Saturday, August 18, 2018

This week's link up

I forgot to link up to SST, in part because what's going on in the Church, and the ordinary stuff of real life, took over too much time to sit and write even a link in sentence.  Here's this week's offering, which I can't spend a lot of time on this morning because I have to take her to cross country practice.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

We're Going to Have to Wrestle With This...

Lots of people say, "I'm spiritual, not religious." and it is because they fail to see the connection between the physical actions (in the sacraments and ceremony) and the deeper reality these physical signs, symbols, gestures and prayers, reveal.  Faith without works is dead, as Saint James said. In the case of the Pennsylvania report detailing accusations, assaults, actual documentations and testimony covering several decades, involving 300 priests and over 1,000 children, we have case after case after case, of works without faith. 

That seems like it might be an overstatement, but the business of the Church seemed to triumph over the spiritual reality of the Church. There will be some who read the report, and because many of these documented abuses took place decades ago, clamor for everyone to move on.   However, these sins, and they were sins, and these crimes, and they were crimes, demand we wrestle with the reality, we are never free from the temptation to cut ourselves off from God, even when where we work, what we do, and all that surrounds us, even the words we must say, call out to God.   We can have everything and forfeit it for a want we can't have.  We can be living out our vocation, and fail the moment things become difficult.  We can fail by looking away, by pretending whatever we see, isn't that bad, or by pretending what we do in this circumstance, doesn't matter. 

We're part of the defense against the Gates of Hell because we are the Church.  Ergo, we must not be asleep in our spiritual lives.  To have acted and preyed upon so many, (1000 known), spiritual deadness must have abounded.   By what we do and what we fail to do, we will find ourselves saying, "Lord, Lord! When did we see you suffering?" and find ourselves spit out for our lukewarmness.   There's a lot of millstones to go around, for neglect, for institutional protectionism, and for actual assaults and failure to report, and profound indifference to the subsequent suffering. 

The error for each of us, is to will only to move forward, as if we can somehow discard sin like a skin.  It's an error of worldly thinking to think we could ever purge sin from our hearts.  Only God's grace can burn away our hardness of hearts, and forge the soft points that should be steel.   We cannot ever taste even a little of sin, for it's like we're all alcoholics, it's just the flavor of the liquor we're debating.    

The whole of the Church will have to perform a penance.  I propose a Year of Humility, both public and private, where we pray, fast and do reparations and alms giving.  We offer masses and shun feasts other than the Eucharist. We hold confessions every Friday from sun-up to sun-down and try to have 24-7 adoration staffed so every parishioner, every family performs a holy hour during the year, as part of the whole Church response to storm Heaven begging for grace, for healing for the victims, and yes, even for the perpetrators.   

As an institution and organization, there's a desire to move on, but we need to wrestle with this pain and it's going to be messy. It's going to hurt.   To begin to heal, we must first allow ourselves to examine this wound and be willing to enter into it.   

The one comfort I can give, is our faith is not based on the faith lives of men but from Christ.  He's with us, he's on the cross for us.  He invites us to enter into his suffering for the Church and we should.  If you want to read what else I've written about this subject, it's over at the National Catholic Register: The Wake Up Call We Need, and if you have a suggestion for further discussion on this matter, leave it in the com box.  

The Grand Jury's report is here. Read it. Weep. Pray. Fast, and weep again.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Have a piece at Aleteia

Hey everyone, I have a piece over at Aleteia on Adoration.  I hope you enjoy it. 

August is my adoration month, where I try to go every day. I don't always make it, but I try.   For those unfamiliar with the practice, this piece might help introduce you to the way to enter into this form of prayer.   I'm hoping it makes it hard to find a seat at the local 24-7 chapel. 

How to Spend an Hour in Adoration.

Friday, August 10, 2018

The Worth of It

How do you do it? 
Anywhere someone discovers we have ten kids, the question comes up.  I understand.  It's unusual. 

My flippant answer is "Some days, I don't." and that can mean house work, reading, exercise or getting a shower.   

I'm fairly certain the "it" they wonder about, is the work. It's true.  There's always more to do, and as far as I know, I've never been finished.    To do "it" would imply it got done.  My understanding of this life is, "it's never done, until we are," and so I'm not done with "it."  I don't spend a lot of time with angst over how to do it.  Angst doesn't help.

Some days I don't exercise. Some days I don't read. Some days I don't write. Some days, I don't get it all done, and some days, that doesn't bother me.  It isn't a celebration of sloth, it's a recognition, this won't all happen, it won't all be perfect, and it won't all get done no matter what I do.  So just do what you can, and tomorrow, do it again. 

 Instead, I spend a lot of time asking, "What's next?' 

Summer today ended without prior notice, as one child has practice every day at seven o'clock in the morning.   I shouldn't have asked.   Still, the how do you do it question isn't an expression of awe, but a question of where do you get the will? Because I get, parenting is an act of the will every day.

Today, in the kitchen, I discovered the remains of someone's cooking project, recycling which needed to be taken out, and that I forgot to start the dishwasher last night.  Upstairs in the hallway, is apparently the nesting grounds for all towels in the household, and a quick survey indicated I needed to bus the rooms for evening drink of water cups. 

The real question, "How do you do it?" was "How do you do it without losing your mind?" 
My joke felt a little sharper to me.  Maybe I wouldn't use that one anymore. 

Which is why the answer remains, some days, I don't because of whatever the what's next turns out to be.  I also spend time in my head telling myself, "Never ask that." 

Yesterday, I'd been at the park with the youngest four, listening to two different women.  Each spoke wistfully about only having two, and feeling trapped by economics, by decisions they'd made earlier, by life itself, into staying stuck with less than their hearts longed for.  They both drifted off from me in the park, but watched the interplay of theirs and my children with hungry eyes.  They each told me, they feared even as they wanted, "Just one more."

Having just met, I couldn't whisper to them, "It's worth it."  even with the towel marshaling grounds and filled trash bags, endless errands and paperwork and dishes though I did say, "You couldn't imagine how much you'd love your first, and then you thought your heart would burst with the second.  That same thing happens with every one of them." to one of the women.  I would have said more, but she ran off with her phone, though she told me, she was going to tell her husband that. 

I wanted explain somehow, that desire to love more, that's God talking to your soul, inviting you into the infinite unknown.  The "It" I don't do, but live with every day, is beyond my capacity to "do," because love is never finished.   It's just my will that doesn't always want to do much beyond bark at those I love, "Clean this mess up!"  Most of learning how to do "it" is learning to say yes when you are asked, to ignore your own desire to say, "No!" or bark.   It is climbing the stairs, fixing the lunch, taking the trip to the park, and making sure the meal has vegetables.   It is tying the shoes and finding matched socks.  It is never done because there's always need, there's always more.   Fortunately, love is infinite, so love also is always a reward if you let yourself surrender.  I also know, it isn't numbers, it's how you love, and one can be an infinite lover with one, like Mary, or a flawed lover of the infinite, like me. 

My twelve year old came into my room.  She asked me yesterday to climb the stairs to look at her room. I'd not found the time.  She came in, "Mom...I'm bored."  I reminded her I'd yet to see her room.  She lit up like a Christmas tree. "Hurry, come see it!" and I told her, she helped me finish this story.   The "it" involves a lot of sacrifice, sometimes just stopping what you want to do and climbing the stairs, but if you surrender, you discover a lot of joy you'd otherwise miss. 

We played a game of Extreme Twister afterwards, with five of my kids.  I won twice before retiring, with both a slight head rush from the blood and bragging rights.  I wanted to whisper to those two women's hearts, "It's worth it." 

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Today, I'm at Aleteia

The goal for this year was to hit six pieces a month.  Last month fell short, and this month started slow.   However, today, I have a piece over at Aleteia.
I called it, "One Thousand Second Days" but that seems obscure if you don't already know what the piece is about so it's titled, "Seven Spiritual Lessons to Learn With Your Sneakers On.

For those interested, I've been working out with since July 4th, with twelve days where I didn't meet or exceed my step goal.   So of the thirty-five days since I started this thing, I made a solid effort on twenty-three of the days, with my longest streak of strong effort being 13 days long. Now on day 7 of my next string (hopefully) of two weeks of effort. 

P.S. If you share the piece, you can enter in a pilgrimage.  It also helps me so...thanks!

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Over at the Register today

What I wrote the other day, the National Catholic Register picked up for publication.  I'm very touched. 

On another note, I do want to remind everyone, you can watch Bishop Barron's series, Catholicism for free at the link embedded. It's a reminder to all of us, why we stay, because being Catholic is so much more than the exercises and prayers and obligations, it is all of that as manifestations of what we believe, and in who we believe, not the belief itself. 

Sometimes We All Need Reminders

Woke up in the middle of the night feeling like I'd somehow flunked a quiz.  Writing/publishing's been slow. Weight's remained steady despite exercise (Consistently) since July 4th.  In short, life felt rather like a dog day of summer.  I'd fallen asleep after rereading "A Horse and His Boy," by C.S. Lewis, and in that early hour of the morning, the chastening of Bree, the War Horse struck home.

Aslan appears.  "Now, Bree," he said, "you poor, proud, frightened Horse, draw near. Nearer still, my son.  Do not dare not to dare.  Touch me. Smell me. Here are my paws. Here is my tail. These are my whiskers.  I am a true Beast."

"Aslan," said Bree in a shaken voice, "I'm afraid I must be rather a fool."
"Happy the Horse who knows that while he is still young. Or the Human either."

Bree needed to learn what the hermit told him, but resisted until Aslan appeared.  "My good horse," said the Hermit, who approached them unnoticed because his bare feet made so little noise on that sweet, dewy grass. "My good Horse, you've lost nothing but your self-conceit. No, no, cousin. Don't put back your ears and shake your mane at me. If you are really humbled as you sounded a minute ago, you must listen to sense. You're not quite the great horse you'd come to think."  I thought about my frustration with not getting published or the job I wanted, and the wise words of a friend, about being willing to trust the right position would be there, and not wanting to surrender that bit of the ego.  To which God simply asks, "Why not?"

Sometimes, my self worth gets tied up in my weight, my accomplishments, or even asserting having ten children.  None of these are in any way related to anything other than what I've done or not done.  They have only so much merit as facts about me, for the having and the doing and the weighing are not where the worth lies, however often I misjudge myself.

I thought of our kids.  I love our children not for their ability to run a 5K or grades or even their obedience (when it happens).  I love them because they are.  Just so, my husband loved me long before any of this part of our lives happened and I him, and my parents, before I could do squat.  Love doesn't require us to do, but to be.  God loves us and we can do quite literally nothing without Him, and nothing "for" Him, but to love Him back.  We can only respond to God's love with our own imitation of His generosity and selflessness, with all that we allow ourselves to surrender. 

This morning, in my Facebook feed, a friend posted a quote, "Be so good, they can't ignore you." by Steve Martin.  I thought about that quote and while it's true that one must persist and keep honing one's craft no matter what, it is a calling to be good so as to be noticed and I believed in that moment, that's exactly what in some cases (not always and not all), I'd done.   At which point, the words of the Hermit to Bree hit home once more, after acknowledging he's braver and cleverer than the non-talking horses he's lived with; "It doesn't follow that you'll be anyone very special in Narnia. But, as long as you know you're nobody very special, you'll be a very decent sort of Horse."  and Bree still struggles before making it to Narnia with whether horses who talk, do horsey things like roll in the grass.  For him, pride is a constant thorn, because he wants to be special and he's used to thinking of himself that way.   He's used to valuing himself for how he is viewed, and for what he's done.

He rolls in the grass before he gets there, just to make sure he gets one last chance to enjoy himself before getting to Narnia.  While C.S. Lewis doesn't mention it, as he's wrapping up the story, we can know, in Narnia, Bree probably rolled with abandon, because he's finally surrendered that self-conceit. 

I'd made my list of things to do for the day.  I added confession.  Why?  Because that's how I roll. 

Saturday, August 4, 2018

The Reason to Stay

“Lord, to whom would we go?”  It is the reason I stay.  I've read enough of the reports and the findings to feel beyond sad.  I read it because it's important to know, even as it hurts.

If the Church were merely a worldly institution, a club with rules and regulations, I’d be demanding all the money I’ve given, all the time, all the work paid back with interest for the abject failure of so many over so many years, to recognize evil must be opposed.  I’d be screaming and suing to run the whole thing to the ground leaving not even dirt alone, for holding the laity to a standard they ignored themselves.  People who followed the church and gave willingly, lovingly, earnestly of their time and treasure, who obeyed the rules to the letter and beyond, if this were merely a worldly thing, are the greatest suckers in a sad long history of suckers.  

Except we know the Church is a hospital for sinners, we just didn’t know, or rather, we forgot, the assistants to the physician, they too are sick.  We are sick.  I am sick.  We are all sick.  I know I’m sick at heart, sick of trying, sick of hearing about reform, sick of hearing how good everyone normally is, because I don’t see it anymore.   I can’t trust what I see.   I can’t trust what I hear.  I can't trust what I read once.  I can’t trust what I used to know or rather, believe.   We need more than policy and procedure.  We need action, we need more than the usual, it’s just a few bad actors, and ordinary letters and interviews and tweets saying “we’re all saddened and angry.” 

No.  You are not yet.  You are no where near as sad or as angry as you need to be about this, because you still know, if we want the Eucharist, we can go no where else.  We’re stuck knowing the sacraments are here, knowing Jesus is here, and knowing, everything else is also still here.  

Howling at God seems stupid. Howling about how these people pretended they weren’t sinning, even as they created rules and rubrics and made us get finger printed and hear lessons about proper behavior, is infuriating.  We weren’t the source of the problem. I don't howl at God because I'm fairly certain God didn’t like this state of affairs either.  

However, you will hear me howl. “A Wizard should know better!”  Going to war seems like a viable option, even feeling as I do, like a very little hobbit with a very tiny rock.   I admit, I want to throw my rock.

This sin needs to stop.    The cleansing and clearing of the temple is a severe mercy, because it will require removing people from positions, even though they might be gifted at what they do.  A priest is first and foremost, a servant to God, and to the face of God in all others.  If the priests cannot serve without being slaves to grave sin, (either of omission or commission) they cannot stay.  They will have to walk a more humble path, stumbling with the rest of us, wanting always the Eucharist, and not always being able to partake.  God wants all of us in Heaven, but we cannot get there clinging to sins or pretending we don’t sin, or pretending the sins we commit aren’t serious.

We see from this horrid scandal, from this bitter fruit, how little some of the shepherds of our Church have valued this gift, or the dignity of others or themselves or the sacrifices good priests and good laity made in trying to live it.  This hurt hurts, because the Church isn’t just a club, it isn’t an organization of the world.  It is the Bride of Christ.  It is the Body of Christ, and we have wounded it grievously, by what we have done and what we have failed to do, and many will feel tempted to wound the Body of Christ still more, out of wrath, revenge, and a sense of righteousness.   We will be wrong because it will be very difficult not to get caught up in the dark joy of rage.   We won’t be able to stop, and we will hurt the Church and good servants within it in the process.  

So I’m putting down my rock, because I know I’m not without sin, because I must stay, and because throwing the rock would not remove one smidgen of the wrong, it would only add.   However the charge remains, the Church needs to act to make sure this does not continue, not one more day, not one more moment. This cannot continue.  I pray for some of my children to one day follow a calling from God, but now I have to fear, some predator will use the position of authority to abuse my child, now I have to wonder at every act of kindness, every connection and I resent the hell out of feeling I must exercise necessary wariness.  

Please, be priests of courage.  Please, even if you've stumbled up to now, because you are men who loved God, who still love God, who want to serve God, act now.  Root it out.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Small Success Thursday, maybe don't climb every mountain

Went on vacation this past week, so blogging has been lighter than usual.   However while on vacation, we hiked up a mountain.  The guide said the trail could be described as "Moderate."  Moderate sounds so reasonable.  Surely we who are not totally unfit can handle a "Moderate" trail.  Moderate sounds urbane, rational, modern, smooth. 

Moderate is a relative term. 

A 1.9 tenths of a mile trail all uphill, with the fording of a bog and a dried but muddy creek bed, scrabbling across rocks holding onto nearby saplings, I submit is not moderate unless your family tree includes antlers, or at the very least, hooves. 

Even the dog dutifully marching up the seemingly endless "stairs" looked more than happy to sit by a rock while the humans recovered.  Every person we met on the trail groused about how "moderate" the path seemed to be. 

At at least three points going up, each of us considered quitting.  We goaded each other on, saying, "We'd feel bad if we gave up." "We needed to prove we could."  and "We'd be disappointed."

Two and a half hours of sweat later, we arrived at the apex, and were told by a local attempting to craft actual stairs out of rock into the path, if we wanted a good view, we'd have to go another 300 yards.   We sat and ate our fruit and granola bars and nutella and rued we'd not brought more food.  The view of sitting seemed pretty magnificent to me.

The trek back took considerably less time, but introduced us to reverse muscle pain, as the hind muscles felt over taxed the same way brakes overheat when going down hill too much.   We'd been hiking a moderate trail for what ultimately turned out to be five hours.   Getting back to our cabin, we collapsed for what we'd hoped would be two, but turned out to be four hours.   I'd say we felt moderately tired, if moderate means what it meant when we experienced the moderate trail. 

After the nap/recovery, we joked, "It's a good thing we persisted, or we might feel bad."  and, "Wow, this hurts, but at least we're not disappointed with ourselves."  It hurt to laugh.  After considering, maybe every mountain doesn't need climbing and conquering, we declared ourselves wisened by experience and called it a day.

Happy Small Success Thursday.  Next week, I'm taking on molehills.  Much more manageable.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Have a piece over at the Register Today

I know blogging has been light, however, I do have a piece over at the National Catholic Register.

Please share this book review so that more people discover this saint's wonderful writings as translated by Victoria Schneider.  I have a link to Scepter Press if you'd like to purchase the book, The Bishop of the Abandoned Tabernacle, Saint Manuel Gonzalez Garcia.  I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Because the Schedule is Driving Me Batty

Today, we had summer school I, summer school II, pick up from Summer School 1, Pick up from Summer School II, drop off for Driver's Ed.  Drop off for Conditioning.  Pick up from Driver's Ed.  Pick up from Conditioning. Drop child off at the Metro.  Drop kid off at the gym (note, not me), and later, pick up kid from gym, and later still, pick up kid from metro.   My youngest son's favorite movie?  Cars, Cars 2 and Cars 3.  The kids' favorite video game?  Mario Kart.  For someone who doesn't Uber, I spend a lot of time playing Taxi. 

This mind you, does not exclude the time at home spent folding laundry, sweeping, organizing paperwork, cleaning the kitchen, cooking meals and loading and unloading the dishwasher.

I also spent a load of time putting away books like a mousy librarian. 

I decided, this won't do.

So tomorrow, I'm taking a different tack.   I'm wearing all black. I'm going insist other people drive and cook and clean.  I'm only going to work at night.



I'm posting a note for them tomorrow on the fridge. 

Dear Children,

If you are in crisis. If there's a need.  You should wait until nightfall and go out with a flashlight and construction paper and signal this:

 Before signalling, understand BatMom will handle things differently than ordinary mom. 

For example: 

If you take your sister's cookie, I will make you return said cookie, or if it has been consumed, BatMom will make you clean  your sister's room and take her out for ice cream.  The difference between Mom and Batmom? Batmom will talk in a low gravely voice and wear a cape.   It makes being a Mom cool. 

If you fight with your brother over the television/Wii/DS/Switch/whatever it is, Mom would separate you and take away the electronics.   Batmom will separate you, take away the electronics, and tell you no electronics until you read a book and give you both three chapter books to choose from.   Why?  Because I'm Batmom. 

If you turn on the electronics after Batmom declares otherwise, Batmom will using a Batmom voice, challenge you to a waterballon fight outside.   Batmom knows, you don't mix electronics with water, so it will get you away from the stupid inducing machines.    Batmom is also a better shot than regular Mom. 

I still have to do the horrendous schedule.  But I bet if I slap a few bats on the outside of the car, and it won't be quite so boring. 

Monday, July 23, 2018

The Fruit We Should Be Serving...

Early in his papacy, Pope Francis proclaimed the Year of Mercy from December 8th, 2015 to November 16,2016.  I’m wondering if he’d consider a Year of Mercy Part Two, because I’m not sure the first one took.

First, a confession.  I am a terrible sport in games.  I struggle with getting irritated when I play poorly, which makes me play even more poorly.  I get rattled, and I forget in those moments, I'm playing to play, not to win.  It is a source of constant frustration to me even if I'm swallowing it, because it robs me of the pleasure I sought from spending time with my family playing. I've prayed, confessed, wrestled with this most of my adult life.  I've read articles, I've tried to remain detached, and I've considered simply not playing to avoid temptation.  Instead, I've opted to have my family remind me over and over again when that particular demon flares up, "You're playing to play."  in one way or another.  Sometimes it involves stepping on my foot under the table.  I consider such steps, a good corrective mercy by them, which I deserve. 

So back to the issue that's bugging me today. 

Why hasn’t the New Evangelization worked?  

There’s loads of energy being spent on radio, online, newspapers, television, on evangelization and what isn’t being seen, is the building of community.  There are lots (Thank God) of individual conversions taking place, giving witness, but there isn’t a sense of a community being formed by all this work.  Our nation feels fractured and broken as never before, both inside and outside of the Church, which left me with a nagging question.

Why hasn’t the New Evangelization worked?  

People are writing. People are reading. People are praying. There are email chains of novenas and podcasts on scripture, blogs, videos, great lectures on the catechism, all at our fingertips. Where is the fruit? 

People are doing all these things and while there are moments, there is not a collective weight, a visible sign to the outside world of this internal reality of being the Body of Christ. In the same way, we all know there’s all this energy directed at serving the poor, providing for material needs in countless places, through soup kitchens and pantry programs, through shelters and job training and all the very good good things provided through the Church and her charities because people believe in the teachings of the Church, however, there is not a joy manifested to the world, only more need.   

In the same way, there are thousands of Catholic schools that provide education in both the academic and spiritual realm.  The community, on both a macro and micro level which should be the Body of Christ however, remains somehow, not fully engaged. 

Online, it's easy to stumble into places where people fight over what the Pope says, what the Pope means, and whether to follow him or fight him is the correct manifestation of living the faith.  Those same people cry out for the excommunication of those who disagree. 

There are fiefdoms within parishes, cliques, serious schisms between those who favor one ministry over another, and out and out hostility over issues both discreet (what type of music is played) and profound, (actual arguments about doctrine) which keep all of us from being Brothers and Sisters in Christ.  The fights in the parishes, online, and throughout the nation seem to go on without end, and with all the time, a dark joy from their perpetual spitting and spinning. The spirit of the age is distrust, deny, dismiss, and destroy, the very opposite of what Christ calls all of us to as individuals and as His body.  

My thoughts I thought perhaps too dark, so I turned to the scripture for the mass of the day.  On July 23, 2018 and the readings involved Micah, Chapter 6, Psalm 50 and from the Gospel, Matthew Chapter 12, versus 38-42 where Jesus says to the scribes and Pharisees, “An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the Prophet….”  

That didn’t help.
We know what doesn’t work; excessive focus on doctrine, excessive focus on service, excessive focus on art work, group projects, group prayer, individual prayer, one way, a thousand ways, ground up, top down, systemic scaffolding of instruction, everything we’ve tried. Despite all wanting theoretically to achieve the same thing through different means, we keep stepping on each other's toes. 

The only answer to the angry spirit of the age, is to be asking each other, to please step on our toes when we take too much of a lead.  The answer to my problem, humility. The answer to the bigger problem, is the same thing.  Offer Mercy.  Ask Forgiveness.  No quid pro quo.   Offer mercy everywhere there is anger.  Ask for forgiveness whether it is given or not.  These are the salves that will lead us to salvation.  They are the fruit we should be offering if we want the coming age to be one of something other than a nation of angry islands, all screaming for someone else to be punished.   

Elizabeth Scalia wrote at Word on Fire about The Anti-Christ Arriving in a World Without Mercy," and showed a picture of a wolf.  If we want a world not peopled by wolves, we must fight the Anti-Christ with the one thing the Devil cannot abide, love; love manifested in acts of mercy, and sublimation of ourselves.  

The early prophets all preached essentially the same thing, (however unwillingly at times), as the early apostles.  “Repent and believe.”   We must do the same thing.   It’s both a universal and individual call. 
Christ tells us, over and over again He is the way, the truth and the light. Come to Him ourselves, and invite others.

The question I think for many, is how do we do this?  How do we know we are doing it?  How do we know if we are engaged in true acts of service, true acts of generosity, truly doing little things with great love? 

Answer: If we stop trying to win.  If we stop trying to take credit.  If we stop trying to prove we’re right, or better, or more worthy or smarter or more informed or more whatever, and simply serve. Or, as I told my children to remind me, play to play. 

Put God first, trust God.  Put Christ first.  Trust Christ. Spend time with Christ, and Christ will order each of our souls so that eventually willingly, we will put ourselves last, so more people can encounter Christ.

I'm going to go ask my kids if they want to play a game with me.      

Friday, July 20, 2018

At the Register Today

This week, practice asking God, "What do you want me to do?" and stand back to hear Him speak.  Every once in a while I remember, this relationship is a two way thing, and not all about me and my wants, and it is in that rare moment when I stop talking, that God answers. 

As such, I have a piece over at the National Catholic Register, "We Have Been Given Freedom in Order to Really Love God." Memo to the children, thanks for the inspiration.  Back to writing...

The Unexpected Break in the Blogging...

This week, my computer died.  So here's link ups to the past week's work.  Will get back to posting and writing now.   This doesn't mean I haven't been busy. 

This week:

Leticia Velasquez invited me on her WCAT radio show, Living the Gospel Life. We had a great time swapping stories about our children who have Down Syndrome, and the Gospel of Life.

Here's this week's Small Success Thursday post as well.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Over at Aleteia Today

One of my writing goals for 2018 was to break into new markets, and shore up my work at older ones.  Here's a piece I wrote for Aleteia on 10 Easy Ways to Create Summer Memories.  Going out today to play with them. 

Friday, July 13, 2018

Over at the Catholic Exchange today...

Something new for you.  I've been published for the first time over at the Catholic Exchange.  Here's my first piece, The Unexpected Graces of Offering Dailly Prayers for Others.  Please go take a look, and share if you like it.  Thank you!

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Small Success Thursday

Hey, I'm posting on Thursday...about Small Success Thursday.   As a bonus, I can report this is day seven of willingly submitting myself, or submitting my will, to exercise. Running Downhill.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

At the Register

After a long hiatus, (a week), I'm hitting the hey, I'm a writer who sometimes gets published trail again.   My latest is inspired by real life. Your teens will always be your babies.  It's true.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

The Ten, No, Twelve Stages of Writing a Column*

*Not inspired in any way whatsoever by real life. Any similarities to the writing process for anyone (living or dead) is purely coincidental.  Really. 

12) I have an idea. Oh. That would make a good column. I should write it down. 
11) Writes it down. Oh, and I should add that and that and maybe tie in this...--Good idea brain.  Writes down more.  Wait...developing it too much before I get to the computer will kill it. 
10) Holds rest of ideas in brain but fears incontinence of brain.  Hold it. Hold it. Hold it until I can get to a keyboard.
9) Gets to Keyboard.
8) Where the hell did it all go?  How did I lose it? It was all so crystal clear, it was perfect, funny, urbane, and now it's gone! 
7) Self medicates --depending upon who you are, chocolate, surfing the net, alcohol, binge watching a series you've already seen.
6) Sits back down at keyboard, looks at notes. 
5) This is garbage. It's giberish. Why didn't I write more of it down? Why did I think fleshing it out more would hurt my ability to write it later? 
4) Looks at blank page.  I guess I should write something.
3) Writes something.
2) Rereads what's written and grieves.  It could have been so much more. It could have been the break thru piece, the one, the one everyone shares, the one that would have put me on the map as a writer. 
1) Pushes send/publishes anyway.   

Celebrate by returning to self medication.    Repeat tomorrow, or later today if inspiration strikes and you make it to the computer in time. 

*Editor's note: Mom, this is not how I do things.  Really.   I promise. 
(I eat the chocolate first). 

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

It's My Birthday

Hello everyone. 

It's July 3rd and I'm fifty-two.

Part of enjoying the birthday is counting 52 blessings and/or big events from the past 52 years.

1966  Born...and survived it.  Yay!
1967  Got to come home from the hospital. Yay!
1968  Started talking.  Never stopped.
1969  Became a big sister.
1970  Remember going to the Neuman Center, and mass.
1971  Became a big sister again.
1972  Learned to rollerskate.
1973  Took trampoline lessons.
1974  Had my tracheostomy removed.
1975  Learned to swim.
1976  Remember going to DC, and watching the fireworks on the lawn.
1977  Saw Starwars
1978 My sister was born.
1979 Our house flooded, but we thought it was kind of cool, because we saw fish swimming in the kitchen. 
1980 Made the track team. Ran in the 1320.
1981 Started high school.
1982 Principal tapped me to be a journalist/cartoonist
1983 Got a 4.0 for the first time.
1984 Graduated from High School
1985 Met one of my best friends, in line for getting rooms.
1986 Volunteered for Logan Center, became interested in Special Education
1987 Applied to and got a full ride for graduate school.
1988 Graduated from Saint Mary's College
1989 Moved to Boston to start (and finish) master's.
1990 Got Married.
1991 Moved to Houston.
1992 Found out we'd be parents in the next year.
1993 Became a stay at home mom with our son.
1994 Got into graduate school for the University of Texas
1995 Moved to Maryland
1996 Had our first daughter.
1997 Had our second daughter.
1998 Started volunteering at the kids' school.
1999 Had our second son.
2000 Was asked to write for school.
2001 September 11th.
2002 Daughter was born.
2003 First miscarry.
2004 Son was born.
2005 Daughter was born
2006 State agrees to take our house and help us move.
2007 Daughter was born.
2008 Son was born and survived surgery.
2009 Second miscarriage.
2010 Third miscarriage.
2011 Youngest daughter is born. 
2012 All twelve of us go to Texas for my brother's wedding.
2013 Book published.
2014 Dad died.
2015  Went to North Carolina and hooked a ray.
2016 Daughter graduated from high school and started at the college I attended.
2017  Got certified as a teacher again.
2018  Son graduates from high school.

All of which is to say, I've been more than blessed these 18,993 days. I can't wait to see what the next 18,993 days hold. 

Sunday, July 1, 2018

What to Do?

There's an issue when you write things for publication.  Read the comments.  Don't read the comments.  I have learned, no matter how hard I try, if I read the comments, my ego shall be bruised.  My brain will be frustrated, and my writer's heart will want to try and write again to explain whatever it is. 

However ignoring what is written means I don't learn what I need to know to grow as a writer. 

It's a quandry, because when you look at comments, sometimes you don't know where to begin or how.   What you wrote, isn't received in the spirit in which it is given, and there are as many arm chair editors as there are legitimate discussions being raised as a result of an article as there are arguments over interpretations.  It's overwhelming and I'm not sure how to manage it.  I know the first rule, don't go into the com boxes. 

It's the second rule I don't know.  When to respond possibly with a column and when to let it go. 

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Over at the Register Today

with a piece I wish wasn't inspired by the news and real life.  It is a sin to be scandalized by sin. I'm not, but I'm still sad about it because the world needs more saints.  

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Small Success Thursday ON THURSDAY!!!

Yes, it's under the wire but it still counts!   So, go celebrate Small Success Thursday even if it's not Thursday by reading and sharing This Week's column, "Recognizing your blessings" at

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

At the Register Today

Writing about the Rosary, because every time I stop, I get reminded to start again. 

The Rosary is also, a Thank you note.

And if you need me, I just read my piece...going to go find my purse and get to work saying a thank you. 

Saturday, June 23, 2018

T-O-W-A-R-D-S My Ted Talk

I've reached my sell by date. It doesn't mean I'm dead, but it does mean all comments I make, whether about the planned dinner or the state of education as I see it based on the past two years in the classroom, get dismissed because they weren't verified by a TED talk.  They're out of date.
As you may have guessed, I live with many teenagers and college students. There isn't a profession, degree or level of experience one can have endured over the course of a lifetime sufficient to counter the opinions of those ranging in age from 13 to adulthood.

As a parent, I've come to terms with this reality. It's not an easy term, but it's knowable. I know, no matter what I say, no matter how benign the comment, I'm wrong.
In an effort to stem my wrongness, I stay away from controversial subjects but being always wrong means, there aren't any.
Take the weather...
"It's cold today."
"No it's not."
"It was colder yesterday."
"I checked the website. It's statistically three degrees warmer than it was 100 years ago."
"You just think it is."
Or matters of personal preference...
"Thank goodness for diet coke and chocolate."
"You should be drinking water."
"Those chemicals will destroy your body."
"Studies say, drinking that will also make you fat."
"Is it fair trade chocolate?
"Goodness had nothing to do with it."
Or statements of actual fact born of answering a question:
"How do you spell "Towards?"
"I don't think that's correct."
"I know how to spell it. You asked me."
"Are you sure?"
"I'm gonna google it."
Or when you figure out the answer before they do...they don't quite believe it.
"I can't figure out this math."
"Let me see...Okay hon, you just write it out and multiply each term to each term. (X-4)squared equals Xto the second power, minus 8 X plus sixteen."
"No. You don't understand."
"But I do understand. I just did it."
"No. You have a third term."
"I know, because..."
"No. It's been a long time since you did math. I think we do it differently."
"The rules haven't changed."
"I'm going to call a friend."
Fifteen minutes later. "Did you get the answer?"
"I still don't think we need the -8X."
I know, saying "I was right!" would be in bad form but I can't say I'm not tempted. 
The problem is, our children no longer consider us reliable sources of information. We don't even get the benefit of "Trust but verify." We get...your parents told you? Fake news. Wikipedia is considered more reliable than me. Possibly Fox news as well.
All this stemmed from my informing my daughter that the dryer wasn't drying clothing. I'd taken everything out, wiped out the inner drum and placed a limited size load in the machine. Five minutes later, it said it was done. I tried again. In three minutes, it stopped. Having tested every setting and pushed every button I informed everyone, the dryer isn't working.
Three teenagers since then have done their own field testing of the dryer only to inform me what I already knew. I told them, "There are moments when a statement doesn't need a peer review. The dryer not working is one of them." They looked doubtful.
I'd love them to know most of my opinions and thoughts on things do not require independent verification or crowd sourcing. However, I'd be lying if I didn't admit it would be nice to have approval, or even a "like." It would be nice to have someone other than the GPS let me know, I've come to the correct conclusion of something but the only validation I'm getting these days is in the parking garage.
They didn't think that joke was funny. They said there were much funnier ones in Ted talks. They told me my humor is stale.
What do they expect? I'm expired.

Link up to Small Success Thursday

You'd think with summer, I'd be more timely in my linking to posts but no. You would be wrong.  Today's link up to Small Success Thursday is being posted on Saturday because well, somehow, summer is more busy than the rest of the school year, or this summer any way.  

I will tell you, I've been writing Small Success Thursday for years, and every once in a while, I consider retiring it.  It's then that someone reads the column and gives me a little wave, and that's all it needs for me to continue.  So I'm grateful to the woman who read my piece and took the time to tell me, it helped her.  It helped me start again for the next week. 

Here's this week's Small Success Thursday.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

At the Register today!

I know, it's been a while.  Honestly, since the kids got out from school, I thought I'd have more writing time.  Somehow, I have less. 

Examining the virtue of Forbearance, something the world doesn't quite understand...because it is a manifestation of charity and grace, even when afflicted.   I know I'm not very good at it.   

We Should Be More, Starting Today

There isn't an easy way to walk back from mistakes in this day and age, and in this day and age, we have plenty of things to walk back, plenty of mistakes to examine and address.   

I always loved the phrase attributed to Saint Teresa of Avila, placing her hands on the shoulders of each sister after they'd leave the confessional, and saying, "Begin again."  It's a promise of hope, of change, and of better days to come. 

It's risky to trust, to forgive. It's much easier to nurse wounds, to point out the injuries again and again and again and again and to proclaim to the world how much we hurt and how unjust someone is or how wrong they've been.   However, I love a dear friend's statement which amounts to, "We will never regret being kind even if the other person deserves none of it."   Her philosophy is not an easy one, but I've seen her live it, and it's beautiful, luminous even.  "Begin again."  It takes humility and courage. 

"Begin again." doesn't mean be a sucker, or be a sap. It doesn't mean one glosses over old injuries or pretends they didn't happen, but one no longer is a slave to the injuries, or to the wounds.  It means one goes forward.  One tries and tries and tries again, to build up the Body of Christ, where there's been injury, even if that injury was done unto one's self.  "Begin again." 

I think as a nation, we need to "Begin again."  I used strong words yesterday, because I believe, we as a nation can do better and must if we're going to be a City on a Hill, a nation of both laws and charity, of freedom and generousity. I do not think these things are antithetical. The solution thus far implimented by this administration, does not illustrate the best thinking or doing, kindness or generosity, charity or spirit of our nation and I want better for all those affected, both by the policy, and by the implimentation.   

I want it for the same reason I don't want the University of Notre Dame to ever do stupid things.  I love the place, for all her faults, so I'd rather she didn't have faults.  I want her to be beautiful in all things, even winning at Football.   The same sort of desire for a nation that is beautiful in all things, spurs my zeal at not merely the optics, but the fundamental ethics and morals that underpin the current means of enforcing policy.  I want our nation to be something better, and I don't think this is the means by which we get there, so I want the leaders and legislators, the powerful and the influencers to get to work, and to come up with something which respects Both the rule of law AND the dignity of each person encountered.    I want our nation to be a good nation, a noble one, I want us to be and continue always to become a kinder people.

My sister shared this excellent piece The Catholic Vision of Just Immigration Reform.
and in reading it, I also found What are the new border policies? which examines the existing law and how we got here.  The nation will not get better by the mere stroke of a pen or the winning/losing of an election, or a singular law.  The nation will only get better by each of us practicing both forebearance and forgiveness.  If we are to be something other than the lesser angels of our nature in all actions, policies and procedures, we must look at what we're doing, what we're not doing, and ask each day how this day, we can "begin again," and get to work.   

Friday, June 15, 2018

When We Go Wrong

It always seems like it's easier to just keep going, to say to whoever, "I'm too small." "It's too big a problem." "It's not my problem." and "What can you do?"  It always seems like it's easier to shrug the shoulders and say, "It is what it is."

However, the world will only grow crueler, less just, less warm, less beautiful, less like the very good place it's always been intended to be, if we become either permanently enraged, or put on the robes of apathy.   "What can we do?"

It is not a moral act to follow an evil law.  There is no law that requires children to be separated. It's a criminal and immoral response to a problem. 

First, we must name evil as evil.   Taking children from their parents, putting them in cages.  It's simple. It's evil.  I don't care who did it.  I care it's being done at all.  It needs to stop yesterday.  Somewhere, there's a charity or a firm that needs to go and decide to represent however many children are in cages and they need to fight.   We need to fight with them.  We need to sign petitions, call our representatives and tell them to pass bill after bill after bill after bill demanding the reuniting of these families.  We need to call our journalists, on every network, everwhere and have them run story after story after story after story, so we see the faces of these families, so we must stop pretending this story is merely an embarrassment, and recognize it for the cruelty, the absolute wrong that it is.   We need to call the White House and demand that they reverse policy.  The phones should not rest. The emails should not cease.  The coverage should not stop until this policy stops, and every child is reunited. 

This issue should transcend party, it should blanket the nation.  Every mother and father should ache for those mothers and fathers who don't know where their children are.  Every child should weep for the separation deliberately caused by a government unwilling to even admit, it's going on and too cowardly to acknowledge, it must stop. It's beyond wrong.

Most of us grew up knowing the phrase, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing" by Edmund Burk.  We know from history, silence because the law allows for something, permits the veneer of law and order to gloss over attrocities on a micro and macro scale; be it slavery, segregation, discrimination, abortion or any other injustice perpetuated with the reassurance, it's the law. 

We go wrong when we forget the purpose of the law.  We go wrong when we allow the law to be a tyrant.  We go wrong when law supercedes mercy, forgiveness, kindness, charity, and freedom.   We go wrong when we allow ourselves to stay comfortable and think, someone else should do something.  We go wrong when we justify not doing something because we don't think it will make a difference.  Every act makes a difference, even if we don't make the news, because every act which is humane, is a rebellion against the tyranny of the wrongness of the world. 

The government is without checks or ballances or a moral compass right now, so it needs people of good will, ordinary, everyday people, to be the moral compass, and to become those who stand against what is being done in our name.   We must learn the first rule of spiritual physics.  We cannot bring about a good by doing evil.  The problem of immigration, and of needing a means of bringing people in, and legally processing them, requires a better response than treating those who come as subhuman.  Anyone who refuses to recognize the evil of taking a toddler from her mother, is wilfully blind. Wifully ignorant.  Wilfully pretending what is cruel, is not cruel.  It is no different than  wilfully ignoring the trains going by, wilfully pretending the child in the womb isn't a child, wilfully declaring someone not to have rights because of whatever one opts to decide is the reason, they shouldn't have human rights.

It's time to fight this constant parade of cruelties with deliberate action, rather than gnashing of teeth.  When the law allows people to be cruel, the laws must be changed.  I don't care if it's been 200 years, or 2000 years.   The length of a law on the books does not prove it's validity or it's merit, only the willingness of people to not get engaged, not be involved.

Here's an article on what's being done: Complaint targets separation of immigrant families at the border.
Here's what we know: CNN article on zero-tolerance involving the separation of mother from her infant.  It's a worthy video to watch.
And the New York Times did a great piece which also includes phone numbers and actions to take: Seizing Children from Parents at the Border is Immoral.  and my online friend, Rebeca Bratten Weiss wrote Legality is not Morality,     
Here's who to call:
Call your representative.
If you need me, I'll be making some phone calls and writing some emails. 

Friday, June 8, 2018

Over at the Register Today

This has been graduation week, with my second son's ceremony on Monday, my third son's on Thursday, and the high school where I work held their graduation today.   Writing this week has been sparse, but I have a piece over at the National Catholic Register concerning what we should make time for, every day; namely, Christ.

Monday, June 4, 2018

A New Piece at the Register

Hello, I know I've been a bit awol in the writing/publishing department. I've written lots of drafts that are sitting in the...I can't quite bring myself to destroy you darlings, but no one else should read this pile.   Here's today's piece over at the National Catholic Register, it's appropriate to have this one, inspired by witnessing my son's race at State. 

You Win the Race When You're In It to the End.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Ten Things I Learned From Everywhere I Went....

There are many things I could write about, but these are the ones that stick near and dear to my heart, because many of them were taught to me when I was about to graduate, whether from high school, college, or graduate school.  In all three cases, the lessons came not from the texts or research, but from encounters with people who really loved what they taught, and wanted more than anything else, to convey something of that love to others who might do the same. 

It didn't matter what the person taught or didn't teach, it mattered who they were. 

Lesson #10    Don't get too hung up on how people are, because they will grow, they will change, and so will you.  --Mr. John Conway upon my grousing about boys, friends, and high school. 

Lesson #9  Expect to make friends wherever you go, and be a good one to all you encounter. --A brilliant teacher at Lamar University, a 25 year veteran of Special Education who taught Teaching Reading, one of the last classes I took for my masters, and one of the best teachers I ever met.  Wish I could recall her name. 

Lesson #8  Read everything and more, but don't be pompous about it. Just read. --Jean Rodes, Professor at Saint Mary's College  on referencing anything else other than what is assigned.

Lesson #7 When things get too rough, read Dickens and eat ice cream.  --Professor Liz Noel, (advice when I caught Chicken pox, and another professor assigned Camus' The Plague). 

Lesson #6 All behavior is communication, no matter how old you are, no matter your condition, no matter your level of education, no matter your status in life.   Your job as a teacher, is to figure out what is being communicated and respond.   --Professor Sandra Einsel of Boston College on Human Development and Handicapping Conditions. 

Lesson #5  Wrap a line around your think...(whether drawing or writing) --Sr. Kelly at Saint Mary's College, on what creating, whether with words or otherwise, is. 

Lesson #4  "You will never be as good as Yeats.   Yates Maybe." --Professor Max Westler at Saint Mary's College on humility in the arts. 

Lesson #3  "A world defined only by science and math is inherently reductive, I wouldn't want to live in it....and neither should you." --Fantasy and Philosophy Professor Sayer, posing a philosophical question to the class, based on the books we'd read. 

Lesson #2  "Push through the pain, it's only temporary." --Kick Boxing Instructor, Jill (lost her last name to time), because she never let me slack off. 

Lesson #1  "How are you going to prevent yourself from being seduced by academia?" --my professor at the University of Texas asked.  "I think my husband and son will handle that problem."  I told him. 

Moral of the story:  Never give God that much leeway.   (We moved two months later, and the rest is history). 

Sunday, May 27, 2018

It's Been a While

Last week, I didn't get to write much, but the idea of entering into the healing of the world through the wounds of Christ kept humming around in my brain until I got a spare fourty or so minutes to write it.  Anyway, here's my latest over at the National Catholic Register.  I hope you enjoy it.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Summer Post

Okay! It's Memorial Day Weekend so it's time to construct the annual equivalent of Phineas and Ferb's gonna do it all summer list of "What are we going to do?" 

There are 100 days of summer by my count, so we need 100 things on the list.  I know, blog lists are an easy-peasy way to fill up a page, but it's also fun for us to brainstorm to see if we can do all of them.

100.  Go to a waterslide.
99. Paint nails.
98. Watch firecrackers
97. Pick berries.
96. Go to the park.
95. Run a 5k.
94. Go to a baseball game.
93. Go to a movie.
92. Eat ice cream out.
91. Feed ducks.
90. Take a hike.
89.  Starwatch.
88. Go to the library.
87. Outdoor concert.
86. Take the kids to the zoo.
85. Museum day.
84.  Painting day. (of the house)
83.  Read outside and drink sodas all day, day.
82. Go fishing.
81. Build a sandcastle.
80. Barbecue everything.
79.  Make home made jam.
78.  Learn to cook something new.
77. Learn to french braid hair.
76. Build paperboats out of newspaper (a.k.a. Curious George).
75. Bocchi
74. Go to the fair.
73. Badmitton
72. Rockclimb
71. try a new hair style
70. Read a book a week.
69. Get one kid her learner's permit, and another their license.
68. put on a show.
67. Outdoor picnic
66. Play Kube (Viking strategy game)
65. Card games (rainy day)
64. Teach Rita, Regina and Anna to Roller skate
63. Teach Paul and Anna how to bike with no training wheels.
62. Have a party
61. Volleyball
60. Clean out garage.
59. Help with garden.  (by weeding).
58. Chalk drawings
57. Catch and release fireflies.
56. whittle wood
55. Create models (rainy day)
54.  Board game day. (rainy day)
53. Go to the beach.
52.  Go to the mountains.
51. Visit the Monuments on the Mall.
50. Visit Busboys and Poets
49. Invite people over.
48. Go to adoration
47. Write 1K daily.
46. Play Iron Chef with my kids. 
45. Reinstitute weekly date night.
44. Go to the gym 5 days a week, or go for walks 5 days a week, so that my fitbit doesn't sigh at me.
43. Play mini-golf.
42. Campfire/s'mores
41. blow bubbles.
40. Swimming lessons
39. write letters. (rainy day)
38. Weekly visit to the pool. 
37. play capture the flag with all my children.
36.  All day slumming video game marathon.  (rainy day).
35. visit a farm.
34. Ride a horse.
33. Discover some new cool place we haven't been yet in Maryland.
32. Declutter a room. 
31. Volunteer for something new.
30. See a play.
29. Attend a concert (indoor).
28. Win tickets to something.
27. Go out to dinner as a family (once). 
26. Reinstitute reading to each kid each night up through until they're sick of it. 
25. Make homemade ice cream.
24. Family Movie Night (old movies). 
23.  paint rocks (Anna suggested)
22. stomp in puddles
21.   Family picture
20. Outlet mall for summer clothing.
19.  Help 5 of the 10 find summer jobs.
18. Finish writing/editing project.
17. Visit family.
16.  Have family come visit us.
15. Teach kids how to skip rocks.
14. Fly kites
13. Lemonade stand
12. Camping
11. Waterballoons
10. Fix bikes.
9. Carwash at home.
8. Whiffleball
7. Kickball
6. Laser tag
5. Charades
4. Soccer
3. Roadtrip
2. Visit Civil War battlegrounds.
1. Blockparty

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Not the Shirt Off My Back but Close...

So my sixth grader stressed about her school musical.  She needed a pink shirt. She happens to own several, but needed a plain one.   We got her the shirt.  Her stress was such that she forgot about the rest of the costume.  She needed a pair of jeans.  She was wearing shorts. 

I'd brought them to the school early, grabbing prime seats for Anna, Regina and me, near the principal and his wife.  After a quick stop in the ladies room to rescue Rita, I found a friend of mine on the faculty and begged her for a sweatshirt, a sweater, anything.  The gym is pleasant enough in the spring for a concert, a bit cool if  you're watching in shorts.    Mercifully, she lent me a black shawl.  I sat and pretended, "Everything is awesome." 

My daughter told me afterwards, "That was more uncomfortable for me than for you."
I'll let her reevaluate that when she's the one wearing gym shorts some place other than the gym at fifty-one. 

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Musicals and Plays We Hope We Never See

It's been a while since the good folks at Chocolate for Your Brain offered up any satire for your reading pleasure, in part because well, they're lazy, underpaid and understaffed.   However, after withholding the daily chocolate ration from their cells, they got to work on uncovering all the news you'll never hear anywhere else. 

Broadway always skates on the edge of things, but sometimes it falls over in an attempt to be chic and at the same time, get people to pony up a hundred bucks or more for an obstructed view.  We've spent some time sifting through the pile of not quite ready for the Tony's to bring you, shows you'll pray you'll never see. 

The Unoutraged: Story of a person who somehow managed to remain on the internet for two decades without getting into a flame war, be banned by someone, or become known in the combox for starting wars by throwing emotional moltov cocktails. 

The Corporate Sponsored Geico CVS Verizon Musical: Waiting in line for your prescriptions at the pharmacy can take forever. It's even worse if your phone is dead or worse, you're out of data.  Switching to the low data stream makes time come to a stop.   Can the absence of distraction for fifteen minutes help you find love if it can't facilitate you lowering the cost of car insurance?  Includes the smash hits, "It's Not Viagra!" "Flo or the Geeko?" and "Do These Reading Glasses Make me Look Smart?"

Trumpmania: The cast of this hit has to change every day, and all the choreography is improv, except for the chorus of Hail Hail Hail, which is the signature song all voiced and pre-recorded by the lead, so that the entire 365 person choir the audience hears, is actually one voice on autotune. 

Laurel or Yanni, the Devil in the Blue/White/Gold dress: The critics and fans are of two minds on this Spring mystery, and either love or hate it.   Vote for your team. Winner gets to take home Jacob...a.k.a. Sharkboy, the Werewolf from Twilight.   

The Hunt for an Imaginative Mind: Somewhere, someone is inventing something not yet monetized, commercialized and pre-packed for mass consumption.  The government has reports of people actually reading books and listening to information which does not entirely agree with the pretermined, prestated acceptable perspective, and in fact, falls outside the register of the standard deviation for acceptable thought.   G-men are on the move to locate these rebels and put a stop to it. 

Not Trending: Sort of a take on Survivor, milenials are subjected to thirty days sans all electronic and social media, and have to make decisions about outfits, jobs, food, movies and political points of view without the crutch of self validation.  The winner takes home a million dollars, based on the voting of the viewers,  but the contestants won't know who are the favorites or why, until the winner is announced.   Losers spend an additional month coping without electronics. 

Tune in tomorrow when the investigative team interviews the contestants voted off the show and shows them the results of the twitter poll. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Why You Need to Read the Book

Today, a student boasted she'd caught up on the Literary circles because she'd read the sparknotes. 

Now I use sparknotes to refresh my brain if I read the book and am mentally drawing a blank, they have a place.  I survived Faulkner by reading and rereading, and using the Cliffnotes to explain to me (or try to, see yesterday's post) what I actually read.   So I get using summaries to help put the whole thing together in my brain. 

However, this is a young lady who hopes to be a lawyer.  I told her, no one wants a lawyer to use the sparknotes of cases, they want a lawyer who delves into the law, who reads the cases and looks for subtext, for meaning beyond what is said on the page.

Another student flagged me down to look at a paper.  They've had a while to prepare, multiple days, multiple opportunities to craft a report.  There was one sentence.   Trying not to despair, I told her, I can't critique what she didn't write. She had the grace to start typing.

I know they have more thoughts than they give, more words than they share, and the stories we've read, warn about becoming sedated by technology to the point of losing essential knowledge, wisdom, connections, community.   (See Harrison Bergeron, The Pedestrian, and The Veldt).   They don't quite get, what is sci-fi, is a warning of what could be reality, if we substitute sparknotes for books, tweets for thoughts, and phones for actual people.   If all our art becomes derrivative and algorhymn driven, we shall eventually find ourselves at dead ends, with duller spirits. 

However, the oldest of the old may save us.   The day before one of those same students asked a question about the Odyssey, and immediately, the teacher and I were off to the races giving them the high lights.  We'd just made it to Ithaca when the bell rang.   There was a crew of students wrapped up in one of the oldest of stories being told in the oldest of ways.   "What happens next?" the one with the one sentence asked.  "How do you know this?" the sparknote reader added in.

"We've read it."
"Several times."
We'd given a summary of the Iliad and half the Odyssey.
For a bonus hit on the matter, I added, "You know, the poets who knew these by heart, knew all the lines. I'm just giving you a summary or shortened Twitter version."
"This is the short version?  How many lines?"
A quick google refresher of the numbers and I told her, "The Iliad has 15,693, while the Odyssey has 12,110."   and added, we still had the taking back of Ithaca to go to finish the tale. 

"Come back tomorrow and read the actual chapters."  I said. "This whole story was invented out of people's imagination, without books or the internet or Cliffnotes." 
"What are Cliffnotes?" 
"Sparknotes for my generation."  I'd planned on reading the sparknotes to catch up on her particular book, but thought a dare might work better. 

"I've not read your book yet.  I'll read as far as you're supposed to by tomorrow, no Sparknotes." 
She took me up on the offer.  Maybe we'll get somewhere in the story, maybe she'll find herself in love with the story.  Here's hoping. 

A Major English English Major Revelation

So, it's embarrassing as a writer, English major, and bibliophile to admit, I have authors I do not like.  Faulkner is one of them.

Back in college, as a Freshman, I read and reread and reread "The Sound and the Fury." No matter what I did, the words did not make sense to me. The professor gave us a pop quiz.  I vomited into that test everything I could think of to prove to the man, I'd read the book.   Of the ten questions on the test, I got zero correct. 

To make matters worse, the professor thought I'd written my answers as a parody of the actual book, as proof I didn't read.  He read my answers aloud as everyone laughed.  It stunk to high heaven, and after that, I swore off the man.

I also do not like Camus.

As a Junior, I contracted the chicken pox second semester.  In the infirmary, in January, in Southbend, trapped in a windowless room, covered in sores, with a portable black and white television with two and a half channels, and an assignment in my Law and Politics class to read, "The Plague."  Not a fun moment.

The course turned out to be an all you can eat Albert Camus buffet which to my and a few of my fellow classmates' sensibilities required a hot fudge sundae afterwards as a chaser to ward off discouragement.   We read it, we discussed it, we wrestled with it, we still thought, who wants to spend time and a life thinking this way?  Pass the hot fudge.

Fast forward to this semester at work, and I've spent two weeks reading "Light in August," and another week reading "The Stranger."  If they'd given me a pop quiz on Faulkner, I think I'd have fared no better this time around.   I could read it, I could understand it, I could discuss it.  What I could not do, was tell you the sequence of events.  It makes sense.  Sequence of events did not seem to matter to Faulkner.   I almost convinced myself that I liked it, until I got the next assignment.


Reading "The Stranger," I found it much easier to understand than before, and while I don't need hot fudge to muddle through it, I woudln't have minded if someone said, "Hey, let's go get ice cream."
It wounded my psyche to think, I preferred French absurdist fiction to Southern Gothic. 

Maybe I should have tried Faulkner with a scoop of Pralines and Cream.

It couldn't hurt.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Happy Mother's Day!

This week I attended a "Muffins with Moms" event at my youngest daughter's school.  We arrived and as soon as she saw her friends, she dumped me for them, leaving me with the other abandoned mothers at the table.   We talked about how somehow, we expected a little more.  None of us quite knew what except we didn't like being simply checked off like a box on a to-do list.  The imposed structure of the event was supposed to give us an "awwww" moment, rather than a sense of "now what?" 

Except motherhood is all about being present and invisible at the same time.  We'd succeeded in being moms to the extent, they could take us for granted, like the air.  They knew we were there, they knew we'd sustain them. They knew, they could inhale muffins, exude confidence, exit from the table from their mothers to their friends, and still, their moms would sit there sipping orange juice, being there on call for the twenty minutes of time alloted to the event. 

You get moms of all ages together, all for the same occasion.  They talk.  The subject was of course, "What do you want for Mother's day?" Those in the busy throws of parenting children aged 10 and under, wanted time off. They wanted a few carved out hours alone, with zero responsibilities, and zero pay back when they returned.  The dishes should be done. The beds made. The homework also done. Dinner should be planned, and already started.  There should be no forms, no papers, no last minute things Mom needs to address when she returns, and no reports of how because Mom left, everything imploded.  Dad can handle it.   Some wanted to go to the spa, others the salon, others  the library or the gym, or a restaurant by themselves with a book, but all of them just wanted, off time without consequence. 

The funny thing is, those with kids mostly 10 and up, wanted the kids who left home, who are in the throws of preparing to leave, home, or who are only sometimes home, to come back, and to spend time at the house, letting the moms be moms a little more, the way the moms who are in the midst of the little more, do not.  They wanted to go out for coffee, or to get their nails done or shop with their daughters, or to garden or bbq with their sons, or visit some tourist spot they'd always held off on, because before, the kids were too little to justify the experience.   In short, the Moms always wanted to be the mothers the other ones were not at the time, they were the other moms. 

"What do you want Sherry?" a friend asked. "What do you want Mom?" my kids asked, quickly adding, "and don't say peace in the house.  That's a given presumption and not what we mean."  Well, it is what I really want, but I'd love a portrait of all of them, I told both my daughter and my friend.  "That's what you said last year."  "Yes, I know, and I didn't get it. So I'm asking again." 

"Mom, you're going to have to orchestrate that yourself."
"Because.  That's what Moms do.  They make things happen which are good, which we'll appreciate later, but which we loathe in the moment.  Like vegetables, like chores, like homework." 

"Like dental appointments? You have one next week." 
"Augh! Mom!" 
"Just doing my job.  I'll schedule the portrait too.  Maybe we'll have it ready by Father's day." 

"That's also just like a Mom. Dad will get the gift. We'll get the credit.  You'll handle the details." 
I'm grateful to my mother for her sense of humor, and all the times she handeled all the details of my life, and all the times I forgot about the details so completely, I didn't know she handled them.  She was the air.   Necessary, but not always noticed.   So thank you Mom.  I'll work on getting so I can feel that way about things, but I'm not there yet.  Love you! 

Happy Mother's Day!

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Spambot Saturday

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Wear Your Diamond Dearings Every day

Why? Because the worst thing that could happen is not that you lose them. The worst thing that could happen is you save them for a special occasion and then lose them.  Or that you don't wear them for fear they'll be lost and they grow dusty.  You lost out on all the days before they were lost when you could be wearing them and drawing pleasure from beauty.  You put the light under a bushel basket to protect it, and wind up living as if you did not have own those diamonds at all. 

Last night I learned how poorly I take a compliment. My daughter caught me doing what I almost always do when given praise.  I criticize it by pushing up against it my own less complimentary opinion of myself or my work, or I counter it by offering a return compliment to put whoever gave the kind words on a higher plane than me. Mock humility in practice to the point of becoming reflexive.

Shocked to have this moment of clarity illuminated by my 17 year old, I asked her, "How would you suggest I respond?"  She then role played to explain I should simply say "Thank you." and all that inner critic that I wanted to just let out in the moment, should be sent packing.  To not simply take the praise was to insult the giver, to refuse the gift, was to be rude.  She went on to explain that to deny what someone else said as being true for the sake of oddly enough, not allowing myself to think I looked bad, made the other person feel bad for trying to praise me. 

I looked in the mirror this morning and realized, this was all true. It wasn't all the truth of me, but there was a nut of it, stemming from never quite believing I was worthy of compliments let alone friends.  It also explained my near compulsive desire to launch into what my children refer to as my stand up routine whenever brought into contact with strangers. 

Suffice it to say, I got skewered.  New People! Time to make them laugh, appear confident, smile, laugh too loudly, it's show time folks! Impress. Dazzle.  Leave feeling high from the interaction, certain I've made a friend for life even if I never see them again.  Wonder why no one calls or emails five minutes later. They've seen this enough times to know it is not intimate, it is a mock sharing. It is shared, but it is rather like a blog, for public consumption.  

Then I sat there do we ever get over our own hang ups...does it really take to the age of 46 to even recognize a hang up?  and then...why now?  Friends are like diamond earrings and compliments.  They should be given/enjoyed daily or they will grow dusty and be lost when it comes time for a special occasion, diamond dearings to be shown and known and enjoyed.

So when  a friend called to talk about the reunion, she didn't realize she'd touched on a newly exposed vulnerability.  We both felt like the coming event seemed a little flat. That I had only a few friends coming to the college for this 25th year anniversary was the fruit of not having spent time with them since, not being present then or now, save when it fit my schedule.

Being present always means the same thing, being there for the other, and I'd spent much of college not being present at my own school. To those to whom I was close, they remain, but two are deceased.  Since then, while I form friends quickly --like creating lots of shallow roots, many of those friendships were built on shallow soil.  Others have died from a lack of tending.  Still others are there still hoping to be breathed on at some point, and then I asked. 

You'd think by now, I'd know to ask and ask often and shoot, spend the whole day asking because God never tires.  Friends. Despite ten children and a wonderful husband, great parents and in-laws, sister and brothers, sister and brother in laws, despite everything and everyone I knew, I felt lonely.  Friends God. I want friends.

My heart asked before my head understood what I was asking but I did ask. 

And God always answers.  He knows how I work too, which is good, because He can pour through that junk that I use to keep things shallow or at least, incidental. He also knows I have little patience so the phone rang almost immediately.

I wanted desperately to be the one to be there for the other for everyone else...yes that sounds very selfish and is.  Yes it was.   One of the ones I had been there for, even when it was hard, even though it might have been born of my own selfishness, was the first to call in response to my prayer.   And she set me straight.   Getting off the phone with her, I felt both exhausted and exhilarated.  

Then I called three women I like, who I would like to have as closer friends.  I have to start being the friend to the people I hope to name as such and that means, time. I sat afterwards marveling at how stupid it is that I spend so much time not recognizing the gifts put in front of me, pushing them aside like compliments.  Refusing to fully take on the gifts and the givers.  Keeping the earrings in a box.  And I'm carrying around a gong in my head, so that when the stand up lady shows up, I can bang her off the stage.  The one not putting on the show is much more interesting and it's time she stopped pretending, she didn't want to be seen. 

Oh.  And I put on my diamond earrings. 

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