Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Always Another Page

Writers, like teachers and parents, are fundamental optimists.  We begin with the unknown, the story we can't quite see but know is in our brains, or the unknown student, or the child in the womb.  Each day, we pour everything out like the ocean, and hope some of what we present, sinks in.  The cumulative effect of writing, of teaching, of parenting, is the outcome of all we give and all the reader, the student, or the child brings to the process.  In all three cases, it is also a journey and an act of faith, to every day begin again, even if what you wrote yesterday stunk, the classroom didn't sing, and your mom skills yesterday didn't quite measure up. Begin again. Begin again. Begin again.

That's the advantage in each of these vocations, they're as much about love as they are about knowledge and practice.  They're callings which demand one do even when not inspired, and one do and do and do again, regardless of outcome.  They are professions which care deeply about both the process and the product as it were, but can't be reduced to process and product.  You can't be a writer, if it is only about success, or only about generating word count. The words have to be about something and pointing toward something bigger than the mountain of cyber space they take up.  The story has to matter, has to move.  It is about relationship.  The story reflects both the author, and the reader's response, and is a thing itself.

Likewise, you can't be a teacher if all that matters is test scores or lesson plans, you have to work at those things, but teaching is about relationship, both to the students as individuals, and as a class, and to the topic.  It is a triangle.  Student-Teacher-Topic.  How do I reach them today?  How do I reach them tomorrow?  And also, what did I learn about them today?  What did I learn about myself in the process?  What will we learn tomorrow?  It is an ongoing snowball process, which should always build upon itself.

Parenting begins as a reflection of the Trinity, Mom, Dad, child, or if you go one step back, Husband, Wife, God.  It is always about trying to reveal to the other (in this case, the child) who God is by what we do.  To the extent we get in the way, we mess up.  However all of these processes are something which must begin again each day, and which build upon whatever came before, regardless of how well or poorly executed.

Writers Block, like teacher burn out, and distracted parenting, is when the person cannot get out of the way of either the process or the outcome.  Rededicating, rechristening one's self to the process, and not demanding that feelings or inspiration, supersede the act of doing, of being present; of working at writing rather than worrying about what to write, of teaching, or of parenting.

The solution is always self surrender, begin again and to try not to get bogged down in minutia or overwhelmed by the longevity of the task itself.  These are infinite professions.  There are ends to stories, to school years and stages of parenting, but the act of writing, art of teaching, and role as a parent, goes on infinitely.  Even silent, we will be telling stories.  Even without a classroom, we will be teaching the world, and we cannot cease to be parents, only better or worse ones.

In each of these vocations, the act itself often brings us to places we'd never reach on our own.  The journey on the blank page, into the classroom, or within our own home, is often a joyous surprise.  And when it is not,  the good news in all three roles is, there is always another page.  We can always begin again.  There are always more stories to tell. There are always new things to learn, new things to share, new ways to reveal knowledge and to invoke wonder.  Each day, we can begin again and love better, love more deeply, and get more out of the way.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Rewards

Today, I spent the day at the Gaithersburg Book Festival. Usually, it's a tad difficult for me, because I dream of being at one of those pavilions, giving a talk on the process and writing itself.  However this past week, we ran crafts as we always do at the fair, and we were so busy painting faces, I never had a moment to even grow whistful....until after the festival ended.

Life gave me a small irony, I received my writing scores on the Praxis today.  Scoring a 190 ought to make me proud, but I'm wondering what I lost the ten points for in the scoring.  (A perfect score is 200).   Now I just have to study up for the English Exam and the Pedegogy Praxis in July.  I'm thinking maybe next week will slow up, after the 5K, but before exams.  Maybe.

Everyone hosting a booth, selling books is really showing to the world, their dreams.  Their supreme goal is to be on that podium, or even if they are on that podium, to move the hearts and minds of whoseover listens.  Writing, while a solo act, is done ultimately with the goal of reaching everyone, of somehow being something as close to universal as we can make it.

So all the authors trying to convince us to part with our ten, twelve or twenty dollars, they're really trying to get each of us to be willing to peer into their minds, their souls, and see if they enjoy what they see.  I didn't get to browse the stacks for new favorites. Instead, today I've painted 35 unicorns, 27 Spidermans and at least 1000 pokeballs on people's faces.

I did meet one author because his kid wanted a Bird of Paradise.  We talked books.  We talked about the fun of researching books and writing.  I wasn't on the podium, but I was still getting to talk with someone who loved what I loved about what we both loved.  It was a nice little moment inbetween the glitter and the paint brushes.  

Maybe one day, I'll get to tell people about it on a bigger scale than one on one.  It's a dream of mine, to have a place as an author.  But the greatest moment in the whole day came when a four year old girl made her way back to my table to give me a pink puppet she made with stars and flowers and hearts all around it, as a "Thank you" for her unicorn.  It was a podium moment and a treasure.  

It also meant, I'll be back next year, happily painting more faces.





Thursday, May 18, 2017

True Mill Stories

Today's work...
1) Explain to the students they will be writing a four paragraph paper.
2) Require students to state their thesis in a question format and then, answer and defend it.
3) Find research on topic, 2 for, 1 against, and compose the argument using those citations.

Student 1 --with the topic of weed, "I think it should be legal." 
Me: Okay, you can want that all you like, but you have to explain why it should be.
Student --It's recreational, we could tax it to help the government provide programs.
Me:  Like...for people dealing with addiction?
Student --yeah. 
Me:  That's fine. You still have to deal with the arguments against it. You have to beat them in you paper.
Student --like?
Me:  It can be a gateway drug to other illegal substances.  It's something which has different effects on different people, and we might not want a society where judgement is so impaired.  Do you want a nation of people smoking pot?  Surgeons, firefighters, teachers, police....
Student  --can I switch topics? 

Me: Sure.  What topic?
Student:  Gun Controls.
Me: For or against?
Student: It should be easier.
Me: Do you know what is required now?
Student:  ...

Pulling up website of state government to show regulations, "You'll have to argue the process is too difficult and demanding or constitutes an undue burden."
Student: How will I do that?
Me: "You'll have to prove the regulations aren't effective or don't affect outcome."
Student: How will I do that?
Me: "I don't know, you'll have to find out if the regulations have worked." I pulled up Brady Campaign to show results of gun restrictions over the course of years. 
Student: "This doesn't help me.  It shows that the laws have helped."
Me: So you can't use that argument. 
Student: I....don't like this topic. 

Third time's a charm. 

Student: I've got a plan.  Cell phones in the classroom.
Me: for or against?
Student: For.
Me: Okay. Why?
Student: They're my property. I pay for it.
Me: That doesn't prove why you should have them in the classroom.
Student: Okay.  I can use my phone to do research.
Me:  That's true.
Student: And it would be a way I could always keep track of my work if I did my work online.
Me: Also true.
Student:  I could find out answers if I needed to.
Me: These are great answers.  Now back them up.
Student: How?
Me: ... Maybe use your phone to find articles that prove your point and illustrate it like you suggested?
Five minutes later, find student playing pool on his cell. 
Me:  This is why people argue against them.   










Saturday, May 13, 2017

Over at the Register Today



I dream of one day being a regular reporter/writer for a paper, but until then, I'll rejoice each time I make it onto the page of any paper.  I've got an article over at the National Catholic Register, You Will Be Used, So Get Used to It.  Please, share, like, leave a comment, tweet, or Google plus. I'd really appreciate it.  

Thursday, May 11, 2017

None of the Above

Last week, I took a standardized test; the first such exam I've taken in about twenty years.


Three hundred minutes of multiple choice, a computer monitor and me.   We had headphones for silence.  We had to sign in, and sign out. We had ten minutes allotted to bathroom breaks to be used as we wished.  In short, everything about the test conditions had controlled parameters....except my brain.

Half way through the math, an earworm made its presence known.  I'm doing a problem with square split end roots or radios or some such  and not loving life.  Instead of thinking of the process I needed to solve the equation, my mind went to the mental equivalent of X.  J

"Welcome to my secret layer on Skull Crusher Island...."  Mark Shea introduced me to the silly lyrics of Johnathan Coulton during one of our Connecting the Dots podcasts.  Stupid silly fun stuff, not very helpful for jogging the cobwebs off my brain from math I fought with over two decades ago. 
I flicked the thought away and perused the answers, looking to get rid of the outliers.  

"You like monkeys...you like ponies...you maybe like monsters...not quite so much..."
and I had a moment of clarity.

Next problem.  But the lyrics did not go away.  



I finished, fighting down the song the entire rest of the exam.  If I don't pass this math test, I'm going to blame Mark Shea.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Writer Guilt

Whenever I miss a day of writing, even if I've been in a slump, writing junkola that will never see the light of day, I suffer from writers' guilt.  Writers' guilt is different from every other kind of guilt, because even if you binge write for three days straight, dripping beautiful prose onto the page, if you declare a sabbatical for the forth day, you suffer.

The muse demands daily faithfulness, and is slow to return favors if you blow off a day. 

Recently, my humor writing has been reported awol.  Reports of the death of my funny bone however, are premature.   I still have eight of ten sources of inspiration in the house, and two due to return home in the next month.  I'm sure they'll think of something if they haven't already.

As if on cue, I heard from the other room, "Paul, stop throwing that monkey."  I am certain I should stop and check.  I am equally certain, I don't really want to know. 

The cure for Writers' guilt is pure maintenance.  Write every day.  Write when you have nothing to say. Write junk if you have to, but don't leave a day without leaving something on the page.  
However, I've decided there is a caveat to surviving Writers' Guilt. I need a Writing buddy who will solemnly swear upon my death to access my blog and delete all the junkola I wrote and didn't submit for your reading pleasure or pain as the case may be so that all the drafts sitting on the back page of my blog get squished.

In the meantime, you're stuck with me complaining about writers' block and writers' guilt and blathery pages like this one in part because I'm still thinking, I don't want to go out there and find out what happened with Paul and the monkey.


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Sunday, April 30, 2017

He Keeps Surprising Me

My son's communication device has afforded us many moments we might otherwise have missed.  "Alligator, frog, bug" means "I want to watch the Princess and the Frog."  "Pig, porcupine, elephant" is how he lets me know he'd prefer to watch "Sing."  Some movies require a more direct approach.  He'll fall down and say, "Oh no!" if I pick the wrong one, but a fist bump followed by a fa-la-la-la-la means "Big Hero 6."  Using this method, I can usually figure out what show he wishes to see.

This past week, let me say, my fifteen year old and I had a disagreement.  We both took ourselves to our rooms to calm down.  Paul took his communication device and punched in the words "Love Faith, love Mom, Paul Love, eat food, love Mom, Love Faith, Paul love."  (It happened just before dinner).  

I thought an older sibling imitating Paul, typed in the words, but the words worked for both of us.  The next day, I met with Paul's teacher to visit a site for his schooling next year.  She asked if we'd put any new words in his communication device. (I hadn't).  She informed me he'd punched in, "Paul sister Bonnie come home today."  Bonn wouldn't be home until Sunday but still, the sentence made me think, maybe he did write the other note too.  

Still, much of Paul's ability to communicate is dependent upon the rest of us thinking about what he's thinking and more importantly, why.  Last night, I took him to Faith's play. Her school put on "Once Upon A Mattress."  After the show, Paul clapped enthusiastically, and stood up and clapped and yelled when the King took a bow.  He even ran over to shake the King's hand. 

The next day, I puzzled over why he found the character of the King so appealing and it was so obvious, I wondered how I ever didn't see it.  The King in the play is mute until the end, and spends his time using sign and gestures which his musician and jester interpret. He identified with the King. 
Now I wish I'd taken a picture of Paul with the King, but it does give me an insight into how he sees himself, and probably how he sees me...I'm guessing I'm the jester. 

All of which leads to why it is that this family needs Paul, all of which leads to why I wanted to share all of this as a story.   Bill Nye, science guy recently spoke with a panel about population control and the need to penalize families who have more than whatever it is that now is considered reasonable via policy.  My son would be in that stack of the unreasonable number, and I object to the idea, much less the presumption entailed in that discussion, that some people are extra, that some people are unnecessary, and that some people should decide how many children other people should have.  I object to using force of law to hurt those who don't agree with such "enlightened" policies.  

We would never get to Paul in that world.  We would never get to most of my children, and my life, and my family's life would be poorer for it.  However, returning to only focusing on the one child we know will not be a world player as it were, Paul is the one society might come to think most easy to whittle out because of his condition. 

Let me say,  Paul has an extra chromosome. Paul himself, is not extra.  He is not part of the surplus population, and he is not a drain on society, he is a breath of fresh air.  He is a gift, designed to reveal to the rest of us, to remind the rest of us, about what is and is not important.  He makes sure everyone comes to the table to eat.  He always wants a bed time story and prayers, he always wants a bath and he always picks and gives me a flower if he sees them when we're walking to the bus.  He dances with abandon, he enjoys slapstick and adventure movies and musicals, and greets  his sisters and brothers as if he hasn't seen them since forever. 

If there's extra beyond the genetic replica of a chromosome in a person with Down Syndrome, it's the gift of being able to love easily and love well.  I would say to Bill Nye, and anyone else who views my son or anyone else with a permanent mental and physical disability as extra or unnecessary, the world has plenty of people who work, plenty of people who are very smart, but it needs every person it can find, willing to love easily and well. 



Saturday, April 29, 2017

Nice...

On Thursday, I cleaned out a closet of leftover shoes and donated them.  When my six year old came home, she pretended to faint in front of the now empty space on the floor.  "I'm sorry Mom," she explained, "I have to fall down.  It's just so beautiful."

Friday, April 28, 2017

My Swan Song with Connecting the Dots

Mark Shea's program with Breadbox media is becoming a podcast only program, and as such, my Mondays have been freed up for my kids to ask me, "What's for dinner?" and "Can you drive me to the mall?" and "Can we watch a movie?" As such, while I'll still stop by to visit Mark on his show from time to time, it won't be a regular fixed gig.

For the past few months, I've been able to post a note on my door at five o'clock on Mondays "On Radio," and thus insured that no one bothered me for a full sixty minutes. 

 I'm thinking, I might not tell them just yet.  

Here's the most recent and last episode of Connecting the Dots with Mark Shea and Sherry Antonetti. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Dial 144 for Misinformation

For Easter, I purchased a landline phone as a present for my husband. The kids saw me assemble the thing and place it on their father's desk. They gave the machine a wide birth, and the first time one of them had to answer it, one would have thought they picked up a poison adder.

"Hello?" My son said, his voice quaking as he held the cradle a foot from his ear. "I can't hear." His sister came by and overheard her dad's voice coming out of the mouth...piece. "Is that you DAD?" she shouted.

Empowered with new knowledge, my son began shouting at the phone as well. A second sister entered the room, attracted by the shouting. "Can I have a turn?" Their father tried to explain to anyone who might possibly hear him, "You don't have to scream. Just talk in your normal voice with the phone next to your ear and mouth."

The gaggle of children began telling their father about their day, "I'm going on a field trip!..I am too! NO You're NOT! YES I AM! I got an A. Did you pick up the X-box? CAN WE HAVE PIZZA FOR DINNER? "PIZZA!" "PIZZA!" "PIZZA!" "PIZZA!" The chorus swelled.


From the phone I heard their dad comment, “Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you.” Spousal code for me to interrupt the party line.
"Hello love."
"Hey Sher."
The kids filed out of the room during our brief conversation, for fear they might hear adult stuff like the word love.

"That was...loud."
"Yes."
"I don't think they know how to operate the retro phone."
"Why don't you test that theory. Tell them, I'm happy to get pizza if they call and order it."

I summoned the troops and gave them the conditions of the test. I also collected the smart phones from the two teenagers, and turned off the computer. I wrote down the number for the pizza place and left the room.

Twenty minutes later, I found the teens in the kitchen, boiling water for pasta.
After I learned why, I phoned my husband, "Just come straight home."
"They couldn't figure it out?"
"They could push the buttons."
"Then what was the problem?"
"They couldn't figure out how to hang up."

Imagine if I'd made them use the phone book.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Act Now and You Can Too!

This weekend, I lost over fifty pounds.

I did it without surgery, medication, diet or exercise.
In a matter of hours, I felt lighter, younger, more in control of my life.

What's more, it cost me nothing but the time I invested.

What did I do?

I cleaned out my son's closet.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Connecting the Dots

Every Monday, Mark Shea and I enjoy a good talk.  This past week, we shared Easter Sunday stories and delved into the great mystery that is The Shroud of Turin.

Surprised to Find

A piece I wrote Monday night, is up at the National Catholic Register today.  If you remember the piece I wrote at the beginning of Lent, May I Pray for you, this is the bookend to that one. It is why in part, I've continued the question on Facebook.  Admittedly, I also miss the experience of community I felt during Lent and so I am thinking, it might be good to continue.

Here's the piece:
 What does an Easter People look like?

and here's the question for today, "May I pray for you?"

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Lessons Learned?

My favorite Star Trek Series is Deep Space Nine.  One of the characters that made it such a joy to watch, was Mr. Garak.  As a former spy, now exiled on an alien space station with the Federation in power, he forms an unlikely friendship with the straight laced Doctor Bashir. 

One day, Dr. Bashir explains to him why no one trusts his advice or stories by telling the tale of the Boy Who Cried Wolf. 

Mr. Garak asks if the moral of the story is what Dr. Bashir claims it to be, "Be honest."  Dr. Bashir asks, "What do you think the moral is?"   He answers, "Never tell the same lie twice." 

So when my daughter asked me, "What is the moral of Disney's The Little Mermaid?"  I had to consider, what did I want the lesson to be? 

I asked my friends on the internet, and gathered their wisdom, so without further adieu, I present to you, the top ten lessons that should be learned from Disney's "A Little Mermaid."

10) Never trust anyone with a creepy familiar(s).  


9) Learn Sign Language.

8) If your first act of adulthood involves selling your soul, mutilating your body and renouncing all the collective wisdom of your family and people, you better hope everyone comes to your rescue because this is not a good decision on your part. 

7) Crustaceans make lousy "in loco parentis." 

6) If the guy can't figure out it's you without your singing...maybe...you want someone smarter. 

5) If the girl combs her hair with a fork...maybe...you want someone smarter. 

4) Catchy tunes can make people forget your lack of character,  (See Ursula, Dr. Facilier, and Gaston).  

3) If the dog likes a character, this is a good person, marry her. If the dog doesn't like a person, that person must be a villain in disguise, attack and kill.  

2) You can marry all you wish, but few survive parenthood in a Disney universe. King Triton is a single dad monarch, and Prince Eric, an orphan for some time.   Sebastian is a singleton, Flounder seems to have no family, and Ursula, seems to have some relationship with Triton, maybe an evil Aunt or Sister, but there are no complete families anywhere.  You've been warned. 

1) Always read the fine print. 


Monday, April 17, 2017

National Catholic Register Today

I have a piece on what we're supposed to be about over at the National Catholic Register, These are the Things Time was Made For. 

Of course, now I have to make sure tomorrow, I work out, write, read to my kids and pray, and that in doing these things, the other tasks of the day get taken care of in the process. 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Friday, April 14, 2017

Who is the Crucifixion For?



As a child, I believed, and even as an adult, I have said in jest, "The fireworks on the 4th of July?  They're for me."  Why?  Because as a child, I thought them wonderful and why wouldn't we do something wonderful for my birthday?  Why wouldn't my birthday go beyond one day?  As an adult, it's fun because it means I always know, my family will have off when it's time to celebrate.  

However, the joke is a joke because it's not true. 

The Crucifixion however, it is for me.  It is true.  It was always for me, and I always needed this, just to have a shot at something better beyond this life.  The same is true for each of us. The Crucifixion is a gift, an outrageous gift of over the top love from God to each of us, a sign, symbol and reality of the lengths to which, God will go to win us back. 


There are many excellent reflections and exercises one can use on this Good Friday to honor that gift.  The easiest one I know, is to hold a crucifix in your hands.

Consider His feet.  His feet which the woman washed with her tears, dried with her hair and anointed with perfume, are now pierced all the way through with a nail which someone physically drove into him. and someone else held down so it could be done. 
Next, consider his hands, which he used to make clay to place on a blind man's eyes, and to break the loaves and fishes, which he used to touch a man's ears and say, "Be opened."  They are pinned to a cross.  I don't know about you, but when I consider the nails, I tend to hold my hands, to pull back, because the idea of it is almost too much. 

At the idea of an idea being too much, I consider the crown of thorns, which pierces all over, which he cannot remove, which digs into his skull.  There are a thousand splinters, an untold number of lashes, and all the bruises from the walk and the falls with the cross. These are just the physical agonies we inflicted.


Now we add the cowardice, the grief he felt from being alone, from knowing those He did this for (us, or if I'm doing this examination alone, me), would shout "Crucify him!" The ones he did this for, would play clever, asking, "What is truth?"  The ones he did this for, would say they did not know him, would run away, would betray him, would scatter, and at best, they would watch. 



It was at this point, I hit the snag of "why did Mary, Mother of God say nothing?" 


However, Mary knew her heart would be pierced.  She knew this was the means of salvation. She'd heard his teaching. She'd heard his prediction of having to suffer and die, of having to take up the cross.  She must have pondered it in her heart, and resolved to do God's will.  Suffering her son to die, this must have been the hardest act of obedience of her life, to watch the spectacle, to not go and gather the apostles, yell at them and get them to go back and at least witness with Jesus, to stay with Him, and watch him surrender his spirit.  I cannot imagine a harder task for anyone.  Her prayer must have been a constant fiat at this point, "Let it be done according to Your will." just to hold to being a person without sin.



As I pondered her at the foot of the cross more, when you're faced with the total gift of self offered on the Cross by God for each and all of us, all you ultimately can feel, is silent awe.  So I'm guessing there was some of that in Mary's heart as well, because she would have held all those who fled, all those who shouted, all those who begged for Barabbas and all those who crucified Him, in her heart as well.  "Love God with all your heart, soul and body, and your neighbor as yourself."  Mary had to somehow, be loving those around her as she loved her Son to endure seeing Him on the cross and taking Him down. 

Who is the crucifixion for? It's for each of us, because we've been every role in this drama of the Easter story except for two, and those are the two we are to emulate.  We've been weak like Peter, we've sold out like Judas, we've been envious like the Pharisees, we've been fired up and eager like the crowd, equivocating like Pilate, desirous of having proof, of being able to command God, like Herod, cruel like those who scourged Him, violent like those who nailed him, and scared like the apostles who ran off in every direction.  The more we dig, the more we can find to prove we need God to show us, He will love us even through this, even in spite of this.  "Father forgive them, they know not what they do."  His words of forgiveness even from a cross, to each of us, for the reasons we put Him there.

Have a Great Good Friday, knowing He held onto the nails, not the hurt, and asking each of us in our lives, in our sufferings great and small, to do the same and repeat the words of Mary, "Let it be done to me, according to Your Will," and of Jesus, "Father forgive them, they know not what they do."




Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Connecting the Dots

I'm sorry I didn't get to this yesterday, it's been a busy week.  You'd think having Spring Break, I'd have more time to write.  Somehow, it seems there is less time.  I'm guessing that's how it always feels, you never have enough time to do everything you would will, and when your time is free, projects line up like jet fighters to take it away. 

All of which is a long prologue to a link to Monday's Connecting the Dots with Mark Shea. We talked about Palm Sunday.  Or as I call Connecting the Dots, Sherry's private public CCD experience where she pays attention, with a good friend as the teacher.

It's Holy Week, and I feel I'm crawling to the finish.  Somehow, my prayer has become ever more scattered as we've drawn closer.  I still take all the intentions to prayer, but my capacity to focus, to sit, and to pray seems to be less and less.  I suspect this is God's way to make sure I don't attribute any success in this Lenten journey to me, but rather consider myself to have been borne through it. Someone who wakes up from having been sick for a long time, cannot take credit for losing weight, even if they do, but reap the benefit.  I vote for that explanation of why I think my prayers have become more a tangled mess of intentions, and intentions about tangled messes.

However, I did hear one really solid podcast I also want to share. I've been following Fr. John Riccardo's Rerouting series, and the most recent one, hits hard.   Before you listen to it, take a calculator and figure out how many days you've been alive on this Earth.   For example, I calculated I've been alive exactly 18,546 days.   You can use this generator to do it for you. (I was off by two days when I checked it).  That's the easy part. 

Now, if you don't have a lot of time, but can give 8 minutes, listen to this podcast. 
The more in depth homily which proposes this project is here. It's fifteen minutes.  If you don't have time for either, or don't want to do a podcast or can't, the project is to write out all of your sins, from the beginning of your life until now.  Ask the Holy Spirit to show your sins to you.  Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal your flaws not as a form of condemnation, but as a revelation of how we required, each of us, the crucifixion, and to prepare us for the great goodness of Good Friday.  

Monday, April 10, 2017

Wikipedia Roulette

The assignment was to look at ten random Wikipedia threads and link them together somehow. 

To begin with, what I learned....

I learned about a church called "Xc 'konk" (That's pronounced something like The Konk maybe but don't swear by it, it's Wikipedia) in Armenia which was 4/5ths of the way blown up in the 1920's.


Next, I discovered an artist named Gerand Van Deynum who painted still life in the style of Jan Davidsz. de Heem.  It would have been nice if they posted a picture he painted, rather than that of his inspiration's.  

A few more clicks on the randomizer and I met a philosopher Henryk Breit, murdered under mysterious circumstances. Wikipedia also claimed he belonged to the "Society of the Enthusiasts of the History of Lwów." It felt like the beginnings of a Dr. Who episode, except that was all she wrote. There wasn't any trace of his philosophy or what about the history of Lwow that made people so enthusiastic or likely to disappear for expressing such zeal for the hometown. 

  Wikipedia's random button introduced me to the village of Taqiabad, Kalat, population 585 in Iran. I wondered if they likewise had a "Society for the Enthusiasts of the History?" and if they don't, why not?
 
Next I found out about the wingspan of a Deroxena Conioleuca Moth; it's between 14 and 16 millimeters, or for those who don't do metric, just over half an inch. No mention of who did the measuring but you can bet, it wasn't an American educated before 1980.  

In my wanderings on the internet, I found myself becoming acquainted with a radio show before there was Angela Lansbury, Lois Lane or Nancy Drew, there was Kitty Keene Inc.  Only four episodes of her show survive. But why? Now there's a mystery. 

I skipped over a few countries whose names were even more impossible to pronounce than the ones I'd already discovered in this internet voyage, and the bio of a Matthew Collins, biologist, which felt too much like reading a write up for a Star Trek the New Generation Character. Here I was, skimming Wikipedia, and wanting to be dazzled, and irritated when I wasn't. It felt overindulgent, like my brain was insisting on too many toppings for a Sundae.

So I resolved to discipline myself. I would take the next offering; "The Lord of Opium," a sequel sci-fi novel by Nancy Farmer. However, I didn't find myself anymore compelled by the ongoing adventures of Matt Alacran than I did by the research of Collins, except this time, I spent more time on Collin's page and discovered his research focused on the persistence of proteins in ancient samples, modelling to explore the racemization of amino acids and thermal history to predict the survival of DNA and other molecules.[3] Using a combination of approaches (including immunology and protein mass spectrometry) his research detects and interprets protein remnants in archaeological and fossil remains. Hello Jurassic Park Reality? I had to rescind my indifference to the good professor if the possibility of owning a Good Dinosaur might be in the making.

Next I found Melissa Brown, Ophthalmologist and three time Republican Candidate for the House of Representatives in Pennsylvania. That's all she wrote.

Having looked at all the words I had to write and rewrite to simply explain what I read over the course of ten minutes, I learned one more thing from the exercise.

That Wikipedia is full of names of people and places and things I can neither pronounce nor spell and that since I want to be in the collective data dump of history, I'd better get to work creating a book about the Opium Lord of the Radio Program about a Politician hiding in a church in Armenia, heading the Society for the Preservation of 1/2 inch moths, membership 585, whose secret plans for reintroducing dinosaurs onto the earth, are conveyed in still lifes hanging in the Hague. 

Also, I should just stay away from the Random Wikipedia button.

1000 Stories, 1000 Words, Even More Memories

My brain today announced, “Due to excessive lack of use, the management has declared it will no longer take requests from the general public to perform on demand.”  I offered to eat fish.  I offered to exercise.  I even suggested I’d do both in the same week. I’d read Joyce.  I’d finish a medium level Soduku and listen to Mozart. 

I sat down to write.  Nothing.  I tried looking in my book of prompts.  I solicited family for suggestions and went on the internet searching for inspiration.  Finally, I had time, I had a computer and I got this:

So you get what I always do when I can’t think of something to write, you get me complaining about my AWOL muse and why Sherry can’t think anymore. 

One reason is simple.  Writing served as a means of self-affirmation while a stay at home mom.  Now that I’m working, the need for affirmation is not as desperate, ergo, the motivation is less.  That’s pathetic and sad really, but it’s also not wrong (much as I might wish otherwise).   On the positive side of that argument, perhaps my ego isn’t as needy.   (Ha!).  I know writers write even when not inspired, even when tired, even when they can’t think of a blasted thing so I’m here, whiffing at my own softball pitches.

Another reason is maternal.  Teenagers, while as amusing and entertaining (and they are), don’t struggle from massive cute disconnects which can be easily exploited for humor purposes.  I don’t want to document adolescence the way I did toddlerhood, because the chaos of teenagerhood is more about figuring out how to help them grow up, and that requires time and space and preferably, not sardonic, sarcastic or even light humor remarks from Mom.  

There are more reasons.  Physically, I know I’ve been running on fumes, both physically and intellectually since around September.  Negotiations with the brain have indicated there isn’t enough caffeine in the universe to make up for the lack of consistent rest, ergo if I want the grey matter to work, I need to invest in more REM time.  Will work on it, especially during Spring Break.

Inspiration. Sometimes, it feels like I’ve told all the jokes I have, and there aren’t any stories that aren’t either repeats of what’s been done, or somehow not what they should be.   I don’t want to force laughter or force humor.  But writing is a lot like fishing, you have to be patient and some days, even if you do everything correctly, you get skunked.   I know. Write anyway. Fish anyway.  Fish until you have no bait left even if they aren’t biting.  Write until you’ve hit 1000 words, even if they don’t sing.


Writing is hard.  Comedy is hard.  Writing comedy is harder than both.   A person who fishes but gets skunked is still a fisherman.  Is a person who writes but comes up with nothing still a writer?  Yes, but like the fisherman, frustrated as all get out.   I don’t want to just write words.  I want to write stories.  I want to somehow evoke a mood (other than boy is Sherry irritated with herself and in need of a diet coke, chocolate bar and a good 3 mile walk, maybe a book, a glass of wine and an early night).  

Back in 2004, I began writing and it seemed, everything would just pour out.  As I look at those early attempts, I wince at my own creations.  They seemed beautiful then, the same way prom pictures and art work and poetry written in adolescence seem meaningful and lovely.   Maturity has a way of rubbing off the glow of those early pieces, because you can see what you could have done, what you should have done, but what those early pieces have that isn’t there now, is fire.  Fire that came from feeling semi-fearless, like I could write anything. 

Somewhere in thirteen years of writing, telling the stories of what happened became something I wouldn’t do, and with that, telling stories became harder.   I lost a piece I’d worked on, with only 356 words to show for it, and I can’t for the life of me remember a word, not even the concept. Discouraged, I wondered, is it gone?  Is it time to just stop.  But that’s always been my problem.  I stop just before things flower, just before things take off, I sabotage myself by not fighting through whatever it is.  So I’m here, banging on the typewriter, blathering about my writers block and hoping somehow to pull out of my head, the practiced habit of writing, to restart with the vigor of knowing, every day there are 1000 stories waiting to be told.  My writing coach holds no sympathy for writing block. "You have ten kids.  Write."

It's a true formula, so I made a timeline.

We ate bacon and bagels, hot cross buns and fresh tomatoes for breakfast and John and Rita served the seven o’clock.  Paul brought me a lily he plucked from the outside and I placed it on the mantle.

 Today my almost ten-year-old reenacted light saber battles with whiffle ball bats.  She and her sisters planned a birthday party and bribed their parents to host a slumber party by cleaning the basement. 

We planted tomatoes and went to a band concert.  My son demanded to quit band because he doesn’t like it.  I offered a bribe.  He agreed with the proviso, I not make him go to Summer Camp. I’m still deciding if I agree to these terms.  At the concert, I met a couple who used to go to Saint Martin’s, they talked about the charism of Fr. Dan, which I agree, is remarkable.  I thought about his gift to bring others to the faith and how he helped me in a hard time.  The kids scored an excellent and I watched and wondered why one conductor refused to smile.

The kids planted Gladiolas, wild flowers, and played with kites in the back yard.   Paul came to me with his communication device and punched in, “Alligator, bee, toad.”  Which meant “I want to watch The Princess and the Frog.”  He’s also typed in “Fish, Jelly, Turtle,” code for “Turn on Finding Nemo.”  That evening, we took Paul and John to see a Capitals Game and Paul held our hands and jumped up the stairs and across crosswalks in downtown DC.  He said “Hockey” and signed to a girl his size, “I like your shoes,” because she wore caps sneakers. We got him a jersey and he wore it to bed, he felt so pleased.  All of this in one day, when I thought, I could think of nothing, because I was thinking what can I write, as opposed to “what happened?”  There isn't always a line connecting everything other than one thing preceded another, but writing out the events of the day allows me to look for ways to connect the events.  What happened?  A lot of life which, if I hadn't written it down, might have been forgotten.

First rule of writing, write.  Second rule of writing, get out of your own way when you’re writing.  Third rule, finish strong. 

Paul's first game, Palm Sunday, and a band concert, it was a good day to remember.   Sitting down to finish this piece after the game, I thought, "They're all good days, even the bad ones." I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings.  

Friday, April 7, 2017

Pray and Fast and Give Alms for Peace


The Syrian crisis is as complex as anything one might imagine.  Here are some of the key points from the past four years alone.  Suffice it to say, 250,000 individuals have died and 11 million have been displaced from their homes.  Every once in a while we get worked up over a picture, because a picture as the saying goes, is worth 1000 words.  Nikki Haley held up pictures asking how many children have to die before Russia cares? I'd change the word Russia to world.

Seeing people dying in a horrible quick fashion that is frightening, that makes us want to take action.

This sort of horror, like the picture of the boy washed up on the shore, like the picture of the boy in the back of the ambulance, somehow gets us more invested than say, this picture:
or this one: 

Which makes us want to change the channel because we can't wrap our heads around it and don't have a symbolic action we could do which would let us go back to not paying attention. 
So remember folks, you can kill with indifference, denial of humanitarian aid, bullets and bombs all you like, but if you do a chemical weapon drop, we'll send missles.  Please, go back to killing and oppressing your people in less emotionally gripping and disturbing ways.  To avoid further strikes, only oppress and kill in ways which are approved by other civilized nations.

I'm sorry if that sounds too sharp to some ears. I'll concede it might deter Assad from authorizing further flights from airbases he contols to drop chemicals on civilians who do not favor his regime, but it also might draw us into a high stakes conflict with Russia, since Russia suspended an agreement of military cooperation between the US and Russia, since Russia is an ally of the existing Syrian regime. Additionally, while surgical strikes provide symbolic relief, no one even pleased with the US response, believes this limited action will result in the regime having a change of heart.

While I hope the missles got the places that hold chemical weapons, no one should feel comfortable that the US sends drones or missles into countries where we have not declared war or been given sanction to act in a military fashion or that Russia has promised to bolster Syrian air defense systems and is sending a frigate to monitor Syria's port to the Mediteranean.  It has the feel of brinkmanship, and not "the art of the deal." Military action, like all other things we do, ought to be the result of reflective, deliberate policy and thoughtful examination.  This act, (in contrast with the talk up until last week), is reflexive and reactive.  I didn't like it with the past presidents, I still don't like it.  

So what do we do as we watch powers and principalities play out a game of live chess with real people?

If we remember, back when war with Syria seemed inevitable in 2013, Pope Francis asked the Church to pray and fast for peace.  Somehow, the U.S. need to go to war which seemed unavoidable, evaporated...overnight.

Perhaps it is time to make that request again, and this time, add alms giving in the form of each parish taking on a family. If the Pope asks our fellow Christians and Muslim and Jewish brothers and sisters to each take on a family at each church, each mosque, each temple, we will be able to whittle that picture of endless despair down, and perhaps help prove there is another way to address "such relentless hate," by riding out to meet them.  Problems aren't intractable just because they're difficult to resolve. Problems remain intactable because people refuse to be moved or to move. What is required is embracing the cross.  Somehow, we have to know, if we are Catholic, everything always requires embracing the cross.   Somehow, we have to know, peace isn't the merely absence of conflict.  Anyone who ever had a silent fight knows how a house feels when two people aren't getting along.  On a global scale, we can't know peace when we wilfully ignore suffering so as to "get along."

What we keep forgetting, as individuals and whole peoples, is when we ignore a problem because it is hard, it gets bigger.  It's true with weight. It's true with debt.  It's true with education. It's true with politics.  It's true with everything that matters in life.  When we ignore problems because they are difficult, we eventually wind up ignoring people.    We need to take on this crisis we've ignored. 

How?

We can eliminate the humanitarian crisis by helping one family at a time, via one community at a time.  Risk is always involved when we reach out to a stranger, to an other, whenever we offer love but to do otherwise, is indifference (which is the simplest path and what we've done as a world whenever we thought we could).  We've tried indifference. It has lead to where we are now, with millions searching for room in the inn of the world, pictures of the dead and the dying and stories of suffering, waste and pain with no respite.

Here's some links to ways we can get involved.
Seven Ways to Help Syrian Refugees.
Here's one more, which has some of the same information but is still worth reading as I'm pleased it's from a secular source: How to Help.


Petition your bishop, your pastor, and your friends to encourage everyone to do the same.  As we prepare for Holy Week, we ought to ramp up our prayers, fasting and alms giving, storming Heaven, asking for the peace the world cannot give.   If we show we are not living as this world would have us, but as the next, perhaps we can have better pictures and better stories to tell.

So Pray the Rosary for peace.
Fast as penance for all the pain we've created via neglect, indifference and not being willing to act,
and give alms, so they will know who we are.

It may seem unreasonable to pray for peace in such a wartorn and conflicted country. How could it possibly happen? That's okay. God loves unreasonably.  We can be unreasonable with God in our prayers, and God wants peace for these people, for all of us, even more than we do. It may seem crazy to give alms when there are so many in need. How could our little be sufficient?  That's okay. Give what you can. God will do the multiplying. He's done it before.   It may even seem scary to take on caring for people of a different faith, people we don't know, and to invite them into our lives. Again, that's okay. 

Love is always unreasonable, generous and courageous.  So be unreasonable, generous and courageous.  This week, this about to be Holy Week, be love.  










Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Connecting the Dots with Mark Shea

So here's the link to our podcast on Monday. I hope you're having a great week. I'm going to be on Spring Break next week, so hopefully, you'll see more writing, less double postings hey, I have a link here kind of stuff.  

Hang in there, this is the week of Palm Sunday, and next week, we get Easter.  

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Writing Humor/The Theory Behind it

Why is comedy difficult?
Well in most writing, you have a story and it can go up and down and around and people don't necessarily have a specific emotional response they must have. Unlike a western or sci-go or historical fiction, humor is a genre of mood, not place or time or parameters of how reality is understood. In humor, there is an expectation, to be amused.
If we don't laugh, it's not funny. Pure and simple, that straight forward, and that daunting at the same time. People can write a sad story, and though you may not weep, you may feel sadness and thus consider the story emotionally to be a success, but if a joke draws indifference, it has failed. It is not a joke. It's just a bad line or a stupid line or a poor bit of writing poorly told.
There are so many ways for a joke to fail, it is the souflee of the writing world. When it works, it's light, it's fluffy, it's magnificient and you want everyone to enjoy it, but it can't last. The joke is a pleasure of the moment, and once the moment is gone, it can't fully come again except in someone else experiencing the pleasure of the moment. All jokes are essentially one night stands in the brain.
What does that mean? It means everything you write in Comedy, has to be something someone else never wrote. Every bit of humor has to be a joke no one else told. You can copy a style of delivery, or of writing, but people know the voice/stamp of comedy in a way they don't often in any other genre, such that the jokes will become stale even before their told if the voice of the writer and the humor being created don't match up.
So how do you write humor? The same way we write anything else. Start with the story.
1) Can you exhaggerate it? Make the stakes what they are not.
 "The fate of the universe depends upon me, and to a lesser extent, you." --Ace in Chicken Little
2) Can you diminish it? Make the consequences what they are not. "You are a sad, sick little man and you have my pity." --Buzz Lightyear.
3) Can you find an orange to compare to this apple? Associative connections are your friends. "If she weighs as much as a duck, she's made of wood..." --Monty Python's Holy Grail
4) Can you create an assertion that has no basis in reality and make it stick? "Donuts, is there nothing they can't do?" --Homer Simpson
5) Can you use logic to destroy all reasoning? Spock: "Your logic was impeccable, Captain. We are in grave danger.”
6) Can you play with language like legos? Puns, tropes, alliteration, assonance, oxymorons, hyperbole and metaphors are your friends.
"Marie Antoinette could have avoided that whole nasty business if she'd just issued an edict authorizing the distribution of food to the poor, but she couldn't. Because you can't have your cake and edict too." --Mr. Peabody.

7) Invert all your feelings on the matter. Ugate: "You despise me don't you?" Rick: "If I gave you any thought, I would."
Bonus if you can manage all seven in one piece.  Ultimately, the rules of humor follow one ultimate rule. Make 'em laugh.  Humor is a way of connecting the idiosyncratic to the universal and the universal to the individual  I don't have to be what the comedian is, to enjoy the stories the comedian tells.  Likewise, the humor reaches across ages.   
Consider whatever scenario you craft to be the diving board for the humor. Now, take a deep breath and dive deep.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Forced Practice

Yesterday, I tried to writes something funny. No dice. Nothing happened.  I just looked at the page. Today threatened to be the same way.  The rule about writers block is ignore it. Write anyway, even if it's just junk. So I'm writing.  Sometimes, life is like this, where everything seems so ordinary I can't find something to put onto the page that would somehow amuse, delight or reveal.

The rule of writing is open a vein, but even giving blood requires a 56 day lag time in between donations.   So I'm here trying to tap something, anything that might reveal why it is that my funny bone is awol.

It could be the pressure of work, which limits freetime.  Humor is work, but it does require time and reflection to create.  It could be the routine of life these days, which despite having ten kids, has a certain ordinariness which I feel I've already told all the stories.  We're into adolescence and middle school and high school and beyond. Those stories aren't mine to tell.  I've made a promise to them not to exploit their angst, only mine.

It could be, I'm tired and so the associative component of my brain is resting.  It could also be I'm out of practice.  I used to write three humor pieces a week.  These days, I maybe get one a week, with the other pages of the week being filled out by a published link or the podcast.

Fortunately, they keep growing.  So they keep creating new stories for me.   I started gathering the news of the day.  Paul today said, "Sheep" when we stopped at the farm. He's now using his communcation device to nag me to put on a movie.  Anna is wearing a red sparkly dress.
Regina is karate chopping her sister on the back, while John is gaming, Peter is running, and Rita is fixing a snack. Today is Faith's birthday and we're waiting for the meet to be over so we can get on to the serious business of celebrating. "There's nothing to do." one said.  "There's nothing to watch." another echoed.  "I'm hungry."  "It's too cold outside." "There's no one to play with." The chorus kept growing.  In short, they were bored.

Bored. Bored. Bored.  They begged me for something to do.

I suggested we play a game.

Now there is a debate about what to play.  For people who want something to do, they want it to be the right thing and have no idea how to get to it.

Sometimes, being the parent means being the diplomat, but today, it meant being the dictator.  As soon as I demanded everyone play, everyone found something to do that entertained them more deeply than before.   They drew.  They practiced their instruments, they shared apples and rode around on the garden cart taking turns.   No one needed any help coming up with something to do once I suggested something to do.   Paul came by, smakcking on an apple and gave me a pat on the shoulder.  I'm not sure but I think he meant, "Nice work Mom. You fixed it."

Now I sit at the table with three games no one wants to play and nothing to show for it. I have time.  I have a stupid blank page.  Theoretically, I should be writing something.  I'm still waiting for the writing muse to come play with me.

I know when I'll think of something...when everyone's home and we have something on the schedule.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

There They Go

Yesterday, I attended a pep rally at the school where I work, and my attention kept being drawn away from the dancers and the flags and the DJ to the students near me.  They were teenagers, but they had disabilities just like my son who is only eight.  Some had gone down to the festivity and been cheered for their sports, some were part of the announcements, but these students, they were each of them, alone in a crowd.  They didn't sit, but they didn't socialize either.

I saw my son in six years.  Or rather, I saw how it could be.

Inclusion is easier in elementary school than anywhere else, and I've witnessed it first hand, but it should be the goal for the upper grades, for middle and high school.  Not that we'll sit with the kids who have disabilities, but that the kids with disabilities will be sprinkled amongst the various clubs, the poms and the tennis, the Korean Pop troop and the flags, the fans and the grades by class, and seamless. I want it not to be inclusion, but ordinary to the point of being the invisible taken for granted baseline of how we will be as a people.

Some might point out that some teens pull away from the crowd, they aren't joiners and in the disablied community, this is no different.  I would say yes, if I thought those teens I saw Friday milling about, not engaged in the pep rally were enjoying their aloofness.  Teens working to not fit in, relish their isolation.  I did not see this in those students.  I saw them engaged in self stimulation, in trying to figure out how to be where they were and fit in, and having neither a plan or a purpose for themselves, not being able to settle, stand, sit or cheer.

At home, my son has the protection of his siblings who constantly teach without teaching, how to get into a group and engage.  They've taught him how to play brawl such that I've learned not to start worrying if I hear him saying, "Help." if he's in the basement with his siblings.  It just means his character is getting beaten and someone needs to give him an assist.  At his school, he has friends across grades, across the spectrum of ability.  I know this because when we've come to events, kids come up to visit with him independent of a club or assignment or a teacher, high five him and visit.  It isn't a long convesation, it's usually "Hey Paul, what's up?"  Paul gives them a "Good" and the high five, and the other kid says something like, "See you on stage." or "Cool science project." or some such, and Paul shows them or says "Yeah" and tries to say the same back, and they know it.

Inclusion isn't easy, but it has to be more than the Compassionate Student Organization will sit with the Special Needs Students for lunch.  It has to be that there are actual relationships being built.  The kids at my son's school know he loves dinosaurs, flags and playing outside.  They bring him toy dinosaurs and books about it to read with him.  (Not as a club, as individuals).  Relationships aren't, I'm doing good for you because I'm good; relationships are I will the good for you, and I enjoy spending the one commodity we all have in limited supply, (time), with you and on you.

These sort of organic inclusion moments are something a mom of a kid with a disability lives for, and always at the same time, can't quite enjoy until after the fact.  We hold our breath when they take place, because the moment can be so fragile.  The thinking goes something like, "Please son don't do something that drives the other kid away.  Please other kid, don't ignore my son.  Please, somehow interact without super sweetness or baby talk, please please please be real."

Going back to the pep rally, I admit, I want a society where interactions between the mentally handicapped are neither artificially created nor imposed.  The kids with the handicapping conditions have a reason to be there, it's a pep rally for their school.  They don't have a reason to be in isolation, because they are freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors.  It wasn't that the teachers or the school were doing anything wrong, only that as a Mom, and as a member of the Education community, I want more for the kids I saw, for they are just like my son.  I know we can't teach "How to act at a pep rally" through task analysis or breaking it down, but we could take a cue from the elementary school and the neighborhood model of friendship.  We need to learn how to be willing to spend time, wasting time with each other.

What does inclusion look like?  Every morning while waiting for the bus, all the kids put their feet together and do "one-potato-two-potato" to start.  My son gets mad if people don't tag him or don't let him be it sometimes, because he knows, as I do, it has to be real.  He has to be it sometimes.  When he's touched, he puts his hands out, giggles and begins to moan as he lumbers toward whoseover he's declared the newest target.  He doesn't need any guidance, he's immersed as they all are.  It isn't a case of "there he goes" to play with the other kids or "there they go to play with him."

It's look: "there they all go to to play.  See how they love each other."

Friday, March 24, 2017

Over at the National Catholic Register

I have a piece over at the Register addressing how we respond to God's love.

Here's a taste of it:

 "My children came to me because they felt lonely and needed reassurance, tangible and emotional. When we come to God, we are asking the same thing."

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

We're in Week Three of Lent

Tuesday, I took all the petitions with me when I attended a healing mass celebrated by Father Dan O'Leary.  If you read yesterday's piece, you got day one of his talks.  Here's the podcast version of his Day 2 talk.  Father Dan has many spiritual gifts, and one of them is his devotion to the sacrament of confession.  I've seen him see a person leaving because the line was too long and stop whatever it was he was doing, to invite them back.

Standing in line to receive a blessing, waiting became an opportunity to engage in a litany of sorts, for all those I've ever hurt, both by co-mission or omission, and all those who I've nursed hurts against.  I've been to healing masses before, (not often), but I know they bring with them great graces.  It's a sort of oasis in the midst of this Lenten journey, a greater feast than getting to indulge in whatever surrender we've made up to now in our normal appetites.

This past week, I began to reflect on what these first three weeks of Lent have brought.  While considering the purpose and process of Lent, I stated how I started Lent wanting God to give me friends.  I was praying for friends.  Now, I find my desert is full of friends for whom I am praying. This thought germinated into a piece over at the National Catholic Register.   It is a great blessing to be part of all of your lives.  Thank you for honor.  

May I pray for you today?

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Trisomy 21 Day

It's World Down Syndrome Day, so it's fitting that Paul is the inspiration for the piece which ran today over at Aleteia.  How I Learned Being a Saint is as Easy as Bedtime.  Enjoy.  And if you're curious, we're still battling him on getting to bed.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Woman at the Well

I bring this up because the Woman at the Well keeps showing up or more accurately, Jesus keeps meeting me at the well, and since I didn't come to the well, he keeps moving the well.  It was there on Sunday in the readings.  It was there Monday with Mark Shea and Connecting the Dots.  To top it off, I saw a link to the priest who challenged us to enter more deeply in, Fr. Dan O'Leary.   

Now I love Fr. Dan. I've loved his theology, his homilies, his thinking and his faith ever since he burst into our lives when I was pregnant with Faith. I met him on Easter in 2002. He'd been through the busiest week of priesthood there is, and came to the hospital to anoint me.  I also love him because he was willing to risk our friendship when he saw me holding onto a grudge.  He warned me, I could hold on and be destroyed, or give it over and find peace.  When the Holy Spirit hits you over the head three times with a reading, it's clear if nothing else, you need to go back to it, to consider am I holding onto something, am I keeping myself from the living water?

It was a reminder.  Jesus is there, seeking a relationship with us, breaking down the walls we've created through false gods, through our sufferings, through all the failures we've held onto over the years.  We all are the woman at the well, going to find something that would satisfy, because we've tried everything.  We are all the woman at the well, wanting something more and knowing what we've found up to now, wasn't it.  

So we go again, hoping this time, we'll find the living water.




Thursday, March 9, 2017

Because We Should Stop

As writers, we're supposed to take everything in, and pull from our memories, from our heart, and weave together associations through sentences that bridge the gap between the experiences we've all had, and the ones only some ever endure.  Yesterday, a friend on Facebook announced her son battled demons and lost.

I know countless mothers who hold their breath at such stories, because thus far, their children have won, but there's always the chance tomorrow, it will be them taking down the body of the child they carried, because they weren't there at the right moment to make sure this horrible moment didn't happen. 

The internet makes us voyeurs into each other's lives, it can even create real relationships, but it won't let us be flesh and blood to those friends when flesh and blood is what aches. Her heart's cry pierces the internet, because it cannot be answered. It cannot be comforted, not by anything here.
Suddenly, the internet revealed in addition to being a community, it is dust and amusement. We can be cheerleaders and encouragers, we can even be provocative, but what we can't be, is anything other than virtual in this moment when tangibility means everything, because death is such a tangible, bodily thing.

There are no words to give to a mother who found her son hanging in the garage other than, "I'm so sorry."

These sort of moments, the only appropriate response is to give some tangible form of a hug. Food. Watching her little ones. Offering to help with the mass, anything. Instead, I'm here, my thoughts churning over the children I work with, my own children and their trials, and over her. The rosary in my fingers feels inadequate, and yet I know she holds to it too, along with her other children who must also weather this terrible pain. They hold to it like a safety rope, and I want it to be for them. I have to hope it is.

Everything feels too new, too raw, too simple, too pat to be real. This unreality feeling, facing the deepest and worst we can face, will even make the sounds of cars and doors and phones and the television feel alien. Music will cut the air, and conversations buzz through without leaving an impression. As I feel the round beads in my hands, the realness of her raw reality works against allowing me the comfort of doing the familiar. It must. It is immediate. It is too soon. It is too near.
Her pain cannot be rushed or wiped away or easily healed; it must merely be endured. The rosary too, cannot be rushed, not if it is to be prayed. She will grope through the grief. We will all grope through prayers, hoping to add to the graces she receives, and lighten something of the hard cross she carries. So I'm praying for all of the trials to come, for her to feel as she should, and for the whole rest of the world to stop, and be gentle as it can for as long as possible, to give her leaking heart time to be bound.

My friend Simcha has details on how you can give tangible help. Please keep their whole family in our prayers.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

A Day Without Sunshine*

by Guest Blogger, Marc Antonetti.

Today March 8, 2017 is "A Day without a Woman" day; and like a day without sunshine, your regular columnist--Sherry--is nowhere to be seen.  

The corporate big wigs at Chocolate for Your Brain however would not shut down the operation in solidarity with the movement and threatened to fire her if there was no column. So she asked for a ghostwriter (that male in her life who is rarely seen or heard from in public) today.

So how is our day without a woman going?  Well, we got up late and the kids had bratwurst and beans for breakfast. Immediately the chorus of "Where's Mom?" began. I answered with my typical straightforwardness, "Not here."  And "Somewhere else." and in homage to that great bedtime book, Owl Moon, "Maybe a fox got her."  

When they saw they were getting yesterday's left overs in their lunch boxes, a second round of "No really Dad, where is Mom?"  I replied, "Go brush your teeth, and your hair."  

I thought I was doing fine until I had to find socks and some sort of remotely matching outfit for each of the youngest two five minutes later. By then the yellow school buses had rolled past our house. It was now 9:10.  After dropping them off at school (itself operating on minimal efficiency) I headed home to telework.  

I put on a continuous loop for the "Hunt for Red October," "A Bridge Too Far" and "Crimson Tide." The day without women was looking up.  I could indulge in films without girls in them (and Gates McFadden and Liv Ulman have too few lines to count in the first two films).  I reprogrammed all the radio stations in the car from Mix 107.5 and the other pop music channels from the "80's, 90's and Today" to SportsTalk 980, the Sports Junkies, and the new AC/DC channel over on Sirius/XM.

Of course, this reverie lasted until I saw it was already 2:30 and time to make the first run out to pick one kid up from school, race home for the next four to arrive by bus and then out again to get the oldest two from after school activities.

By the time I got home, the chorus of "Where's Mom?" started up.

"Can you sign this?"
"I don't understand my homework!"
"I need something for the bake sale."
"My brother did this to me."  "She started it!"  "What's for dinner?"  "I'm hungry." 

The high of watching Sean Connery for the better part of the afternoon wore off, leaving me with the distinct desire to say "Calgon take me away!" or at the very least, "Where's Sherry?" 

On one more serious note, I will be continuing Sherry's prayer requests, so if I may, Can I pray for you?  I would also ask that we all give a prayer, of thanks for all the women in our lives without whom we wouldn't be where we are today, and for greater unity among all of us, no matter what the gender,

Sherry Green Antonetti will Return with Small Success Thursday tomorrow.  I hope.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Mom Myth Buster

"You have a lot of kids so the older ones must help out a lot right?"  I get this bit of folk lore from well meaning people and I know other moms of more than two do as well, particularly if there's any sort of gap.  It's not that the older kids don't help out.  It isn't that they can't help.  It's that the presumption when people say such things, is that once children hit twelve, they become something other than teenagers, they become reliable staff.

I can only presume the people or person who created this bit of commonly held wisdom never knew a single twelve to twenty-one year old, and never experienced being anywhere close to that age themselves.  They just skipped all of adolescence and immerged on the scene at twenty-five with a full Wikipedia approved understanding of how to raise multiple children which they generously impart to anyone who has them but doesn't seem to grasp how to do it properly. (Meaning me).

Here are just a few samples of where I've been told, the older ones should pitch in, and where I've found, for various reasons, it's not happening.

Homework:  "The older ones help the younger ones." No. This does not happen.  Not because they can't. Not because they won't.  It's that they have homework too.  Besides, I don't blame them.  I wouldn't want to do one of my younger sibling's homework either.  None of us liked it the first time around and it hasn't become any more beloved a task as part of somebody else's responsibility. Also, the older kids had to put up with my inept support in math, I suspect they've banded together to 1) ensure I maybe one day master 5th grade fractions and 2) no one younger gets out of having to figure it out for themselves after being told the next day by the teacher, they did it wrong.

Laundry:  Despite having a machine which does the washing and another which does the drying, this task remains a labor of either the desperate or me.  No one likes their clothing co-mingling unless they're the squatter adding in, in which case they can't see what the problem might be.

One caveat:  Everyone will very helpfully point out, so and so needs to do laundry, or so and so needs to put away their laundry.  They are also quite willing to serve as nag-o-ramas whether asked or not, to the child who needs to catch up on their wash.

Dishes: I've been told by helpful strangers, to assign each task to two children.  Like all things proposed, it works in theory.  Whenever I try to do pairings to have an older kids work with younger ones, either the older one masters the art of exploitation, the younger one becomes a ninja, incapable of being discovered, or both collude to find something so mommy-tear-jerkingly-beautiful to do I won't insist on the original task.  This third ploy, though seldom used, always works.  I've caught them playing cards, reading stories and practicing music together.  They've made castles, puzzles and colored together.  The result (I'm a sap) is I see this precious moments facade, fall for it every time, and wind up finishing the task for them.  

So yes, the older ones do help the younger ones...to master the art of the dodge.  But what will the younger ones do when they mature and there are no younger ones to use as  human shields to avoid work?  Probably collude writing "How to Parent Properly Such that Your Kids Do Chores Books" and offer to sign one for me provided I pay an additional fee.

Day 4 of Lent

May I pray for you?

I'm rotating between the blog and Facebook to make sure I ask every day, and to keep from sounding like a nag. 

The first thing I've come to know, is there are a lot of hidden crosses.  It is an honor to be allowed to share in such stories of strength, courage and fortitude.  My heart rends for some of these individuals.  It feels inadequate to simply pray, and yet it is all any of us can do given what some of these people face, and in reality, it is what we are asked to do. Also, I know, God's heart rends more than mine, and He can and does act, and is acting. 

Today, I read several posts by people who declared themselves emancipated from organized religion because they wanted to be more in connection with God.  Maybe they have that grace, but going to adoration, I cannot get closer, and I know absent the sacraments, (as I know even with them), it is easy to drift. It is easy to fall into talking to myself.   It is easy to fall asleep. 

However, the names help me anchor.  I have a red book in which I write every name of every person and every intention each day.  Leave your name and/or intention in a like, the com box or email.  Every day but Sunday, the offer will be given.  

So may I pray for you?  


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