Friday, December 30, 2016

Over at Today

I have a piece discussing inviting a Saint to walk with you in the coming year.  This past year, I helped contribute to the Catholic Mom Prayer Companion, a collection of 365 short reflections designed to give the reader a moment to catch her breath and pray.   Because the book is entitled, the Catholic Mom Prayer Companion, I thought it a great idea to have a companion for engaging in the year of prayer.  Hence, I suggested turning to Jen Fulwiller's Saint Generator. 

If you'd like to read the story over at, Walk with a Saint, it will explain what a Saint Generator is, and why you might want to give it a try.  It's fun.

As 2016 is winding down, I thought back and realized, I did make some of my goals this year.

1) I lost seven pounds.  I probably gained two back from the past two days of food, but it's still progress.   I also ran in two 5K's.

2) I read 12 books.  (One a month).  Working to make it two a month in the coming year.

3) Wrote 32 pieces that got published somewhere for pay. (A new high).  

4) Got a job.

Have a great time preparing for the new year, I'm going to make my annual overly ambitious list of things I want to do.

What are my goals for 2017?

1) Lose 10 more pounds.

2) Read 24 books.

3) Write 52 pieces that get published for pay.

4) Grow at my job.

5)  Learn a piece of music a month.  (It's to stretch me). 

6) Reconnect more with family and friends.

7)  Redevelop my prayer life.  (The Saint I got through the Saint Generator is planning to help me).

Have a great last day of 2016!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Small Success Thursday

If you're wondering where that feature of this blog went to the past three weeks, it wasn't that it got eaten by the holidays.  Small Success Thursday is supposed to be a means for people to interact and encourage one another in addition to being a moment of reflection on all the blessings of the past week.  However, we never got the participation in the link-ups we hoped.  People don't have always have the time to write a post about their comings and goings and spiritual victories.  So, to faciliate people being able to contribute to Small Success Thursday, we moved it to's Facebook page. 

While I know how to link a blog to Facebook, the reverse is more tricky.  So I've attached a link to's page, and you'll have to scroll down to read the rest of it.   If you're not a member of Facebook, I don't know that you can comment, but you read this blog so you can post comments here if you wish.  It now has a handy dandy hashtag too.  #smallsuccess.   If you use twitter, you can post your stuff there too.   (I am not a twitter officinado). I have one.  I just don't quite get it.  

Here's a sampling of the past two weeks if you missed Small Success Thursday...the posts are related so you might enjoy the sequence of events. I did.  

Week 1.  Small Success Thursday "Do not be afraid to take Mary into your home," was the translation I heard in the back row where we sat for this past Sunday's Mass. We have a prayer table. We have three nativity sets set up, and a framed picture of the blessed mother in my kitchen. How could I be afraid to take Mary into my home?

This week.

Small Success: She Means it.

Last week, I wrote about rediscovering the need to pray the rosary, and my attempt to put that devotion to Mary back into my life. Christmas happened and we got sick with the stomach flu and my good intentions which started so promisingly last week lay languishing. However, as I recovered and returned to normal life, I began to consider how I'd wasted an opportunity to pray. Prayers when we are ill, are a sacrifice, because when you are sick, ...

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

One of Those...

We've all had them, and as a society, we refused to speak of them.  Hence, there are no television specials or songs which remind us of the gory details of those Christmases.

I speak of the years when everybody gets sick.

We've eaten dinner, opened presents, phoned the parents and maybe dug into some of the pile of sweets left in the stockings when somebody says, "My stomach hurts."  Everyone pauses.  We all know what this could mean, but we all lie.  "It's probably because you ate too much."  "Or been up since four."  "And we stayed up late last night, don't forget that."  There are reassurances all around.  It's nothing.  Absolutely nothing.   Until the child in question throws up.  

After the scramble to clean up the mess and scrub down the bathroom, everyone knows, it's a matter of time and still, we repeat the fib for it's ever failing comfort.   "That was exciting." "Hope that doesn't happen again."  The next soul whose stomach doesn't feel great, doesn't feel they should mention it, and suggests everyone should shower up and get to bed.  

By two in the morning, three more people are down.  Everyone left knows the drill. Scrub your hands, wipe down everything and don't eat.  Whatever you do, DON'T EAT.    Alas, we've already eaten.   Doom approaches.  

In the dawn's early light, the body count now stands at seven, leaving one parent, one college student and three of the four youngest.  Even worse, Mom is down.  The victims park themselves with pots and blankets in the middle room, occasionally moaning or begging for ginger ale.  The surviving members of the family wipe everything down with clorox and try to hold off one bathroom for the well people.    The teen volunteers to go to the store ostensibly for cleaning supplies, saltines and ginger ale.   We all know, it's to get away.

The phone rings thirty minutes later, the teen needs a rescue.  In the meantime, two more of the littles have diarrhea.   Aparently, the bug begins with throw up and ends with...well, dehydration and weight loss.  The parent leaves the surviving eleven year old with the phone to hold vigil over her moaning older and younger siblings  and semi-conscious mother, and drives to the grocery store to provide rescue to the trapped sick teen.

Mom begins to show signs of life. She's been spotted helping with the youngest who just threw up. However the effort costs her, and she naps for the rest of the evening.   On the bright side, the day after Christmas, the house has never gleamed so clean.

My mom calls to see how things are going.  My husband manages a "Fine" before handing the phone to one of the teens and going to lie down.   Everyone who visits continues in the same vein, lying that Christmas was great, everyone is having a wonderful time, until we get to the five year old, who hasn't learned what we don't discuss.  

Grandmother had planned to come for New Years.   I think she's flying to Florida instead.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Speak Your Heart's Desire

We'd wrapped until 12, 2 and 4 respectively.  The little ones got up at 5:45 am.

So we woke or tried to, and watched as our children reminded us of why all this happens.  My youngest said when she looked at the tree and the gifts and the lights, "I am filled with the Christmas Spirit." She meant it with fullness known only to the innocent and the graced.  Her heart sang just to know, Santa came.  We were given gifts, all of us.  I think her heart fluttered to know, everyone was remembered.

We came to mass as we always do to everything, with a rush and a push and a hunt for socks, shoes, coats and the right pair of pants for someone.  We took two cars despite having a shift go to Midnight.  Two wore jeans.  Two wore beautiful dresses.  Three wore ties.  One son looked around and said, "We don't look polished enough for Christmas mass."  I whispered back, "Those who came first were the worst dressed, those who looked the best came 12 days late."  He laughed.

Somewhere in the mass, I prayed my whole heart.  More than anything, I wanted to hear my son sing, and all my children sing.   Some of my children have beautiful voices, but for whatever reason, don't sing.  I miss their voices when we're together and they're silent. That's the thing with hearts' prayers.  God hears them. God loves them.  And sometimes, when you ask for a miracle, something you could never find in a store or online or through any other means, God rearranges the world so that the answer is yes.

My son told the priest as he shook hands, "Merry Christmas."  Rita, John and I heard it as did the priest.  It always shocks how immediately, God wants to interrupt my day and remind me, God is, and wants to be so present in my life if only I'd let Him.

That afternoon, the family orchestrated a carol for the grandparents, but before that, there was an impromptu version of Hamilton in the kitchen, and everyone was singing.  Again, the lesson echoed. "Speak your heart's desire."  For His is to be ever closer to us.  

Merry Christmas.  Speak your heart's desire and be mindful, for God has given Himself as a gift,  Now, if only we will come and receive Him.  

Monday, December 19, 2016

Braiding Life

As a writer, I live in the perpetual limbo between having just written something I'm proud of, worrying I haven't written something to be proud of, and wondering if I have it in me to write something whether I can be proud of it or not, ever again.  Neurotic and stupid, I know.

As a mother, I spend half my time waiting, counting the minutes until they are all home, and the other half wondering how in the world can I help manage all these people, I never have enough time.  It is every mom's lament, never quite getting to everything, never quite feeling like we're as present as we're called to be. I know, I am anxious about many things.

As a teacher (teaching assistant), I get to be the cheerleader and the gentle reminder, without having to craft the lesson. I can be a tough grader. I don't make the phone calls.  It is like being a teenager in the adult world, half the responsibilities.   Here, I admit, I am not anxious in the least except I have a stack of children in my head, teens who I wish somehow, I could reach, but who keep drifting further into lives of their own shaping, lives which may have more peaks and valleys, more pains and sharp joys than I know.

In each of these worlds, the other two don't seem to interact, and I wonder how to braid all three into a breathable life, where I can be published, be a mom, and be a teacher.  How do I give all that need be given to teaching, parenting and writing?  When I'm not writing and haven't had success in a while, I have to wonder, am I still a writer> (The answer is yes, just not a paid one).  It's rather like the joke I used to make when people would ask me, "Do I work?" With ten kids, the answer is yes.  The benefits are great, the pay, not so much.   I am all these things and more than I planned, even when I'm not living up to it wherever it is.  I've never been good at braids.

Yet, this is the goal of life, to be like the Trinity, a mystery of three fully distincct beings of personhood in one God. I have three fully rendered roles God asks of me, and the goal is to weave them into a seamless thread of one.

How do I make sure I do not simply wring myself out in the process of doing all that a day requires?  I do not know, I only know it is a growing pain which will require the role of Mom, of writer, and of teacher all be stretched outside of their comfort zones, if all three are to thrive.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Why Do We Need This?

It's the big question. It's really the only question I ever get while teaching.

Why do I need to read this? Why do I need to answer this? Why do I need to write this? Why do you need to test this?  All of it boils down to why is learning this necessary when I can access the answers, the questions, the essays answering the questions, the summary of the books, the anaylsis of the books from multiple perspectives, and the dissent over the same questions, all with the touch of a button on my phone?

What answers can I give to a reasonable question? Their thinking goes as follows: why do I need to know this when I can know it if I need it?  Why not wait until it is needed? Chances are, I won't ever need to know hyperbole or alliteration or how to break down a story into its parts, exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, deneoument. Why do I need to read Gatsby?  Why do I need to read any book?  They're all here on my phone if I want, and I don't even have to read them, I can have them read to me.  It is a serious question, even if asked to simply get out of doing work.  It demands a serious answer.

Why is learning necessary when all knowedge is accessible?

When we reduce the need for knowledge to use, any knowledge which does not have an immediate use, is deemed useless.  Functional knowledge becomes not merely the baseline, but also the limit. Nothing further need be explored or explained.   We will become cave men in the electronic age, relying on machines to manage everything, we'll forget what we should not.  There is a beauty and a value to learning to play an instrument, master a sport, reading a book, or discovering the depth of a discipline.  We can only discover it by plunging in deeper, rather than skipping along the surface of all things.

Beauty has a purpose, but not use.  While moving the heart and growing the mind can be the goal as an educator, it cannot be the stated objective.  How do I argue with the reality of holding a library in one's phone?

I argue the reality.  You have a phone with a libary in it.  I have a manual for my washing machine.  I Having not read the manual, I can only do a fraction of what the machine is capable of doing. I've limited my capacity by my wilful ignorance.

Likewise, I have a piano.  I have enough knowledge to play decent pieces.  However, I've not practiced, ergo the skill lies atrophing.  The music is there, the knowledge, all that is required of me, is will and time.

What we can do, is limited by our willingness to encounter it, to wrestle with it, to struggle and suffer with it, to practice, to fail, to try and try and try again, and allow ourselves to be shaped and refashioned by the process.   I become a writer by writing, a pianist by playing.  We become what we're willing to invest ourselves in becoming.

So to my students:   Why do you need this? Because you do not have yet sufficient broad based knowledge to have uncovered all you are called to be, all you could be, and all you might yet want to be.  Such discoveries will require you explore places you would not go, and read books you did not pick, hear opinions you do not favor, and encounter thoughts you did not think.  Everything you take in, helps you take on more.  I want you to be able to take on all the more that comes from everyone else having access to that same library in their pockets.

Part of the why  is rational, functional, even practical. Those with a broader knowledge of that more, and more facile use of that more, will adapt to the moreness better than those who simply view it as the equivalent of a spare tire they might one day need.  I want you armed for the future.  A tool, like my washing machine, works only as well as the person programing it.  It works better for the one who reads the manual.

However the deeper reason is more ambitious on my part: I want them to be able to conduct the symphony, rather than merely listen to it, to write the book and craft the law, rather than simply be affected by it, or have to obey it.   Creation, whether of art or law, requires craft and skill, and such craft and skill only comes by work. Discovering all the ways in which what you know and how you know it affects how you can manage the world in which you operate is the process of becoming educated.    

I learned proper fingering for piano at eight, at fifty, my hands won't let me do otherwise.  We do not understand yet, and yet, it is only by going through things not understanding, that we will come to know what we should, and more than we planned.  This is the why of any education.  We must endure not knowing, and trust the coming to know has innate value in addition to practical and obvious worth of the knowledge won.

My goal is to expose every student I encounter to something beyond their experience; something true, something beautiful, something which tells more than a story. Hopefully, we're uncovering the unspoken truths about ourselves in the process of plunging through Gatsby and Shakespeare, and any other authors we encounter.  "There are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy Horatio," holds for each of us all the time.   Read and recognize, there might be something in this text speaking to your classmate.  Tomorrow, the text might speak to you.   It might be years before you grasp what struck you.  It might be never, but since we cannot know what will stir each soul, we keep presenting all these things in real time, in tangible ways, and asking you to turn over the prose and poems like jewels, to see each facet, in case one of them catches the light in your eyes.

Why do we need this?  Because I firmly believe all good stories are about more than what we think they are. They reveal who we are, when we encounter them.  The story we read as a child, means something different when we read it to  a child.  The romance we couldn't comprehend, now makes sense.  The mystery haunts whereas before, we were just in a hurry to get to the conclusion.  We need to create layers of understanding and that takes time.  School, and in particular, the arts, are a way of creating those layers which will come into play in later years.  So yes, I will make you read the book. Yes, I will make you write about it. Yes, I will correct your grammer and ask more of you than you want to give.  I hope one day, you will understand, I wanted you to dig deeper, because I knew as you cannot, there are treasures to be found, but only if you're willing to put in the effort.  It's my job to keep you interested in the meantime, and somehow content with not knowing why something is valuable, until you know enough to recognize its value.  

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Connecting the Dots Podcast

Yesterday's podcast with Mark Shea was about influences, people who helped form who we are and why.   We looked into what makes us, ourselves.  We talk about books, people, witnesses living and deceased, the gospels, and those people we never knew the names of, who taught us things we still hold onto, so many years afterwards.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Cleaning House, Clearing the Heart

"Ten kids huh?  You must be organized."   I get this sentence a lot.

I'm not sure who will stop laughing first, my parents, my in laws, my husband, my children, my extended family or my close friends.   I think my acquaintances on Facebook are laughing.

Okay, you guys can stop now.  Seriously.

"You have to be organized." the woman insisted.

No.  I am not.  Not on my best day.   I am someone who knows what to do, how to do it, why to do it, and somehow, never quite gets to everything.   It doesn't take much to derail my very best intentions or to do list.  Oh look, there's an email.  I love this song!  Anyone want to play a game of magic?  Hey Mom, can I make cookies?   (All of this happened within five minutes).  

Take for example, today.  Before mass, I groused about needing to reassert control over our home.  It felt like a disorganized array of sheer clutter.

At mass, the deacon gave the homily and talked about "What are our expectations of Heaven?  What are Heaven's expectations of us here?"  I had to wonder, was Heaven this chaotic mess of rooms with all kinds of stuff everywhere, but because you were in the Divine Presence, none of the little stuff bothered you?  Sort of like when you are joyful, the messiness of the house is invisible, and when you are not happy, it's all you can see?  Or was Heaven expecting me to learn how to clean the house joyfully, and be happy even when it wasn't clean?  

I admit, I wanted to get the house ready for Christmas, so we could put up the tree.  My husband and I began clearing out a room, but each room takes about two hours.  After two rooms, and yes they were working too,  we all needed a break.  The kids retreated to the basement to play video games.  Some went out shopping.  One went running.   My body said "Nap time." and two hours passed.   We watched some football.  I made a flyer and answered some emails.  To re-summon everyone back on task would require draconian type discipline. (Not quite the Christmas spirit).  

So we feasted, thanked everyone for their hard work, listened to Christmas music (Nutcracker Suite), and read Christmas stories.  It was better than being organized, because it wasn't something we could have planned.  This was a touch of the peace of Heaven, the beauty of time spent on each other.

We'd get to the tree, but not because the house was perfect, we'd get to the tree as part of perfecting our hearts.   In the meantime, I'd work on that Blessed Waiting part of Advent, and making room in the inn.  

Friday, December 9, 2016

Bringing the Stable to the Mother

"Why do we have to go to mass tonight?" one kid complained. "Yeah, why didn't the Church move the feast to Sunday?" The teen sensed a mutiny and fanned the flames. I would have a full scale kid riot for a Holy Day of Obligation if I didn't act.
"We're going to the vigil mass because tomorrow is too full of things for us to make it. The 6:30 will be fine." I soothed. They'd already eaten. They were still dressed.
"I haven't done my homework." one said.
"Me neither." another volunteered.
"You have fourty-five minutes right now." I said and set the timer.
To minimize stress, I lay the coats in a pile, put my purse on top of it with my keys and lined up their shoes. I knew why the eleven year old didn't want to go. She'd had a fight with her two best friends, and the wounds were still fresh. I handed her my phone. "Call them. Say you're sorry. Don't demand anything. Just say what you are sorry for, and that you're also sorry there was a fight at all." She ran off to phone.
I wondered if we'd be spiritually wrecked before we even got to mass, as a shouting match broke out between two over the computer, and the girl with the phone came back, that problem cured, but a new one in tow. She'd been singing a Christmas carol and her brother didn't like it. When her brother didn't like something, he made sure everyone knew it.
I knew why the teen was mad. He wanted to eat. Mind you, he'd had two dinners already, but third dinner promised to be a better one, and so waiting seemed a major injustice. When he's mad, his favorite tactic is to set off as many other people with their own personal mads so that the whole world burns with madness.
I'd hit my limit. I admit, when I start a lecture, it gets a cadence all it's own and it keeps going. "We are going to celebrate and honor the Blessed Mother, and her state of perpetual sinlessness." I put on the first daughter's shoes. "We are going to celebrate a mass as a community and as a family." and handed her a coat. "We're going to sacrifice one hour of our lives to the woman who surrendered her son and didn't scream at the people who killed him." I knocked on the teen's door. "We're going as a family because this is what our faith teaches, it is important, and we're not going to become closer or kinder or better by arguing something none of us have the power to change, only to ignore or accept." I opened the door and they lined up. "Since I accept it and I'm the adult, knock it off and get in the car!"
We drove the three blocks down the road to the church. No one was in the parking lot. The announcement at the end of mass said 6:30, but the mass schedule on the door said 7:30. We went back home. "At least I know, all homework will be done." I said, "And we'll be back, hopefully in a more grateful and celebratory state in an hour."
P.S. They finished their homework and we made it.  The teen took his youngest brother to the back when he needed help quieting down, and when a daughter remarked during one of the songs, "Mary had it easy."  I said, "Nope, she had greater grace, but greater things were asked of her than of you and remember, she had to choose, all her life, to be obedient, even when she didn't feel like it."  Just to prove the point of how difficult obedience is, my son had a slight accident on my jeans.  I sat with him on my lap the rest of mass, draping my coat over the spot.  Mary understood.

I considered Mary's lfe and grace once again.  Mary had and has it hard; she had all of us to deal with, and we're all these messy squirly quarlesome children with different agendas. The mass ended and there was an opportunity to go and venerate a relic from the Blessed Mother.  A piece of her mantle was presented.   After I kissed the relic, I felt a deep sense of knowing, the obedience of grace, is the obedience born of love, that bears all things, hopes all things, and doesn't fail in patience or kindness, even when it seems like it would be so much easier to say, "Knock it off." because I said so.   Walking up, children in tow, smelly, still struggling with the trials of the day and the very real issue of my own wardrobe problem, I felt very much like the stable coming to her, in all its dirty dingey undignified way, coming to be somehow made better by love.  And it did.  Mary's kiss made everything better, even if nothing physically changed, how we treated each other, how we saw each other, did.  

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Monday's Work

If you missed the talk on Connecting the Dots with Mark Shea on Monday, not to fear, the link for that talk with Tom Hoopes and Mark Shea, talking about Tom's book, What Pope Francis Really Said, is right here. 

I have this book on Kindle and I'm breezing through it, not because it doesn't address things deeply, but because it's written in an easy style, and goes over the ways in which what Pope Francis said things and how they were interpreted, and how they were meant.  It's worth your time.

If you hang around to the 4th quarter of the program, you even get to hear my Yoda immitation.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

An Unexpected Hello*

*Edited to include recipe at the end of the story....

For years, I've wanted to make Christmas cookies with my children, but somehow it never got off the ground.  This year, I set my heart, it would happen.  Saturday night, Rita, Regina, Paul, Anna and I donned aprons. I'd set out foil trays, bowls, cups, spoons, and six recipies.  We made Hello Dollies and Rice Crispie Treats.   We danced and sang to whatever Christmas songs came on the radio but Regina got bored and went to play in the other room in between tasks.  We made the pumpkin muffins and sugar cookies.  Paul joined her.  When Anna asked if she could stop, I allowed them to put on a Christmas Rudolf special on TV.  Rita made it through making the bananna muffins and went to watch. It wasn't the full outcome I'd wanted, but it was. Next year, maybe the happy memory would encourage them to stay longer.  I felt happy and at peace to be alone in my kitchen for the final recipe.

The last cookie wasn't one they could eat anyway.

The signature cookie of the season is my dad's Bourbon balls.  He and Mom would be in the kitchen and he'd roll them powedered sugar to put in a tin for whoever was on the list.  I always wanted to like them, but as a kid I never could.

My mom gave me a cook book from my home parish, where the recipe for Dad's bourbon balls is published.  I'd always just scanned the recipe, but yesterday, I found a side story on the page from my mom, reminding me Dad made these from the time he settled in Beaumont for the clerks of the court such that every year, they'd get requests.

It was like Dad saying, "Hello Beautiful." to have that story, (one I've known but dimly), fully stamped on the page.  I made the Bourbon balls and ate one, plunging into memory.

They tasted better than I've ever remembered.

Recipe for Bourbon Balls (as published in Saint Anne's Church Cookbook), submitted by my mom.

1 12 onz box vanilla wafers
1 cup powdered sugar
2 Tablespoons Cocoa
1 cup walnuts
3 Tablespoons Karo Syrup (white or light).
1/2 cup bourbon
extra powdered sugar.

Directions:  Crush Vanilla Wafers into powder.  (I use a ziplock and a rolling pin but a food processor does this very well).  Add powdered sugar and cocoa, mix well.  Chop walnuts into tiny pieces and add to these ingredients.  Add the Karo and the bourbon, mix well. (I used my mixer).  Form the cookies by hand and roll them in powdered sugar.  Place in an airtight tin.  If the batter seems dry, add more bourbon.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

What They Reflect

My four youngest sat on a couch, each holding a section of the paper, each reading aloud what they thought important, giggling at what the paper might consider "serious news," and making dramatic sad faces. I asked what they were doing.
"Playing grown up." one answered. 
"We're on the Metro."
"We're adults." They collapsed into giggling again. One ran over to the kitchen and got a diet coke and my purse.
I thought they had a better handle on how we should approach some of the most serious of things. They looked at the news and read aloud the headlines. They marched back and forth from one couch to another, "I have to cook dinner." "I have to go to work." "I'm very busy." "I'm very important." "I'm very important and busy." They kept building and making their world like the moreness they perceived.
I watched them allow their make believe world expand and collapse, and grow again, flexible as they shifted from journalists to doctors to teachers to lawyers to artists to singers to anything, to everything, and they were able, professional and wonderful. They embraced a whole future as if it were all only for the willing for it to happen.
I wanted that future for them, that touchable future. If I could pray them that possibility, I would kneel until my kneecaps gave out. "Give them this future." I'd beg, and not the one penned by all the limitations revealed by standardized tests and report cards and the expectations of others about how to think or be. For the moment, my daughter who struggles with reading, my shy one and my son who suffers from Downs and my youngest, didn't need anyone's prayers or affirmation to be everything.
Oh, to keep that moment longer than a moment. I sat on the couch with them, "What are you going to be on the Metro today?" My daughter asked. "A famous chef, dancer and professor." I said, and we added to the moments, when everyone could be everything.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

12 Ways to be More Mindful This Advent

So we have 28 days to prepare for Christmas.
I’ve written at other times on the spiritual gift of silence and the blessed waiting we’re supposed to cultivate during this season of Advent. However, it is so easy — when we consider all we have to do in the coming weeks — to become consumed by the to-do list.

So I created this reminder to help me be mindful, to be more like a candle burning than a blinking LED light.

(Ironically it takes the shape of a to-do list, but it’s more of a “how to be” list).

Friday, November 25, 2016

Wednesday On Strike!

Breaking News:

Sources here at Chocolate For Your Brain learned today in an annonymous Tweet, that Wednesday, formerly Wodan's Day or Odin's Day, has taken the next week off.   When asked why, she admitted it's been building for a while, but between Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Fat Tuesday and Holy Thursday, and the weekends themselves, Wednesday is feeling discouraged.  "Hump day?  Seriously?   That's the best we can do?"

Pointing out Ash Wednesday didn't brighten her spirits.

"I want a holiday, one with I don't know, fancy drinks, an earworm song, maybe a traditional activity like making chili or running a 5K, flash mob dancing the moves to Thriller and releasing paper lanterns into the sky."

When pressed as to why, she explained, "There's nothing that sets me apart from the rest of the week.  Even Monday has all those Garfield cartoons,  and those songs by Foriegner, the Bangles and the Mommas and the Pappas,  Saturday has Elton John and the Bay City Rollers, plus no one ever gets sad it's the weekend.   Friday has a chain of restaurants and a tone of movies with his name in the title, not to mention a book where he's the secondary lead."

"You forgot Dragnet."
"Exactly! ....wait, whose side are you on?"
"No one's. Just remembering other associations for other days.  Thursday doesn't seem to have too many references out there."

"He's got a whole comic book character named after him who's an Avenger. Even two solo movies for Thor.  He's also still coasting from the years when he dominated TV, with Cheers, and now an early jump on weekend Football."  

"Tuesday doesn't..."

"She has a restaurant, a holiday and a Beatles song.   Don't get me started on her.  She sends me a Halloween card every year. Do you know what it is?"

"I have her most recent"

Happy Halloween Wednesday,  Too bad it fell on a Monday this time.  But in two years, it will be your turn.   Love, T.
"How did you know it was Tuesday?  It says "Love, T."
"Thurs always signs "The TH!"  I think he thinks it's cool."

"What will you do with your day off?"
"Are you trying to be funny?"
"No!  You're taking your day out of the week, what are going to do with it?"

"Well, I did discover when I opted out, it became very hard to book an appointment, since no one knew when the appointments would actually happen so I plan on going to my favorite spa as a walk in, and maybe hitting the book store, followed by lunch at a local restaurant, maybe a glass of wine with dinner and a movie."

"Got a date with anyone special?"
"As a matter of fact yes, I have a date with February 29th.  He was very cute about it when I asked if he'd join me for sushi.  He said he'd have to check his calendar."  


Saturday, November 19, 2016

We Are Always a Broken People But We're Called to be Better

I  hoped the election, (whichever way it went), once over, would allow people to go back to being able to speak to each other online and in reality the way we would want to be spoken to; with civility, a presumption of good faith, humor and mindfulness.  If the past week is any indicator, things will get progressively harder.  

On Mondays, I visit with Mark Shea on his podcast radio program.  I've spent part of the morning reading the horrid comments thrown his way for daring to point out, that Alt Right as a group, is a sickness which all people of good will, and all people who call themselves Christians, let alone Catholics, must oppose.  After reading it, and seeing so many broken souls pound their brokeness as truth, my first thought was, "I should have spent the morning exercising," it would have been healthier and more pleasant, however much I don't like doing it.

But what I didn't like, was the reality I kept hearing, "Bring us Barabbas!" and "We have no king but Caesar," and the conviction, I did too.

Since I tend to vote Republican, I know I must stand and say, "I'm sorry.  This is not what I stand for, or want to have in this country or in this world.  The bigotry and racism and anti-semetic thinking I've seen in the Comment box from Alt Right, and articulated by those who pretend it isn't there allowing other people to do the same, this is always, everytime and everywhere and in every soul, wrong."  I'm sorry such thinking exists.  I know Archbishop Sheen said it is a scandal to be scadalized by sin.  I guess I'm not shocked, but deeply saddened to discover yet again, we hold hearts of darkness, we are so very broken, we so deserve the crucifixion we've not been given.  I can change that word we to I, and know it still holds.

I cannot speak for anyone other than myself, but I failed, because I did not let myself think this was anything more than a fringe, and I also know, I couldn't have voted for the alternative.  What I should have done, was somehow spoken sooner, spoken louder, only, I didn't honestly think he'd win. So I didn't think it would matter. However a sharpness has pierced my heart ever since the election.  I know I did not willingly peer into everything,  and because I could see some evil, I did not want to see other evils. I thought, this is not a fight I want, so I didn't enter deeply.  But the Gospel this week kept convicting me.  "You are lukewarm, so I spit you out of my mouth."  I always find those words of Jesus to grate.   They convict me of wanting to be liked more than to speak truth, of wanting not to make waves, of wanting not to speak up because who wants that pain?

So I'm here to day, to begin again and to invite all people who are of good hearts, who want a world that echoes more clearly, the kingdom to come, to do the same.  Alt Right, supporters of Alt Right, I stand with and claim kinship with whosoever you've decided shouldn't have protection, and I will fight for, whosoever you've decided shouldn't have protection, even if I disagree as a person, with said people I'm going to fight for.

I can't fix what's happened.  I can only go forward saying from now until I die and beyond, we are one race with many creeds and opinions.  We are always and everywhere and in all things, our brother's keeper.    It seems stupid to have to say, because it seems obvious, but since some do not believe that the infinite value of each human (because they are human) supercedes nationality, capacity and everything else, I will say it here.

 Even though I've voted Republican, even though I'm a pro-lifer, those things are components and not the whole of who I am, though if I stay silent, they will become so.  As a Catholic, I cannot stand by while people's dignity and rights are trampled, or families are destroyed and stay what I hope when I die, defines me.  I am a person who seeks, who hopes, one day she'll make the right choice when given the option, and say, I want Jesus, rather than Barabbas.

They, whoever the they is that you don't like, like you, are my brothers and sisters, and I want each of you at the wedding feast.  I want all ten of my children to come for Thanksgiving even though they can't, and I want that all the more in the life to come.   I know we will be judged by how we treat each and all, and when we cut off one, the one we've cut off, is ourselves.   I also know, just as I don't always get along with my own family, so also I do not always get along with my extended family, but all are still all, my family.  I love and need them all including you.   So Alt Right, while I am a small time blogger with a small time platform and only a teaching assistant, I will tell you, you, like all of us, are a broken people, and you need to see, that you are hurting yourselves by your hatred.

Hate always warps the person who hates, not the people hated.

So I would invite you to do better, and challenge myself to do the same; to stop picking and trumpeting Barabbas.   Today, instead of posting that outrage, pick a friend in your list with whom, you do not see eye to eye, and invite them for coffee or pizza or whathave you if you're nearby, to visit, and if not, look to see something they hold which you too, can hold dear, and be a bridge to greater deeper truer friendships on Facebook and in the world.    If you do this, you will no longer be Alt Right, you will be alright, and becoming truly right, would help right what is broken and wrong in this world.

The alternative, is death and no place at the wedding feast and all who make it to the feast, would wish it otherwise.

I know...I know...I'm behind my own times...

Okay...I feel like I'm repeating last week's post.   On Monday, I talked with Mark Shea on Connecting the Dots. On Tuesday, I found out a piece ran on Aleteia regarding family lore in November.

Add in Small Success Thursday and my poor blog had no love this week.  Will I do better next week?  I'll try.

I promise, I'll try.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Catching Up

I'm playing clean up to myself.  On Monday, Mark Shea and I discussed Fr. Pavone's decision to place an aborted child's naked body on what looked like an altar, to prove the evil of abortion.  You can listen to our discussion here, but I understand as a follow up, the Bishop of Amarillo has begun an investigation to address the matter.  Pray for his discernment, and for Fr. Pavone, and for all injured by this decision and the subsequent two videos.

On Thursday, I wrote aSmall Success post as usual, but the day ran so long, I didn't get to link up to it until today, but it's good counsel for if you find yourself discourged by anything.  "Keep Calm and Kindness On..."  It's the best cure for whatever is dark in your life.  I know, I've never regretted when I've followed it, only when I haven't.

Lastly, I woke this morning to a lovely surprise.  I have a piece in Aleteia.  It's a reflection on what happened when I took my kiddos to a quieter earlier mass.  I hope you enjoy it.

Have a lovely weekend, I will write more I hope tomorrow.  

Monday, November 7, 2016

Through the Looking Glass to See No Evil

I have been told I am wrong to be upset with Fr. Pavone by no less than the internet; that there is no difference whatsoever between we display on a crucifix, and Fr. Pavone's altar.

Arguing that Sacred art depicts realities, even ugly ones that God made redemptive like the martyring of Stephen, the Pieta and every image of the crucified Christ whereas displaying the naked crushed body of an infant to prove Abortion is ugly is to shock, I was told, this was a minor difference.

The difference between stone and flesh is easy to see unless one wills one's self to have a stony heart. However, I don't believe that anyone really thinks there isn't a difference between sacred art and an actual dead body.  

We would be horrified and rightly so, if someone took dead bodies to depict a scene from scripture and called it art.  We would be horrified and rightly so, if someone profaned sacred art.

Using the body of a child to make a political point, ignores the moral reality of what we are called to do as Catholics for the dead, and what he was called to do as a priest when entrusted with this child in particular's, body.  He gave a 45 minute lecture on abortion with a baby's remains exposed on what looks to be an altar. It is meant to look like an altar, even if it is not an altar.  Oddly enough, it is a warped version of what horrified everyone when Dr. Gosnell was arrested.  Displaying rather than properly caring for the remains, is inappropriate.

Someone said, "Well, what about open caskets and wakes?" Those incidents are grieving processes for those who mourn the loss of a loved one.  They aren't done as a stage for a political/moral platform.  They aren't done for a youtube video to stump for a candidate or a political position the day before an election and I won't defend it even if I agree, and I do, abortion takes a life, it is always wrong.

But again, I don't for a moment think people don't recognize a difference, I think people want to defend a priest they love, and a position they hold dear.

This child was discarded by his or her mother as thing, destroyed by an abortionist as a thing, and then (however temporarily), used by the priest, as an illustration of abortion.  People are NEVER things, and we can NEVER use them as such, without committing great harm to our own souls and those who find themselves agreeing, the end justifies the means.

What about relics? I've seen Saint Anthony's tongue.  I asked and did research, "Relics and incorruptible bodies are testaments to the saints." He was buried, and when they cannonized him, they dug him up (30 years after death), they found his tongue incorruptible.  This sign of santification, of holiness, led to the veneration of his tongue.  We need the relics of the saints, because we are physical beings.  We need to know the saints were flesh and blood, real, not esoteric philosophical constructs created by imaginative manipulative scribes or poets.  Pieces of the true cross, the Shroud of Turin, the Tilma, hairs of Saint Maximiliam Kolbe, these things bring us into touching distance with Our God, with the Blessed Mother, with saints.

I've already seen the next layer of the argument, "Some of these were not saints before they were made into relics."

I do not feel I must fend every argument to still state, this was not a good act.

This baby was to be buried.  The baby should have been treated as one would any other baby brought for Catholic burial.  In not treating this infant like any other infant one would bury, this was forgetting the moral underpinning of the Pro-life position, which is to treat every child, all children, regardless of age, developmental status or capacity, with absolute dignity.  Exposing any other child naked and deceased to the internet, would be unthinkable.   This child deserved the same dignity afforded any other child one would mourn.  Love this baby first, and let that be your testimony.

When we hate something, we sometimes get so zealous, we can become a parody of the very thing we hate.  In reference to Fr Pavone's wrong decision to place a child on the altar so as to highlight the evil of abortion, you cannot justify a bad action (which this was) to bring about a good (end of abortion).  This was an inappropriate witness as a priest and as a person who professes to be pro-life because it did not put the actual child's dignity first.

Far more compelling a witness to the dignity of life would be to give that child a name, to dress him or her, drape in a blanket, and give a mass for the child.  Open casket if he likes, and invite all to pray for the souls of this child's family.   There is a temptation, when we seek a political solution for a moral issue, to put the movement before individuals. It is an understandable temptation, when people feel frustrated or powerless, but that is a secondary failing of despair because things are not happening according to a fast enough schedule.

So please, pray for Fr. Pavone and for his Bishop who must counsel him and for all who might want to not see how this act is wrong and fails to properly witness to the world, all humans are made in God's image, and all should be treated at all stages of development, with dignity.

November 7th, 2016

Every day I find the internet getting, less willing to extend the benefit of the doubt to neighbors on matters where the Church has in its wisdom, indicated, there can be room for disagreement amongst people of good faith.  Every day I see people pounding the drums, “I’m Catholic! I’m Catholic!  I’m Catholic so I can’t vote for Trump or I’m enabling men to objectify women! He’s an evil incompetent bigoted narcissist!” and “I’m Catholic so anyone who votes for Hillary is collaborating with Planned Parenthood and ensuring there will be no respite from the encroachment on Religious liberties.  She’s a corrupt manipulative lying power hungry robot!”
Serious accusations.  Serious subjects, being discussed in a most unserious manner.    
We are busy being cheerleaders for teams we don’t love, but faking it with greater intensity than ever before.  The stakes remain unspeakably high, and they shouldn’t be.   Be less than rapturous about Trump?  You want Hillary to win! Dare not to spend all your energy hating Trump? You MUST LOVE HIM!  Anything less than correct fealty, renders an excommunication.   
I won’t say it’s the worst ever, for if I scroll back to each political season, I see pieces by good thinking, moral people discussing how politics demand we presume all those not in our camp, are either ignorant or not acting in good faith.  Like moral kudzu, the sin of presumption about both where all who aren’t with us will end up after death, and the virtue of our own decisions with respect to eternal consequences runs rampant every four years.    If we would be a united people or a people of hope or even better, both and, we have to stop doing the if you…then you must be a…game. Neither of these candidates nor parties should hold so much sway given their track records, to hold greater loyalty than friendship or family. 
The Catechism hasn’t changed, ergo discernment about which party to vote for, or which candidate still remains a question of trying to become informed, pray, and act.   One can weigh all the priests and bishops on both sides of the discussion and still come up with the reality, we each have to live with whatever decision each of us makes, and face the consequences of whatever moral reasoning we employ.    Voting Trump or Hillary or not voting Trump or Hillary remains not a question of settled moral doctrine. 

The reality is, we have two candidates named Barabbas, and they are always Barabbas, and our whole nation is engaged in the measuring not of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, but how much evil we’re willing to overlook in order to not let the other side win.  When Catholics are discussing how much they can ignore, or what morals don’t matter, they aren’t being Catholic, they’re being political animals.   It’s easy to get caught up in the crowd, it’s happened before, it happens all the time.  Jesus even tells us, that there are a lot of us with beams in our eyes, pointing out each other’s splinters.  We know it in Holy Week, when we all say “Crucify him!”  and we know it at every mass when we say, “Through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.” 

I don’t know about anyone else, but I look at this election and think, “I need a shower,” mentally, morally and physically.   The phrase, “Put not your trust in princes.” rings over and over again in my head I’d love to say I’m above it but my blood runs as hot as anyone else’s.  When all’s said and done, what we don’t want at the end of any day, regardless of the outcome, is for people to see our discussions, online and in person and think, “Look how they hate each other.  They cannot be Christian.”  

Friday, November 4, 2016

Being More Pro-Life, Not Less in an Election Year

No one who knows me is in doubt about my feelings and thoughts about abortion. I believe it to be always gravely wrong, a serious sin, and the destruction of a child as of yet, not born.  I believe the act does great damage not only to the baby (always), but to the mother and the father always, and to the practitioner, and to any siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins.  They lose out on knowing someone unique, they also never really get to talk about the person they lost the opportunity to know.

I get why abortion exists.  It seems reasonable, rational, easy if you discount the child as being a child, or  if you measure the inconvenience and suffering of the mother as having greater weight than that of the child. I also get the quite correct objections to those who only worry about the unborn, and never about those who must care for the child who is born.  It is a great failing of those who feel so strongly about the injustice of abortion, when those same advocates fail to recognize the injustice of how we care for the sick, the poor and the family that surrounds the unborn.   Being Pro-life means more than being anti-abortion; it must if being pro-life is to have any meaning at all.

Being more pro-life pulls one out of a political party or ideology, because carring for all who cry out to heaven means crossing party lines and serving more than one constiuency.  Being pro-life means being anti-torchure.  It means being anti-unapproved, unvetted and unchecked drone strikes.  It means not suspending law when it's easier to shoot or to ignore.  It means caring for the imprissoned and the homeless, for the underemployed, the undereducated and the mentally ill.  It means treating each person, every person, all persons, with dignity and kindness, not because they deserve it with their title, status, power or gifts, but because they exist.   Their existence alone, our existence alone, warrants being treated with dignity and kindness.

It means we can't argue when or who it is justifyable to kill (innocent, guilty, unborn, elderly, sick, poor, mentally ill, incarcerated, foriegn) etc.   It means we work to the last drop of blood, and exhaust the last red cent, and spend every moment, for all we encounter, and seek to secure the freedoms and justice for every heart that beats.  Being Pro-life never fits on one side of any political party, because If you want to be Pro-life, there is no one on the outside of your Ven Diagram.  That's it.  That's all. Welcome to being Catholic. "Here comes everybody."

The bottom line is, being pro-life, being Catholic, always means that you are diving into a way that is much bigger on the inside, than you ever imagined.  It is always deeper and deeper in, it always grows and multiplies whatever loaves and fishes you bring to feed five thousand, it always turns whatever jugs of water you fill, into wine, it always brings us back to a fuller life when we were dead, it always gives us the opportunity for mercy, it always gives us the promise of more and more and still more life, truth, beauty and love, all for the mere giving of our own measly fiat.

I write all of this as a way to remind everyone, we can disagree from now until the cows come home about politics, we're to pray until the cows come home for all with whom we disagree.  We can feel earnest in our political opinions, but to assign the state of anyone's soul based solely on whether they punch a "R" or a "D" is to engage in a favorite sport of the Devil, to presume everyone else's eternal destiny, and declare someone off limits to God's mercy permanently, because of a singular moment in time.

So if you see a post that normally makes your blood boil, pray for the person with whom you take issue, pray for their candidate too.  It will do you and them, a world more good than starting a do it yourself excomunication via the internet.  It's harder than spouting off about how "Lord what fools these mortals be," but it's better win, lose or draw, for all involved, and much more likely to change hearts.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Game Seven 2016

I wrote this while watching the final game of the 2016 World Series.  It took until now to post it on my blog because I wanted to tweak it.  I don't trust the meter of my inner ear at 12:45 a.m.  Yay Cubbies!

Game Seven 2016
For seven innings, they were beautiful.
For seven innings, they ruled the game.
For seven innings the cubs whistled "What Curse?"
and Go Cubs Go, they sang...
For seven innings the Cubs played
and silenced the whole Tribe
The Eighth inning however,
things got clever. It had a different vibe.
Batters came, the Indians rallied
and now the score was tied.
It even started raining...
Surely God was on Chicago's side.
They held on through the ninth
and all the nation held its breath
would this be a moment of almost pure joy?
Would this be the curse's death?
But the tarp is on the field
and the game will be delayed.
The fans standing in the streets of Chicago,
like their counters in Cleveland,
Ignored the weather. They stayed.
Everyone who loves baseball
knows the game can break your heart.
Loving something means being willing to suffer.
So we'll wait, but we want the game to restart.
At 12:12 they restarted.
And Shaw looked shaky at first
Would 2016 be the greatest season for the Cubs?
Or would it be the worst?
Davis caught a long fly ball,
but the runner did advance.
The Pitcher set with Rizzo at bat
and a meeting before the dance.
A walk to face Zorbrist
who was 0 for 4
and Cub fans bit their nails.
They couldn't endure much more.
Two men on and only one out.
Would pitcher or batter prevail?
The pitch led to a sacrifice but
Zorbrist didn't fail.
One out, two runs and bases loaded,
A pitching change at hand.
Who would take the title after 179 games,
The Cubbies or Cleveland?
Heyward struck out not quite swinging
Baez fell behind in the count.
With three bases filled,they could pad the lead
if the second baseman hadn't popped out.
Edwards Jr. took the mound
for the bottom of the tenth
Three outs to glory or goatville
baseball at its zenith.
The first man down, Ramirez tried to crush it,
and would be marked a 6-3.
If you were scoring at home, you had one out to go
to watch a moment of perfect beauty.
But the Cubbies always make it interesting,
and Jr. fell behind in the count.
The catcher walked out to settle him.
Don't think about the game, just the out.
A walk brought the tieing run to the plate
and Guyer they gave second without a fight.
Davis hit and a run scored
and the game went on deeper in the night.
And just like that, from third to first,
The final out was made.
Cubs Win Cubs Win Cubs Win Cubs Win
and 2016 as a year, was saved!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

All Souls' Day

Today, we remember those who died.  Today we remember all those we love whose faces, we can't see except in photos or our own memories.  I have two All Souls Day in my life.  One is November 2nd, when I try to make sure I say a rosary, and on each bead, recall someone I've lost, either physically through death, emotionally through distance, or spiritually for whatever reason and those I do and don't know, but for whom I should pray.   It's a good exercise, I recommend it to anyone as a way of both remembering we should be in the business of praying for our family, for our friends, for those not our friends, and for the souls we encounter or remember.

I used Come Pray the Rosary as a guide, and while I love the pictures of the holy land, I think they say it too quickly, and I need more time to get through a Hail Mary and be mindful.

Sign of the Cross: For the Pope.
Apostles's Creed: For those persecuted for the faith
Our Father:  My Dad
Hail Mary: For my Mom
Hail Mary: For my Mother-in-law
Hail Mary: For my Father-in-law

Glory Be: For my Husband
First Glorious Mystery
Our Father: For my siblings
Hail Mary: For their spouses
Hail Mary: For their children
Hail Mary: For Aunt Linda
Hail Mary: For Aunt Marylou
Hail Mary: For Uncle Pat
Hail Mary: For Uncle Tommy
Hail Mary: For Kate
Hail Mary: For Kylee
Hail Mary: For Uncle Bobby
Hail Mary: Jen P.

Glory Be: Gina R.
Fatima Prayer: For all the souls in Purgatory

Second Glorious Mystery
Our Father: Our Priests
Hail Mary: Dan N.
Hail Mary: Bridget S.
Hail Mary: Mother of a friend
Hail Mary: Father of a friend
Hail Mary: Aunt Tag
Hail Mary: Coco
Hail Mary: Grandmother Green
Hail Mary: Granddaddy Green
Hail Mary: Ben Hebert
Hail Mary: Bishop Ganter
Glory Be: Bonnie and Jimmie C
Fatima Prayer: For all the souls here.

Third Glorious Mystery
Our Father: Papal Intentions
Hail Mary: Those in politics.
Hail Mary: Those not in politics.
Hail Mary: My students.
Hail Mary: My colleagues.
Hail Mary: All those who work with my children, at all of their schools.
Hail Mary: All those I've hurt.
Hail Mary: All those I've ignored.
Hail Mary: All those I've angered.
Hail Mary: my writing group.
Hail Mary: My friends in the internet
Glory Be: Andrew and Patrick
Fatima Prayer:  John C

Fourth Glorious Mystery
Our Faither: For our nation
Hail Mary: For my friends
Hail Mary: For those not my friends.
Hail Mary: For those who are alone.
Hail Mary: For those who cannot pray.
Hail Mary: For those who are sick and dying.
Hail Mary: For those who care for the sick and dying.
Hail Mary: For those who care for the unborn.
Hail Mary: for the mothers
Hail Mary: for the fathers
Hail Mary: For the mentally ill.
Glory Be: For the physically sick.
Fatima Prayer: Russell M

Fifth Glorious Mystery
Our Father: For everyone.
Hail Mary: For Will
Hail Mary: For Bon
Hail Mary: For Marta
Hail Mary: For Peter
Hail Mary: For Faith
Hail Mary: For John
Hail Mary: For Rita
Hail Mary: For Regina
Hail Mary: For Paul
Hail Mary: For Anna
Glory Be: in Praise of the Trinity
Fatima Prayer: Jean and Bob R

Hail Holy Queen: For anyone who felt left out by this list.

Honestly, between the madness of any given day in the news and the election, I don't think there's a better thing we can do for this nation or everyone, than pray.   Pray for all hearts to be turned, all hearts to be conquered, all souls to be healed.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Connecting the Dots Podcast is Up

If you missed yesterday's podcast over at Mark Shea's very cool corner of the internet because you were out trick-or-treating, not to worry, like Halloween candy, the podcast is just as fun and good the next day.  

So have a listen while you drive, work out, make dinner or whathave you, as Mark and I talk Halloween, favorite costumes, favorite memories and in preparation for today, Favorite Saints, all from a Catholic perpsective.

Connecting the Dots with Mark Shea Monday!  <--but all="" and="" be="" because="" br="" cannonized="" disorganized="" ever="" friends="" get="" if="" it="" nbsp="" of="" patron="" people="" re="" s="" she="" sherry="" special="" tardy="" the="" today.="" who="" will="" you="">

Monday, October 31, 2016

The Joker in All But Costume

My oldest son at home does not care to dress up at Halloween. He eshews candy as "unhealthy" and has for the past four years, contented himself with passing out the goodies to whatever trick-or-treaters show up at our home.

Yet I've always thought perhaps it was a cover to allow him to cherry pick the offerings, both before Halloween got underway, and after we returned and everyone went to bed.  I couldn't prove it, thought I would find candy wrappers in his room.  He'd complain his siblings came in to wake him up.  Yes. I know, I didn't believe it either.

Still, I couldn't prove it, and I never really tried.

Today, after we'd been out going door to door, once all were tucked in bed, we found our teenager going upstairs carrying the cauldron filled with candy.  "Why are you taking that upstairs?"
"So they won't eat it. They'll eat too much candy. It's not healthy."

But no one is reaching for this candy. No one is asking for it. Each of them came home, had their stashes inspected, sorted, they traded and each ate three pieces, they brushed their teeth and everyone's fine.  Why does this need to go upstairs?

"So no one will sneak candy. You know I won't. I don't like it." He put his hand in and took out a Starburst.   "Right."
"It's just this one candy."  He had the grace to grin.  

Working Title: I Know Where He Gets It

Later, we talked about upcoming races. I mentioned I might bring everyone to see his next run.
"My race is Tuesday."
"I know for a fact, your run is on Thursday. It's not like we're going to hold up signs that say "Yay Peter!" and "Run Peter Run!"
"It's Wednesday."
"Maybe I will bring signs. Oh! We can dress up like we do for Halloween."
"I'll dress up too."
"I'm not running. The Coach said I should sit this one out."

ConText messages...

"Hey Mom.  I need running food."
Me:  "Like?"
"Quinoa, chocolate milk, mangos, banannas, smuckers uncrustables and protien shakes."
"And spinach, and eggs and navel oranges and protien oatmeal."
"Anything else?"
"Some beets, pomegranite juice, salad mixes (Caesar only), and cliff bars."
"Is that all?"
"No.  Water, good pasta (tortellini), meatballs, and sauce, string cheese and mabye Cantelope?"
"When is the race?" (Today is Monday).
"You won't need all of this for tomorrow."
"I'll do the dishes and fold the laundry."
"Will you make the bus in the morning?"
"Will you make the bus in the morning?"
"Just get me some banannas and cliff bars."

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Last Minute Trick-or-Treating Trials

I am normally a last minute kind of shopper. Given the pickings this year for Halloween, I have to think I'm a dying breed. Can it be with the advent of the internet being so ubiquitous, it no longer makes sense to the retailers or the algorythmns counters to every have stuff in stock for those who wake up and discover, there's only one day left before a holiday?  

I know I can't be the only one. I saw a frustrated Mom pushing a cart with two kiddos, searching for those elusive costumes.  I overheard a Dad saying, "Next time, we're doing this earlier."  and fishing through the discarded stack of costumes people tried on and found didn't fit.

My daughter's school eliminated props from costumes, rendering her Ranger costume a rather strange outfit. She didn't want to go as an archer without a bow and quiver full of arrows.  We figured, we'd snag a Harry Potter robe and call it a day.  The costumes in the first store, things no person should wear.  The costumes in the second store?  Designed and created for people who would allow their daughters to dress  in skin tight things that no one should wear.

As a writer, we have to create articles three to six months in advance of when they will be posted. When did all of retail get on the same schedule? Where's the store that recognizes, we have lives and  those lives are last minute?   Don't point me to the big box stores, that's where we were.

So I have a proposal for one of those big stores.  Have a last minute stock store for each holiday. Clear out an aisle and lable it, "Last Minute Shopping."  Don't put the premium stuff in there until the day before. Advertise you're the place to go when you're out of time.  I promise, we will beat a path to your door. We will buy you out.

I still have to wonder, in this age of cos-play, how is it there's a dearth of costumes at any time of year?

I proposed being a ghost.  Or a Charlie Brown version of a ghost.  We have at least ten costumes I could put together, she wanted none of them.  I know she still grieved not being able to be the ranger with the bow and arrows.

We went to get decorations.  These proved equally elusive. We'd have been in great shape if we were decking the halls or preparing for New Year's Eve.   My daughter wouldn't go for being the new year or wearing a top hat and sporting plastic champagne glasses or for being Rudolph. I pointed out she could say "Happy New Year" or "Merry Christmas." if she wanted.  No dice.

 The third store, we found two discounted racks of mish mash and in there, a witch outfit both modest and not uncool and grabbed a big bag of candies and some mesh bags for getting the trick-or-treats.  She is sky high happy.  I get home.

My teenager also wants to dress up, and wants to go to the store.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Small Success Thursday and the Connecting the Dots Podcast link up!

I know, writing has taken it on the chin lately.  I'm trying to force myself to make more time.  However, I've maintained continuity with two things, Small Success Thursday and Connecting the Dots with Mark Shea...and what luck, I have links for both of those things today!

So first, stop by and read up on this past week's comings and goings with Small Success Thursday and the piece entitled, "The Side They Pierced."

After you've left your successes in the com box (and I hope you will), come back and listen to Mark Shea and me, or rather, listen with us as we hear about Tom McDonald's trip to Jordan.

I just wish you could have heard us talking behind the scenes when we heard the music. Tom had great stories about his trip to Jordan as a journalist, and honestly, I wanted to go pack my bags. 

You can read about his trip here.

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Problems with Poetry

When I get writer's block, I have drafts that have wonderful titles and nothing in them.  My draft board is filled with half finished thoughts which prove, I did write that day, I just didn't hit "Publish." These days, I have little time, so more half thoughts get started than finished.

The other thing I do when I feel as if I've said everything I can think of, and have nothing new to contribute that will either edify or amuse, is write poetry.   I don't like my poems as a rule for three reasons:

1) It's easy to write bad poetry.
2) It's easy to be pretentious about one's poetry.
3) I can hear in my head everytime I write a poem either my poetry teacher at Notre Dame saying, "We don't need to read her poems." or the Poet who visited Saint Mary's, saying, "I'm very surprised I almosts believed her poem."

Poetry is supposed to use form and words to create an indellible image in the mind, to engrave on the heart something that wouldn't be possible with prose.   Poetry uses active space in language, to create greater meaning in the language that does get used.   I tend to blather on, to cover the whole canvas with words, leaving little space for my poems to breathe.  See problem #1.

However I'm also protective about my poems in the same way any writer looks at their creation and thinks it beautiful.  See problem #2.

Problem #3 is the running tape in my head, which makes me highly supsicious of any praise of my poetry... because I know both problem #1 and problem #2 are real. Fortunately, I have a third teacher whose words also run through my head.

Die hard cub fan, Max at Saint Mary's remained a favorite all the years if only because despite being a poet, he could laugh at himself.  He laughed at me too, but I knew he didn't mean it except in the gentle way a professor might tease a student who needed to grow up a bit.   "Yes, but I'll never be as good as YEETS."  He wrote on the board.   A comment from some frustated student in the course of decades of teaching.   To which he quipped, "YEATS, no, Yeets, probably.  Now get back to writing."

The trick was to stop using everyone else as a yardstick, and learn what they did that worked and what they did that didn't, and apply all those lessons to the actual business of writing.   He taught us, be humble, and you can write whatever poem you like.

"That Max
pisses me off."

Possibly the most memorable poem in the semester began with these opening two lines. I can't remember the rest of it, but I honestly can't remember any of the other poems we read during that semester which proves since I didn't write those two lines, I probably made people suffer through #1 and #2, and legitimately helped foster the commentary listed in #3.   He laughed harder than anyone else at that poem, and taped it on his door. These were his lessons.  Wear your problem.  Bleed on the page. Laugh at yourself and recognize, much of what you write, is laughable.  

On top of that, he demanded, "Write until you stop thinking about what you will write, and just as a muscian will eventually be able to play a piece without looking, and a dancer to perform a whole routine without error, the words will flow and you'll only know after you write them, what they mean."  It sounded like nonsense.  It also sounded wonderful.    He made poetry something other than what depressed artsy sophsiticated people do, he made it fun.  

With all those lessons in mind, I give to you, today's poem, inspired by watching the students at my new job funnel out to the buses and cars waiting at dismissal.    

The Beauty We Cannot Yet See

It's three o'clock
and the students swarm out
all talking and walking,
so full of promise
some have already broken.

They stare at their phones,
at the ground,
at the sky
and anywhere at all
except each other.

Determined to remain
insulated and safe
in a crowd full of others
just as wary,
all just as full

of more beauty than we
or they imagine they can bear.
They are stars in the daylight
and every once in a while,
the veil lifts.

Revealing a glimmer
of what could be
of what should be
what would be.
It was always intended.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Halloween is Next Week...

I love dressing up for Halloween.  It is my favorite part of the holiday. (I know you thought it was the chocolate, but honestly, I've always loved the dressing up part.  Besides, the chocolate at Halloween is usually 90% Milky Ways...which are underachieving Snickers bars and if I'm going to eat cheap chocolate, it's going to be at least satisfying).  

However, I never like to repeat myself.  In recent years, I've felt less than inspired, mostly because I'm usually putting together all my kids' costumes or helping them come up with creative ideas.  This year, we've got it already set and ready to go, so I had the luxury of reflecting on the matter before shipping and handling would render the prospect of a costume cost prohibitive.  

Costumes can be tricky, since many of those crafted for women fail to account for anyone over a size four, and tend to involve in many cases, life choices with respect to wardrobe that no one should respect.  In the past, I've been Helen of Troy, A  professor from Hogwarts, Supergirl, Jesse from Team Rocket, a crewmember from Star Trek and a hobbit. The Geek power in me wins over almost every time.   I wanted to do something different.

Dressing up is supposed to allow you to play out some part of your psyche you tend not to allow out into the world, so I have to wonder...what am I saying when I've opted for this:  

I'm guessing it says, I have many teenagers in my home and sometimes, snark is a coping mechanism.  I will say, my daughters laughed and said, "I'm too nice to be Mother Gothel." 


Thursday, October 20, 2016

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Line Between the Tweens

Having two adolescents in the house means I spend a lot of time discerning, "Do I need to fight this battle?"  and the follow up, "Why the heck did I need to fight that battle?" with the follow up follow up, "I hope I won."

Child A wants to earn money and offers to do what I currently do for free, for cash once a week.  Child A keeps track of the labor and gives a running tally on the money earned thus far.

Child B opts one day out of kindness to do the same chore.

Come pay day, both expect payment.   I oblige.

Now I have two people wanting me to designate who shall have the privilege of earning cash on the barrel for their labors, and who gets nothing.


One does the chore with decidedly greater skill than the other.

Suggesting both do the labor at the same time seems like the Solomon type decision, except both keep reporting how the other one isn't doing enough to merit full payment.

My head hurts.

My options:  Make both clean. Ignore all complaints. Pay both full amounts. This is not my first choice, just an option.  I don't want it.

Shared labor, half expenses.  Explain the pay is halfed with the labor.  Hope they agree to it. *I'd prefer, since it would mean realistically, the whole job might be regularly completed and gradually, both would come to learn the task.

Alternate cleaning.  Recognize I'll have to tweak or groom the less skilled laborer.   I'll have to psuedo check the other so neither notes their own superiority.

Assert Power.  Both clean. No pay.   This is more pain than it is worth. It will leave me eventually with no help.

This is why I write. It helps me see the folly of options.

I went to the two in question and explained the possibilities.

They came up with one I'd not anticipated.

"We don't need the money."  so they both dropped the chore.

Perhaps, I should write more.  I didn't see that folly coming.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Saturday Surprise

It was so nice to wake up and find a piece I wrote a while a go, was published today over at Aleteia.  This week's been pretty busy, squeezing my writing time but don't worry, I've got the weekend to work with, and we threw a party for 12 eleven year old girls yesterday, so there's lots of stuff in my head which will demand to get out.

This week's published piece is The Dark Night of the Soul Might Not Be for Me.

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Universe, My Teen and Me

At some point after kids turn 13, they stop trusting your experience as having weight, until you turn the table on them and ask an adult question.

"So, what do you want to do after high school?" is a question that generally elicits one of two responses.  

Response 1:  Stare at one's sneakers until the question goes away.
Response 2:  Do anything else other than answer.

When I asked my son, "Can you name five careers you could imagine yourself possibly doing, things that you think would be cool to do?"   He nearly bore a hole in the floor from his intense stare at his shoes.

Not wanting to have silence as an answer, (since a career as a mime seems to have limited upward income potential) I opted for a subtle approach.

"Hey son?  Can you read Anna a bedtime story?"
"Maybe You Can Be a Vet, Maybe You Can Fly a Jet" might be one of the lamer Dr. Seus titles out there, but it did at least get the hint across, I wasn't going to let this go.

The next morning he cooked himself an omelette.  "You could be a chef." I said.
He left the room.

That afternoon, he fixed his bike.  "Mechanic?" He took off on his bike.

He brought me papers to sign.  "Lawyer?" I wasn't giving up.

I played games with the younger ones, having them talk about Halloween Costumes if they could only choose from careers.  JUDGE!  FIREMAN! POLICEWOMAN! SINGER! ACTOR! TEACHER! NURSE! ARTIST! We kept going around, as many of my kiddos wanted to have two, maybe three careers over the course of their lives.

He ran up the stairs holding his ears.

Surrendering didn't seem prudent, and yet I couldn't think of another way to approach the question and get an actual response.  My son gave a scream of irritation from his room. I ran upstairs.  "What's wrong?" I asked.

"The UNIVERSE Mom."  He led out a sheet of paper.  I looked at it blankly. It gave the schedule for Spirit Week.  "LOOK AT THURSDAY!" he shouted.

Career Day.   I couldn't help grinning.  Guess I'll find out at the end of the week.

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If you sneak my work, No Chocolate for You!