Friday, September 20, 2019

This Past Week...

My home town specializes in being demolished. I remember when we flooded back in 1979. My dad loaded up the John Boat with me, my brothers, my mom and our two month old baby sister and pulled the boat down the street. My brother lost his shoe. We stayed at a neighbor's who had a two story house, and watched as the cat fretted at the guppies swimming across the kitchen floor. Eighteen inches of water in the house, we lived on cereal and for the AM radio news reports. It took days to return home, and the recovery included six months of repairs, carpet free concrete floors and the throwing out of most of our childhood toys.
The night we sat down to dinner, when everything that needed repairing or replacing had been fixed, we cooked a steak dinner. Right after grace, the dining room table, which had held up all throughout the flood and the repairs, collapsed, and we ate in the kitchen instead. A month later, we flooded again. Beaumont's been through Hurricane Carla, countless floods, took in refugees from Katrina, only to be chased out by Rita, and again with Harvey and Ike. My mother moved after Harvey, when Beaumont became an island in land.
So today I watch the news, knowing my high school will be digging out, and the dancing school, and the church where I got married. The town paper is showing picture after picture of people riding around in little John Boats, rescuing the elderly, rescuing kittens, fishing people out of cars before they drown. I watch them all, and I know the streets and the names, On Facebook, I've watched friends and neighbors check in, and with all this mess, this ongoing mess, this mess that is becoming a regular part of every decade, I wonder, why this town continues to exist. It's flooded so many times. 

Looking at the news, I see people boating around, rescuing people's pets. It's beautiful and heroic and seemingly minimal, but it so matters.  It's a reminder that all these little things matter, these little acts of kindness are bigger than any of the floods or hurricanes or messes that floods and hurricanes leave behind. 

That's why Beaumont continues on, because this sort of good is what the world needs.   It is a good often only noticed when people decide it would be reasonable to quit and go away, and to let things fade.  Beaumont floods, but it does not fade.  It's too Texas stubborn, too Texas Proud, and Too Texas Strong to let go.  
So I'm proud to be of Beaumont, and to know all the people and places that will still be there, even after all of this, because it proves something of who these people are.  They are the ones who stay.   

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

The Purpose of Story, Beyond the Story

Recently, aliens from a galaxy far far away landed in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and promptly found their spaceship ticketed for parking in multiple spaces, and F-16s scrambled, owing to DC airspace violations.
At the historic first contact, government officials learned that the aliens failed to speak English or come through proper customs. 

Though officials originally struggled with the proper response to this invasion from the very clearly defined borders of our planet, much less nation, they failed to agree and as such, opted to separate the families from their children and confiscate their property.

“We are obligated to ensure nothing illegal or dangerous was being brought across the border.” One official who insisted upon anomynity explained.    


When the adult aliens (we’re assuming the bigger ones), used a universal translator to relay they sought asylum, the United States Government explained, “There are too many just humans here already, we cannot possibly accommodate you.  After all, who knows how many more might be fleeing from your planet.”  
The aliens protested, offering gifts, talents, technology and knowledge. Officials directed the adult aliens to wait on the moon for processing and/or further notice, but that their children, (and here, administrative officials stressed the lack of documentation of relationship), remained in US custody indefinitely until well, until.
 
“Just a matter of prudence.” One unnamed official agreed to be quoted. “After all, who knows what sort of problems exist on that planet. We might be unwittingly dragged into a war by offering sanctuary. These aliens might be criminals.”  When pressed by reporters about whether such treatment violated human rights conventions, “They aren’t human so…they should be sent back. No question.  After all, there are other planets.” 

Aliens explained, they lacked the resources to return, and “Returning would likely result in our deaths.”

When countries offered sanctuary if the children were reunited with their families, the officials declined.  “If they go somewhere else, they might share their technology and gifts with our enemies.”  One journalist pointed out, by taking their children, we’ve created enemies, and no one has more reason to fight, than the parent who has been kept from their child.” 

The official pointed out, "There’s no law requiring reuniting of an alien with other aliens.  Human law doesn’t apply to aliens.  Also, there’s no way to know what the family structure is, so there’s no reason to act a particular way.”  

Another reporter asked, “What assurances can be given for the safety of these alien children?”

“They’ll receive basic needs.” The official pulled out a power-point showing a recently renovated Toy’s-R-Us” building. We’re housing them in here.”   

“You don’t know what their needs are.”  The reporter protested.

“It’s a difficult situation, I hope you understand the US government’s need for security and privacy, particularly when dealing with minors.” He gave a curt bow and left the podium.  

Weeks went by, and as the remarkable story faded from the collective memory of a busy nation, reports trickled out about neglect, overcrowding, insufficient food, sanitation concerns, and even, 218 deaths owing to disease, malnutrition, and lack of sufficient medical attention/knowledge, but all of these were merely incidental, accidents according to government experts.  
Some government officials and members of the press pushed for access to the alien children and received tours.  They came back with stories that shocked people –and still, nothing changed.  

Why?  The government explained, “Those reports distort the reality and reflect the opinions of political malcontents who just want to score points on their political enemies.  The situation is hard, true, but people are doing the best they can, and those who want to use these alien children as a means of acquiring power, they’re just using the kids.  They don’t care.”

None of this changed the treatment of the alien children, but officials remained unmoved.  “We have evidence, the political people arguing against this, also incarcerated aliens when they were in power, so it's not about the aliens or their well-being.”  The alien children remained pawns in the game.

Soothed into sleepy neglect again by the next shiny star of the internet, and the next rude crude and socially uncouth cruel thing the leader said, the nation went back to ignoring the aliens locked away and forgotten. Countless cruelties of neglect and unnecessary separation, even six or more deaths, remained insufficient to rouse more than a momentary outrage from the collective public.  Which leaves all of us who consider ourselves people of good will, Catholics, Christians, disciples of Jesus, “How many people must suffer before we consider what is being done to them to be wrong?” 

Sometimes, Science Fiction makes it easier to look at hard reality.   The problem with looking is, now we have to do something, or we shall be counted amongst those who knew and did nothing, those who said, “Lord, Lord, when did we see you hungry?" 
It’s easier to pretend, we don’t know about these camps.  We don’t know what they’re doing, and even if we did, there’s nothing we can do about it. Despair is easier than action.  Outrage feels like action, but it isn't. Only sacrifice, is actual action, actual love.  

What do we do?  
1) Educate yourself.  Start reading about the crisis, use first and secondary sources to find out what’s happening, to whom, and in our name.  
2) Reach out to your local charity that works with immigrants, through your church or an organization that focuses on immigration and the crisis at the border. 
3) Offer your talents, your two cents, and your passion and words. Persuade hearts and minds. 
4) Sponsor a child or a family through your parish.   Push. Insist and be prepared to work. 
5) Pray for our nation, and for all of these people injured by the actions both of those who made their situation desperate enough to flee, and those of our nation who compound the injury by our policies and procedures which ignore what is morally right and allow legality to trump what is God’s law about how we are to treat the immigrant, the stranger, the sick, the vulnerable, the poor and the needy.

 According to the New York Times, over 900 children were separated from their families at the border this year. There are 17,615 parishes in the US, more than enough to ensure all the children and even, all the families, have safe havens, sanctuaries.   The church needs to be a physical and spiritual sanctuary from what is an unjust means of addressing a problem no party has been willing to face for decades.  Alone, we can do little, but are we even doing the little we can do alone?   The only way this situation will get better, is willing hearts, willing hands, willingness to push outside of what is comfortable and sleepy.   We will have to offer to do more.   It’s that simple.     

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

September 11, 2019

Today almost feels ordinary, and that's a good and bad thing. It means we aren't living in the shadow of fear that pervaded every breath after that horrible day eighteen years ago.  I remember flinching at the mere sound of a plane overhead.

  It also means we don't always stop to recognize that for some people, very vital components of their lives (husbands, wives, children, sweethearts, good friends), died. 

For me, the reminders of this day and that shared moment of witnessing death always comes as  a shock, both by its permanence, and by the irritating reality that the rest of the world just buzzes along, When someone aches, we should stop, we should stand or sit with them. We should recognize, these are souls deeply loved by someone, who we can't meet anymore.  So September 11th makes me think of the before and the after, and all the blessed afters that we got to celebrate that others did not.  Someone still aches.  Someone still stands there at that moment wondering why the world keeps spinning when so much went wrong. 

So  today, pray for peace, in our nation and abroad.  Pray for a soothing of all the wounds caused by time, by loss, and by violence, both by those who invented and carried out or supported the evil acts on September 11th, and by all of us subsequently in our attempts to either seek justice, or avenge, or revenge, or by all of us in ignoring the problems which festered until they became part of both what we accept and allow, and what others must endure. 

We've always been a kind nation, kinder than what makes the news, and a generous people, in addition to our faults of ambition, arrogance and yes, greed.   We are fallen but hopeful, we are a nation of dreamers, who often forget, we weren't always here, either in history, or in blessings.  I've seen people posting how much they miss the feeling of unity found on September the 12th, but to me, that's a call to action, not a lament.   We must be the community we long to become, and that's a day to day challenge of putting in the time, and allowing others to respond.   

To those who embrace one party or another, we can't stay stuck there if we want a better nation, a united country.  We must somehow find friends across the aisle, and things upon which we can mutually work together.   We can't be a city on a hill, if we sluff all problems under the collective carpet of forgetful history.  We can't be a beacon of hope to the world, if we allow ourselves to pretend, some people's suffering matters, and others' suffering does not.  We cannot be a free nation, if we spend all our energies condemning anyone who disagrees with us or always pretending, whatever the problem is, someone else is responsible.  We will not be a United States, to the extent we refuse to see our neighbor as something less than worthy.  We will not be a United States as long as we spend all of our time, viewing all things and all people and all actions through a political lens, which ascribes to all actions, machivellian motives at best.  We cannot be United when every action is judged as to whether we agree with the cynical manipulation of others or not. 

To be a United States, we will have to declare we are all unworthy and of infinite value.  We currently have things backwards, where we just see our own merit with greater weight, and the faults of our neighbors as justifiably condemned for all time.  Now is the time to offer, and to embrace mercy, most especially for those whom we think irredeemable, for that is the very essence of mercy, to offer love to hate, to offer forgiveness to wrongs, to offer peace and pardon to injury.  It does not mean the wrongs or the hates or the injuries didn't happen.  It is not to forget.  It is to forgive.   Not easy, not by a long shot, but oh, so necessary, and so much better than the alternative. 

The longing of many, for something better than what our politics and policies currently advocate, gives me hope.  Perhaps our country's people (if not our government)  which has always tried to pretend it doesn't have a past, can finally grow into something of its always proposed legacy.  Perhaps today, we can somehow look at our own history as a nation without reflexively self loathing or self agrandizing,  If we look our own faults in the face, and likewise work (with progress, though not perfection), to increase our virtues while minimizing the injuries done by those faults, we will come closer to being the Utopia we've never been. That is my hope, for this day, and for every day after.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Hello and I'm Back from the Blog Dead!

Sorry I've been awol from writing for two weeks!  I've been preparing for my newest adventure as an educator.  Yes. I've returned to the classroom as a teacher.  (May God have mercy on my soul).  I've learned three things in the first day. 

Overprep overprep overprep.
Keep track of the time. 
Humor is my best tool. 

Now I just have 89 pages of material to review for tomorrow.  (No really). 

So, I leave you here with my re-awakened blog and the latest piece at the National Catholic Register.  --have a great last few days of summer or first days of school or if you're me, both and. 

When You Get out of the Shallows, There are Deeper Things to Enjoy.

Friday, August 9, 2019

No Adjectives or Adverbs Exercise

I hate this assignment. I love weaving words and phrases with adjectives and adverbs. I know Randall pushes us so we’ll master seasoning our sentences. I know the exercise works and I know he loves words. I trust his intent, to teach me to weave words like a lover not a stalker, and that's the difference.
If I didn't know, Randall's exercise would remind me of the year I worked with a dietician. I knew at a glance, this woman hated food. The dietician thought her counsel, baking or boiling meat, eliminate soda, and change candy for fruit would help. It’s not like I didn’t know the rules of nutrition, I know. I know I don’t follow them. Months passed. My smile thinned, my waistline didn’t. She’d crossed foods, flavors and joy off the menu. No fat, no sweets, no fried. I missed life tasting like life and not cardboard.
The break came. She crossed the line. My husband and I go on a date a week. We share popcorn and a soda. She suggested no salt or butter. I ranted. “Eating popcorn, no butter, no salt…is like eating Styrofoam, or a date without a kiss.” She sniffed and said I’d adjust. I adjusted. I quit. Do I eat fish? Yes. Do I drink a water or soda? It depends. Do I eat chocolate for breakfast? It depends. Do I eat salt and butter on popcorn? Yes, and I think of her. My smile beats hers.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

At the Register

I may have to restart Small Success Thursday just to discipline myself with writing. It isn't that I haven't been writing, it's that I don't think some of the stuff I write these days is ready to be read. 

However, I do have a piece over at the Register, reminding each of us to Call your mother.

Monday, July 29, 2019

A Good Story is Never Just a Story

Followers of this blog know I belong to a writer's forum.  One quote from Steven King we stress is about a writer having to read.  This would seem self evident, but two newer members took offense, and tried to insist that a writer need not read.   As blotchy a reader as I might be (sort of frenzy and then little and back to frenzy again), I know it's an essential component of the writer's life.  Here is why: 
As a child, I devoured fairy tails and fables, anything with fantasy had me neck deep in it, reading them over and over again. Some of those stories over the years became alternative versions of themselves, Disnefied by movies. The little mermaid got the guy and sacrificed virtually nothing in the end, and none of the stories ended with anything actually bad happening except to the villians as established early on in the tale.
The fairy tales became simpler versions of the stories they were, and while they dazzled with humor and music and color, they weren't what they once were, because they no longer told any story, but the plot which inspired them. Cinderella dances with her man and wins him in the end. The Beauty charms the Beast and they marry. Everyone gets a rich spouse and endless blessings in the end, with nary a worry or a care or a loss.
Fairy tales, real ones, they aren't like that at all if you go back to the source. People cut off their toes, they endure death, they lose and they lose and they lose and only after they've endured --seven years without speaking, or journeyed to complete hard quests that lost them loyal companions or treasures they thought they valued, do they come to their conclusions.
The stories tell stories beyond the plot, like Goldielocks and the Three Bears fulfill the wish of every older sibling when the new baby comes home. Everything was perfect until she showed up and ate my food, broke my things and took over my bed. We get rid of her, everything goes back to perfect.
Beauty and the Beast is a story of redeption and forgiveness and growth, but in its modern and most known version, that gift of mercy in the form of a transformative spell which allows for maturity and love to do it's job, is only allotted to the original prince. If you're a commoner and a jerk like Gaston, (as fun as he is as a villian), there's no hope for redemption, no magic that helps broaden the narrow vision of the townspeople the way it did those of the servants at the castle. Redemption for some doesn't resonate for me. I want the cycle to continue, if it's a tale as true as song and old as time.
Stephen King wrote about how he used his own trials as grist for the mill, and thus Misery is a story about his additction to cocaine. Steven Moffat did the same with his episodes of Dr. Who --where the invasion of the cubes that everyone took everywhere and took for granted, but which amassed information about everyone, was an attempt to look critically at our use of cell phones in this society. The weeping angels, were reminders of what pornography does to the brain --it destroys relationships, it stays in the mind and becomes a source of facination, and it becomes something which is hard to escape. All good stories, are much more and about much more than what happened.
What we read and what we live, is by necessity, part of what we pour out onto the page. The more we have to draw upon, the better we can create whole worlds, move hearts, evoke pain, heart ache, joy and great beauty. It is why reading is a mandatory 25 minute part of my writing regimen. It to me, is like stretching, before and after exercise. It cuts back on the possiblity of arrogance, because I can see before me someone else's craft and elegance and intellect and know it's superior, and it fuels my capacity to do more.
We live in a post-literary age, when people skim and skate along the surface of what's available.  For this generation's story tellers, it's all the more vital.  We're going to need to know all the stories that came before us, so we can introduce them to a new generation who is as of yet, only vaguely aware of the stories out there (and usually only via Disney).  Hopefully we can spark in them, the desire to dive deeper into all the words and worlds there are to find.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Over at the Register

Two weeks off from writing slowed my writing chops to a crawl, working my way back.  That being said, one of my favorite priests was named Bishop of Wheeling in West Viginia.  There were some articles which speculated on his capacity to be a good shepherd, and that got my Texan up, so I wrote a piece:  Here's what you should know about...

Thursday, July 18, 2019

New at the Register

I've put away the computer for what amounted to two weeks (since my birthday).  I am stumbling back to it, feeling like a person who was working out every day, who went on an all you can eat cruise and destroyed all my good work in one vacation.  My brain in short, feels out of shape. 

However, back when I was writing 500 words a day, no excuses, I wrote this and it's a reminder to me, to get back to work. 

There are No Pawns in God's plan.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Over at the Register Today

It's been a while in prat because I've beeen on vacation and this is the first time I opened my computer except to pay some bills. ANyway, I'm in Bolivar. I love this place so much.  I'm with my family and that makes my heart ful as well.  As an added bonus, I got published this week. So I'm over at The Register today, discussing what one can do when you encounter someone in need of support for a pregancy. 

Monday, July 1, 2019

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Parent Hold'Em

This summer, I've opted to teach my children poker, not because I want them to take up gambling, but because it's important to remind them that not everything under the sun involves a screen as a form of entertainment.  I'll concede being able to bluff your fifteen year old is it's own form of parental revenge. In addition, reminding all would be adolescents that Mom and Dad still can play and win is a serious plus. 

What do they learn?  Well I don't know, but I hope they learn that Mom and Dad pay attention to patterns.  We also bluff.  We will push things forward even if when we've got nothing, and fold when we know, to do otherwise would crush.  We will always ante up, and we'll try to help you keep track of the possibilities, even if it means you'll have a better chance of winning than us.  We're also quite willing to go all in if need be, and to provide loans so you can stay in the game if things have turned out badly. 

Why?  So after years of flopping in our house, after they're over twenty-one, they'll return, and we'll still have a full house with fuller hearts. 


Friday, June 28, 2019

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

The other night, I journeyed to DC to attend my cousin's concert.  Will Clark Green  takes his band on a big black bus all around the country and if you get a chance to go, it's a fun show.  I recommend listening to his songs ahead of time, so you can sing along with the crowd favorites: Ringling RoadRose Queen, and his most requested song and the grand finale, She Likes the Beatles.  If you don't know the other songs, it doesn't really matter, because he's having such a good time playing with the band, you will too. 

I've never been a big Country Western fan despite my Texas roots, but maybe because it's family, Will's songs pluck my heart harder than others.  I know the land he's singing about, and people who fit the stories. His songs bring me to Beaumont, to the swampy parts of life, of childhood that I don't often stop to recollect because there's so much life today that needs tending. 

My kids don't know that beach the way I knew it, because it isn't the same beach and won't be.  The beach house of my childhood lacked even one television, and no phone until 1984, and that made it a place to discover how not to be bored when you're bored. It meant you visited with cousins and brothers and fished and read and reread comics and played cards even when you'd played cards for hours.  It meant you asked what you could do to help, and took naps. It meant you found yourself staring at a fire until it wasn't, and found somewhere in that process, something warmer than the flames.   

Every place on Port Bolivar now has air condition and wi-fi, so the capacity to relate will have to compete with the temptation to distract. The beach I knew may be gone but Will's songs pull me back to a place I can't get elsewhere and to people I can only meet in prayer or memory this side of the veil. 

What sounds, smells, tastes and places will pierce my own children's hearts with a sense of belonging and longing that pulls them into the past to be with certain experiences and people if only for a moment? I worry it will be when they're trapped inside a mini-van in the back seat while someone else has control of the radio and thermostat while eating fast food. Except there's today, and today is an opportunity to imprint yet again on their hearts, something of the salt, sweet, warm and wonderful of life outside of what all the world offers.  I go back to my list. There's laundry, dishes, paperwork, IXL, summer reading.  So much that needs tending.  I put on the timer and scratch two off the list and add two more.  We're making BBQ and I'm taking them to the pool. 

To me, that's the purpose of music, of summer, to burn into hearts, memories of the more. 



Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Now What do We Do? UPDATED with MORE RESOURCES


By now, most people plugged into the news or the internet, know about the deplorable conditions of the "not concentration summer camps."

After reading about the investigation by the lawyers, the reports here, and here, and here, and the stories began to trend, the government acted. Reports are, many of the children have been removed from the facilities where they were in unsanitary and unsafe conditions, neglected, dirty and in need. They were taken to some other facility, possibly in El Paso...but the world does not know where or for that matter, if the conditions are better or worse. The problem with this situation is, the problems came to light, and now, the problem is gone not because the children are necessarily being better treated, but because we don't know how they are being treated or where...so there's nothing to see because we don't know where to look. Want the source? Government moves over 300 children.

So where did the government move the children maltreated in an overcrowded government facility so that they would be not maltreated by the government? Transparency is only possible where there is access. We can't access what we don't know, and the more these children are moved around and shuffled about, the less we know, and the more opportujnity for abuse and neglect.

If past is prologue, remember when this was shocking? Miami Herald July, 2018. Prison or Summer Camp? What is ignored, gets worse, it's a simple reality of human nature. It's true in relationships, in health, in education, in hobbies and professions, in houses and in habits. It's true of governments too.

Several journalists wrote articles about what the ordinary person (rightly upset) can do.
and here: Where to Donate by Meghan Leonhardt But it does seem, not everything people rally to do, helps so use the resources cited in the above articles. Self intiiated rallies (like I'd thought might be cool), don't work: People want to donate diapers, they're being turned away.

Still, some people are trying to raise donations to address the basic needs.  

From a Facebook post:
*ATTN: PROLIFE ORG LEADERS*
NWF is about to launch another campaign to get supplies to families at the border. Let us know if you’d like to be a part of this one. All you would need to do it share the campaign and we will take care of the rest. We will collect the donations, purchase the supplies, and take them to the families getting out of detainment.
They desperately need our help right now and this should be a team effort. If you’re interested in having your org listed as a sponsor please shoot me a DM!
We will be headed to the border on July 13th.
UPDATE: Y’all are amazing. If your group is in, send me a pic of your logo. I’m gonna start working on the flier now and want to get as many groups listed as possible before we share it on NWF!
Also, we are currently working to get connected to an actual detainment center, but as of right now they’re turning away donations. Hopefully we will get an in, but either way we will also be taking supplies to the respite centers that these families are processed through after they’re released from the detainment centers.
 Reach out to Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa and New Wave Feminist if you want to help. 

Anyone who considers themselves Catholic, must act. Anyone who considers themselves Pro-life, must act.  Anyone who recognizes, we are each of us, our brother’s keeper, must act or we’ll be part of that group saying “Lord, Lord, when did we see you hungry?” 

Excellent write up of the theology that puts God’s law above national law:
https://sojo.net/articles/how-we-treat-immigrants-how-we-treat-god

People rallied, they demanded action, they're protesting, there are articles and calls to action but the children themselves, the pawns in all of this,can't be protected from anything when no one other than the ones who moved them, know where they are. So now we have an invisible crisis we can't assess. Where are they? It feels a bit like the arc of the covenant being studied by "Top men."

It doesn't matter whether you are pro or anti our existing inconsistent hap-hazard immigration policy, anyone who professes the innate dignity of everyone, must want our government to safeguard these children, who cannot advocate for themselves or escape. The level of care must exceed what we would want for our own children if they were ever separated from us in a foriegn land. Anything else is a figleaf excuse. Where are they?
Remember when not yet President Ronald Reagan said the scariest words in the world are, "I'm from the government and I'm here to help?" I do. They aren't funny anymore. Call your representative, and ask them, "Where are the children?" Ask until we know. Find your representative here and your Senators too. Call your local paper. Call your Archdiocese. We need everyone asking, everyone looking, and everyone understanding, these people will be forgotten unless we refuse to allow it.


Oh, I reached out the Archdiocese of El Paso and am waiting to hear back on what they're trying to do. 

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Over at the Register

After a long dry spell, I have one that was inspired by someone else's take on Saint Thomas the Apostle, in a writing room I help moderate.   I happen to love Saint Thomas, in part because he shows that it's okay to question God, to talk about hard questions to God, and to expect answers. 

Anyway, here's my piece: Saint Thomas said to Jesus, "My Lord and my God."

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Good Omens and Bad Parodies....

For those who don't know, Amazon Prime has a series based on the unlikely friendship between a fussy angel and a relaxed demon, carved from the pages of the book Good Omens by Terri Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.  Some folks lacking the capacity to discern the difference between imaginative satire and theology, created a petition asking for the six hour series to be removed from Netflix.  The problem for those poor unfortunate souls is, it's on Amazon, not Netflix.  Now the producer, Neil Gaiman asked that people not inform those petitioners of their error. 

My own take on the matter is, watch if you wish. It's not perfect, and I suspect the book is far funnier, but satire is always difficult to translate. I watched it. I enjoyed it, the same way I might enjoy a regular soda. It was tastey, but I wouldn't want a steady diet.  That being said, my own response to the nonsense is as follows...


Oh the Demon and the Angel can be friends....oh the Demon and the Angel can be friends. 
They both wait for the Anti-Christ 
in a three card Monty Baby Heist 
oh the Demon and the Angel can be friends....

I'd like to say a few words for Demon Crowley. 
He drives a 1926 Black Bentley. 
His Cat Eyes are serene
as he blasts his vintage Queen 
and keeps a secret stash of water holy. 

Oh the Demon and the Angel can be friends
Until the petitioners at Netflix bring about their end
Some who scream blasphemy
and the witchfinder commits adultery
but the Angel and the Demon, they are friends. 



I'd like to say a few words about Aziraphale the angel
issued a flaming sword and a body, 
His book shop went up in flames
Along the river Thames 
but kept Heaven and Hell from being shoddy...


MEMO TO CHILDREN

WE HAVE 68 DAYS OF SUMMER LEFT. 

FINANCES AND FOOD ARE STILL FININTE QUANTITIES, LIKE PATIENCE. 

IN THE INTEREST OF SANITY AND FAMILY PRESERVATION, PLEASE READ AND ACCEPT AS LEGALLY AND MORALLY BINDING, THE FOLLOWING RULES FOR SUMMER LIVING AT HOME:

10) Where are you?  If you have a phone, we pay for the phone. We gave you phone so you could tell us, where you are going, who with, and when you'll be back.  E.T.  Phone home. (If you don't know the reference, google...or be home this weekend because we're showing the movie this Friday).   

9) This is not DENNY'S.   It's not 24-7 what'll it be?   We do not have a menu. We have meals.  They are served at 8 am, 12:30 pm and 6.  There is a snack provided at 3:30.   If you eat outside of those times, you MUST clean up after your feast. 

8) This is not Grubhub either.  Some of you think, it's not a summer day unless you've spent money buying pre-prepared food.   MEMO: we spent money. We bought the food. Some of it is microwavable.  It's still summer.  Enjoy.   You can live a lot longer without constant fries as a side. 

7) Go outside.   The air is warm. The sky is bright.  There is a whole world outside of the screen.  The world has better graphics I promise, and no one is going to jump out of the sky and start wailing on you. (Which is nice because you also don't regenerate). 

6) There is no maid.  Your room is yours to maintain...you may decorate as you wish, but it must be clean...that is, there are no pit-piles. If you've become blind to such things, call a sibling. They'll be happy to reveal what you're missing. 

5) Mom is not an Uber.   "I'm bored." is not a reason for Mom to drive. Dad is not an ATM.
We have a list of to-dos.  They come with cash options and possible car rides. 

4) There are down hours.  They are from 10:30 pm to 7 am on weekdays, and 11:30 pm to 8 am weekends.  You can be up, but don't keep the rest of us from resting.

3) There are up hours.  After 9 am, noise in the house is expected.  No sympathy because you wanted to sleep until noon. 

2) Read.  Your brain needs to jog around the park.   You'll like it afterwards. Trust me.

1) Vegetables and fruits, like sleep and exercise are your friends. If you're hungry --and all indications are, you always are, try them. 

Last reminder: Summer is short. Challenge yourself so you remember something other than I played video games and watched movies come September.   We love you. 


Sunday, June 16, 2019

Summer Reading

For the past three years, I've worked as an English Composition Assistant at a local high school.  |

This past March, I found one of my students in a class, hand writing the lines of Dante's Inferno, first canto from a pdf on the computer.   He explained that poetry was easier than prose.  He suffers from severe reading disabilities, but persists.  When material is presented with video and audio, he does well.  He gives strong thoughtful answers. When tested without these supports, he struggles. 

Last Christmas, my oldest gave me a copy of Dante's Divine Comedy.  I hadn't read it in years despite loving the Epic in all its forms. We got to the last week of school, and I decided to lend him my copy for the summer. "Someone who tries that hard, should have a chance to keep at it." I thought, and lent him the book."Here's your summer reading. Nice light stuff." 

Normally, when I hand out books, there's the "Aw, why do we have to read this?" and sometimes, a few choice words about books in general, or the one in particular.  This time, was different.  His face broke into an epic smile. "Thank you."  You would have thought I'd given him a million bucks, giving him a three inch thick book of 14,233 lines of poetry.  "I will read this."  he said. 

Something in the simplicity of the words told me he would. 

Now the thing about summer reading is, a staff or faculty has to read the text too. 

So guess what I'm doing. 
My reaction was far less promising.   

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Over At the Register

Back in April, I toured the Museum of the Bible. I have to say, it was a lovely experience.   Here's the link to it over at the Register: The History of The Bible Comes to Washington DC.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Over at the Register

Hello. It's been a while, and I'm fighting to get back on the riding horse of 500 words a day no matter what...when I can't do that, I write poetry, but that's stuff I don't publish because much of it is, I think too trite.   It is just a way of chasing my brain into a corner and making it write. 

Here's today's piece over at the Register. 
Beginning the thaw.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

The Plane Flight West*

*My husband took our youngest out to Yellowstone.  He wrote about it.

Boundless energy, never at rest. Does she not realize that she got up at 3:15 a.m.? She does not. Everything is either interesting, or a source of polite impatience. "Flight attendant?"  She asks as each one passes by, hoping to catch their ear to ask for a drink. "They will  come when it is our turn." I reply.  More than once. "How far away are they?" Inspecting the in flight menu and determining biscotti and Minute Maid Apple Juice is what she will get. "All flight attendants seem very nice" as the cart arrives. "What would you like peanut?" asks the solicitous Renee. "Dad, what would you do with a billion thousand dollars?" "That would be about 100 trillion"  I reply. "I would give it to the poor and homeless and sick and keep a quarter of it for our selves. "We probably wouldn't need that much money." "Then one - sixth." "What are you doing dad?" "Keeping a log of our trip."  Her face lights up with joy when she realizes herself in the description. "You are the best dad ever."  Before launching into:  "What does taxiing mean?" as she reviews every feature of the safety manual.  I wouldn't miss this for the world.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Over at the Register Today

After a long dry spell where I started to wonder if I'd lost my writing mojo, there's a piece over at the National Catholic Register about receiving the Eucharist.  Our youngest received three weeks ago for the first time, and it inspired. 

Thank you Anna-Maria Hope.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

The Cure for Outrage, Give two gifts of love and talk in the Morning


If we have a motto these days, it’s “Sing Goddess, of Achilles’ rage, dark and murderous,” for that is the song our culture sings over and over and over again, about politics, about entertainment, about religion, about family, about everything.  Outrage is the flavor du jour, the new orange.  Anything that does not deliberately seek to outrage, outrages someone for its lack of sensitivity and every outraged feeling takes precedent over every feeling expressed that is not outrage. 

Apologies outrage because they aren’t genuine.  Companies outrage because someone once said something untrendy. Sometimes it's intentional, sometimes, it was heart felt, sometimes it's just stupid, but whatever it is, it outrages today, now, and forever.  


Books outrage because they fail to represent everyone, or because the author isn’t part of the representation, but has appropriated some representation for art’s sake.  Songs outrage because of their content or the lives of the singers.  Celebrities must be scourged for sins of the present and the past.  Even people who are outraged at others outrage, outrage others by not having been outraged before it was trending.  There are feeds and whole websites devoted to shaming whoever it is, or telling of the shame witnessed, so that we can feel better than whoever it is that did something worse.



Because the feeling itself is only a feeling, it's impossible to satisfy or eliminate.  Feelings, be they outrage, or sadness or happiness realized in life come from something other than how others act, they come from how we respond to how others act.  Sustaining feelings is impossible.  That's why love is a willed constantcy and not merely a feeling. 

To maintain a proper level of socially acceptable anger, the emotional muscles must be fed constantly.  Eventually, that means everyone else must be scourged.
  There isn’t an end. It isn't that the pain of the past and present don't matter, it's that they cannot be all that matters.  Eliminating all the good, because people wanted to overlook the evil, is just as much a form of wilful blindness.  It's a gnostic vision of reality at best, and damning with a Calvinist view of the select few who "get it," that elite being anyone who recognizes everyone else is going to hell and rightly so even if they profess not to believe in a hell.   

History outrages for what people did, and what people didn’t do.
  The present outrages because everyone lacks sufficient tact, charity and charm to be aware of everyone else’s feelings, and because sometimes, people get fed up with using these devices, since it doesn’t ever seem to garner gratitude.  Present people outrage for failing to be woke enough, and for failing to be woke sooner and for all those who aren't outraging over the right thing at the right time in sufficient degree.

Going to the book store and the book festival, I saw titles of outrage on parade for all the pains of the past and present, for every reason. Indeed, after perusing the stacks, coming upon a booth where the writer posted her coloring book, “The Happy Mouse of Harvest,” somehow felt like it must be ironic.  It wasn’t but I recognized how jaded I’d become, feasting daily on the news of the day, the daily slights and insults gossiped by the DJ’s of celebrities, the newest viral outrage, of politics, of Facebook and in my emails from lobbying groups demanding I write and let everyone know, that I, like everyone else, felt my wounds, reopened those that threatened to heal, and proclaim myself and everyone else a victim or an advocate for a victim, angered by whatever wrong someone perpetuated.  

That’s the problem with a steady diet of anger…it wearies the soul, it erodes the capacity to relate to others, and blunts any joy drawn from beauty, from simple pleasures, from ordinary life.   It is only in recognizing the humanity of another, that we can know something other than "the incalculable pain, of pitched countless souls into Hades’ dark.” --which the motto and inspiration of the age (rage), demands. 

No society can long endure when everything and everyone is considered unbearable, when all suffering and slights, all hurts are beyond the pale, and nothing is forgivable, much less forgettable.  If all sins must their debts be paid with interest in this world without forgiveness, we will succumb to a revenge culture, until we erode into mere revenge.  We will become a nation of islands, unwilling to submit to the demands of friendship, much less love, in our attempt to avoid disappointment, pain, suffering, and sacrifice, and to avoid becoming the focus of others wrath as the mob instinct becomes more the norm.  The center cannot hold.

We cannot numb the pains of life, past or present with things, with food, with fame, with books, with therapy, exercise, alcohol, travel, wealth, work or success.  We can only work toward being the kinder, more beautiful, loving society we aspire to being by being such things ourselves, towards others who are not, or appear to be not so, or are on their own journey seeking the same thing.  We all want a community, not merely a civilization. We all want to belong, to be accepted, to be welcomed, to be celebrated. The spirit of the age is of casting out, of whittling away, the opposite of what our deepest hearts long for. 

Last night, two children were having a teen based disagreement, where looks and simple movements…like changing seats became viewed as tactile slights and hurts.  I took out the Magnificat and showed the day’s Gospel and underlined the lines. “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” They’re not there yet, they’re not even sure they want to move but I’m patient, because I know all love is a gift not merited, but always given.  It cannot be forced even by moms who want everyone to knock it off.  We can only seek to become closer to being worthy of such a gift.   If we want a better family, a better world, a better relationship with anyone, including ourselves, we’d best get to giving, to forgiving, and being for forgiving.  I send both to bed.

I'll figure out something to do with both of them in the morning, something genreous, unexpected and hope it reminds them, this is how we start. 


P.S. It worked. 

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Don't Know if Thomas Merton would Appreciate Nick Fury But...

Discernment isn't easy for anyone, and I'm not different from anyone. 

My mind goes on a thousand glory trips, daydreaming about where I'll go, what I'll do and why.  You'd think by fifty-two I'd know the answers to some of this, but some of this, isn't happening and so it makes one pause and wonder...am I doing what I ought?  Am I doing what should be done, so that when I die, whenever that is, I can at the very least, imitate the words of one of my mentors though she knows it not, (Erma Bombeck) and say, "I used everything you gave me."

I'd want to tweak it a little and say, "I gave away all to be used." but you get the idea.

So the next step would be to consider, if I want to give it all away, what am I hording?

As I sit in my room typing, I could argue, I'm hording time...need the virtue of prudence. --doing what when in the right order.   

As I stare at myself, I could say, I've horded food...need the virtue of discipline, as I eat too much and too often. 

As I feel tired, I could say, I've overdone to try to hide from addressing either the need to not horde time or the need to not overeat.   (Being busy makes one think, one is doing things of worth, one has value). 

Being tired from being busy means one justifies overeating, because one needs energy to keep being overbusy).   It's a stupid vicious cycle that prevents any change.   I could hear Nick Fury telling me this...he used saltier language.

Note to self: Reading Thomas Merton's book No Man is an Island is having an effect on my thought pattern. 

Which leads me back to the question: How do I stop the cycle?  How do I stop hording time and stop hording food? 

In the words of Saint Thomas Aquinas, "Will it"
How? Again, simple.
1) Do less.
2) Eat less.

I can hear the Yeahbuts in my brain and they are legion.  Yeah, but you have ten kids, of course you have too much to do...yeah, but you work from 5:45 am to midnight. You need energy.  There are more. I'm officially turnning down the volumne on them.  I still don't know what I'm doing.

My own reading tells me, you can't take something away without putting something in its place or you will simply rack yourselves over the coals for the lack.  So yes, these need to be paired back, so they become goods, and not excuses from good.  Make not doing, for approval, attention, etc. a sacrifice.  One may think, you are advocating sloth. I'm not. I'm not saying, don't do.  I'm saying I overdo. I overextend and as a result, "am anxious about many things."  and as we all know, I should "choose the better portion." 

So I'm going to start small, with the offering of an eight hour sleep each night for a week, and we'll see where that takes me, and with the offering of no afternoon snack (I'm awful about it) for this week.  "Again, we begin again." as Saint Benedict said. 

Am I still writing? Yes.  I'm still writing. Still submitting.  However the writing world is like that, sometimes it's feast, sometimes it's famine.  Sometimes it's busy, and sometimes it's maddenly silent.  I think the silence was intentional on God's part to get me to reflect and work harder not at doing more, but at recognizing where I need to do less.   I'd have steamrolled on if there were no reason to notice, if everything kept on as it was going. 

I'm still flailing about, but at least I have something of a plan...to sleep and to eat less, and keep inviting myself to think beyond whatever it is I have to do today...and to evaluate at the end of the day, did I do what should be done? Dry spells in writing, like dry spells in life, can bear fruitful thought. 

Still...I hope the dry spell ends soon.


Thursday, May 16, 2019

Please...Pretty please. Pretty pretty please.

I've said prayers. We've brushed teeth. We've read stories. I've turned off every light to pretend that we live in a tomb.  It's dark outside. It's past the hour when you should be up. I'm done. I'm done. I'm done. I'm done. I'm done. 

I am done.  There are no reserves.  My last nerve packed up an hour ago. I'm tired. I'm no longer responsible for my actions, but you should know my motivations are sincere.  I want to stop.   
Twenty-four seven is not viable. 
Even God rested on Sunday. 

So stop already.  I mean really.  I mean, stop or I unplug the wi-fi and trip the breakers. My phone is still charged so I'll wake us up in time. 

Stop or I'll make you fold socks.
Stop or I'll decide it's time for me to control the television.
Stop or I'll put on music and dance to it.
Stop or I'll decide I really should educate my children more and make you listen to me.
Go to bed.   

Your bed is made. The lights are out.  I charge around the house, scaring them with the Mom's gone over the deep end scary voice, turning off the lights and telling them, the day is over, and I want silence.  Lo and behold, I get it. The house is dark. It's quiet. Everyone is in their room. 

I lie down.  I turn off the lights and drink my water.  I sigh with relief and victory!

Now...I can't sleep.    

Mysteries of the Universe Unexplained...


1) Why do we have a two gallon jug Hawaiian Fruit Punch in the house the week my daughter is wearing her first communion dress?
2) Why am I convinced said Hawaiian Fruit punch will fly from inside the bottle out on a seek and destroy mission?
3) Why am I'm so paranoid, I consider a 25 foot parameter to be insufficient?
4) Why does the printer require more security clearance from my computer than from anyone else's electronic device?  (Mine is the one connected to it).
5) Why does my car refuse to recognize my cell phone? (It links to anyone else's first). It connected to my mom's when she visited BEFORE mine. (I feel dismissed).  
6) Why does my car's voice recognition say our last name correctly for all my sons, and for all of my daughters, but not for my husband?  I do not understand why it must mispronounce his name. 

7) Why do I expect any answers to any of these questions?
8) Why do my kids enforce the rules of the house harder than I do? (Except when I try to enforce them), at which point, they become defense lawyers, making the case to me as if I'm the judge/jury.
9) Why if I issue a ruling the defense doesn't like, does everyone ignore my ruling and explain, "You're not the judge."
10) Why I feel a need to share my puzzlements with the internet universe?

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Mother's Day 2019

Today is Mother's day and I know, lots of people get worked up over the Sunday being a made up holiday, but without being self serving, I'd say, no.  It's a good tradition to honor our parents.  God put it out there for us first, back in the ten commandments, but that the US has set aside a day for Moms and a day for Dads is not evil.  It's only if that's the only day we recognize how those who came before us and loved us even when we weren't so loveable (not that I was ever not loveable), that we run into trouble. Mother's day ought to be celebrated with flowers and chocolate and foot rubs and indulgent silly things like cards, hugs, breakfast and lazy time. 

My daughter brougth me breakfast at 5:45 am.  Maybe she thinks since I get up most mornings before everyone else, I like that time of day. I don't know.   Her heart bubbled with joy at the prospect of giving me breakfast in bed (Special K with milk and raspberries), and and card. It was a joyful moment.  After I ate and we hugged, I went back to sleep and life proceeded at its normal pace, with someone needing to write things into the calendar, another asking if they could cook bacon, and people scrambling to set up when they would go to mass. (We go in two shifts usually). 

Life returned to the normal, which is what in a sense, Moms and Dads always want...normal, easy, smooth sailing, stress free, happy, with moments of epicness, preferably without the hard scramble that always seems to accompany it.  They brought me flowers and paired off to play video games.  One bought me a book of sheet music. 

We noticed the big frog in the pond and I visited with my one child away from home on the phone about where he'd sleep when he returns.  My third likewise needed to conference about car use and what she needs on the menu at home. We planned the week and I added spinach, carrots, apples, almond milk and pistacchios to the list.  Ordinary time is what Moms do best.   It's in the little things that motherhood is made, like beds and meals and errands.  I thought about my mom.  She's one of two people I call almost daily.  As I listen to my own children give me their slice of life of their day. I realize, my mom doesn't tire of me doing the same thing to her...and I'm very grateful. So far, she hasn't tired of my fifty-two years of telling her what I did, when I did it, and what I thought about what I did when I did it yet.  Your sanctification owed to holy patience is assured.  So thanks Mom!  Thanks for always being there, even if you're a 21 hour drive away. 

I'd finished writing that sentence when I felt the trained eyes of a camera on me. 
My eight year old daughter is back, and she's doing a documentary on me. 

"This is the mighty mom.  She doesn't like to have her territory messy, so we should clean it up. Her normal diet consists of chocolate and diet coke.  She takes a nap in the afternoon so she can be awake both during the day and night.  She also spends a lot of time on a device known as a computer.  This concludes our first segment on this gentle creature."   She pulled back and bade me smile.  If I figure out how to upload the video from her DS, I'll post it here. In the meantime, Happy Mother's Day!

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Only the Good Die Young, the Older Have to Survive Target

As a Catholic, I believe in Purgatory.  As an American, I've found it in the local retail store known as Target. 

In Purgatory, you spend that portion of eternity, coming to know the God who is love, basking in His infinite mercy, and recognizing your weaknesses, and how through your poor sinful decisions, you wounded the Body of Christ that is the Church, both literally and spiritually speaking.  

In Target, you spend that portion of your finite existence coming to terms with the infinite amount of goods available, and in your absolute weakness, succumbing to the purchase of at least fifteen items ore more that weren't on your mental list, but which will cloud your judgment such that you walk out having spent a grocery's worth of budget without necessarily acquiring said groceries for the subsequent week. (Some of them sure, but not all). 

In Purgatory, you join fellow penitents, knowing you will one day get to Home, to Heaven. 

In Target, the lines are such that you may get to Purgatory, before you get to the check out.  

In Purgatory, God will reveal to you all of your life, all the graces He offered, both those you availed yourself of, and those you did not.  You will weep at your own foolishness in not partaking.

In Target, there is no aisle you will not avail yourself of, and you will weep when the supersized cart you took, is insufficient to the load of items you've acquired. 

Purgatory ends, Heaven awaits. 

There's always another trip to Target....and if not Target, Home Depot.*

Inspired by the Facebook discussion in which I openly boasted: I left the Target without buying anything.  I suspect I disturbed the forces of the Universe.    

A friend (and fellow Texan and mom of many posted in response): 

I'm adopting her as a twin sister.   

Saturday, April 27, 2019

NON SPOILERS FOR ENDGAME

I've seen the movie (twice).  I promise, there are no spoilers in this humor... Enjoy...and go see the movie so I can talk about it.

10) Thanos decides maybe he acted in haste, resnappies and opens up a soup shop in Manhattan.  He caters Pepper Potts and Tony Stark's wedding.  He does however, have a severe penalty for those who diss his cuisine.  No soup for you takes on a whole new meaning.

9) The Credible Hulk becomes an anger management therapist who hosts meetings every Saturday.
 Nick Fury, Goose the Cat and Hawkeye attend consistently. 

8) Ant Man's friends, the X-Cons Security Team run a used car lot, Pym up-sizing hot wheels to maintain stock. 

7) The son of Odin releases a series of exercise videos, with the motto, "Work until you're Thor."

6) Wanda uses her probabilities magic to clean up in Vegas, helps refinance the upgrading of Avengers HQ with the new title, The Scarlet CEO.

5) New Asgard opens up a microbrewery which gains viral popularity with those who lost to Thor during his Fortnite sabbatical; Korg and Miek proprietors.

4) Upon being discovered on Earth, Rocket and Groot become the unofficial spokescreatures for PETA and the Arbor Foundation respectively, until the NRA makes Rocket a sweeter deal.

3) Gamora must fend of Chris Pine and William Shatner's advances...trials of Green Space Babes in 2019. 

2) The True Rules of Time Travel becomes a run-away best seller, written by Scott Lang and James Rhodes.  (Antman and War Machine).  They give Ted Talks on the circuit at all the universities.

1) Captain America advises Chris Evans via a time sensitive delivered letter, when they offer you the role in the Fantastic Four of the Human Torch, "Say no."

Friday, April 26, 2019

Over at the Register! Saw Endgame! Still Writing I Promise...

Hello, and welcome back to my blog. 

I promise I'm still writing, it's just writing sometimes goes towards other things, like work, or editing, or reading, all of which I've done this week.   Still, you deserve something for your trouble of stopping by in this little corner of the internet, so here's my latest over at the Register:

Online, a friend on Facebook asked the question, “What does it mean to love others unconditionally?” How could one love someone who held views antithetical to one’s own? How could one respond lovingly to someone who was cruel, wrong, vicious and evil?

And, I start to grapple with the answer.   Last night I saw Endgame and I enjoyed it.  I'd tell you more, but...


It's a good finish roller coaster ride with fireworks before you go home from the Marvel Universe park.   Don't buy the big refill soda, you won't want to have to leave in the middle of the film, not because you drank it, and certainly not to stand in line for a refill. 

Have a great weekend, I'll write some more for this space today. 

Friday, April 19, 2019

Good Friday

This week, as everyone knows, we suffered the loss of the physical beauty of the Cathedral of Notre Dame. I've been there and admittedly, I was a dumb twenty-two year old.  I'm not saying all twenty-two year olds are dumb, but I was.  While at the Cathedral, my big memory was of climbing above and posing as a Gargoyle on one of the two turrets people can see.   I'd love to say I've matured since then, but every once in a while, I'm reminded, I did that, and I still sometimes think that way. 

I forget the sacred when I'm consumed by my own thoughts or my own entertainments.  It's easy for me.  I also forget the sacred when I'm hurt.  I forget the sacred when I'm overwhelmed. It's easy for me to not be present, to be busy and anxious with many things.   I was at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, and distracted.  I find I'm more and more distracted the older I get, and thus not present as I need to be. 

It's why I love Holy Week. I need the saturation of the stations of the cross, the washing of the feet, the reading of the passion, the empty open tabernacle and the covered crucifix.  I need all the reminders, over and over again, to help me stop being pulled away from God, to help me focus.  It's like fasting for the mind, it forces the mind to pay attention to what is not present, making one long for what is missing.   It's why I need whenever I can get it, daily adoration. (I don't always, like I said, I'm easily distracted).  If there's one thing this modern world is starved for, it's stillness and quiet contemplation of God. 

By all means, go to confession, fast, pray with your family, listen to podcasts or watch a movie giving the story of Christ's last few days or focus on Passover itself, so you recognize how much of the mass comes from what came before.   Cultivate some seriously quiet time with God, force your mind to fast from what is here and now on what is ever present and eternal.  Even if this Lent stunk --you forgot to fast, you forgot what you gave up or didn't succeed in somehow making an sacrificial offering, begin again, and make a good Good Friday. 

Monday, April 1, 2019

Celebrating a Birthday Should Not Require Painful Labor after the initial one...

Birthday paloozah is doing a number on me.  Every two weeks, we need a cake and presents and to possibly plan a party.  My brain is fried, or would be if it weren't already overstuffed with cake.  Two down...three to go...Easter will be in there somewhere. It's a good thing we're fasting in the meantime.

Because I've done birthdays for children of all ages for the past two and a half decades, I've learned a few things along the way.  As always, advice is maybe not even worth what you pay, and since blogging is free, that frees me up to make errors and pass them off as hard earned wisdom. 

However, my rules of birthdays might help to make celebrating of your children's birth both festive and less stressful/taxing on you. 

10 Tips for Making a Happy Birthday for All 

First off, I believe in partying.  I enjoy birthdays.  I like cake. I like celebrating.  I Love the Birthday Book by Dr. Seus, and think all birthdays should have no work or school, and cake should be served.  That being said, I also know, enthusiasm and inexperience sometimes take over and complicate what should be fun and simple...so here's to making your life less difficult while still having serious fun.

10) Is the child not yet in pre-school or any school?  If not, enjoy a family birthday. Take pictures, make a fancy cake. Invite over grandparents, godparents and siblings...sing and eat.  Life is good.  Note...it's an easy party. The kid likes boxes even more than the toys.

9) Kid's in pre-school.  Again, don't complicate matters.  Children this age enjoy McDonald's and think going there is a grand event, as is the park, the community pool, and the quarter arcade at the mall.  Pick the three best friends whose moms you don't mind having around, and invite for a birthday at a place they can seriously play.   If it's a park...bring the picnic. Cupcakes, songs, paper hats and blowers, bubbles and stickers and you're good. 

8) The kid is in kindergarten.  Now we get to the parties that get talked about...so here's the home party time.   Pin the tail on the --it doesn't have to be a donkey. It can be a dragon or a unicorn or whatever animal the kid is into (as long as it has a tail long enough to make it work. Although, one time I drew a chameleon for a birthday party, and we pinned the fly on the tongue...so be creative).   So to the parent of the kid who likes bears...do pin the nose on the bear...and the one who likes sheep...I don't know what you do there.  Introduce the kid to other animals.   To the one who likes pigs or spiders, Charlotte's web and pinning the spider on the web makes a handy game, and looks literary and intellectual too. 

7) The rule I learned is one kid per year...but these days, people feel very guilty if they don't invite everyone.  However, I think the primary goal of any party, is to celebrate the kid and not break the wallet or spirit of the parents.  So I hold to the rule.  It works and so far, none of my children have written manifestos about my evil parenting.  But back to the games. Musical chairs is another favorite...again it's only set up, no cost.  The third game we almost always play is freeze dance.  Everyone wiggles.  Most of the time, only adults get called out.  Memo to parents. You're always it, and you always get caught. It means everyone wins and it makes life easy. Simon says and Redlight Green Light if you're in need of extra time while someone is finishing up frosting the cake. 

6) The kid is in 1st thru 3rd grade.  If you've got a late spring or early fall baby, you've got good weather.  If you've got a summer kid, no one is around.  If you've got a winter kid, the party always has to be some place.  Mental note: Mix it up.   The spring and fall kiddos envy the bowling parties and the mini-golf and the pizza night.  The winter kid longs for a sports oriented event or some place they can swim or run...this is the challenge of little human beings. They haven't come to accept they can't have something unreasonable simply because they want it.   Come to think of it, neither have I. 

5) 4th-6th graders...if there's a good movie, take it.  If there's not a good movie, talk to your pizza guy and see if they'll let him and five of his buds make pizzas and pour root beer into mugs.   Call the indoor pool facility and prepare to suit up.   I've learned that a bowling party, however cliche, is always easy and always fun.  You just learn to set yourself up against everyone else and trash talk until they skunk you (which they will).   Party --one gender, all of them.  It's still cake, juice boxes and a bag or two of chips for the food of the ordinary party. 

4) 5th --9th grade...  We'll play tag football, capture the flag, have magic tournaments, play risk, we'll go to an arcade and use all the quarters...the trick is to play with them, and somehow, that helps them to enjoy playing.  I serve a piecaken, which is a mutant dessert of all desserts, pie inside of a cake, frosted, and served with ice cream. It dares you to eat it if you're not 13...but it's good, it's insane and adolescent parties need that touch of madness they didn't think of, to be successful. 

3) You'll notice, there are no sleep overs.  There's a reason. I don't believe in sleep overs if I can avoid them. No one sleeps and somehow, no matter how much you supervise, someone gets their feelings hurt.  Kids need breaks and sleepovers allow for no graceful exits.  As such, I do pizza poker parties or nail salons spa parties, I'll give you three hours of fun with rootbeer floats that rival Snoopy's in the French taverns on the funny papers, but go home.  Adolescents and adults, everyone does better when parties...end.

2) A word about gift bags.  They've become quite the costly endeavor in recent years --at least where I live.  My formula for a gift bag is simple. Brown paper bag containing pencil, note pad, chocolate bar, ring pop, and a glow stick.  It should be folded over and stapled shut with "Thank you for coming to my party!" --name written in marker by your child on it.   Do not put personal names. You will spend the end of the party tracking people down and going crazy.

1) Always have a gift on the day for the birthday kid.  Even if it's a little something.  Even if you already threw the party.   Even if you already had the family party.  Always have something. 

I'll let you know what I learn in the next twenty-six years of celebrating birthdays...in the meantime, Happy Birthday Faith! It's hard to believe today, you're seventeen. 

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