Saturday, February 25, 2012

Long Day Ahead

I've been up since 4:45, so I'm two hours into the day already.  I've finished my Big Travel Mug of coffee (it's half-caff; I'm easing up) and have moved on to my Big Cup of Water.

There's a lot to do today, which is probably why I was up so early.  Later this morning my Secular Franciscan fraternity will meet with our Regional Minister and others from the Regional Council for our Regional Visitation and Paperwork Jamboree.  It's not supposed to be a stressful time, but because it's outside the norm of our regular meetings, it's a stressful time.  And I'm the fraternity minister, so any missing paperwork is on my head.

I'll be getting there early to unlock the meeting room and put the coffee on--and turn the heat on, since Mother Nature has finally gotten the memo that it's February.

I'll also be getting there early because the back of my van is fully loaded with enough groceries to feed a spaghetti dinner to 105 people, which is what I'm doing tonight.  It's the annual Cub Scout Blue & Gold Dinner.  Fortunately, it's in the same building as my meeting this morning, so I can unload the van once and be done with it.  When the meeting is over, I'll put on my apron, change out of my "confident shoes" and put on my sneakers, and start making spaghetti sauce.  A lot of spaghetti sauce.

Yesterday I rolled and baked 225 meatballs.   That's a lot of meatballs.

When the meeting is over and I have closed up the meeting room, I will appreciate the quiet in the building.  I'll be the only one there for a few hours.  While I open cans of crushed tomatoes and stir in the garlic and oregano, I'll have time to decompress.  Never underestimate the value of cooking as an aid to decompression.  (I get to be Martha and Mary all at the same time--yay for multitasking!)  I made sure to load up some good playlists so I'll have music, and since there will be no one else in the building, I can sing as loudly as I want.  Or I can just enjoy the quiet, which will come to a sudden end when the Cub Scouts show up.

There's a long day ahead, but I've got the tools to get through it:  coffee, an entire bag of fun-size Milky Ways, "confident shoes," an apron, a Sharpie, my favorite music, and prayer.  A lot of prayer.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Opposites might attract when it comes to spouses, according to an article in today's Wall Street Journal, but I don't think it works that way in mother-daughter relationships.

Right now I'm responding in a completely irrational manner to my daughter's announcements that, 1, she's going vegetarian for Lent, and, 2, that she doesn't want what I was going to make for dinner tonight either. Completely irrational. Because I'm feeling rejected by this. She doesn't get that. Not only does she not get it, she's mad at me.

But I have lost all steam in the dinner-prep process after she started making herself a bean burrito. We can't both cook in the kitchen at the same time anyway--the room is too small for that. So I left the room. I'm being ridiculously oversensitive and I can't seem to stop it.

Cooking is a big part of the way I nurture my family. I work around the silly preferences (she's off soy sauce; Big Brother doesn't like corn) and the dietary needs (husband with gout, Little Brother with lactose intolerance). I make broccoli that they like instead of Brussels sprouts that I like. I enjoy cooking and making meals that my family likes. And then TheDad skips dinner every Spaghetti Night and Middle Sister (and now Little Brother) announces that tonight's meal is not a favorite.

I cannot believe I'm sitting here losing it over the dinner plan.


Monday, February 20, 2012

Monday, Monday

...can't trust that day...

Normally I like Mondays because they signal the beginning of a new week.  Everyone is back to work or school and my house is quiet again and it's back to routine.

I love routine.  It makes my world go 'round.

Mrs. C with my kids, 2004
Today was not a routine Monday.  No one had work or school.  Instead, Middle Sister and I had a funeral to attend (I know!  Another one!!)  This funeral was for the son of the lovely woman who babysat Middle Sister twice a week when she was 4 and I had a part-time teaching job.  At the time, Mrs. C was mourning the loss of her husband, who'd had Alzheimer's; she had cared for him at home for the better part of a decade.  Middle Sister kept her company, learned to play Chinese checkers, took walks around the block with her, and discovered the magic of microwave pancakes thanks to Mrs. C.  With her own grandparents living upwards of 75 miles away, Middle Sister adopted Mrs. C as an extra grandmother.

Today Middle Sister towered over her former babysitter, who had stayed with Big Brother and Middle Sister the night Little Brother was born.  Today, as always, Middle Sister was quick to hug Mrs. C.  And after we sat down in our pew, Middle Sister wondered if she might be needed as an altar server.  Since the parish school closed, they haven't had servers for funerals (that's 8 years ago now.)  Usually one of the deacons, or Mrs. Deacon, or a member of the Bereavement Committee does the job.  But Middle Sister purposefully marched to the sacristy, high heels and all, and asked if she could help.

It was a full-court press on the altar today, with two priests (present and former pastors), one deacon, one server, and another deacon "behind the scenes" babysitting the incense.

The former pastor, whom I haven't seen in almost 10 years, greeted me as he walked by my pew before Mass.  "How are your kids?" he asked me.  I replied that one of them was his altar server for the Mass.  He looked puzzled until I mentioned her name.  "OH MY GOD!!!!!!" was his response.  He hadn't seen her since kindergarten.  She's grown a bit in 10 years.

Being at that Mass today, listening to that former pastor pray and preach was healing for me.  Some priests are good administrators.  Others are good in ministry to the sick and the bereaved.  This priest definitely falls into category "B."  Unfortunately, all of my dealings with him while he was our pastor were in category "A."  There was a lot of hurt that I've been carrying around for about 12 years now, hurt caused by administrative decisions this priest made that I took personally.

Middle Sister isn't the only one who's grown in the past 10 years.

I left that church carrying the burden of grief for Mrs. C, for her daughter-in-law, two grandchildren, and newborn great-granddaughter.  I left behind the burden of hurt that I'd been carrying around, for no good reason, for more than a decade.

I had no idea, walking into that funeral, that once again I'd be made proud of the young woman my daughter is becoming, and that I'd be able to let go of something I didn't need to lug around in the first place.

In your kindness, remember the C. family as they grieve, and pray for eternal rest for Tom, who made serving God through others his life's work--and his life's joy.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sometimes You've Just Gotta Break the Rules

I have a thing about working on Sundays.  If I don't have to, I don't.

Work that gets done on Sunday is work that can't possibly wait until Monday (or be done ahead on Saturday).  I don't do laundry on Sunday unless there is a True Laundry Emergency.  The same goes for vacuuming and other housecleaning.  After all, when you're a homemaker, you do all that stuff every day of the week.  It's good to remember to take a day of rest, to separate the day in some ways from all the other days.  The same goes for my freelance-writing work.

I do cook on Sunday, but I enjoy that.

Today, though, I emptied out 3 kitchen cabinets, one appliance cart, and one dining-room cabinet.  I took everything out and decided what would go back in--and where it would go.

I present the Leaning Tower of Bakeware.  I can cook 5 1/2 dozen regular-size muffins or cupcakes.  (Not that my oven could hold that many at once, but I've got the pans to make it happen).

And the pots and pans and bowls and colanders and...yikes.  It was like the clown car of kitchen cabinets.  More stuff just kept coming out.

I have a huge bucket (one of those party buckets with the rope handles) OVERFLOWING with stuff that didn't make it back into the cabinets:  stuff that's used maybe once or twice a year, so I'll keep it elsewhere; and stuff that I just don't use, so I'll donate.

Now, all my bakeware is in ONE place.

The rewards of treating Sunday as a day of rest are great.  This afternoon, I worked.  I spent about 2 hours not resting so that I can make my future time spent in the kitchen much more pleasant.  (There's even a tablecloth on the table!)  On a weekday, I don't get 2 hours in the afternoon to do this kind of stuff--I'm too busy being a taxi driver, referee, and nagger-about-homework.

It's taken 12 years to get my kitchen to look this good.

Now I can rest, and enjoy the fruits of my labors.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Back-to-School Valentine's Night Extravaganza and Long-Hallway Jamboree

I can't begin to tell you how surprised I was to discover that the high school's Back to School Night, scheduled on Valentine's Day, was not very well attended.

A few observations on last night's event (in no particular order):

A proud moment:  one teacher stood at the classroom door, greeting parents and asking the name of their child.  She smiled when we named Middle Sister, said she was a joy in the classroom, and mentioned that she has been very conscientious about adding to the "prayer intentions" blackboard in the front of the room.

I love that teachers have "prayer intentions" blackboards and encourage the students to use them.  (This was NOT a religion teacher, by the way.)  Things like that are the reason we send our kids to Catholic schools.

And I love that my daughter is using that board.

It's a good thing Middle Sister runs track, because her classes are just about as far apart as they possibly could be while still being in the same building.

We ran into lots of people we know as we passed each other in the long hallways.  All the parents got in plenty of cardio last night as we rushed from class to class.  Some were too out of breath to do more than wave.

Moms, in general, walk a lot faster than dads.  Case in point:  we left the French classroom at the same time as another couple we've known for about 15 years.  We moms left the dads in the dust as we all headed to Bio, and the dads could be heard behind us, "They say we walk too slow.  I say they walk too fast."  Note to the dads (including my husband):  there is no such thing was "walking too fast."  You walk way too slow.

The principal wished us a happy Valentine's Day at least three times during the opening remarks.  Overcompensating for a bad scheduling decision, perhaps?  There were no apologies for the bad scheduling--which would have been welcome.

I'm convinced that one of my daughter's teachers has ADD.  Yikes.

Another teacher was a bit distracted because she could hear her kids, who were hanging around in the office across the hall from her classroom.  It was Valentine's Day.  She couldn't get a babysitter--not even her own college-age daughter.  We commiserated with her.  (And really, her kids were not bad at all, just a bit giggly, and if a Catholic school can't be family-friendly and tolerate the presence of a couple of kids around Little Brother's age, then shame on them.)

One teacher made us laugh by faulting the administration for not, at least, serving us pink lemonade on Valentine's Day.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Breaking the Silence

At Mass today, as the lector finished with the first reading and paused for a moment of silence before we began the Responsorial Psalm, I recalled Michelle's post yesterday about silence; specifically, the part about silence during certain times at Mass.  We're not very good at silence in our parish.  People start squirming pretty quickly if the lector takes too long stepping away from the ambo so the cantors can begin to sing.

And then we sang:  "I will praise your name, my king and my God."

When the psalm concluded, the silence was broken not by the lector jumping the gun on the second reading, but by a toddler all the way on the other side of the church:  "YAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!"

Everyone chuckled, of course:  how cute!

Father looked at everyone, smiled, and said, "Amen!"

And then it was time for the second reading.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Don't Treat Me Like a Fool

It's necessary to get political sometimes.

Usually that's something I leave to TheDad, because he's all into that sort of thing, and I figure that one politically-obsessed person in the household is enough.  I back off--to balance things out.

But that doesn't mean I don't notice.  And it doesn't mean I don't take action when action is necessary.

This is one of those times.

I listened to President Obama's self-congratulatory tone as he announced an "accommodation" to the HHS policy that would leave Catholic hospitals, universities and other institutions no choice but to offer health plans providing contraception, abortion-inducing drugs and sterilization procedures, all of which directly violate Catholic moral teaching.

I listened, and I realized that this "accommodation" makes things worse than it did before.  In the guise of making it LOOK like the Catholic employer would get to opt out, this plan requires that all insurance plans provide these, um, "services."

We all know that there's no free lunch.  We know that somebody's going to have to pay for it.  Ultimately, everybody's going to have to pay for it, because health-care costs will go up in order to pay for it, and that cost will be absorbed by employees.

Who knew that the President of the United States would borrow an argument more age-appropriate for his own children:  "Everybody does it."  99% of American women, he says, have used birth control during their reproductive years.

If that number is even true (and I haven't seen any proof that it is), that doesn't make it any less wrong.

With all due respect, Mr. Obama, would you buy that "everybody does it" line if your daughter used it on you?  Or would you answer, as parents have done for decades, "if everyone was jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge, would you do the same?"

If "everybody" decided to stop paying income taxes, you wouldn't think that "everybody does it" is a very good argument, now would you?

Don't treat me like a fool, Mr. President.  I can see what you're up to, and frankly, it terrifies me.

Jimmy Akin has an excellent analysis at the National Catholic Register.  Read the whole thing, and follow the "take action" link at the bottom.

Rocco Palmo has more on the American bishops' take on this "accommodation."

EVEN MORE:  Here's what the economists think.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Break It To Me Gently

Ladies and gentlemen, we apologize for our inability to bring you the Finale that we promised.
--Leading Player, Pippin
In the play, the promised Grand Finale cannot take place because the title character has chosen something better.  Sometimes it works that way in real life, too.

The production of Pippin in which Little Brother was one of a troupe of only 12 actors has had its two final performances canceled--for good reason.  One of the lead characters (the Leading Player) is mourning the sudden loss of a close family member.  The director wisely decided that the best course of action is to cancel the remaining performances, out of love and respect for this actor.

There are times, and this is one of them, when the show must not go on.

A cast of 12, as you can imagine, gets pretty close-knit after three months of rehearsals.  Most of the actors have known each other for quite a while already.  Definitely, the right thing to do is to close the production and focus on supporting this actor in his time of loss.

This is not the Finale we were promised.  It's not the semi-happy ending you expect for a musical comedy.

The hard part is still ahead.  One actor has to get through this time of grief.  The others will grieve for him.  Cast, crew and band alike will miss the opportunity to celebrate a spectacular Closing Night.  It's not the way they want to say goodbye to each other.

It will be difficult all around.  Little Brother doesn't know yet; I'm putting it off until after school.  I didn't learn of the cancellation until it was almost bedtime last night, and I figured that it would be better not to try to send him off to bed or school right after hearing upsetting news.  (I did tell him that the actor had a death in the family, but that's all he knows at this point.)

Little Brother invests himself very deeply in the cast of a show.  I've seen it happen with The Wizard of Oz and MAME.  Even with this show, after opening weekend was over and there were no more rehearsals, he was sad that he'd have to wait Five Whole Days to see everyone again.

This afternoon I'm going to have to disappoint a little boy.  That's nothing compared to what one actor is going through, but for a nine-year-old, it's still a pretty big thing.  I hope that I can help him put aside his own sadness at closing the play early and focus on someone else's sadness.

When we discussed the question of whether Little Brother would be allowed to audition for this role (the theatre is quite far away and it would be a huge time commitment) my husband observed that being in a play would be a very enriching experience.  At the time, we believed that all it would mean for Little Brother would be growth in confidence and exposure to culture.  We did not expect--surely we should have, but we didn't--that it would also prove to be a time in which he would learn important life lessons.
Rivers belong where they can ramble,
Eagles belong where they can fly.
I've got to be where my spirit can run free
Gotta find my corner of the sky.

In your kindness, remember S. in his time of loss.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012


I can command it (fourth-graders fear me) but living it is another matter.

After all, it's my way or the highway.  Isn't that what we all expect?  It's taken me 40-mumble years, but I am coming around...a the realization that it's not always going to be my way.  Not even close.

Every January, the Secular Franciscans in my fraternity start the year off right.  We pray together, and then each of us is given the name of a patron saint, a virtue to cultivate, a maxim to live by, and a person within the fraternity to hold in prayer through the year.

My virtue this year is Obedience.  (Cue eye-rolling.)  Obedience?  Really?  I follow the rules, except for the speed limit.

There's a little more to it than that, though.  It's the question of attitude.  Like the "how dare they" mentality I get when I'm asked/told/required to do something that really IS the right thing to do, but since it's not what I happen to want to do at the moment, I've got no mind to obey it.

The word "obedience" comes from a Latin root meaning "to hear."  That's what it's all about, really.  That's why, when I'm dealing with fourth graders, I'll sometimes ask them to repeat directions back to me so that I can make sure they heard them correctly.

But what do we hear?  To whom do we listen?  There are so many messages to listen to:  Facebook, Twitter, the news media...I'm reminded of a line from Pippin that asks, "Would a newspaper ever print anything that wasn't true?"  Are we listening to those sources that have our best interests at heart?

Psalm 119 says:  "Train me to observe your law, to keep it with my heart.  Guide me in the path of your commands; for there is my delight.  Bend my heart to your will and not to love of gain."

It's all about "Thy will be done."  And we don't want to have to say that.  But if we really believe that God has our best interests at heart, we will learn to say it.

My prayer this year, then, will not be one written by Saint Francis but instead this one composed by Saint Ignatius of Loyola:
Take Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess. Thou hast given all to me. To Thee, O lord, I return it. All is Thine, dispose of it wholly according to Thy will. Give me Thy love and thy grace, for this is sufficient for me.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Heart of Gold

This morning I put on my church clothes, pulled my daughter out of gym class, and took her to her friend's grandfather's funeral.  It was her idea, and there was no way I was going to refuse.

She greeted, and held the door for, her now-retired fifth-grade teacher who arrived at the church just behind us.

She sat on the aisle seat in our pew--the better to reach out and squeeze her friend's arm during the procession.

During the recessional, her friend stopped at our pew to give her a hug, and we stayed outside the church for a few minutes after Mass so she could talk to him before it was time for his family to head to the cemetery.

She gave up her lunchtime, her break time, her "hang out with friends at school" time so that she could be there for one friend for a few minutes.

Last night while we were running errands, she mentioned that she thinks it's silly for her to have to study religion at school.  Her reasoning:  she goes to church, and by this point she should be living it with her life.  At 16, there's still plenty for her to learn, but I saw for myself today (as well as plenty of other times) that she's got a decent handle on living out the Works of Mercy.

You can say what you want about teenagers (and I've had my own frustrations with my teens), but Middle Sister showed me today what she's made of.  I couldn't be prouder.