Sunday, October 30, 2011

Why We Don't Have a TV show

Every once in a while, when I meet someone new and they learn that I have ten children, they ask, "So why don't you have a television show like the Duggars?" 

Most recently, there is a poised polished mother of eight who serves as a spokeswoman for the local Giant grocery store.  As such, the question was floated out by one of my own children, "Why isn't that us?" 

Why isn't that us?  I didn't answer.  But I thought about it afterwards.

Why isn't that us?

Ummmm.  I'm not that organized?

I don't want to document my parental errors with indisputable film evidence? 

Went shopping at Safeway because they have the inside Starbuck's where I can slum and get a hot chocolate?

Currently our kitchen table is covered with pumpkins, a plastic skull, a box of markers, and a shoe.

Visualizing being immortalized cleaning the kitchen with my shop vac.  bleah.

TV would add ten extra pounds.

My kids think ketchup IS a vegetable.

We'd have to use the good plates.

The kids need hair cuts.

Not sure I could bribe the finicky eater not to say, "Ewwww! We're eating that?".

The mountain of unsorted socks is a deal killer.

Casual trumpet practicing is still very very very loud.

I'd have to organize the pantry so it looked photogenic.

Three children began chasing each other around the dining room screaming lines from "My Little Pony." and they're all Pinky Pie.

So we will not be doing commercials children.  That fig leaf of dignity that the virtual world affords, this blogger intends to keep. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Quick Takes Friday

1.  What I've Been Up To

I updated my resume and publication log this year, I only have three articles to speak of and so it looks like I dropped off the planet by comparison with 2008,2009 and 2010.  Time to get back in the habit of submitting pieces (and ahem Sherry, writing them).  Hate that the well feels so dry.

2.  Halloween

This year, I have a Tigger (the baby), a dinosaur (Paul), Rainbow Dash, a fairy princess, a werewolf, a movie star, a tween who is at the moment, undecided, a cat and two older kids who want very much to dress up but haven't determined what they want to be.  

3.  Cheese Pumpkins

I got questions in my comments about what are cheese pumpkins.  They're very pale orange pumpkins, a creamy tan/orange in color.  They make awesome pies and cookies.   Here's my pumpkin pie recipe.  My family loves these so much, they say things like, "You only made six?" 

Pumpkin Chiffon Pie

1/4 cup softened butter
3/4 cup dark brown sugar (Splenda works great as an alternative!)
4 egg yolks
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups pureed cooked pumpkin (not canned)
1/2 cup heavy cream (Whole milk or evaporated works well as a substitute)
1 tsp vanilla extract
5 egg whites
2  Nine inch pie shells (uncooked).

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the egg yolks, spices, salt, pumpkin and milk/cream and extract. 

In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites until firm but not dry.  Fold in 1/2 of the egg whites into the batter to mix and lighten whole mixture, then fold in the rest.  Pour into pie shells.   Bake on a cookie sheet at 350degrees for 45-50 minutes.  (I recommend a pie ring for the crust to keep it from burning).

Variants, fold in one cup of mini chocolate chips, yumminess.   Have cold milk and whipped cream at the waiting when it comes out of the oven and stand back. 

4.  What I'm Reading: The Duty of Delight: The Diaries of Dorthy Day.  Remember I told you I was becoming a reader/reviewer?  This is my first opportunity. It arrived yesterday, so it's going to take me a few days to plunge through this and I'll post my thoughts once I finish, but I thought I'd at least mention the book.  I don't know much about this woman (admittedly I should but I don't), but this I'm quite sure will remedy that section of ignorance from my brain.  

5. What's on Tap? 

This weekend, we have tickets to a show at our daughter's high school.  I've never seen this musical so it should be fun. 

6. Been introducing older kids to 1) silent films on the Classic Movie channel --we have two big fans, (one's even doing a report on Charlie Chaplin), and 2) classic Halloween stories.  One kid has discovered she loves Agatha Christie, and another likes the Frankenstein films.  A third is reading Dracula.   Nothing like a good scare for October 31st.  

7.  Favorite Candies:  You knew it was coming.  I mean this blog has Chocolate in the title.  My favorite Halloween candies are Twix (the original), and Almond Joy.  Though admittedly, I have no problem being the clean up detail on all the snickers that go unloved in my children's candy bags.  I will make that sacrifice.  The things we mothers must do. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Small Success Thursday

These weeks go by too fast to get much done sometimes.  Nevertheless, it is Thursday, so as hostess, I must remind everyone to stop and count their blessings.  We try to remember that this journey is in inches and moments, and measured by how much we love and nothing else.  

So this week:

1) We are caught up on the laundry.  The dryer is thinking about quitting, but so far just wants breaks in between loads.  Seems reasonable to me, I want that too.

2) Worked on Helen, as promised.  I was feeling pretty good about adding 1,500 words.  I was feeling almost smug that she's clocking in at 73K.  Guess what, I just learned from my writer's forum. Most first books are around 65K.  So I've got some editing to do.  (Sigh).  But it might mean, I've started my second book while working on my first!  

3) Took two kiddos to the dentist.  It's not a Yeah! but it's part of caring for them.

4) Patrolling (I'm Batgirl) is starting to have an effect.  I visually check every room in the house.  The results are that the house is becoming less chaotic, a bit easier to manage.  Did tackle the basement --clutter wise this week.  Will hit the bookshelf o-doom --where everything gets piled, tomorrow. 

5) Shameless plug and writing wantabe slog continues:  Got published this week in the Catholic Standard, got a nice (and I mean really nice) rejection from the National Catholic Register on a piece, and made a pitch for a job writing for a local paper. 

6) Played Return of the King yesterday with my son. 

7) Praying the Rosary daily.   

This week I'm going to: tackle the closet and cabinets o'doom, write and submit a piece, and edit Helen for a few hours.  

P.S. I had to do a bit of code writing to get Mr. Linky to cooperate, so I'm feeling supra geniusy for making the adjustments to make it work by cutting and pasting, and changing the date in the code. Now, if it works...

Now it's your turn:

Shameless Self Promotion I and II

Remember how I said I'd been asked to write a piece for the Catholic Standard?  Well, it's up and running.  Ergo, the obligatory personal plug. Here's the link.  Yes we try all these methods.  Yes we're still sometimes a bit tardy.  Yes we're working on it.  Going to go reset the clocks now....

Get Me to the Church On Time!

Shameless Plug II

I have a piece at if you'ld care to hear my musings on Occupy Wallstreet:  "Asking of Caesar for What is God's."

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Beauty You Cannot Yet Know

It has been brought to my attention that I do not have enough fun in my life; that at 45, my daily routine could be summed up as pedestrian. 

Upon reflection, I can see how that might seem to be true.  Any given day, I write, I clean, I exercise, I pray, I drive people from point a to point b, take my medication, ponder what I should read, nag people to do their homework and clean up from it all so as to start again the next day. 

There aren't any bass guitar playing lessons or uber cool swanky restaurants scheduled or tickets to a jazz ensemble.  I don't cook gourmet food, whittle, design art work, sew, swing dance or speak French.  I haven't learned to sculpt or mastered hyper organization or couponing such that we would merit a television show for our efforts.  My blogging is the equivalent of being My Space in a Facebook world.  As for accomplishments, we're just doing what is required and the day can measured in diapers and lunches and schedules and assignments and bath times, diet cokes and beds made.  Looked   at with such a jaded jaundiced eye, it's hard not to say, "Wheeeee."

It's not that I haven't made my mark in the world. I can point to a burn on my right hand in between my second and third finger from rescuing smoking popcorn from the microwave on Sunday.  It's not that I don't try new things.  Today I can boast that I vacuumed the basement and I made oven cooked pulled pork.  I also can prove that at some point, I stop.  The couch is nearly sagging from the laundry I haven't finished.  Mentally making a note, tomorrow, the vacuuming gets the day off so I can tackle the great mountain of towels. 

I fell asleep with the thoughts, "Not enough fun." ringing in my head.  And I remember thinking, I can see how it doesn't make any sense to stay home, to have all these or any of these children, to spend all of our money on food and tuition and everything other than new stuff for ourselves.

But when you have these people and you wake up at 1 a.m. because you just remembered something that must be done, and go to turn off lights, check the bathrooms for dripping sinks, slip a note with dollar under a pillow after finding the tooth, and put the blankets over your sleeping children, this is something of happiness that cannot be acquired any other way than willingly through service born of love.

Collecting three sippy cups, two bags of clothing and making a mental note of who needs socks and who needs shorts for the next day, these things are given without thought partially because it's so late, but partially because it has become habit. This service is a limited gift with a limited time, even though I've done it for 18 years thus far. Coming back to bed, they've been a speedy and to my mind, fun 18 years. Despite all the laundry, dishes, beds, trash, paperwork, bills, reading of Green Eggs and Ham and viewing of Dora episodes, diapers, potty training, bed time routines and finding of shoes,  I can recall all the drudgery but it seems a small price to pay. 

The day starts at 5:50 so I can unload the dishwasher from last night's dinner and start on making the 9 lunches and 10 breakfasts that must be served before 7:30 and in some cases, before 6:30 to ensure everyone gets out the door on time.   Vitamins, clearing the table, two diaper changes, third and forth run out to drop people off and things finally settle down.  I still have dry cleaning and a patrol of the three floors to do, then lunch, then errands to pick up formula, bananas, and maybe a loaf of french bread to supplement dinner and make it more palatable for those who don't like pasta. 

It would all be Sisyphean and pointless if it weren't for one thing.  Love.

It's not Pollyanna to say that all service is joy if done with love. Love requires sacrifice, requires work, requires effort, requires some level of surrendering that only seems like nothing to those who do not know of the sacrifice being made.  If service with joy is done correctly, no one sees any sacrifice, because the giver does not browbeat the recipient with knowledge of the gift being offered.  If parenting were simply a matter of duty, it would be drudgery.  But parenting must be more than mere duty to be real.  It is my job to create hearth and home and make this place welcoming, safe, comfortable and yes even fun, to set up the experience for them to enjoy, and to derive my greatest pleasure from watching them enjoy the party.  
So this is for all of my children, so they will one day understand. 

My life does not fit on a resume, nor does it make for good bragging at a 30 year reunion.
But this life, with all that it isn't, with all that has been deferred and denied or allowed to wait, is more than I expected, and fuller than even I on my best moments, can comprehend.  And sometimes, being fallen, tired, frustrated or feeling self indulgent and self pitying, I forget entirely.  For those times, I'm sorry. 

It is hard to explain to anyone who is waiting for the adult life to begin, to everyone who doesn't yet comprehend why one would want to fall in love or to surrender everything for love except to say, it makes all burdens light, turns water into wine, and makes even the toughest times and hardest tasks possible. 

Having all of you is a gift, a beauty you cannot yet know or comprehend.  Serving all of you is also a gift, a great mercy: it keeps me from falling into a self absorbed world where it is my indulgences alone that determine what I shall and shall not do. The horror of such a life is that eventually, it becomes very dull and boring and yes, lonely.  My heart is full to bursting and never lacking for someone to love. 

And my life, while full of repetition, is never dull except if I allow it.  Any day, I can play with blocks, color, practice piano, get schooled in Mario Carts, pull a surprise victory in Magic, kick a soccer ball, bake cupcakes and give bubble baths.  Christmas and birthdays and Halloween and Easter rock, and as a friend told me, every day at my house, dinner is Thanksgiving.  I get to read Half Magic and Harry Potter and A Little Princess and Black Beauty and watch you discover them ten times over.  I promise you, the fun of life as an adult is in the details.

So while you don't understand it, I will tell you "Thank you." for this seemingly predictable life that can't be obtained via a degree.  

Thank you for all of it.  But I promise to have more fun while you're watching so you'll maybe get a better grasp of the bigger picture.  Tonight, I'm firing up the Lord of The Rings game, dibs on Legolas and you'd better watch out because once I get those fighting knives on fire, I'm unstoppable.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

You Know it's Writer's Block When...

10) None of your imaginary friends will play with you.

9) Trolling the Internet in desperate hopes of inspiration seems reasonable.

8) so does deliberately giving children markers without paper.

7) Everyone in your house seems way to calm, collected and normal for comfort.

6) No matter what you do, the page does not love you.

5) Start reading your old posts to see if anything merits a rerun.

4) You begin asking family members if they want to "guest blog." They are all backing away slowly, making no sudden moves.

3) Reading tips for ending writer's block don't bring hope.

2) Exercise and laundry start to seem oddly compelling.

1) You're reduced to using a cheap writing device, making a list and writing a meta-blog about writing, complaining about the problem that is causing the problem.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Small Success Thursday

Welcome to another Small Successes Thursday! The day when we stop to count our blessings and see that all the little things we do add up to a lot of love and that with each day, we're making serious progress. Part of why I love this little weekly exercise is it reminds me that while there are days when doing all of this is effortless, and there are days when it takes only effort to get through the basics; either way is a victory. I also feel heartened to read your stories and honored to host.

So to get to it then; this week I:

1) went on a date. We took two of our sons to a caps game thanks to free tickets! It was fun. It had been a long time since I'd been to one and to this day, I still don't quite get how fouls are called in hockey because I saw a lot of what I thought was technically not allowed but it was a blast!

2) participated in the 40 Days for Life.

3) My son had a field trip to a pumpkin patch and normally, I don't go to such things. I love that sort of stuff but it's hard to get out and manage a baby and a toddler and a four year old at an open setting. However, this was an absolute blast and it was at a place I'd never been before, so I was treated to a ride through Maryland hills loaded with fall foliage to boot. Got a cheese pumpkin to make pie.

4) Joined a book review team for Catholic writers. Can't wait! "For she is too fond of books."

5) Got a flu shot for free yesterday. Cue happy dance.

This week I'll Segment Report: I only managed two days of exercise this week, and there was a problem with Microsoft word so Helen got only a touch of editing (one day, 250 words --sigh). But there's always next week.

Next week I'll Goal: Get to 73K on Helen (Only 750 words away), and bump that exercise up to 4 days.

Now it's your turn. For some reason Mr. Linky seems a bit cranky today.  Just list a few things you've done this week that deserve a Hurrah! Then link up here in the combox so everyone can know where to come and visit.  If it's working, also leave a comment as my page does not show Mr. Linky at all. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Parenting House of Horrors

For true horror, moms have everyone else beat.  We deal in the unexpected on a daily basis, enough to have collected a cache of horror cliches that would leave the unseasoned, the unready and the uninitiated, paralyzed in fear. 

The following is from the Parenting House of Horrors Hall of Fame Collection.  Nominees for the 2012 awards can be left in the com box.

10) Cereal Killer: It's the Monday morning after a three day weekend.  You go innocently into the kitchen to start prepping for school.  Picking up the lunch box, it feels strangely heavy.  You shake it.   Sure enough, the bag has that tell tale sound, that "Don't go in there!" sound.  You've seen it before.  You know how this ends.  Don't eat before you go and pray neither the yogurt, nor the banana peel were left behind.

9) The Vanishing Part I:  Your shoes.  Your purse.  Your keys.  Your checkbook.  The one paper in a stack of 50 that needed signing and to be sent back. When you're in a hurry, one of these things will be gone.  When you're in a real hurry, you won't find out until you've left. 

8)  Abduction: You need help for a cleaning project.  Even in a home with ten children, not one can be summoned. My explanation?  Aliens.

7) Outbreak: One child gets a cold.  The child will need antibiotics.  No one else will show symptoms until you run out of the pink stuff.  Then every other child will have it, and you will have a whole shelf devoted to Amoxicilin.  Sometime around Thanksgiving, the last dose shall be measured out. 

6) The Vanishing Part II: I know you went shopping yesterday.  But somehow, there's no milk today.

5) Scream: An apple core....found anywhere. 

4) The Blob: Laundry. It doesn't matter how much you fold.  It doesn't matter how much you washed.  There's more today and it's coming to get you.

3) It Came From....:Any diaper that has exceeded design parameters.  It happens.  You know it. I know it. 

2) The Flood: That moment just before you identify the sound you've been hearing is running water...coming from a place where there shouldn't be running water.

1) The Vanishing III: Money.  Wallet.  Children.   Gone.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Confessions of a Scaredy Cat*

My name is Sherry, and I am a scaredy cat.

When I was 5, Mom took us shopping for Halloween. I picked out a “scary black cat” but when I put it on at home, I couldn’t stop screaming. Terrified by the angry feline face staring back at me in the mirror, Mom dutifully took the costume back. I was a Cinderella princess instead. Thus began my love hate relationship with all things frightening.

The next summer, a fireman came by the neighborhood to campaign for all homes to purchase smoke detectors. (We did). He talked about fire safety and showed a film of a home burning to the ground. Shaking my hand when I answered “Stop, drop and roll.” He awarded me an Inflatable Smokey the bear. That evening, nightmares of my home, my parents, even my brothers burning plagued me. I begged Mom the next day to call the fireman and return Smokey.

That Halloween, there was a carnival at the community college. Many of the volunteers were friends of my parents. Some had been at our home and even babysat. Going into the spook house, I saw the three witches at the cauldron and froze. Mom and Dad’s friends were upset to see me so frightened. They immediately took off their masks but I wouldn’t stop sobbing until Dad carried me out.

My latent cowardice was concealed for a few years by avoidance of all things creepy. By banning spooky costumes, movies, and haunted houses, I pretended to forget that I was indeed, a chicken. I didn’t even watch Scooby Doo.

Somewhere in adolescence I began a crash course of attempted self correction of this character flaw. I read “Jaws” at the beach and couldn’t swim that week. I watched Dracula films in October, with the lights on, clutching a bible and the rosary. I also went to the bathroom frequently during these films. Playing dungeons and dragons and slaughtering the undead mercilessly, I told myself I was growing out of it.

Every fall, the state fair came to our town. My brother and I were now old enough to venture forth on our own for an hour or so while Mom took our other brother and cousins to the baby rides. My brother was 2 ½ years younger than me, we had that unhealthy standing sibling rivalry perfected. We loved beating each other, academically, physically, morally. Most anything from grades to getting in the car first could easily become a sudden death contest.

When Mom turned us loose, I was ready. “Let’s see who can be the bravest.” I dared.
“You’re on!” Joe grinned, he had been plotting too.

Joe started strong. He went into the room with the man who became a Gorrilla. He was the last to run out of the room. I was first.

I went on the Super Buggy Roller Coaster, the second biggest at the fair, in the front seat. He sat in the last. Joe ate a hot dog and went on the Zipper while I watched.

I had an ice cream and went on the Gravitron, but he went with me. We both felt a bit green afterwards. He threw up first so I won that round.

Pre-lims were over. Now, it was serious.

Joe touched the python in the creepy creatures tent. Now how could I top that? I tried to wrestle the greased pig and failed. Then we went to the freak show and Joe was grossed out by the leering advances of the bearded fat lady. Victory was slipping so he went on the SuperLoop by himself. I had never done that ride, not even with Dad.

Working my nerve up, we both went on the Yo-Yo swings and then I spied it from the air. I would go through the Spook House alone. Joe looked doubtful but impressed. That clinched it.

Sitting in the little cart as it rattled towards the dark entrance, I began to get cold feet. “If I bolt, I lose.” I thought. Fear was making me seriously consider quitting. I glanced at Joe who looked both awed and a bit worried and I set my teeth. I would do it. The door opened. It was pitch black. I couldn’t see.

“That’s it!” my brain exclaimed, “I’ll keep my eyes shut, and Joe will never know! GENIUS!” I grinned, “two minutes and I win!”

I could see light through my lids so I covered my eyes with my hands. Then I heard screams and laughter and moans and the clicking and whirring of motors and track and chains pulling the cart along, so I plugged my ears. My cart rolled and stopped and turned and dropped, but I wasn’t nervous. Nearing the end, the cart had slowed down.

Someone tapped me on the shoulder. I ignored it.

Someone tapped me again. I brushed it off, still not looking.

A third time, the very real hand stayed on my shoulder.

I turned around, opened my eyes and found myself face to face with a live monster. I screamed and punched it right in the nose with all the force I could muster.

He jumped off the cart cursing and ripping off his mask, howling and swearing “GIRL!” and hopping away quickly as I looked back in shock.

The ride exit opened into sunshine. I came out laughing. Joe couldn’t believe I had done it and survived. I didn’t tell him what happened. We met at the exit line and ran towards the livestock exhibits to meet Mom. I bought Joe a caramel apple and got to bask in the fake glory of being both brave and a good sport.

That Halloween, I was a ninja zombie slayer and Joe was a vampire. We stayed up watching Invasion of the Body Snatchers. I had nightmares galore, but didn’t tell anyone. I still get creeped out easily by things but every once in a while, I watch or read them anyway, because now I know I know, my left hook is killer.

*Originally printed in Beaumont Enterprise Halloween 2006

Friday, October 14, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday

1.  My hair

See yesterday's post for the story. I only have one picture so far.  My son snapped it with his cell phone.  Here you go folks. 
I'll stop complaining.  It's just a shock to me, not what I've been used to, and I hadn't planned to go this dark. 

2.  Anna Maria Finally has a tooth! 

She's 8 months and we're finally getting one.  Given how fussy she was for this one, I'm not looking forward to the incoming remaining 19 or so we will have to endure.   But I love her smile.  I love the way her upper lip is a bit crooked when she grins.  She's jamming her whole five fingers in her mouth right now so I predict a shower of teeth in the upcoming weeks. 

Obigatory Cute Baby Picture

Last days of the toothless grin.

3.  In the News Today...things happened, people are hurting, our side is right, if you think otherwise, you're a dope.  That is all.

I'm starting to think about giving up being informed because it's hard to sift through all the stuff right, left, radical, commonsense, opinion, fact on any topic, even the weather.   What is hyperbole in this day and age?  What is truth?  For a time, I tried reading opposite ends of the spectrum but who has that kind of mental energy?  For a time, I cherry picked from real clear politics, the Washington post and the radio.  But how do I know if I'm just seeking my comfort zone and ignoring reality if I only read my favorites?  And how do I keep from poisoning my own spirit while trying to stay informed? We have plenty of voices with earnest conviction, cheerleaders for their side, but how many of them are of both Truth and Charity?   

4.  The Credit Card Diet

Last month, my son started gaining the Freshman 15, he got as far as 7.  Then, we saw the bill.  A lot of dining at McDonald's and California Pizza will do that. After paying his tab, my son voluntarily gave up his credit card.  He's lost five pounds.  Wondering if I should follow suit. 

5. The Food Network has Ruined Me

Ah, the irony of juxtapositioning blurbs. 

When I watch TV, I watch those cooking shows like Top Chef and Iron Chef and Food Truck Race and Diners Drive Ins and Dives and Good Eats.  These days, I get to see about two a week. But even at that regulated pace, I now cannot fully enjoy myself at a restaurant. The other day, I went to a Mexican food place we don't normally haunt.  I found my brain saying, "This salsa has a wonderful chunkiness and flavor but it lacks that third element that makes it a salsa; there's no heat or bite to this, it's like a gazpatso with cumin and cilantro.  If it were a soup, it would be rocking but as a salsa, it falls flat."  Cue dramatic music while the chef hangs her head in shame.   I'm left wondering, "How did Bobby Flay and Robert Irvine get in my brain and how do I get them out?" Hint to Sherry: Give up eating out.

6.  What I'm Trying to Read

Discovering Chesterton after 40 is probably best.  Just starting on his autobiography.  My problem with reading is when I get to the end of the day, I start to read and I'm instantly down for the count.  No insomnia here.  But it does mean finishing a book is s.....l....o....w....g...o...i...n...g. I have to hope G.K. is amused because I've been at this three days.  I'm on page 3.

7. Halloween

Being immature at heart, I love this holiday.  Right now, I have to create Rainbow Dash, Twilight Sparkle and Fluttershy, yes I've got three My Little Ponies at my house.  I'll post pictures when they're finished.
I don't know what the boys are going to be, but that's my project for this weekend.   What are you doing for October 31st?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Small Success Thursday

We've sped through another week, so fast I think I deserve a ticket.  

Every Thursday, we consider what happened, how we poured ourselves out, how much we were able to do little things with great love.   Join in by leaving a blog post of three or more small successes from the past week and linking here.   Then visit the other blogs that participate and leave a comment, it's part of the fun and it's very inspiring.

This past week I:

1) Did exercise three days, which is two more than I did the week before.  It's progress.  Not effective progress, but progress.

2) Fell asleep while getting my hair done and what I thought were mere highlights.  Woke up with my hair minus all the grey.  I hadn't planned that and it still looks weird to me in the mirror, but I've been told, it looks nice.  (Still weirded out). 

3) Worked on Helen, but only one day.

4) Continued my daily 1/4th of the rosary, (whatever mysteries are generally done) and added a set of the luminous as a perpetual devotion because they're my favorites.  Don't always get through the second set, but have been feeling very pulled to try. 

5) Visited with friends.  Enjoyed a daughter/mother lunch this week.

WHOOPS! FORGOT THE THIS WEEK I'LL:  and update on last week, babysteps towards my goals.  This week I'll submit a piece somewhere new.  Add 2500 words to Helen, try to make it 4 days of exercise.
Now it's your turn!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

What Should the Ordinary American Do?*

*Inspired by a discussion on a board started by Mark Shea.

As a nation, we’ve established, neither the private sector nor the government have a lock on virtue or vice, in fact, both abuse their positions of power in ways that boggle the imagination of those who are actually part of the everyday 99% not in government higher echelons of power and not brokering big deals on Wall Street. We’ve also established that the media enjoys pointing the camera at anyone who disagrees with the status quo, and the counter media as well.   Whoever speaks up gets abused and called a loon depending upon which party one affiliates with –the Tea Party is stupid…the Occupy Wall Street are zombies and thus by decrying both uprisings as illegitimate, stupid, unreasonable, unwashed, uneducated, spoiled, crazy and out of touch, nothing actually has to be addressed.

With the Government, Corporations and Media having shown themselves to be 1) corrupt 2) wasteful and 3) undeterred by public outcry, what do we do?

All I can tell from the demonstrations, from the bloat of government, from the massive layoffs paired with massive profits, the cover ups and disquieting non reporting of scandals, the water carrying for whomever one supports, we've established: We’re a flawed people…this is not news.

Now what would be news is for voices of reason and moral soundness (no dog in the fight), to speak out and help us be the peace makers that Christ asks us to be.
So while it might be reactionary to vote GOP in response, it might be incorrect.  Likewise, voting for those who have to this point, exonerating themselves from all guilt for being gluttonous and power grabbing, warring and name calling because others did it first is equally wrong.  What is the third alternative? What is the option that would further our society and curb the abuses of these seemingly unbothered Leviathans?  I'm not interested in despairing.

If we throw out the standard deviations of both sides, those that allow opponents to scream “SEE? These guys aren’t legitimate, they aren’t worthy of our attention!” what is left?

I know liberals who have good reasons for distrusting corporate America.  I know Catholics who hold that voting against abortion is enough.  I know conservatives who fear our staggering debt.  I know Democrats who vote to try and shore up the safety nets for the disabled, the poor and the needy because they know these programs are needed.   In short, most Americans right, left or middle, act in their own lives out of good faith and vote accordingly. 

Most Americans, Republican, Democrat, liberal and conservative, moderate or otherwise, are neither the enemy nor the devil.   Most Americans want 1) the opportunity to succeed 2) that same opportunity for everyone else.  The question is always, how do we get there?  Most people disagree with injustices that seem systemic, corruption that is ignored, waste that goes on unchecked, the unraveling of the rule of law and the deliberate manipulation (either by ignoring or painting with words) by media that goes against the best virtues of our nation, right and left and always presumes bad faith.

So what do we do? Not vote? Then we tacitly allow whatever happens to simply be.  So disengaging is not the answer.  Besides, it's cowardly.

Run and be Palinized by the side that disagrees?

The modern age has the equivalent of mobs of wolves who do not care if your family is destroyed by lies or truth if they disagree and they are not culpable or answerable to anyone in this world. Truth is not the goal, picking the winner is.

I know it’s not enough just to play the roll of gadfly, we need to discern how we must act if we would be thoughtful citizens and help shape the discourse which is right now, merely discord; but I am not sure how to even begin.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Leftover Humor

I had an assignment to write a piece about "How to Get to Mass On Time."  and honestly, the topic was so rich, there was too much to include in a mere column.  So here are the one liners that got left on the cutting room floor so to speak. 

Why you should get to Mass on Time:

10) That sweet parking place, the one that isn't squished between the trash bin and a large SUV?  The one near the church such that walking your kids through the parking lot isn't an adventure in courage, trust in the driving skills of your fellow man and/or require a death grip on your toddler?  It's yours for the taking baby if you arrive just five minutes before mass time.  All yours.

9) If you go early to mass, you can read all the bulletin and be up to speed on all the things going on in the Parish before it starts and thus give full attention to the homily.

8) Bathroom breaks can be enforced before the opening song, eliminating most disruptions during the liturgy.

7) Prepay on the donuts beforehand, reserve your Boston Creams. 

6) If you come early, you can:
          1) write the check
          2) record it in the register
          3) put it in the envelope and
          4) have it ready before the offertory without having the stress of the mad scramble once they start singing "We are Many Parts..."

5) Going early means you get to pick your pew.  Otherwise, your fate is in the hands of the ushers.

4) Arriving on time to mass means you arrive in the actual mind set to be at mass, instead of the, "Ohmygoshwe'relateandeveryone's stressedandwe'regoingtohave toscramble tomakeitbeforethe readings.."mindset, which whatever else it is, is not peaceful or prayerful.

3) Catapult launching toddlers out of their car seats up the front steps of the Church to offload and expedite exodus into the mass can end badly.  Not that I speak from experience.

2) Arriving early allows your teens to decide to sit with their friends at the mass, which in my book, is an acceptable form of rebellion.  Rebelling inside the Church...very Catholic, outside...not so much. 

1) Extra grace that comes not just from showing up, but showing up as invited, for the feast, prepared to be part of the grand event. 

P.S. I told the usher about the assignment.  After he finished laughing, I mentioned that the Holy Spirit enjoys messing with me, but we're getting quite serious about improving our stats on punctuality at mass.  So I'm guessing that's the Holy Spirit's goal, God wins.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Real Happy Face of a Miracle

Saint Anthony and I have always had a great relationship.  I'm fairly certain he has a file marked "Sherry" just for me, and on it in permanent sharpie marker are keys, bracelet, purse, and matching socks, not to mention, the penciled in requests to help me find the time, opportunities for sleep and my muse.  I owe him big time.  I'm not kidding. 

So this morning was a bad start.  People were moving slowly.  Lunch was cobbled together with the obligatory, "I don't like that." and my response, "You get what you get." It's not that I wanted to serve my children chips they didn't like, it's that I didn't like kids complaining about chips for crying out loud.  They had grapes, pineapple cups, sandwiches and chips.  I basically was in my, "It's morning, I'm making lunches, deal with it." mode.

But the day slogged on and getting into the car was a challenge.  As I'm changing the baby, I spy four children outside the car drawing pictures in the dew on the windows.  "GET IN THE CAR!" and "YOU, Come load her!" as I scrambled for the next child.  I could not find shoes for my son.  I found two left shoes and some red boots.  I opted for the red boots. 

My son did not like the boots. I locked him down in his car seat.  He flipped them off, they hit my eye.  Bad mood growing.  

There is no diet coke for me.  Bad mood getting worse. 

Two children go back inside...for no reason in particular.  I bark them back out and finish making a bottle for the baby.  I'm tired, I've made 12 lunches, 7 breakfasts, without making one for me and we're going to be late. 

Shredded self is done with civility.  She gets in the car and procedes to rant all the way to school about self pitying things.  "I'm the only one who gets up...the only one who can find the clothes, the backpacks, the lunch bags, who makes lunch...blah blah blah blah. Me. Me. Me. Me. Poor Me. Mad at you. Bleah. Bleah. Bleah."

My rant prevented morning prayers except for one, mine, which is the Act of Contrition.  And I stopped. My children would have this memory of me having a pity party. Ugh. Boo. Not fun.  I rattle off the prayer, I tell them I love them and they disembark.   The whole ride home is horrid as I sit there thinking about how petty I'd just been. I drive home to look for Paul's shoes.

Going inside, I've already searched before so I decide to enlist Saint Anthony.  God is sitting there waiting for that one, "Ha!" "Saint Anthony, help me find Paul's shoes." I'm still in a bad mood.  "And my sense of humor....and while you're at it, my patience.  Saint Anthony, help me to serve these children better.  Help me find a way to be a good mom." My rant/demand of one of my favorite saints has turned into a real prayer.  The moment I realize this, I walk into the computer room.  And there, on the floor, are the two right shoes.   And the peace of laughter, which is a gift of the Holy Spirit I hold dear, breaks over everything that was. 

So I called my mom this afternoon.  "I don't remember you ever yelling at me like that." I start.
"Oh Honey,  Thank you!" she said.  And there is that laughter again, over what gets kept, what deliberately gets lost, and what our souls remember forever, not pain, not anger, not sin, but love. 

So I start to feel even better; that twenty, thirty, fourty years from now, when they're adults and in the midst of things, they won't recall mom popping off on the drive to school, hopefully, they'll remember that she had a merry laugh, a good relationship with Saint Anthony and could find things like shoes, very quickly. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Time for another (for lack of a better term) Catholic Rant

Recently, I read a piece discussing the possibility of a coming Schism within the Roman Catholic church, between those who feel we have lost our way since Vatican II, and those who feel, we are losing our way by correcting any abuses  that came from misunderstandings or deliberate reinterpretations from Vatican II. It also discussed people pulling away because the Catholicism they wanted to practice, did not fit within the confines of a singular political ideology.

I thought about the idea of the Church becoming smaller, and it pained me.  I thought about people walking away from the Church, remaking the liturgy in their own image and that hurt too.  I wondered, what was it that made the left and the right so angry; and it seemed so simple, that they were not the only, and that they mistook themselves for the whole body of Christ and saw the rest as to be discarded, lopped off as not part of what is the Universal church.  The humorist in me thought, if you aren't irritating someone with your Catholicism, you're probably doing it wrong. 

We are the great condundrum of the world, We believe in a God who becomes man and is still God, a God who suffers, who loves of all things, us.  We believe in both justice and mercy, not an either or,  in ending capital punishment and abortion, in the redemptive value of both the Republican and the Democrat, in purgatory, Heaven and yes, Hell.  We know we have the capacity to get ourselves to only one place absent God's grace, and that it is only by having a relationship with God, that the other two are available as possibilities. 

As Catholics, we have long thinkers about everything.  We believe people should wait until marriage for sex, and then be open to the possibilities for children.  We're fallen ergo, we're very limited in our understanding, so much more limited than we think. So when we are full of feeling and self, it is fortunate that we have this long history, this long great story of all the stories of faith to fall back on, to see that what we think now is not so different, so alien from all that has come before. 

It is folly to assume our mere existence validates our opinions over the likes of Saint Thomas Moore, Saint Augustin, Saint Thomas Aquaintas, Blessed Mother Theresa, Saint Catherine of Sienna, Saint Francis of Assissi, Blessed Pope John Paul the Great, Saint Peter, Saint Paul, Saint Matthew, Saint Mark, Saint Luke, Saint John, Saint Joan of Arc, Saint Padre Pio, Saint Katherine Drexel, Saint Edith Stein, Saint Maximilian Kobe and all the other saints that could make this the longest blog entry in Blogger history. The collective wisdom of 2000+ years of people of good will, diamond type faith that has been battle tested, and ratified through trial, examination and study, ought to trumph our google's worth of understanding of anything about how one lives life, in this or any other century.

It does not matter what the topic is; some want women priest, some want contraception not to be a sin, some want only Latin masses, some want whatever it is they do, to be ratified as right, some want the Church to only do one thing; whatever that is; but whatever it is that the individuals want, it is a single thread of the cloak of Catholicism, as versus the whole garment. Some want to pull out threads, others to add new ones, still others to cut everything up and start anew stiching an outfit that looks nothing like what has come before.  Every thread of every life that has become part of the Catholic story reveals something of the greater story of our faith.  We have deathbed converts and cradle Catholics, martyrs and hermits and every walk of life from every flavor of the world.  We have saints that were great sinners first, great warriors, great leaders, saints that were lawyers, Kings, widows, Queens, mothers of many, and even children.  So we ought to consider our history stronger, our story longer than the mere trials of the moment. 

But we also perpetually froget that we are  a fallen people.  It is human nature to be limited in capacity to see, to hear, to say, to think, to understand, to give and to love. We always want less than what God wants for us. We always love less than God; we always love less than God created us to love, we always limit our love, we always try (unsuccessfully) to limit God's love, to name the terms. The Church is right on this issue, but way way way off on that, it is the Holy Spirit speaking through Saint Paul here, but not here, here he is a victim of the time in which he lives and the culture. We do not understand beyond ourselves except through grace, except through the Holy Spirit burning away our pride, our preconceptions, our capacity to self decieve and mistake our feelings and wants, passions and politics for wisdom. If we understand that saintliness of the soul is available to all who want to love God with the whole heart, we will not need to believe in miracles.  We will know there are miracles, 1000 miracles in a life on any given day, and so we will march bravely forward with great hope in our chests.  But we think we lack that mustard seed so we will not even test the waters on which were we to fully trust in Christ, we could walk to Him.

But I see signs everywhere of great fire, of great faith, of great passion for God.  And I see it most in the growing more crowded pews, and the returning again and again despite everything of the faithful.

So I do not believe there will be a schism, despite the calcification of souls, despite the agitation on the right and the left for smaller vessels that more reflect them than Christ.  I trust the Holy Spirit will help shape what is to come.  While there may be splinterings from the cross, I do not think they will stand the test of time, they will irritate as splinters do.  I think people sometimes confuse their own staleness of faith with the reality of the Church. The church is not a floaty tranquil easy place, it is a building within our hearts that brings joy through service, peace through love, and grace to weather what would otherwise be, an unbearable life.  The tranquilty and peace come from love which is active, rather than as an innate part of the package, which is boring.  God will not let us become dullards in our faith without a fight.

But going back to the idea of a schism, I sat there considering, "What sliver of Catholicism could I surrender?" and the answer was none.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Small Success Thursday

I'd written this beautiful piece and Blogger sent it into oblivion.  Bleah.

However, it is Thursday and thus we review the week to see how far we've come, to plan for where we wish to go, and to recognize that bit by bit, doing little things with great love, brings us closer to being the people we are called to be.

This week:

1) The Fall Festival was a great success and there were moments of sheer joy watching parents faces mirror their childrens at this event.  It must be something of what Heaven feels like, to see those expressions and feel seized with joy at the prospect of being so surrounded by happiness.

2) Worked out sort of, using the Wii Fit two days, push ups and sit ups the rest.  Will try to get more serious about this in the upcoming week.

3) Went to confession and to mass on St. Francis' feast day.  It's also a special family feast day, as it would be my first niece's 11th birthday.

4) Got asked to write a piece for the local Catholic paper. I'll link it if it gets published!

Now for the new feature, the This Week I'll:
1) Throw a birthday party for 25 kindergartners on Sunday
2) Try to improve my feeble exercise program
3) Work on Helen --actually put new words into it. 

Now it's your turn! (Thursday is my daughter's actual birthday so I won't be able to visit your blogs until late this evening but I can't wait to see what you've been up to this week).


God's sense of humor

So I've been praying to get a writing job. Yes, I know there are much bigger things and I ask for them too, but I asked.

The past three weeks, we've arrived at mass some time before the first reading but after the opening song. 

An email from an editor asked me yesterday, to write a piece on "How to Get to Mass on Time."  Humor appreciated.

I told my husband.  He suggested we do a bit of research on the topic.
I told my daughter. She said, "Why is he asking you?"
I told my son.  He said, "Ha!"

The Holy Spirit doesn't mind going over the top to get the point across.  So I'm saying now, for the record.  This Sunday, we will be there before the music starts. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Mundane Mysteries of Parenting

Being Catholic, I'm no stranger to mysteries that are profound.  It's the mundane mysteries of raising a whole generation of civilization that drive me nuts.

The Band-Ade Corollary:  No matter how old the injury, it requires one.  No matter how old the child, the injury prevents throwing away the tabs from said adhesive protective medicated strip.  This includes if the trash can is less than one foot away. 

The Juice Cup Parallel: Water cups only go up to the bedroom. They never come down...except with an assist from Mom. Subsequent axiom: No child is so thirsty as the one going to bed.

Food Gremlins Theory: I bought chocolate milk for my youngest son for his school days.  Yesterday.  Today, there is not one chocolate milk in the home.  I've surveyed everyone. Cleaning the house, I can find no tell-tale CSI Mom type evidence to indicate who might be less than forthcoming about the lost flavored moo juice goodness.   I know I bought the stuff.  I know it came in from the car.  I know I announced that it was for this child only.  I know it's gone.  Don't tell me they threw away the cartons after they drank it, remember, these folks don't toss the wrappers from band-ades.

Coated for Your Protection:  The same principle that governs the wearing of bandages and disposal of medical trash, somehow translates to outwear designed to protect from the elements.  We have coats.  Sometimes, the children insist on them when it is sunny and 70 because they heard on the news, it might rain.  It is then, I find the coats left in the back of the car.

Phone Call Waiting: I can ask every child what they need, make sure everyone has a pencil, has paper, and is doing their homework.  I can make sure every child not engaged in studies, is otherwise occupied and comfortable.   The house is secure.  The home is quiet.  I make a phone call.  Immediately, four kids begin calling for help, one sticks a paper in front of my face and explains without waiting to see if I'm even listening or notice I may already be talking, what they want me to explain.  Two children will have started a war over snacks --I'm betting the one quiet one snuck off with the chocolate milk.

Children May Be Different Than They Appear: My five year old daughter has been affectionately described as the loudest human being on earth. If in a confined space, she can generate more noise than the fabled cannons going off in the the seat next to you.  This is a problem when we ride home in the van. She is the embodiment of "Making a Joyful Noise" unto the Lord.  So when the teacher said to me yesterday, "Your daughter is so lovely and quiet..." I started wondering...what will I hear next year when the theoretical quiet one shows up? 

The Covet Rule: Every toy is equally uninteresting until some other child is delighted to play with it.

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!