Saturday, February 27, 2010

Tsunami heads for Hawaii

I just read that Hawaii is under a Tsunami warning. The first wave is expected to reach Hawaii in about 7 hours (4 PM EST).

Please join me in praying for the safety of my blog-buddies Esther and Sarah, and their families and friends, and all in the path of this Tsunami.

UPDATE:  Denise has family members currently in the earthquake zone in Chile.  They're safe, but there are an awful lot of people who are injured and homeless now.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help, pray for them.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

R.I.P. "The Hat Lady"

Tonight we attended the wake of a woman who really "walked the walk," "put her money where her mouth is," and stood up for what she believed in. I first met her when Little Brother was a baby and I was trying to take him to daily Mass. He, of course, was noisy and I, of course, was upset by that--as well as by a few cranky churchgoers who didn't want to hear baby noise in church. But Jeanne made sure I knew that Little Brother and I were welcome at Mass. She'd seek me out and tell me stories about how she'd bring her six children to church and how they'd misbehave; she'd tell me not to lose heart.

Jeanne trained the altar servers in the parish and made sure that they served properly and reverently. That meant that she was usually in the sacristy before the 9:30 Mass, where the children's choir would gather. Middle Sister was part of that choir, and she has memories of Jeanne being there among all the children. When she was old enough, Jeanne helped her learn how to serve at the altar, a ministry Middle Sister continues today, although we are in a different parish now.

Jeanne was a Secular Franciscan as well, and she truly strove to live a Gospel life. Whether it was through her prolife work, her ministry within the parish, or her encouraging presence, she lived her faith and she wasn't shy about sharing. Everyone knew her because of her collection of hats, but everyone who knew her knew that she was much more than just a senior with her own sense of style.

The Bishop said tonight that Jeanne has traded in her hats for a halo (probably a colorful one!)!

I am grateful for the time Jeanne took to encourage me when I needed it. I hope that I will never neglect to do the same for someone else.

Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon her. May she rest in peace.

Secular Franciscan Thoughts on Lent

We're planning a discussion on Lent for our Secular Franciscan gathering later this week. But I don't want it to degenerate into reminiscing about what we used to give up for Lent as kids, or what we ate on Fridays for lunch. That happens sometimes when you have a group discussion. Keeping it (gently) on topic can be a challenge. So I want to have some good discussion ideas ready.

*Father H. is reminding us each day at Mass that the purpose of Lent is to ready us to renew our Baptismal promises at Easter. Will we know what it means to reject Satan and all his empty promises, and to believe in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?

*Here's a passage from Reflections of a Secular Franciscan by Ruth Vogel, SFO.

[Christ's] words, "Let him take up his cross and follow me," is discipline and self-control, as he taught. Isn't this what it means to live the Gospel way?
Now, the only way in the world we can cultivate these virtues is by persistent and arduous training. It is sometimes a grueling, day-in-and-day-out forcing ourselves to practice these acts of self-denial.
Self-denial covers a multitude of things. It is not only fasting from something to eat, or denying ourselves some desirable entertainment or recreation. It includes saying no, no, a thousand times no, to ourselves in such pleasurable little goodies as giving someone a piece of our mind; talking behind someone's back; wanting our own way too much; ... making excuses for our own faults and having intolerance for other people's faults, etc., etc.--so many etceteras. Most of these are little failings, but some are bigger and some can be down right deadly. St. Paul said, "They who belong to Christ have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires."
We, who are of the "Order of Penance," should examine our consciences daily, and if in addition, we reverently make use of the Sacrament of Penance, we will find ourselves strengthened in purpose and icreased in the holiness of the Holy Spirit. We say we are striving for perfection--all right then, we should soft-pedal our pride, our greed, our lust, our envy, our anger (in particular our revengeful anger) and our sloth or laziness in exerting ourselves to penance. We should show loud and clear what it means to be humble, patient, moderate, kind, meek, and poor in spirit.

More to come!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

I'm Giving Up Basketball for Lent

Much as I love basketball, I am relieved that, except for the upcoming (but as yet unscheduled) playoffs, Middle Sister's season is over for the year.

Watching her basketball game was a near occasion of sin for me today. We're supposed to avoid those things, right?

No, I wasn't swearing. I was tempted, but I didn't. I signed that CYO basketball agreement that said I would keep my language clean and encourage my child to do the same. Swearing wasn't the problem.

However, the problem was holding my tongue. I did it, but it wasn't pretty, and I wasn't proud of the struggle I had to go through to do it. Jesus spoke about the intent being as bad as the sin itself (Matthew 5:28) and if it weren't for the fact that my daughter was out there on that court playing her heart out, I could have easily gotten up and walked out.

No, I wasn't yelling at the refs. Plenty of parents were--and most of those were from the other team. At one point I thought that the refs were going to kick out one kid's dad, who wasn't satisfied that an intentional foul was called against one of our players who had mugged his daughter, and that she had 2 shots on that technical foul. (What did he want? Should our player have been arrested for assault and battery? The kid is a 7th-grader!)

I spent an awful lot of time during that game trying to keep my mouth shut. OK, I did yell stuff like "Good defense" and "Great job" because that's what I do when I watch basketball. I am not the coach. I am not the ref. It is not my job to tell the girls what to do, or to call the walks and fouls and back-court passes. But there were a lot of parents sitting on the bleachers today (close enough so I could hear them) who were trying to do the refs' job.

Let me tell you, those refs don't get paid enough for what they put up with from the sports parents.

Anyway, I was trying very hard to keep my mouth shut during that game. Because I wanted to shoot back at those parents who were yelling about my daughter who was working hard on defense, covering the player she was assigned to cover. Yeah, sometimes she covered a little too, well, physically. But there was plenty of ugly to go around on both sides. Middle Sister didn't foul out (she had four, before the 4th quarter) and, like the rest of her team, she never gave up. Those kids fought hard right to the bitter end of this game. They lost by 15 points and the other team's parents were still busy going on about how our team "needs to learn to play basketball" and was "too physical." But the Mama Bear in me was struggling with whether to open my mouth and tell those other parents to stop dissing my child and her teammates, or whether to keep it charitable since I had just been to church.

I was outwardly charitable, anyway. But that was a really hollow victory. And I'm still really upset about this whole thing.

CYO basketball this week has been fairly ugly. After Thursday night's game, as Middle Sister and I walked through the parking lot to our car, a girl from the other team mouthed "You suck" at her through her car window. Nice. Did I mention that this is a CYO league? And then today.

Middle Sister has a bad taste in her mouth after all this; she claims that this is her last season of basketball. And while I think that she'll do well in track next year, it's a shame that she's leaving the sport on bad terms.

It's only a game. Why do people have to make so much of it? Why can't they just let the kids play, and learn, and listen to the coaches and refs? These are 7th- and 8th-graders--this is not March Madness. Get a grip, basketball parents!

Book Giveaway Winner!

The winner of the giveaway of a (gently-used) copy of Life-Giving Love is Bean! Please email me and I'll get the book in the mail.

BIG thanks to all who commented with suggestions for decluttering and donating my extra books. I've got 3 big stacks of books "on their way out" of here--so far. And I already checked with our school to see if the PTA will be hosting another used-book sale. Unfortunately, there is none planned at this time. So I'll probably be dividing my books among Paperback Swap (I'm already a member!) and the local library's book donation program. And I might see if I can find a used bookstore around and work something out that way.

NOT including the 3 piles of books, I have already gotten 8 bags of stuff out of here--or designated to go at a certain donation date. Not bad progress so far!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

No One Is Expendable


A very disturbing article ran in many newspapers this Ash Wednesday: Testing curbs some genetic diseases.  That's right:  on Ash Wednesday, we got to read a self-congratulatory article full of gems like:
"One study in California found that prenatal screening reduced by half the number of babies born with the severest form of cystic fibrosis because many parents chose abortion." 

Here's more: 
"We're definitely seeing decreased rates of certain genetic disorders as a result of carrier screening," said Dr. Wendy Chung, clinical genetics chief at Columbia University.

Of course every parent hopes for a healthy baby--that goes without saying.  But when "more women are being tested as part of routine prenatal care, and many end pregnancies when diseases are found" then we've got a problem here.  As Barron Lerner of Columbia University asked,
"If a society is so willing to screen aggressively to find these genes and then to potentially to have to abort the fetuses, what does that say about the value of the lives of those people living with the diseases?"

Exactly.  It's easy to see that some people are valued more highly than others, and people with a genetic disease that can only be prevented by making sure those people are never born are now considered expendable.

For the record, it is absolutely appalling that any person should be considered expendable for any reason.

And I am distressed to note that the Franciscan Action Network seems much more concerned with taking action in the form of "eco-penance" than to protect life. While there is a section on their website dedicated to the Franciscan Campaign for Life, the fact that all the FAN is doing here is "embracing a position" rather than encouraging or suggesting any concrete action is a signal that life issues are far less important than ecology. There are plenty of suggestions for steps Franciscans and others can take to reduce our "petroleum footprint" and how our abstinence from certain earthly goods "provides space to consider whether our individual and social relationships with these goods are just and loving or in need of conversion." Spare me. I'm tired of seeing people being sacrificed on the altar of ecology--because all too often, extreme measures designed to protect our environment from "climate change" and other ills, real or imagined, lead us to believe that if there were fewer people in the world, it would be a better place.

As Mother Teresa once commented, "It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish."

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Monday, February 15, 2010

Book Giveaway!

I'm preparing to take part in the "40 Bags in 40 Days" Lenten challenge, and one of the areas that needs (perpetual) decluttering is my bookshelf.

My clutter is your gain, though. I've got a book here that I know someone will benefit from: Life-Giving Love by Kimberly Hahn. While the book is used, it's still in excellent shape. One random commenter will receive this book.

Any commenter who leaves me a tip on decluttering my many, many books will get a bonus entry.

I will leave this giveaway open until 8 AM Eastern on Sunday, February 21.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

By Someone's Standards

Years ago, before we even GOT a Target around the corner, I remember seeing someone refer to the Starbucks inside a Target as a "Stargetbucks."

We have one of those now, right around the corner.

Today Middle Sister and her BFF wanted to go sledding, but the sleds were in the back of TheDad's car and he had gone to help a friend with a computer problem.  So they decided to take a walk.  They just got back.

"Guess what, Mom!  Today I ordered my first-ever coffee at Starbucks," she reported.

I asked what she got.

"Well, first I got a coffee," she began.

"FIRST?  You had MORE THAN ONE coffee at Starbucks?"

"Yeah!  After that I got a caramel Frappuccino.  It was really good."

I made some comment about her being unable to sleep for the next three days.

Then she remarked, "This was a pretty successful day."

"Yeah, for Starbucks," I replied, thinking that she had just spent $7 on coffee.

We Love the Olympics

The TV is on nonstop around here for the past couple of days--and I'm not minding a bit. In fact, I might make tonight's dinner a "TV picnic" (we're having taquitos, and those are pretty family-room friendly).

That's because the Olympics are on.

The other night, Big Brother had a couple of friends over to watch the opening ceremonies. Little Brother bounded up to his room and got his globe so he could figure out where the different countries were.  As each country marched into the arena, he was busy spinning the globe to look for it.

Last night we got to watch luge (fortunately, without any more graphic coverage of that unfortunate athlete's death on the luge track.  Come on, NBC, did you really have to show that--over and over--to my 7-year-old, not to mention the rest of us?  Show a little compassion for the athlete, his family and teammates, and your viewers!)

I'm waiting for more luge, as well as bobsled and skeleton.  My boys are watching the biathlon just now.

It's just so cool to see the best of the best from all over the world come together and compete.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Coming to My City

OK, my ZIP code, but let's not get picky.

The convent at one of the churches in my newly-merged parish has been vacant for a year and a half. On Monday night, the town council where the convent is located approved a variance so that the former convent can now become a Good Counsel Home.

There had been a good deal of opposition in town when this idea was first introduced. Fortunately, the town council was convinced that a home that would aid about ten young women in crisis pregnancies would not pose a danger to the town.

What a wonderful opportunity for the people in our parish to really stand up for life.

Book Review: The Handbook for Catholic Moms

As soon as I found out that The Handbook for Catholic Moms was available for pre-order, I immediately put my name on the list.  I'm a big fan of author Lisa Hendey's website, CatholicMom.com, and when I saw the list of contributors to this book, I knew it was going to be a winner.

I was not disappointed.

I've only got one wish--that this book had been written eighteen years ago when I was a new mom and needed the kind of encouragement that Lisa Hendey offers.  But that's just not possible.  Lisa's oldest child is right around the same age as my oldest child--and this book is the fruit of her eighteen years of experience in living the vocation of Catholic motherhood.

That's not to say that there was nothing in this book for the "seasoned" mom.  In fact, this book can touch moms at any point in their mothering lives.

Lisa begins each chapter with an anecdote from her own life, and includes encouraging essays from other moms including Danielle Bean, Donna-Marie Cooper-O'Boyle, Heidi Hess Saxton, and Rebecca Teti and advice from experts like Phil Lenahan, Deacon Tom Fox and Father Jay Finelli--to name just a few!  The book is full of ways to nurture your heart, mind, body and soul--and seeks to help moms take care of themselves so that they will be better able to take care of their families.   Each chapter ends with a "Mom's Homework" section that gives moms concrete ways to do just that.

Here's one nugget from the book that falls into the "I wish I'd known this" category:  "Rather than joining existing (mom's support) groups at neighborhood churches from other denominations, please consider being the brave soul who starts something new and special at your own parish."  When Big Brother was a baby, I needed the support of other moms--and our parish had nothing of that sort.  Being new to the area and knowing no one, I was afraid to try to start something at our parish.  I did find a wonderful group at a fundamentalist church 20 minutes away, and I participated in that group for about four years.  But while it was a very encouraging group, I always felt like I did not quite belong, as I was not a part of that particular church.  As a Catholic, my experience of some things was different, and I could not share that experience there.

I'd like to encourage any mom to read this book.  There are treasures on every page of The Handbook for Catholic Moms.  It's going to be part of any future christening gift that my family gives!

Disclaimer:  I purchased a copy of this book with my own money.  I was not compensated financially for this book review.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Completely Altruistic

Every morning when I wake up Big Brother, it's always the same.

"Five more minutes," he mumbles at me from under his pile of blankets.

Not today, though. There's important stuff going on today. So when I told him it was time to wake up, he replied, "I need to be well-rested if I'm going to give blood."

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Entropy


I know Ellen's usually the one to post the Zits comics, but I couldn't resist.  This is my life--times 3.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Who Makes Your Coffee--Mary or Martha?

I have two coffeepots: a regular old automatic-drip pot and a French press.

When I got the French press, I thought it was so great that I considered putting away my drip coffeemaker. That would save me about a square foot of counter space, which in my tiny kitchen is no small potatoes.

I haven't stowed away the drip coffeepot, though--and I think that's because there's a little too much Martha in me.  And I'm not talking about Martha Stewart, either.

The drip coffeemaker allows me to be Martha when I need to.   All I have to do is fill it up and hit the switch.  The coffee brews without my paying any further attention to it.  That means that I can wake the kids up for school, unload the dishwasher, and pack lunch sandwiches while the coffee brews.  If I get distracted and don't get to pour that cup of coffee right away, it'll sit there and stay hot until I can get to it.  It's definitely the kind of appliance that allows me to keep busy in the kitchen, with my mind on many things, with no adverse result if I have to keep that hot coffee waiting for a while.  That's why using a drip coffeemaker is like being Martha; she was concerned with many things.  Martha was a multitasker, the hostess with the mostest who had a lot on her mind, and she knew that the dinner wasn't going to cook itself.  She'd have loved a coffeepot that would do the work for her--it's one less concern she'd have when she held a dinner party.

Using a French press, on the other hand, is a very "Mary" way to make coffee.  It's not a push-button kind of thing.  A French press requires that you pay attention to it, much like the way Mary dropped everything to sit at the feet of Jesus.  I think of Mary as a "one thing at a time" kind of girl.  She wasn't going to multitask.  Everything she did got her full and complete attention.  So she wouldn't mind warming the press, bringing the water almost to a boil, adding the coffee and hot water, waiting four minutes, then pressing out the coffee and pouring that fragrant first cup.  She'd be there four minutes later to do that; she wouldn't have run down to the basement to throw in a load of laundry or gotten distracted with the peanut butter and jelly.

I love French-press coffee, but at this time in my life, I can't always spend the ten minutes to be completely attentive to it.  Most of the time, I have a "Martha" kind of morning.  And that's OK.  But sometimes, I manage to choose the better part, like Mary.  And when I do, I savor it.

Who makes your coffee?

To Coin a Phrase

Me (rummaging through the silverware drawer): Where's my grapefruit spoon?

Big Brother: You mean your spork?

Me: Actually, it's a spife.