Wednesday, September 30, 2015

It's September 30th, so I'm Preemptively Ranting about Halloween

I love Halloween. I love pumpkins, I love costumes, I love all the candy the kids don't like that I get to eat.

I hate shopping for costumes, on line and in stores.  I really hate it with children.

Why?  Because the stores all sell the same thing, and worse, they have the obligatory creepy bloody display which terrifies my younger kids, grosses out the older ones and ensures I lose sleep because somebody has nightmares.

So Sherry you're thinking, go to the online stores, but even that's risky.  Why?  The webpages can't resist having sidebar costumes wildly inappropriate for everyone.  

I'm going to get asked about the Adam and Eve costumes, or the Sexy Pickachu Costume or the Bloody Daniel Tiger Costume, I'll get asked why there are 15 million girl costumes and ten options for boys.  I'll get asked why every boy must be a superhero or a ninja or a superhero ninja, and why every girl costume has  v-neck and/or is pink and sparkly.   Some of these questions will be from teens who need further clarification, some will be from kids who feel bewildered by the become a skeevy Carny for Halloween pitch, and worst of all, will be the kids who don't know why something is wrong, and want "that costume."

It's almost enough to make me learn to sew.

But not quite enough, so I tried typing in some qualified searches, but the word Innocent with costumes...doesn't work well.  I was very grateful no children saw the results.    I'm rather scared to research what chaste+costumes might conjure.  You can find decent stuff with children+costume.  I don't need my kids to dress up as saints or people from the old testament or Veggie Tales or even Lord of the Rings, but I would like a policewoman to look like a policewoman and not a pole dancer, and Batgirl, a personal favorite, to not require my daughter have hit the gym more than Barbara Gordon.   Every costume is a skin tight catsuit.  It's just the colors of the sequins that vary.

That sewing needle is mocking me.  I can hear it from its lonely former cookie tin, lost amongst extra buttons and thread.  

Wonder if I can convince any of them to be old fashioned ghosts?  I've got some extra sheets we could use.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Not the Patriots, Not Nixon Related Brady Water Gate

When the Pope came to Congress, Representative Brady saw an opportunity to procure a unique keepsake from the occasion, and took the pontif's glass of water (which Pope Francis had already sipped from), and took it back to his office to drink.

Now I get wanting to touch greatness, to somehow connect yourself to someone who seems beyond what you can aspire to being.  (It's the pitch made for Dos Equis).

But Representative Brady also dusted the glass for prints.  So the unasked question at this point is, "Why?"

Here at Chocolate for Your Brain, quick internet research revealed the following possible theories to explain the representative's behavior.

10) The Pontiff's finger prints are on file, cross referenced to ensure we aren't dealing with a Pope decoy. *You know, like in that Star Wars Prequel.  I'll apologize right now for even reminding you of that movie.

9)  Aspirations for discovering the holy gene have been thus thwarted by the inability to find a suitable candidate within the governing body politic from which to obtain a sample.  It was never the water on the outside of the glass Representative Brady was after, it was the sweat and cellular residue on the outside.

8)  Check the office pool at the House and Senate, Brady must have lost a bet somewhere, and to prove he'd swiped the Pope's H20, the winner demanded a "Trust but verify" measure of proof.

7) Having read all of Dan Brown's novels and watched all the National Treasure movies, Brady feels convinced the Pope has a state of the art secret layer underneath the Vatican Bank where the treasures of the world are located, and the only means of access, is coded to the pope's fingerprints. His junket to Rome leaves next week.

6)  The office water cooler was drained earlier. Brady had the hiccups.  He needed a drink.  Since he was going to have to drink from someone else's glass, he wanted to make sure it was only the Pope.  After all, anyone else might have cooties.

5) Not saying he was looking for mutants or aliens, but it makes more sense than any of the rest of these theories.

4) The plan had been to lift the prints and put Speaker Boehner's prints in their stead, but it didn't work out.

3) Brady apparently has done this sort of thing before, sort of doping on someone's water in hopes of procuring for himself whatever midi-chlorians might be left behind in the backwash. Last time it was President Obama after he made a historic speech.   As for the dusting for prints, he has a collection of famous people's finger marks, don't ask how he got some of them, it isn't as pretty as this time around.

2)  With a name like Brady, he didn't think he'd get caught, and even if he did get caught, nothing would come of it.

1)  Representative Brady wasn't dusting for prints at all, he was measuring the Pontiff's hand span, Given the Eagle's 1-2 start,  He's searching for someone who can throw a Hail Mary and save the season.

*Editors Note to Bernie Sanders, Trump and anyone else who starts to catch fire in the coming months, drain your beverages or Brady will.

Batman? Really?

Once you've been compared to Jesus, Noah, God, Superman, Martin Luther King, to JFK, to David before the Goliath, to all good things in all times that ever existed in your first term, how do you then go for a second? How does one go about creating a sequel and making it 20% cooler?

You reboot.  First rule of reboot? Do not talk about the reboot. 

Written back in 2012...found it when doing research...the political part no longer applies, but the subsequent stuff does.

President Obama: Premiering for the first time as if you've never seen him before: I'm Batman!

But you can't be a hero without a villain so of course Romney is the evil villain BANE...cue the boos and throwing of lettuce and rotten oranges.  So what does that make all of us who aren't rooting for you? Henchmen? Flunkies and toadies? or just the duped citizens of Gotham?  Are the 99percenters protesting Wayne Tech?

It is an insult to Americans everywhere to think this sort of pandering heroworship/demonization not only should work, but should even be considered. This would be laughable except I'm so stinking tired of being told that any GOP who actually attempts to disagree with the DNC is selfish, lazy, cruel, bigoted, homophobic, xenophobic, ignorant, stubborn, hateful, racist, corrupt, demonic etc. etc. etc. and anyone who does not agree with this assessment is also ignorant, bitter, uninformed, unevolved...put your favorite insult here. 

Don't tell me it doesn't apply to me, it has been draped on everyone who disagrees with this administration or the Democratic party if they disagree about anything. And I ignored it for a long time...but at some point, you get tired of ignoring an insulting bully. The intent has been to silence dissent, discourage debate and make one ashamed of not being at the cool table with all the beautiful popular people. This nerd is annoyed. This nerd doesn't want to sit at their table, but she sure as hell doesn't want to spend the rest of her lunch period listening to insults.

Now I know plenty of lovely people in real life who disagree with my politics.  We talk, we engage over email, we have a few laughs when we're together and we don't always just talk that stuff because that would be terribly boring and mean we don't have lives.  They don't call me names.  They don't presume that I don't mean what I say or have reasonable reasons for my thinking.  I likewise think the same of them.  It is what civilized people do. 

However it is election season, and politicians running for office and their flunkies, view civil discourse as something for the flyover people, a tool used to sedate the masses, a mask of a smile and a glad hand to secure the vote and move on.  Treating one's political opposition with genuine regard is not something one does in earnest --or at least that's how it appears given their broad sweeping statements about all who do not go hand in glove with their agenda. 

To those who say, well, there's Rush and Hannity and Mark Levin and Ann Coulter, let us say we don't like the slinging of mud on our side either.  For me there is a frustration that a meeting of minds that happens in parking lots and playgrounds and over phone calls and coffee in the real world, doesn't seem to touch the political stripe class. It's time we recognized it's the cliquey kids in DC and those who only live inside that fish bowl of DC waters that view all things as an R and D first, while the rest of us (those not elected to office), who do not struggle to get along or understand each other.  We don't think something is profoundly wrong with the people of California or New York or Kansas or Texas.   We don't presume bad faith and we don't assume malicious intent or design.  We're Americans.

So this is a call out to all who specialize in talking so they can be heard to have spoken, have something to say, the media class and the political class that plays with the media. Think about why the other side might disagree and trust that we the public actually want to have skin in this game and be involved.  Don't dismiss our disagreements with insults. It's boring and frankly, shoddy thinking.  If all you have is insults and (frankly you've run out of insulting insults, so now it is just getting stupid) you must not either believe your argument will hold or trust that it is tolerable for someone to disagree. Surely you are smarter than this.

But in case you're not...

I propose we all purchase some of those air horns used at basketball games and blow them whenever you start dipping into the muck.  So if you want to be heard, you'll have to learn how to play nice.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Conclusive Evidence

I tried sitting to read a book, and the children came and sat on my lap, asked for food, and made at least five demands requiring I get up.

Later, I sat down to write, and one son came with a project, two with a fight over a toy dinosaur, and another with a diaper change.

So I tried an experiment.

I took a chocolate bar and a diet coke and my laptop, and went to the basement. The messy basement that causes any parent to despair, and any child to fear feasting on the spilled toys, because they know a grown up might ask them to clean.

But the trigger is not where am I that draws my offspring.  They found me within minutes. I think I tried too hard.

Doing the dishes I found myself uninterrupted for the entirety of the job.

Vacuuming yielded similar solitude.

Laundry guaranteed in a house of normally between ten and twelve people, I saw and heard no one.

It seems my children sense when Mom is engaged in leisure, and when she is not.  They don't interrupt industrial activity for fear it will generate more industrial activity, but know if I'm anxious to get back to something that is fun, I will probably accommodate their wishes faster, and that if I'm doing work, I'll probably notice they're not working.

As the saying goes, knowledge is power.

So this post is being written amidst the sock pile, in hopes the cover of a hated chore will thwart their mom radar long enough for me to take a break.

One child has come to sit next to me in the socks.  I'll have to keep fine tuning my camouflage.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Why We Need Pope Francis and a Year of Mercy

I'll start here, with the great divide that shouldn't be but is, because in the world of Catholicism, there is a right and left wing, and both think the other side is obsessed with all the wrong things, and should reform if they would follow Christ.  The left champions social justice but is looser on personal morality, the need for the sacraments or the Church or priests or the Pope in particular.  The right champions personal morality, loves the prayers and the tradition, and the sacraments, but looks at social justice issues when they stray from abortion, and struggles with "Who is my neighbor?" and "How much do I have to give?"

Both sides are convinced, the other side lacks reason and fails to follow Christ.  Christ says "Judge not, lest ye be judged." and permits all manner of behavior under that cover.  The other side says, "Christ says 'Go and sin no more.' and views those who ignore those words as warranting fire, warnings, possible damnation.  Neither side sees fully the other as fully Christ like, because being separate, they cannot be.  To be the seamless garment of Christ, or to be His body, we must embrace all.   We need both hands, both feet, both eyes, both ears, both lungs, all the chambers of the heart, all the veins, all of the body, to really live.

If the left and right wave (illustrated in the cartoon), were to collide, they would eventually, flatten into smooth flat water, an ocean of mercy, what Christ actually intends.

Pope Francis has declared the coming year, a "Year of Mercy" which does not mean, as some might interpret, the Church's "GET OUT OF JAIL FREE" card, because we already have that in the sacrament of the Eucharist and Reconciliation, the graces bestowed by penance, fasting and prayer, and the gifts we can access through sacramental devotions and corporeal and spiritual acts of mercy.  

What "The Year of Mercy" does, is draw our eyes, minds and hearts to reflect for 366 (2016 is a leap year) days on what is God's mercy?

What does it mean?
First, it means God loves us beyond what we merit, which is good because we cannot merit Heaven.  (For those who think we can, please read up on your Catechism on Grace and Justification).

Second, it means (one can hope), that we begin to try to apply that measure of mercy which we need/seek, to others in our lives, and not just the ones we currently feel comfortable giving such mercy.  The measure with which we measure...shall be measured unto us.   No one should feel perfectly at ease, for none of us greet each person, both seen and unseen, as though they were Christ in His distressing disguise.  

We all have someone we feel "justified" in declaring evil, declaring bad, declaring unworthy of mercy.  We may have been tired, ill, frustrated, aggravated, even justifiably so, but that moment, when we have justice on our side, when we are within our rights to declare someone wrong, and to hold them to the sticking point, is precisely the moment at which we are afforded the opportunity to show the mercy we would seek for ourselves.

It is not a pleasant idea, to swallow when one feels justified, in favor of mercy, because it will require surrender.  "When do we get to throw the rocks?" is not following Christ, no matter how virtuous we might be in our habits.

When the Samaritans reject Jesus,  But they did not receive Him, because He was traveling toward Jerusalem. 54 James and John saw this, they said, "Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?" 55But He turned and rebuked them, and said, "You do not know what kind of spirit you are of;…"and I would submit, neither do we.  

Mercy.  Mercy.  Mercy.  It is what we crave for ourselves, but think should be withheld from others.
Why?  Because we think we want a year of Justice, and we presume somehow, we are just.

But if we Trust Christ.  If we Know Christ, then we should Trust His Father.  We should Trust God's Judgement.  We should seek God's Mercy, and know, He will also be just.

If you still feel like you've labored and endured the sun's heat all day, and never received so much as a kid goat to share with your friends, consider why you labor.  It is out of love, not duty, to the Father and all that He has, is yours.

Still struggling with Pope Francis and mercy and what it means to be Catholic in light of this Pope's witness and words in America? I submit this reflection by Fr. John Riccardo:

and leaving the closing argument to Jesus:

  If Christ can extend mercy from the cross, when He would be most justified in singling out souls for damnation, for the pain and suffering He has endured, and if we would be followers of Christ, we must also desire mercy even on our enemies even if they do not change their minds or agree with us.
Looking about at the world, boy do we need 366 days of reflection on the need to extend mercy on each other.

"Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."
With that fervent prayer, trust that Jesus will do the rest.


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Why I Write

As a child, I drew to escape when I couldn't get attention.  Creating a whole world through the pencil or the crayon felt safer and more friendly than the playground where my slow speed, puffy breath and awkward social skills could not be hidden.  

As an adult, I found writing, not as a means of escape, but as a method of discovery and preservation. I found out patterns as I wrote, ideas about parenting, life, religion, family, domestic tasks, errands, politics, everything jumbled in my brain and needed an outlet, particularly in the years when more than half my children were under the age of 10.

But as they've grown older, the stories get less cute, less cuddly, not because I love them any less, but the issues they deal with, have sharper edges, and the protective part of me as Mom, does not want to either expose them when they struggle, or to preserve for all the world, adolescent awkwardness.  I don't like remembering when I was 11-16. and I'm of the opinion, no one else does either.  

So creating the stories of a mommy blogger become more difficult.

I can stay in the safe shallows with my four year old, but the dangerous thing is to go out the door, to talk about the 7 year old who needs to grow up more, the nine year old as she runs through fourth grade, the trials of a 6th grader, the silence of my eight year old, the ever kind 8th grader, the sixteen year old who runs and the senior who tries very hard to pretend she doesn't have a crazy army of brothers and sisters behind her.  

The college students skype visit, and I can tell about the running gags we have over Taylor Swift and minions.  The Shake it Off singer stalks my 8th grader --we always put it on the radio if she's in the room, and the minions, have begun assembling around my college girl.  The joke annoys, and yet they delight that we think of it, and keep doing it.  The funny becomes more evasive as they get older, because we deal with bad grades, bad behavior, responsibilities, teams, drivers tests, SATs, college visits, recommendations, jobs, dates, curfews, computers and the real world.  

So now I write for me, but that seems boring.

Who wants to hear about my death threats to the Suburban for daring not to start today?  Or my ongoing promise to the dryer to use it for scrap metal if it fails to do its duty?  My i-phone came today, and my daughters pounced on it, I suspect they don't trust me with either technology or mechanical things.  

So I asked God, (and that's always dangerous), what I should do.  Today, I was asked to pray.  By one friend for her family, by another, for her job, by a third, for a friend who is losing her apartment.  I was asked to pray over and over and over again. It became absurd.  But it also was an answer.   So I prayed for my friend for her family.   I prayed for my friend for her job, and I prayed for the friend losing her apartment.  I'm taking those prayers tomorrow to the mass.

Why do I write? Because there are a million stories, some so heartbreaking, they feel like spun glass beauty, destined to shatter, and in those million stories, there are a million miracles waiting to happen.  I think the writing part of life is now about listening to the stories that need prayers, and writing what I can from them.  

Less of a mommy blog, more of a living collection of stories.   (I know. Tomorrow there will be a story about the kids playing zombie tag and Paul saying, "Lots of Me" like the characters on Phineas and Ferb), but I think it's closer to what this blog is supposed to become than not.  

Thanks for listening to me write all over the page and make a mess.   See you tomorrow, after the papal mass.  

Monday, September 21, 2015

Pixie Dust

As a fourth grader, she's on the edge of childhood, when magic and fairies and other things of whimsy still dot the mental landscape as tangible and real. But the day creeps ever nearer when they won't.
This weekend, she participated in a cross country meet. She was one of 94 girls, eight dropped out over the course of the two miles. I worried the whole time she would quit. I knew it was farther than she'd ever run. 
When I saw her come over the hill, part of me wanted to run with her, to get everyone to run behind her so she'd know, finishing mattered and how proud I was of her. I needn't have worried. The other mothers and girls that lined the course seemed to get the importance of this last runner puffing along. They cheered. They clapped. They heard me and her brothers and sisters screaming her name and others took it up.
"Come on! Come on! You can do it!"
The organization has runners called "Rabbits" who track with the fastest and slowest runners, and her Rabbit jogged along side, he also cheered her on. When she finished, I don't think she heard a single cheer, but the smile on her winded face told me, she got it. Finishing mattered.
A water and an ice cream later, she told me, "I am never doing that again." and my heart sank, I hoped she wouldn't quit, but I wasn't going to push. The coach came over and gave her a hug and talked about running being a constant race against yourself and how proud she should be for finishing. Other parents from other schools saw her and said, "Great run." They knew how fragile a moral victory can be.
When we got home, she informed me how the other day when she'd lost two teeth, the tooth fairy missed her note. While she watched a video, I went to her room and found it. "Dear Tooth Fairy, I would like some fairy dust." I sat with the note, weighing everything and the tooth fairy, wrote back.
"My Dearest,
Your mother found the note and put it under the pillow for me. I want to tell you something. While Fairies need Pixie dust, we do not make it. You my darling girl, make pixie dust.
When you persist when things are hard, whether it is homework or running or learning an instrument, you create a finer world via your work, and it is wondrous to behold.
When you are brave when things get tough, and stick it out even when you feel like quitting; you create pixie dust.
Fairies fly because of people like you, creating more amazing things than we magics can ever imagine. So keep up the good work! Don't quit. 
Love, T.F."

Friday, September 18, 2015

What's For Supper?

That day I bought a waffle maker and bragged about planning to make waffles....we ordered pizza.  I'm such a fraud.   But tonight, waffles are on the menu because the pork shoulder I planned to make is currently defrosting.

So Friday night, is waffle night, no waffling on dinner, just waffles for dinner.  I'll even throw in some bacon for those who like it.

Saturday...the pork shoulder should be defrosted.

That sucker is getting patted down, coated with a sheen of cooking oil, rubbed with brown sugar, kosher salt, black and white pepper, paprika and put in a slow cooker. Then I'm adding two cans of beer and letting it sit all day.

Saturday evening, when we've recovered from the field hockey practice, the cross country meet and before we tackle the Sunday obligations of sitting to sell tickets for the Saint Martin's 90th, mass for all ten of us, and the cross country meet for the Rita, Regina, John and Faith (at noon in Laurel), we will sit down to pulled pork sandwiches, tomato salad or Caesar --their pick, carrots, and french fries.

I shred the pork in a new pan, and take 2 cups of the drippings and add them to a bottle of BBQ sauce.  (Whatever kind you like).  Stir well while heating.  Then slosh the meat and make into sandwiches. Serve each child who likes it, and give them a roll of paper towels for clean up.  Any child who doesn't like it, hand a bowl of cheerios and pray for their souls.  

Sunday has become the Pasta night of the week, with a homemade sauce as long as the tomatoes hold out. I already gave that recipe here.  

Monday: I am liking this planning out the dinner I'm going to say we're doing hot dogs and hamburgers with french fries and carrots and cucumbers tonight.  Maybe watermelon for dessert.

Tuesday: Soup's on!  I love making soup in the slow cooker and even better, the kids eat it.

What do you need? the morning, before ten o'clock...

A slow cooker.
A piece of stew meat or roast. (I cut it up).
olive oil
onions (2)
celery (3)
potatoes (4)
carrots (5) 
bag of frozen peas --small.
box of chicken stock 
1 cup of red wine.
1 can stewed tomatoes or diced, preferably large.
1 can pureed tomatoes --large.  
bay leaf
salt and pepper
cooking oil

1) in a skillet, brown the meat.  Transfer to slow cooker.
2) chop up all the vegetables.  Add to slow cooker.
3) saute the garlic in olive oil.  Add to slow cooker.
4) pour in tomatoes, stock, wine and if need be, a cup of water into slow cooker, so everything is covered.
5) crush bay leaf, add to slow cooker.  
6) Add a handful of salt and pepper and the frozen peas. 
7) Most important step...turn on slow cooker.

Cook all day, serve with a salad and french bread.  They eat it.  And for the wimps, I make a pot of pasta and pour it over it and call it sauce.  


I made a nice meal yesterday...what do you mean you want me to do it again today?   They don't have school today so I'm going to make something that makes my life easy.   Meatloaf!  

Again, half the kids like it, half don't.  

Now I make my meatloaf with ketchup as a topper, specifically, the best we ever got was Sir Kensington Ketchup, which is only found in New York. I don't know how we got it the one time we got it, but I've been on the hunt ever since for it, and have had to substitute other ketchups,   The kids who like the meatloaf, have complained that they miss Sir Kensington.   So I've ordered some....

Otherwise, it's meatloaf.  Meat, breadcrumbs, onion, eggs, milk, ketchup, mix.  Form into a loaf. Cover top with more of the Kensington Ketchup.  Put foil over top.  Cook for 1 hour at 325.  Check. Uncover and cook another ten minutes at 425 to crisp the top.

Serve with bread and green beans.

Thursday's what's for dinner.   But the kids are getting tired of fiejtas. (The horror).   

So I've got to do something different to make it interesting to them again.  Last week I tried panko breadcrumbs --breading the chicken...and that earned universal thumbs down. 

I remain undeterred.  

The kids need newness on the menu.  So this week....we're making schwarma.  I'll serve cucumbers and white rice on the side but they eat pita and narn bread so putting it together shouldn't freak out anyone.  I'm also going to pulse the black olives into a paste, which makes it more kid friendly than looking at one of those olives and thinking...she wants me to eat this?   I'm also preparing for a lot of quotes of Tony Stark.    

Happy week...happy eating....I'll let you know how the schwarma works out. 


Being four, she has her own way of understanding the world.  Sometimes, I worry.

10.  Her brother received a robot T-rex with glowing red eyes. It roars.  She petted its head and said, "There there. Easy boy. Easy."

9.  Walking back from the bus, "I can't wait until I'm twenty."   she said.
"Why?  What happens when you're twenty?" I asked. 
"I'll be older."  

8.  We went to Toy's R Us.  She saw the Halloween costumes.   I now have a 4 year old "Harley  Quinn."   

7.  Getting in the car.  "You're my best mom, my favorite mom because you give me food."

6.  "I don't have enough kitties."  (She's holding three stuffed kittens, with four more jammed into her backpack).  

5.  After hugging her brother when he fell, she came to me and asked, "I gave Paul a hug. Am I like God?"

4.  "Mom! The sun is burning me, save me from the sun!"  --she wanted to walk in my shadow.

3.  Me: "We're out of raisins." 
     Her:  (fighting the urge to be upset).  "The world is not perfect. It's not perfect because we're out of raisins.  But big girls don't get upset.  They never give up and they can wait until we go to the store." 

2.   She made "Have you seen me?" posters for her two beanie boo stuffed animals she can't find and hung them around the house.  She also called out for them and complained when they didn't answer.

1.   At mass,  "I'm blowing kisses to God."  

I know it's not 1000 words, but I'll get back to writing this afternoon.  Have an errand this morning. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Rule of Thumb

The rule of thumb with exercising is it doesn't matter how you feel, exercise.
The rule of thumb with writing is if you only write when you feel inspired, you aren't a writer, you're a hobbyist who keeps a diary or a journal.  
The rule of thumb with cleaning is don't procrastinate.

So this is an all thumbs day.  

Yesterday, I climbed back onto the exercise wagon, but writing still lagged, so I told myself, today, no matter what, you would be stuck with me for 1000 words.   Normally blog posts are 400 words, 800 if I get going.   You are doomed.   Why? Because I've climbed onto the computer version of a treadmill, set the timer, and I'm not getting off until it's done.  No cheesy clips. No links. No.  I need to get back to writing 1000 words a day, either in Penelope or here, or for submission.  To do that, I need to start.  

How many words is that?  181?  Nuts.  I’ve barely begun and feel winded.  I’ll put on some tunes to keep me going.   Googling “Unwritten.”  (My favorite song to get started with writing).   But I’ve got nothing. I’m staring at this stupid page and crawling for each word. 

Where did my muse go?  Answer, she’s lurking beneath the flab in my brain.  I’ve got to start exercising to tone her into shape, to make her more present.   Sigh. 

AHHHHHHH. I’m “staring at the blank page before me…” Maybe this wasn’t the best choice for a song as background.    Don’t look at the count. You’ll be disappointed.  Don’t look. Too late. I looked. Nuts, I’m only at 292.   Push. Push through the mental pain of having a block.  Write. Damn it Sherry! Write!  

Story.  What story will I tell you today? 

There’s the discovery my kids have a Wikipedia understanding of the world. 

Readers of this blog know my dryer has commitment issues.  Sometimes it works beautifully, other times, it needs more reminders to do its work than my children do to put their laundry away.  I’ve learned to give it smaller loads.  To keep up with our family though, I need more dry than the piece meal approach allows.   Sunday, I opted to string out a line and hang the towels and other things, so as to double our output.
My teen thought I’d lost my mind.  “The sun can’t dry those things.” He announced.  His sister agreed.  Pointing out clothes have dried since clothing began via the sun could not dissuade him from his opinion.  Googling proof didn’t help as a fellow blogger, the Frugal Momma, came up as the top post. “Why I no longer line dry my clothes.” Now she wasn’t saying it didn’t work, only that it wasn’t as time efficient as the modern method.  But the headline gave him the proof he needed.  “She doesn’t do it, so you shouldn’t either.”  Pointing out she had a different issue than I did, I wasn’t doing either method exclusively didn’t work.  “Just put them in the car and drive to the laundry place.”  He suggested.

I proposed a race, between the dryer and the sun.  Equal sized loads. Both got two towels.  We’d start them at the same time. The dryer would run until they were dry.  I bet the sun would win even though there were clouds.  “This is stupid.” He said, and told me the race was fine, but his clothes were going to the laundry mat, neither my dryer nor the sun would work.   While not as gripping as the race between the iron horse and the horse drawn carriage, or the tall tale of John Henry vs. the Steam Drill, (My kids have been watching Disney Short films), in this case, I bet against technology.  All I wanted was dry clothes, but now, I had to prove to my son, the capacity of the sun, and my own wisdom despite google headlines to the contrary.  

One cycle through, everything is still damp.  The toy house propping the line blew over from the wind resulting in a scramble to rehang all the laundry.  My son gave me one of those smug “SEE I KNOW BETTER” smiles.   Two cycles through.  Watching me flipping some of the laundry on the line, he gave me a thumbs down.

Some of the stuff in the machine and on the line feel dry to the touch but the rule is it has to all be dry to count, whether the dryer or the sun.   The laundry starts cycle three.   The sun wins. The dryer still needs another cycle for the towels.  My son has put his wet clothes in the car.  He explains, “Don’t put my clothes on the line. In fact, don’t wash my clothes. I’ll do my own laundry.”

It turns out, he doesn’t want me airing his dirty or for that matter, clean laundry.   So in addition to proving that I may actually know something and that the sun can be used to dry clothes, I’ve eliminated a chore for me…at the price of once a week dropping him off at the Wishy Wash place.  Is there a downside to this?  I’m thinking no.  

In fact, upon consideration, I’m wondering if I did the dishes outside in public view, if I could get out of kitchen detail as well.  Maybe if we made the home transparent, I could get the kids to clean.  
Am I done yet? 

905 words.   

Last push, cool down part of the exercise…before I have to also go and exercise. 
The music is back.  The procrastination is back.  I registered two girls for Girls on the Run, answered emails, watched an excellent video on Syrian crisis and moved the laundry along before recognizing, I was opting to do chores rather than write. SIT BACK DOWN.  Finish the damn thing.   971.  Man I’m out of practice.   Thanks for bearing with me  in this exercise, I hope you’ll come back tomorrow as I try to have my blog become the equivalent of my mental treadmill/trail run.  

And a big "Thumb's up" for persisting. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Mother of All Linky Posts!

1.  Today is September 11th.  Everyone has a story of that day back in 2001.  It's a dull ache this fourteen years later, but when you see the pictures of the before and the after, the knife of it comes back.   So hug your family today, and stop and breathe deep the air of this country. We're free. We have our fights and our problems to be sure, but we have the gift of this day, and so many on that day, don't.   

2.  This was unexpected.  But it's lovely to see, lovely to hear, and gives me great hope, and I say that as someone who has never voted for Joe Biden.  Hearing two men on prime television during popular time, talk about suffering, death, and their faith, felt so natural and normal, and yet it isn't, so let yourself enjoy this clip.  I will be watching more of Stephen Colbert in part because of this sort of surprise. 


3. I didn't link up yesterday to Small Success Thursday, in part because yesterday was it's meeting day. I had meetings in the morning and the evening.  So if you need a break, stop and count your blessings.
4.  NEWS FLASH...I am considering a smart phone.  This seems as good a time as will ever come to dust off this published gem, "Imprisoned Without a Cell to Speak of" from my past.

Monday, I spent two hours at the same store.  They were nicer. They told me I should not buy from the store, but buy online.   They are gentler.  I wish they told me that two hours ago.

They are still woefully irritating when it comes to selling me what I want, and getting to it sooner than never.   That being said, I may soon succumb to the need to get a new phone, or take up letter writing.

5.   Happy Birthday Paul!  

My son turns seven next week.  It does not seem like seven years have passed.  He's happier than the picture indicates, but he never likes sitting still for pictures.   

6.  What am I reading?

Well, I just finished up True Radiance by Lisa Mladinich, as a reviewer for the Catholic Writers Guild. and I enjoyed it.  It's a good reflection (for the most part), on the nature of internal beauty. Here's a snippet to show what happens when she gets going:

"To allow the culture to mislead us about our identity as daughters of God has an impact on more than just ourselves.  We are the hearts of our homes and communities, creators and caretakers of tradition and mentors of the generations to come."  Lovely stuff.

 I've also just read a snatch of another book, Your Sacred Yes by Susie Larson.

"Jesus invites us to live as a joyful, secure, expectant people who respond to the nudges of the Holy Spirit within us, who live awakened to the adventure of faith God invites us to, and who believe that as a kingdom people, everywhere we place our feet, the spiritual atmosphere changes, because Christ-in-us has led us there."  

That quote alone made me very interested to see how she follows up.

Well, with three nights filled by Back to School, this week's dinner menu has been....creative. Yesterday, I punted and ordered pizza.  Wednesday, my oldest son at home, made spaghetti and meatballs and salad, and Tuesday, I made pot roast that cooked all day, smelled awesome, all of the kids ate, but all of them said they hated it.  All I got was the brown cooked onions on the bottom. Granted, those were delicious, but it didn't quite satisfy.  Tonight?  We're having chicken.  How?

Baked chicken with parmesan brown butter. (Don't get too excited, it's an easy recipe).

1) Bake chicken --with skin on, for 1 hour at 375.
2) Turn oven up to 425.  Take chicken out of oven and pour grease off. 
3) Put chicken back in oven.
4) Let cook for 25 more minutes, or until the skin is toasty and brown.
5) Melt a stick of butter in a pan, let it heat (on low), until it turns a nutty brown.
6) Take chicken out of oven.  Cover/dust with parmesan. (The green can of stuff will work fine).
7) Pour melted butter over the pieces of chicken. The heat from the butter melts the cheese onto the crust.  It is yummy.  

Serve with green beans, bread, and the obligatory salad 85% of my family won't eat.  

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Facebook Catechism on World Events

The internet brings us the world. It's a wonderful tool, but it also makes us culpable for our inaction when we know 1) what is right, 2) what is wrong and 3) chose to ignore it.

Yesterday, I saw this photo by Huthaifa Shqeirat illustrating the scale of the Syrian Refugee crisis via one photo of one camp.

Impulsively, I shared the photo, but the scope and scale of it, coupled with the now famous photo of the three year old boy drowned on the beach shore, haunted my thoughts.

What is a person to do in this great big world when there is so much need?  I knew myself to be somewhat ignorant so I started to do research.  I read. I tried to read more. Nothing was easy. In some cases, it disheartened me. I read the back sources.  After reading multiple sources I trusted to be honest, if not impartial, I found examining this crisis in detail is like examining an infected wound you caused yourself. It's ugly. It's a mess. It shouldn't be. It shouldn't exist.

It's small wonder part of me wanted to crawl back into a diversion.  Look! There's a Buzzfeed of photo bombs...but the story kept demanding I pay attention, which annoyed me. After all, what can I do?  Wringing hands and feeling guilty is useless, but what power do we have here, far away from where any meaningful aid or human contact can be rendered? 
Then I read today's readings.   
Now normally, I love the Beattitudes.  Who doesn't? LK 6:20-26
Raising his eyes toward his disciples Jesus said:

“Blessed are you who are poor,
for the Kingdom of God is yours.
Blessed are you who are now hungry,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who are now weeping,
for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you,
and when they exclude and insult you,
and denounce your name as evil
on account of the Son of Man.

Rejoice and leap for joy on that day!
Behold, your reward will be great in heaven. 
For their ancestors treated the prophets 
in the same way.

But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
But woe to you who are filled now,
for you will be hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will grieve and weep.
Woe to you when all speak well of you,
for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way.”

Today, the Gospel punched me.

I sat there reading it, knowing I have never been poor as these are poor. I have never been hungry as these are hungry. I have never wept as these weep. I have never been hated or excluded or insulted as these have been, for Christ or even for my own faults.
We live in an country of untold wealth, comfort and freedom. As a nation, though not to a person, we do not know how to suffer slights, much less injustices. We tend to justify our actions and inactions, both subtle and gross, for ignoring glaring pain and grinding poverty because whatever it is, is too big, too far away, too complicated, too much beyond our power, too much too much beyond what we as individuals can possibly do.

It is why I love this pope.  Pope Francis' called for Parishes in Europe to each adopt one refugee family.   It is a very Blessed Mother Teresa way of living out the life of the sermon on the mount, the call to us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for those in need, take on some of these souls abandoned.  She began with one dying man.  Mary the Blessed Mother, began her life of pure ministry with one yes. The Pope is asking for the Churches in Europe to say "Yes."

But what if the United States were to respond to Pope Francis's coming to see us, by doing the same? I don't know how it could happen, but what a luminous city on a hill witness it would be to the world, about what our hearts aspire to be.

A classmate from college thoughtfully
 pointed out, "Processing of Syrians is lengthy, much longer for them than other refugee populations, due to bias and fear in America. (And parts of Europe). Processing includes security, health and other screenings. Religion is only part of the picture."  

What can we do?

1) Contact Your Bishop to see what your diocese can do. There's also a lengthy discussion on the USSCB page regarding Migration and Refugees.
2) Contact your Senator. to see what is being discussed and what can be done. 
3) You can also sign a petition to the White House asking it and the government to authorize the resettlement of 65,000 Syrian refugees.  (Two capacity filled games of Fenway Park) or Frederick City, Maryland's entire population if you want to wrap your head around the idea.   
4) Pray..  St. Alban is the patron saint of refugees.  St. Anthony for the world to find a solution and for these people to find a home where they can do more than survive.
5)  John Mark M Reynolds said in an excellent movie review of War Room,  "Here is a basic fact: Christianity is a religion of the Cross. We take up our cross daily and follow Jesus. Prayers are the work of the soul and all our prayers are answered, but some are answered “not yet” or with continued pain. God sits in the Heavens and governs the universe. He desires what is best for me . . . but also for every being in the cosmos. I cannot always have my way in the short term in a broken universe.

Prayer is not a short cut to my will, but it is a surrender to the Will of God. I have seen great miracles in my life: healing that cannot be explained, people set free of demonic oppression, and insights that can only have come from God. I have also seen people walk long hard roads, because other people around them are evil. To continually tell people that prayer solves everything is functionally a lie. Prayer does solve everything, but it does not keep us from needing to do what God has called us to do." 

He's right.  We can't just pray, check that box, read those links, make that call or sign that email and move on.  We must investigate further.  One day's worth of googling by one mommy blogger won't tell the whole story, nor should it be considered extensive.  I welcome corrections, additions, points of view and links to useful places that might help all of us collectively to do more than watch from the sidelines.  
We have on the internet, the equivalent of the strange couple we don't know, knocking at the world's door.  It is completely reasonable, rational and logical to shake our heads and shut the door, saying, "There is no room in the inn."
 Jesus said, “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple– truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.” (Matthew 10:40-42).  

I thought about putting up pictures of the refugees, but I think the reality is, we know there are people displaced, owing to faith, owing to politics, owing to greed, owing to war. We know they exist.  That leaves us with the next part of the situation.  How will we respond? 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Over at Aleteia

The woman who gave me an hour of her time for an interview, is profiled over at Aleteia!  She came to the states last year, and I had the privilege both to conduct the interview, and to be at the weekend long retreat where she spoke about the English release of her book, Never Again Alone! detailing how "Faith and Light" organizations came into being.

Please go and take a look and share this story with those you know via social media.  The world needs more Faith and Light.

Marie-Helen Mathieu, A Radiant Life of Service

A Daughter in the Sun

I have a theory about children, they favor the season in which they were born.  There's no scientific data to back this up, not even a new agey article in Woman's Day, but my own anecdotal experience continues to at the very least, assert it is so for my offspring.

My daughter born in October, she sings more and is academically more successful in the fall, the spring is harder, and in the summer, she wilts.

My summer son hates cold and all things winter, he lives to be outdoors but only when it's warm. He also hates any heaters or artificial sources of heat, and seems allergic to all things Fall and Spring.

But these don't provide the evidence to convince anyone, they're incidental and idiosyncratic to the child in question. The real proof comes from number ten.

Born in the dead of winter, not only does she count the days "until I'm five because it's older," she also views the sun as her enemy.  Maybe it was all those months cooped up inside as an infant to avoid getting  a cold, but I've seen vampires with more tolerance for UV rays than she. She walks in my shadow, and commands me to "protect her from her enemy, the sun."

Walking back from taking her siblings to the bus, she complains.  "I don't like the hot.  It's too much. It's burning me. I want to get in the cold where it's safe." and coos when we happen upon the shadow of a tree about the blessed coolness.

I tried to explain we need the sun, it gives us warmth and light, it allows for life, it helps the trees and the plants and the animals.  She concedes the point as a necessary evil.  "Yeah, but I still don't like the sun. The sun's not nice."

Walking into the house, she moves to her favorite subject, the next snack.  She spied the bag of raisins I bought. (She loves raisins).      Pouring a few into a bag for her, I explain, "You know, the sun makes raisins."   I show her the box with the sun on it.

"You put grapes in the sun and they turn into raisins."

Her mind turns this idea over. It is clear a fierce battle is taking place, between her loathing of all things hot and the sun, and her love of dried fruity California dancing goodness.

"I guess then I can love the sun. Will the sun ever forgive me?"
"I'm sure it will. In fact, I bet the sun's working on a whole new batch of raisins for you, now that you're friends."

Don't know what I'll do if she decides to become enemies with the moon though.  

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Saturday Spotlight

I know, it's Sunday but I didn't get on the computer yesterday except for a few moments.  Why?  I was reading a book and it took me the day.   I can't review it because it hasn't been published yet, but I enjoyed it and will toast it properly when it hits the bookstores.  

So instead, I give you an interview I did of Marie-Helen Mathieu last fall. I just learned how to post on the internet so I uploaded the video.  I hadn't expected to be given an hour or to be filmed, so I was speed reading the book the day before the interview.  Here is part one: 

I'm sorry the sound isn't the greatest.

Here is part two:
On a personal note, I found her absolutely lovely and hope when I'm 86, I'm running up the three flights of stairs to my office in Paris to work on a book.  Sitting with her felt like being in a room with a teacher you've known for decades and always loved.   She also hugged my son Paul when we came to the reception they had later in the evening.  She was very generous with her time.

Friday, September 4, 2015

The Very Waffle Pancake Dinner

This week over at Simcha's, we talk about food from the past week.  Unfortunately, with cross country and field hockey and my daughter's new job at Dairy Queen and Back to School Night, dinner has been something of a catch as catch can experience.

Monday...we had...what did we have?   I know my oldest two opted to buy subway before I managed to make dinner.  It was supposed to be pork tenderloin but the pork tenderloin hadn't defrosted and could have been used to club a t-rex to death.  So I think I remember thinking about chickening out and going for fast food for everyone, but instead made the younger ones eggs and toast and gave them pineapple.  No complaints.

Tuesday..pork tenderloin still not tender sitting in the refrigerator, determined to remain a brick. We had...spaghetti with meatballs and red sauce and salad.

Wednesday we had...pork tenderloin and beans and rice and tortillas, and carrots.  Kids complained we ran out of tortillas.

Thursday: I know we had chicken drumsticks and broccoli, left over corn bread, watermelon and white rice. Some of the kids opted for leftover pork tenderloin, mixing it with bbq sauce and having pulled pork.

Friday: I'm voting pancakes and bacon or hot dogs and french fries.  I don't have any great recipes or stories.  I just know, I need to make a menu plan for next week because cooking during the school year is so much harder than cooking during the summer.

Yep.  Pancakes.  

I make mine from scratch using the Southern Living cookbook recipe. The recipe is so beloved, the back of the book has fallen off, half the pages are missing, but it is comforting to use that page, beveled by years of making these things for dinner and any other time we decided, the best cure for whatever it is involves maple syrup.  It's also posted over at My Recipes, but there's something comforting about a cook book so used, it becomes a relic of its prior self.
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar 
large egg
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
3 tablespoons vegetable oil 

Stir together first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; make a well in center of mixture.
Stir together egg, buttermilk, and oil; add to dry ingredients, stirring just until moistened.
Pour about 1/4 cup batter for each pancake onto a hot, lightly greased griddle. Cook pancakes until tops are covered with bubbles and edges look cooked; turn and cook other side. Serve with butter and warm maple syrup.  Plus, whenever my kids see me making these things or any other food which involves maple syrup, someone will pull up this video or sing the song...

followed by the attempt to play the Teen Titan's Waffle's game. 

(Where you only say Waffles until someone surrenders).
Hint: I've won this one. 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

It's Thursday!

Hey!  Come by, link up your blog and tell us what you did this first week of school!  We'd love to hear about Your Small Successes!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Summer in Stolen Minutes

For best effect of reading this piece, please click the song and let it begin playing while you read...

This past Sunday marked the end of free time. Everyone would return to school the next day. Two still needed hair cuts, I hadn't found the locker shelf and we kept forgetting to purchase a protractor, but otherwise, everyone knew we were ready. School would dictate the next nine months. Colleges would be picked, records made, grades that marked where one would go the next year, and show whether we had a blip last semester, or a problem we had to face. 

But we wanted one more plunge into the pool of possibilities, so my husband fired up the grill. The kids donned swim suits and we spent the day drinking coke from a bottle, eating ice cream on cones, and playing whiffle ball while dodging the teens armed with water pistols. No one worried about calories or sun screen or mosquitos. We willed ourselves through the day, with the stereo blasting the Eagles and Jimmy Buffett, eating fresh tomato salad.  I cut big slices of watermelon for everyone. 

When everyone showered and the last of the teeth were brushed, I found my husband testing out his father's day present for the first time. The hammock on a stand had become something of a joke, a thing we'd meant to get to, but never did. He'd been away that weekend visiting his own dad, the rings didn't fit and when we finally got the replacements, it just hadn't become a priority to set up. 

Now, laying under the fan on the screened deck, strands of favorite songs playing, the very air screamed, why have you waited? What kind of madness have you held onto that you could not want to just experience rest? And we lay there long beyond the normal dutiful "I'm testing it out" time, pulling into our hearts, the immeasurable gold of Summer, unplanned, unstructured, unintentional stillness.

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!