Thursday, March 31, 2011

It's Thursday So...

Over at Family and Faith Live! we take stock of the past week.  The days fly by faster to me when I do this and it seems so much more gets done. This week was chocked full of little victories.

1) We got out to the park for a play date.
2) I showed up at International day for the younger school students; and we had made a treat for each class that was hosting.   Oddly, the older kids spoke up that they wanted me to come to their rooms too. 
3) Received the sacrament of Reconsiliation and got to practice my Lenten resolution to go to adoration.
4) Worked on Helen (a little) and wrote a piece to submit somewhere.
5) Refilled out forms for daughter that needs assessment.  Will drop them off by hand today.
6) Dropped off the tax forms. 
7) Going to plan two birthday parties today.

Have a great day even if it's cold, dank and raining!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Very Necessariness of Everyone

It was a cold afternoon but I'd agreed to a play date at the park and so I trundled the four littles into the van for what I hoped would be a bit of fun.  The playground had a fenced in area that would allow the five, four and two year old to play without me hovering. It was ideal for someone with a lot of little people.  Other mothers apparently thought so as well, as I spied other Moms with kids in tow, helping their kids to get on the swings and enjoy the slides.  The women I'd planned to meet hadn't yet shown but it felt good to be out in the world. Winter and having a two month old had created a sort of cloistered existence for a while. 

We began the usual Stay at Hom Mom inquiries of each other, name, number of children, what you did before you were a mom, while coaxing nervous children to adventure out and adventurous children to tone it down.  Paul wasn't interested in being out in the world.  Normally he loves the park but today, he stayed clinging to my side.  The other mom tried to get his attention.  Paul looked away.  She asked how old my son was.  Her toddler was 2 1/2, the same as mine.  Hers was talking.  Mine was not.  There was a visible size difference.  She was putting the pieces together before I volunteered that Paul had a disability.   In almost that same moment, Paul hugged me and said in his deep blurred voice, "Iloveyu." to me.  She beamed.  "He said 'I love you.' I heard it."
I agreed and gave my son a hug.

"I used to work as a translator for the deaf." she explained.  I talked about how Paul liked to sign baby and eat and a few other words.  "You know, I knew a woman with Down Syndrome." she volunteered.

Paul may not say much, but he triggers a lot of conversations, stories that should be shared and need to be told.  She agreed to share her story.

"When I had my third son, there were medical complications.  I had to stay in the hospital for a week." she began.  Her voice got a bit shakey. The next part of the story was hard even in retrospect.  "When I came home, my son who was three had spent those seven days at his Aunt, my sister's house.  He didn't talk for three years after that."  We sat staring at the children at play for a moment.

I shared how my own daughter had elected to remain mostly mute for several months after Paul's birth and subsequent hospitalization.  I knew the pain of having someone so precious, so young, so deliberately silent.  It had taken six months of therapy to unleash the happy chatty person I now shared my days with; whereas this mother had to wait three years. 

She nodded her head and resumed. "We tried everything, sign, (It's how I learned enough to be able to translate), therapy, loads of stuff. Nothing worked. But this woman at the grocery store, she bagged our food and every time, she would just talk and talk and talk to my son.  She connected with him.  She made him feel comfortable.  Even if we were in another line, she'd stop what she was doing and come over and say, "They're my family." and take over.  She'd bag our stuff and help push the cart out, all the time talking talking talking to my son.  Then one day, he talked back.  To her." 

It was the beginning of his return to the speaking world. 

"When we moved," she paused, "I'm ashamed to say I didn't get her address so we could keep in touch.  My son still remembers her and asks if we will ever see her again and I can't say that we will because I don't know."  She patted my son's head. 

"That's a great story." I started to say.

But she wasn't finished.  "I tell you this so you'll know that he'll turn out okay. You know, we all want our children to grow up to be successful, to be scientists or teachers or lawyers or elected officials.  We want to say they are valedictorians and scholars and athletes and wondrous in ways that the world can easily acknowledge and already has." 

She teared for a moment, "But this woman, who by the world's standards, would not amount to much, living in a group home, working as a grocery bagger, having Down Syndrome and married to a man with Down Syndrome, gave to my son the gift of accessibility, of speech."  She'd given him a gift that would serve him his whole life, alter his whole life in as radically positive a way as silence had before then in a negative manner.  She pointed to her now ten year old son sitting on the swings sandwiched between his two brothers and a friend.  They were laughing and joking about something.   This moment was due to all of those moments with a person who had Trisomy 21. 

The very necessary nature of everyone became evident.  I would not have heard this beautiful story but for Paul.  We would not have come to the park but for friends inviting us.  She would not have had this story to tell but for this woman building a bridge for her son from the silence to the rest of the world and this woman would not have been there for her son if some other woman, the mother of this woman had not been willing to have a child deemed less than perfect by the world.

Trisomy 21 means the person has one more chromosome than a non disabled person; a little extra as versus the rest of the world.   That little extra made her a bag checker but it also allowed her to speak openly to a sad little boy.   That little extra made her more willing to extend herself for someone other than herself.  Would that all of us would more willingly reach down and find that little extra to help build a bridge from a smaller world to a greater one of possibilities for someone.   We could all go on to do great things for someone's world that would be forever remembered.  Perhaps then, the world would be so overflowing with joy, so filled with freed voices, that it could never stop singing.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Maybe I Watch the Food Network a Little Too Much

Yesterday, I served dinner.  It was standard pasta rigatoni with butter, a touch of cheese and green beans on the side.  Admittedly, I used paper plates since no one including me was feeling too up on doing the dishes. 

My five year old said, "Thank you chef." and after blessing, took a delicate bite of pasta.  She raised her hand and said, "Chef, could you come  here a moment?"  She then explained that maybe her dish had a little too much salt.  "Did you taste the food before you served?" she asked giving an Iron Chef judge type searing look into my eyes.  I was waiting for her to say, "Please pack your knives and go." when she then was overridden by her younger (YOUNGER) sister, three weeks from four.  "I think it's very good pasta.  The sauce is nice."  she explained. 

"You could have added shrimp. It would have been even better with a touch of shrimp." my eleven year old son suggested.

"And it would look better and be more appetizing if it was served on real plates." my other son put in by way of concurrence. 

"But I don't know how many of you like shrimp, and I do know all of you like buttered pasta." I began.

"Well, you know Mom, you really could expand your flavor palate for us." my oldest daughter volunteered.  Mind you, I cook 33 meals a day minimum, (not counting snacks) and serving for the masses has watered down my menu, I don't want to put forth effort to receive "This tastes like yuck." as a response.

Facing the reality that these food critics were very kindly telling me to step it up a notch, I agreed to designated one night a week for experimentation night.  As I mull through the possibilities, browsing my cook books in a day dreamy kind of way, the realist in me pipes up.  "Ten bucks says next week when you serve them sausage and polenta....they ask for cold cereal or buttered pasta."  But I'm still game, and if the realist turns out to be right after a month of experimentation, I may have to cut back on watching Food Network.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Kinetic Military Action Preparations

Think this policy regarding Libya was just made up on the fly? Think again.  We've uncovered the secret Commander in Chief to-do list that was sketched out and completed before the planes started flying.

10) Pack a tie in case you need to give a formal address.  Recall how the Neo-cons jumped all over you that Christmas for not suiting up.

9) Send "Tweet" to Congress:  Remember that article in Time on How Much I'm Like Reagan?

8) Tell CBO to release the real numbers for the deficit.  Re: It will take a while to type out all the zeros in the discrepancy between the prior figures and the actual ones...or at least closer to actual ones now released, it will buy time.

7) Order George W. Bush an autographed copy of "My Pet Goat."

6) Google golf courses I want to hit after we're done with our part of the offensive.

5) Distract Biden with the promise of a DNC fund raiser in New York where there would be cake. (It's true).

4) Write victory speech. Include words "Winning the Future" and a gratuitous swipe about how I get the "Mission Accomplished."

3) Troll the internet to watch Press, Democrats and Liberals engage in mental yoga to support me. Laugh. 

2) Watch Republicans try to reflexively not support these actions and be unable to do so.  Laugh more.

1) Unfriend Qaddafi on Facebook.

*On a serious note, semantics aside, no matter what any party in charge calls something, any action on a people that involves over 112 missles hitting targets within a country with jets still flying, still dropping, probably is only called one thing by those who must duck and cover, something close to hell.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Small Success Thursday

It's been a while since I did this but found I missed having that little boost from taking stock of the week.  This week I...

1) made a pitch for being a freelance writer to

2) Continued my daily rosary (started three days before Lent).

3) Vowed to have 20 minutes of fun minimum a day --so we've played Wii with the toddlers, and Catan with the olders and watched my weekly indulgence of Top Chef All Stars.  Betting on Richard for the win. 

4) Began purging of upstairs laundry.  Three bags to Goodwill this week.

5) Started back up on exercise, 30 push ups, 30 sit ups.  It's a start. 

6) Got hair cuts for Paul, Rita, Regina and Faith.

7) On day 11 of --this is usually where I start to fall down again so here's to saying next week I'm on day 18. 

Got a victory or two to share?  Leave a note in the com box or over at Family and Faith Live!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Purgatory of Purging

Every so often, a purging instinct hits me and I start sorting through all of our home like a cleaning bulimic.  Armed with a laundry bag, a trash bag and a sorting bin, their rooms become my hunting ground and I am ruthless for the first 20 minutes.  Then I get hit with the howls of misery from not always quite a child, and that calls a halt to the process. 

As such, my home  is the laundry version of purgatory.   There are shirts consigned to be immortal in my home with all their flaws and faults and stains.  Worn by no one, but none the less loved, they languish in storage bins awaiting final judgement.

There are times I have prevailed, sending them off to a better or worse place, but the children claim to have mental scars from my victories.

Since I am never without witnesses, I cannot wait to do this task until the last child starts school or our house will explode from overcrowding of tread bare t-shirts. As such, I tried involving them in the process but found they showed as much enthusiasm for this activity as one would for root canal.  I pointed out that this extraction was painless but my eleven year old (who has had a root canal explained), so was the root canal thanks to anesthesia. To get this to happen, I needed to sweeten the deal; he suggested the option to buy new clothes.  I pointed out that sweet deals are what caused the root canal and substituting new beloved items for old ones did not buy me any more storage space which is ultimately what I was seeking. 

When I got a willing participant, conversations things usually ended with me putting as much as possible into the throw away bag and the child frantically seeking clemency for each item.  

Eventually at least one item from the throw away pile would be rescued despite the fact that 1) it doesn't fit, 2) it's torn and 3) the actual color is no longer discernible.   If a trip to the local donations box was not immediate, further rescues would be made.  When I'd find clothing I knew I'd thrown out back in the laundry, they use the fall back claim, "But Mom, I can wear it for pajamas" and "I can hand it down to so-and-so."  I guess if Catholic theology won't work for saving the Pokemon t-shirt, perhaps Buddahism will do.

They'd then lovingly carry said items back to their rooms for fear I'll evict the shirts like a wrathful god, all the time giving me reproachful looks for wanting to discard some of the fabric of their childhood.

Translation: I am stuck with these shirts until I recognize the perfection in their imperfectness.  Shoot!  I thought the purgatory was for the clothing, not for me!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Only an Hour

Right now, there is a nation wide campaign, 40 Days for Life!  Yesterday, I spent an hour on the curb as part of our Parish's contribution to the prayers and witness against the culture of death that allows for abortion. We were asked to stand near a clinic in Germantown that engages in late term procedures. 

The first thing I learned is I'm more of a coward than I knew.  I believe that every child ought to be safe in the womb. Our very faith is based on as far as humans are concerned, the most unplanned pregnancy that all of History ever recorded.  Even in the womb, He was recognizable by those who loved Him.   But walking to stand at the corner with the signs was an act of activism I'd not done before and somehow, I felt fearful standing there. 

Setting the alarm on my phone to mark the time, from 7-8, I took a look around. It was a Friday night, it would be getting dark.  No one was coming to the clinic at this hour, not many people were even at work in the complex and I wasn't sure how much witness standing on a corner would do.  

My brain felt crowded with warnings and doubt...This wasn't the wisest thing I'd ever done....My car might get a ticket....I wasn't illegally parked but somehow I wondered if it was okay....Standing there felt vulnerable.  I wanted to go home but the phrase floated into my head "Could you not stay awake an hour?" and kept me rooted to the spot.  Someone before me had put out a sign and a creche and flowers. Just then, a mother with twins walked by.  She gave a half smile smile but her daughters reached out for the bouquet.  "We are made for beauty," I thought, it attracts us.   The flowers and signs that other people believed this, other people had witnessed to this, gave a little boost of courage.  Why was I afraid?

I was grateful to have my 7 week old with me, she was both my sign to the outside world of what abortion denies, and my courage.  I'd look in her eyes, half closed and sleepy from having a full belly as she yawned and even if she didn't smile, I did.   I held her that hour, lapsing into the rosary, trying to show her off to the passing cars and grinning when a truck would give me a happy double beep.   But I kept circling back to the question. "Why did I feel so anxious affirming what I believe?" 

"I like to be liked." I answered myself.  Standing out here declares me (as if having ten kids didn't), it is a side I've chosen affirmatively to hold not just in my heart but publically.  In the quiet on the side of the road, I found a part of myself that maybe needed to be less listened to, but which had become ingrained in my behavior. Someone might not like me as much if I seemed too religious, too political, too serious about a value that was so controversial.  I could see how I'd held myself back in other areas too, how hemmed in my heart was, how unwilling except in safe company I'd been to be a full witness.  I could tell myself it was prudence, tact and manners, but part of it was that old scar of wanting friends.

Old scars reveal old wounds.  I always wanted people to like me, craved it...I needed to like being liked less.  No wonder I'd fought standing still in the silence, meeting myself wasn't very pleasant. This was why courage is a spiritual gift, because it takes more than one's self to do some things, to face some things, to accept some things, whether it is witnessing to gifts and grace in the face of indifference, evil or ignorance, acknowledging one's own poorer traits, or recognizing the why of one's own tendency to err.   I was too attached to feeling comfortable and liked.   My skin felt all the thinner for recognizing I was thin skinned.  I didn't realize going to the corner was going into the desert.  I'd been similarly not too vigilant in my Lenten observance of adoration.  Yes I'd been busy, but part of that was being too busy to let myself be probed or pushed by God beyond my boundaries.
This is Lent. The season is made to make us recognize we should not be too comfortable in our own ways, or we will not allow for Christ to be more of our lives.  We will want to stay fixed, safe, known and yet untethered. Ours is not a tame God and there are no tepid souls in Heaven.  But here on Earth, we will avoid going into deeper waters until  we are all fished out. Whenever we do go out deeper, we are surprised beyond measure by the richness of the experience.  Our nets nearly burst with plenty.   I tremble when I consider that this was only an hour.


Now I've always been a big fan of Emma.  It's my favorite book. None of the other Austen books ever fully caught my fancy but that may be because I read Emma first.  Everything else felt less than Emma and therefore left me a bit disappointed, so seeing Fanny Brice shove her sister's face in a cake works for me. (I hated Mansfield Park).

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Cheetos Never Prosper

Yesterday, I had to take 7 of my children out into the world for a mandatory meeting at my oldest daughter's high school.  The front foyer had vending machines.  One of my older ones suddenly remembered he had homework he hadn't finished and could he go back out to the car to get his books.  I agreed, hoping it would keep him occupied while I attended to the matters at hand.   He came back with his books and then asked if he could finish his studies in the area with said machines.  It was like an open stair basement area with tables.   

Given that my other children were sitting in a circle playing with a wind up chicken and giggling madly or taking turns running up and down the front steps to the entrance, I agreed this would be an infinitely quieter place for him to work but a little red flag went up in my brain.  Five minutes later, when I'd calmed the sillies and settled the baby, I checked on my studious one.  He was standing in front of the vending machines.  I couldn't quite see what he was doing but I had a pretty good guess.  "Don't buy anything." I told him.  I didn't want a mutiny of children demanding their own snacks and they'd already had a snack after school before we started this errand. 

"I'm not. I'm just looking."  He answered and went back to his books.

Now normally, I know that just looking probably means he already put in his money and the item on E-14 got stuck and he is now trying to shake said machine into dropping its junkie goodness into the hatch for his enjoyment, but I was distracted.  My almost nine year old daughter had taken the SLEEPING baby out of her car seat and now was sitting next to several shiny sports trophies tastefully displayed out in the open.  She had one hand holding the baby and the other hand hovering around the beautiful satin red mast like area of a gymnastics trophy.  "Don't touch those!" I barked.  She jumped and my heart did a somersault as the gilded gymnast teetered for a few seconds but then nailed her landing and remained stationary.  I put my hand out like my daughter's.  "You weren't going to touch the trophy.  You were just going to rest your hand an inch from the trophy to pick up its trophy vibes?"  I asked while taking the baby from her to put back in the car seat. 

It was time to go to the meeting.  I summoned everyone, but my son lagged behind.  I thought it was that he needed to gather his things, but he was walking with his books positioned in an awkward way.  Half way to the classroom, I spied one of my daughters playing with the custodian's three foot wide push broom. Startled, I barked, "Stop playing with that broom." "I'm not playing, I'm sweeping." she explained and continued to play. "Put that back away." I ordered.  "I'm helping the janitor." she explained.  "Did he ask you to help?"  "No."  "Then put it back where you found it."  When we got to the room for the briefing from the coach, I seated everyone in the back.  It was then that I saw it.

On the desk next to my son was a large bag of Cheetos.  "Did you buy that?" I asked. 
"No Mom, I traded for it at school."

Now I make this kid's lunch.  I know I fixed him a fruit cup, chicken sandwich and a cheese stick.  No child on planet Earth would trade a large bag of chips for a fruit cup, chicken sandwich or a cheese stick.

For that matter, no child would trade a bag of junk food for a fruit cup, chicken sandwich AND a cheese stick even if being filmed for a healthy eating type commercial.  "Come on Buddy, you bought that.  You went out to the car, got your money and bought that downstairs." 

"I didn't.  I don't even like Cheetos really."  His eyes betrayed his own cheesy crunchy lust but he was still stuck in kid logic which is, if I deny it and Mom doesn't prove it, it's still technically reality even if it isn't actually true.  So I fixed my eyes on his.   "So you traded your lunch for a bag of chips you don't like?" 

He looked at the floor and hoped I would find it just as compelling.   "I'll share it with the toddlers.  It will keep them calm."  he bargained.  They immediately swarmed to his position.

"Last chance."  I flared and he gave me the tiniest of nods before immediately opening the bag and sharing it with all of his siblings.  "How did you know?" he asked. 

"I just do." I explained, leaving him to wonder what else I know that he doesn't think I know.

I've got to think God has a lot of laughs like this when we fall off track and try to explain our reasoning to exonerate ourselves from our own choices.  Me: "I'm sure it's okay even though... I'll just have my hand hovering over this apple, but I'm not going to really taste it.....I was just helping....myself....I don't even like apples!" 

God: "You do know I'm All Knowing. Right?"

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Truth about Obama

I've kept it secret for years.  People shun nutroots and as such, I've tried to cultivate the personality of being reasonable but the signs themselves are too obvious to ignore anymore and I must come clean. 

There have been countless theories about the President's heritage; about the place of his birth; there are truthers, people in Indonesia and Kenya and Hawaii all call him their native son, but the truth again, is stranger than fiction. 

Let me explain:

1) Barrack was the newest Kennedy brother.
2) In his first year, he held a beer summit.  Now he's brewing his own.
3) The President has a way with words that is both musical and memorable, a gift of gab if you will.
4) He keeps company with Catholics all the time and has even found time to visit Notre Dame.  I'm sure the reason he filled out a March Madness bracket is they're a top seed this year.
5) Currently, he seems to be sparring a bit with England.
6) At his last check up, the doctors told him to cut back on his drinking and quit smoking.
7) As a youth, to improve his chances of being taken seriously, he changed his name to shield his true nature.

That's right.  President O'bama is Irish. 

Good Night Everybody! 
Happy Saint Patrick's Day Everyone!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Primitive Mom vs. Smart Phone

Somewhere back in my DNA, a cro-magnum strain remains and every so often reasserts itself.  As a tween, I held onto disco longer than was wise, then latched onto the equally poorly executed Valley Girl/prep styles after they had grown long in the tooth.  Usually I begin liking a trendy television show in its last season, only after all water cooler opportunities for discussion have long since passed.  I am one of those lost souls who perpetually lives in the world of the jumped shark but at the time thinks that "Joanie Loves Chachi is as good as what came before.  

This slowness to spot what everyone else sees and loves is most obvious in the worlds of fashion and technology, where newness is everything.  For example, I didn't realize shoe laces had gone out of style until I made my annual pilgrimage to the mall to acquire new sneakers.  In the discount rack, laced shoes were everywhere, unlovingly dumped into a large bin labled "All Sales Final." I asked why the large shedding of inventory.

"No one buys laces anymore." the clerk explained and I wondered if I needed to stock up and place said laced based footwear in the garage next to my horde of incandescent light bulbs. There weren't any lace shoes my size so I tried on the new fangled sneakers. Cro Magnum Me said they just felt wierd so I left without buying any even though I know opportunities to shop come few and far between.  

Part of it is my temperment, and part of it has been born of repeated experiences of frustration.  I don't trust the new to be better than the old, only more of a hassle to get the job done.  I know how the old works.  New machinery and appliances tend to thwart me even after I've read the directions until I feel Cave Man type desires to use an old fashioned club to whatever is the problem.  Thus it was with great hesitation that I allowed a charity to cart away the old TV I'd stored in the garage for a few years.  It still worked provided you wired it up in the back, but it had knobs for "on" and "volume" and "vert."  I told myself "Getting rid of the old tv would help limit access to screens for my family."  It did. 
For me.

With the new TV, I remain a complete ignoramus.  I keep hoping one of my kids will make a poster Rosetta stone so that when they leave home, I'll be able to do more than dust the televison until they come back for Christmas.  So far, I'm stuck relying on my toddlers. While I still don't know why it takes three remotes to make the machine play a VCR tape of Bambi, my five year old can operate the television, hook up the Nintendo and watch Blue Ray special features and find the Easter eggs if given full reign. Fortunately Mom still knows the most important thing, how to turn it off Cro-magnum style. Hulk Mom no like 24-7 tv, Hulk mom smash! (I pull the plugs).  The day they invent wi-fi energy, I'm in trouble.   

Now the new thing is a Smart Phone.  With it, I could have a calendar, a phone and address book, a GPS and a computer.  I could access the internet, keep my mom updated on my status with Facebook, twitter, pay bills, answer emails and download all the books I've been meaning to read but haven't. The Luddite genes have been roused!  They don't want a Smart phone, they like their dumb one thank you very much or at least one that I could out think.   But, my son pointed out, I could look up how to program the VCR, and watch every episode of Happy Days from when it was good; there's even a app that would allow me to purchase laced sneakers online with a touch of my finger, provided I learned how to operate it.  It would eliminate about 12 to 2700 lbs. of what I carry around in my daily bag for errands purposes. 

With it, I would lose my ability to over schedule, forget, get lost or fall behind. All actual errors with regards to errands would be due to sloth or my own idiocy.  This is presuming my purchasing of such an item would not sound the death knell for this fad, sending it the way of Beta, laser discs and leg warmers.  

Except I learned yesterday that leg warmers are coming back.  My daughter bought some.
She Hulk Mom will have to think on this....

Friday, March 11, 2011

Prayers for Japan

I had a funny piece in my head but it can wait.  I've watched the video of the water sweeping over the farms and sending the SUV's bobbing along like children's toys in a tub and find it is amazing how quickly we forget that all of life can change in an instant.  The very ground we walk on is not stable.  They say this was one of the biggest recorded earthquakes in history and it looks horrible.  The Anchoress has pictures and video, as does Hot Air.  My heart is in my mouth as I see the whirlpool and the videos and the still pictures of what happens when the earth and sea are not still. 

Today is Friday and for those who pray the Rosary, today we focus on the sorrowful mysteries.  The howl of that nation as whole towns, whole histories, whole communities were lost, certainly echoes the agony of the garden.  For the rest of us, we have the hard grace of being reminded that we are helpless and small and mortal and dust, and that the only thing we can do, and oddly, it is the most powerful thing we could do, is get to our knees and pray hard.

Praying to those who hold faith and the sacred in contempt looks like doing nothing.  Prayer however is our non sacramental way of reaching out to God and allowing Him to penetrate our soul.  It is time we set apart that is wholly devoted to Not this world.  The world is a jealous mistress that resents any moments we spend recognizing that she is not all that; so she crowds our heads with emails and tweets and phone calls and worries and chores and cuts and bills and dust and unexpected hassles and errands and illnesses and death and destruction on a scale we can scarcely imagine.

"See all of this?" she hisses.  "How could God Be if He allows this?"  Recognize you are being called to pray for the end of all of that, and to work in your own way to alleviate what you can of what the world inflicts.  Imagine if everyone freely sought to live out the Beatitudes.

And if you still believe and still seek to pray, she hisses "See all of this?" and she shows you the sick, the dying, the suffering, the poor and the destroyed.  "Why Should God Listen to Your Prayers? And why would you waste God's time on your trivial matters?" If your matters are serious, She reminds you of how many people in the world need and how not good or deserving you are.  "Why should you merit a miracle?" She spits.  None of us do but Christ did not measure our worth by the world's measures and still doesn't.

And if you still believe in trying after that, she hisses, "Bet the answer is No!" and that's when we have to swallow and recognize that because we believe that God doesn't just exist but loves us in an all infinite encompassing way, that we are heard. God's answer is God's answer. He always answers every prayer with greater love. We do not know the prayers of any heart but our own, and those, we should fearlessly place before God.

And then, there is God's time which is not our time.  As a child and adolescent, I must have begged, petitioned and cried for friends a thousand times.  I asked and asked and asked while I trudged to high school and walked the halls aching for someone to want to talk to me.   I prayed to have a lot of people love me (a vain prayer to be sure but I was a teen and it is what every teen aches for, not popularity --that is the error of youth, but for community).  And now I have these eleven people who crowd my day and there is always someone to talk with, to listen to, and who smiles when they see me and all I can think is Lavish and Thank you and More Lavish and Thank You. 

So as I look at the devastation, I am reminded of this great beauty, this fragile gorgeous life we have, all these gifts like a son's birthday, a daughter crawling into your bed late at night, and the early morning sounds of chirping birds.  We have this gift of today, of this second and the next and the next.  So hug your children and your spouse tightly today.  Tell your parents you love them and reach out to your friends. Joyfully embrace your Lenten fast and breathe deeply the air of this March 11th and pray for those who died and those who live on and must pick up the pieces. 

He is with them and He is with us.  Our hearts break for these people; mend theirs and ours.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Pass the Eraser

Today is Ash Wednesday.  In the back area of the Church there is a wall separating any who sit there from the congregation. This is in leiu of a cry room. I hoped by sitting there we would draw less attention.  It was not to be.  First, they dumped their coats.  Then there was the mad scramble to sit on the kneeler only to discover one of the kneeler's cushions could be removed if you sat there and bounced.  After fixing the cushions, the girls kept bringing me flyers from the table.  I would replace them from one, only to be resupplied by the other.  Their favorite was a pink pamplet "PURE WOMANHOOD," they handed me six of those.

My son was in his stroller and kept throwing a plastic pink pig which the girls thought great fun to pounce on and throw back.  I took away the pig and got crying in stereo.  The baby then began to cry too.  I fixed her bottle and tried hugging the girls into compliance while letting Paul play with the pig.  It lasted five minutes.

When my older daughter who should know better started dancing as if she'd chugged a whole Mountain Dew, I admit, my resolve to be loving went out the window.   Right then, I just wanted quiet compliance!  I snapped at her to sit down.  She sat, crumpled, took a deep breath and howled. The sound echoed.  I considered packing it in but the irony of me trying to get her to be still and quiet so I could pay attention to the fact that all of us are sinful, noisy and distracted....pounded in my brain.

As the kids in front of us went up for ashes, I couldn't help thinking, "I've just proven how I still don't quite get it." and this is why I so need that black cross on my head.  I watched as my daughters skipped up the aisle, eager to receive. The rest of mass after ashes ran pretty much the way it had up to receiving ashes. I did have to give the "Behave or We'll leave" speech after receiving the Eucharist but the anger and irritation and "Why is this happening to me" type thinking that plagued the earlier part of the mass wasn't there.

This is why God handed so many souls to my heart to manage. They'd hopefully crowd out the "I" with their love, and if not, they'd at least distract the "Id" with their own needs. Blessed Mother Theresa understood the more people we serve, or the more we wholey serve people in our midst, the less we become attached to our own opinions and thinking and feeling and the more of what we are not, (Christ), shines through. Most are graced and talented enough to do this with less than ten. 

But human nature being what it is (fallen), we can turn any grace, even a lavish one into a source of sin...resting on laurels, presuming at all times that whatever we are doing, it is sufficient or has merit. But God is not satisfied with where we are because where we are isn't with Him.  Just as I didn't want my kids just to be at mass, I wanted them to behave and attend mass, God didn't just want me to show up with my kids, He wanted me to love even through all of that; (and I wanted not to be taxed to have to love through all of that).  

As sinners, we say "No more." and draw lines around our hearts, insisting that God cannot push beyond this point. But we are called to imitate the Saints who spent their lives trying to erase those lines around their own souls so that there is no space  in their minds or hearts or lives where God is not allowed. Any response I had outside of love was incorrect.   Ash Wednesday is about remembering the lines we have drawn around our lives to keep God out.

Pass the eraser please.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Mardi Gras! Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday

Today, I stepped on the scale.  This is the first time since the baby was born that the numbers went UP. 

Up is bad. 

The thing is, I can be iron willed when the diet is for someone else.  I don't cheat. I can forego sweets, fats, fried, breads, pastas, pizzas, all of that when I have gestational diabetes and have to protect the baby.  But when the body being protected is me...well, I don't count as much in my own mind and my discipline goes out the window. 

So I'm using Lent...I'll be fasting (from some of those things I overindulge in) to become less attached to them and less indulgent of me.   My Lenten resolutions have been all over the place in my head and writing helped to focus what I needed to do.  

1) Denial of the body --no seconds and no fast food.

2) Demand of the mind --read for 10 minutes a day from a book that deepens my relationship with God.  I just finished the Kreeft book, I'm going to use my Magnificat and Pope Beneditct's "God is Love."

3) Service: Participating in the 40 days for Life campaign.

4) Spirit: Going to adoration once a week --It will be like going into the desert, though I think being away from everything, even for an hour will feel like a dessert to me.  

5) Prayer: Try to keep up the daily rosary...some days, a decade is all I can do...and that's usually a day when the whole rosary would have done me great good. 

Good luck with Lent Everyone!  Going to make Jumbalaya for dinner.   "Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez!"

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Ask and Ye Shall Receive...

Friday, I'd had it.  I posted my little note about pottying and decided "No More." 

I put her in underwear and vowed we'd be cloistered until she showed we could go out in public. 

Four hours into the day and two accidents later, my mother called and told me she'd been to adoration and prayed for each of my children, but added a special petition for my soon to be 4 year old.  We were still waiting for our first success.  My will was close to breaking.

To distract myself, I picked up a book I'd been reading, Peter Kreeft's "Catholic Christianity"  The chapter on the Our Father is particularly fine and as I read two sentences in particular.  "More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of." and "If God let us see all the difference every one of our prayers made, througout all of history and all of humanity, we probably would be unable to ever get up off our knees again," my daughter called out urgently, "MOM!"

I went to her summons. She was in the bathroom and the first success documented as true, had a witness. I'd banned McDonald's until she was potty trained and two weeks into the ban her sister had attempted to secretly substitue her own (ahem) sample for her sister to get Mom to drive to Mickey D's for some happy meals.  But this time, there was no mistaking that smile of ownership.  Cue Music! 

I called my mom.  "Why haven't you asked before????" I asked.  She said she had.
But it was still a reminder, All things, great and small....
P.S. Told my sister. She began singing Handel, inspired this post.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Everything Old is New Again


It's not going well.

Indisposed, daughter (who is two), knocks. "Don't come in!" I urge. She opens the door and very gently puts down a box of baby wipes. "Here you go Mom." She says and walks away.

It's really not going well.

Me: You should use the potty J.

"No Mom."

Me: Why not?

"Then I'll get my beautiful potty all dirty."

It's not going well at all.

At the grocery store, "We need diapers Mom! Don't forget diapers Mom."

Nice lady listening: "Don't you want to be a big boy and use underwear and go to school?" I nod my head eagerly in agreement.

"NO. Then I'd have to leave Mom alone with the baby!"

Mind you, this gent potty trained 3 days before he became 4 because I told him it was illegal to celebrate his 4th birthday if he Wasn't potty trained ---he never used a diaper or had an accident from that point forward, not once.  No....I know I may be spending time in purgatory for this one but I still am not sorry.

Fast Forward to 2011, 45 days until she turns 4...

She is watching Dora.  Dora is currently the spokeswoman for the Potty Dance, a movement (if you will) to help parents with persuading their toddler set to use the facilities.  The commercial came on and cued by the reminder, her father asked, "Don't you want to do the potty dance?"

She curled up in the fetal position.   She didn't say it but I believe her body language said, "Et Tu Dora?"

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!