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.

Camus. 

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."
"Why?"
"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 mad...like 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 yes...it 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. 

Friday, May 11, 2018

Small Success Thursday Post Linky on Friday

Hello, today I have a link to yesterday's post over at Catholicmom.com. Enjoy this piece of Small Success Thursday;  The World Needs More Silly.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Over at the Register today...

Today I have a piece over at the National Catholic Register, inspired by the Gospel, spring cleaning and my son's first communion. It's called "The Stone We Reject."  P.S.  I was the person who gave the puzzle in the first place, so it's doubly stupid I didn't recognize it in the moment. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

400 Words

For the students who complained, four-hundred words is less than a page.  

Four-hundred words of thinking, of creating, of fighting to come up with something that reveals to others the more of this universe we so often breathe through and ignore; what could you do with that many words?  

There are more things in this time, this world, this universe, than in our own individual imaginations can fathom.   However, because we prefer the safety, the security, the predictability of what requires little effort beyond the margins we’ve set for ourselves, we keep not allowing ourselves to explore or uncover them.

All of you, with your youth and your energy, and all that you have at your fingertips, you could be far more than you imagine, far more than you dream, far more than your grades or your past or your present would indicate.  There are wrongs to be righted, there are injustices which require light, action, and time to address, lives to be saved, art to be created, people to feed, great discoveries awaiting.

We teachers can see it, but we can’t make you do the same.  You must want to see. We teachers know it’s in you, you must want to be what you could if you dared to work and work and work at it.
You could be more if you allowed yourself to be hungry for something other than being sated.  You could be more, if you allowed yourself to read beyond the limitations of an assignment, to write beyond the word count, and to research because you want to know, rather than someone will test to see if you know it.   

The other day, I took my four youngest running, practicing for a track meet.  One of the coaches ran past me and my oldest daughter as we walked the track for exercise. I heard him tell his charges, “Running is 90% mental.”  and we laughed. My daughter internalized it and demanded we try to run a lap and lo, she proved him right. We willed ourselves to run, and so we ran.  I didn’t think I could, and so I couldn’t, until I thought I could, and thus I did.

So will it. Will your education to be first rate.  Will your life into more of the life you’d hope for, will yourself to be something luminous, joyful, and amazing.   

This essay is four-hundred words.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Monday's Puns Make Tuesdays Verse

Okay, so the humor slice for today comes from my son.  I'd posted a meme and he went to town on the topic.


I present for you, his Communist Comedy Manifesto:

Ivan was terrible because he kept stalin on the moves.

His choice of the Fox Trotsky proved too ambitious.

It didn't help when his partner Khruschev lost a shoe.

Karl's routine received poor Marx and a technicality voted Yuri Gangarin Rocket-man off the show.

Some contestants in the competition said Gorbachev cheated, that something in the scores of the judges smelled bad, giving way too many points to the current leaders' routine of "Putin on the Ritz." but Mr. Gorbachev denied these alligations and said he'd like to punch whoever spread such rumors in the face.   Putin responded, people who have glass noses, shouldn't throw punches.

If you didn't like these jokes, well, that's the problem with socialist humor.  Everyone has to get it.

Editor's note: Russia spambots have been loving my inbox lately, this should probably not help the situation.

I'll post a poem later today...

Sunday, May 6, 2018

God's Plan is Better

Hello everyone!  Happy Sunday.  Today, I have a piece over at the National Catholic Register discussing how God's plan is better than anything we've dreamed up.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

SpamBot Saturday

If you missed it the first time around, it's new to you.   On Saturdays, I inflict a re-run on you good people, culled from the 2000+ stories I've either posted or cross referenced here.  I've decided to try and post daily, including the Sunday, Tuesday and Friday humor, with Spambot Saturday, Tuesday's verse, and Thursday, as always, SST.

Here's a vinetage piece from March 17, 2011

Cheetos Never Prosper

Yesterday, I had to take 7 of my children out into the world for a mandatory meeting at my oldest daughter's high school.  The front foyer had vending machines.  One of my older ones suddenly remembered he had homework he hadn't finished and could he go back out to the car to get his books.  I agreed, hoping it would keep him occupied while I attended to the matters at hand.   He came back with his books and then asked if he could finish his studies in the area with said machines.  It was like an open stair basement area with tables. 

Given that my other children were sitting in a circle playing with a wind up chicken and giggling madly or taking turns running up and down the front steps to the entrance, I agreed this would be an infinitely quieter place for him to work but a little red flag went up in my brain.  Five minutes later, when I'd calmed the sillies and settled the baby, I checked on my studious one.  He was standing in front of the vending machines.  I couldn't quite see what he was doing but I had a pretty good guess.  "Don't buy anything." I told him.  I didn't want a mutiny of children demanding their own snacks and they'd already had a snack after school before we started this errand.

"I'm not. I'm just looking."  He answered and went back to his books.

Now normally, I know that just looking probably means he already put in his money and the item on E-14 got stuck and he is now trying to shake said machine into dropping its junkie goodness into the hatch for his enjoyment, but I was distracted.  My almost nine year old daughter had taken the SLEEPING baby out of her car seat and now was sitting next to several shiny sports trophies tastefully displayed out in the open.  She had one hand holding the baby and the other hand hovering around the beautiful satin red mast like area of a gymnastics trophy.  "Don't touch those!" I barked.  She jumped and my heart did a somersault as the gilded gymnast teetered for a few seconds but then nailed her landing and remained stationary.  I put my hand out like my daughter's.  "You weren't going to touch the trophy.  You were just going to rest your hand an inch from the trophy to pick up its trophy vibes?"  I asked while taking the baby from her to put back in the car seat.

It was time to go to the meeting.  I summoned everyone, but my son lagged behind.  I thought it was that he needed to gather his things, but he was walking with his books positioned in an awkward way.  Half way to the classroom, I spied one of my daughters playing with the custodian's three foot wide push broom. Startled, I barked, "Stop playing with that broom." "I'm not playing, I'm sweeping." she explained and continued to play. "Put that back away." I ordered.  "I'm helping the janitor." she explained.  "Did he ask you to help?"  "No."  "Then put it back where you found it."  When we got to the room for the briefing from the coach, I seated everyone in the back.  It was then that I saw it.

On the desk next to my son was a large bag of Cheetos.  "Did you buy that?" I asked.
"No Mom, I traded for it at school."

Now I make this kid's lunch.  I know I fixed him a fruit cup, chicken sandwich and a cheese stick.  No child on planet Earth would trade a large bag of chips for a fruit cup, chicken sandwich or a cheese stick.

For that matter, no child would trade a bag of junk food for a fruit cup, chicken sandwich AND a cheese stick even if being filmed for a healthy eating type commercial.  "Come on Buddy, you bought that.  You went out to the car, got your money and bought that downstairs."

"I didn't.  I don't even like Cheetos really."  His eyes betrayed his own cheesy crunchy lust but he was still stuck in kid logic which is, if I deny it and Mom doesn't prove it, it's still technically reality even if it isn't actually true.  So I fixed my eyes on his.   "So you traded your lunch for a bag of chips you don't like?"

He looked at the floor and hoped I would find it just as compelling.   "I'll share it with the toddlers.  It will keep them calm."  he bargained.  They immediately swarmed to his position.

"Last chance."  I flared and he gave me the tiniest of nods before immediately opening the bag and sharing it with all of his siblings.  "How did you know?" he asked.

"I just do." I explained, leaving him to wonder what else I know that he doesn't think I know.

I've got to think God has a lot of laughs like this when we fall off track and try to explain our reasoning to exonerate ourselves from our own choices.  Me: "I'm sure it's okay even though... I'll just have my hand hovering over this apple, but I'm not going to really taste it.....I was just helping....myself....I don't even like apples!"

God: "You do know I'm All Knowing. Right?"

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Small Success Thursday/Cheer Up Essay

Hey Folks, here's today's link up to Catholicmom.com's Small Success Thursday, and here's an essay I wrote to cheer up a friend: 

Living Always Involves More Than Our Feelings

We live in an age addicted to feelings.   We want to feel smart, cool, in control, safe, secure, and properly aware.   We want to feel satisfied, we’ve exercised, eaten well, drank eight glasses of water and slept for eight hours.  We’re caffeinated. We’re opinionated. We’re connected and we’ve projected our informed, (and otherwise) opinions on the public. We will defend these thoughts we've just arrived at to the death, or at least, to the point of blocking someone. Hence, we’re trending, we’re awake, we’re involved.  We follow and we have friends. We’’ve checked what we should check, and invested where we should. We’ve ignored that which is not important, and we’ve signaled our virtue in all things, and all this alertness to how we feel, leaves little time or energy to think,do or say anything other than in the most precursory fashion. It is little wonder, we're exhausted and puzzled, how is it with all we have at our fingertips, we feel empty, disconnected and lonely?

The problem with feelings, (as we all know but often forget), is they fade.What's more, they don't count for much. Feelings change in an instant, in an hour, in a day. Regardless of how intense wwe feel something, if another something comes along, we will find ourselves having forgotten almost everything else with the arrival of new emotions. We'll puzzle if the prior feelings were real, or if the new ones should be justified, and wonder if we feel too much or just as much or lack intensity. There’s a degree of uncertainty, if we're not properly happy, calm, peaceful, brave, and poised because somehow, not feeling what we should, to the degree we think proper,is proof of personal failings to have all of life rightly ordered.  

What to do? There’s a popular saying, “Character is what we do when no one is watching,” but the reality is character is what we do when we don’t feel like doing anything, when it is only our will that determines our actions.    Rather than allow feelings to dominates your psychological landscape, decide how you will act. Do something which at the end of the day, you can say, “I did this, even if nothing else.” It can be working out, talking to a friend, spending time reading  a book. It can be a hug, a written letter, a phone call. The “it” can be an ice cream sundae, folded laundry or a blog post. Whatever the "it" is, it must be something done/created that is out of a sense of what is true, what is good, and what is beautiful.  Do in defiance of despair, in defiance of loneliness, in defiance of the outrage, depression and cynicism which dominates the internet and actual reality, act to create beauty, friendship, memories which can be recalled, rather than merely shared and “liked.”

The irony of these little acts against the tyranny of feeling are, they’ll give us back control over our feelings, by making our will, the dominant feature through which we understand and interact with the world.   We’ll feel better fnot because we sought to control the feelings, but because we sought not to be controlled by those feelings. Feelings are temporary and ephemeral. Who we are, is revealed by what we do when we don’t feel like it; when we’re not satisfied or gratified.   The discipline of persistence is our ongoing battle against the chaos, suffering and everydayness of the world, and the means by which we most often reveal the very best and sometimes most vulnerable parts of ourselves. So persist in doing what you know to be good, true and beautiful and resist the need to be affirmed, approved, or acknowledged for having even attempted it.  Do whatever it is, not for love or honor or glory, power or approval, but because you know whatever it is you do, must be done if the world is to be a little more true, good and beautiful, and know that tomorrow, you must “Begin again.”
My friend felt better...so I'm chalking up this essay as what I did today, to fight against the chaos of the universe. 

Monday, April 30, 2018

Here's the Whole Collection from the Series on the Rosary

I'm putting together all of the articles on the mysteries of the rosary from this past year, as a gift for John for Confirmation. 
First: Confirmation is Initiation, not Graduation.   Congratualations on getting to celebrate this sacrament, we're proud of you.  However, in addition to celebrating, I should point out, now the real work begins. 

Joyful:
First: The Annuciation
Second: The Visitation
Third: The Incarnation
Fourth: The Presentation at the Temple
Fifth: Finding Jesus in Temple
Sorrowful:
First: The Agony in the Garden
Second: The Scourging at the Pilar
Third: Crowning with Thorns
Fourth: The Carrying of the Cross
Fifth: The Crucifixion
Luminous:
First: The Baptism at the River Jordan*
Second: The Wedding Feast at Cana
Third: The Sermon on the Mount
Fourth: The Transfiguration
Fifth: The Institution of the Holy Eucharist
Glorious:
First: The Resurrection
Second: The Ascension
Third: The Descent of the Holy Spirit
Fourth: The Assumption of Our Lady
Fifth: Coronation of Our Lady, Queen of Heaven

In a twist of irony, the first luminous mystery, the one which gave John his name, is one I've not yet written about in this series.  I kept thinking I'd missed one and I had.  However, the piece I linked for that mystery, discusses how Confirmation perfects baptism, and so I thought it fit rather well.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Disarming all Chairs, Here's Your Quarter Back!

With the advent of the internet, everyone and their little dog too, has at some point channeled their inner Lucy Van Pelt and offered unasked for expert counsel based purely on spleen. 


We have opinions, we've found facts or something like facts to back them up, and we've learned how to use pathos, ethos and logos to push our opinions forward with such authority, everyone should just aquiese to our brilliance. 


We'd all like to think we're inside the city of Gondor...but very often our arguments are the mental equivalent of GROND. 


It doesn't matter if it's sports, health care, foriegn policy about a country we couldn't locate without google maps, law, education, ecology, Hollywood or cuisine, we have an infaliable opinion we will defend to the death and in the imortal words of Lena Lamont,

Singin’ in the Rain (1952) directed by Stanley Donen
Jean Hagen as Lina Lamont and Douglas Fowley as Roscoe Dexter.

Lina: Gee, this wig weighs a ton. What dope’d wear a thing like this?
Rosco: Everybody used to wear them, Lina.
Lina: Well then, everybody was a dope.

I don't know about you, but since everyone's become an expert, everyone's also become much less willing to hear anyone else's expert advice.  It's in our conversations, it's in our television, it's how we view people in positions of power and influence, regardless of political party.  It's making true friendship, true democracy (not merely the rule and will of the ones in power), and true community, hard to build, much less sustain and grow. 

Pope Benedict the XVI spoke of the tyranny of relativism, I would add to that, the dictatorship of invincible self vetted opinion, which refuses any truth not arrived at by one's self.   If truth is only accessible by an individual for an individual, it is not truth, it is preference, and if preference is elevated to the state of truth, actual truth itself, becomes almost impossible to state, much less endure. 

So what are we supposed to do? 



The opposite of what the world would suggest, which is double down and shout louder.   Surrender the armchair.  Surrender the need to be always the one with the last word, the only word worth listening to, and surrender the demand that others approve, share, like, and pay fealty via their agreement.   The world is aching, bleeding, suffering unbearably from everyone's belief they either have all the answers, or have all the answers at their fingertips. When we have the answers, we don't have to actually walk with, suffer with, or listen to someone else's problems.  We can give the right advice at the right time, check off the box and declare ourselves virtuous for our time. 

Everybody, take whatever the issue is, and hold it like a gem, and see if you can see any validity (absent google) to a position other than your own.   What if we tried seeing through each other's eyes where we could?  And went out to get ice cream together when the problems were bigger. 

Most of life is far more nuanced and complicated than we know, even in our own lives.   Most of our life would not bear the levels of scrutiny and criticism we currently see heaped on anyone who speaks in a way someone else finds disagreeable.   Surrender the need to be anything but kind.  Surrender the need to get in the snark.  Surrender the need to divide the world into the Order of the Phoenix and Death Eaters.   Go out and meet people where they are, and discover that the world is bigger than the internet, brighter too and create fellowship. 


How? 

Eat together, walk together, play together, pray together.  Learn together, suffer with, and suffer for, and when possible, create moments of light, humor and joy.  Like this:



See?  Hobbits had it right all along. 




Saturday, April 21, 2018

What We Wish for Them

Most days, I spend much of the time in the classroom trying to convince students they should read the meager 4, 7 or 11 such pages assigned.  Several do not read except under duress.  They know I love words, so they often ask me to read to them.

Sometimes I do.  Sometimes, I do not.

Today, was one of those "not" days.
"Why?" one asked.
"Because you need to train your brain just like you train your muscles, and that won't happen without practice."
"But it's hard!!!!!"
"It's two pages. You're in 10th grade. It shouldn't be."
"Ugh...."

They sort of read the two pages, and asked for help with the questions.

I sat wondering, should I have read aloud, if only to give them two more pages of material to draw from later.  There isn't enough time left in the school year to introduce them to all the stories out there that might chill their spines, thrill their hearts and challenge their brains.

One student lamented that we don't live in a Utopia, and I pined to hand her some of Plato's Republic and Animal Farm, and Hunger Games, Blithesdale's Romance and 1984 and the Giver, to illustrate to her the countless attempts to create a perfect society, and all the human moving parts which make it impossible.  However, she'd chaffed at two pages, and we'd even offered her some of those as choices and she'd refused because they were too long.  I'd love to somehow convince her to discover these books.  There's so much more than they imagine, so much more they could be exploring if only somehow today, something lit the spark. 

That's the real art of teaching, preparing each day in hope that this will be the day.  It will be a luminous moment, and all we who work with them are, is flint, striking at the tinder with steel, we are not the spark, and we are not the fire, only the instruments trying again and again and again and again, to create a flame. Today, someone will discover something more than they imagined, and it will be almost too much to bear.  It will act like a bubble of light almost lifting them through the rest of the day, even if it is filled with hard work outs or hard words. 

The whole goal of teaching is to help the students engage in the art of wonder, and revel in the world of ideas great and small, subtle and overt, beautiful and terrible, joyous and otherwise.  It's also to hope if today wasn't the day, that the kids went away fed, and chewing on some of what you presented, preparing for tomorrow, which who knows, might be the day. 

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Small Success Thursday Take Two...

If you want the official Catholicmom.com Small Success Thursday post, it's up and it's here.
However, this afternoon, I spent time talking with my children, and one of them talked about encouraging a friend they had in Florida.  She counseled, "Don't let yourself get overwhelmed by the fact you aren't doing some big earth shattering thing.  Look at today.  You talked to a friend.  I made a cake and cleaned a room."  She didn't think about it, but she'd created a superior Small Success Thursday.  Celebrating the little things of each day, is a way of keeping one's self from becoming discouraged at all the minutia which can clutter up one's heart any given week.   So I'm thinking about the little victories of the past week and giving thanks, most especially for the example of a Small Success Thursday from my own home.   

It is All Grace, Whether I Know it or Not

We all have prayers we pray, for good things, things we think we want, even know we want, which we don't receive. The job I'd hoped for but didn't get, was going to sting longer than I wanted. My brain worked through the problem. "Maybe it's better." My heart pouted, "At 51, I'm still in a high school and still, despite my best efforts, despite doing everything asked of me, I can't get off the bench of the frigging b-team." Dwelling on it for too long brought tears, so I steeled myself to safely transverse the distance to my car without making a scene. The whole time, my inside screamed. Explaining away my feelings, I told myself and told myself and told myself it's no big deal.
I suppose it's good to know, I'm not as good at lying to myself as I thought. "I wanted that job." I admit. Yes. The reality of the "No," even though I said all the reasonable important correct polite gracious things at the time makes it hard to think, what to do next?
Needing to take my mind off my disappointment and not feeling up to facing people just yet, I took to the gym after work, but even the mindless anonymous nature of the multiple machines with multiple screens didn't feel private enough. Upstairs in the dance room, I put on my favorite music and tried to kickbox until all I'd feel was the soreness of my arms. The room has mirrors everywhere. It's been a while since I saw myself, and as I work out, it's there from every angle, how much I haven't done, and how much of me I have. The music can't quite lift me out of the mood, because there's more of me to lift.
I tell myself, it's not important and it feels like I have to say it about everything. "Progress, not perfection,"and "fake it until you make it" don't seem to hold the charm they once did. They feel like dusty cliches rather than the keys to success. I punch harder but only for a little while. The will to will through things, it's out of practice too.
Tuesdays hold a lot on the schedule, three kids with track at two different fields at two different times, one kid with band, two with CCD and I teach. No one showed for my class, which made sense.  They'd received the sacraments, so the class afterwards felt like an afterthought.  In the hour of waiting, with all that time, I brooded. Not the best way to stay distracted by a long shot. After outlining the lesson on the white board, I grabbed a DVD player and watched a film on the Eucharist, a sharp reminder, mine are little problems, and this while painful, was not horrible, just disappointing.  It's embarrassing to recognize, I'm not good at suffering, not even a little.
Driving home, I kept changing the radio, anything to keep my brain humming along, singing anything, but the DJ's on the air didn't help out. We got home and made boiled hot dogs, brocolli, sliced apples, and chili-cheese onion enchilladas. The clock on the wall needs a new battery, so I belatedly discover, it's 8:30 before I can guarantee more than half have eaten, and 9:30 before everyone is finished.
Those who ran needed showers. "The day just won't end." I thought.  I'd wanted to read to my kids, but one forgot to do her homework, such that every time I tried to do something else, she'd call out for help. By the time she settled, the window for reading to them and my patience, had passed. In the back of my head with each failure, either on the scale or in life, I heard the whisper, "See, you couldn't have." I noted how two daughters took themselves off to bed without me getting to say good night.  Not seeing them feels like a failure. Not wanting to see them because I'd like to not do any more, feels like a bigger one.
"Do the extra." I hear in my heart, and that beaten will wants to crawl into bed. "Do the damn extra." (My concience tends to lightly swear at me when it knows it's right and I'm being stubborn for no good reason).

The smile the non-sleeping older one gave me for just coming up to say, "Good night." is a reminder, love is revealed through being wiling to serve and to suffer for the good of another. Each act of parenting we'd rather not do, is a tiny surrender, a tiny cross, and each smile, each "Thanks Mom," and each little moment we witness of a child's growth in maturity, understanding, kindness and courage, is likewise, a mirror of God's joy at our learning to sublimate ourselves.
The words, "My grace is sufficient," is a promise which I have to will to accept, or not. I know, one offers peace beyond all understanding, and the other, nothing I want. My disappointment still remains, but its effects diminish. I'm not quite at "It's all grace, " but it's getting closer.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Over at the Register

It's been a busy week.  Just today we had a track meet, three birthday parties, one hair cut, music lessons and the ordinary stuff of laundry, grocery shopping and recovering from a week of work.   So I'm vegging watching the Great British Bake Off, and linking you to my piece over at the National Catholic Register.  Today, I'm discussing the question, are we being a feast of Divine Mercy for others? 

Friday, April 13, 2018

Small Success Today


1) for all the prayers of my friends and family, for the graces they receive.  Thank you.
2) for getting out to exercise, and becoming a better steward of time, and all the gifts of our lives.  Thank you.
3) for all the gifts of a community, both at work, online and in the everyday, and at the schools and home.  Thank you.  

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Reflections After the Fact


First, read this piece from the Washington Post. I'll wait.

ow many children have we abandoned?  

In reading Aaron Spark’s piece in the Washington Post, “I Would Have Been a School Shooter,” the unanswered question is, how many have we abandoned?  And how do we create a culture which does not abandon those who smell, those who are overweight, those who are poor, those who struggle in school, those who reveal in little and big ways, how they are so very different?  

Zero tolerance of bullying, like a gun-free zone, is a top down way policy means of addressing what is ultimately, a personal response to others.  What saved Aaron was the actions of two families, in place of the broader community and his own personal family, acting out of kindness, above and beyond the call of duty, even when it seemed hard.   The parents of Mike, might have sensed how dark and dangerous a place Aaron lived in, and felt fearful for their son and family, when asked to house him. The girl Amber’s family, likewise made a sacrificial act that required risk.   

We live in a society that tries to establish a risk free life...with guarantees, with waivers, with padded playgrounds and bike helmets.  However relationships, with real messy human beings, always involves risk. Policy without leadership in the arena of either gun control or anti-bullying, is tokenism at best, and won’t stop the next teen who feels cut off from everything and everyone.  What Aaron’s article reveals, is the necessary response from the community to those who don’t fit the mold, who don’t seem to have their acts together, who are difficult, and in many cases, the most visibly difficult to love.

If we want a healthier and safer community, we must create a community which provides the emotional and physical and intellectual support to all.   It isn’t just gun control. It isn’t just mental health. It isn’t just counseling. It isn’t just policies. It isn’t just any one thing. People spout the phrase, “It takes a village.”  We need to recognize, being we are all part of each other’s village, and to the extent we ignore or dismiss or fail to love one, we’ve failed to love all, and when we as a village fail even one, that one could one day, if pushed to the point of feeling, they are nothing to the village, eliminate the village.    If we want justice for all, we must be oceans of mercy. That's the only salve that erodes the desire for revenge, the desire to lash out at the universe, to reveal to the individual, to each individual, that not only does the universe exist because God cares, but there's a whole universe full of people who care, because each of you, is made in God's image, and a beloved son or daughter and our brothers and sisters. Wrote this a while ago, but never found a place it belonged, so it goes here.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

My Job is Not What You Think it Is

Last year, my youngest went to school. For the first time in twenty-three years, I beheld an empty house; no toddlers, no babies, no babies being expected. I lasted two days before taking a job at a high school, less time than Jesus spent in the tomb
Swearing, pompous pontificating, sloth, whatever they dish out, it's not personal, they'd do that to anyone sitting behind the desk even if the person offered daily meals, unlimited cell phone usage and free taxi service. It's cold comfort to know while my own teens who receive regular food, access to wi-fi and transporation as needed don't curse, I may have set the bar too low.
However it's easy to deal with these other teens, I haven't gained weight or gray hairs for these people. They don't require four o'clock AM vomit vigils, and unlike my own offspring, these folks don't cost me money. So it's much easier to be sympathetic, prepared, educated and understanding, authoritative but nurturing for them than for those who consider all of that gratis. It also helps that I'm only four hours a day, and rotate through several classes, and that I don't pick up after them. It leaves all the energy for the eye rolls.
Still, what I find works best at home, works best at school too. Not allowing any of that stuff to be shown to bother, and giving more attention, not less to whatever it is that matters. At home, when I say, "Clean your room." I get arguments like, "What difference will it make? The room will just get dirty again and no one will see it but me." to which saying, "Because I said so," will result in nothing happening.
At school I say, "Get on with the assignment." and hear, "What difference will it make? I'm already behind on all the work and my grade won't go up." I said, "It will make a difference to you, and it will make a difference in you." and remembered why I am a mom, and why I teach, because she cleaned the room and he did the assignment. I've been told, the job of teaching is to inform, not convince. My thought is the opposite. My role is to cajole, encourage, beg, and remind, whether Mom or teacher, about one thing: What you do affects who you are. Who you are is revealed to the world, by what you do. It's always a miracle when it happens, except I have to pretend in both circumstances, I'm not surprised.  I also do come away from those situations always thinking, "I can't believe that worked!"  
Next year, I hope to return to the classroom full time. I worry about the subdivision of my life even more. The idea of having to plan all my schedule fills me with dread and makes me wonder if I could lay claim to that third day at the very least.

Leaving a comment is a form of free tipping. But this lets me purchase diet coke and chocolate.

If you sneak my work, No Chocolate for You!