Friday, February 26, 2016

It's Friday...

But I forgot to link Small Success Thursday.
I'm trying to stay on top of this writing thing, and life, and laundry.  I think I'm losing on all three fronts.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Sherry's Soap Box...

Recent studies proclaiming the NECESSITY of breastfeeding annoy me.  
It's not a hard line. There are multiple realities in any parenting situation and well, one of the wisest people I know, (my sister) back in 2011, recognized that I wasn't resting or still enough to make enough milk for my youngest and she said, "The baby is hungry. This is not about you." and I bottle fed her and she became a much happier healthier little baby.

Also, there are times when it's not a good plan. Period. And to throw onto mothers when they're adjusting to their baby, working with their family, hormonal and trying to recover from pregnancy a YOU MUST OR YOU'RE A BAD MOTHER stuff over something as intimate and personal as how you feed your kid...well, bleah.  
I know Dr. Popcak tried to soften the response by saying but when you title the piece, The Myth of Optional Breastfeeding & Why You Might Not be Breastfeeding Long Enough, it's hard to think it's not a direct indictment of those who chose to formula feed. Some of the language in the piece is heavy handed.Telling people they're taking away their child's inheritance and that breast feeding is a moral issue is akin to telling people if they don't pray a certain way, God doesn't hear you. What's the point of breast feeding, feeding the baby. It may be the best option, but it's not always the right one in every circumstance, and it's not sinful to opt out if the reality of family life, maternal health, and whatnot dictate otherwise. So no. It's nice, it's not a moral issue. Bleah.  

That's right, that's my scientific opinion of that scientific study.  

Happy healthy kid. Happy healthy mom. End of the day, that's the goal. The how is not a one size fits all. And with that in mind, I give you a slice of life from 9/21/2008* Paul was born 9/17/2008. They should not have poked the mom.

Mad Cow Disease
The last bastion of purists have hunkered down for the purpose of converting strict adherance to their way of being in a single field of study that the world at least considers respectable. I am speaking exclusively of those well meaning souls known as Lactation specialists.
Now I know that breast milk is natural, normal, easy, convenient, healthy and provides bonuses that formula does not have. There's no chance of metal contamination from some yahoo in a foriegn country who spilled a box of nails while packaging insta powder. There's no need to make sure you won't run out. As long as you bathe regularly, there's no sterilization issues to speak of. Having nursed all of my prior children, it's not like I failed to subscribe to the theory of nursing or needed convincing to try it.
But Downs Syndrome children have trouble nursing and with my son's poor heart condition, he needs to conserve his energy for growing and not coaxing milk to come to him. He needed the food to be easy and plentiful and require little effort. Even my OBGYN, Pediatrition and Cardiologist had agreed, a mixed approach was fine but food was most important. I explained to the La Leche League woman providing "support" that while I hoped to nurse, I also recognized my son's condition required a bit of flexibility on my part.
She shook her her head and smiled very nicely. "You know, there are studies out there that indicate that babies who are held but who are also nursed, and mostly because they are NURSED, are less retarded." Even in my percoset stupor, I recognized a vague threat. The implication was clear. If I failed to supply my breasts to the cause, I would be lowering my son's IQ. I would be causing further handicapping complications for my son.
"Are you unaware that if he doesn't get enough calories, his heart will fail?" Thinking as logical people do that this might make her...reconsider her words.  

"Babies who breastfeed are healthier."
"Not if they lose weight and fail to thrive."
"If the mother is committed to breast feeding, the baby thrives." Her benevolent smile told me her thoughts, this poor tired recooperating woman must not be thinking clearly. "Breast is always best." she soothed.
"Even if my pediatrition and the specialists have said otherwise?"
"The doctors want what is controllable and convenient."
"The doctors want my son to live."
"God made cow milk for a calf, breast milk for a baby." She insisted.
"I drink cow milk."
"That's different."
"You're an adult."
Squelching an urge to moo at her, I tried reason once more."I never had breast milk. I was in an ICU the first few months of my life."
"You probably would have been there less if your mother had been able to nurse you."
At this point, I began to wonder if a gentle rap on side the head would be legally defensible...or at least plausible to a jury of my peers.
"Thank you." I got up, grabbed my IV pole so I could indicate I was escorting her out of the room.
She touched my arm in what was supposed to be a reassuring gesture, but felt vaguely like a "I'm explaining it one more time for you so you can say the right thing Chicago style" grip.
"Are you going to nurse?"
I opened the door and patted her hand.
"I'm going to do what's best for my son. Whatever that means."
She stood in the threshold, holding on to the door, trying to make the pitch one last time. "Meaning, you're not going to breast feed exclusively?"

I smiled. "Well, you see, I was premature and drank formula for the first year of my life so we'll chuck all bad decisions I make as a Mom up to that."

In Charge

The goal of being a stay at home Mom, is to mother.  Sometimes, in the midst of doing all that needs to be done to organize and maintain a home of 12 people, I somehow forget that and get lost in the paperwork, the projects, the writing I want to do, the distraction of the stuff on the internet, my own mind, and thus it was Anna and I hit upon a solution.

She is the officer of the break.  

She makes sure, we take a break every hour from whatever it is we were doing, to do something else. So I don't clean for an hour.  I clean for 45 minutes.  Then it's game time.   And we don't play for an hour.  We play for 45 minutes and then, I have 15 minutes to get rid of the paper work.   It's teaching her time management, and me as well.

The result?  The house has never looked better, my stack of stuff is far less than it was, and we've played Hoot, Owl, Hoot, read stories, played with toys, colored and hugged every day.  Why did it take until the tenth child to install a Break officer?   I don't know.  But I do know this, it's a much more fun day now that she's in charge of recreation.

Monday, February 22, 2016

To Get to Easter

I am a two decade plus veteran mother.  Enduring twenty-two years of diapers, weathering five adolescents so far, I figure, I've seen enough to not be worn down by the capacity of children to surprise.

I was as wrong as a rookie who claims they'll potty train their two year old over the weekend during Christmas break.   I was as wrong as the mother who boasts of how her kids show remarkable good judgment.  That's the kids' cue to riffle through the tool box and emerge with duct tape, a gooey paint brush and a hammer, leaving Mom to discern, what fire do I put out first?

Today, I cleaned up the upstairs.  No problem, but the rooms seemed oddly spartan, not as many toys as I normally find on a Monday.  I thought, they're getting older, they're picking up after themselves.  Why I indulged this naive fantasy, I'll never know.  The triumph of hope over experience.

I patrolled the main floor and again, it wasn't horrid.

Normally, I do two floors and quit.  But I thought, I'd try to finish the job, and it was then, I learned, where all the toys went. Every...single...toy.

Every bin in the basement also has been dumped.  I mean, you can walk the basement and never touch the ground, owing to the clutter. Even the basketball hoop and the vacuum cleaner have been knocked over, and all since Saturday, because Saturday, I was downstairs, I didn't see this.   This...this is new.

Fight or flight.  I left the basement, but the image of the mess wouldn't leave.  It made me mad.
I was set to work myself into a mother of all lathers over my offspring, and then I remembered a friend of mine, who is clinging each moment, to the twins she carries.   It is a condition very rare, and possibly fatal to both children.  The girls are only 22 weeks, so every second more in the womb brings them closer to being able to thrive outside the womb, and every second is equally fraught with the possibility of death.  This family needs prayers for a miracle, of the twins somehow thriving, somehow enduring up past the threshold for survival.  They need to at the very least, get to Easter.   That's my prayer.  Suddenly, getting worked up over a really big --and it is obnoxiously so, don't get me wrong, mess in the basement seems like a colossal waste of everyone's time.

So please, pray today for my friend and her children.  Pray for them to make it to Easter, and if you come across a galactic style  kid induced mess  or hassle from life that could only come as a form of redemptive punishment for your sins, remember, there are far heavier crosses out there.   

It may take me until Easter to get the basement into order, I hope my friend gets to pick up after her twins one day, for someone else. 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Over at Aleteia Today

On Thursday, I called my husband and told him the weekend schedule. It included an audition at 9:10 in the morning on Saturday and a 3:15 basketball game on Sunday followed by a pizza party and a 6 o'clock meeting for me on Sunday night.  

Thinking about all that chopping up of the day, I had only one solution.  We needed a date night.
So my husband got us tickets to the FolgerTheatre's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream! 

I'd have to take the metro,which might make things iffy for an 8 o'clock curtain so I left at six.  Arriving with plenty of time, the Folgers' theatre is one block from the Supreme Court.

The line on the sidewalk opposite the show stretched for three blocks.  "Someone should write a story about all the people coming here to pay their respects."  Armed with a marker and my Lenten Magnificat, I walked the line to ask people about why they came, what the Supreme Court Justice meant to them.  The result?

People came from all over to say thank you and good bye to Justice Antonin Scalia.

Oh, and if you can go to this years' production of the bard's play, it's awesome.  If I could play any part in a Bard play, it would be Puck.  It's my favorite favorite play.  Man it was fun.We had a great time.

Saturday, February 20, 2016


I am in shock.   I just heard from my publisher, MUSE IT UP! that The Book of Helen will be out in paperback this September. 

For those who don’t know, I wrote a historical fiction about Helen of Troy at the age of sixty-five starting over.  I tried to weave the myriad of contradictory myths about the most beautiful woman in the world (with the face that launched 1000 ships) into a plausible narrative.  In so doing, I sought to answer a few questions that get explained away by the gods interference in most cases in the original epic poems and plays.    

1) Why did Helen leave Sparta?  Those who know the story of the golden apple, know the goddess Eris (strife), was not invited to the wedding of Thetis and Peleus.  She left a wedding gift anyway, with the note, “To the fairest goddess.”  Paris, the son of Priam and Hecuba, prince of Troy was chosen to make the decision as to who should receive the apple, Hera, Athena or Aphrodite.  

Each of the goddesses offered gifts, Hera offered the power to rule of all of Europe and Asia, Athena offered wisdom and the capacity to be the greatest warrior that ever lived.  Aphrodite offered the hand and heart of the most beautiful woman in the world; Helen of Troy.  
Paris chose beauty, Paris chose Aphrodite’s gift of Helen.

Married already, Aphrodite instructed her son to shoot an arrow into Helen’s heart so she would leave with Paris.  

However this version of the story renders Helen a pawn with no free will of her own.  So I tried to craft a plausible reason for the woman with the true power of the throne (it was through Helen, not Menelaus that the kingship came), to leave a place where she ruled, had a daughter, and knew if she left, there would be consequences for all of Greece, but went anyway.   What would make her leave everyone she ever knew and loved? 

2) Helen arrives with Paris in Troy, but in addition to the treasures/dowry she brings a lot of baggage; like 1000 ships stocked with armed to the teeth Greeks from all over the Mediterranean.   I could see the Trojans waiting it out at first, but eventually as the Greeks tore up the beaches and countryside, raiding local farms and hunting grounds, I can’t help but think the Trojans would say, “You know, you’re really pretty but this many in-laws is way too much.  Thanks, go home.”

I could get Paris wanting to keep her, I could understand Priam wanting to out of honor, keep her around, but the rest of Troy would have been soured as things got harder.   So the second question is why did the Trojans let her stay?  
3) Troy is burned to the ground. (Sorry to any who haven’t read the Iliad, Odyssey and accompanying Greek literature for the spoilers).   It’s been over ten years.  Countless lives have been lost.  If you just use the count from the Iliad text alone, 272 men are killed (where we know their names), not to mention the gutting of the kingdom.   Yet if you read the Odyssey, Helen and Menelaus are reconciled, everything is peaceful and she’s returned to rule the land she left.  
What made her people, or for that matter, her husband, take her back?  
Whatever she had, it had to be more than skin deep.

If you can’t wait until September, it’s available as an e-book at Muse it up Publishing!   I’ll even electronically sign it for you if you click the authorgraph site on my blog.   J

Friday, February 19, 2016

If We Really Want to Keep Calm and Carry On...

Turn off the internet.


I know.  Irony alert, you're reading this in an article online. What prompted this?  The verbal exchange between Trump, the Pope and the explosion of despair, rage and dark glee at the idea the Church no longer teaches that using contraception is morally wrong all over the internet.

The plethora of social media has rendered all of us twitchy and itchy to take offense, and equally outraged at our team when the one representing our team doesn't do what we think they should have.   I liken it to when I watch Notre Dame Football.  I don't just want them to win.  I want them not to make stupid mistakes.  I yell at the coach when I think he's called a bad play.  I stomp around when we get a penalty that was so so so easily avoidable.  I snarl at the refs if I think they're giving too much credit to the other side.   Watching this Pope and those who struggle with him, and this President, and both those who fight, and those who defend, no one ever presumes good faith, no one has any forbearance for those of the opposite side. Yep.  It's exactly like when I watch Notre Dame Football.

The tyranny of relativism is when each of us declares ourselves the arbiter of truth, and that no one else has a claim on truth, then the only way you can assert your truth is truthier than anyone else's truth, is majority.   You have to have your truth trend.  We no longer try as  a society to keep up with the Jones, but rather to assert, we are the Jones. The rest of you...get with the program.

This pope, like this president, is the first to have everything he ever says and does, doesn't say and doesn't do, recorded, parsed and proclaimed and interpreted instantly.  

We're still talking about people, not yet saints. People, no matter how educated, no matter how cultured, no matter how powerful, no matter how well known, remain first and foremost, people. Pick any name, of any candidate, leader, celebrity, sports figure, teacher, talk show host, anyone, all of them, flesh and blood humans, no matter how powerful, rich, or influential.

Ergo, expect, presume, they will speak badly, they will stumble, they will fail, they will fall, they will err, they will disappoint. They will sin.  They will sin.  They will sin.

The only question is how?  The social media at our fingertips allows us to know or at least, think we know.

Now.  Imagine putting our own selves into that fishbowl.  Just take your yesterday, and imagine everything you did, said, wrote, didn't say, didn't do, and didn't write, went viral.

It's enough to make one crawl into the fetal position.

We no longer allow anyone who has garnered more than ten seconds of fame, to make an error, make a choice we disagree with, or speak over broadly.

An instant chorus on Twitter or Facebook or anywhere else begins to shout "They should know better..."  "They should have been handled...."

In this media age, we cannot afford to have anyone on OUR SIDE, ever make a mistake.   We've all become armchair quarterbacks for everyone else's game, it allows us not to have to really play.


No.  No.  No.  No.  No.

This is the Jubilee Year of Mercy.  We need to have Merciful Hearts.

Some tips for how to cultivate one. 

First, some digging in the soul.

If your politics and your religion match up perfectly, politics is your religion.

If your religion precludes allowing even the Pope from irritating, sinning, failing as a person, then your religion is not one of mercy.

If you cannot see any of God in the face of someone with whom you hold a disagreement, this is the one for whom you pray.

If you cannot think that someone who disagrees can possibly be good, educated or a worth while person, this is the one for whom you pray.

To be Catholic, is to hold to it all, to hold both to all the catechism and all of its detail, and to throw out your arms around all of the world, to be both and.

To be Catholic in this mess of life, is to be obedient to the Church in all things, even in that which I do not fully understand because I trust the One who created it.

To remember that each of us, is a sinner, seeking to become a saint.

Next, the seed: 

What to do:  The Rosary, adoration, scripture. Any or all, for that person on the internet, or in real life, that drives you to rage.

Take a trip:  The Church has opened Holy Doors of Mercy all over the world.  Here's the Vatican list. Find one near you.  Go.  Make a pilgrimage, for your family, for your country, for the Pope, and for all those who hurt your heart or drive you nuts.  Catholic Pilgrimage.

Make this your Lenten gift:
We must practice the virtue of forbearance, and when people drive us crazy, be it a politician or the Pope or the news or a teacher, our neighbor's kids, the person on the radio, whoever it is, learn that this is a form of fasting, to not feed your soul on your own irritation.   You might not be eating meat, but feeding one's irritation (and the news and social media thrive on stroking this in the soul), you are consuming, you are tearing into yourself.

Seek and practice forgiveness.

Will vary based on the degree to which practiced, and are an ongoing process toward perfection. Repeat tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow after that until death.

However, there is one thing I can promise from implementation of these practices:  You'll be able to keep calm and Catholic on.


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Action Figures

For Christmas, Paul got the Adventures of Superman, which energized his siblings to find our old copies of the Adventures of Batman and Robin.  Binge watching, Paul went all out and dressed in his own Robin costume, or Iron Man, or Captain America or Batman, depending upon which of those costumes was not in the washer.  

Before February, he'd made the commitment to become a superhero.  Every night, he wore a costume over his pajamas.  Every morning, he grudgingly allowed me to put him in his civies.    He'd don the cape as soon as he got home.

We fished out the figurines and you could tell, his imagination flew higher than his vocabulary.

His brothers got into the act, tying the heroes to strings and dangling them from the upstairs to simulate flying.  However every superhero needs a villain.  

And so it was that eventually, his brothers and sisters formed the Legion of Doom and hid the DVD's that had become old news for all the olders.   The caped crusader, skilled in detective tactics, understood this was his family's darkest hour.  He ran downstairs. He rifled through the bookshelves. He even checked under his brother's beds.  Finally, in desperation, he enlisted the help of his younger sister, clad in her Supergirl suit.

She knew where, and more importantly, she knew who.

Five minutes later, they were back in Superhero binging business.

I'm not sure but I think the sixteen year old said, "Curses, foiled again."

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Grace from Failure*

Everything about my schedule these days overwhelms.  Four different schools, four separate pick up times, everything in opposite directions.  It has frazzled me such that I forgot my purse twice this week and drove out of the parking lot of the school without one of my older ones when he got out while we were picking up to go the bathroom.  I didn't notice until he called while we were half way home.  

It is a situation which I did not fully understand until we were in the thick of it, managing all of this and which I did not anticipate to be as difficult as it has been. I always believe things will work out, that we aren't called to have an easy life, just a good one.  So on we march, trying to be fearless about such details.

But I admit, I was faltering. The logistics and cummulative upkeep had just beaten me down hard.  I should have noticed when I snapped at a cashier at a gas station.  I almost went back to apologize, but I didn't.  I wanted to stay entitled to being mad.  I told myself it was outrageous that I couldn't get a diet coke when I'd bought 50$ worth of gas. It was petty and I was small.  I was making myself smaller.  That smallness wouldn't stay at the Exxon.  It would follow and nag and grow bigger even as it diminished me, it would encourage me to nurse being tired, cross, hard of heart. Sin does that.  It encourages us to stay frozen in hurt, frozen in pain, frozen in time; to believe things will never get better, to believe we will always be in this moment of feeling like everything is falling away, falling apart and we are lost. 

It is then we need the grace of the cross; because we know that standing at the foot of the cross, Easter looms.  This is not the end and if we're still not sure, the angel even asks us on that morning, "Why do you stay here?" 

We need so many reminders or at least, I do. 

The next day, my son forgot his spelling, his math book and his journal and the journal prompt, and my daughter forgot her math book and it was the second day she'd not remembered, and everyone scheduled for a meeting was unable to attend and there were no less than 8 loads of laundry on my couch needing folding.  My brain short circuited and I overloaded and I cried.  The problem with feelings is they are often disproportionate to the situation.  Kids forget things. It's part of life.  No biggie.  Life happens.  People have to cancel.  It happens.  Normally, I take these things in stride.  I didn't.  Like the steward who shakes the servant and shouts "Pay up what you owe," that was me, ranting that they forgot little things, forgetful I'd forgotten much bigger ones. Yet even if she forgets...

Mercifully, I haven't been thrown into the debtor's prison just yet.  Two hours of phone calls had tracked down most of the material, but I was beaten down tired.  We'd slogged through three hours just to sort of get to baseline done.  I didn't want to pour all of myself out even if I knew that was what is required.  Again, I wanted to rest on my prior accomplishments, to justify myself in wanting to stop; just as I'd wanted to justify my irritation.  Chain screaming to myself "Offer it up! Offer it up! Offer it up!" my children approached undeterred by my prior shouts with still more immediate needs.  Dinner.  Bath.  Teeth.  Diapers.  Bottles. Fights.  Laundry.  Bedtime.

My kids go to Catholic school so there was still a bit more homework than all they'd forgotten and it still had to get done.  "Mom! We have to read this aloud before we go to bed." my daughter announced. I did not want to do this.  I was not in a listening mood or reading aloud mood.  I looked for a child to subcontract the chore out to, but they were all out of drafting range, having secured places to study and/or hide until Mom chilled out a bit. "Offer it up. Offer it up. Offer it up." I told myself.  A book had been brought out of a backpack in hopes of getting a bedtime story too.  Others were coming in hopes of getting read to, I now had a pose of five and two books in the cue. The stack would get bigger and the eyes more hopeful the longer I delayed.  I sighed inside.  It was already a quarter to, and 25 minutes past when I'd wanted to be done with everything.  "Okay.  Let's read." Everyone settled eagerly.

So we read..."Praise God for this world He has made."  It's religion.  I'm being beaten over the head by God! Help! ..."Praise God for the mountains and the sun and the trees....Praise God for the creatures, wild and tame.  Praise God and thank God for all the people He made."  God had won.  The kids had won.  We read the Aristocats too. It only took five minutes, but the world had stopped spinning out of control in those 300 seconds.

It's so easy forget from fatigue, from the chores of the day, from the scourges of the world like bills and sickness and schedules, you get to hold nothing back, but you get to hold all of these people in your heart forever.  It's a good trade. 

And as if to make sure that I got it, because like the steward who received mercy, I can be awfully thick, God piled on.   I went to tuck people into bed.  My daughter is serenading me with the "We're called to be bridges..." from a puppet show she saw that afternoon. Her arms are outstretched in a perfect hug of the world.  "Do you like my song? It's for you!" She beams. She asks for water.  I got her the drink, thinking "God, isn't this overkill?"

To which God responds promptly via my children's next actions, "No."

Then I went to my toddler's room.  I tucked in my daughter.  I tucked in Paul.  I said prayers with her. She gave me a smile and a nod and thanked me for her drink.  I told Paul I loved him.  He laughed.  This was unusual. 

He looked in my eyes. He murmured, "I love you." back at me and laughed again.  I said I love you back.  He laughed again.  He said it again. We did that over and over..several times.  His smile is permanently burned in my mind; it was a knowing smile.  A smile that said I know what you said, I know what I said and I know what it means. His laugh was a "Water" "She knows!" Anne Sullivan type moment. 

The immediacy of it all thundered.  Mercy poured forth for the forgetful stressed out mom from every corner.  I was drowning in mercy, drowning in love, grateful to be saturated in it all, and deeply aware that all of this was a gift beyond any acts I did or could do.  This was not overkill.  This was Lavish love alive.

But God wasn't finished with me yet.

I tucked in my second grader.  "Mom!  I'm worried about 2nd grade." He was the one who had forgotten his books.  "Well, you had a rough day." I offered.  He nodded.   "I want you to do something."  He looked at me, his eyes still filled with stress.  "I want you not to worry."  He breathed out, as if he'd been holding it all this time.  Too much to hold for a seven year old's shoulders I thought.  "Let's put your worry about tomorrow in a box and let it fly away.  You've studied.  You've done what you can. We've done what we can and it's okay.  We'll learn from this.  We'll check to see if we have everything before we leave the parking lot.  It will be fine and don't worry." He sighed happily and was already drifting off to sleep as I flicked off the lights. 

So Sherry...I could hear God chuckling at me.  Did you get all that?  Yes. Yes God I did.  Go to the Exxon.  Leave a note if you can't find the man himself. Pray.   Don't beat yourself up but remember that miracles, luminous miracles are all around you, but sin, even the smallest, blinds you to grace, to goodness, to mercy, to being able to see them or participate in them.  Forgive, forgive and forgive again and don't worry.  I want you not to worry.  Put that worry in a box and let it fly away. I'll take it. Now stop being anxious.  Study this.  Do what you can and learn from this.  It will be okay."

My final words to God on this subject for today?  Wish I weren't so thick.

*Digging through drafts. Found this one.  From originally September 22, 2011.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

You Can't Not

If there's one thing I've learned over the course of two decades plus of parenting, is even though you long ago discarded the child monitor, you never turned it off.   If a child cries "Mom" in the middle of the night, you're up, you're out the door and searching for the kid in question faster than Superman.   It's part of the Mom DNA that gets encoded when you first see that "+" sign on the test, and only gets stronger as the child gets older.

What I've learned is it doesn't matter how old they get, they want the attention.  They want the bedtime story long after they know how to read.  They want to be phoned, to be sent valentine cards and care packages, hugs and their favorite dinner when they're home.  They want to be tucked in, to have the lights turned off for them, feet rubbed, and one on one time.  They want lunch out and an extra t-shirt, folded socks and hot cocoa with whipped cream.   They want infinitely, but what they most want, is time, presence from you.

The internet is full of pieces about what I'd write my 20 year younger self, and what I'd write is this and hope those who haven't yet run through all the years of their children's childhood (and that would include myself), would take it to heart.  Climb the steps. Read the story. Write the card.  Make the call.  These are not to-dos.  They are the flesh and bone to the words "I love you."  It doesn't look like much when it's happening and I know, you're tired. You've given.  You've done it during the day.  But those last few moments, before bedtime?  They're the ones remembered.  They reveal whether it's duty, or love.   Because they're done when there isn't much left, when you have other things you'd rather do, and the choice between you is them or you.   Love is based on sacrifice.  Sacrifice is service, done with a full heart, done even when it costs, especially when it costs.

So even if the phone call takes an hour and your schedule didn't have that time, you take the call.
The purpose of the schedule is to get things done.  The purpose of parenting, is to love.  The modern world constantly talks about balance, "me time" and all of that, but love is the opposite of "equalness."  Love always wants to give more, to do more, to pour out everything.  Love's never about equality, it's about wanting to lavish the other with more.   You use the last stamp and crank out a letter.  You climb the steps and read the one more story.  You nag about taking a shower, you brush their hair and make them change out of shorts when it's too cold and put on shoes even when it's hot.   You can't not. So I'd tell the younger me, and all the younger ones out there and all those not so young, the answer is always "You can't not."

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Why I Love Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday for me is always March 5, 2014, the day my father died.  I don't even remember if I got ashes on that day, but nothing brings home the reality of "remember thou art dust." like knowing, I cannot see Dad's face except in pictures and memory.  

It is hard to go to mass on Ash Wednesday now, because I become a blubbering mess at some point, and have to pull it back together before Anna starts asking in an outside voice, "Why are you crying?"  But I need the ashes.  They remind me of him, just as they remind me of the reality we spend most of our lives ignoring.  We will die.  Our bodies decay daily.  The roses my husband bought me last week, dry and droop within seven days.  I have a tooth needing a root canal.  Decay is ever present, but we have an amazing capacity to busy ourselves so much, we can ignore it.

I know we live beyond death, and I have great hope.  But the day itself reminds me.  It reminds me of what I haven't done, what I'm not doing, and of all the ways in which, no matter what I'm doing, I haven't done what the goal of this life is, to love unconditionally, and to pour myself out.   Surrender is the response we're asked for, the revelation to the world, I have faith.

The issue isn't to surrender once, but to surrender constantly.  The real question is, How?

How do we drop the nets today and every day from now on?  The mission is to be catchers of souls.

 How?  We go out, and speak truth joyfully.   "Beauty will save the world," Dostoevsky says, Nothing is more beautiful than a joyful spirit,  nothing draws people toward something like laughter and beauty.  We want to know who is laughing and why, to see the person enjoying life as we in that moment when we seek out the person laughing, are not yet.  We hope, by coming into contact with the person laughing, we will become like them, lighter and more full of the zest and joy of life, more alive.

It's why this humor blog persists.   Humor as a formula is pain plus time equals something healing. So get your ashes, make your resolution for the next 40 days, and tomorrow, I'll come here to write humor and chew the fat intellectually (since I gave up actual fat for Lent).   I'll regale you with all the insights that come from not being able to sate my appetite for sweets and cooking with a Paula Deen type hand with respect to butter, and a not so Frugal Gourmet with respect to Olive Oil.  I miss them both already.  Hot cocoa without whipped cream somehow tastes like something less than hot chocolate.  

40 days...
No fats.
In the words of my father, as we start this season of Lenten prayers, fasting and alms giving, "Now is the time to start the big push."

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Valentine Campaigns

Hillary Clinton:  Bring me the hearts of everyone who did not vote for me.

Bernie Sanders:  Free Hearts for Everyone!

Marco Rubio: Everyone loves the tin man.  Right?

Donald Trump: A heart of pyrite but you don't know the difference.

Jeb Bush: You've tried all the other Bushes...third time's a charm.

Chris Christie: The only one whose heart flutters when he takes the stage, is his.

Ted Cruz: I don't believe they celebrate Valentine's day in Canada. 

Carly Fiorina: Be Mine. Please!  Come on....

Dennis Kasich: There ain't no way they're ever gonna love you....

Ben Carson: Clear!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Reflecting on The Best Lent

We all want a Lent that brings us to the foot of the Cross, and then Easter.
It is the how of things that we struggle with, for being fallen, we can turn anything, even a good thing, into something less.

However, being made in God's image, and God wanting us far more than we ever do Him, He loves us.  It's an astonishing thing to know in our bones.  He loves us.  He wants us nearer, always nearer.

So how do we get there?

Last night, after a conference I attended, I met several of these remarkable women at the hotel bar and asked what their best Lenten offering ever was:

One said they'd given up television as a family.  The result was a burst in creativity on the part of the kids and she saw them reconnecting.  The kicker was her telling us she tried to cheat at one point to catch the news, and the television blew up. We howled.

Another talked about her hardest Lent, when she opted to pray for each person who spoke to her, and discovered how many people she interacted with in a day.  

The third discussed choosing to wear her hair in a bun and wear a dress every day all day.

Lent is designed to take us out of our comfort zone and not merely show us our weaknesses, but show us the cure for them; a deeper relationship with Christ, as is only available through detachment from our own proclivity to sin.    We know it is God's will and God's way if what we offer brings us closer to God and each other.  Each woman's example brought them deeper and deeper in.

I love these stories because the revealed the beauty, diversity and faith of each of the women by their choices. So I'm now facing Ash Wednesday, and wondering, what should I surrender and what should I take up?

Some people say, "Don't give up chocolate."  I'd say, don't ONLY give up chocolate.  The negative must always be paired with a positive,  we pray AND fast. To engage in Lent is to do BOTH AND, to surrender something and take something else on, to peel away some of what keeps us tethered to the world, and cling harder to grace.  

So I ask the question again, what are you doing for Lent and what was your best Lent?  I'm still sifting through possibilities, but I do have some great ideas if you're feeling stumped: Circa 2012 but still worth considering.  There isn't a wrong answer or a perfect answer.  There's your answer, which is your response to God's invitation to grow closer.

Prepare yourself to walk into the desert.  Expect God to take you at your word.

Let us all go deeper and deeper in.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Casting Swine Before Pearls

I made pulled pork in a crock pot.  It cooked overnight. It is fall off the bone tenderness and needs no adornment other than if you want to be civilized.   It is ready now.  It is 12:52.  

I am wondering, would anyone be upset if I don't tell them, and just serve pasta for dinner?  


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