Friday, June 29, 2012

Let Me Be Clear

The President likes this phrase as a means of indicating that somehow, his message isn't getting through. 

I shall do the same, because it is clear that this is unclear.

I have no objections to our government providing a safety net for the poor, for those who find themselves without the resources to cope with a sudden or progressive or debilitating condition that threatens to rob them not only of life, but of dignity as well, by bankrupting those around them in the struggle to stay alive.  I do believe that we need to provide health care for those who cannot through their employment, manage themselves.  This is part of the function of good moral government. It is in a sense, its only purpose, to create a system of rules and laws that prevent the overflow of chaos, and that also establish a baseline which is an attempt to limit suffering.  Most Catholics including the Bishops as a whole, wanted a government run health care policy expressly for this reason.

But the 2000+page bill that is obamacare, violates our Catholic conscience --it demands things that as Catholics, we can't tacitly accept.

The monstrosity that was upheld yesterday, is a bad plan. It is a bad policy. It is a coercive policy that threatens religious liberty (by the government determining what is and is not a religious insitution, and what moral codes must be ignored to serve the state), and the further demands that grave immoral acts (abortion), be funded by all people of faith who know such acts to be not only sinful but lethal.

To those who start to shout about the Department of Defense, go ahead.   I don't think we should fund the wholesale slaughter of the innocent for grave, casual and all the inbetween rationales that humans can concoct.  I'll join you in saying it's a waste laden department with gobs of good thoughtful people implementing an incoherent policy that reigns death down on strangers for grave, casual and inbetween rationales in our name and probably shouldn't.  I also would submit, we shouldn't be doubling down on this policy by waging war on our own people, destroying them before they could become educated good tax paying citizens for the sake of other citizens who simply declare at the moment, they wish it. 

This healthcare plan like the unmanned drone strikes, changes the game.  We will now fund abortion through taxes without end.  We have been doing it on the sly for years. Now it's out in the open.  It's not better either way. It's wrong either way.  Drone strikes or patriot missles, RU-486 or partial birth or chemical, it's still dealing death without restraint, without reflection, and without any hope of stopping, because our tax dollars never stop being spent, and policy once enacted, seldom gets redacted. 

If no one sees the killing and they aren't reported, it's much easier to pretend we aren't doing evil.  If no one pauses to reflect on the taking of lives because the drones rather than humans are doing the death dealing, we can all pretend we're good moral agents.  I'm a good person even if I slaughter unborn babies on a daily basisBut we all know, what we finance, we support, what we support, we are morally culpable for, what we say to the world with our actions, defines us.  So if we carelessly deal death with indifference, it is clear, we are indifferent to life.  Human life of those not in power, is cheap. Begun, the drone wars have.  We can kill without pesky moral's not true, but we tell ourselves that every time we kill.  "Am I my brother's keeper?"  because that's the way we cope with being less human. 

No one with one ounce of moral sense thinks otherwise.  The only ones who glory in killing are those who are mad. The rest of us cope with killing by explaination: self defense, patriotism, protection of those weaker, policy, sustaining law/order, stopping an evil act, or proclaiming the act itself is not evil, is not killing, is a mercy, is a medical necessity, a choice, reasonable thing, hard heart breaking decision, but it is an act of the will that we must endure, there are more, but you get the idea.

I don't want to bow down before this golden idol, this pharoah called government and do what my God has commanded we should not.  I do not want to knowingly fund evil acts.  Torchure is wrong. Abortion is wrong, unmanned drone bombings are wrong, death sentences are wrong...killing is wrong.  Rubberstamp me as Pro-life (that's fine, I'll take that label), but understand that supercedes both sides' short sightedness. 

I want my government to be good.  It cannot be good by doing evil.  Ceasar has declared we must render what should be God's unto Ceasar, and I say no.  And I will say no with my votes and my voice. I will not be silent simply to be polite.  I will not give a blank check to the GOP or the DNC. You both have blood on your hands and you're both committed to demanding that we fund it mindlessly.  This has to stop.  This is not a government of the people, it is a tyranny of party elite and political will over the general public funded by all but those who do not abide by the rules --those who make them.   Let's call the elected officials what they are, aristocrats and petty tyrants who view the rest of us as little flyover people.  Pay your taxes and shut up. We know what's best. 

Ceasar has told us we must do this or we cannot render acts of mercy (care for the sick --Singer (bio-ethicist and advisor to administration, prof at Yale has said, the Catholic hospitals should simply close if they won't comply).   No.  Again, let me be clear.  I say no.   Get stuffed.  We will do good.  We will not comply.  We are being slowly boiled to only allow the goverment to perform the corporeal acts of mercy, such that we shall absolve ourselves of the acts, the obligations to perform such acts and remove ourselves from the graces attached to acting itself.  We will also be corroded by our cooperation with evil.   We cannot not be.  We cannot participate/fund an addiction without being part of the problem.  We cannot participate in bullying without being bullies, we cannot cease to be liars if we allow truth to go unspoken, if we allow lies to go unchallenged. 

We are to comfort the grieving, care for the sick, and do this not because the state declares it a good or because the state provides it, but because God do command that we do it, and not by proxy.  We're responsible for our souls and those around us, for all that we do and don't do, so everything we do and don't do counts.  This counts. 

We're called to care for the unborn and the pregnant mother, care for the sick, the dying and the immigrant, the homeless, the stranger, the people in tents across the world from us and the neighbors next door. We're called to pray ceaselessly, to love ceaseslessly, to serve ceaselessly, to be the Eucharist to others and to seek the Eucharist endlessly. We're to see the nails in the hands of our savior and both weep and rejoice, to know that the metal through the bone is for each of us, and to give great thanks for so great a love. We're to hold sacred the beauty of truth, of love, and to pour it out. There isn't a vacation or end to this mission either, it goes on even after death. Further, we're to be endlessly filled and on this earth unsatisfied. But it doesn't mean we're to be wimps or silent or acquiese to evil in this life. The martyrs were not wimps or defenseless, they were brave beyond measure with how they faced death and why. All they had to do is the perfectly reasonable denial. They didn't.

So let me be clear once more.  No.  We will not comply. But let me propose an alternative, one that will be neither Republican nor Democrat but Catholic. We will pay more. We will offer 40%, if the 40% shall be used to ensure that we do not fund war and we do not fund death as a nation, as a people. We will fund the roads and the hospitals and the research, but we will not fund abortion or death from the skies. We will turn the other cheek, offer our shirt, give more to make the society one that does better than the least amount possible, we want our country and our people to be a people of light and life.    Come. Take more if you must. (I'll even give it freely if less gracefully than the saints do).  But do not do perpetuate this grave evil in our name with all that you take.

Pray hard for our country, for leaders who recognize that while we need to provide for the 33 million, (and we do), we also need to do justice by all our citizens, and not destroy the unborn as the price for the 33 million. We need to always do both and --it is the nature of Catholicism, that both and...prayer and service, words and deeds, what is done and not done. Body and blood, bread and wine, soul and divinity. We are never not called to acknowledge the reality is both and. We must be clear.  To be Catholic, we will radically not comply because we cannot do less. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Monster Within

It is a well established but seldom discussed fact.  Babies are the only socially acceptable psychopaths. 

Having spent the last 19 years around people who for (in many cases) at least two years, bossed me around without ever speaking, I have layers of experience to back this up.  I'm certain it isn't only my genetic back ground that creates people who think the world exists for them alone, and that frankly, the world is not doing a very good job. 

This morning, the littlest Diva awoke displeased.   She cried during her private bath.  She cried getting dressed.  She cried as she slumped into her plush lamb recliner that vibrates and plays music.  She got mad when I turned off the vibrations and music even though she'd left the chair.  

Going into my bedroom to fetch shoes put her decidedly out.  She knocked on the door.  Her father opened the door.  She looked at him.  "Do you want to come in?" he asked.  She studied him in all seriousness and shook her head "No."  and shut the door in disgust.

Two minutes later there was a knock.  I opened it this time.  "Do you want to come in?" I asked.
"Mom!" she answered and grappled both my legs to make sure not only she had me, but that I couldn't possibly get away. 

This situation led to a momentary abatement of her bad mood.  But sooner or later, I had to  put her down, and this was simply not accepable.  The moment her feet touched the ground, she began that I cannot stand motif. 

I do not know how it is that she can do a three point stance on her back with her head being one of the three points, but trust me that if she is sufficiently irritated, this is her go to means of expressing it.  Cirque de Soliel might be in her future.  After a few high pitched screams while in the stance, she looked over at me and put her two middle fingers in her mouth.  It is a perfect symbol of this child's psyche.  It is how you sign "I love you." It is also how hard metal ethusiasts say "Rock on!" It feels a bit like a sign of irritation as well.  I guess it is a sort of mood ring sign, with the implications being clear based on emotional context.   She is fluent in establishing emotional context.

Her ire continued through breakfast, with my oldest son attempting to act as a substitute for me.  Generic brands work in many circumstances, like white bread, canned tomatoes and sugar based cereal.  However they should not be used if you want diet soda, frozen pizza or chocolate.  He's a great big brother but the goddess was clearly not digging this turn of events as I took care of those other people that live here.

However she has two other great loves.  Shoes and Technology.  Sensing the potential for further disruptions, he handed her two new white slippers designated for the wedding and let her sit at his computer.  Even this was not enough.  She tried me on my lap with my lap top. This too failed to satisfy.  We thought we were done for until she toddled over to the television and sat down.  Dora did what a computer, shoes, breakfast, a bath, a chair, Dad, Mom, a big brother, a bottle, a blanket and two computers could not.  She sat.  For five minutes.  I was feeling smug. The baby empress was soothed.  TV....yeah...she sat.  For three minutes.

But the big brother wanted a victory. He did not like the TV trumping him. He went to his laptop and pulled up a youtube of Mecha-King Ghidorah music.  She ran to him. She got on his lap. She stood grinning at him.  She smiled. She laughed. She danced. She clapped.  All was well.  This was her true nature.   And I was left to puzzle out the meaning of all this, for her future and mine.  Her bad mood had in effect, crossed what is lovingly referred to in television as The Gozilla Threshold. In both a emotional and literal sense, the only solution for this small rampaging toddler, is a large radioactive nuclear monster.

What I didn't realize was that this:

was her attempt to illustrate this:

The genetic nerdiness that is in my family is apparently far deeper than I imagined.   I remain profoundly disturbed.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Day My Washer became Scrap Metal

I have to say, I think the machine deserves a few words. A eulogy or a poem, some sort of tribute is due.   There ought to be some sort of service for the service rendered by a machine that has been with us only since 2007, but which was subjected to daily and sometimes double daily, and sometimes triple or even quadruple daily duty.  My dryer died three weeks ago and I suspect my washing machine at the time thought, "We can do that?" 

So Friday, it made  a terrific noise, like a jet engine preparing for take off.  Honestly, I came over because whatever it was, I knew it wasn't good.  I opened the machine to find the rim was off and suspected much more.  But I could fix the rim so I did.  For two days I observed said machine and while it took in clothes and water and soap, it did not get the clothes clean.  It did not rotate the drum.  So I had an odd Neapolitan mix of dry clothes on top, damp clothes in the middle and sopping wet stuff on the bottom.  I could spin the drum and flip the pile at intervals to keep up appearances and sort of wash the stuff, but I knew a repairman was in my future.
I hate calling repairmen. 

I hate when they come and a thirty second search and fifteen cent part later, they are charging me 60-100 dollars for said repair.   I also hate calling them and an hour later having them pronounce my machine dead and also give me a bill for 60-100 dollars for the diagnosis as deceased.  I never feel like I get my money's worth. 

The pediatricians give out stickers at the end of an appointment and the dentists give out tooth brushes whether or not you had a cavity.  My thinking is, if the appliance is dead, the service man ought to at least play taps or offer you the cathartic option to use their heaviest hammer on said dead machine to get out some frustrations.   Like "Why is it you are crapping out on me?  I've been doing the laundry for ages. I fold everything you wash and I'm not falling apart!"  Though one might argue that this quote alone proves that at least something in me has deteriorated in the past 45 years of living.

So I'm here today to bid farewell to the Bousch Nexxt 500 high efficiency machine.  It did its job as long as I did mine.   I never loved it, but I hate it now.   I do not appreciate its exquisite timing, knowing that we were planning a trip and that I now get to lug laundry to be washed at the mat and needed another errand this week.  It was work while it worked.  It is still work, now that it is not working.  

I shall drink a glass of wine and eat cake.  These extra carbs shall result in my hips having a permanent record of the end of said machine's service.  I resent that too.   Adeiu Bousch!  We shall not meet again. 

P.S. Now my dish washer is acting up.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Don't Put Headphones on the Cat (and other Life Lessons)

It had been a hard week. I was irritated. 

I was irritated because some of my children adjust to summer more easily than others about how this is a slow time and don't get up until after 10.  I was irritated because some of my children get up asking to paint, go to a park, play the computer, invite friends over and have a cook out, making me tired before I've served breakfast.  Further, I was irritated by one child in particular who is struggling with the hardness of being an adolescent, being out of school, and with having a large family that is often disorganized and cluttered and seems unable to do anything swiftly.  He and I had sparred a few times ultimately culminating in a chilly peace being carved out by him riding his bike for an hour and me calling my mom.

Mom is very sympathetic and she listened as I cried and complained and groused, "There isn't a manual for raising ten children!"  I later growled at God during my Rosary, why isn't there one?

That day the book Don't Put Headphones on the Cat arrived.

Rose and I are Erma Bombeck writing group buddies.  She'd signed it and sent it for me to read and review. I'd dutifully put it by my nightstand for "later." 

This weekend, half my family made a trek up to Connecticut for a family picnic while I worked here to prepare us for a trip we're making to be at my brother's wedding.  So far, the weekend had not been especially productive.  While I'd folded a bazillion clothes, the washer had decided, it would not spin. I'd sensed on Friday that something was wrong but stubbornly kept using it Saturday in hopes it would change its mind and start working again.

Late Saturday, I'd gone to the basement to get a hole puncher from the second study and remembered why I'd considered purchasing a new hole puncher rather than go down those stairs.  I never go to the basement, as the cumulative mess threatens to put me into either a wrathful cleaning frenzy or a self pitying despair.   I told myself it could wait because it had waited this long and wilfully marched myself upstairs. 

To keep myself from fuming about it, I threw myself into Rose Godfrey's book. There wasn't a book on how to raise 10, but there was one by a mother raising 11.  God had heard my prayers and said, "I'll do you one better."  God is like that.  

I hadn't planned on reading until 1 a.m. but I was waiting for my oldest son to return from being at a friend's.  I fell asleep with the book.  When I woke up, I realized I hadn't seen my son.  Neurotic me wanted to panic but the Sensible me said, "There will be a tell that he is home, even before you walk up the stairs." 

I got up and opened the door of my room and there it was;  a empty can of root beer placed on the table in the dining room.  He made it home. No worries.  

Free from that stress and feeling the singular quiet of a home in the morning with all guns out, I decided to take a bath and bring Rose's book with me.  I finished it, towled off and opened the door of my bathroom to find my bedroom had been unlocked and two of my daughters were sitting on my bed talking to my baby girl in her crib. 

Normally, I would be annoyed if someone has picked the lock to my room.  But they immediately started moving for the door. 

"I made your bed for you." my six year old offered as she ducked out, heading straight for the unclaimed computer.  My five year old looked at me in my towel.

"What?" I asked. 

"You look nice that way Mom." she said with a smile and shut the door. 

It's that kind of slice of life story that Rose excels in, and that kind of slice of life story that I loved.  Those sorts of stories had been happening but I had been sort of missing them, being caught up in the struggles of trying to do the impossible, to maintain Homeostasis in a family that was growing and changing and needing me to be a leader rather than a triage parent. 

Sunday morning still loomed as the washing machine remained staunchly still.  We were mostly caught up so I filed the stress of the machine under a "To be done Monday" list and set about making breakfast.  I still feel woefully inadequate to the task of raising these kiddos, like I do with respect to cleaning the basement and getting the laundry under control and preparing for the looming trip and a hard group to take to mass.  But then I realized how the Holy Spirit understood and even wanted me to know this reality. I was woefully inadequate.

This past week, the Holy Spirit's has been thrown at me multiple times.  The past week, the phrase "You cannot do this alone." has quietly screamed at me from unexpected sources; a friend on the phone, in the film Brave as the firey heroine brings about peace by appealing to the reality that the four clans worked together,  and Rose's book when she and her daughters work to help a goat give birth.  The message over and over again, "All of this was possible if it wasn't all me."  It could have been a smaller hammer hitting me on the head than the mess of the basement perhaps, but then if it had been, I might have just ignored the pain and simply resolved never to go down there.

Rose's book came into play. She ended each chapter with a question.  At first, this annoyed me.  But as I allowed myself to go deeper into her chapters, the stories became more poignant, touched deeper to the bone, and revealed the prayerful component of a Martha life that is sacred.  I undertand this element, it's just I often forget to give it its great due, that this life, this pouring out of one's life, if done out of love, does bring us closer to God's vision of us.  But only if we cooperate.  We cannot do it alone.

Part of why Rose sent me the book was to give it a review and encourage others to buy it and read it.  This I heartily do. It is funny and wise and an easy read.

But God always uses all of our experiences to beguile us into following Him.  So I remain humbled and as always, startled by the alarmingly immediate way the Holy Spirit responds to prayers.  Here was a book sent the day I lamented, tailored for refreshing me for the ongoing struggle, a bit of lambas bread for the journey if you will.  I'd needed a mentor and was even asking for it.  Here was someone going through this same experience, and I thought of the immediacy of God's answer of my prayers.

Finally, a bit of resolution for you on all my irritation.  There were two chapters in Rose's book where she talked about  how sons show their love. Sometimes, it was through digging holes, and other times, an odd sort of protection of their family.   My son was protecting his family from himself by taking long bike rides to Giant to buy chocolate milk.   He was also trying to protect me in a odd way by talking about my need to lose some weight and the need to reduce the clutter in our home.  He wanted his family to thrive too, he just saw them not thriving and me not doing enough about it. 

Starting that Tuesday when the book arrived before I'd read it, he and I have taken to taking walks in the cool of the evening and praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet. It is his concession to me, and mine to him.  His to pray, mine to exercise.  We are both works in progress, protecting each other. I hadn't realized that was what we were doing for each other until I read her stories.

So I am grateful to Rose and her book.  It was a fun read and a good for summer at the beach or in your room at 1 in the morning waiting up for a teen. While it isn't a manual for How to Raise 10 children, it is rather excellent at showing the why of all this regardless of how many one might be trying to love into adulthood.

To buy her book you can go here. It is also available on Kindle.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Taking a bow

I started writing the Book of Helen back in 2007, when I had 8 children.  

Now it is 2012 and I have ten.  Today I finished (plugging the holes) in the book, and while there are edits and I don't for a minute think I'm done reworking and tugging at her, I was able to get to "The END" which is a mile marker.  A five year gestation to begin editing....but I finished. I finished.  Don't get all messy about the details.  I finished. You can shuffle pieces about tomorrow Sherry and flesh out that one thought and maybe trim that other section tomorrow but today...

This is my victory lap.  
I'll get back to work on this mess tomorrow...but tonight...celebrating with a chocolate bar and a diet coke. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Motherhood is Not a Job

Elizabeth Wurtzel over at The Atlantic wrote a piece explaining how 1% Wives are Helping Kill Feminism and Make the War on Women Possible.   There's a lot wrong even with that title but the buzz line was "Being a mother isn't a real job --and the men who run the world know it." 

The temptation to leap at the low hanging fruit was strong. The snark in me envisioned perfectly coiffured Jimmy Choo wearing women with GOP bumper stickers on their Sleek bulky SUV's flying over the country like unmanned drones, shooting down every green shoot of a feminist that dared show her face.   But Mommy wars consist mostly of my-self-righteousness-trumps-yours-because-my-opinion-of-my-choices-is-as-self-deferential-in-its-certainty-as Elizabeth Wurtzel's. Further, I do not think her piece was intended to delve into motherhood as much as it was a thinly veiled hit piece on Mitt Romney and his wife.

Instead it got me to thinking of the C.S. Lewis quote, "You don't have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body." and motherhood. "You are a mom. You have a child."  My brain wouldn't let go of the reality that you do not do motherhood, Mom is someone you become.

We may work at a job or not, but the careers we have are accessories to our total selves.  Wurtzel's limited feminist vision of woman reduces her to her paycheck and her politics, and deems what does not validate either to be of no consequence.  But a true feminist would not view any woman's choices and sacrifices and labor to be anything other than an expression of her deeper self.  Women like men, may work and even hold very high profile professional polished important running the world type jobs, but that isn't who they are, it's what they do.

Wurtzel is even correct (in an ironic way, as she meant to put motherhood into its proper compartmentalized place), because motherhood, while work, is not a profession. Motherhood is work, but it is not a job, it is an extension of self towards others to the degree we allow it, and a path to sanctity if we fulfill it. (But that takes obedience, consistency and perpetual greater and deeper sacrifice born of love), which means, as difficult and time consuming and important as "real world" work is, motherhood is harder.

 Adopted/grafted or gestated, anyone can become a parent these days, but it takes staying power and courage and humility (gobs of humility) to love through all the messy sticky stinky frustrating aggravating why did you color on the walls why didn't you study for the test how could you even think about doing that kind of moments that will saturate the rest of your life. You may quit, retire, resign or start over in many jobs and professions, but you will never stop (even if you stink at it), being a Mom. You will simply be a bad one or a good one based on who you are and how much you love.  

Motherhood is a vocation.

It is an external extension of God's love through service granted to those who willingly accept God's gift of children.  When you are dealing with Divine gifts, there is no box big enough to contain them.  As a result, the role given must by necessity, expand beyond the limits of worldly imagination.

There is a huge difference between choosing to do something (my job), and being chosen (by God to be a mother).

 Mom is a name.

It will come to mean to those one is the mother of, whatever you the mom, pour into it.  Whether that word is spoken by our kids with love or frustration or anger or joy will be the sum total of what we poured out plus grace.  For the children that call us Mom, Mom is not what we do, but who we are and how they perceive what we do.

What we do as Mom will be more closely aligned with our being than any profession we embrace.  The difference is, what we do as Mom is akin to what we eat to sustain ourselves.  What we do as professional working individuals, is akin to the outfit we pick out each day.  There is a level of degree and importance and control in both circumstances, but the former is much more intimate, vital and systemic in nature.  

To be a Mom is to be radically loved and if we do it properly, love in an individualized manner. While we can all share those moments that arch across from one parent to another, there are some moments that are uniquely our own.  My first startled reaction to the really realness of being a mom came with a 1993 ultrasound. We take them for granted now a days, but this was breaking technology and I can still see my son, opening his eyes.  I was seeing his eyes looking out, and that moment blew me away.  It was the beginning.  My children love me as they will love no other person. They will love other people, and they will even hopefully find people they love as deeply as I love their father, but they will only love me as mom, because I am the only one they call mom.
I would write more, but one of my sons just came downstairs and said, "Hi Mom. What are we going to do today?" and when I asked him what he'd like to do, he said "Go to Butler's Orchard and pick berries and play Farkle and read books. What do you want to do today Mom? Can I have breakfast?" 

So it's time for me (heh), to go to work and be Mom.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Your Presence is Requested, but Unnecessary

My daughter loves to talk. She's six, so this is entirely normal.

The other day, I went outside by myself to get the mail.  Had I been a wounded zebra on the Serengeti, I might have stood a better chance against the cheetah like reflexes of my child. She bounded after me, already starting a conversation before she was in earshot. 

"And I remember the time Veronica and I were on a field trip and we picked berries and slid down the slide but I didn't get to go on the swings because we ran out of time.  That made me sad so..." she made it to my hand and took hold.

This field trip was roughly six weeks ago. 

"Can I walk with you?" she asked.
"Can I give you kissee?" she asked.
I offered my cheek and was nearly strangled by her joy.

"Can I have a play date with Veronica? She's my best friend.  We had a party for all the summer birthdays and she brought in donuts and even though I don't like those kind of donuts very much, I had one because she's my best friend and I didn't want her to have sad feelings so I ate it and it was actually pretty good and maybe I like it better than any other donuts I've tasted but I haven't tasted every donut in the world.  Have you Mom?"

"No. I haven't."
"What's your favorite donut?  I'll get the mail."  She sprints to the mailbox.
"I like lots of kinds, but I'm starting to really like Sour Cream Cake."
"Sour Cream! YUCK! I don't think I'd like that Mommy.  You like a lot of weird foods.  I don't like weird foods. Because they're weird. I like pasta but not macaroni and cheese. I like cheese pizza but not grilled cheese. And I like ice cream.  That's yummy. Ice cream is the best. Can we get ice cream today? Maybe shakes?  Can I have a chocolate shake with whip cream but no cherry. I don't like them." 
"That's okay. I'm not hungry right now. Because I just had the best lunch.  Do you know what I had for lunch? I had a yogurt and a banana and juice and two pieces of bread with butter and a cookie.  I also had a toaster strudel even though it wasn't time for breakfast."
"I'd be ful--"
"I think we should go biking. Can I go to the park and go biking? I need you to take off the training wheels because the back wheel doesn't touch the ground. I want to help take them off. I'm good with tools and I think it would be fun."

As a mom, sometimes it is a season to listen, and sometimes to talk, but in my six year old's life, I'm not even sure the listening is required.  I'm more of a tree or a diary, not so much an audience as an accessory or decorative flourish, enjoyed but not required. 

She bounds off towards her bike, still talking. "What do you think MOMMY?" she shouts back.
I don't know what to think. I missed that last part. "I'm not sure." I bluff.
"I was telling you that Veronica says she likes me because I'm a good listener. Can she come over? Can I have a play date?"

"Yes."  I say, mentally trying to remember where the school directory is so I can make the call.  
"Yippee! You're the Best BEST BESTEST MOMMY!" and she comes over for another one of those strangling hugs with super smooches. 

I go inside to make the call thinking that while I could listen to her forever, it is good to call in a reliever.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Cost of Doing Business

This just in, just in time for Father's Day, kids cost too darn much! 

By now you've seen the article that explained how expensive kids are today.  I went to the government report to dig inside the numbers that created the sensational headline, "Ouch, that bundle of joy will set you back 234,900.00!"

Don't tell me I'm not worth it.

It's the number that always makes the story buzz along. 

The first thing that makes the number high, is the equation.  Whether single or married, the formula uses Pre-tax income as the starting point.  We all know that our pre-tax income is an imaginary number.  This slight of hand alone inflates the figure regardless of where one shakes out in the economic scale.  

Statistical analysis took regional locale into account as a factor of housing cost, calculating the price of a bedroom to a house+utilities as indicative of the cost of housing a child.   If you double up your kiddos in a bedroom, some of that cost is halved.  However, the scary number still looms dangerously close to 1/4 of a million. 

So let's look at that number for raising a child. If we divide 234,900 by the 17 years, we discover it comes out to...$13,817.64 a year.  

Not so scary.
Not so sexy a headline either. 
And remember, the number is inflated by using the pretax number as the starting point.

The scariest thing of this study was not the numbers, not the cost, or even the fact that our government spends time doing this annually.  The scary thing was the why of this analysis, and the subtext commentary in the study itself:

The time involved in rearing children is considerable and has a cost attached to it. A recent study found that the imputed value of parental time spent on children exceeded the direct cash expenditures on them (Folbre, 2008). In addition, to care for children, current earnings and future career opportunities may be diminished because of job choice or reduced time in the labor force for one or both parents. These situations also have a cost attached to them.
The direct and indirect costs of raising children are considerable, absorbing a major share of the household budget. On the other hand, these costs may be outweighed by the benefits of children.

Here's the report if you want to go in and calculate the numbers yourself: Cost of a kid as estimated by the government.

Implication of that final concluding sentence of the report: The benefits of children MIGHT NOT outweigh the economic costs. 

So remember folks, the government is here to keep you on the economic up and up.  Free birth control and abortion for everyone!   

Oh...and the picture for the article has been modified so that it only shows a shot of the cute baby.  It used to have the cute baby adjacent to a photo of this:

Cost of a Ferrari (2009) F430 --up to $217,310.  That doesn't include interest cost on the financing...can you finance a Ferrari?  Is that even possible?  Can a Ferrari last 17 years? Would you want to make car payments of $1065 a month every year for 17 years without ever getting even so much as a Happy Owner's day card in return? Will the car run as well when it is paid off?  A 17 year old runs much better than a 1 year old, so a kid grows as an investment...whereas a car...well, my newer car is a 2008.  I'm still paying for it. My newest son is also a 2008, but I think my four year old is much better looking and cooler too and worth every penny.

Yeah...I like cars too...but this little Italian is MUCH better than a Ferrari.

But since tomorrow is Father's day, Dad's ten would be super sports cars are going to be mulching and weeding and trimming the trees. 

Wonder how the government weighs/calculates the values of being charged in the morning in a mad scramble to hug my husband's legs, or the run to the table if mom and dad say, "Let's play cards." or the grins they give when they get solo time for whatever reason doing whatever it is...I know what I call time with my dad...the same thing my kids do with theirs....priceless.  

Living large...but not in a governmental sense.  What would we do with ten cars anyway?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

45 Love

Yesterday, my son was deep into the Summer has just started and if I don't get to have a Phineas and Ferb like experience every day then it must be because you are incredibly boring and don't want me to have a Carpe Diem type life.   This sort of attitude is highly contagious and before I could reign it in, it had infected six of my ten children.  Can we go to the pool? Can I sign up for sports? When is the Wedding? Can I go to my friend's house? Can we get McDonald's?  Can I ride to the 7-11? What movies are showing?

As the adult in charge I had three options: 1) hide.  Not very adult I admit, but I'm fairly certain if I holed up in the laundry room, they might never find me.   2) Answer their requests in order with Not today, yes but they don't start for a month, in two weeks, no, he's on vacation. Your bike needs fixing, and I don't know.  Then watch as they promptly come up with new requests such that eventually my will is eroded and they get to do something that is either cost prohibitive, messy, or that requires more time than the day has hours such that I wind up looking like a meanie when I have to stop said project before it fully gets off the ground. or 3) come up with a viable alternative that didn't cost a lot and was sufficiently cool enough and summery to be a win for them.   I prayed for the patience to make it work and the diligence to pull it off because frankly, given the squirrelly squabblely way the morning had gone, I wasn't feeling the love of parenting.  I was feeling the duty of it.

The obnoxious phrase my Granddaddy would say, "Shouldn't hire out if you didn't want to go to work." wafted into my head to banish my feeble "I don't feel like it whine." and with a brief prayer to the Blessed Mother, I took them to the park. 

For logistical reasons, the oldest stayed home to babysit the youngest two who were napping.   But I did insist that everyone else come, including the teenager who likes to hide out in the basement drawing.   She came.  Within minutes of exiting the car, she sat and started drawing...but I got her outside...a victory of sorts.  Sunlight.  It's a start.  The next oldest pushed the youngest two on the swings. 

My 12 year old had wanted to go to the pool.  He'd brought along tennis rackets and balls in hopes of getting his sister to play.  She wasn't interested. I asked her. She said, "I don't think we're evenly matched." He was frustrated.  I picked up the racket.

"I'll be your Huckleberry." I said.
He was surprised.  "I don't know Mom.  I exercise." he explained.

I took the court.  Now you should know, I am a lousy athlete.  I managed to not make the B-team back when there were B-teams.  I can't run.  I barely move, and I am a gangly mess when a ball comes my way.  The worst was basketball, because I was a kid back when they played "Girl's basketball." Even with the stupid concessions and limitations on movement involved in Girl's Basketball, I didn't make the second string of the B-team.  But the Blessed Mother heard my prayers...and once upon a time, I took tennis, so I do to serve and how the game is played. 

He let me serve first.  Big mistake.  60-Love.  He served but lo, I volleyed and won the serve.  Ha! 60 Love.   He decided to go for a walk.  I never win sports.  This was not in the world of his understanding.  Truthfully, it wasn't in mine either.  There's the phrase, act like you've been there before...I never had.   So I think I was just stunned into silence which translated to those who didn't know this wasn't the norm, as gracious winning. 

My daughter who had refused to play came over.  She wanted in on the action.  Perhaps I was worthy.
It happened again.  60-love.  She won the second game, 60-45.   60-love.  She also walked off amazed.   I almost swaggered with the tennis racket when I started to try and hit it against the practice wall.  I was reminded of my own inability to play by my inability to hit back against myself. 

"We play tennis at school. I'm considered pretty good."  She said, shaking her head while watching me chase after one yellow sphere after another. I'd gone back to being hopeless.
I tried to coax either back onto the court.  No bites. Not even nibbles.  I think they thought I was faking my bad athletic display. 

When it was time to pack up everyone from the swings and the slides and the tunnel and the court, maybe I was imagining it but the older ones seemed checked, like horses that were in the process of being broken, who at least today, had come a bit closer to being domesticated.   It's not Game Set and Match yet, but I fully credit the Blessed Mother on this one...when we'd finished packing up, my son asked, "Can we go to the other park next time, where there's a basketball court?"
I may need a complete Novena before I can show up at that playground.    

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Book Report

Summer reading is a luxury I eagerly anticipate every year.   Like overpriced cheap ice cream from a truck, there's just something elegantly indulgent about feasting on a book during the hot sticky months.  My children will tell you, when I read, I hear nothing but the words on the page.  If allowed, I will go for hours until the book is finished, without food, without talking, without really moving.  That world that the author created, becomes the more real world than the real world for the time of the book. I also cannot leave a book abandoned.  If I start it, I have to finish. 

I like to read women's fiction, mostly historical fiction. 

But lately, I've noticed a trend. Maybe it's the books I've picked up and it is just a coincidence, but these are books that sold very well, most are best sellers, so cumulatively, they reveal a pattern even if I have only my experience to back up my thoughts.

It is very quiet but I've begun to wonder if it is ubiquitous.

First, there is always a reluctant benevolent abortionist. It is sort of a variant on the hooker with a heart of gold, an unquestioned conceit that enjoys tacit acceptance by the publishing world, and thus the reading world.  The woman who provides the medicine is usually the narrator. She's been gradually introduced to the skills of midwifery and initiated into the secret world of women.   Being present for birth, deaths, suffering, tears, all of these great and epic moments gives her gravitas in that historical context and our own.  Hers is the school of experience, and we grant it the full measure of a Ph.D. We the reader are swept along with her, trusting her understanding of all these events as being both truthful and truth.   

Thus when girls come to her sobbing and begging to have their children destroyed, the woman who has seen so much and has a greater understanding of the risks involved in pregnancy than we the readers, agrees. (In Neferetiti, she is pained by the irony of giving what she unwillingly received --handing them the poison that was used on her) but we don't spend much time on this, she merely remarks that she's pained by the irony. We're told, not shown.We get sprinkled reasons without delving into them (an affair, an abusive father, too many at home, old, a failed romance). She's remarkably incurious, she simply dispenses the requested herb. This is treated rather as a business transaction, an emotionless thing such that when she must travel, her attendant/servant steps in to take her place and provide the herbs as needed. No big whoop.

I first encountered this archetype reading "Don't Bet on the Prince," a collection of feminist fairy tales with the story, The Green Woman.  At the time, I thought it was a modern writer imposing modern sensibilities on an older time.  Next, I notcied it was in Myst of Avalon, but it was a minor plot detail so I glossed over it. But it kept popping up, like moral kudzu.  In Nefretiti, she is both the victim and the performer of such deeds.

Now I am reading the Red Tent and while I am enjoying it, it is there.  The wives of Jacob collude to help the abused slave of their father.  Everyone agrees that the abused woman they have ignored all this time, should have her pregnancy terminated.  They give her the herbs needed to abort her child.  Everyone agrees this is the right call. But there is no discussion other than how and when, no questioning of why or should.  The doomed Ruti gets a bit of fellowship and sympathy afterwards, but ultimately, she goes back to being ignored and eventually slits her wrists when she will be left behind with her abusive master.

The second cliche is the ubiquitous ancient secret use of all sorts of birth control in the earlier world. Drinking fennel tea to prevent conception, or use these crushed herbs, which Nefretiti, the Green Woman, the wives of Jacob, the women of Mysts of Avalon who have been part of the temple, all know and use.  

This is not a demand for  a rubber stamp on all literature before I read it. I've merely noticed that the stories we read, reflect the myths of the time.  The stories we buy, reveal what those who authorize publication, believe we want to read. Ergo, the books reveal what we want to hear, the myths we want retold.  The myths being sold are stories that say we have always been as we are now, and no one need engage in any questioning of any of soothed and know that all of this is normal and always was normal, it's just those uptight silly people who think we ought to think about these sort of actions and their long term ramifications.  We've always done this.  It's normal. It's not a moral question. 

But we haven't always done this.  

Historical fiction thrives on creating creative ways of linking the modern mind to the ancient world...but they are essentially other than in the researched details of what people ate and wore, for the most part, wikipedia versions of those realities.  For all our imagination, the authors are simply super imposing our own modern sensibilities on a holographic past setting. And these sensibilities emerge in the characters, whether they wear star fleet uniforms or togas or corsets. If the author does drop into the thinking of the time, it will be for the sake of creating a person who is stuck in their time, a villain or stooge or simpleton who cannot move the story along.  The person we follow must endure them, overcome or help them "evolve." It is the stuff of fiction.

In this case, there is a clear series of messages beneath the surface of woman's fiction. The herbalist woman has become the convenient catch all for every plot hole on how to get modern medicine and sensibilities into past times, with the wink and nod that this type of information of the past was lost because of superstitious religious folk simply not understanding...and actively seeking to destroy it.  Abortion is no big deal and legitimate if you want to cover up an affair, have a mean husband/boyfriend or don't want any more children.  Sex is a burden and a pain, even if it brings pleasure. Intimacy of story, intimacy of the mind is reserved for talk between women, not husband and wife. 

The added bonus in historical fiction is that the woman (thanks to being a midwife), know of scores of women that they have witnessed dying in childbirth, ergo they can use fear of death against intimacy with their husbands as a result.  They manage their men.  The gulf between the sexes is wide and deliberate, with protagonist women often surprized if the men they marry or that court them turn out NOT to be monsters.   This is in their minds, the exception of men, not the rule. Men who become acceptable husbands are beautiful, pleasurable, noble and utterly secondary in their rendering. They show up for the babies and the courtship and at the appropriate dramatic moments, but hold no actual weight.  These are not men.  These are female myths of men.  They are as airy as the fem fatales of penny dreadfuls and meaningful as sex dolls.  There is no meeting of souls and minds, only tenderness of touch and agreement on all things; Ken dolls with verility and in occasional cases, fecundity for secondary lead women.

Ultimately, these stories have me noticing the myths being perpetuated that erase the moral element of sex, of abortion, of birth control and reduce all relationships between men and women to those of power and eroticism. The new myths being crafted in our popular culture whisper perpetually, there is no real intimacy, only pleasure, no discussion, only agreement. You "Like" or you do not.  You must be an island to be free, you must be an island to be happy. You also must agree with every other island to be enlightened. Everything else is a throw away or sell out of you, your future and your life.   Appetites of the self, must be appeased. (Twilight, Eat Pray Love, 50 Shades of Grey)  Appetites of another...may be endured if they coincide with my appetites or lead to a greater thing I want (children, a diversion of the male so someone else can escape, or a deception to gain access to greater power or information which is also power).

All of which makes me wonder....if someone wrote a different sort of story, would it be dismissed as a fairy tale?  While it's harder, the beauty and realness of male female relationships and what they demand and entail would be more fun to write...and read. 

All this from summer reading....wait until we start going to summer movies.  So what am I doing today?  Finishing the Red Tent and I think there is a Dove Bar calling me.  Happy Summer!


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Pssst.....really not dead....I promise.

Okay, so this past week blogging has been at the bottom of the to do list, somewhere between organizing the back basement, folding socks, gardening and filing.    Why?

Well, it's not because I've been organizing the back basement, folding socks, gardening or filing.

I've been adjusting to having three teenagers home.  Three toddlers are easier...but I have both.

Getting up.

Toddlers: Easy.  You get them up. They are up. You get them dressed.  You feed them. They eat what you serve.  It is straight forward.
Teens: They are not up.  You can set alarms. You can go in and wake them yourselves.  You can tell them they cannot sleep all day and what do they have to be tired from?  They do not get up until after noon. They then present themselves to you and say, "I'm hungry."  You offer food. They reject it in favor of different food.  They fix their food.  They leave to go get dressed and you will not see them again until around 4, when they will again say, "I'm hungry" and refuse the food you offer. 

Going out.

Toddlers: Not easy.  You get them to the car. They kick off their shoes and socks. You strap them into their seats.  You debate furiously in your head whether it is worth it to re sod said children or wait until you get to where you are going to re sod children. 

Teens: Easy...but terrifying.  They are ready, already ready, really ready, can we go already ready to get in the car.  They're driving.


Toddlers: Want to help. It is not terribly effective but it is sweet.
Teens: You want them to help.  It is also not terribly effective. 


Toddlers: Bath, brush teeth, story, kisses, tuck Whakamole with children until they give up while you camp outside the room on the floor with the laptop. 

Teens:  After dinner, you don't see them again until the next day.  Unless you are obnoxious like me and turn off the internet at 10 p.m and hang out near the switch with said laptop to let them know, you have lots of practice with Whakamole.

So I'm back....why today?  Because Dad got tickets for said three teens to go to a baseball game and it's the second to last day of school, so the house with only toddlers, is oddly much more manageable.  

Though once school lets out, this blog may have to post only monthly.  :)

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Right Writing Time

Writing has been mostly editing Helen lately.  My blogging has been (as you may have noticed), close to non existent.  

In the month of May, we've had exams, a graduation, a first communion, a confirmation and all of the ordinary parts of life, a dryer and an air conditioner dying plus a college age son coming home.  Carving out solo time at the computer has become a challenge during waking hours, which in my house range from 5:00 AM to 1 AM...and I've not become so desperate that I'm willing to set the alarm to get up during those four hours.  

In June (and yes it's two days old so...), we've had Tornado watches, warnings and I had to pay the bills and we hosted 7 college friends of our oldest who came over to eat pizza and play cards down in the basement. 

I had lots of valid excuses for the past two weeks of not writing...but a writer....writes.  A writer makes time to write.  At that point, I wondered, was I losing my gift of writing.  Did I not have the chops?   I understood the neurosis of a writer...if I'm not writing I should be...and when I sit down at the computer...ooh...look...Facebook....shiny. 

No. No.
I pulled up my book.  

Hey Mom, we're playing Magic. What's the sign for Vampire?"  I looked it up.  "What's the sign for explode?" "You have to spell it. It's a sound." Back to Helen.  Helen and Polyoxo having breakfast...research what is an ancient Greek breakfast...Wikipedia to the rescue...feta cheese --too modern, figs...but I've already indicated Helen hated figs....sometimes bread dipped in wine...symbolically cool. We have a winner.

"Hey Mom? What's for breakfast? We're hungry."  Seven toasted english muffins, two plates of raisin bread and the last of the frozen waffles later,  I need a diet coke.   Now.  Helen and Polyoxo talking.
"MOMMMM.  The Baby is STINKY!"  Up again.

Two diapers later, because the toddler saw the production and presented himself in line.   Back to Helen. The dishwasher needs'm going to write.   I sit down. 

"Mom.  What time is it?" "I'm bored." "Can I go to my friend's house?" "Can I have leftover pizza?"
"10:04." "Go play." "Yes." "No."
Bored child and child that wanted to go to friend's and child thwarted on pizza now singing a loud happy chorus of "Kill the wabbit. Kill the wabbit." because "Flight of the Valkyries" has come on the radio. 

Brain is now leaving Greece and somewhere in between Wagner and Elmer Fudd. I'll come back to this scene later.   Grabbing my vitamins and a mocha fiber bar and washing it down with my soda for breakfast, my five year old comes over. She takes my hand.  "Come watch My Little Pony with me." Feeling the soft warmth of her hand, the book fades to the back...

This is how novels are not written.   May set phone to wake me up at 2 tonight.

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!