Sunday, December 20, 2009

Putting on the Political Hat

An unapologetic conservative, I have for awhile been pondering what exactly that means. There are social conservatives and economic conservatives. Conservative can even describe our taste in clothing or home decor.

By definition, a conservative favors traditional views and values. There is an element of restrain and resistance to change in the conservative.

As the country becomes more polarized with the Political Left becoming more honest defenders of socialism, the Political Right is trying hard to define what it is that we stand for. In all the commentary that I have heard, I feel an essential structure is missing from the argument. We hear the defense of capitalism, traditional values and our Constitutional Democracy from the conservative media, but they often mix arguments and leave the listener confused.

This is in part because we have allowed the Left to define the battlefield. Socialism is an economic system, a political system and a philosophy of life. Conservatism is the principle by which we defend our institutions. It is distinct from them and they are distinct from one another.

We often defend Capitalism as creating equality and Democracy as a means to happiness. This is a mistake. Each of these institutions we defend is separate, though integrated, in the America we love and are desperately trying to preserve. But we must defend each institution for its unique role and understand the need for all three to be preserved simultaneously.

Capitalism should not be defended as a means to make people equal. It does no such thing and never was designed to do so. Capitalism is an economic system designed to bring the greatest amount of wealth to the greatest amount of people. It has never and will never bring that wealth in equal portions. It should not be defended as a means to happiness. Prosperity and happiness are not the same thing. Capitalism does not make us good. Our "worth" in the market is by no means our true inherent worth.

Capitalism is an economic system based on competition and innovation. It is a system which understands human nature and our desire as human beings to better our station in life through hard work and creativity. As an economic system, there is none equal in the world. In the United States under a capitalistic economy, we do not have poor as the rest of the world. We do not have bloated bellied children dying of dehydration in our deserts, yet our rich are as extravagant as the oil sheiks of the world. We do have working poor, but we also have a lower middle class, a middle class, an upper middle class and so on.

It is not our Capitalism that makes us equal. It is our Democracy based on our Constitution that does that. It is not an equality of material goods which this form of government sought to guarantee. It is an equality under the law. Our American Democracy is not designed to put a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage. It is to make sure that each of us is guaranteed the freedoms that all men should be afforded. The freedom to pursue our dreams, practice our religion, raise our families, vote our conscience and our best interest. It guarantees due process, a jury of our peers and a fair trial. It is a form of government designed with protections for the minority against the majority. It makes the law makers beholden to the people, and at its very heart, protects the individual from the tyranny of a few and from the government itself.

Finally, neither our Democracy nor our capitalism makes us happy. History has shown us a multitude of examples of free and rich people who are miserable and enslaved poor who find joy. Happiness comes not from what we have, be it a TV or Freedom, but from who we are. As conservatives, we defend our Judeo Christian values as the means to true happiness. It is God's love which is our true source of joy. It is with Faith, Hope and Love that we become human beings able to know true joy. We do not insist that all peoples believe in the God of our tradition, but we must insist that it is being Good which leads to Happiness. And Good is something objective and can not be redefined with the winds of change. Our rights and freedoms as well as our limitations are first, last, and always, defined by our Creator God.

These three American pillars of Capitalism, Democracy and Judeo Christian values are certainly dependent on one another. All the laws in the world can not protect us from the greed that can certainly exist in Capitalism as recent history has shown us. A democracy can not exist if every citizen is working on the lowest level of morality, fear of laws. Furthermore, America once had laws which kept one human being enslaved to another and currently refuses to pass laws to protect the most vulnerable against the more powerful simply because one is born and the other is not.

Our economic system and our laws are only as good as we are. We defend traditional values because without them, all our laws and freedoms, all our wealth, is dust in the wind. The generosity of the American people does not now nor has it ever needed government mandate. Our values require we take care of the widows and the orphans, visit the sick and feed the hungry. We can not be forced to be generous by our Democracy nor be generous if not allowed the opportunity Capitalism allows to gain our own wealth and give it freely.

So as Conservatives what do we believe, what is it we are loathe to change?

Our Capitalism is the best system in the world to make the most people the most money.

Our Constitutional Democracy is the greatest equalizer the world has ever seen.
Our Judeo Christian values are True and Good and can not be replaced.

All three together...That is what the American Conservative defends. We are unapologetic in our conviction that what we have is a good thing. Our America SHOULD be made better. It is a work in progress, a wonderful work of art. But it should not be replaced by an economic, political and philisophical system based in the belief that it is material wealth and equality of results that makes us happy and good. Even if it came in a Brook's Brothers suit and tie, that is change we MUST resist!

My greatest hope is that in the next round of elections, the positive message of the conservative is articulated and that we have choices of politicians who believe in the inherent goodness of or institutions and values.

And that the majority of Americans come to see that our Constitutional Democracy, Capitalism and Judeo Christian values are something they can hang their hat on.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

If you are around my age, you may remember this as a television show that came on around the holidays staring Loretta Swift (of MASH fame.) We rediscovered it as an audio tape by Barbara Robinson.

It tells the story from a little girl's perspective recalling a very extraordinary Christmas Pageant. Her mother is put in charge of the pageant that is the same every year after the normal director breaks her leg.

This year, however, the Herdman's have decided to participate. The Herdman's are a family of six horrible children. They set fire to things, smoke cigars (even the girls), cheat, lie, steal and blackmail kids about their weight. They come to church after having been told that refreshments are always served, a lie from the narrator's little brother.

They bully the other kids into all of the main roles. They have never heard the story before and are interested in all the details of the Nativity. Hearing it for the first time, they see things and question things in a way that brings the story alive to the narrator.

The night of the pageant is far from a disaster. Though Mary burps the baby and the wise men decide to give their own ham from their charity Christmas basket in lieu of the bottles of bath salts usually used, the play is somehow more this year, somehow more how it should be every year.

This is a funny, sweet and poignant tale of what Christmas means. I recommend it to children young and old. It will refocus your attention on the first Christmas and the characters in a heart warming way.

Hearing the story of the Best Christmas Pageant Ever will remind you what Christmas is all about. It will remind you that "Hey, HEY! Unto you a child is born!"

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Wisdom in the MIDST of Suffering

Last Term in my Bible study group we read parts of all fourteen narrative books in the bible. Moving from Genesis to Acts in eight weeks. Now I spent two weeks reflecting on just a few verses from James. From my talk, my thoughts on James 1: 5-8.


Laura told us two weeks ago to take off our academic hat and put on our life changing hat and here we are at session one being called to be wise.

I am a doctrine person. I love doctrine. I love to study it and through trying to figure out what and why the church teaches this or that, I grow closer to God. Through understanding human nature and the nature of God, I learn a little bit more about the love story of God and Man. Scripture is a bit harder for me. It is harder for me to wrap my brain around it. So when looking at these vs. I went to my doctrine to get me started.

I taught the gifts of the Holy Spirit and I knew wisdom was in there. So were knowledge. counsel and understanding. I remember the matching quizzes I had given my students with all the definitions, but for the life of me, I couldn't remember which was which. I had to look it up again. And I think defining wisdom in relationship to those other gifts that sound like the same thing will help us to see what James is asking us to really seek. To search for like a treasure, without doubt and with confidence that it will be given to us.

Knowledge: Understanding God's revelation especially as is expressed through scripture.

Counsel: Knowing the difference between right and wrong and choosing what is right.

Understanding: Knowing how we need to live as followers of Jesus, because that isn't always clear right? Do we talk or shut up. Stand up or sit down?
Understanding helps us to see which we do in a particular circumstance.

And Wisdom. The ability to see God at work in our lives. For the wise person nature, history. The ups and downs in life take on deeper meaning.

Ah ha. Thank you doctrine, it makes more sense. We are to search for the deeper meaning, Gods will for our lives in THIS trial, through THIS suffering. And so this is what we are asking for, this is what we must search for as if it were a treasure: To see God's will for us through this trial. And Jeff Cavins calls for us to do this in the midst of our suffering, while we are enduring a trial. For like remembering the outcome, steadfastness, eternal salvation, if we can see God's will, we are more likely to Pick up our cross, to do it right.

I don't know about you, but since last term, I am a little leary of Wisdom. I never knew that Solomon ended up a tyrant with a gazillion wives and pagan temples and 666 bags of gold.

So, Wisdom is not enough. And our trials are going to feel like everyone else's’, they will look like everyone else's’. We can see God’s plan, have our objective in mind, but what more must we do?

To answer this, we must look to Christ. To the Cross. Christ's face was not the face of happiness was it. It was not the face of butterfly filled joy. He looks scared and sad and begged God to take this Cup. Right? But his IS the face of Trust and Joy and Love. And what did Christ DO? He accepted the will of the Father and act accordingly.

Let’s talk a minute about what he accepted:

My first time in Rome, when I stepped off the Tram and saw the Colosseum, I was in awe. I felt like Roger Rabbit, a cartoon placed into real life. It was so huge and so old. It held so much history. By the middle of my semester there, we used the Colosseum much as one would use McDonald's: a point of reference or a meeting place. Like the second time you see a truly suspenseful movie, the feelings you first felt are dulled and can not be recreated.

I thin that can happen with the cross of Christ. Our familiarity with the passion leads to a loss of intensity. Its horrors begin to feel much like the witches in our child hood memories. No longer real and certainly not horrifying.

As a teacher, I used the stations of the cross to teach different aspects of Christ’s sufferings to help my students see how anything they may face was also felt by Jesus. I use it here, to try and recreate some of the intensity we may have felt when it was first encountered.

In The Agony in the garden, Christ felt such enormous stress, such incredible mental anxiety from the weight of the sins of the world that the very capillaries in his skin burst and he sweated blood. Not a poetic analogy, a true physical torment from a psychologically grueling experience.

He felt sorrow to the depths of his soul in the loss of Judas, the betrayal of Peter, the cowardice of his friends.

When He meets his mother, we are called to reflect on the suffering of Mary, as we should, but Mary’s baby is now a man whose very heart must have wanted to break from the sight of his precious mother’s pain at having to see him tortured and killed.

I used the crowning of the thorns to speak of the humiliation that must have been felt by the King of Kings being mocked in his tattered purple robe and ridiculous reed. When I ran the lesson by my father who was in the midst of painful Chemo. treatments, he scoffed, “Humiliation, hu? Can you imagine having thorns this big smashed into YOUR skull.

So true. Me must never forget the excruciating physical torture Christ endured: The scourge, the crown, the walk the nails. Such physical horrors on top of mental anguish and gut wrenching sorrow and fear.

Jeff Cavins quotes Peter Kreeft as saying the problem with illness is that our pain becomes a tyrant. Look at me, look at me, look at me. Remembering just what the passion entailed, How we become Christ like in our sufferings is that we refuse to become self focused. We refuse to focus on our sadness, our fear our frustration, our pain. In the midst of our human suffering, we turn away from our self and fix our gaze upon the face of God.

With our face fixed on God we can ACT like Christ who in the midst of his suffering did not shout, "Can you just shut up and let me die in peace!" No, he gave hope to the criminal, comfort to the heartbroken, forgiveness to his friends and enemies.

John Paul II in 'on the meaning of suffering' tells us that it was not just man that was redeemed by the cross. Human suffering was redeemed as well. And so we have a choice and a promise in our suffering. Do we redeem the moment by fixing our face on God instead of on our selves so that we may act like Christ? Or do we waste it? And if we embrace our cross, we are promised steadfastness, perfection, the crown of life.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Joy, an act of the will

I belong to the most wonderful Bible Study Group. This is my fourth or fifth year with the group, I have lost count. I found the group quite by accident. I was trying to find a Catechises of the Good Shepherd Class for my children that met during the day and was led to this group. Truth be told, I was not too excited about having to actually do anything myself. I have never been much of a bible reader, and I was hoping to just be able to drop them off and go shopping. What a mistake that would have been.

I have met some incredible women and have learned a lot. It is a true joy to be in the presence of so many women who take their faith and family so seriously. There are around a hundred women in total; women of all ages from many different parishes.

This year I have been asked to lead a small group and to share the responsibility of giving the large group lecture with one of the co-founders. Today was my first lecture on the book of James. Though it was written as a talk and not a piece of writing, it is what I have been working on for two weeks, and so I post some of it here:

Count it all as Joy: James 1: 2-8
And what are we to count as all Joy? Our trials. I am guessing we have all been around Catholicism long enough to know Pick up your cross and follow me. We know it is through suffering that we imitate Christ and gain eternal life. So, I wanted to talk a little bit about how we do this. How and why we count our trials as joy so that we can turn our knowing we should Pick up our Cross to actually picking up our cross.

In teacher training we were told to always start with our objective. Make the test first. Know what it was that we wanted our students to take away from the lesson. And work backwards. This sounded good. But in truth, especially as a new teacher, it rarely worked out this way. There was that great game the kids would love, all those worksheets that came with the teacher materials that were so easy to print off and hand out, the text book that needed to be read, right? The test was usually composed after looking back at all the lessons of the previous weeks to see what stood out as the most important and most repeated information.

In the end, you had eight hours a day, five days a week, eight weeks a term that needed to be filled. The goal ended up being keeping the kids busy enough, engaged enough that they wouldn't mutiny. If they learned something along the way, well, that was good too.

Trials can be just that. Meaningless Busy work that fill the minutes, days, weeks and years of our short lives. Something to pass the time between the cradle and the grave and if we learn something along the way, well, that is good too.

But the Christian is like the seasoned teacher. The teacher who has taught the same material for so long, that the air she breathes serves to instill in her students her objectives. Not a second of her day is spent on meaningless tasks to pass the time. Every opportunity, planned or unplanned becomes a means to teach to the test. And the test is no longer a series of questions on a page, it is a goal so deeply held by her, she no longer even has to think about it.

James tells us our objective. He tells us the answers to the test. He tells us what we will take away from the lessons of the trials of life. Steadfastness. Maturity. Perfection.

But like all but the most perfect teacher, we get caught up in the day to day and forget the objective. Our trials may teach us lessons, but almost in spite of our desire to learn from them. The first thing we must do to pick up our cross and follow Christ is to keep our goal in mind in the midst of our trials. To practice so hard and so long that it becomes part of the very air we breathe. That we are not left to see with 20/20 vision what we have gained, but know in the midst of the very trial that we are gaining the crown of everlasting life.

It takes practice, like the progression from the new teacher trying to keep her head above water to the guru who takes even the unfortunate event of the rabbit escaping from his cage to teach the difference between Democracy and Tyranny. We need to know our material and internalize our objectives. But it is this opportunity we have, that we must try and acknowledge with each trial, it is in this glorious opportunity that we may count as joy.

Now, I wanted to take a moment to distinguish between feelings and an act of the will. This is something I have been struggling with for a long time. Trusting vs feeling like I am trusting. Loving vs feeling love. Taking Joy vs. feeling happy. For I think there is a big difference and we may often doubt ourselves because our feelings do not seem to get the message from our head. I really am not picking up my cross because I do not feel at all happy about this. But are we really to laugh when the dog dies, or throw a party when the teenager totals the car? People do it all the time with love. I no longer love my spouse because I don't feel in love. I joke that if I felt the way I did when I met my husband for 13 years, I wouldn't be able to function. I didn't need sleep or food. I had butterflies in my stomach and was living on cloud nine for months on end. You can't hold a job or run a family like that. Thank goodness the feelings come and go while the love remains steadfast.

To give another example, I use trust: My father died three months before I got married. And in between the funeral and the wedding, I went to spend Easter in Nashville with my then fiance, now husband. I drove into town and we went straight to confession to be followed by mass. I got in line and went to confession to a priest I had never seen before. I was at that point really working on making a good confession, not putting the sin I was most embarrassed of in the middle, so he was less likely to pick it as the one to focus on. No, I laid it out there, put the worst one last and waited for the humiliation of having to have a discussion about it. At some point in the confession I had mentioned my dad. So when the priest finally spoke, he said, "I don't think you have grieved for your father."

What? I just gave you some really bad stuff. I am ready to be humiliated for these things I have done. But don't accuse me of not trusting God. For that is what I heard in his words. I assured him I had grieved. I had cried for my mom and my siblings and my grandparents. But I knew God had a plan. Hadn't I prayed for a miracle with the caveat that only God's will be done. To which he responded, "I don't think you have grieved for your father."

And then the floodgates opened. And I left the confessional and the tears were still flowing. And I sat waiting for mass still crying. And then mass started and I was still crying. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I do trust you, you know that I do, you know that I believe you have a plan and that this was your will for my father. I am sorry I am crying, I do trust in you." But I couldn't stop crying and my heart hurt so badly I thought it was surely broken with the loss of my dad. And then came the Gospel, and I was still crying.

And it was the gospel of Lazarus. The one I'd heard a million times. Jesus gets there late, he is told Lazarus is dead and what does he do? He cries. I must have missed that part the first million times.

Why were you crying, I asked. You knew you would raise Lazarus. You knew God's will and God's plan? You are God! Why were you crying?

It was at that moment that I realized that God does not require I don't feel human. That it is okay to be sad, or angry or frustrated. We trust in spite of it. We count our sufferings as joy in spite of our sadness or anger or fear or frustration. In fact, these emotions themselves are part of our suffering. We can be sad for the loss of the dog, or the dad; scared for our child in his car. Our Joy is in the act of the will, not the emotion. It is joy in the opportunity God has given us through our suffering to become steadfast, mature, perfect. And despite our feelings, we can count all as joy.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

MasterCard Moment

One of the joys of the Internet is that you get to meet people you will probably never see face to face. Chat rooms and blogs allow you to build relationships with people with whom you have a common interest or a shared experience.

One of my cyber friends just returned home from Ethiopia with her darling new baby girl. When she returned, I had a MasterCard Moment:

Airline tickets: $1800.00
Video camera battery: $35.00
Photo book: $25.00

Watching video of your child seeing your face for the first time: Priceless.

Thank you Elisa!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Christmas Perspective

Hustle and Bustle stores filled with toys
Jingle and Jangle heads filled with noise

House drowning in tissue, lights which don't work
Flour spread countertops 'til you might go bizerk

Page upon page of not to miss sales
Card upon card to be signed, sealed and mailed

Hustle and Bustle life filled with stress
Jingle and jangle house filled with mess

Music floating sweetly on air
Excitement of children almost too much to bear

Kindess in strangers, purple at mass
Evergreen smell, balls made of glass

Hustle and Bustle children's delight
Jingle and Janlge O HOly Night

Mess is replaced with a festive feel
House as home seems somehow more real

Finding the gift that says "You are dear"
Memories of friends who we write once a year

Hustle and Bustle a fire's red glow
Jingle and Jangle warm feelings flow

It's all how we see things, it's all how they sound
A time of annoyance or something profound

A time to reflect on troubles and pain
Or a time to be thankful and give it a name

Hustle and Bustle a world filled with joy
Jingle and Jangle for one divine boy.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Some Rules, not so Dumb

The adoption process is a long and arduous one. You start with a Home Study which requires a social worker to come into your home. This is frustrating as no Home Study is required to give birth. The biggest joke in ours was the fire extinguisher. We were required to have one. I told my Social Worker the first time around that I had chosen not to have a fire extinguisher. "Looks too much like a gun; two boys under six, too tempting." I figured the extinguisher was more dangerous than a fire. But we got one for the inspection and then promptly returned it to its rightful owner. Rules are rules, you know.

You are also required to take classes. This was incredibly painful for me as they were DVD's. I will read anything, I have read everything sent to me at least once. But to find time to watch TV was another story. We keep our TV on top of the kitchen cabinets during the week; four kids under ten, too tempting. But I left the TV out and watched the series and took the online test. Rules are Rules.

Doctor's check ups, finger prints, family history, notarized letters of recommendation: the list goes on and on of the things you are required to submit. I don't make the rules, I just follow them.

We received an e-mail this week reminding all families adopting from Ethiopia of the rules for giving money to in-country staff of our agency and to birth relatives. The rule is YOU DON'T; not in country and not after you return home.

It sounds like a harsh rule. How do you meet someone face to face that you could help with a bit of cash and keep your wallet in your pocket? How do you not feel so ungrateful and stingy walking away from a meeting with the woman who gave birth to your child and then selflesssly gave him up so he could have a better life leaving her with nothing?

You do it because poverty can breed evil just as easily as wealth. You follow the rules because not much to you is a lot to someone who is poor. You do it because you are not buying a child.

Think of what could happen if it got out in the villages and towns that so and so became rich (by Ethiopian standards) giving her child up for adoption. Think about the pressure that could come to bear on a mother struggling to survive knowing she could provide for her other children by giving up one. Talk about too tempting!

Some rules are worth following. It doesn't mean you can't do anything. You can give to charitable organizations working in the community. You can sponsor a child or support a local school. You don't have to keep your wallet in your pocket.

But to do anything that resembles or can be construed by others as buying children can never be good. Nothing good can come from it. In trying to help, you could be come an unwilling participant in the greatest temptation someone could ever face.

Some rules, not so dumb.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Moon is Always Watching

In Ethiopia, unlike many international adoptions, it is very likely that you will have the opportunity to meet a birth family member of your child. The child is unable to accompany you on this visit. For this reason, I was hesitant to go if a family member was even available and willing to meet me. I couldn't imagine leaving my son even for a moment after I am finally united with him. I posed the question to those who have gone before me.

Many on my adoption blog shared beautiful stories of the encounters they had, the stories and histories they learned. One told of how she and the birth mother agreed to look at the moon to know that they were thinking of one another. It was this touching story which inspired the following:

The Moon is Always Watching

Momma First leans against the lean trunk of the acacia tree. She can hear the soft song of the owls. Night is almost gone. She stares up toward the vast starry African sky. But she is not looking at the stars. She is looking at the moon.

The moon is watching and he is smiling.

Momma Forever sits on a white painted porch in the comfortable swing. Back and Forth Back and Forth. The street lights pop on across the road. But she is not looking at he lights. She is looking at the moon.

The moon is watching and he is smiling.

Malia lays in the lap of Momma Forever who strokes her curly black hair with long ivory fingers. Fire flies dance in the yard. But she is not looking at the fire flies, she is looking at the moon.

The moon is watching and he is smiling.

Kede is sitting on the floor making his cars go round and round with a rrrr and a vrrroom. He drives them over Momma Forever's foot and laughs. Head lights of an approaching car illuminate the pavement. But he is not looking at the pavement, he is looking at the moon.

The moon is watching and he is smiling.

Daddy comes to the door, it is time for sleep.

Kede gathers his little cars in his chubby brown hands. Malia pulls her tight curls back into a pony tail. Momma Forever smooths her skirt and stands. Daddy holds the door open and gathers his family into their home.

In Africa far across the sea, Momma First whispers to the moon, "Watch my babies while they sleep."

And the moon nods.

In the quiet American town, as Daddy closes the door, all turn to for one last look. It is Malia's turn, and so she softly whispers to the moon, "Watch Momma First for us today."

And the moon nods.

For he is the same moon and he is always watching, and he is smiling.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Yes, Edward, There is a Santa Clause

I find it incredibly annoying to have my children reading over my shoulder while I write, but I guess, just this once, it is okay...

What I must write first might be hard for a child to hear from his parent. It is: I don't have all the answers.

I don't know how it works or who exactly he is. Is he really St. Nicholas, or do they just share a name? Where does he live? How does he circle the world in a night and go up and down the chimney? How do the reindeer fly? Like you, I have heard the theories: He makes time stand still, "laying a finger aside of his nose", The North Pole. But these are just theories I can not prove. Like why the earth circles the sun and the moon circles the earth. I know something of the theory of gravitational force, but that really isn't much of an answer.

I just don't know how it all works. I am sorry, I can't give you more.

But knowing how isn't really the most important thing. I do know why. I know why this man has been given such magical power. I know what he stands for if I do not know how he manages it. I know he travels the world in a single night to show us the love of Baby Jesus. I know he defies laws of time and space in order to show us just what is possible. I know magic exists in the world.

Love is magical, my child. I don't know how it works either, really. I do not know how I love you so much or how daddy loves me. I just know it is true. I know love can defy the laws of time and space; I know my daddy still loves me. It can create something out of nothing. It makes the impossible possible.

So Yes, Edward, there is a Santa Clause. As sure as the earth circles the sun, there is magic in the world. And no matter how old we get, we must never forget that. If there is love in the world, there is magic too. And so I will never say, even at thirty-nine years old, that what Santa Clause does is impossible.

Who would have ever believed that a man could land on the moon, that bread and wine could become the body and blood of Christ, that we could send sound through a wire? You and me, that's who.

So, if you are asked or if you are wondering, "How is it possible?" Your answer should always be, "Only a fool would say 'It is Impossible.'"

Monday, November 2, 2009

On Being Stubborn

Being stubborn can be a good thing. "Just Say no." requires a bit of a stubborn streak, doesn't it? Those terrible two's, which are the height of Stubborn, leave us in awe of our little precious who is emerging as a person all his own. In many ways, stubborn requires conviction. It means we find something important enough to take a stand.

So why does being stubborn get such a bad rap? I mean, the stubborn animal is the jack ass right? That can't be sending a positive message. No one really takes it as a compliment when they are told how incredibly obstinate they are being, do they?

Stubborn actually has two definitions: unreasonably unyielding AND justifiably unyielding. I am guessing it is the first definition that leaves us with a bad taste in our mouth. But at the end of the day, being unyielding is being stubborn, and unless you are two or being offered drugs, it really isn't such a good thing is it?

We have all heard the stories of the friends who have not spoken for sixty years. It has been so long since the supposed slight, neither remembers why they are mad. They only KNOW it was the other's fault.

We shake our heads in pity at the lost years, the pettiness, the ridiculousness of it all. But how often have we dug in our heals and waited? Maybe it has only been a week or a month, not sixty years, but is that because we were just lucky enough not to be mad at someone as stubborn as we?

Justifiably unyielding. Justified in our anger. Justified in our resolution to not be the first to make amends. Justified in our justice. But where does it get us?

The hardest time to swallow our pride and not be stubborn is, in fact, when we are in the right. But does that make it right?

Where would we be if we were always treated with justice? Maybe you are a better person than I, but I wouldn't have gotten very far. I don't deserve most of the good things in my life. I try to be a good wife, mother, sibling, friend. But I do not compare with the blessings I call husband, mother, siblings and friends.

If being unyielding, even justifiably so, means being alone, for a week, a month, sixty years, I am not sure it is worth it. By all means we can require change, reconciliation, truce. But we can not be unyielding. Well, I guess we can be, but should we be?

Life is too short to be stubborn. Like the mule, it is a huge pack of stuff we lug around strapped to our back. To free ourselves from the burden, we must try and forgive. Easier said than done, I know. And even harder when we are in the right. But if we are not willing to yield, do we win? Or does everybody lose?

Friday, October 30, 2009

Red Trees

I had a big imagination. Okay, so I think they call it delusions of grandeur. I was nineteen and heading off to my semester in Rome, Italy. My high school boyfriend had broken up with me. Like all hard times in my life, I felt close to God. I felt particularly close this time, like if I turned around quickly, I might see my Guardian Angel.

It was a sign, my boyfriend breaking up with me. A sign, I thought. I am called to be a missionary, a nun, something holy. I was ready to give up everything for God and become famously holy.

Then I landed in Rome: The Papal City, the Catacombs, the Coliseum where so much blood had been shed for Christ. My class was even granted a private mass with John Paul II. I spoke to the Pope, gave him flowers. He said, "You do not look old enough to be in college." And what did I feel...Nothing. I was having the longest driest spell of my young life.

We visited Assisi, the home of my favorite Saint, St. Francis. And what was the homily? The duty of the rich to the poor. What? I am willing to give up everything, all material possessions, marriage, family, everything and you are giving me 'duty of the rich to the poor'? And what was the response?...Nothing.

Toward the end of the semester, we were reading The Book of Job in literature class. I wasn't really paying attention. I was flipping through the bible trying to get my silent God to say something, anything. To feel something, anything. I flipped to the Psalm of the Happy Man. I paraphrase:

The happy man is like a tree near ever running water whose leaves are always green.

Isn't that just like God? I thought. A happy tree is red. The first red tree of fall standing out like a beacon amongst the still yet green on the side of a mountain.

And then I understood. I felt something, I knew something. "You will not be a red tree and be happy. I could make you a red tree, but you would loose your soul. No, my child, you will be green. Your roots will be deep, but you will look like every other tree on the mountainside. This is how you will be happy, you whose leaves must always be green. You think you know what makes you happy, I know."

And He does, doesn't He? He always knows and sometimes we don't.

I still love red trees best. Sometimes I still want to be one. But I know that I would not be happy, at least not for long. As delusions of grandeur fade with youth, I just hope what I thought I knew, thought I felt in Rome comes true. I hope my roots will grow deep even if He is the only one who knows.

Monday, October 26, 2009

More 'bout Books

I have two prior posts that deal with Children's Literature: The Story of Childhood and Snips and Snails and Puppy Dog Tales (June Archive).

I did not decide to become a teacher until after college. This was in part due to the one Education Course I took at the college level: Children's Literature. It was an excellent class and the teacher was a legend in her field. I did well in the class. This had more to do with my love of story and the fact that our final exam included writing our own children's book, than with the fact that I mastered the course content. The main goal was to teach us to judge what was good children's literature.

I didn't get it. Good Night Moon? What? Why was this a classic? Even Madeline seemed more like an outline than actual story. Books I did love would be classified as appealing to adults, but not to children. Completion of the course left me feeling inadequate to the task. It also made me aware of the enormous responsibility one took on in teaching a child to read. I did not want such an awesome responsibility.

When I did decide to go back to school to get certified, I chose Secondary Social Studies. I wanted to stay as far away from teaching reading as I could. Fate has a sense of humor. My fourth and last paying job put me back in Middle School, where I had always loved being most, teaching Reading and Language Arts.

In this job, I had the opportunity to take a summer course at NYU on the Reading and Writing Workshop. Having taught for four years, I had more confidence and fell into a job that combined my favorite age with what had always in fact been my passions: books and writing.

I still think it is nearly impossible to teach a course on the assessment of Children's Literature in the classroom setting. To really do this well, you need children. It was not long after I had my own, that I got why Good Night Moon, Madeline and all the others were Classics. You only have to read Green Eggs and Ham or Are you my Mother once to a child to get it. And you will never actually be able to read it just once but will be required to read it again and again and again.

I am moving through the spectrum from Classic Picture books to Juvenille Literature along with my kids. I am learning through trial and error what appeals to children, what is readable and what is read over and over again. Because my older children are boys, I am more aware of what is appealing to boys at this stage. (Snips and Snails and Puppy Dog Tales).

I have two new series to add to the list.

We grabbed a book on tape at our last Library visit: Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins. It was a huge success. We have listened to it three times since last week and my son read 100 pages of the second book in the series in one day. There are five books in this series. We can't wait to get through them all.

While purchasing the second of the Gregor series at our local book store, the saleswoman recommended a similar series: Percy Jackson and the Olympians By Rick Riordan. We are now listening to the first book, The Lightening Thief. Based on the Greek Gods, this is already proving to be a family favorite.

I love finding good books. I almost like finding things my children love as much as I love finding my own, often they are one in the same. While I am at it, I might as well throw in my new favorite book: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. It is, in fact, marketed as a children's novel. It is set in Nazi Germany and told by the Grim Reaper. Its content is a bit too much for my current fourth grader, but it is a book I will love forever. I will for sure introduce it to him at a later stage.

Fall is a great time to read. A cozy fire on a dreary day, under a colored tree on a sunny day: It is sublime. All you need is the good book. If you are looking for some suggestions for your children, check out my other posts or find Gregor and Percy. You may find something they like. Chances are that you will have loved it too, or you will now. Some things, even children's literature, are better with age.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Food for Thought

I have written here before about why I home school (The Home School Why/July Archive). It may be a different reason than most suspect. In a nut shell it is because I like being around my kids. I am a typical extrovert. I love being around people, get energy from crowds, do well with managed chaos.

While reading a post and comments on a friend's blog ( Sweet Surprise not so Sweet, I was forced to contemplate a drawback to homeschooling. The discussion was about High Fructose Sugar. The drawback may not be what you suspect. When you home school, there is no school lunch.

As homeschooling Moms, we are free to set priorities for our children. This is an incredible benefit, especially with regard to curriculum. As primary teacher, we pick where to put the academic emphasis. For me, the emphasis has always been on Reading and Religion. Our home is so full of books, we are running out of shelves. There is a book on tape playing at almost any free moment of the day. We get several children's magazines a month. I have no problem "setting the example" by letting my children see me reading on a regular basis.

I believe that video games and too much TV hinder a child's ability to develop good reading habits and make limiting these activities in my children's lives a priority.

Religion is primarily character building. Along with knowledge of their faith, participation in the Sacraments, and daily prayers; the day to day struggles of instilling the values of justice, charity, honesty, selflessness, prudence and temperance fall under one of my main priorities.

My point is that I find it easier to work into my routine, those things which I have made a priority. The problem is, there are other things that are important that I don't have the energy for at the end of the day. The main thorn in my side is food.

It should be a priority. I despise picky eaters. I have an intolerance to milk and absolutely hate the fact that I am not at liberty to eat everything I am served by a host. For my children to refuse food prepared by me (or more importantly another) for no good reason is infuriating. But in truth, I know why it is not a priority. While I despise pickiness, I am not a food lover. Dinner out is never about the food for me, but the company and conversation. I get little pleasure out of food itself. I never eat breakfast and most days eat the left overs on my children's plates after lunch.

I know why I want my children to treasure reading and their faith. I can't imagine my life with out a love of books and Catholicism. These two aspects of my life, often intertwined, fill my days with pleasure, guidance, food for thought. I don't want my children to miss the benefits I have enjoyed. If it were possible, I can imagine my life without food.

My kids are active and healthy. It is a joke that my brother's kids, who are the best eaters in the world, catch everything going around, while my kids are saved from most bugs because they are filled with so many preservatives. I can't use their health to motivate me because they are not unhealthy. I can't find the means to get motivated to make this a priority.

It is in part because I have tried and the amount of energy, discipline and time it takes to really put into place a system that would force them to be good eaters is enormous. This is in part because we home school. If I were sending them off to school, starving them into eating what is served or not eating for 8 hours would be built into their day. But they are home, so I have to monitor their every minute. If I say no eating breakfast until you finish last night's dinner, I have to guard the kitchen until it is accomplished.

I can control what is in my home, and I do. I actually had to get rid of bagels and peanut butter because my oldest ate ten a day. It is not the junk food, it is the okay food. How do you get rid of bread and milk? Cheerios aren't bad, but if they are there, they are eaten all day long when there is not an other acceptable option for my second.

I don't have the energy, but after the discussion on High Fructose Sugar, it was clear I really need to do something. At this point, I just don't what to do. I have been child rearing long enough to know it takes two weeks of constant attention to get rid of most bad habits. I don't think I have two weeks in me for this. Short of putting a pad lock on the pantry, I am at a loss.

Let me add, just to make myself feel better, that my girls are great eaters. The only credit I can take for this is that I had already ruined my boys by the time they were three. I did do things a bit differently with the bottom half. I did not start feeding the girls solid food until they reached up on the table and grabbed it. We skipped the baby food stage. I was so uptight during the babyfood stage with my boys about doing something wrong, I probably contributed to (or created)their neurotic tendencies.

So if you have been there done that, I would love your advice. Or, I guess if you want to get me a pad lock for Christmas, I will take the hint.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

In Defense of Halloween

I love Halloween. I always have. The beautiful setting of the colorful leaves of fall, the harvest time of pumpkins and apples, the crispness in the air. Being born with a theatrical nature, I adore costumes, makeup, wigs, hats and props. And of course as a child, who didn't love the candy.

I always loved being Catholic on Halloween. Because it is the Eve of All Saint's, a Holy Day of Obligation, we did not have to go to school on the day following the night's festivities.

Throughout my life, I have encountered other Christians who do not share my love of All Hallow's Eve. Some try to temper the day by banning the ghostly and ghastly costumes or having Saint costumes in lieu of Disney Characters and Super Heroes, others call it the Festival of the Harvest, still others refuse to participate at all. I respect their right to celebrate whatever Holidays they choose, but I believe that Halloween is in fact a Very Christian holiday.

I think it is important, for the benefit of our children, to examine the Christian nature of this wonderful time of year. What exactly are we celebrating? What are all the ghosts, goblins and jack-o-lanterns intended to bring to our mind?

Prior to the Risen Christ, death was scary. In fact, after the fall of Adam and Eve in the garden, death had won an incredible victory. Satan had tempted God's most precious creatures into abandoning His presence to walk on their own. The victorious Satan had helped to banish man from Eden. But God in His goodness placed an angel to guard the Tree of Everlasting Life. Though man had eaten from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the belief that such power would allow him to define what is good and evil rather than follow the objective laws of God, the angel with his sword would prevent him from returning to make his punishment everlasting.

God would win in the end. Man's fall from Grace would not be eternal but would be remedied by the Incarnation. Christ's death and resurrection changed death forever. On Easter Sunday, death ceased to be a victory for Satan. Christ conquered death.

The laughing face of the Jack-o-lantern symbolizes this fact. He is laughing at death. He knows that death no longer holds the place of victory. Death is no longer an enemy of the living, but the means to eternal life with God. The candy is the representation of the sweetness of that life everlasting.

The ghosts, goblins, grim reapers are also a big joke. They no longer hold any power over the living because of the love of the risen Christ. We let them pretend on this one night to still have some power over us, but we are laughing at them as we do the jester on their right and the harlequin on their left.

With the rising of the sun on November 1, we begin the celebration of the Saints in Heaven: Those who have conquered death and are now in the eternal presence of God. The following day, we celebrate the Feast of all Souls. The day we dedicate to prayers for those who have died and are being purified in purgatory in order to meet their Lord and Savior.

Halloween is the first celebration of this trilogy. We mock death, celebrate eternal life, and pray for the salvation of our fellow man. All three together present an opportunity for us to reflect on our own Christian life. Halloween reminds us of the opportunity we now have because of the gift of the Risen Lord, All Saint's reminds us of our goal of everlasting life and how it is now attainable, All Souls reminds us of our need for atonement and grace to live forever in the presence of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Halloween is a celebration, not of evil, but of the conquering of evil by Christ. It is at its heart a joyful celebration of Christ's victory over death. We, like the Jack-o-lantern can now see the joke. We can laugh with the Saints in heaven, for we as Christians know, God is the final victor and we the beneficiaries.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Walmart Scrooge

I am sure you have seen one of the series of e-mails of Walmart photos going around, perhaps you have visited the web site. Let me state up front, I know I am going to be accused of being a curmudgeon with no sense of humor. Maybe, just maybe, I may hit on a little tinge you too felt. Or, perhaps I AM a curmudgeon with no sense of humor.

The photos, all of them, ARE ridiculous. You can't help but laugh or stare in shocked horror at many. Even "better" are the incredibly clever comments people write to accompany them.

BUT, I have to admit, looking at them makes me uncomfortable. Laughing at them makes me feel guilty.

We took a trip to Chicago when I was about ten. We were looking for a restaurant. We would stop and view the menus posted outside the doors. My father was in shock at the prices of a BLT. Just then a homeless man came up and asked us if we had a bit of change to spare. My father laughed and making a joke about the cost of a lunch in Chicago said, "Not in this town." We all laughed. Well, almost all of us.

Let me clarify that my father was not an ungenerous man. My mom had told us stories of how he would take homeless men to lunch with him when he was younger and lived where there were actually homeless people. In our small town, it was not something one would see very often.

I had a quarter in my pocket. I wanted to give it to the homeless man. I don't think he got my father's joke. It was my young opinion that he thought we were laughing at him. I fumbled with my quarter wondering what to do. He turned and looked my way. The sadness in his eyes at being the butt of some joke he didn't understand has stayed with me for nearly thirty years.

As he walked away, my laugh turned to a lump in my throat. I didn't even eat lunch when we finally found a place we could afford. My stomach felt too sick.

In my mind, I see those faces of the Walmart Shoppers after the camera has flashed. I cringe to think of them coming across themselves on the internet and not getting the joke.

I am not trying to make you feel guilty if you laughed at the photos or if you think they are the funniest thing out there right now. I am really not. I wish I could laugh too, and I do appreciate the wit of those posting the comments. But I promised myself way back when I was ten, that I would never again laugh at someone who was down on his luck. Because even though we weren't really laughing at him, I never had the chance to explain. One set of sad eyes of a stranger locked in on me is enough.

So, perhaps I am a Scrooge. I don't mean to be. But unless laughter leaves me feeling happy, I'd rather not laugh. And laughing at the Walmart shoppers taken unawares just leaves me sad.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Hopes, Dreams and Fears

As a writer, I hope for one great line. One memorable, beautifully written line that states the complex so simply it speaks to the past, present and future. A string of words that expresses a truth in a way never done before and that lingers in the mind of the reader forever.

Okay, so I hope for one great character too. A character that is beloved from the first page until the reader's dying day. A character that plays his role in that one great novel of my dreams that must be inside of me somewhere waiting to emerge.

I don't hope for much do I? A girl can dream can't she?

I have been thinking about one such line stated by one such character in one such novel. Shakespeare's Cordelia in King Lear... The Counte of Monte Cristo by Dumas' novel of the same name... Odysseus in Homer? You ask.

No, actually, I have had a line from Peter Pan moving through my head, down to my heart and back up again. I have loved Peter Pan for as long as I can remember. His ability to fly, his crow, his baby teeth, his attitude, his eternal youth. Who can not fall in love with Peter?

I have a secret to tell. I did not read the book until a few years ago. Actually, I lie even now. I did not actually read the book, but listened to the unabridged version on CD with my children. We all know the book is better than the movie, it always is. If you loved Disney's Peter, I highly recommend reading (or listening) to J.M. Barry's original.

The one great line, the line I love, the line that is in my heart and head is not part of Disney. It is because of lines like this one that it is a tragedy that many settle only for screen versions of Classic Literature.

Get on with it already, you say. Tell us the line. Tell us what he says that rivals Homer and Shakespeare. I will but first I have a question for you:

Are you afraid of death? Do you feel the heavy hopelessness of those around us who do not believe in an afterlife? Do you worry that even though you believe, believe, believe, at the hour of death, you will freeze up and be gripped by the terror of the unknown? I do. I think we all must at some point. For some it is a fleeting fear, for others, it is a life time struggle resulting in the desire to live at all costs for all time.

Isn't this one of the reasons we love Peter? He never grows old. He will live forever.

Okay, to the line:

Hook says to Peter, "And now, Peter Pan, you shall die." To which Peter Pan, eternal youth and joy, responds, "To die would be an awfully big adventure."


...To die would be an awfully big adventure... Two thousand years of Christian Theology in eight words from the beloved boy who fell out of his pram and went to live with the faeries in Kensington Gardens before settling in Never Land.

...To die would be an awfully big adventure...

Maybe I will change my hopes. Do I really care about one great line, one great character, one great novel? Maybe. I can still dream. But just let me face death like Peter and that will be enough.

Monday, October 12, 2009

This one's for all the girls...who are waiting

Being pregnant sucks. It is hard especially if like me, you add an extra 60lbs. to a 115lb frame. My feet hurt, my knees hurt, my back hurts. Delivery is a pain, pun intended. I will not even go into the details of a fourth degree tear and a bruised tail bone.

Boy, those moms who adopt have it easy. You can drink like a fish, stay up as late as you choose with out paying double the next day, heck, you can sleep on your stomach every night of the year. You don't need a new over sized wardrobe or one of those little donuts to sit on for a month after your baby comes home.

Why doesn't everyone just skip the whole pregnancy thing and adopt? Well, there is a reason. It is a secret we in the adoption world know:

Waiting to adopt sucks. It is hard, especially if like me, you add an extra 60lbs of stress to a 115lb frame. Your head hurts, your neck hurts, your shoulders hurt. Waiting is a pain, pun intended. I will not even go into the details of a torn and bruised heart.

There is no forgetting you are pregnant. Your body reminds you of it everyday. But there is a plus to all that. Knowing you are with child means you know where the child is. He is there with you, all day long as you walk around with an aching back and all night as you toss and turn trying to get comfortable.

All you have to do is reach down and touch your skin stretched stomach. You can't see him, but you know he is there: listening, growing, waiting to emerge into the light of your life. He is 100% in your care.

Adoption doesn't provide such comfort. For the longest time, you just wait. You have nothing to hold on to except the knowledge that you are in the pipeline moving closer day by day to the top of the list. You can't even count the calendar as your friend. There is no 42 week guarantee with adoption. They say two months, then it becomes four, then it is a year and counting. It is like giving birth to an elephant. And that doesn't even count the months needed to prepare everything to get your spot in line.

Then you get your referral and a bit of the weight comes off. You have a picture, a name, a small bit of history. You can't reach out and touch anything real, but you hold your photo close and say the name in your prayers.

You have a face in your dreams but not within your reach. Your child is 100% dependent on someone else for his care. You pray he is being held, fed, comforted when he cries. But you don't know. You just don't know, for he isn't there, with you. He is far away across the ocean.

The joke is told that if men had babies, everyone would just have one. It is true that the pain of being pregnant and the agony of delivery is all but forgotten in a very short time for us mothers. Strange how we will never forget the smallest slight to our children by another, but the incredible pain of bringing him into the world floats away like a bad dream in the morning sunlight. The love in our heart leaves no room for anything else.

This too happens in the world of adoption. The time finally comes, you pack your bags and travel half way across the globe to meet your child. You bring him home and realize a few weeks later that your shoulders are no longer stuck to your ears. There will be stress filled days and nights to be sure, but the incredible anxiety of bringing him into your world floats away like a bad dream in the morning sunlight. Your heart is too filled with love to leave room for anything else.

When you become pregnant, you know, God willing, you will have a beautiful child in your home in the not too distant future...

When you choose to adopt, you know, God willing, you will have a beautiful child in your home in the not too distant future...

And then the not too distant future becomes the not too distant past, and you can't remember your life before he came...

Guilt Free and Artistic

Though some might call me crafty (in more ways than one), no one would ever use the word artistic in a list of adjectives describing me. One of the major art mediums we use around here is cutting out shapes and gluing them to paper to create faces, dogs, trees, fairies, etc. I can handle shapes and it is the perfect project for young children.

I just discovered an incredible way to make these projects even better: Magazines. Using a blue sky to make eyes, hair for hair, garden scenes for fairy wings, a tomato for lips, all the colors of the rainbow for clothing, glossy skin (which is in quite an abundance in even the most boring of magazines) for noses, ears, legs and arms. The possibilities are endless: A leather chair for the boxcar of a train or a puppy, a wheat field for a sunshine. Don't forget gum wrappers for wands and stars and paper bags for tree trunks.

The results are really quite artistic if you ask me. It gives the simple project a depth and beauty, and though it is still probably considered an abstract work, it has a realism not managed by the use of plain old construction paper.

It is also good for the conscience. As we are bombarded by requests to be "green" and to save our planet from every angle under the sun, you can feel good about reusing paper and perhaps saving the trees. Having your children do such a project will allow you to continue to use more than one sheet of toilet paper guilt free.

We have just completed a gorgeous fairy with a combination of green and fall colored wings, flowing blond hair and a dress with a beautiful purple bodice and sleeves. Now I am can go and finish my fall cleaning, filling my trash cans with mounds of junk to put on the curb this week sans the normal guilt I am forced to feel by the amount of trash generated by a family of six.

Who would have thought a simple art project designed by an utterly non-artistic, ultra conservative could accomplish so much beauty and good in the world by 9:00 am.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Left To Tell

For those in the Kansas City Area, Immaculee Ilibagiza will speaking at Rockhurst High School on October 14 at 6:00 pm. She is the author of the book Left to Tell. A survivor of the Rwandan genocide, she speaks on peace, faith and forgiveness.

For those not in the area, the book is worth reading. She survives the majority of her family by hiding in a tiny room with seven other women. They can hear the killing going on around them and are in constant fear for their own lives and virtues. She manages to keep her sanity in the midst of such horror and insanity through prayer.

The story is told in her own voice. The contrast between her simplicity in describing events most of us will hopefully never live through and the atrocities she describes is a moving look at history in the not too distant past.

Her ability to forgive and move beyond all that she has witnessed is an incredible tribute to the gift of faith and to the human spirit's love of life.

In the wake of the incredible joke that the presentation of the Nobel Peace Prize to Barak Obama has become, Immaculee sets an example to all of us of the real means to peace in our world. It is through forgiveness that we find peace and that we are able to bring peace to the world.

I guess President Obama should be given some credit (though I am sure he even agrees not the Nobel Peace Prize) for initiating dialogue by apologizing for our country for everything from slavery to supporting Israel to the Iraq War and Guantanamo. But even if he has a reason to apologize, these mea culpas will never bring about peace. Peace does not come from the apology, it comes from the victims' forgiveness and the willingness to move beyond the past into a future free from bitterness.

Like Immaculee who had so much more to forgive than most of us will ever confront, may we spend some time today forgiving. And remember that sometimes, the person we must start with is ourselves. For the Catholic, it is the beauty of confession. A time to confront our own weakness and ask for forgiveness. If the author of life can forgive me, surely I can forgive myself and those who have wronged me.

Tonight, after my nightly examination of conscience, I think I will try to forgive the Nobel Peace Prize committee for embarrassing our president and for tarnishing an award won by many who deserved its accolades.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Hypocirisy of Evolution of a Species with an Endangered Species List

I have been thinking about the hypocrisy of radical environmentalists. They all seem to be ardent disciples of Evolution of a Species. Yet, they believe in the protection of endangered species. This doesn't seem to make any sense.

If man is just an evolved ape, why are we required to protect the less evolved. Beavers do not create laws to protect the fish, forest animals or natural environments that are affected by the building of their homes. Is it their responsibility to protect the fish who have not evolved enough to move in and out of the water? Are they responsible for the birds, bugs and creatures who find shelter and food in the trees they destroy to do what nature calls them to do?

And what of man? We give monkeys enormous props for being able to use simple tools. Making and using tools seems to be a huge factor in the determination of evolutionary status. I hate to mention it, but our tools put all others to shame. From the gun, to the back hoe, to cement, metal or the engine, we have figured out how to make tools like no other animal. In using these tools to manipulate the natural environment to our advantage, we are merely proving our place at the top of the evolutionary chain. Why are humans chastised by environmentalists for this evolutionary progress?

Why do we need to slow our evolution in order to protect the less evolved? Why do we need to protect animals who can not survive in the environment created by evolution? Isn’t that the whole idea of survival of the fittest? The fit will always adapt to the ever changing and survive. Those who can not adapt will die out or be replaced by a more evolved form.

Environmentalist call for man to be stewards of nature. We must not abuse our place at the top of the chain, but deny ourselves the opportunity to become more evolved in order to protect the natural world and the less evolved creatures in it.

Sometimes a self preservationist argument is made. If we do not protect our world, it will not be there for our future generations. This makes some sense. But it causes some problems too. If we are to survive, we would have to adapt to the environment our evolution had created. We would have to find new air or new water to replace what was destroyed through our own evolution. Animals do not protect their environments. They are required to change in order to meet the new challenges of an ever changing world. Those who can survive. Those who can’t don’t deserve to. Right?

Until the radical environmentalist know their first principals, they will continue to contradict themselves in absurd and dangerous ways. From a merely evolutionary perspective, we should first and foremost protect the survival of our own species. What animal has eaten its own healthy young in the mind boggling numbers as we and survived? What evolutionary doctrine protects the notion of abortion?

And in the end, man IS called to be a steward of nature. We are called to protect those who are weaker and less evolved than ourselves. But this is not a call from Mother Earth. This call is not rooted in survival of the fittest. It is in fact the greatest hypocrisy of the radical environmentalist. We are called to be stewards of nature, but it is a call from God.

If the entire doctrine of protection of the air, water and endangered species is rooted in a command from God to be good stewards of nature, does that not give some responsibility to give credence to His other commands? If not, then the radical environmentalists have no argument and should move out of the way as we cover our earth with concrete and steel, pollution and people and come up with technologies to replace the air, water and land we will eventually destroy. Or in the end, destroy ourselves and be replaced by something more evolved. I think the theory is that it would be the cockroach. And who are we to stand in his way?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night

So my boys, ages eight and nine, come home last night terrified after hearing a ghostly tale from the neighborhood pow wow. It was too dark for them to retell it to me, so I sent them to bed with the light on and the advice of filling their minds with good things like sliding down a rainbow into a pool of Skittles.

They were up early and still scared out of their wits. I asked them to tell me the story by the light of day. Here is how it goes:

A mom killed her baby because he was ugly. She couldn't stand the sight of his ugly face so she wrapped his head in a white cloth mask, cut off his head and threw him in the lake. (Nice, I know.)

Years later, she had twin daughters age ten. They were home alone when they got a series of calls on the phone: "It is baby mask, I am at the lake."... "It is baby mask, I am ten miles away."... "It is baby mask, I found your kitchen window unlocked." "It is baby mask, I am at your bedroom door."

Now here it seems, the story has two different endings, the real ending and the new one made up by a neighbor.

The original ending had the parents or sisters hiding under the couch (it was unclear in the retelling) when baby mask comes home. He lifts the cushions and sees them and says, "Good bye Mummy, Good bye Daddy." And disappears never to be seen again.

The new and improved version has baby mask chop down the door of his sisters' closet, cut off their heads and emerge to his parents on their return with one of the heads on his own shoulders and the question: "Am I pretty enough now mommy?"

I took my coffee out on the porch for awhile. When I came back in I said:

"I agree the stories were ghastly. But I think they may have had some good lessons in them." They looked at me like I was nuts. I continued anyway:

"Let's think about what this could all mean. Ghosts do not really walk the earth, but many authors have had them do so. Why are most ghosts we have read about, like Oscar Wilde's Canterville Ghost, roaming around?" This led to a discussion of all the ghosts we know and how they had bad deaths and were not at peace.

"And what started this whole story, what can we learn?" Older son thought mothers should not kill their babies. Younger son added, "Ugly people might grow up to be beautiful, so you shouldn't kill them."

We went on to discuss the old fairy tales where the good were always beautiful and the bad ugly. I explained how the authors used this to show us their insides. We discussed how Shrek had put a new twist on it. But the message was the same, it is how we act and what we do that makes us beautiful. I told them the story of Dorian Grey.

I suggested that Baby Mask might represent the conscience of his mother. We discussed how when we do things that are bad, we are reminded of them all the time and they make us afraid. Younger son recalled how he had nightmares for days after playing video games illegally until he fessed up.

We talked about what Baby Mask wanted from his mother. The answer was to be loved even though he was ugly. We decided if the mom had gotten on the phone and begged him to come home, threw herself at his feet and apologized, Baby Mask could have left in peace without killing anyone.

Older son is very literal. He said that babies who are aborted go to heaven, they don't become murderes. I told him he was right, but that this was not a true story. What could the daughters represent and why would Baby Mask kill them? We discussed how a guilty conscience can destroy everything we love. Even though she killed her ugly son and loved her beautiful daughters, in the end, she killed them all. Her guilt (which Baby Mask represented) eventually killed those things she did love.

We decided you can not be happy until you apologize for the evil you have done.

They seemed more at ease and I returned to my coffee. Then I thought of another point the story illustrated.

We have been talking a lot about natural consequences to our choices lately. I told them my own horror story:

A little boy is bullied in kindergarten, he is bullied in every grade in elementary school. When he gets to high school, he starts stealing dogs and cats in the neighborhood and killing them. He steals from every store he walks into. He grows up and goes to jail and when he dies he goes to hell.

Each kid that bullied him suffered from their choices. (They already have this part down). But also, they each contributed to sending a boy to jail and eventually to hell. Our bad choices don't just affect us. We are not in this world alone.

But wait, I said as they nodded in sad acknowledgement. The story could have a different ending. This boy is bullied by everyone. Except, one brave boy in kindergarten stands up for him. Then in fifth grade, another little girl tells the kids they are mean. Then in eigth grade, a boy defends him and they become friends. They start playing catch in the school yard at recess. They go out for the high school baseball team and make it. Then they go own to become professional baseball players.

One person's good choices can change the course of history. Our choices can lead not only us, but others to heaven. They both had a look of hope in their eyes.

But I was only looking at younger son. We have had the talk so many times about growing up to be a man of character and most of the time his answer is that he doesn't want to be one and he doesn't care about natural consequences. I realized I had presented it the wrong way. He doesn't care about saving himself, which is sad but true. However, he does want to save Baby Mask, the neighborhood dogs and cats and the bullied boy. I could tell by the look in his eye, he got it. His choices aren't just about him. I don't know how long it will last, but all day today, it was a good day.

And what did I learn:
Good CAN come from the ghastly. Isn't this how God works in our world.

Oh, and we also learned: Always remember to lock the kitchen window!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Dedication: Memories of a Grateful Daughter


I have been accused of changing stories in the retelling. The quotes from a journal and letters are the actual words of my father, the rest is my remembering. These memories are mine. These memories are my treasure.

For Bridget, Michael, Billy and Mom

These memories
Are my treasure

Their worth is
Yet untold

My father’s
Pearls of wisdom

My mother’s
Heart of gold

I value
This my treasure

As a carpenter
His tools

Dear mother
Thoughtful father

How I love these
Priceless jewels

Part Eleven: Memories of a Grateful Daughter: My Mother on Self Perception.

My Mother on Self Perception

My mother is a grandmother of nine, I myself am a mother of four. We sit on my living room couch amongst the clutter of toys and books. We talk of nothing in particular. I glance down at her ankles and see an odd mix of light and dark tones in stripes across her feet and legs,

“What is that?” I ask.

“What?” Her glance follows my own.

“Did you accidentally use a self tanner as body lotion?” I ask.

“Oh, its not supposed to do that. It is guaranteed not to streak.”

“Well, it did.”

“And here I have been thinking all week everyone was staring at my gorgeous legs!”

Part Ten: Memories of a Grateful Daughter: My Mind's Eye. My Mother on Being a Widow

My Mind’s Eye

I have my father’s journal. It has a hard cover, marbled the colors of new and old blood. In Gold letters across the top it says Record. I read of his daily activities, his worries, his thoughts. And then I come to January 20, 1987. I understand just how extraordinary a man he was.

He hated pain. He feared suffering. “God gives suffering to his best friends,” muses Mr. Blue. Despite his fear, my dad had asked for it: “What you will. Take me on a ride.”

My father’s ride had ceased. Or was it more of a pause after the long, slow Click…Click…Click to the top of the biggest hill of the roller coaster of life. The halt which is merely a pause. How long in time is impossible to gage. A lurch and then the exhilarating rush of roaring wind, the reason for the ride.

I close my eyes. I see my father as he meets God face to face. The pain is gone and an awesome, yet strangely familiar and gentle voice speaks to him, around him, through him:

“You have done well my good and faithful servant…Welcome home my faithful friend.”

My Mother on Being a Widow

We sit on that same screened in porch drinking wine. The funeral is over, and we have my wedding to plan. We have decided it is to be a joyful occasion. And it is. Our sense of grief is not a dark shadow over the preparations. There is true joy in finding the perfect flowers, the right menu, what dress she should wear. I have my dress and my veil. The Veil. I can not look at the veil without crying. My dad would have lifted the veil. We joked that it was to be his only responsibility. What am I to do about the veil? I hide it in the unused room, so I don’t have to see it. But of course I will have to see it. I ask mom how she is doing that evening in early May on the porch. She answers in a most unexpected way:

“After Daddy died, I did not want to get out of bed. But I thought of my mom and the example she had set for me after my dad died. I got out of bed because one day one of you may lose the person in the world that you love most, God forbid. I get out of bed as an example to you.”

My Father’s father will walk me down the isle. Grandpa and I have always been close, and I feel honored and blessed to be on his arm. But, I have decided, pushing back the veil was for my dad alone. I will wear it back. And for my mom, I will not cry!

Part Nine: Memories of a Grateful Daughter: My Father on Women. My Father on Courage

My Father on Women

He is back at his desk. He spends more time leaning back and less time writing. He is too exhausted to do anything for long. My soon to be husband has written to ask for my hand. He must respond. The entire letter is very short. But it is beautiful. It includes:

Women, I have learned, march to a beat of a different drum. I have ceased to try to fully understand them. But I assure you, if you love her, she will return your love in ways that dwarf your own.

My Father on Courage

He is dying but we do not know it. His doctor is so optimistic and we have been here, in the hospital, before. There are whispers among the nurses and warnings to prepare given to us from friends. We reject them. I am, however, afraid he is giving up. If he gives up, he could die. It is time I intervene. I state my case that it is unacceptable to me that he lose his will to live:

“I know I have duty to you and your siblings and mom. I know that, and I am not giving up... But I am tired.”

I give a short dissertation on the merits of suffering. I recall stories of saints, examples of trials and the glory they bring, the cross, the virtues anything I can think of. I am not preaching. I think this, a reminder of the faith he loves, the saints he admires, will bring comfort.

He looks at me and I am given a gift. His eyes, his voice, and his words. He is showing me his vulnerability. My rock. My sounding board. My father trusts in my love enough to let me share in his fear:

“But those, those are saints,” he says, “ I am just an ordinary man. I am afraid to suffer.”

“You are not ordinary, Dad. Not to me.”

I hold his hand, and he looks at me with wonder. I know he is remembering the long years of tension. His mind’s eye sees the defiant, mean spirited teen. He recalls the sharp toughed, irrational ravings from the past.

“Where did you come from?” he asks.

I laugh through my tears, “From you Pop, you old dust mop, from you“…I am I because of you…

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Part Eight: Memories of a Grateful Daughter: My Father on the Will of God/My Mother on the Church

My Father on the Will of God

Where did the cancer come from? Stress and genetics surely were foot soldiers in the attack. But who is the general? What is his strategy for victory? If we knew, my mother and I, we could plan our defenses. I will later find an entry in my father’s journal that tells me he knew all along:

January 20, 1987

…I have attended daily mass for some time. At one point I felt close to God and I wanted to put myself completely in his hands. I was surprised to find my self recoil. I was afraid that I would be taken on a journey filled with pain and uncertainty. Those that God loves, he purges, I thought. That means pain. I had no stomach for that. I found myself saying not yet God - Your ways make no sense and they are painful, I am ready to be comfortable. But then I let go and said “What You will. Take me on a ride. I’ll try to hang on. “ Now I wonder if I can...

My Mother on the Church

She stands at the sink peeling potatoes. Bing Crosby sings from the stereo in the next room. I sit at the kitchen table working on my lesson plans. We talk of the New Catechism of the Catholic Church. She pauses in her peeling and looks out the window into the back yard. At one time, she would have seen a swing set. It was painted in animal print and the top of the slide was a cage. It had double bars where the swings hung down. I would walk across them playing circus. I had always wanted to be a circus acrobat. Now I was teaching high school students, a circus of sorts. Was she thinking of earlier days? Was she worrying about herself? Dad? She begins to peel again and says:

After Vatican II , many Catholics were disillusioned. Things they felt were central to their faith had been taken away from them, and many responded with resentment. Grandma Foley, however, responded with a child like obedience and a sense of peace. It was a wonderful example to me. I always remember her saying, “You are Never better than your church.“

Part Seven: Memories of a Grateful Daughter: My Father on Heaven

My Father on Heaven

My father relaxes in his chair with his feet on his footstool. The leather chair and ottoman is where he will always be in my mind. It is his throne and his refuge. The rubber bands from his daily paper stuffed into the side between the frame and the seat cushion. They sit in the same place they have always sat, save Christmastime when the room is arranged to accommodate the tree. It is the corner of the living room in front of a wooden built in bookshelf painted white and lined with books. On the bottom shelf sits an enormous dictionary. The other shelves hold titles of History, Philosophy and Theology mostly, and books about Poland. Next to it sits his reading lamp which has a little circular table around its middle. The table holds an odd assortment of knick knacks that prove he is kind. They are gifts from us that should have been thrown away on reception. The one I recall is a little squat brown statue of some unearthly creature. Its beard is made of something soft. It sits atop a miniature pedestal which reads “worlds greatest dad” or something of the sort.

He is ill. His hair is thin from the chemo treatments. We have had a visit from a family friend also fighting cancer. She will live to see her daughter married, but not much longer. We have been talking of heaven. After she leaves my dad talks to me, but he is really musing to himself:

When I think of heaven I think of Peter and Paul, Jerome and Vincent. John the Baptist for goodness sake. Heaven is surely filled with misfits. People who never really fit in this world. It makes me wonder if I will fit in there.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Part Six: Memories of a Grateful Daughter: My Mother on Marriage

My mother on Marriage

I am in love. I have found the man I will marry. I look at my Mom and Dad’s wedding pictures. I have carried the album from its place under the coffee table to the family room. I sit on the plaid couch not really watching the T.V. As I look at the pictures from Hawaii, pictures that were staged after the fact since the photographer thought it disrespectful to take pictures during the real ceremony, I think back to a time when I was in high school:

One of my best friends in high school was talking about getting married after graduation. I thought this would be a disastrous decision. Not because of the qualities of her boyfriend, who in fact was wonderful and would much later become her husband, but because I simply believed we were too young. I brought her to my house to discuss it with my mom. We sat, as we often did around the kitchen table. The kitchen was a warm and sunny place. The brown Formica topped table with its six matching chairs sat in a little alcove where the kitchen, hall and dining room met which was where it should be, as that table was the crossroads where people and ideas would meet. It was the heart of our home.

On hearing my attempts at persuasion my mom walked to the silverware drawer and picked up one of the knives used in our daily lives. It was smooth and simple stainless steel. She held it in her hand and addressed my friend:

“When I graduated from high school, everyone expected most of us would be marrying soon. They actually sent vendors to school so we could pick out our china and silver patterns like girls who are engaged do today at Dillard’s. What I picked at sixteen looked a lot like this knife.”

Putting the knife on the table in front of Lisa she walked into the dinning room to the China closet and pulled out another knife. Returning, she placed it next to the first. It was her wedding Silver, Grand Baroque. It was real silver and the most ornate pattern you can buy. It looked grand and regal next to our day ware.

Taking both knives in her hands she continued:

“This is what I picked after high school. This is what I picked when I got married 16 years later. My taste in men had changed as much.”

She concluded in her usual light hearted way:

“Not that I got any fancier mind you.”

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Part Five: Memories of a Grateful Daughter: My Mother on Self-fulfillment/My Father on Work

My Mother on Self fulfillment

I am glad to be living at home. Home is wherever my mother is and right now we are in my car. I have my own car now. I could get an apartment with friends too, but why? My mom is my best friend. I am still searching. I am still not happy. What should I do, I ask? What can I do to have meaning? She loosens her vice grip on the dash, turns her head to look at me and answers:

I was never myself when I was your age. I was never really myself until I got married. And even when Dad and I were first married, I was still play acting a little bit. It was only when I became a mother that I was truly fulfilled. It was then that I became truly myself.

My Father on Work

I see my father is tired. He is drained from his work. Running his own practice has provided for us financially, but it has taken its toll on him. It is stressful not to have a guaranteed income. I know he loves the law. I know he loves the challenge of pushing his intellect and creativity to their limits in each and everything he does. But I feel he is jaded. He does not love it as he once did. Realism has replaced idealism or is it that in place of both has come wisdom:

As a young man I thought a job should bring fulfillment and satisfaction. As I grew older I realized that if I looked for fulfillment in a job it would never come. When all is said and done, a job is a means to an income to fund the those things that are important to us. All I earn goes to my children’s catholic education.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Part Four: Memories of Grateful Daughter: My Mother on Honesty/My Father on Rules

My Mother on Honesty

My mother perches on the edge of her bed talking on the phone. The addition of a second phone in the house has been recent. She can see herself in the mirror over her dresser. On the dresser are the pictures of her mother and father, and the jewelry box which is never closed. I am again on the other end of the line from college. She listens to what is going on and then tells me with her lovely laugh, “You will never believe what I did last week…”

It seems my mom had prepared a casserole to eat when my youngest brother, Billy, the only one at home, returned from Cross Country Practice. Having a newly remodeled kitchen with beautiful hardwood floors, she had become a more avid house keeper. After putting the casserole in the oven to bake, she got out her dust mop.

Following all of the instructions she had been given by the installers, she went to spray a light mist of Endust on the mop. In the place under the sink where she always kept the Endust, she found the Pam. A quick investigation of the pantry led her to the Endust where the Pam should have been. Unable to remember if she had sprayed Endust or Pam into the casserole pan, she found herself in a dilemma. She did not want to make a new dinner. As the dinner hour grew closer, she removed the casserole from the oven and tried to extract parts that had not touched the sides. Knowing how particular both my brother and father were about putting anything in their mouths that had even the suggestion of germs, let alone chemicals, she decided that honesty was the best policy.

They went out for Pizza!

My Father on Rules

I see my father sitting in a metal yellow weaved chair on our screened in back porch. A faint breeze made the summer heat bearable. The porch was my favorite place in our house. It was large with a single step dividing it in half. The top half had a round wooden picnic table where we would eat dinner on nice evenings. In the center of the table was a Lazy Susan which made it unique. That novelty, when it first entered our life, fascinated me and created in me a lasting affection for the table. The yellow chair and its match were on the same level in front of a pair of windows which looked into our family room. They were separated by a plastic table.

I sat in the other chair with my arms around my knees rocking gently. When my dad sat in a chair, it was not in an upright position. His back always seemed to curve into the chair giving him the appearance of slouching. We talked on this evening of the church. I was teaching high school Theology and had as my main goal to instill in my students the notion that Laws were given to us by God out of Love. My father put it this way:

The church gives us rules, not to hold us down, but so we do not become enslaved to things which prevent us from being truly free.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Part Three: Memories of a Grateful Daughter: My Father on Prayer

He sits at his gorgeous desk. It is a deep brown with clawed feet on each of the legs. It sits at an angle in the middle of the room facing the door. The huge leather chair rocks backward as he thinks and forward as he writes. How to answer me, what to say? During my turbulent years of college, I was in a constant state of searching. Who was I? What was I supposed to be doing with my life? Why was I unhappy? Unsatisfied? My father and I talked often on the phone, but he preferred the pen. My years of disregarding everything he said had been replaced by a constant demand for advice. He leans back staring at the cross brought from Poland on the wall. He leans over and writes:

You know that I have told you to pray when you are found with difficulties. It occurred to me that I may not have told you what I mean by prayer.

I have prayed virtually all of my life. As a child under compulsion. As an adult willingly. When I was in grade school, we prayed frequently as a part of our every day activities. It was like the air we breathed, pursued without much thought about the virtue of what we were doing. As an adult prayer fell into three general categories 1) duties owed to God-which one did no matter how dry you felt spiritually, 2) Prayer in times of adversity and 3) Thanksgiving for blessings received. While this type of prayer has sustained me in numerous trials and adversities, I also began to feel that I had reached a dead end. It was as if I had grown as much as I could even though I thought that more had to be possible. It was at that time that I began to do some reading about prayer.

Reading about how to pray can be as difficult and frustrating as praying itself. A lot of the writing is obscure. Some of it is influenced by non-Christian religions, some of it assumes experiences that the reader has never experienced. Well after a number of false starts and dead ends, I gradually came to the realization that my problem was that the focus of my prayers was me and not God. In times of adversity, I prayed for relief for me. God never denied the relief. He gave me what I wanted, but since that was all that I had requested, it was all that I got.

Even when I prayed in Thanksgiving the focus of my prayers was still me and not God. I am sure that He appreciated the gratitude, but the nature of the prayer was self limiting. It was an invitation to share in my temporary enjoyment.

Several years ago, about the time that Bridget was finishing high school, I made a commitment to get each of you through 4 years of Catholic college. I had no idea of how I would do it. Looking at my then current income and future prospects, it would have been hard to imagine how it could be done. I just said that what ever sacrifice was required, I will do it. Strange as it may seem, that goal was not the focus of my prayers. I would pray from time to time to get through particularly tough periods, I still do. No, the focus of my prayers gradually shifted to trying to learn more about God and to listen for His voice.

There have been times when I felt particularly close to God, but no voices or visions (that would scare the living daylights out of me). There have also been dry difficult times when I knock and no one answers the door. But I discovered that something was happening in my life. In the oddest and most unpredictable ways my income rose to meet the expenses associated with educating four children in Catholic schools. There was one time when business got so bad, I did not have any idea of how I would pay the rent. There was nothing in the works and nothing on the horizon. Then I got a call as a result of a contact in the past and a major client was dropped in my lap. When I look at my practice it does not conform to any of the norms suggested by the practice manuals. Yet, it produces enough to meet the heavy needs of my family. I must add that I get what I need. No more and no less. There is a part of me that would feel a lot better if God would supply a cushion, but that may not be in the cards. It might make me too independent for the current partnership.

After observing how my practice had gone, I decided to try a change in the way that I dealt with daily trials. Before when I went to mass in the morning, it was a time to get a running start on solving the day’s problems. The concern of the day was a constant distraction. I could sit through mass and not remember any of the prayers that were said because I was so self-absorbed with a deadline that had to be met, a problem solved, a battle to be fought. For a change of pace, I decided to lock out my life when I went to mass and to concentrate on God. My prayer was “for the next half hour Lord, let me only think of You.” I bought a prayer book with difficult daily prayers to assist in the task. You know what happened? The problems that normally consumed me began to solve themselves or become manageable.

It was then that I remembered Christ telling His disciples not to be anxious about their worldly needs (Luke 12:22-34). He told them to “seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be given you besides.” That had always been advice for people with religious vocations in my mind, but I discovered that I was wrong. He was talking to me and to you and to all of us. The explanation seemed pretty simple. God loves each of us, but He has given us a free will. He longs to have us near Him, but He respects what we want even when we choose to leave Him. God knows that living is a demanding and time consuming task, so He never penalizes us for spending time with Him. The time spent in prayer is never wasted. But what is prayer? It is seeking to know and to love God. It is an effort to get out of what we want for ourselves and to seek to find out what God wants with us. How do we do it? We read the scriptures and listen to what God is saying to us in them. As Catholics we frequent the Sacraments particularly the Eucharist and Confession.

The modern world and the feminists have it all wrong. Self realization is not the goal in life, “be all you can be!” is a narrow and limited ambition unworthy of man. The task is to empty ourselves of the pride and egoism that limit us. So that we can make room for God. Don’t be all that you can be, aim higher. Be all that God can make you. The paradox is that we do not become great by striving. We become great by living open to God’s will whatever it may be for us. As St. Paul said, the goal is that we should decline so that Christ can grow in us.

So in a nut shell ask yourself how much time do you spend each day in prayer. God spends every second of every day of your life thinking about you. How much time do you spend thinking about Him? Develop regular habits of prayer. Pray even when you do not feel like it. Pray even when you think that it is a waste of time. Say the rosary, read writers who have experienced God in their lives. Take your problems,
lay them on His lap and then seek to know and to love God. He will take care of both you and your problems.

You are always in my thoughts and prayers,



And I wonder as I read, how does one learn to truly love our Heavenly Father without such an earthly father as God has given me.