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.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Part Two: Memories of a Grateful Daughter: My Father. My Mother

My Father

I am young, seven or eight. I ride on the bus down town. My dad has begun a tradition. We each get to meet him for lunch alone once during our Summer Vacation. It is a tradition, that unfortunately, will not last long. I am wearing a dress, tights and fancy shoes. I do not yet have a hatred of the City Bus. That will come after I miss my stop on a visit to my Grandma. I am forced to ride in an overcrowded bus filled with public school children I do not know, all older than I.

I arrive at the stop near my father’s office. He is waiting. We walk to a large circular hotel. He is in his suit and tie, his cordovan shoes are enormous. I am proud to be walking with him. We take the elevator to the top floor restaurant. We are led to a table covered in a white table cloth with matching cloth napkins. I feel shy. He orders for us and we eat bread from a basket with the same white napkins. We drink water from glass goblets. I talk, he listens. As I talk I know that I am a little lady. Everyone in the restaurant is jealous, for I am with the most distinguished man. I will go on to rebel, to hate, to no longer be proud to be seen with my father. But he has left an impression. I know how I want to be treated. I know what I deserve. I know then and always, I am a lady.

My Mother

My mother makes the best pizza. For my friends, it is the highlight of every birthday party. We have it at least once a week. To save money, she shreds the cheese herself from a large white block. She has a light green Tupperware bowl with a lid that has the teeth to shred. It will be used long after it has become cracked. I am usually a pest. There is always a tiny bit at the end that can not be shredded. I want it for myself.

I am unaware of others, I am laying on the family room couch day dreaming. I am a famous actress. No a rock star. Perhaps a very holy nun. The day is hot and I am normally outside in a fort made with my neighborhood friend, but I am here on the couch for some reason, alone.

My mom comes down the single step from the kitchen to the family room. She holds something out to me. I awake from my imaginary world and focus on her hand. It is the end of the cheese.
I tell myself as I eat the delicious mozzarella, when I am a mother, I will always try to remember the little things. They mean the most.

Part One: Memories of a Grateful Daughter: Introduction

For those who knew my parents, how they were different was far more obvious than what they had in common. My father was a tall man, around six feet tall. He had strong, sharp facial features especially his nose. His eyes were dull from poor eyesight and rarely seen without his glasses. His hair was blonde. He was serious and an imposing presence. His humor was dry and when he laughed it was never out of embarrassment or condescension, but because something struck him as incredibly funny. Often it was found in something that was a mystery to me. He was quiet and though I would not have said so during my early years, he was shy. He was thoughtful and intelligent and trusted that in his mind, he could work out, eventually, any problem he would encounter. He had less confidence in his ability to deal with people. For that he depended on my mother.

Mom was petite with jet black hair. Though as age turned my father’s blonde to grey, a bottle turned my mom’s to blonde, and that is how many remember her. She is just over five feet tall. Though never really pleased with the ankles (or lack there of) that God had given her, she had a remarkable figure. Her waist was one of the tiniest I had ever seen. My twelve year old stick figure could not fit properly into the clothes she had worn on her honey moon. Her blue eyes are incredibly bright and animated and disappear when she smiles. Though as a child she was incredibly shy, her college years had shed the reserve and a butterfly emerged. She has the ability to make people feel at ease. She finds humor in everything, especially herself, and uses no economy when it comes to her laugh. Her genius is in her ability to create relationships and to give comfort and advice in the dealings of human beings. The pettiest of problems was heard and responded to as if the security of the nation depended on it.

I would have described their love of one another as a respect and a dependence on the part of my mom, and a respect and an admiration on the part of my father. This was an enormous error on my part. Their respect, dependence and admiration were equal in the most profound way. What they needed, admired and respected were merely different. With regard to their children, again they differed. My dad was a rock of security to us. Whether we agreed with him or not, we knew he was honest and unchanging. My mother was above all our source of comfort. From our physical needs to our emotional, it was she who took it upon herself to determine and provide what we needed.

What they had in common was love. Their love of one another, their love of their children, their love of conversation and most importantly their love of God. Each of these loves was manifested in different ways.

With regard to conversation, it was central to their relationship with each other. My mom has the gift of gab and loves to talk to anyone. My dad, though less likely to initiate it, could talk knowledgably about anything. I never remember once going to either one of them to talk and being turned away. My mom sees conversation as a means to create relationship. My father saw it as an integral part of those he had.

Their love of God was central to all of the other loves. It was because they loved God and their Catholic Faith that they were able to love each other and us in an undeniable way. No matter what I felt about them at each and every moment of my life, I knew three things in the most concrete of ways: They loved God, they loved each other, and they loved me!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

To The Experts

I am SICK to death of experts. The financial experts have proven to not know so much, haven't they? The nutrition experts tell us one day we should not drink then the next day we are to drink a glass of wine daily. Butter is out then it is in; sugar is bad and then it is good. Coffee is awful and green tea is the thing until it is out and coffee cures cancer. I am waiting for the day that tobacco makes you live until you are one hundred...unless, of course, it kills you before that.

I have never put stock in what the experts have to say. In fact, I consider myself an expert in many areas, but in the real world, we call this an opinion. I am an expert in the area of teaching. This does not mean that I have a PHD in education, it means, through trial and error, I have figured out a way to teach just about anyone anything. The problem is, I can't really become an expert. It depends on what and who I am teaching. Those two small factors kind of change the check list for success.

And isn't that the problem with all experts. Most experts now a days are dealing with human behavior. The small problem is that every human being is different. While caffeine may not be great for everyone, it may be just the thing for the exhausted mom. Don't you have to know who you are talking to before you are able to give expert advice?

Now, I must make a distinction here. The experts I am talking about always seem to have more knowledge. These are the kind I am sick of. I do put a lot of stock in people with skill. Skill takes experience and practice. I will take advice from a mom who has gotten her kids to eat broccoli in a heart beat. The egg head expert on child development can go to hell. I want a surgeon who has done a thousand successful heart surgeries. The guy who worked for two years and then became an expert can write books because no one really wants him around with a knife. In my profession we saw it all the time. The experts had a PHD but very little class room experience. They gave great advice until you actually tired it.

I am sick of the experts who think they know you. I am sick of the sociologist who do not know a damn thing about me telling me what I don't know. I am sick of the experts invading every level of my life. Because they really don't have anything to offer. Nature is pretty simple. If you drink too much, you feel sick. If you take too much risk, you are bound to lose. If you do not have healthy relationships (love that term) you are probably not happy. Do we really need experts to tell us these things?

So to the experts all I have to say is: When you have four kids and a great husband, come and tell me about my life. Until then, the least you can do is call it an opinion.