Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Light Reading

Here it is, an average Wednesday. I've decorated a Christmas tree, done laundry, vacuumed, cleaned two bathrooms, fixed a lunch, prepped a dinner, shopped, and had an evening out with a friend. The only oddity was the evening out.

I don't do that sort of thing on a regular basis. My family is still young enough that nights out entail babysitting, children being sniffle, ache, and cough free at any given time, and lots of preparation and planning. They'd better be worth all the effort, anxiety, and bother.

This one was. We went to a restaurant, got a cheap meal and a refillable drink and dove into John Paul II's Letter to the Families. We got as far as section 8. As this is something it would never occur to me to read on my own, I'm glad it was suggested as the first of our studies.

Being a recovering Protestant, I'd naturally tend to a Bible Study. Being a recovering feminist, I might even suggest forming a book club. Having the kind of friends I do, we're reading an important Church document. (What a gal, by the way. She is the "meekest, mildest, easiest to get along with" woman I know.)

I knew right away she was onto something, especially as we got to one section that seemed prophetic in its keen analysis and further predictions of the disintegration of our culture and the normalcy of family. We stopped to catch our breath and reflect on the dismal prospects for the future of Christian life in the West. We stopped again with knowing smiles at the genius of John Paul II and the guidance of the Holy Spirit when the very next section was entitled "Prayer" An unspoken question had been answered, "What now?"

It is too dense a document to give my impressions in one simple, introductory blog post. Indeed this is merely our first of many sessions with this work.

I'll simply leave you with this thought. While the U.N. was declaring the Year of the Family, it was funding the forced abortions and the One Child Policy of China and funding the forced sterilizations in Peru and other Latin American countries. The Church was not only trying to expose such human degradation (it never dwelt on the U.N.'s rank hypocrisy) to the world, but also was preparing the married faithful by educating them, bolstering them with charitable resources, and calling them to greater prayer and sanctity through the vocation of married life with its Year of the Family. Time will tell who managed to do a better job.

I'd place my money on the Church, though I'm not a betting kind of gal.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Low Points

The theme of marital low points is a difficult one. How do you approach it honestly, without whining, and without betraying that splendid gift of God who is your spouse?

The very first thing to bear in mind is that your spouse is God's. God expects you to love, honor and cherish him because (1) you promised to and (2) that's His child you are dealing with and you know how parents like their children to be treated, right? As much slack as you are expecting from God to forgive, improve, and patiently deal with your character weaknesses and quirks, you had better be willing to extend to your husband, or else! "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us," right?

Yeah, right. I know. I know. But do it anyway.

The very next thing you need to bear in mind is that all those wonderful, beautiful and long-lived marriages you see around you? They've been where you are now: exactly in this pit of fear, despair, anger, resentment, and thinking the unthinkable at some point and they got over it. Let me repeat that for emphasis: they got over it. If you don't believe me, just ask them. Ask! Sure it looks easy...from the outside.

So now that we have so much stuff to bear in mind and I've stayed happily in the "2nd person" point of view: all that you, you, youing, it's time to get personal. How did I deal with my marital low point?

God Knows!

I kept prayer first and foremost in my marital difficulties. This helped in so many ways. I had the added graces available to me through prayer. I was calmer, clearer, and more yielding and patient. In addition, I didn't have to vent to friends and family to ease my burden because I was venting to God, Mary, and various saints who'd lived through it before me. Many of the details of our marriage were therefore kept out of the public view this way. Our reconciliation was not complicated by friends and family knowing too much. My husband and I didn't have to deal with excessive "exposure" or seek the added "forgiveness" of outsiders after exposing and forgiving ourselves.

This is very important for a man--that you remain loyal in this way. We women think we out emote men because we have such a greater ability to express our emotions outwardly. That's a debatable point. Consider this point: an unexpressed or inexpressible emotion is oftentimes that much more intense and personal. His emotional life is complicated by the very fact that it does not have as many outlets for expression and support as yours does. For many husbands, the wife is his only emotional support, so when you are at odds maritally, he has even less emotional wherewithal! Don't further stifle him by running to the P.A. system with every utterance and emotional blip he shares with you (as tempting and as temporarily satisfying as that many seem).

Fasting and Sacrifice

I keep straying from the "I" point of view. This next one is a hard one to open up publicly about because it is very old fashioned and personal. I fast. Although this spiritual practice will catch you flak from both liberal and conservative Christians alike (too fanatic! too self deprecating! too holier-than-thou!) I take to heart that verse (Mark 9:29) that says some things can only be exorcised through prayer and fasting. Of course, I don't believe that my husband or I are possessed, but some things do require that extra effort from us to overcome. Not to mention the fact that nothing alters your perspective faster than a fast.

I do it quietly and without fanfare, sometimes a meal, sometimes a day's worth of meals, sometimes from a food group (meat or bread), or a favorite beverage (coffee). I try to make it a sacrifice that no one else notices, and I offer it up for the sake of my husband. In combination with frequent prayer and frequent Confession of my sins and imperfections (not his!), fasting has kept me from despair in despairing circumstance.

Another kind of sacrifice is to do more for him when you are mad, rather than using it as an excuse to do less. This practice goes against the grain. Of course I want to stop doing anything for him when I am mad, but the opposite is more helpful. For example, he hates inside out clothes on the hanger. When times are good, I usually remember this and oblige his quirk. When times are bad, I remember it every time and more than that I resent every blasted article of clothing that manages to be inside out! Such is human nature. I could indulge the whim to leave things inside out, and (speaking from experience here) when I do, I only feel worse. When I conquer myself and purposefully make sure each and every article is right side out, I feel better. Eventually.

Or maybe after a few days after the fight is over.

Or theoretically, actually.

OK, fine, so maybe I just know it's the better way to be in the long run and I never do actually feel so great about it. Such is also human nature.

Real Advice from Real Friends

Your real friends are going to assume the best of both you and your spouse. If you've got a male basher for a friend, avoid her at all costs when trouble starts. Instead, ask for advice from the best people you know--especially those who have solid marriages of 20 plus years--in the most generic way possible. "What do you do when you are feeling disconnected?" "How do you two come together on a big disagreement?"

Consider the advice you receive, listen to the better part, and try it. Here's some advice I've written previously that I've used on myself. I can attest first hand that it works. Eventually (which brings me to my final point).

The Three and Three of Marriage

The Three and Three Follow-Up: All You Have to Do Is...

When Marriage Gets to "For Worse"

Hang On!

This is the most valuable piece of advice I can give you. Ultimately, hanging on is the only thing that will keep you together. If you don't stay together, you don't stay together. Simple. Just remember always: this will pass. You will come back together. If you can out tough the tough stuff, you'll be that much stronger together.

Hang in there. You'll be happy together again. Trust me. Trust God. Trust him.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Friday Coffee Break

I Knew It!

Spill after spill after spill, I begin to have my suspicions...

The baby eyeballs my 32 oz glass of water.
"Dink?" she asks. "Dink?"

She points, grabs the handle and clarifies, "Bath?"

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Wifey Wednesday

Today was one of those days. I had so many things scheduled that, although everything got done in a timely fashion, I was stressed out for most of the day.

As I was tag-teaming with my husband--he was coming in while I was going out--I heard myself barking orders at everyone instead of kissing goodbyes.

"Go help your sisters with...

Honey, don't forget we're meeting up

Are you ready yet?...

I need you to..."

I had to stop myself. I was still broiling on the inside with the furor and fervor of an overly scheduled day, but I hugged and kissed and smiled at my brood. My husband could still tell I was stressed, as I'm sure the kids could, but I decided to behave better than that.

As I'm always telling my kids, "Your feelings aren't ruling the roost!" it was nice to actually show them my philosophy in action for once. I was feeling absolutely frazzled. I could have used my emotions as an excuse to drive myself and them into a frenzy, but instead this thought came clear out of the blue: man, I should schedule less stuff on Tuesdays.

This was my "Ah-ha Moment." Not only did we have two morning appointments with people coming to the house (which means chores must be done three hours earlier and not spread out over the day) I'd scheduled a Math test for my oldest, rice and funnel play with my youngers (messy), plus I'd thawed a week's worth of burger to make into meatballs for future dinners (messy and time consuming), all before having to leave for the afternoon appointments half an hour after my husband got home.

What's the matter with me? Yes, it all got done. Yes, the morning and afternoon appointments were all attended to (Not to mention, my husband sold a car in the midst of all this Tuesday induced mayhem).

Tuesdays are naturally busy with several immovable events, but like the untidy pile on the end of the dining room table that grows if not attended to, Tuesday gathers clutter. Partly it is just schedule magnetism. I'll think, "Oh well, I'll be running into town on Tuesday anyway, I can just swing by and..." I don't know if there is some sort of perverse pride or martyrdom in voluntarily adding more and more stress to an already stressful day, but I think I'll pass.

Like now. I'm writing. On Tuesday. I scheduled this to round out the day. I could continue to examine my motives and insights until I come up with something really neat or inspiring, but instead I'm going to bed.

Now that's time well spent.

Monday, November 30, 2009

An Advent Reflection That Begins: When I was a NeoPagan...

...we felt the urge to create "traditions" to mark the "milestones" in our lives. There was a continual lament about how few rituals there were in modern life. Little did I know! As a practicing, believing Catholic, my daily life is so full of ritual, tradition, and milestone markers, I could complain of the exact opposite problem. My life is "too full" of such blessings!

I guess when you toss tradition to the four winds, losing tradition is a natural consequence. Silly me not to ever see something so obvious.

Meanwhile, my family and I are marking the beginning of a new Liturgical Year with the celebration of Advent. When Sunday rolled around and the kids woke to the first day of our family celebration, there seemed to be more than my five little ones running around singing "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" and saying "Advent's here! It's here!" Even our little foster daughter Sissy who has no memory of her first Advent with us, joined in with the cheers, mad dashing, and mayhem.

We dressed with special attention to "dressiness" to mark our First Sunday of Advent church going, and when the sun went down, we lit our first purple candle and read aloud the story of the Angel Gabriel visiting Mary. The children learned that the prayer, "Hail, Mary, full of Grace. The Lord is with you," is from her encounter with the angel. It was Gabriel's words to Mary that forms the first part of this Biblical prayer (Luke 1:26-38).

The children were wide-eyed in the candlelight as I retold the story of the angel's visit (using techniques of storytelling I learned in my journey as a NeoPagan). They were in awe as once again, they pondered the idea that God Himself made himself a tiny, helpless baby. More than once my 6-year-old's eyes wandered to his baby sister, as we talked about our most powerful and awesome God submitting Himself to the indignities of wet diapers, hunger, and even an itchy, runny nose, all to reconcile us to Himself. God thought that we were worth every bit of it.

And so we are. If He thinks it, it is so.

Our ritual is like this: The candle, the Bible story, then a prayer and an Advent hymn. We let each little one blow out the candle (which means relighting it four times). The ones who are able say a "Thank You" to God for something. This first night we had a thank you for candy, for love, and for candles.

And now it is my turn...

Thank You for family, for the Church and her traditions, and for the lifelong journey that has brought me home to her and to my God.

Happy Advent everyone!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thankfulness--A Mission to Africa

The third container has arrived and is on its way to Mvurwi, in the heart of Zimbabwe, where Brother Peter and his family and church will distribute it to the people in such desperate need there.

As the "Africa Box" section of my garage slowly accumulates more goods, I am so very thankful to have my portion of the wealth of this country to share. My husband and my family are of very modest means by American standards, but our wealth in material goods is that of kings in comparison to our brothers and sisters in Zimbabwe. This weekend here in America sees the blessings of Thanksgiving juxtaposed by the material excess expressed in Black Friday. That seems an appropriate time for this third shipping container from America to finally rumble its way on a truck to head down the dusty roads outside of Hurare and into the bush.


Rice-----(2,200 packs)------99 boxes--------4,791.6 kg.

Beans -(1,300 packs)------216 boxes------11,198.0 kg.

Sugar --(300 packs) -------29 boxes -------2,310.0 kg.

Salt --------------------------------4 boxes.

Oats -------------------------------2 boxes.

Dry Milk -------------------------12 boxes

Lentils/Vegt.--------------------36 boxes

Noodles ---------------------------7 boxes

Can Goods ----------------------36 boxes

Dry Food -------------------------8 boxes

Peanut Butter -------------------1 box

Toothpaste/brushes/Floss---5 boxes

Toiletries ---------------------------3 boxes

Belts/Hats ------------------------8 boxes

Ties----------------------------------2 boxes

Clock -------------------------------1 box

School Supplies ----------------32 boxes

Books ------------------------------24 boxes

Toys --------------------------------45 boxes

Fabric ------------------------------35 boxes

Sewing Machine------------------3 boxes

Keyboard ---------------------------2 boxes

Tent-----------------------------------1 box

Copier -------------------------------1 box

Copier Ink --------------------------2 boxes

Beds/Cots -------------------------6 boxes

Office Supplies ------------------9 boxes

Chairs ------------------------------21boxes

Wheelchair-------------------------1 box

Walker-------------------------------1 box

Suitcase ---------------------------2 boxes

Tables ------------------------------5 boxes

Shower/sink ----------------------3 boxes

Coal ---------------------------------1 box

Hospital Clothes ---------------1 box

Linens/Sheets ------------------46 boxes

Kitchen Items ------------------12 boxes

Drum Stand -------------------- 1 box

Trumpet --------------------------1 box

DVD Player --------------------1 box

Hangers -------------------------2 boxes

Purses/bags ------------------25 boxes

Mail box ------------------------1 boxes

Sports Items ------------------3 boxes

Can Openers -----------------1 box

Shoes --------------------------126 boxes

Girl Clothes -------------------82 boxes

Boy Clothes ------------------53 boxes

Children Clothes -----------27 boxes

Men Clothes -----------------129 boxes

Ladies Clothes -------------233 boxes

Baby Items -----------------30 boxes

Trash cans ------------------2 boxes

Peter Ndamba's Ministry

This video was donated and put together shortly after the second container arrived. Before this year was out, God blessed the ministry with the ability to send out this third one. God is good. God is very good.

African Ministries International on the web

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Jumping to Conclusions

By now you've probably seen and reacted to the violence in this sport's clip. The girl involved has been vilified soundly by public opinion.

What I find interesting is the lack of charity towards her. Everyone has demonized her, but even on my first viewing I could see that she was not unprovoked. If you watch the videos carefully, you will see that this girl is reacting (yes, very badly, but reacting nonetheless) to elbows to the sternum, yanks to her uniform, and other provocations. This is no demon. This is a girl who when poked, punches, when pulled on, pulls savagely back, when kicked, hits and kicks in return. It is not admirable. It's not nice. But it's not a bully going after the innocent either.

She needs to sit out a game or two, but her apology needs to be accepted. She lost her cool, but even the slowest eye can catch that this girl was not the only one behaving badly. She merely behaved the worst of the lot.

Friday, November 6, 2009

A Friday Coffee Break

This is one of those internet gems that had me on the floor laughing. Come to think of it...

A guy who purchased his lovely wife a pocket Tazer for their anniversary submitted this:

Last weekend I saw something at Larry's Pistol & Pawn Shop that sparked my interest. The occasion was our 15th anniversary and I was looking for a little something extra for my wife Julie. What I came across was a 100,000-volt, pocket/purse- sized tazer. The effects of the tazer were supposed to be short lived, with no long-term adverse affect on your assailant, allowing her adequate time to retreat to safety....


Long story short, I bought the device and brought it home. I loaded two AAA batteries in the darn thing and pushed the button.


I was disappointed.

I learned, however, that if I pushed the button and pressed it against a metal surface at the same time; I'd get the blue arc of electricity darting back and forth between the prongs.


Unfortunately, I have yet to explain to Julie what that burn spot is on the face of her microwave.

Okay, so I was home alone with this new toy, thinking to myself that it couldn't be all that bad with only two triple-A batteries, right?

There I sat in my recliner, my cat Gracie looking on intently (trusting little soul) while I was reading the directions and thinking that I really needed to try this thing out on a flesh & blood moving target. I must admit I thought about zapping Gracie (for a fraction of a second) and thought better of it. She is such a sweet cat. But, if I was going to give this thing to my wife to protect herself against a mugger, I did want some assurance that it would work as advertised. Am I wrong?

So, there I sat in a pair of shorts and a tank top with my reading glasses perched delicately on the bridge of my nose, directions in one hand, and tazer in another.

The directions said that a one-second burst would shock and disorient your assailant; a two-second burst was supposed to cause muscle spasms and a major loss of bodily control; a three-second burst would purportedly make your assailant flop on the ground like a fish out of
water. Any burst longer than three seconds would be wasting the batteries.

All the while I'm looking at this little device measuring about 5" long, less than 3/4 inch in circumference; pretty cute really and (loaded with two itsy, bitsy triple-A batteries) thinking to myself, 'no possible way!'

What happened next is almost beyond description, but I'll do my best...

I'm sitting there alone, Gracie looking on with her head cocked to one side as to say, 'don't do it dipshit,' reasoning that a one second burst from such a tiny little ole thing couldn't hurt all that bad. I decided to give myself a one second burst just for heck of it. I touched the prongs to my naked thigh, pushed the button, and . .


I'm pretty sure Jessie Ventura ran in through the side door, picked me up in the recliner, then body slammed us both on the carpet, over and over and over again.

I vaguely recall waking up on my side in the fetal position, with tears in my eyes, body soaking wet, both nipples on fire, testicles nowhere to be found, with my left arm tucked under my body in the oddest position, and tingling in my legs?

The cat was making meowing sounds I had never heard before, clinging to a picture frame hanging above the fireplace, obviously in an attempt to avoid getting slammed by my body flopping all over the living room.

Note: If you ever feel compelled to 'mug' yourself with a tazer, one note of caution:

there is no such thing as a one second burst when you zap yourself! You will not let go of that thing until it is dislodged from your hand by a violent thrashing about on the floor.. A three second burst would be considered conservative?


A minute or so later (I can't be sure, as time was a relative thing at that point), I collected my wits (what little I had left), sat up and surveyed the landscape.

My bent reading glasses were on the mantel of the fireplace. The recliner was upside down and about 8 feet or so from where it originally was. My triceps, right thigh and both nipples were still twitching. My face felt like it had been shot up with Novocain, and my bottom lip weighed 88 lbs. I had no control over the drooling.

Apparently I pooped on myself, but was too numb to know for sure and my sense of smell was gone. I saw a faint smoke cloud above my head which I believe came from my hair. I'm still looking for my nuts and I'm offering a significant reward for their safe return!

P.S... My wife, can't stop laughing about my experience, loved the gift, and now regularly threatens me with it!

If you think education is difficult, try being stupid!!!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Catholic Voice in Healthcare

When the Catholic Church takes a break from its evildoings, it takes a redemptive stab at charity. Although the Church can not compete with atheist charity greats such as this and this here, it does manage to carry its own massive weight charity wise.

That said there really is something to consider in the USCCB's rejection of all the current healthcare plans up for debate.

“So far, the health-reform bills considered in committee … have not met President Obama’s challenge of barring use of federal dollars for abortion and maintaining current conscience laws,” the USCCB wrote in its Sept. 30 letter to members of the Senate. “These deficiencies must be corrected.”

As one of the largest providers of healthcare in this country, the Church has both a moral and a financial desire to see healthcare reform passed in this country. Costs and access to care need to be placed within reach of the poor. No one is in argument of that.

What is being rejected is the perversity of giving care to some while killing others, giving access to care while denying the rights of the caregiver to be caregivers and not abortionists.

It is not healthcare to purposefully kill a patient. Fundamentally, every abortion involves two patients, and for one the procedure is always fatal. It is not charity to rid yourself of the burden of the poor by killing off the children of the poor.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday Coffee Break

With news that Zimbabwe has no fertilizer for those farms Mugabe ruined in the breadbasket of Africa (this one is word of mouth from a friend), families using their children to stage hoaxes for fame , the media going into a tizzy about a talk show host buying a sports team, and a presidential staffer who is a fan of a mass murderer, I needed a little break. Here's a reality check for you:

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Another Double Standard

Two pictures of Christ displayed in violation of an ordinance. One is inoffensive and is put up by people on "the wrong side" of the life issue. Police instantly respond.

The other picture violates the same ordinance. In addition it is offensive, makes fun of Christianity and Christ himself. It is put up by people on "the politically correct side" of the life issue. After months of complaints, still no action.

What a lovely lesson: the laws only work for the politically correct?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Today is the feast day of a 20th Century saint: Padre Pio. He was known for many miracles and I could go into many examples of his extraordinariness to impress you with the facts of his life. But I won't for this reason: his life was not meant to glorify himself, it was meant to glorify God.

That is the whole point of existence after all: reflected glory. Those of us who have bought into the falsities of the world believe otherwise: our lives only reflect our own small pieces of a puzzle. Someone like Padre Pio or Mother Theresa shows us how incredibly a life can be lived. They make us wonder. They show us how magnificent humility can be, what great things are possible when we choose to get out of God's way.

So with this in mind I will share with you this great saint's humble prayer. He prayed it after Communion when he felt closest to God. As puffed up with my meager accomplishments and small talents as I am, I can only hope, one day, to sincerely pray this way:

Prayer of St. Padre Pio

Stay with me, Lord, for it is necessary to have You present so that I do not forget You. You know how easily I abandon You.

Stay with me, Lord, because I am weak and I need Your strength, that I may not fall so often.

Stay with me, Lord, for You are my life and without You I am without fervor.

Stay with me, Lord, for You are my light and without You I am in darkness.

Stay with me, Lord, to show me Your will.

Stay with me, Lord, so that I hear Your voice and follow You.

Stay with me, Lord, for I desire to love You very much and always be in Your company.

Stay with me, Lord, if You wish me to be faithful to You.

Stay with me, Lord, as poor as my soul is I want it to be a place of consolation for You, a nest of Love.

Stay with me, Jesus, for it is getting late and the day is coming to a close and life passes, death, judgment and eternity approaches. It is necessary to renew my strength, so that I will not stop along the way and for that, I need You. It is getting late and death approaches, I fear the darkness, the temptations, the dryness, the cross, the sorrows. O how I need You, my Jesus, in this night of exile!

Stay with me tonight, Jesus, in life with all its dangers, I need You.

Let me recognize You as Your disciples did at the breaking of the bread, so that the Eucharistic Communion be the Light which disperses the darkness, the force which sustains me, the unique joy of my heart.

Stay with me, Lord, because at the hour of my death, I want to remain united to You, if not by Communion, at least by grace and love.

Stay with me, Lord, for it is You alone I look for, Your Love, Your Grace, Your Will, Your Heart, Your Spirit, because I love You and ask no other reward but to love You more and more.

With a firm love, I will love You with all my heart while on earth and continue to love You perfectly during all eternity.



For more information on an extraordinary life:

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A Fine Example of Oddball Thinking

I saw this headline from Yahoo "Birth control could help combat climate change." (
The logic of the article was, basically, reduce the number of people in third world countries through the use of condoms and other devices and we could help save the world.

Let me just sit quietly with the idea of limiting the one resource the third world actually has--the available and as of yet untrained and untapped human resource. I could get lost daydreaming about investments in information technology and India-style customer service centers cropping up in places like Uganda and Belize, but no. This article would rather see less people instead of actually helping people.

Putting that idea aside and taking the article at face value, the logic behind it seems plausible until you factor in actual carbon usage. We in the "first world" are the main carbon emitters. Here's a beautiful example of our emissions by country. The US is looking chubby here.

In fact, when checking the accuracy of this map on Wikipedia, I found that the majority of nations considered to be third world were actually less than 1 percent of world carbon emissions per country. (

What is going on here? Could it be that the overall goal is to reduce the world population? Yeah, that's pretty much the gist here. But why start in the third world? If you buy into this theory, why not start in the US?

Is it because we here in the west would never stand for the idea of mandated reproduction laws? The third world has much less of a voice. We'll just trim them down to size first, work the kinks out of the system, and then try to push through the agenda here in the West--er, let me check that map again--the North.

But since I'm working on illogic, how illogical is it for environmentalists, of all people, to advocate that countries with limited GNPs should invest in artificial contraception that not only produces waste in the manufacturing process but also as a discarded product? Our waters are full of hormones excreted into the watershed by women on various forms of the pill ( and Do we really need to add this environmental hazard to the already shaky infrastructure of third world countries? Discarded condoms and excreted hormones are contaminants that are unnecessary as there is a nonpolluting alternative in the form of Natural Family Planning (NFP).

NFP only takes training and a bit of discipline to use effectively. In a quick, simplistic summary, there is a monitoring and cross checking of female fertility signs and a monthly abstinence period of several days per month when those signs are present. Its effectiveness rate is right up there with the more pollution laden condoms and only slightly less effective than chemical alternatives, and it has the added benefit of being more cost effective to implement. (By cost effective, I mean it is free).

Here's a few links to back me up in case you are too lazy to Google:
and a cross check from a secular source

The effective use of NFP both as a means to avoid pregnancy and to achieve pregnancy presupposes someone who is willing to be disciplined in checking and cross checking fertility signs and to engage in sexual activity during opportune times. In the West (and North), we have been trained to think that sex is an on-demand sport. The idea of actually waiting a few days seems foreign and a bit ridiculous to us.

But that is just another example of our oddball thinking.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Exercising Her Faith

As good Catholics, we all recognize that our bodies are a gift from God and an integral part of our person, right? Or do we, as average people, take these meaty things for granted?

I'm more of the take me for granted type. I know that God gave me this gift of life. I know that my soul will be the first part of me to get to Heaven if I'm good and if I ever make it out of Purgatory, and my body will join with me again in a perfected form after the end of time. Well, all that is so good to know, but...

It's just so easy to take a body for granted. Here she sits, typing. She's a little tired and could use a nice bath and a good night's sleep, but she'll hang out with me while I finish this thought. She always does. I know she'll forgive me, she's so easy going. Really, the only time she ever raises a fuss about how I treat her is when I've been terribly neglectful and she takes some time off to fight a virus.

Well, I've been rethinking this whole relationship lately. She's been getting a bit grumpy, and I must admit, a little frumpy, too. So we've entered into an arrangement of sorts. I'll let her exercise and have a little fun in the sun, if she'll not let me get too bored.

That's my only real problem with exercise. I just get so blasted bored. I'm not a fan of television, so I can't just send the mind on a television vacation while I work out. I also don't like the idea of being unproductive during that time. Oh, I know the score: I'm focusing on me; exercise is it's own reward. (Yawn!) It's just that I can't abide NOT multitasking. Why isn't there a way to dash off a few dozen crunches and fold the towels? That's something I could mentally justify:

"What did you do today, honey?"

"Oh, I just polished off the laundry, and hey! Check out my six-pack!"

Since that is probably never going to happen, I had to come up with an alternate plan. A Catholic Plan.

Let me just explain that I not-so-secretly delight in my Catholicism: I'm a Catholic convert in the Bible Belt, all of my relatives are Protestant, and I have the audacity to actually have FOUR KIDS. Everyone I know has already written me off as hopeless. It is actually quite fun to be so ordinary and so shocking all at the same time. I can be outrageous and never have to set foot in a Confessional. Well, not for being Catholic anyway.

So, back to my plan.

I hate to exercise, right? So what do Catholics do with the stuff we really ought to do, but really hate? We offer it up! Cool! (Don't you just love it that Catholics have been around for so long that they've got an answer for just about everything?) I can offer up all my suffering, the sore muscles, the boredom, the time I'd rather spend doing "more important stuff," for the good of mankind. Or for pro-life. Ooo! Or to convert people, hey! Wouldn't that be annoying if it got out? Hee!

So now I've put a touch of secret glee into my workout I can at least have a little motivation to start me up. Now, I need a goal. I could be like J. Lo. and train for a triathlon. I just love that picture of her at the end of hers when she looked all tired and triumphant holding her bike. I could see me doing that. I could even practice my tired, triumphant look in the mirror. But the exercise needs more nobility than, "I wanted to, so I did," for it to fit in the Catholic theme. Plus I'm thinking it's an awful long way to the nearest pool. Over 20 miles. It seems a little silly to go through all that gas to get down the road in order to move my body. Why not just cut out the car and move me down the road?

That means running. Even I have heard of 5K runs. That translates to 3 miles. 5K runs always have a charity attached to them, too. I could do that! With a little Googling I discovered a charity 5K run close to my heart as an adoptive, foster, and birth mommy. It's for the local Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA)! These men and women speak for the children and their best interests when they have to deal with legal issues while in the foster care system. The CASA volunteer who handled the hearings, reviews, and court cases for my now adopted daughter still keeps in touch. I'd love to help fund that worthy cause. The 5K happens in April. I could run 3 miles well enough to race someone in a year's time.

So now I'm running. It takes me about 20 minutes to warm up, cool down, and run a measly mile. I hate it, so I imagine souls just flying out of Purgatory as I wheeze and sweat. I imagine beautiful scenes of fallen away Catholics coming home to the faith, and I pray. With God, all things are possible, and with God, this chubby Catholic Chick fast approaching middle age can run a 5K and raise a few dollars for a worthy cause.

With God, I can get my body moving and keep it going. With God as my ultimate goal, I think I might even enjoy it.

Autumn Colour Brightens Up London

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Good Ol Southern Meal--From Desert and Back

Here's a few recipes for some really good stuff we've been eating lately, including some hot weather cookies: the handy No-Bakes!

Desert First!

No-Bake Cookies

1 stick butter
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup cocoa
2 cups sugar
3 cups oats (or leftover oatmeal from the morning)
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter (try almond butter, too)
1 tsp vanilla

Put the first four ingredients in a saucepan. Boil for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and add peanut butter. Stir. Add vanilla and oatmeal. Drop onto cookie sheets to cool.


Here's another standard of Southern Fare: Cornbread! This makes a rather coarse, grainy-textured bread and happens to be a gluten free variety, but not to worry. This recipe has won repeated blue ribbons at the Tri-State Fair. One proud recipient is our teen guest blogger, Margaret Ohmes. She was nice enough to share.

Margaret's Cornbread

1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 Tbsp honey (optional)
2 Tsp oil
2 1/2 cups cornmeal
2 large eggs
2 cups buttermilk*

*Even if you don't make butter, you can easily make buttermilk by souring your regular milk. Put 1 Tbs vinegar into a one cup measuring cup, top off with milk. Repeat for the 2 cups you need in this recipe.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Grease an 8 x 8 pan or a medium sized iron skillet (if you are baking in the skillet, I recommend preheating it while the oven preheats). Sift the salt, baking powder, and soda together and combine with the cornmeal. Mix the wet ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the dry ingredients and stir just until smooth. Turn into the greased pan and bake about 20 minutes. (15 minutes for corn muffins)

If you are adventurous, or even just too hot, you can use a larger skillet on the stove and "deep fry" the cornbread in flattened-out dollops. I use about 1/2 inch of oil and drop spoonfuls into the skillet and mash them. They come out a little like a rather thick psychedelic shaped tortilla.
Not to be left out are the veggies. Of course, they are fried. I use the same basic recipe for frying all of my veggies. My family favorite is:
Fried Okra
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 tsp salt
pepper to taste
2 to 4 cups sliced okra
2 Tbs oil
Preheat oil in skillet being careful not to scorch it. Mix cornmeal with salt and pepper. Slice fresh okra into 1/4 inch coins. Stir okra into the cornmeal mix. Spoon okra into preheated oil. Stir occasionally. Cook until cornmeal forms a firm crust over the okra.
This completely eliminates the "slime factor" in okra. Like my mother's doctor discovered on immigrating from the Middle East to the Southern US, "Anything is good fried!"
...and no Southern Recipe compilation would be complete without the end of season or early season tomato recipe....
Fried Green Tomatoes
1 cup cornmeal
2 tsp salt
pepper to taste
2 to 4 thinly sliced tomatoes
3 Tbs oil (preheated)
1 diced onion
Preheat oil in skillet but be careful not to scorch it. Mix cornmeal with salt and pepper. Stir tomatoes into the cornmeal mix. Lay tomatoes evenly into the oil. Cook for approx 1 minute a side or until the cornmeal forms a crust, turn carefully. Once the tomatoes are turned, toss in the diced onions. Remove the tomatoes leaving the onions to fry until translucent. If you are feeling decadent, toss in the remaining cornmeal mixture to absorb the oil and act as a garnish. Top the tomatoes with the still-sizzling onions.
In reality, I grew up with ripe sliced tomatoes available at nearly every meal through the summer. A fried tomato is a luxury. Also, if you are looking for a use for those green babies, any recipe that needs a little mellow sour touch might be able to use a shredded green tomato.
Finally, the main course is my basic crock pot barbecue recipe. I use this as the base and then get creative with the meats and the spices. I'm going to use a boneless, skinless chicken thigh in the recipe, but it works with breast meat as well as with a beef or pork roast.
Crock Pot Barbecue
4 to 5 lbs of boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 chopped onion
1 1/2 cup water
2 Tbs chili powder
3/4 cup ketchup or tomato juice
1 Tbs paprika
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup yellow mustard
Garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste
Dump it all into the crock pot. Use the low setting for 4 to 5 hours. Depending on the meat, you can serve it whole, sliced, shredded or pulled. This freezes well, too.
Now that you've made it all the way through the list, those cookies are probably cooled off enough to eat. They are really, really good if you freeze them first. Just saying.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Teen Guest Blogger: Margaret Ohmes

Abortion Is Wrong!

I believe that abortion is wrong not only because of my religious beliefs but also for medical reasons. I do not think that you are solving anything when you put your life at risk while you take the life of an innocent child( Post-abortive women often go through great emotional trauma after they have had their abortion( They feel guilty and shameful about the child that they killed. Many of them commit suicide because of their grief. My family and I have a friend who had an abortion when she was nineteen. She said she started to drink because that gave her relief. She said that she still misses the baby that she never had.

In the year 1973 abortion was legalized in the United States of America with the Roe vs. Wade decision. Before this doctors were allowed to perform abortions only when the mother's life was at risk. Records have shown the total abortions done at two different hospitals prior to 1973, St. Luke Hospital and Cornwell Hospital, was 1. If this was a legitimate concern you would expect to find a significant number of legal abortions before 1973. This evidence points to the fact that abortions are unnecessary, especially now that our medical knowledge is so much more advanced.

The law “except to save the mother” really is a contradiction. Post-abortive women are at risk of breast-cancer and heart trouble due to the hormonal aftereffects of abortion. In fact abortionists themselves say that there is no medical indication for partial-birth abortion, a grisly procedure that involves turning a viable baby so that she is born in the breach position and killing her while her head remains in the birth canal (Editor's note: During a partial-birth procedure if a baby accidentally births herself during her struggles and is then killed, it is considered infanticide). There is no such thing as an abortion to save the mother. It is never necessary to kill the child to save the mother. A pro-life doctor I read said, “Doctors who do abortions are oxymorons.”

My religious reasons for opposing abortions is that you are directly disobeying the Sixth Commandment “Thou shall not murder” (Deuteronomy 5, 1-21). No matter how you look at it you are killing a baby. Also in Genesis the Lord commands Noah “have many children so that your descendants may live all over the earth” (Genesis 9, 1). I want to know how are we obeying God when we are killing children daily?

I think that it is as bad as murdering when you vote for a ‘pro-choice’ official (governor, mayor, president, etc.) because you are practically killing those babies killed by the laws they pass or allow to stand. Jessie Romero a lay evangelist probably said it the best, “When you vote for a ‘pro-abortion’ official you have the blood of those babies on your hands.”

I hope that by writing this people will realize the horror of abortion. For those who have had one remember that God is love and that he will forgive the repentant heart.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

An Especially Good Fish Recipe

From prep to plate 30 minutes.


4 Summer Squash sliced
2 Zucchini sliced
1 red bell pepper diced
1 red onion sliced
1 pound fish (a light white such as haddock or pollock)
2 garlic cloves crushed
1 packet coconut creme powder
2 Tbs peanut oil (or equivalent)
dash tyme
salt and pepper to taste
splash red (yes red!) wine
juice from 1 lemon
juice from 1 lime
2 sprigs fresh parsley finely chopped
2 sprigs fresh cilantro finely chopped

Directions: Heat oil in pan, fry fish 2 to 3 minutes each side. Fish is done when it flakes easily with a fork. Remove fish and set aside. Toss in vegetables and other ingredients. Saute quickly on medium high heat until the squash reaches desired consistency. Add water or milk as needed if sauce becomes too thick. Place vegetables on a plate and top with the fish.

Presentation: Serve vegetables topped with fish on a bed of rice, noodles, or spinach. Add a sprig of parsley and a slice of lemon or lime for garnish.

You pick them side dish suggestions: Black-eyed pea salad. Three bean salad. Corn on the cob. Fresh baby carrots. Cucumber and tomato salad.

Under Construction

Our Garden of Holiness has produced it's first fruits: a very sweet and talented young lady will premiere as guest blogger next week! She's a singer, a sewer, a homeschooled gal. Tune in next week to find out what's on her mind!

Monday, June 29, 2009

A Life Worth Living

I can't tell you how many times someone has said to me, "I'd rather be dead than like..." someone like my son. Of course, they said this before I or they were aware of his disease, so they meant no offense (other than the offensiveness of the statement itself). By now some of those people have no doubt heard the diagnosis. I wonder if they will recall those words and feel a little flutter of shame or guilt or some unnameable emotion when we see each other again.

Some will not even remember. A few will be so embarrassed they'll probably let the acquaintance drop. It's human nature. I can see that. One maybe two will be repeating themselves on the issue, wishing death on themselves (and by logical extension on my son) and they will feel themselves very compassionate. They will, of course, be careful not to extend such brute compassion into the path of this mother. They were duly and politely informed where I stood on the issue long before it became personal.

This subject shall be taboo. Yet here I go, writing again. I'm the type to poke at a wound. I want to feel if there's fever in it. Is there something festering that needs to come out? There is so much under the surface.

I read books, the web pages, the parent forums and the fear is palpable. What if my son/daughter never becomes productive? What then? What if nothing we do ever fixes this? What will you people do to my baby after I'm gone? It's a valid fear after all: in the secular world a person's worth is measured by their utility. The Nazis' "useless eaters" idea was not a new one nor was it vanquished by their defeat.

Overall I find my reading depressing. So many of the experts and self-appointed experts are adamantly insisting on one treatment or another. The tone is so strident you can hear the underlying harmonics of "Please believe! If you believe, then I'll know I'm believing in the right thing." There is safety in numbers, after all.

But I'm not in that crowd. After my initial round of emotions I realized my autistic son was still my son with all his same traits, the lovable ones as well as the obnoxious. After all, nothing fundamentally changed with the diagnosis. What I mean is this: autism is merely a label for what we had already seen. It comes as a confirmation and revelation rather than as a thief in the night.

I can only imagine how my life would have been turned upside down if his diagnosis had been something along the lines of a terminal brain tumor. From one moment to the next, the world would have been completely different. The worst would have happened and nothing would have been the same again.

Autism? It might not be curable. It might not be pleasant all the time, but we have our boy. He's exactly who he is and exactly who we love.

And it isn't fatal. At least it isn't now: unless those with the philosophy that some lives aren't worth living get carried away again.

Related posts:

Friday, June 19, 2009


Today you have said it for the first time. "Mommy." I am so proud of you, my big guy, my little man.

You give me so much more than words. You have taught me how ungrateful I have been. I became a mother, expecting so much. Each child's voice was music I knew I would hear as a matter of course.

Then God said, "Not yet. Not now. Wait."

For close to four years I have waited for you. I have longed for you to come out to play. Oh, my sweet boy, my love for you is so wrapped up in all the things I wait for.

Thank you for letting me see.

You are my blessing, like each breath, each moment, and day from each child is a blessing.

You show me how beautiful it is to be a Mommy. You show me what a gift each word, look, and sigh is. You amaze me.

I thank God for you, such a gift! I could not know this without you, my son!
Related Posts:

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Not Buying

Debates are getting heated. Normally reasonable people are saying things that'd make a Nazi blush, (left or right, you choose). Shows continue to pit opposing views against each other, the louder the better. Sometimes its like watching pit bulls go at it. Enough already.

It is not because some people support peace and Islam that a man gunned down Army recruiters in Arkansas. It is not because some people want to end abortion or reign in the power of judges that a man killed a doctor in his church.

Can we stop sensationalizing everything in order to make a point? There're wives, children, family, and friends wrapped around those murders. It isn't just a headline: it's real hurt.

If anyone is responsible for these tragedies, it is the culture that has created demons out of anyone who disagrees with us. The media is responsible for selling all the shouting and barking, and we are responsible for buying it.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Yes, Really: Still Pro-Life

In the wake of a terrible murder committed by a madman, let me take a moment to explain what Pro-Life means. In it's most simplest form, it means you, the reader, are important. You don't need to do anything to earn that importance. It is inherent. This dignity does not come from the government under which you live. It is a part of you from the moment you became one of us. It's encoded, like your DNA.

To God, you are no more important than my son, no less important than the President. I don't have to love, like, admire, or even stand you for you to maintain your human status.

Let me give you a hypothetical to demonstrate:

  • I am driving down a narrow road and my brakes give out. You and my much loved dog are in the road. If I drive a straight line, I will kill both you and the dog. If I veer left I'll hit the dog. If I veer right I'll hit you. I have to choose. Verdict: You live.

  • Let me explain my Pro-Life position a bit further. I love my dog. I don't even know you. Even as a stranger, you are more important to me than my dog. Again: You live.

  • Let's muddy the waters. You are an evil person and I know it somehow. Do I sacrifice my dog to save you still? Even still: You live.

I will say that it would be harder in that last hypothetical to choose to do the right thing. My emotions will war with my reason, but my emotions are not the deciding factor. Let me explain that statement with a real life situation: I do not support the Death Penalty. Even a heinous murderer has a right to live and a right to the chance of repentance. Only God knows the state of another's soul. My emotions viscerally disagree. They want a different justice, immediate and human. I will rephrase my stance to be more clear: I will not support the Death Penalty. It is a willful and conscious choice.

A human being has value to God and to other human beings. Even when they do not live up to our expectations or our needs or even our laws. Sadly history and our present is full of examples of persons being dehumanized in order to subdue, enslave, or rid ourselves of the burden of each other.

So why did that man kill that doctor? My best guess would be that he forgot a few things: that Pro-Life means more than Anti-Abortion, that "Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord," and that Dr. Tiller was human and one of us.

So, even if the man who committed the murder believed that the man he killed was a heinous human being, it doesn't really matter. It is a condemnable act. I condemn the act. So does every Pro-Life person I've discussed this with. So does every legitimate Pro-Life organization out there. You will not see this murderer lauded as a hero to the cause or the incident glossed over. It is denounced. Officially and completely.

May God rest Dr. Tiller's soul and be with his family in their time of grief.

Some notes:

It has been 10 years since the last lunatic bombed an abortion clinic or murdered an abortionist. According to Wikipedia , since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, nine people have been murdered by those calling themselves "Pro-Life" Those injured and killed by Pro-Choice extremists do not have a corresponding Wikipedia page. Here is a link to those statistics

Friday, May 29, 2009

Is It Just Me?

Business Man Reading a Newspaper

Is it just me or does watching two people attack each other instead of attacking their arguments turn you off? I think it is just me.

I do not watch The View: too much yelling. I do not even watch McNeil Leher for the same reason. Glenn Beck makes me want to climb under my couch and wait things out. What's a girl to do?

The newspaper is thinner everyday, in every sense of that word. I've got to get my coverage somewhere. My local TV news is great: it even touches on the world stage, but it leaves the big stuff up to the network and you know how that goes: although it's pretty to watch them swoop and dive after the same bug, I want to know what all those birds are swooping by.

So here I am, on-line again and reading the same story twice. The president is perfect. The president is evil. It's Obama's fault. It's Bush's fault.

Business Man Reading a Newspaper

Give me a break. And while you're at it, give me world peace, too.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

A Procedure: How to Milk a Goat

Since so many have asked, here it is: a complex procedure involving cats, dogs, children, infants, diplomacy, anger management skills, and lightning fast reflexes.

Step One: Wake Up

A milk goat gets incredibly full of milk. Milking has to take place on a schedule: every 12 hours or bust, so to speak. So even on your day off, you are still on a routine. This is just fine because the children get you up even before the moaning goats do.

Step Two: Feed the Kids

Not the goats, the children. They complain a lot when hungry. Get this out of the way fast. Get that coffee down while you're at it.

Step Three: Get the Gear Ready

You need something to put the milk in, a bucket, and something to clean her off with, a soapy pail and a rag. She's been laying in poop most likely. Goats are not particular about where they poop and she probably had her evening constitutional just before she bedded down for the night.

Step Four: Go Outside

This involves a hallway, negotiating stairs, the dog who is antsy because you forgot to feed her, the bucket which needs to be sterile, the sloshy soapy water which can't slosh into your bucket or you're going to have to resterilize it, the baby you must also carry and who wants the rag in the sloshy soapy pail, the other three kids who are being knocked into walls by the hungry dog, and someone crying. Figure out who that is and bribe them. Open the door, yell at the dog before she knocks a toddler down the stairs, and maneuver into the backyard. If it is a nice day, the older kids will head for the swing set. If not, they will cry, or at least complain. Either way, be stern or they will have nothing to brag about when they are old, "Oh yeah? My mom used to take me out in six feet of snow in a thunderstorm to milk goats!"

Step Five: Shut the Gate to the Backyard

When you deal with animals, this is always a good rule. Whenever you go through a gate, shut it behind you. This rule is important because if you forget, the procedure will get a whole lot longer and it will involve neighbors.

Step Six: Get the Baby and the Gear into the Milk House

Don't trip over the dog. Don't slosh water onto the baby. Don't drop anything, especially the baby. You may yell at the dog or cat if you are tripped, otherwise greet warmly.*

Step Seven: Stow Gear and Start Feeding and Watering

Check every water trough every feeding. Animals can live without food for a few days but can sicken in hours without water on a hot humid day. If the water is clear and full, feed cats, put ration on the milking stand and carry the alfalfa to the goat pen. This will all need to be done one handed because you are still carrying the baby. Do not let her eat the alfalfa as she only has a one-chambered stomach. She will insist you are mistaken. Remain firm.

Step Eight: See Step Five

There's a gate between you and the goats and their hay basket. Manage baby, alfalfa, gate and goats without a goat escaping or you dropping anybody(thing) and without any yelling.

Don't forget to close that gate.

Dump alfalfa in the alfalfa bin, grab the collar of the oldest nanny goat (never ever forget the pecking order or the younger gals will pay dearly all day) and guide her to the gate. She is eager to follow you, so this takes little effort. She will walk briskly. If you are late, she will trot. Try to keep up. The baby likes it when you run. She will giggle.

Close that gate when you, the baby, and the goat are through it.

Step Nine: Reassure the Goat

No matter how many times she has seen your children on the swing set (twice daily for 1 to 2 years depending on the goat in question), the sight of them will bring her to a stunned halt. You will have to coax her, cajole her, yank and pull her past this daily terror. Meanwhile, remember to check in with the kids with comments such as,

"Yes you are going so high!" "You can do it! Pump your legs!" "Forwards and backwards and forwards and there you go!"

Succumb to the pleas, release the goat (she only has one objective in mind anyway if her terror will ever allow her to think again), and spend a few moments pushing the kids on the swings. Don't drop the baby and don't forget to stand sideways so as not to have a swinger crash into her.

Enjoy yourself until the goat recovers her composure. Sigh and follow her to the milk house.

Step 10: Clean Her, Milk Her

Put the baby in her little chair. Although she is convinced she is a ruminant and can handle it, do not let her eat the bedding. It's wood shavings.

The goat has already mounted the stand and is eating. You need to lock her head in the stanchion and clean her udders. This is the easiest part of the procedure.

Grab a teat, close off the top of the teat with your thumb and index finger, close the middle, ring and pinkie in succession. Milk comes out. Aim. Keep aiming and keep an eye on the baby. Get a rhythm and keep it until she's dry. Clean the goat up again, get the milk pail out of the way, and spray her teats with an iodine and water solution. Pick up the baby, maneuver the goat off the stand, and repeat steps eight, nine, and ten with the cranky goat.

Step 11: The Cranky Goat

She will not get onto the stand. Drag her. She will not eat, coax her with sunflower seeds. She will eat those. Close the stanchion. Dodge that hoof. Clean her. Dodge hoof. Milk with one hand (the other one will hold the bucket away from the hoof). Aim. Watch the baby. Watch that hoof. Watch that bucket. Do not cuss. The children will wander in. Dodge that hoof. Swing that pail. Do NOT cuss. The dog will clean that. WATCH THAT BABY. Stop the milking and stop the baby. Resume milking. Watch that other hoof, too. The cats will clean under there. Dodge that dog and cat fight. Pick up baby, pick up milk. Find out who's crying and why. Reassure child that the dog and cat will be friends after the milk is gone. Banish the dog and cat from the milk shed. Cat will slink back in through hole in the back. Dog will whine at locked gate. Put down baby. Resume milking. Do not cuss when kicked. You forgot to watch.

Step 12: Blame Daddy

When a toddler repeats a "word we only use when milking Rosie, honey" during that quiet pause at church, remember this rule and point his way. Look innocent.

Step 13: Finishing Off

Put that uncussed goat back into her goat yard, gather up the milk, the baby, and the children and head back inside to process the milk.

That process involves heat and homeschooling.

*Dogs have short memories. Although the dog has accompanied you throughout the entire procedure, from waking to milking, a new setting demands a repeat of a doggie greeting ritual which involves jumping up and not on you, barking and/or whimpering, excited wiggling, tail flailing, and drool. It's in their contract. The cats on the other hand, may be greeted once daily, as needed.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

My Conversion Real Quick

My conversion to the Catholic Church took about three seconds. I was an arrogant fool sitting in on my very first Mass and watching it like I'd watch a National Geographic nature film. I was analyzing away, "Those pews are so phallic, who are they kidding that this isn't all about a patriarchy?" when I heard something Jewish. A cantor sang the Psalm. It caught my attention and stopped the haughty drift of my thoughts. I began to be interested. What else might they have stolen from the Jews?

This led to other discoveries, like the parading of the Gospels. "Well, if Jesus does claim to be the Jewish Messiah, I guess there should be Jewish elements in the worship," I thought dismissively until it occurred to me I'd never seen Jewish elements in the Protestant churches I'd attended as a girl. Why not? I puzzled that one out for awhile. I'm not the kind of dog to drop a bone, so I puzzled awhile.

About the time for the consecration (I had no idea what it was called at the time), I had come all the way around to the skeptical thought, actually accompanied by a quiet sarcasm-laden snort, "What if all this were true?"

Then I was hit repeatedly in the head with a 2 x 4. That process took all of three seconds.

I say that comically, but the wave upon wave of revelation breaking over my stunned mind was actually very painful. And beautiful and exquisite and utterly horrifying. I saw things, felt things, all in quick succession with the complete clarity of the words, "It is all true," ringing me like a bell.

Then an actual bell rang signalling the consecration. Jesus himself was upon that altar, and I was done for. I had a choice to make and it was my very last chance. It was true. I could never again deny the truth of it, but I could still deny Him. A yes would cost me every friend I had, the community I'd built, my reputation. Everything. Was I willing to give it all up?

Oh, God, yes.

Then I came back from that heady place to reality where the Mass continued before me. I was Catholic now, but that priest up there on the dais was the first one I had ever been in the same room with. I was Catholic now, but my husband wasn't. What now? I was Catholic, but I had no idea what that meant. I decided to start with the little pamphlet my husband had given me on a whim as we walked past a display on the way into the church. It was on the Rosary. As I read through the mysteries all I remembered of the life of Jesus came back to me. Then I came upon the Assumption.

"The Assumption?" I thought, "What the hell is that?" (The conversion of my heart was won; my conversion of behavior was incremental) I was a dog with a bone again.

The Mass ended. It was a daily Mass, so there wasn't a crowd. The priest was at the back of the church talking with a woman. They both greeted my husband and I warmly, the priest asking a few questions of the new people. He quickly discovered my husband was an ex-Catholic and I wasn't anything I was willing to own up to publicly yet. I said I wanted to join the Catholic church and shot a guilty look at my husband. I knew it wasn't nice to tell him like this, but I didn't have the guts to face him all at once. Maybe he could get over the initial reaction and be polite by the time we got to the car.

Then I blurted out my question before I lost my nerve and before the polite chit chat wound down, "What's an Assumption?"

"The Assumption?" the priest looked surprised. He gave an answer too small to satisfy my hunger, "It was when Our Lady was taken to heaven to reign as Queen Mother."

I pressed for more information and he asked me to make an appointment. I was there the next day and in RCIA by the end of the week. I was a thorn in that program's side. I read book after book, and completely ignorant, each question generated more questions. I took to carrying a notebook to jot them in. People would actually groan when at the end of the RCIA class my hand would go up when they asked, "Are there any questions?" I had pages full.

Somebody in Heaven took pity on my classmates and drew my attention to a bumper sticker with the local Catholic Radio station on it. I tuned in my dial and there I found the depth and breadth I craved.

My husband was kinder than I knew. He had been uncomfortable with the direction our spiritual life had taken us and was relieved to come home to the faith. He joined a Landings Group and began his own Catechesis. Meanwhile, my conversion was a big secret from my family and friends. There were two reasons for this: my family and my friends.

My family was Church of Christ. While it was never spoken of from the pulpit growing up, the handouts available on the tables in the vestibule often held tracts that spouted things like the Catholic Church was the whore of Babylon and the Pope was the Anti-Christ. A few people in the church had family members convert to Catholicism. This news was greeted in the same manner as people whose family members had come down with cancer: with condolences, disbelief, and shocked horror. Although my mother and father made it clear they did not approve of the tracts, neither did they approve of Catholics and their beliefs. I grew up with the impression that they were a strange cult, like the Moonies.

My friends were another matter entirely. They loathed Christians, Catholics especially. One had told the story of her son accompanying her to visit her mother at a senior facility. Some little old ladies in the lobby had made semi-rude gossipy comments about them as they walked past. The little boy got on the elevator, rolled his eyes and said, "Probably Christians." His mother laughed as she told that story, so did everyone present. I didn't. As far from Christian as I was, I thought she was training up a bigot. That's never funny.

I told one friend what was happening with me. She was pretty neutral except that she was worried how it would change the dynamics of our relationship. We still keep in touch loosely. The others were a different story. I announced it finally and endured tears and anger and finally a scathing acceptance of "my truth." I had lost all credibility and, in their eyes, any claim to intelligence. After a few abortive attempts, all contact with that group of friends was lost. No one would return my calls or even my Seasons Greetings Cards. Finally, after a few years I just started sending Christmas Cards thinking what could I loose? One responded and now we exchange biannual letters. The others dumped me because they couldn't be friends with someone like me, an intolerant Catholic.

Hard to believe an average bunch of gals could be so anti-Catholic in this day and age? Not in the New Age. We were actually a group of goddess worshipping pagans and I was a priestess. I was a leader in the community. I taught classes, wrote songs, led rituals, the whole shebang. And for those of you who don't believe in these sorts of things, I was able to do all sorts of unbelievable things, like mild prognostication and other creepy stuff. The allure of these "gifts" is such that I will not go into details. Suffice it to say, my group was astonished that anyone would be willing to give up such power.

Now that I am free, it amazes me how enslaved I was to it all. I didn't see myself as worshipping the devil or demons, I just thought I had found a legitimate power source. I was amazed at the "miracles" I could perform. I was heady with it. The power is the bait. It hooks you and then turns on you. The people involved stagnate and become trapped into cycling through personal issues over and over. It's similar to the stagnation of the personality caused by alcohol and drug abuse, and the experience is very much like an addiction. With this much personal dysfunction, the groups can get ugly. One of the most chilling comments during my "confession" to my group was from the group leader, "There's a reason we used to kill oath breakers." She didn't mean our group in particular but the groups in the largely recreated neopagan past. Her reference was historically dubious, but I was never so glad to dust myself off and move on in my life.

I found myself filling my days not with the chatter of friends, but the chatter of Catholic Radio. It was a lonely but a wonderful time. I was discovering things and growing as a person in ways I never could have imagined. My husband was also undergoing a transformation. Our marriage had never been better. Incrementally, I was learning just how self centered and sinful I was, and I was learning how much I was loved. I had, all my life, yearned for something, unknowing. Now I knew, and I had that something.

In the midst of this, I told my parents. They were not pleased, but they were not condemning either. They said they would tell the rest of the family for me, meaning aunts and uncles. It was their way to spare everyone any unkindness or awkwardness stemming from the initial shock. Then my parents said something that surprised me, "This will be good for your family."

That they found some good in my conversion was an incredible surprise at the time. Of the two groups, family vs friends, I had expected the opposite reactions. I had feared that my family would disown me and expected my friends to work out a new relationship with me. Exactly the opposite occurred. I was disowned by my friends, but my family and I have worked things out.

Why did I visit that church that day? Like any convert I was looking for something and found more than I bargained for. I was considering attending the Catholic Church because I wanted a community large enough to hide myself in. I wanted respectability without having to actually be respectable. In a sense, Cafeteria Catholics evangelized me. I walked in that door thinking I might go to the cafeteria to pick and choose what I wanted from table. I would remain unchanged.

God had other plans.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Into the Silence

Since I have been on the other side of this table, I can read this specialist like a book. She's wondering, "Just how honest can I be?" I can see her return read of me, evaluating that I am not the type to burst into tears at the first inkling of bad news. It's a delicate dance we're having.

She's telling me what I already know, have hoped to avoid, but have been doggedly pursuing for over a year now: there's something wrong.

Still, I am experiencing revelations daily. Although I have already assessed him, diagnosed him, and have merely sought professional confirmation and assistance, seeing the reality in black and white finally does bring me to tears. I do it discreetly, alone, upsetting no one but myself.

I am learning that some of the professionals in this maze are honestly caring, genuinely concerned, and purposefully helpful. Some are merely indifferent and therefore tolerable. Some, and these are the ones to watch for, are very full of themselves as saviors. They scare me. I'm beginning to think I need armor to save me from those who would save me.

My son, on the other hand, is as happy as ever. He likes going here and there and playing with all the new toys. He never says a word to all these specialists. His speaking is a private and careful affair. He says his precious few words after much thought and very rarely for strangers. But his eyes dance and he catches my gaze to hold up a truck. "Green," is what he would say if we were at home, meaning, "Look, mom, my favorite color."

The technical name for the way he speaks is "telegraphic speech." It's a phase we usually pass in and out of long before the age of three and a half. He and I have struggled for it, attained it late, and have maintained it long enough to make of it an art.

Make no mistake, he is a smart one. He has been deaf intermittently which is part of his delay and partly why doctors have delayed in taking me up on my insistence that something else is going on. Now that they are shouting my own clamorous alarm back to me, I find that I would really rather not be hearing it.

It's an odd position to be in. I am at once an honest assessor of his abilities, a plebeian petitioner among the royalty of experts, and a mother bear on her own turf. Like my son, my eyes speak the volumes I can not say:

Don't mess with me...Help me...I know...I don't understand.

I've been on the other side of all this as a teacher and advocate. I know the ropes. I could have sworn this would have given me some advantage. Only now am I realizing my mistakes. Compassion only carries you so far. It is an arrogance to assume that familiarity with the details gives you a sense of anyone's reality.

I am finding myself humbled in ways I would never have expected. I stare at the experts and think back to when I've said those same words about another woman's son. So this is what she felt when I said that. Now I know why she looked at me that way. Knowledge is always trumped by experience, sympathy by empathy.

Not that I am in any way advocating a lack of sympathy for those in sympathetic circumstances. Not that I think it is fruitless to try to understand another in this world. What I am saying is this: I am slowly and utterly beginning to understand the commandment, "Judge not, lest ye be judged."

Just because you are familiar with the terms, the outward appearances, there is little of another's actual experience that can be known. We may say things to one another from across a chasm of differences. We may even come to some understanding. But it is in the ringing silences between the words that we lose one another again. There, in that realm, is God. Only He knows what truths lie therein. Leave the fathoming of it to Him.