Monday, December 13, 2010


Hobbies. Do you have any? What exactly are they besides a running joke in our house that my husband has none. The dictionary says: An activity or interest pursued outside one's regular occupation and engaged in primarily for pleasure.

'Primarily for pleasure'. That gives them a bit of a negative connotation doesn't it? It implies they have no inherent value or are some how selfish in nature. Maybe that is why my husband has none. hmm?

I reflect on my own hobbies, those things which give me pleasure, though I don't yet concede they are engaged in primarily for pleasure:

Playing the piano.

I shall take each in turn to defend it as having inherent worth or at least something more than a selfish indulgence.

Writing. I have written before about why I personally write. See my very first post. Writing is by nature a form of self expression, but I do not believe that makes it inherently selfish. One writes to express something and when one writes well, it is to express a truth. Coming to know a truth through writing or encouraging another to delve deeper into truth through reading must have some value beyond mere pleasure.

Playing the piano. Again, I have discussed this subject before (My Music 10/25/10). If music is your hobby: playing, composing, listening to; do I even need to defend it? Music has to be the language of angels. While those of us who mark music as a hobby rather than a profession or a passion, we are, it seems, participating in the world of those who speak the language of angels. I can't seem to wrap my mind around the notion that Mozart was simply indulging his own pleasure, and for me to enjoy his creation for a similar reason would some how taint his original purpose. No, I do not simply enjoy his music, I am transformed by it. I admit that some modern music, the lyrics at least, seems to be an exercise in self-centered catharsis, but if it has a catchy tune or a foot stomping beat, it transcends the self-centered nature of its creator. While I do not deny the pleasure involved, music can make us bold or courageous, tender hearted or empathetic. It has the ability to move us and make us feel something for someone other than ourselves.

Decorating. My decorating is a joke in my smaller circle. My poor sister often came home to a new arrangement of furniture in our shared room. The only time I remember her complaining about it was when I pushed our dressers back to back in the center of the room in the attempt to give it a circular effect. "The book shelves block the light, I can't see to read," she said. I have heard it has the name of Feng shui, though I admit I have done absolutely no research on it, but furniture speaks to me. A perfectly fine room begins to bug me: A chair seems uncomfortable where it stands, a couch cries out for a new pillow, a throw rug longs to be angled in a new way. Don't ask me, ask the Chinese. But the inanimate objects around me from about the age of seven have found themselves constantly turned, twisted and shaped into new forms... For my own pleasure? Okay, so I just looked up Fen shui on the internet. No, not for my own pleasure, to improve life, to release positive energy.

Okay, maybe I don't buy that. But there was something of the thing involved in it all along. My decorating at Christmas is always similar: same trinkets, balls, lights. But it is always a bit different. I have to see it before I know. The snow globe with the three silver angels looked fine on the right last year, but not this year. The balls are not evenly spaced, they are Sheila spaced, and I kid you not, that I will move a ball around six times before it seems satisfied where it is. And how do I make you understand: It is not me, it is the ball that has the problem. I am not dumb enough to believe that anyone else will notice the 8th of an inch, but when it is in the right spot, there is a harmony.

Okay, this one is the hardest to defend. I may seek the harmony for my own peace of mind. Quite possible. But it doesn't feel that way. It really feels as if the candle is not happy and I need to try harder to find the right spot for it. At any rate, it is not merely seeking pleasure, it is, if nothing else, seeking harmony. And at the end of the day, whether it really is about the 1/8 inch or not, my home is inviting. The furniture has managed to get itself arranged in a way that encourages conversation, the rug invites people to come sit by the fire, the harmony of the things is really about the people who enter the door.

I decorate I guess because if I believe it feels right, then my guests will feel welcome. Because right to me is, was and always will be about hospitality. It was why I immediately ditched the circular effect in our shared room. Not that I was about hospitality with my sister back then, but because I knew hers was a legitimate complaint. If reading is what you do in your room and you can't do it, something is wrong. I then went for a maze effect. We both loved it.

So what are your hobbies? Do you have any? If you do, I will defend them. The best hobbies are not engaged in primarily for pleasure. Let me say it a different way, they are activities that give tremendous pleasure, yes, but that is not why we primarily engage in them. Fishing, hunting, painting, reading, skiing, origami, carpentry... My guess is you do them because you find pleasure in the task. But if you really thought about it, you do them because they make you a better person. And I don't care what Webster says. A hobby is An activity or interest pursued outside one's regular occupation which brings pleasure and enriches ones life and the lives of those around him.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

King of Kings...and criminals

I love the conversation in the Passion between Jesus and the criminals. I love Luke's version. I have to admit I am always a little disappointed when the church year uses one of the Gospel's that doesn't distinguish between the good and the bad thief. In the Roman Church Tradition, the good thief's name is Dysmus. Though not a recognized saint, he is often referred to as St. Dysmus.

I have thought often about the good thief. When I was little, I used to thank him for his compassion to Christ in His suffering. I know it sounds strange, but I often imagined myself in the scenes of the Passion having conversations with its players. I remember once telling Jesus during the Scourging to say His Rosary. I think it was probably blasphemous, but I knew no other way to bring him comfort. It was what worked for me, what I was told to do when I was sad or scared. I think He probably gave me a pass.

I often think of John as well, the only apostle to stay with Jesus through His Passion. Tradition says he was the youngest apostle, a boy really, and the only virgin. It was his innocence which allowed him the courage and faith to stay with Jesus. And of course I think of Mary the Mother of God. I have wept tears for her during the Lenten Stations of the Cross. I can not imagine. As a mother, I hope not to ever be able to.

So why am I focused on the Passion the week before Advent begins? Good Question. Well, I just heard the Gospel from Luke with the conversation between Jesus and the criminals at Mass last Sunday, and it shed new light on my old favorite. For the Lenten story, the story I remember from so many past springs when the world is being reborn, is also told on the last Sunday of the church year, on the Feast of Christ the King.

My old friend Dysmus is a greater hero than I had even known. His greatness did not come from his defense of Jesus, as I had always found so noble. No, it was in his vision. This part of the movie The Passion of the Christ is based on the Luke version. It symbolically shows the spiritual insight of the good and the blindness of the bad by having a raven pluck out the eye of the bad thief. So Gibson got it, maybe you did to. And not only can we compare Dysmus to his fellow criminal, but also to most of the other apostles.

They had walked with Jesus, talked with Jesus, lived with Jesus for three years. They had left family and friends, professions and homes to follow their king. One can understand their utter devastation at the events before the Resurrection. This had been their king, their hope, their life. He was being lashed and beaten, dragged through the streets and hung on a tree. They could not see. The bad thief could not see. The Pharisees and Sadducee's could not see. The Romans could not see.

But Dysmus could see. He could see in the broken battered man hanging next to him a King, The King. How could he? How could he see what so many had missed? Like the Wisemen years before him with a baby in a manger surrounded by hey and shepherds and animals, he saw a king. I don't know how he did it. But it makes me love him even more. It makes me long for that kind of faith.

It is easy for us now. We know how the story ends. We know the Christ of the Resurrection, the Christ of the Ascension, the Christ of the Book of Revelation. We know, but do we believe? Dysmus did not know the end of the story, yet he could see in our suffering savior A King.

Lord, this Advent, help me to see like Dysmus. Help me to see you in the baby and in the beaten down.

And as we prepare for the celebration of the Birth of our Lord, I can think of no better prayer than the prayer of Dysmus:

Jesus, remember me, when you come into Your kingdom.

Friday, November 12, 2010


You may have figured out, I love Juvenile Literature. I also love the genre that elaborates through prequel or sequel the story of a well known and loved character. It also might not surprise you that I love Peter Pan. The genius of JM Berry can be in part measured by the many stories that were born from the characters of this beloved book.

The Disney Faeries' stories discussed briefly in The Fair Folk (May 2010) are comprised of many books and a full feature film. Here we learn the workings of Pixie Hollow, the home of Tinker Bell and her fairy friends.

Disney also had an animated feature film, Peter Pan II about Wendy's daughter, Jane, and her trip to the Neverland. I didn't expect to like this one, but I did. Not as good as the original, but Jane is feisty and the ending is sweet.

Dave Berry and Ridley Pearson have written several books in their Peter and the Star Catchers Series which serve to explain the creation of the Never Land, Peter's Powers, the birth of Tinker Bell, Mr. Grinn and the Mermaids; as well as to tell the stories of Peter, Molly Aster (Wendy's mother), Mr. Darling, Hook and the Lost boys long before the night the flying boy steals the Darling Children from their London nursery. My kids enjoy this series, and I like it. But having a long history with Peter, I had my own dreams of where he came from and don't love the theory of the authors, though they make for good adventures.

Of course, we must mention the fabulous movie Hook, staring Robin Williams, Julie Roberts and Dustin Hoffman. Peter has become a man, and a corporate pirate no less, and is blackmailed back to Neverland by the kidnapping of his children. On the Island, he is forced to remember how to crow and how to fly. He must remember his Happy Thought and how to be a child again in order to save his children and regain the love and respect of his son.

Also worth mentioning is Finding Neverland staring Johnny Depp as JM Barry.

I have a new book to add to the list. I have just finished Capt. Hook by James Hart. Though I always thought Hook was in fact a Cod Fish, there is still something to love about the child like Pirate. In the movie and the play his character is usually the same actor as he who plays Mr. Darling. Though we surely do not find either admirable, we also can not despise them. Mr. Darling tries to make amends by sleeping in Nanna's Dog House until the children return. And Hook is wise enough to envy the eternal youth of Peter. Surely someone who is so jealous of childhood can not be all bad.

We meet James as the illegitimate son of an English Lord as he heads off to the prestigious all boys school, Eaton. He quickly makes a friend, Jolly Roger and also makes an enemy in the senior and house captain, Arthur Darling.

Although intent on remaining an outsider and nonconformist, he soon becomes a legend and King among the under class men. He bleeds yellow blood, has trained poisonous spiders, is an academic genius, master swordsman and leads his friends to victory in the Famed Eaton Games, scoring the first point scored in over two hundred years of competition.

After having the gaul to fall in love with a Sultana visiting the Queen, and the adventure this leads to, he is banned from school and English Life. Faking his own death and leaving Arthur Darling in quite a mess, he heads to sea for seven years aboard his father's ship, The Sea Witch.

Aboard the ship he is reunited with a runaway Jolly Roger. He makes the acquaintance of a fellow nonconformist, Mr. Smee and makes an enemy of the cruel Mr. Blood, the disciplinarian of the ship. He gets his sea legs, leaps the backs of whales and earns the respect of many of his fellow crewmen.

However, it is also here he learns his father is a slaver and the Black Gold they will be caring to England are African Slaves. Though all his heroes are the villains of history, this is unthinkable to the boy prophesied to have a black heart. He confronts Mr. Blood and finds himself in the hold with the slaves.

Leading a mutiny with the help of a warrior slave, he becomes the Captain of the Ship and gains his hook and his name. The book ends with his promise to return the Africans to their home and then to sail to find the island of his dreams and his beloved Sultana by finding the constellation Lyra and going from the second star to the right and straight on 'til morning.

Monday, November 8, 2010

To Anonymous


For my children, and for you and me the question is always how it "could be". We do not need to be taught how it is. We know. Disappointment comes so very naturally. It is hope that must be nurtured.

That the one good deed was not done for you, unfortunately is not God's fault. He has given his creatures Free Will. Humanity may have let you down, I assure you, God has not. Just because His creatures fell short in your case does not mean He doesn't have a plan for you. Perhaps you are stronger than you know. Perhaps his plan is not to have others do things for you to change your world, but for you to do something for someone else to change His world.

I assure you my faith in humanity is often tested. My faith in myself is daily challenged. Read Stress (April Archive) My faith in God has not been tested, in the sense that I have never lost the knowledge that he exists and loves me. I pray daily to escape the dark night of the soul experienced by the most holy. (The spiritual darkness of losing the assurance and consolation of God's existence which requires a complete act of the will to force oneself to believe with out the slightest feeling that He is near.) As I have been granted my prayer, it only proves I am weak and do not count among the greatest friends of God. When I am ready, he will hide from me to allow me to prove my love. I am not ready. Perhaps you are.

Whether you believe it or not, we belong to the Mystical Body of Christ. God's love transformed the world and His son transformed human suffering forever. It is only through our suffering that we can really understand love. I am sorry you have been denied by man the feeling of being loved. But you are never denied the opportunity TO love. That is your gift from God and to embrace it is your choice. He loves you and asks that you love others for him. If you have not known the love of humanity, do not give up on God. Believe in His love for you and learn that in loving others (especially those hardest to love) you will know He is there.

I will pray for you.

Monday, October 25, 2010

My Music

I got a baby grand piano for my fortieth birthday. It was a gift from my dead grandmother, so to speak. I think she might be a bit appalled at its lack of practicality, but I love it. It is so way cooler than a dining room table that could be in the dining room instead. Do I play? Yes, of course I do. Do I play well? Not so much. I can read music about as well as someone who took seven years of piano two decades ago. I am slowly working my way through Moonlight Sonata, though I think it is giving me corporeal tunnel. Mostly I play my own stuff.

It started years ago right before Valentine's day. My brother had written a pick up song on his guitar. I sat down to compose a ridiculous break up song for him. But I really liked my melody. It was pretty good and I noticed various family members humming it from time to time. I decided to write real words instead. I adapted a Wordsworth Poem to fit. My first creation.

It was written in the key of c and when I played it for a musical friend, he suggested I transpose it to a different key. Yea, okay, I'll get right on that. But I did and the process of transposing it really helped with my ability to read music.

I then wrote a lullaby to go with some words I had made up when my youngest was born because I didn't know the real words to Lullaby and Goodnight. Not sure how it might affect others, but I find it calming to play it.

I wrote an Irish jig to accompany the words to the Yeat's Poem Fiddler of Dooney followed by another Irish inspired song about a wandering boy who loves his Irish melodies and his Irish poetry.

I wrote a Wedding Waltz next.

I then wrote another lullaby about a Mocking bird. I am having a hard time remembering that one. No, I haven't actually put any notes to paper.

I just finished, or started as it usually works out: They usually continue to grow and change, though the heart of the melody stays the same) my latest song. I don't think I want it to have words. It has a sort of Russian or Polish sound to it.

Writing music is a funny thing. I can't just do it. I play around on the piano a lot, but every once in awhile a melody will come together. I don't know why it works sometimes and not others. I never have a tune in my head, it just comes out my fingers. I have tried to sit down with the intention of writing a song. That NEVER works. If I come up with anything, I don't remember it the next time I sit down at the piano.

I don't mean to imply I am artistic. I have no idea how the world at large would judge my songs. I don't compose them for the world at large (though if anyone wanted to buy them, I would sell) :) I don't think they are great, though I think they are good. I compose them because...because...because....

I guess because
Every now and then, they are inside of me and want to come out?
I am in a mood and it takes the form of a song?
It is an expression of something I didn't know I was thinking about?

I don't know why actually. But it is a wonderful feeling to create something you like. To make something out of nothing is an amazing experience. My little songs didn't exist one day and the next they did. Poof, just like that. And no matter how bad they are in reality, I love them because they are mine. My creation.

It made me think: that is how God feels about us. So maybe that is why I compose. Maybe that is why all human beings create anything: To remind us of a truth about THE Creator. Hm? I wonder.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Who Am I

Let me begin by saying that my identity crisis should in no way be construed as a slight to any other human being. What fulfills us, what gives us joy, what is frustrating or depressing or gross is different for each of us. There are some commonalities between all human beings in these areas, but in what we choose from our various daily activities to define ourselves, we are all unique.

So lets go back. The first thing that I was really able to use as a definer was: Teacher. My first job out of college was with the pro-life movement. It was cutting edge. It was one of only a handful of paid positions in the country. It was exciting and worthwhile and at the end of the day, not fulfilling to me. I mused on my computer at work about the possibility of becoming a teacher. I taught a little CCD class on the side. That hour a week was more fulfilling to me than my full time job. Was God calling me to be a Teacher? I asked. A co-worker found it and gave it to my boss. He fired me on the spot for it had been his experience that once someone "checked out" they were not really worth employing. (Hazards of being a writer who doesn't know about computer security.) I should have been in a panic. But I wasn't. I went to visit a friend out of state for the weekend. I returned home to a ringing phone from a friend of woman for whom I had babysat all through college. "Is this Sheila, I heard you need a job." I took the job over the phone. The second ring that day was from my boss, regretting his impulsive decision. "It has been my experience," I answered, "That when you get fired, you probably aren't really wanted. I'll be fine, I hope you will be too."

A few months later, I left Texas and returned home to go back to school to get my teaching certificate. Not only had I returned home in a geographical sense. Teaching felt like returning home. It felt natural. I felt fulfilled.

I defined myself as a Teacher for some years. But in the end, it was accompanied by a job like any other job. A job can't really define who we are as a person. I knew I would always be "Teacher" but I needed more. I wanted to be a wife. And so, the second definer in my life came in the form of being another's other half. To find your other half out of a world populated by billions of people is quite something. It leaves you in awe. And to this day it is still the single most important definer I have.

But I wanted more. I wanted to be a mother. It really was what I had wanted all along. And because God is so good, He gave me what I wanted. I became the mother of three children. Then we adopted our fourth. To be a homeschooling mother caused only a few moments of debate in my mind. For I was Teacher, Wife and Mother, so what better way to find my fulfillment than in the teaching of my own and my other half's children.

And I did. I often tried to explain it to my mother who thought I took on too much. I told her that in the end, it was really about me (this she could get as I was not the most selfless person growing up.) I could make the arguments about why I thought it was the best option for my children, but as I have explained on another post (The Home school Why) I always knew there were many great options in which my children could flourish. The reason I did it was because it made me feel fulfilled. I couldn't imagine being chauffeur and room mom only. I couldn't imagine being with my kids just a few hours a day. I knew they would be fine if I shared the burden of raising and educating them, I just didn't think I would be.

Fast forward. We adopted our fifth at the age of six. Life became too hectic to manage. I put all my kids in school. The transition for all of them was better than I could have imagined. I was right that there is not one right way. In many ways, I know they are perhaps even better off now as I watch them blossom and grow. An aside for the home schoolers: This does not mean I believe that school is better. Or that all kids are better off in school. Just as I did not believe homeschooling was the only option when I did it. I do not now believe school is. There is no right way to raise your kids. Ours was a unique situation and what my children had to adapt to required changes.

The changes we made were good for them. But were they good for me? Am I fine?

I am not. The dirty little secret is that all those room moms and chauffeurs have ways to define themselves. For some it is through volunteer work, part time jobs to help financially support the family, coaching, or like my mom they find fulfillment in cooking, or like my grandmother in the order of her household. They are good friends or marathon runners. It doesn't really matter WHAT it is. It is that IT is how you define yourself. It is how you find fulfillment. It is how you know who you are.

I don't know who I am anymore. I don't know how to define myself. I don't know how to feel fulfilled.

We recently got a little dwarf hamster. He is really quite cute. He has a little wheel he runs on. He goes round and round and never goes anywhere. They call him Nip because he bites. Perhaps Sheila would have been a better name. But no, because he is happy going round and round. He has no need to get anywhere.

Teacher...Wife...Mother...Teacher/Mom... I am still all of these and I guess I should be excited. I used to have the spirit of adventure, waiting for the next big phase. And it will come. I will get another definer. Before and between each previous stage there was a period of longing and confusion. Before and between each I would ask, "Is there more?" The answer was always "yes." And the result was always fulfillment. Who am I God? Who am I now at this point in my life? What should I use to define myself?

Please, Please, Please don't answer: Marathon Runner.


Friday, September 24, 2010


Let me begin by saying I have always thought Diversity to be over rated. Not real diversity, but the modern concept of diversity for its own sake. Also, the definition of diversity bugs me. It simply means a room full of people who look different. Or in the model of corporate America, a room with more minority faces than white.

I remember a friend once telling me she had always wished to be part of a dinner club where the couples were made up of one white, one black, one Asian and so on. How strange, I thought. How about a dinner club of couples who all had a passion for food or conversation or drinking wine.

Diversity surely plays an important role in relationship. The relationship at the core of our society, the marital relationship, is based on the inherent diversity of the primary players. Men and women are by physical nature, complimentary. I think most will also tell you the differences go beyond mere physicality. We each bring something to the table. Society's survival depends on the diversity of men and women.

But the heart of all relationship is not diversity. It is unity. What creates friendship, teamwork, marriage is not what makes us different, but what we have in common. We belong to a church community because of our shared beliefs, we belong to a team because of our shared love of a sport or hobby, we commit to a marriage because of shared core values. Our friendships also require that we have something in common, something that unifies us. This can be shared values, geographical proximity, the need to get children to the same place at the same time, books, movies, Bunko, Poker.

The beautiful thing is that when we are looking for commonality, we often end up with diversity. We share a space with our neighbors and find unity in our desire to protect, beautify and socialize in that shared space. In doing so we find different values, faiths, hobbies. We carpool with the families of our children's friends. While establishing this pragmatic relationship, we discover people who know of things we do not: art, fishing, origami.

The liberal left knows what I know. Diversity doesn't have anything to do with skin color. To them, Justice Thomas, Condi Rice, Bill Cosby aren't really black. Why? Because while they say they want diversity, what they really want is unity. A unified ideological perspective. That is all well and good, but don't market your desire as a desire for Diversity.

When will the elites stop trying to force the subject. We common folk don't do it. I don't know many people who pick their friends based on physical realities nor do they exclude for a similar reason. We create communities because of what unites us. Sometimes the demographic may look to be homogenous. My school community is primarily Catholic. Well, that is because it is a Catholic School. My adoption community is made up of mostly racially mixed families. Hm, maybe because we all adopted internationally. In both cases, while we may look similar and we do have things in common, the groups are fantastically diverse because they are each made up of human beings.

This may sound heretical coming from a person with an incredibly diverse family. But I can assure you that diversity has never and will never be a goal of mine. I don't want diversity, I want unity. I want to find in those around me what unites us: What passions, goals, values we share. I want to surround myself with people who love something that I love. That does not mean they have to love everything that I love. My Literature Pals do not have to have a passion for the treadmill. My soccer moms do not have to read Shakespeare in their spare time. My dinner club does not have to read the Psalms on Thursday mornings.

But if we love nothing in common, I don't care what color, nationality, height, weight or gender they may be, I don't see a friendship there. And to try and FORCE one simply will not work. It goes against human nature. We are drawn to those who are most like us. And while the social engineers think we are all shallow enough to think in our deepest DNA this means to those who look like us, they are wrong. We are drawn to those who love what we love. Think back to the marriage bond. We are drawn to those who are physically most UNLIKE us.

And when we share a love of something beyond ourselves with another, we naturally love the other. We love them despite our differences. We love them because their difference adds to the relationship. We have a common goal, a unifying principal, and our diversity serves that goal, enriches our lives, shows us something we could not discover on our own.

So to the elites, the corporate watchdogs, the social engineers: Can we quit seeking diversity for its own sake and instead seek to find things to love, things to unite, things to enrich. In the unity we can't help but find diversity. True diversity, not fabricated or physical. The diversity of personality and of a unique soul unlike any other: The diversity that is worth of our love because it has nothing to do with the book cover, but the deep and rich story that is on the inside.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Images are a recurring topic of conversation in my life. In various debates, my husband has emphasized the strength of our childhood memories. His inparticularly are the images he has of marriage from his own parents. My mother has images of her own mother sitting on the porch, the couch, the bed saying her rubber banded book of daily prayers. But she also recalls an image vivid in her mind of coming out of her room in the early hours of a morning to find her father, not particularly religious, on his knees in the bathroom in prayer. "I don't know if he had ever done it before or if he did it every day. I was not usually up at that time. But it something I will never forget."

Smells, sounds, a song, seasons in the year bring to our mind an image. Sometimes they are wonderful like the smell of baking cookies that fill our hearts with the warm love of our mother. We can see her in the kitchen in her apron, flour on her nose. Sometimes they are painful, like the dull ache that comes with the Monarch Butterfly each fall with the image of the letter written to a friend, returned because he died before he could read it.

We spoke today in Bible study, while discussing the Psalms, of our responsibility to form our children so they are not like chaff in the wind. I couldn't stop thinking about Images. What my children will remember long after they have to listen to what I say is not what I said. It will be images. What will they see?

What do I see?
I see my father's walk. I see it from the back: long even strides, shoulders slightly stooped. He is deep in thought not noticing the passing crowds.
I see my mother in the kitchen singing to herself.
I see my sister with a book.
My brothers riding bikes.
I see Family Dinners in a sunny room. Ping pong tournaments. Indiana Jones on the big screen.
I see our church, the woven brown and gold material of the pews, my father always on the end.
I see my grandpa's truck, the ashtray filled with coins, the bed filled with fishing gear.
I see my grandmother's drawers, a place for everything and everything in its place.
I see my other grandma's sweet smile.

What images will children have? Mine, yours, the guy over there?
It can give reason to pause, can't it? For it is not reasonable what we remember. It is what it is. My mom saw her dad pray once and only once. She saw her mom pray everyday. She remembers both, one for its rarity the other for its familiarity. I remember going to the movies as a family because it only happened once, but I remember family dinners because they happened every day.

Do I yell more than I smile? Do I nag more than I praise? Am I always in a rush? Will they remember the good things because they were so common or because they weren't? What will they see?

What gives me hope is that while our images do form us, I also think as time passes we form our images. The relationship we have with people determines what we remember most or at all. The kind of people we really think they are effects the kind of images we see. So, while I will surly try and leave my children with beautiful images, perhaps if I try harder to nurture our relationship and to make my own soul beautiful, my children in time will smooth out the edges, crop a few things here and there and see a mom who loved them more than life...with flour on her nose.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Viper's Tangle, a Book Review

I remember being taught an important lesson when reading Catcher in the Rye in high school: a narrator is not necessarily honest. A writer may choose to make his main character a liar. He may try and get his reader to find the truths through the lies. I didn't learn the lesson then, I think I liked Holden Caufield as an adolescent because I too wasn't necessarily honest. Neither of us would have admitted as much to ourselves. We simply could not see the hypocrisy in our own lives. I saw Houldon as he saw himself. Neither of us could see how we did not live up to our ideals or even to the images we had of ourselves. I hated him as an adult. Perhaps because I then saw him, and myself, for what we were in those earlier days: Liars.

Vipers' Tangle by Francois Mauriac also has narrator that can not always be trusted. However, he is not the least bit dishonest about his own flaws. In this confession of Monsieur Louis, an old and dying lawyer at the turn of the century. we find a bitter, yet honest portrayal of how he sees himself. He is greedy, vindictive, proud. He is hated by all and returns the hatred with a feeling of justified revenge. He also has a keen eye for seeing the flaws in others. While he admits that his heart has become a tangle of vipers, he rightly sees in his children and wife a nest of vipers outside of himself as well.

What begins as a letter to his wife explaining how and why he has disinherited his children of millions becomes a confession to himself, a means of therapy for a man who has no friends and no one else with whom to talk. While he is accused by his wife of seeing only evil, and admits freely that he has rarely seen good, he is also honest in recognizing beauty in certain souls: the complete lack of hypocrisy and desire to live a life according to his creed of a young seminarian, the carefree spirit and innocent joy of his orphaned nephew, the sweetness of his youngest daughter.

We learn that he can not always be trusted from the narrator himself. As he reflects on his life he begins to question his own honesty. He begins to wonder if he was only seeing half of the people around him, only half of himself. He realizes he acted like a monster, but that he was not a monster. He begins to try and look and see if the things he hates in those around him might also be superficial, if humans can be more than even they themselves can imagine.

What has been the cause of his wasted and monstrous life was a lack of love. He, for only a few months after he was married, believed himself capable of being loved. He found nothing in himself to love and did not believe anyone could ever love him. The three good people in his life were the only three who saw good in him. Because he believed everyone else expected him to be hateful, he was in fact hateful. He molded himself to the image he believed the world had of him.

With this realization he becomes an honest narrator. He searches desperately for the answer. What was it that he missed? An atheist and ruthless critic of the Church during his life, he begins to wonder if he had judged Christianity by its failed members instead of looking deeper. To his mind comes the image of the humble walk of the young pious seminarian, the faraway look on the face of his beloved nephew as he sat on the steps after church, and most painfully, the death of his youngest daughter who offered her death for him:

"In her delirium that she kept on saying-'For Pappa!-For Pappa!'...Do you remember the sound of her voice when she suddenly cried out, "Please God, I am only a child..." and how she stopped, and went on, "No, I can stand it, I can..."

Who then can love those who do not deserve love? Who then can teach man to love after so many years of hate? Louis desperately wants to answer those questions before he dies. "...A few more months, a few more weeks..."

With a narrator that can not be trusted, not because he is a liar, but because he is a man, Mauriac portrays the story of a soul searching without even knowing it for Divine Grace. If we are honest readers, we can see ourselves honestly in him. At the end of the day, we don't deserve love. All of us are in many ways, unlovable. To deny this fact, as Houldon would say, makes us a phony. We can only be loved if we first know we are loved. Divine Grace is at its heart LOVE. Does he find it? (If you don't like to know the endings of books you want to read, stop here.)

No, he does not find it. It finds hIm.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Little Bit of This and That

I haven't posted in awhile and I feel guilty. So, true to its name here is a post about just this and that:

I love fall. Everything about it: The clothes, the food, the weather, the sports, the holidays, the smells, the leaves. the memories.

I got the exterior of my house repainted and all the wood rot fixed. I even had the deck replaced. It looks wonderful.

I cling to the notion that when you feel farthest from God is when He is closest to you. I wonder if this is true when you are pushing Him away.

I have two free days a week from 8am until 3pm and two free half days. You would think my house would be cleaner.

I do not miss homeschooling, but I miss teaching. Does this mean I will go back to work? NEVER.

I am sick of politics.

I learned today at the doctor's office that Martha Stewart still has a magazine. I used to love that thing.

I love boys. I was one of those rare teachers who loved teaching boys, middle school boys at that. But several times over the last few months I have looked at my daughters and gushed with love just because they are girls. A son a son 'til you get him a home, a daughter a daughter when you're all alone.

Confession is still the thing I love and hate the most. I hate going but I love it after I have gone.

I read The Alchemist. Worth reading.

I am a big fan of water color pencils. I have made a couple little projects involving children's fingerprints and water color pencils. Though not an artist, I liked the results.

I think that when it comes to God, there are few fair weather friends. Most of us show up in earnest during the storm.

When you have kids, you take trips not vacations. Vacation evokes images of rest, relaxation. My family had a vacation this year. How do I know? I liked my kids more at the end of the week than at the beginning. I didn't need a vacation when I got home to recover from the trip we had taken.

I used to be a jack of all trades, master of none. Now I am just a master jack ass. Don't ask me why I wrote that, but I like it.

If you are still reading me, I thank you. I wish I had more of worth to say. Maybe someday I will.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


My math skills are a running joke in my family. I found an old SRA test from third or fourth grade, and I scored in the 7th percentile. I never learned my times tables. I remember trying to memorize them, a few stuck. But I didn't know what I was memorizing. They were just random numbers to me. I took the college prep math courses in high school and I think I may have even managed a B- one semester. That had to be in geometry which made a bit more sense. The Algebra was like Greek.

The first math course I ever liked was Euclidean and Non-Euclidean Geometry my senior year in college. I had a great professor and the benefit of three and a half years of liberal arts education, you bet I waited until the last possible moment to fulfill that requirement. The professor required no prerequisite knowledge but asked us to use logic to figure out the proofs. I had my first glimpse at the Incredibly wonderful world of math.

When my oldest was five, one morning at the breakfast table he asked, "What is three plus three plus three? Is it nine?"' "Why yes" I answered after quickly using my fingers to check. "What is three plus three plus three plus three? Is it twelve?" "yes, why do you ask?" With a shrug he answered, "I don't know, I just think about it when I go to bed at night."

We were doing kindergarten math, but I decided to skip subtraction for awhile and move on to multiplication since he was interested in it. I quickly learned that if I asked him, "What is Three times Two?" He would answer, "Five." But if I asked him, "What is three two TIMES?" "He would answer, "six." Oh, so that is what the times tables are. I am sure I knew this, but to see how the changing of one word made it clear to a five year old made it clear to me. It became clearer when I would watch him double the answer to four times six to get the answer to eight times six.

Having taught math to a math kid for four years, I have learned a lot. Watching how his mind calculates and figures things out has shown me the incredible order of math. No longer just random numbers, I see patterns, lines stretching infinitely in two directions, parts of wholes and wholes made out of parts. He of course hates math. But because of him, I have come to love it.

I have always believed that because the Universe was created by God, everything in the universe could tell us something about Him. From an ant hill to the genetic make up of a human being to the rotations of the planets, we can catch a glimpse of who He is. I have never believed that anything, not even the Incarnated Word, could teach us everything about Him. Though the human mind is amazing beyond anything else in the Universe, it can never fully grasp the Divine in its entirety. I think if it did, it would explode into a million pieces. Perhaps this is why we enter His presence first as pure spirit.

I have just read an incredible article in this month's edition of First Things titled "The God of Mathematicians." In it, David P. Goldman reviews the work of Kurt Godel. Much of it is over my head, I admit. But one thing struck me as incredibly wonderful. "Godel's incompleteness theorems, critique of the continuum hypothesis, and examination of general relativity all have theological implications...He considered mathematical objects to be real and his research therefore to be empirical. He thought his theology thus to be an empirical one, founded on man's experience of the infinite fecundity of the creator's mind."

Godel believed in a personal God. According to Goldman, "Godel's personal God is under no obligation to behave in a predictable orderly fashion...we cannot construct an ontology that makes God dispensable. Secularists can dismiss this as a mere exercise within predefined rules of the game of mathematical logic, but that is sour grapes, for it was the secular side that hoped to substitute logic for God in the first place. Godel's critique of the continuum hypothesis has the same implications as his incompleteness theorems: Mathematics never will create the sort of closed system that sorts reality into neat boxes."

As I worked with my four year old this morning on math, it occurred to me that our's is a ten based system. How ingenious that we also have ten digits. From laying in bed and thinking about threes, to seeing how many different ways we can arrange our fingers, our Good God has given us so much to work with. But in the end, not even math can tell us everything about God. As human beings who can never truly know another human being, how many of us ever even master a decent self-knowledge, can we ever hope to master the Divine?

No, but our God has not left us to be bored. To contemplate the human mind's capacity to search for Him is to me the greatest sign of His existence. We could each spend one hundred life times searching a different part of His Universe and still not find all He has left for us to discover. And sadly, we could spend our one lifetime never looking for Him at all.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Book Review and So Much More

I needed a miracle. My son’s Godfather just received a year to live. For some reason, the news did not devastate me. Immediately, I had a sense of hope. I don’t know from whence it came or why I reacted such. I just had a feeling we could get a miracle.

I began a google search for a potential saint who needed a miracle for canonization. Several times my search came up with nothing current. I kept changing the words I used and hitting enter. Finally, I came upon an article from Catholic News Services dated March 12, 2010. The title was "Chicago Archdiocese begins sainthood process for first black US Priest". My friend had returned home a few weeks earlier to Chicago for his treatment. This looked promising.

I ordered the book of his life, From Slave To Priest by Caroline Hemesath. Following is a summary:

Fr. Augustine Tolton (1854-1879) was the first black American priest. His mother, Martha Jane Chisley, was taken from Kentucky to Missouri as a wedding gift for the youngest daughter of a Catholic Slave owner where she met a fellow Catholic slave of a neighboring farm, Peter Paul Tolton. They were married in Brush Creek, MO at St. Peter’s Church. The couple remained the mutual property of their owners and had three children.

During the Civil War, Peter Paul escaped to St. Louis to join the Union Army. Martha Jane escaped to Illinois a few years later with her three children, Charley, Augustine and Anne. Augustine was only seven years old. The family settled in Quincy where they learned after the end of the war of the death of Peter Paul.

Augustine was raised in Quincy where he began working as a very young child in the tobacco factories to help support his family. His older brother died at the age of ten. His youth was filled with the support of German and Irish clergy who took an interest in his education combined with a bitter resentment and hatred from many of the whites in the Catholic community. The majority of his education was from private tutoring.

At his First Communion at the age of sixteen, he felt a calling to become a priest. Then began his long journey to ordination. Even with the support of the many clergy who had taken him under wing, he was unable to gain acceptance into any American Seminary. His education continued under private tutors as the search for a seminary to accept him continued for eight years.

During this time, Augustine worked in both the Quincy factories and in the church as a custodian and alter server. He continued his education and worked as a lay apostle with his priests to establish a Catholic Mission for the black children. He was a cheerful, faithful and spiritual young man known to many in the community. Though the long wait tried his courage, he persisted in the belief that if God wanted him to be a priest, he would be one.

At the age of twenty five he was accepted into the Congregatio de Propaganda Fide in Rome with the idea that he would be a missionary to Africa. He counted these years as a Seminarian as the happiest in his life. He was ordained in 1886 and sent back to the Diocese of Quincy.

In Quincy, he first was accepted and cherished by both the white and black communities. But as he gained success, he was attacked by both white clergy and black Protestant Ministers. His work suffered and he was unable to see much fruit for his tireless labors on behalf of his people. He requested a transfer and was sent to Chicago to be the Pastor of the first black church there.

In Chicago, he worked to the point of exhaustion for a people who faced poverty, illiteracy, and racism. Through all of his trials, he remained cheerful and faithful. and deeply spiritual. He died of a heat stroke at the age of forty-three.

I have recently adopted an Ethiopian little boy just a bit younger than Fr. Tolton was when his mother stole across the Mississippi River to freedom. The desire for an African American Priest as a saintly role model is more important to me than it would have been just a few months ago.

Everything was just too uncanny: My need for a miracle, the Chicago connection, the black connection. It bothered me, no that isn’t right, it motivated me. I desperately want my miracle. I pray daily for Fr. Tolton’s intercession on behalf of my dear friend. But there was more. I wanted to help Fr. Tolton’s cause. I wanted to increase the devotion to this potential saint who our country could so desperately use; who I could use in my family as an example of holiness, dedication and charity. Thomas Jefferson once said, “In regard to the institution of slavery, indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just.” But God is also merciful, and He may be giving our country a heavenly advocate in the person of Augustine Tolton.

I have felt a friendship with many a saint. I hope for this kind of friendship for all my children. When I was a high school theology teacher, I had my Juniors do a saint report to prepare them for Confirmation. I told them that their sponsor was their representative on Earth, their Saint their advocate in heaven. I told them not to pick a name they liked, but to look deeper, to find a saint who held their strengths or overcame their weaknesses. I encouraged them to find a Saint to whom they felt a connection.

Why we connect with certain people and not others is hard to say. I know I have an affinity for the Irish and the Polish Saints because of my heritage. I love Joan of Arc because of her femininity (Read Twain’s Joan of Ark) and to St. Joseph because of his deep love of Mary.

My African son does not need Saints that share his skin color. I don’t need Irish and Polish saints either. But it is sure nice to have somewhat tangible things in common with those holy men and women who have gone before us. It just helps to make that connection that we all need with the Heavenly members of Christ’s Mystical Body.

I write this today because I have made a connection with Fr. Tolton. If it is God’s will, I want to do everything in my power to further his cause for Sainthood. I also want my miracle. I know they are not necessarily one in the same. I know my friend’s illness led me to Fr. Tolton. If his cure is not in God’s plan, then I will pray for another divine acknowledgement of Fr. Tolton’s sanctity. And I will ask Fr. Tolton for a different favor. I will ask that he beseech heaven for all the spiritual graces available to shower upon my friend for the remainder of his precious life on earth and that he be there to welcome his fellow Chicagoan into the light.

Fr. Tolton Prayer cards can be requested from Bishop Perry’s office at, From Slave to Priest is available at

Monday, June 14, 2010

To be loved...

I had great teachers in my life. When I became a teacher I had to make a choice. Well, actually, i didn't have a choice, I just had to come to terms. I realized that there were two kinds of great teachers: the ones you loved and the ones you respected. Think back. How many of you can name a teacher that you hated at the time, but what you gained from them you wouldn't trade for anything? They had discipline and knowledge. There was no messing around on their watch. They had something to teach and you were going to learn. Think back. How many of you can name a teacher you loved? Teachers who you would stay up late for to do an assignment. Teachers who you wouldn't think of messing around on their watch because you wanted them to like you as much as you liked them. They had something they loved to teach that you wanted to love too, and so you learned.

I had to make my students love me. I didn't have a choice. I tried yelling, dirty looks, never smiling for the first three months, all the things you think will inspire good behavior and respect. Nope. Not for me. I remember when I made the choice. I quit acting like the teacher who had the period before me. It was in school suspension. She would sit at her desk and yell. The kids would immediately snap into shape. I tried it for a few weeks. I didn't like it and it wasn't working. I changed tactics. I started moving around the room and sitting with each kid for awhile to see what they were working on, ask them what was up and help them with something. I got to know them and could make assignments suited to their tastes when they ran out of work.

I will never forget one boy. He needed help with math. Okay, not my strong point. He was doing percentages and I kept drawing pictures and coloring things in. He told me I was a really good teacher. I didn't have the heart to tell him I couldn't figure it out without the pictures.

Two weeks later I walked in for my shift. The teacher before me was trying to physically drag this boy back into the classroom. I asked what was up and she said, "The principal is on her way, he is out of here." I went and put my stuff at the desk and then walked back to the doorway that he was clinging to. I looked him in the eye and said, "go sit at my desk." He immediately released his grip on the door and walked back to my desk. I followed and pulled out his folder. I found a Social Studies Test that had a grade of 7%. I asked him what it was? He just shrugged. I told him to get out his social studies book and write in all the correct answers. He said, "But I won't get any credit for that." I said, "I don't care, you should have done it right the first time." He said, "okay."

I met the principal at the door and said everything was fine. She left. He spent the entire period correcting his test without a peep. I will never forget him. I have no idea what happened to him. But he taught me a great lesson. Something about kids. Something about myself.

My oldest son has become a Tween overnight. I realize I am in the same position again. I need to be obeyed. It is my job to teach some lessons. Discipline is a must. But you know what, it is the same story again. What is it they say about the insane that try the same thing over and over hoping for a different result.

I do not inspire fear. I have learned I don't have the muscle to back up my threats anyway. I am not the only one who learned that lesson. I must be loved. They must think of me and say, "I want to love what she loves. I want her to love me as much as I love her." And so I get out from behind the desk and move around and spend some time finding out what they need and what they are working on and help where I can. Every day. Every day for the next ten years, so that if the time comes and they are stuck between a rock and a hard place and I say, "Come sit by me." They will drop their fighting stance and come.

It is not the only way. But like it or not, I think it is my way. So it may sound easy. I am not so sure. How does one accomplish to be loved? Ask me in twenty or twenty five years. Maybe I will have the answer.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Core Principles vs. Narrow Minds

I think it is true, that if you want to know about the clock, it is best to study one well made clock thoroughly before moving on. Looking quickly at five million clocks will not teach you as much as the knowledge you could gain from studying that one time piece until you know exactly how it works, how it was made, how it breaks and how to fix it again.

Such is the theory behind the study of Western Tradition. The Liberal Education seeks to school its student in the foundation of Western Society. While I make no claim to being a scholar, I will say that the education I received helped to form core principles by which I seek to live. All situations I encounter are played by bouncing them off my sounding board to hear the pitch. Does it ring true or false?

No man alive today can know everything about everything. It is simply not possible with the amount of information to which we have access. The best we can hope for is to know enough about our core beliefs in order to make an informed judgement about the world in which we live. The truth is hard to find amidst the constant barrage of propaganda thrown at us from all sides. We must be able to look at the facts given in light of our core principles and make a judgement.

The process of doing this has been labeled narrow minded. I disagree. To ask if a law is just, a program necessary, or a public figure honest and to make a judgement based on our own core belief in the definition of justice, necessity and honesty, is not narrow mindedness. To stand on a solid definition of terms and a secure foundation of beliefs does not make one unintelligent, lazy or narrow minded.

It is simply judging a new clock by the standards of the old one we have taken the time to master. Is the new clock better or worse? One clock at a time. If the new does not meet the standards of the old, we certainly are not required to make it the new standard by which to judge. We don't have to compare every new clock to ALL the clocks in the world. It is perfectly sound to simply compare it to the one clock we know and make a judgement.

I will stick to the narrow, yet deep path rather than take my chances on the wide and shallow. I may scrape the sides, but at least I won't bottom out.

Response to the Response Going 'Round

I have no business background. I am the stay at home mom of five children. I eat bon bons all day and listen to Conservative Talk Radio. I would watch Fox news, but we don't choose to have cable. I think I read a book once in college, but I can't remember what it was, unless you count Diary of a Wimpy Kid, I read that five times. I am probably a racist at heart, except that one of my children is Asian and one is African. That causes a bit of a problem for me. I could figure out what to do about the contradiction, but I never actually think about anything. I would carry a sign with some bit of propaganda on it, but I can never find anything other than a purple crayon in my house.

In truth, I am pretty sure I have no marketable qualities what so ever. Yet, I have a stake in the future of this country. Those five little souls in my care force me to do so. I would like to think I have spent some time in forming my intelligence and character. The author of the response would probably prefer to believe me to be the bon bon eating, racist robot. Oh well.

Lou Pritchett, you scare me.
In many ways, you are probably no different from many other retired executives, but unlike the others, you scare me.
You scare me because you seek to leverage the credibility you achieved in the business world in order to justify your self appointed role as political commentator, despite the fact that you have not demonstrated that you possess the knowledge or the judgment to serve in that role.
As the main problem with the Obama agenda from the Tea Party Movement, be it cap and trade, health care, stimulus, or the take over of banks and car companies is economic, it seems that someone who has lived in the midst of the capitalistic system of America for so many years may have a stake and a credibility others may not. It is also his Constitutional right to express these views. Even Kyle in the basement can express an opinion in this country. However, if he begins to be listened to, he better watch his back.
You scare me because you do not have enough intellectual curiosity to look beyond the propaganda and lies coming from the right and actually take the time to pursue the readily available facts about our President before engaging in a misinformation campaign of your own. I see no facts in your own “intelligent” response.
You scare me because you have chosen to serve as a conduit for some of the most scurrilous lies and misrepresentations about the President, either out of ignorance or out of malice. Again, do you have proof or just left wing talking points as your own “intelligent” response?
You scare me because you challenge the right of all Americans who have spent part of their upbringing on foreign soil to call themselves Americans, including the sons and daughters of our service men and women, as well as the children of those in the our diplomatic corps. As you challenge the right of those who make their living in the business sector and the new media to speak as anything other than greedy hate mongers.
You scare me because you fail to appreciate the wisdom and judgment of everyday Americans, hiding behind the misguided assumption that good judgment and common sense can only come from “running a company and meeting a payroll”. Like the common Americans who are the vast majority of the Tea Party Movement?
You scare me because you dutifully repeat right wing talking points in your pronouncements, apparently willing to sacrifice your ability to think critically for the expediency of advancing a message already prepared by others whose primary purpose is not to inform, but to inflame. To agree with someone requires thinking. I find it a personal insult that because I agree with any or all that Rush Limbaugh may say means I have done no critical thinking. If I disagree with the slow and steady chipping away of the Judaeo Christian values, capitalistic private sector based economy and strong military presence in this country and abroad. This is not because I have read a sign or listened to the radio, but because I am a Conservative. The signs and the talking points reflect my world view, my world view did not come from them.
You scare me because you attempt to assign undeserved credibility to media figures who have achieved great wealth and notoriety, not because they are knowledgeable or enlightened, but because they are loud and opinionated and they have learned that commercial success comes from pandering to an audience that prefers to hear only one side of an argument, even when that side is based on lies. Have you ever listened to the commentators you despise? Case in Point: Harriet Miers. The commercial success of said commentators comes from the simple fact that they say things many other Americans agree with. Limbaugh speaks always and consistently from a Conservative perspective. This is not pandering. He makes no claim to running a debate show. Those who listen know which side of the argument he is going to make. He does not hide this fact from anyone. We do not listen to him to discover what we think. He has made his money by saying things we already believe. Successful Comedians do not make it by telling us what jokes we should find funny, but by creating material that reflects what people will find funny. Must we listen to jokes we don’t find funny to know what we do find funny? Must we listen to arguments based on communist, socialist and atheist core principals to know whether or not we still believe in the Conservative Christian way of thinking. We do not. Yet most of us are more informed than you may think.
You scare me because you are not able to distinguish between an honorable diplomatic policy that is based on diplomacy, humility and mutual respect, and an imagined policy that is based on whatever it takes to inflame the passions on the right. Or perhaps we look at History and see that it has never worked to try and appease those who hope to destroy the Jewish Nation.
You scare me because you are so completely divorced from the reality of policy proposals of the President, preferring to wrap yourself in the comfortable cocoon of lies and misrepresentations generated by the right wing echo chamber. Hu?
You scare me because you are so out of touch with everyday Americans that you cannot recognize that our current health care system is a recipe for disaster, and that any perceived need to involve government in health care is a direct result of the catastrophic failure of an inefficient, incompetent and corrupt health care industry that has proven itself unwilling or unable to regulate itself or to adequately provide for its customers. Mr. Well informed free thinker, have you seen the Conservative Proposals for health care reform that don’t have a price tag of a gazillion dollars?
You scare me because when you step forward as a willing participant in the organized misinformation campaign directed toward our president, you stand side by side in an unholy alliance with some the most extreme elements in our society: the white supremacists, the holocaust deniers, the domestic terrorists like Scott Roeder and Jim David Adkisson, and others whose stated goal is to bring about a change in society by whatever means they deem necessary, including the violent overthrow of the government. This bit of intelligence, free from malice and without the goal to inflame is above reproach. Give me a break. Last time I checked, the Tea Party was a non-violent protest movement: More like Dr. King than anyone else you mention.
And finally, you scare me because you represent a frighteningly large demographic of seemingly intelligent adults who have locked themselves off from open discussion and independent thought, choosing instead to filter out all information that does not reinforce deeply held prejudices and right wing talking points. Mr. Pritchett, there may have been a time when your opinions could have been taken seriously, but not anymore. In your letter I recognize the characteristics of yet another American who has sacrificed his ability to generate an independent thought so that he can worship at the altar of Clear Channel and Newscorp. I find that quite sad, because the ease with which seemingly intelligent Americans can be so thoroughly indoctrinated through controlled exposure to propaganda on radio and television is the most frightening thing of all.  We disagree with you. Period. You can attack our ability to think for ourselves until the cows come home. But you are wrong. Most of us worship God, I am sure you find that sad as well. We also believe and are schooled in the Liberal Arts and find our roots in Western Tradition. We find the Obama Agenda to be an attack on what we hold dear: Liberty, Democracy, Religion, Freedom of Speech, and the Spirit of Innovation fostered by the Capitalistic System.

To believe that the freedoms and rights and way of life we have come to have in America are guaranteed to last forever is a mistake. Study History. The American Experience is the exception, not the rule. Ours is a different foundation, but all foundations can crumble or be destroyed. Many of us feel that much of the current president’s agenda seeks to destroy that foundation. We find that scary, for when it falls, who knows what may emerge from the dust.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

To Thine Own Self Be True...NOT

My Father in Law bought us a subscription to a magazine called Touchstone. I like the magazine, but don't love it. Until today. There was an article that explained one of my greatest pet peeves. It is that Shakespeare's line "To thine own self be true" is by no means a series of words to live by. The article explains what has always been my complaint, that the Bard is not saying all of his famous lines. That Shakespeare, in fact, had his characters saying the lines. This particular line is said by a buffoon at the end of a string of ridiculous cliches meaning nothing. He is an opportunistic fool by the name of Polonius. He is by no means someone whose advice should be viewed as doctrine.

So check out the article in a few weeks at the archive of It isn't one of the featured articles you can read on line yet.

And PLEASE, unless you are perfect, find something higher than yourself to which to be true. :)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Fair Folk

I saw some pictures of signs from a radical Islamic rally in Europe and was going to write about my reaction. But I realized that my writing has tended toward the negative and wanted to write with inspiration from a different muse. So, today I will write about faeries.

Let me start by saying that yes, I believe in faeries. If you don't, I am sorry for you. And just so you don't think I am the only adult in the world who does, my best friend from college had the habit of always leaving a french fry from our fast food outings for the fairer folk. So, there are at least two of us nut jobs out there. I wish I would have left more than one fry. It could have cut down on the weight I had to lose post college.

My favorite portrayal of faeries is from The Complete Book of the Flower Fairies by Cicely Mary Barker. They are the most innocent and beautiful creatures in the world. The problem is, they are almost too sweet. Anyone who knows anything about faeries knows they can be quite vicious if they choose to be. According to j.M. Barry, they mean no harm. They are just so small, they only have enough room for one emotion at a time.

Tinker Bell is probably the most famous named fairy. I would guess the Tooth Fairy is the most famous of all, but we don't know what she calls herself or if this is a title of a group of faeries or one lone little gal. Little has been written about the Tooth Fairy (or faeries). I know of notes left behind that tell what she looks like and what she does with all those teeth. But they have never been authenticated or compiled as far as I know.

According to Mark Twain, Joan of Ark also believed in faeries, so Kathleen and I are at least in good company. At a very young age, while she was in the midst of a fever, the local village faeries were caught by a snooping old woman dancing around their tree. A hundred or so years before, the priest had banned the faeries from ever showing themselves. The priest in Joan's day was forced to ban them forever from the tree. When Joan regained her senses and discovered what awful fate had been cast upon the faeries, she immediately went to the priest. She complained to him that it was not their fault they were come upon just as it would not be his fault if someone came upon him in the bath. The priest was overcome with remorse and asked Joan how he could atone. He suggested Sack Cloth and ashes. She agreed that would be fine if he thought it fit the crime, until he bent down to the fire place to put the ashes on his head. She had no idea what the penance meant and was aghast that the priest should have to endure it. She quickly scooped up the ash and dumped it on her own head and asked if that would suffice. He assured her it most certainly would from behind a hidden smile.

Disney has made a new group of faeries popular. They are the Never Land Faeries. These are the stories of Mother Dove and all of the friends of Tinker Bell. I like the Never Land Faeries, but like the Smurfs before them, they are a little too communistic for my taste. Every fairy has a talent (Tink is a pots and pans fixing fairy, thus her name). Others are baking talent, water talent, animal talent, etc. They make for good stories, but I find it to be a bit too orderly for such free spirited creatures.

If you were wondering, faeries are born, by the most believable accounts, from the pure first laugh of a child. There are male faeries, called sparrow men. Faeries can speak to children in dreams. It is unclear if unbelief causes them harm, but as a sighting of an actual fairy has not occurred in a very long while, I would say it is likely. They seem to be more common in the regions of England and Ireland. Perhaps they like rain.

If you were hoping for a "how to" to attract faeries to your own garden, this post will not be helpful. We have made fairy gardens in our own yard and you can find suggestions on the internet of what to include to appeal to them. I frankly think it is more a matter of luck. I think the best way to get a fairy near your home seems to be the tried and true way of losing a tooth or of having a home filled with the pure laughter of a child. I can't help but think they are attracted to the likeness of their origin.

You can also do research on how to know if you have a fairy near by. Just google it. If you find no signs of fairy activity, perhaps you killed them all off one day last summer when you thought to yourself in a moment of weakness, "I don't believe in faeries."

Faeries are magical, of that I am sure. They are not purely good and they certainly are not pure evil. They can be wonderfully, marvelously good and they can be spiteful as hell. A lot like humans if you ask me. So, you don't believe in faeries. Maybe you don't believe in humanity either. And maybe, just maybe, that is why I still do.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Stress is a funny thing. I suppose in the natural, evolutionary, biological, whatever scheme of things it is part of our instinctual mechanism for self preservation: Part of the process leading to fight or flight. But as we are not likely to run into a bear around the corner, I wonder why it is such a very common and overwhelmingly large part of the life of modern man.

What is it that we are preparing to fight or flee? What is it that makes us think we are in danger so much of the time?

I think of the major causes of stress in the lives of those I know. Work is a biggie. I guess this makes sense as our jobs are our bread and butter. Seeing our livelihoods as something to preserve makes sense, but prior to the current economic climate, the stress did not seem to be related to losing one's job but fulfilling it. Was it the desire for preservation of status, respect, power? Is it that we so define ourselves by our work, we fear losing our very selves without it? And so we live in a constant state of stress ready to fight those over whom we have power and flee from those who hold power over us?

Kids are another major source of stress. I think this is in part due to the parent child bond which pushes our self preservation out to include our off spring. We are willing to fight for them or flee with them if we feel they are in danger of any kind. Not just the hungry bear for the modern man, but the demons watching and waiting to steal their innocence are in our sights. The dangers change from a peanut or lego left lying on the ground to a car backing out of a drive or a weak tree branch to the evil lurking yet unseen on the TV and internet or parked in a beat up old truck around the corner. It includes those we know or don't know, those they may like or love. It includes protecting them from their very selves.

I have also seen much stress in the married lives of those around me: Competing interests, jealousies, lack of respect for the contributions of one or the other to the partnership. It can be rooted in deep seeded animosities or simply due to the overwhelming nature of busy, hectic lives. It can result in hostile confrontation or the slow drifting away of a recognized need for the other for one's fulfillment. We are in a constant preparation to fight or flee from he who is central to our own preservation. We are not stressed to fight the enemy, but the friend.

I think that while many of these seem to be a conflict with an outside force or person, modern man's stress is really, in most circumstances, rooted in one singular fear. One thing we are willing to fight or flee to avoid at all cost. It is the desire not to protect our power, livelihood or even those we love. It comes as a shield to protect us from being hurt. And the hurt is not the bleeding wounds of a physical mauling, but the internal wounds of a bruised, broken or shattered heart.

With all of our modern conveniences, our worries would seem simply ludicrous to those who had to fight to stay alive. And too, we fear not just big pain, but little pain. We hope to protect ourselves not just from large scale humiliation, crushing grief and overwhelming evil, but inconvenience, irritation, and interruption.

Our natural instinct for self preservation from the elements and enemies has changed with our cushy pillow life to include an instinct to protect ourselves from dealing with any of life's unpleasantness. We are stressed about putting laundry in a machine, sending a 2 second e-mail, getting the kids' homework finished. We are stressed about putting dinner in the microwave or picking it up from a window, whether our meeting will end soon enough to allow for a round of golf, or how to get two kids to two different places at the same time. We are stressed about having our favorite program interrupted, not having time to get our coffee or being stopped at the water cooler for petty conversation.

I am now, not making accusations, but self reflecting. My stress is really selfishness. My stress is my desire to protect my time, my will, my interests from those around me. It comes from being diverted from what I want to do (important or not) by the needs of another human being: The car in front of me, the infuriating bickering of my children, my husband's travel schedule.

I do not mean to suggest that stress is not real. Ask my body, it will tell you. I do not believe that all our stress revolves around petty things. To desire to protect your heart from being broken or to avoid mass chaos which threatens to engulf your whole world is not a trite endeavour. But the fact remains that love requires pain and sacrifice. If we are to reach our human potential, we must learn to love others more than ourselves. We must be willing to accept pain and suffering. Unfortunately, this means in the biggies and the smalls. We must be willing to suffer heart break and irritation.

Okay great, but how? I keep asking myself this as my stress grows daily to become something too large for my small frame to bear. I could take drugs and function more efficiently, I guess. But it would still be there, silently crushing me, I just wouldn't know it as much.

I didn't know the answer when I started writing, I rarely do. But as I write, I just keep seeing Christ stretched out on His cross. How do I love? How do I love? Where is the Peace? Where is the peace? Is it in our human abilities that were transformed by the Passion and Death of our Savior? Did He change all the rules? Well, not change, but fulfill. Is he saying, "STOP! Do not fight or flee, surrender? Surrender to the daily irritations. Surrender to the daily worries. Surrender the fear of lack of respect, crushing grief, or humiliation."

But to whom, Lord? Where do I wave the white flag? Do I become a doormat, depressed, abused? Do I surrender to those who hold power over me, ignore me, irritate me? Do I surrender to the evil lurking in the darkness waiting to strike?

And then I see myself waving the white flag. Defeated. I can not fight anymore. There is no where left to flee. And the flag swirls from the stick to which it is attached and wraps itself around me as a sparkling garment, and I am raised above the battlefield in a circle of pure light.

"You surrender to me, my child. I am not defeat, I am victory. I make all things new. I turned death into life. Do you not think I can take stress and make it peace? Have more faith in Me."

And so my energy diverts. I will not work on managing, avoiding, anesthetizing the stress, the pain. I will work on having faith. I will not work on pulling myself up and out, but on believing I can be pulled up and out.

Lord, today I ask only one thing, help my unbelief.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

I'm Bored!

I am in the process of making the "I'm Bored Box." I would like to take credit for the idea, but it was my husband's.

I am writing things on little cards to put in a box to have my children pick when I get the daily "I'm Bored" whine.

Write a letter.
Read a book.
Vacuum the stairs.
Clean the first floor toilet.
Make a card.
Do a Math Page.
Clean the blinds.
Mop the hard woods.
Play the piano for fifteen minutes.
Make a list of ten things you are grateful for.
Say a Decade of the Rosary.
Do fifty push ups.
Sort socks.
Clean muddy shoes.
You get a Second Chance...This time.

If you have any ideas to add to the mix, I would love to hear them.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Meaning of Life

At a team building conference, my husband picked out of a hat the question: What is the best advice you have ever been given. With out hesitation he answered: At the age of eleven or so my father told me, the most important decision you will ever make in your life is the choice of your bride.

The answer seemed to have made an impact on at least a few people. One woman asked during the conference if he really meant it as if it seemed a bit of silly advice in the world of a corporate litigator. Another remembered it and told it as a character statement months later when introducing my husband to a client.

My husband was astonished by the first response. He mused, that even if you had made a bad choice, the enormity of that choice should be fairly clear in your level of happiness.

I don't remember ever being given similar advice. I knew inherently that the choice of my husband would be momentous. As a teenager, it helped to keep me chaste. I had very romantic notions about marriage and a high level of self esteem (even if unwarranted). I did not think anyone was worthy of my gift of self. A bit egotistical, I admit, but even at that young age, I somehow knew it was a total gift of self worth saving.

As a high school teacher at an all girls' school, I was asked to give a talk on chastity. As I thought about what I would say, I realized how much chastity had formed my own character. I recalled my first year in college when my high school boyfriend would drive eight hundred miles to visit me. He joked that his friends thought he was nuts for driving all that way "to get nothing in return." We both loved being together and enjoyed the times when he would visit. Neither of us felt that some sort of payment was required on either side.

It made me think about the girlfriends of his friends. When they were taken to a movie or out to dinner did they get a message from these boys that payment was due? Did they think the gift of spending time together with someone you enjoyed required physical payment? My physical relationships that distinguished a friend from a date were representations of how I felt differently about that person in my life in comparison to others. It had never crossed my mind to feel I owed anyone anything (probably my egotism again.) But in part, I think it was the message I got from the boys I dated. They seemed honored to be with me, and I in turn felt secure being with them.

Not sure if it was the chicken or the egg. Did they feel my self confidence and respond or did I feel their chivalry and respond? Or was it that my dad was incredibly imposing and no one wanted to cross paths with him for fear he would send them to jail with one look? Who knows? I just know that my virginity and self esteem, my confidence and relationships were all intertwined in some dramatic way and played an enormous part in creating the person I would be.

Similarly, I have found my husband's choice of his bride (and my acceptance of his offer of love) to be the single most important factor to my happiness. I was told that marriage is work, and of course I understand what this means, but really, I feel daily that to NOT be married to this man would require far more work.

And it is not just in those things "Marriagey". My confidence and self esteem that in the past hinged on previous relationships is now completely centered in him. I am who I am because of him and without him, I would not be the same person. It is love that allows me to be a mother and a friend. Even relationships I had before, like that of a sister and daughter, are impacted by his love for me. He is the glue that holds me together whether he is present or not.

I have contemplated sex, marriage and love many times over the years. I knew as a young girl, young wife, young mother and happily married middle aged (ooh ugh) woman that sex was more than sex and that marriage was more than marriage and have always believed the meaning of life was found in our ability to love God and others. However, I have just read the most amazing book that explains all this. It is Theology of the Body for Beginners by Christopher West.

West has taken the late John Paul II's momentous work and made it accessible to the layman. I implore you to read it. The radically new and different approach of Pope John Paul II to the mystery and meaning of the human body and the meaning of life is too beautiful for words.

We all know how the Sexual Revolution of the 1960's has impacted nearly every aspect of modern culture. We all know the enormous power that sex can have in our own lives. But do we know why?

Theology of the Body is not a work to rehabilitate bad marriage or define the good. It is not a how to for those in the dating scene or for those who have chosen a celibate life. It is a book for every human, in any vocation, at any stage of life. It is a book about what it means to be a human being with a body and a soul. It is about the mystery of love and the meaning of life.

Thank you God for the mind and heart of our late great Pope. Thank you Christopher West for making this accesible to everyone. May your life be transformed by this 'Basic Introduction to John Paul II's Sexual Revolution.'

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Empty Tomb

Holy Week for Christians celebrates the most important events in our faith.

The Tridiuum begins on Holy Thursday with the celebration of the Lord's supper. For Catholics this is where Christ instituted the Eucharist and the priesthood. The celebratory mass includes the ritual of the washing of the feet which symbolizes the Christians' duty to serve his fellow man in imitation of Christ. At the end of mass, the Eucharist is taken out of the main sanctuary of the church and placed in a side chapel. The Tabernacle will remained open and empty throughout Good Friday.

Good Friday is when we remember the suffering and death of our Lord. No mass is celebrated on this day. Holy Communion consecrated on Holy Thursday is distributed. The Stations of the Cross and the adoration of the Crucifix are part of the Good Friday worship. St. John's Gospel shows the Christ of the Passion as a Christ in complete control, even to the point that His human nature may say, "It is finished." And with that He gives up His spirit. For us, we may learn that no matter what we may encounter in our lives, we always have our Free Will. We may not choose our Cross always, but we may choose what we do with it.

Easter is celebrated either at a Vigil mass on Saturday after nightfall or Sunday morning. Here we celebrate the empty tomb: The resurrection of our Lord and our chance at life everlasting with God.

The empty tomb has always fascinated me. The descriptions in the Gospels are detailed and create a mental image of exactly what should have happened. The tomb was not in shambles or completely empty as if Christ's body had been stolen. The garments were folded and the head napkin was rolled off to one side. I heard once that in Jewish Tradition, if a guest left the table, he would roll his napkin as a sign to the servants that he was going to return. I love that.

The Resurrection is both concrete and elusive. The facts of the empty tomb are recorded as a journalist would record events. Yet when Christ appears after He has risen, he is often not recognized at first by those who knew him well. He does not appear to everyone, though he appears to many.

Christ still remains concrete and elusive. God will not force Himself on us, we must choose Him. In order to freely choose, He can not make Himself known to us in His full glory. We couldn't help but choose such splendor. So He whispers to us, speaks to us through others, nudges us, comforts us. For those willing to see, He is also concrete in the ordered world He has created.

May the Empty Tomb speak to you this Easter. May you see in it the sign of a loving God who was willing to take on our nature, to suffer and die. Yet a powerful God who could conquered death to return again to our table.

A blessed Holy Week and Happy Easter to all.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Give 'em a Break

We have adopted before from China but brought home a 10 month old. We have never had any issues whatsoever with her. The neatest part about the whole process was how unconditionally my three bio kids accepted her into their band of brothers.

I expected the same reaction from my children, who were so excited about the rospect of their new six year old brother. However, the transition was not anything close to seamless this time. In the midst of our first three weeks home, the worst three weeks of my entire life I think, my children not only did not make things easier. They seemed at every opportunity to make things worse.

I was so tired and frustrated and overwhelmed, I saw their behavior as only a means to annoy me or to annoy their new sibling or to annoy one another. After some serious soul searching, I realized that I had been so focused on myself, that I had not seen their behavior for what it really was: cries from those I love most telling me to stop looking at myself and look at them.

After homeschooling for five years, I had decided to put them all in school a few weeks after we returned from Ethiopia. The changes (and chaos) in their life that arrived with their new sibling along with all the nervous uncertainty of a whole new school adventure was taking its toll on them. They were not trying to be bad, but they were trying to get me to see their needs.

I was so self consumed, I was expecting way too much from my kids.

The realization made things so much better. I stopped getting frustrated at the behavior and instead tried to tune into what they needed from me: the reason for the behavior.

I had posted on my adoption blog earlier on a discussion about pets not to assume a pet will react in the way you think they will to a new child. Yet, I was not smart enough to realize the same thing may hold true for a child. Especially in the case of an older child who has a personality, strengths and weaknesses. How kids have reacted to a baby or new child in the past may not necessarily be how they react the next time around.

And that is okay. They don't know one another. They are tied by an unseen bond whether they know it or not, and one day they will know it. But for awhile, I needed to give em a break. Not expect too much from them.

After I realized what I had been doing, I went to confession. I took my eight year old along, as he had been unusually unkind to his siblings. When I exited the confessional I was crying. He asked why. I said, "Because I was so selfish, I did not see that you guys needed me. I expected way too much out of you and I feel just awful."

In the car on the way home he said, "Mom, God doesn't just forgive you... I do too and I know the other kids will too."

You can't be forgiven until you know what you have done wrong. It took me nearly three weeks to figure it out. Thank you God for showing me what I was doing wrong.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


I am a very independent person. I am not likely to ask for help. I can think back through my life to some instances where I needed help, and though I didn't ask for it, it came:

When I was in college and in a terrible room mate situation, my younger brother wrote me from home: "You can deal with this, I know you can. For you, I have quit biting my nails. I can now pick up pennies and pop zits. If I can quit biting my nails, you can do this."

When my best friend from high school died in a swimming accident in Mexico, a college friend came over to my apartment. She put my two Adirondack chairs side by side on my deck, handed me a beer and a cigarette and said, "Tell me the whole story, start with when you first met."

Four days after my first son was born, after four sleepless nights, my aunt took me up to my room on Christmas Eve and said, "Let me show you how to breast feed."

A few months before my first son was born, we moved into our first house. I was working and had volunteered to give a speech for a Confirmation Class one night. I was uncomfortable and tired in general. When I came home from the speech, my husband and my sister had unpacked and arranged my whole house.

My most recent example has come in the form of a school community. As I have posted, I have started my kids in the Catholic School down the street. The first day went well, but the second, not so much. When I told the office my newest son was refusing to get out of the car, they introduced me to the behavioral specialist. She explained to me what they needed to do, how they would do it, and assured me it would take time, but it would work.

The principal sat down with me to discuss a plan to try and help make the transition as easy as possible.

The school custodian and office administrator helped implement the first step of the plan: getting him out of the car.

The kindergarten teacher was fabulous.

A little girl in his class stepped in at recess to make him feel at ease.

As I write, I can not help but cry knowing I am not alone. That in my life, whether I asked or not, people have stepped in to help. And of course, there have been so many other examples that I did not share. Some are so built into the fabric or our relationship, like my husband and my mother, that they are like the very air I breathe.

I can not thank everyone in my life who has helped me. But my heart is so filled with gratitude, I think it may burst. I pray that I may never miss an opportunity to help others.

May God bless you for helping one of your fellow human beings today.

Monday, March 15, 2010


It has been awhile since I have had time to think, let alone write. My life has been a crazy whirlwind: some good some bad. The biggest change is that I have enrolled my children in Catholic School after homeschooling for five years. We are all very excited about the new opportunities a Catholic School Culture will provide.

There are darling plaid uniforms, school masses, a lunch room. There will be new friends, fun teachers and recess.

I have loved homeschooling. I have posted before about the strange reason I chose to do so in the first place. I have always felt that being around my children all the time was the best way for us to build our relationship. I think that was true. But things change.

My oldest is ten and I have felt for awhile we are nearing the time when I really need to start cultivating what will be our teen and adult relationship. For me, this must be a relationship based on conversation.

Being around my children all the time can often leave little to talk about. We discuss books or movies, spelling and history, but what happens in his life happens while I am there for the most part.

I think one of the greatest gifts being in school will give us is fodder for conversation; opportunities for him to come to me, not because I will find out or already know, but because he wants to tell me.

I wouldn't trade my years of homeschooling for anything. One of the greatest gifts has been the level of innocence my children have maintained. In many ways, this is always determined by the oldest. However long he believes in magic will determine the length of those who follow.

My mom insisted that I tell him about the Easter Bunny before he started school. I did so. He told me already knew. When he broke the news of our conversation to his grandma she replied, "Oh, really." He then went on to explain that he hadn't yet figured out about Santa. I guess he knows inherently he won't get the answer from me on that one. He knows I still believe in Santa. I told him parents do give toys when children no longer believe because once a house has a child who does not believe, Santa no longer comes.

Being a first child, he is all about coming up with solutions. While my second was upset for years at a brochure with a child with a clef palette, my oldest met one in the flesh in China. Unfazed, he asked the parents what was wrong and how they intended to fix it. The solution he came up with for Santa at age ten is the following:

I figure I will wait until I have kids, give them presents from the parents and see if on Christmas morning they get anything else.

Change is good. Childhood is priceless.