Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Big Push App, Wish It Were Downloadable

Some kids are born repsonsible.  They get up on time, they go to bed on time.  They brush their teeth on a daily basis. Some of them even floss.  Yes, I know from my time on the internet reading Mommy blogs that most parents' children do their homework with little fuss, their clothes are organized by drawer and color, and they willingly consume raw beets and edemae as mid day snack.  Some of them tie their shoes at the tender age of four months and say their ABC's in utero.

My kids...well as of this point, I know one is wearing a Pikachu costume because it is warm.  It's August.   Another claims playing Civilization VI will help with AP history.  A third explained he's very good at creating art in Minecraft.  I'm not sure what skills that might translate to in the non pixelated world, but his siblings are impressed.  Ninety percent of parenting is playing the game, "What's my motivation?" so I've compiled some analogies from popular culture to help motivate all my kids to get ready for school again, using cool geeky references like all the kids do these day.  Failing that, I will speak in text, and that should do it.  

You should get your summer work done because....why?...well consider the alternative.

The Star Wars Imperative: 

Fill out the common ap now, or join us and live here forever.  It is your destiny.  Choose. It helped that I have loud breathing as a matter of course in my speech.  The sound track in the background was my husband's idea.  I love him.

The Pokemon Quest, Will You Please Go Now? 

Son. You want to be the very best, like no one every was.  On some campus somewhere, are Pokemon for you to catch with your phone.  Stay here, and your dad and I will cite Team Rocket's motto to you night and day.  Here's the link for the common ap.  Surrender now...

Fortunately, the photos of me as Jesse of Team Rocket from Halloween 2000 were destroyed in a freak accident when the disposable camera met its end, having been accidentally left on top of the mini-van.  I, and the internet, are forever grateful.  

Lego my Ego

This is 100% true.  All of it.  You are the special. You can do amazing things.  I want you to do amazing things. So....finish your work without me having to hover or I'll "kraggle" you to the chair to get it done.   Love, Mom.

Now I could push this, show montages of characters from Spiderman to Officer Judy Hops to Remy from Ratatoulie to illustate that anything we want which is important, anything that matters, demands more than we think it will, and pushes us beyond what we thought we could do.  But I think kiddos, you get the point.  You have to do this, and I don't mind if you reward yourself with mindcraft or civ or magic or whathave you, but you do have to do something beyond what is easy, or your life once you leave home, will be harder than it has to be. put another way, reaching into your own family lore:  "Now is the time to start the big push."

Love, Mom. 

P.S.  I promised I'd do it.  git 2 wrk

Saturday, August 19, 2017

What to do

Leah Libresco Sargeant writes a beautiful article discussing what we as Christians should do in light of Charlottesville.  She presents a lovely way of examing how to 1) create genuine peace and 2) be an authentic witness and 3) offer correction to those in grave error.  You go and you interact with these people, you learn their names, their fears, their loneliness, and you ask questions, you seek to get at what it is they think, and to present a living counter argument without argument.  Please, go read it.  It's so worth it.

There is a great rage in this country and a gleeful glowering joy at pointing out sinners, and saying to the crowd, "These ones, it's okay to stone.  Pick up your rocks."   But the reality is, to those who show mercy, mercy shall be theirs.  Mercy is the gift we give, the grace we allow to flow through us, not when it is deserved, but precisely because it isn't.   Jesus is still reaching out, even from the cross before His death, to enter into relationship with us, to bring us to the right place, to heal our broken hearts.  We are to do the same, whether it's racism or anything else.   That's a tall order, a hard order,  an order only possible to fill through grace, by grace, and so as to receive grace.

So don't blast with holy wrath or excommunicate a friend for failing to see the evil you see, ask them what they see.  Ask them why.  Ask them their fears, their concerns. Go out to lunch and find all the spaces in between, all the points where their gifts are, so as to see their true faces, which are not only the sins we know.  

Yes, these views must be challenged, must be countered, but the only way to stop hate, is not to stomp people into the ground, but to show a better way.  It may seem obvious to you, but that's the nature of sin.  It blinds us to others. It blinds us to good. It clouds the heart, and so we see through a glass darkly.  As Leah sagely notes, when you don't think anyone can see anything but the sin, it is hard to embrace anything else.

Be the option out, be the refuge, be the source of light that helps people cast off these views and the world will be brighter for it.  

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Two Pieces to Link to Today

I'm taking a break from Facebook, but not writing.  So I'm letting you know where you can find my latest pieces.  One is about what we need to do in the face of being bombarded so often with reckless hate, with a rage that seems to never exhaust itself, and which seems to surround virtually all discourse, all reality right now.  

You have been hired out. Time to get to work.

Second, is the link to Thursday's Small Success Feature over at on Facebook.

Have a great day.  Enjoy these dog days of summer, they're fading fast.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Grace Can Pierce Stone

Driving my daughters to an appointment, we began a discussion about an article I read about a course where the students studied hate crimes, and in the process, encountered someone who had begun to repent, and who had from some, received the gift of forgiveness.  As my friend who sent me the article said, "No matter what we think about other people, change is amazingly possible."

The thoughts, "Grace can pierce stone. Grace can pierce the emptiness of years.  Grace, like water can seep through the tiniest cracks in the armor of the soul. Grace, like air, comes unseen, and we discover how necessary it is for life." kept running through my mind as I drove, and I repeated the thoughts as images in my head so I wouldn't forget.

The girls sat discussing how they'd write to someone who was incarcerated for hate crimes, and what they would say.   They weren't sure it would be just to be generous or forgiving to people who committed such grave offense, when those who were injured by the offenses still might bear scars from the events.  But God gives mercy to Cain, marking Him with a sign to all the world, this son I love, this son I will protect.  Despite Cain's sin against his brother and God, God offers him not merely mercy, but ongoing mercy for his life.  Grace is in essence, God's limitless love, manifested as mercy, upon us, His limited creatures.

Mercy remains, as Pope Francis constantly reminds us, amazingly possible for all who seek for it.  This does not mean the grace is won in an instant, for always, God wants us to go deeper and deeper into relationship with Him.  For that to happen, sometimes, we need the cross of time, so as to lean more solidly on God than ourselves.  We do not receive mercy via anything but God's generosity.  It reflects both God's heart, and the extent to which the soul of the person extending forgiveness or forbearance, is molded by God's heart.

Mercy manifested in this world by one person to another, remains to those who lack faith, hope and/or mercy, a mystery that amounts to foolishness.  Mercy manifested in this world from one person to another, viewed by the outsider who knows love, hope, and/or faith, remains a mystery, but a celebrated luminous joyful wondrous one,  It makes more sense than the sensible response the world would "understand," and thus is both impossible to explain, and more normal, more natural, more magnificent than what might be deemed just, fair or appropriate.

So today, as it is August 11th, the day I asked Catholic bloggers to offer penance and prayer for peace, both in their homes and hearts, and in the world both online and out there, I am praying for peace, for the whole world to be bathed in mercy, so that it might become more real and more natural, more what it was always intended to be.   Such a reality would be amazing, all the more so, because it is possible.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

A Plea for All of Us to Pray for All of Us

The Catholic blogosphere is as diverse as the Church itself, with people who wrestle earnestly with issues both big and small, but who try always to be Catholic in their response to life and all the people living in it.  We aren't always successful.  Being like any family, we have fights, we fail, we forgive, we pull away, we mess up.  However only when we have our right and left hands together, can we be fully in prayer, fully seamless, fully the Universal Church we are all called to be.

Above all, we want this world which is God's gift to all of us, to go on, allowing future generations to discover Christ both in the sacraments and in each other, in service and in prayer.  That can only happen if the people here now, work for peace, both in our own hearts, and in the world.   As part of the overly talkative patient wing of the hospital for sinners, who believe part of our vocation, is both to learn and educate about the Catholic faith, it is time we came together in prayer. In the core of each Catholic, I know there is more than a mustard seed of faith, waiting for us to ask. I also know, harder things require more than mere prayer and faith, but atonement, for some demons do not go out except by prayer and fasting. We have a world full of unrest even absent the current sabre rattling in North Korea, and we need to get to the work of being the Body of Christ to others.  We can only do that by being deliberate in seeking grace.  Who doesn't want more genuine peace and grace in the friendships in their lives, both online and in real life?


We do not have worldly power, but we have something much greater.  We have the King of Peace, and we have His blessed mother, the sacraments and the saints. So I am asking all Catholic bloggers everywhere, at the Reporter and the Register, at Aleteia and Crux, Catholicmom and Catholic Digest, Catholic columnists both independent and syndicated, new and established.  Calling all writers from America and the Catholic Stand, at Patheos, New Advent, Big Pulpit and the Catholic Conspiracy, Church Militant and anywhere they may be found, to ask their readers to consider praying and fasting this Friday, August 11th, for peace in this world, on the internet, in families, and between nations. Joyce said of the Catholic Church, "Here comes everybody." Well, we need everybody.

 Jesus told us to ask and we shall receive, seek and we shall find, and that collectively, we should be able to mustard up a mustard seed, and maybe transform a mountain of problems into molehills.  

How to participate:
1) Decide you will dedicate this Friday to penance and prayer and fasting for peace in our hearts and across the world.
2) Offer a fasting of a particular kind for the whole day; something which you either treasure, or which you know is a barrier to your own prayer life. It can be something as familiar as diet coke or Facebook, it can be refraining from snark, it can be meat, it can be your phone or television or anything which you surrender for 24 hours, as a gift in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.
3) Invite others, both in real life and online to do the same, and write your own post of why and what.  We are all small. We are all at the very least, half of mustard seeds, but together, we can move mountains.

If you don't know what to do, here are a few ideas:
30. Pray for all our leaders, and all those in power.  Spend time with the Blessed Mother, asking her intercession in their hearts.
29.  Figure out what you cling to, what you have made an idol or an addiction, and ask all of Heaven to help you let go.
28. Read the life of a saint.
27.  Review and renew your baptismal vows and confirmation promises.
26. Read the daily readings to your family at the dinner table.
25. Make a gift of yourself to your family today. Following the wisdom of Saint Therese of Lisieux, picking up pins for love.
24. Watch or listen to a podcast on Forgiveness.  Fr. John Ricardo's talks on this matter are excellent.
23. Call your pastor, ask what the Parish needs you to do.
22. Do an examination of conscience from your earliest memory to now, and ask for wisdom and guidance from the Holy Spirit.
21. Pray for the souls in purgatory, arrange to offer a mass.
20.  Fast.  Pray for peace each time you remember, you're hungry.
19.  Smile at each person you encounter, and whisper a prayer in your heart for each person you see.
18.  Spend time with your children, playing on their level.
17.  Invite someone to join you for mass.
16.  Offer your unique talents as a gift to your local pregnancy center or soup kitchen or parish, or a neighbor in need.  Set it up as an ongoing
15.  Invite someone you know could use a friend, out to lunch. Listen.
14.  Read the catechism on Just War.
13.  Venerate a relic. Ask for the saint's intercession.
12. Make a pilgrimage to a local chapel or shrine.
11. Begin the Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary.
10. Go to adoration for an hour.
9. Divine Mercy Chaplet
8. Spend some time reading the Psalms.
7. Donate clothing to a local shelter.
6. Go to mass.
5. Pray a family rosary.
4. Give alms.
3. Make a confession.
2. Read some of the writings of the Doctors of the Church.
1. Perform one of the Spiritual or Corporeal Acts of Mercy.

There are as many ways to fast or give alms or make atonement as there are saints, and with all of us, we should hit all of them.   The goal is peace, of the kind we can only ask for, the only kind worth receiving.   Let's get to work.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Over at the Register

It's important to bring little children to mass.  Why?  So we can learn important lessons like How to approach Holy Communion like a little child.  I can't wait to see what they teach me next week.  Thanks Anna, Thanks Paul...and yes, there will be donuts.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

List-less equals Lost

After decades of trying, I know, the think system is not a viable method for me for getting anything going, but making a list, that works wonders.  Somehow writing down "laundry," helps laundry get done.  Somehow writing down "upstairs patrol," helps me climb the stairs.  I cannot explain it except to say, if I don't write down vacuum, there's a more than 90 percent chance the vacuum and I will not cross paths.  

Even writing down things like exercise or write, things which I affirmatively need to or want to do, increases the prospect of those things happening.  Not always, but more than I would care to admit.  Otherwise, the day can just sort of get away from me and at the end of it, I can't honestly say what happened.  But if I write the thing down, it gets done, and I remember.  

So I started testing the system, to see if putting down more ambitious things like, de-clutter desk or get through paper work with this list and what do you know, it does. If it worked with putting things down which are self serving, like house cleaning, or de-cluttering or exercise, work on the list, what would happen if I put something else down, like get a column published a year.  Well, I did an analysis, and I've had 27 pieces thus far run in on-line papers.  That's 27 out of 30 weeks, having a column.  

I put read to children, and gave each of the youngest four a slot.  Somehow I found time and it happened on that day. I put say a rosary.  It happened.  I put practice the piano. The same 24 hours that I normally find overwhelming, somehow got everything going if only I wrote the list.  It even worked when I misplaced my calender and had to write it in a spiral notebook, but what never worked, was ever NOT writing it down.

The only one for which it didn't work, was exercise.  My guess is, it wasn't specific enough.  My will to sloth apparently is slightly stronger than my will to obedience to the list.   So I threw down the gauntlet.  I wrote, walk four miles, knowing I normally sluff through three.  It helped. I did three and a half.  

My kids have grown wise to the system too, and they'll put down get ice cream or go to the library, and when they're on the list, you know what, it happens.  I'm hoping they internalize sooner than I did (it took four decades), the power of the list over listlessness, and make their own.  In which case, I'm going to add to theirs...make your bed, read a book, give mom foot rub.  

I'll keep you posted.  

Thursday, July 27, 2017


In the past two weeks, I've dealt with insurance, dentists, lawyers and wills, bills, inspectors, SAT forms, college application materials, accounting, grown up kids dating, job applications/interviews, car issues, health and fitness demands, and new kids taking on adolescence.  In short, I've adulted and, I've come to the conclusion.

I don't want to. At least, I'd like a break.

A few years ago, there was a book, "All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten," but what I'd tell the guy is, everyone forgot after they moved on to first grade.  What we really need in high school and college is the "How to Be an Adult or Just Act Like One," course.

Now I know what you're thinking, she's had ten kids, how can this be? It's not the case I don't know how to be an adult, it's just...right now, I'm tired of being one.   Aparently the kids picked up on me being an easy mark and ordered pizza for dinner.  They even got wings and cheese sticks.  One of them brought me a banned diet coke.  I didn't eat the pizza, but the little rebellion worked.  I felt much more myself.

Apparently my childish spirit is locked up in the carbonation inside an aluminum can like a genii.

Extra! Extra! I haven't forgotten how to write...

I have a piece over at the Register today.   Also, it's Small Success Thursday over Facebook.  I'm trying to get back to actually writing on the blog, somehow I thought summer would give more time, not less.  

As I told my husband, we aren't seizing the day, we're throttling summer.  Hopefully the dog days of summer will allow for more of the sticky side of the season.  

Friday, July 21, 2017


In case you were wondering, when the bee stings, thinking of your favorite things doesn't really help. The bee sting got me thinking about the movie, "The Sound of Music." Something bothered me.

In Favorite things, they mention Schnitzel with noodles, meaning this:  
Now I like pasta and sausage and vegetables as much as anyone, but they live in Austria.  They live where people who know, make the good stuff, like this:  

So how does chocolate not make the list?  

I'm guessing since the song "Favorite Things," is pre-restoration of Captain Von Trapp's love of life, they'd not been exposed to such frivolities and tastiness, not even in the pursuit of tradition. However, in the musical, Lisle is old enough to remember her father singing and her mother, Chocolate probably was in the house before Liesl turned eleven, (when Captain Von Trapp's wife, their mother died).   

In writing this piece, I discovered an article, Movie vs. Reality.  They loved music before Maria showed up.  The Captain doted on his children from the get go.  They also had three more children who are all still living.  So now I know the truth...and while it did distract, it didn't help my bee sting either.  

Ice, benadryl and distraction, they helped.  I suspect if there'd been Austrian chocolate in the house, it would have helped too.  Much better than just thinking about it. I can't imagine how unpleasant it would be if I'd been bit by a dog.  So I'm stocking up on good stuff that isn't Schnitzel, just in case.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Free Post

So recently, all my posts have been links to places other than here.  I admit, the humor component of this blog has also suffered as a consequence.   It's not that my funny bone is broken, or that I don't have time to write.  It's that when you try to write for a living, sometimes you forget to play with the words for fun.  You stare at the page and think, what can I say that's interesting today?  Eventually, that sort of functional thinking destroys creativity.  

Fortunately, ten children also come in handy for preventing such single-mindedness.

Yesterday, I encouraged my kids to change the sheets on their beds.  My thirteen year old thought himself clever, quoting Bill Gates to me. Apparently, the billionare once said he would always "hire a lazy person to do a difficult job" at Microsoft.  Why?  "Becasue a lazy person will find an easy way to do it."

I pointed out two problems with his quote.  Stripping and remaking the bed wasn't a difficult job, ergo it would take more energy to figure out a different way to do it than to do it, and this was me, not Bill Gates he was speaking to.  I also told him, "I've yet to be impressed with someone who was lazy." and handed him the sheets.

He grumbled up the stairs, "When I'm a billionare, you'll understand."  To which I responded, "So will you."

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Without Words, Always Inviting

It began as a consequence of reading three pieces.  First, I read a piece over at Aleteia on "Practical Steps to Keep Your Kids in the Church." and subsequently, a bit of Sherry Weddell's writtings over at Mark Shea's "Catholic and Enjoying it!" blog.

In December of 1990, Pope John Paul II issued these words of prophetic power in Redemptoris Missio:
God is opening before the Church the horizons of a humanity more fully prepared for the sowing of the Gospel. I sense that the moment has come to commit all of the Church’s energies to a new evangelization and to the mission ad gentes. No believer in Christ, no institution of the Church can avoid this supreme duty: to proclaim Christ to all peoples.
Since then, I’ve read hundreds of very critical, even sneering internet comments because the “springtime of the New Evangelization” didn’t just happen magically through bishops issuing a document or lay Catholics writing books. (Obviously, the sneerers aren’t gardeners or they would be able to recognize the “signs of the times”. The actual work of springtime is the most intense of all and that it begins in late winter and extends into early summer. Mid and late summer are the times when a gardener can relax in the midst of an abundant garden.)
In many ways, it was missional late winter when JPII published those words and late winter merges into early spring here in the Rockies. We had snow in mid May and the last frost here was on May 19. You spend late winter/early spring clearing the debris of winter and preparing soil for spring when it does come. You plan and order your plants and supplies and sharpen your tools. But you don’t *plant* until after the last frost.
You know that when “full” spring arrives, things begin to move really fast. You have been prepping for months and then suddenly, massive change occurs seemingly overnight. Full spring and summer also merge.
Note that JPII talked about committing our energies to TWO things, one of which we never talk about: “a new evangelization and to the mission ad gentes.” In 1990, it wasn’t as clear as it is today that the “new evangelization” has merged with the “mission ad gentes” which refers to the first evangelization of people who have never been baptized or heard the proclamation of the Gospel. With the emergence of “baptized unbelievers” (Vatican term) or “baptized pagans” (Pope Benedict), the rapid cultural change in the west has blurred realities that in a Christendom setting were distinct.
Millions of “Marginal” and “non-practicing” Catholics dropping the religious identity altogether and spinning off into a vague spirituality that rapidly morphs into functional or self-declared agnosticism or atheism. Increasingly, “Catholics” in the west are already functional agnostics before they bother to drop the religious identity.
More and more, we can’t start with a simple proclamation of Jesus and a warm invitation to come back home. We are going to have to get very serious about a new kind of mission ad gentes to the already baptized who are spiritually, imaginatively, intellectually, culturally untouched by the Gospel of Jesus Christ in any meaningful way. The categories of Christian and non-Christian are blurring in ways we never anticipated.
Now is the time to get really serious about “near” pre-evangelization” and “far pre-evangelization” for the millions who have experienced almost nothing of the faith but baptism as an infant or small child and were and are being raised by non-believing, non-practicing parents. Many who still have some extremely tenuous historic or familial connection to the name “Catholic” are a million miles away from the faith in every conscious and living way.
The work of late winter: building bridges of trust and rousing genuine spiritual curiosity about Jesus is the work urgently needed now in the post Christendom, post modern west. And it is something for which we have few structures, little vision, and little leadership – especially at the parish and diocesan levels.
This involves really leaving the ecclesial building. This involves a true “ad gentes” approach to the nations, going out to the far, far places of heart and mind and imagination for the sake of those for whom God become incarnate, lived, suffered, died, and rose again.  
I finished it off with Rebecca French's excellent piece, The Hardest Part is Watching...
I agree with her.  The hardest part is watching.  

The combination roiled in my brain.   We cannot "keep" our children in the faith, that is, we can do all the right things and still, they might drift or run away.  You can do everything and still, free will taps into the equation.  After all, God created Eden, He gave his first children everything and still, they rejected a relationship in favor of their own opinions. There isn't a formula, there's you care for them, you love them, you sacrifice for them, you witness to them, and you hope more of it sinks in than they admit.   Other than that, you have to hope and pray and fast against the age.

When I finished reading, I looked up the term "ad gentes."  It means, "to the nations," and is a term used in Vatican documents, as part of an address or decree.  We're called to evangelize ad gentes, omnes gentes if my Latin is correct, which after a quick google translate check, it is.   We cannot guarantee results, we are, as Saint Bernadette said, "to inform, not convince."  We still have that free will which means, we're always invited to the table.  It's will we come to the feast?  I went back to the problem.  How do we thaw the ground to plant the seeds?

The media dubbed the young adults of this age, "Nones."  "Nones" are people who belong to no community, no faith tradition, even if they've grown up in one.  It seems to be that for the newly minted agnostic in all but name, the number one common denominator is a deliberate indifference to the Divine; sort of a "I don't know if God is, and I'm not about to find out," boredom with all things beyond the present.   The "None" is a soul committed to being uncommitted and deliberately unquestioning.   Because they still are, because grace is still possible, they are like seeds sleeping.  To extend Sherry  Wendell's metaphor, it is Winter.  Snow and Ice cover the ground.  We need to begin the thaw.  Except I'm not sure how.   

The basic ways of evangelizing are Truth, Beauty, Love, Sacrifice, Miracles and Witness, but our age is soaked in Relativism.  Everyone believes, "there is no truth." and no one is swayed by the irony of saying, "there is no truth," being professed as a truth.  They do not see beauty as anything but aesthetics. Love is not sacrificial, or if it is sacrificial, it is too costly to seek or sustain. They do not see marriage as anything but a personal choice, and children are burdens, consumers of time and energy and effort.  All sacrifices are merely preferences; they hold no weight.  And miracles?  There are none.  Witnesses, well, that's just proof of your preferences.  The opposite of love is not hate, but indifference, and to me, indifference is the hallmark of the soul committed to not encountering God.  I'd managed to depress myself in the process. 
Then, I was tasked with writing a lesson for the Chapel room in my writing critique group, so I wrote:
Most people aren't converted by argument. Most people aren't evangelized by scripture quotations or sermons. Most people go deeper and deeper into their faith as a result of an encounter, and if you ask them about that experience, it's a story.  
A story isn't sensation or feelings. We can't share your feelings just because you tell us, these are my feelings. We can't know your awe of God because you state, I am in awe of God. We can't even appreciate your being overwhelmed with God's grace or mercy or forgiveness unless we know the why of that experience.

It seemed to me, this is the problem with most CCD/instruction ABOUT the faith.  It is about the business of the faith, not an encounter.   How, not who.  Which begs the question, how do you introduce people who do not know Jesus, to Jesus.  I know how it isn't done.  Walking up to someone and saying, "Do you know Jesus?" is like walking up to someone and saying, "Will you be my friend?"  No one wants to answer yes, even if they might think "yes" in reality. We get a lot of direct frontal assault story telling in the Chapel room, the kind that uses sweeping generalities and sentimentality when what is needed is reality, and witness. I'd meant to try and illustrate how that doesn't work so 
I'd written more:

To give you a better sense of what I mean, I could tell you my son has Down Syndrome. He is often the means by which God lets me know how to love my children. Saying that doesn't really convey anything that doesn't sound like a cliché. Telling you, "he brings his family closer to each other," may be true, but that statement doesn't move. I have to bring you into the story, to bring about the revelation.  

I illustrated the point: 

Taking my son to the ocean, he filled his pockets with shells. Next he dug and flung sand on all of us. His joy at digging overwhelmed even his oldest sister's cynicism, and she helped him dig out a fort. Covered from head to toe in sand, he tackled his brothers to take him into the water. For the next hour, they held his hands and helped him jump the waves. When they wouldn't jump, he'd tell them, "Come on guys!" They jumped until their shins grew sore.
We hadn't planned to spend the whole afternoon digging and jumping waves. Some wanted to go for ice cream, one for a jog. Three hoped to return to the cabin and play computer games, and we had a pool waiting for us. Nine children ranging in age from six to twenty-four scrambled to build a massive fort big enough to withstand the first few waves of high tide. Paul had caught most of us in his play. However he wasn't satisfied with having 90% of his family with him, and began to search for the one sister who went jogging instead of coming to the beach, calling out her name.
His calling for her reminded me of when we serve dinner. He always wants everyone to come to the table, and won't sit himself until we either tell him, this is all there is, or everyone is seated. His desire for everyone to be there, mirrors my own. I always want everyone home. I always want everyone at the table, everyone involved.  

I cannot gather all my children as I once could.  Many of them are adults. However my son has no problem going to taking any of his siblings by the hand and leading them to the beach or to the table. He isn't about to be deterred by age or opinions. He simply wants them present. His simple desire for their company often brings them along. Sometimes, he calls and they come.  Sometimes, when they don't come, he seeks them out. 
All I can think is, "And a little child shall lead them," and who knows, he might.  He isn't interested in how they get to the table.  He's interested in who's at the table, and he wants them all.  It isn't full or complete or home without them.  

Who, not how.   He is warm, and he invites constantly, and never with words.   He trusts the invitation to do the work.

That's how we thaw, without words, always inviting.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Ten Signs of Being Properly Beached

10) There are no alarms.
9) You forget to check your phone or your email.
8) There are reported sightings of multiple children playing cards together or by themselves reading.
7) Lunch is diet coke and chocolate.
6) It also acted as breakfast, because you slept through. (See #10).
5) People take deliberate naps.
4) The Television is off.
3) Stalking the ice cream truck is a competitive sport.
2) Don't know what day of the week it is...not sure of the time...not sure why anyone would need to know this.
1) Offered a pina-colada.  It's not yet twelve.  

Monday, June 19, 2017

New Piece at the Register

It began as an intellectual response to a fellow writer's lament at rage being all the rage these days, it resulted in a piece over at the National Catholic Register.

The Gift of Being Bored

This is a really good article on the gift of boredom.  Now every year, we make what would seem to be a list in direct contrast to the counsel to let your children discover how to entertain themselves, but it's not. It's what I point to when a child says, "Mommmmmm. (and it's always Mommmmm), never Dad, and never with Mom being pronounced with fewer than three sylables.

So here's this summer's list.

100.  Read a book a week.
99. swimming lessons.
98.  play cards.
97. Camp out.
96. Go fishing.
95. make puzzles.
94. eat ice cream from the truck.
93. go to baseball games.
92. blow bubbles.
91. fireworks.
90. hike.
89. crossword puzzles.
88. firefly catching.
87. grow a garden.
86. attend the fair.
85. drive in movie
84. Game night.
83. barbecue --perfect the brisket!
82. outdoor concert.
81. sandcastles.
80. bike riding.
79. chalk drawing.
78.  play pool.
77. make ice cream.
76. water balloon fight.
75. capture the flag.
74. 5k.
73. go to the zoo.
72. aquarium.
71.  Ride on a boat.
70. ride a horse.
69. Stargaze
68. spend a whole day reading comics.
67. paint.
66. get rid of all the broken stuff.
65. picnic.
64. write
63.  Video game contest.
62. Guitar
61. Learn to cook something new
60. hammock time.
59. parade
58. camping in the back yard.
57. for four of them, get summer jobs.
56. for two of them, get fall jobs.
55. overnight trip.
54. shopping at the outlets.
53. paint nails.
52. build a rocket.
51. play wiffleball.
50. beachcombing.
49. rock climbing.
48.  Boogie boarding.
47.  Go-carts
46. Spend time at a farm.
45. make jam.
44. Volunteer with some place.
43. Go to the library.
42. Go to an art museum.
41. Go to the park once a week.
40. Civil War battle grounds.
39.  The Washington DC monuments.
38. Go on a Roller Coaster
37.  Feed the ducks
36. International Spy Museum.
35. Air and Space Museum.
34. Winery.
33. See a horse race.
32. Visit Grandparents
31. Visit cousins.
30.  Throw a party.
29. Write a book.
28. Pass Praxis test.
27. Sleep in.
26. Get Learner's permit for Peter.
25. Paint a room.
24. Skip rocks.
23. Learn new pieces on the piano.
22. Apply for college/graduate school
21. Lemonade Stand
20.  Dance
19. Learn to skate
18. Learn to ride a two wheeler without training wheels.
17. Get hair done.
16.  Bounce House.
15.  Skateboard park
14.  Get to the gym
13.  Study for the SAT
12.  Take the SAT
11.  Audition for a play.
10.  Try out for Volley Ball
9.  Find new places in Maryland to explore.
8.  Make gumbo.
7.  Clean out garage.
6.  Weekly lunch with a friend.
5.  Read with my kids every night.
4.  Rock-band/Karyoke with the kids.
3.  Marathon Movie Weekend --watch HP or LOTR.
2.  Weekly Family Rosary
1.  Adoration once a week.

We don't have to get to all of it, it's just all there for the fun of imagining what we could do, with all this time we haven't yet spent.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Funny Thing When We Pray

The theme kept coming up in my head, about what it means to have awe of the Lord.  I'd seen it in the face of a person who fell to her knees in adoration.  It wasn't the gesture, it was the whole of her.  Just watching, I knew she held the Lord in her eyes the way one holds a newborn or a dying friend in one's heart.  Each moment amounted to an enternity of love flooding the air.

It's one thing to see it.  It's another to hold that grace yourself.  So I asked.

We'd been sitting in the front of mass lately, but today, we wound up near the back.  The kids tend to grow more restless the further back they are and sure enough, there were requests for bathroom breaks, casual interruptions to report so and so had shoes on the wrong foot, and someone else was bouncing their knees.  Try as I might, I felt the whole mass wash over me, up until the consecration.

When Paul walked up for his blessing, of his own accord, he put his hands together and he, like the woman I saw in adoration, came forward with a quiet reverence.  Like so many other answered prayers, it was right there.  Paul didn't have all the mess or distractions in his head or self conciousness, he simply came forward.  And all I could think was, "and a little child shall lead them."

Overthinking it Sherry.  Overthinking it.  Thanks again Paul.  

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Shower of Hope

For the uninitiated, searching for a person to repair stuff in your home is parallel to picking your spouse by throwing darts at the phone book. You might find a keeper. You might find an axe murderer. You most likely will find someone who won't agree to the matter. They'll come, they'll look at your most private room in the house, and it's a tad insulting when they won't even take your money to get the job done.

The first guy I brougth to the master bath to examine the... shower chatted me up. I think he saw how big my family was and wanted to impress. He talked about the fifty year reunion with all his brothers and sisters. He told me how he'd been around the area and his family had for over one hundred years. He told me he'd write up an estimate and get back to me next week after the reunion. I'm guessing his blood line was hit by a plague or wave of Klingon warriors, because I never heard a word afterwords, and I even called and left a message. 


You'd think I would have read about it in the paper.

Undeterred and still having tile in the shower held together by duct tape, I tried again. I'd gone to a tile shop to ask about what to do. Our shower is circa 1994. No backer board. Could I DIY? A gentleman introduced himself, explained he was the guy to do the job. I took his card. He made an appointment and showed up early.

After looking at my shower, he explained he could do the job, but he couldn't rehang the shower. Right now, the shower door/fixtures work fine, but the tile is bad. He could fix it so the tile would be good, but the fixtures and door wouldn't exist.
"So I'd still have only half a working shower, which would mean I'd still have a broken shower, but I'd pay you for the trouble."
"Yes. I'll write up a contract and email it to you."

I asked if he could get someone to finish the job. He said yes again. I entertained hope. But a week later, no email, no phone call, no nothing. He took my twenty-five dollars and left. I feel soo used.
So I'm back in the hunting season again. Trolling Home Depot like a barfly hoping for a quick fix. This time I'll be smarter, wiser, faster. This time, I'll get them drunk first and I won't let them leave without the equivalent of a pre-nup.

Monday, June 5, 2017


Residents of Maryland know the Governor of our state decided school should not start back up again in the fall until after Labor Day.   However, he missread the tea leaves which counseled him about altering the school schedule.  What we really needed, was to end school at Memorial Day Weekend.

The freshmen tell us, they're fresh out.
The sophomores are acting, sophmoric, and the juniors tell us, they have junioritis, a variant on Senioritis, which has plagued high schools since seniors and any class time after March, was invented.

No.  They have Juneitis, a recessive seasonal trait encouraging within each human being, a desire to be like Phineas and Ferb, or at least have 104 days of summer vacation once pools open.   My own children are not immune.

Regina's holled up on a hammock reading her sixth book of Harry Potter.
John's pledged to use every lego in the house.
Faith and Marta are searching for a binge worthy summer series.
Paul thinks the only thing greater than Lego Batman is going swiming, and dresses with hopeful anticipation each day he finds his swimsuit.   These are the beginnings of Summer.  Rita and Anna are lobbying for afternoons at the pool.   Peter's gone on trail runs until sunset each day.  Mind you, they still have school, they just aren't taking it as seriously as they are the pursuit of summer.

I tried to think of a reason they shouldn't.  I can't.  Normally we make a list of all the things we want to do, but this year we didn't because instead, we've already begun doing them.  So I did the only thing I could do, scooped myself some ice cream, took over the hammock and read.   It's going to be a delicious sticky summer.  I hope we never recover from Junitis until September.  

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

They did it!

When they were younger, I'd tell them the cable's out, and change the code to the TV so as to cut screen time.   I've been known to hide the plug to the Wi-Fi on occasion as well.  So when the cable company which provides both the internet and television streaming on demand cut out, my children naturally presumed the culprit to be me. 

One thought the reason for the "cable outage" was exam week.  "You just want us to study."
Well yes, but no, I didn't do this, I promise. 
Another two thought, "This is just a ruse to get us to read or exercise more."
"No, but it's not a bad idea. After all, you can't do anything else." They went to stare at the box, in hopes maintaining a vigil would entice the cable gods to relent.  

Not that some of them didn't try.  One sought to play his DS, but without the link up to his friends DS games, it wasn't much fun. Another watched a DVD and for a time, entertained the masses with movies, but most of our movies now are digital, and they've grown accustomed to On Demand for any show, so not being able to access a show, vexes more than one might think it should.

The older ones ran  for the comfort of Netflix, but that doesn't work on a computer when the internet is out.  To prove it wasn't me, I spent an hour on the phone with the cable man convincing him that yes indeed, we did have a problem which couldn't be solved merely by turning the machine on and off or replacing the batteries in the remote.  The cable guy is coming sometime on Thursday between eight in the morning and eight in the evening.  He's said he'll call.  In the meantime, we're old school in all things.  

Come Friday, there will be channels again.  By coincidence, exams will be over.  I promise I didn't do it...but I may have to send my cable company a thank you note once the report cards are in, and file away the idea of having a seasonal outage whenever test taking rolls around.     

It's just, for the record, this time, it wasn't me. 

Saturday, May 27, 2017

DIY Food Network Fallen Star

I love cooking shows, but they're very unrealistic. Even the Top Chef competitions don't really challenge cooks to push themselves past their comfort zones. They have fully stocked kitchens and sous chefs and secret exotic ingredients. Most people who cook don't have to worry about crazy ingredients they must incorporate, but rather essential ingredients they can't.

For example, you begin to make french toast for dinner, and find out you have no eggs, but only after you've put the milk and cinnamon and vanilla together, so you dump a whole box of banana muffin mix into the milk cinnamon mix and make banana pancakes. Preparing to make hot dogs, you discover you have no onions or mustard. Welcome to the world of inventive condiments! Yes, putting cauliflower tater tots on top of the hot dogs wins cool points, and drizzling them with the trace elements of ketchup from the leftover packets from the car might make for good tv drama, but no freshly dressed MC ever stepped out of the kitchen cabinet to award me with Top Chef points and a cleaned kitchen for making a silk purse dinner out of a sow's ear stocked refrigerator.

It's not that I don't plan a menu or shop for the meals or cook, it's that at any given moment, I must cope with all the want-a-be iron chefs or at least Food Network Star Judges, who want not just food but the right food, the perfect food, the food they don't know what it is, but want served now, hot and beautiful.
Real Conversation:

 "MOM! There is no food in the house! Can you go to the store and get bananas?"
Me: There is food in the house. There just aren't any bananas.
Son: There are no eggs.
Me: There is bacon.
Son: There is no bread.
Me: There are rolls. There are tortillas. There is dark wheat bread, plain ordinary store white bread and the ends of at least three loaves all stuffed in one plastic bag and five blueberry bagels.
Son: There is no lunch meat.
Me: There is steak-um, I already said bacon, there is peanut butter, there is provolone and if you forage, I think, some chicken.
Son: There isn't any food that's easy to make.
Me: So if I get up and make you food from what we have, would you be happy?
Son: Yes! I'll even practice the S.A.T.

Because I want the S.A.T to be practiced, I'm willing to be bribed. I begin work on hot dogs.
Daughter comes into the room. "Hot dogs? I don't like hot dogs! Mom! Can you go to the store, there is no food."
Son now points out there are tortillas, bacon, peanut butter, blueberry bagels....daughter sticks out her tongue at each, but pulls out a box of mac and cheese. "Can we have this?" It goes with the hot dogs, so I roll with it. I'm getting a chorus of yays! and I'm thinking, this is good. I'm a good mom...they'll eat, they'll be happy...

Another player entered the kitchen. She got out the celery and nutella, and peeled a mango before announcing, she ordered out because she doesn't like hot dogs or mac and cheese and does anyone else want anything? They deserted me faster than I could spell dessert.

When I served the mac and cheese and hot dogs to the remaining children, I got the question, reasonable in my younger childrens' minds, "why didn't they get to order food too?" I recalled a neighbor who used to make her kid eat her dinner for breakfast and lunch, and snack, until it got eaten. I used to think this a cruel parenting practice. I admittedly reconsidered but revenge is for the unimaginative, so today I posted a message in the kitchen, explaining the reality of things in the family mess hall.

Dear Family

I considered declaring food martial law. If you don't pay for the food, make the food or clean up after the food, you get no say in what the food might be or alternatives to eat.

However, I recognize, there are twelve different diets, different palates to please and I've yet to hit upon the magical combination of fruits, vegetables, proteins and carbs that can accommodate all of your ever shifting appetites. In recognition of my inability to create a dish which uses all of the unknown secret ingredients necessary to the competition, and because that which is created is not up to industry standards as determined by all eleven judges in this house, I'm sorry but Mom has been chopped.

Whoever the other competitors are in this kitchen, I've taken away all of the car keys. Please, open the pantry and you have thirty minutes to create an entree and your time starts now. Oh, and I've been told repeatedly, there is no food. 

Good luck.

Love, Mom

Friday, May 26, 2017

Mom Hours

Everyone thinks when you have a newborn, sleep is something you aspire to have.  However the reality of parenting is, for pure sleep deprivation, nothing tops teenagers.  

Babies nap.  Babies have simple needs.  Eat. Change.  Hold.  Sleep.
Teens send you text messages at ten in the evening while you're folding laundry, "Are you going to the store?  Because we're out of bananas."  I sent back, "Where are you when you texted this?"
"In bed."   "So you want to know if I would get up, get my purse and drive to the store...before or after folding the laundry?"   The teen had the grace to send back, "No. I'm not in bed. I'm at school and I've been hard at work all afternoon, studying, studying, studying. I in no way would ever dream of asking you to go out after working all day if I'd not done the same.  Good night!"  

Evening patrols to guarantee lights out mean policing cell phones, taking the cord for the Wi-Fi on occasion, and reminding people that yes, there are after hours, when everything including the kitchen should be closed.   I find the hours between 1 a.m. and 5 to be most likely to be in compliance, but it's never quite a lock..  

At five, I've heard one rising with the proposal of a morning jog.  Believing in sleep as a normal part of life, I've explained,  once we get to morning hours, if the sun isn't up, you aren't to be out.  However I have the equivalent of electronic roosters all over the house.  My cell goes off at 5:50 and there are at least four alarms which blare at six, though to my knowledge, none of them rouse actual children, just me.

So nestle up with those newborns and enjoy this restful stage of life and remember, this is all just training for later.  This part of the road of parenting you're on?  It's the wide easy part.  

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


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 like 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


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."
"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.

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