Friday, February 27, 2015


No one is so efficient as the person who would get work done if only.  Today, I sit thinking how clean the house would be if even one of my three vacuum cleaners were working, but there's a broom and it sits in the closet next to the dust pan saying, "Hello?"  Have I fished them out and begun sweeping? What are you crazy?

Yesterday I lamented about not being able to write as I don't have a laptop.  My notepad and pencil whispered, "Ahem."  Did I begin scribbling away, crafting today's piece for your amusement?  Hey kids, let's watch Penguins!   I watched Penguins.   My kids and I even critiqued it, they noted the plot holes, and how much better it could have been.  "They needed better writers Mom."  The notepad is trying to leap off the desk at me.

However, I've discovered, even with the tools, I don't get going.  I have a paper shredder I've never assembled, and a cooler full of old bills and the like that need to be eliminated.   I have a new swifter mop I've not taken out of the box and a photo shadow box with 20 slots in it, that need pictures.  The stacks of not done feel monumental.  I have books that need reading and reviewing, editing and actual writing, paper work that needs filing, dishes that need to be unloaded, a sink that needs cleaning, clothes folding, a child to be played with today in the morning and what am I doing? 


Why?  I'd love to say the fault is in my stars, but it's in the stars in my eyes, always taking on more, never finishing what I start without the need for if not cheerleaders, coaches to push me past my comfort zone.  

While discussing the stalled project of Penelope, I recognized I don't even put the treadmill past 3.5 because then I'm not comfortable.  Working out, like writing, like trying to live out a good Lent, involves going where we're not comfortable, going to the dusty untidy corners and pushing ourselves through that resistance.   What I've discovered is, in projects and my fitness and faith, I'm soft in the middle but full of strong promise.

So I'm signing off to go take care of 1) paper work, 2) dropping of the vacuum cleaners and 3) go work out.  I'll put the treadmill to at least 3.6.   God willing, and me willing with God, all that needs to be done today, will be.   

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Small Success Thursday

In other news, I miss my laptop.  Having to share a computer with at least six other people crimps writing, editing, blogging, reading, everything.   Who knows how many brilliant thoughts were lost by me having to wait for a chance at the keyboard. Oh sure I could write things down with a pencil and paper...wait. I could do that.  But it's so much easier to blame not writing on the lack of technology. I sound like one of my kids.  Ugh. If you need me, I'll be over here with a notepad, not able to blame my lack of creativity on anything but myself.   

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Boiled Frog Mom

Most people know the story of the boiled frog. If you put a frog in hot water, it will jump out. If you bring the heat up slowly, it will get boiled alive.  Lent is supposed to help us realize all the ways in which sin is boiling us alive.

Part of why the humor pieces that used to pepper every day dried up, is my children started growing up, and the other part is I got used to the reality.   Back when I had six or seven or even eight or nine, I kept fighting the reality that it would take twenty-five minutes to get out the door, I would deny the truth I'd still be changing diapers in 2015.  I fought tooth and nail the idea of having to fold 100 pairs of socks a week.

But something happened in the past four years, two of my children left for college, and all the others started to grow up a bit and so did I.  It wearied me less to take care of things. The socks still loom, there are still unexplained piles of clothing I discover whenever I do my patrol of the house, but since I now do it 6 days a week, there are fewer surprises like crunchy socks and apple cores.  Diapers and pottying remain part of life, but they've been part of our existence so long, it no longer plagues me as it did once. Did I grow up? (Some).  Did they mature? (Some).  All of this became routine, such that it no longer vexed or stressed as it had on a regular basis.  That doesn't mean they don't decide sometimes to hitch up three children to a jump rope and pull the garden cart plus two laundry baskets behind them around the house and scream at the top of their lungs or that there aren't occasionally my little pony pegasi, paper airplanes and super balls up on the balcony crown molding, only that it no longer strikes me as insane, but rather as proof they are the ages they are.   Part of that brought peace, but part of it revealed a dullness in me.

At some point, triage parenting (Get them fed, get them brushed, get them dressed, get them kisses, get them to bed) stopped working because they and I knew, it wasn't enough.   You think it is sufficient, you're making sure they're clean, they've been read to, they've gone to school and to some activity, you've fed them and bath and bedtime.  But then we had a three day weekend courtesy of a snow day.  At the end of the three days, my husband and I summed up all we'd done in the course of the time with our children.  We took them to their activities, (basketball and a party), we got them to mass, I made pancakes for breakfast. He took some on a walk while I hovered over homework and got one of the youngest, a hair cut.  They'd played apples to apples while dinner was being prepared, we'd grocery shopped, shoveled snow and some had played Civilizations on the computer, and others watched a movie on television.  Pretty good weekend huh?  Lots going on. Lots of variety of stimuli, big red check mark right?

Except I realized I'd been a disconnected part of this experience. I'd shoveled but I hadn't played in the snow with my children.  I made dinner while they played apples to apples.  Even my recreation with them was either passive --watching television with the younger set, or in command --taking someone to the barber's.   I'd somehow missed the Mary part of mothering in favor of the Marthaing.
It stung to recognize this reality, it is the way I've mothered for many years, and it is a habit that the practice of fasting, brought to light.  To which my soul said simply, "Ow. Yikes." and then, "Now what?"

Not that I was resentful of my family, all that needed to be done NEEDED to be done, but it all needed to be done with others, rather than apart.  I'd done all things with love, and for those I love, but I'd not built connection.  I'd been the background, the air, necessary, but unnoticed.   And I ached for the relationships I'd not built because I'd been so busy doing for these people I loved.

Being a mom means being present, not just providing, just so as being a dad means being present, not just providing.   I'd been doing only half of the job. Important stuff, not to be ignored. Everyone needs their teeth brushed, hair combed, proper attire to go outside and to have done their homework, that all matters, but when they leave the house, what will their memories of me be?  Only that I fed them and put away their clothes?  So why did it take so long to get to this thought?  A lot of parenting a large family is just making sure you don't forget whatever is critical to this day, but when you're so worried about missing the little big things of this day, you can miss the big little things of everyday.

It wasn't a pleasant feeling, and I knew, I'm out in the dessert, discovering something of that more we're supposed to be.  I knew if I stayed as was, I'd be boiled, but that I'd let myself stay thinking it would some how on its own, become something better.  In that moment, I hated and loved Lent. Because it shows me all the ways in which I've allowed myself to limit my love of my family by trying by works alone, to show love.  What's the cure?

Presence.  I know it is the answer, it's so obvious and seemingly simple.

(So you're wondering why I'm writing a blog rather than stopping everything and painting with my daughter)? Because that's what I'm going to do next now that she's finished watching her favorite show.  Have a great Tuesday!

Friday, February 20, 2015

You Know it's Cold When....

Given the weather, I felt the need to vent in a safe warm place, hence prepare yourself for a rant against the cold.  

10) You know it's cold when...the temperature is not so high that it would be allowed into a PG-13 movie.   I'd like the air to at least be able to be carded, if not collecting social security.  

9) Given the choice between bringing up the trash cans --an easy one shot task twice a week, and doing the dinner dishes every night, there is a mad fight to take on K.P.

8) You notice that your car doesn't have heated seats.  

7) There is a deer living next to your van to avoid the wind.  

6) None of these are made up.  

5) Children ask for hot chocolate not because they want to drink it, but because they want to warm their hands while they still are wearing gloves.

4) Threats about driving until you find some place warm go so far as to google the closest place with 70 degree weather. (Hint: Brownsville is looking pretty good).  

3) You serve oatmeal. Several of the kids hate oatmeal.  No one complains because it's warm.

2) The stupid rallying cry of Olaf the snowman in Frozen, "Let's go save summer." sounds reasonable.

1) Describing how cold it is involves negative integers and no small amount of suppressed expletives.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Walk into the Desert

Today is Ash Wednesday. Liturgically, it's the anniversary of my father's death.  The actual date is two weeks away, but nothing quite reminds one of the reality of ashes like the reality of an anniversary of a parent's death.  It doesn't feel like so much time has passed.

The past few weeks, I've lost my computer.  As a result, I've not quite known what to do with myself. My writing lay fallow more than I'd like and come this week, I felt apprehension as Lent approached. I didn't have some grand inspiration for the day or the 40 days.  Normally, I have big plans.  I'll do 40 bags in 40 days! I'll go to daily mass!  I'll well, I'll do something big, important, holy.   It's a zeal and enthusiasm I have naturally, but it is often without actual correct orientation.   "Martha"-ing Lent is not the way to go.   But it took 40 or so years of mucking up Lent to get to this recognition.

That recognition came with the other hard point, a personal revelation about my own tendency to do the same thing to Lent in everything else I do, to focus on the flash and sparkle and newness of whatever, rather than the reality of the work to be done.  It allows me to flit upon the surface of things, relationships (my friendships suffer from this), and the home (man does it suffer from my cursory keeping), and my writing --which is fire and forget and seldom edited more than once.  It's perfect for blogging style, but not for writing anything with weight or length.

It's an ugly and unsettling thing to recognize, you've spent the last 40 years wandering, still not getting it. I've churned through rosaries, read a daily devotional, done any number of things seeking holiness, without necessarily beginning where Lent demands we begin, with my own faults, my own faults, my own grievous faults.  The temptation for me, and I'm sure for many, is to say, I'm not so bad...and list all those devotions, all those ways in which I've sought to live out an authentic life of faith.  But all of those good things, as good as they are, do not change the fact, that even alone, I require my God to do this:

I cannot begin to fathom the ugliness.   I only know Ash Wednesday requires I recognize my own dullness of spirit, and my own inability to "Get or Do Lent" correctly. I can't get an A or a gold star.  I can either grow in faith, or grow duller. That's it.  That's all.

The goal is to grow in holiness, to free ourselves at least in part from addictions, and to recognize however far we've come, we're not there.  We're supposed to wind up at the foot of the cross by the end of this journey, to know we have crucified Him. We called for His crucifixion.  We betrayed Him. We denied Him.  What did He want us to do?  Love Him.

Have a Blessed Ash Wednesday. Pray. Fast. Give Alms, and do it all with a smile and grateful heart.
Walk into the desert, and know when you do, you will find the one who loves you this much.


Saturday, February 14, 2015

"Look at Me."

It began with a discussion about labels for people with handicapping conditions, Down Syndrome, mentally handicapped and other common terms from the past on Facebook. 

My son is mentally handicapped and mentally challenged. He has Down Syndrome. Because I worked with the handicapped as a young adult and heard the word as a medical definition, I never minded mentally retarded until the word retard became a common slur. Now a days, it's a forbidden word in our home, as I don't want the stigma.  But I know labels matter.  It's important to know the reality of our son's condition, and the hurdles we face in teaching him and caring for him, so I have no pr
oblem with saying my son's intellectual capacities are limited, they obviously are. 

Anyone who looks at him can tell. He doesn't speak as much as a two year old, and he's six. He's not potty trained. He lacks a sense of safety and has to be held by the hand in public to ensure he doesn't just run. The problem with mentally handicapped, mentally challenged is the same problem with the labels Down Syndrome, idiot, mongoloid, and Trisomy 21 and any other label ever invented to describe a child with his condition. It only tells something of the story, but people tend to hear it and think it is all of it or that it is so much of the person, there is nothing else worth discussing about people like my son, or necessary to know. 

What someone who doesn't know Paul can't see are his talents and loves. He loves to sing loudly whenever the mood strikes. He dances and loves swimming. Every chance he gets, he plays with his stuffed dinosaurs. He goes outside with his brothers and sisters and never wants to come in no matter how cold the weather. He raids the refrigerator for any piece of fruit that hasn't yet been consumed. 
He's not emotionally handicapped, he feels things deeply. When he's mad at his sister, he has a phrase which tells her, I'm ticked. He'll say, "Heh heh." and she knows it's an insult and screams which leads to him again saying very calmly, "Heh heh." He will put his hands to your face and say "Look at me." when he really needs something, and he's always wanting to scramble into my lap for a hug.

The other day, I said, "It's time to go." and gathered my keys and purse. He left the room. I began calling,"Paul!" as I kept organizing, "It's time to go." and he came back carrying a hanger with my coat. None of my other children have ever done such a thing.

The bottom line is a label is a tool, used to convey something descriptive about a person, just as titles are tools of language used to convey a level of accomplishment or a relationship; Dr. or Professor, Father, Wife, Mother, Mrs. But what makes a person a doctor or professor or parent or spouse of merit, is what lies beyond the title; the depth of knowledge, care, wisdom, comfort, expertise and love put into the role. With Down Syndrome, the title is given via genetics from before birth and the person with that title spends their whole life trying to teach everyone around them, there's more to me than that, look at me.

"Look at me."

Friday, February 13, 2015

And Now, For Something Terribly Terribly Terribly Important....

Everyone knows Kanye West spends his days and nights tirelessly fighting to ensure Beyonce is worshiped 24-7 as the goddess she must be. But people only know about his attempt to crash Taylor Swift's award in 2009, and Beck's in 2015.
Other attempts to ensure Beyonce's name is spoken and revered before all others include:
10) The recent ending of the series Where's Waldo came about when famed musician Kanye West spent a few minutes with the author (after all, it is a book one need not read to read) to explain that no one cares about a man with glasses in a striped shirt. Finding Beyonce would be much more exciting and satisfying for everyone.
9) After a conference with a testy Kanye West, NASA closed up it's incredibly difficult space shuttle program not because Congress dried up the funds, but because even if the government sent people to the moon or beyond, they still wouldn't be as big a star in the universe as Beyonce.
8) The future King and Queen of England, Prince William and Princess Kate met with Mr. West to discuss baby names before learning they would be having a prince. No word on whether they reached an agreement about all future princesses being named, Not Beyonce and I may be a Princess but I want to be Beyonce.
7) J K Rowling refused to comment when Kanye West visited her recently. But Kanye West took to the cameras, explaining that even though he considered himself a proud non reader of books, "Any references to the Chosen One in the Harry Potter Series should allude to Beyonce and not Harry. Also He Who Should Not Be Named should be She Who Must Be Worshiped." He subsequently suggested all characters in all books Kanye West won't read should now be named Beyonce. Aparently West offered to buy a few of her books as paperweights if she did.
6) The President and First Lady saw Kanye West while at a charity gathering at the White House. Kanye took the opportunity to suggest putting a statue of Beyonce on the Mall, but that it should really be taller than the Washington Monument.
5) West crashed the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize at the UN. After all, Malala only allowed herself to be shot by the Taliban for daring to pursue an education. Beyonce's played in the Superbowl baby. "Can Malala touch this?" West asked, showing a video of Beyonce's 2013 performance. "I don't think so."
4) Everyone's seen the van for the Publisher's Clearing House Sweepstakes on TV, but few know that the most recent winner was asked to step back and recognize that really, Beyonce deserves it even if she didn't enter.
3) Ken Jennings became known as the longest winner of the famous Jeopardy tv game show, but he's nothing because while he's been on a show, Beyonce's been an answer. Kanye West's lawyers recently sent a subpoena to Mr. Jennings asking that he cease mentioning his victories without giving due credit where credit is due by mentioning his thanks to Beyonce before answering any an all questions or answering in the form of a question.
2) At the most recent Superbowl, sure the Patriots won, but Kanye West was there to remind Tom Brady; your deflated balls, wouldn't be like that if you paid better homage to Beyonce.
1) John Stewart recently announced his retirement from the Daily Show. Unverified sources indicate Kanye West may have sent him a collection of Beyonce's work with a gentle reminder, that as great and entertaining as he might be, he remains nothing by comparison to her, and that the realization by John of this universal truth, led him to despair and close up shop.
Kanye West plans to submit a bill to Congress in the near future requiring all currency contain Beyonce's likeness and a special Beyonce Awareness month coupled with a Beyonce Federal Holiday to celebrate all things Beyonce.  No word on whether he plans to boycott 50 Shades of Grey because it doesn't feature Beyonce, but peace out.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

49-26 What did I forget and hope I don't repeat...

49.  My marriage, it is a gift and I'm so grateful for all of it.

48. Stupid stuff like magic cards and Farkle, card games and Scrabble, I love playing these things with my kids, and I'm grateful they're willing to play with me.

47. My brother Danny who talks on the phone with me and makes me roar with laughter when we get the chance.

46.  My husband's love of history is something that keeps educating me.

45.  The power of the list.  I don't know why it works but it does.  If I write it down, somehow things happen. If I don't, nothing gets done.  So I'm grateful for the tool. Now I just have to a) remember to use it and b) not lose it while I'm doing the things on it.

44.  My son John is sweet, kind and smart.  He also gives generously of his heart to his classmates and his family.  He leads the younger ones in play, he helps daily by baking the snack, and he's always up for a game. He also does his homework without nagging which is a double bonus for me.

43.  Barbecue Beef brisket and ribs, Bluebell ice cream (pralines and cream) and real coke-cola in a glass bottle from Mexico.  Three samples of heaven on Earth that I will never turn down. So glad I can still have them.

42.  Memories.  Having lost my dad to Alzheimer's, I know how fleeting recall can be. I forget when I walk into the next room why I walked into the next room enough now.  It is a gift to retain knowledge, deep awareness of what came before, especially in a day and age that flits from moment to moment and has half a twitter tweet span's worth of attention.

41.  The struggles of every day are a gift, because they are opportunities for grace.  I know I carry a light cross by comparison with so many in this world, both past and present.  God puts up with me constantly asking to make it lighter.

40.  My favorite person of the Trinity is the Holy Spirit.  I suppose it should be Jesus, but I've always felt close to the advocate, I've always loved Confirmation most, and I've always worn a dove necklace representing the Holy Spirit.  So I'm grateful for the gifts and the gift of the Holy Ghost.

39.  Furniture!  Sometimes, we've not had what we needed and all of sudden, bam! We have a table that way, and two beds and two chests of drawers from three separate occasions where this sort of thing happened.  Today, we get twelve folding chairs.  :)   March on. God will provide.

38.  Opportunities like meeting Marie-Helen Matthieu of Faith and Light, and Gregg Gannon's family at the Food drive, that come from being a Freelance writer.

37. The vision of Heaven, the promise of it if we seek.  The other day, I went to adoration and found myself singing in my head, a song sung at mass, the words of the good thief, "Remember me when you come into your kingdom." and as I allowed myself to follow the memory, I imagined the giant receiving line one would find at a great wedding.  We did not get to have a receiving line at our wedding reception as we would have spent the entire time greeting everyone.  But in eternity, time is not an issue, and so we would have the distinct pleasure of getting to really converse with each person who led us to this moment, culminating in the one who gave us the opportunity to be here at all. It brought great joy to vision it, and to hope that this is part of the experience of the great wedding feast.

36.  My intellect is dusty and clunky, but I'm grateful for all that my brain can do, even if the rest of me sometimes doesn't make what it thinks up, happen.

35.  My body is dusty and clunky and clumsy, but I'm grateful for all it can do, even if the rest of me sometimes (read often) doesn't make what it should do (exercise) happen.

34.  The gift of hearing stories, having an understanding face.  Sometimes, I'll be just in the process of going about life and someone will tell me a story that is so heart-breakingly beautiful, I can't stand it.  Whenever I get the privilege of hearing one of these tales, I know it is a gift.

33. Growing up with lots of Aunts, Uncles and cousins.  I don't get to see them often, but when I do, it's like breathing in childhood, it feels comfortable, and I'm so grateful to have all of them.

32.  The Happening Team. My parents belonged to a retreat team for young adult Catholics in the early 70's (hence the name), and the people I met there (as a child aged 4-8 I think), are still my friends today.  They sang at my wedding. Some of them taught me in school, and when I hear songs at mass they sung, the way the songs are sung now, doesn't sound right to me without their voices.

31.  Long road trips with my family are a gift my husband organized over the years that now is an expectation. Of course people always grouse when we say the magic word "Camping" but that complaint gets destroyed by the actual beauty and fun of doing it.

30.  Unexpected Snow days.  They are my favorite.  We sleep in. We dig out. We make hot chocolate and everyone just unwinds. It's what makes winter (after Christmas) bearable for me.

29.  Lunch dates with my teens.  It's a tradition I began back with my oldest.  When they get a half day, we go out to lunch. It's nice to get to visit with just the older ones and to give them that sort of solo time (or close to solo as it comes in our house).

28. My daughter Anna keeps making me rediscover the joy of toddlers.  Because I've had toddlers for so long, I sometimes gloss over the events I should notice. She revels in everything as a first child, and so I get to re-experience the newness with her.

27.  I'm almost done with this boast and I've made good on it. Good thing I didn't say 1000...though I probably could....stop...don't say that Sherry.  Okay, that I'm part of the Catholic Conference 4 Moms.

26.'s weekly column of Small Success Thursday which began over at Faith & Family and became my project --a gift from Danielle Bean to me, and has led to other opportunities to write for publication and also a weekly habit of cultivating gratitude.  Come over and see the last twenty-five posted and leave your own list!

And there you have it!  100 blessings.
And now I will promise to write something that's not a list next time.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

74-50 (also known as me and my big mouth)...

74.  The gift of creativity.  I'm grateful because I'll need it to see the totality of this list and have no repeats.  But I've always been able to draw and writing came later, but I've always loved trying to write stories.  The first day I took creative writing in 4th grade with Mrs. Bolic, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven.  Who wouldn't love doing creative writing?  That's what I thought.

73.  The eventual gift of insight.  You'd think with that sort of revelation, I'd have known sooner than I found out, but eventually, I figured it out --it took a sledge hammer of a hint. (Graduate professor saying she expects to see me in print didn't do it, writing stories for family didn't do it, having someone say you should send this to the Catholic Standard --that's what started it).  Curiously, it happened during Catholic Schools week, and right before Lent.

72.  Lent!  I love Lent. It has always helped orient me if I've allowed it.  I found one of my vocations because of a Lenten resolution --working with the handicapped, deepened a friendship with my sister, and read things I otherwise would have stoutly ignored and thus not discovered I loved.   So Lent is a blessing to me.

71.  My son John is a gentleman but he's also silly.  He's one of those kids you savor spending time with because he takes such delight in spending it with you.   These days, he's my baker and every day he loves to come home and prepare a baked snack for the whole family.  My diet doesn't appreciate it, but I do.

70.  I've come back to Peter because he does another thing I wish to be grateful for, he demands introspection about all things and has a fierce love of justice and fairness.  As a result, he prevents his mother from going on auto-pilot parenting wise, and for this, I'm grateful because I'd miss much if he didn't.

69.  The Magnifcat.  It's a monthly magazine I receive and frequently lose mid month, but which I try to read every day I can find it.  Twelve years ago my mother introduced me to this collection of the daily prayers, saint of the day, and meditation.  She said then, "A mother of five doesn't have much time to pray." and it was true, my whole life was homework, errands and diapers, or felt that way.  But having the Magnificat tucked in the mini-van let me spend a bit of contemplative Mary time in my then Martha life and still does.

68.  My friend Shelley is a treasure.  It doesn't matter that we haven't seen each other since she and her family moved to Dallas, we talk on the phone and the years and mileage slip away. No one can make me laugh as much as she does, and no one (I've told her this), has a more Catholic Marian heart than her who isn't Catholic.  She is someone who I talk and the time slips away.  It's just fun and joyous even the struggles of everyday life.

67.  Organization and discipline.  Two things I struggle with daily, but discover every time I use them rather than avoid, make my life easier or at least more manageable.  You'd think I'd come to terms with simply embracing these two things as if they were salt and pepper of the day, but no, every day I have to will myself to look at the calendar, write down the list of things to do, and then begin the arduous process of doing them.

66.  Did I already say books? I know I said music.  I'm a lazy reader. That's a shameful thing for a writer to admit, but it's true.  I don't read music very well either, I play by ear which explains why my repertoire of pieces remains so very small.  But I love trying and when I finish a book, it feels like I hunted a giant boar or deer and now brought home the kill, I did it.  It's a silly feeling, but I keep trying to force myself to read more, knowing it is good for me, even as the slothful part of my brain says...later....wouldn't you rather sleep or write --writing is good, but I know I need to read the same way I need to listen.  I know I like to talk, but if I'm doing all the talking, I am missing out on other people, and if I'm doing all the writing, I am losing so much more than anything I have to say.  So I love books and keep trying to become more well read.

65.  The gift of time.  Not many people can say they stayed home with their children these days, not for 22 years anyway.  It is a gift from my husband, it is a generous gift,  I'm grateful for each minute, God forgive me for any and all of the time I've wasted.

64.  It's Rita's turn.  She makes me sing. She makes me dance. She hugs tighter than anyone else I know.  At mass, sometimes I'm in awe at her reverence.    She has a big kind heart and is passionate about everything she does.

63.  Running out of things in my brain and I still have 37 to go....okay....New York City. I'm grateful to have lived there before I had children, it was a fun romantic place to spend the first year of marriage.  We had a blast and thus I have a soft spot for the big apple.

62.  My writing community!  They're intelligent talented people who push me to work harder and write better than I otherwise would.

61.  Patience....something I only discover I'm missing when I need the gift most.  But I'm grateful for when I do have it, and when I have the wits to ask for it.

60.  The songs my daughter sings.  Anna frequently sings to herself about herself in third person. It's rather delightful.  "Oh yeah, her foot's better. It doesn't sting.  She's all better." (the bandage fell off).  or "She did it. (Pottying), Only Anna, she did it. Only Anna.  Yeah Yeah Yeah!"

59.  Answered prayers.  I can't tell you how many times though if I could, it would make the list a lot easier, I've asked and BOOM, received.  It's scary.  It's also amazing and wonderful.  Miracles every day, miracles constantly.  The people of Israel received 40 years of mana and quail, following a column of fire or a column of wind, miracles every day they could see.  I've had those in my life, from praying I'd meet someone who would love me for me (the summer of 84 at the beach) and meeting the man I would marry the third day of school, to silly things like "Saint Anthony we've lost a shoe again" and boom...I know I checked that closet six times but the seventh, there it is.  I prayed for Dad not to be alone when he died, and for Mom to be present, to not be robbed of those last moments.  It was answered to the letter, on Ash Wednesday, two days after I made that prayer.

58.  God's sense of humor.  I make plans. God laughs.  God reveals his plans for me gradually, and I laugh.  

57.  Notre Dame and Saint Mary's College are part of my history, part of my family's life for generations past, and places I love, even as all the faculty I loved retired or has passed away. The places themselves hold stories and beauty and I hope one day, each institution gets at least one of my children to carry on the legacy.

56.  The current and past two popes. I've had the honor of visiting one (as one of 1000 or so in the room) though I snuck to the front and got a good picture of him, attending mass celebrated in DC with another, and am enjoying reading and watching our current pontif.  I'm grateful for all three, all of whom represent a different component of the faith, because none of them could encompass all of it, they are part of the body of Christ, not the sum.  But I feel as if I know each of them, and there is a beauty in each of these men dedicated to God and his Church.

55. Facebook and emails and the internet.  Why would I be grateful for these three things that do eat a lot of time if left unchecked? Because I've reconnected with people I would not have, met people I would not have, and learned things I would not have as  a result of these tools.  As long as they remain tools and not a lifestyle or substitute for life, they're good things, things which allow for beauty and knowledge, wisdom and community, friendship and memories to be preserved.

54.   A husband that knows how to play and deliberately crafts weekends around play.  He organizes football games, hikes, trips to museums and magic tournaments.  He orders baseball tickets and sojourns to mountains and civil war battle grounds.

53. Boston College.  I went there for graduate school and it was a very important part of my life, living on my own,

52.  Cooking shows.  It's a stupid thing to love but back when I first became a stay at home mom, cooking shows became a passion of mine, They gave me adult thinking during the day when most of it was breast-feeding and napping.  I still love them.

51. My daughter Regina gives me huggies.  She is quiet and reflective but also feels all things deeply.  She's clever and kind.  When she smiles, it's like the sun peaking through the clouds.  

50. EWTN radio. (1160 AM).  I listen every day.  Having the mass on while I clean helps keep me from getting irritated with children who leave apple cores on a table or piles of laundry they should have brought down.  

I'll get to the last 25 tomorrow...I hope I don't leave anyone or anything out, but I will, because even though it is hard to come up with 100 blessings, I know, there are always more if I bothered to look.  

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Other 75...

On Thursday, Small Success will include 25 people/things for which I am grateful, as part of my answer to my own boast during a conversation, "I could name 100 things to be grateful for in life without breaking a sweat."  Writing an article with 25 things is a long post, so I will try to limit my commentary on those gifts I acknowledge in this piece, as I'm going to try to come up with the remainder to make good on my words.   Here are the first 25 more....

100.  The beach on the Bolivar Peninsula is a favorite place on Earth: The Beach house may not be there, but it's still a stretch of heaven to me both of past memories and present beauty.

99.  My daughter Anna is potty trained.  I am almost down to only one in diapers.  That hasn't happened since before May of 1996.  

98.  Having a sense of humor; it keeps me sane and everyone else laughing when life is insane.

97.  The Rosary:  I cannot say it without discovering something new even if the prayers remain the same every time.

96.  Music:  I love to dance, I love to sing (though no everyone loves hearing me), and so I love good music and introducing my kids to tunes I love.  It is a joy of this world and the next.   We can't have a perpetual wedding feast without good songs.

95.  Good Priests:  I've known many at the various parishes I've attended over 48 years of living, and in many cases, I never got to say "Thank you" for the wisdom, counsel and service they gave me, be it at a hospital, or while in graduate school, or when I showed up out of the blue and very needy on occasion for steel to get through a hard trial.  

94,  Fishing.  I don't do nearly enough of it these days, but it is a great love of mine, to stand in the warm gulf with a line in the water and wait.  It doesn't matter if I don't catch anything, though it's always even more fun if I do, I love it.

93.  Writing.  Most of the time I sit down and discover what I think as I go, but sometimes, I sit with a purpose, and when something I write means something to someone else, it makes me happy for the time I spent.

92. Gardens.  My husband loves growing and tending and creating them.  I love how they look, and love harvesting from the ones he cultivates for us during the summer.

91. My third child loves beauty and romantic love, and she encourages me to look after my appearance, to pay attention to my health, and for me to plan date nights.  She gets the importance of her father and me getting time when we are not on the clock, even if circumstances don't allow for it to be very often.  Still, she has a kind and generous heart, and wants to give us that opportunity when she can.

90.  Money.  It seems weird to write that but I'm grateful for the means to do what we do.

89. People who write brilliant beautiful and funny things, like the Anchoress, Mark Shea, Simcha Fischer, Rebecca French, the guys at Creative Minority Report, Larry D, A Mothering Spirit, Sarah Reinhart and Lisa Hendey.  I know there are tons more and I could keep listing, but this is already a long list post, so I'll just say, there are more and I love them all.

88. My second son in particular, has the great gift of humor, though he sometimes uses it at the wrong time, and he also is very sensitive.  He teaches us to pay attention to what we say at all times, to work on having gentle and generous dispositions, and when things are difficult, to pray more often. He requires I be vigilant (a virtue I lack) in organization, and in anticipating, he keeps me awake, so I don't sleepwalk through this parenting business.

87.  My dance teacher.  She taught me long ago, but the lessons she gave still work. Stand tall, tummies in, chin high, smile, eyes front, you're beautiful.  Tall like the sun, a sunflower, be proud, be strong, be beautiful.  She'd say while going around correcting form.  I can still hear her when I suck in my stomach and straighten my back.

86.  My piano teachers.  I still remember many of the pieces they taught me, and when I'm frustrated or sad, sometimes, words can't get out the feelings, but those pieces on the piano can.

85.  Scripture.  This year I'm reading the entire bible --using a great book, My Daily Catholic Bible, to do so, and the more I read, the more I love it.  

84.  My brother Danny, who sometimes calls out of the blue, and whenever he visits or calls, it is always something that brings joy.  Back when I first became a mom for the first time, he came over and played the guitar for me, making up silly songs about my infant son. I still remember them and the smile they brought to my face when I was coping with feeling utterly overwhelmed by it all.  

83.  My sister Jennifer, who dropped everything to come and help my family when Paul was in the hospital even though she was newly pregnant. (Very Marian of her, but then she is that way).  I love our visits. Last Lent, we called each other each day, I'm sort of hoping we might pick that up again.

82.  My brother Joe --always closest in age to me, and most of my misadventures from high school include him, he challenges me, he lives close by and I love when he brings his family to visit.  I also love that he fills my house with beautiful music on the piano.  I think the piano loves him too, "Finally.....something new!" the 88 keys exclaim.  

81.  Having a gym membership. My mother gave it to me for Christmas, and just as it feels good to work if you've not worked for while, it feels good to work out, even as the muscles rebel against being made to move.  

80.  Teachers from high school who believed I could do something.  I know I didn't think so, and no amount of telling me would convince me, but there were some faculty who saw something I didn't, and somehow, via patience, expectations and persistence, coaxed my brain to work more than I knew it could.

79.  Wild flowers.  They're my favorite, the way they dot the Texas hillsides and highway sides.  I love seeing flashes of red, pink and blue among the long green as we drive by at 65+, such that when I've stopped the car to look at them, they're different than I imagine.

78.  Cuddles from Anna. She loves to curl up cat like in my arms.  I'm enjoying this youngest one even as she continues to grow up.

77.  My son Paul's sweetness.  Yesterday I announced we were going to the store.  He brought me my coat, and when I took it, he high fived me for getting ready.

76. Faith's kindness.  Yesterday, she did the dishes without complaint. This morning, she brought me hot cocoa with whipped cream and cinnamon.  She does little things all the time with great love.  I remain forever grateful for her kind heart.

(I'll post 25 more tomorrow, and 25 more on Thursday).   Count your blessings, they're all part of small success.

Friday, February 6, 2015

You Can't Get There

Last Friday, my oldest son called.  In his senior year, he simply has to finish all of his classes and student teaching to acquire a double major in English and Education.  One class in one subject remained.  The only semester it is offered, is the spring. The only time it is offered, required my son to pray public transit would somehow magically transport him back to campus every time within moments of the fifteen minute grace period of being fashionably late.  He talked to people but couldn't skype, independent study or transfer the credits from another university.  The options remained: graduate without the double degree --but this would hurt his chances with graduate school, or gainful employment as it would prevent certification; wait for the next year and work on a masters in the meantime but this would also eliminate some of the opportunities he currently seeks, take the class but never show up...something he doesn't do, or beg, plead and grovel in hopes of the college seeing things his way.  Alas, none of these worked.

So we bought a car and gave him the old one thus eliminating the transportation issue for him.

Which leads me to ask: Is it more cost effective to purchase a car with payments for five years, or to pay for an additional year of college?

Answer: Boo. No. None of the above.

But it's good. We needed to replace our vehicle, it is now twelve years old with enough mileage to have circled the world 8 times over.  I told myself, it's all good. They can learn to drive on the small car.

On Monday, I sought to take care of some paper work for my second daughter. She registered for the PSAT back as a freshman, and put down her name as she is called in the home.  Unfortunately, her legal names begins with another name, and to go in to take college boards, the identification has to match exactly.  I shifted through our documents.  We didn't have the necessary materials.  I ordered them.  They arrived.  I needed to fax (Who faxes anymore) the papers to a number.  We had an old printer which said it faxes, but it doesn't.  I tried.  I tried multiple times before the printer decided in addition to not faxing, it would also stop printing.  So we needed a new printer/fax machine to send the documents. I used a friend's machine.  We got an email (not a fax) the next day.  The stuff I sent in?  Too dark. Send again.

 Did we go get a new printer too?  Yes, we did. I'm setting it up. Hoping that when I'm done, I can copy the i.d. in a lighter tone and then fax it from home so that they will change the name on the registration which will then allow us to sign up for and pay so that she can take her SAT.

Which leads to the following perfect for the SAT question:

If requirement A makes Mom's hair frizz and her eyes bug out, and requirement B is necessary for C which must be done in order to fulfill requirement A, which must be done in order that the normal future of all life continue, how long before Mom borrows a bat and begins taking out her frustrations on the broken printing machine?  

Answer....this afternoon.  I'll be roasting s'mores over the lifeless husk of the old printer after I beat it senseless.

My dad tells the story about how once he and some friends were on a fishing trip, and got lost (in the age before GPS) on the backroads of Louisiana.  They flagged down a local man walking with his dog.  "Excuse me sir, do you know how to get to Port Mansfield?" my father asked.

The man smiled and let out a low whistle.  "Yeah I do, but you ain't going right." and kept on walking with his dog.  

I have had a week of "Yeah I do, but you ain't going right."  

Next week I tackle valentines cards for six classes and three science projects.  It may be time to find myself lost in Louisiana.  

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Over at the National Catholic Register Today...

I just opened the mail to find a thank you for a piece I didn't know was published in the National Catholic Register!  It was a happy letter to receive.  I hope you enjoy it.   Go. Leave a comment.  Share.  Enjoy!

Hard Drive Crashes

Back in the early '80's, the Lone Star state opted to create for its citizens, an experiment using teenagers. They devised the "Hardship License." The term "hardship" meant any teen going to high school where the parents agreed to let the youth learn to drive. I was one of those test drivers of this policy, and am probably the reason why airbags were invented, not to mention the experiment, dismissed. It may have been because I was a dreamy teenager, it may have been because on occasion (not always, not as often as one might imagine), I wore my toe shoes or Jazz shoes so as to cut down on the time needed to get to dance class ready. 

But it doesn't matter why I was a bad driver; the reality is that poor little Dodge Dasher never stood a chance. Within three years, I'd hit rear ended a vehicle, (I sneezed, hit the gas and when whamo), sideswiped a motor cycle after getting lost in the rain, and floated my car down a street. The judgment and driving skills of this one's teen brain were poor.
Once I turned 18, apparently my brain, my judgement and my driving skills matured sufficiently that this stopped being a constant threat. Maybe the fact I quit dancing classes at that point had a part in it as well. Still, within me lay the capacity for casual distracted destruction. It merely channeled it's power toward a different machine.
When I turned 41, my husband bought me a laptop, not realizing that hard drives and crashes were part of my nature. The first computer survived three years with me before succumbing to the injuries of a virus. The computer sneezed, and stopped going rather like my first car. The second computer, not as strong, got lost at the tender age of two when I took it with me out into the world and it slid from my bag in the car after a hard stop to avoid a motorcycle that cut in front of me. Better the computer than the biker but still.
All that remained was to have the third machine float down the street. This past week, I'd put the computer on my night stand because I wanted it out of the main room so the kids wouldn't damage it after I'd finished working. I plugged it in so it could recharge. I turned to walk away but my left shoelace was untied. Somehow the lace looped around the cord of the charger so when I took a step, it pulled the cord with my foot and down down down, the two and a half feet to the ground it went, landing first on a corner before my hands could cushion it's final descent to the floor. I muffed the potential save, and the Geek Squad pronounced it DOA.
I'm thinking the government needs to do something to protect the computers and the public from threats like me, perhaps create airbags for laptops or require a licensing agreement test before letting people walk about with machines that fry on contact with anything harder than a cushion. Make us go through a "your computer and you" sort of course before letting us or at least me, on the internet. Training wheels might be nice too.
Picking up the external hard drive of my former computer, I noticed my shoelaces were again untied and now vow to at the very least, be preventative toward whatever other pieces of technology I ever own. My next pair of shoes will be velcro strap.

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!