Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Light of Christmas

I have a friend I've made as a result of years of going to the same dry cleaner's.  She always greets me with a smile and a call out, even if I'm being served by someone else.  I've written of her mother, and her own unwavering faith.  Every once in a while, we have a conversation as I'm handing over my pile of laundry and the ordinariness of my day evaporates.  

"Merry Christmas," I said as I piled up the shirts.  My mind was full of the bills to pay, the pounds gained over the break, the work I needed to still get done for the evening.

"Merry Christmas!" she beamed, "You know, Christmas is a time for miracles.  Christmas time is a miracle."    I felt the beginning of an interruption in the dark chaos of my thoughts.

"Yes.  Yes it is."  Her eyes told me, she held a miracle she was bursting to share.
"For the past eight years, I've prayed."  She told me of how she's been begging for warmth in her marriage, but for years, they've not talked.  "Then on Christmas, I heard Jesus tell me, in my heart, "If you want me to work, you have to move."  and I got out of the way."  She smiled.  "I put my hand on my husband's hand."

"And it's better?" I asked.
"It's better. It's a miracle.  It started on Christmas.  It's a miracle.  You know, Jesus can take anyone, fix anything, anything we let Him!"
"The water is now wine." I smiled.  All my errands still loomed, but they didn't haunt, they couldn't in the face of her joy.

"Yes.  Exactly!  The water is now wine."

A line had cued up while we spoke.  "I'm so happy for you. Merry Christmas!"
"Happy New year!"

The Christmas star is shining at my dry cleaner's.  

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Writing Comedy Tips*

1) Start with the ordinary. I saw a black cat.
2) Set the expectations. It followed me home.
3) Use hyperbole and excess to build tension. I think it was a stray. I also think, it decided I was the unwitting victim of a bad Steven King reject novel, because every window I looked out, there it was. 
4) Build. Not only was the cat following me around the house from room to room, it stood on it's hind legs and pawed at the window.
5) Strategize/plot twist and compare. Now I'm allergic to cats, so I couldn't have it as a pet, even if I wanted to, so I tried calling animal control but it was a Friday night. Apparently they only work Monday through Friday, 9-5. So if a wolverine shows up at your doorstep during non banking hours, you'll just have to wait.
6) Resolve attempt two: I tried using a broom to shoo it away. It took the opportunity of my momentarily open door to bolt inside.
7) Now I had a critter in my house. I could tell where it was by the number of sneezes I took, a sort of nasal radar. Gross, but effective. Armed with the broom, I stalked my prey. She'd run down into the basement like she owned the place.
8) Return to the beginning. (I set this up like a horror). The basement is dark. It's creepy and cluttered and going down there gets me depressed by how much work I have to do, and how little will I have to do it. It's where all my good intentions from every season go to die, Christmas tree decorations, snow boots, life jackets, scrapbook bins of photos, all of it. The cat was somewhere in that mess.
9) Tie it together, all of it....I heard it thrashing in between my sneezes. I pushed away at the clutter with the broom to try and get at the beast.
10) Finish the story...The cat emerged from the pile of junk, dead snake in mouth. It dropped it at my feet. I felt a need to apologize, and even less reason to ever be in the basement again. I picked up the animal, allergy be damned, and brought it upstairs for a well deserved can of tuna and some water. I chugged the children's benadryll and declared we had a new member of the family. All was well.
11) But you need a ba-dump dump at the end.
Until the next day, when a tan dog started staring in the window.

*Note to my mom and any other relatives reading this, WE DO NOT OWN A CAT NOR ARE THERE SNAKES IN THE BASEMENT.  I made it up.  

Monday, December 21, 2015

Now for some Drier Wit

Yesterday, we found ourselves at a parish we don't frequent.  We'd overslept our normal mass time, and try as we might, couldn't get the troops organized for getting out the door until 5:30, so we went to Saint Peter's over in Olney for the six o'clock we're not desperate but we're getting close Sunday mass.   The priest announced that since he had nothing scheduled after mass, he and another priest would hear confessions.  Several of my children opted to take advantage of the opportunity.

After dinner (Pizza), my sixteen year old started his laundry.  Before bed, he switched it over to the dryer.  

The next morning, we found his laundry (wet) in a basket.  Someone else had co-opted the machine for their own use.   He started to curse his sister.  I pointed out, he'd been in a state of grace, and I didn't want him to lose it.  We took out her clothes and I restarted his.   Half an hour later, he still felt frustrated.  "I'd tried to do it on time."  It was true, we'd be hard pressed to beat the bell. He'd missed the bus and this was supposed to be an easy morning for me, as two more children were home from school.   But it wasn't.  He started to work up a mad.  I reminded him again.

Ten minutes later, dressed for school and ready to go, he announced to me it was okay that she switched out the laundry, he wasn't mad, and he thanked me for calming him down.  "I don't want to be mad at my sister.  Not at Christmas time."

"I'm guessing that's fraternal love speaking?"

He gave a shy smile.  "Something like that.   And I don't want her mad.  She gives really really good presents."  

Glad to know we're celebrating the season.  

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Not Writing....

I will jump start on the blogging/writing thing come 2016.  But to adequately address the needs of family, Christmas, the house, Christmas, incoming out of town guests, Christmas, paperwork, Christmas, kids being sick, Christmas, and did I mention Christmas, I'm taking a sablogital.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Great Communicator

Paul has an i-Pad programmed to help him talk.  He can ask for all sorts of things using it, and is very fluid.  Mostly, he asks for chocolate milk, chips and to watch television.  

This morning, his sisters were trying to use his machine to sing Christmas carols.  He came over, shooed them away and pushed the following buttons:

People, I want to eat cereal.

We all scrambled to give the man his fruit loops.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Where Else Would You Go? Nowhere else if you would go Deeper and Deeper

I love being Catholic.  I suppose it must be somewhat obvious.  I also love this Pope. In the interest of full disclosure, I loved the last pope, and the pope before him.  I've read a good deal of Pope Francis's Encyclical.  He's not as masterful as Pope Benedict with writing, but he isn't as dense and difficult as Saint Pope John Paul the Great was either.  

I do not expect of the present pastor, the gifts the prior pastor brought. I expect each pastor who takes charge of the flock, to challenge each of us to go deeper and deeper in.  As of December 8, Pope Francis is throwing open the doors of mercy and inviting everyone in, and trying to send us out into the world, to help gather.   He is calling all of us to radically live out the Gospel, and he's not shy about it.
This is our Pope, this is his gift, this is how he lives out his faith. 

I've read over the years Pope Francis has held the seat of Peter, about how he is a bad pope, one who damages the faith, who discourages the faithful with his remarks.  I remember the rabbits and who am I to judge...I remember being frustrated, but I go back to this picture.

If you want to understand Pope Francis, look at the proclamation of the "Year of Mercy."  It is this type of intimacy that a year of mercy involves.   It is this type of "risk" and this type of literal and physical, emotional and social connecting that Pope Francis is seeking.  He wants everyone in, and you can't get people to consider coming into the church, if you're presenting yourself as the moral bouncer.  People confuse professing what we know to be true, with making accepting of all of it, a prerequisite for entering.  We start at different places and most of us, spend our whole life times wrestling with the totality that is the teaching of the Church, because of our own hang ups and sins which we don't want to give up.

 Most people's faith does not develop into something more authentic, more mature, more intimate, via a scold.  Most people's faith begins to deepen when they meet someone they love, when they discover someone outside of themselves, loves them, when they want to show the one who loves them, that they love deeply too.   The relationship with God is the most romantic one possible in all of existence, for God cannot be outdone in love, and He never disappoints.  But to meet God, one must trust the person providing the introduction (the Church, Pope/Priest/person).  To be part of the New Evangelization,  we don't start with "This is where you need to improve, or change."  We start with, "You've got to come in.  Come meet Jesus.  Come be a part of our family."  Being awash in love, will gradually wash away all that needs washing away.  

So any who feel somehow troubled by this Pope with his words, or with his decision to allow projections of God's creations on the side of the Basilica, I'd say, trust God.  Trust God.  Trust God.  
Trust His Holy Spirit.  Trust the servant picked.  Look at this picture, and really look at it.   It is the beauty of mercy lived.  It is a manifestation of God's love here, through his hands.   Stop worrying about the Pope, and go and be those hands for someone else's troubled head.   Stop arm chair quarterbacking the papacy because no one is going to show up at your house and ask you to become a papal consultant,>  Instead, go about the business of revealing the ocean of mercy God wants to give all of us.   Instead, as Larry D of Acts of the Apostles suggests, go sit down - or better yet, kneel before a tabernacle or in an Adoration chapel – and humbly beg Christ to inflame your charity, to have mercy on your soul, and to increase your wisdom and understanding.  I suspect, if we keep ourselves busy with the business of revealing God's mercy to the world, and showing it to others, we will find all that currently irks, far less irksome.

Before you tsk me for failing to recognize the end of times or tell me I'm naive or ignorant for defending this Pope when he preaches about being a steward of the earth, or wants to through symbolic gestures, get people to stop compartmentalizing what they will and won't do based on politics rather than faith, ask these questions.  What would you deny that he teaches?  What would you affirm that he doesn't?  We're Catholic, which means, we submit ourselves to the authority, we're Papists and proud of it.

All the other stuff is a matter of style, of taste. It's not mine, but then, it doesn't have to be.  Those who write ominous articles about what a tragedy this Pope is, and wait for the next papacy, or who claim He's not a true Catholic, remind me of the dwarves in Narnia.  They make it into the kingdom, but cannot see it, cannot feast properly, because they're too certain of their own understanding, to fathom anything bigger than their own understanding.  "Dwarves are for Dwarves!" they proclaim, and fight over a feast they cannot fully enjoy.  There is a dark joy to thinking you have a greater understanding/exclusive comprehension on some galactic level, than everyone else.  But the solace drawn from a bitter brew of snark, and the conviction you're the modern day sooth seer with all the vision, cannot sustain. For those who cite Saint Catherine of Sienna; she wrote to the pope, and she went to speak with the pope.  She addressed him as a human being, and as such, he responded and returned the Papacy to Rome.  She didn't snipe at him from the safety of an internet echo chamber.  

We cannot enjoy the meal that has been set if we cannot enjoy the company of all invited.  We will not enjoy Heaven, if we've put ourselves in the position of deciding who should and shouldn't be there.  It is like the older brother, standing outside the party for his prodigal brother, still not understanding how or why, his father would forgive his brother, why didn't God punish him first?  Answer?  Our ways, are not God's ways.  Either we trust in God's mercy, and want it for all, or we do not want it for ourselves.  When we try to delineate how God will react, and to further keep some of God's children out (for whatever reason), we are putting ourselves in the position of God.

We have to remember, we cannot fully fathom God's mercy, anymore than we can fathom God's love or His patience, or any of what God is.  We cannot.   We're Catholic.  Catholic means universal, meaning, we want everybody.   God wants all of us back in, all of us at the feast.  Will we go in?
  The Church inviting us in, is inviting us to a conversion, to a deeper relationship with God.  We're to live it, and that means loving those around us as fully as possible.

For those who worry, what about sin? God can manage who will be at the feast.  It is our job to invite everyone deeper and deeper in. 

Lastly, so as to be better able to host others at the feast, here's Bishop Barron's advise for how to best utilize this Year of Mercy.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Slow Down

It is the most common error I make as a mom; I can partially attribute it to being the first child, and to being a mom over and over again, but it ultimately comes from my own fault.   I forget to ask for help.   I forget in my quest to GET IT ALL DONE, that GETTING IT ALL DONE is not the goal of life.   It's also not the point of being a mother.

That "GETTING IT ALL DONE" is just an alternative version of "HAVING IT ALL" and both are the world's song.  The former is how a stay at home mom creates worth for being home, the later is how the at work mom, justifies not being home.  Both songs involve having the woman value herself according to what she can do, not who she is, and both require that the woman be something other than mother, something other than present.  Both songs require the woman be BUSY.

I fall into the siren trap of both tunes all the time.  I know because today, I heard my Catholic blogger friend, Sarah Reinhard talking on WMET 1160 about her new book, Word by Word, Slowing Down with the Hail Mary.  I was running late.  Mass started at ten.  One daughter was home sick.  Another was cantering at the mass.  I dragged my toddler and the sick one to the car.  The trip normally takes seventeen minutes (twenty-one if there's a train).   I had 18 minutes to make it.   The light at the mid county high way was abnormally clogged.  Two service trucks with flashing arrows eliminated the two lanes I would normally be in, so I moved over.  The light took forever.  The line didn't move.  I looked.

Two men from the work crew were shaking hands and hugging the passenger and driver of a truck and talking through the green light.  Sarah was talking about the need to slow down and how we have this tendency to speed through things, even prayer.   I sat bemused at the men stopping traffic and all of time, to hug.   But then I had to switch lanes again and now, I was stuck for another round of lights and in the wrong lane.   My good humor evaporated in an instant.

I had ten minutes to make it to mass, and I'd been stuck at this stupid light for over seven minutes.   To calm myself down, I refocused on Sarah's voice.  She spoke of the process, of asking forty writers to each take a word from the Hail Mary, and use it as the source for a meditation on the whole of the prayer, and I thought, the idea of asking others for help, was something I needed to learn.  In writing, asking others to contribute was a means to flesh out the deeper meaning of the prayer.  So also, if I could learn to ask for help, I could help flesh out the deeper meaning of motherhood, of living this life, and not "HAVING or GETTING IT ALL" but having all be part of the process of living.

Sarah talked about "Slowing down" in the prayer, and in life.   I had eight minutes and another red light.

Slow down...slow down.  How would it be possible to slow down?  I sat at the red light, trapped behind a bus, convicted.  I was fighting the best advice I'd ever get.   Why?  Because I'd have to surrender something.  I'd have to abandon getting it all done and having it all, if I wanted something better.  But  I'd been pushing this damn boulder of life, whether as a parent, or as a writer, and thinking, what would happen if I slowed down?  Less progress that's what!   I didn't want to slow down.  Five minutes left.   I made the turn onto the side street to try to navigate back to the church.  The bus stopped and pedestrians got out.   "I JUST WANT TO GET TO MASS ON TIME!" I growled in frustration.   The bus pulled away.

"Slow down."  I'd heard Sarah say.  I felt convicted.  The men shaking hands had slowed down. If they'd been efficient, there would have been no hi, no hugs, no smiles, no laughs.  That would have been a darker moment of life, just work, no solace, no joy, no friends.    I slowed down.  Because I slowed down, I saw on the side of the road, a woman dressed in black.  She wasn't paying attention to the drivers.  She was stalking two deer in the underbrush, trying to snatch a picture.  I slowed down more so as to not spook the deer.   She too, was stopping time, stalking beauty instead of caution or efficiency.  There are countless pictures of deer on the internet, but this one, would be hers.   I look at the clock.  It is ten o'clock. At best, we will be five minutes late but I've finally been pulled into the proper spirit to even show up at mass.

We pulled into the parking lot, and there were the children, lining up to go to the Church.  We hadn't missed it.  It hasn't started.  Mercy for me and a message, over and over again.  Slow down.   That is the purpose of Advent, the purpose of prayer, the purpose of living.  Not to have done everything or get everything or have everything, but to be present.  I held my daughters and sang, "Ave, Ave, Ave Maria..." but my heart was shouting, "Thank you, thank you, thank you Blessed Mother."

Monday, December 7, 2015

Year of Mercy Warm up

Before you get stretched this year by the Year of Mercy, you need to warm up right?  What should I do?  Well, the folks over at Aleteia  posted a great piece on 54 ways to celebrate this coming year. All of them are excellent.  

The suggestions reveal concrete ways to exercise mercy, both for others and yourself.   Other suggestions?  I'm so glad you asked.

10) Find a Holy Door..  Make a pilgrimage.  Walk through it.   Why?  Because actions matter.  Asking for mercy, via the physical act of walking through a door of mercy, is a special means of receiving beyond the ordinary.   In this year of mercy, they aren't just the sealed doors of the major Basilicas, so ask in your local diocese, about the nearest Holy Door.  

9) Learn the Corporal and Spiritual Acts of Mercy.  A good place to read about them is here.
But if you're pressed for time, These are the corporal (body) acts of mercy.  You see someone in pain, and you take steps to provide partial or complete healing by your actions.

  • To feed the hungry;
  • To give drink to the thirsty;
  • To clothe the naked;
  • To harbour the harbourless;
  • To visit the sick;
  • To ransom the captive;
  • To bury the dead.
Whereas these are the spiritual acts of mercy.  If you note, all require something of us, recognition of a need, capacity to act, and effort to see it through.  
  • To instruct the ignorant;
  • To counsel the doubtful;
  • To admonish sinners;
  • To bear wrongs patiently;
  • To forgive offences willingly;
  • To comfort the afflicted;
  • To pray for the living and the dead.
Looking at the list, there is not a one our world is not starving for.   

8)  Pick a new devotion --rosary, chaplet, liturgy of the hours, the Angelus, and hold to it for the year.  

6) Read the Diary of Saint Faustina.  It's long, it will take most of if not all of the year.  

5) Go to adoration weekly.  Nothing brings one more in touch with God's mercy than the Eucharist.   Go bathe in God's presence.  You can find out where there's 24-7 adoration at the same site where you can find out about confession;

3) Be a friend.  There is nothing that reveals more of God's mercy, than kindness to someone else. 

2) Look at all things in the news/life through the eyes of mercy.  What would be the most healing thing one could do, say, think, pray in light of whatever it is...then do it.  

1) Sing at mass, light the candles, trim the tree, and celebrate with all you know.  Beauty is a fight against the darkness of life, mercy is beauty lived.   Not just this Advent, but all year.  

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Games Kids Play

So we're driving to Breakfast with Santa and the kids have created a new game.   They sing a song. Any song.   But they substitute "MEOW" for all the lyrics.  Whoever guesses the song, gets to be the next singer.

You've not lived until you sing UPTOWN FUNK and Adele's Hello with Meow instead of the words.
But games only work until the game master one ups the ante and began barking.   By the time I found a parking place, everyone sang Jingle Bells Lassie style.  When we opened the car door, I couldn't resist, "I let the dogs out..."

Thursday, December 3, 2015

God Is Fixing This

When the world seems darkest, the only proper response is deliberate light, deliberate hope, deliberate prayer and deliberate charity.  The world would tell you, God isn't fixing this.  The Daily News says as much with it's cover today, scourging politicians for offering prayers as solace to the victims and their families.   The thought is somehow, more laws, more regulations would have prevented this couple from dropping off their six month old daughter at grandmothers before suiting up to kill as many as they could.   Maybe.  But I do not think so.  Hearts so ground to dust they could willingly abandon their six month old daughter, need God more than anyone else.   

But when we see examples of great darkness, it is important to remember Christmas is precisely about the reality, our fallen world is dark, but God is with us. God has fixed this, and He goes on fixing this; even as we keep breaking it.  God holds all of us, and His heart breaks for each of us, He holds each of us, as His own beloved, and wills us to see each other as treasured brothers and sisters.

Advent is about waiting in joyful hope, about seeking and anticipating the Christ. The angels call us
to throw open the doors of our hearts, not because we're saps, or fools, or don't know there is risk;
not because we're foolhardy or naive, but because the only way "This" will be fixed, is when we act
as God would will us to act.  What God wills is always at odds with what the world thinks wise.    

So this Advent, begin an offense of hope, an offense of mercy, an offense of charity.  Begin by looking around you to find the hidden suffering in your midst, the suffering God wants you to remedy.  Look for  the unknown family lacking friends, the poor who need shelter, the hungry, the lonely, the sick and the lost,  We have a world wounded and on fire with pain, we are to be the balm, the peace the world cannot give, to a world desperate to receive.  

Pray with faith.  Pray for justice and work for peace.  

And know in the marrow of your bones, God is with us, God is working, God wills to fix this, God is fixing "this."   

Blessed Advent.  

Small Success Thursday

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Quiet One

Every week, Tuesday threatens to destroy me until it doesn't.  It starts with wake up, as if the kids are going to miss the bus, this is usually the day.  It's also trash day and that means waking up the middle two early to take down the garbage.  I make the lunches.  The kids also have band so they need their instruments.  Launching the top four, it is now the next 3's turn.  They have papers to sign and things they forgot, but we make it to the bus and all have left the home, hair brushed, socks and shoes, coats and in some cases hats, and today, mercifully, no one forgot their lunch.

One returned home, she feels sick.  My morning is now shot.   I phone the doctor's and do my upstairs patrol --which means gather all the clothing and the trash and make the beds, make sure the toilets aren't clogged and the sinks speckled with toothpaste.  I turn off the lights and shut the doors.  On a good day, I make it through the main and top floor, on a great day, I mop and hit the basement.  Today is not a good day.

Our bed needs stripping.  I'm not scared because we have a new washer and dryer.  We'll test those suckers out.  Alas, the dryer for the first time, failed me.  My comforter did not get comfortably warm until three cycles through.   We go to the doctors, and the CVS, and back home.  I rest for half an hour, which means I rodeo the laundry along and clean out the sink and clear out emails.   It is time to take the teen to her job interview.  Then I swing back home to pick up the kids from the bus, and then back to the two schools to get the tweens, the track star and then the job interviewer.  I snag her to do a quick shop while she waits.  We drive home, unload and start dinner.

It is Tuesday.  Two have CCD, and another has basketball.  They are sequential, not congruent, to ensure maximum inefficiency of my time.   At 8:30, we begin the long trek home so they can eat a second dinner (not wolfed down), and finish any homework.  I begin dishes and check the laundry and pick up the shoes, coats, lunch boxes, papers and socks.   The house feels wrecked and disorganized. I feel wrecked and disorganized.  Putting them to bed, my daughter handed me a note she'd drawn during a break in the action. "I LOVE MOM." It has me with a crown.  I have been paid in full by the quietest of my children, when I felt most spent.

It's the quiet ones the Holy Spirit uses.   Going to have to watch this one.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Magic Words

Last week, two of my tweens had the day off on a day my teenagers didn't.  We stayed up late playing a card game and my sixteen year old took umbrage at our late night laughter. He slammed the door and shouted down at us several times.  We started whispering.  He stomped in his room to let us know, even this was unacceptable.  We'd just finished so we said good night and shut down the room.

The next morning, as I climbed the stairs to wake him, I wondered, how to address his anger, to help him learn a better way than to yell "Shut up." at his family.   Rubbing his feet to wake him, his first words were, "I'm sorry."  He sank into the foot rub and smiled.

"Maybe, instead of "Shut up!" which doesn't get you what you want most times it's used, you could yell "Foot RUB!"

"FOOT RUB!" he shouted.

I rubbed his feet. He grinned. "See, it worked much better."

I got up to leave.


I came back and crunched his toes.  "I need to make the lunches." He smiled and stretched.

"Foot rub?"

One more time.  
"You should apologize to your brother and sister."
"I will."

We'll see what happens the next time we're up late playing cards and he wants to sleep.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Pie is Infinite

This Thanksgiving, we had 8 pies at the table.   Pie reigned supreme and as we ate, we discovered the ten stages of the Life of Pie.

10) First slice: Pie! Awesome.  I'll take a slice.  Hold the whipped cream, I don't want to go overboard.

9) Second slice: Well, my last piece was kinda small and it was pumpkin. This is pecan....Where's the ice cream?

8) Third slice:  I've already blown the diet.  I haven't tried the apple so...this time hit me up some with whip and some ice cream.

7) I can't hurts.  "There's a little bit of whiskey pecan left.  Want to split it?"

6) Pie.  It's what's for breakfast.   New day.  New pie capacity.

5) I'm not full yet.   Is there any pumpkin left?  There's just a sliver in the blueberry so I'll add that one too.  It's too small to count as a serving.

4) Okay, I'm not eating any more pie and I'm hitting the gym this afternoon.  I will instead feast on other leftovers.   Cranberry stuffing turkey gravy sandwich has more calories than pie.   I will just eat a slice of pie.

3) I went for a walk. Huzzah! I'm healthier than everyone else enduring a turkey coma.   I will celebrate by feasting on a slice of the roasted apple! No one has yet touched that pie.

2) Don't mention pie. I'm not interested.  I don't want any.  You can't possibly tempt me.  "Hey look, our neighbors just brought us a fresh pumpkin pie.   ...Deal me in.

1) We have eaten an infinite amount of pie.   It will take an infinite amount of time to work this off.
"Well, pie is an infinite number."

Monday, November 23, 2015

Are You Ready for the Year of Mercy?

When we had the year of the Rosary, (2002-2003), everyone pretty much knew what to do. Pray the rosary. Learn the mysteries.  Contemplate the role of Mary as model for our spiritual life.

When we had the year of the Eucharist (2004-2005), again, most people could figure out...go, receive the Eucharist, contemplate Christ's incarnation, go to adoration, recognize that the bread and wine are not mere bread and wine, be awake to the graces and great gift we've been given in receiving our Lord into our own selves.

In 2012, when we celebrated the Year of Faith, I made a a list.  I know, I often make lists, but it's a useful tool and so it's how I roll.

This is the year of Mercy.

What do you do for a year to contemplate God's mercy?

1) Study the scripture.  "I desire mercy, not sacrifice." Matthew 9:13.   God wants us home. That's His whole plan in a nutshell, to love us and lavish us with grace until we drop our nets and begin the walk to our father's house.  One great source I've been enjoying this year is My Catholic Daily Bible.  I have it on my kindle, and read while I work out at the gym.

2) Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet.  There's a great song version here, but I find my mind wanders when I just listen so I use the Laudate app which has an interactive rosary component.   I also have Saint Faustina's Diary.  If you get it, it's a pretty thick book so it will take you through the whole year.

3) Give alms.  Charity of the body mirrors charity of the heart.  Today's gospel talks about the widow's mite.   Giving of yourself requires a sublimation of spirit, of want, in favor of the other.  Perhaps this year, resolve to do with less, and to give more.  Build to 10% by starting this month, December, by giving 1%...then 2% in February, and let the Holy Spirit lead you on.

4) Fasting.  Part of mercy is seeking to repair the wounds of the world caused by sin.  Mercy, forgiveness and grace are the balms for those wounds.  Fasting is a form of prayer, with a mindful intent toward begging for particular graces of healing.

5) Confession  You knew this was part of the Year of Mercy. The whole reason we need a Year of Mercy is, we need mercy.  The sacrament is one of mercy.  None of us deserve Heaven.  None of us deserve God's love.  We get it gratis, without tags or cost.  But that just means, we should be all the more grateful for a King that wants to wipe out all our debt.  Run to Him.

Here's a great talk on the sacrament of Reconciliation and an equally excellent one on Forgiveness.

I won't be blogging this week much --getting ready for Thanksgiving.  Have a blessed week.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Be Part of the Mercy

Nothing makes the idea of praying for your enemy seem more absurd than recognizing, you have an enemy.   Watching the attacks unfold in Paris, it's hard not to want to find the people responsible, and give them what they've given.  

But if we want a world that is not burning with rage, we will have to be better than that. I read Cardinal Parolin's talk about going on the Spiritual Offense with Mercy.  I thought, that is the best way to battle the incivility of the age.   This doesn't mean being syrupy or saccharine or a doormat.  Mercy is at its core, a radical muscular decision to turn the other cheek. It is Christ on the Cross saying, "Father, forgive them."

So I hope no government will change their political policy toward the oppressed and afflicted because some people who share a religion in name, but not in practice, tried to make the world burn.

 If you want to know how to engage in spiritual battle against the type of thinking that imagines and enacts such evil acts as took place last week in France and Beruit on the 12th, and in other places, I recommend Sr. Theresa Aletheia Noble's article on the subject.

Knowing a few people in Paris, I sent an email when the attack first happened.  My contact wrote back how grateful she was for the show of support from around the world for the people of Paris, and how it heartened her on a dark day when it seemed, humanity favored letting the world burn.  Little gestures matter.  It is an incarnational reality of being human.  We understand when someone loves us by their words and their actions.  It means something to my son to see his siblings cheering as he runs.  They can't make him run one second faster. They can do nothing to affect the outcome of his efforts, except to encourage.   It still matters.

So pray, fast, give alms, welcome a refugee if you have the courage and the means..  When a great evil is inflicted on the world, the world cries out, "It shouldn't be this way." and the world is correct, because it was created to be something far more beautiful.   Lastly, if you're still feeling protective, still feeling nervous and concerned, "We don't help refugees because they are Christian. We help them because we are Christian. Are there microscopically small risks if we do? Yes. But there are astronomicaly graver and more certain consequences if we refuse: "Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me..."    

 To be charitable involves risk. It must. It's not misleading to say, we are called to be the good Samaritan. What it is, is difficult, which is why many of us, move to the other side of the road, or pretend we don't see the man left by thieves. It's not a lecture to recall Christ's words to us, when we ask the question, "Who is my neighbor?" in an attempt to justify ourselves. It is the Holy Spirit calling us to action, and our fallen will, wrestling with whether it will hear and answer, or ignore and walk by.

The world will be on fire one way or another, on fire with hate or love.  Be part of that beauty, and the world will shine with mercy.

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Problem with I-dentity Thinking

Unless you've lived sans the internet the past week, you've heard something of the unrest taking place at the University of Missouri, where the President resigned in an attempt to address or redress the complaints of student activists about his handling of several incidents of racism.   Some feel, it was the hijacking of free speech for group think, others feel it is an indication of how difficult it is to get administrations and institutions to address the very real problem of racism, and still others, felt this to be a victory.  

Reality is never neat, and I suspect, the resignation of the President and any others as  a result of student protests and raised awareness, football team boycotts and classes being cancelled, won't bring about the brave new world where no one ever hears a discouraging word. Whatever it is to live and work at a place where all thought, written word and speech are hermetically sealed and approved for public consumption, it isn't reality.

The problem seems intractable because there seems to be no means of redress or deescalating the situation. If one is in a position of privilege or power, and one errs in word, speech or deed, or fails to act perfectly, the presumption is malice.  The decision by the grad student to go on a hunger strike until the president of the university lost his job, gave the parameters for the fight. There was no opportunity for dissent, or discussion, if the rules are capitulate or lose your job.   As a rule, people being threatened, are unlikely to have a genuine conversion or conversation, and as such, no one will feel satisfied if they give an inch.  The President didn't, and so things grew worse until he surrendered.

Victory!  Not so fast.

Likewise, throwing up one's hands and surrendering (stepping down), means no discussion has been advanced.  If the person in a position of authority, had been blind to injustice as a result of privilege, might having him stay now that he'd been chastened, make him wiser and more responsive to students experiencing racial bias?   The next person will be at least wary, but that doesn't mean anything has been done to grow trust across the student body, or between the students and faculty or administration.  It means, the activists got rid of someone; they have emotional power and political heft.  It doesn't mean, the problem was solved.

Getting rid of people with whom we disagree, doesn't create the harmony people want, or the fair treatment people claim they hope to see as a result.   People aren't problems to be solved or eliminated, but to be loved and served.   That can't happen if we must live in a bubble without anyone's thoughts or feelings ever differing from our own.  Why can't it?  Because in a world where everyone says the same thing no matter what, everyone is lying.  No community can be built on lies.

What is needed in our society, as a nation, is a means of redress, and a means of seeking, and receiving forgiveness, but that involves surrendering the privilege of being hurt, not because one wasn't hurt, or there haven't been systemic hurts throughout all of history, but because to have true peace between people, people must forgive. People must forebear.  People must show mercy.  There is no greater mercy than forgiveness, for it abandons the claim for justice or revenge, it surrenders the club of "You owe me, or you deserve this," in favor of forging a deeper new relationship.  "Begin again."  "Try again."  "Trust again."

Some would argue, those who need forgiveness, do not feel sorry or in some cases, aren't even aware of how they offend.  That is often the case, it is why forgiveness is so difficult and so sorely lacking in the pubic square of discussion, whether about politics, history, religion, or any other subject you'd care to bring up around the dinner table.  Offering forgiveness reveals the soul of the forgiver, not the forgiven.

Forgiveness and mercy, they do more than offer a new chance to those who cause the injury, they allow the injured to not stay wounded as well.  There has been a recent demand on the part of students for "safe zones" to ensure they never have their hearts or minds or preconceptions troubled by the differing opinion of another.  Sadly, the universities have begun creating these walled off areas, that keep all others out.

 Perhaps universities would do better if instead of "Safe Spaces," they created "Forgiveness zones." where people could stop to reflect on who they need to forgive, whether or not the person or persons are present, and drop that emotional baggage as the great weight it is, and get on with the business of learning how to open doors between people, rather than shut out all those who disagree.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

How Do We Do This?

It's a question that bites at four in the morning, when you just went to the kitchen for some water and discovered your teen asleep at the computer, having pulled the high school equivalent of an all nighter.  You send her down to bed.  The seven year old comes down the stairs, thinking it's breakfast time.  You send him back up.  The next day there is a parent teacher conference and a basketball practice which runs late, and a presentation at ten which two of your children are in, and who will feel crushed if no one shows.  You go.  There is a pile of a laundry in your room because you took everything out of your drawers looking for your daughter's pair of white pants which she insisted were missing, but which she found in her drawers after you'd done the damage.

My five year old slumps on the floor, demanding food and entertainment.  My ten year old chafes at being told to take a shower.  She doesn't have anything red, white or blue that's clean for the show, so I fish through the laundry, while my husband drives the two to their school, and the overtired teen who missed the bus to hers.  He stops and gets our daughter a shirt while I'm at home doing pony tails and trying to brush long hair without snagging, for she snarls when there are snarls in her hair.

And I know I'm not the only one feeling the crush of things.  My sister's family is rocked by my niece who broke her arm so badly, it will need surgery.  My mom needed care at the start of October. Fall has been hard.  The fall is hard.   Being fallen, harder still.

So what do we do? How do we do this? How do we keep doing this?

It is a choice, gnash or sing, weep or pray, growl or read.

Sunday, we took a late date night to see the latest James Bond film. We forced it into the schedule, because it wouldn't happen any other way.  The next day, I put out table cloths and Thanksgiving decorations and we had apple pie. There's only one way to fight chaos and stress, and the pain and nuisances of this life, with deliberate kindness, delight, service and beauty.  

The Blessed Mother did not scream at the crowd for mutilating her son.  She did not rage at the injustice or the cruelty of it all, and she had cause.  I just have nuisance value.  To prove the point, the nurse called from the elementary, to let me know Paul's eye is red, and he might have pink eye. I felt the sting of it, even though I know my sister is dealing with far more vexing medical issues.  I can understand how we are to respond.  I do not respond that way...also,  my four year old does not want to go back into the car.   She slumps onto the floor, rump in the air and says, "This is boring. I'm so bored.  I don't want to do this."

How do we do this?  I bribe her with mini-muffins, clapping hands and a song.  By recognizing we are always in a fight against time, against all the paper cuts and bigger wounds of the world.   This morning, my ten year old came down the stairs with a case of the grumps.  Her father hugged her until it melted away.   We have to keep remembering, to try again and together, with flowers and light, table cloths and books, hugs and games, kind words and second chances, we will make today, and all the days that come after, memories of light, and not one long scratchy dull fall of frustration.

But it is tempting to fall into that way of thinking, so God keeps sending reminders through other people.

Today, I went to Veteran's day at my children's school.  They sang songs. They asked the men and women to stand and be recognized. The principal asked them to speak.  The kids clapped, they recited a poem, and all children who had family still serving, were asked to stand.   Two boys stood for their father.  At the end of the school ceremony, when we'd clapped and sang and saluted the Veterans, a special guest arrived, and these two boys saw their father in the flesh for the first time in a year.   There wasn't a dry eye in the auditorium.  Here was a reminder that all of the pain and nuisance of life, is fleeting, this is what remains eternal.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Why We NEED a Year of Mercy...Maybe a Decade...a Century...

or however many the Pope can spare.

By now, everyone worth quoting has weighed in on the Starbucks Red Scare cups.  I don't frequent Starbucks because I don't drink coffee.  I used to go and get a hot chocolate when I had a Mother's day out, but with the advent of a Keurig in our home, it isn't a need or even a want.  That being said, I've seen a lot of internet ink spilled explaining how it isn't a war on Christmas, that no one should be offended, and that anyone who is offended, is being a goofball, making a tempest in a Venti cup. As  an opening salvo in this year's "War on Christmas" cry, it doesn't even merit a bah humbug.  So Starbucks have red cups without special snowflakes for this season.  Personally, the only reason to be upset with Starbucks for this decision, is if you have a grudge against Alabama. (Roll tide).   It's nuts.  
Ultimately, the internet always plays to the smallest heart, the smallest mind, and the most clickbaitable of responses.  Ergo, the people who thought BOYCOTT because of red cups become the poster spokes children for all Christians.  Most people will either not drink the coffee and go about their lives, or will drink the coffee and go about their lives.  Their faith will not be shaken by the container of the beverages though the beverages contained might cause the shakes.

How did we get to this point, that people hear dog whistles all the time to respond with a Pavlovian outrage?  We've lost something crucial to society, crucial to being Christian, to being human.  We presume ourselves, regardless of the stimuli, the persecuted, and the other, whatever the other is, the persecutor.   We may in fact suffer indignities, countless ones from other people, from the news, from the internet, from opposing political parities, from pundits, from songs on the radio, from popular entertainment, from whatever it is that offends.  The important element in such experiences, is how we respond, both to the offenses, and to the persons, and to all we encounter after the injury.

Which brings me to Pope Francis' proclamation of the "Year of Mercy."

It starts December 8, 2016, on The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.  What does showing mercy look like?

It is forbearance in the face of actual grievances.
It is forgiveness for past pains.
It is generosity of spirit toward others.
It is healing rather than harsh.
It opts for the kindest rather than cleverest response.
It doesn't go looking to be irritated.
It doesn't presume bad faith or bad motive.
It does not expect reciprocity. It is a gift.
It heals the giver, even as it offers healing to the recipient.
Mercy cannot be given in wrath, or to prove a point.  It is uniquely personal.  It is from one person, to another.  It is a hand, offering aid.
Mercy is never what we deserve.  Mercy is always a gift beyond what is merited.

It's a funny thing, mercy, because we all hope for it for ourselves, and even when we receive it, we often do not recognize it for what it is.  We think, we lucked out, we squeezed by, or things worked out as they should be.

It will not make the papers, it will seem invisible.  Why?  Because when we are merciful, we are the most fully human we can be, the most in God's image, we can manage.

So spend this year, and in particular, the upcoming Advent, practicing the mercy you want to see in the world.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Small Success Thursday/What's For Dinner/Will She EVER blog again?

1. It's been a while, because I'm trying to restart in that boot camp, but having these sort of weekly memes keeps me from slacking, so I've returned, but I've also combined the three. Muhahhahahahahaha...

It's Saturday...and I'm only just getting around to posting a link to Small Success Thursday. One could call that a very small success or a rather big failure on my part, but I'm going to say, go, it's never too late to count your blessings. :)

3. What's for Supper Simcha Fisher?

A heaping feast of humble pie.  I'd planned to make it last week.  It took me until this week to make lamb stew, but it was GOOD.  Plus, I had fun walking into the liquor store to buy one can of Guinness with a four year old dressed in her Harley Quinn Costume.  

Anyway, the stew itself is simple and won a few converts.  (John on up liked it, Rita on down did not).  It splits right where I would have predicted.  But hey, that's what chicken nuggets were invented for, to eliminate the hassle of "I don't like dinner" when dinner is something unusual.  That, and cold cereal.

But planning out the menu for the upcoming week does make life easier.
I will try to at some point, be artsy enough to take a photo of food we eat.  But that didn't happen this week.

Dinner Saturday: Beef Stew....why?  Because it's raining, so it just fits.  Everyone who objects gets leftovers.

Dinner Sunday:  Pork Tenderloin, roasted potatoes, green beans and salad. Dessert. (We always have dessert for Sunday night, it's a good way to make sure everyone stays at the table, pumpkin pie, a nearly universal favorite. The two mavericks get ice cream).

Dinner Monday:  Life gets evil, as basketball season has started and Faith has practice Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, while John has practice Tuesday. CCD is on Tuesday, but not at the same time as Basketball.  Go figure.   So dinner will need to be pre-planned to prevent nervous breakdowns, dinner at 9 in the evening and dinners that come out of a microwave.   On the plus side, field hockey and x-country have ended, so the teens will be coming home on the bus.   (Cue happy dance).  

Dinner Monday?  Lasagna. (I'm not a martyr, it's Stoffer's, but it will mean dinner gets prebaked, and no worries).  

Dinner Tuesday?  Baked Chicken and french fries, mixed veggies and salad.  Again, I cook the chicken during the day so we reheat and go...

Dinner Wednesday?  Pork chops, broccoli...(which my kids like),

carrots, potato wedges.  This one is not as tricky as it seems.  I season the chops with soy sauce and strawberry jam, cooking oil and kosher salt.  I broil.   So it's fast, and the potato wedges I make in advance.  

Dinner Thursday?  Pasta, meatballs, sauce cooked all day in a crock pot.

Dinner Friday?  I'm thinking, pot roast if we get one, otherwise, it will be a waffle and bacon night.

4.  What am I reading?   Well, there are four books currently in the reading rotation.

Regina: Black Beauty.  
Rita: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.  (It was nice to revisit Hogwarts with two sets of new eyes. Rita and Regina are loving it).
John:  The Prince and the Pauper.  After so many awful (and I do mean awful) cartoon versions of this Mark Twain novel, I thought it time to rediscover the real thing. We're enjoying it.
Me:  (I'd read to Faith, Peter and Marta if they let me).   I'm reading Pope Benedict's The Doctors of the Church, which is a very good, very readable book, introducing me to all 35 of those proclaimed to be so named.   I read a doctor at a time, so as to not be overwhelmed.

5,  What else is going on?
In other sports news...
Rita and Regina are signed up for Girls on the Run.  It's a 5K and Faith and I will be their partners.  So I'm hitting the gym so I can keep up with my 8 year old.  

Peter is running in the Baltimore Celtic Solstice 5 mile on December 19th.  He'll be joining his uncle and aunt --who ran in the NYC marathon and PR'd at just 4 hours and 58 minutes, and his cousins. All but the 5 year old are running.

6.  Come on, there's more...
There is...Marta is finishing up applications for college.  Faith is doing prep work for Confirmation and looking at high schools.   Paul is talking a bit more.  As his sister Anna said, "He's not using Down Syndrome words."  And Anna is reading.  She's not yet five. It's cool to watch.

7.  I'm working on writing one thousand words a day, so I don't have much left for blogging, hence the condensing of three internet list memes into one.  I don't have anything more to report except, I dressed up this Halloween as Helen.   My husband took a picture.



Wednesday, November 4, 2015

My Catholic Bonifieds Mean Squato

Recently, David Mills wrote A Marxist Lesson for Breeding Catholics, arguing that those who espouse Catholic teaching and have many children, do so from a position of privilege, and thus do not see the struggle of the poor, or of those for whom, the possibility of having another child, constitutes a danger/and or burden they can anticipate.  

As a member of what he calls, the romantic middle class breeding Catholic society, I'd like to say the following to David Mills, and those who think Catholic Breeders have NFP Rose colored glasses on when they welcome a child into the world and thank God they're in the 5 if not 1 percenters.  


Being a practicing Catholic with a large family means three things.

1) We hold to the teachings of the Church on sex and marriage, though it costs.

2) We have no romanticism about the reality of how hard it is to either abstain or follow the Church's teachings, when we can see all around us, how much seemingly easier it is for everyone else to fund college, drive a car smaller than a Suburban, and just go out to dinner as a family, let alone, consider a vacation.  Hey kids, let's go Camping.  Do you know why?  Because two hotel rooms means the vacation is three days tops.  

3) We do get joyous about the children, because we do celebrate life, but that doesn't mean when we are pregnant, we're thinking, yipee! We're probably thinking, "How could God trust us again? How are we going to do this?  Do you think we can manage?  What can we cut?" and ten thousand little logistics like, if it's a girl, do we have hand me downs we can keep for her, or is the stuff so old, we need to start over?    (Please, long time readers, know I'm not expecting, it's just the topic I'm discussing).  

I think, Mills is confusing romanticism with a joyful witness.  It's not romantic to have 300 unmated socks permanently stashed on your sofa because no one, not even you, wants to deal with sorting.  But it is a joyful witness to get everyone out the door, and not sweat if some of the sock ware choices are creative.  Two my little pony socks, but different ones?  Hey, Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie are buds, why not in the foot ware department?  

It's a reality, if you have a big family, you get pegged.
Every time I've gone out with everybody, somebody says it.  "Mormon or Catholic?"  It's a standard response to having more than half a dozen. I don't mind it.  We grew into this size of a family, and into this witness.  It wasn't a pre-established design by us.  By God, sure, but not by us.  

But with having a JUMBO FAMILY PACK XXL family means you do get presumed to have somehow bypassed the moral struggles of parenting, and moved straight to some sort of perfected state, only punctuated by Erma Bombeck worthy moments of zany antics.   It's not true.

First, we have the normal battles, I mean discussions over who took the batteries for the remote, where is his shoe and going to bed even when you're not tired, how can you not be tired? I'm tired! just like any other family.  

Second, we're not here to judge anyone's faith life.  Honestly, I'm trying to make sure I get through mass or the movie or dinner or wherever it is we are whatever it is we're doing with the same exact number of people I showed up with, and hoping, none of them are doing something I won't be able to explain, like going through the free lollipops and opening all the ones that say "?" on them, to see if they can find their favorite flavor.  My Catholic bonifieds mean squanto except to the extent I live them, (which means, if I'm judging anyone else's attempt to live out their faith, carry their cross and discern how to serve God and their neighbor with all their heart, strength and mind),  I could have 15,000 children, and it wouldn't make me a good Catholic.

Third, a practicing, not perfected Catholic, and family size is no indicator of faith size.  What we wrestle with, may be less self evident, but that does not make it any less a reality.  

Finally, I'd like to insert any other word in for "wealthy" and indicate the absurdity of making this qualifier on living a Catholic life.  

"Only the affluent will find being open to life easy."
"Only the educated..."
"Only the powerful..."
"Only the physically strong..."

Money certainly helps with the physical needs (and there are plenty), but the way this article begins, it presumes, someone starts pre-fab, wealthy, and says, "Because I'm wealthy, I can afford the luxury of being open to life."  The world we live in, would seem to indicate, that's not the thinking that goes on...not because there aren't wealthy people open to life, or the wealthy people who were open to life, became poor because they were open to life, but because I would just eliminate the qualifier, and say, "Only those open to life, are open to life.  Some are blessed to find it easy."

The rest of it, I seriously doubt enters into the equation. We're all called to be saints.  If we're all called to be saints, you can bet, however God plans on bringing us to His table, it will be luminous, joyful, and even glorious, but it will also be sorrowful at times, and not easy.  To follow Christ is to hold onto a cross, to say even when you have nothing left, "I will serve." not because you want to prove yourself, but because you love.    

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

It's the Most Annoying Time of the Year....

Today is November 3rd.

My eleven year old started singing the 12 days of Christmas.  Even after explaining, theologically speaking, he should start on Christmas and go until the Feast of the Epiphany, even after pointing out the All Carols All the Time Radio Station hasn't started it's annual shtick, even after begging as I'm driving to his school, "I'll let you start up the day after Thanksgiving," he would not be deterred from starting a Yuletide revolution in the car.

I'd had them singing to help the ten year old with songs she has to know for a Veterans' day concert; "The Star Spangled Banner," "She's a Grand Old Flag" and "America the Beautiful."  We'd closed with two Fall favorites, "The Notre Dame Fight Song," and "Five Little Speckled Frogs."  But in the back row, came a deliberately off key and very loud...

and the back row, swept in the wake of his silliness, joined in.  All off key, all loud, even Paul.   I pointed out, we're driving. It's morning.  There is traffic.

They did run into the technical difficulties of remembering the three French Hens, there are a lot of birds in that song.  

I reminded everyone we ought to celebrate Thanksgiving before Christmas, and if they wanted to skip Thanksgiving, I'd let the school know to keep them in school that last week of November.

The song made its way to the second row, with editorial content.  "You can't leave us at school, we have Thanksgiving off!"  "FIVE GOLDEN RINGS!"

My google map says the road from here to their school is only fifteen miles.  It just feels so much longer.   I opt for the diversionary tactic of the radio, hoping to find some sing along song they love. I am stuck at a light by which point, the kids get to the nine ladies dancing.  An argument breaks out over who gets to say which item.  It turns out, no one wants the maids a milking, and everyone wants the five rings.

I have failed to quash the pre-Turkey day singing special.  I can only stew, ignore, or join.   It is then, the true spirit of Parenting knowledge shown in my eyes.  I knew how to recapture the car.  It would be without promises. It would be without nags. It would happen without bribes, without scolds and finger wags.   I opened my mouth, and sang forth clear and loud, "ON THE TENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS..." and the silent night in my car, rang clear and profound.  I sang all the rest of the carol that ride.  Everyone else sat silent once I swallowed my pride.   It wasn't the prettiest song you'll ever hear, but I sang it with gusto.  I sang it with cheer.

And I told my tween son as he got out of the car, I love you very much.  He said, "Har-dee-har-har."

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Small Success Thursday

I promise you, I'm writing 1K a day, just in different formats.  The exercises of the Boot Camp usually take up about 700, and I'm still crafting articles, I'm just not happy with them yet.  

In the meantime, today is Thursday and you know what that means:


Wednesday, October 28, 2015 I was cleaning my daughters' room and found this:

I'll let you know if I start wearing shades and listening to obscure recording artists before they're discovered.  Then again, if I'm cool, I won't have to tell you, you'll just know because....I'm cool.  

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Book of Helen Facebook Page

Hey, if you haven't "Liked" my facebook page, The Book of Helen, I could use a few more likes.  Also, I posted there for the first time in ages, so there's a new piece to read there.  Additionally, if you've read The Book of Helen, it would mean a lot if you left a review.  Finally, if you haven't read my first foray into Historical Fiction, you're missing a treat and I hope you'll consider, if you like my renditions of non fiction, what I can do with an icon of beauty and flaws like Helen of Troy.

Thank you.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Meanwhile...Over in Real Life

I didn't post on Sunday or Friday for that matter.  In part, because I have failed as a modern parent.

I own an i-phone and because I can't remember the password for the apple Id, I cannot post pictures to facebook to prove 1) I have an i-phone and 2) we are doing i-phone worthy activities that should garner likes and approval from countless strangers, acquaintances and facebook friends, not to mention actual family who only go on Facebook to find out what we're up to these days.  

This matters because this past Thursday, we held a birthday party for Rita and a 1/2 birthday for Regina.  She turned 8, but during Easter so...she got a party in October.  We went to Rockin' Jump and they had a blast.  Paul loved the trampoline basketball so much, he didn't stay in the party room for cake.  For Cake!  This is the kid also known as Cakebeard whenever a cake is served.  But being able to jump and dunk held greater allure.  

Friday, we didn't do much, but no one required much. There were presents to open, the day off for some, and a three day weekend to enjoy.

Saturday, we did track, cross country, and again, no photos.  I assure you, it was cool to watch them running.  

Sunday.  We went to mass and then the Maryland Renaissance Festival.  Faith shot arrows.  John and Regina got swords. Anna picked out a purple princess hat.  Paul and Rita and I rode an elephant.

There are cool photos on my phone.   I tried guessing my password, and now I'm locked out of my i-phone.   I have concluded, I am not smart enough to own a smart phone.  

Photo of Anna in her costume, from my daughter who knows what she's doing.  

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Growing Hidden Chorus

The California Governor opted to sign into law the "right to die,"  In India, non human "personhood" has been granted to dolphins, in an attempt to protect them from slaughter.  In American, unless we've decided not to, people have access to all the videos exposing the evil of Planned Parenthood's operations, and even the direct video is not enough to soften all hearts toward the children our society throws away by the thousands every day.

If people will not be moved by natural law, or by unethical behavior, or by foresight of the need for future preservation, if people will not cease cheering the Culture of "When do we get to kill?" advancing on all fronts, legalizing the slow destruction of people by drug use, or the final termination of any who despair via false charity mercy killings, then perhaps a history reminder will snap some from the reflexive embrace of all things if the right political party applauds or the wrong political party rejects.  

If the law can bequeath value, worth and protection, owing to the thinking of the day, then the law can taketh away.  We all know this from history, women, african-americans, children, untermensch, three-fifths of a person, savages, the unborn, whosoever we opt not to see as human, we do not treat as human, making our society, less humane.  To presume the moral code which keeps the power to "kill" from being abused will remain as it is, is also to ignore history, the history of law, and human nature.
The right to die, will become the obligation, because what we can do, we always do to excess.  What we allow via law, we codify as correct morally.  What we codify as correct morally leads to further exploration... well how far out is it correct to use this right to declare "personhood" or to strip it, and when is it right and just to usher a person out of life, as a kindness?  Does a smart dog have personhood?  What about a smart phone? Does a Down Syndrome child lack sufficient purpose to the society, such that he does not merit person hood once those who love him die?   If being desired and loved is what determines personhood --as in the case of the unborn, then if one is undesired or unloved as far as one knows, does one lose "personhood?" Is the status something conferred by the State, or by the individual?  What if the individual can't speak for him or herself?

We always cloak our moral rationalizing in such pastel terms.   And those who favor whatever modern sensibility has been advanced, will view any such concerns voiced by those who object to the fashionable new laws, as so much hand wringing.  Anyone concerned at the abuses such a law enacted in California and the four other states that sanction mercy killing, is written off, the equivalent of a Catholic Cassandra predicting the fall of Troy.

We will invent a new language, new terms to make the decision by a person to die more socially acceptable, less morally challenging, maybe pick a ribbon color that hasn't been designated yet, and make a particular month, the month --probably December, because that's so terribly considerate to family, to get it done at the end of the tax year.  These laws in California, in Oregon, New Mexico, Vermont and Washington and to a lesser extent, Montana, call it "death with dignity."   If this law metastasizes and spreads across the land, via the courts or popular opinion, dying will become an industry in this country, with customs and pomp and circumstance and glowing articles depicting how noble and selfless it is to do this for one's family.   A society that cannot bear hearing phrases which trigger emotional hurt, will have little tolerance for enduring the cross of growing old, or witnessing those who do.  

We can pretend they aren't people, we can declare them not people, or lacking or having lost "personhood," (because we gave it to the dolphins or the chips or the dogs or computers or trees or whatever other thing or creation we deem of more worth).  We can shout with laws and courts, politicians and celebrated beautiful powerful people, they are not people.   That does not make it truth; it only reveals how we are treating them, and our justification to our own selves.

Even absent my own deeply held religious convictions, people of good will, who believe we should care for the poor and the sick, who want a society which protects the weak from the powerful, should agree with the following sans any scaffolding of faith: there is no one more fragile than the one no one has to see; no one has to hear; no one has to know about.  There is no one more poor in society, than the one who has no say, no choice, and no chance except by the grace and mercy, charity and courage of others.

The government and laws which reflect the society governed, must protect the most vulnerable, or they are a form of tyranny against the powerless, sustaining the comfortable in their status quo.  The problem with that sort of scenario, is sooner or later, each of us will wind up on the other side of the equation, on the side those comfortable, don't favor. I return to the unborn because they get dismissed the most easily, but it applies to the elderly, the infirm, the disabled, the veterans, the homeless, the mentally ill, to any whom society deems less useful, to all who walk the earth unseen.

Here is why I stand against the law in California sanctioning the "right to die," and against abortion. Both laws stem from the same line of thinking, that life is tedious, painful, a nuisance and too much trouble if it is anything but care and worry free.  How long can a society endure, that cannot weather even paper cuts to the psyche?  How long can a people survive, intent on eliminating all who aren't perfect, either in genetics or in geriatrics?  What nation thrives under the delusion that all suffering can be eliminated from experience?

 Wake up. Wake up.  Wake up.  

Just today, we've lost three thousand.  

Those little ones die baptized in blood and water in the course of their short lives in the womb. I envision a great multitude in heaven of never before heard voices,  Those deliberately silenced form a choir so magnificent, we will wonder how we ever endured living on this Earth without their songs, and wonder why we wanted such a silence in the first place. 

Small Success Thursday

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Why I Don't Worry about Pope Francis or the Synod

I got half way through a post, and thought it would need more research to even be set up.  I tried to tie in Pope Francis and the Synod on the Family and how God works by exploding into our very small lives, infusing our finite and limited vision of ourselves with His divine one, but honestly, I didn't feel up to the task. I couldn't quite pour out onto the page a way to convey that reality, from seed to tree, from one cell to fully formed human being, from the single atom, the explosion outward, all of those images revealed and yet obscured what I was trying to say.

Plus I wanted to discuss this insight I had this morning.  I woke thinking about Genesis and the fall, the rift created by original sin, between humanity and God, between man and woman, and between mankind and nature.   I thought about Pope Francis' ministry thus far and how he's worked on each of these rifts in reverse.  He started with Laudato Si, being stewards of the Earth and all creation, (Working to repair the damage done to the relationship we're supposed to have with all of God's gifts), and then the Synod on the Family, (which addresses the rift between man and woman which God said should not be), and finally, the upcoming Year of Mercy --which would ultimately involve reflecting on the nature of our relationship with God.  There isn't any more to my insight than this process backwards of trying to help reveal to all of us, through his ministry, the repairs and restorations we must be about if we want an authentic relationship with the world, each other, and God.  

But I didn't know how to explain, that if we give the slightest sliver of a yes, God will flood through that crack, and saturate our lives with grace except to say, I know it to be true.  So if you've watched Pope Francis or heard his teachings, and felt your heart flutter "Yes." at some point because of what he is doing, that's God courting your soul, seeking you in particular out, for something bigger than you imagined.  The seed cannot comprehend it will one day be a redwood, or the child, an adult, or the rain drop, one day, part of the ocean.  And we can't possibly get what God has in store prior to being in the midst of it, nor would we likely trust it if we knew prior.  It's why He doesn't give us the whole of it all at once, but builds up our capacity over time.

So to those who worry about this Pope or the Synod, don't.  For those who feel left out because they aren't singled out, don't.  Open the scripture for the day, steep in it and trust it to be true, trust that God speaks, and has a magnificent plan designed just for you, only for you whether or not you're singled out by the Pope and called on the phone, or your special interest group is focused on by the Synod or the next encyclical. Regardless of worldly acknowledgement, you are called by God.  Get to the business of being Catholic, of living out the Beatitudes, for lived out, that plan helps with the restoration of those three relationships on some level and will make you, feel very joyous and loved. You will be luminous if you allow yourself to stop worrying about the darkness, or about how you are not being singled out.  

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Writer's World View

I wasn't going to write a blog post today.  Then, a writer in a group wrote the equivalent of a "Good bye cruel world." announcing she was quitting writing because she wouldn't become rich or famous or make it onto the New York Times Best Seller's list.  She declared herself not a writer and that she never would be.

Immediately, the answers flew, fast and furious, "Fine, you're not a writer, because you quit." ran the tenor of some, and "why?" came from others, and "If you got into this for money and fame, you weren't into this for the writing."

Writing is a choice, just as love is a choice.  Sometimes writing requires as much iron will as getting up in the middle of the night for the third time.  It demands we work when we don't feel it, work when we don't like it, and write every day, even if we're tired, our stomachs are bloated from eating dinner too late in the evening, and we'd rather sleep, watch baseball, do anything but pound on those damn keys.  

Writers write even when there are no stats, demands, checks, reviews, or praise that comes with it.   When there is nothing left but the raw nerve that screams write, the writer writes because that raw nerve demands it. Just as love is not merely an emotion but a choice, so also writing, is something which no one can stop you from choosing to quit, but likewise, no one can force you to continue. It is an act of the will.

I don't know if the lady just wanted attention or if she meant it when she declared herself quitting, but I thank her for making me think about why I write.  Because there is something to this weaving of words I cannot not do, even if I have nothing other to say than, "Write! Write!" and "Write some more."

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!