Thursday, April 30, 2015

Small Success Thursday

You may like coffee, 
you may like tea, 
you may like diet coke, 
in which case, you're like me.  

Today come over and take a sip.
Come sip at S.S.T.
Tell us about your past week's works
and take pleasure in your own victories.  

Happy Small Success Thursday!
Come join us at!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

At the Catholic Stand

Over the weekend, I had a piece at the Catholic Stand. Didn't get to link up to it, and then because I posted already on Tuesday, I thought I'd showcase the piece today, on Wednesday.  Enjoy.  It's on  a subject near and dear to my heart, the welcoming as opposed to wanting of children.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

What Didn't and Won't Make the News

Last night, people sat glued to their twitter feeds, their computers and the television, as picture after picture showcased a breakdown in social order.  If one flipped through the channels covering it, you got different perspectives, but never an acknowledgement of the underlying anger voiced over and over again even by those who stood against the riots, who lived there.

On one channel, three pundits spent time assessing who to blame, and faulted the mayor, the police, the government and explained how it should have been handled without a hint of self assessment about how easy it is to armchair quarterback a situation from a comfortable newsroom with a video feed.    

At the primary politically opposite network, the wagons kept circling to ascribe the fault to the politics, or to the individuals for their actions, with no sense that perhaps, if one time is an incident, and two times a coincidence, when we get to three or more, (and we have), there is a systemic pattern that needs to be addressed.

Blame. Blame and more blame.  The fires on the ground mirrored the fires in the brains of those doing the commentary.  It made for great video and ratings, to pontificate about how something shouldn't happen, and then pile on about how it came to be or shouldn't have.  

Someone quoted half of a Martin Luther King Jr. speech related to riots.  I went to find the whole of it, for it speaks to now and the whole of now, in a way the half quote and the half punditry of the right and left did not.

It is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard.

What was the message of the unheard?  They're angry.  What else?  The picture of the police in riot gears on one block, and two blocks over in clear sight, people setting fires and looting stores said it in its full hard reality.   There are some in this country, who feel they cannot trust the police to help, who believe those entrusted with enforcing the law will be either bullies when they have superior numbers or power, or are impotent as a force to maintain law and order.   

The cure for this sort of break down isn't speeches or a concert or a national GoFundMeBaltimore or hashtag awareness.  It's not a quick fix, because it's not a simple problem.   There need to be consequences for police brutality and protocols to stop it; perhaps cameras in the police trucks to protect the accused, the arrested, the innocent and reveal the guilty.  

It will take time, patience, wisdom, charity, forgiveness, kindness and strength, temperance, all things that the twitter world and facebook and email and streaming feeds do not foster.  Growing a city into a community, is a slow and painful process, like watching a seed mature to full tree.  But it is always possible to begin again.  Buildings, senior centers, businesses, homes, streets, gardens can be rebuilt, remade, and things, all things, replaced.   Destructive meaningless violence is the manifestation of despair, it is impulsive to be sure, but not pathological, it is rooted in the frustration with profound disappointment of what this country holds out as possible, but fails to deliver.   

We need leaders who have an investment in Baltimore, like the Veteran Robert Valentine, who stood between the youth who wanted to riot, and the police and talked to them until they backed down.   Also, the Pastor of the Baltimore Southern Baptist Church, who even before the flames died from the now gutted senior center his church helped fund to serve the people by November of 2015, took time to speak to the media about how he still has hope.   

One of the greatest gifts of last night, is that despite the chaos, despite the looting, despite the bricks and the rocks and the anger and yes, the destruction of property and injuring of people, no one died. Given the level of anger, the number of fires and the number of incidents, the sheer absence of deadly violence, by either those engaged in the riots or the police seems miraculous.  I view it as a clear indication of the inclination on both sides, to want something better.    

Everything else can be rebuilt, even trust.  

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Signs You Have Teenagers

10) Your taste in music is curiously updated but you can't acknowledge it publicly.

9) You have an Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr feed.  You only use them to see what's going on with your children. You don't think they know.

8) You worry there is some new equivalent of Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook that only teens known about. If they know you teen-cyberstalk.

7) On occasion, the teen will suggest, you borrow from her wardrobe or that you need to go shopping.

6) If they have lots of friends, you worry who are they and why do they like my child?  If they don't have lots of friends, you worry, why not? Why don't they like my child? What's wrong with them?  

5) When the teen texts you asking for a run to Starbucks. You bring an ice coffee even though you don't drink Starbucks.  On occasion, when the teen says I could use a protein shake, you bring a protein shake, and when you stop for gas and lament "We're out of diet coke."  Someone runs into the station, and with their own money, brings you back a diet coke.

4) Your experience as a teen, as an adult, your educational background, your years as a parent, your knowledge base, all count for squat.  

3) The surest root to silence is an attempt to have a conversation.

2) The surest root to a conversation is to plan for silence. (like reading a book, planning to take a bath or a nap).

1) On Twitter you find a "Thanks Mom."  with a photo of the ice coffee.  They know.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Why Are the Lights On?

Some days I worry what my children take from the day in day out example I provide.  Will they remember me reading them stories, making cinnamon brown sugar swirl pancakes and introducing them to Pinky and the Brain, Black Beauty, Pente, and Broadway show tunes?  Or will they remember me declaring Mommy martial law because it's past ten o'clock and the lights keep coming on?

There's a rule in parenting, never ask something you don't want answered. Because no matter who you ask, the answer won't be what you expected, and probably not what you wanted either.  

"Did you do your homework?"   The answer is always no.  Even if the answer from the child is yes, apply President Reagan foreign policy to the matter.  Trust but verify.   Usually, the answer is sort of, or not all, or not yet.

"Did you brush your teeth?"  Four out of five dentist recommend touching the tooth brushes to see if they have any residual moisture indicating they've been put under the sink lately, but a better indicator of proper oral hygiene is the sink itself.  If there are gobs of blue paste everywhere, they brushed.

"Why are the lights on?"  REAL EXAMPLES

with son, age ten.

"I was looking for his dinosaur egg."
"But it's after nine o'clock."
"But it's missing."
"Where'd you see it?"
"In the bathroom in the cup."
"But you're looking in your bedroom."
"I know and I haven't found it."

with daughter, age 7

"Why are the lights on?"
"I just wanted to finish this chapter."
(She's got me torn, because she knows I love to see a reading kid).
"What book are you reading?"
Coming up stairs, I find her engaged in staging a tea party with stuffed ponies.

With daughter, age 4

"Why are the lights on?"

"I was thinking."

With son, age 15.

"Why are the lights on?"
He likes to play with my mind and will tell me to my face,
"They're not on."

So when my husband comes home and finds the place shut into total darkness and asks,
"Why are the lights off?"

"I tripped the power line so they couldn't turn them back on. It was the only way to get them to bed."

"Why are the lights still off?"

"I don't know how to fix it and I can't see."

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Over at Eat Sleep Write Today

Busy, trying to deal with those things like I don't know, whatever it is that happens on April 15th.   So you get this piece I wrote for Eat Sleep Write!  It's seasonal, it's about a taxing bunny.  

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Small Success Thursday Taco Tuesday on a Saturday

It will be known as Small Success Thursday, but I posted a link to it on a Saturday....(sorry).

But if you'd like to stop and count your blessings, come over and visit at!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Crazy Stupid Miracle

My son Paul is six, and while he is very social and engaging, his world remains mostly silent. Down Syndrome makes talking difficult, and being capable of making his needs met other ways, Paul opts not to bother. We've done speech, we do speech. I know sign and we have velcro pictures for him to use to make choices, but most of the time, he points and says "Ahhh." or something with some vowel sound and everyone around him uses the context to discern, "It's too hot? You're thirsty? Did you like that show?" and he lets us know when we've interpreted it correctly with a high five.
Something about his younger sister becoming potty trained and starting to read jumped me up about his language. I began researching video programs that hold out the promise of breaking into his world, making words more alluring. However I've held back. They're expensive, and the number one thing required for any communication system to work is consistency. I hear from school he's very engaging, so I want to video tape him in his school environment and see what they're doing to get more out of Paul before I plink down dollars that might undermine what already is there via the speech therapists and teacher.
But words are something I love, and I want my son to have a world open to him. Words open the world. People treat you as a person when you can tell them, I want, I need, Yes, No, in a way they don't always feel obligated when a person is silent. I tried starting a conversation with Paul when we reached a light, he looked out the window, signalling to me, "Not interested."
We were in my husband's car running errands. Two of my kids were plugged into their phones, a third on a kindle, Anna is asleep and Paul staring out at a world that flies by without understanding. The silence bothered me, so I rummaged in the CD collection and popped in the Eagle's Hotel California. I'd bought last year as part of a Christmas present, which included tickets to see them live. The Eagles hold a place in my heart, it doesn't matter the song, I hear that steel guitar and it evokes my father, the beach house, my extended family and a sort of stillness I've only known at that home on the Bolivar Peninsula; people and places I can only have here in this world in my memory. My kids know all the songs and they're singing the lyrics of Hotel California with as much gusto as I did with all my cousins around bonfires while eating frito pie and charred marshmallows.
The next song is a favorite, we sang it whenever we'd bring home a new baby, "There's a New Kid in Town." I take the lead. Until I realize someone else is singing with me. He's humming. Paul is harmonizing with Glen Frey and Don Henley. I think I'm imagining things but he goes on, his voice rising and falling, it's mostly vowels but he's singing along. "Are you singing?" I asked. He nods.
We play the song again. The magic, no, the miracle begins again. Everyone is harmonizing behind him. "Johnny come lately...the new kid in town...everybody loves don't let them down." I whisper a thanks to my dad who I know is singing along with his brother, the Desperado in the risen version of our long lost beach house. I get us back to our home, the high of it still there in my heart even as my brain tries to reassert itself, get a grip. I don't want to though, I want to hold onto the strains of the song and his singing, just like the memories of my dad and the beach. It doesn't make much sense to the world, or even to me why I'd get so teary over his singing/humming of a song. It's not functional or practical, it still doesn't help him get his needs met. But it's communication. It's singing for the pure purpose of making the sound and I love it.

As miracles go, it's crazy stupid. But it's also awesome.  Thank God is all I can muster.  I'm grateful just the same, for the crazy stupid breaking through the silence of my everyday.

Monday, April 6, 2015

So....It's Easter Monday....Now What?

The long wait for Lent is over.  The candy eaten, or most of it anyway. Now people pick over the left behind, gradually snatching the best flavored jelly beans and gnawing on the last of the lamb.  The day after Easter, Easter Monday, what do we do?  We ought to do something.  We've spent all this time waiting for Easter, and now we're here.  We're supposed to be changed, to be transformed by this event, by this day, by the knowledge of what happened then, 2015 years ago, and what happens at every mass, what is still happening, and what will happen again.

But today is Monday. It's ordinary.  The kids want breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack and wonder what we will do with the hours in between eating.  Laundry and dishes await, dust bunnies and beds to make, there is more, more and more, and still, the moreness promised by Easter seems far away, because the blooms have not yet broken the soil of the soul.  We've celebrated, we've begun, but now we must begin again.  

The air is warm, spring whispers its presence, but it is not yet garishly explosive in its beauty, not yet shouting to the world "He is risen."  Instead, there are occasional glimpses, a crocus here, a daffodil clutch there, bunny and bluebird sightings become less rare.

We come to the empty tomb, but we do not yet understand.  We go about our lives, walking to Damascus, talking about the events of the week, of our lives, waiting to understand all that happened and why.  We know something has happened, we even name it, but the reality is not yet fully understood, anymore than a bud is full bloom or a seed a tree.

My children want to know what they will do today and tomorrow and in the afternoon tomorrow after the activities of the day, they want to be distracted, diverted, entertained during their spring break.   I want them to understand the gift of leisure, so I let them struggle with the cross of boredom.  It leads to creative play, to shared playing, to going outside and discovering a stick makes a good flag pole when you attach streamers, and that tree is good for climbing.  The driveway provides a near endless canvas, and sunning yourself with a book and a blanket can be very relaxing.  But saying go do these things, would not give them the joy of these experiences.  They cannot be listed as options, or they lose their potency, the beauty of extemporaneous play is discovered joy.  It cannot satisfy any other way.  

Perhaps that same need, to let us be bored with the less of not Easter, is what we require to discover the more  that comes with the full reality of Easter.

Happy Easter Monday!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Good Friday and Divine Mercy

This past week, we've seen what a merciless mob can do.  At Garissa University College campus in Kenya on Holy Thursday, masked terrorists separated Christians from Muslims, and shot one hundred and fifty dead while wounding another seventy.

2015 years ago on another Holy Thursday, people gathered before Pilate and demanded an innocent man be put to death by shouting, "Crucify him."

In 2015, people saw a news clip about a pizza restaurant in a small town in Indiana, and a twitter storm of outrage over people saying they wouldn't cater a same sex wedding forced the business to close perhaps forever.   

There are those who think Christianity is no longer tolerable unless it abandoned the tenets the world deems untenable.  These reactions come from those who think certain teachings out moded and thus in need of being discarded, and from those who feel tired of being meek and gentle and  inviting to the world around us.  The world doesn't care about us, it's time to fight!  

I've seen both reactions. My answer to them is, look at the cross.  The answer to each of these moments, is what happens today, Good Friday.  

However you depict the reality of the crucifixion, one thing remains clear. Jesus didn't fight the cross, He willed to allow the cross to happen.  Jesus didn't abandon a single of the people he came to save, he wept for those who might refuse.  He didn't summon a legion of angels to smite the soldiers who crucified him or the men who scourged him, he didn't return the slander and calumny of the court and those who envied him with threats or boasts or even a defense.  He offered himself to his creation, as a full gift.   

He even worked a miracle of an answered prayer to the pharisee who said, "Come down off that cross that we may believe."  and three days later, He did.  Who is to say that the man who spoke those words to Christ, didn't come to see, Jesus did exactly what he asked, and thus turn his heart toward God?   

My facebook feed started with this beautiful quote: "Nothing is more beautiful than mercy. Mercy can’t be given to someone who deserves it. Mercy is greater than judgment. Any sinner can judge, but it takes a believer to be willing to forgive. Bless your enemies, don't talk about them. If you can do something nice for them, do it. Pray for them." -J. Meyer

I'd never heard of J. Meyer, but I googled her and found her story revealed this quote to be a lived reality. She'd forgiven the person who abused her as a child, and in that forgiveness, found sublime grace.   

Still pondering as I saw other less gentle reminders of why we need Good Friday, outrage, anger, wrath and smugness on my internet feed, I found this achingly beautiful story that once again proves the strongest response to evil, every time, is mercy.

Is it more merciful to bake the cake or to not? It depends upon the discernment, the why one opts to bake or not.  Is it more merciful to stand your ground or shake the dust from your feet and find another store? Again, discernment of the heart.  How am I loving my neighbor as myself? Am I being merciful?  If the answer is no, rethink.

Put another way, can a gay baker refuse to make a cake for a Westboro Baptist Church reception?  I would say, "Yes."  

Can the Catholic florist refuse to supply flowers to Planned Parenthood?  "Yes."  

Can people agree to disagree in a civil society?  They must, in order to have a civil society.

Should the rejected person go out, enlist a twitter mob to rain down social media wrath on someone who speaks out of turn?  "No."  

Should the reporter or the coach or any of the other people who acted in haste and passion but wrongly, be destroyed by the same sort of electronic vendetta mob but from the other side?  "No."

Everybody put down the damn rocks. God desires mercy, not sacrifice.  

Today is the start of the Divine Mercy Novena.  If nothing else, the passion of Spy Wednesday, Holy Thursday and Good Friday, as lived out then and now reveals how much we need to pray for mercy.  So pray for all those in power, all those affected on any side of the issue, pray for all who try to live out their faith life, and for those who advocate for same sex marriage.  Pray for mercy, divine mercy, on all comers.   Pray for mercy, Divine Mercy, on all of us, for we do not deserve it.   

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

April Fool's Day No Longer Celebrated

Owing to the lack of distinction in behavior by the human race on April 1st as versus any other day, April 1st has been canceled. 

When reached for comment, the month April said, "Hey, there are fools 365 days around, not just today and I for one am tired of being portrayed as having a monopoly on idiocy.  I have opening day and Easter most of the time and Spring and still what do I get tagged with?  Tax day, rain and stupid tricks that are the mental equivalent of knock knock jokes." 

April did not pull punches from her fellow calendar months, naming names that were the inspiration for this radical boycott of seasonal silliness.

"I mean, I woke up to a prank call from July, she's so damn smug, "Hey April, February is feeling really frustrated with the only 28 days thing and no one really likes that part of Winter so we decided she needed to have one extra day and drew straws.  You won....I mean, you get to have 29 days too, you'll be twins." Ugh. Talk about completely lame.  Even worse, Feb actually called me to thank me for the gift especially when there were plenty of months with an extra day to spare.  That was just awkward."

When pressed that it seemed only one month was the source of her irritation, April remained unmoved.  "Oh I know Aug put her up to this with Oct and Dec just egging her on.  Aug spends all his hot sticky days thinking up ways to punk me.  Last year, he sent seven dog walking services to my lawn over the course of a week.  It was nasty.  But I got even, I know lots of IRS agents."

When asked what we would do instead on this first day of the month aside from bills and changing our filters, she had this to say, "Well, there is Lent so I guess I'll have to let go of some of this irritation. People could go to mass.  They could also wish Sherry Antonetti's daughter Faith a Happy Birthday.  She's 13.  Otherwise, if you still feel like pulling a prank, I have the phone numbers for August and July.  They're both late sleepers so be sure and get your call in early."

 Happy April Fool's Day!*
Originally run in 2010. Updated only to give Faith's actual age.

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