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 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 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


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 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.'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 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 be creative).   So to the parent of the kid who likes 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 the meantime, Happy Birthday Faith! It's hard to believe today, you're seventeen. 

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Two-Fer Thursday

It's been a crazy week here, such that blogging (and writing) took it on the chin.   Here's my link up to article one, You Might Be Part of A Large Family If... if you need a touch of humor for the day. 

The second piece ran and it's more in keeping with Lent, so Struggling on the way to the cross.  The two could not be more different in tone so I debated even linking them on the same post...but life is always both and.   Enjoy. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

You MIGHT be able to link up to the article

But I apparently cannot.  I'm not sure why.  I do know, I'm published over at the National Catholic Register. It's called "How to Start a Family Rosary."  If you can link on it, please share. 

Thank you.  I'll be over here penning "How to link up to an article..." once I figure out how.  In the meantime,

Here: National Catholic Register   Go to the Desktop version, and I'm under the bloggers on your right.   Now that I look at it...need a new picture...

Monday, March 18, 2019

100 Ways to Be Salt and Light

Look at the news, go on social media, and it's an automatic recipe for depression, discouragement and rage.  To be salt and light to the world, we have to respond to all the darkness, anger, frustration and pain with kindness, with care, with patience and with humor. It takes 21 days to break a bad habit, and sixty-six to create a new one...which if you put them together, results in 87 days.  However, since we know we're all flawed busy creatures, we've added 13 extra bonus ideas for your pleasure, so you can do more than go around the world, you can help change it for the better. 

So here's  ways to be salt and light to an often tasteless and shaded world. 

100) Smile. 
99) Water a plant.
98) write a letter.
97) read to someone.
96) put on beautiful music.
95) go for a walk in God's cathedral.
94) pray for someone you don't know.
93) call a friend.
92) arrange a date with your spouse or one of your siblings or one of your children.
91) clean a room for someone else.
90) say a family rosary.
89) sing with the radio.
88) Donate clothing.
87) volunteer your time.
86) bake bread or something yummy, bring it in to the office.
85) invite a friend out to lunch.
84) when you see something on the Internet that irritates you, try to see why someone might hold that point of view, or alternatively, offer a constructive alternative perspective that doesn't presume the ignorance or malice of anyone who disagrees. 
83) put fresh flowers on the table.
82) use the good silver.
81) find the funny.  Share it.
80) Learn something new today. (I learned it takes 66 days to create a new habit). 
79) practice something you used to know how to do --in my case, piano.
78) practice something you don't know how to do --in my case, sew.
77) ask someone if they need help with something --hint, not what you just started learning.  --son..driving lessons...
76) strive to compliment rather than critique when someone else is learning. (This is hard for me especially when dealing with driving lessons). 
75) eat dinner together.
74) play games together.  (I got creamed in brawl).
73) watch a movie together.
72) Let yourself not look at a screen --screen free evening, once a week. 
71) plan a date.
70) exercise outside.
69) Do an inventory of your home, for home repairs. Pick one and start.
68) Channel your inner Marie Kondo...clean out a closet.
67) tell stories from your family.
66) plan a trip.
65) collect and give your change once a week to a soup kitchen/homeless person.
64) say "Yes" when someone says, "I need a volunteer."
63) Be ten minutes early.
62) stay afterward to help out.
61) Give hugs often.
60) Laugh easily.
59) Ask questions, find out how people met, their favorite cakes, songs, secret talents.
58) Say please and thank you.
57) Admit when you don't know.
56) Listen.  Really listen.
55) Forgive.  Often. Each time you remember it hurts.
54) light candles
53) go outside at dawn and watch the world wake up
52) go outside at night and stare at the stars.
51) draw on the sidewalk, until you're out of chalk.
50) write a poem.
49) help someone else with their stress.
48) check in on someone who is sick/recovering. 
47) support a local theatre by seeing their production
46) give compliments easily.
45) offer a mass for someone.
44) dance with your children.
43) get rid of a pile.
42) leave a love note for your spouse.
41) call your siblings.
40) clean a yard of sticks/trash
39) Recycle --really recycle for the week
38) Give your spouse a foot massage.
37) visit a museum
36) give money to a street musician, stay and listen.
35) invite friends over to play cards
34) pick fresh fruit, share with neighbors.
33) find some group at your church, go and meet new people.
32) fast.
31) let someone into the lane.
30) pay it forward for someone at the grocery store.
29) tip. 
28) take a day off and spend it at home, making home better.
27) plan a weekend trip to a local farm or museum.
26) try some place new.
25) write a letter to congress.
24) write a letter to the editor.
23) spend an hour studying something you avoided in college/high school --to remind you how hard it is to learn something we don't already love or know.
22) drink only water today, as a reminder of those who thirst.
21) give someone else the parking spot.
20) Share something lovely online.
19) go by the fire department or police department and tell them, "Thank you." before you need them.
18) bring groceries to the pantry.
17) dedicate a day to someone. Don't tell them. Just serve.
16) send a thank you to a teacher or coach, to a mentor who spoke to your heart.
15) resolve to stop entertaining the pains of your past as honored guests, re-injuring the present.
14) spring for ice cream. 
13) take a nap.
12) serve wine with a meal.
11) promote a friend's work/gifts.
10) spend a day never mentioning yourself.
9) do not get in the last word.
8) weed a garden.
7) weed your soul...of unwanted growths.
6) apologize
5) become educated about a problem and how you can help make it better.
4) go to adoration for someone else.
3) pray for the souls in purgatory.
2) speak truth with charity. 
1)  in all things, be kind.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

My Philosophy of Teaching

I began work as a teacher in 1990.  My first job in the classroom, I taught in New York City.  I believed then, as I do now, that all education is in fact, special education, because all teaching at its core, is not about assessment or data or test scores or economic outcomes, but about reaching the heart of a student, and enkindling in the heart, a curiosity about something in the world.

It doesn't matter the subject, so it isn't about STEM or the arts or any other collection of disciplines one might decide to be the most important at the moment. Teaching is about connecting with the students, and that's measured one student at a time, despite attempts by school systems, governments, and those who profit from assessments of all kinds, to assert otherwise.  The goal of teaching is to reach beyond the test.  We don't remember the teachers who taught to the test, we remember the teachers who helped us love/understand/and in some cases, survive/endure  the subject beyond the test.

A school can have the finest technology, and indeed, many have access to more information than ever before, but it is the teacher that reveals to the students, how to use that data, how to rearrange it, make it their own, and compose new knowledge. A teacher is not a sage on a stage, but a teacher is also not a checker of boxes, to make sure each student can check off each of the boxes.  A teacher is someone who conveys not merely knowledge, though that's certainly part of it, but a desire for knowledge.  The goal of teaching, in any subject, is to inspire desire to know more, by experiment, by creativity, by collaborative work, by humor, by projects, by papers, by film, by experts, by pouring out into the classroom and all of the planning, every gift a teacher has to reveal the more of a subject, beyond what is assessed. 

Twenty-three years, I'd been away from teaching, and upon returning, even at a lessened capacity, in the three years I've worked, I know this truth still holds, because it was always truth.  What unlocked Helen Keller from the darkness wasn't data, but relationship.  What gets a student from not reading, to discovering a world of stories at her fingertips, is when she puts down the phone, and picks up a book because the teacher's given her reason to trust her, that this voice she's about to discover, is one that she should know. 

I don't have the lingo of the modern educator, because I often find modern language seeks to cloak information, to hide what it does not like, and the first rule of being educated, is to seek truth. Just so,  the first rule of being an educator, is to profess truth with everything you've got.  Knowledge must be true, or else it is simply fancy, folly and fashion, --popular opinion or trending at best.  Science cannot be science if the laws of science are not constant, as understood by those who study such things.  Likewise, math cannot be math, if the formulas change not because they've been disproven, but because someone decides they're unpleasant.   So also, even in the softer fields like literature, good stories reveal something of the human condition, touch something of the heart and the mind with truth. As seekers of knowledge, whatever the discipline, we are all grasping at what we know of reality, and testing as it were, whether what we know, is universal, and with that understanding, conveying it in a unique way as illustrates our own singular gifts for communication and creating connections.

I tell students whenever we're talking about the purpose of a story, a good story is never just what happened, but why it happened, because a good writer isn't interested in merely entertaining, but in revealing something they consider to be vital and eternal.  The extent to which the story strikes a cord in the heart of the reader, reveals both the quality of the writer and the sensitivity of the reader to the message beneath the plot.  Good stories, great stories, resonate and echo across time. 

If you're wondering, why I've written this little piece, it's because I needed to sort out of my head, what my philosophy of teaching is and what it is not.  I'd been asked, if I had to choose, would I be a Special Educator or an English Teacher, and to me, it's a both and...because again, all education in my heart, is special education, and even in exclusively special education, I'm going to be teaching through stories, and thus revealing hopefully, something lovely that resonates...and that's the English.

Thus we come to the crux of the matter.  What defines me are my loves, and they're always more than I can count.  I don't have a favorite child. I love them all.  I have many, but that doesn't stop me from fiercely loving each of them with my all.  The same reality exists within my heart when it comes to careers.  I love writing, and I love getting works published.  I love creating new works, and hope to continue to do so for a long time to come. Likewise, I love working with students, hoping to help them learn to love stories, and love writing, and love uncovering the truths whatever writer we're reading, laid in there, knowingly or otherwise, for us to discover.  I love figuring out how students learn, and figuring out tricks to help students learn better, and discerning what we need to do to help a particular student thrive.   I love it all. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Hey, I'm the Register again..

Yes, I'm linking to another piece over at the Register...and this one is for all those who haven't figured out what to do for Lent.  It's an oldie but a goodie from my days at, but sometimes, what you write stands the test of time.  So here are 40 Lenten Resolutions.  I'll be over here, not going on Facebook for from now until Easter except to the extent my blog links up to Facebook and I share pieces that get published. 

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Over at the Register

So I had all these doubts...but apparently last month I didn't feel so lacking in confidence. I forgot I wrote this piece in February over at the National Catholic Register on not hiding your light. It's a gentle reminder, (if only to me), if you haven't really started your Lent, you can today, and that our God is about our Joy, not our drudgery.

He doesn't want me discouraged, He wants me joyful.   That's a great comfort actually...because it's a call to joy...which is a willed response to reality.   It's not about getting rid of things, it's about being at peace with where you are and why you are wherever it is you are...

On that note, in the interest of peace of mind, I'm taking a break from Facebook for Lent.  I'll still link articles here and share them, but no commentary, no likes, no sharing of other stuff, no status updates, no lingering.   Thank you for understanding.   Happy Lent!

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Having So Much More to Give

There are moments when you discover the gifts of others in the midst of doing ordinary things that make one wonder, how did I miss this before now? How is it not obvious to everyone, how luminous this person is?

When a student gives a beautiful response to a question, or writes an amazing paper, or does the opposite of what one expects, (given past behavior), these are the moments that make teaching worth more than the pay of a CEO.  When I look at the teachers of the school where I work, I know they live for that moment, even the ones who pretend to be jaded, for the surprise of a mind awakened, a heart turned, a soul suddenly filled with fire, wanting to take on whatever the future brings. 

More than once while pursuing this career path, I've been asked, "Do I think I could handle it?" and thus it seems, I should answer this serious question.   My thoughts run the gamut from "Of, why not?" but when I'm not being flippant about it, when I look at the reality of what is involved in the day in, day out of teaching, they are to me rather like parenting.

 I know three things:

I will have days when it is hard.
I will have days when it is harder,
and I will have days when I wonder how I could do anything else.

The reality is, like it is for all these teachers, and all these students,  we all have so much more to give, and our zeal and talent and efforts fluctuate with the seasons and needs of our lives.  I want however, the opportunity to try.   I'm sifting through the landscape because I also know, I tend to want to give...and thus for me, the question is should I.  I think that's what this Lent for me is about...getting quieter, listening more, and allowing myself to be uncomfortable with not yet knowing, and searching for the answer to it. 

My initial answer is yes.  I can.  My secondary answer is...I will do what I find I am allowed, and trust that gift, be it what I do now, or something else, is something I can and should do. 

I didn't know I could raise ten children until I had to raise ten children.  Much of my life has been discovering the limits I placed on myself were just that, limits, and that those limits remained until I believed they could be challenged.  My own eldest daughter constantly shows me through her force of will, how much can be accomplished by forging one's own will into a thing of iron. I keep thinking, hers couldn't get stronger...yet it continues to be further forged.

So what does it mean about the writing?  Not a thing.  I'm a big believer in the both and, as opposed to the either/or, and I need writing, whether to focus my thoughts on parenting or anything else. In writing, like parenting, like teaching, like everything, there's always more to give, it's just a question of should we give it, and will we.   We all have so much more to offer than we know. 

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Sunday Musings...Getting Ready for Ash Wednesday

Yesterday, I read an article which irked me, because it took to task people who offer Spiritual advice from a Catholic perspective without having degrees or jobs which back up their offered counsel. I'm not linking to it because I'm only citing my response to the accusation, not to the article's main points itself. I chaffed because professionalism of the faith feels anti-Catholic to me. We specialize in people who aren't experts. Saint Peter was a fisherman. Saint Matthew collected taxes. Mary, the Blessed Mother, was a young unmarried girl. The Catholic Church loves and celebrates rookies with abandon. However, the article struck a nerve because I'd also recently read comments on my own work which called one of my pieces a waste of space. The comment got likes too.
(I know, first rule of the Internet). So I sat there worrying, am I wasting other people's and my own time? I don't have a degree in anything theological. Even worse, I knew I was experiencing false humility. I wanted to justify myself and wanted the credentials at the same time. I wanted to be...but I ain't bonafied.

With all of that kicking in my head, today, I read the news of a friend of mine, (online), who is experiencing great success and joy, an acquaintance of mine, (who I would like to call friend), who likewise participated in a women of faith conference and I felt both happy for them both and after a while, envy. I didn't like that about myself. I should be happy for both. Instead, I felt jealous, like why aren't I in that circle too? Why haven't I arrived as it were...and all the demons were present at once in that moment. I wanted the attention, I wanted the company, I wanted to be recognized....and envied those who have it...who earned it...who deserved it...and who probably, didn't envy anyone else their success. The earlier article resurfaced in my head. I am no expert on God, the Gospel, the Church or life, no more than anyone else. I have no credentials save experience and whatever I've absorbed from reading books and articles and listening to wiser more studied heads than mine over the years, So what business did I have feeling envious? These women did the work, I didn't.
Yuck. That's what I thought of my soul in that moment, laid bare with all its meaner, weaker, crueler, stupider desires. Except I knew one other thing. Spiritual battles will use truth without charity to get us to sin, or charity without truth (Whichever works), just as long as the attacks get us to focus on us and what we want, rather than on the blessings of our lives, the endless gifts, the joys and treasures, pleasures and bounty of our own lives. Sin and love cannot exist in the same space, one or the other will be deprived of the oxygen it needs to survive. How one fights off the erosion of soul the Devil uses to dishearten, and thus destroy us is an act of the will, and a combination of fasting, prayer, alms giving and the sacraments.

So I was reminded in mass, if I wish to grow in gratitude, to grow in joy, to grow in being a woman of faith for the right reasons (out of love of God and not my own glory), I must pray for others. If I want to be a woman of faith, I have to start working on this plank in my eyes, which prevents God from being seen through mine. I know, we're never finished. We've never arrived as long as we're here, on pilgrimage in this wasteland, seeking a home we've always known, but haven't yet reached. However, it would help if I saw better, if I weren't kept from fuller joy by wanting to somehow make the "A team," if I didn't care what team I played on, or whether I got to play at all, if all that mattered was cheering on the whole Church to victory.

Lent beings this Wednesday, and when I thought, what must I give up for not merely the next 40 days, but forever, it's allowing the need to be affirmed, approved, accepted and honored for showing up or doing the work which is required. To be able to recognize always and everywhere, I'm merely a servant, and an ungrateful one at that, doing only what is required. I need to go to Our Lord to listen at His feet, rather than to read off to him my rosary and list of needs. I need to need less to be in front, I need to practice more listening, more silence. I need to go deeper into the desert.

Honestly, I think giving up diet coke and chocolate would be easier for me. When I write these things, they're my attempt to pull out of my own heart, what it is I believe and why. The words are an offering. So I'm not an expert nor am I acquiring said degree credentials. Like everyone else in this life, I'm trying desperately to not be distracted, discouraged or dulled by my own desires to be something less than God aspires.
That's the real rub of it. God's plans are bigger than mine, better than mine, more luminous, happy, joyful, beautiful and glorious than any I can dream. Why wouldn't I want that? Happy Ash Wednesday March 6, 2019.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Over at the Register Today

Trying to write more, and today I discovered I have one over at the Register.  It's always a pleasant surprise.  I wrote this a while back, and sort of channeled a commercial, or at the very least, a salesman, who had a tough sell.   Come Join the Catholic Church.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

God Just Called to Say He Loves Me

As a kid, I remember reading "Murphy's Law" and thinking it hilarious.  Now, I realize, it was a warning.   For the uninitiated, Murphy's Law states. "Anything that can go wrong, will." 

I'll wait while all who read that scroll through their memories for perfect examples of this reality. 

Like when...

You're filling out the tax forms and under stress and seven phone calls hitting both the land line and the cell interrupt the process, with the final perfect joy moment coming when the fourteen year old cooking hamburgers sets off the smoke detector. 


You're getting dressed for work and in a hurry and decide to wear the gold earrings.  One hoop falls from your fingers and drops beneath the dresser, rolling back to the far back such that you have to lie down on the ground to reach. When you arise, earring in hand, you note, it's covered in fuzz.  You look down at your outfit.  It matches your earring. 

Both of these events happened today. 

However certain dust bunnies and taxes may be, I know one thing more certain, the needs of adolescents for things out in the world, when Mom is stressed.   Tomorrow is Dr. Seus day at school, and she needed a shirt that said Thing 2.   I had one or two thoughts about things but thought better of voicing them. 

Driving over, I found myself in a hard mood.  I didn't want to hear talking, or to listen. I found everything tiresome.  I knew it wasn't good, and clamped down on myself, hoping simply allowing her to talk would satisfy.  She asked me if she could turn on the radio, and happily sang along with the tunes. 

Even parking proved difficult, and I still found myself struggling in the store.  It all felt just like extra and it was, but it should have been joyful extra and I knew it.  We got the necessary costume accessories, both for her and her two younger sisters and I stopped at the grocery store for some milk and other stuff.  She talked about singing and recalled the Black History Museum her class staged in the gym that morning, asking me what I knew about various figures and who we'd gone to see.  She asked if I'd seen her friend giving a report on Stevie Wonder.  I hadn't. 

She'd fallen in love with his music at a choir concert earlier in the year and began trying for the words.  Checking out of the store, and half listening, the part of me that's a good parent told the rest of myself, "You're missing this."  She sensed my frustration and thought it was her.  I apologized, explaining, I wasn't myself, or rather, I was too preoccupied to be good company.  She patted me on the shoulder as we loaded the groceries.  "That's okay." and asked me, "Why don't they play more of Stevie Wonder's music?" I admitted, I didn't know, other than it wasn't recent.  Perhaps just admitting my frustration proved sufficient humility, because up until then, I'd fought even discussing my own predisposition. She asked me for my favorite Stevie Wonder song, and I told her it was the first I owned, Sir Duke.  She said, "They should play more. I wish they would."

We got in the car and "Isn't She Lovely," immediately came on the radio.  "It's like God heard me saying I wanted that song."  and we sang along the lyrics we could remember.   The mood lifted, though I thought God was more telling me to look at my daughter, and see her.  "Isn't she Special.  Isn't she wonderful?"  and I thought, "Thanks God," for stupid things like songs on the radio, they make up for lint covered earrings and smoke alarms. 

And yes, I never thought through love we'd be 
Making one as lovely as she 
But isn't she lovely made from love,

Thanks Rita!   P.S. This is the piece from the concert she loved. 

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Over at the Register Today

I know, it's been a while.  Writing time these days comes at the cost of sleep, and I'm honestly frustrated with my lack of production.  However, here's a piece I wrote two weeks ago, in thinking about the upcoming summit of the Bishops to discuss policy going forth for the Church as a whole, when dealing with sexual abuse/misconduct by her princes and administrators. 

To me, the reality is simple.  People who profess something, must live it.  People in positions of authority must live it all the more, because they've chosen this life.  The pains of not living out a vow are self evident. The reality for all of us as we wrestle with this hurt, is what we must do.  Hence:  As we Forgive Those who Trespass Against Us.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Tips for Living with 13 Year Olds

10) Take up kick boxing, roller derby or demolition duty for a local construction company. Why? Because you'll need to exercise out some of that aggression you spend 24-7 repressing for the next eleven years.

9) Yes, I said you have a decade plus one year to go. The human brain doesn't stop growing until then, and it's better to err on the side of this taking a while. it's why other self medications like alcohol and excessive amounts of chocolate aren't recommended. Sedating frustration only prolongs the agony. Keep a journal. When they turn 24, hold a bonfire. Some things shouldn't be recorded for posterity.

8) Find a photo of yourself at thirteen, or even better, a diary from that golden age of misery. Post it on your mirror as reminder, your parents survived you.

7) If you don't like something they like, the surest way to kill it as a fad, is to act overly enthusiastic about it to the point of instilling fear, you'll fanboy them into social awkwardness.

6) Talk about how cute they were as a baby with the other moms, bring up toddler stories, especially in the parking lot or at sporting events. They can't argue with you about it, and every parent gets to remember a time when it was easier to potty training.

5) Let the kids know, you've planned a group chat online or set up live feed on Facebook, because nothing kills their love of social media like parents using it. Don't forget to include the grandparents.

4) Shout louder than everyone at the sporting event. Applaud. Be their number one fanmom/fandad. Bring pom poms and wear school colors. Be there for every game, play, etc. Bonus if you do face make up in team colors too. Bonus bonus if you get their siblings to follow suit.

3) Make sure you crank the tunes when you pick up at carpool, especially if it's Broadway music or Disney. Sing along if you've been made to wait more than five minutes.

2) Invite your teen's friend's parents over for dinner. Play cards with them. Tell your teen they're on the list of acceptable potential in-laws. It should cure dating for years.

1) If your child proposes to do something dangerous, stupid, inappropriate, etc. and pulls the line, "I'm almost an adult...or I'm legally an adult," stand by with your FAFSA and say, "Do tell." Immediately plan your vacation with the funds that would have gone to parent plus loans. If he or she complains, tell them they were the inspiration. You felt honor bound to treat them as the independent souls they professed themselves to be, and the way to guarantee their independence, was to make your own self unavailable...and nothing says not available like a vacation in Hawaii. It's even better than years of Kickboxing.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

A Blow for Humanity, inspired by Lucy Van Pelt

Nothing makes me more frustrated than the creation of systems supposedly designed to make life easier but which wind up making life hard.  Take for example, on line forms.  I thought, great, I'll never lose a form again.  The problem with on line forms is, I can't run out the clock on things I don't want to sign people up for, because they know, the form is right there online.  Parental dodges become a thing of the past, along side rotary phones, VHS and conversations in public places owing to the down time waiting for whatever it is to happen. 

I tried to sign up my son for track, but he for some reason is not linked to my account.  It's like he's independent in the mind of the computer and the school system. For a moment, he remains free from all of us, and I must ponder whether affiliation with me is a net plus for him.   Still, if he wants to do track, he needs me to sign forms and get them submitted, but the form is locked, and only available to the family of the student which for some reason, the system doesn't recognize me as being.  So I send emails and fill out the forms trying to prove what already is a reality to a non-reality machine that wants independent proof of what I already know.  If it were a hard copy form, I could have finished it and sent it off.   If it were a down loadable form, I could have printed it and sent it off.   Because it only exists in cyber space, the regulations to protect against abuse of said forms, now prevent actual use of said forms to allow for a flesh and blood person to do a flesh and blood thing. 

His track form is hard on my health.  I also need a form printed up, brought over to the Dr.s, which I must then allow three days time to pass for them to print up a copy of the form with the right signatures and dates on it, and then return to pick it up so he can sign the forms saying he's in good health, proven by the forms the dr. signed, and thus sign up for track, while I sign up a form saying, he's in good health and even if he gets hurt while trying to improve his health via track, I won't sue.

Add to that, the obligatory phone tree to get to the gatekeeper for everything from checking your balance to scheduling a hair appointment and it's enough to make me search for all things Amish when it comes to the service industry.  Never mind the "service fee" for the convenience of being given the exclusive opportunity to do my work without help, the "service fee" now comes because the service exists at all, and not for energies expended or actions rendered by those who take the money.  I'm thinking, it's time to strike back at all these obligatory online formats for everything. 

I'm introducing my own personal service fee. I feel my time and efforts and energies in the service of everything that society throws at us, are undervalued.  As such, I'm now providing a "service fee" to any and all industries that demand I use a phone tree rather than talk to a person to schedule an appointment.  Likewise, I will have a convenience fee when appointments to deal with ordinary tasks require additional trips and/or waiting time.  Out of respect for everyone's time, I'll use paypal so no one need pay a fee to Visa/Mastercard, or worry about pesky checks being returned.   I'll tack a fifteen percent gratuity for extra services rendered when I deem it's warranted.  Yes, I think if everyone adopted this method of tip for trips, we might find ourselves with far fewer errands, far less nit-picky stuff to manage, or if not, we'd find it more bearable as a result of the compensation.

Just my little way to brighten the world. Such good ought to be worth more than just my two cent's worth of thinking...

Five cents please. 

Saturday, February 9, 2019

February 9

It began with attending a concert.  My daughter's school participated in a junior high school music festival, and my husband and I and the next youngest daughter attended.  They sang beautifully, all of the choirs, and for a moment, you wanted it to go on and on and on and on, because each song revealed new beautiful voices.  It was a joy in part because we'd gone out of duty and found great pleasure. 

After the show, we stopped at 5 guys for some dinner and I asked the younger daughter (who is always hesitant to get into a group or perform), what she might consider doing to stretch herself when she got to high school.  We ran through some of the choices her siblings made in their high school careers.  She settled on art, but before we'd finished, the question turned. 

What would I do that was different, that would stretch me beyond what I already did?   I admit, I didn't like the question.  Wasn't I already doing?  I mean I write, I manage the household, I help with some classes at my job, I need to exercise, edit and read and could stand to learn a few new recipes but I didn't have a goal per se. 

However saying I didn't need to change or grow felt decidedly like a super cop out.   So I've been stewing over the question ever since.  What's needed for any goal is an object we can measure, and a will to do what is needed to reach it.   What did I want to learn? What did I need to learn? And, did I have the will and a plan to do it?

Well, let's start with piano, because it's easy an we just came from a music program.  Want to learn to play better?  Practice. 20 minutes. Every day. That's that simple and that hard.   I plinked for fifteen before my non-calloused fingers split and said, "We hate you. Please give us band-ades." which I supplied.   Maybe start with fifteen. 

What about editing.  I opened my black notebook with the printed book.  Ten pages...just do ten pages...maybe I'll exercise instead.

Okay, I know this is a humor blog but stop laughing.  No really. 

Reading.  Surely you can read Sherry.  You have three books sitting there waiting for you...need my glasses, which one to start...

I've discovered I have a lot of will not to do what I need to do.   Wondering if there's a Five Girls restaurant somewhere that serves chocolate and salads and extra doses of stick-to-it-ness. 

My son's been posting every week on his objectives for the year.  It's helped keep him on track.   It made me realize, what I haven't done, is write up goals, and thus I do not fail to will to achieve because I've opted not to pick something to push towards. 

So here are my goals that will push me.

Every week, 10 pages edited. 
Every week 1 lb. lost. 
Every week 1 book at least read from, if not finished. 
Every week, 2 articles submitted. 
Every week, plink on the piano five days a week. 

It helps.  It reminds me, what I ask of my kids, I must ask of myself.  It's a good thing to be reminded, setting goals is not easy.   It also reminds me, to stay in the stupid moment, enjoy the concert and the burgers and when your daughter says, "art," is her interest, say, "Great, let's draw." next time. 

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Refer to the Refs

Why does the sports industry do this to us?  After February 3rd and the Superbowl, we will enter what is known in our home as the Sports Void. There is no Splenda alternative, no understudy competition capable of covering the time span from February 4th to March Madness.  It's not that I'm a sports junkie, it's that I love the strategies and banter of my family as we debate calls, plays and coaching decisions.  It gives all my kids a way to use their desire to micro-manage someone other than themselves in an appropriate manner.   Absent sporting events, they turn to the easiest source of arm-chair quarterbacking in any household, their siblings, which leaves me in the unfortunate role of game official.

In the interest of helping to maintain a spirit of sportsmanship throughout the off season, I'm listing here the predesignated consequences for any and all infractions.

7) Off Sides:  the space within the car is limited. Failure to respect the personal space of each individual passenger shall be punishable by allowing the affected individual unrestricted access the music and atmospheric controls for the duration of the errand. 

6) Offsetting penalties:  In the event there are multiple flags, all entertainment shall be cancelled, all personal errands rescheduled, and offending members given the additional community service of folding fifteen pairs of socks each. 

5) Unintentional grounding:  I've learned, people don't get that they're not in charge even when I say, "You're not in charge."  Ergo, if someone declares themselves to be in charge, I'm handing over all the dishes for the evening, and I'm going to use extra pots and pans.

4) Holding: Everyone knows when someone extends their hand above their head clutching an item, it isn't because they're doing it to preserve peace.  They're proving they have the power to keep someone else from getting said item.   I'm of two minds on this issue.  If instant replay indicates the item was in fact involved in creating a problem for others, I will take the item. I will also put those helpful hands to use, thinking that person must volunteering for something.  Since I've already delegated laundry and dishes, I'm going to make this one an outside task, landscaping 101. 
They'll get to trim all the branches overhead.

3) False Start:  Every parent knows this tactic.  The younger kid baits the older one into attacking, the older one gets called for bad behavior, and the younger one enjoys schadenfreude.  This works until you learn the younger kid tell.   The best consequence for such behavior is servitude.  Making the younger kid bring ice cream to the older at the dinner table, acting as a waiter is oddly satisfying for all involved. (Particularly if you afterwards have everyone share the ice cream). 

2) Throwing the ball away: The opposite of baiting, is the death before dishonor tactic of destroying an item or a good to prevent another child from sharing or acquiring the good.  Replacement and remorse are the only acceptable consequences.  The nice reality is, you usually only have to enforce this penalty once. 

1) 12 Men on the field: My son sits in a chair. His older brother wants the chair as well.  A third sibling walks by and thinks, you know what this seat war needs? More people.  There are two couches and three other chairs.  This is the only one that matters.   Everyone is benched, I get the chair. 

If you're curious, when we get to March Madness, the kids resort to winner-take-all mentalities when it comes to turf battles.  Baseball season is much's a fight when I say it's a fight. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

You Know It's Cold if...

10) When your kids hold a contest between the outside and the inside with ice trays and the outside wins. 

9) The outside temperature is lower than the mean age of your children.

8) There isn't a place to fly to in the 48 that won't require a coat and possibly gloves and a hat.

7) The pump on your fish pond freezes in mid spray. 

6) People are considering whether they could make ice cream outside.

5) My diet cokes are now stashed in the back yard. 

4) Kids are volunteering to do the laundry so they can sit next to the dryer.

3) Children who don't like soup and tea are hoping I'll have it for lunch so they can hold the bowl and the cup as they bring it to me at the table. 

2) When your child asks for a shake at the drive-thru, the response is, "Are you kidding me?" 

1) The asking price for every task indoors is a cup of hot chocolate.
The asking price for every task outdoors is every task indoors instead. 

Saturday, January 26, 2019

From the Net...

Because I said I'd write humor again, I thought I'd start myself back into it easy, so here's a challenge I found from the net, which I think is a perfect vehicle for a smile.  

So here's ten unlikely versions of what would cause armageddon based on radio songs...hopefully you get the reference. The goal is to give earworms after each...

10) left the cake out.
9) let the dogs out.
8) didn't like pina coladas.
7) he started the fire.
6) uptown funked him up.
5) someone stopped believing.
4) didn't dance by himself.
3) We didn't rock them.
2) wouldn't walk 1,000 miles.
1) Lenny Bruce was afraid.

I Miss the Blogosphere

I miss when the Blogosphere felt like a neighborhood with all sorts of takes on the same reality, with slices of home life here, theology there, humor another place, sarcasm another.  I miss feeling like walking through the internet like browsing the North End of Boston, or all the hidden lovely places in New York.   Now, everything feels like Best Buy and Walmart with a Starbucks on every corner.

There are sharp moments and glimmers of beauty and whimsy, but most of what we find, is what we've always found, and very little of it stretches us, challenges us, or delights.  I wonder, have I stopped looking, or have the shiniest of places been discovered and moved?

Wandering Facebook doesn't lead to anywhere I haven't been, and it isn't that I want to go somewhere new, it's that I want to feel welcomed.  Every site feels like a place that's lost some of its luster, some of its joy. Maybe we ran too fast to start, but now we're crawling.

Everywhere I look, there is condemnation, condemnation of the condemnation, condemnation of those apologizing, condemnation of those criticizing the apologizing, and all of it, leaves a bitter aftertaste like I burnt my mouth. 

My own blog's become simply a link spot to published pieces.  In one sense, it's smart, not to give away writing for free, but in another sense, it's wrong because it means I don't play with my words, I think about what I want to write in hopes of getting published.   It's eliminated a lot of whimsy.  The Small Success Thursday exercise kept me blogging on a regular basis for free, but now that's gone too. 

So I'll try to restart this party, to do my part to reopen the Mom-Pop store of the blogosphere. I'll still link to pieces, but I'll try to keep this spot lighter and that end...

I'd better get to writing. 
I feel better already. 

If you read this, leave a comment. It's old school I know, but so is blogging now a days so come on in, I'll serve chocolate and diet coke and a side of humor I hope.     

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!