Monday, January 30, 2012

It Beats Purgatory

It began with going to my friend's funeral service.  During one of her jaunts to the Mayo clinic, she'd planned her inter-faith memorial to the Nth detail.  I went to be with her family, to miss her, to weep, to remember and to pray.  But while we sang, wept and prayed, I kept getting pulled out of the experience because it was in a Catholic church but every once in a while, it would gong non Catholic. 

I fretted that it was my small minded heart.  We'd sing and I'd be there, and then there would be things which simply weren't Catholic, which within the church with a priest officiating, left me flat.  This was like my friend though, exactly like my friend, for she had fallen away from her faith, choosing the seasoning of the Church over the whole meal.  I worried that my soul was somehow shrivelled because the disconnect kept bapping me in the head. Part of my grief was steeped in that knowledge, part of my hope was she now was fully whole, fully healed, and that this hard life that she had lived with deep desire and deep love had opened her to a greater life with Christ. 

I loved my friend, and I promised her I would go to mass for her because part of my grief observed for her required that I go. 

I'd picked today.  Monday would be ideal, as my son did not have school, so I would not be hamstrung by a schedule about where I needed to be.  We'd go to Saint John's which had a cry room so I could be there with all three of my littles, Gina (4), Paul (3) and Anna Maria (1).  Because I'd be safe in the sound proof room with the speaker, I hadn't packed my stroller.  This was an easy walk from the parking lot to the church to the back room for an unobstructed view where the kids could look at their books or play quietly.  Such was my plan.  I briefly toyed in my head with also receiving reconciliation, yes this would work.  Perhaps I could even finish the rosary and go to adoration to receive an indulgence for my friend.  A gift from her uber Catholic friend, what I could give back. 

We made it on time with time to spare only to find once I'd unloaded that Mondays are the only days that this church does not hold a 9 o'clock.  At this moment, turning back might have been wiser, but I had mass tunnel vision.  I wanted to go, for my friend, for me. Alright, more for me.  So reloaded in the van, I drove to our home parish.  I love our home church but it is not modern.  There is no cry room.  There is a barrier in the back such that sound is sort of muted but if you find the sweet spot, it is amplified.  You peek out towards the altar from the middle and side aisles, but I figured, it's my home, it's the 9, they've eaten, this won't be too hard. 

Stop laughing.  No really. 

On Monday, it is free grocery day so the parking lot was full and the only van sized spot on the opposite end of the parking lot.  Crunching my daughter into my chest with one arm and sporting a death grip on my son with the other, I am verbal chirping at my 4 year old to hold her brother's hand. We braved the seemingly longer than I ever remembered parking lot.  I admit, I kept hoping I'd spy a friend who would take pity on me and help out.  It didn't happen. 

Despite having arrived before mass, we walked in and they were already at the first reading.  Walking to the back with three squirmy littles, I told myself this would still be okay. In the back, the three dispersed instantly, with no one wanting to have exclusive mommy time at the expense of surrendering freedom.  I kept offering to hold them and they kept squirming and making louder noises than I would have thought possible.  Finally getting them shushed, it was time for the Gospel. 

Then the homily came.  My 4 and 3 year old had decided it was laughing time.  They were giggling simply being in each other's company.  I kept shushing but they thought that was hilarious too.  A woman came back to me and gently said, "Some of us want to hear the homily."  Message received. They were getting a bit loud.

I scooped up Paul and Anna and got Gina to follow and we now went into the entrance area, flanked by the doors to the outside and the heavy wooden doors to the inside of the church.  I kept my foot in the door.  Anna and Paul and Gina continued their laughing fest at my feet, rolling on my coat and theirs, pulling up on my pant leg while I strained to muffle their noise and still hear snips of what Fr. was saying.  The reading had been about King David showing forbearance when he was cursed non stop by another, accepting the rebukes of this soul that others wanted to behead, as penance.  Humility.  Humility. Humility.  The gospel was about Christ expelling the demons that were legion into the herd of swine. 

The priest talked about recognizing the nature of how possession takes place, temptation, obsession, possession. He spoke of the soul needing grace, seeking it and how the demons that are seek to distort, destroy, pollute, warp everything, even our best impulses.  I chaffed at being stuck with my foot in the door.  I'd come and I wanted to hear, I wanted more than a sliver of the mass and giggling children were now keeping me stuck.  Honestly, it was a grave pain, I felt stupid and mad and irritated and agitated and wanting to go back in and have my children be awesome or have people recognize that it was okay if they weren't awesome, my brain spun everywhere until it stopped. I wanted pity, I wanted help. I wanted a break.  I wanted to leave.  I wanted to feel free to stay. Here I was at a Catholic mass not being able to be at the Catholic mass because my children were distracting others from prayer, while I was trying to go to mass because I'd been distracted from prayer while seeking to pray for my friend.  The irony was not lost on me.

The theme of this year for me is "Be still and know I am here."  "Why am I here?" my brain kept asking. "Why is it so important for me to be here? It's so hard." My daughter and son had started another game, this time it was knock on the doors and run to the other side, and giggle loud.  It felt so wrong to be telling them "SSSHUSSSHHH" when we were already almost out of the church building itself, with me keeping us in the confines of this little room, inbetween the outside world and the mass itself.  Struggling with all three in the back to hear a sliver of the mass felt like a spiritual battle of the first order...even though they were absolutely happy as I told them to be quiet.  It wasn't like hell, it was purgatory.  Purgatory.

My friend and I were both struggling souls. She'd left the door open for a sliver of the Catholic church to be in her service; I was at the mass, foot in the door, getting a sliver of the mass.  Irony. Irony. Irony.  God's kind of humor.  Hers too.  "If I'm ever a saint, my icon will be me at the back of the church, some of my children acting like barnacles on my ankles, foot in the door."  My brain said and the pain, the ache of it, left.  

I'd been tempted to leave.  I'd been pushed away from prayer.  There it was, my own complaint echoed to me, so I could see something of the shriveled nature of my soul.  I'd even been irritated at the woman for observing that my children were a distraction.  It was nearly the same complaint I'd made about the non-Catholic elements of the memorial service.  Why I'd been kept from my plan is the same reason all of us get to struggle when things run amok, my plan would not have worked, my plan would have allowed me to stay comfortable living  within the confines of my own soul's comfort.

So to sum up, we scrambled up to communion, I did make it to reconciliation, and as soon as I left, a friend (who is the former DRE) spied me and said, "Let me help you to your car." she then added, "Are you nuts? Taking all three of these guys to a daily mass?"

I had to laugh. "It beats purgatory."

Friday, January 27, 2012

Make Sure You Make Time for Me

It's the motto of every woman's magazine article that ever was.  It's the demand of every commercial that stumps for yogurt, birth control, a gym or a cup of coffee.  "Me." "Time for me." "Me time." as if all those other minutes are selfless and as such, this little oasis must be carved out of the world to ensure sanity.  As always, the world has it backwards.  These little emotional get aways are in addition to the theoretical mandatory 55 minutes of exercise, 20 minutes reading, and 8 hours of sleep that we're all supposed to get every day. Weren't those me moments too?  How much is the daily recommended amount of time we're supposed to spend on others? It isn't that people don't need sometimes the silence of isolation to think or to rejuvenate or to organize, but who loses during that "me time?"  Whoever the you is, in your life.   What does me time really mean? 

"Go away because I'm sick of serving you?" "Get out of here because I don't want to give the emotional investment you need right now?"  We're not supposed to seek "Me time." We're supposed to serve summa --all.  We're supposed to wash the feet. We're supposed to pour out our lives like blood and water, to empty everything, to surrender everything.  And no matter how often we might have done it, or how easy we might think it is, sometimes it's not just hard; it's excrutiating.

A life of love is a life of sacrifice and it isn't just little things like coffee breaks and uninterrupted writing and reading of good books or watching a favorite television show, it is 1000 sublimations in a day, getting up before we want to, foregoing a shower, fixing food for others, unloading the dishwasher and reloading, making the bed forgotten, turning off the lights and emptying the trash including the apple core and hidden pudding cup and 10 foils from chocolate kisses.  It is not going out in the evening because a child needs to talk, it is not talking when a child needs to talk.  It is reading one more bed time story and holding a baby that only wants to be held for hours and hours and hours. 

It is running the errand to Target and to Walmart and then to Michael's on Sunday night (to allow for a project that got forgotten) to be finished.  It is reading with the same enthusiasm for the 1 billionth time, Green Eggs and Ham and Harry Potter and those deadly summary of the plot line by line Disney books that you bought back when you could get suckered into those 1 cent book clubs.   Dreams of degrees and being world famous don't die overnight. There isn't a moment when we say, "Die dream..Die!"  because it isn't a death, it isn't an abandonment, it is a surrender of the self.  Surrendering of the self is a perpetual struggle.  Telling yourself "This will have to wait." because they won't doesn't mean it doesn't sting, doesn't mean it doesn't tempt, doesn't mean it doesn't remind one's self that this is a sacrifice, this is a gift.  Further, the battle has to be won again and again and again because the ego doesn't like taking no for an answer.  

Surrender of what one wants begins with marriage, with falling in love.  That surrender continues and it extends and grows as a marriage grows, and as a family begins.  The radical sublimation of the woman's body to another is a mirror of what the soul, all souls, are supposed to orient themselves towards becoming.  Every cell in a woman's body goes into overdrive trying to protect and feed and nourish the baby, even allowing for the depleting of calcium from one's teeth to make sure the new bones grow.  Nothing is withheld even if the mind and heart of the mother is not yet fully on board. 

Then we see that little face and wonder how we could ever love so much, how we could bear not looking at him or her, how we could bear not holding them, how our hearts could bear so much love and not burst for joy.  Time stops for a moment, when the heart and mind finally catch up to the body that has just delivered everything that it had.   The rest of life is learning to reorient all three towards that perpetual complete surrender and the battles of appetites and prior selfish habits to reassert themselves.  It is ugly, halting, clumsy and fierce.  Even when we think we've reached a moment, we haven't.  We've just come to a momentary plateau.  More surrender is in the works.  There is always more to give, always more to surrender, always less we could demand for ourselves.  Absent love, it would all be drudgery and frustration.  Love changes everything. Love makes even the most meaningless of tasks --like laundry and dishes and diapers, meaningful, because it makes those acts gifts of time, of attention, of sublimation of self.

This isn't to say that a life so ordered won't be filled with feasts or epic moments of sheer awesomeness, only that we aren't called to make our lives such that they read like an Epic or a Resume of the beautiful, successful and accomplished.   We're called to live for others, to be successful at creating beauty, to accomplish the beatitudes today and every day, and that if fully embraced, leaves no "me time," only time for others, and a cup brim filled of memories of the daily labors of love.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Small Success Thursday

It's Thursday so I'm here.  It's 9:05 but I'm here. 

This week was a week of successes, some of which aren't finished.

1) I made it to Alexandria on Monday for a friend's funeral service. It was good to go and be there with other people who loved her.  I will miss her much more than our regular contact with each other would seem to indicate.  

2) I worked on Helen.  Every word is progress.

3) Survived all 12 of us getting the stomach flu over the past 7 days.

4) Now climbing out of the mountain of laundry.

5) decided to pick up drawing on Wednesday as a means of exercising and old talent.  I used to want to be an editorial cartoonist in my high school days.  My first attempt is up as "Doomed Romance."

6) Started cleaning out my oldest son's room.  The emptiness is more in me than the drawers.  I know he's only an hour away and I know he's coming home in the summer and stuff, but there is an absence in the house that I feel keenly.  

7) Restarted the exercise routine today.  (Now that I'm healthy). 

Now it's your turn!

Doomed Romance

Monday, January 23, 2012

His 100%

It is a mother's fear, a mother's concern; that my son Paul is three and does not speak.  He's social. He smiles. He says some things. He dumps oatmeal on his head if I'm not vigilant.  He will open the drawers in the kitchen until I give in and give him a sippy cup with a drink.  He says RRAAHHH! That's the animal sound for every animal from deer to dog to dinosaurs.  He jumps up and down when the bus shows up and fist bumps when I say good job.  He puts his hands together for grace and tries to make the sound of the cross. He howls along what sounds like a muddled Alleluia in church whenever there is music. There is so much he communicates, but it is all emotive, it is all a matter of reading his face and knowing his voice and intent.  But the mother's fear remains, my son will not be seen as all that he is, or accepted. 

This weekend I read a story about a boy with Down Syndrome in the U.K. who is seven and has been denied the ability to receive first communion, because he cannot speak and cannot sit or tolerate the length of a mass. Based on my reading of the articles and analysis, the refusal is based on the fact that he cannot communicate sufficient understanding of the nature of the Eucharist. That is a legitimate reason for denial, but the parents thought the church was being cruel. Having been on both sides of the door, as the teacher telling the parent, you child cannot do this, and now the mother who faces that possibility, I can see how perhaps the mother thought that, and how perhaps the priest thought otherwise.

I understood that mother. My brain says, "I know that hurt." I also know that theologically, it is correct to not give communion to someone who is insufficiently capable of comprehending the nature of Holy Communion, if they cannot or have not in the past indicated the ability to know.  

It smarts and smarts and smarts and smarts to hear a door shut on one's child, whether it is because they did not make the team, they weren't invited to a party, or they cannot participate more fully in the mass. Having a child with Down Syndrome means you have to anticipate that there will be shut doors.  More accurately, having any child means you know there will be shut doors, but having a child with special needs means you are more acutely aware of some of the doors that might be shut.  Will he go to college? Will he be able to live on his own? Will he need care the rest of his life? Will he be able to find a job? These things can wake you up in the middle of the night if you let it.   Will he be able to receive the Eucharist?  It is something I've wondered since I had him emergency baptized at two months. 

So I get it.  I hope hope hope that four years from now, my son can go through the preparations and receive.  But I do not want him to receive incorrectly.  I do want him to receive.  I worry that I will let what I want, supersede my Catholic sensibilities.  Being human, it is quite possible that the mother ache will override my brain should he be denied.   

What gives me hope is this father and his son that come every Sunday to 8:30 am mass. The son is at least 18 and has severe autism, he does not receive, but he goes to mass. He stands and sits and kneels with his father. He is present, as present as his abilities allow.  He even turns and shakes our hands.  He wears headphones to drown out some of the noise if he gets stressed.  Christ meets us half way, 3/4 of the way, 99% of the way.  We are the 1 percent.  He'll even give us .05.  Christ will meet us wherever we are if we but try. For this son, coming and being at the mass, was his 100%.  It was all he could give.  This son and his father come. So Christ comes to him.  Spiritual communion counts. I know this, and it gives me comfort.  I may have to make my peace with this if when Paul is 8 or 9 or 16 or what have you, he still cannot reveal knowing that this food is not regular food.

So I pray for that mother and father and their son and the Parish, because I do not want any enmity between those who love the Eucharist.  Hopefully, their son will mature to be able to receive fully, and if not, that they will come to understand, that this is their son's 100% and Christ will meet him there.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Thoughts on Birth Control

This past weekend the administration came forth with it's final policy which will require all employers with very few exceptions to provide free of co-pays, deductibles or other contributions, prescription birth control for those who wish it.  Catholic hospitals, universities and other charitable organizations that perform their corporeal acts of mercy as an outreach of their faith, shall not be exempted. 

In other words, it does not matter if you morally object, you can worship as you like, just don't practice it in real life.   Don't integrate your faith into every corner of your hearth and home and business or livelihood, keep your religion on Sunday only, safe and locked up inside the church walls.  Don't let it change how you live, how you buy, how you conduct business.   Don't worry that your taxes pay for more war now, or for abortion abroad, or for Planned Parenthood to play around with it's books so as to continue lobbying for more money to continue killing.  After all, you're just funding all these things, you aren't using them. 

Our ancestors in faith went into fire and Colosseums filled with lions for less.  We're being asked to erode our own faith in thimbles.  Deny this small fragment of the cross, and everyone will get along. Cover up the pictures of the Cross and take down the crucifix so everyone is comfortable. God will understand. Our God is a loving God, ergo, if we fudge on this or that, it won't matter.  These are just details and God isn't interested in the details. 

There are two great ways to Hell, deliberate choice and indifferent sloth. Either we plunge in the boiling water or we allow the water to gradually reach a boil; in both scenarios, we are scalded.

Our society is demanding we acknowledge our faith less and less.  Don't quibble or speak up when people live together or use the pill or even flinch when sex is glorified in all ways but that which glorifies on television and online.  Say nothing. Get along.  It's not you so it doesn't matter.  We are being taught to care less and less, to love less and less, to do less and less, even for those around us we love.  You don't really need to go to church. You don't really need to pray. You don't really need to believe that the Eucharist is fully Christ fully present.  God won't be mad or unhappy with you if you use birth control, live together, have affairs, watch pornography, have an addiction or in some way let something else be more dominant in your life than Him.  He's not hung up on the sacraments.  It's a caustic eroding voice that constantly whispers in one way or another, God doesn't care what you do. 

The thing is, if God doesn't care what you do, then God doesn't care about you personally.  An all loving God would care more about what you do than your mother or father, and I care profoundly about what my kids do and don't do, what they say and don't say, what they think and don't think, and I hope I steer them towards good things, things that will bring them joy, fulfillment, beauty and truth. God has to care more than me, ergo, there is nothing we do that God doesn't care about more.

God knows how souls grow or shrink.  At some point on the road of shrugging one's shoulders about what one ought to be engaged in doing, the soul gets mad and then the decision becomes wilful.  It is then we are in greatest peril.  When we declare to God, "I don't care." what we're really saying is, "I don't want to care.  So I'm choosing not to." The serpent knows we are lazy and desirous of always choosing the easier seemingly softer path.  So he whispers to us that we can do less. We can love less.  That we will love more if we have fewer to love.  And that we will still be loved --that is true, but the reality is that we will recognize that love in action less if we act with less love in our lives.

We are fallen, so we always get things backwards when it comes to thinking like God. We always think we can outfox Him or come up with a legal argument that will be irrefutable.  It is proof of our pride that we perpetually delude ourselves into thinking either God doesn't care or God can be bemused into giving us a mulligan on parts of our lives.   I know there are people who will say, this is no big deal.  People work at all kinds of jobs and pay into their insurance plans which fund abortions and prescription drugs, sex changes and sterilizations.  The federal government demanding that there be no exceptions is no biggie. 

It is a biggie.  We're not supposed to quietly accept the corroding of our souls or the undermining of our values at our institutions or in our families.  We're supposed to speak out, to remind those in power, those making the decisions, that this is wrong, that this injures, that this prevents us from living fully our lives according to the religion we hold true.  To those who shrug, next time, the recommendations will probably demand abortion be covered as well.  Little sin, little indifference, leads to bigger sin, bigger wrongs.  This world will never become better or less wrong if we keep allowing little sins and little sins and little sins by our silence.  This world will not become less broken by acquiescing to get along.  Appeasement never works, in political policy or the soul. 

The goal is genuine peace, and that only comes from self sacrifice, selfless love, and being willing to hold onto the whole heart, the whole cross, the whole Eucharist.  Loving God first means everything else is secondary, and that includes Caesar. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Small Success Thursday

Writing sometimes makes me wonder, what am I doing?

Am I spinning my wheels? Am I wasting my time?  Then I get a gift.  A friend, a family member, even a total stranger from the internet, will let me know something written made them laugh, smile, think, or feel better about their day.  The words that seemed so useless only five minutes ago have changed, to reveal their deeper reality, how sometimes we can be used to bring gifts to others.  The compliments are God's way of sending a Thank you note for allowing one's self to be a willing instrument.  It's a good job. 

So today is Thursday and I have several small successes, including a few stories of Thank Yous both given and to give.  

This week I:

1) Got fired up about the case of Amelia and the denial of a kidney transplant, (see prior piece), and it got linked on the Anchoress.  That was cool. 

2) Exercised three days.  Still in there pitching, not quitting. Daughter has joined me and we watch Fr. Barron's Catholicism series and jog in place.  Managed to lose the 4 pounds that had exceeded the YOU SHALL NOT PASS moment of the scale.  Yeah!

3) My son is moving on campus this semester. Suddenly, college is real.  Suddenly, those 18 years blinked by and I'm almost in a peculiar form of agony at the idea of this being when adulthood begins. I'm floored. I'm terribly proud of this young man and who he is, what he has become.  I'm also keenly aware of how much I will miss him even though he won't be that far away. 

4) Cleaned behind the dresser downstairs. Now normally, I'm not a conspiracy theorist but the DVD's I found were Thumbelina, Polly Pocket, Barbie Nutcracker, Barbie Princess and the Pauper, Barbie Got To Groove, Tinkerbell Movie, Tinker Bell stories and Wonderwoman.  Methinks a brother did not want continued viewing of certain films.   Not asking.  I just announced happily I'd found the lost movies. 

It brought great some. 

Now it's your turn:

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Breaking Down the Brick Walls in Our Hearts

When we found out Paul needed open heart surgery, there was no question that we would do it.  There was fear, there was great fear about what it would mean, whether he would survive, but there was no question that we had to try. 

Paul's Down Syndrome was irrelevant to the question. He needed his heart repaired to live, ergo his heart would be repaired.  Paul's age was irrelevant to the question.  Thankfully no one ever suggested that he shouldn't receive the heart surgery because of his Trisomy 21.  I might have developed mutant powers in that moment of pure rage and Catholic Hulk smashed the offending speaker into a wall. 

Moms are dangerous when their babies are threatened. 

So when I read about little Amelia and the callous response of the doctor who said,
“I will take this back to the team. We meet once a month. I will tell them I do not recommend Amelia for a transplant because she is mentally retarded and we will vote.”

 I see RED.

And when the mother then asks “And then who do I see?”

and the doctor responds:
“Well, you can then take it the ethics committee but as a team we have the final say. Feel free to go somewhere else. But it won’t be done here.”


This cannot stand. 

Refusing to treat a child and telling the parents they are too involved with their DAUGHTER, refusing to perform the surgery even if the parents find a donor on their own, it is the very response of Scrooge: "let them die...and decrease the surplus population."  It is wrong. It is the pernicious "quality of life" argument that weighs a child's potential economic value to determine worth. 

Now I'm sure the doctor did not consider himself anything of the villain, only the bearer of hard news.  He even points out, "This is hard for me."  echoing Pilate's, "I wash my hands." 

Forgive me for not feeling terribly sympathetic, but you can know it's no where near as hard for the physician as it will be for the parents or the patient who must endure this sentence should it be carried out.

Here, on the week before the March for Life, I ask all of you to pray.  Pray for the Doctor to have a softening of his heart.  Pray for the family to find a donor and if not this hospital, another one willing to take Amelia's case on and help her live.  Pray for a miracle for this child because Heaven hears all our prayers. 

Some people use the existence of children like Paul and Amelia as proof that there is no loving God, because suffering, unreasonable suffering exists.  Some argue that children like this are better off dead.  None of Paul's siblings or family think this is true.  None of Amelia's family is willing to let her go quietly into that good night with a "it's for the best" attitude.  Only those not emotionally attached to these individuals can make that statement, because they think they lose nothing by the absence of people like Paul or Amelia.  They have no idea how much these children add to life, and how much their absence in our families would subtract. 

All people have souls and we are responsible for everyone's souls if we would love as Christ loves, we must love the souls that the world declares are unfit, unworthy of life.  These little ones are Christ in disguise.  Children such as these are here to show us how to love without limits, to love beyond reason, to love and will the good of the other when there is no apparent cost-benefit to us.  Little ones like this are greater proof of God than sophisticated educated physicians and social workers who refuse the tears and pleadings of parents desperate to save their daughter.  Evil, by omission or commission, via neglect, indifference or pure rational calculations about what is optimal scientifically, is harder to comprehend in the world of a loving God, than the existence of suffering.  Pray to break the hearts of stone, pray God gives us all hearts for love alone. 

Finally, I ask that you go to the website and share her story, because every child is precious in the eyes of Heaven, and in the eyes of the parents, and all of them deserve better, so much better than this.

P.S.  Just received word that the family has been INVITED BACK.  Keep praying.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Spin Cycle on Doing Laundry

Laundry systems work best in theory. The best theory is to let someone else do them. That's a system that works every time it is tried. Normal laundry systems work too, it's just they work until the person working them is tired.

Recently I was asked to share the secrets of my laundry system because I felt proud that there were 14 baskets of laundry sitting in my main room. There are no secrets. Laundry is a constant of my life, it is proof that my home is full of life, and it can also make one feel like one has no life. At one point, I did the math and it came out to around 78 pieces of clothing per day. My heart didn't have the nerve to multiply by 7 to figure out how much a week or then by 52 for a year.

For the most part, I can do the wash. I can sort. I can do the dryer. I can fold. I can even put them all in their appropriate baskets. It is then that we hit a snag that rivals O'Hare with four feet of snow and a traffic controller's strike. Nothing moves.

I went into my living room after bragging of getting all the clothing folded including 150 pairs of socks. Socks! Children were carefully managing around these baskets or playing laundry bumper cars if they thought Mom would indulge such actions. The baskets were left there like parked cars. The children would rummage through for necessary items and then return to pretending they weren't there. Laundry Stonehenge it seemed to me was a real possibility. They weren't going to move these things without motivation, either carrot or stick. My proof: No one noticed for three days as the piles grew dangerously taller, threatening to cause concussive injury to any child that wandered past as a leaning tower of towels came tumbling down.

The scientist in me wondered how many days it could go. Could I play laundry jenga without ruing the consequences? I decided I couldn't and offered Pizza Pizza if all laundry baskets would be ferried to their appropriate rooms. Naturally, the zeal with which the first three baskets were pushed out of the way led to a collapse in the structural integrity of some of the piles.

But the floor was clear. Then the dryer signaled that the next load was ready for folding. Alas, I had no baskets nor mental energy to go and empty one of the three in my room (Mom's, Dad's, baby's) or the two auxiliary ones (towels, sheets), and so there was this pile of warm clothing that needed a temporary home. They could not squat in the dryer as the cue of wet clothing was also piling up. I had to rodeo the process along.

Playpen to the rescue! We have an extra folding crib. It is deep, it is wide, it is unused. It is a perfect holding zone. The problem with a perfect holding zone is, it's perfect. Load 1 goes in. Load 2 is dry. It goes in too. Load Load Load 5, Load 6...Load 7...Load 8...Load 9 spills over the top. Load ten is waiting.

I go to each of the rooms. There is the laundry, sitting in the basket like a museum exhibit. Waiting for me. So I can unload the basket so I can reload. Not happening.

In a fit of passive aggressiveness, I dump the folded mass that has acquired a jello mold consistency, and pile up the empties. It is oddly cathartic until I go in the next day and find my old enough to know better daughter has pushed the pile to the other side of her bed rather than put it away.   In fairness, some of the youngers have too. I may tell them,  they now get to sleep in the playpen.

Short answer: Here are my tips. These work. But they don't end the battle, they are merely tactics in the never ending war.

1) Have a basket for everyone.
2) Have one for the towels, the sheets and the socks.
3) Fold socks once a week such that there is enough for the week. Then stop.
4) Inform children if they fight, they will have to sort ten pairs of socks. Each time.
5) Bag fitted sheet with folded sheet inside of the pillowcase and toss in linen closet like a sack.
6) Have a laundry bag outside of each bathroom for easy gathering of clothing. If you're really organized (I'm not), have a bag for each kid --so there's no sorting or limited sorting necessary.
7) If your family isn't huge, wash a different person's each day of the week. If it is, you can try one of three methods:

1) wash every day, fold once a week. (This works for us) Folding parties are universally despised but they do last only about an hour and it's much better to have one hour of pain for 7-10 people, than 7-10 hours of pain for one.

2) Assign two per day. Make sure the two doing the wash are compatable partners. Don't do the girly girl with the boy who wants to wash everything seperately. Keep a chart. (I'm not good at charts).

3) Inform anyone over the age of 9, they are in charge of their clothing. They can work the x-box, ipads, blackberries, and Wii and use the DVD while playing the Wii, they can measure tide and push a few buttons.

4) Earn enough writing to pay someone else to solve this problem.  (It's a goal in my life). 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Small Success Thursday

It's Small Success Thursday and I'm here. 

Some days, that's an accomplishment.

Today we recount the past week and take stock of those little things that add up to a lot of love.  It can be folded laundry, an exercise routine, anything; but we recognize that the small victories in life often go uncelebrated with a trophy and music and a parade and ice cream.  So here, we're having a trophy and a parade and music and ice cream (virtually speaking). 
It's a trophy made of ice cream.  I thought it looked yummy.  Though I'd add some hot fudge....I miss food.  Diets stink.  

What did I do this week:

1) well, I exercised twice. It's not yet regular. It's not yet brag worthy, but it is a small step towards a regular routine.

2) I worked on Helen.  Every day.  She's getting better and I just realized I have to kill the first chapter which doesn't get you into the story, it's more background. So I'll integrate it later.  But we'll start with introducing you to Helen ASAP.  After all, it's called the Book of Helen, she should be first. She'd tell me that too. 

3) I was asked if my ten tips for writing humor could be used as part of a lecture on Humor Writing at the Erma Bombeck Writer's Conference --with proper credit.  Coolness.   I can't go this year because 1) it's sold out and 2) I'll be in Florida that weekend --rough life I know. 

4) Went to adoration for an hour.  Discovered "Be Still and Know that I am" is very very very hard for me.  But I loved it. 

5) Reading a new book.  Ten.   Will review here when I finish. 

6) Date Night tonight to see "The Artist." and I'm really looking forward to it. 

7) 7 of the 14 laundry baskets have made their way from the living room to their respective rooms. Granted three go to mine, but still, I can see some of the floor.

Now it's your turn:

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

My Brother Runs for Our Dad, and For Us

My younger brother runs in marathons and teaches high school English. This is the brother that almost lost everything in a fire, but his dog was saved, as were many important sentimental things, and the rest has been replaced.  For the second year, he is running to help raise money to address/cure Alzheimer's.  Our Dad suffers from it. But Dad is still Dad. 

And as my mother wrote:  He is still funny. He puts on a great show for visitors...when the nurse was here yesterday, he brought a book to the table that he had once read...on Plato and Aristotle.   (I was sure the nurse was going to dismiss us, when she saw what he was reading). But she also saw through all that. I think it was his way of saying, I did not always have this disease. I once was a brilliant man, and could remember everything.  

My fundraising goal: $350.00
My fundraising progress: $390.00

This past Christmas, my father proved that Alzheimer's hasn't taken everything. While most of his sentences falter after the 7th or 8th word, my mother and I were amazed by his sudden recollection of the first 18 lines of Geoffrey Chaucer's prologue to the Canterbury Tales. ...There aren't many of my students who can do that after three weeks of memorization and study.

Still, my family knows first hand that Alzheimer's worsens over time. A progressive disease, the symptoms only increase. In the earliest stages, memory loss is mild. With late-stage Alzheimer's, individuals lose the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to their environment.

According to the Alzheimer's Association website, we have new 2012 stats. Now it says that 5.1 million Americans are currently living with this disease. Of course, this will only increase over the next 20 years rather significantly. Additionally, there are over 10.9 million unpaid caretakers at work with these patients. These are the wives, husbands, children, neighbors, and colleagues who give of their time, talent, and treasure.

So again, I run for my mom, a caretaker of my grandmother and now my father. She's wonderful, I love her, and I want to run in gratitude for her selfless service to our family.

For all those families dealing with Alzheimer's, I run. You are always in my prayers.

For my brother and sisters, my uncles and aunts, my cousins, my nieces and nephews —for all these people who love Dad as much as anyone ever could, I run. (I also miss you all. We need to hang out.)

Finally, I run for Dad.


Dan Green

If you see me running by, feel free to scream all words of encouragement you have. Here are some suggestions:

"GO GREEN GO!" (Watch out for saying it too quickly and making it sound like "Go Gringo!" People might find that offensive.)
"Dan the Man"
"Go Badgers!" (Spring Hill)
"Ruined for Life!" (JVC)
"Go St. Thomas!" (Work)
"Yeah Beaumont!" (hometown love)
"Sr. Verde!" (for my Spanish speaking friends)
"Look out! There's a mad man behind you! RUUUUUUN!" (just to see what happens).
"Go Mr. Wonderful!" ...It's a new nickname, but I like it.

If you can support his run, the link is here:
I lifted the writing from his page and my mom's note.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Some of Life's Meaning is Lost
Hostess is filing for Chapter 11. 

Bang the drum slowly and summon all ye couch potatoes to pay homage to a food group that shall be no more: the preserved completely unhealthy no matter what you do sweet that's cheap, not gourmet, not cool and decidedly lazy eating.

Do you understand that there shall be no more Ho-hos, no more fruit pies or Hostess cupcakes or snowballs or mini-muffins or Twinkies? 

There is something wrong with a world that does not have instant bad fat/calorie gratification wrapped in a wax paper packaging.   Part of the fault lies with hauteur cupcakes shops. How can yellow plastic cake with frozen flat frosting compete with fondant Tiramisu salt caramel even if you could buy ten of the former for a mere one of the later?

So I'm composing an ode to the lost snack that nevermore shall accidentally grace the incidental picnic lunch, the fishing expedition or the road trip through long spans of the country where gas stations are the only source of nutrition.  We shall be reduced to slim jims and porkrinds and Stuckey's pecan rolls if you want a touch of the vanishing generational type snack that kids always claim they hate but eat in a fit of nostalgia when they become adults.  We shall be sophsticated Starbucky McNugget nation with nary a place that serves anything with so many preservatives it could out live us. All foods hence shall be FDA approved.  For shame. 

Shall there be a Taps for Twinkies?  Will children purchase old comic books and wonder at the confections being showered on villains that stop them in their tracks while Batman and Robin shake hands over a fruit pie?  What were these delicious things that could stop larceny from the likes of the Joker?  No one ever believed the Dolly Madison versions of these things advertised by the Peanuts gang were better.  After all, if you can't believe Superman and the Fantastic Four, who can you trust?

So I blame edgy comic books for this failure. 

Will future generations puzzle at the Ghostbusters when they "tell them about the Twinkie?" 

Perhaps the company should have put some of those preservatives in its stock, so that it too, would last generations beyond the expiration date.  Perhaps it is a sign that it is 2012 and the Mayans knew something we didn't.  Perhaps someone left the cake out in the rain. 

Who weeps for the deep fried twinkie?  Who mourns the opportunity to have ding-dongs at a rollerskating birthday party instead of dealing with messy cutting cake.  Alas. Alas.  A piece of childhood is succumbing to the economics of adulthood.  Raise your cut carrots and fantasize about the sugar that has been sucked out of our lives.  Cry if you must.  I take solace of sorts in knowing, some of the pounds I sport still linger from these confections, so adieu Hostess! My scale shall remember you.

But I'm stockpiling my oreos, just in case they're next.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Bad Homilies

We've all been there at the mass where our heads were suddenly stunned into a religious stupor by something said after the Gospel.  You know what I speak of, not the long homily, not the goes everywhere homily, not the it's not a homily, it's a reminder that we're due for an annual appeal lecture, but the BAD homily. 

The BAD homily is not theologically unsound although that sometimes happens, the BAD homily leaves children puzzled and adults struggling.  The BAD homily gives mental cotton candy when there ought to be Beef Wellington.  

Everyone talks about BAD music and BAD music choices.  There are the Haugen Haters and the This Isn't Catholic American Idol, just sing the song critiques a plenty.  I will suffer bad singing, out of tune guitars and even poorly thought out synthesized accompaniment because of the sincerity of the hearts in there pitching.  I will wince and mentally chafe at someone singing Mary Did You Know because the answer is YES! But the homily is part of the meat of the mass, where we're forced to dig deeper into our lives and apply the gospel.  It is supposed to grip at our hearts and our minds.

So you might be wondering...what happened?

Yesterday was the Feast of the Epiphany and we went to a late mass not at our home parish owing to the logistics of the day.  Squirmy baby syndrome had set in in earnest and I ferried one soon to be joined by a second to the cry room wherein a loudspeaker provided any adults who strained their ears with what was going on in the mass. My middle son came in as well for support. 

I thought I was hearing things as the priest described a mountain climber who had suffered a fall and was suspended on the side of a mountain and how he finally decided to pray and heard God say, "Let go." and he feared falling so he didn't but prayed again and God said, "Cut the rope."  He got out his knife but couldn't bring himself to do it and thus was found the next day frozen to death a few feet from a foothold where he could have safely weathered the night if he had followed God's instructions and cut the tether.  This was 1)obviously not true as how then would we know God spoke to him or that he refused to trust and 2) deeply annoying.  It bothered me so much I googled it this morning and the story is there on the internet.

This was the Feast of the Epiphany!  You want to talk about having Faith? The Kings left their homes. They left their families.  They followed a star.  They showed up at a stable.  They saw a baby with two peasants, a carpenter and his young wife, in a stable.  With animals and straw and all of that!  And they knew that this was a new King. That this was The King.  They gave their treasures.   My brain exploded when my son said, "I don't think God would do this, it makes Him seem rather mean."   What am I supposed to do? I told him at the time, he was probably right and how could it be true if we know about it unless the poor guy suspended on the rope took the time to write it all down before he died.  (It's not noted so I'm guessing no).  At that moment I felt like the opportunity to plant seeds had been squandered in a sense for this mass.  

And then the final blessing came and asked that we use charity.  So I'm there struggling mentally, deciding not to ask about it in the reception line, to just get going and talk later to my husband and older children. They all agree it puzzled them, but no one is as bothered as me.  I'm obviously still bothered.  So I had to ask, Why?

Everyone screws up. I get it and I'm willing to give a mulligan to the occasional misfire off day.  But the problem with bad homilies is that's what we remember from the mass.  We do not remember staying steeped in the Eucharist or how our daughter sang the First Noel full throated, or how our youngest son said the Alleluia.  What sticks, what stays,what gnaws is "Cut the rope." a macabre story easily found from a Non Catholic Internet site is being substituted for reflections on the Feast of the Epiphany.  I want to let it go but then part of me sets her teeth and says, this is a parish full of growing souls and I don't want them becoming disenchanted, uninvested in the star because the star has been made out into something far less interesting. 

What to do?  Beg any priest considering an assist from Google for homily preparation to vet the sources for their Catholicism and avail themselves of the 2000+ years of writings from the saints and the martyrs and holy men and women who have come before, instead of tagging leap of faith and running with the first story of 1,070,000 results that shows up? Talk to the priest himself?  Forget it? I'm still uncertain I'm being charitable even by discussing it.  Rant rant rant! Right Right Right. Rant some more.  My brain goes on and I'm still bothered.  I'm still not letting go.   And then God says...BINGO!  Sherry....cut the rope. 

Yes. I know. 
That's how God works.   Some of us (me) get to the stable a bit later than others. 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Faces on Film, and a Friend I Wish I Could See to Say Goodbye

Every year we watch our wedding tape. It was a gorgeous event with over 400 guests. But it has become a sort of mini-All Saint's day as time has progressed. There are many faces I now must miss; like the Bishop who married us and gave us a large nativity set that reminds me of him every Christmas. I'm reminded how we'd lost my cousin too soon, a college friend to cancer, a second cousin to a heart attack almost a week after we wed, the son of a friend, a beloved aunt, my high school vice principal, a high school buddy I'd known since I was four and the cantor for two of the songs who also taught me theatre and junior religion and 7th grade and there are more.

Then there is my favorite picture, of me singing Happy Birthday to my grandmother. Alzheimer's was already taking her away from us at that point.  

Every year, as I watch the tape when people are being seated before the mass begins, a few more of the pews are sprinkled with souls I will only get to greet again in memory and in Heaven. Today, one of my bridesmaids is clinging and yet surely slipping out of life. She suffered a brain aneurysm last night. The MRI last night was bad, the morning one was worse and all signs are not good. To make matters worse, she has diabetes, she's in a coma and she has heart issues. That she is still here is testimony to her pure stubbornness which has always served her well. If I were to describe her, it would be strong, rock, steel, fierce. You get the trend.  She will stay until she decides to go. That is Jen in a nutshell, life fiercely lived no matter how difficult, words  fearlessly said, even when they aren't the most artful, staying and saying, doing and doing, until she decides she's done enough.

I wrote her when I asked that she be in my wedding, that I wanted her to experience something of the "foo-fooness" of life that she often dismissed; in retrospect, I was trying to give her a luminous moment, with a pretty dress and her hair done big and with flowers and all of that; she conceded to me it was fun for a day and a great memory and I considered that a moral victory of the first order. She was one of my lunch crew and we would spar daily about the issues of the day, school, books, movies, the homily, the liturgy, and mostly, our volunteer work at Logan Center. Right and Left, we were both fiercely able to defend ourselves and I think our other friends enjoyed the mental tennis matches; they never ended, we just went to our next classes.  She and I went weekly to help run a recreation program for handicapped kids, along with 25 or so other college students. She took it seriously. I thought it was fun.

We both chose it as a career in the end, both going to graduate school to get accreditation to further our service. But health issues dogged her from about the age of 30 on, and for the past 15 years, she's burned through three kidneys, gone on dialysis, had heart surgery and heart surgery and other surgery, and yet always made a point of coming to visit if she was in the vicinity. (She grew up in Virginia). She also always comes with gifts for my kids, really cool toys like puppets and things that flew or that one would fling, oragami frogs, slinkies, playdough and crafts crafts crafts. She gave gifts that everyone wanted to play with, and then we'd get on with the business of playing. 

We'd laugh, we'd eat, we'd talk and we'd wonder aloud why we do not talk more often.  We'd both promise to call more. We'd both not. 

Both of us seemed comfortable and said we didn't mind the lapses inbetween; we seemed to simply pick up where we left off.

It would have been better for both of us if we hadn't allowed ourselves this out, if we'd been more vigilant with each other, but it is what it is and now, that opportunity to do otherwise, is no longer available.  Jen always fought illness, and yet it always seemed, she was so strong, so determined, I was convinced, she would out live everyone.  She'd demand that I think things through, I'd demand that she be nice even if she was right.  Neither one of us liked losing. Neither one of us liked giving up. Neither one of us liked giving in.  We relished our stubborness; it was a badge of pride for us both.

It is a hard thing to have a friend in a hospital states and states away and to not be there to rub her feet, to make her laugh or to share the time she has left. If I could be there, I'd probably talk too fast and too much. She often told me I did.

Neither one of us liked sentimentality and so we made fun of much. In college, we ate together often, we sang at mass and she and I liked signing the mass. She drove a small white car that her sister had air brushed silhouettes of animals onto.  She was my cool prickly pear friend, the wasabi to my ginger in the sushi of life, a counterpoint necessary for music to be fuller and deeper; an anchor of hard thought for the fluffy stuff that often passed through my brain.  I will miss her company deeply when she dies, because her strong voice was a something one could count on to be just that, strong. 

Prayers that she is in no pain and that she knows, she is deeply loved both here, and in Heaven.  I know I will see her every time I see that tape and recall that day; and I look forward to the reunion.

Jen passed at 1:05 a.m. on Sunday.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Smile! What Doesn't Kill Me Makes Me Stronger

The other day my son came to me at 11 o'clock to ask for help because he was missing his toothpaste.

Now I do not know what goes on in other people's households, but in mine, whenever someone cannot find something, they are quite certain that another child has deliberately STOLEN the item that is missing, or out of spite, simply moved it to a hidden location. It couldn't POSSIBLY be that the missing shoes/socks/uniform/lunchbox were discarded/abandoned in the car/underthebed/left at school/or dropped in the basement when they decided to have a tournament of Mario Wii.

My son, overtired, was seeking to establish a full scale rightous mad at the moment at the sibling of his choice. I summoned the will to go upstairs. In the drawers/medicine cabinet and bin, cumulatively, there were SEVEN...SEVEN varieties of toothpaste. There were two kids squeeze bottles, one cherry and one sparkle, one Cogate, one Crest, a Tartar, Whitner and a ProHealth --that's mine, and an Aquafresh with extra brightening power. It took longer to write the descriptions than to find them. I produced the bin filled with various methods of cleaning his pearly whites. "Well?" I asked.

"Yeah, but I was using the little one in your room."

It was a travel toothpaste that my husband and I have been sharing for two days because ours had...disappeared.

It is 11:15 pm. I've just found seven toothpastes including mine. I'm tired. Using my inside voice but with a touch of the color "I'm Mom and about this, I just don't care" in tone, I explain, "If you can't brush your teeth with one of these..." and I can't think of something to finish the sentence so I end, "there's something wrong with you! Now brush!"

Monday, two of my children attended a seminar on managing teen stress put on by a friend's daughter seeking a Girl Scout Gold badge. (The equivalent of an Eagle Scout rank).

When a woman giving one of the lectures on homeopathic living asked the crowd of mostly teenaged girls what was the number one cause of death amongst women as part of her opening remarks to emphasize why destressing was so important, my 12 year old son of the many tooth cleaners raised his hand.

"Um...Stress?" he asked meekly. She praised him for being so aware. I'm guessing he'd looked at the poster display she had before the thing started.

"And what causes stress for women?" she went on further.
My son raised his hand again.


For the record, I'm still ticking, but as for the leading cause of stress, it might be children but then again, it might be tooth decay...just saying.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


Hello and welcome to Small Success Thursday! for 2012.

This is the day we take stock of those little things that we've done in the past week that either advanced us towards a goal, advanced us towards preserving our family or showed that we did the little things this week that matter, that add up to a lot of little things done with great love. 

To participate, just list three or more if you were feeling ambitious things that were small successes in your week on your blog and link up with Mr. Linky here.  I'll start.

This week I:
1) Worked out three days since last Thursday.  It's a start.
2) Got a ticket to fly down for my niece's baptism. (I'm the Godmother).
3) worked on Helen and sent her to two friends who agreed to read her and keep on me.
4) went on a date with my Husband to see Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor Spy.  There were a few points I could have done without, but it felt artistic and cool to see and I could tell it was a great and highly disciplined writer's work. 
5) Haven't yet broken my new year's resolutions.  Though I've come close.

Now it's your turn: 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Love Opens All Doors

Back when I was a graduate student, I took a great course on policy making which focused on systems of understanding, the lenses we put on when we view a problem and those we may never remove that may prevent us from seeing solutions.  One of her best quotes that stayed with me was a cautionary reminder to all who live around DC, not to allow the political lens to dominate, because it would mean we would never trust the motivation of anyone; we would devalue all decisions as calculated self interest chess moves.  She did not want a class full of cynics who knew the meaning of everything and the value of nothing. 

I also took a class on Epistimologies, required of all students.  It articulated the concept that there were "Ways of knowing," unique to the shared experiences of cultural/historical/physical groups: white and African American, male and female, hetero-sexual, homosexual, and that how one integrated the responses of the world around one, was filtered through this "Way of Knowing."  This class troubled me greatly because of the subsequent premise I will now put forth: If there are ways of knowing that one cannot access because one cannot be part of a set --one cannot change race, and at the time, one could not change gender, then there are "Ways of Ignorance" so to speak. 

The whole construct of a way of knowing indicates that this sort of knowledge is insular, secretive, and unknowable by those not in the protected class.  Ergo, the ignorance of others of that way of knowing is not born of malice, but of an unreachable reality, and the chipping away at it can only happen if 1) the non member comes to believe there is a way of knowing that he/she is incapable of comprehending 2) then acknowledges the legitimacy of the unknowable reality and 3) acquiesces to whatever truths thus revealed as being truth that cannot be known except in an incidental and secondary manner.  Suffering, in deed, all of experience becomes unsharable, empathy virtually impossible, sympathy, a pandering attempt to pretend to understand what one cannot by definition comprehend because one hasn't shared the experience. You can only peek through the keyhole of the class, bridging the gap is on a person by person basis and it is never more than partial.  The doors cannot be thrown open to all.

Put together, we have the cautionary tale of not wearing a single lens to view all of life that by definition distrusts all human beings motivations and the secondary premise that knowledge and experience are not truly sharable because language is insufficient to convey the reality; what one person means by something is not what another means by the same words, ergo we cannot actually really reach each other if our worlds are too disparate; my way of knowing cannot be yours.  We cannot really share our stories or connect them beyond the fringe edges.

That may seem to be putting it too strongly, but I did not see that there was a parameter one could not deliberately insert to make one's self more insular.  The ways of knowing the world are not limited by one's gender and race, there's faith, politics, background, level of education, age, marital status, income, I could think of countless ways to dissect and parse reality to make one's own life less accessible to others; to make reality more singular and unsharable.

Additionally, the arguments put forth in this class did not seem to consider access to new ways of knowledge to be something one could aspire to having, we could only understand the patterns and lens as articulated from an internal member.  Creating insurmountable mental walls around classes seemed to me a short hop skip and a jump from creating insurmountable mental walls around individuals, so that we could become unreachable frozen in our hurt and own private hell. 

In this day and age, there is a great temptation to presume that whatever our situation, our pain, our cross, our cares, whatever our personal baggage is, that it is somehow singular and therefore unique; that no one can actually heal whatever it is because no one other than us, fully comprehends the nature of our suffering and it is unfixable. It is part of the consequence of having a culture that cherishes and promotes a belief in epistimologies, and these dictate our experiences are unsharable, unconnected and alien to each other, and that all truth that we hold transcends our own experience is fiction developed by our own epistemological blind spots. The culture of the world gambles on our embracing in our egoistic manner, the uniqueness of our understanding of our suffering, and likewise sinful blindness to others as proof of our incapacity to comprehend anything beyond our own experience. It is designed to drive us both into insatiable wrath at a world that cannot understand us, and ultimate despair because our own world is so injured and irreparable.  It is a small wonder that we now are a Prozac nation, seeking a pill to make all the pain we think no one else is experiencing, go away so we can be normal and non suffering like all the other people out there in the world.  Why if it is our nature to be like no one else, do we cry out desperately to  be like everyone else?  Answer, we are not aliens.  We are not other.  We are everybody else and ourselves, and our experiences however diverse in nature, are not that diverse in feeling.

The truth is that the world is suffering, big and little, global and singular, for the 1 and the 99% and the pain of it is inescapable by any means but grace.  It is filled with papercuts and snarky comments, pains that are physical and ones that preoccupy one's whole mind all day for weeks on end. Dullness and desire for wanting for those who never know want and want that drives one to dullness if want is all one knows. There are wolves everywhere that rip at our spirits, and winds that cut fingers and faces when we just wish for once, it would be easier.   It would be easier if we believed we weren't the only ones being stalked by the wolves, houdned by fear or pain, if we recognized that everything that is and isn't, comes with a choice of how we respond, and that the choices we face today and now are not so different from those faced 1000 or 4000 years ago, or from those 1000 or 4000 years from now; to love or not, to forgive, or not, to help or not, to do or not, to add to the beauty or curse the ugliness, these are our choices, not fight or flight, but create feast or stay starving.  Rest or stay running ragged.  Pray or stay anxious. 

For Catholics, the Catholic lens is supposed to be in place of our eyes, so that we see with the eyes of Christ first, rather than through a political lens or a capitalist or American or feminist or what have you. For Catholics, the lens is that Our God understands all, and loves us all, understanding intimately the all that is us, even our sin, even our private sufferings, and that the only true way of knowing is a way of loving. It is the only way that opens all doors.

Editor's Note: Not sure why I needed to write all of this but it hounded me all morning and now I can let it go. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year! The Day After

If life made any sense, Groundhog day would be January 2nd, that way if you messed up on your New Year's Resolution day 1, there would be six more weeks of the old year to square things away.  Regardless, we have made it to 2012, and despite Mayan predictions and those of small churches that keep bumping the date by six months (I'm guessing they lease their cars and don't invest in long term CD's),  we're still here. 

I made my resolutions. But as a mental exercise, I wondered, if this were the last year, what would I do differently? Do I still want to read a book a month? (Yes, maybe two).   Do I still want to lose 20 pounds?  (Okay, maybe 15).   Do I still want to finish writing my book? Yes, because I want to know how it ends. 

End of the world predictions are more about the predictor than any galactic cosmic hiccup/expiration date.   They reveal a fatalism that is as idealistic as that of someone who never thinks about tomorrow or death; a conviction that they know the hour and the date, even if they get the hour and the date wrong.   I'm sympathetic to a point, I mean, math has an infinite number of wrong answers for every problem, and only one right one.  But the prediction itself brings with it a question: What would or should one do if 2012 is the end of the road?  There is a choice when things are set in motion that we cannot control, to do less (Bill Murray in Groundhog day in his sate appetite and impulse stage--I don't even have to floss) or to do more (at the end of the movie).

If 2012 were to be the end of everything, my house might not be in order, but we would have had a good time enjoying the chaos of living orderly lives.  For starters, I'd phone my folks more, and stay in better touch with my brothers and sisters.  I'd write letters to friends and read extra bedtime stories.  We wouldn't save the bubble bath or scented shampoos or pretty candles for occasions that turn out to be never, and I'd decide every day, I wouldn't be afraid to wear my good jewelry if I went out.  

There wouldn't be the explosive block buster end all vacation, but there would be trips to the park and the beach and to movies and the library.  There wouldn't be perpetual spending and feasts every night because that grows dull and makes the mind, heart, body and soul sluggish to their value the way electric light is so ubiquitous that we forget the grace and delicate beauty of fire.  But the food would be good, and only fast if we wanted to eat fast food, and not because it was just easier.

I'd let myself buy a warm cashmere wine  red sweater, the kind I've never let myself buy because it's too expensive and I'd wear it often.  Vanity? No, a deliberate choice to put on beauty in the face of doom.

I'd also try to go outside and shoot hoops more with the kids and not worry about the stellar record of 13-88 I've got going on free throw shots. We'd eat ice cream more and plant a garden anyway, because summer tomatoes rock. It would be a hassle, but I'd schedule a visit to weekly adoration, because I'd want to be better ready than I am now. I'd throw out socks with holes and give away skinny jeans and other things that are gathering dust in my closet and buy a pair of really good sneakers.

We would play music that is good, that is fun, that is ours and I'd sing more often even though my voice isn't very good.  We'd use every game in our closet.  I'd make scrap books for each kid. I'd get tickets to the theatre and to baseball games to surprise my husband with dates and we'd use the grill more and I'd learn to bake bread and strum the guitar. We'd repaint the rooms that have coloring on the walls in the summer and all the kiddos would take swimming lessons.  I'd also sign up the two that love it for spring soccer and let the one who doesn't, abstain.  I'd go to bed before 12 most nights, and possibly even 11 unless we were deciding to do an all night movie marathon or stay up for a meteor shower.   

The kids would still go to the dentist and get hair cuts and well visits and school and have to study and do homework as if the world would go on. I'd still diet and clean and fold laundry and run the errands, and we'd be at Sunday mass.  We'd do daily things that must be done because the best way to live, is as if the world would always continue. I'm ready to play football, afterwards I'll put on my favorite sweater and the earings I'm always too scared to wear, and we will feast and watch bowl games.   We will also plan out January for all the things that need to get done and I will call my Mom because 2012 looks to be a lot of fun.  Happy New Year.

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