Thursday, May 31, 2018

Small Success Thursday

Small Success Thursday is here, posted on Thursday! Congratulations to me, I actually made it today....

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

Thursday, May 10, 2018

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. 

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!