Sunday, October 28, 2012

Early Voting,

I'd had a lovely conversation with at least six women of diverse backgrounds while waiting for the two hours it took to vote in this election.

As must happen in a line to fulfill one's civic obligation that last more than 15 minutes, we hit the normal notes everyone sings when they meet new people. storm...and eventually, politics.  

Up until now, we'd been a happy group.  Then a woman said, "You can tell who the GOP voters are, they're all grumpy.  They have no pep, no bubble in their personalities."

"I'm bubbly." I said.

"Well, the GOP is racist."
"I'm not racist." I answered.
"Well no, not all GOP voters are racists."
"But it hurts when you say that. You wouldn't like it if it were said about you. It can't not hurt."

She put her arm around me for a moment. "You're okay."  and I wanted to point out, I know lots of people. They're okay too.   Racism is a hatred born of the human heart not the political party.   What I said was, "We are all flawed, we are all broken.  Politics promises to somehow right the fallen condition of the world via a solution that causes no pain.  Anyone who believes they can through policy create a Utopia where every need is met and all is good, has forgotten the fundamental nature of the human heart.  We're sinful creatures.  We fail because we're fallen."  They all agreed.  I wasn't trying to sway votes. I was just reminding them that these sorts of sweeping statements, be they about Catholics, immigrants, handicapped, parties, economically disadvantaged, the rich, the whoever, do a disservice because they paint everyone who can be lumped into the category as an unworthy of being known other, and thus allows whoever posits the sweeping statement to ignore alternative understandings/questions about alternative outcomes that may come from policy and politics.  

Our conversations drifted back into happier places, whether the hype of the storm was real, why couldn't school be cancelled later?  How much someone could make running a concessions stand, particularly if they sold beer.  We laughed.

We're all Americans.  We're all voting.  We're all so committed to voting, we've been here for two hours away from home, away from doing chores to help get ready for the storm. This is a good.

Yet politics always promises the lure of perfection without the work/sweat/time/pain involved  As the noted great Pirate Roberts said, "Life is pain. Anyone who says different is selling something."  There are no easy answers. There are no easy quick fix solutions.  Tough problems require tough decisions and will be hard, both to pass and to enforce.

Here we were, standing in line for two hours and had grate conversations about all sorts of things before we went to our separate voting booths to cast our ballots.  We had far more in common than politics would pretend.  After two hours of talking heart and head to heart and head, we did not see monsters and we could disagree and while the world is not changed in a big way, maybe it was changed in a little.

As a nation, as a people, we've grown.  300 years ago, we were not yet born.  200 years ago, we were fighting the war of 1812, Less than 100 years ago, we were gaining the right to vote for women, followed by the civil rights acts a mere 44 years later. We are still an adolescent nation, testing what should be held true.   But I trust her people and I don't have to agree with everyone for that to remain firmly true.  

Thoughts on Benghazi

Blogging will be light this week, as Hurricane Sandy comes to town. 

I have been following what the White House, State Department, President and other officials have said about the attack in Benghazi since it began.  I have watched the story bend and twist and spin and shock.   The President said it would take time to know all the facts.  But in the "fog of war,"the first casualty is always truth. 

When the Lybian embassy was attacked, I remember being shocked. Horrified that Americans were killed on what is considered American soil.  The President, Hillary, Rice, and various spokes people all claimed a "vile and disgusting" film was the cause.  This despite having real time video from survalence drones of the entire attack and emails and other intellegence that confirmed this was neither 1) spontaneous nor 2) a protest of a stupid Youtube video.  It was terrorism. 

So point one:  the video was not the cause of this attack on September 11th.   The follow up question to this choice by the administration to lie, is why?  What motivated the administration to provide this whipping boy for the occasion? 

Theory 1: This was a lie designed to prevent Americans from feeling disturbed that the anniversary of 9-11 had been marred by a reminder that there are still terrorists.

Theory 2: The top of the administration is being kept out of the loop by the intelligence agency.

Theory 3: It was a political calculation.  

Theory 4: There was a systemic break down in communication such that people made human errors that led to embarrassment and thus the desire to cover up less than optimal results. 

Theory 5: Some combination of all 4. 

Most reality is a goulash of theory.  Most humans a mix of motivations.  However, it should always anger Americans when an administration lies.  It should always anger Americans when administrations are incompetent.  And it should always Anger Americans when the government through back fighting and positioning, is negligent.  

Since the attacks, the filmmaker has been placed in jail, with all proceedings against him to start three days after the election.   Insert any cynical statement you wish here.  

If the filmmaker is not the cause, this is the disturbing act of government making up its own facts, inflicting its own punishments for its own purposes.  Not what we want of a free people or a government that is supposed to safeguard our liberties.  

Then, there is the response to the requests for security prior to the attack.  Who saw the requests?  Who denied them?  Why?  This is a simple chain of command which would have a paper trail if we had curious press.   You can bet there would be 24-7 coverage of the cover up by the State Department if this were a GOP President.   Hillary said she takes full responsibility for the State Department.  She's also persona non grata right now.   No one is asking any questions and she's not talking.  No one is demanding any answers, from within the administration or without, so the problem of the failure to protect which is now past the point of meaning, has been swept under the rug with September headlines. 

Also, we have the troubling new facts, that a marine was using a laser to paint targets for a response, that the military was told to stand down despite having a rapid response team that could have made it to Lybia within 2 hours of the original attack and for 7 hours, was allowed to simply watch as the Ambassador was killed, the embassy torched and three other Americans, including two Marines who sent emails up through around 6 concerning their situation, were murdered.   They were allowed to die. 


Someone gave the order for the military to not act.  That has to be someone high up.  Who gave the order.  Why did they give the order?  These men's deaths were not mere accidents of being in a bad place.  These men were murdered both by those who sought to kill Americans, and by the omission of whoever gave the order to stand down.  

At 4:05 p.m. Eastern time, on September 11, an alert from the State Department Operations Center was issued to a number government and intelligence agencies. Included were the White House Situation Room, the office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the FBI.

"US Diplomatic Mission in Benghazi Under Attack" -- "approximately 20 armed people fired shots; explosions have been heard as well. Ambassador Stevens, who is currently in Benghazi, and four COM (Chief of Mission/embassy) personnel are in the compound safe haven."

Now I know Clinton has said the email was not itself evidence, but if September 11th, live video feed from a Drone camera and confirming emails of the situation in real time don't cause one to connect the dots, then there is gross incompetence. The military had people ready to go. So they thought this was real and credible and a situation.  Clearly SOMEBODY thought this was important or they wouldn't have sent it to the White House Situation room.  This isn't a case of a random blogger sending an email to the White House.  This was secured emails to the CIA from people on the ground.   So again, it becomes an issue of either lying or negligence or both.  

Hillary told the grieving families over the photo-op of their sons caskets, they'd get the filmmaker and lock him up.  How's that for being circumspect and reserving judgement until all the facts are known?

The first order of the government is to protect citizens from all threats, both foreign and domestic.  This was a threat both foreign and domestic.  The government failed in its duty.  It does not seem that the government lacked information, lacked resources or ability to act.  It does seem the government chose not to act.

According to Powerline:

Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, were part of a Global Response Staff or GRS that provides security to CIA case officers and provides countersurveillance and surveillance protection. They were killed by a mortar shell at 4 a.m. Libyan time, nearly seven hours after the attack on the Consulate began — a window that represented more than enough time for the U.S. military to send back-up from nearby bases in Europe, according to sources familiar with Special Operations.

Now the President is stumping for the election and either ducks the questions when they come or says no one denied aid to the CIA officers.  If this is the case, then why were they not aided?  This cannot be blamed on organizational stasis since so many people were in on the live situation.  This is a case of either making the wrong call, not making the call, or choosing to refuse aid.  

We do not know the motivations of another person's heart or mind. We only know what they say or do.  

And the President's spokesman told us September 12, after being briefed and having discussions, the President went to bed at 10. 

And the next day, he flew to Vegas.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Small Success Thursday

I'm over at today!

Please consider joining this meme. I'd like to see it grow and blossom into something special.  I'd love to have people write up what their successes are in the com box so we could celebrate all the things done or attempted in the past 7 days. Thanks! --Sherry

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Ways to be Salt and Light

Yesterday I ranted. Politics get to me sometimes.  I work hard to stay informed.  Sometimes, being aware of the world can weary.  We run the risk of becoming jaded and cynical. I'm reminded of the dwarves of Narnia, who after the long last battle, cannot see beauty, cannot taste the good.  They pride themselves in their certainty.  "Dwarves are for dwarves!" They cannot partake of the feast Asland presents them.  They eat, but do not taste.   They cannot see the great lion, nor can they hear his true roar.  

We live in a cacophonous age, with constant sound and news and diversion.  It can make it hard to hear God's voice.  So today, I'm offering a bit of salve:  How to be God's voice to others.

Pray.  Pray for everyone that ticks you off and everyone you love. I recommend the rosary.  Maybe a decade in the car after you catch the morning blips of news and the traffic report.  Say a Hail Mary for the Deejays happily chirping about how cool it is that so-and-so moved in with so-and-so  and for the so-and-sos involved.   List the politicians, the celebrities, the pains and anxieties of your life, and ask a saint to take each of these on, hand them over.  We have a litany of saints because we are a litany of sinners.  Invoke them all for all of us. 

Create beauty.  Put fresh flowers at the table.  Put away some one's clothes and maybe fluff the bed with an extra pillow.  Cleaning for someone else's pleasure is a gift, it gives them time because you gave your time.  De-cluttering to give to charity or simply to create a peaceful feeling of the home will have ramifications on your family beyond you not feeling like despairing because it's a mess.   Give yourself 15 minutes but be sure some of that time is thought on how to make whatever you're doing look better.  A little thought goes a long way. 

Visit.  The last one was a gift of time for others.  This suggestion is to be the gift of time with others. Invite a friend to lunch or surprise your spouse with a date, call your mom.  Call your brothers.  Ask about their lives, their days.  Listen.  When was the last time you called and it wasn't to share your news?  Relationships, all relationships atrophy without care.  Giving the care to a friendship is like adding seasoning to meat, it makes it tender, it makes it better.

Play.   Invite your children to play. Let the homework wait for 30 minutes.  The reason they are here, is to keep us fresh and young in our spirits, that can't happen if our only time together, is duty.  Homework, chores, errands, meals, bed.  We need to grow our relationships with them beyond physical care too. Otherwise, we're the cheapest bed and breakfast in life, and we won't know them when they grow up, and they won't know us either. 

Quiet.  Thirty minutes before bed, turn off all the machines.  Open a book or take a bath or both. Give yourself a retreat from the over caffinated 24-7 clutter of our electronic age.  It will refresh your mind and your spirit.  (Don't let yourself read more than a chapter --otherwise it will be 3:17 AM before you finish and that's really hard the next day trust me). 

Watch.  See how your life is rewritten when you aren't trying to be the author of all of it.  You will hear God's whispers in the softer tone of your family's discourse.  You will feel His breath in the warmth of your friends company.  You will hear God's voice.  How do we create a better world filled with salt and light, beauty and peace?  Start small. Start at home. Then, don't stop. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Political Gadfly Designed to Make Everyone Miserable

Watching the debate last night made me angry.  I've been busy this morning so I don't know how it played with the rest of America and frankly, it's irrelevant.  I don't shift my mood to suit the country or my party. 

Neither man showed themselves to have a strong enough or steady enough moral compass to be given the power the Executive branch now wields.  I know as a Pro-lifer, I'm not supposed to upset the apple cart when Mittmomentem is surging toward Election day.  But a person who talks openly about killing with Drones, is not pro-life.  A person who designed the government health care program used in Massachusetts that used state taxes to fund abortions, is NOT pro-life.  A man who keeps "modifying" or "evolving" his position on being Pro-life, is pro-life only on some occasions, which is the same as Not Pro-life.  He keeps saying he'll defund Planned Parenthood.  Absent a line item veto (unlikely in the extreme, didn't someone else propose this, doesn't everyone before now propose this and then not get it and not be upset about it because it lets them sign whatever such that now it's not even been proposed), how is he planning to do this? 

 I can hear my friends in the Conservative Political blogoshere's heads exploding. "SHHHHHHHHH! SSHHHHHHHH! He's better than the alternative."  It is a question of degrees. 

I can't think my friends on the liberal side of the political spectrum are so happy either, especially when the guy in charge for the past four years keeps pretending none of us pay attention to his actions or words and how they disconnect...often.   I know they aren't happy with the employment rate.  I know they're troubled by Fast and Furious, by the Drone strikes, the complete break down in security in Benghazi, the continued existence of the prison in Guantanamo, the 2000th death in Afghanistan, 900 + executive orders to end run Congress, and the erosion of civil liberties including religious civil liberties.  Not to mention the trivialization of women as the sum of their parts. 

So I'm mad because while the moderator tried to ask about foreign policy, the men stayed on their stumps, got out their sound bites about bayonets and budgets.  We didn't have a mature discussion in the arena of ideas. We had two grown men trading high school smug shots at each other while preaching to their laundry list of followers about the Bogey man the other one was and all the goodness that would follow in their elected wake. It made both men look small and the world much more than either could handle. 

Part of our problem is not so secret substituion of the 4th estate with Folger Crystal versions of journalists.  Do we honestly believe we'd be in this state if the media hadn't picked a political side rather than to serve truth first? We've been living on a fast food diet of op-eds from talking heads that sing to our own personal tastes so long, we don't know how to recognize anything but our own choices as having any validity in application of policy or politics.  

Where are our real political gadflies that sting everyone?  Shouldn't the press be discussing the total abdication of duty by the Senate to pass a budget in now 4 years?  Shouldn't the press be discussing the true unemployment rate and why what is political is not what is right, true and necessary for the country's growth. 

Shouldn't someone argue that while all spending may be stimulus, if it is a zero sum game, then for the government to expand, the private sector must shrink.  Shouldn't someone ask beyond slogans of paying your fair share and cutting taxes for small businesses, what is the limit/scope of government and what should be the limit/scope of taxes to ensure maximum liberty while fulfilling civic obligations?  Shouldn't this be somehow, discussed?   If all spending is stimulus for the economy, doesn't that argument eliminate the acknowledgement of any government waste?

 Likewise, anyone who says they'll balance the budget but there will be no pain is also woefully wrong or disingenuous.  It can't happen without actual pain.  It is a bit much however to see a leader who presideded the past four years over a stratospheric surge in spending, talk condescendingly toward anyone who proposes that anything done in the past four years might possibly have been rash, wasteful or excessive.  You can't say you will work to ballance the budget when the budgets you've proposed didn't garner even one vote in the Senate....from your own party.  You're not serious. You're not even trying.

 Lastly, an unpopular question to be sure, why would anyone who doesn't pay taxes, vote to have some? Shouldn't everyone have to kick in at least a dollar?  If everyone must pay in something, then everyone feels keenly the need for the government to be a good steward of our treasure.  Our government has been a poor steward.  We have a 16 trillion dollar deficit and we didn't even get invited to the party.  If we're serious, really serious about this, we need to know what we bought with that 16 trillion. 

Shouldn't the press be screaming Screaming, SCREAMING about the Executive having a KILL LIST?  Shouldn't the press be camped outside the home of every person involved  in the decision not to provide security or send help in the 7 hours after the initial attack on our embassy?  Shouldn't the press be investigating the 2,2 million in illegal donations and why a 15 million dollar loan was needed from Bank of America?  Shouldn't these things be the subjects of investigations from our supposed "Truth detectors?"  Do we have any way of knowing if subsequent scandals and problems for whatever administration follows will be covered up or blown up to suit the political ideologies of those doing the investigations?  If we continue to devolve into having right and left fact checkers, we might has well simply surrender the ground. We're going to be entitled to our own facts. All other facts will be ignored. In which case the slogan for our new Non-representative republic should be: Vote ignorant. Vote often. 

The checks and balances of our system have all bounced.  

I know, put not your trust in princes.  But I'd like a better option than what we have and a diet version what we have, where you get the same things but with 25% less conviction.   Who wants to vote for ME or me too? 

Yeah.  The debates depressed me. Go Vote Anyway and pray for our country regardless.  Yay America.  Rah.  

Monday, October 22, 2012

There is So MUCH I don't Know

It's finally happened.  I have aged out of homework.  My suggestions and assistance is officially out of date.  I'll have to wait until the youngest starts school, when my knowledge might suddenly become vintage and therefore trendy and useful. 

This week we have a project on John Adams on a paper plate, a project on a building in the community, (She's chosen the zoo), and a CD we have to burn of music.  I'm not going to be much help with these things.  I thought I could manage them, really, I did. 

But that was before the age of the Internet, where every kid doesn't just want to do what has been assigned, but wants to show they know more than the average bear.  So lions and tigers and bears are out.  Ligers and Kodiak bears and platipi are in.   We don't have those animals. (We have at least 500 toy animals in a bin, I know, I put them there, but we don't have ligers or Kodiak bears or platipi). 

"I want to make them out of clay." 
Inside my head (Not said aloud), "But I don't want to make them out of clay." 
What was said, "We have zebras and peacocks, horses and sheep, elephants, gorillas, alligators, frogs, dogs, pigs, giraffes, hippos, we even have bugs. Can't they be in your zoo?"

"Then it won't be an interesting zoo." she explained.
Inside of head is frustrated, not saying, "But that means a trip to the art store.  We don't need to make a trip. We need to make a project." 
I say, "We can start with the cages.  I have some boxes..."
"No Mommy, they need habitats to live in. My zoo has to have it look like they're in the wild even though they're not in the wild."
"You can color paper or put in construction paper..."
"Paint!  And we can get some fake grass and straw when we're at the art store."
"No. No. No. No. No." my brain is yelling.

"Great idea! Because I need plaster-of-Paris for my head of John Adams." my son pops up. 
"You can't use paper mache?" I ask.  Paper mache is a big concession from me. They don't understand. I'm advocating for something sticky, gluey, messy and which takes forever to clean up.

Nope. His heart is set too.

So I'm scared.  The 7th grade has to create a CD of church music.  I fully expect I'll be having to learn the harpsichord or commission a local choir for that experience. 

In the meantime, I'll be at the art store surrendering my credit card or outside, washing down the glue from our deck. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Cramming Catholicism

This week my daughter had to do some sketches for a theology class.  She was charged with crafting images that would capture the symbolic meaning of the sacraments in a new way.   "But what if I think the sacraments themselves capture everything they are without embellishment?" she asked.

While she could argue the danger of trivialization via simplistic or saccharine metaphors for the sacred, I still just smiled and said, "Yes, but then artists would be out of work."  She had the grace to laugh.  

But the reality remained, she felt stymied and stumped by the task. 

That morning, I'd overheard a snatch of a lecture on Pope Benedict and his writings.  My mom had given me Benedictus and I'd recently taken to reading the daily meditation.  However the book tended to wander from room to room with the business of our household and thus often weeks were lost in the process.  It remained an organic habit rather than a daily ritual.  I happened upon the book.  Opening to the date, the reflection was on Ezekiel and the creation of a truly human heart from our hearts of stone, and how Baptism in effect resulted in a spiritual heart transplant. 

I called my daughter and read the passage. 
She immediately got it and set to work with the final comment, "This is another example of God cheating Mom." 

God cheats she said.

He doesn't have to play fair, He's God.   He can forgive 70 times 7, He can pay the last workers in the vineyard the same as the first.  He can shine on the just and the unjust.  

God cheats with 1000 whispers to our heart every day of how He loves us, pointing out what He hopes we will see. 

My daughter came back with the first painting, the Sacrament of Baptism.  A font of water trickled over a heart of stone, turning whatever bathed in it into a human heart.  We talked a bit about how it could be better rendered, but the thought was there. 

God doesn't cheat.  He just knows we're not very good at studying for the test and likes to hold impromptu review sessions.

The Al Smith Dinner

I saw both speeches. Both made me laugh. Both made me like the candidates (yes both of them) for the men they are, as opposed to their politics. I did think Govenor Romney was a bit too sharp at moments, but laughed none the less.

Here's the President's roast.

Both were charming and fun. My one question, where were these guys before this dinner?  I will concede, I like self depricating humor best and think whoever remembers that a touch of humility speaks louder than any brags, will do better in the election.  Yes I've still grave non negotiable issues but it was good to see both candidates being more human than debates or campaigns allow.

Then I saw the Cardinal Dolan's closing Benediction which I've only been able to find over at Whispers in the Loggia.  The section on the "uns" of this country is profoundly moving.  So go watch, I'll wait.  But in my opinion, (Spoiler Alert), he wins.  Hands down.  Loved it.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Small Success Thursday

Just a reminder, I'm over on on Thursday to celebrate Small Successes! Click on the link and leave your list of what you did this week that deserves a cheer and remembering.  I look forward to seeing what you did this past week to live out a life of little things with great love.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Do You Want To Hear About My Day?

I get asked that every afternoon. It isn't really a question.

The report that follows starts with first period and ends with getting in the car. It is a ritual repeated by each child at some point when they get the floor. So I hear about Math then English, then mass then science then art then lunch where they didn't like what I packed for them to eat, then recess where they played zombie tag and were mad they didn't get to be it and spelling then P.E. and can we have snack?

Long ago I stopped pretending it was a conversation since they don’t say, “how was your day?” back and if I start to comment on something I get told, “I’m not finished yet.” Followed by “I’m next Mom!” and a chorus of Awwwws by those who weren’t as quick to grab the next spot in line for talking.  They always time all the reports so it's time to get out of the car before I get to speak.

I’ve considered giving the kiddos caramel apples when they get in the car to get them chewing so I could one day say what happened at home but I’d have to find some method of making folding 12 loads of laundry and fixing the vacuum, answering the emails and giving their little brother and sister lunch sound less dull than I just did.  

I also imagine the sheer volume of work and pain involved in any of my darlings getting the treat stuck in their or their sibling’s hair.  So far it has kept me sufficiently cowed from attempting it.


Besides, the car ride home is Mom basic Intel time.

What I don’t hear is often more important than what I do.


Over the years, I’ve learned to read the drive home for the tell tale signs of “the rest of the story.”  If the oldest is picking fights, check the backpack.  There’s a paper that needs signing. 


Silliness without a gut check in sight means a substitute teacher or a birthday invitation. 


When the youngest child snags the coveted front row seat it means she sagely saved her snack and bribed the older ones so she can tell me about the funny story teller that visited today or ask for a play date.  She's crafty that way. 


If my fifth grader sulks in the back row, make a mental note to sit with her at home when she’s starting homework and have a hug ready. Somebody said something mean.


These are the easy ones that almost anyone can read. 


But I’m a veteran seasoned professional mother, so I’ve learned a few more subtle things about the long road home. 


Asking how they can earn money means there was a pitch of some sort or a scholastic books catalog came out.  My kids groan when they learn that to earn money by working means you know…actual work.


When a kid says they hate a teacher, it means they either didn’t do the homework, got a bad grade or didn’t get what was done in school today. 


When a kid says they have no friends, understand kids don’t count those that like them, only the ones that don’t. 


When the kid answers “Fine.” and they normally give an essay answer, whatever else today was, it wasn’t fine.  Go to other kids to get their days, hope the cumulative effect of hearing what everyone else did makes them want to talk. If not, stand ready to do a solo errand with non sentients and said person upset for the closest milkshake.


When one child asks to go back to the school, turn around. The odds are, three others forgot something.


Every once in a while, when they ask to go to the park, even though they have homework, say “Yes.”  You’ll be the hero. It’s good to be the hero.  Mental note: Don’t blow it by then being stressed out over schedules, homework and dinner.

And when they ask me first, "Hey Mom, how was your day?"  it means there's a really big favor they're buttering me up for and thought up a strategy.   "Sounds like your day was hard.  Wish we could make it easier.  You know, tonight's dinner night out for the school and..."

Next post: Dinner conversations, reading between the courses.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

There Will Be Joy in Mudville

Last night, we went on a date to a sports bar for dinner.  We watched the Nats limp through 4 innings where they gradually gave up enough runs to whittle a 6-0 lead down to 1 in the fifth and final game of the playoff.  Driving home, we listened on  the radio.  We are still sick with the knowledge the Nationals ended their season in a painful 9-7 loss to the Cardinals.   The O's also had their run for the World Series destroyed by the Yankees this dark Friday.   To watch and love baseball is to know at any moment, it may be glorious and also, at any moment, your heart shall be broken.   It is part of the "of course it's hard. That's what makes it great." zen poetry of this sport. 

However this morning, my husband explained why this particular loss has more cosmic consequences than that beltway residents now must face only the perpetually disappointing Redskins and the dull soul sucking pain of election year politics:

My fellow baseball fans,

Seven hours removed from the disaster of the Nats' historic collapse at the hands of the Cards, and the O's anemic loss in New York, I have reached a conclusion:

Perhaps when the the Yankees meet to do battle in St. Louis in what will prove to be a fateful Game 7, the Mayans will finally be proven correct.

After 512 innings of improbable comebacks, 350 hits by heretofore unknown journeyman, 75 over -the-wall game saving catches, and 43 combined home runs between Ibanez and Descalso, the last man on the Yankees' bench, Alex Rodriguez, finally gets into the game, not as the highest paid hitter in history, but as a pitcher trying hold the Bronx Bombers' 1 run lead.

As A-Roid angrily strides toward the mound to face David Freese, the New Madrid fault line finally ruptures, sucking not only Busch Stadium but the entire planet into a black hole as every last ounce of the Earth's luck will have finally run out.

Wait 'til next year. If there is one.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Why We Need A Year of Faith

A friend of mine quipped on facebook about all the years prior to now being years in heresy.  I understood her gripe. Why do we especially need a year of Faith?  Aren't we supposed to live lives of Faith?  Isn't Faith the thing, the only thing we're supposed to be doing? The year of Saint Paul was a year of Faith but focused on the writings of Saint Paul. It was still a year of faith. Faith is our relationship with Christ and how far we are progressing/regressing in seeking that relationship to be what God calls it to be.   Isn't that what we're doing if we're of the Church and trying to be Catholic?

Well, yes.

But in response, I would submit that many of us, most of us (unlike my friend who teaches theology on the college level), need refreshers and in some case, re primers on our catechism.   Nothing wakes one up to the poor quality of relying on 8th grade CCD memories (after 8th grade), like hearing them parroted or illustrated in real life.   Bad instruction based on poor formation compounds the problem, creating a whole generation of people who think they know Christ but who have settled for a felt board groovy imitation that demands nothing and therefore cannot intrigue the soul to love more. I still remember a homily in which the priest (seeking to identify with his college age audience) talked about "Life...being kind of like that squirrel." There were so many of those somewhat domesticated fluffy tailed rodent on campus, he equated the creature's cautious taking of the peanut from his hand to the soul receiving the word of God.   It might be so in some cases...but I remember it because my brain exploded. The rant in my head went something like this, "The Eucharist should not be trivialized, even college students know this, even second graders who receive for the first time know this.  Life is NOT like that squirrel!"  Bad instruction may not be absorbed but it is remembered.   

The object of living a life of faith is to mold ourselves more toward Christ, not to mold Christ more toward ourselves. We have to recognize we keep seeking and accepting lesser fare than the Eucharist, and that is itself, a failure to live out one's faith. 

The Church in proclaiming the Year of Faith is embarked on a 365 day spiritual act of mercy to the flock, to instruct the ignorant.  None of us like thinking we aren't informed but when it comes to our faith life, most of us have a wikipedia type knowledge of our Church's teachings.  It's easy, it's within reach and it demands very little.  It paints with a broad brush on a smattering of topics with little or no vetting of the actual information and is tacitly accepted as being the all of it that we need to know to get by.   For basic intel on the difference between plants and animal cells and other need to know instantly because my kid's homework requires I help sum everything up type knowledge, Wiki works fine. But not this.

We're adults. We're called to have deeper understandings and applications of our faith than when to kneel, sit and stand and what time mass is on Sunday.   We're called to integrate our lives so they orient towards Christ.  It is a rigorous thing to seek this sort of life. 

How are we to live this year of Faith?  By applying a bit of self examination, whatever we're not doing...we should start...and whatever we've allowed to become indifferent habit, we should cease.  If you serve constantly, you should focus on prayer. If you pray constantly, you should seek to live out the washing of feet. If you are an organic person in your religious devotions, find a structured one, and if you are rigid in your practice, you should sit at adoration and allow God to make your soul more malleable.  A year of faith is designed to bring us into closer communion with the Body of Christ, both as revealed in others, and Christ Himself. 

So have we been living years of blasphemy all this time?  I would argue, in truth, yes.  We are always failing, always missing the mark, always in need of greater correction on our thoughts, our words, our deeds and our inactions.  So welcome to the year of Faith.  Get excited.  This is like anticipation of a wedding feast, be prepared to have your soul set aflame. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

I Know She's Not on the Ballot

But given the state of things, what this nation really needs now is mom and apple pie. 

Moms deal with fighting siblings who view minor infractions on their property as a reason to declare World War III, so a mom could certainly deal with the squabbles in congress.

When one party locks the other out of a bill writing session what do you think Mom would do?  She'd bang on that door and demand they open it up and share or they'd be doing dishes and the fact, because they did that, they get to do the dishes and laundry together.

When someone issues a fake apology, Mom would be there to make him redo it, mean it and make restitution. Then she'd watch over him like a hawk to make sure whatever it is, it didn't happen again.

When Congress votes itself a pay raise, Mom would be there to cross it out and say Knock it off, it's not like you're suffering and tell them to get back to work.

Mom would not let them leave the house in a mess, she'd make the Senate pick up their toys too. 

Do you think Mom would let the press tell fibs about either side on anything? Me neither.

About Childhood obesity.  She'd tell everyone to turn off the computer and tv and get outside and get some fresh air until dinner.

About the deficit. She'd cut coupons. She'd go to each department and tell them to prioritize. She'd then tell everyone who helped make this mess to chip in a bit.  She'd also give everyone who helped spend us into this mess a serious lecture about accepting responsibility and make them chip in more.

On dealing with other countries/foreign policy.  Don't give money to bullies. Don't play with bullies. Don't put up with bullies.   And bullies? You're not welcome, you can't play with us. Shape up and we'll talk. Pretty simple. 

On the unemployment problem, Mom always has jobs.  Every mom I know can think of ten jobs that need doing right now.  Imagine an army of moms. We'd have the rate down to zero if moms were in charge. 

And lastly, it's been a hard few years.  It's cold outside. We need a little warming, a little joy and sweetness and happiness.  That's what the pie is for, she'd even make it a'la mode.

So Vote Mom in 2012 --She's not on the ticket, but she should be.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Thoughts on Editing

Every writer has verbal tics.  They give you line disease. Writers in the throw of writing are busy imagining how the scene will play out.  Consequently, they use place holder words to get to the interesting part of the scene they can't wait for you to read. 

Banter amongst characters often transforms a scene into a play of words without the backdrop or setting or any action.  Suddenly the writer remembers...there isn't any scenery.  Voila, a sentence or two is drawn in, but then the train of thought of the banter gets lost as the scene becomes more fully rendered with the carpet and the vase and the food and the lighting, the hair, the costumes, "CUT!" the director in the brain yells.  "What were we talking about?" and the author says, "I don't remember but the curtains are pretty."

I had 1,411 "That's" in my book.  I've wordwacked 783 of them.  Many were misuses of the word that, for which and who or whom. 

I've also discovered phrases that make me wince at myself.  Editing a book is rather like looking at pictures of one's self in high school. 

Ultimately, reading a book requires the writer give you continuity of a world, likable characters, a meaningful believable plot with lovely turns of phrase that capture moments and thoughts and feelings more universal than the fictional situation evokes, and nothing extra.  Currently, my book needs a diet and an organizational plan, it has too much clutter and too many piles. There's lots of good stuff but it is covered by other things.  Lots of potential, lots of work to get there.  In short, books look like their authors, or mine does.

Except for one thing, it's a lot easier to remove the "thats" than it is to organize my home.  Perhaps because all of that in my home, needs a who to remove them.   

Friday, October 5, 2012

7 Quick Takes

1.  Where Are You On Your Book?  

Editing. Starting on page one.  My new best friend Annie (the editor at Museitup) has given me 15 days to go through all the that, had, but, and, then, about, was, as, very, were, has been, had been, will be, as if, as though, ly adverbs, around, just, could only, some, going to, started to, began or began to, towards, backwards, forwards, should of's of my 312 pages.    Oy. 

2. How is Penelope doing?

She's having to be patient.  I'm stuck at 15k.  I need a structure, a scaffolding for this book.  I'm trying to discipline my mind enough to do it.  There seems to be an absence of will in my spirit these days, like my brain is fried and dull. 

3. How is Exercise doing?

See #2.  I have yet to do my first push up in the month of October.  

4.  What Else is Going on?

I'm still doing a daily rosary, still trying to keep the laundry from exploding out of control, still waiting for a dishwasher to arrive on the 8th and still have two weeks of baseball left.  We also have a homecoming this weekend and a child who turns 7.

I'm not sure if I
5.  Have you planned the party?

Not yet.  We have an idea. We have a date in mind. We need to get started.  Stat! What are we doing? Halloween party with costumes, bobbing for apples, that spook house under the table bit, musical chairs to the Monster Mash, a cake with vampire teeth --birthday girl's idea, broom races, and pumpkin painting.  Should be fun.

6. What Else?

I'm a bit sad because a favorite professor from Notre Dame, a man who taught my father, my husband and later me, (Political Theory and Camus), died this past week.  A bit of the heart of the campus for me, is no longer on campus. 

7.  Costumes for Halloween:  So far, I have one Rainbow Dash, one dinosaur, one cheerleader, one who wanted to be a vampire but can't so I'll have to sell her on something else, (Maybe she can be a Vampire Slayer Cheerleader), one who always squirms and then opts for a straight rubber mask --like a Gorilla, and one who I think will be a princess again because she loves them so, Link, and the inscrutable one still hasn't decided but is considering Moaning Myrtle again. (It was one of my favorite costumes that she created so I'm hoping).  

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Witch Costume Will We Wear?

I love Halloween.  I make no bones about it.  I start thinking about it as soon as we get half way through September.  We have lots of costumes so that's never a problem though I've been known to work hard with a kid to craft "the costume" when they're inspired.  I love it when they're excited and when they're excited, I just can't help myself and we wind up going over the top. 

My husband also loves it.  He buys pumpkins almost every grocery stop. We carve them all.  We don't get many trick-o-treaters but it doesn't matter. We always buy candy. We always have lights on, and we always hope for more. Even if no one comes,  we have a blast anyway.  Even our youngest son last year got into the act and knows it is coming. He's planning on repeating his role as a dinosaur.  We celebrate it as a night of imagination and silliness and whimsy.  No shirkers, not even the one who thinks he's too cool and doesn't really dig sweet stuff.

However, there are those who would say that anyone who goes about saying Happy Halloween is deserving of a good chastening and to be horsewhipped by twizzlers and made to watch bible cartoons until they beg for forgiveness.  They claim that every year it becomes more depraved, more sugary, more a means of introducing the innocent to the occult, not to mention processed corn sugary nut added in many cases cheap chocolate goodness, than a time of letting children be whimsical and explore the dangerous world of imagination. 

There is a need, a desperate need in this world for deliberate silliness and joy that is not juvenile but rather, child like. Halloween allows for that explosion of creativity in expression, in carving, in costumes, in the celebration of everyone's play and pretend. Though it puts many a calorie on my hip and has never put a dollar in my pocket, indeed it takes many but I gladly give them, I say God bless it.  

So when this year, those who view Halloween as a doorway to all things grave made it such that my kids cannot be witches at the October 31st parade, my brain temporarily jerked into a rebellious mode.  I am not normally a rabble rouser, I normally get things and try to go along.  However, this stance is akin to handing out toothbrushes if you're not a dentist by trade.  The idea needs to be t.p'd.  But since it can't, since it has been decided, I can only register my protest through cleverness and/or out and out defiance.  

I do not wish my children to learn to be disrespectful, however....even the most modest of my children wasn't taking this without a grain of salt and touch of derision.  They recognize that this is play and pretend and not real.  I trired to explain but it's hard when one's own heart isn't in it. Eventually, I just can't.  "I don't think this will lead to the occult.  I presume our weekly mass, daily prayers, Catholic school years, constant talking to you all about an integrated Catholic life and the example your father and I have presented with our lives and our friends and our family are sufficient to the task and won't be undone by a day of pretending to be vampires, ghosts and witches. I trust that we are forming your hearts and minds well enough to withstand the assault of costumes and candy, whimsy and silliness." 

"Yeah Mom...blah blah blah."  "So, we really can't be witches?"
"No witches."
The car was silent for a moment...only a moment.
"No witches.  What about wizards?" One asked.  "I'm going as a werewolf. They didn't say that was against the rules." another volunteered.
"Can I go as Glinda of the Wizard of Oz? She's a good witch." a third chimed in.

My oldest called from college.  Filled in on the latest news, he who had played Giles Corey in Arthur Miller's play suggested going as the cast of The Crucible. 

My first thoughts had run to Wendy, Samantha, Sabrina and Hermione.  Clearly none of us were taking this well.  None of us wanted to follow the spirit let alone the letter of the law. There were all sorts of arguements about why if not Witches, were fairies or elves or orcs or gobblins or superheroes that might be darker allowed?  What about fairy tale villians and Disney villians and supervillians? What about Starwars and StarTrek, mummies and zombies, or just plain monsters like vampires and Frankenstein?  What was the line? What moved the line? Where would the line stop? They could feel the options of costumes shrinking before them and it bothered them.  We'd stopped at the comic store for one girl to get a t-shirt. 

Then it hit me.  "We should go as interogatives." I got a lot of blank looks.
"Who." "What." "How." "Where." "Why" and "Which."   There were evil grins all around by those who got it and the obligatory explantion to those who didn't.  They suggested going as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and I got treated to a chorus of "Sand Witch!" "Sand  Witch"  I smiled. 

PB&J might be a great protest, since that is also banned due to allergies.

What will a day of going as parts of speech lead to? One shudders to imagine...but then, I believe that's how we come to have these sorts of over scrupulous rules about holidays, by being afraid to let imagination occasionally run free.  

Monday, October 1, 2012

Living this Year of Faith

October 11th starts the year of faith, the Bishops have suggested that we spend the next 365 days delving deeper into our relationship with Christ and her Church. That sounds fine enough, but how?
Here are a few methods for turning this year of faith into a rich experience. The goal is to grow so pick a few that will stretch your soul and steel your faith.

100. Go to mass more regularly. If you do not go weekly, begin. If you go weekly, try for a daily.
99. The rosary. If not a whole one a day, a decade a day.  Grow into it as the year progresses.
98. Pick a saint, learn about them. Read their writings, know what made their lives sanctified.
97. Begin reading from the Old Testament regularly.
96. Sing at mass.
95. Perform a Corporal act of mercy --feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for the sick.
94. Brush up on your church history.
93. Watch Catholicism, the series
92. Go to a Theology on tap series.
91. Receive the sacrament of Reconciliation.
90. Start saying The Divine Mercy Chaplet.
89. There are 35 doctors of the Church, look through them for the right specialist, then read that Doctor's writings for the year.
88. Practice spiritual acts of mercy.
87. Fast.
86. Read the daily readings online or via the Magnificat.
85. Pray with your family.
84. Adoration. Give an hour a week.
83. Give a little more of yourself at mass.
82. Give a little more in charity.
81. Surrender some time for others by volunteering.
80. Try the Total Consecration to Jesus Christ through Mary
79. Make a pilgrimage to a Cathedral or Basilica.
78. Visit a hospital, shut-in, or prison.
77. Place a crucifix on your wall in your home.
76. Listen to a Catholic speaker/Catholic radio.
75. Create deliberate beauty in your home.
74. Practice real forgiveness.
73. Find a spiritual director.
72. Create a spiritual bouquet.
71. Read a book from the New Testament.76. Listen to a Catholic speaker/Catholic radio.
70. Pray with your children.
69. Pray with your spouse.
68. Pray for your children.
67. Pray for your spouse.
66. Familiarize yourself with the catechism.
65. Listen to some of the great music of the mass.
64. Serve in your parish in some capacity with the liturgy.
63. Give something up.
62. Invite someone to come eat and share your faith with them.
61. Invite priests or nuns to come and dine and share their faith with you.
60. Abstain from meat on Friday as a little sublimation.
59. Tithe.
58. Be a part of the Liturgy of the Hours.
57. Research a lay order you might consider joining.
56. Read a psalm a day.
55. Discover the joy of Catholic writers like Percy, Chesterton and O'Connor.
54. Find and follow a daily meditation, like the three minute retreat, Pope Benedict XVIth's Reflections for day to day, or A Year in the Life of Saint Paul.
53. Take in great Catholic art.
52. Catholic bloggers, discover them.
51. Be present to your family, your friends, everyone.
50. Meditate on the 7 Dolors of Mary daily.
49. Participate in the seasons of the Church.
48. Teach CCD.
47. Learn the parts of the mass.
46. Become politically active and involved on Catholic issues.
45. Sacrifice something like diet coke or fast food, consider it a cross of toothpicks.
44. Ask God for something.
43. Work earnestly in all things.
42. Keep holy the Sabbath day.
41. Pray for those in purgatory daily.40. Foresake a bad habit you think you can't.
39. Wear the cross or crucifix.
38. Review the readings prior to the mass.
37. Get to mass on time.
36. Stay to the end.
35. Attend a mass said by a Bishop or Cardinal.
34. Read the letters/notes from the Bishop or Cardinal in your area.
33. Recite an act of Contrition every day.
32. Count your blessings.
31. Offer up your pains, struggles and petty grievances.
30. Cheer someone up.
29. Provide prayerful witness for the unborn.
28. Remove occasions of sin from one's life, even sins of convenience.
27. Reconcile with an estranged acquaintance, friend or family
26. Failing that, pray for the estranged acquaintance, friend or family.
25. Prepare a feast for your family. Invite the estranged.
24. Seek to have a family rosary once a week.
23. Love your spouse well.
22. Love your children well.
21. Create a Marian Garden as a place of prayer for your home, or a prayer table.
20. Take an online course on some aspect of your faith that you know to be weak, the Sacraments, Church History, apologetics.
19. Pray for the intentions of the Pope.
18. Do what is necessary for an indulgence.
17. Participate in a Novena.
16. Form or join a prayer group.
15. Attend other sacraments, like Holy Orders, Marriage and Confirmation, pray for those receiving them.
14. Go on a retreat.
13. Pray with your children before they go to bed.
12. Listen.
11. Keep a spiritual diary.
10. Visit a cemetery, pray for the deceased.
9. Subscribe to a Catholic magazine, read it when it comes, cover to cover.
8. Clean out your closet. Give away half. joyfully.
7. Live within your means. Give the excess away.
6. Dress beautifully and modestly.
5. Honor your father and mother in prayer, thought and deed.
4. Invite someone to come to mass with you.
3. Reaffirm what it means to be Catholic, what identifies you as Catholic.
2. Do all things great and small with great love.
1. Receive the Eucharist frequently.

Lastly, whatever you do, whether with a willing heart or merely a dutiful flesh, do. Sometimes the heart follows, sometimes the heart leads. Ours are faiths smaller than 1/1000'th a mustard seed. But perhaps this year, we can grow them to move the molehills if not mountains.

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!