Monday, May 28, 2012

Tips for a Happy Marriage

My brother is getting married this summer. So I've spent some time musing over the nature of marriage and drawing upon 22 years of growing ever deeper in love with my husband being perpetually moved that it can always be deeper. I thought I'd try to craft some tips for my brother and his beloved based on my experience. Then we went to see "The Taming of a Shrew."

I had to wrestle with the reality that what Kate says at the end is true, it is how a wife can best love her husband. It is a gorgeous outpouring of love to her husband, an exposition of what it means to love.  And what does it mean to love one's spouse?  It means to obey, to wash the feet, to say yes even when it is hard, to let go of one's self, one's own ego and one's own desire to always have the last word, to always win.

I had to fight with the play and its closing message despite the fact that I'm not exactly what one would call a hard feminist.  Why? Because I like to win. I like to have the last word.  I like to hold on to something that is only mine. Who wants to submit?  And then I realized, those words, that want sounded like Gollum. Ugh.  That's even worse than being submissive, that's being dominated by self.

Here's Kate's last word on the subject.

Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper,
Thy head, thy sovereign, one that cares for thee,
And for thy maintenance commits his body
To painful labour both by sea and land,
To watch the night in storms, the day in cold,
Whilst thou liest warm at home, secure and safe,
And craves no other tribute at thy hands
But love, fair looks, and true obedience,
Too little payment for so great a debt.
. . .
My mind hath been as big as one of yours,
My heart as great, my reason haply more,
To bandy word for word and frown for frown;
But now I see our lances are but straws,
Our strength as weak, our weakness past compare,
That seeming to be most which we indeed least are.
Then vail your stomachs, for it is no boot,
And place your hands below your husband’s foot,
In token of which duty, if he please,
My hand is ready, may it do him ease.

I'm not going to touch the weaker sex stuff if only because it does not hold my interest.  I had to wrestle because the story itself is problematic at best.  I struggled because the story undermined the soliloquy at the end, because we didn't get the story arc of the man becoming less absorbed in being loved, and more so in loving Kate.  I've seen other interpretations where this last long (the longest in the play) speech by Katherine is considered ironic, but that interpretation doesn't fit with how she conducts herself or how the rest of the play holds.  She hasn't been unwilling to speak before, ergo, for her to speak kindly about the role of her husband and her role as his wife, it has to come from her heart.  Up to now, Kate would not do other than she wills, for her to suddenly not do as she wills, would be out of character. It is that she now wills to do as her husband wills. 

 Modern sensibilities tried to massage the play into that place, but like a dress size too small, it didn't quite fit as much as we might wish otherwise. The director and the actors worked to trim the words of language that portrayed the man being superior...the play attempted to present that these were equals in marriage, as they were in courtship. To counter them, the courted Bianca with her new husband were only beginning to spar and find their roles with each other, now that the chase element of their relationship had ended, the same with her former suitor and his widow bride.

I was interested in trying to shake out of the poetry, the truths that let this rusty Shakespearean relic live beyond its Elizabethan sensibilities about roles and gender. Absent a deeper meaning, the play would atrophy to join the ranks of Measure for Measure (another problematic play), and sadder fare like Titus Andronicus, a play so bad even my favorite teacher (30 +years of teaching and loving the Bard) advised not to bother reading let alone seeing.

So I sat there thinking about it.  Perfect love, is what saints do.  They love as God loves.  God wills us to love as God loves.  We are shrews to the last.  It is only God's love that brings us closer to God's love. I wondered if this again was Shakespeare playing with the notion of what it means to sublimate one's will to love, for love, by loving.  Given the recent modern speculation about his faith life, one had to wonder whether or not he was exploring this notion using humans to play out the roles?  The taming of a soul requires exactly this, sublimation, total obedience, total willing alignment of one's will with God's. The Bridegroom is Christ and we, the Church the bride and we are to be...obedient. 

And when I got to that point in my thinking, I couldn't help letting out a bit of a sigh.  Boy that's a tough and I don't really want to.  And if we're to do this with God (in Big love), then aren't we do to this in our lives (little love).  Tougher still.  Even though I could understand saying that yes and that I'd chosen and said I did want to, there were certainly times and moments when I didn't want to, didn't think I should, felt I must carve out my own.  (My precious).  Mulling this all over aloud, at this point, my husband grinned and said, "I loved the play." to which I shrewishly replied, "yes and I did too because you did." which made us both laugh, and we walked hand in hand in the rain to our car six blocks away. 

For all of us, we do have to surrender.  And our whole lives are a process of learning to do just that.

So here are my tips to aid you in the taming of each other's souls, blessings to you both.  40 days to go.

9) Laugh.  It solves almost everything imaginable, even things like taxes, like sickness, like facing a child needing surgery or a traffic ticket when you were cautioned, watch for this road; laughter is the instant band-aid to almost all pain, and it does make it more bearable.

8) Pray together and pray for each other.  This is part of your vocation.  It is also a great honor and gift you can give your spouse.  I recommend a daily prayer together either to start the day and/or end it.  It will grow your hearts towards each other better than anything else.  It always works...and sometimes in grander ways than you intended. (I would say always, because you don't know all the ways prayer works, but that presumes I  know how prayer works.  I only know, it works).

7) Play.  This seems obvious, but reality makes grown ups out of all of us at some point, and grown ups can be terribly terribly boring.  We need date nights and games and sports and plays and music and dancing and all of that, even if there are tons of chores that need to be done.  Yeah. You're married. You don't have to go on a date. TIP WITH BIG RED FLAGS: Go.On.a.Date. Call it that. Schedule it. Make it happen.  It's fun. It's important.  It makes a difference. And sometimes, you get to pick the movie.

6) Listen. Everyone talks about listening.  Listening requires more than not moving one's mouth, it requires we hear all that is said and unsaid.  Dates help with this.  Prayer too.  And Playing...and noticing what needs to be done...see, it all works together, like a casserole but better than any one I've ever tasted.   

5) Be open to being pushed out of your comfort zone. Most of us like to pretend that we have achieved an equilibrium in our habits and sensibilities and that everyone else is unreasonable.  Memo: We are all unreasonable.  Because we love, we will have to be willing to be submissive (which means sometimes, you submit when you would rather not).  This is not pick your battles, this is pick to be more generous than you planned. Plan to be more generous.

4) Pay attention and plan.  Birthdays, anniversaries and holidays matter. I hate that my husband has a Christmas memory of getting socks. So does the every day. I love that he has the memory that I get him his socks every morning. So pay attention to those little gifts of every day, and plan for the bigger gifts that are not every day.  Not noticing the little things that can be done with great love is a quick way to make a marriage dull, (or exciting but not in a not good way).

3) Forgive. It's important because I'm not a planner and so those socks could have rightfully earned me a permanent dog house spot for Christmas, but it didn't.  Love isn't never saying I'm sorry, (I always hated that stupid quote). It's being willing to say, "I forgive you."  And then making a conscious effort to make sure that you never give socks for a present again...

2) Treasure your family, old and new. Your husband/wife didn't sprout out of thin air. They are the sum total of their history, their education, their family life experiences.  The people who first loved the person you love, helped create this person you love.  They deserve your love for raising this amazing soul. 

1) Keep your heart close. Don't badmouth your spouse. Don't engage in taking tally of who has done what and who has given more. This isn't about fairness, it's about love.  Don't allow poisonous thoughts to fester, in the form of entertainment or company.  This is your beloved.  He/She should be honored first, and as such, it is your job to both keep their honor and defend it.

Finally, because this is a sacramental life you are choosing, stay close to the sacraments.  The world has a lot against living a sacramental marriage.  There are temptations, there are trials, there are enemies.  God does not send us out into the world to witness unarmed, but we must return for refreshment, for strengthening, for training on how best to reveal God's love to the world within the confines of our relationships.  We need the reminders of others, of our family, of our Church to sustain ourselves throughout this trial of life. 

Oh...and maybe next time...pick a different play to go see on date night.

Sometimes the Blog Writes Itself

Kids sometimes fall into habits.  Bad habits.  One of the most annoying/frequent type of habits I deal with, is tattlitis.  Tattlitis for the uninitiated, is the compulsion to tell a parent (usually Mom) on everything that another person or possibly every other person does, even when it is not an offense or the parent is standing right there.

There is a presumption that is two-fold in tattlitis: 1) Mom is asleep on the job and 2) has left the tattler in charge.  While it is true that if I had left the tattler in charge, it would only be because Mom is asleep on the job, rest assured, I have never done this, even when very very tired. 

So yesterday, when we were loading the car for mass, I said, "Everyone who can, get in the van."  My six year old was finishing a drawing by signing her name but she was dressed and ready to go.  I was still getting younger people shod.  Some of the older children began ushering younger ones out when a middle child fresh of the end of my sentence, before the last waves of sound that came forth from my vocal cords had stilled, said, "MOM! She's NOT GETTING IN THE CAR!" 

Mind you, I was across the table from said child not getting in the car and could see all that was happening, and it was within the window of compliance with a parental request, i.e. in this case, less than ten seconds from the actual request when the offense was reported.  I pointed out to tattler in question. "You don't have to tell me.  I'm right here." 

"But I can." was her response.  She then gave me a meaningful look that could be roughly translated as "Why don't you pounce like a crazed rabid Bengal Tiger? I said Sic 'em."

"Out.  Out to the car now."  I ended the discussion and thanked the six year old for her artwork where she had been laboring to write her full name and I love you Mom.  I resolved to make sure she didn't sit too close to the tattler en route to mass, as my lack of discipline of the artist would surely be a source of disappointment to the child in question. 

Sure enough, when I got in the car.  "MOM, she's sitting in my spot. I claimed that spot when I got in the car."

"You got in the car before her."
"But I claimed that spot."
"Then why are you sitting where you are sitting?"
"I just wanted to look around first."

Now that our oldest is home, we need the second car to go anywhere as a whole family, so I opted for the divide and conquer approach.  "Dad needs passengers.  You (tattler) and you (offending non offensive child) and you (bigger child who would appreciate the leg room), to the other car.  They sat next to Dad in mass. With the catalyst kid on one side, and the tattler on the other, we made it through the feast of Pentecost with relative peace.  No "She's not singing. She's still kneeling. She didn't say all the words of the prayer. She squeezed my hand too hard at peace..." though I'm fairly certain my daughter kept a mental list for later use.

So this morning, I woke to the same dulcet sounds of tattles.  "MOM....She's taking..." and she held up her hand to show four fingers,"whole minutes to brush her teeth." 

This was my Good Morning.  

"You timed her?"
"No.  I counted to sixty.  FOUR TIMES."
"You need a new hobby."
"MOM! She's taking the bathroom.  She's using it for FOUR WHOLE Minutes. You're NOT DOING YOUR JOB."
"Which is to time the time your sister spends in the bathroom before I get up?"  Clearly I needed to read the fine print of my job description as Mom.

"No but..."
 "Is she's done now?"

"So the bathroom is free for your use?"

"Well, I'll tell you how you can really show her. You can waste even more time.  Brush for FIVE whole minutes. Then you win."
"But she doesn't need to use the bathroom now."

"But you do need to brush your teeth."
"Do I HAVE to do FIVE minutes?"
"No. You can do two if that would make you happy."

"It won't make me happy."
"Well, I'm sorry it will make you sad, but you still have to brush your teeth."
Mentally praying for the willingness not to grit my teeth and for wisdom from the Holy Spirit on this one as she started to stomp her foot in protest of my again, not striking with vengeful Mom holy wrath on her sister, I remembered Sunday.

"If you would like a different ruling on the issue of time in the bathroom, you can always try DAD. He's already up and outside working on the garden and I'm sure would love to hear all about the problems with how much time your sister spends brushing her teeth." and with that, she's off and back upstairs in a flash.

I completely attribute that inspiration to the Holy Spirit.  Thank God for Dad....and Pentecost.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

What I Did This Morning Instead of Blogging, Laundry or Anything Else

I went to see Train!  That's right.  I was part of an audience of roughly 50 people eating bagels and drinking oj with the guys who sing Drops of Jupiter, Save Me San Francisco and Marry Me.

But they rocked the crowd with their newest two, and Rita was singing along with both:


My moment of coolness for 2012. Enjoy. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Ents Being Hasty

Because I cannot square allowing for or promoting the perpetual acceptance of killing the unborn as a viable option, whether for grave or shallow reasons, (and with 50 million killed, some were grave, and some were shallow to be sure) I cannot vote for this president, ever. I must be at odds.  His party may offer kind good words, but they also offer it on the backs of millions of innocent lives.  Not thousands, not hundreds of thousands, millions.   

This does not mean I go rah rah GOP, GOP is the place for me, because the Republicans have time after time given lip service to being pro life, rather than affirmatively address it, just as surely as they pay lip service to a balanced budget, to living under the rules that Congress passes, and lower taxes. The only conviction I believe is that every single one of them wants to get reelected.  Now that, I do believe. 

 I don't know about you, but our government seems to every day find new things that it cannot live without and thus demand that we pay more and do without ourselves.   I do not approve of torture or drone strikes or never ending aggression towards those we can decide upon a whim to put on a watch list or declare part of the war on terror.   So I don't trust our government or the bureaucracies that weather every election.  I don't trust that the policies advanced and financed so thoroughly shall evaporate over night if a different president takes office. 

I worry that unless this mandate is dismantled utterly, the tentacles of Planned Parenthood will continue to exist to poison this land and whoever is leading it. 

This will all try to continue to stand under the guise of women's health, because apparently, we can't solve any problems or help anyone if we don't provide free birth control and unlimited abortion first and foremost and always.

It's not true. 

So every election is a bit of a problem for me,  Whose's side are you on? 

Side? I am on nobody's side, because Nobody is on my side.

Perhaps the President thought by signing into law a 2000 page monstrosity that included funding of abortion and by making it mandatory to provide contraception via insurance, making every Catholic culpable in the act of providing abortion and birth control and sterilization, it could erode our souls.

It very well could.

If we failed to respond, if we stayed asleep, everyone by their own actions unless they opted to go to jail by refusing to pay taxes, would become pro-choice.   Even if we prayed by the clinics and offered to adopt, even if we did fasting and rosaries, by remaining loyal citizens and doing right by Caesar, we would be culpable of enabling evil.  How could we be pro-life when we paid and voted into office those who promoted and funded the perpetuation of this evil forever.  Eventually, we'd despair and quit and whimper away. 

But there were some that resisted.  And even the sleepy trees united when they saw what destruction would come from this policy.  (It takes a lot to wake up an Ent...even more to move the President of a major Catholic University).

I may be shire folk, but I'm feeling rather Entish about all this. And seeing the 43 intuitions/organizations and Universities file a lawsuit to me is rather like the Ents going to War. 

So today I'm proud of the University of Notre Dame again.  I'm hoping Saint Mary's College finds her voice to speak too and Boston College and all the other places that came into being because they were Catholic, not because they were universities, but because they were Catholic.

As a hobbit in this battle, I'm stocking up on rocks. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Children's Shows You Should Pray You Never See

With political correctness the number one rule, cartoons in today's world feel like fast food;  homogeneous, devoid of any actual conflict and lacking in any intellectual value other than what could be discerned in five minutes or less of talking with a two year old. 

There's one main character with two side kicks. One of the trio either has the ability to create anything or acquire anything.  They must all get from point a to point b.  The other sidekick is more of a writer's crutch, giving necessary background information that the creators want delivered to the kids and move the plot (such as it is) along.  The journey goes through three terrains or conflicts of some sort.  There will be a nemesis who must be stopped.  They will arrive at the end spot.  Everyone will cheer and there will be a party but no cake.   Bleah.  We need a broader array of ideas for entertaining the future of our country than a watered down version of Dungeons and Dragons where there is one main player with two Dungeon Master controlled non player characters, one sporting a bag of holding.

Literature to the rescue!

The following are solely my ideas. If you pitch this to a person in Hollywood and they make a show staring Miley Cyrus and Justin Beiber because it would be cool, you owe me money.  I'll collect when we both meet in the nether regions of the underworld --you for making it a reality, me for thinking of it in the first place. 

10) The Prince:  Narrated by the one who used to be and is again so named, this afternoon educational program would show kids how to use the techniques outlined by Machiavelli to navigate the rough jungle world of playground friendships and the politics of classroom etiquette.

9) They're All Greek to Me:  Classic Greek Myths told from the monsters' point of view.  Of course the society of hydras, gorgons, medusas and sirens would lament the evil persecution of their people by those annoying demigods who were always going around chopping off heads and stealing our treasure.  Each show would end with the monsters eating at least a few "heroes" as part of getting back at the 1%. 

8) Jane Austen Survivor Style:  Post MTV generation teens put in the countryside estate setting of 19th Century England.  Each week, contestants would be voted off the island for non Austenian type mannerisms and behavior, with the winner becoming the owner of said estate. 

7) Upton Sinclair Street:  The Values of Socialism and Vegetarianism all in one place as narrated by a muppet who lives with a family that suffers exploitation.  No word on whether McDonald's would be willing to run commercials during the breaks.  Hey Kids...Happy Meals.

6) Shakespeare in Ponyville:  My Little Ponies...doing Shakespeare. What????  They'd watch it.

5) Canterberry Tales: Because all cartoons are promos for toys, the surplus Strawberry Shortcake dolls et all would be used to enact the pilgrimage to the see the Holy Blissful Martyr's shrine.  The main character would occasionally break the 4th wall to teach the young viewers Olde English.  "Can you say, "WHAN that Aprille with his shoures soote, The droghte of Marche hath perced to the roote..."

4) Hemming's Way:  A Geography show.  The main character Earnest is a boy who travels the world.  He explores the snows of Kilimanjaro, runs with the Bulls in Spain, drinks Maraschino Cherry juice in Venice and visits Great Britain to make friends with the nurses at the local hospital.  The narrator is the same character but as an old man, retired and living in Key West, Florida.  He spends his time fishing for prize marlins.

3) Sun Tzu's Ancient Art:  Five kids come together to learn military strategy and various marital arts. They are called upon in each episode to apply the tenet put forth by the master as they battle the forces of evil.  Agents are currently investigating if this could be color coded, red, blue, gold, green and black and each of the five have special ships that they alone control, one a plane, one a motor bike, one a boat, one a car and one a rocket. They would also be mutated to be half human half insect and each would be named after a famous composer of classical music. Bach, Brahms, Beethoven, Mozart and the rebel, Rachmaninoff.   They'd para sail in their spare time, eat pizzas sprinkled with tofu and have wacky not discernible from anywhere accents. 

2)  For the Bible Belt/those who are sad that Veggie tales was taken over by ABC:The Adventures of Noah, Pokemon Master: He caught them all.....twice. Except for those pesky Unicorns.

1) Young Twilight: The stories of Young Edward and Jacob and Bella. 

I'll be waiting for the call from my agent.

p.s. Sorry for the earlier copy with misspellings. I did a spell check but it saved the prior version.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

To Have a Fantastic I mean Fantasy Summer DIY

Every May it happens.  I suffer from seasonal delusion disorder.  My older children get done with school and I suddenly think they're not only skilled free labor, but artisans of the first order. 

It starts innocently enough.

The deck needs to be painted.  I know that I cannot do this on my own. Toddlers will walk onto the deck asking for Mom. Older siblings will need a judicial ruling from the responsible adult. No one knows where the skim milk is, even though I've called to them that there is a gallon in the second refrigerator in the garage. So while I cannot do this task...I do have teenagers!

So I think, my oldest two can handle this, shoot...if the oldest three do it, it can be done in a day.   The interest in, skill level of, and dedication to completing such a chore of my children to whom I have deligated this task, does not factor into my daydream.  It will look great. It will be easy. It will be quick. It's a great summer project for them.  It will create great memories and stories too!

Then I promptly go nutty. 

Hey, they could do the front stoop too...and the bathrooms upstairs.  Our driveway needs to be resealed.  I bet the two boys could handle that over the summer...and I could learn and then teach our new high school daughter how to caulk.   The shower curtains upstairs need to be replaced and I know my other daughter could handle spackle.   My list of chores grows ever increasingly complex and impossible as the delusion takes hold.  My offspring are suddenly terribly interested in their summer math packets and book reports.

I regret to admit that often a trip to Home Depot for instructions and supplies is insufficient to help me regain sanity.  Only after actually purchasing multiple supplies, bribing some of the chosen kiddos with pizza and a trip to Barnes and Noble and taking away computers, tv's and all other entertainment, do we then get midway through the messy process and discover how radically unskilled everyone in my household is.  Regrettably, my children have learned to still demand promised rewards even if the results create diminished returns.  Even more regrettably, I have to agree, they've earned them.

After the professionals come in via my emergency phone call to do damage control, I see how utterly in the preschool of home repair I and my offspring remain.  They are done in minutes. It is perfect. It is sparkling. It is expensive.  Most importantly, whatever we did, has been mercifully erased, repaired or covered up with a neat bit of paint.

What is the lesson of these large checks written to contractors that come after a two day call back and 8 hour wait?  What message do I internalize?

Don't do this? No. 

You severely overrate yourself? No. 

You cannot become a capable DIY'er by watching Restaurant Impossible, reruns of Home Improvement and the Home and Gardening Network?  Again, no. 

I learn that we quit too early.  If I'd just been tenacious and held out a bit longer, we could have saved ourselves some money. We could have done it ourselves.  Next time, we're sticking to it. Next time, we do it ourselves. We win!

So for this June, July and August, I bought a book from Home Depot entitled "How to Fix Everything."  I've made my list and I'm thinking, we'll put down some flooring in the back basement and turn it into a college student bedroom.  It will need shelving and I'm thinking we could create a closet and a utility room for a spare washer and dryer.  It will be fun for everyone!  I'll promise them pizza.

 After we paint the back deck.

Friday, May 18, 2012

A Plea for a Great Dog

Today, I'm praying for my sister's dog.

Sam was old and in bad shape when my sister found him four years ago, or more accurately, he showed up and decided she was his owner.  He's blind, mostly deaf, fat and slow.  He is also a large furry beloved to her family.  Samwise (his full name) lives up to his Tolkien namesake. He stays, he's loyal, and he means to for all time.   Sam suffers through toddlers who love him deeply as only toddlers can (and all that that sort of love entails).  He also is simply a simple comfort and has been a friend during difficult and lonely dark times, as only the best dogs are. 

Samwise remains the only canine my oldest son has ever thought awesome. Dogs are allergic to my son. They see him and start barking.  I'm not sure why, but I know it has been true ever since he was 5 and a neighbor friend's adopted dog jumped into our minivan and scared the bejeebers out of him.  After that, stray dogs began following us in parking lots, zeroing in on him.  He's never been bitten, but he can see their hostility and it is decidedly evident to everyone else. Sam was and remains the exception, and Sam is now very sick. 

So we're praying to Saint Francis, who loves old dogs that gratefully thump their tails with all the energy it requires for a few pats and can give you the understanding look that only truly good and old dogs can give, that shows an empathy that surpasses the ages and a "You're still here?" bewilderment at the same time. 

I'm hoping Sam has a bit more time to spend with his family here because it's never a good time to say goodbye to a true and loyal pet.  So if you don't mind the littleness of this request (and I know there are plenty of harder worse things in the world to pray about), I'm asking for a quick petition, because the world is hard enough, and the blunter sharper edges are made better when dogs like Sam are still here, lying on the rug, thumping his tail.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Stress Management or Not

My kids signed me up for a stress reduction seminar.  Apparently my nightly dinner table rants about the 13 laundry baskets never unloaded, nervous twitchy left eye whenever someone mentioned missing shoes and near pathological demand for five hours of sleep had struck a chord.

“We’re thinking, you might need a break.” My oldest one helpfully offered, handing me the brochure.

It seemed like a good idea in theory, however mothering ten children isn’t something the kindly women at the U R GR8! Spaemporium were used to even contemplating. 

The first lady talked about using colors to coordinate children and manage temperaments.  For example, she suggested a red folder for the child that needs motivation to get going, and a soothing teal folder for the child that needs to pay attention and sit still. I asked what I should do with the soothed teal kid who sees red when he gets a girly folder, the perky girl who will be sad if her folder isn’t pink and sparkly, the kindergartner who only likes purple, the son who wants the same thing as her and the teen who wants everything black but then tells me it’s depressing.  
“How many do you have?” she asked, taken aback.  When I told her, she said that color management probably wouldn’t be as effective with so many varying energies in the same domicile. “It’s not designed to use all the colors of the rainbow.”

“That’s good because there are only seven available and I’d need three more.” I responded, though I was sure one of the kids would have found being Ultra Violet rather cool.

On to the Feng Shui expert then for how to arrange all these chakras so they wouldn’t collide into each other and cause a nuclear meltdown of emotionally epic proportions. 

After ten minutes of playing kid tetris wherein we attempted to position each person in their own personal space, taking into account the wandering monster principle of sibling rivalry: whomever is happy shall be overcome, whomever is industrious shall be sabotaged, and if you’re eating it, it was mine first, she suggested I get rid of my own stress points first by consulting the yoga teacher. 

Alas, my body long ago surrendered to gravity.  It was never athletic even when it was young.  Getting into the “crow” position, I could only imagine the temptation of some of my children, seeing their mother with her legs tucked under her elbows, posterior waving and bobbing as she balanced on two hands, to give a giant kick.  Motherhood is already a series of Sisyphean tribulations born out of love; I didn’t see how contorting myself out of whatever dignity I might have left would alleviate my stress. 

In desperation, the three women consulted each other over my case.  Issuing a full refund and a chocolate bar, they wished me well. I could only respond after chomping down on the gift, “Namaste.” 

However, I do feel much better.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Why You Have to Do Your Homework

10) Because some day, you will have to help your munchkins with their homework and it's frankly embarrasing to have to google the formula for finding the area of an obtuse triangle.  I did it. No I'm not sharing. You'll have to google too.  See. You should have studied more.

9) It doesn't matter that you're not supposed to live out your life vicariously through your children, every A feels like a victory, every grade below a B- smells more and more like the socks you haven't washed.

8) That book I blew off back in fifth grade? It's the summer reading assignment.  I will spend the next three months trying to explain how good this tome is...that I didn't read then...I will wind up reading it.   So you.  Do it now! It will save time.

7) There will be a test.  Just saying.

6) Mom will be unhappy.  You wouldn't like Mom when she's unhappy.

5) If you skip the assignments, you get to do the dishes. You are part of a family of 12.  By my calculations, you will have 60 dishes plus the pots and pans.   Now...which do you think takes longer, math or the dishes? Which do you prefer?

4) This is one of those life lessons.  Mom can lecture or you can just accept it...cueing up boring lecture in 5....4....3....2....see, life lesson learned! 

3) If you don't do it, your sisters that are in lower grades will catch up.  They might even lap you.  Oh girls...

2) The TV, Computer, Wii, and all screens will not gain power and be able to work until you do.  I changed the codes.

1) Because I said so.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Mother's Day

Mother's day cards when hand crafted, give you a snap shot of how you are perceived. Not how you are doing. Not how the kids are doing.  But how the kid thinks you are in reality.  It isn't always pretty.

I'll never forget the daffodil card from my oldest son when he was 5.  

The front said, "I love my Mom because..."
and the inside had the answers from each kid in his class.  There were 20. 
The individual child's name was next to his answer. 

"She does everything I want."  I do what?  He thinks I do everything he wants? Is he kidding?  Is this a put on?  Is there another kid in the class with my kid's name?  

Then my daughter did the same experiment.  "She sometimes makes pancakes."  I could hear the subtle --not often enough in the compliment.  

The next child, who plays more close to the vest than the first two, answered thusly, "Because I just do." 

That's the problem with Mother's day cards. You get to just take them and appreciate them like pinched pots and dandelion bouquets.  You don't get to analyze or ask follow up questions.  You won't get anywhere if you try, and you're likely to scare them off by saying anything other than "Thanks." and "That's wonderful."   They'll just look you puzzled, "Don't you like your breakfast in bed?"  The answer is yes.  Not, "I now have to change the sheets because of the toast."  They are expressing love as children do, as you taught them...ergo, you must respond to teach them how to receive not being cynical, over analytical or becoming a private eye about their inner psyche. 

Today, I received a poem from my 8 year old, and a drawing of me as a princess with a crown, wearing a beautiful dress and holding roses while riding a unicorn from my pre-schooler.  "I couldn't wait to give you this." the 2nd grader explained.  "Me too." my newly five year old chimed in...even though she just made the picture when she heard that her brother had a poem for me. 

"Mom thank you for feeding me.
Oh thank you for sending me to a good school.
Mom thanks for everything you do for me." 

"I have a bit of trouble with poetry. I couldn't make it rhyme so I did me and me and look, it spells Mom." 
"I made you magical and I'm going to make you another picture where you are a superhero and have a magic wand and a crown and a Pegasus."

There are 12 drawings of me in a stack.  Archetypal variations on a theme.  All of them say one thing, "Thanks mom."

"What are we going to do for Mother's day?" one of my other children asks.
"Whatever it is you want." I answer without thinking.

Now I know where the first one got his answer. Maybe I'll make pancakes for dinner. 


Thursday, May 10, 2012


I know...the cool advice is to act like you've been there before...but I have never EVER been cool.  So Trumpet Blare! YEAH! YAY! YAY! I've got a piece over at Patheos. 
(Since this is a humor blog, I figured I'd better give you a chuckle for stopping by). 

Click on this to see the actual piece.
It's on the nature of suffering, and the value as seen through the lens of faith.

Also, just a reminder, Small Success Thursday is now over at but since Mr. Linky we think last week was having trouble, you just list your successes in the comment section. We're working on an alternative.

Have a great Thursday!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Understanding Free Will

The teacher assigns homework.  The child has the options of:

1) Doing said homework well and earning both a good grade and possible praise from teacher and parent.
2) Doing said homework indifferently and possibly eeking out a good grade or more likely garnering a lesser mark and some grumbling from the parents.
3) Blowing off the homework and getting growls from mom, notes from the teacher and additional work, a bad grade and a slip designating that the assignment is late. 
And there are all the variations inbetween...

The child knows all three basic consequences.  The child knows good from bad, right from wrong.
But there's this pesky thing, free will. 

It allows us to knowingly, freely choose the worst of all possible outcomes because we don't want to go about the hard business of studying and gaining knowledge and learning what has been presented. Choosing the best option requires of us that we use our gifts.

Sin works the same way. We can know God's will.  We can even know the consequences of failing to abide in His love.  Yet we chose freely and knowingly that which short circuits our best chances to grow and delve deeper into how it is God calls us to love.  It's easier to take the pill, to blow off the sacraments, to rage at the world or others for their misguided views than to educate or even better, pray for those with whom we have definitive and difficult relationships.  It's our free choice to do so, it's just we make lots and lots and lots....of stupid free choices. 

But God loves us enough to respect our freedom, the gift He has given us to not be robots.  Robot children would do their homework perfectly every time.  Real children sometimes decide to watch Batman, sneak downstairs to raid the second refrigerator of the leftover birthday cake and then announce at 10:30, they don't understand this assignment or hide that they didn't do it or that they did do it but lost it, or that they forgot to turn it in, or that they forgot about the assignment entirely or blew it off. 

God would not rail at this johny-come-lately for showing up last minute with a bit of homework to do, but God does not tire of our whiny free willing sinful selves.  He loves us for what we are and what we could be if we loved Him more. But he does have expectations, that we will use our gifts wisely, that we will do what we ought, that doing what we ought reveals our love, while doing what we want because we want it means we wind up with a lot of extra stress, mess and poor marks.

The sins we freely chose to commit, keep us from God, just as the child who has multiple missing assignment slips might keep themselves from going to their parents or to the teacher, out of fear and shame and a desire not to face the consequences of freely chosen actions.  But ultimately, the hiding doesn't work, nothing is hidden, and only we are deceived in this process, deceived by the belief we could hide anything at all.   The only way the grades and homework situation turn around, is the child  admits there is a problem and begins the hard process of doing things differently.  The only way we access grace is to begin to submit ourselves to scrutiny and recognize our own innately sinful nature, and seek forgiveness. Start over.  Freely choose differently than we have, and do it again and again and again and again, to slowly grow ourselves in the habit of conforming to God's will out of free will.

With that being said, I had to ask of myself, "Did you do your homework?" And the only honest answer is I really need to go in and ask for some extra credit assignments to boost my grade.

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Invisible Women of Comic Books

This past Friday, I went to see the Avengers and had a blast.  While we were there, we saw previews for all sorts of films, mostly geared towards that magical demographic, 18-30 male.  Apparently men in this strata like Wikipedia Fantasy History, cue Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter.  


It really exists.  I've already declared, I will become a vampire before I will watch this one.  Now if Old Abe was taking on Team Edward...I might be  tempted.  But ultimately, still no.  Even seeing the sparkly vampire get his would not be enough of a draw.  He's the Hufflepuff of the undead.  And poor President Abraham Lincoln, he deserves better than to become the hatchet man Van Helsig of  America.

With every age, there is this collective of films geared towards the cathartic nature of watching violence, the horror film, Rambo series, John Wayne films, etc.  It is true in humor as well, as I was reminded as I laughed out loud with one pure moment of rage by the Hulk directed at the film's villain, and another at one of the film's heroes.  For guys there is this genre of films, mental candy escapism. Women can partake of it, and it's fun, but  I wondered, why don't women have this? 

Are we seeking to be boring or just so used to doing what must be done that we don't allow ourselves that sort of free wheeling escapism in our minds, breaking down the barriers of what is and what could be?  What would it look like and what would be the why of it?  

I'm not talking romantic escape films.  I'm sick to death of women films where the main character, vaguely discontent, travels to an exotic local to find her true self --Under the Tuscan Sun, Eat Pray Love....Stella Got her Groove...what have you, like our souls were rerouted somehow in the course of living and deposited at an unknown locale and if we go there, we'll find our whole selves in the process.   I want a super spy woman or a chosen one female that is able to put all the pieces together and defeat the evil bad guys with panache and authority, humor and finality.

Where is our Female Captain Kirk/James Bond or even Frodo for crying out loud? 

The closest we get is Angelina Jolie as Tomb Raider or Hallie Berry whether she plays Storm or Catwoman, and the final result is millions of women yawning.  No one saw Supergirl (with good reason), and no one is even thinking about making a Wonder Woman flick.  If you look at the superhero films out there, there have been in the past five years, two Iron Man, multiple Batman genres, Spidermans and relaunching of Spidermans, Thor, Green Lantern (okay that stunk but still), Wolverine, Xmen, Two different both failed Hulk Reboots, and a remake of Superman.  Do you notice there's not one woman in tights out there?  Is the best we can get an ex Russian Spy Scarlet Johansen whose most action packed scene is when she's tied up and in a slip? 

Then I thought about the options....She Hulk --lawyer with blood transfusion....the Invisible (Invisible!) Girl/Woman....Supergirl --Superman's cousin....Batgirl....imitator of Batman....Spiderwoman...again...imitator of Spiderman.  I realized the only original female superhero that has any marquis value is Wonder Woman, an amazonian princess carved out of stone come to life by the Greek Gods! (So as I understand it, the only way women can become superheroes is by following their male counterparts...unless they are cut out of whole cloth and not in any way related to any other women on the planet).  Diana Prince's family tree starts with doesn't fork.  

Then I thought of Jean Grey but dismissed her.  Marvel is so in love with  the Phoenix story, she's been retold, revived and re killed at least 50 times...but no one really cared after the first story when it was ground it's just retread.  And...she's dead.  Ergo...Can be super powerful, but must die to save the Universe, can't be going around busting bad guys...too powerful a woman...must not continue...I'll stop now.  You see the theme.

Most of these creations were the inventions of the comic book writers, mostly men...ergo I'm guessing, if we want females to take the lead in films or be super heroines that are wholly new...we're going to have to find the guys that write these things and introduce them to a few new ideas and maybe....a few dates.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Don't Waffle on Pizza

It doesn't matter if they ate it yesterday and tomorrow is a birthday party so they know they'll get it again. If the calendar reflects Rebecca Black's favorite day of the week, it's supposed to be pizza for dinner.

I learned this while summoning the will to make waffles. 

I thought I'd picked a surefire winner because usually waffles earn me a chorus of gratitude and joyful sticky faces.  Not on the day of the week that honors Freya, Norse goddess of love, fertility and war.

"But it's Friday..." one trailed off sadly, whispering to another who walked into the kitchen to ask "What's for dinner?"  "It's not pizza." You would have thought he was breaking the news of a dearly departed gently to someone who had just discovered her true love. 

It was like I flunked motherhood.

So I took out the strawberries in the fridge.  Slicing them and arranging them like pepperoni with melted butter and syrup for the cheese and sauce, I thought I'd triumphed.  "Lookie! Mom made a breakfast pizza. Isn't it cool?" It worked for two seconds.  Then reality set in.

"But sausage pizza is soooooooo yummy."
"And I love cheese."
"And no dishes." an older one piped up.

I looked at the batter and the plate of waffles six stacked high.  "You're getting waffles."

Another kid came in and I'm not sure it was not entirely planned..."Hey Mom? I have a gift certificate...could we call and order..." I stopped the question dead at that point.  "The next person who complains about waffles gets to do the dishes."


I muttered to myself in irritation.  "I burnt one. Darn it.  I hate burnt waffles."

"MOM! You complained about the waffles. You HAVE TO DO THE DISHES!"  Suddenly dinner was eaten with great my expense. 

As I did the dishes that evening, I allowed myself one more mutter....I should have ordered pizza.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Small Success Thursday....IS MOVING!

Last week I talked to a friend Sarah Reinhart (Author of Catholic Family Fun) about how to grow this internet meme of Small Success Thursday and she suggested moving it to  Here's the link.

The process and the rules are the same and I'll still be hosting it.  It's just Lisa Hendey's site gets much more traffic and I do believe that moms, wives, women in general, need this little once a week lift to remind themselves of both the long term goals and short term progress.  Lisa has graciously even offered to have prizes.  Coolness and you get to brag a bit about what you've been up to this past week. 

See you there!

Small Success Thursday Click Here!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Walking on Hard Boiled Egg Shell Psyches

"Why did we get lollipops Mom?" my daughter asked.  We'd just come from the drive thru at the bank and the teller and I go way back, (5 kids ago) and so she always loads my canister up with the deposit slip and enough suckers for each of my kiddos.  

"It's just nice." I answered.

"It is just nice." she responded. "It's not my birthday or Christmas or Easter or anything." she added.  Then she turned to her baby sister who was enjoying this sweet on a stick for the very first time, her eyes shining with discovery and happiness at the sticky sugary goodness.  "Sometimes, we get lollipops for no reason." she explained.  Apparently, our youngest child is merely visiting our family, sort of shadowing and my next oldest girl is in charge of closing the deal.  Stick with us, sometimes you get candy is a selling point.  Babygirl nodded. She was I think willing to agree with anything at the moment, especially if it meant the possibility of getting another cherry lollipop. 

We live in a brave new world, where dissent from popular opinion, be it political or spiritual can get you virtually tarred and feathered if your tweet, blog, Facebook status, comment or email falls upon unfriendly eyes.   The instant you out yourself as being the political stripe opposite of what is currently trending, prepare for a thousand righteous stone throwing responses, all equally sure that not only are you an ignorant fool for postulating something other than what popular consensus deems correct, you are a malicious ignorant fool that deserves heaping piles of scorn by people who will at the same time bemoan the lack of civility of society today in their next postings. 

Society cannot continue if our first, last and only response is to throw stones and congratulate ourselves afterwards on our clever stone throwing, our reasonableness, our thoughtfulness about our own positions in things political, societal, cultural and moral.  Society will dissolve if we can only get along if everyone agrees on everything.  Our circles of agreement will get smaller and smaller and eventually, we will find ourselves on the outside of someone's circle, and the stones will fly.   The only way we stop this, is to opt not to, even when we think things are justifiable, when we think we're not only right but that thinking any other way would be mere posturing or ignorance or willful malice,  put down the rocks. We have to opt for mercy even if we think the recipient doesn't deserve it.  Because honestly, none of us do. 

Because one day, we'll be the one hoping, mercy shall be ours.  Some day, we'll hope to get mercy for no reason, because we'll have no reason that warrants it. 

The alternative is we shall be dominated by whoever has power and can shame the most forcefully, whoever can throw the stones hardest.  And no matter who you are, one day, that won't be you.  We can create a world in which not only do you have to earn any lollipops, you probably won't, but it won't be nearly as sweet, happy or fun.    

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!