Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Lawn Chair Catechism, Week One

Welcome to the first session of Lawn Chair Catechism.  I've included the link to Sarah Reinhard's piece over at Catholic Mom.  I downloaded the book for my PC and will be participating.  I loved the questions. 


How would I describe my lived relationship with God to this point in my life?

It is amazing to me how that question led to such a quiet yet familiar place.  He has always been there. I have at my fingertips, 1000 miracles, 1000 moments where I knew God loved me for me, no matter how stupid, foolish, arrogant, lazy, disorganized, mad or ignorant I was.  I could list times when I've howled to God, and times when I've begged, and times when I've felt His presence and known that prayers have been answered.  How would I describe my lived relationship with God to this point in my life?  I have been heavily courted, lavishly showered with grace, all to show me that all He requires is my obedience and my gift of trust in Him.  God has knocked every day, every moment of every hour.   Sometimes, I have opened my heart.   Sometimes, I have not. 

But whenever I've talked to God the Father, He has answered. He is faithful. He is listening. He is ever loving and always generous. It is hard not to sound rhapsodic.  The darkest and most unhappy I have ever been, God has been there, I was not alone. 

My relationship with Jesus has always needed more work. I love His words and I love the Eucharist, but I often feel I keep Christ at more of a distance than I do God the Father.  I hesitate in prayers directly to Jesus.  It is here that my relationship with God reveals its brokenness. Over the years, meditation on the Rosary has helped to pull me further in, but I need all the help of all the mysteries to become more familiar with Mary's son.  

The Holy Spirit and I have always been deep friends.  I wear a medal that is a replica of the one I received back in 1974 when my tracheonomy was removed.  The Holy Spirit I have always loved and felt, I knew something of this Great Advocate. I remember my Confirmation, I wanted to feel the whoosh of being given that grace. I didn't feel it, but I knew it anyway. However, because I always felt familiar with the Holy Spirit, I did not until recently begin to seriously study what the gifts of the Pentecost mean, what being on fire with the Holy Spirit does to the soul.  But I'm perpetually reminded that an organic relationship with anyone is insufficient to develop it into a deeper one, ergo I need to go beyond simply sending up a Hail Mary or a prayer when I need something or feel something deeply. 

Thus I am starting to recognize, we are always at baseline, for coming to know God is diving into the mystery of perfect love, of infinite love, and that is an inexhaustible relationship that will always draw us deeper. All acts in conformity with God's will are deliberate.  Thus, we can never become accidental saints.  I need to start being deliberate in relationship with God, out of love for God, rather than have to have life constantly remind me I need to pray or I need to talk to God or I need to act out of love to others. 

What does the word “discipleship” mean to you?  Do you perceive a need in the Church today to help lay Catholics become more fervent followers of Jesus Christ?

Discipleship means more than friend and more than follower. To me, it means faithful servant, who feeds the poor, who prays and receives the sacraments frequently, and whose mission as called by God, is always to go outward, to catch more fish.  

The problem is our modern world encourages sitting, resting on our relationship with others, keeping all friendships in a permanent static level, with little shared and no suffering.  To those who seek a relationship with God, haven't you done enough? Don't you pray enough? Aren't you worried about being a fanatic? 

Yes, yes I am worried.  Because I am a fearful thing who likes to be liked but I know,
we can never serve, love, give or pray enough, nor can our hearts be satisfied with less than the infinity that is God.  God gave me ten children. There is always a need that is not yet being met. There is always a need for more love, more time, more sublimating of self.  I admittedly have a long list of times when I've essentially stomped and said, "No! I will not serve." and then been crushed until I said, "Okay."  Because God has mercifully not given up on eroding away all my stubbornness. I suspect He wants to use me as bait.

The Catholic Church needs all the members of its body to be more fervent followers of Jesus Christ.  We want to see everyone at the wedding feast, so we want no one left behind.  No one forgotten. The only way we can catch the most souls, is if we're all out there fishing.  

Where do I need to grow and go?  Always, outward, always deeper, always more than what I do, and less.  My spirit is noisy.  I have trouble listening. I like the sound of my own voice, which sometimes means I cannot hear God's whispers.  I scare away the fish with my noise.  I need to learn to be like Mary, to be still and know.  

Monday, May 27, 2013

Blogging will be light this week...


1. I'm going to a reunion at the end of this week at Saint Mary's College in Southbend, so I need to get things ready around here.

2. My book is due out soon so last minute editing/line by line is taking place. Also my editor got injured last week so she is having to take a break from things to recover.  Keep her in your prayers. 

3. I've been spending too much time on the internet playground and it is starting to injure my spirit so I'm taking a break.  

All three are good reasons. #3 the most so.  So I've got a few things lined up to keep  you amused and yes I'll still put up a post over on Facebook for Helen on Wednesday, maybe I'll cross post something I did there here.  

Here's today's link to a current piece at The Catholic Stand.  Have a great week!

Fellow Muser Interview

Suzanne di Montigny, (a fellow writer at Museitup with her own series!) has graciously offered her blog as a platform to interview other writers. Today, she interviewed me.  Please click on the link below and leave a comment on her blog. You could win a copy of The Book of Helen when it debuts!  Thank her for me, she's lovely to have done this, and check out her series, The Shadow of the Unicorn.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Spambot Saturday

Every week we dip into the archives to discover what bon mot of mine won the internet lottery...and the lucky number is December 7 of 2009

Friday, May 24, 2013

7 Quick Takes

1.  One week until Helen is due and I am a nervous wreck. I don't know if we'll make it on time. Editing and formatting take time.  I am hopeful.  But I tend to always feel like Charlie Brown about to kick the football, except I just KNOW that she's going to swipe the thing away when I get to the point of actually kicking.   I am excited. I'm proud. I'm also working on Penelope and so I'm ready to see people enjoying Helen.  I also want to see how she all comes together. I've been editing her in pieces so I want to see the whole thing, to read it from cover to cover and experience her as if I'd discovered this book instead of written it.  

2.  There are so many movies I want to see. I've seen Iron Man 3 before, we're going to Into the Darkness tonight (Can't wait can't wait can't wait!) and then there's Now You See Me. That one looks slick and cool. 

3.  I am also considering three new viewing addictions that currently are popular.  Downtown Abby, Game of Thrones...and Dr. Who.  Yes. I'm aware that they are cult phenomena, every one of them. Yes I'm aware I'm late to the party. What I'd like to know is which one should I sink my teeth into next and why.  Sell me. Give me the pitch of why I should watch whichever one you think worth watching.  

4.  Next week, I go to the reunion at Saint Mary's. I hope to walk to Notre Dame and light a candle at the grotto. I'll get to see two of my favorite teachers for lunch on Friday.  It stuns me that this was my life, my whole life only 25 years ago.  The passage of time seems like nothing, and yet there is so much that has been crammed into these past many years.  It leaves me winded. 

5.  Does anyone else feel like the razor of the world is cutting deeper these days?  For me, the news has become a daily assault on my peace and sensibilities.  I think it is why the Church gave us Pope Francis, because his exhortations to be more than a museum piece Catholic, to go out and be salt and light to the world, well we knew this, but it is so heartening, so warming to be invited.  

6.  Two kids are done with school, one has exams next week.  Then we have two weeks before everyone gets out! SUMMER!!!!!!!!I believe I love it even more than they....and I hate their summer math books more too.  I was going to equivocate on that last bit but it's true. I hate those books. Hate hate hate hate hate hate hate them.  I don't care that they are good for boosting math skills. They are evil and ruin summer that should be spent grilling, swimming, reading book after book after book, catching frogs and fireflies (not at the same time) and playing cards with your parents.   You know what's not on that list?  Math books.  There. I said it.  Bleah.

7.  There's a new post over on Facebook page for The Book of Helen.  It is an open page so anyone on Facebook can go over and read it. I would ask if you haven't yet, to please please please like the page.  My goal this week is to break 100 likes.  Next week, we'll work on getting to 200. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Prayer....Prayer Prayer Prayer....Prayer Prayer Prayer...

Yesterday I did an Internet fast.  To be fair, I also kept the radio off and TV as well, I was trying to avoid being zoned into screens as I'd found I could easily lose the day.   It had happened and made everything stressful.  So I turned it off. 

The result was when I returned to the computer, the hard slap of news felt like a razor on my finger.   It was a reminder of how fallen a world is outside of whatever we do to make things more bearable via love and sacrifice.  We are called to be witness and to take stock of each day, when we succeeded, and when we failed.  

For the past two years, I've fought (really) doing a family rosary.  I'm not sure why other than part of me goes...Sherry, your kids go to Catholic school. You take them to mass. You listen to the mass when you clean the house and already say prayers with do all this and so why in the world would you need to do more? I've answered. You don't. So I haven't.  I have told myself we do enough. I've told myself I'm turning into a crazy Church lady. I've told myself to knock it off.  I've run as far away from this as I possibly can.   Who wants this grief? It's like 66 prayers!!!!!With the kids. Are you CRAZY God?  Haven't we already taken one for the team?  People will think I'm a FANATIC...even more than they already do.   No. No. NO.  NO! NO! NO! NO!  

God, like the Godfather, does not listen to No.  He sends whales to swallow up prophets who say no. (Talk about sleeping with the fishes).  

In my case, he sends people with their stories. The hairdresser when I get 4 their badly needed grooming for the spring show, the clerk at the grocery when I'm checking out, the woman in front of me getting her groceries, everywhere I go, I cannot escape.  I hear of one mother and her story is not one I can tell, but it is of remarkable courage. I hear of another, who is desperately afraid.  They amass, they cry out. They ask for prayers.  They ask me personally to pray. I don't know how they know to ask me, I'm not wearing a badge..."Ask Me about Talking to God."  So I keep trying to keep it private. I'll pray for them, myself.   I don't have time to do this with everyone else.  I have to drive.  I have to manage them....I have to multi-task.  

God says, "No.  Be quiet. Be still."
I don't realize how much I want that in my life.

The kids get in but there are the ordinary squabbles about who took whose seat and who brought a toy they shouldn't.  There is the tattle from an older one playing the role of virtue child that "these kids are fighting in the car." She neglects to reveal her own contribution to the escalation in hostilities.  I want peace.   I want quiet.  How can I get peace here...and quiet?  How can I get them to pray?  They're going to push me away if I do this...I'm afraid...I don't want to....and there is this push.  Please... please do this.  He is worse than my children and they get me to knuckle under all the time. 

So Monday, I took a deep breath and told the kids in the car that we would do this on the road.  Just a decade. Yeah. There were the oh-no-Mom's-making-us-do-this sounds from an expected few. But we talked about how we had a lot of people to pray for and once they remembered these other people,  they willingly did a decade on route to school.  On the way back home, we did another.  It was oddly...painless.  I'd love to tell you there was peace in our home but that would preclude the incident of me moving the one critical paper my son needed to write a report he'd put off all weekend that was due the next day and that he couldn't do except on the desk computer which his sister was using to study for exams because that was the one he liked such that it was now 11 pm and no paper had been typed so would I please do it, and that resulted in a Mom rant about using whatever computer is available that may require me to seek absolution. I did the penance though.  I did type it up.  

Tuesday, the kids started it and there was a fight as some people felt others were HOGGING the petitions. I pointed out if we do the whole rosary, there are at least 50 opportunities and we can always do more than one request per prayer.  I also pointed out that it took true dedication to the craft (of fighting), to figure out how to engage in warfare in the midst of saying the rosary.   

To which one of the daughters engaged in the verbal struggle to hold the spotlight answered, "Nice."  

Wednesday, when someone balked a bit, I reminded them that prayer is an active act of the will.  They couldn't argue.  I started. They chimed in.  It was already habit.  To School. 2.  From School, 1.  To School again...1.  Returning from school.  Last one.   We did a whole rosary.  It was anti-climatic because I still had struggles with getting people to go to bed.  No triumph, just we did it.  

Thursday.   I told them I wasn't feeling up to praying this morning.  I was in a bad mood and we were running late.   The same daughter who said "Nice." said, "Too bad for you!" and started in for me.  Her sisters and brothers followed suit.  It is hard to resist such a wave of grace.  It makes you wonder why you did.  But I can look back and know I spent a lot of energy resisting, throwing up a whole ocean of reasons why not....but listening to the news, I can see a million more oceans of reasons why the answer should be yes.   All I could think was imagine what the news of the world could be...and start praying.    

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Little Extra Miracles of Every Day

Paul is four and a half. Words still mostly elude him.  He has good and bad days at school, so I get reports that he signed sandwich and cookie and said book and more and stop and days he dumped the shelf full of toys and pinned his best friend after chasing him into the boy's bathroom. 

Home is similarly conflicted.  There are days that begin with Paul taking out the skim milk and a sippy cup and lid to bring them to me while I'm getting dressed for the day because at 5:55 a.m, he's feeling a mite thirsty.  He's also taught his younger sister to climb up on the table with him and together bang out a clarion call for attention and more importantly, food.   We've discovered Paul putting three discs in the Wii.  He's also known  to try kick off his socks and shoes as soon as he sees the bus pull up.  In short, there is a gleam of mischief in those blue eyes.  He knows what he does and also knows how to use his disability to cloak his deliberate misbehavior.  Fortunately, his siblings have learned from his father and me, Down's syndrome is not an excuse.   It is not a get out of trouble free card.  If he dumps the book shelf, he gets to put it back together. If he scatters the muffin, he gets time out and no more muffin.  If he bites his sister, he gets removed from the room.  He howls like any four year old when justice is administered.  

But with those bad days, there are the momentary miracles, when we get to see Paul.  It has become his habit, after brushing his teeth for as long as we will tolerate (man does he love his One Direction playing electric toothbrush), to climb onto our bed and watch a bit of baseball with his dad.  Yesterday, his father was explaining where exactly his ankle hurt and what tendons needed to be rubbed.  Before I could move, Paul scooted down to his father's feet and began rubbing them.  It was a gift.  It was hard to do anything other than watch as a four year old son ministered to his 46 year old father's pain. It was a great moment of a little miracle, the kind we would not recognize if not for the silence he gives us most of the time.  His silence helped us see. 

Today, he did it again.  The kids were grousing about bringing up their laundry baskets.  Paul went over and picked one up and began the slow hard process of bringing one up the stairs.  Everyone watched as he moved the basket one step at a time.  It was very hard for anyone to argue afterwards about having to do the same chore.  "And a little child shall lead them..." I thought.   But his actions this morning like the other evening again revealed a listening mind and a willing heart. His body had to work to align itself with his will and his generous spirit, but that is the struggle we all have, getting that proper orientation of the will to the heart and the mind and the body to do good, to be obedient, to try for the benefit of another. 

There is a great temptation in the world to either ostracize/demonize children with disabilities --rendering them things to be discarded or destroyed or removed from society, or to sanctify them into heaven while here, to pretend they cannot sin, to make them cherubs or angels when they are what we are, humans, whose talents, like our talents, must be developed and discovered and encouraged, and whose flaws must be addressed and admonished and acknowledged.   Paul remains very human. He makes us more so.

Today he picked a dandelion, hugged his sister as if he hadn't seen her in years and came home to spend time coloring the table before I could get him paper.  He scares me by trying to run outside and out into the world and at the same time, his zeal for exploring is a reminder to me not to stay caged up at the computer.  He will compel me to play out on the grass kicking a soccer ball, to go examine the garden and to stomp in rain puddles and take walks.  Theoretically I do this for his sake, but I am made healthier and more human for it.   Likewise he will compel his siblings to work and to bring him out, and they will be made more whole in the process of introducing everything to him.

Paul's little extra does not limit his open heart or generous spirit, but his condition keeps the rest of us from placing an over emphasis on efficiency, by making us listen to the wonder of the world, of living at a slower pace than the world prescribes. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Reflections on Camping*

It is five am.  But we went to sleep by 10.

The camp site was hardened crushed gravel and dirt.  But it wasn't uncrushed gravel. 

Your sleeping bag is great, but it is still cold. 

My Achilles' tendon is still barking at me, and will be for days to come, but the three Advil I took last night helped, i think, though my back disagrees.  Totally disagrees.

A few raindrops are falling, but the birds are singing. 

Ah the magnificently contradictory joys of sleeping in a tent outdoors.

Wish you were here.  If only to help me stand up.  And thank you for the great gift of time with your puppy dog son.    Or so that I could kill you. 

Definitely kill you.  If only I could move.

*Marriage kept lively by surprise sign ups for Cub Scout overnights. 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday

1. Yes, I know I missed a lot of posts this week but I've been very busy.  Doing what? You haven't told us what you did this week in the course of posting!  Well, let's start with Monday. 

Monday, my daughter had a sports banquet to attend and there was  a cub scout meeting and that same daughter decided she needed a new outfit for the occasion about two hours before launch time.  Explaining the improbability of success did not deter.  Dropping her off, her dad came later to watch the ceremony and I rushed off to cub scouts.  I do not like evening activities away from the home.

2.  Tuesday:  My son comes to show me his shoes. They have been worn to the point of having holes. He is running 3 to 5 miles a day.  We make a run out in the evening to get shoes.  I also fold a zillion pieces of laundry.  Not fun.

3.  Wednesday: Event for me!  Tracy Beckerman launched her book, Lost in Suburbia!  She invited me and other DC bloggers to a Blow Dry Book Launch and Bar Tour.  It was loads of fun.  I met a ton of really interesting ladies and got my hair done.  Of course, I had a bit of adventure when I came out and felt like I wasn't quite sure which way my car do you lose a 12 passenger van?  I'm walking the streets of Bethesda pushing the panic alarm of my car keys hoping to get it to add to the ambiance of city life. I did eventually get my bearings and find it sans the noise maker, but it was a comic if slightly unnerving few minutes. 

4.  Thursday:  Catch up on paperwork day.  Remember there's an award ceremony in the evening. Scramble to get dinner on the table and leave.  Did make it for daughter's award. Did bring 4 year old (he looked spiffy) with me.  A woman came up to me to introduce herself.  Commented that the 4 year old must be why she didn't see me around the school given the involved nature of my daughter.  I explained he was one of 10 so I was pretty (this week excepted) homebound.  She responded, "I didn't know she was from THAT kind of a family."  Paul was playing floppy dead toddler with my arm so I decided it was time for a cookie for both of us rather than asking what "THAT" meant. 

5.  Friday: Driving to College Park to pick up son's things but not son.  (There is something wrong with this scenario).  Taking daughter who is going to a GIRL'S slumber party to a store because she doesn't have anything cute to wear.  It's a girl's slumber party! Who are you trying to impress?   What am I doing enabling this behavior?  Extortion...that's what.  The things I do to get the bribe of a cleaned basement. 

6. Other things: Made a pitch (and it was accepted) to write a piece for December Catholic Digest.  Yes, I'm doing the happy dance.

7.  Had panic attack about Helen.  We're two weeks from launch and I have come to know, I really don't know how to market/launch a book.  I've learned how to make the pitch in person, but don't know the process of selling a book.   Honestly, I'm more interested in writing the next one.  Speaking of which, found this great tree as part of the inspiration for the Book of Penelope. It's a 1,500 year old (at least) olive tree.  I've made it my screen saver.  The idea that there is a tree in Ithaca --which I had created in my mind before discovering it actually exists, just fills me with wonder. 

It seems like a perfect place to sit and feel both very alive and very short lived at the same time, a place to go and store secrets and yell at the universe when everything feels just too unbearable.  (Yes, Penelope will do all these things in this tree).  

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Wear Your Diamond Dearings Every day

Why? Because the worst thing that could happen is not that you lose them. The worst thing that could happen is you save them for a special occasion and then lose them.  Or that you don't wear them for fear they'll be lost and they grow dusty.  You lost out on all the days before they were lost when you could be wearing them and drawing pleasure from beauty.  You put the light under a bushel basket to protect it, and wind up living as if you did not have own those diamonds at all. 

Last night I learned how poorly I take a compliment. My daughter caught me doing what I almost always do when given praise.  I criticize it by pushing up against it my own less complimentary opinion of myself or my work, or I counter it by offering a return compliment to put whoever gave the kind words on a higher plane than me. Mock humility in practice to the point of becoming reflexive.

Shocked to have this moment of clarity illuminated by my 17 year old, I asked her, "How would you suggest I respond?"  She then role played to explain I should simply say "Thank you." and all that inner critic that I wanted to just let out in the moment, should be sent packing.  To not simply take the praise was to insult the giver, to refuse the gift, was to be rude.  She went on to explain that to deny what someone else said as being true for the sake of oddly enough, not allowing myself to think I looked bad, made the other person feel bad for trying to praise me. 

I looked in the mirror this morning and realized, this was all true. It wasn't all the truth of me, but there was a nut of it, stemming from never quite believing I was worthy of compliments let alone friends.  It also explained my near compulsive desire to launch into what my children refer to as my stand up routine whenever brought into contact with strangers. 

Suffice it to say, I got skewered.  New People! Time to make them laugh, appear confident, smile, laugh too loudly, it's show time folks! Impress. Dazzle.  Leave feeling high from the interaction, certain I've made a friend for life even if I never see them again.  Wonder why no one calls or emails five minutes later. They've seen this enough times to know it is not intimate, it is a mock sharing. It is shared, but it is rather like a blog, for public consumption.  

Then I sat there do we ever get over our own hang ups...does it really take to the age of 46 to even recognize a hang up?  and then...why now?  Friends are like diamond earrings and compliments.  They should be given/enjoyed daily or they will grow dusty and be lost when it comes time for a special occasion, diamond dearings to be shown and known and enjoyed.

So when  a friend called to talk about the reunion, she didn't realize she'd touched on a newly exposed vulnerability.  We both felt like the coming event seemed a little flat. That I had only a few friends coming to the college for this 25th year anniversary was the fruit of not having spent time with them since, not being present then or now, save when it fit my schedule.

Being present always means the same thing, being there for the other, and I'd spent much of college not being present at my own school. To those to whom I was close, they remain, but two are deceased.  Since then, while I form friends quickly --like creating lots of shallow roots, many of those friendships were built on shallow soil.  Others have died from a lack of tending.  Still others are there still hoping to be breathed on at some point, and then I asked. 

You'd think by now, I'd know to ask and ask often and shoot, spend the whole day asking because God never tires.  Friends. Despite ten children and a wonderful husband, great parents and in-laws, sister and brothers, sister and brother in laws, despite everything and everyone I knew, I felt lonely.  Friends God. I want friends.

My heart asked before my head understood what I was asking but I did ask. 

And God always answers.  He knows how I work too, which is good, because He can pour through that junk that I use to keep things shallow or at least, incidental. He also knows I have little patience so the phone rang almost immediately.

I wanted desperately to be the one to be there for the other for everyone else...yes that sounds very selfish and is.  Yes it was.   One of the ones I had been there for, even when it was hard, even though it might have been born of my own selfishness, was the first to call in response to my prayer.   And she set me straight.   Getting off the phone with her, I felt both exhausted and exhilarated.  

Then I called three women I like, who I would like to have as closer friends.  I have to start being the friend to the people I hope to name as such and that means, time. I sat afterwards marveling at how stupid it is that I spend so much time not recognizing the gifts put in front of me, pushing them aside like compliments.  Refusing to fully take on the gifts and the givers.  Keeping the earrings in a box.  And I'm carrying around a gong in my head, so that when the stand up lady shows up, I can bang her off the stage.  The one not putting on the show is much more interesting and it's time she stopped pretending, she didn't want to be seen. 

Oh.  And I put on my diamond earrings. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day Gifts

I love Mother's Day, especially the hand written cards from my younger children. The writing projects they do in class for this day give me a snap shot into how they perceive the world that I cannot get any other way; a holiday Rorschach of my parenting duties if you will.

For example: 

When my oldest was 4, his class did a project.  I love my mom because......fill in the blank.  There was she makes pancakes, she gives me kisses, she reads me bedtime stories.  And then, there was mine. 

I love my mom because...  

she gives me everything I want. 

Now I loved the scope of his expression, but worried I'd perhaps spoiled the lad during his formative years. I didn't want the teacher to think I indulged his every whim so I sent in oranges for snack for a  week to make sure they knew, it wasn't always the case that he got his favorite things every time all the time.  

There's always a sentence My mom likes to...

My mom likes to...this phrase just brings out the weird.  My daughter wrote go to the mall.  I think I make it there other than when I walk with a friend and this kiddo is in school, twice a year.  On said occasions, I am usually under duress as there is some important event looming and some child who is impossible to fit (or worse, me), needs a specific outfit that I cannot find.  The mall is an anethma to me but no moreso than the proposed favorite pastime watch basketball.  Not since 1994 I think, have I sat though an entire game. How said daughter thought this was my fave I'll never know.  One offspring was paying attention and wrote "write."  However another son must be visiting some alien mom because he wrote exercise.   My favorite answer is accurate, "My mom likes to dance."  Even better is the picture, she has me doing a salsa type move that makes me look far cooler than any of my actual moves have ever managed.  

Interestingly enough there was uniformity on one answer across grades;  "My mom's favorite holiday is..."  Now I love holidays but never feel like I celebrate any of them properly, I'm always too rushed, too overwhelmed or thinking of all the things I didn't get to or ruing that in an effort to make the moment memorable, I've run around crazy and spent too much money.  All of them wrote the same answer to this question, Easter.  They also all drew me in a fuchsia dress.  I started thinking. Maybe they understood that I liked the less pressure of the holiday or having everyone go to mass together and eat dinner.  However it was wasted time imagining. There was a follow up sentence.  There was uniformity on this one as well across three children. 

I like Easter because I get chocolate bunnies. In one case, because I eat their chocolate bunnies.  (After a month and her admitting she doesn't like chocolate), but the teacher doesn't know that fact. 
So now the faculty at their school might think I devour my children's candy like a strung out gluttonous maternal piranha.  Part of me frets because there is an element of truth in that appetite.
Maybe they are paying attention. Closer than I'd like.

If anyone wants me, I'll be hiding out at the mall exercising while watching basketball, not eating anyone's Easter candy.  

Friday, May 10, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday

1.  Circle of Life...

Wednesday, there was a bunny in our garage. I didn't mind it, it's cute, it's not a pet and no one is going to be fearful of going out to get a bike or a diet coke with a long eared baby ball of fluff hopping around.  

Thursday, there is a four foot long black rat snake in our garage hunting.  

Friday.  Since there was no mongoose lurking outside my door, I called the exterminators. 

2.  Because Life isn't Thrilling Enough

I also had to call 911 yesterday when I smelled gas in the kitchen. I'd relit the pilot lights, run the fans and after 15 minutes to clear the air and still having it, two huge (made my 12 passenger van look puny) fire trucks pull up and check everything out.  Everything is fine. No worries.  But it did mean the evening was semi-shot.

3.  Bummed...Bummed...Bummed. 

May was supposed to be the big movie month with Iron Man 3 and StarTrek II.  We didn't make it last week and somehow, some of the steam for going has been lost, and the reviews for the second flight of Abrams' Enterprise crew has left me feeling like it might not be worth the thirty bucks.  Has anyone seen Iron Man 3? Is it a good flick for a date night? Need to discover something to obsess over until the next season of BBC's Sherlock Holmes comes out.

4.  Facebook asks what's on my mind? Apparently too much. Paul's teacher said, "I bet you're looking forward to Sunday?" and my brain when completely into panic mode What DID I FORGET? IS THERE SOMETHING ON THE SCHEDULE THAT I FORGOT TO WRITE UP? AHHHHH   and she looked at me, "It's your day...Mother's day?" 

Ohhhhhh. Yeah. You meant me. I'm better now.

5.  What do you want to do for Mother's day?

Now that I think of it, I want to assemble the grill, have brisket or ribs or steaks, and set a plan for painting and re caulking the bathrooms.   If any of my children are reading this, I'd also like a gym membership. 

6.  Homeland Security

No, I'm not doing a political post. It's just I'm having to stand guard outside Paul's room to make sure lights go out.  It isn't just him though, my other kids have become accustomed to bedtime extensions that have become the bedtime expectations.  8 has become 8:30 has become 9 has become....after nine.  After nine, I am not interested in parenting. 

So after multiple attempts and parental warnings, my husband employed a tactic to get all of the children's attention. He turned off the power to the upstairs.  Suddenly, beds looked MUCH more attractive.  I'm hoping any child that reads this blog didn't make it this far but dutifully left after #5 to go hold a meeting with their fellow siblings about Mother's day so they don't find out what their father did. 

7.  File under A...for Annoying.

My children put out the trash and recycling. Sometimes they get to it the evening before, sometimes it is last minute the morning was one of those "the morning of" moments.  I go out to run  the kids to school and find an orange paper slapped on my recycling bin at 7:30, the contents within still not picked up.  The note explained that the recycling was not picked up because it was not curbside by 7 o'clock a.m.  So someone works for the county to leave notes to those who don't put out their stuff before 7 after the truck goes by?  I admit, I felt tempted (out of annoyance) to put said recyclables in the trash in response.  I didn't, but are we really saving the Earth if we have a person paid to drive around leaving notes on why recycling didn't get picked up?  

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Do I Have to Do Homework to Read Your Book?


How Much Do You Have to Know?

The question was posed, “Do you have to know Greek Myth to understand this book?”  No. 

But I hope reading it will spark your interest in discovering the richness of these ancient treasures whose influence is still felt today.  Want a modern Odyssey?  Try Finding Nemo. It’s all there.  The one eyed monster, the sirens, the underworld, the monster who tries to eat him, or if you want a more mature version, O Brother Where Art Thou?  

Both those stories stood without the working knowledge of one of their original sources, but the enjoyment of both films is enhanced by having a grasp of the original texts.  I’m going to have to go find the DVD in a minute just because they’re both such fun.

A bit of help if you want to have more familiar footing before reading The Book of Helen.

The Iliad (the older story) is more about how the Greeks made sense of their lives lacking belief that their souls did anything worth noting after death.  Immortality was something that could be earned, but it was hard fought (literally).  Honor and glory through battle was a means of immortality.  Hence the long lists of whom one has slain before battle commences. Recalling the names of the dead kept their memory alive, ergo if you were going to fight to the death, you told the other person you were trying to kill why you were worthy of remembering.  

Today, Startrek uses this concept as part of the background of Klingon culture.  This is why I am honorable. Now we fight.  Today is a good day to die because now you know my name and thus my name will be remembered.  Killing an honorable opponent enhanced your honor and kept theirs for entering into Stovokor.  

Ajax and Achilles would get this guy.

The other two means to immortality for the Greeks were children, and works –buildings, civilizations, art, and poetry.  The important thing was to have your name echoed, remembered.  Helen in my book longs for the same thing.  She wants a history of her story, that doesn’t just focus on what everyone already thinks they know.  

Also good for summer reading, Rick Ridoran’s Percy Jackson series tells you the plot line for the Iliad in his finale, (The Last Olympian) and there’s always Spark notes because iambic decameter grows old after about three pages. Having read the Iliad twice in college and twice since,  I recommend Fagles' translations of both epics, both present very readable prose for anyone wanting to read these two great works of Western civilization.  No need to slog through ten foot seems like a thousand pages poetry where your mind slides off the page when they start listing where all the ships came from. 
That's 1000 ships! 1000! Ah!Ha! Ha!

If you are more interested in the myths…i.e. the stories of the gods themselves, it depends upon your desire for intensity as to where to go.  Now I have “The Oxford Companion to Classical Literature” by Harvey which gives (this is before Wikipedia) overlays of every single god, goddess, muse, satyr, hero, heroine, named person, named object, site, shrine, concept in the world of Greek Myth that one can find.  It is a dazzling if overwhelming source of information, sort of like reading a dictionary.  On the other side is D’Aulaires, which gives the stories in formats perfect for kids. My third and fifth grader devoured this book. It’s been replaced twice in our library from overuse over the years by different children.  Admittedly, I must have checked it out myself at least six times during my grade school years, pouring over the pictures and stories, practically drooling to have found such a treasure trove of stuff.  Imagine my shock when I got to high school and got the grown up versions which were full of rape and violence.  It took me a while to adjust. 
One place I wouldn’t go to understand the Greek Myths, is to those films that tried to tell the Greek epic. They seemed to somehow always miss something crucial about the reality of these stories, the thing that made them timeless.  Clash of the Titans both in the 70’s and now, zzzzzzzzzzz.  Memo to tinsel town: There were no skeletal zombies in Greek Myth.  Not one. Zip. Zero. Nada. 

Dead is dead. You can summon shades to speak to you maybe or go down and hope you don’t get tricked into staying in the underworld but that’s it.  If you die, you become a shade.  A shade means no body.  Dead body means no soul.  That’s what the Greeks understood; it’s what they said in their myths. It’s why the name, the memory mattered so much. 

On to other films that do not quite convey the richness of the original materials. Troy the movie is faithful pretty and graspable but rather dull rendition and smushing together of the Iliad and beginning of the Odyssey. (Sorry Brad and Orlando, it just is).  
Admit it.  They just wanted you so you could recreate that sliding down the stairway on a shield while shooting a bow sequence that made you the coolest elf ever.  

The film gets Hector and in my opinion, Agamemnon, but everyone else, they just aren’t that interested and thus, it is not that interesting to watch. I won't even mention the very stupid Helen in that film. 

The Disney Percy Jackson film stunk, which goes to show even given an easy version of the story with modern settings, Hollywood can still mess it up.  Jason and the Argonauts?  Forgetaboutit! Hercules the movie (1984) and all other versions (aside from having a great song in the Disney version and a very cool Hades), do not get at the real struggle and drama of his myth, which was not his strength, but his succumbing to madness.  Most interpretations just gloss over that part, opting for the demi-god to be sort of a Greek version of Superman.  And we won’t even discuss the treatment of the muses as they have to cope with the stupid rendition of them as showgirls in Xanadu –which I admit, I saw….twice….and loved.  (I was a stupid teenager and had no clue).  
Because it's my blog...and I can.
But I apologize.

Greeks treated their heroes and gods as being like them, suffering, struggling, making stupid and inconsistent decisions and messing up and fighting often.  Somehow, the modern treatment of these very real creations gets run through a bleach cycle of thought, and thus the charm and realness of their tempers and actions gets stiffened.   One notable exception in the Hercules with real people series, Anthony Quinn as Zeus.  But that may be because it’s Anthony Quinn. 
You made a cool God of Thunder in an otherwise dull movie. 

And as for Helen herself, I have to thank Bettany Hughes.  Her book is invaluable.  It’s also incredibly interesting to trace the history of Helen in art, literature, and all of her various roles for various cultures.  Bettany digs into every version of Helen and the whys, the roles that a woman of that culture, in that rank required. It is very thorough. If you want to know how Helen walked into my brain and where I learned where I needed to go next to find out what happened next, this is the book that revealed where else to go.  

One last bit of music for you.  Because the Greek Gods and their world were designed to be able to explain/explore the harder realities we often don’t want to directly discus. It’s wonderful and resonates whenever it’s done right.  The one bit of Hercules the cartoon movie that shows 1) the animators having fun and 2) getting how to merge the psychology behind the character with the mayhem and magic of animation.  

Now, back to writing new book, The Book of Penelope. (Edited from prior statement) Back to editing.  Helen is 22 days from publishing and wants everything to be perfect, so she gets annoyed when I spend too much time doing anything not focused on her.  

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

It Matters

I've been reading/listening on and off to the Gosnell trial and the Benghazi testimony. Both stories are hard to listen to for prolonged periods without suffering from both despair and fury.  Both stories are the triumph of political fealty over the reality.

I understand why the Gosnell trial is not being covered. It is icky and it goes against the political winds of the day that authorize every insurance to pay for abortions and the new policy by the FDA to allow any 15 year old to pop a RU486 faster than a tic tac.  There is no news about the shameful conditions of the Gosnell clinic. There is no story about the woman who died or the infants born alive who were then ruthlessly killed.  There is no story.  Why?  Because there is no story if it disrupts those who favor abortion. There is no story if it portrays those seeking to be reelected in a less than perfect light.  As Hillary said, "What's the big deal?" or more currently, as Jay Carney said, "That's old news." 

But there are dead people as a result of decisions in both cases.  There are families destroyed because people were allowed to go on pretending that what was happening, was not happening.  The Gosnell trial is the manifestation of the logical/rational outcome of believing in abortion on demand. If a person is not a person until thinking and willing makes it so, then geography and size become irrelevant.  If the mother wants the child dead and she goes to this man, he will make it so. 

One can only deaden one's soul so much before the sin of committing murder starts to feed itself.   If you want to know how a clinic like Dr. Gosnell's could exist, it is because the society as a whole allowed it, sanctioned it, refused to see it as what it was, a place that preyed upon the desperate, despairing, the fearful and the selfish and the poor, for money.   It put forth the lie that if the child were destroyed, life would be better.  People paid for that lie to be whispered in their ears, and children wound up in the freezer and in the toilet, and chopped up.  The ugly truth is abortion is the fruit born of a lack of charity in the hearts of all involved save the baby, and lack of charity leads to deadened eyes and deadened hearts.   We become blind to what is evil and call it good.

Willful blindness abounds in the Gosnell trial. 

It is also the hallmark of the dust up over Benghazi.  Truth keeps running into the various trial balloon possibilities that have failed to gain traction in the months since the attack. The assault on our embassy was not because of a video on Youtube. Though I remember how the administration indicated this film posted in July was the reason for the spontaneous decision on September 11th, 2012 to throw maltov cocktails and drag Ambassador Stevens through the streets.  I remember them speaking about this over and over again, at the UN, at the coffins of the four men, that they would get the people responsible.  But we had assets there who were told to stand down.  We had calls to indicate proper people knew, we have knowledge that people defied the orders to stand down to help those in the embassy, and thus lost their own lives.

Has the man who made that stupid film been released?  No.  He the Stan Shunpike of our current Ministry of Magic;  A symbolic arrest touted as proof of doing something about the death eaters that killed four Americans including our diplomat to Libya.    That arrest and the subsequent fallout has vanished from the news narrative. So Nakoula sits in jail even though there has been plenty of evidence that the film had nothing at all to do with the terrorist attack.  Releasing him would verify that reality so he sits in jail to save the face of our government.  It is an inconvenient story.  

The people testifying that Hillary knew it wasn't a video, that the order to stand down when help could have been given and had been called for, could only have been given from someone at the very top, are being smeared as GOP tools, as part of the vast right wing conspiracy.  Apparently the collective press is suffering from a dearth of curiosity with respect to anything that might indicated the "incident" in Benghazi was the result of systemic incompetence, indifference or shallow calculations that before it happened, it still didn't matter and afterwards, even moreso. 

 That the talking points were rewritten to varnish history as it happened to pretend there was no error, there was nothing that could have been done, and that there is no cover up, nothing

to see, nothing to be upset about, matter.  It is not old news. It is an active story.  Our government failed in its first responsibility, to safeguard the life, liberty, laws and values of our nation.  There should be an investigation, there should be consequences.  People who made the call made the call wrongly. People who made the call, lied afterwards to cover up  their errors and pretend there was no moral culpability or political fallout.  People who cover such things for a living, covered it up by not covering it.  

Again, narratives that are icky to the ideology, are not covered.  The 4th estate now no longer covers anything save what reinforces its own sensibilities.  Truth is not the objective.  The objective is to preserve the power we deem worthy, and to discredit, disown and destroy any objections to the recasting of reality to suit the agenda.   Truth is deemed unknowable and thus never pursued unless it suits the political interests of the day. 

But truth matters even if no one believes it. Truth matters even if it is not popular.  Truth is reality, unvarnished by politics or ideology, and sometimes, it is inescapable because it resonates beyond what spin and manipulation can manage.   (The reporter changing his mind about abortion while covering the Gosnell trial is a perfect example).  Truth can break through.


Because it is real. Truth matters.   It matters that our nation pretends killing children is not killing children. So also, it matters that our nation ignores its own mandates, its own laws and gets away with it if those gifted with the charge of watch dogging our government deem the story to go against their own world views.   So when our leaders ask quite directly, "What difference does it make?"  I have an answer.

It makes a difference. It matters.  What is the difference?  Only the difference between good and evil, life and death, freedom and fear, a world that isn't simply run by the rule of force and a world that will allow anything to happen as long as it doesn't happen to them.   Yesterday a story broke about three women being freed from ten years of imprisonment by men who used them as sexual things.  They were free because one man heard crying out and acted on it, his little actions while sitting at home eating brought about an end of a ten year evil.  He could have looked the other way.  He didn't.  Why?  Because when you see evil, if you ignore it, you enable it.  If you hear evil, and you do not stop it, you embolden it.  If you refuse to recognize evil, you will become blind to the pain and suffering you could stop.  So it matters.  It always matters.  So what difference does it make?

All the difference in the world.  

Monday, May 6, 2013

Earning My Daisy Patches in Love and Joy

There is a rule in domestic work, do the worst first.  It works, because if you summon the will to do the hardest most obnoxious task on your to-do list early, everything afterwards seems easy.  I have not followed this rule even though I know it works.  Why? For the same reason I don't keep a food diary even though I know it works.  Why?  Because the former no matter how efficiently done, still means I get to do the icky job, and the later, annoys me because it means I can't have the éclair after doing the hardest job of the day. 

However, today, I did the worst job.  What is the worst job you ask?  Scrubbing the toilets? No.  Changing the sheets? No.  Cleaning the basement. Hahahahahahahaha. Well, yes, that would be the worst but I haven't done that one.   No.  The task I have put off for 8 months is applying Daisy Scout patches to my two daughter's vests.  They still lack the original daisy petal center and all the petals they've earned. Ugh. One of my daughters is in her second year. Yes. Bad mom confession.  I was good at the start. I put on all the starter patches.  But I got the numbers wrong. One fell off so I couldn't fix it. I also couldn't get the other numbers off so as to fix what was left. So it sort of put me off putting on patches, semi-permanently.

This weekend, my son who is nine was talking to one of the daisy scouts while I drove them to two separate Saturday play dates.  The nine year old was going to his friend's first communion, the daisy had a solitary play date with her best friend. Somehow, they entered into a theological discussion about the difference between love and joy.  They'd been singing a song that involved both.  The nine year old worked to explain the difference, that you could be joyful, but love was something you chose, joy was something you discovered you were feeling.  It was too much.  I piped in with Mom's two cents.  "Love is service, love is healing, love is kind, love is merciful. Love involves other people. Love is an act of the will."  I explained.  "Joy is an experience, usually of other people, it is related to love."  I got blank looks. 

"Okay. Love is putting on the patches on your daisy scout vests, joy is what you will feel when you wear it."  I'd just received a bunch of new patches to put on the vest so they were in a bag in the front of the car. 

"Mom?" my daisy asked.
"Will I be joyful on Monday?" Me and my big stupid mouth.
I swallowed hard. "Yes."

"I love you Mom! I'm joyful now!" She burst back into song. 

So today, I am cutting out the patch forms and tonight, there will be joy.  I just have to keep repeating to myself, "Love is an act of the will. Perfect love makes it a joy." 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

7 Quick Takes


1.  Helen is due out in 26 days. Good news. My mom and brother both enjoyed it.  Bad news. I'm still editing.  Good news.  It's not as clunky as it was.  Bad news. It still needs buffing and polishing in places.  Good news.  It holds.  Bad news. There is so much more I want to put into this book, because I really have enjoyed having her wander around in my head these past six years.  I'll miss her occasional running dialogue on life.

New caption...what do you mean you're no longer taking my calls?

2.  The smell of summer, it is there in the morning. I can feel it. Hints of the hot sticky days to come in the width of a sunbeam and the stillness of the trees. Even better, we booked a vacation!!! We never are this organized. We never think, hey, summer is coming, we should plan something. This year we did!  Can't wait! 

3.  That reminds me....I need to sign up for swimming lessons for at least 5 of them.   I did sign up one for summer school for an extra math class, so that's something...

4.  My children sometimes weary I suspect of being on auto-witness.  As part of a large family, it is inevitable that any conversation between adults results in somewhere, somehow, the talk turning to 1) what do you do and 2) do you have any children?  The other day, my second daughter explained what drives her nuts.  It doesn't matter where we are. If someone asks me, "How many children do you have?" she knows the next 20 minutes are shot because there are always follow up questions when the answer is ten.  I pointed out there were always follow up question when the answer was five but she countered that she's heard the answers all her life, and that people romanticize big families because I speak about it happily.  It doesn't help that their mother loves to talk.  
5.  But what she doesn't realize, is that even at two children, this was part of the reality of our lives. I had just delivered my second child. She was being cleaned at the nurse's station. I was calming down and looking at her.  "She's beautiful." I said.  The nurse held her up for me to see.  "Are you going to have any more?" she asked as she handed me my first daughter.  I looked at her eyes, at her face, I breathed in the perfume of a newborn and said, "Oh yes."
6.  The Book of Penelope...yes...I'm writing my second book. Yes, it is a continuation of what happened in The Book of Helen, but also...not. 
It is the same time. It is the same world. It is a very different woman, a woman whose power and authority rest internally, rather than manifest itself as luminous.  Helen was beauty. Penelope is not Helen.  Helen's life, her sins and virtues were  largely public knowledge. Penelope's struggle was quiet, long, domestic, intimate and only celebrated in relation to her husband.  Her faithfulness in his absence, her crafty handling of multiple predator men in a world ruled by men, these are what has made her famous.  But what made Odysseus choose her. How did he court her?  Where did she find the internal fortitude to hold on for twenty years? How did they come back together after such a long separation and what scars were created by wounds from the long years of absence? These are the questions. 
My initial thinking is that Penelope is first and foremost, a creature of duty.  But duty, done even faithfully without love, done without relationship, becomes a form of bitter martyrdom of all the sweetness of life.  So it is that Odysseus must re-win his wife's true affection and willingness to share what she has spent twenty years mastering to withhold, her own thoughts and feelings on everything.  He will also have to come face to face with the problems of having been a ghost of a memory as a father for so long, and competing with his own history/legend when the real person must face the consequences a legendary story version of the same man, never did. 
His wife and son know the tales. Neither is willing to gloss over the injuries done to them by Odysseus's dalliances with Calypso and Circe and others.  Combined, they should make for a serious powder keg of feeling.   Whereas with Helen, I collected luminous moments like fireflies, I will be trying to weave al the threads of these three broken lives into one coherent tapestry.  
7.  Is this thing on?  I keep seeing that the people who read my posts go up and up and up, while the only comments I get are from Spambots.
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So if you're human, if any of this made you laugh or think or remember, I've got to start planning a vacation, leave a comment. I'm starting to think this blog is me and the spambot crickets.  
For whoever does leave a comment who is not a 


P.S. Don't feed the spambots. It makes them tribbles.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Because We Need Beauty

Today, if I look at the news, it is hard not to fall into the sin of despair.   It is why we need things like sunsets and the laughter of children, the taste of chocolate, the color red, spring with all of its riotous outrageous color, and beauty saturating our souls, feeding them against the pain, the wrong we creatures made in God's image inflict on ourselves daily.  
So I began a post wherein I wrote out the lies that the serpent says, but it brought me lower, then I saw this lovely lovely post on my facebook wall.  I think it says what good art says, everything through less, everything through love even in the face of death.

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!