Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Now What?

When 7 of 10 of the kids are in school, what will be my excuse for not getting the house clean?

I can't chalk up all the not done stuff to an 8 month old, an almost 3 year old boy and a 4 and a half year old girl can I?

It would be...unfair.  

It's rather like when I'm not pregnant, I can't lose weight.  I'm the only person I know who gains weight after she delivers...because I eat like I still am, afterwards. 

So much of my life is wound up in getting these people to where they need to go, and to do what they need to do, that this feels surreal, serene even.   The baby is asleep in her crib.  The two year old is watching a show with talking cars, and the little girl is drawing at the table. 

Then the phone rings.  It's school.  Serenity is over.  It's gone.  Those were a nice two seconds.  I'll miss them.  The baby wakes and cries. The show is over and the boy needs a change.  My daughter has come to me asking for two pony tails, her shoes and if we can make brownies today.

Off the phone.  It seems I need to bring item X to child B by noon or the world as we know it will cease to exist.  Locate Item X.  While searching for item X, I find items Q, N and 344-1 part A.  I know these are critical to children A, D, E and H, but that none of the others have bothered to notice these things are missing.  Still haven't found item X.  Consider going to store with remaining children to get item X.  Now, if I don't make the extra trip, it seems lazy.   I put all that I find in the car, on the theory that if I find X, I will go, if not, when everyone comes home, I'll know where everything they might need, is.  That is, except for X. 

I make the pony tails, change the diaper and bottle the baby. 

"Mom?" my pony tailed daughter asks, "Can we give Rita the same hairdo?" 
"Yes, if she wants it." I answered. "Do you miss her?"
"No."  She shakes her head decidedly.  "When are we picking her up?" 

Meanwhile the almost three has climbed into the crib and the words "Don't sit on the baby" have left my mouth even as I'm moving to intercept.  He's undeterred and begins showering his little sister with stuffed animals.  When that's stopped, he begins to dump the laundry. 

Then my daughter starts drawing and decides I should watch.  It's my "break."  I say "unbreak" to type.  But when she says "break," I get to stop writing or doing what I'm doing and watch and do nothing else. I'm also having to super stealth tap the keys.  She's calling a lot of breaks, my unbreaks are about ten seconds long. 

I decide we're going to drop off the stuff at school even if I can't find X.

I'm also no longer worried that I won't have excuses if the house isn't clean.  I'll just explain, I'm on "break."

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Communion of Desire

Communion of Desire.

I'd not heard the term before but I loved it as if I'd known it all my life once I did.  Perhaps I should have paid more attention in religion class when I was growing up, as it is a long standing Catholic tradition. (We do have short standing Catholic traditions, ones that have only just begun to become old like the Divine Mercy Chaplet, the Luminous Mysteries and ones that shall seem to me forever novel like the Pope twittering and priests giving podcasts). 

This week, I'd felt off; like I'd lost friends.  I tried calling several to reconnect but the ones I sought in particular were not available to talk. I knew they were as busy as I was with stuff but it still nagged. Going out to take care of back to school items, everything was hard, complicated, a struggle and a hassle.  Worse still, I could see that it didn't have to be, didn't need to feel as it did, that the unrest was squarely in me and my own fault. 

Summer had been lazy almost to the point of slothful, and now it was time to ratchet things back up and my mind and heart were not used to such exercise and fixed schedules and non negotiable tasks.  It was then I found that the unlimited freedom of Summer had not taxed my mind or heart enough to grow better.  The three month break from daily routine had rendered my family a bit feral in its sensibilities; and so many of them bucked and fought the re-institution of stricter bed times amongst other things.  My will and theirs were out of practice.

Souls and friendships and talents and habits like an untended gardens, grow wild and need pruning that would have been so much easier if it had been kept to it all along.  I felt overwhelmed by the amount of gardening that would be necessary in so many components of my life.

The temptation when you stop exercising or stop dieting and gain a few pounds is to do nothing and hope things right themselves without effort.  The same is true for writing and writer's block, the temptation is not to write and thus stop being a writer.   The same is true for budgets. We blow it and then despair and therefore stop trying to right the course.  It is the temptation of appetite and despair, compounded by the desire for instant gratification and the stress and frustration when fasting is not offered up. 

Spiritual dryness is a peculiar grace that only a rare soul (like Blessed Mother Theresa) recognizes. I don't do well with fasting.  My instant response to any disconnect is to personally start pestering Heaven to re- infuse me with the energy to love better, rather than love better through the dryness.  I want God to do it for me, rather than for me to do it for God and let Him fill in the cracks. 

So when I read about the Communion of Desire, seeking to be filled even if one could not attend mass, it gave me a profound sense of peace; to ask to receive when I cannot receive, to help keep me yielding to the luminous cross I've been given; to love these ten children well and be a good steward of all these gifts I've received. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Hurricane off the Port Bow!

Well, Starboard actually if you're facing North.

But it's the quote from the Little Mermaid and as we're either going to have to hunker down in place or evacuate, (more likely the former as it seems to have readjusted overnight away from us a bit more) it seemed appropriate. 

As a life long veteran of Hurricanes, they don't phase me but I don't take them lightly either.  I've seen my home town ripped by Hurricane Rita, Francis, Amelia, Danielle, Bonnie and of course the curse it forever, Hurricane Ike of 2008. We've flooded (multiple times), lost cars --my brother's, had trees fall on our home (twice), and been without power until we had to leave because the heat and funk was too much.  During Rita (2005), my folks were part of a slow evacuation that had everyone hearing about it from afar as terrified as those stuck on the road.  They got an hour from home before the car ran out of gas from edging along for nearly 24 hours.  (Thankfully, some good Samaritans took them in).  So I know the damage and destruction these storms can wreak.

I've also seen many of those places I love (phoenix like) return, but not all.

So I put on a brave face, but I know the extent of damage one of these sucker storms can do.

If you are on the shore, now is the time to consider visiting friends and family that are inland. Really.
Take a sick day and count the blessings of being able to turn a possibly very bad situation wonderful.
Hurricane Irene has already given me a bonus, two more days with my parents --making the visit feel luxurious and slow and I am savoring it.  I was pining that it was too short, to hassled with the needs to get ready for back to school, and now it is none of those things. 

Tips for getting ready if you are in the path of the Hurricane but are not having to leave. Hurricanes are kind of a hurry up wait disaster type scenario. You spend a lot of time preparing.  You spend a lot of time talking about the weather.  When it comes, it's fascinating for the first few minutes, then it's time to fix food, play cards and keep the radio on in the background.  When the power goes out, there will be a momentary fluster of activity and worry.  Then the candles are lit, flashlights secured, radio re energized and the card game continues.  The size of the Hurricane determines the size of the wait.  The biggest issues are usually flooding, wind damage and power outage based. 

1) Fill up your cars with gas (top off both).
2) Batteries and flashlights.
3) charcoal and matches.
4) a generator if you have critical machines that must remain on.  (Every time just before a hunker down scenario I know, we should consider....and then the disaster happens and we emerge back online and the thought goes away with the remnants of whatever it was that sparked the idea that we should buy one).
5) Water. (Diet Coke and Beer don't count).
6) Easy to eat no cook foods.
7) Paper plates, cups and throw away utensils.  No one wants to do dishes in the dark, by hand.
8) Boredom killers.  This is where an operational deck of cards comes in handy. Searching through the junk drawer for the 8 of spades and two of clubs so you can get a game of hearts going is even less interesting and successful when the power is out.
9) A working radio, with the right sized batteries.  
10) A bit of actual cash.  Why?  Because if the power is out, you will have to pay for things with cash.  It's useful. 
11) a phone charger for the car. Charge your phones prior to the storm event, but this is your back up in case the situation takes days not hours to rectify.
12) Diapers, formula, personal supplies, toilet paper, paper towels, medicines, anything that might run out that you would hate to not have while waiting for life to turn to normal.

Not on the list but critical: A sense of humor. You're going to live like Frenchmen for a few days. Cold showers or none at all, the same people every day waiting to be able to go to work, food that is odd, more wine than usual and extra naps for all. Laughter makes even the most stressful of situations easier to weather.

One final note: even if you think you are an Iron man and can handle the storm, if the authorities say go, you go. The worst that happens is the authorities overreacted and you got an unscheduled impromptu day trip with the family.  Seriously, everyone stay safe and hopefully, this will be an overblown new weather event rather than an actual problem for any.  

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Thursday's Small Successes

Today is the day we take stock of all that we got done last week.  The thousands of little things that make up those seven days includes a lot of small victories and love and show that while we may not have achieved what we seek to get done, we're making progress. 

I don't know about you, but sometimes the weeks just fly.  Next week, school starts for everyone and the world will seem to move even faster.  I need my Thursday to slow things down. 

This week's small successes include:

1) Got high school sophomore off to first day of school.  So far, we've been on time each time.  (Trust me, it's a victory).  

2) Last weekend, we drove up to Connecticut to see Grandparents and go to a reunion.  It was a blast and a delight and reminded me how much we need feasts in our lives, how much we need to have those relationships with family that extend outward and back in time.  My favorite moments were sitting and listening to people tell stories I did not know.  Also, Latvian desserts (a 12 layer mocha cream and apricot jam frosted cake) rock!

3) We got school supplies!  Now I have to pack them. 

4) This week we went to Urban Pirates in Baltimore and took a pirate cruise with 8 of my kids and my brother's kids and their mom and my parents who are visiting from Texas.  It was a blast and I will treasure to my dying day, my four year old daughter wiggling her hips in the Pirate dance and saying "Arrrgh! Shiver Me Timbers." in one of the games.    Awesome. 

5) My parents are here!  My heart is full. 

6) The baby is up on all fours and she can scoot some.  She's getting ready to be mobile.

7) Paul yesterday was playing with dinosaur puppets and would pretend to have one bite his hand and then fallen down.  He did it multiple times to show me that he was acting as if the dinosaur had eaten him.  It was amazing to see him using his imagination in such a complex way. 

Now it's your turn!  Just use Mr. Linky to showcase your blog here and list your successes for the week on your blog.  Be sure and visit the other blogs linked here and leave a comment for them.  It's part of being neighborly and part of the fun of this exercise.  So join in!  We can't wait to see what you did this week.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Adventures with Me and Flat Stanley

I think I hate Flat Stanley.  There I said it.

Look at any second grade wall the first month of the school year and the photo essays staring this pressed paper hero will showcase trips to museums, Europe, cruises, salt water fishing for prize Marlins, making salt water taffy but not eating it, rodeo elephant rides, free style skydiving, hiking the Appalachian trail, meeting NFL and NBA stars on the street for a pick up game, trying out for Broadway shows and throwing out the ceremonial first pitch.  You'll see dance recitals that rival the Joffrey and ice cream sundaes that require building permits, great pictures of kids shaking hands with world leaders, rides in helicopters, winning the slots at Vegas and professional cooking classes with Iron Chef Michael Simon.

If the Flat Stanley project were subjected to judicial standards of truth, those photo essays would be very different. Every poster that included a trip would showcase F.S. strapped in a car saying, "Are we there yet?" Most would have a shot of the paper thin boy watching television, playing the Wii and coming to Mom on a perfect summer day and saying, "I'm bored." But there are no essays about how Flat Stanley sunburned the day we went to the ocean because we ran out of sun block or how we spent three weeks looking all over the house for the library book that he lost. No one writes or brags about how Flat Stanley played cards with the whole family past midnight or how he subsequently did not get up until after noon the next day.

I admit, I'm not going to buck that trend but now I know why I hate Flat Stanley.

Flat Stanleys are the school assignment equivalent of New Year's Resolutions and the boasts made at 20 year high school reunions rolled into one.  We'd like to think we did fun exciting thoughtful splendid outings all summer long; and we can talk a good game but... just as reality indicates that we might not be our driver's licence weight and height, so also, the photos of Flat Stanley often show a kid  who only wears one outfit all summer long. 

It's not that we're all just braggarts and liars.  It's not that we're simply poor planners or slackers.  It's not that we didn't take the assignment seriously; it's that we're invested in the kids, not Flat Stanley.  On those days when we say "Let's go to the pool!"getting the suntan lotion, the swimsuits, the towels, the sandals, and everyone loaded in the car was the priority and the purpose.  Half way there, we'd remember we forgot the camera or we forgot Stanley or both.  Even if we tried to outsmart ourselves by leaving the camera and Stanley in the car for the next outing, we'd forget we did that when the next outing came or the next outing would be a limited party that took the other car.  Flat Stanley was not part of the routine, not part of the family, and not part of the mental mind set when we were thinking, "Fun!"

But with one week to go, I started thinking "Panic!"

So instead of bracing honesty, we embraced staged earnest emergency actions.  Last week they went fishing.  Last weekend, we went up to Connecticut for a big reunion.  Yesterday we drove to Baltimore for a pirate ship cruise. Flat Stanley attended them all.   We could document we did something of value and quality this summer.  In the spirit of the actual assignment, I let my son take some of the pictures and pick the shots. 

It was then that the authenticity that is childhood shone through my attempts at a polished veneer. All these splendid show Flat Stanley off escapades still could not escape the reality that it is the kid that determines the memory, not the parent or Flat Stanley.  To illustrate the fishing trip?  He chose the shot of the lobster we bought at the fish store afterwards.  The 50 year anniversary party in Massachusetts where he played all day with his cousins?  He shot a picture of the dog.  And the pirate cruise? The one shot was used up.  Hopefully they turned out on my phone. When I asked my son what he loved best, he said the ice cream afterwards.  I didn't get a picture of that though.

So despite all my parental sins, my son remains untainted by Flat Stanley or me, still viewing summer as time off as properly spent in pursuit of very little when the rest of life requires so much.  Flat Stanley remains a secondary perpetual nag in my  book; but I'll give him credit.  We had a fun time with the memories we were forced to create on his behalf even if the most memorable parts like the best moments of actual summer and life, were not always captured on film and don't translate well to a poster.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Why Summer Must End

Me: "Well, it's the last week before school.  What are you going to do with today?"
Child: "Well, I thought I'd brush my teeth..."
Me: "That's not a goal.  That's not even a bullet point towards a goal.  That's baseline."
Mental Note to Me: Get this offspring to aim higher.

Son: "You know what we should do today? We should got to the park. And I could bring my Harry Potter and sit on the swing and read.  Could we go to the Castle Park or maybe a park we've never been to before, because I like reading outside."
Self: He'll bring the book and leave it in the car.  He'll play all day.  He'll love it.  When he gets home, he'll complain if I tell him to read that I ruined the whole experience.  If I ask him to take it with him when he swings, it will be too bright to read, the swinging will give him a headache or he'll explain he's mostly finished and can get to it later. 

It's a perfect day so I don't have an excuse to say no.  I decide to say "Yes." if he reads for an hour first. Turning to answer son.  Son has already left the room to begin another half project, playing Zamboni with his sister strapped in her high chair, found a Tyrannosaurus Rex puppet and was now pretending infant in high chair was a building and enacting a Godzilla movie.

Mental note to me: Need to work on second son's focus.

Daughter: "Mom! I just came from downstairs and she said I couldn't watch TV but she could."
Me: "Have you finished your summer project yet?"
Daughter: "She hasn't either!"
Me:"Get to work then."
Daughter stomps off.  "I never get to do anything!"
Me calling after her: "You Get to do your homework. I'm letting you."

Third son is making a hunting safari out of stalking a singular fly that came in when he went outside to scream at the deer this morning.  Has asked for chips this morning and sighed audibly when I said Cheetos weren't for breakfast and then said, "Alright, but remember it.  I asked for them.  I asked for Cheetos."  and I re find for him his math book that he has lost six times in an attempt to avoid doing it at all.

Having completed a tri-fecta of misery, I went downstairs for the bonus round, changed the code to the television to get all of them banned from the evil machine and explained that 70% of an unfinished project was still unfinished and that by my count, I had four children with all unfinished projects.

"I've done all mine." the kindergartner boasted, only to get universal heaps of scorn from those still saddled with completing projects.  I had her work on her alphabet.  Son who wanted the park punches her piece of paper and runs off with it as she screams.  Son claims the puppet kidnapped the paper.  She howls. Puppet bites and mangles the paper.  The paper is returned.  The daughter is devastated. I take away the puppet, hand out pencils and edicts demanding good behavior.

There is misery everywhere even with the promise of a field trip. I go for perfection and inform the oldest he needs to practice parallel parking, handing him the keys.

As he marches out grimly, I recognize there is a reason I don't home school and why summer must end.  Getting them up at six to get seven lunches made, make sure all are dressed, packed and ready to launch by 7:25 sounds positively peaceful.   Past reality tells me otherwise, but when I begin daydreaming about packing them up to get out the door, start unpacking your long sleeves, go for that last swim, get ready for some football and finish off the ice cream.  Fall is near.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Hints for Going to Sleep.

School starts in one week. I pointed out that we needed to get serious about sleeping.  I pointed out that  Bed time will be enforced.  Even worse, I will expect you to 1) actually sleep and 2) get up in the morning and 3) function. Reality is hard and it is coming in seven days.

But I love you and I'm sympathetic to your struggle to avoid the sandman at all cost, to enjoy every second of summer by cramming more wakeful minutes into each day.  Last night, I think there were two to three hours when someone wasn't up for some reason.  I'm starting to need daily naps to keep up with these people.

Enough is enough.  So I started to rant....

"It is clear that none of you believe R.E.M. time is necessary for continued mental health.  The past month I have sat outside your doors, read stories, said prayers, given huggies, kisses, sippy cups with ice water, brought in fans to keep you cool, change your blankets to make them softer, allowed for stuffed animals, classical music and extra pillows.  None of it has worked. 

So now we're in crunch time and I'm annoyed.
Welcome to sleep boot camp. I'm your drill sergeant mom and I'll be making sure you crumb crunching kiddies get your zzzzs!  Drop and give me 40 winks soldier!  For the next few days you will after dinner get showered, brush your teeth and present yourself clean and ready for bed duty within sixty minutes of clearing the table.  The lights will be turned off.  There will be no talking.  No switching of beds.  No last minute bathroom breaks, searches for books or requests for band-ades.  

From 9 to 6, you may not wander.  You may not sneak down to the Wii or computer or even read.  You may not turn on the lights. You may not go into your sister's room to turn on or off the music.  You may not have a pillow battle or get a midnight snack.  You may not get your cute toddler sister a midnight snack.  No nightmares.  No I'm cold. No I'm hot.  No I can't sleep.  If you aren't sleeping, let me tell you what I want you do to and I want you to do it, to do it every night, and to do it without informing me that you are doing it.  If you can't sleep and you've tried everything, there's only one thing I want you to do. 

And that one thing is:  Fake it.

That's right.  I want you to lie there, bored, in bed, lights off, mouth shut, breathing.  That's it. That's all.  That's final.

Rest.  Rest all night.  Trust that I really do know what I'm doing when I tell you it's bed time and that you'll feel better tomorrow for it. So Prayers. Love you. Good night. Sweet dreams and See you in the morning!" 

It was a beautiful rant and it might have even worked except the baby woke up and started crying. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Small Success Thursday

It's Thursday and that means it's the day we stop to look back at the past week's small successes; those little things that cummulatively, add up to a lot of love poured into seven days.   Before we begin, I'd like to just let you know how honored I am to host this weekly event for all of you.  It is a very heartening experience to visit your blogs and see so many people just seizing life with joy.  You are inspiring.

This week I:

1) got the school uniform situation squared away. I still need to go to the (ugh) ugly shoe store for the ugly shoes, but getting six kids outfited for returning to school is almost done.

2) Ordered new backpacks --old ones were ripped, grimy and had fought the good fight, it was time for new blood. 

3) helped set up fishing poles --husband took the boys lake fishing; they loved it!

4) Worked out on the Wii every day. 

5) Still fighting to continue Flylady.  

6) Visited with two good friends on the phone, I miss them both. 

7) Decided to engage in solidarity reading, am starting Passage to India, as my daughter is also reading it. 

Now it's your turn.  I look forward to seeing what y'all did this past week!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Creating and/or Finding Beauty

In this down economy, we need beauty more than ever to keep our spirits buoyant.  Creating beauty requires effort, energy and love.  It is an imitation of God's creativity and imagination, to will to create loveliness. As moms, we often are giving and doing a bit of triage parenting/housekeeping to manage everything, but that sort of labor can drain the life out of us and make the very acts of service drudgery.  For service to be joy, we must willfully engage in countering the temptation to just go through the motions.

So here's a helpful summer list for the most part in no particular order, to help you add a bit of extra to your day that will lighten your own and others spirits.  Feel free to add to it in the com box.

100.  Pray.  Stop and really pray for each person you must interact with today.
99. Cut flowers and put them on the table.
98.  Write a letter to someone. (not an email).
97.  Read a story to a child.
96.  Sing with the radio in the car.
95.  The shampoo that smells good and the good conditioner you save for special occasions, use it every day instead. 
94.  Go to bed on time. 
93.  Put on classical music.
92.  Empty one junk drawer. 
91.  Hug.
90.  Call a friend you've been meaning to visit and set a date and keep it.
89.  Use the good china.
88.  Start a book you've been keeping by your bed.
87.  Take your family to a park for a hike.
86.  Get produce from the side of the road.
85.  Grow herbs or flowers or vegetables from seed.
84.  Donate some items to charity.
83.  Smile.
82.  Teach your children a card trick or card game.
81.  Schedule a classic movie night complete with popcorn. 
80.  Videotape your kids.
79.  Stomp in puddles.
78.  Put on makeup if you do, and jewelry that you love.
76.  Make a bed for someone else.
75.  Eat good chocolate.
74.  Add a glass of wine to dinner.
73.  Plan a date with your husband.
72.  Volunteer to help with something in the future.  Make sure you follow through.
71.  Put seed in the bird feeder.
70.  Water the garden, drink from the hose and spray the kids while you do. 
69.  Dance.
68.  Lend a favorite book to a friend.
67.  Garnish your dinner.
66.  Make dessert.
65.  Prune a tree.
64.  Change the sheets and fluff the pillows.
63.  Read the daily readings or adopt a prayer regimen like the Rosary that keeps you mindful of where all this comes from.
62.  Paint nails.
61.  Cook food on the grill.
60.  Listen to baseball on the radio outside.
59.  Drive with the windows down.
58.  Go to a stream and skip rocks.
57.  Make smores.
56.  Dust and declutter the room you spend the most time in, make it welcoming.
55.  Exercise with your spouse or children.
54.  Go outside.
53. Give someone in your family who needs it, an unsolicited foot rub.
52. Phone your folks.
51.  If you play an instrument, break it out and practice for 20 minutes.
50.  Count your blessings. 
49.  Slip a note in your spouse's lunch.
48.  Throw out old socks.
47.  Play on your children's level.
46.  Flag down the ice cream truck.
45.  Donate that giant coin jar to a charity.
44.  Bring some food to the pantry program in your area.
43.  Use a tablecloth on a non holiday occasion.
42.  Dress up for no occasion.
41.  Paint something.
40.  Count how many days until the next anniversary/birthday, plan something special.
39.  Take one kid out for a special date, even if it's just to 7-11 for slurpees.
38.  Get a haircut before it becomes a desperate issue.
37.  Tuck each child in.
36.  Start a  pillow fight.
35.  Make smoothies for everyone.
34.  Watch a sunset/sunrise depending on if you have morning doves or night owls. 
33.  Blow raspberries on your baby's belly.
32.  Start a diary.
31.  Have a race with your kids.
30.  Go to adoration.
29.  Light the candles that smell good instead of saving them for some occasion.
28.  Fast from little something every day even if you only make it half the day.
27.  Kiss the boo-boos. Apply band-ades liberally.
26.  Introduce your children to a rite of summer, a book, a blanket, an apple and outside.
25.  Go to a park with swings.
24.  Let your kids play in the sink.
23.  Let your children help cook.
22.  Use bubble bath more often.
21.  Have a water gun fight.
20.  Go berry picking.
19.  Spend a day screen free.
18.  Play a board game with your older children.
17.  Give the benefit of the doubt.
16.  Apologize if you haven't.
15.  Phone, skype, or face to face visit if possible, your siblings.
14.  If you don't normally do so, sleep in just a bit so you're more rested.
13.  If you don't normally, get up 15 minutes before everyone else and fix breakfast.
12.  Compliment your children.
11.  Thank a teacher.
10.  Wish someone who serves you --a waitress, cashier, attendant at the gas station,  a great day.  Hit the tip jar with a little extra if you can.
9.  Let someone else pick the channels/movie.  Stay and watch their selection with them.
8.  Sit down to family dinner.
7.  Mail kid drawings to grandparents.
6.  Point out cows, deer, humming birds, squirrels, as you drive or bright colored cars if that's not possible.
5.  Teach your kid something hard; like making a complex meal, embroidery, guitar, parallel parking, chess...
4.  Learn something from your kid that's hard, like how to read Manga, play Wii Mario Cart, the rules to Yugi-O card games, the game Go. Let yourself play and possibly/probably lose. 
3.  Learn something together, like sign language, backgammon, the constellations, etc.
2. Open the windows and let the summer breeze run through the house.
1. Say I love you more often to all of your family.

Have a great day!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Bow Before My Brain...or Not.

Yesterday, the impossible happened.

My daughter asked for help on algebra.

That wasn't the impossible part.

I agreed.

That was ...out of character.

She showed me her equation.

I pounded it out in less than a minute.  "Is this the answer?" I asked. That was amazing.

She checked the work.  "Okay, what about this one? I've been trying and trying and trying.

"Is this the answer?"

When she read aloud the equation, I took the moment to do a victory lap, to wahoo and to pump my fist. I'd done math.  I'd done sophomore math.  Those dusty brain cells still knew how to bang out a quadratic equation.  Bask in my smarty smartiness, I am Mom, I know math...go ahead...hit me again.

She read me a word problem. 
Back to Earth and Reality.


Despite the extra pain of inconvenience, expense and time, I am considering grocery shopping for my family for each day on the day.

Sunday, I went shopping. I bought what we needed for the week.  This morning, looking at my refrigerator, it seemed closer to empty than full.  I'd fixed them dinner last night and breakfast this morning so I was looking for items that I knew I'd purchased so I could make their dad his lunch for work.

The cheese sticks I got yesterday? Gone.  Ten of the twenty yogurts? Gone.  A gallon of milk? Emptied and dutifully returned to the fridge with the cap on.

Then I spied three of my children walking by, one was holding a clutch of freshly washed grapes, the other two, buttered toast on paper plates.  "Didn't I feed you breakfast?  Yes.  Yes I did.  You had Cinnamon Toast Crunch...I haven't even done the dishes yet..."

"But Mom..." my five year old daughter explained. "Breakfast was a long long minute ago."
I decided I'd let the kindergarten teacher tackle the concept of time and turned on the other two culprits who should know better.

"And we used paper plates." my seven year old son reasoned.
"I even washed the grapes." my nine year old volunteered.

Recognizing a lost battle, I told them, "Fine, but sit at the table." and the food thieves trooped happily over to the kitchen.  I opened the freezer to get out tonight's dinner and let it defrost.

The ice cream had been heavily raided.  The popsicles and Klondike bars were half gone.  Knowing I hadn't seen wrappers in the trash when I bagged it up this morning, I issued a general alert. "Who had ice cream?"

"Last night while we were playing magic." my 18 year old answered.
"Dad let us." the 12 year old added.

I went to get my breakfast.  Meanwhile, my infant daughter woke up hungry.  I started fixing a bottle for her while my ever helpful nine year old held her nearby to show her that food was coming.  My 8 month old was excited about eating and flapping her arms and legs in excitement. 

My nine year old was enjoying the show and not seeing what felt like it was happening in slow motion.  The baby slapped the cantelope on the counter which began to roll towards the edge of the island.  I tried to catch it but I was in mid fixing bottle so I sloshed mixed formula into the can of powdered formula, ruining the can and my outfit and the bottle while still failing to catch said melon.

My fifteen year old entered the kitchen to make herself some food.  "Is this all the milk there is?" she started to ask but I already had my keys and purse in hand.  "Mind the house, don't feed any of them and I'll be back with more...and a padlock and alarms so maybe we can get through lunch and still have something left for dinner." 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Embracing an Advanced Degree in Motherhood

Back when I first started staying home as a mom, I had great ambitions and most of them, amounted to silliness and ego.  I was going to read a book once a week, learn a foreign language by having the tapes on in the background while I cooked; and the food would be eventually, gourmet.  I dutifully watched Great Chefs of New Orleans and the Frugal Gourmet (They were my equivalent of the Food Network at the time) and took notes.

I nearly spent us into oblivion in my first four months of being at home because I bought exotic ingredients and used my cooking obsession to fill the void; all the time feeling terribly guilty that I wasn't doing enough with my son such that at one point, I sat reading aloud the cookbook to him in a sing song voice because he was up.  I didn't know how to be and enjoy motherhood yet.

I simply had all the impossible standards and invisible voices of years of being taught that I needed to be more than by the magazines and popular culture.  My mom had never demanded perfection, and she had loved us well; it was me getting stuck in the amber of pride.  I was just a stay at home mom.

Well that wouldn't do. 

That wouldn't do at all.  So I tried cooking....but that particular kind of crazy caused me to 1) spend money 2) gain weight and 3) make a general mess of the apartment kitchen which was not suited to the abuse I gave it. So, did I stop, reflect and change course?  Well, sort of.  I stopped.  I more changed color than course.  I started exercising at the gym and that became my devotion for the day, plus I started studying for the GRE.  Yes. I was living the dream.  I had it all.  I went to the gym, dropped my son off at the child care room, hopped on the treadmill with my practice book, number two pencils and my walkman playing classical music to drown everything else out, and I would take two tests while I marched. 

The flailing to "drown everything else out" was the same, it was just the focus that had changed.  I'm a stay at home mom....and I'm a graduate student studying blah blah blah.  Fortunately, a job forced us to relocate and while I attempted the madness again and again and again, by the time my daughter came around, even I had to recognize to some dull extent, this wasn't working.  The dream wasn't bad, it was simply misplaced, out of order, not what should be first.  Like Martha with Jesus in her house, I wasn't paying attention to the gifts I'd received, but more focused on an impossible ideal; a perfect Sherry as versus a perfected Sherry. 

I still labored with these annoyingly stupid thoughts.

If I had the Ph.D. I would be smart.
If I had the title, people would respect me.
If I did these things, I would be accomplished.

Earth to Sherry, Heaven to Sherry, this is not what I want from you.  God sent a third child.

And it was nuts. Sitting in the delivery room, hooked up to an iv and monitors, talking on the phone to my team about a paper on teaming based on qualitative research about schools and trying to explain my thoughts in between suddenly dawned on my brain...this is a special kind of crazy...and not the good kind.

So with her, I started to surrender.  It was small at first and I had lots of set backs.  I tried being Parish Council, (4th child) (after all, I have this free time because I'm not in school anymore) and Development Director (5-6th) (done with Parish Council and I need to do something) and being a writer. (7th to present)  All three were great, all three were also for other reasons,to serve because I was asked, to organize things because it was part of getting my children into Catholic school, to share stories, to make money, to have a little something for me, there were good, bad, mixed and pure motives in everything, like there always are for all of us.  But the extra always came first up until Paul.  Then I had to wrestle with the now of saying, "I'm a mom of ten." because the operative word should be Mom, not the number.  And that's hard because 1) it's a reality 2) I'm proud of them all, and 3) I'm a bit of a show off.  I'm always looking for an excuse not to do the one thing God asks and has asked in spades. 

But one of my children is starting adulthood, he's preparing for college and that, contrasted with holding an 8 month old daughter, brought back into sharp relief the time span that had transpired.   The old demons that had been fought so often, made an attempt to bite me ...if they can't have me, they'll at least make me sting a bit....

So Sherry, got that degree yet? (No but some day). What about learning that language? (Ha!)  How many books do you read a year (4-7)...but I buy more than I ever read. Learn a new piano piece in the past year (No). Gourmet cooking? nope, love eating it, don't have the precision or the time for it. How's that book coming?  (Slowly).  They've needled me into momentarily looking at the 18 years like time squandered, lost, flung away carelessly on computer, on eating badly, and laundry.  The maw of despair is always there trying to make me under value love, undervalue teeth brushed, baths given, stories read, beds made, meals and errands and the daily feeding, dressing and cleaning of children; like 18 credit hours somehow carry more weight than 18 years of care.

But God orders all things and knew the demons would be there lurking, waiting to bite me today; so the Gospel was Gospel Mt 15:21-28.

At that time, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.

And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out,
"Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David!
My daughter is tormented by a demon."
But Jesus did not say a word in answer to her.
Jesus' disciples came and asked him,
"Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us."
He said in reply,
"I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
But the woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, "Lord, help me."
He said in reply,
"It is not right to take the food of the children
and throw it to the dogs."
She said, "Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps
that fall from the table of their masters."
Then Jesus said to her in reply,
"O woman, great is your faith!
Let it be done for you as you wish."
And the woman's daughter was healed from that hour.

and the Holy Spirit prompted me to click on Fr. Barron's Word on Fire for a precursor understanding while I fixed breakfast for the youngest six.

And the 18 years suddenly felt like training for the Olympics or like being forged.  If a sword in the making could know what it was to become, would it welcome the blows? Embracing a vocation requires knowledge and awareness (I know what I am about to do and am prepared to do this), and volition (I will do this even when I'm not feeling it) and obedience (I submit forever).

You live out a vocation not when it is without thought, effort or struggle, but when the fruits are not yours first and your thoughts are not either. I was feeling fairly rapturous about it all and then I realized, I was being forged into being a better mom.   Would I ever get there?

Then, I remembered, I'd received a gift this week.  Words spoken to me at a meeting regarding my son's placement in school this coming year.  We were discussing his verbal skills and I was explaining I didn't think he needed socialization so much as language; that home life had acclimated him to being around others from the get go.  I joked that having always had a baby or toddler in my life for the past 18 years, I was something of an expert on this area of development.  The woman across the table looked at me with a wide smile and said, "You have a Ph.D. in child development from the school of hard knocks."  She did not know I'd sought an advanced degree, she was simply having a bit of fun.  But those words in that moment, felt like I'd crossed the stage and shaken a hand.

And just as Heaven is when we begin to really love as versus the imperfect love we render here, so also the degree was merely a starting point.  A sword, a book, a brain grows dusty if it is not used.  It must be used to be of value.  The training would go on, but even as it did, now was time to get to work.  And the blows of training will still sting, the imperfections still prickle, but at 18 years, with 18 more to go to see the latest to the same point my oldest is now, I was no where near ready, it's just now, I know I'm only less unready.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Panic Time

Long time followers of this blog know that I loathe summer work projects even more than the children do. I think summer is a time when one should discover how to entertain one's self, how to play and structure the day because one wants to enjoy every slow sticky hot moment of it.

The math books are evil and tedious and I should know, I've had to cattle drive my children through the same series for the past nine years.  I tell them that I don't like them either and provide a steady weekly bribe of ice cream for compliance with a minimum of nagging.  We all know math is mostly like served overcooked vegetables, a life experience that sometimes just requires a lot of personal will to endure.   So they don't get too worked up by my nags and I also don't stress that they drag their feet.

Then we got to August and my oldest daughter put down a count down to school.  And I saw that while my kids had handled the math, summer reading had decidedly been put off.  It isn't that they hadn't been reading.  They devour books.  It's just, they hadn't read "the" books.   Finding the assigned titles took about a week. 

Why did it take a week?  At the beginning of summer, I entertained the delusion that my kids would respond to a rational argument. Presenting them with their required texts, I suggested they knock these out the first week.  The books were dutifully taken by my children and dully brought to their rooms, the books were opened, the first pages of the tomes inhaled and promptly discarded when one of the children shouted out, "Hey! Phineas and Ferb are on!" and somehow from that point, summer passed.

So starting on the first of this month, I tried being gentle, easing them back into their responsibilities.  "Have your read today?" wasn't specific enough.  Entire series of Manga, comics, past devoured favorites all counted.  "Have you read ....insert required book here?" got a one word response..."No."  with the follow up if the child was fully awake, "I don't know where it is."

Finally, it became obvious that these sorts of conversations would simply repeat themselves until I located the  necessary books again.  I placed Passage to India, Cricket of Time Square, Touching the Spirit Bear, The Phantom Tollbooth and the Adventures of Flat Stanley on their respective beds and notified their owners. 

They were even grateful. 

So when I sent them off to bed, I felt secure that they would see the book, open it, and reading would start.  Around 10:30, I noticed the lights were still on in two children's rooms. 

Smiling to myself as I climbed the stairs, imagining them lost in literary worlds, I entered my son's room full of benevolence, ready to be pleased as punch that my child was still up.  He'd flipped his bedside table, attached a hot wheel track and was balancing a lacrosse ball on the track and making it go back and forth.  Let us just say, I wasn't amused when he asked if he could stay up a bit later if he read. 

Disturbed, I went to my daughter's room, again hopeful.  Alas, one was busy drawing fairies.  The other plugged into a classic rock station bobbing her head and making a tower of plastic horses.  The books were on the floor. I believe the first words out of my mouth were "RRRRAUGH!"

Downstairs, I saw was lit by a dull electronic glow and sure enough, the child with the least number of summer days left, with the most to read, was watching videos.  Knowing that they don't just have to read these things but produce projects and reports, I'm left with only one option. 

"Children, I know what you're gonna do today. And if you get your projects done this week, we can go to the agricultural fair and get funnel cake." I may be Mom, but I'm much more Phineas and Ferb at heart.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Small Success Thursday

Welcome back to another week of Small Success Thursday. 

Today we celebrate the little things we did with great love, the battles back over minutia in our lives and the victories of those times when we made progress, when we started back up on things we've abandoned, when we surrendered to the love and chaos of our lives, and when we've managed to do something that added beauty, comfort and ease for those we love most. 

If you would like to join in, just use the Mr. Linky form below and post a few things from the past week that showcase your small successes.  Be sure and visit the other blogs that participate and leave comments; it is very heartening to read their stories and it's part of the fun.

This week:

1) I'm down five pounds from my heaviest point --the threshold at which I bought the Wii fit.  Unfortunately, the Wii has now decided it's tired.  Taking it to be checked out today so I can have it working again.  Telling myself it's no excuse not to work out.  We'll see if I'm as good a motivator as the machine.

2) Submitted two pieces to two newspapers; still waiting for a response from either.  Writing is hard because past performance does not promise future results and this year has been mostly dry.  It's frustrating because each piece you write, you care about and so when they get rejected or ignored, it gets harder to send out the next piece.  Fortunately, I'm very bull headed. 

As a kid, I tried out for sports.  I stink at sports. Can't run. Can't catch. Can't hit. Can't run. Can't jump. Can't dribble. Can't Run. Can't shoot. Can't score.  And did I mention, can't run?  But I wanted to be on a sports team.  Somehow my brain said, if I keep banging against this brick wall, the wall will come down.  Never once did I say, if I keep banging on this brick wall, I'll get a very big head ache.  For four years I tried out for everything except track.  In my 8th grade year, I made the track team by trying out for the one event no one else wanted to do....cross country.  So I'm repeating my youth with every submission.

3)  I know everyone is busy and probably more than a bit stressed and distressed by the state of the world: Riots in London, the Dow's seesaw ride, the unemployment rate, the low expectations and even lower standards of politics, the cost of gas, food, everything.

I also know when I listen to the news too much, I get agitated, because it is sin after sin after sin; a whole anti-litany of the hours if you will, and much of it is by people who have no master save appetites, a celebration of all the wrongness and injury and suffering and want all balled up into one big deadening unhealthy feast for the heart.  It's easy to fall into a state that I call "Vigilant sloth," searching for news, gobbling snatches of stories as they post, always looking "for something good." The something good isn't actually even usually good news, but just a hankering for something interesting, something new.

So yesterday, I took off from the news and the computer --which is where I habitually get a lot of my news --reading the papers online.  It was not a choice to be wilfully ignorant; it was a choice to be wilfully present to the people here. 

4) Getting ready for school.  Two math books finished, three to go.  Now it's project time.  Yesterday, I put the timer on and told everyone to work for an hour.  They did.  Everyone felt awesome about it; and  I celebrated their victory over the desire to do nothing with tacos.  Dinner was fun and they survived (although two swore they wouldn't) an hour of math and reading...the horror. 

5) Today is our 21st wedding anniversary.   It's hard not to tear up and it's flown by up to this point, breathtakingly fast.  Can't wait to see what the rest of our life together brings.  Also, for once, I'm organized and thought ahead.  (It's taken me 21 years to recognize, I'm generally an impulsive last minute gift giver, so having acquired it early is a big thing for me).  Happy Anniversary!

Now it's your turn!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Returning to

I am back at writing on a regular schedule.  Here's my latest column for  Started a discipline where I will pick a mystery of the Rosary to consider until I've run through them all.  Here's the first one on (what else), the Annunciation. 

Also, while you're there, check out the piece called, "Begging for a Broken Heart" by Roxanne Salonen.  I'm still savoring the quote from the prayer, "Father, break my heart for the things that break yours."

Monday, August 8, 2011

Patron Saint of...

Larry D tagged me in a fun meme contest. 

This idea evolved from a blog about a blog about a blog. 

Jeff Miller, blogger extraordinaire more famously known as The Curt Jester, published a clever post earlier today called "Saintly Planning" - advice on the things you need to do to become a saint. Here's an excerpt:

Plus I think you really want to figure out what you are going to be the patron saint of ahead of time. Otherwise you might get one of those ironic patronages the Church seems to love so much. Pick wisely because you will be doing it for eternity or else you might get put in charge of the lost and found like St. Anthony.

This passage inspired another blogger, Puff at Puff's Blog About Stuff, to start a meme:

What would your patronage be?

And then, I got tagged.
Here are the rules:

For this meme, you must name your patronage.
and then tag 5 other people who would like to play along.

Linking your answer to your nominator's post would make it easier to get your answers.

Since I'm a known rule-bender (non-doctrinal ones, at least), I'm changing the meme slightly. I'm asking you, faithful and friendly reader, to choose my patronage that will be assigned to me, upon the moment of my achieving sainthood. I'm much too humble to even consider what my own patronage would be, even more so regarding my impending certain sainthood... Notice I said "friendly."

Now I've frequented Acts of Apostasy for a while so I considered his possible saintly qualities: snarky humor, doctrinal clarity, loathing of liturgical dancing.  Then I considered what job he might enjoy using as a means of dispensing grace to those still struggling to make it into Heaven. 

Now humor as a gift is precious because it can be used to heal.  When it is pure snark, it is simply cruel.  When it is satire, it is used to instruct. When it lacks substance, it is simply silly.  On his blog, Larry D skates upon that point, between satire, snark and silly depending upon his mood. 

But, perfected, Larry would be able to intercede for all those of the blogosphere who seek to amuse, instruct and delight while still evoking smiles and laughter.  He would be the patron saint of blogger's block, combining his love of the modern means of communication with the capacity to spread the faith through a goodly dash of chuckles; a saint who smiles easily.

Oh - by the way - the following future saints have been tagged:

Now, to invite others into the game: 
Danny of
Sarah of My Wonderful Life
The Ironic Catholic
Jill at Pundit and Pundette
and brother bloggers, Matt and Patrick at Creative Minority Report.

 Also, to everyone not tagged, feel free to leave your suggestions in the combox if you want to play along.
Oh, ...and I'm the patron saint of the disorganized, procrastinating and heavily caffinated. 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A State of Civility, Idiocy and Mind...A Texan Rant

On Facebook, the picture was a shot of the back of a car seen in Rhode Island. 

"Misplaced Texan" in the colors and style of the Lone Star flag had been slapped on the back.  The caption in the picture. "Somewhere in Texas, some village is missing..." and we all know the last word is idiot. 

Now I am a Texan, and I am on many subjects, an idiot.  But if it is wrong to cloak a whole people by a stereotype born of negative traits that harken to past and present close mindedness, then it is wrong to cloak a whole people by a stereotype based on geography and politics. I tried to ignore it.

Maybe because I'd spent a bit of the morning thinking fondly of my father (the Gospel's readings today remind me of several boating stories about him and fellow Texans), I couldn't ignore what I'd seen.  Reading another friend's descriptions of the sounds and smells and tastes of New Orleans put me in a decidedly nostalgic Southern frame of mind.  The insult of it kept gnawing at me.

I thought of how the air smells in my hometown Beaumont.  (Mine growing up was salt and peppered with mosquitoes).  Before we set foot on the driveway of our old home, we feel home.  Our bones know it when we are there, that this smells like home, because this part of home (if we left it to live somewhere else), we can only  experience by returning.  Breathing it in allows us to visit memories and experiences that otherwise very likely remain dormant and invisible even to ourselves. 

But for whatever the reason, the Texan in me wouldn't let go of the image and his words.  The Texan in me?She got mad.  It very likely proves the poster's point by responding but in all honesty, I'd prefer he allow each person from the Lone Star State to step forward and remove all doubt of their idiocy, rather than paint with a broad brush. So I'm stepping into it and forward by speaking back, by speaking up. 

If he didn't presume, if he got to meet even the person sporting the bumper sticker, he might find Texans, even misplaced ones, are friendly to a fault, laugh louder than most, love a good story, good food and a fair shake. 

Perhaps he'd tell me that's stereotypical too.

Most misplaced Texans (self included) put that sort of bumper sticker on their car as sort of a lament for the air of home.  Texans put those stickers on their car possibly because they'd prefer not to be surrounded by people that write them off as stupid because of how they talk and where they are from. Maybe they'd prefer to be with people who enjoy a good story, good food, a fair shake and laugh louder than most.  Maybe we miss something of that air, of that culture that did not presume we as individuals were idiots until we stepped forward and somehow proved it. 

I know there are plenty of smart Texans across this land.  I also know I may have just proved conclusively and permanently, (seeing as it's my blog and it's now on the Internet forever), I am not one of the smart ones.

So because it is Face book and just a bumper sticker that someone found amusing for different reasons than I would, I'd just like to invite the good professor to consider allowing himself to meet a few more of us.  We'll probably say some things you wouldn't, but we'll also probably surprise you.  I find that all humans do surprise each other if they take the time to break bread and  tell their stories; we are all poorer, dumber, weaker and more injured than we ever wish to let on, but we also are brighter, kinder and hold more wisdom than we ourselves imagine.  And we all sometimes show greater charity than previously presumed and also allow ourselves to snark more than we ought.

All of that comes out in conversation over beer or coffee or pie or barbecue much better than bumper stickers or even blogs.   I also know humor is subjective and sensibilities can be overly nursed to the point of being absurd which this probably has.

But I'm better now. I've said my piece in response to his and if I ever see a bumper sticker in the Lone Star State, "Misplaced Rhode Islander," I promise not to jump to negative or derogatory conclusions about the smallest state in the union missing a person.  I'll guess that person is missing something of the air of home that can't be found anywhere else but the place with the state motto "Hope" and ask to hear about what that person misses so much.

Then I went and reread the post that had provoked so much.  I saw it was a joke on the phrase, because it said, "Somewhere in Texas, a villiage is missing....the person who owns this vehicle."   I must have reread that post four times, checking for a mispelling, for an incorrect rendering of the Texas flag, anything to give the benefit of the doubt before sounding off and still missed it.  I missed the mark. 

Guess Beaumont is minus one idiot...and for the record, with all humility and laughing at myself for my myopia, "I'm very sorry professor, mea culpa and the crow tastes delicious."

Friday, August 5, 2011

Prayers for Writers

A fellow blogger is struggling with writer's block.  I know I hate when that happens to me and so I started to post, "Pray to Saint Anthony to find your muse."  Then, for fun, I thought "How would you petition other saints to help get through this sort of a creativity block?"  

St. Rita (I know it's obvious), because this feels impossible.

St. Martha: That I not be anxious about this.

St. George: That I slay this writer's block soon.

St. Thomas More: That I write truth.

St. Catherine of Sienna: That I write with passion and fire.

St. Christopher: That I find a way out of this world of lost thought.

St. Augustine: That I write with depth.

St. Francis of Assisi: That I write beauty.

Leave your own in the comments section.

Becoming Whole

In all families, civil wars occasionally erupt.  Brother against sister, North versus South, Republicans with Democrats, and even within the Catholic church itself; Catholics fight to divide what should be seamless. 

On the right, there are those who advocate a conservative close as possible to pre-Vatican II re adoption of the rules, (Kneeling only), (Women should be modest by only wearing dresses), (Latin Liturgy) and on the left, the progressive social justice crowd (works matter more than prayer or sacraments), (morals cannot be imposed or enforced but must only be discerned, meaning Saints, popes, the bible and priests are not sources of moral authority) (sacraments aren't much more than traditions that have been handed down that have created a particular culture from adopting tenets of older cultures).  All of us fall on one side or the other of that bell curve that is the total body of the Holy Catholic Church. 

The two sides in their totality can be easily spotted by the blogs and newspapers and magazines they prefer. But there's a problem with both renderings of Catholicism, neither is Catholicism.   We cannot erase half and declare ourselves whole.

We keep forgetting, Christ was both; God and man.

We are called to be like Christ.

Ergo, we are to hold sacred the gifts of the Church, her princes, the sacraments, her teachings (all of them), her relics, her traditions, her beautiful churches and her prayers, novenas, traditions and liturgical seasons.

We also are to act as if every person around us is Christ in disguise: the gay, the leper, the immigrant, the homeless, the mentally ill, the old, the disabled, the rich, the poor, the famous, the infamous, the lonely, the leaders of a political party we don't like, the radio or television talk show hosts we disagree with, the show offs, the corrupt, the prisoners and the judges, the living, the dying, the pregnant mother, the unborn child, the abortionist and the people who pray outside the clinic. There is no one, not one sinner we are not called to love.  

Christ tells us in so many of his acts in real life and in parables: We are admonished not to throw stones.  We are also commanded to go and sin no more.  We are the prodigal son and the older brother, we are Martha and Mary, we are those who wept on the road to Calvary and those who shouted "Crucify him!"  We are part of that crowd of 5000+ who received the loaves and fishes, we are also part of those who led Him off to die. 

No one should feel comfortable if they are to be Catholic. 

No one should look at that list and not at some point gulp and know that here or there, they missed the mark.  We all have a "Surely not I" moment or "Surely God doesn't mean that." There is something on the list somewhere, be it abortion, birth control, ordination of only men, selling everything and giving to the poor, taking up one's cross, washing the feet of others, going to weekly mass and to regular confession, being charitable towards some group of others, being more loving and more meek and serving than one feels, that we in our fallen flawed state rejects. 

We will have reasonable reasons and we will seek to soothe ourselves that we are only being reasonable, practical, and that God understands because He is merciful.  We will also presume that God appreciates how we are right and those other folks, be they right, left, perpetually slothful or overly mercilessly vigilant lack understanding and charity.

We have trouble because we think one must chose between Mercy and Justice.
We have trouble because we think Heaven will be peopled with people like us, or that Hell doesn't exist. 
Heaven will be peopled with people like Christ.  Hell will be peopled with people who refuse, and Purgatory will be overflowing with those of us who have not yet surrendered that part of ourselves that isn't like Christ, that refuses to exercise both charity and truth, prayer and service, to be both Martha and Mary to those around us. 

One side holds on to symbols and rigidity of custom, that truth is rooted in the past, the other views everything as fluid and subject to the fashionable philosophic musings of the day.  We shortchange our own hearts and minds with moral and mental blinders that let us only view one faucet of Him.

This is the cure to all our squabbles, to all our strife.

We have the body and blood of Christ.  Christ's essence, like the Church's essence, is solid, is real, is always the bread that becomes the body.  We do not get to cut the consecrated host we consume. We must take it all, in full knowledge that we are forever not worthy to receive, but by God's mercy, God's love, we are allowed.  Christ's blood is fluid, but it is always wine that becomes his sacred blood.  Likewise, we are to pour ourselves out to others beyond what we thought possible.  

We aren't called to be at ease with ourselves, only at peace. We are called to trust in Christ's mercy but to work with the full knowledge that we must serve and serve and serve and still, we will not be worthy of this great gift. On our own, our hearts are too small to hold all of Christ, so we must allow our hearts to be broken open by God, by others, by life until we have hearts with no walls.

Christ is present, in a sacred and profound mysterious way that only can be found within the mass, within the sacraments. To be Catholic, it is not all tradition or social justice.  To be Catholic, one must simply love the Eucharist above all else. It is the sole reason for being Catholic; it is only availble within the Catholic church.  If one begins this journey, to love the Eucharist, serve Him that is the Eucharist will follow. Everything else that you do, say, think and believe will follow and eventually be reordered and tempered by that fierce devotion to our Lord and become as Christ would say, as Christ would do.

Perhaps this is why Adoration is on the rise, because all of us are seeking to become whole, and know our own pitiful interpretations of our faith miss the mark.  Our whole objective in being Catholic, is to become less us, more Him.   Our whole reason for being Catholic, is to know Christ as intimately as possible, such that each of us puts ourself out to others the way He did for us so that we do not judge but love, we do not condemn but instead nurse, and we forgive.  We speak truth and speak truth and speak truth, mindful of Christ's full holding to even the last letter of the law and we forgive and forgive and forgive, mirroring Christ's mercy and complete fulfillment of those laws as they were intended, to bring us into communion with Him. 

Left and Right, Liberal and Conservative, these are adjectives and in the end, they fall away. To be Catholic is to be the Eucharist for others.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Small Success Thursday!

It's Thursday in all it's Weekly Awesomeness!

Every week, we take stock of the little victories that are the hallmark of motherhood. If you'ld like to join in, just use Mr. Linky and post your Small Successes on your blog or in the comment section here.  Then go blog hopping to 1) see how everyone else is doing 2) be inspired and discover a few new beautiful writers/mothers and doers out there and 3) be part of their support and encouragement to keep on doing by leaving a comment. 

So here's this week's wrap up:

1) I have only missed working out one day this past week using the Wii Fit.  Several people asked for a review in the comment section last week.  Upside: Loads of fun. Motivation to work out.  Zero excuses as it's not like I have to drive anywhere or even get babysitters to be able to work out. Downside: Don't think the wii's system of measuring calories or mileage is accurate or I'd be on the Olympic Cross Country Team.  (See prior post Virtual Reality for details).

2) Got a hair cut.  It was getting where the only way I tolerated my locks was if they were balled up in a pony tail.  Still needs a touch of color, (Hello Sherry, your ego is on line one and doesn't like being put on hold) but it looks nice. 

3) One of my favorite Catholic bloggers out there, Larry D of Acts of the Apostasy once wrote about how mini-fasts are like offering up a cross of toothpicks, and he surrendered Diet Coke.  I don't know how long he fasted, but I love the image of a cross of toothpicks.  Last week, I did fast from the computer.  I failed to do so this week, but I've been trying to give up a cross of toothpicks each day --chocolate, griping, diet coke one day, and I've stumbled too --when I tried to abstain from meat, I forgot and then after I forgot, instead of continuing, I allowed myself to quit for the day.  Whether I succeed or fail, these little fasts are good reminder to me how attached I am to what brings me comfort, what appetites dominate my will.

4) Took six kids to the dentist yesterday, only one cavity! Even the dentist said, "It's defying the odds."

5) Made a pitch for a piece in a newspaper.  We'll see. 

Now it's your turn! I can't wait to see what all of you folks have been up to this past week. (Now that my computer is back, I'll be able to get to leaving comments much easier --had to wait my turn with the family machine last week and there's always a line). :)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Eye of the Tiger vs. the Energy of the Sloth: The Great Debate

My brother restarted his blog and his running regimen. Go, enjoy. It's a fun read.

The Eye of the Tiger vs. the Energy of the Sloth: The Great Debate: "The following is an example of the typical conversation I have with myself every other day in the summer heat of Houston. Lazy Me: You do..."

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Virtual Reality

As followers of this blog know, I now have a Wii fit. I've been asked if it's good, and to give a review.

I will say, it is fun, it has promoted exercise in my family and according to it, I've jogged in place roughly 30 miles since last week.  Given that before last week, I had not run mile one in about three years, you'ld think the pounds would be melting away.

Alas the virtual miles do not make the actual pounds disappear. I've gained two! My Wii Mii is flabby in the middle like me.  Speaking from the tiny part of me that is completely vain, I'd like a little less realistic reality in my virtual avatar. 

Then there's the Wii Mii age. The machine gives you your physical age based on a series of tests.  I've been 63, 54, 49, 33, and 25.  It's very demoralizing when your kids tell you, "Hey says you're old and overweight.  The Wii said so." 

The Wii also says I'm running 12.6 miles in an hour. I've NEVER done that, I don't think it's physically possible given my airway issues.  So the skeptic in me has awakened.  How is it possible I'm jogging nearly the equivalent of a half a marathon a day in an hour? How is it I am morphing into Supergirl when I run in the Wii world and staying slug flabby Mii both on the screen and in real life?  Is the Wii lying to me in my activity, telling me what I want to hear in one area but not the other? If the machine is going to lie to me, I wish it would tell me I'm thinner for all these miles.

Here's what I do know...reality is always harder than virtual; rockband is easier than practicing a guitar, blogging is easier than writing for a publication, and Facebook is no substitute for time spent with friends.

Sigh...Nothing good or great or worthwhile is easy. Nothing of value does not require commitment.
I'm reminded of the quote, "Of course it's hard. If it was easy then everybody would do it. Its the hard that makes it great."--from A League of Their Own. 

Wii Fit is the exercise equivalent of diet food dessert.  It almost works, but not quite because we know what the real cheesecake tastes like.    It is real enough, I'm working out and that's a start.   I still like the Wii, but tomorrow, I'm going to try running outside and see what happens...I'll let you know how far I get in those sixty minutes outside of the Wii world.  Hopefully actual exercise in the real world will yield better results than the Wii world has.  I'll let you know.

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!