Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Remembering What She Taught

Last week, I saw her, flitting across the windows of the grocery store, spinning and leaping like a delighted gazelle as I pushed my cart. She flew down the aisles, and when I drove home, I saw her again, she jete'd along the electrical wires. She flitted from one tree to another and I remembered this was me, three and a half decades ago. Today, the shadow of me followed, showing off moves I never did then, and asking, "Why haven't you kept me closer?"
I wondered, why are you showing up now? I unloaded the groceries but turned on the radio. It was hard not to join her as one of my favorite songs played.
I thought of the instructor, Ms. B. She always came to class, perfect makeup, tall and stretched with a neck like a swan. She made all of us feel as if the Queen would be showing up any minute, and be disappointed if our tummies weren't "pulled in, shoulders back, derrieres tucked under and chins high, faces turned with eyes smiling."
As we grew older, she still demanded that same pose when class would start. Just thinking about her, I found myself pulling into position and tsking, I'd learned to slouch in her absence. My dancer self looked taller.  She was.  I pulled up even tighter.  I could hear, "Much better."  Mission accomplished, my dream self curtsied and faded. I worked on posture the rest of the day.  
My own interests in dance turned more to jazz than ballet, but I never forgot her lessons even if I failed to practice them. 

 Facebook informed me today that my teacher passed away.   Part of what made Beaumont Beaumont, isn't there anymore and I am very sorry; she will be missed.  

Monday, September 26, 2016

Double Feature...no Triple!

You get me today all over the internet. That's right, I'm taking over.   I have a piece over at Women Speak For Themselves.  It's my personal story addressing the damage taking contraceptives did to me, and what I learned when I stopped taking them.  

My second writing piece is over at Aleteia, dealing with suffering and grace in the face of suffering, embracing the cross.  Please feel free to read and share as you see fit.

Finally, it's Monday so I'm on Connecting the Dots with Mark Shea.  You can listen live at 5 o'clock EST, and even call in at 1-574--4BREAD4.   Come join us!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Don't Be a Fred

If you want to be something, you pursue it.  

If you love something, you pursue without restraint.   My son is a runner, he must run. From watching him, I know, if you want to be any good at it, you have to run almost every single day.  You have to shape how you eat, schedule your day, and do it even when your brain and your body does not love it.

The same is true for writing. I write every day.  I don't post every day because some of it stinks, but I write every day.  

 For any discipline one professes to love.  If you only do something when the muse tickles your fancy, you are an enthusiast, you are a Fred.  In Big Hero Six, the guy explains, "I'm not a student but I am a major science enthusiast."  He doesn't experiment or study, he dreams.  He imagines what he hopes science can do, what the others around him who are science majors should do, but does not pursue it himself

 I don't want to be a Fred.     

Enthusiasts live for the high of inspiration, and when it isn't there, don't sit down and force out the 500 words. Writers bleed, sweat and beg out the words.   Just like runners go when it aches, when it's raining, when it's cold, when they don't want to, just like parents climb the stairs, wash the dishes and do the errands, when they'd rather not.  Love in all arenas of life, is not a mere emotion, but an act of the will.

When we start making excuses not to act, it is because we don't want to will ourselves to do what we profess to love.  When we start making excuses not to act in order to not will ourselves to act, do we still love what we once did? Yes, however, because we've not willed ourselves to do it, we've weakened our will to do it.  Anyone who ever started working out and opted to skip a day at the gym knows how much harder it is to go the next day.   Any weakening of the will to do something in order to get better, makes it harder to get better.

It is true in running, true in parenting, in writing, true in all areas of life. I wish I could summon all the ideas that practically threw themselves at me when I drove to work on Thursday and Friday, but they've evaporated. It made me wonder, was it merely time that made writing possible, or was I making time for writing. When I started working this week, teaching writing, I wondered, would I still have time to write?  the answer is, yes, but only if I willed it.   Today, I'm willing it.

Day 1.


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Job of the Advocate

Life is all about the fine print, the dotted "i," the crossed t, the details that make the difference between the one everyone knows knows what she's doing, and the one who knows, she has no clue. For me, nothing makes me feel more incompetent than knowing, I'm responsible.

This morning, I thought I would be going for my first day of work and I've been cramming for the occasion, but that's tomorrow's adventure.

Before I knew I wouldn't be working until tomorrow, my mind buzzed with articles I could and should be writing.  I should write about the growing pains we're doing with the 17 year old, the about to be 11 year old, the growing pains we need to have with the 8 year old, the ones we've been dealing with when dealing with the 12 year old, and the ones who are far away and the three not already mentioned, but who deserve more time because they don't seem to be demanding much.  

I had whimsical thoughts about being stretched and having it feel too thin, but knowing it would make us stronger in the end, to push Paul to be potty trained at night, to let the 17 year old run in the morning and not be anxious, to tell the 12 year old "No." and stick to it, and make him do something with his time even if he said "No." and get the almost 11 year old to not be anxious about everything.
Reality intervened and I didn't get to write those thoughts.  The three floors of the house needed cleaning and there was a stack of papers almost too heavy to lift from all the back to school nights, first day of the week folders and mail I needed to sort.  All these efforts which required me to act, and which made me wonder, ought I to be going out the door if there's all this stuff to do?  However, I never got time to sit and write the ideas down, only to hold onto the concepts. Writing takes time, and I had up until this point, had none for such things.

With all this cluttering in my head, yesterday I also had to get to the store for grown up clothing so I'd look professional.  I ran into a friend from when I hung out at the gym almost daily, trying to fight off the pounds of three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine...ten pregnancies.  She gave me a big smile and asked what I was doing.  When I told her, she said, "The Holy Spirit puts you exactly where you should be.  This is perfect."  I hadn't mentioned God or religion or anything, we'd just been chatting about my starting up teaching for the first time in 23 years.  I thanked her and held those words all through my errands.

Today, the stack of necessary junky paperwork loomed on my bed. I'd ignored it for as long as humanly possible.   It needed to be tackled.  The laundry sagged on my couch, also needing to be sacked.  There were transcripts to order, airline tickets to research, emails to answer and I hadn't written anything worth sending anywhere in a week.  The great nag of writing is, if it isn't worth sharing, does it count?  Well, I wrote a lot of junk I didn't share, (When I die, I will ask the keeper of my blog to just go in and delete all the drafts) but it kind of feels like when you lose the weight that gets you back to your original, I'm not going to pass this number kind of success.  It's hollow.   Was I still a writer if I didn't write stuff people could read?   My friend's words heartened me as I flailed about this morning, unable to gain traction on anything I was doing.  "The Holy Spirit puts you exactly where you should be."  I sat steeped in those words.  "Maybe, but could the Holy Spirit please direct me so I can get something done?"  No good.   "Holy Spirit, help me act?  I've made a list, I just can't seem to get to it and get it done."

Now we're talking.

There are now four stacks of sorted paperwork.  My inbox is empty.  I even filled out several forms before they are due.   That NEVER happens.   So as of today, I'm designating the third person of the Trinity to be my office manager.    Not only does it put me where I'm supposed to be, it also tells me, "Sherry, get to work."

Monday, September 19, 2016

Connecting the Dots with Mark Shea

Hello! It's Monday so you get to hear me and Mark Shea interview a candidate for President.  We're talking with Mike Maturen of the American Solidarity Party. The discussion includes revisiting what it means to be pro-life (not merely anti-abortion), and Catholic social teaching, the defense of religious liberty and the question of how one engages in responsible economic policy.  

While the gentleman and the party are working to get placed on the ballot, the discussion of what is the morally correct vote, does come into play.  How do we discern what is the way to do the most good?  Our current system does not ask that question, it asks, are you on Team Iron Man or Team Captain America?  

It was pretty cool to say to my teens, get rides home from practice today, I'm interviewing a candidate for President.  It was also cool to hear that the guy cooks dinner for his kids most nights.  

Here's the link to the show, consider joining us next Monday at five o'clock.  You can text, tweet or facebook questions or you can call in, if you have a question.   As always, it will be fun.

Connecting the Dots with Mark Shea!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

A New Charity is Born*

There are all sorts of philanthropic entities in the world, all designed to allow every one of us feel good as we part with our own resources for the betterment of other people. There are charities for kids, adults, whales, elephants, tigers and polar bears, plants, land preservation, oceans, to name the stars and rehabilitate guinea pigs. There are even charities for politicians which may not qualify as any of the above, though the rehabilitation program sounds promising.
What with all the options out there, you would think every possible need a human, or for that matter, any living or non living thing could require is somehow addressed by the generosity of others via a non profit. Not so. We need a new organization to meet a heretofore desperately unmet human desire which helps all of society. It promotes proper mental, physical, social and emotional health to its beneficiaries.  It removes gridlock, prevents fraud, waste, abuse and neglect on a social, political, emotional, economic, corporate, global and personal level. No one in the history of life on this planet does not have this desire rooted in their core.
What is this need?  To have a world of not actual beavers, but people who act as beavers to their community.  So I'm launching Operation Give a Damn. Dedicated to righting the wrongs of the world brought on by sloth, ignorance, arrogance, apathy and burn out, Operation Give a Damn would train volunteers to act as surrogates for those in society who through their actions and words reveal themselves to not give a fig about the pain, sufferings, stresses or actual needs of others.
Naturally, this sort of entity would need at least one person per five on the planet to address the wrongs everyone suffers on any given day. So as to fund this properly, I'm guessing we'll need 1.5 million people to each donate ten dollars to start, and then we can get to the serious business of training the 2 billion people designated "The Damned" to deal with cable companies, bill collectors and cumbersome government regulations. They will also act as surrogate holders for phone service from large faceless corporations and stand in during serious traffic jams.
Operation Give a Damn needs you. The world is filled with individuals, governments, organizations and businesses who don't have damn givers.  We need damn givers!  We need people to give to Operation Give a Damn.  You can help save the world from being damned by damning up the stresses and strifes of life.   Never has there been a greater need for people to give a damn.  I'm not saying the world is damned if you don't, but imagine what the world would be like, if you do.   

*Apparently there are actually charities that have something close to the name, I wasn't stumping for any of them, and this is pure fiction, pure imagination mixed with a bit of everything's been so busy lately, I thought a tad of absurdity would do me good.   

It's Thursday, Go the Extra Mile and Read Both Articles!

It's Thursday, so come join me at Catholic Mom for Small Success Thursday!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Ten Signs You Live with a Cross Country Runner

10) He has more pairs of shoes than you do.

9) You always cook two dinners.  One for the non running crew, and one for the runner.

8) We are always out of bananas.

7) No one save the runner may take the last water bottle under pain of death.

6) The mail man understands when he drops off the mail and there is a dish that once contained oatmeal and a spoon, that we aren't mailing away our dirty dishes.  It's just, he was running late to catch the bus and ate on the fly.  

5) You don't ask where the protein bars went.  Or the yogurts, or the chocolate milks.  You know.

4) His wardrobe consists of running clothes and one pair of jeans for when he has to dress formally.

3) He will do the dishes and babysit for chocolate milk and pasta.

2) The speed at which he can run is inverse to the speed at which he gets ready for anything where he is not running.  

1) The weather is irrelevant to the runner.  The time of day is irrelevant to the runner.  The amount of distance he will run, is also irrelevant.  You, as mother, and not a runner, will understand none of this, you must merely accept, he's going to run.

Monday, September 12, 2016

On the Air Today with Mark Shea

Come join us over at Breadbox Media for Connecting the Dots!  It's at 5 pm (EST), and we're going to be visiting with Regina Doman, author, Catholic Speaker, mother of many, and owner of Chesterton Press and Chesterton Productions.   A woman of many talents, deep faith, and a writer after my own heart, in her pursuit of creating beautiful new fairy tales.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

We're Always Both And

By now nearly everyone knows, Hillary Clinton said that some of us are "irredeemable."  I would submit, the candidate for President is correct and yet not.  For she thinks only some of us are irredeemable.

Sitting in mass today, I heard the story of the Prodigal son, of the two sons who both misunderstood the Father's love, and yet both were the beneficiaries.  That is the true reality we face, both as a people and to a person.  I couldn't help but notice all the families struggling with children at the mass. I know this battle, it is a universal one.  This day, my kids kept trading off who would sit next to me, eventually resulting in two sharing a chair, one sharing my lap, and one glommed onto my left shoulder rendering me unable to move. They did in turn each need to go to the bathroom, which gave me a few moments to try and really attend, but I kept seeing the families.

I saw parents trying to hold those they loved more than life itself and pay attention, some having to take their kids back to the cry room, others attempting to tough it out.   They were trying to love with great fervor, squirmy little people who didn't want to obey, didn't want to follow, didn't want to be quiet, didn't want to do anything their parents wanted.  Yet, the parents held them, kissed them, prayed with them and for them, and spent all of their energy on what seemed like a meaningless endeavor to the outside world, trying to help them behave at mass.   They didn't stop loving their misbehaving children, not doing what they wanted, not doing the Father's will.  Some might describe the acting out of these kids all over the mass, as deplorable.   It did not stop the parents love, their children's disobedience.

What we need and don't have and haven't had in some time, is a leader or a person running for leadership, who loves those not voting for the "proper party." Additionally, ideology driven media, celebrities, politicians, social media, and all other means of communication, tend to stir the sense of us, them, and promote hating the other as irrational, unreasonable, uneducated, stupid, crazy, evil, corrupt, awful, sinful, and instantly tainting of anyone who doesn't fit whatever the group think deems appropriate.  I don't hear anyone disagreeing that someone in this country is irredeemable, only disagreeing about who's on the list.

The reality is, we're all on the list.  We are both irredeemable by our limitations and sins, and innately worthy of honor, being made in God's image and thus daughters and sons, heirs to God's kingdom.   We love with great fervor, but often, we throw that fervor into everything else except our neighbors.  So yes, Hillary is right when she says anyone is deplorable.  I am, as is everyone who votes for Trump, Hillary, or anyone else or no one else, anywhere in this world, any time in this world.  We are all broken.  We are all prodigal children who sometime are the older sibling getting mad because there's a party and it wasn't thrown for us to show everyone else how good we are or more accurately, how bad everyone else is by comparison.

We are all, irredeemable or would be, save for that great unfathomable fact, God loves us.  What we have to remember, both as citizens and as individuals, is that great truth, that mysterious truth of God's love for us, is true for all of us, for each of us, at all times. There is no one who is irredeemable save that soul which refuses redemption.  God's mercy is not a safety net, but the hand of the father, reaching out to each of his children, offering grace, divine help, redemption.

We are all both and.  What's great, what's wonderful, is God has invited all of us to the party, where He will show the world how much He loves us.  All we have to do, is be willing to come in to the feast.  

P.S. I saw the parents of the squirmy kids.  They bought their children donuts.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

I'm #61!

I'm listed in the 100 Best Humor Blogs by Healthy Mom Magazine! 

Now I feel obliged to think of something funny to say but my first response to any award is to somehow channel Goofy.  All I can think is "Gawsh.  Thanks."

I have today had an insight about raising teenagers.

Everything is urgent, but ninety percent of it is unnecessary.   Next week, I reenter the work world.  This week, my children have done their level best to illustrate to me how the entire universe shall come to a screeching halt sabotaging their academic, social, athletic, artistic and future careers by my not being the equivalent of Alfred to their Bruce Wayne personas.  

They asked for milk shakes.
They asked for the opportunity to go shopping over the weekend.
They asked for care packages if they weren't at home. 

"I need my uniform."
I text back, by when?
I get no answer.   Which means, get it there now.

"Can you pick me up?"
It's not really a request.

Teens expect the answer will be yes.

The thing is, that's a good thing.  It means they're still expecting Mom to be Mom.   So I did drop off the uniform on time and mail care packages and plan a shopping trip and pick the other one up and I did get them milk shakes because it was hot and it's my last day of summer as a Mom until next summer and I won't be able to be this indulgent with my time come next week.  

Suddenly, all that unnecessary urgency seems like it was time very well spent.   

Thanks for visiting if you're new and to Healthy Mom for the honor of making the list.

Small Success Thursday

 Today is Thursday so here's a link to Small Success Thursday over at Catholicmom.com.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Years of Sundays

If you write long enough, it becomes harder to scrape out a column, as you feel you've already said everything you wanted to say.  Sure, there are thousands of stories in any given 24 hours, but many of them echo what happened before and thus do not haunt the brain and demand to be written the way they once did when it was the first time one thought of telling such a tale.   However, the desire to carve out something new from the every day persists.  

Today is Sunday. It's September 4th, Saint Mother Teresa has been proclaimed, and we had our traditional bacon and bagels after mass as a family.  We honor Sunday by not demanding too much of anyone if we can avoid it.  Sure, there is homework and laundry, dishes and groceries, but much of the day is marked by a stillness, if not of body, of spirit.  We all come to the table, we say grace, and Paul makes sure everyone is there.  If someone hasn't made it to the table, he will get up and lead them.   It is a ritual, and it is a source of joy, we start a new week.  We call the older children if we can, so that everyone gets a "Hello" and "What's going on this week?" before the grind of the week itself starts.  

Today we will make brisket and watch Notre Dame play Texas.  I will finish up the last of the paper work from the first week of school and try to keep up the mental promise to 1) keep blogging, 2) write a column a week for publication, and continue work on the two book projects I thought I'd have more time for when Fall hit.  

There is never more time than we have in the day we are in, and that's the real key I think, to writing, to exercise, to prayer, to paper work, to all of it.  Making today a good day, requires I not so much not fritter the minutes, but spend the time well.  It is okay to sit and watch a movie with your almost eight year old son because he loves it, it's also okay to doze during half of it because you have seen it so often, but still get the high five when it ends for being there.   We live in a busy age, when every minute can be plugged in, tweeted, monitored and measured, so I hope when they all grow up, what they remember are the moments like my 17 year old playing chase with the five year old, and the two of them making fifteen cats out of duplos for her cat shop.  I hope the 14 year old remembers taking a break from her AP homework to practice guitar and make the rub for the bbq.   I hope the twelve year old remembers playing chess and sometimes losing to his mom and the girls recall cranking the tunes while we did the dishes.   I'll also hope the Irish win tonight and don't look bad doing it.

What I really hope is they remember, every day is great in the details, even if the plans aren't always fleshed out. I hope they remember childhood as years of Sundays.  

Friday, September 2, 2016

One of These Days, I'll Listen to My Mother

When I was a teenager, I liked baking.  I didn't like reading directions.  Ergo, I ushered in an era of suffering in my family's household, enduring my attempts to make chocolate cake.  These cakes became known as Sherry's famous crumble cakes, for most of them either looked like a disaster or tasted like one until you coated it with enough frosting.

My mother would ask, "Did you read the directions?"  She already knew the answer, "Sort of."

My mom is full of good habits that would make life so much easier if I just did them with any consistency.   She drops other helpful hints like, "Did you make a list?" when I complain about how much I have to do or, "Did you put it up where it is supposed to be?" when I'm feeling so frustrated about my wandering shoes...keys...phone...purse...and the answer to both of those question would be, "No.  If I had, I wouldn't be looking for said items now."

These days, I am the mother. I am asking the same questions of my offspring my mother asked me. The results are equally revealing.  Yesterday got away from me.  I asked myself the question.  "Did I make a list?"  The calendar says..."No. This page is mysteriously blank. Nothing happened today."  and the calendar feels like it is correct. It isn't, but it feels that way because I wrote nothing down.

Likewise, I've discovered over the years, if I make a menu, it makes life and dinner planning easier.  I know this, I've proven it many many many times.  Is there a menu on my refrigerator detailing the plan?  No.  There is not.  Why is there not?  Because I am a stubborn person who for some reason thinks the think system would actually work despite decades of proof to the contrary.

So today, when Simcha restarted her "What's for Dinner?" post, I opted to participate, to make my menu for the upcoming week through this exercise.  I may ask her to start a "Post your To Do list for the week" on Monday, so I can at least have a hint of target practice for what I hope to accomplish in the coming week.

Friday September 2nd

Pancakes/waffles are delicious.  It's what's for dinner. Why?  Because it's Friday, which is either pizza or pancakes

Saturday September 3rd

BBQ Brisket, tomato salad, cucumbers, french fries.  We cook it on the grill, I make my own rub, 1 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup kosher salt, 1/4 cup black pepper 1/8 cup white pepper, 1/8 cup paprika, 1 tablespoon ground red pepper.  Coat the meat, brown fat side down for 30 minutes, wrap in foil, cook on low heat until you cannot stand it one more second.

Sunday September 4th

Hamburgers, salad, corn, yellow cake, chocolate frosting

Monday September 5th

Pasta, home made red sauce, sausages, salad, french bread

Tuesday September 6th

Chicago Dogs, sweet potato fries, cucumber salad, carrots, corn on the cob.

Wednesday September 7th

Pork Medallions with honey/soy, green beans, quinoa and pita bread

Thursday September 8th

We found this recipe last week courtesy of the Pioneer Woman. It is easy, it is delicious and it uses up the left over tomatoes when you've gotten tired (not sick) of Caprese Salad.   

Slice up 2 onions.
Saute in a pan with three tablespoons of butter for about 25 minutes or until caramelized.
Pour all the oniony goodness into two frozen pie crusts.
Preheat oven to 450.
Wash and slice tomatoes or use cherry tomatoes and cover onions.
Grate two cups of cheese. Mozzerella, fonina, Parmesean, all good, but it should total 2 cups.  Cover the tomatoes.  Beat one egg and mix with 1/4 cup of milk.  Mix. Pour half of the milk/egg mixture into one pie crust and the rest into the other.
Put the pies on a cookie sheet, Bake for 15-20 minutes or until everything is melted and set.
Garnish with chopped basil, salt and pepper.
It is good hot. It is good cold.  It is just yummy tomato goodness.

It also looks really showy and didn't require more than an hour of work.

Tomato Pie --we need to finish off the old tomatoes and spinach salad, and for the ones who don't like Tomato pie, dipping dinner...chicken nuggets, french fries, carrots, apple slices and broccoli.

I'll try to be more experimental next week.  If you want other inspiration, check out Simcha's blog.  I need to locate Sir Kentland's Ketchup if I want to make my meatloaf recipe.

Leaving a comment is a form of free tipping. But this lets me purchase diet coke and chocolate.

If you sneak my work, No Chocolate for You!