Thursday, January 31, 2013

Small Success Thursday!

I'd really like to grow this internet meme I post over at every Thursday.  Consider clicking on the link and listing the things you want to brag about in the combox, because once a week, we ought to stop and notice how much we have in abundance.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Small Stones

For the past 30 days, I've been writing poetry as part of a practice to keep writing, to jog my brain, to tune my eyes to see what otherwise gets passed by.  Writing Our Way Home --Small Stones, is a facebook page project that invites all people to consider creating a poem a day.  Here are some of the pieces that came from that experience.

Poem #30
The Orange Unexpected Joy

of seeing a friend
seemingly lost before
to the business of lives,
hers and mine and time
time time time
erased in a moment
of accidental meeting
as we catch up
in a hallway
of a school
about kids
about books
about how much she hates football
and I love it,
and my heart goes home buoyant
as the first day of Kindergarten.
Where I'd been mourning
and dining on the rind
of a relationship,
I'm reminded of the taste of deeper fruit.

Poem #29
Not Because I Haven't Tried

Does she persist
in having a knot in the left side of her hair.
I cut it too short you see so
to have the right look,
she tied all the rest of her locks
to remind me,
you may be Mom
but I am in command.

Poem #28

With the rain and the ice
there is one thing she knows is sure.
Her father's arms as he carries her
carrying the umbrella
because the bus that should have taken them
didn't come.

It's hard to post these, as I have to retype each of them and I have to scroll through Facebook and there are 890+ members.  That's a lot of poetry.   If you like them, let me know, and I'll dig up a few more.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

God's Will is Never So What

This was a post destined not to be written.  First, my computer froze.  Then time on the day for writing ran out.  Then the weekend was so filled, there was no free time to write...then when I sat down, my son came with an assignment he needed to complete.  My daughter needed it for an art project.  Some of the kids started a group game on the machine.  Yesterday, there was a two hour delay, a early ending to a school day, cub scouts, play practice and all the normal stuff of Monday.
Today, my computer froze again and again while trying to post. 

The irony of persisting when the whole point was to say that as people who want to be fully human, we can never say, "So what?" when no one would mourn what was not read or miss what was not written, was not lost on me.  Especially when I had finally given up.

 Then I read Elizabeth Scalia a.k.a. the Anchoress. She wrote a post and beat me to it on..First Things.  Ahhhhhhh! Back to this old bone I go. 

I'd already written something today.  But it wouldn't let me go. So I went back to the blog.  It froze twice.   It closed up. My son came and demanded soy milk.  My children had a game of ponies and cars.  I fixed lunch.  Then I promised, I'd at least finish writing the darn thing so the idea would stop perhaps pestering me.

In a world where all is relative and everything negotiable as to what is good and the truth, unknowable, two different women essentially asking the same question about the death of people.

Mary Elizabeth Williams over at Salon. talks about acknowledging the physical reality of life starting at conception but declares "I would put the life of a mother over the life of a fetus every single time — even if I still need to acknowledge my conviction that the fetus is indeed a life. A life worth sacrificing." She's willing to say, abortion no matter why, no matter what is the right. Yeah, an abortion ends a what?

How is it brave to say, "So What?" To say, "I don't care." Bravery requires care. Living requires risk.  Love requires self sacrifice. (not other sacrifice). One has to care to be brave, one has to care to love.  To say so what is to declare, I refuse to love.  I refuse to care.  It is throwing up one's hands and quitting at the opportunity for great grace, either in defiance, in fear or in despair.    

One has to care to stand up for what is right.   Honesty in and of itself is not bravery.  Saying I need to lose 15 pounds, cut the caffeine, cut up my credit cards and exercise isn't brave, it's a list of what I need to do to de-stress my life.  It is pedestrian honesty.  True...but not brave to say, merely fact. Bravery is doing it. 

Bravery is acting on what you know to be intellectually true even if it is hard.  Hardly brave when she is so certain her audience will approve and laud her for her honesty.  It is Salon after all. Announcing what everyone knows via science about when life begins, she is lauded as a truth teller for saying it is a baby.  Saying you know there are concentration camps killing millions is not brave.  Working to help stop the them or sheltering those you can from the trains is.  She proclaims she would kill her own child if she found she was pregnant now.  Hardly brave.  It takes far more courage to live/save a life than to kill one.

This week, over a half a million people braved the cold to march to the steps of the Supreme Court in memory of the decision Roe vs. Wade and the 55 million children aborted since that decision 40 years ago and as usual, the media yawned and discussed virtually everything else. The media that did cover the march pondered what difference do they make?  The law is the law of the land.  The answer is that all that we do matters, it matters to those we affect by our actions and our inactions, what we do well and what we do poorly.  It affects people long after the day, in ways we cannot know or won't be allowed to know, until we undergo Purgatory where we will examine our log and discover all our missteps.  We will also know the joy of discovering all the times we acted as the catalyst for some one's epiphany on the Road to Damascus, perhaps even merely by having walked the road before them.  But no one every found their way home to a joy filled life via "Whatever."

Going back to the article, what does one say to someone who says "So What?" How can such a soul be moved?  How do we generate heat and light in a luke warm soul content, nay, proud to be indifferent? 

The answer to all of these questions, is the same.   We cannot know all we affect, we can only know if we do our best and trust that the Holy Spirit will work with our efforts to do God's will, the answer will never what? 

If a Blogger Doesn't Post

And the viewing count goes up...

How much of my readership is spam bots seeking to tell me, "Great post. I really love how you handled a difficult subject, why not check out my website that sells widgets?"

Hope they were amused.  

For the rest of you...

Ten Signs You are the Mother of Multiple Teens

10) None of the food you must buy is for you. And what you do buy for you, gets eaten...but not by you.

9) If in a moment of weakness you take a bit from the candy bar that has sat in the refrigerator since Christmas, you will be branded a bad mother and reminded of said incident at every possible opportunity.  Reparations will be insufficient.

8) You have to wait your turn and then allow for interruptions of that turn, on the desktop.  When you do get the computer, people will sit behind you watching, staring, trying to start conversations. Don't be fooled.  If you engage, they will then ask to use the machine. 

7) You get text messages at 3 in the morning saying, "I can't sleep."
6) A child will greet you in the morning with, "Why Did You Clean Up the Bathroom?"
5) No one ever goes to bed or gets up on time but you despite multiple alarm clocks, buzzers, etc....including the one who sends 3 o'clock messages.  
4) Any suggestions during lull periods of the year by me that one might join a club are met with "I don't have time."  When  in the midst of SAT preparation, play rehearsal and regular studies a child announces he or she is considering the track team, my response of "Are you nuts?" is considered a sign that I do not support them getting involved and having a life. 
3) The level of annoyance to siblings exponentially increases the likelihood of a behavior continuing.  Hint to Older Children: NEVER SAY "I Hate That Song..." You are guaranteed 24 hours of earworm hell.    
2) Homework is best remembered after 10 p.m.
1) Without telling them I've gone to the bank, they always sense if my wallet has money. 

Friday, January 25, 2013

If You Can't March

Every day we have the opportunity to witness to the culture of life or death.   We forget that the culture of Life we want to build involves everyone.  So today, if you cannot be in the March for Life in Washington, DC for whatever reason, use this gift of 24 hours on January 25, 2013 to witness to the culture of life.  Here are some ways how:

50) Give food to the local pantry.
49) Visit the sick.
48) Hug your children
47) Call a friend you've lost touch with over time.
46) Write an op-ed to the newspaper on Pro-life issues.
45) Pray a family rosary
44) Say the Divine Mercy Chaplet
43) Enter a marathon to raise money for charities that support the mentally handicapped.
42) Volunteer at a school to serve at recess or in the library
41) Find out what your local pregnancy center needs, organize a drive.
40) Fast or abstain today
39) Go to an extra mass a week as a sacrifice for those who need the graces to say no to the easy out the world gives.
38) Read and meditate on today's gospel
37) Call your representative to let them know, you care about the pro-life issue.
36) Educate yourself about the HHS mandate and its effects on Catholic Health services, on religious liberty.
35) Pray at the sidewalk of a clinic
34) Go to adoration
33) Give up something for the year, as a sacrifice to the unborn.
32) Call a friend who is expecting, offer to watch their kids or cook a meal or just go visit.
31) Read to your children.
30) Write a letter to your family about why you are pro-life.
29) Study the Theology of the Body
28) Rent Juno or Bella
27) Volunteer to hold children in the NICU that suffer from addictions.
26) Go to a Special Olympics meet.
25) See if your Parish has a Pro-life committee, find out when they meet.  Put it on the schedule.
24) Take your children out to eat, sit at the restaurant.  Enjoy their presence.
23) Pick up the trash in your neighborhood.
22) Donate time/talent/service to a homeless shelter.
21) If the subject comes up, speak out.
20) Spend some time talking about abortion with your older children.
19) Go to reconciliation
18) Consider abandoning birth control or talking to someone about how it injures relationships
17) Turn off the television when it exploits women or sensationalizes violence and meaningless sex.
16) Bring flowers to the Church to lay at the feet of the Virgin Mary
15) Bake something to share with your family.
14) Invite people over to break bread.
13) Ask someone else what they want to do.  Then do it.
12) Contemplate the loss of memories, laughter and light that 54 million souls lost to this Earth could have brought.
11) Commit to a budget, have giving as part of the monthly expenses that are not negotiable.
10) Babysit for some couple so they can have a date night.
9) Visit a cemetery today.  Pray for the souls departed.
8) Call or visit a widow or widower, listen.
7) Talk to your spouse about adoption. 
6) Listen to the speeches/mass/events of the March for Life
5) Pray for those who travel to it.
4) Sell Cupcakes or pizza or what have you, to raise money for a pregnancy center
3) Create or join a prayer group.
2) Become informed about all the ways in which the Culture of Death is trying to advance, Wesley Smith of First Things, Jill Stanek and the Blog, When Mary Met Dolly are three excellent sources.
1) Feeling overwhelmed?  Recognize that this is a battle we are called to participate in, we are not required to win it.  We are mere foot soldiers.  Have some hot chocolate and remember, prayer is the most powerful thing we can do. 

Feel free to add some in the com box. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Beautiful, Luminous, Perfect

My son was dealing with the difficulties of bureaucracy.  He had to have this form, they'd get back to him in ten days, he went to deal with it, they closed for lunch while he was waiting.  He called to vent.  For some reason, this felt like a time to give a little push.  "Look, you've been banging your head against the wall for ages on this.  Why not look at where in your life, things have been freely given. Perhaps, that is what you should pursue..."  What I didn't realize was how my conversation with him was a continuation of a conversation I'd had with my daughter. 

She was examining a song for a class.  It mentioned Saint Clare of Assisi's mortification. 
"What is the meaning of mortification? I could get giving up one's hair for Locks for love. (She has friends who have), but what was the purpose but a gesture?"she asked.

Yes. It was a romantic gesture to her bridegroom, to give something of beauty back.  How to explain the spiritual gift of mortification when I'm not so clear on it myself.  Pregnancy is a mortification, or can be.  Giving blood.  She could get giving up a good for one's self for someone else here, but also quickly disavowed that the hair in this case was an equivalent.   "What did God need with the giving up of a good?"  The quick answer of God didn't, but knew Saint Clare and those who would follow her, learn from her, discover her in the history of the Church for centuries to come, would, didn't quite satisfy.

Fasting is a mortification.  She understood that too.  Undergoing the denial of a good to remind one's self of the greatest good, allowing God to work in the absence of feeling too full to seek something that would fill greater made sense, for Lent and things like that.   But what again, did God need of us, that we needed to surrender a gift given? 

And I remembered my words to my son, "Look in your life, where things have been freely given."  The hair was freely given.  That doesn't mean it was easy, only that she freely gave it with a full heart even though it may have (I don't know), momentarily worried her or plagued her --with the "I shall be ugly" vanity of thought.  I suspect that if it did, she was consoled by the permanent beauty she became, as one of the incorruptible.  She would remain beautiful, in having given her beauty back to God.   I can recognize God's humor and grace in His answer to her surrender.  

How to explain that to those who have yet to really walk out into the world and understand who they are, what they are to do, and how whatever that is, God will seek to ask until they say yes or a final no, to bring them to greater versions of themselves than they can imagine.   I could only explain that we are called to surrender ourselves as part of our growth as spiritually mature adults, whether in marriage, in parenting, in holy orders, or in sublimation of our appetites against the age if we live a holy life as single people. 

None of these paths were easy, but entered into and engaged with a full heart, God will pour out the graces making them beautiful, luminous, perfect.   The trick is to come to that point where we say to the Blessed Mother, "We're out of wine." and then being obedient as we're made to deal with filling jugs with water and taking some out into the world to be judged. Trusting that in this obedience, somehow, Christ will turn what is water in our lives into the best wine.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Miracle Drug to Cure Everything!

That's right!
I found the fountain of youth!

This little wonder can help you lose weight, gain patience, improve mental clarity and muscle coordination.  It relieves stress.  It improves physical performance.  And best of all, it doesn't involve exercise.

Not only that, taken regularly, it has long term life rejuvenating effects. It strengthens the immune system, heightens creativity and reduces the signs of aging.  

Further, it is all natural. There are no harmful side effects the require a lawyer to speak with auctioneer style clarity and speed listing how wrong things can go.  It's also free and available for use by people of all ages. 


You guessed it.

I went to bed early.  

Friday, January 18, 2013

Creating a Culture of Truth

The news about Notre Dame's Manti Te'o's fake girlfriend (a scheme that strung along the ND senior including her death of all things) should not surprise anyone who understands the great blinder that the internet is to genuine community.  Here, one can be anonymous, one can become a whole other person with an avatar to match.  One also can create an identity anew.  The problem with the internet world is ultimately just that, it is not real. Lennay Kekua was not real. 

We may never know the why of such a calculated and cruel deception, for the purveyors of this hoax behaved in a way that can also only be described as unreal.   It doesn't make sense to the natural laws in our hearts, to lie over and over again this way to someone about something as important, as lovely, as vital as love.

The only one who is real in this story, is Manti, as he felt real feelings including infatuation, grief and possibly great shame at being duped. Even his complicity if there is any is real.  He may have known and not spoken in an attempt to recover from what would be and now is, a public shaming for falling prey to people with evil intent.  He will have to live with the public memory of being either part of a scam, or being the victim of a scam.  If the first, he will have the hard road of remorse and recovery and the reality that some will never trust him again.  If the later, then he will have the hard road of recovery with the reality that some will never believe him in the first place. Either way, it is a hard road. 

Lance Armstrong also faces the road, a road known to be of his own making.  Was any of his triumph story real?  Did he win the first Tour de France without doping?  Would we believe it?  What is the proper response to such a protracted, calculated, destructive lying pattern?  For a society? He now joins all those baseball greats eligible for the Hall of Fame that no one wants to vote for, because we don't know how much of what was accomplished was real, and how much was chemically enhanced. 

We have before us two choices, life and death.  If we learn nothing else from these famous figures falling in the lime light, it is that truth always matters.  Truth even as unbearable as it might seem --I was scammed, I can't win it, is understandable in  a way that a lie, even a reasonable one, (to protect self, to protect prospects, to protect whatever), is not.  We can understand the reality of being fooled, of not being able to accomplish something and the heart break of both much better than the decision to rig the game.  

So what can we do to create a Culture of Truth?

1) Pray for all of these men, because they will really need grace to get through this, this is a tough storm to be stuck in the middle of, whether of their own designs or not. 

2) Take away what is good, discard the rest.  Live Strong isn't a bad lesson.  It is carpe diem so to speak for the modern age, but know what strength is. Strength is truth and strength is work.  Strength requires trust that life is not all about our own orchestration of the events, but about our choices and reactions to things we did not control, and about knowing when we should not control outcomes. 

3) Fasting. We are a culture addicted to approval and acknowledgement, so desperate for recognition, we've invented twitter so we may highlight to the world our every passing thought no matter how banal.   Fasting from the spotlight, whether it is National television or the pre-school parking lot, we will step away from the addictive narcotic Narcissism that is so easy to inhale in today's world. 

4) Do something real for someone else, something that takes thought, effort, energy and time.  We live in a gift card world of email ease, write a real letter, cook a meal, set flowers on the table, cultivate beauty through the gift of your own creativity, rather than the flash of a credit card. 

5) Practice something you stink at, allow failure to be ignored.  (My guitar and piano sit lonely most of the time), so I'm making myself suffer through the process for twenty minutes a day. It is not pretty but there is an appreciation in the moment when I hear a section of it "getting better." Play a game you don't normally win, without cheat codes or extra lives.  Learn to accept that all of this is a process and not a performance or a quest for perfection, it s a perpetual quest to become more real.

6) Engage in charity, both in deed and thought.  It doesn't matter if it doesn't make the news, it shouldn't. Being a giver to others is the antidote to the smoke of narcissism that can lead to big and little lies, can lead to preferring the non real world to that which matters most. Make gratitude and generosity the norm in your family's life by constantly cultivating it in yourself.  Let the Holy Spirit do the rest of the directing. 

7)  To grow deeper in love, we must be life long strugglers. If we would be life long learners and lovers of others, we don't ever finish or reach the pinnacle, there is no finish line.

Ultimately, the end result of all of this, will not stop everyone from being seduced by glory or their 15 minutes of fame, but it will help make the world a bit lighter than all the false glow of fake victories. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Real Food

Everyone understands the difference between diet ice cream and the real thing.

It's true at first for diet soda as well.  But if you drink enough of the stuff, you start to forget what the sugar laden version is like, and come to prefer the not real carbonated concoction.  What we do as habit comes to define us.  

Ergo, if we start to divest ourselves from the real world, staying plugged into the computer and our Ipod and texting rather than talking, having virtual friends with no actual face time and playing simulated instruments rather than sitting to practice on the real piano or guitar, we will eventually grow to think of those pursuits as being really real, when they are not.   We will prefer the virtual simmulated world we can control to the messy organic chaotic experiece of the real which invovles struggling if not suffering as the price of progress.

If you read the Last Battle by C.S.Lewis, he talks about the real Narnia as opposed to the experience all of us have enjoyed over the 7 books, (Silver Chair and Prince Caspian not withstanding).  In the real Narnia, water is really wet, as opposed to here which now in comparison, one understands to be dry water.   Playing Rock Band is dry water to practicing the hard slug day in and day out of mastering a real drum set or guitar.   So also, liking and commenting on facebook, while it has promoted reconnecting with people in a tangential way, is not the realness of going out to lunch or actually encountering other people. 

Today, we struggle not to become a nation full of unreal people who do not have the self knowledge that they are as of yet, not real because they haven't yet surrendered sufficiently to love to become fully alive. They go on about their lives, Buzz Lightyear pre-epiphany of his flightless state, superimposing on the world their ideas of themselves and presuming it is correct.  They drink but do not taste, eat but do not savor, and practice to no effect. 

Why?  Simple.  Real is complicated. Real demands more of us than our fallen selves, absent grace want to or will give.

This weekend, we went to mass en masse, and my younger children ensured that whatever else we were that Sunday, we were real.   Three children sang like angels but also rearranged chairs, complained about how long mass was, and one played glom onto Mom like a skin graft even when she's kneeling while the other two pushed for a turn.   The four year old sat on his brother's shoulders because he kept touching the light switches or pushing over books, the two year old insisted on taking walks in the back foyer every five minutes or becoming completely physically rigid in an arch three point stand of her head and feet while screaming.  

The older set, not to be left out, had a cold war over the sign of peace, and an editorial in one of the songs, where one child sang loudly and well to emphasize that another wasn't singing at all.   "Am I being good Mommy?" one child was asking.  Another was declaring in a loud voice and partially crying, "I'm not being good. I'm never good." and wailing despite hugs, shushes and distractions "Hey, there's a song, let's sing!"  I felt the weight of why are we killing ourselves doing this?  What is the point? What is our purpose? Who needs all this grief?  Did they hear anything? Are they hearing anything?  Did I hear anything?   I could have been sleeping....but then, what we practice...we become...I would have become...asleep...(Sigh I hate/love when that flash of understanding rebukes in an instant what I was happy grousing about only two minutes ago).  

What we profess...we come deeper to children, me, none of us were perfect...we were here because of our severe imperfection, we were here with all our real realness. Thus it is with the Eucharist, this is the real presence of Christ, otherwise it is not worth our time or our energies, it is real food, everything else we eat, no matter how delicious or virtuous or decadent or wonderful, is dry water.   We were here to become more real.  We were here to eat real food and real drink so we could go out into the world and help make it more real. 

Today's Poem

A few poems from the small stone collection this year of mine, from bad to verse. 


There is no greater joy on a face
than the anticipation
as the boy prepares
to jump
deep into a puddle.


She covers her eyes and pouts
at the hard truth we've worked so hard to pad
the world is not ordered to her liking.


I know that it is important
today, now, this instant already
But I promise you I promise you
you will not remember
the vitalness of this now
come tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Reflections on my Sablogital*

Sablogital: (n) def: brief break from blogging, designed to encourage other forms of creativity, regenerate writing juices, engage in actual self reflection without posting it as if it is relevant to anyone else.  (origin: Larry D of acts of the apostasy).

Today, I testified in an annulment over the phone.
The taxes are due.
The bills are due.
My oldest is out all day so I've lost my driver.
A middle child has a low grade fever and is thus home.

I picked a stupid day to start a diet, i.e. no self medication by chocolate. ...sigh.

Happy New Year to all of you. I'm back.   There are scads of stories to share. 

First, I joined Small Stones, a private writing community where you write poetry every day for 3o days.  Poetry and I have never been friends, but it turned out to be a fun exercise.  I do however wince a bit because to me, a lot of time, the moments I tried to capture came out feeling a touch on the precious side. 

Here are a few of the pieces:

Day 1
Keeping Christmas

Every morning when she rises, she takes my hand. She leads me past the kitchen. She will not eat. She does not want television. She walks to the tree. "Lights. Turn the tree. On." she commands. Only then, can ordinary needs be met. She is not yet two. She understands the season better than us. Her eyes are awake to beauty. Now, she can have breakfast.

Day 2

At 15, she cannot see what she will become, she resents what she has been. She does not believe those who love her and does not believe others can or will. Even her favorite song betrays her longing and her fear. She only knows the cocoon and cannot dream beyond it. We are waiting, knowlingly, for her Spring.

Day 8
Trying to Read Joyce

I've decided reading Ulysses
is like going to the coffee shop.
I love the smell
I love the hearthy atmosphere
I want to be this wordy intellectual.
So I open the book and take a sip
and then I remember,
I have never acquired a taste for coffee.

Day 9
The crush of time
the rush of the morning
to find a shoe, a sock, a lunch
to stop a fight, load the car and put on coats
all ended in an instant
as an amber sleek fox loped across the back yard.
"If we'd been on time, we would have missed it." my daughter said.
and the day would have been duller and harder for it.

Second, as it is the new year, I am trying once again to get back into shape.  I joined a blogging round robin group, Writing to lose, 12 writers all seeking to shed a few by keeping each other honest.   So far, it has meant I've done 90 push ups and not eaten pizza or chocolate...and believe me, I wanted the chocolate.   We will go on a blog tour in this process and thus I will get to visit other blogs and have them visit me.  

Third, a story from daily life.

We all know the parable Jesus tells about the master giving three of his servants varying amounts of talents, ten, five, one. I always both love and find troubling this story. Am I burying my talents or growing them?  I would stipulate, when I spend hours on the internet, I am digging a hole for my talents to bury them.

When I surrender my desire to do things in favor of them, it is investing. I know how much a temptation vigilant sloth (checking the emails/facebook/blogs) and hyper sloth (reading reading reading) encourage digging that hole. The hardest part of trying to live an authentic Catholic life is knowing, if I want to do God's will, I need only look at my choices. Whichever one demands more of me, demands I surrender more, demands I serve others more, (and is thus probably harder), that's God's will. It is the humor of embracing the cross like a lover. Joy comes through sacrifice, but we have to chose to sacrifice joyfully.

Thus it is that I get the "BINGO!" sign from God, as my 7th grade son calls me over for a quick reminder that I have forgotten more than I ever learned about math. I was reduced to being the reference guide who could look up things in the index to verify his information. I did learn a few things about scientific notation but that won't mean I'll remember tomorrow or that I could apply it.

God is laughing at me. My son reassured me that I probably won't need to use scientific notation in my daily life at any point soon. Humility. A fruit of the Holy Spirit. Probably good for a 7th grade son and his self esteem as well. He just jigged out of the room bemused at his ignorant mother.

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!