask and Ye shall Receive." and my heart had been asking to know, wanting to have another piece out there.

Faith & Family : Features : Pass the Prosciutto

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Small Success Thursday

Standing in line for reconciliation as part of preparing for Lent, my two toddlers used their time in line with me to test the acoustics of the Church. A mother and daughter took pity on me and offered to hold Paul and entertain the other two while I went. But my two year old was not interested in watching the daughter draw, nor was she willing to be held or watched by anyone but me, so she came and demanded my arms as I waited in line. She pointed to the statue of Mary, "That's you Mom." "No, that's Mary." I explained; thinking, that's what we're supposed to be like and how many times I in my head have sneered at my own title, vocation and role, "just a mom." when here is the Mother of God, who was "just a Mom."

Part of the reason I’ve been restless is I haven't had success getting published. Whenever that happens too long, I start to chaffe at my regular duties. I know this dry spell is in part because I'm supposed to stop demanding that I be something other than "just a Mom." I know I’ve used those successes when I’ve been published to allow myself a moniker before Mom, and valued it sometimes more than that title Mom.

Foolishly switching the approval of the world for the love of my children for all of the single day that the piece runs and gets read. How stupid is that? Well, sin makes one stupid. One of these days, I’ll stop having to have this battle with the stupid part of me; one of these days I’ll grow up spiritually on this point. One of these days, I’ll submit like Mary and be gracious and grateful and thankful to the point of tears for that phrase, “Just a mom.” And then, hopefully, I can hold that thought and that moment of grace beyond that day.

So here are my just a mom moments from this past week:

1) Got daughter to her music audition for a high school scholarship. Honestly, if she gets this, I'll feel like I earned half with the nagging about practice, hunt high and low for music that fit her taste, style and range, and willingness to endure adolescent irritation when I offered suggestions or compliments or outright critiques. (I got to be all three judges of American Idol for a 13 year old).

2) We played Olympics this past weekend, complete with a medal ceremony for the sled runs. Even I ventured out into the snow (something I don't normally do), and we managed to avoid at least this weekend, the personal gritch's traditional rant against the state of the home.

3) Sometimes prayer is ubiquitous in my day, other times it is a chore, but right now, it is something I'm doing sans other things, learning to be present in prayer --and it is helping me to be present at other occasions with everyone else as a result. This has been a surprise that really shouldn't have been, but for which I am very grateful.

So look around at your week for those “Just a Mom” moments, for those little things that we're supposed to be doing not out of duty, not for the praise, not for any reason but love. Then, write them on your blog and share your triumphs that will provide you with a pat on the back for your work and encourage others by joining us over at Family and Faith Live!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

That Sinking Feeling

 I used to be the crusader for the home. Every day when the school kids go off with their father in the car, I mild mannered blogger and mother began my survey of the home. Like Batgirl, I prowled in the hidden corners of the closet, daring to look where children might have left nefarious deeds with the hopes of going undetected. An apple core, a pile of laundry, a forgotten notebook for an important project at school, a lunch box with the food from a meal they didn't like, I'd seen it all.

But now, not only must I guard this fair domicile from the crimes of established children, I have a new set of villains that are surprising not only for their boldness, but for their utter indifference to the laws of the land. I speak of the four and a half and the almost 3 year old. They have discovered water. They have discovered that every sink pours it without ceasing if you turn the knob and worst of all, they have discovered the plug.

It began with the ordinary brushing of teeth. My daughter asked to do it herself and unwittingly, I abetted her fledgling life of crime. The other sibling watched with great interest and took great joy in her sister's new found power. I went to get clothing so they could get dressed. I returned to find both sinks filled and two very wet girls with at least 50 toys in each "bath" respectively. Trying to stay focused, I told myself, the floor needed mopping anyway and I'll just sponge them down and no harm really done.

But the day wore on and it happened again when one of them went to wash up for lunch. That's a second bathroom clean I told myself as I wiped up the excess and explained that Pony and Dolphin (both residing in the sink) did NOT need a long bath before lunch and would have to dry before being played with again.
To keep order, I survey each room of our home every day. The basement usually draws everyone in, with all the toys and the larger TV and the Wii. Today, my daughters locked themselves in their sister's bathroom.

The door was one that did not have a lock that could be picked. I was at the mercy of my pitiful powers of persuasion. I offered food. The sink kept running. I mentioned toys. The splashes continued. I asked if I could join them. "No!" and more giggles. I ran upstairs and got the screw driver. I'd take the lock off entirely. Working quickly as there were now trickle sounds in addition to the faucet running and giggles, I heard one daughter suddenly grasp the idea that maybe this wasn't smart.

"Mom!" she was panicking. "I don't remember how to shut the water off!" "Open the door!" I offered, still furiously trying to pry the doorknob from the door. "It's stuck." The door knob was beginning to loosen but if it fell off inside from my attempt, the lock would remain. I could hear mini Niagara forming and two wet daughters getting a bit scared. "Don't worry!" I soothed or tried to, as I was starting to get antsy too, "Just turn the knobs one at a time." The water stopped pouring. They were still locked in, they were complaining about being sopping wet.

I needed them to turn the remaining stub of my side of the knob to get out, but I thought they would be afraid not to see me. I needed inspiration to get them out. Before I could say anything, one daughter said to the other, "Oh my goodness, Dora the Explorer is on." and out they came leaving me to retighten the knob I'd messed with, and mop up the mess.

As they sat in fresh dry clothes watching Nickelodeon, I surrendered to the sad reality that I'm no longer Batgirl; just Commissioner Gordon who now flashes the Dora Signal when danger threatens Gotham City.

The Posture of Prayer

This ran on but I edited it to improve the flow.

With my first name being Margaret, I appreciate the genius of Saint Margaret of Scotland’s prayer life that enabled her to glorify God while multi-tasking to manage her many children (6 sons, 2 daughters), and kingdom. However Saint Margaret never lost focus of why she was praying. For me, multi-tasking prayer began with the best of intentions. For a time, I rationalized, “God knows how busy things get,” but that put the thankfulness on God’s part for my praying. Not good. Not correct. We cannot serve two masters. The prayers made me just aware enough of my own diminishing experience of “trying” to pray. Our Fathers, rosaries had become part of the things to do, that got sandwiched into the process of getting through the day. The multi-tasking hurt me in other ways too.

Everywhere I felt distracted. Everywhere, I felt I wasn’t giving the time and attention necessary; and the days got harder and harder and harder. Cooking the meals; doing the dishes and even reading the stories, there was something of me holding back, being unwilling to give or be present because as I rationalized, I was doing so much. It was true in all things, everywhere, I was restless; everywhere I was somewhere else. For a time, I told myself I was being too critical and to relax and ignore it. After all, I was still praying. I was still doing. But the prayers done on the fly while still a gift, were not done mindfully; and the tasks done on the fly, while still acts of service, were not done mindfully. I was cheating myself of the full presence of God and others by being distracted.

Our parish priest suggested kneeling or going off into a room and light a candle to bring about a more prayerful mindset. I knew already that this was the correct advise because my brain came up with a thousand reasons not to do as he said. I could hear with all those excuses of what I could be doing if I just prayed as I worked but the words “Martha, you are anxious about many things.” popped in my head as a response. And I was. “How could I subdivide my time even more?” I wondered. The answer was, I wasn’t supposed to subdivide at all.
“Could I not stay?” I could hear. It wasn’t harsh in my head, it was more like a request, an invitation. Could I go on a date with God daily or not? If I would learn to be fully present to those I loved, shouldn’t I begin by being fully present to the One who is love? This was the spiritual food for which I had been starving but unable or rather unwilling, to seek.
The first stint lasted only seven and a half minutes; but tomorrow, I’m setting the timer for ten.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Dear Friend Shared This With Me

Shoeless Joe and Blog Action

When I was a mere junior in high school, I went to prom with a guy who wore polished white shoes with gold buckles and a powder blue tux. My brother Joe opened the door, took one look and said, "Nice shoes."

If it hadn't been for my desire to simultaneously bust a gut laughing and bust his chops for insulting my date, I'd have asked him to change into a tux and brought my brother instead.

Ever since then, the word "Nice" has been...a loaded term for me, fraught with meaning because of it's vagueness.

Today I got an email saying...Nice blog. The email author disclosed that he would like to link my site to his in return for his being linked on mine.

I clicked on the site. It sells athletic sneakers.

Most of the free world spends many a sleepless night in wonder of what an online shoe salesman likes to read during the sports void that takes place after the Superbowl and before Opening day. Now, the mystery will be solved.

CHOCOLATE FOR YOUR BRAIN would be one of a mere fifty listed sites considered link worthy in the "Other" category, along with 15 other categories with fifty blogs each listed. The email assured me that thousands of people visit this site daily, and it would increase my traffic.  My guess is they're the saps that link to the guy's blog in hopes of driving traffic to their own, coming to see if the links have been put up and if they actually work.

Since I can't find a counter on the site, I cannot know the verasity of this claim. The "About Us" section of the website indicates it's been in business since 2003 but the write up on the decision to provide extrodinary customer service to those needing to find out the finer points about buying a sneaker (think Air Jordan), posted in December of 2007.

So maybe they're just updating the website and have found me to be an up and commer. My gut says to let this opportunity pass but I'm still a newbie, only providing quality blog entertainment since October of 2007 with a mere 19 visiting on a good day, so I just don't know. It's just a link and I'm pleased that someone noticed, but given the fact that there's never an indication of what the reader actually liked in my blog, I'm left to wonder.

Still, the email said "Nice blog."

So I'll return the favor.

"Nice" shoes.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

You Know it's a bad day at Mass when...

10) The usher tells you that he's been inspired and is going to call his mom when he gets home to thank her for putting up with him for all those years.

9) In describing what took place during the offeratory, you use the word "headlock" in a sentence.

8) Calories burned during mass via the trips to the bathroom equal or excede the value of a Dunkin' Donut's Boston Cream.

7) At the sign of peace, you get a lot of pity handshakes from fellow parishioners.

6) The woman behind you says, "Some day you'll miss this." and you think, "Not any time soon."

5) Kneelers. Toddlers. Echoes.

4) Going up the aisle for communion, a child wails, "When is it OVER?!"

3) The Eucharistic minister tells you, "There's only a drop." and you take the cup saying "Amen" and taking that drop because you need every bit of grace you can get.

2) You stare in wonder at all the well behaved children and have the eerie thought that the reason You get this battle is God knows this won't deter you from showing up next week.

1) Every one of these things actually took place within the span of one mass.

Follow-up: Why didn't you leave and come back later?
1) Three kids serving on the altar and
2) car was trapped by other cars illegally parked.
3) I did actually leave the main church three times in an attempt to regroup (during songs). Each time, it took for about all of five minutes.

Finally, when mass is over and you trudge to the parkinglot, you discover there is a black Acura parked in the firelane trapping you at the Church hall for the next hour with the bumper sticker "Chose Civility" on it's window.

Everyone here had to work to get to mass such that calling the police seems somehow anti the spirit of Lent. So the kids get to have doughnuts after all that while you wait for the parkinglot to clear and it seems that you should offer it up in sublimation because all of these little problems are merely a toe being poked into the sand of the 40 day dessert.  All you can do is sigh and say man, sublimation sometimes just really really, well it doesn't stink but man does it have to be this hard?

And then unbidden, it hits you that in the end, when you see your self truly and acknowlege that you misbehaved this much in real life yourself; that in the end, God is nice enough to still let you have a doughnut when all is said and done.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

7 Takes Friday

Okay, so it isn't Friday and I'm late on this but I'm still trying to commit to adding this to my regular blogging schedule.

1. We're on day 36 and counting of Lent. What's lovely is to notice little moments when the temptation to fall into old habits, the ones we fight against, get resisted. What is discouraging is the five minutes later when we sometimes succumb.

2. This weekend, we're going on a date; out to dinner. Why? Our son has a date. We figure, his social life shouldn't be better than ours.

3. Watching the Olympics, it's hard not to feel like somehow, one's life at 43 is unremarkable. I haven't scaled a mountain or opened a school or saved the whales or seen a whale or honed my body to battle the elements and win. So today, in a triumph of woman over nature, I went down the sled run we made in the front yard three times and did ten push ups. Look for me in London in 2014.  (Note, I didn't say anything about the Olympics, but I hope to get there before then...on my book tour).  As long as we're dreaming, why not?

4. Wrote a few pieces and submitted. Right now, the rejection fairy has been beating my articles with a stick but writing is the triumph of hope over experience so two articles went out to seek their fortune this weekend.

5. Wishing my parents a happy anniversary. Their model of marriage in good times and bad, rich and poor, for better and worse, in health and in sickness is exactly what real love and devotion means; it inspires, it deepens with time and it is beautiful.

6. Taught my seven year old a bit of piano and recognized of all my children, she has the fierce heart to put everything into anything she does. Nothing comes easy to her, but nothing stops her either. She practices beyond what people ask and she cares deeply about whatever it is she chooses to do.

7. With nine children, every day you look back and wonder what you could have done better, who you could have done more with, what you should have said or not said, and you worry that you haven't done enough or said enough or been there enough because there are so many. But when you get a call from the high school telling you that your daughter's essay was beautiful; and what's more, it was about you, it's hard to do anything but sigh, melt and thank God you didn't screw up too much so far.

Truth, Blogging and Stories

We have a world filled now with stories, opinions, agendas and myths and it is getting harder to get at true information or hard facts and hard news despite the plethora of new media venues. What is, is not what gets repeated or represented; and so an irate mentally unhinged man becomes a poster child for a political movement that some who have power and prestige despise; people who march for life are not covered or are proclaimed to be overwhelmingly old when the vast majority of those who attend are in fact quite young. Nuance has been abandoned for ideology in our modern story telling venues except when it makes an opponent more unpleasant. So we can never know if the story we hear is true True, or myth, revealing truth but being itself untrue; or just a fable, flat out piece of propaganda or absolute lie.

Today, the President's policies and positions are defined by negative space using the theory that if we could see the alternate universe where what he did was not done, we'd understand how good we have it now; and the New York Times posits that part of the reason for all the disbelief and disconnect with the intellectual elites is the greater transparency of the world these days. Sarah Palin becomes a saint to some on the right and the personification of the very worst of all possible worlds to some on the left. President Bush is portrayed as the ultimate village idiot and anyone who doesn't froth at the very mention of his name is deemed a dupe, a rube or too blinded by personal or political loyalty. The very same level of love slavishly lavished on the current commander in Chief is considered pure patriotism and the result of clear thinking about policy.

But Truth is always much more interesting and messy than any of the popular narratives or spins being put through today. All of these people, Sarah, George, Barrack, all of them are possibly greater individuals than their enemies believe, and more flawed than their press releases would reveal. The same is true of all of us. Because the mainstream and alternative medias all wear biases, some with more transparencies than others; we have no sources of pure truth, only story. We get the White House Spin, the Republican's Counter point, the MSM’s angle, the take by Rush Limbaugh, John Stewart, Keith Olberman, Rachel Maddow, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity, Chris Matthews and George Stephanopoulos. We get the Times and the Post and the Standard and the Examiner and Newsweek and News busters, the Drudge Report, Politico and Real Clear Politics and twitters and bloggers. It's like we're the cop at the accident and we get all the eye witness accounts and even the television footage from the traffic camera and still, we cannot know what actually happened because none of them know or can tell or would tell the whole story. We know incompletely but we forget that we know incompletely because we have so much information. So do all the people who report the stories in their zeal to be the ones telling the stories.

We still are telling stories rather than facing the hard messy truth in the media and politics.  Part of our problem is we’ve decided we can’t know truth. Epistemologists posit that there are multiple ways of perceiving and understanding the world that are culture/time/gender/politically dependent. As such, no one is necessarily lying when they give their spin; it's their way of knowing. The problem remains, that some think truth exists but is unknowable and some think truth does not exist and some think truth is, and can be known and some think truth is, but we can only know partly. All camps claim to be correct despite the readily apparent irony of that sentence. Everyone claims to have a deeper understanding of the world, or that others have a deeper understanding of the world; Rush's "I'm always right." Keith Olberman's "Worst Person of the Week," are two versions of the very same problem.  Everyone thinks they know better, but very very few spend any time discerning anything but that which validates their own opinion.

Ultimately, these multiple arguments about truth, its relevance and its reality matter in politics and life because they determine what we think and how we will act. If all the ways of knowing together make up the composite sketch of the actual reality; then we must perpetually amass as much info as possible looking for patterns from which we can draw conclusions that reveal more truth than otherwise. If reality is ultimately unknowable because we can't understand that which extends beyond our own personal cultural template's standard deviations; if there is no actual truth, then we should only be able to recognize our own echoes; everything else is background chatter or white noise. If such is the case, we are doomed to a perpetual tower of Babel. If we believe that truth actually exists and is knowable in whole or in part; then it becomes our personal obligation to recognize when our own bias is coloring our judgment and when we are seeing things clearly.

How can we know truth? We can know only if we are awake and fully cognizant of why we write and read and think and say certain things. Truth is hard like a diamond. Life or death. Honesty or not. Yes or no. Truth has actions which echo it. "By their fruits you shall know them." A school that values excellence will show by the books in the library, the papers on the wall and the quality of instruction. A school that has lost heart is easy to spot. The same holds for an institution or an athlete or a book. You can see when there is blood in the bricks, sweat and grit on the face, heart in the words that is the art of the piece. The reasons why something happens or someone acts may be myriad, but the truth is still visible and can be seen if we seek.  Truth will out, it reveals dedication, intent, process and time.  Ultimately, if we hold that truth exists, we ought to pursue it ruthlessly as the rare edifying jewel that it is, even if it means we get a less instant gratification and happily ever after style gratification ending. 

Lives, all lives are messy even if they are lived simply; and thus we should be merciful to the foolish, the greedy, the poor spirited, the angry, the proud, the rich, the righteous and the self serving even as we discover them being foolish, greedy, poor spirited, angry, proud, hoarding, righteous and self serving.  All of us need that measure with which we measure to be larger than our lives, because all of us can see everyone else's splinters but none of our own planks. We need God to be unfair in our favor and so we should be with each other and with our hearts and words towards even those who anger or disappoint us.  We ought to recognize that God sees all our messy stories for the messy stories that they are, and still sees through them for the distilled truth that they reveal; how much or how little we believe; how much or how little we seek truth and pursue wisdom, and how much or how little we love.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Coffee Free Zone*

Driving my kids to school, my daughter proceeded to tell me about the water cycle as discussed on a "How Stuff Works" video. The theory is that because there are so many trillions of water molecules in a cup of coffee, that some of the molecules from President Abraham Lincoln's coffee on the day he was sworn in, could have followed the water cycle all around the world, through the sewers, the treatment plants, into the oceans and streams, across continents, back into clouds to rain into the local reservoir and thus return through the sinks of the nearby Starbucks into a cup for you.

Sounds tasty doesn't it?

While mathematically, it is statistically possible that old Abe's cup of Joe became a current overpriced cup of java; I've taken statistics and know that what can be illustrated cannot necessarily be proven. There are lies, damn lies and statistics as Twain once said.

For instance, remember Reach Mouth Wash? When it first came out, they touted the fact that they reduced plaque by 300% and they did, when compared to doing nothing. But when compared to gargling with water or brushing one's teeth, they did only 10% against the former. Reach sales plummeted when the scam of statistics was exposed. Having learned the statistical possibility of Lincoln's ahem, "coffee in its distilled by the body form" might be in my water, I predict a Reach mouth wash comeback at least in this household.

But my daughter insisted the water cycle proved it. Feeling really glad I stuck to diet coke at the moment, I pointed out that in some cases, like wines, water is taken out of the cycle for decades. I privately wondered if I should switch to that vice at that moment, it sounded more palatable. There is some knowledge that just isn't very useful for everyday life; or at the very least, for enjoying living. "We don't KNOW know." I countered.

"But the math proves that there's a 100% chance of water molecules from the coffee having come from President Lincoln's the day he took office!" 

I pointed out that it isn't like one can Marlin Perkins style tag individual water molecules and release them back into the wild as it were. I also pointed out that water can get stuck, frozen on the mountains of Tibet, absorbed into a deep river inside the Earth, mingling in the ocean deep off South America, bottled in Fiji and sent here to sit on a 7-11 store shelf. Some of the water might have been absorbed by the woman who drank it, who then had a baby who took in those water molecules as part of his development and be walking around now with Honest Abe's water vapors as part of his DNA!For that matter, the rogue H20 could be absorbed by a jelly fish or drunk by a pig or mixed with other chemicals to make shampoo or concentrated orange juice or toothpaste.

Besides, we don't know if the President went to the facilities on Inauguration day after drinking coffee, so it might be a day younger. The very discussion itself was enough to put me off drinking water period.

She asked who Marlin Perkins was.

"Let me put it this way," I answered. "If your theory is correct, you probably brushed your teeth with him."

* Video of "How Stuff Works" on water cycle is linked in the title if you want to watch. 

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Small Success Thursday

Last week, somehow I didn't feel up to posting. Everything felt flat so I didn't and I realize that was a mistake, compounding the malaise that was my mood. Small triumphs mean just that; searching for victories amongst the piles of laundry and bills. Like looking for grace, these triumphs require that we seek even when emotionally, we're just not in the mood to look.

Lesson learned. I won't skip again. Now, on to this week:

This week:

1) I took Faith's first communion dress to be fitted. There were ten foot high drifts in the parking lot as we navigated two toddlers and the baby with two dresses and a very excited second grader to the bridal shop where they would do the alterations. My daughter Regina, a.k.a. the almost three year old sphinx, walked in, looked at the sparkles and beads and dresses and stopped. Her eyes widened. "Mom," she said, "This is beautiful." That sentence alone made the hassle of the two story spiral staircase past the chain smoker to get to the shop worthwhile.

2) The engine came for the shop vac and I fixed it! Mechanics not being my strong suit, this was cause for celebration as the Mommy and her machine were back in sync with one another and I once again could vacuum the floors with swift noisy accuracy.

3) Last year I didn't make it to Ash Wednesday mass because Paul was too young and too frail in my eyes to be taken out any more than absolutely necessary. The year before, I hadn't gone because I had three at home and was expecting Paul. The year before that, I'd opted not to go because it wasn't an obligation and surprise surprise, Lent the last three times, although fruitful, has been harder without the kick off start of Ash Wednesday mass. So this time, we went to the school mass and my husband went downtown, and everybody got ashes this year.

4) I've enlisted my daughter to cue me by saying "Mary," the woman I'm supposed to imitate when the practical gritch acts up. Last night, the shower stall doors came off their runners.
As indicated earlier, repair work is not my forte but I was not going to have my shower falling apart. So I hacked and pushed and examined and tinkered and I was getting very frustrated. My daughter was toweling off Paul for me and watching. "Mary" she said.

"Yeah. I know. Mary." I groused. "But I bet Mary didn't have to struggle with stupid plexiglass doors. Besides, even if she had, she could have called her husband the carpenter and said, "Fix it." Eventually, the doors succumbed to my brute force and fixing finesse.

Don't know if you have a victory in your past week? Start seeking! You'll find it. Then, post it and link over at Family and Faith Live!

*P.S. If you noticed that I've started using my actual children's names, it is an intentional decision: when the story is 100% true, it deserves to be celebrated for what it actually is and remembered with 100% accuracy.  All other times, the stories are inspired by but not necessarily limited to the reality of raising all these alarmingly interesting people.  

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Dream We Have May Not Be Ours to Realize

Today I was busy trying to be busy, trying to be a good mom by making it to mass to see my son read for three seconds of petitions. My four year old daughter always needs to use the facilities at mass. Today was no exception.

A friend offered to watch Paul and Regina so I could take Rita by myself and I stopped to watch the class of students aiding the set up of the soup kitchen. These were children with moderate disabilities, some of them non verbal. They were serving those who would come to eat because they had no other place to eat. They were doing meaningful work despite their disabilities, or perhaps because of their disabilities. If they had not been handicapped, they would be in regular classes learning history or algebra or wondering why they had to learn history or algebra and when was lunch?

Instead, they were setting the tables, adding napkins and flowers and notecards. I watched a young man pushing a cart. This could one day be my son, feeding the hungry. I thanked the teachers overseeing the students. Today, a dream I'd harbored was fulfilled not by me, but for me.

You see, when I was a doctoral student, I wanted to run a soup kitchen where the students with developmental delays served and cooked the food. I wanted the kids to do meaningful work that served others. I had served as a supervisor in graduate school at a "simulated workshop" where simulated work was done and hated it. I had watched students grow angry at not the menial nature of the work but the menial nature of their lives, of expectations.

"Who wants to grow up to be a maid?" a student Christina had said one day as she slapped down her book bag. I found I could only agree. Who wants to be a servant? It was then that I started pondering how to make vocational training as it was called, vocational learning (my term). “Who wants to serve?” was a much more compelling question in my mind.

Going back to the mass, we made it to hear my son say his part and I sat there feeling my heart plucked by the readings and the Mass and the ashes and the reality that the meek were feeding the hungry and how great it was, that even little ones like my son Paul might one day be able to act as Christ to others in the little way of setting a table or adding flowers.

The degree didn't happen and neither did the school I'd planned, but the vision of what I hoped did, without me. I just was blessed to see it and to recognize it realized today.

The Baby Gianna Story Part III

The Baby Gianna Story Part III

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Baby Gianna Story Part II

The Baby Gianna Story Part II

The Baby Gianna Story Part 1

The Baby Gianna Story Part 1

This Explains A Lot...

Sister Jane was the principal at my high school.

Fat Tuesday

Stepping on the scale, it certainly is Mardi Gras. (Sigh). Ten days of being snowbound did not help with my nutrition or weight. There are cups and towels and shoes and socks and papers and magic cards and pennies and Valentine scraps and cheerios scattered everywhere. Every room is a project waiting for a devotion of an entire day. Last week, we shoveled snow, this week; I will be shoveling everything else.

It's like the kids were house guests who threw a week long party and you know the rule about fish and visitors. Three days, they've been here 10. Even if school had not been in session, the kids would have been dropped off there today for at least 5 hours. But I'm not completely heartless; I would have packed them lunches and maybe a snack.

But I've decided for Lent, I'm not going to indulge my irritated gritch that resents when the lion's share of the domestic chores get left for her to do. I'm giving her up. She wasn't very good company, she didn't even get much done and no one will miss her, not even me.

Naturally whenever one reaches for grace, the world pulls back with all its vigor. Look. Your daughter just deliberately poured an entire box of cheerios onto the floor and began smashing them. The gritch was ready to pounce but I handed my daughter the shop vac and watched as she took care of the problem.

The rest of the house loomed. I made beds. When I found my daughter's lost shoe, three bottles, fifteen socks and a spare load of laundry sitting in the closet from a child's attempt to clean the room without cleaning, I reminded myself, all suffering is a means of grace.
All suffering is a means of grace. All suffering is a means of grace.

Then I found a puddle of water from the melted snow in the basement requiring seven big towels. There were books that I had collected and ordered taken to the bookcases in the basement that had been placed on the floor where they got to soak up all the snowy goodness instead. There were also legos everywhere and a costume box that had been dumped. Grrrrrrr.
The Gritch loomed, "See? See? Ash Wednesday isn't until tomorrow." she hissed.

Maybe I'll just give up chocolate.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Valentine

My husband has gone out to dig out our driveway. We've been at it for four days. He brought out the stereo for musical motivation. The CD?

The sound track of "A Bridge Too Far."

For those unfamiliar with the film (a worthy watch of the heroism and insanity and luck and courage and sadness of Operation Market Garden); there are many quotable scenes but the one that perhaps gets used the most in our family is a discussion between two officers about a heavily fortified bridge that must be captured.

Brigadier General Gavin: What's the best way to take a bridge?
Maj. Julian Cook: Both ends at once.

Brigadier General Gavin: I'm sending two companies across the river by boat. I need a man with very special qualities to lead.
Maj. Julian Cook: Go on, sir.

Brigadier General Gavin: He's got to be tough enough to do it and he's got to be experienced enough to do it. Plus one more thing.

He's got to be dumb enough to do it... Start getting ready.

We switch roles based on who starts the conversation but here are a few examples:

What's the best way to clean the basement?
What's the best way to tackle the laundry?
How are we going to manage 5,6,7, 8, 9 children?
How are we going to pay for college?
How are we going to shovel all this snow? (They're predicting more tomorrow).

Junior Officer: what was all that about, Major?
Maj. Julian Cook: Well someone's come up with a real nightmare. Real nightmare. (Sending out all the junior officers to shovel as we speak).

Being the eternal optimist of the family, I'm now hunting through our collection of music for a different soundtrack; The Incredibles.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


I put on Jimmy Buffet.

I ate ice cream.

I imagined the hottest stickiest most mosquito crazed lazy hazy day at the Bolivar Penninsula, the type that would make one pine for even the slightest cough of a breeze. I thought of hearing the crickets and the frogs and all the undefined critters that make up the back ground noise of baywaters and the gulf when there's no wind. I could see the cows flicking their tails lazily, barely lifting their heads to chew and smell the ozone saturated with salty sand flavors of the beach.

I watched the sun slink below the skyline turning all the bay grasses black against the brightness as it disappeared, somehow ignoring the road and constant traffic inbetween. I willed myself to visualize the stars as they slowly appeared in the ever deepening sky and allowed my brain to summon the constant dull roar of nighttime waves crashing on themselves. The moon seems bigger here, as it makes the foam of the waves glow...

"We've shoveled through 1/2 of the driveway. Can we have hot chocolate?"
"I need help unzipping my coat!" "I fell in the snow and some of it got in my shoes." "I can't feel my fingers."

I will return to the dreamscape of Sherry later. Maybe this time, I'll try a bit of fishing.

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Little Black Spot on My Head Today

A Little Black Spot on My Head Today

Getting Ready For Ash Wednesday, though this makes it sound more like Mardi Gras. Can't wait to see what this guy does for Advent or Pentecost.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Personally Lenny, I think it's a sign from God.

But don't quote me.

My Back yard.
That lump?  The top of a picnic table.

Mudslides in California
Blizzards along the entire North East Coast
Earthquakes in Chicago
Dogs and Cats living together!
Mass Hysteria!
Warning! The sky IS falling!

Maybe the Mayans were right, just off by a few years.
Cue music from R.E.M....It's the End of the World...

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Today I promise to....

Fire up the SUV.  Rent an extra one and leave it running. 

I will roll down the windows and turn up the heat.

I will ruthlessly throw cans and newspaper in the trash and egg shells and bananna peels down the disposal and will feast on red meat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

I will put ethanol in my car so that it operates less efficiently and has the double effect of using what could be food for fuel, and still pollutes. 

I will commence drilling for oil  in my back yard and along all coastal regions. 

I will barbecue and use fresh wood.

I will buy every aresol can type product I can and run the water when I brush my teeth. 

I will take up smoking and encourage others to do so as well.

I will drink bottled water and then Belch.
I will own dogs, feed them meat, let them drink bottled water and let them belch.

Today I will leave all the lights on in every room after I switch  them all back to incandescent lamps.  I will make sure the computers, tv's and radios go 24-7 like the news cycle.

Today I will only buy new.  I will not Reduce.  I will not Recycle. 


The news has predicted 10 to 20 more inches of snow Tuesday night.  After there feet over the weekend, I'm committed to creating just a bit of global warming RIGHT NOW!

I'll go back to saving the Earth when it's warm.  Thank you. That is all.

Monday, February 8, 2010

So They Won't Suffer

I wrote this in response to a video article by Radio Free Europe about a journalits' piece proposing "Post Natal Abortions" and the position that children with disabilities ought to be "Finished off" as an act of mercy. If you want to see the piece, it is very inspiring what two women did when they committed to speak out against evil. They managed in Russia to fight the culture of Death and get the government to at least begin the process of treating these children for their very real needs. Miraculous indeed.

I've linked it in the title of this column so you can see the whole thing but suffice it to say, it fired me up. The journalist may have lost this round but we've heard this kind of thinking before. It lingers behind every discussion of abortion of the disabled in the womb. It festers in every legal wrangling over assisted suicide. Ultimately, it is an argument that only the undisabled life is worth living, and that everything less than fully rendered, is to be weighed, measured and ultimately, found wanting.

My grandmother had Alzheimers' disease, and in the end, she could not talk or do much, but if you prayed the rosary, she nodded her head. If you brought her communion, she put out her tongue. The Coco (our name for her) that swam in the ocean and picked out my wedding dress and knew all the words to My Fair Lady and liked an Old Fashioned and broiled lobster still beat within that shell of her body. Trapped by a decaying disease of the mind that robbed her of everything, still, she could rouse herself for the Eucharist. Her struggle was difficult to bear, but because we still watched, because we still waited with her, we were rewarded with these ever so quiet miracles when she would momentarily triumph over everything.

Years ago, I worked with children with severe developmental disabilities. These were non verbal kids with multiple competing issues, cerebral palsy, mental retardation, seizures, attention deficit disorder, autism, any and all combinations. Their lives were hard to be sure with medical needs, physical needs and poverty that often loomed large. Care varied from day to day and kid to kid in the state institutions that sometimes were understaffed. The sum total of their obstacles made life a bit duller than most of us would prefer our own on a daily basis.

But these kids who couldn't talk and couldn't walk and in some cases couldn't feed themselves; they loved being alive! Put them in the pool and even the most withdrawn and disabled lit up like Christmas trees. Slap some cologne on the boys and they'd grin and grin. Brush the girls' hair and they'd preen in the mirror like any teen. Crank up the tunes and you had a dance party like nobody's business. Each one of them opened like a sunflower no matter what the Individual Education Plan said about their hostile or anti social behaviors if given not simply basic needs, but human connections, relationships that mattered however short the time a volunteer, teaching aid or teacher had with the student.

In 1992, an editorial by a County Council woman ran about how some of these children would be better off dead than to suffer as they did. Our principal spoke out against this type of thinking publically. I remember her saying "These children are not dogs to be put to sleep." Her words barely contained her indignation. I admit to feeling fairly righteous myself and wanted permission to take a field trip to park my whole class on the lady's front lawn with signs, "I don't deserve death because you are uncomfortable with my life."

We didn't.

 We went to McDonald's instead at the Galleria.  Some guys from the NBA's Houston Rockets were there getting burgers and stopped to take pictures and hi-five with two of my students who spent the whole rest of the trip laughing and happy for being noticed.

They couldn't talk but they tried to tell everyone we passed in the mall to look at their new Rocket hats and to look at the new Polaroid pictures they had taped to their trays as we pushed them along. Their wheelchairs and exited faces made it almost impossible for people to walk by and not notice. But my students demanded eye contact because they wanted to share their joy. A lot of people tried to pretend they weren't there.  Most of them couldn't.

Not having a disability allows everyone else to ignore one's presence, to not make eye contact and walk on without any guilt or recriminations. No one expects a stranger to make eye contact. When we must hold together a society wherein no one ever experiences discomfort because of the existence of another, we will become very fragile indeed. We will become a nation of extremely touchy islands that pontificate to ourselves, consume ourselves, and eventually die checking our emails for someone, anyone to post a response affirming that they saw or read or liked or hated what we did, wanting ghost acknowledgments for ghost opinions and virtual accomplishments while the real instruments and books and relationships lie dusty and undiscovered.

Now the creeping return of killing them "so as to not let them suffer." is once again on the march as voiced by this initial journalist and paralleled by the public thinking about handicapping conditions being a legitimate rationale for abortion. Disabled children like my son Paul, like kids discovered to have Trisomy 13, or hydrocephallus or cerebral palsy or any number of conditions definable pre-birth, are eliminated via abortion.

"So they won't have to suffer." But the truth of that lie is that we don't want to see. We don't want to be tested. We don't want to bear more than our comfortable controlled lives manage now. We have scotch guarded and helmeted and padded our lives to cover every contingency such that we cannot bear anything outside of our carefully crafted plans well. One day, technology will advance to the point that all disabilities can be known pre-birth. At that point, will any child survive the Rubicon of the womb? How will we love if we will only tolerate perfection? Will we be able to bear the realness of being if we keep deciding that we can bear less and less of what it means to be real?

We don't want to have our spirits exercised or our hearts of stone broken."So they won't suffer." "So we won't have to love." is more accurate.  We would rather feel nothing than the pain of loss; or the fear of having our hearts taken over by another.  One thing is for sure, we will miss out on brighter smiles, better dance parties, warmer softer hearts, Polaroids and hi-fives and the quiet miracles that we cannot linger to see if all who fail to meet the standards of bodily perfection are summarily dismissed via speedy deaths.

And when we decide that we can no longer tolerate anything real, what will we be?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Promises Promises

There's been a lot of talk about how the President has not yet fulfilled any of his campaign promises for which he was elected. But I submit that this accusation is unfair.  It's not true. Just look at what he promised and what has occurred over the past year.

1) End global warming. Remember, this was the moment when the oceans would recede and the world would be healed of its humanity inflicted injuries?

Currently, DC is under 2-3 feet of snow and a lot of the settled science has been revealed to be mushy. So voila, promise kept! No one is worrying about global warming anymore.

2) President Obama inherited a debt Inauguration day. It was awful. Something had to be done. No one could imagine how the country would manage with such a staggering debt. 10.6 trillion (Chart from the Washington Post).

 When we consider we just finished year one and we're now at $12,357,481,272,872.09 according to the national debt clock. 2 trillion in a year.  Suddenly, I think we could have manged a 10.6 trillion debt better than the 12.3 and up we're going to have to; see I'm learning nuance.  Memo to the Dems and Executive branch: If you want to keep bashing Bush for his irresponsibility, don't expect me to be pleased with yours.  

3) The current President said that Transparency in Government would no longer be an issue with his administration.'s just not an issue for this administration.

4) Not hiring lobbyists. Now we all know he hired Eric Holder(Global Crossing), Tom Vilsack (NEA), William Lynn (Raytheon), Mark Patterson (Goldman Sachs), Ron Klain (Coalition for Asbestos Resolution, meaning trial lawyers), Melody Barnes (ACLU) and (ACS), Cecilia Munoz (National Council of LaRaza), and Patrick Gaspard, a lobbyist for the Service Employees International Union.  But since they're not lobbyists anymore, what's the problem?   (Source: Politico, January 28, 2010).

5) Everyone will have skin in the game. He will not raise taxes on 90% of tax payers.

This is true.

He's raised it on 100%.

6) Because we would be more worldly and sophisticated, the world would again respect us. China? No. Venezuela? Iran? Iraq? Russia. Nyet. France? Japan? Spain? India? England? Oh dear, look at the time. Germany? Poland? Israel? Pakistan? Mexico? Canada? Kenya? The UN? The mayor of Tampa? I mean, if we were in a jam, (like most would say we are), who would be on our "Phone a friend" list?

Not an expert on foreign policy, but I'd say the likelihood of someone willingly answering the phone to give us a helpful final answer is 50/50.

7) That politics in Washington would no longer be business as usual. Insert your own political joke here.

So shame on all of you Republicans, Conservatives, Democrats, Independents and Tea Bag Partiers!  We should realize how wrong we were to criticize this man, this leader of our country for not being a person of his word. He meant everything he said; just not the way we thought.

Answered Prayer

Last week, we were tired. There was so much on the schedule and it loomed throughout the month to come. Basketball, Confirmation meetings, band rehearsal, scholarship auditions, music lessons, homework, plus the normal everyday errands; there was just no way we'd get to everything. Audibly sighing as I rattled off the schedule for the week, my husband griped, "I'd just like a break from all of it. Even God needs to give us a day off." We dutifully trundled everyone off to mass.

This morning when the radio announced that people were dispensed from the Sunday obligation owing to the weather, I poked him. "God answered your prayer. You are free. There is nothing on the schedule for yesterday, today or tomorrow."

Stretching and recognizing new aches from the shoveling of yesterday, discreet twinges of pain in my wrists and shoulder, ribs and the back of my legs, I looked out at the 3 feet of snow. "Only God could solve your problem and so God gave you a day off."

I popped an Advil as the radio commentator moaned and announced another foot of snow was expected Tuesday.

Looking at my husband who had a happy kid snow day smile on his face, “God is on my side.” He said.

I threw a pillow at him and said, "You know, most people, when they need a break, they just buy airline tickets."

Saturday, February 6, 2010

It's Lovely now that it has stopped

Stay warm. Stay safe.  Enjoy the stillness that not being able to go anywhere brings.  Marc took this photo from our front door with his cell phone.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Quick Takes Friday

Six More Weeks of Winter

I'd be fine with the ground hog's prediction if I could sleep for 42 more days.  If I were the critter, I'm not sure why I'd ever predict anything else. As it so happens, Phil did see his shadow and we are under a BIG SNOW alert.  We are expecting 2-3 feet of the stuff.  It will start around 10 a.m. today and go until 10 p.m. tomorrow.  Then there will be more snow Monday and another storm Friday.  Personally, I'm praying for just a smidge of global warming and in the meatime, I'm off to Home Depot in search of a snow blower and more shovels.

Can I take My Toys and Go Home?

I am very tired of political parties declaring that the other guys are the worst thing since original sin. There is plenty of blame to go around for Republicans, Democrats and Independents.  The deficit is insane. It's scary.  I don't see anyone actually engaged in fiscal restraint or even slightly less exhuberance towards spending.

Hold Please, I'm Mad Libbing

I'm giving up multi-tasking.  I was on the phone and trying to switch the laundry and I couldn't figure out how to spell the name of the town I live in giving those A as in apple, T as in Tom type aids.  Got stuck on R, used "Not" for N and had an unnatural pause before adding the final "G."

Placebo Parenting

With the youngers, citing an outside authority often allows me to enforce order when my own status is insufficient.  The age old "Wait until Dad gets home" works, but for swifter results, I talk about how maybe this situation  (whatever it is) might be the inspiration for a blog.

Maybe It was Bad Then Too

Why does the fact that my middle daughter found and fell in love with 8o's rock (which as a teen I adored), disturb me?

You Could Read a Lot More if You Weren't So Picky

After a steady diet of children's books, my brain feels fried and flat.  My daughter only reads fantasy and I've given her all the good ones I can think of, and am trying to broaden her literary tastes. It's a bit of a problem because I too get into funks where I'm just not excited by the literature around our house. Then of course, there are the crazy ambitious moments when I hoarde titles like a squirrel preparing for winter. 

They stack up and I weed through them until I find the really one I want to read and the rest gather dust until the next manic literary craze hits.  Having finished a book last week, I'm still in the reading zone and thus I'm really pining for a good book.  After rejecting my latest offerings, my daughter suggested I write her one.  Maybe I need to write the book I want to read too.    

But There Is No Chocolate

My husband went shopping for the big snow. He bought chips and ice cream and milk and paper products, diapers and bread and beef, in other words, Man Food!  Now with the Super Bowl in two days, man food is required stuff, but really!  We're going to be snowed in for a few days.  How am I supposed to survive?

Husband just called, he's taken care of his omission.  I will now go and purchase a snow blower to make this bearable.  Sorry it took so long to put this up but there were more than the average number of interruptions to writing this morning. This was fun, but getting to seven was hard work!


Thursday, February 4, 2010

On Matters of Language, Politics and Rham Emanuel

There's a big flap over Rham's comment about the Democrats in Congress when he insulted them by calling them f---ing retards. The current administration prides itself on its intellect and its capacity to think of solutions but the call to remove the word "Retarded" from all the papers of Congress is symbolic at best. Calling the Kennedy's to apologize also struck me as a silly response. He has since sought to make amends by asking that we all draw a black curtain over the word retarded. How about we draw a curtain over the word f---ing? Or over using insults as a substitute for argument?

Now ugly is as ugly says, and Rham certainly meant no respect to those he criticized by his words. But banning words seems largely irrelevant to the true issue; that the Chief of Staff for the President lacks class, tact and a generous heart. If he speaks in private of his allies and his own party in such pejorative terms, imagine what he says about the opposition, any opposition.

Should he lose his job? No.
Do I think he should engage in public self flagellation? Again no and I'm a conservative Republican Catholic mother of a Down syndrome child.
Do I hope he engages in a bit of introspection about his own attitudes towards others in general? Yes.

As the mother of Paul, I don't give too much weight to the idea of no longer saying the medical condition my son actually has. My son has some retardation; it is part of his actual genetic condition. Retardation is I think the reason people fear Down syndrome so much that 90 percent of all diagnosed in utero are aborted. While the range of handicapping is unknown, the reality of that handicapping quality is a given. It is an inescapable fact. I'm not always happy to face this fact, but if I look in his eyes, the fact falls away because it does not matter in the broader context of who my son Paul is.

However I don't think we want a government Republican or Democrat monopolized by the most thinly skinned person in the country.  I don't think we'd like a society where whoever yells "I feel hurt!" gets vindicated and the offender gets marched to the firing lines of public opinion. No.

I think giving full license to that sort of psychological adolescent peevishness will eliminate the capacity not only to communicate and govern but to tolerate being human or being in the presence of other humans.  If we cannot say what we see or mean what we think, if all we can engage in is politically correct edited redacted sanitized for your protection speech, why will we want to speak about anything anywhere at all? It is dulling to the intellect and the heart to live in fear that others will take offense or take over offense.

But since the President reads blogs, I'll offer my 2 cents tax free. Rham, go to the mike. Say the truth. "I was really annoyed with the folks in Congress and I mouthed off. It wasn't my finest hour." and if he wanted to use humor, he could pull a page from Keith Olberman a'la Scott Brown, "I shouldn't have called them what I called them. What I meant to say, was, "They're spineless greedy self absorbed bloated power mad hypocritical preening lost souls who won't do what we want."

Then at least, Rham would be on the same page with all the rest of the American people in his opinion of Congress.

Small Successes Thursday

This week, successes had to be scraped from the sides of whatever I could find, like a mom trying to coax one more sandwich out of peanut butter jar so she can pack up the last lunch. 

1) Submitted a piece to the Erma Bombeck contest.  450 words, Erma's style, deadline was Sunday at 11:59 pm.  

2) Worked on a grant and on a piece for Associated Content.

3) practiced piano for 20 minutes yesterday to promote/encourage children to practice.  Hate being my own nag but hate having other people nag me more. 

4) Finished reading "Three Cups of Tea."  A worthy read but I'm not sure I need to go get the second book, "Stones to Schools."

5) prayed for friends, now waiting to see the paths God draws for me.  You wouldn't think a person in a house of 11 would be able to feel lonely, but every once in a while, I'm hit by the reality that community is something I really crave.  Think I'll call my sister and my Mom. 

6) helped 13 year old prepare for auditions for scholarships to be held this weekend.

7) Discovered the quiet grace infused writings of Pope Benedict in his daily devotional, "Benedictus."

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Stuck in Wonderland

The new budget has a 3.83 trillion dollar price tag. Telling lawmakers to tone it down but be sure to pass cap and trade, health care and the stimulus two package --I'm sorry, job recovery package so as to save 1/2 of one percent of the budget through a 3 year discretionary spending freeze that won't happen until 2011 doesn't just smack of chutzpah, it mock turtle dances in the streets of sheer Alice in Wonderland madness. "It's all her fancy that: they never executes nobody, you know. Come on!"

As Americans, we've been down this rabbit hole before. We followed and found the loans that said drink me and eat me and made ourselves balloon up and out and every which way but right. It was only after we'd discovered our errors and dropped the fan crushing much of the housing market that we thought our way back to a safe size. It was a narrow escape.

To excoriate the prior administration for its fiscal irresponsibility and compound it with one's own is to pretend that your wrongs are irrelevant because you've been wronged first; well, Alice, surprised by her own courage, speaks truth to the President. "No, No!" Said the Queen. "Sentence first --verdict afterward."

His new tone of being a fiscal hawk rings hollow.

"Cheshire Cat would you tell me please, which way I ought to go from here?" "That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat. We've been told, we can't save our way out of this economic problem, we can only spend to prosperity. Between the Mad Hatter, (Congress) March Hare, (press) and Sleepy Door Mouse (Republicans) and the Tea Party, nothing will get done except badly. They'll just keep changing chairs and cups and repeating the same sob stories of the Mock Turtle and when they were unjustly accused.

To our commander in chief who asks us to believe he means business about the deficit, I would say, "This is all nonsense." The budget is filled with imaginary numbers. You have not slain the Jabberwocky with your vorpal blade. Meanwhile, all the nobles gather to play croquet. "I don't think they play at all fairly." "And they quarrel so dreadfully, one can't hear one's self speak."

But the Democrats march merrily along, painting the white roses red and red roses white. All these promises, all these programs are just a bunch of cards. If we speak up, we shall be told, "Off with her head!" because "Nothing could be clearer than that. Let the jury consider their verdict."

Here's hoping we wake up soon.

Apologies to Lewis Caroll, but when you spend 16 years reading children's literature, it's what you know.

The Unsecret Formula for Surviving Life's Mishaps

Yesterday, my son was sky high. He texted me about getting a 94 on his German test. His father and I were both very pleased.

My husband took the train to New York last night. As a result, this morning, my son had gallantly offered to take the bus. He left the house at 6:00 a.m. calling me 15 minutes later as the 90 bus had passed him by.  My son explained that the driver pretended he wasn't at the stop and even felt him hitting the side but kept going. "The guy even gave me eye contact through the mirror!" He was understandably, upset. I told him to come home and I'd drive him.

While I was getting everyone else ready, he came in and updated his Facebook about the incident. Getting in the car, I pointed out that maybe, that wasn't the wisest choice of actions at 6:30.

We started on the road, it was crowded. We saw the offending bus. His father called and after listening sympathetically, said well, "Happy about the 94, sorry about the 90." "That's not funny." my son said. "Not today." and after a moment, "Maybe tomorrow."

It was at this point, I revealed my secret formula, "Suffering + Time =Humor."

He said,"I'll take my humor without the suffering, thanks. I can make up jokes. I have a great immagination. I don't need the pain as inspiration."

We were quiet for a few minutes, then his phone indicated a text message.

He made a face. "I hate text chain mails. I always kill chains. I don't care if it ruins my businesses for the next thirty years! This one, by hitting delete, I've lost out on true love." He explained.

"So that explains your bad luck this morning."
"I guess it does."

"You know, your true love is on that bus."
"Well, one things's for sure, it wasn't the bus driver."*

"See? That didn't take long."

*Mental note: may have to subcontract blog out to son more.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Odds and Ends

Item #1 Erma Bombeck Contest

I entered yesterday and so did my husband and my son. Having read their entrees which like mine, cannot be published material, I have stiff competition. As the one with the self proclaimed moniker "writer," I'm rooting for them both but hoping I don't become one of the countless unhonorable unmentionables if either of them win.

Item #2 Why my husband and son are competition:
The phone rings. My son picks it up. "Hello Dad."
"Hi Sherry."
"Dad. I said Dad! It's me, your son."
"Sorry but your voice is like your moth..."
"Don't say that! I say Hello Dad so you'll know!"

When the conversation ended, Will went on a rant.
"He does that when he calls ME! My voice isn't that high."
"My voice isn't that high either." I said.
"Yes, but he never says to you "Hi Will." It's only me!"

He was working it through.
"When I'm 44 and married and have three kids and I call home and he answers and you're right next to him, he's still going to say, "Hello Sher--" and I'm going to scream, "Mom's Right there. You have caller ID so you know it was me that called you!"

"Yes, but by then you'll know it's a put-on."
He sat there recognizing that Dad knew all along.

"My kids are going to ask, "Why aren't we going to Grandpa's funeral? and I'm going to say, "He never calls me."

Mental note: Do not antagonize teenager deliberately.

Item# 3 True Story

As a regular listener to John Batchelor's show, I've come to enjoy his interviews with quirky space scientists that are hoping to make Star Trek and Star Wars a reality. But last night, he spoke with an expert on flight and space who wanted to take a Virgin Galactic Flight.

For those not up on aviation space tourist travel, the plane named "Eve" would take those having ponied up $200,000.00 for reservations and the three days of training required, on a 2 1/2 hour journey for a five minute experience of the weightlessness brought on by skimming the edge of the atmosphere.

He wanted to do research during those five minutes and was searching for funding.

Not a dirty joke but it sure sounded like one.

Item # 4 How to tell if your Blog has hit it Bigtime.

When something like this happens.

Rooster Shamblin has left a new comment on your post "Speech by Arch Bishop Chaput on the Modern Age, Ar...":
would you please spend a few minutes and check out my blog. I am a farmer who was been raising more than 50 breeds of chickens for forty years.

I haven't the nerve to either post his link or click on it, but I'd bet if it's a successful "chicken farm," he'd be able to fund that scientist's flights of fancy.

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!