Monday, September 30, 2013

The Alma Mater Matters More than the Score

It's been a while since I allowed myself to care about Notre Dame Football. Even last year, when they were going against Alabama and lost only one game in the season, when they had Manti T'eo up for the Heisman and the crazy scandal of the girlfriend that wasn't, I just couldn't let myself enjoy it.

But I still love the darn place.

It's where my family has been for generations, Notre Dame and Saint Mary's, it's part of me, it's part of my whole family history.  I have generations of family that stayed through the end of disappointing games to sing the Alma Mater. It would finish the experience, everyone staying to the last note, one student body win or lose, rain, snow, cold or shine to sing the Alma Mater.  It comforted and it closed every game.  Here is the song.

However the new policy by Coach Kelly decreed that the football team shall not stay out on the field after a home game loss to sing.  They will only stay when they win.  Most of us didn't know about this change as last year, we didn't lose until the end and not at home until this past Saturday.

Here are the words:

Notre Dame, our Mother
Tender, strong and true
Proudly in the heavens,
Gleams the gold and blue.
Glory's mantle cloaks thee
Golden is thy fame
And our hearts forever
Praise thee, Notre Dame.
And our hearts forever,
Love thee, Notre Dame.

It is a little thing I know, but I have problems with this idea, of only belonging, of only singing, of only praying (and it is a song of prayer), when we win.  There is something to seeing all of the student body, athlete and fan, all of the alumni, all of the people in the stands, saying these words.  The song reminds everyone, fan and athlete, that the University stands for something far greater, far more achingly beautiful than football and winning.  As a member of the Notre Dame/Saint Mary's community, and as a fan of both the university and the football team, I protest, this is forgetting what Notre Dame is to be about,
in favor of what the world thinks when it sees Notre Dame.

And if I were a member of the Notre Dame Football team, I'd protest by staying after every game and singing, as loudly as possible with the student body, because the world doesn't need an undefeated football team (good thing this year too), as much as it needs a humble witness that win lose or draw, we are ND and thus, we honor Mary first.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

7 Quick Takes

1. If I didn't have these ten people to take care of, I'd hang out at the beauty parlor all day. Not because I want to get my hair done.  There are lots of testimonies in the history of this blog to prove I absolutely hate sitting still with someone fussing on my hair for hours at a time.  After twenty minutes, I'm ready to bolt.  However, I do love listening to the stories that seem to get told only at the hair salon.  Today, I took my daughter who had a day off to get her hair trimmed. She was traumatized that her hair was cut an inch --I wanted two or three, one was a compromise. Lou was a stroke victim and came here once a week to get her hair done. She was driven by her husband of 25 years.  She said he asked her to wait for him while he went to college. She said no and married someone else.  When that first marriage failed, he sought her out again.  She talked about how he cooks and drives her everywhere and there he was, sitting at the front of the store, waiting for his bride.   In this day when so many stories told on the news and everywhere else reveal a dearth of patience, a simple timeless holding on to each other (she was 84 this August), sounds wondrous.  Yes my brain went to Penelope too.

2. I never liked Aesop.

No one ever came out happy, only even.  But I read those fables over and over again.  One I really disliked was the story of the bat, who in the war between the beasts and birds refused to commit to either side and thus was shunned by both when peace broke out.  It reminded me of the reading about being lukewarm, neither hot nor cold gets spit out.  As a not self published author of an e-book, I'm neither bird nor beast.  The bookstores will host you if you are self published, or if you have a hard copy from a small publishing company, but absent a tangible book to put in their hands, it's like a virtual accomplishment in their eyes.  Sigh.

On the bright side, my inner monologue says in response, "I'm Batman."

3. Our National Discourse

We've come to a point and I blame Facebook, Twitter and other social media including com boxes, that whole scale dismissal of discussion based on political alignment substitutes for reasoned debate.  Recently I had to leave a facebook group that asked me to join after being subjected to constant group think that explained how all those who disagree with the existing law must be either backwater uneducated FAUX watching idiots or mind numbed capitalists who would return us to a nation of slave holders in an instant if the law allowed.  They also mocked all who hold faith as being authentic and real, those who are pro-life, and those who It is possible to disagree with the implementation of Obamacare without being someone who desires that the poor die, the sick get sicker, and insurance companies insulate their insulation with one thousand dollar bills and burn the smaller stuff for fuel and kicks.  

It is possible to say, this does not cover the people it was designed to cover, it makes hard demands on small businesses, and why should the public be forced to do something Congress and those who are friends with Congress can opt out of, without being declared an uneducated maggot who deserves to suffer.

The other day, some folks who clearly think the world of the existing plan that goes into effect in three days, declared that those who oppose it ought to be killed.   They then said, "Just kidding."  No.

Rationalizing cruelty isn't allowed.  You can't pretend that all things you disagree with are offensive to the point of needing to be silenced lest someone suffer emotional injury, and then hurl vile threats at the opposition and say, "Can't you take a joke?"

There is no excuse for rudeness or malice, ever on either side.

4.  How's Helen doing?  

Well, she's published. She's sold at least 18 copies via Amazon since August 20th.  I don't know about the 11 days before then, as I didn't have a counter on my book.  I also don't know about the I bookstore or the Barnes and Noble Bookstore.   I know I've sold more, but I also know now it is up to word of mouth at least until I write another book and/or Helen comes out as a book, not merely an e-book.   Yes I believe that will happen in the coming year.  Yes I'm writing Penelope.  This past week, I added 1.6 k, which while professional writers put out five times that in a week, is good progress for me.  

5.  Why's Penelope taking so long?

First, I had to shake off Helen. She's a tough one to let go of, she's dominated my brain for so long, it makes it hard to readjust, her voice is easy to me.  Penelope had to be more contemplative, more pensive in nature, and arguably, less charismatic but at the same time innately noble, fundamentally determined to be good even at great cost.   Second, the primary and secondary sources for Helen were rich and multi-faceted. The primary and secondary sources for Penelope, much more limited.  So I've had to really marinate in the readings and writings, and that takes time.  Third, and this will sound odd, the second book is harder.  Why? Because now, I have a yardstick.

6. How did we manage before now?

One thing I'm always struck by, is how much the people who came before us managed without the benefit of all we have today.  The books they wrote and read, the ability to draw upon that wealth of knowledge absent google indicated extraordinary base information and capacity to apply it.  It seems today, we write a million times a million more words, but we understand each other and the ideas of history and policy, philosophy and ethics less and less as a culture.  How can we hold the whole of the world at our fingertips and never want to leave our own personal sand boxes where we hold court?  How is it that we now have a society that shouts down anyone who disagrees?

7.  What am I reading?  Rock Bottom Blessings, The Odyssey and Writing Story.   Why am I reading three books?  Because I am disorganized, so I read whichever of the three I find when I snatch a few minutes to feed the brain.   If I can't find any of the three, I'll start reading a fourth.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Small Success Thursday

Today is small success Thursday so it's the day to count blessings and examine the day, the week, all of it for whatever would get lost in the business of life.  

1) I'm grateful for the little nags of family and friends, that made me schedule  4 doctor appointments today. It is a victory over "I'll-get-to-it-itis."

2) Paul has gone to try to potty train three times in two days.  This is huge progress.

3) The woman who cuts my kids' hair. She's beautiful, she's brave and she's brilliant.  She is a hidden person, the world would see a beautician.  She's kind and it isn't service based kindness, it is a kindness born of having witnessed and endured real evil as matter of fact in every day such that she values simple goodness in the smallest of things in the every day. 

4) Friends at Saint Martin's, who constantly remind me what a pleasure it is to be in their company, whether while wrestling toddlers in the hallway during cub scouts, or when I'm making an additional stop at the school to pick up missing text books. 

5) Unexpected mail.  Peter got some beautiful shirts.  Paul got birthday clothes and toys that make his heart sing.  

6) Picking up Paul from the bus.  I was running down the driveway to get to him.  He saw me, put his arms out and ran the 50 yards with arms up out and with a full smile. Everyone should be so greeted, it's hard not to grin just remembering it. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Hot Cross Buns, Thaw of the Chicken, All is Grace

ThismorningIhadtogetupatsixtomake8lunches, 10 breakfasts and get everyone who somehow forgot to lay out their clothes last night to have what they needed to get dressed for school before taking 7 in the car to go drop off and not forget the three band instruments or coats because it was chilly before coming back to tell the bus driver Paul wouldn't be going to school today.  Why? Because we had to get an oil change on the car (last time pre-Disney trip) and then drive to College Park so we could pick up the oldest and take him to the Board of Education for 20 minutes where he could pay 7 dollars to get his fingerprinted for going to observe in a classroom as part of his classwork. 

Now I don't have a GPS.  So naturally, I got lost.  Twice.  Before getting to my son.  Then we scrambled to grab lunch and get him back to the campus so I could drive back home.  Traffic was bad so I had to dead reckon but when that didn't work I called my oldest son and had him GPS me back onto the right road.  My second son developed an eye twitch so he was scheduled to get that checked.  Against all odds, we made it to the doctor's for the blood work, we hope it's just a vitamin deficiency or a relic of a silent strep.   The daughter I thought was staying late after school didn't  have to, but did need a pick up.   That worked out as I could let her babysit while I drove to drop off dinner for a friend's family (I'd promised) and then pick up the kids from band and my other daughter who did have to stay late, from the metro.

Issuing a ruling that no matter how much you love music, you cannot practice the trombone inside the car, whether parked or moving, proved difficult to enforce when the violator is in the back row. He's figured out a way to be diligent, seemingly virtuous and annoy his siblings at the same time.  My oldest daughter wants more food because her lunch was light. Running through the drive thru, we get two bean burritos and I issue a ruling about a fight namely that I value peace over justice and therefore want silence rather than fights over who can read aloud in the car.  I get home and my second son scolds me for not picking them up earlier so he could run.  Mind you, he's still going to run, it's just later than he would PREFER to run.  To teach me a lesson, he wears his gorilla mask to scare my youngest two while I'm handing out snack.  He misses out on snack.  I remember that it is another friend's birthday.  Jot down a note to bring by card and present. 

As I sit typing while the beans and rice are cooking and consoling my son who got told his trombone playing on the first day sounds like what a older brother would say a younger brother's first day of trombone sounds like, the weight of everything starts to crash in on me.  But the day is saved as my youngest son stops everyone in their tracks by voluntarily going into the bathroom. It is the first time he has initiated toilet training.  The momentary bliss shatters as the timer goes off, the toddler not in the bathroom objects to Mommy being out of sight, and there is a battle over the computer.   The six year old wants to play starfall, the seven year old, ABC mouse, the 9 year old, Cool Math games.  All three want educational enrichment, what's the Solomon Mom ruling in this case?  GO READ A BOOK!

My second daughter returns from her run. I'm thinking, I understand the appeal of running, of being by yourself, unreachable for 20 minutes. Then I remember how much I hate the feeling of my feet to the pavement.  Still, it's a day when the idea of jogging seems somehow preferable to the speed of life. 

My third son proclaims after practicing his first 20 minutes that the Trombone is the greatest instrument in the world.  For him, life right now is perfect.  My six year old devolves into tears at a check minus as we go over her homework folder.  The five year old sees the folded laundry in the living room and begins moving the baskets. He's decided it is his task.  Since he cannot do it alone, the others follow to assist.  Peace reasserts itself.  Moods shift in our home like the tides.

Then I go back to my friend who is only a week a widow.  She is still moving.  Despite death being so near, life did not stop for her either.  It just is.  Pain, big and small, struggles, grand and minute, and still, there are meals and errands and homework and noise that must be endured, must be done with something more than tolerance.  As I see her, she is a rock of grace. She does not run from having to be a rock.

There are days when the only reason I'm still moving is somehow, someone somewhere said the rosary for me.  It is all grace, the grace of the busy, of the still, of the mourning and the everyday, of the allness of how life seems to need to stop and yet keeps going. It is a profound severe mercy, a profound severe mercy to be alive and to go about the business of living with all of its humor and silliness and pain and mundaneness and important things all mushed together.  People say all is grace and the reality of life is, all of this running about and living is grace; all of the seasons, all of the sufferings, all of the everything, even the messiest of parts that include children scrambling to fight over stairs and gorilla masks and donuts, bills and insurance and homework.   It's just, we lack the eyes to see clearly, all the gifts of every day because we are so busy trying to go on living, without realizing the great grace that is life.

Friday, September 20, 2013

7 Quick Takes and Small Successes Mushed Together

1. Yesterday's Small Successes

We got through the week.  Some weeks, that's sufficient.  To watch my friend and her family go through this impossible process, it was a portrait in courage to see them walk up the aisle, arm in arm, holding together.  The mass was beautiful. The attendance, astounding.  There is  clichĂ© about how when you reach Heaven, you will be asked one question,  "How many did you bring?"  A packed church with people standing on the steps outside five steps deep on all three sides pouring in and pouring in and pouring in for a mass says something about the man being remembered. It's a good answer. 

2.  What Am I Doing? 

Writing a lot of drafts that get saved and forgotten, that's what.  Not everything that pops into my head is worth sharing, blogging sometimes forgets that little fact in favor of putting something on the page.  The temptation with self publishing (blogging for example) is to ignore the little voice, too much information, and to listen to the nag, Put something there!   Blogging can become like putting the obligatory vegetable on the plate that no one eats.  You don't want writing to be so unappealing.  You want these words to be like gems, sparkling, calling you to notice some cut of the world that otherwise would not be seen.  So I'm writing more on paper, less on the computer.  (Having 4 kids who need the machines does that too). 

3.  What am I working on?

I hope to write The Book of Penelope and make her into someone you care about in a deeper way than Helen demanded, and to flesh out the world of Ithaca in a way I kept Sparta and Rhodes at  a distance.   I hope to learn how to craft the scenes so you get the fuller picture of the rooms and the tables, the rocks and the trees, the meals and the air, the sky and the stupid dog that lives by the dock.  I also hope by the time you leave on the ship at the end, you know the people of Ithaca the way you know your own home, having lived in it and seen it when it was pristine and when it was a pure mess and all the points in between and have both a sense of the place's people's promise and flaws. 

4.  What am I reading?

Sarah Reinhard recommended a book in her Catholic mom non obligatory book club and so far, she's batting 1000 so I thought I'd try the latest, Rock Bottom Blessings by Karen Beattie.  It is very readable and at the same time, I can put it down and pick it up without being lost --something very necessary in a book for me with my scattered brain.  Thus far, it is just a beautiful work.

5.  What else are you up to?   I'm praying the rosary, sometimes getting through all of it, sometimes not.  I'm trying to keep the second oldest upbeat as she applies for colleges and manages all of her work, keep the sophomore communicating as she gets deeper into teenage life and drama club and homecoming and school, trying to get the 8th grader not to stress out as he applies for high school, manages the harder material of 8th grade, the spiritual work of preparing for confirmation and the hardest process of all, being 14 and growing up.  There is in my opinion, no harder age to be.   I'm also trying to keep the 11 year old jogging and working and staying organized, three things I stink at, the 9 year old from growing up too soon, the 7 year old from being frustrated with reading, the 6 year old from being embarrassed that she reads too well by comparison, the 5 year old to consider potty training and at the same time, not consider the bathroom a room to hang out in, and the 2 year old to understand just because she says "No." doesn't mean it's law.  And then there's the laundry and sleep. nothing much out of the ordinary.  

6. What are you thankful for?  My friends.  All of them.  All the people I see in passing, but who smile, all the people I know from years past and in recent weeks, phone calls, families that greet us because they know one of the ten, families that we've known for years, moms who sit at a table in Gaithersburg and laugh with each other until everyone aches as though this is what we've always done, but we were just deciding to go get coffee to pass the time of a party, and it turned into something special.   Date nights. Teachers who are more than teachers and always have been. Children who do dishes unasked, and those who give hugs unsolicited.  The shy smile of a son that flowers into a full beam when pizza shows up.  The full throated singing of three children after bedtime to a song on the radio, oblivious to the hour.   Seventeen birds eating seed on the lawn and a yearling that ran away when I drove up.   Bus drivers that smile and wave when they drive by and see me with my daughter waiting and waving. Brownies.  Emails from friends that say something, and a two year old that screams with delight, "Look at the star!" and I realize, she's talking about the sun in the sky.

7.  It's the weekend.   We all need a bit of a kick off.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Over at Patheos Today!

I have a piece on Patheos today discussing Down Syndrome, research for a cure, and what losing the witness of people like my son Paul, might make harder to see.   Today is my son's fifth birthday.  So I'm also linking up older Paul posts that people might like. 

From the Catholic Standard, Baby Paul's Heart and Ours.

"Kids Like Paul" which ran at New Advent as well.

His 100%. and The Very Necessariness of Everyone come from my blog.

and then,
The Everyday I Love You is also at Patheos.

Paul is the inspiration for a lot of writing and praying and playing.  But since all of these give you where's my tissue type moments, let me close with something more up tempo.   We gave Paul and electric musical tooth brush.  He loves it.  For ten straight minutes, he played it, brushed his teeth and jumped up and down.  We thought it was a one time response but each time, it's ten minutes, jumping, pure joy.  So one thing I do now know from all of this, his teeth are sparkling white and he'll be in fighting shape and fitting trim before the batteries give out.

Happy Birthday Paul!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Sunday Counsel

This Saturday seemed so ordinary until it wasn't.

A friend lost her husband to a heart attack, and we are all reminded, that the time we have today may not be there tomorrow.  We spend minutes like water, spilling time everywhere and for no particular reason.  The most unreal of hard realities, where we discover the hard grace of our faith, is at the foot of the cross, whether for ourselves or witnessing through the great depth of feeling and pain of another. 

Food, hugs, prayer, presence, organization, everything feels so inadequate, because it is.  We cannot fill the hole left in the world by the absence of one who was deeply loved.  So today, do not seize the day, but hold the people in your day.  The day itself is not to be an accomplishment, a trophy for your memory, the people are.  Today, give your time to others who need to be fed, hugged, encouraged, played with, celebrated, healed, helped, listened to, watched, clothed, sung with and shared with, the activity is not relevant.  What will make today a memory to recall at the table 20 years from now, will be the astounding connection made by presence.  It is not easy, it is a grace we must receive and surrender.  

So take Sunday, and indeed, all the days of the week, and pour out your time lavishly on the people around you. Waste time with them, time you could be spending doing laundry or checking emails or reading blogs.  Because time is the only thing we have to give, and honestly, spending your time measured in paperwork and mated socks, is time lost with those who crave your time most of all. 

Pray for my friend and her family and remember to spend unstructured, undemanded time with those you value, because it is the gift that will be most remembered, when some Saturday in the future starts out ordinary, and then isn't.  

Friday, September 13, 2013

Small Success Thursday Grace Abounds, Grace Accepted

You knew this would happen right?  I'd get to my intended blog post a day later?

So, what am I grateful for today.  I'm grateful for grace, which pours in every day whether we will it or not, but in greater abundance when we do, and for the amazing power of prayer, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, who orchestrates everything toward our good if we let Him.

Yesterday, I read a story by a writer friend. In it, she bared her soul, sins and all, revealing the deep scars of grave evil done against her during her lifetime.  It took tremendous courage to write, and even more so, to share with a friend she knows only on the Internet.  I wept.  I wept for her and for all those broken lives that intersected, all of that pain that seemed so unnecessary.  But her story helped me recognize how I needed to help one child in particular.

That evening, my son was struggling with what I call setting emotional fires. He goes from sibling to sibling, in sort of a hit and run fashion, upsetting them in whatever they are doing, and then bounding out to another and being exceptionally nice so as to pretend what he did before means nothing.  I went into his room to settle him.  He was reading a piece, "How to Know What is Right and What is Wrong?" for class.  I pointed this irony out to him.  "It's just homework." he said.  I decided since he had taken me from my work and destroyed peace, he should do some of my work while I restored it.  "Go vacuum the floor in the kitchen since I'm not doing that right now." I said.  He refused.  I explained, "This is your consequence for upsetting everyone.  You have damaged the family and taken away time, so you have to give some."  "After my homework."  "Now." "After I read this."  "No. You're going to go live this." and I pointed to the paper.  To his credit, within five minutes, he went down and used the shop vac and the kitchen floor was clean.   But it took a lot of energy to manage.

Today, once again, he was angry.  Today is a mass day at school and everyone has to wear button down shirts. I'd laid out shirts for all of my children, all the clothing they needed to get ready because mass days are harder with the ties and the vests and the like.  He saw that his brother had a short sleeved button down shirt.  He felt outraged.  "That's my shirt!" he screamed.  It used to be.  He started to demand his brother take it off, but I stepped in.  "We don't have time for him to hunt for a new shirt. We need to get ready for school. He's dressed. Let it be."

Well, that was too much. He promised to wreck his brother's room.  He said words that hurt, words that destroy, and it is my great temptation when this sort of thing happens, to fight back word for word.  His hot headedness comes from somewhere, I see it, me.

We've been working on respect.  We've been working on learning that respect matters.  Somehow, the grace came to not explode.  I told him to go upstairs and he could not ride with us to school if he did not apologize.  He tried ratcheting up the ugliness.  He tried going into his brother's room but I got in there and so he went to his own room.  Mercifully, we got everyone else to the car.  He was lurking behind a bush in the front, looking shocked and lost.  My poor lost sheep.  My poor angry son who sometimes acts like a wolf and then finds, he doesn't like where he's driven himself or anyone else.  I go inside to get a diet coke and impulsively left a note on his backpack.  "Dear son, There is no reason to rage.  I love you.  Love, Mom"  Outside, I see him still over staring at the van.

 "Do you want to come?" I asked.  He went inside to get his things.

Mentally I sit there wondering as he wordlessly gets in the car and sits in the far back row, should I have left him? I know he would have raged again at abandonment. We say prayers every day in the car.  Normally, I lead and each kid says one on their own. Today, I'm praying them all.  I don't even ask him to pray it, I just say his prayer, the prayer of Saint Francis as slowly and as deliberately as I can.  We finish with asking our patron saints to pray for us, and I do every one's saints plus a few more and put on classical music afterwards.  The rest of the car is happily chatting.  I am trembling and praying and begging God for my son, for softness, for something.   We get to the school.  "I'm sorry John for calling you ...." and "I'm sorry Mom for..." It's very quiet. It's very soft.  Honestly, joy broke over me like water.  I'd been saying good bye to each of them.   Then I noticed, he forgot his lunch.

So I drive away stunned by the miracle of his apology. Stunned and grateful, but the ego trips in, "I can't believe that worked!" and then I realize, I did nothing. "You're right. You're right. You're right.  I said to God, you did that. It was all you. It was all you. It was all you." and laughed all the way home to pick up his lunch.  Grace abounds.  Cooperating with grace leads to more grace.  Cooperating with grace leads to more grace leads to miracles.   You'd think I'd have learned this by now, but I'm usually running a bit behind on the messages God whispers in every action.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

If You Want the Job of Mom...

Attention children.  It has come to our attention that many of you believe you have a keener understanding of what might be necessary to raise all of your siblings safely to adulthood.  You have generously offered your opinions on dinner, discipline, homework, bedtime policies, seating arrangements, errands to be run and budgeting.  As such, I wish to let you know that all serious candidates for the position shall be given an interview to act as surrogate parent in the event I need a break.  Please fill out the following application and submit it along with a resume, signed affidavit indicating you know the position is strictly voluntary and not compensated monetarily, and waiver for all injuries, illnesses or poor academic performance resulting from limited hours for adequate rest.

1. Two children want the same cookie.  Both are snarling at the other and threatening bodily harm.  Without eating the cookie, solve the problem.  Explain your method.  ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
2. After resolving said issue, same two children engage in a silent war during homework.  Establish peace while ensuring all assignments are completed correctly by the correct individuals.  ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
3. It's bed time.  Estimate the time needed to get all under the age of 12 to be cleaned up, brushed, dressed for bed and lights out.  Bonus if you can work this magic under five hours without resorting to threats of serious parental carnage.   ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
4.  There are 11 miles from the school to home.  Without resorting to the drive-thru, get all of them home without a fight.  (Hint: You can make more than one trip).  ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
5. No one likes dinner.  You:
      a) make them eat it anyway.
      b) offer cold cereal until you discover, we're out of milk.
      c) make a new dinner.
      d) start bedtime routine.
      e) order pizza for yourself
      f) more than one of the above.
      g) none of the above.  Threaten all with dish duty who don't eat.

6.  There is a fight over socks. Resolve without bloodshed.

Applicants should also submit themselves to a rigorous physical test involving the carting of several large stubborn oxen up three flights of stairs, washing six cats and dressing 17 chickens in school mass uniforms in addition to loading the car with backpacks and making 7 lunches.  They should all be in the van in car seats. The test starts at 5:45 and is over at 7:50. If you've not made it to school by then with all dressed, in tow and with all necessary equipment, repeat the process each day until you do.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

What We Do Not Dare Pray

For the past few years, my father has suffered from Alzheimer's.  On Thursday, he had seizures and took a turn for the worse.  My mother watched and waited as he mostly slept.  My husband researched flight schedules and we talked about the impossibleness of it all.

"I want stupid things." I said.  "I pray stupid things."  I said.  "I feel stupid."  I asked for Dad to be healed. And the grace to deal with the prospect of his death. I asked for somehow all of us to go to the funeral when it happened whenever that would be. I asked for 1000 different things during my rosary and subsequent lapses into grief driven prayer that were preemptive grieving for my dad's continuing to die slowly.  I cried.  I ate. I cried. I walked around.  I cried.  I prayed.  I complained we didn't have enough chocolate in the house.  I cried and cried and felt mad that I was crying.  My dad's not dead. He's dying.  My dad's not gone. He's sleeping a lot.  I felt it keenly. He'd been two days without eating, without really waking up to eat.

My grandmother went ten.  We're stupid hardy that way.  The whole day felt like drifting, waiting for news, hoping for no news, not knowing what to pray, praying anyway.

This morning, I still felt as if my gut had been kicked in, but we got up and went to mass.  Afterwards, we stopped for bagels, I got an eclair and ate it all.  We got a text message from my mom.

He woke up. He talked.  He ate a yogurt, 1/2 a banana and drank a whole glass of milk.

I didn't know how heavy the truck was until it was lifted.  None of my prayers were answered, a better one was.

I still know he is dying, but I'm so glad he is alive today.  It was a reminder to me, to pray for what we really want, and to be willing to dig deep enough to know what that is, and to ask. Never cease daring to ask.  Ours is a God of Infinite Love and capacity.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Small Success Thursday

Today, it's Thursday and so it's time to stop and count blessings. 

I'm grateful for those in the writing/blogging community that have offered me their support, opened their forums/venues to review/promote my book, and who have provided advice and encouragement in this stage of a writer's life, after the book is published.   Special call out to Lisa Hendey over at, Adam Scull at, the guys over at, and all the folks at  All of them helped push me to write and keep writing and to promote and keep working at offering Helen to the world and I am grateful for their help. 

I'm also very grateful for several of my daughters, who through their own struggles and frustrations, have lead me to recognize some areas of my own life that need addressing.  Becoming a more generous spirit is an act of the will.  I suffer from the flaw of feeling like "I've given" when I get to 4:30, about the time homework is started.  They've helped me to face this less than beautiful fact about myself with more grace than left alone I would.  Let's face it, absent having to address it, I wouldn't. 

We are repeating over and over again, Progress, not perfection.  It works for most everything.

It's rather like how as a young adult, I was a terrible sport in games. I hated not winning.  I hated playing poorly.  Rather than reveal this ugliness, I chose not to play cards or games.  However, that simply meant the flaw was hidden, not removed.  Thankfully, my husband and children love playing games so I get to work on this particular issue with great regularity.  I wish I could say 29 years of games/cards with my then boyfriend/fiancĂ©, then husband cured this flaw, it's still a work in progress.  Less so than before, but certainly not yet gone.    

Holding onto being grateful for progress and not demanding perfection keeps me from despairing that we're not done yet. 

I'm also grateful for the immediate gift of answered prayers.  Most of you know I participated in the Lawn Chair Catechism. You finish a summer of reading and writing and thinking about intentional discipleship and it forces the question, "What do you want of me Lord?" I asked. 

But the pull had already been being placed in my heart and mind.  These past few months, I hear people speaking on Catholic radio, I listen to talks online and I think, "I could do that. I want to do that. Why aren't I doing that?"  Today, I saw a call out for speakers about writing and Catholicism and fiction and I threw my hat into the ring.  Yesterday, I ran into the former DRE of our Parish and told her about Sherry Wendell's book, Forming Intentional Disciples and she jumped at the idea.  She mentioned the New Evangelization and impulsively, I said, I want to be part of it.  The Holy Spirit always works impulsively with me, and I knew as soon as I'd said yes in both cases, this was what I should be doing next.  I still don't know what either will mean, but I mean to find out. 

And finally, today I'm grateful for my cousins and Aunts and Uncles and for my parents' friends who live near my mom and dad, and who come to visit him and eat lunch with my mom and give them the gift of being present.  It is a great corporeal act of mercy and it feeds not just them, but me because I am so grateful they are, so grateful they come, so grateful they give this gift of time.  It is very moving to me.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Things that Scare Mom

We've been watching Dr. Who lately and I admit, the weeping angels are pretty darn creepy.  However nothing compares with the following list of truly frightening things that make me break out in a cold sweat, things that make Moms wake shivering in sheer terror, things that make a grown woman cry and think of running away. 

10) Scarier than a chainsaw in the middle of a dark forest when you've gotten yourself lost is the phone call at 10 a.m.  "Mommmmmm....I forgot my homework. It's on the kitchen table and the teacher said she'd give me full credit if I got it to her today before the end of school. She leaves exactly at 2:45 so you'll have to come early if I'm to get it." 

9) Slightly less unnerving, more akin to the startle you get when the Horror film fakes you out with a friend knocking urgently at the door while the creepy music heats up, is the conversation on the ride home, usually just after the last convenient turn around point, "Mommmmm?  I don't have the right book for my assignment."  Either you turn around the car or you are the worst mother ever and the kid gets a bad grade. There is no win in this scenario. 

8)  "That's  MY SOCK!"  or any sentence that includes the word MY and an article of clothing during the rush of the morning, it means 1) a fight will ensue 2) at least one child is missing said article of clothing or this would not have been noticed and 3) probably both.  Bonus: The dryer probably has the missing item. It's also probably still wet. 

7)  From the Kitchen of the Damned if you do...the terrifying I don't like (insert whatever I've fixed for lunch or breakfast here).

6) Sequel, from the Kitchen of the Damned if you Don't, "There's nothing to eat!" that doesn't involve cooking and doing dishes.

5) Night of the Living Bed: Child zombies never stay down.  You get them water. You tell them good night. You turn off the lights.  And after 9, you still can hear them out there, whispering, searching for a way to get up and come down stairs.

4) The Mummy and the curse of the Tired.  They won't go to bed. You can't go to bed.  You go to bed and get awakened by the things that won't sleep, which means you won't sleep, but in the morning, they rest and you have the others who slept through the night to deal with.  They expect you to put your game face on and get going.  All I know is I'm not sure I should be operating heavy machinery. 

3) The Required:  It doesn't matter who it is or when it is due or why, there is always some impossible to locate object or material that a kid can't do without, which necessitates a separate sojourn by the mother to locate said required thing. If you don't find it, the kid flunks. If you do find it, someone else will have been unable to and have found a much better cheaper soon to be the permanent alternative replacement that shall now be The Required. 

2) Lost Notes:  In the instant communication age we live in, not having read the email means being in a permanent fog, as you never have a chance to go back and peruse the material. Who reads last week's emails? As a result, lost emails means intellectual oblivion with respect to whatever is going on, and that means, you probably will miss the key thing you shouldn't miss and the required material for the key thing you shouldn't miss. 

1) The lost shoe....just one shoe....the horror.  Give me a weeping angel any day.

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