Product testing

•September 15, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I am an odd duck.  I love shoes, love how they can complete an outfit, make your legs look longer and leaner, make your feet look pretty.  But I’m happiest barefoot.  I guess I justify it by saying I can’t go to Mass, or work, or shopping without shoes so I might as well do it in style…

Anyway, my tendency to walk around barefoot or in barefoot’s cousin – flip flops – means my feet get dry and my poor heels get cracked.  Pretty bad, actually.

So I broke down and bought a tube of the Hell Tastic ointment.

I tried it and my feet feel softer.  We’ll see how it goes after a week or two of applications.  And how long the results last.

Sunday Gospel Reflection

•September 15, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I can’t guarantee I’ll do this every week, but once in a while I am going to talk about the Sunday Gospel reading, what it means, what my priest says during his homily, how I try to live it out in my life (and how you can, too).  The Gospel (which means “good news” for those of you who may not be Christian) is rich and full of comfort and wisdom and words of guidance for living our lives.

Today’s Gospel, from Mark 8:27-35:

Jesus and his disciples set out
for the villages of Caesarea Philippi.
Along the way he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that I am?”
They said in reply,
“John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others one of the prophets.”
And he asked them,
“But who do you say that I am?”
Peter said to him in reply,
“You are the Christ.”
Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him.

He began to teach them
that the Son of Man must suffer greatly
and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed, and rise after three days.
He spoke this openly.
Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples,
rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan.
You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them,
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake
and that of the gospel will save it.”

The first thing that strikes me is Peter.  My husband often says that Peter suffered from a severe case of foot-in-mouth disease, and often said things that were foolish and…well…extremely human.  And despite his flaws, Christ eventually chose Peter to be the first pope, the rock on which He would build His Church.  This is why the very human foibles and failings of our priests and popes are not cause lamentation or even necessarily despair – the first priests, the first pope, were just as sinful and flawed as we are.  Christ Himself was perfect, and expected us to imitate Him, but if attaining His perfection were even a posibility Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary would not be nearly as powerful or as necessary.

It is Peter who says, when asked by Jesus, that Jesus is the Christ.  It is a simple, but accurate and honest statement.  A sign of Peter’s faith.  Of course – mere moments later – it is also Peter who “rebukes” Christ when Jesus tells them He will have to suffer and die a humiliating death.  Christ then rebukes Peter, and harshly so, telling Peter, “Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”  Undoubtedly the idea that a beloved teacher, leader, friend like Jesus would die in the most degrading way known to man would unsettle the apostles who loved Him.  But Jesus had a mission – to make the ultimate sacrifice out of His love for His apostles, and all of us – and it needed to be fulfilled.

The second part of the Gospel is this notion of denying the self, taking up the cross, and following Christ.


Difficult stuff, huh?

Very deep, and very hard to accept.

And I acknowledge that difficulty 100%.  I fail.  I falter.  I don’t always live for Christ.  I don’t pray nearly as often as I should.  I should go to Mass daily (I always attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation), I should read the Scriptures more.  These are things I know and they’re always on my mind.

This, however, is only a fraction of what it means when Christ says mankind must “deny himself.”  Of course, this doesn’t mean we should necessarily deny ourselves of food, water, shelter, clothing.  Indeed there’s nothing wrong with having good food to eat, a nice home, decent clothing so long as the attempts to attain and retain those things do not usurp God’s as the focus in our life.  That’s not hard to do, really.  I have a roof over my head, food on my table, clothes on my back and I can provide those things for my children.  No, we’re not millionaires, but we are better off than many and I’m grateful for that.  Thanks be to God.

To deny outselves means to deny ourselves from those sinful impusles and desires that often define humanity.  Lust, sloth, gluttony, greed, wrath, envy, pride – the seven deadlies.  You know them.  We all engage or dance on the fringes of them daily.

We’re also often encouraged by a world that especially seems to esteem lust and its sinful manifestations (fornication, contraception, homosexuality, abortion).  They tell us these things are not only normal, but good, and a fulfillment of human potential.

No. No, no, no, no, no.  A thousand times no.

These things break our relationship with God, damage it.  Damage our soul.

And the other difficult thing is that we – as Catholics – have to deny ourselves the acclaim, popularity, kindess we would like to receive in the world and say that such behaviors our wrong.  We have to deny ourselves in order to speak the Truth of Christ and the Gospel to others.

Not easy.

But being a Catholic isn’t.

Eight years later

•September 11, 2009 • Leave a Comment

There’s nothing I can say about 9/11/01 that hasn’t been said, and more eloquently, by countless others.

I’ll never forget where I was, how frightened I was, how eerie it was driving to my parents’ house from college with no planes in the sky.  To this day when I see an airplane (and this happens quite often; we live in the flight path of our local airport) I look at it and wonder, “Is it supposed to be there?  Is it at the proper altitude, under the control of the pilots?  Is it going to land safely?  Will the people on board get to see their loved ones again?”  A few months ago, visiting the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, we went into a room with all sorts of transportation, including a full-sized airplane mounted to the wall that you could enter and walk around in.  We went and sat in the plane and even though it was bolted to the building, less than a story off the ground, I had a panic attack and got off quickly.  I’ve never been on a plane – an actual, operating plane – and it wasn’t until I sat in a window seat on this exhibit that I realized just how confining, how trapped and helpless you are on a plane.  You are at the mercy of God, physics, and the competence of the pilot.

You are also at the mercy of your fellow passengers.  Spike TV has a new series called “Surviving Disaster“, hosted by a Navy SEAL named Cade Courtley.  It piqued my interest enough that I set the series up to record on my DVR (the best invention in television, but that’s another post) and I’ve watched the first two episodes.  The premier was how to deal with a hijack scenario and was dedicated to the memory of passengers on Flight 93, where people who were strangers united in a final, heroic sacrifice to save the lives of others on the ground.

Tonight we’re hoping to go to a prayer service at our parish for 9/11.  My past experience tells me we’ll probably sing “America the Beautiful“, and the third verse always makes us cry because it’s taken on much deeper meaning in the past eight years:

O beautiful, for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine,
Till all success be nobleness, and ev’ry gain divine!

The Anchoress writes about the anniversary today as well.  I admire her writing greatly; she has a way of saying things that are profound, yet grounded.  She says:

A longtime friend and blogger related feeling reluctant to write about 9/11 on this anniversary. “Everything just feels so tense and uncertain,” this person wrote, “I’m having a hard time focusing on the anniversary, and hasn’t everything that could be said about 9/11 been said?”

I confessed to a similar feeling. On one hand, one wants to write, “never forget, and never again,” on the other hand, one is almost tired of feeling the pain and the anger. It’s almost like remembering my brother’s deaths; I’d rather think of the good times. Or, perhaps more accurately, it is like remembering a past victimization that has scarred me, but which I cannot allow to own me.

I probably shouldn’t be as wary or afraid of airplanes as I am.  It’s a victory, albeit a minor insignificant one, for what the terrorists aimed to do on 9/11 – not just kill, but intimidate and instill in us a sense of fear of Americans – to be so afraid we’ll kowtow before their radical demands and forget our blessed, and free, way of life.  But it is what it is and I struggle to overcome that fear.  Friends of ours live in Florida and are building a beautiful house (yeah, I’m a little jealous).  They were in town recently and said we needed to come and visit and stay with them at their new place.  That means flying because I’ve driven to Florida and I have two words: never again.  So I will have to face that fear and I hope a flight to the Sunshine State will dispel my terror.

It’s just that with all of it I don’t know what to say anymore.  I can’t bring back the men, women, and children who lost their lives.  I can’t take away the pain their families and friends undoubtedly feel today, and everyday.  If I could go back in time, I’d stop the attacks in a heartbeat (what a fantasy, I know).  But I can’t.

The Anchoress writes about her sons:

When my sons were young, I was still very much the pacifist-mom. My plan was never to buy then a toy weapon, but then they just created them out of Lego-type blocks, and so:

I taught my children. . .that fighting was bad, that there were better ways to achieve peace and understanding than through fisticuffs. I remember being appalled one day to learn that a neighbor had taught my Elder Son – who was being bothered by an older, bullying, boy – how to punch someone in the solar plexus. “You make sure you hurt him and get him down on the first punch,” she had instructed him, “because you don’t want him getting up.”

I was appalled until the day my son needed to use exactly that technique to save himself, and he did well. After that we invested in a punching bag and training gloves, to good effect. And curiously, the day of the bully never again did dawn. But had it…we all would have been ready.

That’s kind of what I am feeling on this terrible anniversary – that the Day of the Bully may yet dawn again, but I am not so sure how psyche-scarred America will handle it. I know our first responders, our military, our Protector lads and He-men (and She-ra’s) will do what they always do; they will never let us down. But this is a very different -much more divided and thus weaker- country than we were 8 years ago. Our trust in each other has been shaken. I believe we would weather another attack and come together, as before, but is that simply because I want to believe it?

She also writes about how kids are painfully aware they may one day be faced with a Columbine, Virginia Tech, or 9/11 of their own, and how to deal with it:

“…I’ve thought about what I would do, depending on where in the building such an attack were to take place. I’ve sat in class thinking about how the windows open, what structures would make the best barricades and how to go about taking the bastard down rather than simply cowering in fear while people are shot to death. I’ve thought of it. We’ve all thought of it, my friends and I, we’ve devoted hours to thinking about it. If you think we’re being cold or cavalier, I think we’re simply aware of the fact that this is what the world is, that no one can ever guarantee our safety – not schools, not governments – nothing is going to absolutely and 100% protect us from what is out there, what can come into our lives in an instant, and change everything. All we can hope is that when stuff like this comes our way, we can do the courageous thing.”

For my sons, 9/11 will be as the assassination of John Kennedy is for me – a historical fact, a program on the History Channel, a lesson in school.  And the awareness of the unpredictability of violence, the necessity of planning for an escape, will not be new to them; after Columbine (I was in 10th grade then) I made mental maps of all the exit routes and suitable hiding places in my school and, later, my college, in case something like that happened to me.  A teacher told me about the delivery doors in the back of the schools kitchen that I could use to escape.

I often wonder, “What would I do?” if faced with my own Flight 93, and I think I’d fight back.  Even if it means sacrificing myself to save others.

O beautiful, for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!

And in the end, all we can do is plan, hope, and pray.  Because that’s what we should do.  Pray.  For the victims, for their families, for our nation and her leadership, even for the terrorists who seek to crush us under their thumbs.

On Obama’s speech

•September 8, 2009 • Leave a Comment

So.  The text of the speech Obama gave to students today was released yesterday.  I read through the speech and found nothing particularly objectionable in the text in and of itself.  But here are my concerns and objections:

  1. The “supplemental materials” that have gone by the wayside. They were a bad idea and raise a few very justified red flags for parents.  While they’re gone they shouldn’t have been there in the first place.  Let the president give his message, ask kids what they think about it, but don’t prompt them to write how they’ll “help” the president achieve his goals (this, to me, implied the speech may have had a different focus before this went nuclear).
  2. The insistence by some on the left that this should be mandatory viewing. Listening to local conservative talk radio this morning, several callers all but said, “Screw parental rights” and force kids to listen to this.  No dice.  Just as I don’t want my child to have mandatory in-school lessons on sexual behavior without my knowledge and consent, I don’t want someone who politicizes everything talking to them when I’m not around.  Not even the President of the United States.  And back when George H.W. Bush did the same thing in the early 90s, the then-Democratically controlled Congress ran investigations.  Imagine the uproar if Bush had gone on television live, during school hours, to talk to our kids.  The same liberals who think this is mandatory would have had a collective coronary.
  3. Personal responsibility is a good message. Too bad Obama’s political views don’t support his words. Like so many other things, what Obama says and what he does are often on opposite ends of the spectrum.  What do I mean?  Well, for a man who supports government-controlled…well, everything…from health care to the economy to radio and the Internet.  Obama is the kind of politician who tells his constituents that all the bad things, the difficulties in their lives come from other, ethereal or sinister sources (like “the Man”) and not the possible bad choices they’ve made; he is also the kind of politician who also tells his constituents that taking personal responsibility to change their circumstances is impossible – only the government can save them.  This doesn’t gel with turning around and telling school kids they are the masters of their own destinies and need to take charge of their education.  Your words have meaning, Mr. President.  Your actions speak louder.
  4. Who will hear this message? As I said above, talking about personal responsibility (especially in education) is wonderful.  Fine.  But the students that need to hear it are, in all likelihood not going to hear it.  Kids in inner city schools, kids with absentee fathers, kids born and raised in cultures that shun education as “acting white” and glorify the violence and dysfunction of the rap/hip-hop/R&B culture…they’re not getting the message.  Neither are their parents.  How can we address this issue?

And when Obama and his supporters have spent the summer calling citizens who object to Obama’s policies “Nazis” and “terrorists” and “mobs”, you wonder why we’re not keen on having you with our children and without our input or oversight.

The problem isn’t roundabouts or intersections…

•September 7, 2009 • Leave a Comment

it’s that people don’t know how to drive.

People don’t pay attention to road signs anymore, don’t know the difference between “stop” and “yield”, don’t know the rules of a four-way stop, don’t know that a 30 MPH speed limit means 30 MPH and not I’m-gonna-blow-past-you-and-flip-you-the-bird-because-you’re-going-35-and-I-want-to-go-50.  It is frustrating and dangerous.

I bet that if you pulled people over at random to take the written/practical drivers’ test again, 95% of them would fail on the first try.  Accidents happen, I get that, but some people drive as if they’re the only ones on the road and you’d better get out of their way.

Another glorious day…

•September 6, 2009 • 1 Comment

For obvious reasons, up dates have been scattered.

Just stopping in now to say things are going well.  It’s not as hard to get up with a newborn as I remembered it being with Pickle.  I think my Peanut looks like my mother-in-law, a blessing and bittersweet.  We have new neighbors across the hall; the apartment was empty for about two months.  I bought a potted Zinnia and two white Chrysathemums for my porch and they’re thriving.  My Gerbera daisy has quadrupled in size and has blossoms that are as large as sunflowers and just as yellow.  My hanging plant is struggling, but I think it was meant for spring and summer. Next year I may try herbs.

It’s 75º and lovely.  There’s a great breeze coming in our windows and the air is fresh.

Classes also started on Wednesday so I have homework and lots of stuff to go through for my education classes.  I’m not going to give up like I did as an undergrad but I won’t pretend it’s not intimidating.  But if I sit down and go through and create a plan and some questions it will help clarify my mind and go from there.

So that’s where I’m going now.  I want to get some housework done (yes, I know it’s a Sunday) but Elroy* is off tomorrow so we want to have a nice Labor Day before his paternity leave ends (that’s been a blessing, let me tell you).  He also said today that if Jeopardy holds auditions in our area, he’s going to go.  I’ve been telling him for years to audition because he’s got a junk drawer of a mind and knows 99% of the answers on Jeopardy before Alex even finishes reading the answer.  I said he doesn’t have to go all Ken Jennings on me, just win enough to pay off some of our debt and maybe get a new minivan or car (I’m torn between the VW Routan and the Saturn Outlook…wishful thinking).

Anyway, housework calls and so does homework.  Got to run.

Oh, if this had been me…

•September 3, 2009 • Leave a Comment

They’d have been peeling his sorry hide off the floor at Wal-Mart.

My son has meltdowns in public.  He’s two years old.  Ever heard of the “Terrible Twos”?  Yeah…it happens.  But you know what?  It happens because, often, he wants something – a toy, some candy – that I don’t want him to have.  So I tell him “no” and he doesn’t like it.

I, frankly, don’t care if he doesn’t like it.  I’m his mother and saying “no” is part of my job as a parent.  If he has a meltdown it’s an attempt to get his way and I’m not giving in.  If we’re in a place – like a restaurant, a library/bookstore, or church – and he has a meltdown, we’ll move him so he doesn’t disrupt others.  But in a public place I’m not letting him dictate the terms of when we leave or under what circumstances.

So I keep him in the cart and let him have his meltdown.  A few minutes of ignoring him and he stops.

Once, some smart-alec asked if he needed to call the police, and I shot him a look that silenced him.

But if someone ever attempted to slap or spank my child the cops would be the least of their worries.


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