Saturday, November 30, 2019

Weekly Book Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 29, 2019

Sitting staring at a blank blank blank page

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Small Success Thursday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 27, 2019


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


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

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

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

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

Monday, November 25, 2019

100 Reasons for Gratitude

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Monday, November 18, 2019

Book Review Monday

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Thanks Giving Scramble

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 14, 2019

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

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

Humor blogs require honesty.  Nuts. 

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

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

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

Fortunately, I have ten children.

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

How Do I Center Myself For Writing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 2, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 1, 2019

Small Success Thursday

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

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

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

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

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

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!