Sunday, December 31, 2017

Over at the Register

On the last day of 2017, I made my writing goal, to get 52 pieces published.  In the ongoing series on meditations on the Rosary, I thought the Christmas season the proper time to take on the Incarnation.  I've always found the quote by C.S. Lewis to be helpful in cultivating  a sense of wonder about God's willingness to submit Himself to our condition. 

However I discovered the world is filled with people who don't get that analogy only helps one to understand a relationship, it is not the definitive authoritative exclusive means by which to understand the relationship.   They live in com boxes and send helpful emails explaining to me that we are all created in God's image (Yes), and that to compare Christ's becoming human to our becoming a slug is to demean the degree of divine image in ourselves.  I go back to...I am so fallen, I would not want to, for love of all slugs, for love of a slug, or for the salvation of all slugs, become a slug and I know, I am not so far above a slug as Christ is above me despite being made in God's  image. 

I told my son about the exchange and we joked a bit about feeling like a crab or like slugging someone...but that words are mighter than swords and it would be in bad form.  However, in the event anyone doesn't understand I'm still using poetic imagery to explain things: 

Sunday, December 24, 2017

The Family Sticking Point of Christmas

The Night before Christmas,
We couldn't escape
the ugly reality,...
We'd run out of tape.

The packages we'd bought
with such thought were all here
languishing and naked,
with no paper or bows to adhere.

Our children lay sleeping,
certain in their deep doze,
the gifts would be dazzling
and bedeckled with bows.

My anxiety and fear
at what we should do,
made us scramble through the art box
for every stick of glue.

We used all the address labels
and some post-its, it's true.
and before honey, we failed with staples
and gum we pre-chewed.

So with the hour growing later
and the choices ever more dire,
we turned to alternative adhesives
and our solution, childhood inspired.

Flour and water we remembered from pre-school
the measurement is vague but true.
and the 3-1 ratio we made turned gummy
but in the late hours, it would do.

We spackled the wrapping with brush and with trowel.
We hoped it would stick and I did pray.
just when we thought about throwing in the towel,
the clock struck twelve. It's Christmas day.

In the morning, our prayers answered
But not as we expected.
We'd layered on that stuff pretty thick
Every present wrapped became a piƱata,
only openable with a saw or heavy stick.

Merry Christmas!
*Inspired by the midnight run to 7-11 to fork over way too much money for last minute scotch tape and I promise, it wasn't in 2017. 

Friday, December 22, 2017

At the National Catholic Register

If you haven't had a chance to read my latest, it's about embracing the cross like a lover, as I continue trying to get through writing a piece about meditating on each of the Joyful, Sorrowful, Luminous and Glorious Mysteries.  It's been a hard long series, growing more difficult with each subsequent essay.  I've numerous false starts and bad drafts.  What's more, it's been hard to keep track.  Thus far, I've written:

4 of the 5 Joyful Mysteries

Annunciation   --Let it be done to Us October 4, 2017
Visitation          --We are Always Invited  October 22, 2017
Presentation --At the Presentation, Mary Shows Us How to Be
Finding in the Temple  How my 13 year Old Taught Me Sept 21, 2017

3 of the 5 Sorrowful Mysteries

Agony in the Garden The Agony in the Garden December 8
Scourging at the Pillar The Scourging at the Pilar and the Me Too Meme October 28, 2017
Crowning of Thorns
Carrying of the Cross We all carry a cross

3 of the 5 Luminous Mysteries

Baptism of Jesus –Confirmation is Sacrament of Initiation, not Graduation
Wedding at Cana –They are Out of Wine September 26, 2017
Sermon on the Mount
Transfiguration --The Transfiguration of Our Lord
Institution of the Eucharist

and only 1 Glorious Mystery

Ascension into Heaven  Submitted…
Descent of the Holy Spirit
Assumption of the Blessed Mother
Crowning of Mary, Queen of Heaven

I'm planning on letting the Descent of the Holy Spirit be the final piece in this collection for my son John.  The others, I've tried to let the stories reveal themselves as we go about the business of whateve it is we're doing.   I'd originally planned to write on the Incarnation for Monday but I haven't found the way to get at it without getting in the way.   

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Darth Mutter or Mom Shot First

Somewhere between the ages of 3 and 18, children attempt to use Jedi mind tricks on their parents, certain those who birthed them want to sell them death sticks. What children do not know, is those mind tricks don't work on parents.

I told my six year old, "You can't go out dressed like that; it's cold outside."
She shook her head, "Check the weather app." Since when do first graders adopt the policy of "Trust but verify?" Promising her the outside would very much resemble the planet Hoth, she ignored my warnings and held her ground. Negotiations were shorter than her outfit.  "I'll wear a coat." she explained.

Her high school sister proved an unexpected member of the rebel alliance, coming down in shorts (with leggings), and explaining, "I have P.E. today." I informed both of them, there'd be no leaving this house until both dressed appropriately. One turned on the radio, searching for traffic and weather on the 8's, while the other asked her brother to use his phone to go on NOAA's website. I told them all, "I find your lack of faith disturbing."

The high schooler thought she'd get a pass by claiming she didn't have time to change and still catch the bus. I grabbed my keys. "I'll drive you." My offer of a mercy mission failed to move. The rebellion needed to be crushed. Using force wouldn't work, but using the force might.

I turned off the thermostat and opened the windows a crack. "You win. Wear what you want." I served breakfast. I put out bowls, spoons, milk and dry cereal. As a bonus, I put ice cubes in their orange juice.

Before the corn flakes grew soggy, I found them ready for school. Victory assured, we evacuated them in our moment of triumph.  (I saw them off to the bus). Meanwhile, my husband adjusted the thermostat and shut the windows.    He told me, "They underestimate the power of the dark side." I was thinking, "Let the Wookie win." but that worked. 

 I gave him a kiss as he left for work. I said, "I love you." He said, "I know."

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Backlog of postings

Hey everyone!  This past weekend I journeyed to Florida to celebrate my second born's graduation from college, six months early.   As such, I left the computer behind at home.   Yes, my fingers itched occasionally to write down everything, but it's also good to make my brain store up things which I'm sure will pour out when I'm not paying attention as I try to consistently make a go at writing 500 new words a day. 

So I have a few links for you of stuff which got published but not cross posted here. 

There's my piece on the First Sorrowful Mystery.  I also have a link to for Small Success Thursday of last week, and I have another piece over at the Register Seven Ways to Make the Most of Advent.

Lest you think it's all words and no reality, today, at CCD, I found myself trying to explain the birth of Jesus to a single student and his mom.  We made an Advent wreath and talked about how we manifest peace, hope, joy and love by our lives.  We read a version of the Christmas story told by Charles Dickens to his children. (It was a surpise to me too). 

However, I think we found ourselves connecting more over a single decade of the Rosary. Two weeks ago, I taught a class on the rosary and this time around, we said to close out the class.  The Blessed Mother undoes knots in relationships, she also sews hearts together. 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Keep Calm, and Catholic and Write On

It started with reading a piece by a favorite Catholic writer and fellow mother of ten, Is Catholic Publishing Sexist?  I can't speak to that reality, but the discussion of women having to be "sweet," hit a nerve. 

Wrestling with joy isn't that what having a faith is? Isn't that what we're called to be?  To Live with hope despite all the proof over prof of our great and seemingly constant fallen nature?  I thought, "H
ave I become a Parody?" The charge that women's literature in the Catholic realm had to be 90% sweet/affirming I admit, scratched my own soul.  
There is always a danger when writing narrative memoirs or blog pieces or articles infused with Faith of sounding either Sound of Music sweet without the trials, or like a white hot mess who needs serious intervention. 

I know, if we don't write works which are infused with blood, sweat, tears and more than a few bruises, psychological and otherwise, we fail to present the reality of any faith life. We lie to ourselves and set others up to fail if our testimony is anything but true. The trial and the question for a Catholic writer, for any writer, but particularly, one writing about one's beliefs is, how to write of a faith infused life without sounding like a parody of one's self? 

The Small Success Thursday series I write every Thursday at is designed to uplift, to remind us to remember all is grace, all is a gift, and for all, we should give thanks.  Had I become a sugar version of myself?  Had I failed to give an honest account of my reality or of living the faith, either in an attempt to amuse, or to enlighten?   Had I become a Kinkaid version of my own faith life in my writing, light without purpose?   

I pushed myself to ponder, was I being too sweet?  Was I somehow giving off the whiff of not being not real by seeming to be too kind or too prayerful or too whatever.    I understood the concern.  A witness who seems too much like only dessert  is not a healthy model for the spiritual life.   We need the balance of meat and vegetables, water and want, to appreciate when we receive the grace of feasting.   Did I do enough, was I examining enough?  Had I failed?

There are over 250 Small Success Thursdays I've written for over the course of many years.  I read through some across the years.  They affirmed life and faith.  They also read true. In the course of the work, I acknowledge fatigue, clutter, craziness, frustrations with fights, lost shoes, schedules, adolescence, finances, lack of sleep and the constant churn of homework and housework and everything else.   In short, one can't write about counting blessings without recognizing the reality of when the dog bites, the bee stings and I feel sad. 

I'll say to anyone who asks, I don't remember my favorite things. I feel bad.  I struggle.  I crumble. I fail.  I shout.  I complain.  I grouse.  I resent.  I overspend and overeat and under exercise. I use the TV as a babysitter when I don't want to deal.  I order fast food.  I leave dishes in the sink. I pretend I'm too busy.  These were just the physical trials of the day.  We haven't touched homework or melt downs or remembering to fill out the seventeen bajillion forms each child needs done two weeks ago but I didn't get to it.  We aren't mentioning the basketball or the CCD or the meeting on Thursday I'm going to skip because I won't be in town. We hadn't discussed the nine light bulbs which need replacing in the back basement which serves as my oldest son's room or the reality, we need to repaint the upstairs and re-carpet because my daughter decided to paint in her room on the carpet.   Christmas is coming and we've already spent too much and have very little.  There is too much in the house and none of it fits.  I need to give away and give away and give away and still, we need to do wash and fold and put away and sort.

There are a thousand reasons in each room of my home and my interior life to  either rage and/or despair. I can find them all if I want.   I can refuse to see them all if I want.  Neither answer is correct.  Count the blessings why?  Because I sin and I sin and I sin, and if I don't count them, I won't see them, I won't see beyond my own failings. I'll only find the clutter. Everyone writes their own version of Confessions, of messiness, of dealing with the knives and the scrapes and the swearing and fighting of the will to respond to grace internally and externally. 

What does it mean? It means keep at this mess and ask for grace and respond. 

Sunday, December 3, 2017

On Point

Today I took my kids to see the Nutcracker.  I remember seeing it almost yearly and almost yearly making a silent promise to myself that next year, I'd somehow try out.  I didn't because 1) I'd forget,  and 2) The studio which put on the production was the competitor to the dance school I attended and 3) I wasn't so much a ballerina as someone in love with performing. 

Watching the performance, I wondered what my kids thought and looked admist the perfect dancers for the ones who persisted on sheer determination.  The kid just slightly off, but giving it everything, that's the dancer for me. 

The girls knew some of the vocabulary from a movie about dancing they've taken to recently, Leap!   One asked, "Is that a grand jette?"  "Nope. Just Jette." "Is that a piroette?"  "Yes."  "How many did she do?" "Seven."  "Is that a lot?"  "Yes."  Whispered discussion about theatre ettiquitte earned me another five minutes of asking "Why?" 

I'd love for one of my girls to love dancing like I'd loved it, to want to do it even when it isn't for a performance, to love recitals.  So far, six girls, no ballerinas. 

At intermission, we perused the gift tables. Anna wanted a rhinestone tiara.  Regina wanted a sword with a scabbard or a snowglobe. (We got the snowglobe), and Rita wanted a souvenier coffee cup (though I suspect for the chocolate inside).   I looked wistfully at the toe shoe ornaments.  No one in my crew would want such a thing.

After the show, the dancers took questions and introduced themselves.  Most began dancing at four.  None danced fewer than seven years by the time they reached twelve.  The girls loved the show for the most part, they liked the costumes and the experience. 

When we got back in the car, I overheard the girls saying how grateful they were, they didn't have to do something every day.   "Yeah, like the villian's daughter in Leap! where her mom makes her dance all the time." They can't ballance on point, but they have ballanced lives I thought.   "Thanks for taking us Mom!"  "This was awesome!" "Thanks for going out with us." They enjoyed it for enjoying it, and for no other reason, and that was sufficient. 

In truth, it was the reason I got the tickets, to give them a memory.  In dance, to do a turn, you must fix your eyes and return to the spot, and not forget in mid spin where you want to go.  In parenting, the issue remains the same, stay focused, and you'll stay on point.

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