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.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

At the Register

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

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

Monday, July 29, 2019

A Good Story is Never Just a Story

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

Friday, July 26, 2019

Over at the Register

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

Thursday, July 18, 2019

New at the Register

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

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

There are No Pawns in God's plan.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Over at the Register Today

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

Monday, July 1, 2019

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Parent Hold'Em

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

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

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

Friday, June 28, 2019

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 25, 2019


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excellent write up of the theology that puts God’s law above national law:

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

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

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

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Over at the Register

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

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

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Good Omens and Bad Parodies....

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

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

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

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

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

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





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Summer Reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Over At the Register

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

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Over at the Register

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

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

Saturday, June 1, 2019

The Plane Flight West*

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

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

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Over at the Register Today

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

Thank you Anna-Maria Hope.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

P.S. It worked. 

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