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

Where I am and What We Did Yesterday

It's Anna riding a mechanical bull in Texas.  I don't think you can watch it without smiling.

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."

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Practicing Catholic Synod At Home and In The Parish

The Synod is ongoing, but what about the rest of us, in the parishes, in the pews?  The pope has returned to Rome and we've had a week of feasting on identifying as Catholic to the world.  Now it's time for the work of being Catholic.  As a member of the Catholic blogosphere (not an actual cabal or illuminati, it's my own made up name for the mass of Catholics out there blogging about either being Catholic, trying to live Catholic, or learning about Catholicism), the big question we're all left with, is now what?   

Somehow, in the midst of feeding the homeless, clothing the naked, reading scripture, praying the rosary, standing up for the unborn, instructing the ignorant, and all of that, we've somehow sensed, we've missed something important.  So important, there's a Synod on the Family going on, because all this doing has not done what it is supposed to do, create a community, a sense of being each others' brothers and sisters, in Christ, and in reality.   Why hasn't that happened?  

Because we've been a Church of Marthas or Marys, of left wings and right wings, rather than Marthas and Marys, we've been so busy either trying to find the right prayer, right saint's practices to know for our interior lives, or so busy trying to right the world's wrongs (sort of like Catholic Captain America or Catholic Batman), we've stopped focusing on where all this starts, and the point from which all of this should flow.   
Pope Francis called families, "Factories of Hope," for so they are supposed to be.   If the Domestic Church is a factory of Hope, then the Church --that is, parishes, are to be industrial complexes of hope.   How do we do this, both on the micro and macro scale?  
First, we must begin by looking at the Holy Family, which starts with Jesus.  Mary says yes to God's plan, and the Holy Family begins.  St. Joseph says yes to Mary, and the Holy Family flourishes.  Not economically, but emotionally, spiritually, and physically, the family does what it must to live and even thrive, with each person of that blessed three doing their part to build a full life.  Joseph teaches his son a trade, he also takes them to Egypt, keeping Mary and Jesus safe.  These are the special ministries gifted to him, and to all husbands and fathers, to make the home a place of security and stability, to make it possible to thrive.   Mary feeds and nourishes, ministers and prays, this is her hidden ministry, not unlike every mother who ever surrendered nights to a sick child, or whole years to the care of an infant.  The interior surrender required to mother or father is no small sacrifice, but done well, is like the air itself, expected and necessary and yet invisible.  This sort of air, should be the air we breathe at home, and all the more so at Church.  
So why isn't that happening?  
Well, it is, but like the air, we cannot fully see it, we can only see (for the most part), when we miss the mark, when we pollute the air the Domestic Church and the Church herself, is supposed to create.  
So how do we become better stewards of our families and our Parish, so as to create the community, to preserve, protect and heal the Body of Christ we're called to be?   

First, we must recognize, the hidden crosses of our lives are what need ministering.  The cry of the woman in this article which inspired this post,is not that different from the silent cry of the teen who is feeling overwhelmed by life, or the older adult who suffers from feeling cut off from all of life by widowhood, or the single mom who struggles with a kid with special needs. The reality is the Church is supposed to be a hospital, not a triage center, with ongoing pastoral care for all who enter her doors.

We have perhaps become too committee oriented, too compartmentalized as a people, and as a church, shunting problems to the "proper people" with the "proper credentials," when what we really should be doing, is ministering to whichever souls show up, and not presuming anything, about the mother of twelve or the father of two, the kid with the nose ring, or the woman who comes to every mass. If we must assume anything as a Catholic about everyone else in the pews, it is that they, like us, are starving, and need to be fed.

Second, we must recognize, within the Domestic Church, the man and woman before receiving the sacrament of Marriage, are like the bread and wine, and with the sacrament, transformed though the accident of their forms remains.  The substance is forever sacred, and supposed to be given to the other, as a means of sanctification, healing, and sustenance. That feeding of each other, is supposed to make the rest of enduring the trials of this life, bearable. It isn't just sex, it's intimacy and primacy, two things we often ignore because there are so many "real world" demands on time in this day and age, so many distractions.   We need to teach this to couples considering marriage, couples in marriage, and to imprint it on our children, this is the expectation, the purpose of marriage, to witness to the world, and to each other, the love of God.

And Third (this is by no means exhaustive, but blogs can only run so long before people get bored), we must begin constructing community, both within the Domestic Church, and in the larger Parish.  

What does that mean?

Families must work, eat, play and pray together, to be fully what they are called to be.  The Parish, being a larger family, must provide through the sacraments, services and opportunities for instruction, opportunities for all four.   Cultivating Traditions which build, rather than exhaust, will be the challenge of the Church, helping feed the body, mind and souls of a hungry and exhausted people, desperate for not a respite from the world, but a healing of the world itself.  

Small Success Thursday

Come join us over at and share your successes from the past week!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Profile of My Daughter

Today her heart explodes with joy. 

She writes her name on her arm with her favorite marker and adds a number ten next to it.  She decorates her temporary tattoo with sparkles and underlines it three times.  She puts on her new dress and matching shoes and wants her hair in pony tails with long streaming ribbons.

After singing the soundtrack from The Sound of Music as she walks down the stairs, she opts to play the part of a matador with her brother and sisters.  “Toro, Toro…” she rolls her “r’s” and they race around the house four times before breathless, she stops to reassure me, “I won’t be one of these when I grow up.” 

After waffles with strawberries and syrup, and washing it down with milk, she tells me she wants a cake for dinner and hamburgers and french fries with ketchup and gives me a fierce hug.   She puts all of her smile into that hug, and I want to give her a birthday as deep and passionate as she; lIke flowers and fire, one mirroring her heart and her songs and hugs, and matching her ribbons, dress and shoes.

Happy Birthday Rita!*

*I had a writing assignment, to describe a color through everything but the color.  So I'll ask you to guess the color from this story.  What color did you see?


Friday, October 2, 2015

Regular Moms vs. Geek Moms

At first, I thought I couldn't write this column because I don't know any regular moms.  All the moms I know geek out over something, the question is what?  Be it academics, band, athletics, or actual geeky stuff, every mom I know, obsesses. What's more, every mom I know, wants to pass that love for whatever it is they love, to their children.

I'm not saying I've done all of these, but  I am saying, if left to my own devices, I probably would....

Reg Mom: Reads first Harry Potter with kids.
Geek Mom: Reads all 7 to kids, but each only after she's read them first. 

Reg Mom: buys or makes costumes for Halloween. 

Geek Mom: Suggests theme, like Dr. Who, and dresses as a weeping angel herself. 

Reg Mom: Takes kids to the Avengers The Age of Ultron.
Geek Mom: Pulls out comic book collection for kids to get prepped ahead of time, so as to lead discussion on the changes in the Marvel universe.

Reg Mom: Might be able to name 3 to 12 Pokemon from the original series. Pikachu, Meowth, Mr. Mime...

Geek Mom: Owns Pokemon Omega Ruby and trash talks about it in the parking lot.

Reg Mom: Watched J.J. Abrams reboot of Star Trek and Into Darkness
Geek Mom: Watched all the original, Enterprise, TNG, Deep Space Nine and Voyager, plus the thirteen movies and Trekies, went to the Star Trek Hilton and owns at least two signed pieces of Star Trek memorabilia.

Reg Mom: What's Manga? 

Geek Mom: Buys tickets for Comicon, Otocon and Awesom Con and cosplays as Eren Yeager from Attack on Titan.

Reg Mom: Watches Big Bang Theory.
Geek Mom: Plays Klingon Boggle with her kids because she watched Big Bang Theory.

Reg Mom: Buys kids legos. 
Geek Mom: Helps kids assemble scenes from the Lego Movie.

Reg Mom: Introduces kids to My Little Pony.
Geek Mom: Introduces kids to The Last Unicorn.

Reg Mom: Takes kids to the book store.
Geek Mom: Takes kids to the book store for the magic tournament so she can show off her new Chandra Plains Walker Flaming Death from all sides deck.   

Now that I've explained the difference, I have to go ferret out my Magic deck, my sons and daughters await their trouncing for this Friday night.  

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Facebook Charcoal Fire

Don't bite on it.  Click ignore.  Read something else.  Check your email. Go blog. Go tweet!  Do something, anything, but don't go back and respond to that post.

We've all been there.  You log onto Facebook and there is a post, advocating something that you cannot possibly stomach, and worse, it is posted from a friend.  You make a comment maybe, or click, "I don't want to see this." but the posts keep coming.  You unfollow for a time, but still, the links and the posts keep coming.  It starts to feel like a constant drill into the head.  There are the subsequent "subtle" shares of links and posts that dispute the issue at hand, but eventually, one has to either swear off entirely or address the issue.

It's at this point, I so get Saint Peter.  Because I feel very cowardly at the charcoal fire put before me on Facebook.   How many times can you read something you absolutely disagree with on every level before you either brand yourself a coward, or speak up?

And the stupid cost.  The cost. The cost. The cost.  This is a friend.  They would never talk about this sort of thing with me face to face in this manner.  Even if we did bring up something difficult and found we disagreed, the conversation would be reasonable, it would be charitable, we'd have laughs and talk about everything we have in common rather than what divides us.

Neither Facebook nor the internet allow for that sort of dialogue easily.  The venue is best for hit and run, drive by stake out your position and dare someone to disagree type memes.  Click like and move on.  Will I lose them?  Should I be holding their friendship so dear?  Is their friendship that dear, am I valuing it too much or not enough?

Is it a call to evangelize, or a time to be prudent?  I know which one I will pick, and draft as best I can, a private message.  Underlying every word is a beg.  Please don't dismiss me, please don't throw me away, please don't hate me.  I'd make a lousy apostle, I don't do dislike well.   It's humiliating to know, even at forty-nine, I'm still so damn needy.  Still full of doubts, still worried when I have to stand up, I will be alone.

But I profess to be Pro-life, I always have been.  Being a two pound eleven ounce baby myself, I have a fire in the heart for the smallest of all.  Science informs me that a human is human from conception to natural death, regardless of capacity, past, present or future.  

So when the discussion of defunding Planned Parenthood came up, I signed petitions, I prayed, and thought back to when I first learned the reality of this organization.  

Back in 1992, when I first discovered myself expecting, I went to the general doctor office near my apartment.  The doctor heard my medical history and immediately said, "Abort."  When I said no, he told me in order to treat me, I'd have to have some lab work and sent me to Planned Parenthood with an appointment for a pregnancy test.   At the time, I admittedly didn't know of Planned Parenthood as a brand, and agreed to the appointment.

Inside the clinic, I sat while the man drew my blood.  I noticed the place was dirtier than what I expected.  I saw what looked like a little lump of flesh on the floor, and bits of bloody guts, they reminded me of when I gutted freshly caught fish before I've cleaned up.   I told myself I was imagining things.

The lab technician told me I was pregnant, and immediately asked me if I wanted an abortion.  When I said, "No!  Are you serious? (though I think I said crazy),  I'm keeping the baby!" He said, "Then I can't help you."  and I left. I felt an urgency to flee. No other services were offered but abortion.  I felt an urge as I saw the other women in the clinic sitting and waiting for whatever they were waiting for, to tell them, "Run." I hope some of them did, and found themselves with now twenty-two year old sons and daughters they love beyond all measure.

But I can still see that young man in the lab coat, I remember his face.  I also can't forget the fleshy bit I didn't imagine on the floor.

So when I read what former directors and doctors of Planned Parenthood say about abortion, about what goes on inside those walls, I believe them, and think, as soon to be named a Saint, Blessed Mother Teresa said, "If abortion is not evil, then nothing is evil."  And as is said in my favorite Star Trek Series, Deep Space Nine, "Evil must be opposed."  

We do not want a society that thinks those not convenient, should be ignored, swept under the rug, destroyed or hidden.  I know what that means, caring for the homeless, the disabled, those in prisons, those dislocated by war, those here in great need, the just and the unjust, all of them, matter.  It isn't an easy thing to advocate, because the political parties do not lend themselves to all, but only to some.  Often the argument in favor of caring for all gets derailed by the imperfect nature of proposed solutions.  But the absence of a solution that fits all, does not eliminate the need to stand for something which is good, and will to work out the details as we go.

Pope Francis came to this country. He fed the homeless, he visited those in prisons, he counseled the ignorant, (Congress), he prayed with the suffering, he counseled us to harbour the harbourless, he prayed for the living and the dead, he lay hands on the sick, he sent a letter to try and ransom the captive (woman on death row who was not pardoned).  He encouraged the faithful to have hope, counseling the doubtful.  In short, he did as many acts (spiritual and corporeal) of mercy as he could in the six days he was here.  He tried to embody the truth, the good, the beauty of the Catholic faith, to all who encountered him.

If the Church is right about feeding the hungry, being stewards of the Earth and all her peoples, caring for the sick, welcoming the lost, lonely, scared and the stranger, then isn't it possible, we're right about needing to care for these unborn too?   To those who say, what about the mother? I say, they must be cared for, that is part of the necessary act of a Catholic, to care for the woman with an unplanned pregnancy, for the mother, for the child, for the father, for the family whether it is bound legally or not.  (See, I agree, it isn't an easy solution, it will require work).   What is good, is good, and what is evil is evil, even if the law ignores the reality or pretends it is neutral.

So I hope my friend reads my words and hears the heart behind them and knows I'm still a friend, and maybe can see why this issue reflects the same value necessary for all the other classes of people in need of a pro-life society.

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!