Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Merry Christmas

This past weekend, we dressed up in costume, all eleven of us who were home, and journeyed to the movie theatre for the premier of the latest and possibly last installment of Starwars, The Rise of Skywalker.   Our sheer size of a group, ranging in age from eight to fifty-three, plus the assortment of characters, (both light and dark, old and new, comic and film canon), drew lots of smiles and stares and chuckles.   Occasionally, some of us who were less encumbered by our outfits, would forget, yes, we are in costume, and that made the ordinary acts of say, purchasing popcorn or escorting a child to the bathroom (it’s a long movie), all the more fun.  My children loved waving at the motorists as we drove home, and some asked if we could go to IHop or some place just because it would be fun. (We declined, but understood the desire).   The movie, the whole of it, was fun in part because the outfits, the outlandishness of it all, invited other people to also enjoy the experience more. 
Preparing for Christmas is like that as well.

A neighbor and friend of mine starts to trim the outside of her home the moment Thanksgiving ends.  Each weekend, new lights, new colors, new displays until we get to the fourth week of Advent, when her yard is a riot of joy, of whimsy and light.  One cannot drive by without a smile.   Even better, her home pushed some of us who get to the outside if it’s not too cold or wet or when we get to it, to “up our game,” and thus the whole block is awash with light, with reminders of the joy we’re about to both commemorate and celebrate and take with us for the rest of the year.  Her enthusiasm spread joy throughout the neighborhood, which in turn, made it multiply and grow outward, until the whole neighborhood outwardly shown with light, with enthusiasm, with something of joy.

We ought to know by now, joy is contagious. 
Beauty and enthusiasm are the hallmarks of joy, and they must be shared, that is part of the experience of joy.   Mary knew the joy of the incarnation, and shared God with the world through her yes, through her willingness to cooperate with God’s will, that we might know the Father’s love through the Son.   Joseph knew this joy too, and thus protected Mary and Jesus from those in the world who sought to destroy it.  They could not have, but still, joy must be preserved even as it must be shared.   We cannot manufacture it as a feeling, we can only hold it as we would a soap bubble, and yet it is more real than anything we could grasp.  
It is more real than we can bear, and so we receive the cause of all our joy, the source veiled in the Eucharist.  God knows our littleness cannot long endure, we do not yet know how to live in joy, to swim in mercy, to breathe in only, and breathe out only, the Holy Spirit to others.  Advent is an attempt to prepare for that ultimate joy, such that we can experience it more.   Christmas is that more-ness, and we’re to bring it to those around us in all of our everyday.  
The great beauty of this reality, is we can start today, to infuse all of our actions with that joy, with that anticipation of the greater joy, and it requires as always, only our assent, only our fiat to God.   Let us today, make each day going forward, a growing imitation of Mary’s annunciation. 

Come, let us bring the source of all Joy to the World to the World.   Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Friday's Posting

I found out late I had a piece over at the Register, but there was so much going on on Friday, I didn't get to my computer until today.  If you saw likes, they came through my phone and I don't post things from my phone because I don't want to spend that much time text typing. 

Here's the link to the piece over at the Register: To Stand Out is to Stand Up for Christ.   Thanks for reading!

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Dear Mom, with love, P.S. What's for Snack?

Dear Mom,
It has come to our attention that you are seeking to engage in this unproductive activity known as sleep. Given the nature of our needs and business (24-7), we find this disruption in your on call response time to our wishes to be an unacceptable arrangement. Should you persist in rendering yourself voluntarily unconcious for 1-8 hours on a daily basis, it could jeapordize your position here.
Some helpful suggestions from upper management which arranged an emergency meeting to discuss your recent insistence on time off in between the hours of midnight and five a.m.  The proposed solutions are enclosed within for your consideration and adoption. 

1) caffiene in large quantities on a continual basis
2) electronic implants that ring when your eyes enter into the REM cycle, (A cursory google search indicated such things are possible and probably only slightly painful). 
3) a talk radio stationed at your side at all times to give you 24-7 streaming non stop noise. 
Additional suggestions considered were, the creation of a less comfortable bed, or an elimination of the bed in its entirety. However, others on the managment of parental units team vetoed this as the afformentioned bed has proven useful as a place to fold laundry, have a snack, and have a heart to heart about what needs to be done before tomorrow.
It is a useful conference spot. So it stays.
Please however, refrain from abusing this privledge by sleeping. Such luxuries are reserved for those you serve.. Speaking of which, the powers that be wish it to be known that they ought not to be summoned from their restorative cycles of meditation, reflection and destressing before noon during non school days, not for food, not for laundry, not for errands, maybe for depends upon what is being served.
Anyway, as an added bonus, the board all chipped in to get you a yearly suppy of Red Bull. We’re sympathetic to the need for an assist and happy to help in this small way. You’re welcome, but no more sleeping on the job.
Sincerely, with love,
The Children.
P.S. What's for snack?

Monday, December 16, 2019

Snow Day

As such, I can return to blogging instead of doing laundry, grading, bills, Christmas shopping --well, I've done a little of that, and maybe in a little while, I'll stop procrastinating. 

Thus far I've drunk hot chocolate with marshmallows.

Watched cartoons with my kids.

Cleaned out my inbox.

Eaten Christmas cookies.

Made a list of the things I should have been doing. 

Gone to the bank for a check register and to two different CVS for the prescription.

On any other day, this would be a reasonably efficient day. 

The problem with a snow day is,I don't have the excuse of not having time for not having gotten stuff done. 

Saturday, December 7, 2019

SpamBot Saturday Growing Our Christmas

Because no one reads back posts, I wait for the Spambots to do it for me.   Here's a throwback to my first year of blogging for your seasonal enjoyment.  That's right. Think of this as the Raskin Bass version of my blog.   Pass the eggnog. 

It started with what I thought was a rather flippant post on Facebook.  

I know liturgically, we have four weeks of Advent, but I think next year, to help myself get a handle on Christmas, I'm going to pretend it's like Lent and circle November 15, so I think...40 days to prepare and make ready. At least then, maybe I won't get to two weeks from Christmas and think, I'm still so very not not not ready. Or at the very least, I'll have longer to be ...not ready.

But it struck a nerve.  

This should be a time of blessed waiting, but very often, it is a time of frantic anxiety, with too many projects, too much work, too much needing to be done, not done, too many things to buy that cost too much.  It is easy to have the peace and joy of anticipating Christmas drowned by the tinsel and clang of "Martha Stewarting" or Saint Marthaing our preparations.   

Knowing I'm not the only one who suffers from this I haven't done enough, there's so much to do I can't start, I'm writing today to invite whoever has not really begun to look up from the sheep and look at the star to stop.  Put on some good Christmas music and put out one decoration today. Then take way one bag of stuff or things to give to charity or get rid off.  You will feel more of Christmas.

Then, tomorrow, do it again.  Bit by bit, day by day, Christmas will draw nearer, to your heart as well as the actual event.  

What will people remember of Christmas, what you gave willingly. These are the gifts that touch the heart.  So prepare, but let yourself recognize the why of this preparation, and anticipate how what you do today, will cultivate Joy to be given full flower come Christmas day.  

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Small Success Thursday

Sometimes the success is in the surviving.  This was a rough week...lots going on like papers and assessments and basketball practices and volunteering and evening meetings and afternoon projects such that I'm grateful to make it to Thursday. It feels like longer since last week, we had most of it off. 

Restart.  Refresh.  Repeat. That's what I tell myself when we have  rough week.  Begin again.

So this past week we sent out Christmas cards.  We put up the tree.  We mailed some presents.  We organized for the week.  We did basketball twice, and all the other meetings.  Now...I need a nap.  No really.  I want to sleep like hibernate for a month.  I'll be rested then, ready to go, no problem. 

In the meantime, I hope this week filled you with small successes over the trials of each day. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Tips for Teachers

The biggest plague of modern education is the cell phone.  As teachers, we spend much time telling students in so many words, stop looking at the screen and think.   I've tried cell phone jails, happy bribes --i.e. if you go without the screen, you get a treat at the end of class, and phoning home.  I've promised to call security.  I've begged. I've stood in front of someone and stared. 

My favorite tactic is to photobomb or to talk to whosoever dares to call during my class. "Hey.  This is Mrs. Antonetti.  Since you're so interested in my class, I presume you've followed along with the assignments. Tell me, what do you think will happen next in the book and why?"  It ususally chases people off their phones for days. 

I've also sung, which is risky because you'll get repeating choruses of whatever you sang and if you sang poorly...well, you can guess what happens. 

I've also explained to texting teens, to stop or I will do the next text and I will text, "Please do not text from 7:45 AM to 2:30 PM so as to ensure that students are not interrupted from their work."  I also use remind to text to students to get off their phones but the irony of using technology that needs  a phone to get them off their phones often interfers with compliance.

When the kids say it's their mom, I explain I'll call their home and let their mom know how things are going, or offer to talk myself and offer to have a conference if there's a serious issue that needs to be addressed.   The phones go into the backpacks with great speed.

As I told my son today, most problems can be solved with humor and humilty.  The number of times I've needed to tell people to put away their phone is trickling down.  I continue my strategy tomorrow.  I'm thinking of doing a spam text that plays Xanadu tomorrow on the stragglers or Grandma got Run Over by a Reindeer. 

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Sunday The First Sunday of Advent

In an effort to spend less time on my computer and more time with my family, I will be posting a link to a prior piece I've written on Advent on Sundays.  Here's the first from Catholic Digest, December 10th, 2013.   If you haven't read it, it's new to you. 

Emptying the Stable.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Weekly Book Review

I started this project last week because I want to become more diligent in my reading habit, which tends to center around helping whatever child is reading something I like or plunging through whatever we've assigned to the students at the high school where I teach.   Recognizing I won't grow intellectually feasting on what can be mental fast food, I'm making myself take on more solid mental food.   As soon as I hit on this project, two books presented themselves to me.  Ergo, I reviewed Dawn Eden Goldstein's book last week, and this week, I'm taking on Kevin Well's, The Priest We Need to Save the Church.

The book holds a personal connection for three reasons: 1) the author is the brother of my current pastor, 2) the priest he describes in the first part of the book, I remember the story of his murder in Germantown and 3) a favorite priest of mine, gave me the book. 

Kevin weaves his memory with reflections in a compelling way. His faith and his encounter with the Divine, and his understanding of what priests must arm themselves to be Christ's disciples and the church's servants here on Earth shines through.  I particularly loved the sections discussing the nature of prayer and what it means to priests.  Gems like a little note from his uncle (the deceased priest) to a woman discussing the dryness of prayer, "The fruit of prayer is virtue --becoming more like Christ, not feeling good."  and when he talks about how our Blessed Mother expects heroism are lovely moments to hold in the heart.  It took me a while to read because such moments made me pause and reflect on how often I run through prayer, or seek solace in the sacraments and interpret feeling as grace.

This is not a book to devour, but to allow yourself to read through, as if you were sitting with a favorite uncle or teacher, listening to the spiritual memoir not merely of one man, but of multiple individuals living out the faith, being called to a deeper vocation than they knew.  Even more startling is the underlying theme that such is the call for each of us, priest and laity alike, and that we can never cease going deeper and deeper into Christ's service.

He admonishes priests who somehow apologize for their vocation or their relationship with Christ, or who neglect the need to stay close to Mary, and under the gaze of the Eucharist.  He stresses over and over again, how the world is starving for authentic witness, for prayerful priests who labor to grow ever deeper in humility and holiness, and let their connection to Christ be the means by which they connect with all others.

Well's book also remains a love letter to his uncle in addition to a guide book for priests on how to imitate the saints who came before them, who spent hours in adoration, who poured over scripture, who loved the Eucharist, and who poured out their lives in the sacraments and service to their sheep.  It's a welcome reminder of the reality we hope for in all our priests, in contrast to the unfortunate and sad reality we've read about in the news as of late.

Saints and sacraments and vocations, these are the means by which God reveals to us how we are to relate to the world, to Him, and we need reminders most especially when life seems at its darkest.  We need good married couples that are luminous in their love for each other and their children, we need priests who devote themselves to their flock out of love of Christ, and we need single people striving to go through the narrow gate, to reveal all the ways in which one can love the Lord and be in but not of this world.   Kevin Well's book is a good reflection of this better reality, of the more real reality we're called to, than the one we see lived out day to day. 

Friday, November 29, 2019

Sitting staring at a blank blank blank page

I will tell you, some days the words drip easily from the fingers and other days, it's like pulling teeth.  Today, I root canaled the words. 

The reality of writing is to write.  You can call yourself a writer, but unless you write, you're a pretender.   So I'm putting these stupid words here, trying to coax some thought out of my brain other than the thoughts I've had before.  All these blogs, from 2006 to now, and I look at older stuff and wonder, where did my imagination go?  Where did my loopy sense of humor that let me lace what happened today with something else and make it sing? 

Am I overtired or bored or is nothing happening?  Yes. No. No.  Lots happens, but it's teenage stuff and as such, more complicated and less something to expose.  Teens ought to have the safety and security of being able to be adolescents in all its messiness without the exposure of the internet.  So the stories of the day go unsung except for how the fifteen year old discovered he likes to do the dishes if he gets to pick all the songs on Alexa while he does it. I told him he could take Alexa to every room in the house if he wishes. 

Much of parenting teens is biting your tongue, and that includes with the stories you tell or don't tell on a blog.   They jump from wanting to watch cartoons (yes) to asking if we can get cell phones (no) to wanting to play basketball to sleeping in, to ordering pizza to stating they're on a diet, all within five minutes.   They want to learn to drive and are scared to answer the actual phone and talk to a real person.   They love gift cards but fear paying for groceries with cash.   It's a bizarre thing to be a mom to these people who can dance a floss but not floss their teeth, who play video games with aplomb but can't type.   

I'd love to tell you I have a serious point to all this meandering, but I haven't learned it yet.  I only know, as stressful and crazy and contradictory as it is, this time when they're not yet adult but no longer child is both agonizingly and mercifully short.   Enjoy the pizza and the modern music and remember to embarrass them every so often by trying to sing along or dance.  They'll roll their eyes but they'll also appreciate it.   

Teens are like writing on the blank blank page.  You have to love them, you have to work on helping them live and grow up.  You must keep at it even when it's not easy and not fun.  However, if you keep at it, there's a full page, and if you let yourself write, if you let yourself chase down the rabbit hole of thoughts, you'll find some pretty loopy and imaginative elements along the way.   That's how it is with writing.  You become more of a writer by writing. That's how it is with parenting teens, you become more what you must, when you love more each day.   

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Small Success Thursday

It's Thanksgiving!  As such, I am thankful for the full table, made fuller by all the people around it.

I'm also grateful to my husband for taking me on a date last night.

Happy Thanksgiving.  No matter how flawed the nation that created this holiday, or the origin, the reality of stopping to be grateful for the blessings of this day, of this life, with family is something good.   We owe it to all who came before, to make it a genuine outpouring of gratitude.

We need to stop and spend time with each other doing ordinary and wonderful things, because that's what time is given to us to do. 

Everything is fragile.  All time, all hearts, all lives.   We need to remember that as we enter into this season of giving, of celebration, of gratitude.   All of it should be treasured, as none of us can hoard or hold onto anything except the memories we create in others by our actions. 

So by all means, feast, but make sure others are feasting on your presence by your presence.  
Have a great week of Small Successes. 

Oh, and I also found out, another piece got published over at the Register: Be the One Who Reaches Out.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019


The world's spent itself, telling us there is nothing new under the sun, that all things are equal, and that life is at its zenith, when we mindfully manage everything.  The phone and the algorithms of the interent want to assure us that we can always be in charge.  We set alarms. We link into schedules.  Everything is possible. 


Anyone who ever fell in love should know better.  Our best moments aren't orchestrated.  When we catch our children playing together in absolute silliness, that's joy.  When a husband steals a kiss or an actual letter comes in the mail, that's fun.  When we look out the window and see the first snow of the season falling, that's lovely.  Life, the joyful moments, come in part by the unexpected, the arriving, and the willingness to enter into living, as opposed to managing one's life. 

We get "into" a game or a book or a movie, and we forget everything else.  We fall into painting or playing an instrument or even (don't get this one but I know it's true), exercising.  We don't even spend time thinking, "this is a great time" until we've finished. 

The joy of life is in wonder, in forgetting about schedules, in being present and in the moment.  So this week, when you're preparing the turkey and all the trimmings and worrying about what you have to do, remember the better portion and be present. 

Allow yourself the wonder of being with each other, rather than only doing for the event.  Hold onto that purpose, and the delights of the season will facilitate your discovering moments that afterward, you can know were great, but in the moment, will be a source of joy. 

Monday, November 25, 2019

100 Reasons for Gratitude

We didn't get to Small Success Thursday because we had a play and basketball practice and HSPT and field trips and a birthday to prepare for on Saturday. 

As such, I'm using my daughter's religion project as a writing prompt for today's belated post.

100 things I'm grateful for, both in and out of order. 

1. My faith.
2. My husband.
3. Will.
4. Bonn.
5. Marta.
6. Peter
7. Faith.
8. John.
9. Rita.
10. Regina.
11. Paul.
12. Anna-Maria
13. My mom.
14. My in-laws.
15. My brother and his wife and children that live near us.
16. My brother and his wife and their children in Texas.
17. My sister and her husband and their children in Texas.
18. My brother-in-law and his wife and their children.
19. My cousin and her family in Chicago.
20. My extended family (aunts, uncles, cousins all over the place).
21. My friends, past and present.
22. My teachers, past and present.
23. My students, past and present.
24. My education, past and present.
25. breathing. (Not something I do well).
26. Our home.
27. Our jobs.
28. The freedoms of this country.
29. my health.
30. the medicines/our insurance that manage what we cannot.
31. good books.
32. writing career.
33. sense of humor.
34. gift of dancing.
35. My husband's gift for romance.
36. this community I belong to.
37.  My online friends.
38.  all the answered prayers.
39.  all the prayers answered with something other than what I asked.
40. snow.
41. the Gulf of Mexico
42. the love of fishing.
43. Chocolate.
44. The world.
45. Great music.
46. Art.
47. Sunsets.
48. Sun rises.
49. Mass
50. When any of my children smile.
51. When any of my children sing.
52. When any of my children laugh.
53. playing games with my kids.
54. Sunday Dinner.
55. Date Night.
56. Unexpected flowers.
57. Fresh fruit.
58. Live theatre.
59. A good joke.
60. Waking up before everyone else, rested, when the house is quiet.
61.  the stars on a moonless night.
62. when a song comes on the radio I forgot I loved.
63.  Catching my children playing without them noticing.
64. Meeting someone who laughs when I say I have ten children, because they have eleven.
65. when a student discovers they love something they're reading.
66.  when I guess right.
67.  Seeing friends at adoration.
68.  Swimming, floating in the pool.
69.  Cooking something well that everyone likes.
70. Fresh sheets.
71. a blank page
72. 500 words written on that page.
73. When I think of the ending of a piece.
74. the feeling after one exercises.
75. I am grateful for all the unexpected gifts I never asked for, but take for granted.
76. For all the saints.
77. For my dad.
78. For all the people who put up with me.
79. For the books that published my work.
80. For the newspapers that published my work.
81. For our Pope. I've had the honor of meeting/attending a mass with the past three, I love them all.
82. For the little when we watch a movie and it draws in others.
83. For the big moments like my daughter's getting three college acceptances.
84. For seeing old friends at mass.
85. My son reminding us to pray grace, refusing to eat otherwise.
86. everyday texts from my kids
87. the fruits of every season
88. when I get how to play something on the piano or drums.
89. listening to my kids get silly about something in the kitchen as they prepare a snack
90. Early Christmas decorations by my teens.
91. all these people praying for our family.
92. Diet Coke since I don't like coffee.
93. Having a family full of people who don't get Black Friday.
94. Playing cards/games all Saturday
95. Watching my kids play sports, seeing them run.
96. kind words
97. the opportunity to give
98. today.
99. all the yesterdays.
100. the hope of all our tomorrows.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Monday, November 18, 2019

Book Review Monday

Okay, I've received two books to review and I've read one and loaned it to my son, and read 90% of the other. As such, both merit reviews and as a writer, there's an obligation to do for others what I ask of them.   The problem remains, I'm a poky reader.  I start. I stop. I put down the books and forget where I started so I start again or I lose the book and that's the end of it for weeks on end. 

It's why I'm often reluctant to do book reviews, because I know me.  However, Sunday Will Never Be the Same reminded me of a younger me, in that much of it takes place in New York City, right near where my husband and I lived our first year of marriage.  I kept stopping as I read and thinking, "I know that spot."  It isn't there anymore, but I remember it.  The book recalled some of the joy of living in New York City as it crackled with that urban energy and insanity of the early 90's. 

Dawn Eden Goldstein's book journals her gradual conversion from Judaism to Music (rock and roll) to Catholicism, via beauty, via poetry, via exposure to the beauty and frailty of others souls in their music and in their lives.   It's a good thing to give to someone who is in the process of growing up, and trying to see how God fits into life or rather, how life fits into knowing God. It's earnest and I enjoyed the book but I admit, I wanted more of the conversion, more of the moments when her heart felt pierced, more of the interior but it's her story, and this is how it happened. 

She does bring us along with her.  My teenage son is reading her book.  The artists she covered when they were young and new, he loves now.  So I'm hoping the journey he takes while reading her book, in between skateboarding and high school and listening to Green Day and Weezer, brings him to the same point, the point where he understands what Dawn discovered amidst the music and the lives of those artists she covered, that God is there in the beauty, and expressed in the longing of every heart, most especially the heart that knows it aches, but does not know what that ache is. 

I'll finish up the other book for next Monday...

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Thanks Giving Scramble

We're coming up on Thanksgiving and every year, there are fundamental questions concerning the holiday.  With ten children, one of my friends quipped, every day is Thanksgiving, but it's not true, because with ten kids, fixing a meal everyone likes seldom includes all the trimmings of any themed dinner. 

However, with the holidays, I impose.  Not with cruelty mind you, but I do have some this is happening type thinking with respect to fixing the meal or I will wind up with the equivalent of a Charley Brown Thanksgiving, with popcorn, pasta, bacon, eggs, chocolate milk, grapes and baloney or meatball sandwiches. 

The main course...we have a turkey...and we also have chickens.  I find cooking four cornish game hens plus a turkey means everyone is happy and I don't hear, "I don't like turkey." which is a sentence that sets my teeth on edge.   It also means everyone gets a drumstick who wants it, and white or dark enough to feel sated.

Potatoes and stuffing.  We do both. Why? Because this is Thanksgiving. If you're on a diet, go run, or make the salad, but I'm making yumminess and I'm mainly concerned about seeing smiles. 

Cranberries...I don't care if anyone else eats them. I like them. They're on the menu. 

Green beans.  I believe in having vegetables. I believe in serving vegetables most of them eat.  I also believe it should not tax me to be virtuous ergo...4 minutes in the microwave for a signature green vegetable...we're good. 

Everything else for the dinner table is negotiable...and dependent upon whoever is volunteering to cook.   Case in point...

Dessert...pumpkin pie, pecan pie, and apple dumplins with ice cream and whipped cream or whatever the bakers in my house feel the need to create. 

What are we watching?   Here again, is an's the Macy's day parade and football. 
What are we doing when we're not cooking?   We're either playing cards or football, more often cards than football.

But the big question, the one that everyone wonders...who cleans up after the turkey coma?  I'll get back to you...

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Small Success Thursday on Thursday....Whoo-hoo!

It's Friday and I'm trying to get back to my blog posting regularly.  (I have yet to succeed).   This post, started on a Friday, is rediscovered on a Wednesday, so I'm going to pretend I wrote Small Success Thursday in time for a Thursday...

Humor blogs require honesty.  Nuts. 

So this past week I redsicovered why I need to make a list.  If I don't make a list, nothing happens. I then panic and wonder why nothing is happening.  For some reason, if I write things down, things happen, and even if they don't happen, we know they will.  Why? I wrote it down. 

Thus I can report, I wrote an article this week, submitted for publication (cross your fingers). 
I read a book this week. (Will be writing a book review and trying to catch up on that, so that Friday is a book review post).   Recognized my humor blog has become rather dry as of late. 

So I read humor books, watched funny movies and discovered most of my jokes right now, are the equilent of Dad jokes.  I need new material. 

Fortunately, I have ten children.

They're pretty good at providing inspiration provided I don't tell them what I'm doing.  We've also started basketball season, so I'll be able to report on the joys of sports from the sideline as three and possibly four (I may draft one if they need another body to field a team), take on the game. 

Paul loves playing.  He also loves shooting. He's not too particular which basket he shoots, as long as he shoots.  However, he also loves winning and knows how to pick a side and root for it with everything.  The other night, his dad took him to a Caps game.  The Caps lost in overtime.  Paul shook his fists.  He shouted.  He complained.  He kicked a sports cup in protest.  The lad is a true hockey fan.   I'm not putting that guy on the ice. 

Lastly, I restarted daily adoration.  All I can say is, whenever I return, the first thought I have is, "I missed this."  and that's my Small Success for this week. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

How Do I Center Myself For Writing

Recently, I received an anonymous comment which I think is spam but here's what it said. I hit delete as I was on autopilot clearing out my inbox. 

First off I would like to say wonderful blog! I had a quick
question in which I'd like to ask if you do not mind. I was curious to
know how you center yourself and clear your head prior to writing.
I have had a difficult time clearing my mind in getting my ideas out.

I do enjoy writing but it just seems like the first 10 to
15 minutes are generally lost just trying to figure out
how to begin. Any suggestions or hints? Cheers!"

The Cheers and the passive voice plus the non name make me think, this is canned ham garnished with a piece of parsley, but the question remains.  How do I center myself? 

I don't. I'm comfortablly off kilter, centered people are usually taller.  (I'm watching kids play basketball).  I'm naturally clutzy, both intellectually and physically, so even if I tried to center myself, I'd probably find myself flat on the floor but only after sending my laptop flying.   If my head were clear, I'd not have anything to write.  Cloudy is better.  It means I grope through the words, searching for meaning beyond the obvious, for meaning I didn't know I intended.  The ideas come from the process of being willing to write through the fog, not from clearing the fog to write. 

Fifteen minutes of figuring out how to start is fifteen minutes not spent writing...better to just start. I erase tons of stuff and have loads of unfinished drafts in my blog from ideas that didn't work.  Write, and see if what you wrote makes sense.  Waiting for it to come together means a long wait, and probably, no words. 

Part of what kept me from writing more regularly, is thinking, I don't know what to say ...but then, it's my blog so I can say what I think, and if someone doesn't like it...they don't.   Writing is process as much as it is product, and one can get stymied by wanting the product to be perfect --in which case one doesn't write because the product is flawed, or by wanting to perfect the process, in which case, you don't write because that's just exhausting, to craft it all in your head before you begin. (I can't remember that much, and when I try, it always sounds so much more elegant in my brain than it ever does when I get to the keyboard), so I just get to the keyboard first, and hope editing and process will refine as we go. 

So don't center yourself.  In fact, stand on one leg, off ballance, and say, I'm not going to clear my mind, I'm going to walk through it, and find out what I think by writing until my own thoughts are revealed.   If you weren't a Spammer, I hope this answers your question and I'm sorry I deleted your comment.  If you were a Spammer, thanks for the post but please, no more spam.  Cheers!

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Go Trick-or-Treat or Watch Baseball People...

Blessed Mother, pray for us. Holy Mary, pray for us.  Mother of Christ, pray for us. Mary, House of Gold, pray for us.  Mystical Rose, pray for us. Seat of Wisdom, pray for us. Refuge of Sinners, pray for us, Morning Star, pray for us. The litany for the Blessed Virgin Mary became part of how we come to know and love Jesus’ mother in 1587, though it feels to us as if it has always been.

People at the time and even now, probably struggle with some of the names. They provoke, they push, and they invite us into contemplation. It seems, we have as many titles for her, as we have peoples who love her.

I have my favorites, including “Mary, Undoer of Knots,” when I’m feeling overtaxed. Honoring Mary as Queen of the Americas came much later, in 1957, but she has many more names, all of them inviting us to discover how she is Mother to all of us.  The names we’ve given to Our Lady, have come from us, all of us across all of time, and across many cultures, including the name, Our Lady of the Amazon.

You may remember that kerfuffle from last week with the Synod or you may (like most people) have other things to do like watch baseball, prepare for Halloween, eat, pay bills and work. Someone decided it was a good idea to throw the statue gifted to the Pope into the river. Someone else thought it a good idea to document the taking of the statue and throwing it into the river. Some praised this as brave. Others thought it theft. Some thought it the equivalent of the cleansing of the temple, likening the taker of the statue to Saint Boniface and his attempt to disentangle heretical beliefs and practices from Christianity, and others, the act akin to nailing the 99 thesis on the Church door. Bottom line, it's a tad on the crazy side to ascribe to the motives and actions symbolic equivalent of either sainthood or schismatic. It was not idol worshiping or pagan worshiping, to place a gift in the church.  There were no pagans worshiping the statue.  Even if people hold a mass and the statue is present, if they are participating in a mass, the statue is merely present, it is not being given glory or mistaken for anything other than what it is, a statue.  If we need clarity, look to the reality of the gift and the giver.
Having looked at the art, it is a naked mother, identified by the giver as the Blessed Mother, being full of grace, holding our Lord, the egg of the Church.  The literal representation of The Blessed Mother cradling the unborn Christ should not scandalize us. She’s been willing to allow herself to be seen as others would see her so that they might come to know her son.   How she looked in Fatima, is not how she revealed herself at Guadalupe.
The scandal of the incarnation is just that, the tangible reality of Mary gave birth. She wasn’t wearing a long jewel blue polished taffeta cape when she labored in the cave while the angels above sang and announced “Joy to the World and Peace to Her People on Earth.”  She probably sweat. Her most precious beautiful perfect son, our savior did something far more scandalous.

He became flesh. He became man.  He allowed to be born. He allowed himself to be naked, to be cold, to be hungry. We believe we are from the moment of conception on…so depicting Christ unborn, this should not shock.  He scandalously allowed himself to grow up, and to endure that hard long process of growing.  He allowed Himself to be betrayed, abandoned, beaten, to be spit upon, to be mocked, stripped, to be abused, to be hurt. He allowed Himself to be exposed, as we are exposed in all our nakedness, in every moment of our lives so that we might know God’s infinite love and mercy.

Just in case we still don’t get it, Jesus reveals himself as the resurrection.  We will receive new bodies in the end, because our bodies are themselves, gifts God intends for us. He gives us the promise and the assurance of Mary’s Assumption.  We will not be pure spirit. We will not be ethereal, we will exist in substance and reality at the great wedding feast. 

Our Church is the Body of Christ, and we scandalize and scourge it more by our seemingly endless desire to explain why someone else is unworthy of being part of it, than by any art we create to honor Mary or a culture or our Church.  The Church is bigger than cultural art, bad art, inappropriate art and even fantastic art.  Stealing the gift and attempting to destroy it because one does not like it, is not a Catholic response to either the problem being articulated (concerns about the Pope and the Church itself), or to the art itself.  It is at best, the same as a sibling not liking the art work given to a parent by another sibling and throwing it away while proclaiming, “I cleaned up for you Mom.” The paintings in the Sistine Chapel, and the statues like Moses and David, reveal Greco-Roman sensibilities of the beauty of the human body, pagan sensibilities reoriented toward the creation of sacred art.
We are always struggling with the hard reality of being a universal and to the end of time Church, living through the present, reaching out to all people.   The pagans of old, Paul understood yearned for the Divine, as indicated by the temple to the Unknown God.   Imagine what we would have lost, if early Christians in a position to do so, had smashed the temples and the art that came before in a moment of fear over the possibility of the faith being diluted by contamination with other cultures.   This is the hallmark of Catholicism.  Catholic means universal.  Catholic invites all in, it is not in the business (or should not be), of casting out.   The nature of our faith, is scandalous to the world, like the incarnation.  We are to invite everyone to the table, and to discover all the ways in which God really breaks through our real lives, both Catholic and non, to reveal His real love to us.
Immaculate Conception, Singular vessel of devotion, Notre Dame Our Lady, pray for us and we envoke your protection, from our own foolishness, from good, bad and indifferent art, and from rash harsh judgment of each other in all things including, how we are to live out our faith loving others as we are to love your Son. 

Friday, November 1, 2019

Small Success Thursday

It's Halloween. Maybe it was the weather, but this year's holiday seemed subduded, both in terms of costumes and participation, like people (adults) are fatigued with it.  I saw fewer pumpkins, fewer displays, less whimsy.  Conversely, I saw many more adolescents dressed and canvasing the neighbhorhoods for candy while we trick-or-treated.

So this week, we saw the Nats win the World Series, I signed up people for AP tests, and got younger ones to basketball practice and altar serving training.   We read more of Harry Potter and I scheduled a dinner night out with friends.  We're going out on the First Friday of each month, to ensure we stay connected. It's a lovely tradition to have started. I'm already looking forward to the next one. 

The Catholic Writers Conference has posted my session called 1,000 ideas for articles.  I'll admit to the irony of having pitched that piece, and how having been basically sans published articles since for two.   I'd become used to having about an article or two a week.  I admit to missing that...however, I'm still writing, and that's the important thing. 

My daughter and husband are going out to Southbend for the weekend.  It should be  a blast. 
This weekend, I'll get recommissioned as a Eucharistic Minister, something I honestly love doing. 

Working on a new project.  Just started. We'll see where it goes --writing wise.   Hope your week was full of small successes.  Happy All Saint's Day. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Raising My Hot Chocolate and Cider Donut...

Yesterday, in the second inning of Game 5 of the World Series, a Nats fan carrying two beers, caught an Astro's home run with his chest.  People loved that he barely spilled a drop and didn't know he was trending on Twitter until a reporter pointed it out.  Today he's flying down to Houston for Game Six, courtesy of Bud Light. 

What charmed the fans online was nothing more than a person being ordinary and yet fun.   

Man, does the world need more of that sort of thing. We need ordinary fun. Ordinary life that has within it, simple joys.  

That next evening we watched The Best Thing I Ever Ate, Donuts.  What frustrated me was all these foodie experts searching for donuts that weren't actually donuts like Fried Mac and Cheese Donut, Monte Cristo Donut Sandwich, and Churros Icecream Smore Sundae. Granted donuts are part of these experiences, but the eating of them isn't about eating a donut anymore.  It's about acheiving some sort of hybrid experience.  

To which I say, it may be good, but bleah.

It's exhausting to only be able to have experiences, and to somehow think if you're not eating something that fuses everything, youve somehow not throttled life to the fullest.  Maybe I'm getting old, but I'm tired of the mandate to carpe deim everything. Give me the bud light guy.  He held onto his beers not because he wanted to go viral or win a trip to Game Six. He just to hold onto his beers, his ordinary non craft was already good because he was at a World Series Game.   (And I don't even like beers).  

Why?  Because this world needs to relax, to chill, and to be able to enjoy something because one enjoys it, not because it's written up or celebrated or exclusive or new or ironic, but because one likes it without irony or endorsement, just 'cause, like hot chocolate or cinnamon sugar ocean city donuts...they aren't sophsiticated, but they are yummy and gritty. They make a mess because they're ordinary...and I'd take a major league hit while holding onto them because I like them. (I'd just like it to be the Nats doing the hitting).   I also might impulsively drop them to catch a major leaguge home run because I do things without thinkings. (If I thought, I'd know I could have two mits and a softball tossed gently to me and because I have no athletic ability, I wouldn't be able to catch it). 

So I should just stick with the donut and hot cocoa in hand while watching the game on TV.  Go Nats. Life is Good, and life is ordinary.    

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Small Success Thursday on Saturday

I got sick this let's test if we really need this breathing thing kind of sick.  I'm getting better, I know it's necessary now so I just have to get to where it's no longer work to do.   As a result, I spent much more time resting than writing.

This week, we're doing horror at my school.  I've discovered I'm pretty good at thinking up ideas, which is weird because...I hate being scared.  I don't like scary movies. I don't like scary books. I don't like scary commercials.  I don't like haunted houses.  I love Halloween, but I'm a super light weight when it comes to spooky stuff.  Those haunted hay mazes? Won't do them.  Those super interactive haunted hotels?  Hard pass.   

I even struggle with the spooky Dr. Who's because while I know things will work out, I see the spooky images over and over and over again in my brain.  They won't go away.   For me, all monsters are like weeping angels in my brain.  They stay and they spook me if I'm not disciplined. 

So putting together the materials and exercises for this project, I've had to review a lot of scary stuff.  One movie, two minutes long, I had to watch in pieces, holding my daughter's hand with the lights on.  --yeah, I'm a wimp.  A real wimp. 

But my small success?  I survived a scary movie!  I'm going to have to show this to my students. It's too good an example of a jump scare.  Tune in next week to see if I survive my having to teach it. I'll be sleeping with all my stuffed animals and the lights on. 

(The movie is called Lights Out --the short version, not the feature film). 

Have a great week. 

Monday, October 21, 2019


So today, students worked on their papers and one of mine piped up, "Teacher! Teacher!  I'll give you five million dollars to do my homework." 

"No thank you."
"You'd turn down five million dollars?" 
"I'd turn down doing homework." 

"I have ten children. I've been helping with homework since 1999. So no.  Five million is not enough."* 

Whatever he thought I was going to say, it wasn't that.   *In the interest of full disclosure, I did add, "There isn't a price you can put on integrity."  He rolled his eyes and got back to work. 

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Promises Promises

So most of my family lives in Texas near Houston, and I grew up a fan of the Astros.  They hold a soft spot in my heart.  Living here just outside of DC, we've been going to the Nationals games since they were in RFK.  We go every year. We've had partial season tickets for years with a group of friends, and not missed a season.  One daughter goes to the opening day with her dad every year. 

We have at last count, twenty Nat's hats, with about ten variations in the house.   So the Nats beat the Cardinals in 4, to be the NLCS Champions.   The Astros are battling the Yankees, and we always root against the Yankees.  I also root for the Astros. 

My sister sent a message that if we weren't rooting for the Astros in the World Series, she would fly up here, kidnap her Godson, and send him to reconditioning camp, complete with servings of BBQ, queso, Robert Earl Keen on Repeat and our Uncle Mike teaching the abbreviated history of the Independence of Texas. 

I told my son her threat.  He laughed and said, "Let's Go Nats." 

Friday, October 18, 2019

One Month of Teaching's Reflections Ten Lessons

10) You cannot overplan.  You may think you have overplanned.  You have not.  Trust me.  You have not. 

9) Kindness never fails.   More teaching happens in those moments of connection than in all the discussions pre and post. 

8) Grade the papers.  Grade the papers.  Grade the papers. 

7) Have a back up plan.  Why?  Because you can't overplan.

6) Break it up.  Smaller bites, tapa lessons work better than full courses. 

5) Challenge them. 

4) If you're bored, they're tripple bored by comparison. 

3) Admit your errors. 

2) Revise inbetween classes for the next class. 

1) Learn their names fast, say them often. 

Not funny, just observations, but in fairness, that's what I've gathered from one month in of this grand experiment, teaching ninth graders. 

After a long long long dry spell

I'm over at the Register, explaining (possibly and even probably to myself), that "God will send you rain in its season,"  and yes, I think God is laughing at me.. I also think, it's my main job.   

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Small Success Thursday

I started last week, I'm sticking with it.   Welcome back to another edition of Small Success Thursday. 

This week held within it, lovely moments like my daughter's acapello concert.   Here's the video.  (I'm boasting because well, I'm proud). 

It also held a quiet moment when I could only gasp.  On Tuesday, I'd misplaced my rosary. This rosary was given to me by my eldest daughter from her trip to Italy. It came from Padua, from the Shrine of Saint Anthony. It's beautiful. It's precious to me, and I tore apart my room looking.  I also looked in the car, turned my purse and my satchel inside out several times, and begged Saint Anthony to help me find it.  Frustrated and defeated, I took myself to adoration and prayed with a plastic rosary, and made my peace with the loss.   I found one rosary of mine (a purple crystal one), in the back of my car.  I found a silver and white one of mine, in a drawer.  I laughed, they were rosaries, just not that one. 

The next day, half way through work, I reached into my purse to fish out a dollar for a diet coke, and found the red velvet bag with the rosary inside of it, in my zippered pocket.  I'd turned the whole purse inside out. I'd gone through every pocket.  Saint Anthony, I owe you one.  I sat there shaking my head...because the thing get me to pray the rosary, rather than worry about the nature of the beads. Yes, I still felt very happy to find it. 

The next small success came with my youngest daughter making a list of careers for herself including pet watcher, park ranger, artist, boss, taste tester for Tasty Cakes or Entenmann's, contestant on a game show, art teacher, movie maker and nun.   I'm saving the list. 

In the car, on the ride to school, we've worked on practicing gratitude.  We played a game of listing twelve blessings a person.  You couldn't repeat someone else's blessings.   It helped. 

Those are my big moments from the past week.   Hope you had a great week filled with small successes.   

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

The Going Rate for World Series Tickets...

The Nats just swept the Cardinals in the playoffs.  They're going to the World Series. 

My daughter mentioned she'd like to go to a game.  I explained, "I get first dibs."  She pulled up a text of her dad saying he'd like to go to a game with her. 

I explained, "I outrank you." 

She left to work in the kitchen.  She made chocolate covered strawberries.   "Would you like one?" she asked.

I suspect, I've been bribed. 

Sunday, October 13, 2019


Yes, it's the tenth month of the year, when people suddenly think, "You know what's fun?  German food."   I've been to Germany.  I've eaten it and you know what, it's not something I'd stand in line has to wonderbar, why Octoberfest is always about German things. 

For no other cuisine do we dedicate a month of festivities.  We don't have an Italianfest during January, when everyone longs for the comfort of warm carbs.  We know well enough not to push all Irish food even on March 17th.  There isn't a week dedicated to French cuisine or Thai or Argentina's fantastic delicacies or for that matter, a month of desserts! 

We need to reenvision how to celebrate when there's no reason for celebration but the celebration if we're going to do Octoberfest, let's make it festive.  Let's do different months of foods February is all desserts because, well, February is depressing and needs all the help it can get.   October should be the month of soups, and July, of ice creams and June of wine.   I guarantee, people would get into the idea of a dessert a day, or a soup a day...for months at a time. 

I just remembered, I need to make soup for tomorrow.   It's a good thing they're having an Octoberfest and I decided to rant about it, because now I have to go buy some squash and get soup on.   Hehe.   

Saturday, October 12, 2019

When We Stop

This past month, my writing's taken it on the chin.  This past month, I spent getting used to teaching.  There are only so many hours, so much energy, and so much will in any given day, and I've found my Saturdays to be the day I crash.  I sleep.  I nap.  I eat.  I nap again. It has become a predictable pattern which I realized in part, was designed to keep me from allowing myself to be anything but busy.  Busy even when resting, so that I wouldn't have time to reflect or feel, because it's how I handle stress.  I work harder.   I get busier with life.  I throw myself into new projects in an attempt to overwhelm myself so I won't have the luxury of wallowing in anything I can't solve. 

It's how I handle grief. It's how I manage fear.  I know because I remember volunteering to manage the Fall Carnival when I received the diagnosis of my son's Down Syndrome and heart condition.  Occasionally, my family recognizes before I do something and tells me, "Under no circumstances are you to volunteer..."  and I've learned when what I'm doing, I'm doing to avoid thinking about something else.   Even writing can be a means of avoidance of problems I either don't want to face or am tired of facing.

So I let myself not write, so as to better face what we've been facing. The tectonic shift in family life to being mostly teens is tough. We lived with toddlers as the primary driving force for roughly eighteen years.  The switch to school age and up wasn't noticeable at first, and then it became decidedly older in what felt like overnight.     That change has been something not always either fun to write about, or something that should be shared.  Adolescence has its awkward ugly moments, and those are best remembered as moments of growing up, rather than secured and documented in Internet amber.   I've tried hard to only showcase my children when I am the source of the joke, or when their antics reveal hope and joy.  Not everything in life is grist for the mill, because lives are not to be used, but to be shared. 

However, I missed writing because it often leads me to think about things more deeply than I would otherwise. It helps me find patterns and see where I need to go and what I need to do.  It's a bit like crying and laughing.  Sometimes, tears allow us to get through what cannot be borne any other way. Sometimes, laughter is the same thing, and for me, sometimes writing works that way too.   It is how I process both tears of sorrow and joy.  Writing is not my job, it's part of my vocation, just as surely as being a mom is not a job, but my vocation, and being a wife is not a job, but my vocation.  It's all part of both who I am and what I do, and the why I do what I do. 

So how do I write about these people becoming adults without exploiting or exposing them?  By remembering, at the end of the day, I have one goal, to get them to the end of the day hopefully with a "Thanks Mom." or a hug.  It means I don't correct the grammar when a kid texts back to my "Love you," "Love you to." even though it drives me nuts.   It means I repeat "They are children. They are children. They are children." when I discover a mess, but also summon them to clean it because, they live here and should.   It means remembering, parenting is a vocation, which means it's never done, and it's never over.  It merely has seasons.   Keep at it.   This is a marathon, and you're not finished because even should you die, you still have the job of praying for them until they're all home at the end of the day. 

I'll keep at it.  Thanks for reading, even when I stop.  It just means, all the words get log jammed in my brain until I start up again. 

Friday, October 11, 2019

Watching Them Grow Up

Today I hosted seventeeen fourteen year olds at a bowling party, and thought back because this is the class I've seen every year for nine years.   Having an October birthday girl, I've seen this class grow up and know, this is the last year I'll see some of these kids, because they'll scatter to the four corners after they graduate from Saint Martin's.  I have pictures of them from all their Halloween costumes because every year before this one, my daughter had a Halloween themed birthday party. 

She's like me, always wanting everyone to be there. She's better than me, she can get them to come.  I watched them bowl and eat and laugh and pose and play video games in the arcade.  They are fourteen, they are thirteen, they are at ease, they are in no hurry, and so time fliews by without their noticing.   They talk about high school and cartoons and donuts and homework. 

They dance for each other whenever anyone gets a gutterball or a strike.  There is more dancing than bowling going on.   If I'd brought a karyoke machine, we'd never knock over another pin.   I teach these same children in the next year, when they start over, but for now, they are the seasoned seniors of their school, with a casual confidence of being able to handle all of it.  They don't believe otherwise, or that otherwise would be possible. 

I'd wish for them to hold onto that breathless optimism forever, because it will serve them well.  They'd think me too serious and overthinking it, so I just take a few pictures and ask the class leader to round up everyone to sing Happy Birthday, which she does.   It's a good day, and I drive us home and fall asleep watching the Nationals in Game One against the Cardinals. No hitters are great, but not exciting baseball until you get to the later innings.  She opened her presents and disappeared up to her room. It was a good day, a good everything. 

Happy Birthday Rita and glad you got a big party my Pinkie Pie. 

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Small Success Thursday

Yesterday, I got the day off...from paid work...and went full throttle into throttling the day at my unpaid gig as Mom.    Small Success Thursday is about those moments when I manage to rise above my own selfishness that would cause me to do little things with great irritation, and pine for doing great things that the world notices.   It's an inverse of how we are to be.   It is a frequent fault of mine. 

So when I manage a bout of good mothering, I've decided to remember it so I'll remember next time I'm tempted to count the costs, to boast in my service, that motherhood is about doing it again and again and again and again, without counting the hours or the costs.  (I'm still working on it). I'll remember, if doing little things with great love were easy, we probably would have had a Doctor of the Church like Saint Teresa of Lisieux long before we did. 

So here's my celebration of doing some little things that needed to be done with something less than grumbling.  Hooray!

1) Five of us managed to get flu shots.  The sixth and seventh will get theirs tonight, the oldest on Friday, and the youngest and second oldest, on Saturday.   I've texted the two college kids. 
2) We completed the FAFSA --at least an hour off of purgatory for that one. It would have been two if I hadn't boasted on Facebook, but I'll take the extra time for the credit on this one. 
3) I restarted my blog.  (This is to keep me honest, it had floundered). 
4) The snow blower is at Home Depot getting ready for the Winter. 
5) Started reading Harry Potter to my youngest. She's enjoying it with me.  It's fun.
6) Playing drums (sort of). 
7) Got to confession this week. 

Have a great Small Success Thursday! 

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Why My Blog is Sulky.

You might have noticed, the humor is drier, less common. The cheery regular postings of sparkle and fun and amusement come few and far between.  I've done some research.  I'm coming up on the blogiversary of Chocolate for Your Brain.   My blog is now a tween. 

It explains so much.  No wonder it's sleepy, less chirpy, less given to flights of fancy.  It's much more comfortable sitting here not saying anything, putting in the earbuds and pretending no one is reading. 
I've had a talking with my blog and explained that it doesn't matter how you feel, you still have to be civil, funny, clever, kind and consistent.  The blog has agreed to a regular production of three to four posts a week, with the return of Small Success Thursday but only on this blog.   (It's to make sure we generate some news each week, and keep me on my writing toes). 

I'm headed out for a full new stock of emergency chocolate, advil and diet coke, to weather these adolescent years. 

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Ten Things to Do When You've Neglected Your Blog for Over a Month

10) Declare a Sablogital. Except I did that last time I neglected my blog. It would be fine if I were going somewhere like to Rome or to the Beach or the Mountains or on a retreat to rediscover my blogging discipline, but I'm not. It's just a case of trying to keep up with everything and not succeeding. 

9) Succumb to the helpful blogspots that invite themselves to post on my blog which I think is the kiss of death to every blog that ever was...and the mark of true desperation. Not there yet. 

8) Pull up a re-run of a post from circa 2016.  After all, if you missed it, it's new to you.   

7) Revise a re-run of a post from circa 2016.  It probably could be funnier. 

6) Use a Writing Prompt from the book 365writing prompts.

5) Inflict poetry on the unsuspecting public. 

4) Do a post about food. It always draws a crowd.

3) Do a rant.  It also draws a crowd.

2) Do an opposite post...of what your blog normally is about. 

1) Recognize you don't have the time or inclination for any of the cooler stuff and pull a writer's cheat.  Make a list of ten things and hope it suffices until Tuesday...

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

After a long dry spell,

I finally got another piece over at the National Catholic Register. It doesn't mean I haven't been busy, this past weekend was the Catholic Writers Online Conference.  I've gave a talk on 1,000 ideas for articles.  It's week four of teaching.  I'm reading and rereading.  Writing and rewriting.  Working and reworking.  Worrying and reworrying.   It's been busy. 

Anyway, here's a piece on Amazing Grace.

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.

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!