Monday, January 31, 2011

How do you answer that?

I was filling out a form which asked me to include a brief summary describing my marriage. Hu? How in the world do you answer that question? It reminded me of the question: Tell me about your childhood. What?

Do you want to know about the imaginary triplets I had living in my attic? Or did you want to hear about how I used to pretend like I was a paraplegic who had to drag myself to my brother's concert. My brother was Sean Cassidy. Or do you want to know why I insisted on wearing the flowered shirt with the plaid skirt and argyle socks for two months straight? Is it my love of stuffed animals, my neighbor's dog, lightening bugs you are asking about? Do you want to know about sharing a room with a sister, competing with brothers or playing Indians and Stallions with a neighbor? Would you like to know who Lincoln and Neunan are?

Do you want me to say it was a happy one? It was...Except when I did a flip off the tire swing and slid down a tree with my leg; ran into a board playing hide and seek and got 100 stitches in my head; didn't make cheerleading in eighth grade; fought with my friends; fought with my sister; fought with my brothers; fought with my parents. Except when the bird died and I cried; my grandma died and I cried.

Do you want me to say it was rough? It was....Except most of the time. Because I had a sister who always made my birthday cakes and brothers who let me cut their hair and talk them into playing my games; Because I had a mom who was the best and a dad who listened. Because I got to spend so much time with my grandma and the birds.

Tell me about your childhood. Which part? Which day? Which year?

Tell me about your marriage.

I can begin to tell you about my childhood. I can paint little pictures of memories that might give you a glimpse of what I saw, or what I think I saw. I can tell you what I loved, what hurt, what I regret and what I wouldn't change for the world. But childhood is gone. It is gone forever. It shaped me, no doubt, but it is not me and it is not now.

But my marriage? I am my marriage, my marriage is me. And could you write a brief summary describing yourself? I can't: Brief is not my best trait and I am old enough to know I know very little about myself.

Please, a brief summary describing your marriage.

So, what did I put?

I was married on May 25, 1996 in Mary's Home, MO at our Lady of the Snows Catholic Church by the Rev William Korte. It was a beautiful day.

I don't think that is what they wanted.

But how in the world would YOU answer that?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Talking to God, His Omniscience and Lightbulbs.

The academic question of ethics has been a passion of mine. I am convinced that there is a right and a wrong and that we as human beings are given the gift of reason to figure it out. I have described in an earlier post (The Beauty of Truth, July 10, 2009) about an assignment I gave my high school student which attempted to force them to approach moral issues from a logical rather than an emotional perspective. I mused about objective truth in Simon Cowell, Prophet (July 17, 2009).

The last six month or so, I have been in more of an emotional mood. I have been attempting to find truth through ways that are less rational. I have been tinkering with the idea that those who told me that certain aspects of the Truth, say Faith, are not provable by reason may have some credibility. The older I get, the more I see the grey. While others may find comfort in this as it could seem to give one more wiggle room with regard to the truth, I find it completely disconcerting.

My own faith has always been, at least to me, rooted in reason. I have grown spiritually through my intellectual pursuits. If I have a spiritual question, a moral dilemma, or don't understand a doctrinal truth, yes, I pray about it. But I THINK about it. I read about it, I put myself through mental gymnastics asking and trying to answer question after question until I come to a better understanding. There was often a spiritual moment involved. An idea or an answer would enter my head that was the proverbial light bulb.

For example, I was trying to figure out a way to teach The Omniscience of God to a group of high school juniors. I believed in this Truth, though I can't say I really understood it. How could God know ahead of time without affecting an out come. I began to think and think of how to explain the seemingly unexplainable. In the middle of the class, an analogy came to me:

My sister and I went out for lunch yesterday. I was facing the door and she was facing me. I saw her old boyfriend walk through the door. I smiled to myself picturing her turn around and see him. She would whip back in my direction and with her elbows on the table, place her hands on either side of her head and say, "OH MY GOSH. Did you see who just walked in the door. OH, MY GOSH! Does my hair look okay?" A few seconds later, she scanned the room as she was speaking. She saw her old boy friend. She whipped back in my direction and with her elbows on the table, placed her hands on either side of her head and said, "OH MY GOSH. Did you see who just walked in the door. OH, MY GOSH! Does my hair look okay?"

I mused to my students. Did I make her act this way? No. Was I somehow in control of her choices? No. I just know her so well, I KNEW how she would act. God knows us so well, He is of course our Creator. He knows us so well, He knows how we will act in each and every situation of our life. He does not control our choices. He simply knows what we will choose.

I have had similar experiences with everything from the morality of natural family planning to the Transfiguration of Christ.

I love this way of getting to know God. I love challenging my brain to try and grasp a small part of who He is. But for awhile now, I have been left with the feeling that this is not prayer. I have come to think I am not talking to God when I do these things, but talking to myself. I have been dealing with the premise that REAL prayer is listening to God. That we are supposed to hear with our hearts and not with our heads. I have tried to spend more time reading Scripture and then spending time in reflection or contemplation. I read God's word and then I try and listen.

If you read me much, you know I am not the most disciplined person. I often get off track and find when I should be listening, I am talking: Making connections in my mind, asking questions about what I have read, trying to figure out what in the heck, "Like mud in the trees" could possibly mean. Then like an excited child who speaks out of turn, I chastise myself and try to get back to the listening.

I read an article today in our Catholic Paper about ethics. There was a great quote in it. "People want to know what it would be wise and right to do; but they don't want to grasp a truth so lucid that they might feel actually required to walk in its light." I felt an old excitement that I haven't felt for awhile. I want to be required. I want to grasp.

Like all human beings, I fall short. But I used to know what was short and what hit the mark. Now I feel like a piece of drift wood trying to float in a straight line. I have been trying to shut up and listen.

And guess what...It ain't workin'!

When I talked all the time, when I thought all the time, I could hear God in my light bulbs. Now I hear crickets.

It just doesn't work unless I engage my intellectual side. And my thinking means talking. Unless I debate myself and those I read or talk to over one of the endless aspects of God the Creator, God the Redeemer, God the Sanctifier; I don't feel any growth. I miss those light bulbs. I miss the feeling that I have grasped the tiniest speck of truth and now am required to raise the mark. I still fall short, but I know what I am shooting for.

God is omniscient. He gave me my other half. And now that I think about it, while ours are not one sided conversations, when I am trying to figure something out, they are heavily weighted to my side. I think out loud, my husband listens, then he tells me where I am right and where I am wrong. They are just like the conversations I had with my dad. I don't mean to say either of these men is/was condescending. They are not telling me that I am wrong like a teacher to a pupil. They are telling me where they believe my logic is flawed and where it is not. I never considered these conversations to be talking to myself. I needed them to listen, to give in put, to help me figure something out. And I believe it is through my incessant talking that they often were able to figure things out as well.

God is omniscient. He knows me. I talk and wait for illumination. Well, wait may be a bit of a stretch, perhaps the illumination comes while I am talking. So maybe this was prayer for me. I certainly never assumed I was figuring it out by myself. I always felt He was in the conversation, it was just heavily weighted on my side.

Like the verbosity of this post, I use a lot of unnecessary words to get where I am going. But by talking which is my way of thinking, I usually get there. I am wondering today if that isn't such a bad thing. If it is how God expects me to get to know Him. It has certainly worked in the past.

I may quit trying to listen, as I am simply not holy enough to get very far with that. I may quit trying to hear with my heart and settle for seeing with my head. I may go back to the mental gymnastics and talking incessantly knowing God will talk over me when He has something He wants me to hear. Or will just turn on the light bulb to let me know He is there.

Monday, January 17, 2011

More Poetry

I just remembered one of my first poems. It has a funny story. Two of my good friends were down on guys. We had the opinion that they were all jerks. I wrote the following poem for them. Of the three of us, I was the only literary one. They had more of a mathematical bent and did not consider writing poetry as anything more than educational torture. One needed a poem for English class. She asked if she could turn mine in for her assignment. In typical high school girl fashion, I was delighted to help out a friend. It was surely not technically cheating as I had written it with her in mind. Then she found herself in a pickle as her teacher, who must have had a similar opinion of grown men as we had of high school boys, wanted to publish it in some High School Literary Magazine. She declined feigning humility. Oh, and to think, I could have been published:)

If you would like to buy a man
Here's the place to be
We've plenty to choose from
Complete with guarantee

Guaranteed to ruin your life
With no feelings of remorse
Ready to steal your heart
To return, broken, of course

We've more than just one style
And more than just one type
But all have common qualities
Like deceit and how to gripe.

So get your man today
And when you take him home
Just remember this, my dear,
It's guaranteed you'll be alone.

I might conclude that there were probably times in my life when the narrator of the poem and its author held similar views of the masculine sex. However, with the wisdom of age and experience (and thirteen years of marriage bliss) I can assure you that a current poem of the same title would differ in its description of men. :)


I am in a poemey mood:

Settles in my neck
Head won't turn

Burrows in my chest
Ache not burn

Buzzes in my head
Angry bees

Hunches forth my back
Weakens knees

Springs forth from my eyes
Salty hot

Criss crosses my skin
No wise thought

Wakes me in the night
Sticky sheets

Lingers in dawn's light
No retreat

Steals lungs of all air
Heart beats hard

Steals soul of its joy
Help me, Lord.


Settles in my soul
Shoots of spring

Burrows in my heart

Filters through my thoughts
Lightens load

Straightens up my spine
Not alone

Springs forth from my eyes

Rosy glow in cheeks

Hushes me to sleep
Angel's prayer

Lingers in dawn's light
Goodness there

Fills lungs breathing slows
Love not hard

Showers soul with joy
Thank thee, Lord

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Just a add a Little of This and a Little of That.

So, my two oldest sons are terrible eaters. It is my fault, I know. With my oldest, I was a nervous wreck about the whole eating thing. We had to start him on prune juice when he was very young, I'll let you figure out why. I hadn't even started him on rice cereal at that point. I had read all the literature: Vegetables BEFORE fruit. So, I started feeding him solid food way too early. He was a nice fat little guy fed only on breast milk and was doing fine, but I was neurotic.

Fast forward ten years. He eats peanut butter bagels, yogurt, lots of milk, a few juices and crackers and gold fish. They only meat he eats willingly is bacon and chicken nuggets.

I have tried a variety of strategies. The Nazi food program was when they ate it for dinner or got it for breakfast the next day. He threw up on a regular basis trying to swallow the three grains of rice or bite of carrot he was given. My goals was that he fill up on whatever I serve or starve. He was a trooper and was willing to try a few small bites, usually gagging. The tears and regurgitated food were never going to equate to a full stomach of whatever I had made. This was soon abandoned.

Son two was not really my fault. He started out a pretty good eater. But then it turned out he had many food allergies. Getting sick from some food turned him off on most. He was not a trooper and dinner time became a nightmare. With number one puking and number two throwing huge fits, it just wasn't worth it.

I did not make the same mistake with the girls who followed them. I waited until they reached up on the table to grab food before I began feeding them. I didn't do baby food and just gave them whatever we were eating. They are great eaters. Number five's eating issues will have to wait for another post.

I was never worried about the boys' health. It was more about hospitality for me. I hate the idea of picky eaters. I think it rude. The oldest is a sturdy build and does not even like to eat sweets. He is the kind who has Halloween candy at Easter. He also doesn't feel hunger. If I said no food if you don't eat dinner. He wouldn't eat. If I said no peanut butter and bagels for a week, he would drink milk and orange juice for a month. Son two is small. But he has never lacked energy and looks healthy. He will eat sweets on the sly if I don't watch him.

Lately, I had begun to worry about the oldest. I talked to a nurse about his sluggishness. She said it was very normal for boys his age who are growing like crazy. I started giving him a protein shake for breakfast. It helped calm my fears a bit. But then he started showing signs from being hungry. You know the signs: like a two year old that needs a nap. I just knew he needed more nutrition, but I had tried everything I could think of or that had been suggested save sending him to a food psychologist.

Then to make a long story even longer, my sister decided to sell her house. Needing to down size she asked if I wanted anything. "Actually, I will take that juicer you never even opened that I gave you for Christmas two years ago when your husband started his healthy kick." She dropped it off this weekend.

And ALLELUIA! I have made a new deal with my boys. They do not have to EAT dinner if they will drink what I give them instead. They agreed.

To give an example, last night they had between the two of them: ten large carrots, an apple, three cups of lettuce, five strawberries and a lime. The lime makes the whole concoction taste like a limeade even if it has a very odd color. Do you know how many weeks it would have taken me to get them to eat what they drank in about thirty seconds? Why do I ask, they haven't eaten that much good food in eleven and nine years.

If you are in a similar boat and want to try my solution, I use the Breville Juice Fountain. It is a snap. You throw the food in whole.: no cutting or peeling or anything. All parts can be washed in the top of the dishwasher. But if you line the place where the pulp goes with a plastic grocery bag (a new use for those awful things), you don't even have to wash it. The other parts are easily washed by hand if you don't want to take up space in the dishwasher.

That is right. I just added a little bit of this and a little bit of that and ended up with peace of mind.

Monday, January 3, 2011

FillHer Up

It's a new year. Did you make resolutions and all that jazz? I always do. I think we all do, even if it isn't specific. I think it must be programmed into our DNA to desire a fresh start at certain times in the changing year. I always laugh at the gym in the first week of the new year. It is packed, I am sure with people who are trying to make a fresh start, a healthier life, a slimmer physique. I laugh because I can compare it to the gym during, say Lent, when it is not so packed. These are the few times you will find me at the gym.

After many years of New Year and Lenten Resolutions, I have discovered something about myself. I am not very good at giving things up. I can last a week or so, then it is back to normal. This is in part due to the fact that I always set the bar way too high, then when I lapse, I give up completely. The Lenten resolution that worked best for me was to give up creamer in my coffee. It was a big sacrifice, though it sounds small. I got out of bed for my coffee creamer. It worked because I didn't give up the coffee. I just made it less enjoyable. Had I tried to give up the morning Joe, it would have lasted a couple days at best, instead it lasted all forty days. The funniest thing was it took away my desire for the creamer all together. I now drink my coffee black.

I have acquired a lot of bad habits this year of 2010. Oh, they are the same old bad habits, but they are so much worse. They seem close to engulfing my whole life. It has been a stressful year, and stress always makes me fall into those things which bring me temporary comfort. So my new years resolution is of course, to get rid of them. But I am not naive enough to believe that I can just whittle them away or cut them out with a carving knife. Not me, doesn't work for me.

Instead, I plan to fill my life so full of good things, there is no room for the bad, or at least the room left will become smaller and result in moderation, patience, peace.

Step number one is Daily Mass. Somewhere along the line of 2010, this good habit left. Not sure when, why or how, but that part of my day became a little more sleep followed by a harried morning. I am not an early bird under the best of circumstances, but when I get up when it is still dark and the house is quiet and go to mass, the morning goes better. Well, it probably goes the same, but I can handle it better.

Step number two: Use my time in the car line to pray a rosary. This is a completely new one that I just thought of. We have bribed the kids into getting a Wi (We are the only family for at least a gazillion miles that doesn't have one.) It requires thirty days of peace in our house hold to attain. I have divided each day into three parts: Morning, after school, and bed time. I bet you can guess why. I bet you can also guess why I might need a bit of a boost right before they get into the car.

Step number three: Evening prayer. We have a little prayer room in our house. I had great intentions when I set it up. It was for the kids and our family prayer. I have decided to use it for myself after dinner. I am not going to require that anyone join me. I tried this approach with daily mass during the days of Christmas before they went to school. I was going, they knew it, if they wanted to join me, they could. I never went alone. Maybe they will join me for some quiet time with God each evening before bed. And if not, that is okay, even if they don't feel they need it, I do.

So you see, I plan to try and fill myself up at regular intervals during the day. Rather than try and lessen the bad things: impatience, compulsiveness, immoderation; I am instead going to try and increase the good things. There have been times in my life when I considered the good things to be part of me: creativity, hospitality, moderation, being easy going. It has been a hard and humbling year. I am really not too impressed with myself. I want to be empty and have God fill me up. But I am too selfish to try the old way, they way of Paul and the Saints: empty so God can fill.

The goal is to be God filled, right? And there is only so much room, right? So if I just keep filling, maybe the bad will spill over and out. Instead of emptying the selfishness to make room for God, I will try and increase God so there is no room for the selfishness. I will let Him do the work for me this year. And then maybe next year, I will be ready to do some work for Him. I wish I could help Him more, but 2010 has drained me. He is a loving Father, and I think He will understand that in the year of our Lord Two Thousand and Eleven, I will make myself pull into the station, but it can not be a year of self-service. It is a year where I will ask again and again and again, "Please, Sir, Fill Her Up."