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.   

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!