Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Velveteen Nation

Ever since Pixar's "Cars" some of my kids have wanted to watch racing. They have a Daytona 500 race Wii game and specialize in spectacular crashes.  Finishing is for the singularly uninteresting in their minds.  Post game wrap up consists more of discussing the total decimation of their vehicles and how they exploded or limped into an explosion.  Perhaps they thought the game was realistic, because they were psyched for Sunday. 

What they discovered was the degree to which boredom can be contagious as they watched various race car drivers talk about the weather or what they twittered about the weather or whether they should even have twitter accounts as they waited for the opportunity to drive around in circles 500 times.  Within 15 minutes of all talk all the time, two of the boys had bailed for the Wii.  The third son was more dedicated but when the discussion became a discussion about the discussion they were having that the race car drivers felt they should not discuss on television, the final child decided extra studying for school was preferable. 

On Monday, by the time we remembered that today was the race, the big crash had already happened.  It was talked about ad infinitem, but the reality of the race was so eclipsed by the track conditions, the delay and the fire such that while we know the race ended, we neither saw nor cared. Nor have we even felt the need to google the result. My children have gone back to the virtual world versions of this same thing.  It's more fun.

Like the Oscars where more people discussed Angela Jolie's thigh than any actual film and the GOP Primaries which seem to never end or have actual winners,  systemic failures and spectacular crashes along the way have made the actual process seem plodding, dull and unoriginal.  The whole mood of the whole country seems to be summed up in "Let me know when you decide to do something." and "I'm sick of these excessive celebrations in the end zone before you've actually scored."

I'd like to think that everyone is just plain exhausted from years and years and years of political spin and the disingenuous attempt by the press to paint anyone as a god or a devil.  I'd like to think that everyone really wants to send a message to Washington and Hollywood to get outside their bubbled existence and know that hype is just that, hype. We won't believe the worst or the best printed about you.  Kindly extend the same courtesy to all of us.   But the reality is probably more complicated and simple than that.

The cyber and political world can make us forget the actual, where 99% of Americans of all political stripes and persuasions seem to be able to have normal discourse and kindness and progress and commerce and even friendships without the rules or consent of the government and politicos.  99% of Americans also manage to get through the day without knowing or caring what Hollywood thinks on any "important" matter.   What we don't understand is why the miles inside the beltway suffocate any capacity for civility or common sense.  We also do not comprehend why the beautiful people of the film and television industry, who have everything and are paid to step into other people's shoes, to create illusions, to imagine themselves as other than who they are and convey it convincingly, are so incapable of imagining any thoughts to have validity that do not echo their own.  The beltway and the Hollywood class seem stuck on their own track for the 500+ laps, unable to comprehend anything beyond their own designated path. 

The thing is, in the real world, there are a lot of other roads and open spaces and thoughts and ways of seeing things than those prescribed, scripted and approved by whomever the "They" is that prescribes, scripts and approves such things.   We're more interesting and real than the limited roles cast for us by those who have the power of the pen, the screen, position or title.  We actually want solutions and believe they're there for those with courage enough to propose them.  We also believe that we're smart enough to be told what's really going on, rather than pandered to and patted on the head or promised the sun, moon and stars.  We're real.  We know that all things have limits, even government spending, even government regulations.  Even more frightening for all of you, we were always real, you've just never noticed.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Solution of the World

It is a topic that I've been reluctant to talk about because I know, it sounds like I'm trying to be superior and it sounds funny coming from a mom of ten children.

But I've used birth control so I know the arguments. I've made them. I've swallowed them. The doctors told me I was high risk, that every pregnancy could result in a tracheotomy, and that the next one might be permanent. I had a medical reason so I thought "I'm good."

The sympathetic priest told me it was a legitimate health concern, but in truth, it wasn't. The express purpose of taking the medication was to ensure I wouldn't get pregnant, so I wouldn't jeopardize my larynx with the possibility of a trachetube. It wasn't curative of the problem, it was preventative of a possible situation by eliminating being open to life.

Being a new mom, I was eager for a break, fearful of the possibilities and took the package with the approval of said priest. It didn't occur to me that I was sinning, as the doctor had said I must and the priest had said I could. I took the medication.

For the next year and a half, I took the medication and wondered what had happened to me. Emotionally, I was angry all the time. Nothing felt happy. Everything felt stretched out of proportion. I told myself it was recovery from birth, from becoming a stay at home mom, adjust!

Then we moved to Maryland, and I told myself, it was having to start over. I kept telling myself things would be better, but the romantic passion I'd felt for my best friend, for my beloved had faded to a pale imitation of its former self. I'd tell you that it was just because we'd matured, but that would be a lie. We'd dated for six years and found each other alarmingly interesting, and three years of marriage had done nothing to dim that feeling, but everything had flatlined since. I loved my husband, but there was this gap between my feelings and my desire that honestly made no sense to me. It was a painful time in our marriage, because we both loved each other deeply.

Then, we scheduled a visit to see my parents that summer. My dad's family (Pre-Hurricane Ike) owned a beach house that had been my growing up summer place and I loved loved loved loved loved it. It was also my prayer place, that spot on this Earth where Heaven seemed closer. It didn't matter if there were mosquitoes galore or the fishing was bad, this was my favorite place in all the world to be. I was so excited to go, I packed hastily. I forgot the birth control.

My husband had to work, so he was not on this journey the first week I was there. He fed ex'd the medicine with a note: The only reason I can send you this sad cargo, is I know one day, we won't use it. Reading that note was the "You had me at hello" moment. I threw the "sad cargo" in the trash and that was the beginning of what followed.

I won't say it hasn't been hard, that it isn't hard, or that it won't get harder. I will say, it's been beautiful and rich, it is beautiful and rich and is going to continue to be a luminous experience. I will say, I have no regrets over having ten children. I do have regrets of the lost year and a half of full feeling.

I say all of this not because everyone has to have ten children, but because a lot of people say to me, "I could never afford...or I'm too old...or I can't handle..." and I would say in response:
The solution the world offers to all problems is always less love. The solution God always offers, is always, more love. Children are literally, the creation of the need and the source of more love in the world. Children will require you to love more deeply and to become more loving. They will also love you.  They are the both and that is love, requiring more love, giving more love.

Much has been made of the Church's refusal to dispense birth control or condoms in the poorer nations of Africa. The solution to poverty in developing nations is "Birth Control!" Except we've had birth control here for fifty plus years, we've had abortion since 1973 and killed babies by the millions and we still have poverty. The solution? More birth control! More abortion on demand! Yes, the road to riches, glory, power beyond your wildest dreams is locked up in those little daily doses of estrogen and Planned Parenthood.

Also, the rich need birth control to stay rich. The middle class need birth control to get rich and  the poor need birth control so they can stop being poor. Apparently, there is no point at which one has made enough money that one does not need birth control.

Don't believe me? Watch the Yaz commercial. Advanced degrees, homes, fabulouso trips to Paris, all yours if you just warp your body by super saturating it with hormones for decades.

The message over and over again, in magazines, on television, on radio:

You can be rich if you don't have children.
You can be successful if you don't have children.
You can have everything you ever wanted if you don't have children.

The funny thing is, the way of the world never works.  Sure you may become richer financially, more polished, more powerful, more important in the world, these are all things that might happen, but none of those ensures that you will have more love or be more happy. All the pill ensures is you will have guaranteed, fewer people to love.

God's way, the way of more love, of being open to having your lives' script rewritten again and again and again, always works.  It may require sacrifice to raise all these people, but it is no sacrifice to be surrounded by people that love us.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Willingly Willing It

 It is the paradox of seeking to live an authentic Catholic life.  If we would do so, we must mold our will, our stubborn prideful selves to God's. If we would do that, we must "Will it."  So on the one hand, we must surrender our willfulness and on the other, we must wilfully throw ourselves into God's will.  It is a both and experience, that takes everything we have and pours it out, and constantly fills us with the infinity of God's grace. 

Lent is a time for strengthening our resistance to sin, strengthening our capacity to "Will it" to be molded as God willed us from the start, but loved enough to allow for our own fumbling about. 

Why are all these thoughts crammed in my head? 

Because I've spent the week seeking to get my children to see, via love, via talk, via reminders and sitting next to them until they're tired of me and I of them, that if they would blossom as their intellects and creativity indicate they could, they must "Will it."  I can check every assignment. I can go over every paper, but if they will not own something of this, they will not be what they could be, they may master some, but what they could own, they will forget and lose.  It takes a sublimation of the self for each of them to do this and that is not easy. What they do not see, is I too am having to "Will it" when I sit there, when I check the homework, when I force myself not to just let it go. 

We are all engaged in an ongoing battle to will what is proper and surrender what is not.   In a sense, all of life is Lent, of learning to surrender the excessive attachment to appetites, power and glory. 
Every time we think we've licked it, we've deluded ourselves, because we continue and the next moment will come when we shall be tempted yet again.  Like the dieter who has lost four pounds, the next day, I still have to watch it today and tomorrow and the next and the next and so on or they'll come back.  There is no rest in this battle, it is ongoing. Sin is like that, a fresh drink to an alcoholic, an offering of a "free sample" to lure you back into whatever it is.

Fortunately, God's grace is ample to defeat sin in our own lives, but we have to avail ourselves and all too often, I find after I've had a momentary triumph, I forget to keep going back to avail myself of still more.  Because I am stubborn, I keep trying to go on alone. Even worse, I find groping for that next moment after I've had a temporary triumph, is all the harder, that moment is the mile before the last leg of a marathon, when it seems justifiable for one's body to fail and the only thing that can keep it from failing is "Willing it."

How do we reach for God's grace in that moment when it seems impossible?  This is what prayer and fasting are designed to do; to give us a method for those moments when appetite or weakness or desire for the things of this world threaten to disorder our lives.   We shall not be perfect, but if we grab onto these gifts and seek God's grace, we shall be perfected in this great struggle.  It will be epic, but we know the outcome, the happy ending, and as such, as hard as the journey may be, it will make for a great story. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Small Success Thursday

Today is Thursday and I'm running behind on the week! Where does the time go?

It's time for Small Success Thursday. Today, we pause to catch our breath and consider all we've done in the past week that adds up to a lot of love poured into little things. Post three things you count as success and link back here to participate or leave your small successes in the com box. Then go to each of the blogs that posted and leave a comment, it's part of the fun!

1) This week I picked up the cookies (I'm cookie mom).

2) Didn't let myself get overwhelmed by the house, instead I opted to play with my kids first.  It was a small thing, but for me, it was a victory. 

3) Made it to Ash Wednesday Mass with all three littles in tow.

Now it's your turn!

Failed Odyssey in Lent

Hello again. It's the second day of Lent.  I don't know about you but I've already screwed up. 

I'm supposed to be practicing prudence this Lenten season, the virtue of doing God's will in all things.  I'd say I was doing great except when I really missed the mark and that happened three times.  The thing is, God I think sometimes laughs at me.  No really. 

I had been helping my son for over five hours, giving him guidance, organizing his papers, helping him with those executive thinking skills that adolescents think are optional. He'd suffered through my occasional lapse into lecture you-should-have-come-to-us-sooner-blah-blah-blah-if-you-just-would-stay-focused-bladdy-blah and the humiliation of having to call a classmate for the math assignment.

I'd endured his occasional chirping and yipping about random things to get off topic or needs to try to pick a fight with his sister for unwisely bragging that she didn't have any homework that day.  We'd been at it through dinner, after I finished baths and bedtime stories for the littles, and it was now late. I was tired. I was annoyed at all the work he hadn't done. But I liked the topic.  He was answering questions about the Odyssey. 

Now I love the Odyssey, I've read it several times.  It's part of why I'm writing Helen. 

"MOM?  What was Kir-key's other name?" he asked from his homework desk.  I was in the other room, finally sitting down. "I don't understand." I didn't want to move.  I didn't want to think. I'd given. I was done. "Look it up!" I phoned in.  Warning: Prudence does not involve phoning in.

 "Kir-key? What's her other name?" He was a bit more agitated now. "I can't find her."

"What are you talking about?" It was no good. I'd have to get up. Damn damn damn damn. I was going to write. I'm tired. I want to check my email. I want to relax. I just got finished...if I were prudent I would have noticed the litany of I's in that thought process.  But if I were prudent, it wouldn't be a necessary Lenten resolution.

"Kirk Key! Kirk! Key! Kirkey! What's her name?" Not understanding, I did think to grab the computer. I'd just google it.  "Let me see the paper." I offered.

"What is Circe's other name?" I sped read the first part of the question.  "Sir See." I offered. "That's how you say her name."
"No it's not!" He resisted.
"But it is. I grew up calling her Circe. I've seen shows and movies and all sorts of things and they all call her Circe." I insisted.

At this point, I'm thinking, he's tired. He's overwhelmed. He wants to win. But I'm also tired. I'm also overwhelmed, I'm also wanting to win.  What am I wanting to win? I don't know but I'm insisting.  "It's CIRCE. CIRCE. CIRCE!"  I declared.  Not a convincing argument, a pronouncement uttered with conviction.

"But Mommmmmm."
"Don't but mom me.  I've studied Greek myths for years. I've read them for years. I love them."  I started.

He was typing on the computer.  He pulled up the Internet page that the worksheet he was working on referenced. 

There, the Greek name for the goddess, Kirke. 

I blinked. 

(Now I later googled and found counter evidence that Circe is pronounced as I remembered).

But there on that site, it said very clearly, "Kirk kee" under pronunciation.  The rest of the question, the one I hadn't read in it's entirety said, "Check out her name's pronunciation." 

At that point, I'm humbled. I'm embarrassed, and I really really really really really hate the Internet. 

He gives me a sly grin, the kind when he knows he won and it wasn't quite fair.  But I found the answer to his question based on that web page, "Circe or Kirke, however you pronounce it, was a minor goddess..." He went back to his paper.

Defeated, humbled, irritated, exhausted and chastened, I slunk back to the other room.  All I can think is, "It's going to be a long long long Lent." Humility Sherry. Humility.  I can see God smiling in my head, chuckling at this foolish mother, her tirades, her lectures, all the things that get in the way of loving.

My son finishes up and comes into the room.  He gives me a rare full smile.  "Thanks mom."

Okay, so Circe or Kirke turned me into a pig headed fool for a moment, but Easter heals, and a smile from a son is as good as a moly plant to molify my ego. (Don't know what that last sentence means? Read the Odyssey or google it, it's how you defeat Circe).  That and a touch of Prudence.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

On Beyond Chocolate

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, a day that begins the 40 days of Lent, when we're called to fast, pray and seek to become more the people God calls us to be.  It is a time when we are supposed to be penitent, prayerful and fasting.  It isn't about giving up the good, it's about self denial, sacrifice and seeking the best rather than substituting other goods for the Good. 

So here are 40 things besides Chocolate to consider when making your 40 day Lenten Resolution (Not in a particular order).

40) Begin a daily rosary regimen
39) Volunteer at a soup kitchen
38) Visit the sick
37) Participate in Operation Rice Bowl by surrendering Friday Pizza Night and putting the savings in the bowl for the hungry.
36) make a weekly visit to Adoration
35) Daily mass
34) Fast from Facebook/twitter/internet
33) Read the Psalms
32) Fast from Television/Video Games
31) Credit Card Fasting
30) Take on a daily Divine Mercy Chaplet
29) Daily readings
28) Try the 40 bags in 40 days donation discipline
27) Fast Food Fast (no fries for you).
26) Go Meatless.
25) Add a weekly Confession to your must make appointments.
24) Alcohol/Coffee/Caffeine  (yes this includes soda) fast
23) Offer up one's sufferings.
22) Give up gossip
21) Fast from the News (News Junkies like me find this very trying but healthy).
20) Surrender your anger/frustration at some pet peeve that you feel entitled to own. Announce that you are surrendering it --and ask for help when it comes back to tempt you.
19) Give your kids 30 minutes unrestricted time, each, daily.
18) Abstain from sweets (all), because it is supposed to be a sacrifice, not a substitute game.
17) Start the day counting fifty blessings before you hit the floor to practice gratitude.
16) Volunteer for a local shelter
15) Tithe
14) Begin serving in the mass, as a lector, member of the choir or as someone who simply helps clean and maintain the church.
13) Join a bible study or prayer group even if you aren't normally a joiner.
12) Attend a retreat.
11) Study a saint/doctor of the Church for the season.
10) take on a chore for someone else. Don't tell them.  Just pick it, do it and keep at it for the whole 40 days.
9) Pick a gift of the Holy Spirit, make it your study, your practice, your focus for the 40 days
8) Make a Total Consecration to Jesus Christ through Mary
7) Make a pilgrimage.
6) Make a spiritual bouquet.  Write letters to your family, tell each of them why you love them in detail.  Pray for each of them as you do this and daily throughout Lent.
5) Have a weakness that hasn't been mentioned, make that one the one you will spend this Lent combating. 
4) Consider the 7 Dolors of Mary Rosary
3) Daily Prayer for the souls in Purgatory
2) Care for the Poor --physical or fiscal, but consciously chosen and consistently done for 40 days.
1) Engage in a combination of contemplative and petitioning prayer, fasting and service. 

Now the question: What are you doing Sherry? 

As a Lenten discipline I'm quitting Facebook, although my blog will still post automatically and limiting my Internet time one minute at a time 40, then 39, then 38, so that I will spend less and less time online. (I'll write the blogs and then post them, but won't spend time surfing or exploring the blogosphere when I should be doing other things).  As for the rest of this, I'm still discerning at this point. 

Happy Mardi Gras Everyone. Off to make Jambalaya for dinner!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Eye've Had Enough

In this rough economy, I have found a need, a niche for some enterprising young soul out there.

There are kid clothing stores and kid restaurants and kid hair cutting places.  There are kid dentists and kid pediatricians and kid shoe stores.  But there is not a kid's eye glasses place. 

Going to get spectacles for my daughter, I had to bring my youngest seven. It was not ideal but it was necessary.  I'd put it off for a week hoping to find an easier path to take, an easier way to make it happen, but this was one of those chores one would have to will into existence. 

For the record, Bleah.  I hate those. 

Eye glasses stores always try to make it look posh and sophisticated, easy breezy and lovely.  Walking into them always feels like a cross between a jewelry store and a library.  I generally do not take my children to jewelry stores.  As for libraries, I do not take them to the latter place without two or three older children to act as border collies.  One could hear the collective gasp as we walked in, both from clientele and the people who worked there.  Poor folks, this was a horde streaming into the store. My middle son rolled his eyes as I had five of them sit down and handed him his younger brother with the hopeful but not really meaningful instruction, "Be good." so I could sign us in. 

The manager eagerly took my insurance card and told my daughter to look at frames.   I hoped he would see the crowd I'd assembled and take pity and expedite our time.  No such luck. Apparently, we'd hit rush hour and half of the DC area had come in for specs.  My daughter blissfully tried on one after another until I explained she was limited to those that were covered by our insurance.  I also didn't want the clerk to have a nervous breakdown from the pyramid  pile of spectacles she'd stacked up.

Spending the next half hour playing I'll hold you and you and you'll hold him and we'll just pray the other three behave themselves had me churning out the "Hail Mary's" in my head although my lips may have been moving some of the time.  My oldest son there was muttering, "Don't read the contract, just sign the thing so we can go." Privately I agreed but I wasn't about to say so.

When we finally got our turn to be served, I'd successfully been negotiated by my daughter for McDonald's for lunch.  Truthfully, they could have held out for a car, dog and deluxe vacation in Europe. Anything, just give me five more minutes.  I know bribing is frowned upon but every parent who has ever been in the fix of the untenable unknowable waiting period for an errand that is already in progress has succumb to the need to acquiesce to the minority demands. It's reality.

The man sat down. I sat down holding my baby and a toddler who had refused to sit with her sister and wanted to go behind the counter.  She promptly went boneless and I attempted to have a conversation with the man while juggling semi invertebrate children.  "Hello. We just want to order her glasses and go." I said. 

After trying on several pairs and selecting one, he said he had to check the computer. He came back and told me that we couldn't get a frame this year, we'd have to wait until next year.  "Fine. Just pop the lenses from this one and put in the new ones." I answered.

He went to  check his computer again. 
"I'm sorry, we don't have that lens in the shop. We'll have to order. Come back in a week." Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. Pain. I'd bribed my children with McDonald's for what? To come back next week.  My daughter is sad and sulking because she'd found a new pair she'd fallen in love with thanks to the good service of the gentleman who praised her for her fine taste.  I now have seven irritated put upon people who want McDonald's and an unfinished errand.  

Defeated, discouraged and demoralized, I started the long drive home, ever mindful --six people are reminding me, that I PROMISED McDonald's.  Never have I surrendered money for happy meals less willingly.  I felt robbed, jipped.  I'd given up something for nothing.  Then I remembered how desperate I was in the store.  So I'm hoping by sharing my pain, someone will figure out how to create a shop that 1) checks your insurance before making you wait half an hour and 2) services kids only. Maybe having a TV or something to distract those who must sit and wait for drops to take effect or get lenses or whatnot. Maybe selling french fries.  Maybe those glasses with the fake nose and mustasche for non eye impaired siblings.

In the meantime, we will sojourn back there again next week. Here's hoping they don't figure out how to hold out for a trip to Europe. 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Yeah..this Pretty Much Sums it up...but in a Silly way


Because I Can't Just Let it Go

Today I'm going to irritate everyone.  I'm going to talk about politics AND religion.

The media would have us believe there are no women opposed to the HHS policy. It's a harder lie to sell than usual because most of us actually KNOW someone who is opposed to the HHS policy and some of those people we know are female.   But they keep stumping it.

So I'm putting up today some links to good reads which 1) lay out what the HHS policy is and 2) lay out what the Church's position is not (a religious attempt to impose a theocracy). As far as I know, even the day before the HHS policy was imposed, artificial birth control was cheap, legal and available.  To hear the screechings of those in favor of this gross overreach of the government, you'ld think a tsunami of babies was threatening to flood the streets and drown all the women if the Federal Health and Human Services hadn't stepped in to save the day.  

Michael Novak lays it out nicely here.
Archbishop Chaput as usual is speaking strong truth with charity.
and Deacon Bickerstaff outlines a good course of action here.

The power to by executive/bureaucratic mandate determine the extent to which we MAY practice our beliefs (where they stop binding us), is a direct threat to our religious liberty and anyone who thinks this is the limit, is wilfully blind, deliberately obtuse, wants this curbing of religious expression to assuage their own unwillingness to live out their faith life or is just a partisan hack.

Yes. I'm angry today. 


Because I do see the assaults on all sides.  When Komen decided simply not to continue to award grants to Planned Parenthood because it was under Federal investigation for not reporting sex trafficking, statutory rapes and having unsafe conditions for medical procedures (which go unpoliced and unchecked as a benefit of being protected by one political party that sees abortion so necessary and so noble as to warrant no scrutiny whatsoever), Planned Parenthood squealed like a stuck pig.

 I'd say a stuck fetus but they wouldn't acknowledge the reality of such pain. 

They were going to loose  a whopping .058 % of their budget --and they went postal.  Komen jumped back into line.  Message to other corporations received.  Don't cut our funding or we will destroy you online.  All the good you've done for 30 years doesn't count for squat. 

The same was done to Catholic Charities.  You've helped with adoptions for years. You've done loads of good, feeding the poor, helping the homeless, you've been a living breathing outreach of the beatitudes, faith in action in all the communities.  Drop your opposition to gay adoptions or you're gone.  Some of the Catholic Charities --Massachusetts and Illinois, were gone.  Other places weighed what they do, and bowed their heads and said, "By your command." I know they still do good, but the state forcing an organization to surrender one tenet they hold dear, can force another.  Catholic Health Association is only too happy to dispense birth control, sterilization and abortion drugs, now that it's mandatory. 

At some point, when you keep surrendering values, you cease to have them. 
And that I suspect is the point, to swap faith for politics and make our Government our God. All knowing, all encompassing, all reaching...infinite in appetite and control...but it does not love us.

To the "Oh, you're overreacting." crowd.  I present the following link: Humanae Vitae Prophetic.
Also the Guttenmacher Institute's helpful memo: (Emphasis mine).
"The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, drawing on these recommendations, requires new private health plans written on or after August 1, 2012 to cover contraceptive counseling and services and all FDA-approved methods without out-of-pocket costs to patients. However, existing plans are exempt from the requirement so long as no significant negative changes, such as cutting benefits or raising cost-sharing, are made to them; DHHS has said that most of these plans will likely lose this protected status within a few years. "

And then, there is the little noted (we must not speak of it) process of Same Sex marriage becoming the default new unspeakable of other than as good. Like Planned Parenthood, thuggery of thought abounds.  (If you do not hail it for the benefactor it is to all of humanity, you are a close minded dope who hates poor people).  So also, if you oppose same sex marriages for any reason, you are a bigot. Pure and simple. 

Yesterday, Maryland legislature passed by the narrowest of margins,  the "Civil Marriage Protection Act."  Barring a change of conscience by the Governor himself, (O'Malley proposed it) Maryland will become the 8th state to decide marriage is a contract between two people regardless of gender, but with restrictions on inbreeding.  I read the bill.

(No aunt/uncle/cousin/brother/mother/father/sister/son/daughter stuff is specified so we have some standards).


Given that there are already lawsuits and established precedents for the suing of businesses that refused service for gay couples seeking marriage, how long before the Church is hit on this front or simply Christians or Catholics who don't want to promote a sinful act via providing a venue?  So far, the answer is the photographer gets sued, the B&B gets sued, anyone who speaks or even simply says "No." gets sued. Saying anything other than "Great, here's the contract." will get you sued.  Saying anything other than "Why didn't we create this law sooner?" will be tantamount to hate speech.  
I understand how hard it is to address, because really, rallying around "status quo" of over 2000 years seems goofy.  Also, the forces in support of this proposition are well organized and have the media and the existing government power structures on their side.  Just as abortion was rewritten by Roe vs. Wade by Judicial fiat, when state regulations made up a patchwork quilt of contradictory policies, so also a patchwork currently exists for Same sex marriages and those contradictions will inevitably be presented to the nine judges in DC. 
The Full Faith and Credit of contracts across state lines will demand resolution at the Supreme Court.  We can't avoid discussing it forever just to avoid being called names. By not thinking about this or addressing it, we're sputtering to come up with arguments because we haven't wanted to think about this. That constitutes a poor defense. We lose. 
Even voting against such things in a referendum has been insufficient.  Look at California. The law as expressed by the people's will was irrelevant to the state supreme court. Also Federal Government has refused to support the "In Defense of Marriage Act" that is on the books. 
Everywhere, secular tyranny is on the march. It goes unacknowledged as such by those who agree with its policies or at the very least, think it won't affect them.  But our capacity to live out or even acknowledge the tenets of our faith is being slowly boiled to death. 
So consider writing a letter or contacting the Governor. He's Catholic and as such, might be moved by good apologetics or reasoned defense.  At the very least, he'll have to knowingly decide to ignore his own faith to sign it.
 An example from a new blogger on the block: The Paladin's Best Friend.  Yes he sent it to the Governor. Yes he signed his real name. Go over. Say Hi.  He's just starting up.
The thing is, I note a touch of discouragement and despair in the tone and tenor of the world right now.  Those that voted for our current administration are frustrated and I think feel slightly shocked and betrayed that the promise held out, isn't.  Those that are voting differently, aren't so enthused either. We've created this Leviathan of a government.  We've created this Leviathan of debt. We've got all these intractable seemingly impossible problems and there doesn't seem to be an answer, or at least not an easy answer.  Like stepping on the scale and knowing you must diet or opening a bill and knowing you must cut back expenses, everything seems earth shatteringly beyond our will, beyond our capacity, just beyond.   We are struggling to summon the will.

There is not one institution of government that still holds our trust.  There is too much money, too much bloat, too many back room smoke filled deals, too much favoritism, too much politics, too little truth, too many partisan hacks, too many moments of hurt and broken promises, personal failures, corruption and cover up for us to easily allow ourselves to hope that someone, anyone can par back the weeds, the mess, the massive piles of regulations and laws.  Too many free fall shouting voices to be able to sift through the facts.  We have all of the earth at our finger tips and it overwhelms.  We cannot take in everything and thus long for a touch of peace, a touch of genuine quiet of the soul and that is the one thing not available via MasterCard, the government, the Internet or the world.

So we aren't hoping for much, we certainly aren't expecting or demanding much, because we don't think much can be done.

Still Gandalf himself knows, we shouldn't despair. "For even the wise cannot see all ends."
So the object is to press on. To do right. To speak bravely. To speak true. To speak from the heart. To pray for everyone and....if I may close with a different but equally favorite movie,

Inigo.....What?  I hope we win!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Leibster Award

I was given an award. It's only the second time this has happened in my blog history.  I'm very touched.  Kisses and Hugs and Thanks to Munchesmom over at Four Blessings Academy! 

Liebster is a German word which means “dearest” or “beloved”. It can also mean favorite. The idea behind the Liebster Blog Award is that it is given to upcoming bloggers (with fewer than 200 followers) in order to create new connections and bring attention to wonderful growing blogs.

Now it is my turn to pass on the award, with these simple rules:

Add the award to your blog. (Check)

Thank the giver with a link back to them. (Check)

List your top five picks and let them know they’ve been given  the award by leaving a comment on their blog. (See Below for Check)

Encourage your followers to “spread the love” to the blogs that you’ve spotlighted. (Go My Pretties! Go!)
So, now it's my turn to pass this award on to the following bloggers:

1) Karen at Adventures in Mommyland. Her blog always moves me, she's in there working hard to really love out every second. 

2) "L" over at Mothering Spirit. She has a fuller understanding of the vocation of mothering after one than I had after...well ten.  She gets it.  And she's beautifully modest about it too.

3) Mightymom. I love Mightymom. She's funny. She's fiesty. She's made of steel and she sometimes makes me homesick for my home state.  Go visit her at My Wonderful Life.

4) Sue at Not Enough Butter! She's a mom of 7 and reading her blog sometimes gives me ideas of how to do this.  She's also tremendously busy because she homeschools.  (Stands back in awe)...

5) Viv at A Proud Mom to Many, because she's fiesty and strong and seemingly unflappable. 

I would have added Sue Karen (I should not multi-task when typing) at The More, The Messier, but she has more than 200 followers. Have a Great Weekend! 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Beacons of Minas Tirith

I'm Catholic and I have ten children. So no one should be terribly confused about where I stand on things even if I didn't have a blog.   Still, sometimes the world demands that we not simply quietly witness, but publically state our faith.  It is a hard thing because despite writing more and more and in recent years almost daily since 2005 on some level or another, despite having articles in Catholic papers and proclaiming my Cathoicism, there are moments when it is hard. 

Right now, all of us who hold our Church and our faith dear, are having something of a Peter moment.  On facebook where opinions fly fast and furious and snark on the right and left is just a click away, it is particularly irksome. 

Do I let "Today's lil' reminder: Jesus never mentioned homosexuality or abortion. Not once. #stopblamingJesusforyouropinions" slide? 

Do I ignore "I support Planned Parenthood." and equally smug unctous comments that are designed to allow echo chambers of opinion to snigger at those they deem too stupid to not agree about the perceived hang ups of my Church. 

"Hang ups" because my faith teaches that sex is sacred, sex is a gift, that it has a context within the confines of a committed sacramental relationship instead of thinking sex is meaningless and therefore should have no limits as long as pleasure is the objective?  Should I armor up and counter attack? 
Then there are these other abuses of one sort or another, like birth control and abortion and pornography and the like, sexual sins that injure men and women and in some cases, children.  And I know, I don't want this fight.

I'm tired.  I don't want to deal with this stuff. It's facebook for crying out loud!   So I click off and wonder, was that an opportunity to speak up that I dropped?  Was someone else reading, hoping someone would speak up?

Then the question formed: was it like that for Peter?  I'm here. I've followed you all over. I've been with you.  I'm watching.  I just want to warm myself by the fire for a moment.  I'm still here. If they just leave me alone for a moment.  "You were with him." someone says. And all the other disciples, hiding, perhaps hoping someone would make the first move, uncertain what the first move is, afraid they will be the one called to speak up, hoping to stay quiet, lie low.

Then the rationalizations begin.  I'll just click away.  I just want to not fight this battle today. I've already posted so much it just makes me angry.  So I go to the news.  National Poll says the Public backs the Assault on Religious Liberty....I can't get away. Peter thought he'd found a hiding spot too.  But the crowd pressed upon him, "Weren't you one of his discipiles?" and again he said, "No."  The smug responses over and over again saying, "No one really practices it." and "Why shouldn't they have to pay for this?" and it feels like being surrounded and trapped in Hornburg at Helm's Deep.  

"So much death. What can men do against such reckless hate?" the King ponders. 

It is not a rhetorical question.  It is a real question.  It is a cry of despair, like Peter's at the knowledge both that his Lord was being led off to death and his own betrayal.   It is similar to the slips of despair one can feel perusing the next wave of assaults on Catholic values.  There are only two outcomes.  Stay and eventually be overwhelmed and destroyed...or "Ride out.  Ride out and meet them."

And even if we somehow get the Forest and the Rohirrin run through the ranks and rout the orcs at this gate, there are those armies and they are marching and they are far more than all we could call up  and I see the next battle, the battle for middle earth yet to come.

We will have to fight gay marraige next.  We are fighting it now.  It is in the Maryland State senate today.  It has already been overturned in California. Speaking up will bring about a world of grief. We will be labeled homophobes, bigots, fools, idiots, zealots, racists and hypocrits.  We will be called out. We will be called out and demanded that we deny our Church, show that we would slice off this portion of our faith, or that, so that we fit the world better.   Just a little denial. 

"Even your accent gives you away, surely you were with the Nazorean."  and we will mumble or swear, "I tell you I do not know the man." to get the crowds to back off, to let us stay safe, stay unseen, stay unmarked by the crowd.  I don't want to do this.  I really don't.  I'll just go off of Facebook until things clear over. Because speaking up, stating that you are proud to fight beside men once more can get you killed.  

Pippin: "Maybe Treebeard's right. We don't belong here, Merry. It's too big for us. What can we do in the end? We've got the Shire. Maybe we should go home."

Merry: "The fires of Isengard will spread. And the woods of Tuckburough and Buckland will burn. And all that was once green and good in this world will be gone. There won't be a Shire, Pippin."

We have to be willing to speak.  So I'm saying yes it's true. I really really really believe that sex is sacred, that artificial contraception creates great pain between a man and a woman in their relationship and reduces the gift of sex to a purely recreation act. I really believe that the Catholic Church understands how hard this is, and is equally hard on everyone; asking self sacrifice of all of us. Of singles, chastity, of married, openness to life, perfect fidelity and restraint and governance of appetite, of vocationally called, permanent purity. None of us are given a pass.  I also know our sexual selves reflect our faith lives, and our souls are injured by both what we do and don't do, what we allow, what we indulge, what we ignore. Yes, and I believe God knows I believe it and expects me to live it.

So I'm here, taking that one more step and going farther from home than I've ever been even though I haven't yet left the shire itself. Peter eventually gets it and says, "Lord you know I love you." and takes on the task to "Feed my sheep." Pippin also eventually recognizes, we can't just hide, we have to act and battles at the White City of Gondor. He climbs the tower and sets the beacon. It is a little thing that lets the world know, "We need help." because the armies press from every angle, because it is a little but greatly couragous thing to do.  

It was so much easier when my biggest worries were second breakfast.

Small Success Thursday

Today was a diet coke and chocolate for breakfast day. 

Yes.  It was rough. 

Three kids couldn't find socks. One overslept.  My kindergartener inspected the lunches and noticed that her brother had a chocolate bar.  He'd saved it from yesterday.  My daughter felt it was unfair that she didn't have a candy and he did.  No amount of reason works when desire is outraged.  I sent both to do chores and ignored it.  Back to searching for socks.  There is scuffle over the sink upstairs.  I don't know why. There are three other sinks standing ready for anyone who needs to brush teeth.  "She always gets that sink."  "It's a sink. Deal."   It is getting late.  Get in the car.  They go out.  Three come back in. One needs a notebook. One forgot her lunch. One just wandered back.  Go out. The other two come in.  They didn't know where anyone was.  

Out. Out. Out.

Then my son needed to get dressed for school.  He took off his coat three times before I could get him down the hill to the bus.  The desire to bound up all the socks that weren't mated and toss them in the trash and start over was almost overwhelming.   It was raining. I'd gained back the two pounds I'd lost.  Yesterday, prayer and service had been mostly effortless. Today, a single Hail Mary felt daunting.  It wasn't that the mess was so much or bigger or harder than yesterday, it was me. My will was missing. So I'm really glad for Small Success Thursday, because it is a reminder that sometimes showing up counts.

So this past week I:

1) Flew down to Texas and saw my parents, my sister and her family, my brother and his new fiancee and Aunts and Uncles and cousins.  I ate crawfish ettoufee and Bluebell Icecream.  We baptized my God daughter, Lucy Grace.   It was wonderful.

2) Read a book (on the plane).

3) Survived returning and doing a three day solo parenting run. 

Now it's your turn, going to go eat my chocolate and drink my diet coke now.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Meditations on the HHS Policy, Why it isn't JUST about Contraception

First, the Administration wants to utterly dictate the extent to which we practice our religion, that it be limited to our thoughts, not spoken, not lived out in the minutia of our lives. 

The HSS mandate has upset a lot of people, a lot of Catholics, a lot of individuals on both sides of the political aisle.  This is a good thing.  We should be uncomfortable.  Catholics are not supposed to be comfortable in a singular political party, we're supposed to call the Democrats to be champions of the unborn, and the Republicans to recognize the dignity of the poor that survive the womb. There isn't a party in which a Catholic should feel wholly comfortable, indeed, if one feels wholly comfortable inside a party, one is probably ignoring some tenet of one's Catholic faith. God didn't say "I favor the GOP or Jesus would be a Democrat." Man makes that affiliation to flatter himself and demean his political opponents and their followers. He is wrong in either case. 

The protest against the HHS policy isn't just from the USCCB. Douglas Kmiec, who was one of the most prominent proponents of this Administration thinks this is a violation of religious liberty, Over 135 bishops in the US, a number of Imams, Episcopal and Orthodox clergy have expressed concern that this policy overreaches. Even Chris Matthews, hardly a Fox News sycophant for the GOP, felt deep concern at this federal policy.

While the Friday announcement of "accommodations" was supposed to make everything better and certainly there were sycophantic pundits and even Catholics willing to carry the water for this administration, sober judgement of the new/old HHS policy indicates that the administration is (as is typical of this administration), doubling down. 

Not only will I not alter the policy in your favor, I will tighten the restrictions and speed up the process by which you must comply (6 months and all will provide free birth control --it's just the insurance will pay).  So we're all morally free of blame because we're not buying it, we're just purchasing the Insurance.  The Insurance is providing it....Free...like tortilla chips and salsa at the table.   Calories consumed by those free chips still count.  Providing the service is immoral.  Relgious institutions and organizations have refused to purchase such plans that provided those services in the past because they don't want to provide such services period.  They don't want to provide them as an added bonus feature! It was never about the money, it was always about the morality stupid!

 It is coercion via government fiat.  Obey or be destroyed.  Bow willingly or be forced to kneel via heavy fines.  Give out policies that provide free birth control, abortion drugs and perform sterilizations because we say so, or watch as we take over. Pay to play or go home.

In places where the religious exemption is narrow, (up to now) universities and school districts that wanted to hold true to the faith in their practice as an entity, gave extra money to allow individuals to purchase a prescription plan which would provide if necessary.  That is the change. That self insured approach that would relegate the decision to the individual, has been removed. There is no out. If the government declares you must purchase a product you deem immoral, then purchase it you must or face swift steep fines. You can comply or we can drum you out of business. Hardly the actions of a free people, or of a government that respects the rights and liberties of a free people.

I have good friends who have told me, "Hey, what's the big deal? We already fund Planned Parenthood to the tune of 33 million to pass out birth control (or so we've been told),  we already do this if we work for a secular business and pay into insurance."  And I know the arguments, that we already pay for everything. If I go to a discount store, I'm exploiting cheap labor. If I buy pink ribbon yogurts, I'm supporting Planned Parenthood.  If I work in a business that is non denominational and for whom this is not a morally troubling issue, my premiums also pay for products like birth control pills and sterilizations and abortions and Plan B's and RU486ing baby medications.

But this is different. 

This is the government demanding that people pay for what they deem immoral and in violation of their conscience even if they are in the  business of trying to live out their faith.  That should matter, even if the violation isn't considered a big deal by some.  We should protect the Amish and the Quakers and the small time churches that hold things dear we disagree with, just as surely as we should the mega churches and the Jews and Mormons and the Muslims and the Atheists and the Catholics.   It is not okay for the government to dictate to a church or to people who take their faith seriously that they must violate their faith. The government cannot give dispensation from one's faith.  The government cannot give us forgiveness for our sins or tell us what is and is not a sin.  This is Caesar trying to render what is God's and demanding that we swear allegiance to Caesar first. 

To those who say it makes no difference, it is a drop in the bucket, it is a nothing to get upset over issue:

We take stands all the time, not because they are popular or guaranteed to come out in our favor, but because we believe them to be important.  If on occasion, we should boycott Starbucks or Coca-cola because as corporations they engage in practices we deem objectionable, (divestment for South Africa in the 80's was trendy as I recall, and now free trade and fair trade) then we know that sometimes simply speaking up changes the landscape, changes the argument, changes opinions, informs the public. The USCCB and others who spoke out, did so because the Government suddenly and abruptly demanded a new level of civil obedience that required religious disobedience.  It was wrong.  It still is wrong.  It should be fought, regardless of how it plays out, because it is right to fight this ruling.  It is right to say the Government should not be in the business of defining religion or the practice of religion or the limits of how one may conduct one's self in accordance with one's religion.

In this case, why would we talk about such things ever?  They are personal private decisions, none of the Church's business. Stick to God and serving the poor and stuff like that. Catholics are not supposed to compartmentalize their faith and take it out for special occasions like Christmas and Easter
Our religion says God loves us as a father does his child. My dad cares what I read, what I think, what I do, what I don't do. God cares for me more than my dad does.  I believe that this is so for everyone. God cares about how we conduct ourselves in all things, not simply if we serve the poor.  He cares how much we love, He cares that we do even the littlest things with great love, and He cares if we enable sin when we could stop it. 

We're not supposed to limit our love to when it is convenient or popular or publicly approved. We're supposed to be seamlessly Catholic.  Ergo, we cannot stay silent and we cannot pretend that it doesn't affect our souls.  Silence on moral issues invites presumed allowance, leading to greater demands for more silence. Even if 90+% of Catholics do not follow the teaching, it is still the teaching. Truth does not evaporate because a false argument is more popular, it is merely ignored.

 But, as Galadriel says, "Some things that should not have been forgotten, were lost."

What we practice, what we say and what we do, what we do not say and what we do not do, defines us. What we allow, what we ignore, what we pretend isn't, and what we hope is, reveals who we are in our limited capacity to affect and understand the world. Dorthy Day understood that her actions of serving the poor stemmed from her love of Christ, and that the acts were a manifestation of her internal faith. 

Likewise, Catholic hospitals are created from that same core, as are Catholic schools and Universities. They were founded by orders, they are designed to teach children with the faith, all of the subjects infused with the faith, and as such should not be considered somehow compartmentalized from the rest of one's faith.  . Organizations that at their core and beginning and inspiration and purpose, are Catholic --revealing Catholicism via acts educating --University of Notre Dame, serving and living out the beatitudes --Catholic Charities for example, should not have to violate the source of their corporeal actions in order to be allowed to exist by the state. To my mind, this is secular puritanism and it is as unforgiving of non-believers as the Puritans ever were. Catholic Charities closed up their adoption agencies in Massachusetts because they were told to violate their religious beliefs in order to stay in the business.

But to the HHS point itself; So Catholics should just go along? Should just shrug their shoulders? At any point should Catholicism or the faithful say we won't do this? If not, then Sir Thomas Moore and all the Martyrs of the Church were the greatest bunch of saps ever. Imagine, standing up to the popular and powerful all for one's faith! They didn't do it all in one sweep, most of them started by simply speaking out or refusing to go along to get along. Their lives and writings often reveal a deep struggle to hold true which (if it is unnecessary), seems a fool's decision at best, if not the actions and thinkings of madly insane people.  Ultimately, they had before them Christ and the State;  Jesus and Caesar; the Church and the King.  The saints chose one way.  The same choice is before us now, perhaps not to the extent of martyrdom, but that makes any cowardice on our part all the more shameful. We don't fear the prospect of death as they did and still, we won't speak. 

The thing is, we've (Catholics/the Church) often failed to stand up in the past and even now. We are still indited for those failures. We will always be held accountable for those failures. The Catholic Church and its body is supposed to be courageous, is supposed to speak out, is supposed to know right from wrong and always side with Christ, and to be luminous in its acts of mercy, it's daily business, its everything and all things.  Because we are sinners, because we are fallen, we often give a dim reflection of what should be blinding light.

We're supposed to serve lavishly, give lavishly, hope lavishly, pray lavishly and love lavishly. We are often misers on this point with all of our gifts, burying them in the yard for fear of reprimand, for all sorts of reasons.   We're called to recognize that we must not let ourselves be afraid, we must not be misers of our gifts, we must speak, we must act, and we must follow Christ first in all things.  We're supposed to Be Catholics first, not Americans.  We're supposed to be Catholics first, not Liberals or Conservatives. We're supposed to be Catholics first, not Republicans or Democrats.  We're supposed to be Catholics first, last and always.  Alas, we are fallen and often put those other labels first, when what we should do is speak "Friend" and enter. 

Thanks for reading. I have taken a few hits lately for speaking out in the writing community. But as I said to another friend who disagreed, if we can't ever have a discussion about hard issues about which we disagree, then why do we bother talking? If we can't say what we think without being called names or calling names, we don't have an argument of ideas, we have a fight of emotions (See Beck and Olberman) --and that proves/improves nothing. 

One last thing, to those who think the Bishops have no business speaking out because the Church in recent years has failed to be a good steward of its people; The Church, like her people, is an imperfect vessel. I see components of her beauty and I agonize when she is less than what she is called to be.
That we fail sometimes does not negate that we are right now.  The Church is speaking with authority and truth. We must stand with her stewards and princes.

As for the rest of it, I have few answers.  I recommend prayer and fasting and petitioning for intersessions from Blessed Pope John Paul the Great and Blessed Mother Teresa. They embody the whole of the Church, the male and the female, the call to deep prayer and evangelization and profound knowledge of the history and the Church and her teaching and her great wisdom, and the need to feed the hungry, the poor, nurse the sick and sell everything and follow Christ.  Neither compromised their faith or their actions. They understood the deep mystery of suffering, both physical and spiritual, they got the hard reality of service and the need to sit at the feet of Christ in Adoration.  We need the strength of both, the clarity of both, the wisdom of both, and the intercession of both.

 We should be doing this anyway, but I'm asking for deep prayer not for the outcome of healing, health, wholeness for all.  Lastly, we need to act.

So first, we need information. 
Here is the actual HHS "Fact Sheet" put out by the White House.  It is what they want us to believe.
Educate yourself with this, and this and if you want more, this and this and this.
Arm yourself
Get involved.

Carbon Dating

No, this isn't a commercial for diamonds or a plea for people to be ecologically romantic.

This concerns things far dearer to all of our sweet hearts.

Valentine candy.

News reports have emerged indicating that some of the sweets for your sweetie are older than the actual relationships being celebrated, and in some cases, more dated than the Hallmark verses in the cards. Specifically, those heart sugar things that allow one to non verbally convey retro phrases like "Hot Stuff" and "Luv Me" without being slapped down and labeled with a scarlet "L" loser label for one's trouble.

Ever alert to the beginnings of a crisis for the romantic Valentine celebrating constituencies out there, Congress drafted an immediate bill to create a stamped "freshness date" placed on subsequent candy heart boxes. "Of course we can't stop those unethical candy men and women out there at the shops that sold the 2 year old stuff who simply open one box and fill another with a fresher stamp." one congressman explained on the condition of amnominity.

Naturally, some conglomerates who sell candy objected to the idea.

"Who wants to know how old a "Bit o'Honey" actually is?" asked one lobbyist.

He was shortly sacked thereafter by his consulting firm but his employers were hunted down by disgruntled children who recognized that they must be the one who sell those damn things in bulk to hand out at Halloween. One minor participant who refused to give her name explained simply, "They've got to be stopped."

The bigger scandal was that someone actually ate a candy heart.The Sweetheart Candy Company spokesman was at a loss. "We've never had this problem before. No one ever considered eating them, at least, not without egging on by classmates or under the influence of alcohol. I'm not even sure they're bio-degradable."

In the meantime, public officials have put out warnings to the consuming public about the candy confections in question. "Stick to using Alphabits if you want to send a message to your sweetie involving food, they at least have been determined to not pose any significant health risk, and some of those boxes are decades old. Or Campbell's alphabet soup if you're really patient and your spouse or beloved doesn't mind eating cold condensed tomato puree."

Sweetheart Candy Company has offered boxes of heart shaped rocks in exchange for any pre-purchased unconsumed candy. They denied that the rock boxes were simply 10 year old candy hearts unearthed from storage.

Competitors however have jumped on the opportunity produced by the scandal of the aged boxes of sugar sentimental messages. "Chocolate! When's the last time you heard of anyone buying stale chocolate?  You just can't go wrong!"

Tootsie Roll Lobbyists remained silent on the issue.

Originally run in 2/12/2010.
for even fresher humor that's sweeter than hearts that say "Hug Me" try http://www.humor-blogs.com/

Sunday, February 12, 2012

When We See

This past weekend I flew down to Texas.

It was for a baptism, meeting a future sister-in-law and seeing my mom and my dad who suffers from Alzheimer's and cannot say all the things he thinks or know anymore all the things he once knew with startling ease.

We ate, we talked, we went to mass. We hugged, we did ordinary things like shopping for diet coke and jeans and making pot roast and folding laundry. We also tried to hang onto moments, to slow time. To freeze the frame when the baby smiled, to remember the words my father could get out and cram every moment with all the stories and thoughts and feelings that too infrequent visits allow to pile up.

It was a joyful luminous glorious sorrowful ordinary time.

At mass, I watched as my father followed my mother to receive. He bowed his head and took the Eucharist on the tongue. He then tried to follow his wife but the traffic to the cup was confusing and for a moment, he looked lost. Then my uncle steadied him by putting his hand on my dad's shoulder and he received the precious blood. I breathed out.

Meanwhile, my mother realized Dad was not behind her. She was about to look about when my brother gave her a reassuring touch of the shoulder to show all was well. My dad was returning.

As a Godparent, I (along with the Godfather)was in the second pew with my sister and her husband and their newly baptized daughter. It was an unfamiliar church for my Dad, but he turned and he stopped. He looked at my face. Out of the packed pews and confusion, he pointed and nodded his head with a slight smile. "I know you." the smile said.

In that moment, I flashed back to the first year I really knew how to swim. I'd had a tracheonmy for the first 8 years of my life and so at nine, swimming underwater was a wondrous new thing for me. I was at the YMCA pretending to be a dolphin or a seal or a mermaid. A man came swimming towards me and his face flowered into a smile. It was my dad. I had not recognized him, being lost in the wonder of being surrounded on all sides by water. When I did, I remember smiling back at him underwater in sudden recognition and then zooming upwards for a breath. Dad had been in the fog of his disease, but for a moment, saw me clearly. I was a mess for the rest of mass.

I was so grateful to see that moment, and all the moments before, the kindness of an Uncle, the comfort of a brother, the strength of a parish bursting with song and with children, the solid faith of my niece's family, the whole of it, all of it, that it was hard not to have my heart both burst with joy and weep.

Saying those vows, receiving, and being present, anticipating a wedding feast in July, it felt a bit like heaven , in that all of time collapsed in that full moment. Yes my dad is dying, but he is still with us. Yes I live far from a lot of the people I love, they are still with us, in this family, this Universal Church.

It was hard not to want to love endlessly in that moment, despite all the known and hidden crosses in that Parish, in my own, in our nation, in the whole world and the whole history of this fallen, broken confused world. For an instant, I understood how grace breaks through the fog of our hearts and even when we are lost in our own worlds, calls us to really see each other, and come out of the fake world where we cannot last long and into the real place where we can breathe easy.

On that day, we will be walking, and we will see Christ's face and He will smile at us. In that moment, when we recognize Him, our face will say, "I know you." too.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Small Success Thursday

Today's going to be crazy....when isn't it though? 

But Thursday is good for me, because it makes me stop and count my blessings, stop and recognize that we are getting there, stop and assess where's I'm stopped in my life, and stop and thank God for all of it.

So leave a  link to your blog listing three things or more that reveal little things done with great love, little triumphs of the will and the spirit and the body and the mind, little victories that deserve a shout out!

This week I:
1) Created a desk for my middle son, I cleaned off a table that was acting in role of a holding place for junk.  It now looks office-y and my son loves it.  In a family of 10, having private space can be a premium.

2) I cleaned out oldest son's room.  Trust me, it's impressive.

3) I got a shout out on 1160 AM radio for my article Catholic Cassandra! Coolness. 

4) Caught up a bit with an old friend. 

5) Stayed on budget and diet --down 2 lbs.

Now it's your turn.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Should I Be Concerned?

Facebook friends have seen this already.

The other day it snowed and my kids made a snowman.

Then the sun came out over the weekend and melted all the snow. 

So my kids made this.

The soul of Calvin and Hobbes is alive and well in my progeny.

A Catholic Cassandra Call Out

Kathleen Sebelius declares that her policy mandating that all institutions and organizations provide for coverage of birth control and sterilization and abortifacient medications respects religion.  It respects her religion. Kathleen is a practicing faithful Democrat. 

I've been reading the defense of this policy that drew a swift and sure response from a body of people that normally don't agree on anything, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.  This policy declares that the government shall decide which tenets of your faith you may follow and which you must abandon.  This policy declares that the government shall tell you the limits of how you shall practice your faith --i.e. you may decide for yourself it is morally wrong, but you must purchase it for your neighbor.  If it is morally wrong in my eyes, then it is morally wrong for me to aid and albeit you in an action.   This policy declares that it shall deem what is tolerated by the state.  Nothing else is permitted.   Think I overstate? 

Does anyone believe if this is allowed to pass that we shall not be made to provide additional services we deem morally wrong after the election?  Like actual abortion?  We'll get the same smarmy worthy of a 6th grader line, Don't like an abortion, don't have one.  But pay for someone else.  That's like saying, don't like drunk drivers? Don't drive drunk.  But pay for that chronic alcoholic's next round and hand him the keys.

Having read Sebelius's article in USAToday and others on Real Clear Politics, I wanted to do a bit of fact checking.

From Sebelius: "The religious exemption in the administration's rule is the same as the exemption in Oregon, New York and California. Of the 28 states that currently require contraception to be covered by insurance, eight have no religious exemption at all."

Note: That means 22 states don't require contraception to be covered by insurance and of the 28 that do, 20 have religious exemptions.  42 States don't demand religious organizations violate their core beliefs by purchasing products they deem immoral.  That's a fairly solid majority of State policies you're overriding Kathleen via bureaucratic fiat. This is an argument for a sweeping new policy? 

I started by wondering, what do the Church institutions in those 8 states do. Do they already violate their stated purpose and the Church's teachings? In some cases, regrettably, yes.  And that was the nose of the camel. I began with New York, one of the three states mentioned by Sebelius. 

Guess what? 

"Indeed, New York passed the Women’s Health and Wellness Act in 2002, requiring health plans to cover contraception and other services aimed at women, including mammography, cervical cancer screenings and bone density exams.

The New York law, which has its own religious exemption, was upheld after several court challenges. In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case. At the time, church-related institutions were considering whether to drop prescription drug benefits as a way to circumvent the law."
What a surprise. 

There IS a religious exemption in New York. How inconvenient a truth. But it's limited.  The Diocese of Syracuse schools uses self insurance to get around the prescription benefit issue and is exempt from the law itself.   
On to California: Back in 2004, Catholic Charities lost a court case that went to the Supreme Court of California, where they were told they had to provide birth control to their employees in the state.  The words of Mark Chopko, counsel to the USCCB at the time proved prophetic.

"This case has very, very long arms," said Mark Chopko, counsel to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which filed a court brief in support of Catholic Charities. It raises the question, he said, of "who gets to say what's a religious organization: the religious organization or the government?"

Here, is where the HHS draws its inspiration.  California operates under the Don't Ask, Just Sell mandate of it's court, that Catholicism needn't worry itself about the taint of buying immoral things because the state has decided, they're necessary. 

Sin corrodes. 

California Catholic West Healthcare complied and thus eventually as a result allowed itself to erode its moral thinking to allow for abortions and award grants to abortion businesses and then because of the flack it got from Bishops and the faithful and the like, eliminated the name Catholic, changing their name to Dignity Health care.   So they did not turn their hearts.  And when they did not turn their hearts, they turned their name, so we'll know them by their limping.
I did a brief search of the Internet for the other six states and found this disturbingly accurate and well thought out Guttenmacher chart that lays the whole thing out on a state by state basis.  I recommend reading it all.  What bothers me is the timely execution of this clean chart that dovetails nicely with Sebelius's speech. 

The states which have no religious exemptions simply have limited religious exemptions that are extremely narrow, and which in most cases require hospitals to provide prescriptions. 

In most cases, the Catholic institutions affected opt to self insure to "get around" but that is now deemed wrong under the EEOC.  We are going to be squeezed into compliance becoming like Dignity Health Care, or forced to fight outright. 

That is the end goal.
The initial paragraph mentions how the DHHS indicates those existing exemptions that exist with respect to contraception probably will be faded out in the coming years. Why does the Guttenmacher Institute think this? How does it know?

I haven't discovered why, but I have a pretty good guess.
The alternative, to drop coverage entirely shall inflate the rolls of uninsured. The increases shall eventually require that Healthcare be a single provider coverage (for the good of all) from the government.  Welcome to check and mate, coming in 2013 when the time to live by one's moral compass in this country officially expires.
So I'm mad. I'm mad at this administration. I'm mad at the way we've allowed ourselves to believe that we could have just a bit of the apple and it wouldn't corrupt us all the way.  All it took was a bite.  It was the intent itself, it was the willingness to entertain sin, the willingness to encourage it in others, the willingness to put something between ourselves and our Creator, to put limits on our love and declare limits on our willingness to live out our Faith. 
And if the lions come, I'm going to roar back at them.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Taking the Cake

Ten children have necessitated I learn how to plan and organize.  But every once in a while, I'm reminded that this is not my natural state.   It is an adaptive skill I've learned to survive; a nurtured Darwinian response to the level of things that must be attended to in a given day.

This past Friday was the last day of Catholic Schools' Week.  As a parent of currently six kids in Catholic school, I wanted to be supportive.  The sixth grade parents were in charge of a luncheon for the faculty and on Monday of that week, I said I'd bring a dessert.

We even went to the store specifically to purchase the ingredients.  I had in mind a special German Chocolate cake where you put the frosting in the batter.  It's awesome and then I cover the thing with more frosting.  The plan was to make the cake Friday morning while the kiddos were at school and bring it when I did pick up as it was a half day.  

There was one problem.  On Thursday, my daughter had experienced a hard day and in a fit of sympathy, I made pancakes.  I used up all the eggs. I'd forgotten that I was making a cake the next day.  The next day, after I'd packed off the top six for school, I got out the ingredients and the non existence of the eggs loomed.  My youngest son goes to public school for a 2 1/2 hour program.  I had to wait for him to get launched on his bus.  Then I loaded the car with the remaining two kiddos and off to the grocery store we go.  

Anyone who goes to a grocery store with a less than perfectly disciplined mind knows you never get just the things you went shopping for...and thus it was with me.  I'm out with my daughters.  It's fun having my four year old put bananas in the cart.  I think about that evening's dinner of chicken fajitas with black beans and yellow rice and add a pint of guacamole and some chips.  We always need milk and ooh, Diet Coke is on sale!  Yes, I went through the store with the equivalent of a magpie's eye...shiny.....and got to the check out line...I forgot something...what was it......eggs.  Sprinting back with the cart to the first aisle, I grab the eggs.  Now I look at the clock.  It's an hour and a half later.  It's 10:35.  The cake takes 55 minutes to cook.  It takes fifteen minutes to get home and ten to load and unload.  That puts me at 12 with the cake needing to cool for 20 minutes before it can be flipped out of the pan.   It will be very very close. 

Wisking us home, I throw the cake together in 5. Hah!  But you can't rush baking.  So at 12 noon, after I've walked down the hill to get my son from the bus at 11:40 and started loading the car with my purse and diaper bag and shod the kids, I pull the cake from the oven.  Out to the car go the kids.  The cake is a problem.  It's in a bundt pan.  It needs to cool.  I put the pan on a plate.  I take it out to the car.  It will slide if I just put it on the floor of the car. It will slide if it is put on a seat.  It will burn anyone it is near if they touch it.  I put it in the trunk.  I create a wall to stop it from sliding with two twelve packs of diet coke that I hadn't yet brought in from the car. 

It's 12:10.  We're off!  (Some would say psychologically)  The first road out of my home neighborhood has a sharp incline and wavy curves, I hear a shukunk!  It sounds like a case of diet coke flipped sideways when I made a sharp turn.  Visualizing the corner of the coke box impaling the cake, I tell myself there is nothing frosting can't fix.  Then I make a right turn and I hear another shussssssssssh.

I don't know what that sound is. 

I come to a four way stop.  The cake on the plate slides up to the driver's seat in an "Order up" type fashion.  I now have a problem.  The oven mitts are in the trunk, still safely trapped by the diet coke cases.  I'm on a straight away with no easy to pull off place to allow me to get out of the car, grab the mitts and then transport the cake back to it's proper place.  After a momentary panic and wonder that it slid straight and didn't crash into a forgotten backpack, coat or diaper bag, I consider the problem. It is a straight line drive to the school until we turn into the school. This will prevent the cake from becoming the equivalent of a chocolate hockey puck so I just decide to live with it.

Arriving, my kids climb into the van and I park.  It is now time for the moment of truth, the flipping of the cake.  It makes it except for a 2 inch gash that is because I used full sized chocolate chips in my haste. I had mini's, I just didn't look.   That's a frosting band-ade for sure.  I begin slathering the coconut goo.  Some of it falls immediately from the knife onto my daughter's thigh as she's holding the plate with the cake.  Undeterred, I keep pouring on the frosting.  It's done.  It's 12:30 and it's done.  With the assurance of a friend to watch the car and the kiddos, I'm in the home stretch. I just have to get it to the library.  

The school runs an aftercare program.  Today, because it is a half day, there are more older kids than usual.  They are out playing ball.  As I cross the parking lot to get to the door, a ball comes bouncing towards me with an 8th grade boy in hot pursuit.  I'm not sure which way to duck. I'm thinking DOOMED.  But the ball bounces over my head.  At this point, I hand the cake to  the woman coordinating the lunch and grab some napkins for my daughter so she can clean off the goo.  I'm getting out of there before I ruin the luncheon.  

Just so they know, I really really appreciate those teachers.  But next time, I'm bringing diet coke.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Why it Matters: A Pink Reflection

The blogopshere, specifically, the Catholic blogosphere has been alive for four days with the sounds of people singing the praises of the Susan G. Komen Community for announcing it would no longer fund Planned Parenthood via its grants to do referrals for breast cancer.   Given that they were easily one of the most popular and visible charities around, one has to ask why did they do this?

Some said it was political.  Right wing politically active conservatives had been leaning on the Komen foundation.  If they were, it explains why Romney was able to gain the higher ground in the GOP primaries.  Clearly those right wing vast conspiracy types were focusing on the wrong target. 

But maybe they just wanted to eat their favorite brand of yogurt in good conscience.  I'm not saying there isn't a political element. Where there's money, there always is a political component. But I'm literate. I'm political. I'm pro-life. I'm invested. I'm involved.  I haven't heard anything.  Shoot! I must have the wrong decoder ring. 

So why did Komen open this ugly can of worms? Why would they invite the grief they've endured since, so much so that there is some recanting going on?

Part of it was addressing the fact that Planned Parenthood is under Federal and several state investigations for medicade fraud and other abuses.  Part of it was yes, the Pro-life activism which alerted the general public and specifically, those who hold that we must not support an institution that performs abortion, that the Susan G. Komen foundation did in fact give money to Planned Parenthood.  Part of it was probably the exposes by Live Action and the testimony of people like Abby Johnson in her book Unplanned, about her conversion from being an administrator of a Planned Parenthood facility to becoming Pro-life, and Lila Rose's videos and James O'Keefe's investigations. 

Then there was the personal component, the moral reasonings of Nancy G. Brinker, the founder of the Susan Komen foundation.  She stated as such in her video youtube speech attempting to articulate her rational for the policy change.  Another reason given was that Planned Parenthood doesn't do mammograms. Komen was eliminating a middle man and having the funding go to institutions that actually do the screenings. And I'm sure there are other reasons that I haven't discerned.

Based on Facebook alone, the world exploded.  Suddenly Nancy G. Brinker despite 30 years of work, 30 years of raising money and awareness about the causes and treatments and screenings for breast cancer, was an evil woman and her foundation did no good, because it decided to distance itself from Planned Parenthood. After all, she made over half a million a year as CEO.  EVIL 1%er.  EVIL. Everyone should stop buying pink right away to shame Komen. I saw post after post after post. 

Speaking up became a matter of shall I be silent when I agree with Komen to keep the friendship?  But I couldn't stay silent.  If they will boast of  standing with Planned Parenthood, then they must know, I will tell them, there are other places that deserve your loyalty more, that could do what you want done without the taint of blood and death.

Stating that one applauded Komen was tantamount to hate speech.  Which brings me to why I'm writing. Abortion is the unspoken ugliness that divides us.  The debate itself is so politicized that no one is considered to believe what they believe out of good faith anymore.  Further, if one person or organization switches sides, they are immediately condemned.  Komen was publically scourged for switching sides.

There was no consideration by those who disagreed with the Komen foundation's new policy that perhaps there were other places that could do the screenings and provide treatment and assessment for breast cancer that didn't come with baggage.   It must be a religous conspiracy. It must be stopped.

Not knowing the mind of this CEO, I still can imagine that she might have thought about it pragmatically; if pro-lifers were not buying pink ribbon products because of Planned Parenthood but everyone else was buying pink products to stop breast cancer, then if we stopped funding Planned Parenthood, everyone would buy pink products to help find a cure for breast cancer!  It's a simple and even reasonable mistake. Nancy thought everyone was buying pink products to cure breast cancer, not to fund Planned Parenthood. 

As a pro-lifer (and I am), I've wanted to participate in the 3 day walk for life and buy the pink stuff, but I haven't.  So I'm a zealot I guess, because like it or not, no matter how much good medical care the offices may do by providing screenings and pap smears and the like (and I'm ceding this turf in an attempt to appear reasonable), they still participated in a fundamental evil, aborting around an average of 289,750 a year.  That they may do other good things does not eliminate the fact that they do this grave evil thing a lot of times.  It means they should stop doing the evil thing, because it is evil.

I got told that it was only 3% of what Planned Parenthood does.   That abortion is 3% of what they do, or 10% which is what the Washington Post said, or more from other sites, is irrelevant. That they did other good things is also irrelevant. The trains ran on time is not an argument.  It is an inditement.

Komen had decided to not renew grants or allow further grants from Planned Parenthood. Those who are prolife rejoiced and ran out to buy pink stuff. The outcry on the opposite side as a result was that a Caliphate had taken over. Hoop dresses and tee-totalling would surely be next.  We were condemning women to die by wanting to not fund a charitable organization that does perform abortion via grants from another charitable organization.  Pro-lifers, right wingers, Christian zealots!  The moral equivalent of pond scum in the eyes of those for whom choice is paramount over life because we who disagreed wanted to be able to give to this charity in good faith. 

I will say, this public fight over abortion, (and that is what the fight is about), has been instructive. I have learned that Planned Parenthood does provide contraception, but with respect to screenings, it mostly does referrals for actual mammograms.

I've learned that there is a solid perception that Planned Parenthood is necessary especially in poor neighborhoods because otherwise, people wouldn't be able to receive necessary medical care. I've learned that people think anyone who disagrees with Planned Parenthood must hate women and want them to die.    I must have been bombarded 20 times with notes indicating that Planned Parenthood was the ONLY choice in poor neighborhoods. 

A quick google search in DC said, that's not true.  A second one in New York indicated that wasn't true either.  I typed in "Where Can I Find a Free Mammogram in...insert city" and "Where can I get a free breast cancer screening?"  respectively.  Planned Parenthood was not the first, second or third page worth of searching. Now I admit, I didn't do a search for every major municipality, but the first two I did, Planned Parenthood didn't have a site in the first three pages of Google. If they were there, they were there stealthily, clandestine, not public, hidden under a few imbedded links within the site. Instead there were hospitals and Church affiliated health centers and Universities offering for over 40, for uninsured, for low or no cost. Some even offered rides.   So I don't know how people (rich or poor) would know to go to Planned Parenthood for these services.  They don't even advertise.

What was Planned Parenthood losing? Was the organization going to be utterly crippled? Susan G. Komen awarded them $700,000 last year, a grand total of 0.058 percent of Planned Parenthood's annual revenue. This is nothing compared to the $360 million that the US government gives the organisation every year (33 percent of their total budget).

So let's break this down.  Planned Parenthood has 820 offices.  They have an opperating budget of 1 billion. Using the percentage of .058, the annual total revenue of Planned Parenthood including grants is $1,206,896,552.00, meaning $206,896,552.00 comes out in excess of expenses a year, and each office brings in if all things were equal, $1,471,825.06.  That's a lot of money.  The CEOs at individual affiliates are well compensated too, with many making over 200K. If the $700,000
 were divided over all 820 offices, it would come out to a loss of $853.00 per clinic.  Boo fricken hoo.

Meanwhile, the Susan G. Komen charity for those brief 4 days it changed it's mind publically, had an uptick in donations of 100% or 1 million dollars in new revenue as reported at Lifenews.com. Planned Parenthood had pulled in an additional $400,000.00 and all without filling out those pesky grant papers, almost half a mill in content string free money.

And now we have the limbo of the Susan G. Komen foundation trying to do damage control.  I still went to the store and consciously looked for something pink to purchase.  All I could find was batteries. I needed batteries so I bought them. Will I buy pink in the future?  I'm as iffy at the moment as the foundation itself, but I bought in good faith and I will let myself be content with that. 

But what this has really revealed, is the most sacred thing for each of us: we have set before us fire and water, life and death.

Editorial Note: Where'd she get her stats? Her information? 
 and http://ww5.komen.org/ and http://www.plannedparenthood.org/
and full disclosure: I read the Washington Post, the Daily Mail, Life News, Drudge Report and yes...wikipedia for both Komen and Planned Parenthood.

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!