Saturday, December 27, 2008

What I'm Reading

I vowed not to post until after the new year and I'm generally sticking to that commitment. Still, I just couldn't avoid sharing what's on my nightstand.

I'm riveted. After her father's death, Bliss Broyard discovers he hid his black heritage and chose to "pass" as white for most of his life. "One Drop" is part biography, part memoir--and a MUST READ for anyone who has questioned his or her own racial background. Broyard's careful, sometimes tedious genealogical analysis is tempered by a powerful depiction of her father's life and the motivations that shaped his decision to disavow his black heritage. Equally compelling is Broyard's struggle to determine what her newly discovered racial identity means for her personally.

I haven't been able to put it down.

More on this later, no doubt.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Happy Birthday to All Five of You!

My baby sister Meghan is the 30 today! I still remember seeing her for the first time through the viewing glass at O'Connor Hospital in 1978. Can that really be 30 years ago??

And to those no-longer-little-siblings who all just happened to be born on the same day...Happy 16th birthday Matt, Tim, Sarah, and Ryan. You're goin' mobile kiddos!

Christmas is calling ...See You in '09

My Christmas preparedness level is less than what it should be. So, I have to lay off the blog and just get it all done. I'll be back shortly after the new year.

As a parting gesture, I leave you with a few memorable Tacky Christmas Yard photos...

Merry Christmas everyone!

Violations: W.T.H.?!?!, Unharmonious Arrangement, Griswold Family, King Kong Complex, Frequent Lighter, More is NOT Less, Multiple Clauses, Intermingling, Snowman Inlaws

Have a Merry Christmas and a Goodyear.
Violation: Less is not more.

The birth of Christ is like a carnival...Violations: Unharmonious Arrangement

Violations: Frequent Lighter Card, More Is NOT Less, Multiple Clauses, Snowman In-Laws, Intermingling

Friday, December 12, 2008

How Do You Rank?

Sister Mary Martha just posted this and I LOVE IT. Some of you know I have been complaining for years about the way some women CHOOSE to dress, especially at Mass. The ones who sashay up to Communion in attire that is fitting for a night club in Las Vegas. Or dare I say...the street corner. (Yes, I said it.) Anyway, I'm glad Sister decided to weigh in.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm all for stylish, attractive, etc. We don't have to run around in prairie dresses like we're fresh from the compound. I'm not suggesting that bathing suits extend past the knees. I'm just talking about clothes that flatter but don't display everything you have to offer. Or don' the case may be. I think of women like Audrey Hepburn and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Their style epitomized femininity but was never about vulgarity. On the flip side, Pamela Anderson stands out. Sometimes I just shake my head and wonder what she could possibly be thinking?? (As a side note, she really is a beautiful woman who actually looks her best when she's not all tramped up ((Oracle calls it tarted out)). I once saw a photo of Ms. Anderson with very little make-up and wearing casual jeans with a modest t-shirt. She was far prettier that way. Oh well.)

Anyway, I'd like to see the concept of modesty addressed with our Church-at-large. John Paul II alluded to this concept in his Theology of the Body. Check it out sometime.

Bottom line, it's all about respecting our one and only Holy-Spirit-filled-temple.

Just my two cents (and a few from Sister).

Pardon My Appearance

Blog under holiday construction...Working out the template kinks while trying to do ten other things!

Update: Construction complete. Christmas season is in full swing!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Gangsta Lean

Is it just me or has anyone else happened to notice that the gangsta lifestyle has completely arrived in middle, suburban America?

Just today, right here in Leave-It-To Beaver-ville, a mom in a mini-van was rollin' down the road with her right hand on the wheel and her seat back waaaaay reclined. Mom's blond head bobbed to a beat that vibrated my dental work. And get this...the kid in the car seat sported sunglasses and mean mugged anyone who happened to look his way. I almost expected him to roll down the window and tell me to "peak this" with his hand held in the gat (gun) pose. 'Sup beeeaaach".

OK, maybe I'm exaggerating. But just a little bit.

It's hardly coincidental that also today, my most mainstream, suburban friend sent me an e-mail which included instructions on how to make your name more gangsta. From here on out, let it be known that I am the Momizzle.

Even my kids, whom I pride for their edited exposure to pop culture hype, are not immune.

You gonna step-to E-Dawg?!!!

I told him to turn his hat around and take a picture like the nice little boy I raised. His reply?

But mom, I'm cool. Ya feel me?

No, I'm not feelin' ya. Cut it out...NOW.

It's fair to say he was feelin' me right about then.

I know he's just thinking he was cool, like many kids try to be at one point or another. Here's my problem: The gangstas of my day were all about fighting, killing, selling drugs, and getting high.

Rollin down the street, smokin indo, sippin on gin and juice
Laid back [with my mind on my money and my money on my mind]

Snoop Dog's words-to-live-by back in the 90's. Not exactly the inspiration most parents desire for their children. Oddly, however, the young ones don't even know about the old-school persona. They just think Snoop's a funny guy with a reality show that they're not allowed to watch. And what about Ice Cube? Isn't he the same hood rat made famous by Death Row Records, who openly bellowed F*** the police? Now he's a family entertainment star, making mad cap, Disney-esque movies with broad based appeal.

Sometimes, it really is a nutty world.

Oh well. I guess it's not unusual for the underground to seep its way above grade. I just hope that anyone of any ethnic background, realizes that some behavior is just not cool, no matter how much pop culture has sanitized or reinvented it. Admittedly, the occasional reference to all things gangsta is nearly impossible to avoid. At this point, I think even I say "It's time to bounce" when we need to leave. Just a few days ago, my mortgage broker was talking about someone having street cred. I'm thinking this guy knows as much about street cred as I know of quantum physics.

I know. I know. The Momizzle can't shield my peeps from everything. But I'll keep watching out for them wherever I can. Yes, I submit to the ranks of the decidedly uncool. I used to think that doing so was a costly premium exacted from once-blissful-hipsters-turned-parents. Now, it's kind of a relief to have the license to just avoid what's in or what's out. You have a lot more time to focus on the stuff that really matters.

Fo' shizzle.

Monday, December 01, 2008

E's Financial Advice

E approached me today with a look of worry written all over his little six-year old face.

E: "Mom, do we have Nationwide Insurance?"

Mommy: " We don't. We use another company. Why are YOU asking me about INSURANCE anyway? Do you even know what insurance IS?

E: "I just know that you have to have it or you won't have anyone to count on when the going gets tough."

Mommy: "That sounds like something you heard on a commercial, E. Don't worry, honey. Your Daddy and I have got this one covered."

E: "So you mean, if our house burns down, the insurance company that you guys picked will pay for stuff and help us get a new one?"

Mommy: "Right. You've got the idea".

E: "So, which company is it mom?"

Mommy: "Oh for crying out loud E, it's State Farm. Stop worrying about it. We've had them for years. This is nothing you have to worry about!"

E: "OK, OK! But I'm telling you right now, Nationwide is better.

Mommy: "Why do you say that?"

E: "Because if the house burns down, we're not going to need a good neighbor. We're gonna need a lot of cash".

E: "Mom, why are you laughing?"

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Date Night

Maybe we're making the grade as parents but we're seriously blowing it in the life-balance department. We never go out anymore. You know--L and J. The same L and J who were married for seven years before they had children. Who dined at world-class restaurants. The same L & J who traveled the globe together. Indeed, the very same mad cap love birds who were known to fly to Vegas for the weekend on two hours notice.

But lately, we've been two passing ships in the night. And in the day. And every time in between.

So today, on a whim, I took the plunge and made an effort to find a baby sitter so that J and I could have a BADLY needed night out. Nothing fancy, nothing hifalutin. Just nice. C'mon...surely it can't be asking too much to go to a restaurant where there are no pictures on the menus? No Chochkies, Chille's, Fritters, Portillo's, Applebee's, Fudruckers, Tooters, TGI Fridays, Outback, Cheeseburgers in Paradise, WoJos, and for the love of all that is Chuck E. Cheese.

We had it all planned. A dinner at a small but very nice bistro. You know, the kind of place where you can wear a pair of jeans and a turtleneck but you actually get wine poured from a --bottle (not from the 440z mega box perched on the back counter next to the ketchup packets). Children's menus are non-existent. Alas, there isn't a single food photo anywhere on the menu! This mommy was giddy with anticipation at the thought of our big night out--sans the offspring, of course!

There was only one hitch in the giddy-up. In order to leave said progeny in the care of one whom is not their parent, there is a certain amount of prep work to be done. Such as...ensure that the emergency number list is up-to-date. Feed munchkins early with special take-out fare in order to stifle whining and last ditch protests about being excluded from parents' night out. Document night time routine for sitter. Pick up clutter to the extent that sitter is duped into believing that his employers are not the craziest ones on the block. This process includes removing J's tools, screws, nuts, and bolts from food preparation surfaces, wiping goo of unknown origin from several often used handles, locating at least ONE of the four cordless phones rumored to exist somewhere in the house, and rounding up anywhere from five to fifty-five toys strewn from the basement to the attic. Straighten my office nook so that it doesn't appear as though a lunatic resides in the home. Make sure dog is fed and has gone outside to do his thing. Feed cat. Replenish water. Brush cat as giant mat is forming on his back. Check on dog who is currently consuming shredded, rubber playground material in the back yard. Return dog to kennel. Clean rabbit cage and provide food and water. Notice that six-year old son and his friend have smashed pumpkins in the front yard and have spread dismembered, rotten pumpkin parts on walkway. Listen to husband's conniption about said disaster and aid in the decontamination process. Notice that baby sitter is due in ten minutes. JoJo needs help going potty, dishes are still stacked in the sink, the dog is barking in his kennel, presumably because shredded rubber is not digesting well. Meanwhile, a phone's muffled ring can be heard but its vector remains undetermined. While assisting JoJo with bathroom activity, overhear upset friend caterwaul on answering machine about how we never pick up the phone. "I can't imagine what you're doing! Pick up that phone. I know you're there. Hellloooooo."

Five minutes until baby sitter arrives. Run upstairs to shower/dress. Suddenly recall that E's fish tank needs a partial replenishment. Forget it. In this family, we're living proof that a little clutter never killed anybody. Sorry fish. Just swim around the chunks.

Manage to squeeze in a shower while J greets sitter. He saunters upstairs to shower and dress. Current time: 7:15 pm. While he cleans-up after his twelve hour yard work day, I decide that I can rest my eyes for a few minutes on our bed. Apparently, I made it look rather inviting. J throws on some sweats and decides to join know, "just until she wakes up".

I woke up alright. At 10:30 pm.

Embarrassed and groggy, I skulk downstairs. Pay the sitter, endure his comical smirk, lock the doors. Sigh deeply as I notice that all the toys that were stowed just four hours ago are now hanging from a few lamps, crammed under seat cushions, and piled in various corners in the family room. Jabba the Hut smiles sheepishly from his evil lair atop our fireplace mantle. Two Polly Pockets dangle on a string and are desperately hoping to be saved by Luke Skywalker. Oops. I mean Mr. Incredible. Just yesterday, Luke met an untimely demise. Compliments of the dog.

As far as the next date night--let's just say we'll squeeze one in by the time E's in high school.

Then again, maybe not.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Top Ten Reasons Why I Love Being a Parent

#10 You get to live your childhood all over again. Sort of. Except this go 'round, you can fashion it the way you want it to be versus the way it actually was. I just have to be careful to remember that kids ultimately do their own thing. My dreams will not necessarily be theirs.

#9 I have an extremely valid reason to talk about super heroes, Polly Pockets, Webkinz, monsters, unicorns, baby penguins, American Girl dolls, fairies, and Transformers.

#8 Dressing and shopping for children's clothing is the best. It is so much fun.

#7 Children are living, breathing proof of God's sense of humor.

#6 I read to them all of the books and stories I adored as a child. E and JoJo have heard the entire Laura Ingalls Wilder collection. E is currently reading my old Peanuts comic strip books by Charles Schulz. We can't forget "Tales of a Forth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume.
Everything written by Shel Silverstein. "The Little Prince" by Antoine de Saint Exupery. I could go on and on.

#5 Kids are warm toasters on cold winter mornings. I love to wake before dawn and snuggle with either one of them.

#4 Children make holidays fun, especially Halloween, Christmas, and Easter.

#3 You meet a whole new circle of friends once you have kids. Between school, sports, scouts, lessons, and play dates, you are destined to meet people who share at least some of your interests.

#2 My kids' belly laughs can crack me up no matter what mood I am in.

#1 When I least expect it, my children express gratitude, empathy, and heartfelt love. No feeling can exceed my pride in them at those moments.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The 80s

A twenty-something family member recently asked me what it was like to be young in the eighties. OK...just the question makes me feel old. I can clearly remember posing a similar question to some ancient forty-year old; the only difference, of course, is that I was asking about the nineteen fifties! You know--poodle skirts, Wolfman Jack, dice on rear view mirror. Have big hair, overly bright clothing styles, and lace tights received the same type of stereotypical over-exposure? Can it actually be that the era of my young adulthood has attained a pop culture status only attributed to time periods that were, well...A LONG TIME AGO?

Apparently so. (Sigh)

Oh well. It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. Looking back, I would have to say that my twenties were a precursor to real adulthood. A training ground of sorts. Fun, heartache, attraction, drama, break-ups, enlightenment, rebellion, creativity, introspection, discovery. All of that stuff. Some people don't need that time to become real adults. I did. Boy did I. In fact, a wounded love interest once told me, "You'll be 21 until you're 40"...shortly before he chucked a few bills at the check and unceremoniously left me sitting alone in a Thai restaurant in the Haight. Turns out, he was only off by about a decade. It's fair to say that I had the mindset of a twenty-one year old until I was about, say, 30ish. So I was a late bloomer.

Better late than never.

Anyway, here are some of my standout memories from the eighties:

First year of college. 1984.
Broke it off with my high school boyfriend. At the time, he was crushed. Truthfully, I was relieved. I knew enough to know that I wasn't supposed to be making wedding plans at eighteen years old. I handled the break-up very poorly and for that I'll always be sorry. He deserved better and I just didn't have the maturity at the time to do it any differently. Anyway, he went on to marry another girl from our high school class. For all I know, they are still married. I hope they have been blessed with happiness.

Other than this initial drama, the world was my oyster that year. Everything was new, fresh, and enlightening. My first brush with freedom and I loved it. I wanted to know everything I could cram into my head about politics, religion, art, literature, writing, philosophy, and history. Participated in the anti-Apartheid protests on campus. And boys/men. Um...let's just say I had lots of dates, more than a few boyfriends. This is when I discovered that beautiful men, young and old, come in all kinds of diverse packaging. A certain Korean-American wrestler stole my heart early in the year. If I had married him, my first and last name would have been the same. What a lovely, appreciative young gentleman. We weren't intended for the long haul but whomever married him is a lucky woman, I'm sure. And EJ...who still tops my list as one of the all time greatest people ever. (I see 'ya Mr. Morris Day from The Time. You know you did The Bird). LOL. A friendship that endured despite the odds. A friendship of which I am immensely proud. My husband thinks he is "one great guy". And he is. I have to meet that wife of his 'cause if he picked her, she has to be great too.

Summer of 1985. Partied like it was 1999. Actually, considering all of the craziness that summer, it's a feat that I made it to 1999. The Palladium in San Francisco was where we could be found most weekends. Or the I-Beam. Throw in Das Club, The Edge/ Vortex. We CANNOT forget DV8! In San Jose, it was Oasis, Club 47, and Paradise Beach. Worked a temp job which started each weekday morning at 7:05am. Most nights, I was out until 4am. And I made it into the office and on time, fresh as a daisy. Now, I'd be nearly comatose if I attempted that even once. Went to a house party in Woodside, California where the dwelling had suffered a catastrophic fire a few nights before. Only nineteen year-old kids would think it a nifty idea to set up a kegger among smoldering ashes. "Burning Down the House" was played numerous times that warm, summer evening. And of course, we also heard..."The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire, we don't need no water let the motha****** burn. Burn motha******, burrrnnnnnnn....". Oh brother....

1985-1988: Shared a house with three men. (Had my own room, of course.) All of them were quite a bit older than me and had long since graduated from college. I was surely ready for some sanity after a year in the dorms. The owner of the home was especially protective of me. And I got to live in a beautiful, hillside house, relatively close to campus for $250 a month. Kid you not. The owner still lives there and is married. I will forever be thankful to him for the safe haven he provided.

1987: Met and fell head over heels for someone who was great...just not great for me. Learned about art, photography, and much more. Developed my own cultural awareness for the very first time. Began questioning all kinds of things I once believed as immutable truth.

1988: Was called a N***** lover by some random idiot. I can still feel the sting of that insult. For the first time, I really understood what racism must feel like. Internally. I witnessed first hand how it can chip away your willingness to trust others. How it breeds inner suspicion. How it
destroys innocence.

1989: Finished my thesis, graduated from college and blew off the establishment. Became a vegetarian, lived in the Vulcan Warehouse artists' community in Oakland, California and dropped out of mainstream life. Pierced a few body parts. Met people from all walks. Next door neighbors were several members of a Bay Area thrash metal band. Begged them to lower the amp volume one night so that I could finish my senior thesis. To their credit, they turned it down, despite their need to practice for a gig that night. Apparently, even Dirty Rotten Imbeciles can be swayed by a college girl's tearful pleading.

Discovered that a pained, struggling, artist's existence is a romantic notion but not a plausible lifestyle most people can endure for the sake of a craft. More than a few people I knew at that time are now what might be called "high visibility". No names mentioned here, of course.

There is more to tell. Lots, actually.

"The 90's", however, is another post. Duty calls.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Introducing Sir Winston Churchill

We'll just call him Winston.It fits

Antiquity + One More Year = REALLY OLD

The Wise One is now officially Ancient Wise One.

We look forward to continued advice, counsel, and yes, prophecy.

Happy birthday Oracle!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Premio Dardos

My blog awards go to (--in no particular order and for varying reasons. New awards in purple):

Stuff White People Do

Opinionated Catholic

Ask Sister Mary Martha

Ironic Catholic

Crummy Church Signs

Every Day Catholic Woman (U.K--Right back at 'ya Joanna)

Thinking Love, No Twaddle (U.K.--FYI Mum...Americans rarely use the word TWADDLE. I think we should use it more. It just fits somehow.)

Velveteen Mind

Zippy Catholic

Sunday, November 16, 2008

What Catholics Believe

Every now and then, I'm going to share a random teaching/tenant of our faith 'cause it sure seems like there is MUCHO confusion out there--among Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

Today's pearl is about death. More specifically: What happens to us when we die? The answer that a knowledgeable Catholic will give you just might fall into your new information category. Turns out, it's a two-part saga. Like Rocky I and II. Or Star Wars and the Empire Strikes back. OK, before I date myself any more, here goes:

First, if you've made the cut, so to speak, your immortal soul goes to Heaven. You experience immeasurable love, joy, and happiness as you commune with God and the angels and saints for all eternity. But gets better. Sort of.

When we recite the Creed in Church, we speak of Jesus coming back "to judge the living and the dead." We're not joking around on this point. We believe in the resurrection of the body. At the end of time, all of creation will be judged and chosen bodies will join souls in Heaven. So, a word to the wise...If I were you, I would start thinking about taking care of that sacred vessel. Wouldn't it be a letdown to actually make it into Heaven and then, at the end of time, be reunited with an old broken down hoopty of a body? Talk about motivation for an exercise plan!

As a side note...the Church allows cremation. You just can't be cremated BEFORE your funeral Mass. I don't know how the Lord will put all of those cremated body parts back together but then again, He is, you know, God. Who am I to question His engineering capabilities?

If you think I'm off of my rocker, be sure to reference numbers 686, 999-1000 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I know--not exactly light reading. Still, I thought I ought to provide a source so you don't think I'm making up stuff as I go along. I'll leave that to the nuns. Just kidding.

*Credit also given to "In the Know With Father Joe"--a column written by Fr. Joseph Krupp.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Truly Inspired

Click on this image to enlarge.

It's about time someone said it, don't you think?

Saturday, November 08, 2008

A New Blog Award!

This award acknowledges the values that this blogger
shows in his/her effort to transmit cultural, ethical, literary
and personal values every day.

Thanks again Mum!

Next post will be devoted to my list of recipients.

Friday, November 07, 2008

To Obama Supporters... Whom I Call Friends

Dear Friends and Family...

Congratulations on Obama's unprecedented victory. While I greatly disagree with most of his left-of-center positions, I would be dim indeed if I didn't realize the amazing achievement his election represents. Despite my disappointment over McCain's overwhelming loss, I was moved by Obama's election night speech. Oddly, what struck me the most was the image of Jesse Jackson, openly weeping because of the reality before his him: President-elect Obama. How could Jackson not reflect upon the groundbreaking moment he was witnessing? Who could not appreciate the sacrifice, toil, and bravery demanded of so many African-Americans in order for Obama to achieve the pinnacle of the American dream? I can only imagine the pride and the triumph felt by Jackson and by so many others on that unseasonably warm, historic evening in Grant Park.

Even I became overwhelmed with emotion. Some might be surprised by the degree to which I can relate to the sentiment so prevalent among Obama faithful. The issue of race and the shame surrounding it has had a devastating effect upon many whom I call near and dear. Perhaps Obama's election will finally confirm what so many have known for a long time: Our ethnic heritage, while an important part of how we define ourselves, need not limit our talents, abilities, and achievements. How sad that so many people I have known and loved never discovered the freedom and the esteem that emerges from this essential truth. How limiting and degrading it must be to deny one's own heritage. Barack Obama's election may be just the thing so many need to finally close the book on race as a detracting factor in our beloved country.

If only we conservatives could clone Mr. Obama but reprogram our new "model" with pro-life zeal, laissez faire economic ideals, and more pragmatic foreign policy leanings. What a candidate that would be! I, too, have a dream.

To my friends who also happen to be Obama supporters...I know you are thrilled over this outcome and rightly so. While we part ways on policy, I congratulate you on this well earned victory. And, as I mentioned to my son just today, we don't have to agree with Mr. Obama, but as Americans, we must all respect the soon-to-be President Obama, who will confront numerous challenges upon assuming office. His will certainly not be an enviable position. He will need our support where we are morally able to provide it.

I pray for Barack Obama and his family. The weight of the responsibility and the duties that lay ahead will be great indeed. I hope all of you join me in this prayer.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Special Forces Required

Even a prayerful Catholic needs an A-Team power assist from time to time.

Now would be one of those times.

Father Corapi tells us that our Blessed Mother keeps her combat boots on stand-by and she's ready for battle. Against sin, that is. We better call her in and ask her to lace 'em up. Looks like she's needed now more than ever.

Blessed Mother Mary...and all the rest of the saints in Heaven...including my dear, late Mother-in-Law Millie. Intercede for us, please. Ask for His grace as we face tremendous opposition to His most basic gift to humanity...LIFE.

I am discouraged and overwhelmed by the mandate bestowed upon our president-elect. I fear that the culture of death has become so insidious, so pervasive that it is no longer even recognized as such. This evil is disguised as "choice", as "freedom", and as a "right". How twisted the notion of liberty has become when an entire class of citizens are expendable in exchange for another class's quest for less encumbered lives. Something tells me that the Framers concept of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" did not provide for murdering undesirable citizenry as a means to that end. But hey, what do I know?

Several years ago, Millie shared this with me: When she was a student nurse in the 1950's, it was a routine practice for lay hospital staff to baptize very young, pre-born children who died as a result of miscarriage or stillbirth. She recalled once creating a small tear in an amniotic sac to sprinkle holy water on a tiny, fallen child. At that time, it was a concern that every life, even in its earliest stage, received Jesus' Sacrament. Now, we're debating whether a child who miraculously survives a failed abortion is entitled to medical care or should be permitted to die in any one of many barbaric, unspeakable ways. If you dare describe these atrocities as anything other than "procedures" or "reproductive freedom", prepare to endure the wrath of the current culture. Anti-woman. Extremist. Right-winger. Hate-monger. Meanwhile, God help you if you're caught purchasing a mascara reportedly tested on boll weevils. Ingrid Newkirk and her PETA henchmen will b-slap you faster than you can whimper, "Going forward, product testing will only be conducted on whiny toddlers and unsightly old-people".

My God, have we lost our way. And while we can't place all the blame in Obama's lap, he has and will be a powerful opponent to right-to-life issues.

So I'm calling on our army of patron-saint-reinforcements this early, Wednesday morning. On behalf of this frustrated, bewildered sinner, pray that I and so many like me, maintain the zeal and the stamina required in the next several years ahead of us. 'Cause we're gonna need all that and more my friends.

*I know you guys will kick in. You always do. Besides, with Millie up there, what choice do you have?

*Disclaimer to my non-Catholic friends and readers: Catholics do not believe that saints are deities with God-like abilities. Nor are we taught, for that matter, that St. Mary, the Blessed Mother, is a deity. Saints, which are all souls residing in Heaven, readily accept requests to pray with us and for us. Saint's prayers have a V.I.P status of sorts-- so it's generally a good thing to have a saint on your prayer team. Most of us need all the help we can get.

Monday, November 03, 2008

More Bishops Weigh In: Say No to Obama

I keep singing the same old tune--even though it's a song that many friends and family have grown weary of hearing. Here I go again: In good conscience, no Catholic can cast a vote for Obama.

The following is a profound statement from two, prominent American bishops. (I don't know how I missed this one. I'm remiss in posting it so late.)
They make it clear that pro-abortion Catholics are in direct opposition to their Church and are placing their eternal salvation in serious jeopardy. (I feel uneasy and sanctimonious even typing this strong statement--but the fact of the matter is--they are voicing the correct and courageous position.)

Our Moral Responsibility as Catholic Citizens
Joint Pastoral Letter – September 8, 2008
Most Reverend Joseph F. Naumann, Archbishop of Kansas City in Kansas
Most Reverend Robert W. Finn, Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph

Dear Friends in Christ,

With the approaching general election this November, we believe this to be an important moment for us to address together the responsibility of Catholics to be well informed and well formed voters.

Except for the election of our next President, the people of Northwestern Missouri and Northeastern Kansas will be choosing different candidates for different offices in our two dioceses. Yet the fundamental moral principles that should guide our choices as Catholic voters are the same.

For generations it has been the determination of Catholic Bishops not to endorse political candidates or parties. This approach was initiated by Archbishop John Carroll – the very first Catholic Bishop serving in the United States. It was long before there was an Internal Revenue Service Code, and had nothing to do with a desire to preserve tax-exempt status. Rather the Church in the United States realized early on that it must not tether the credibility of the Church to the uncertain future actions or statements of a particular politician or party. This understanding of the Church’s proper role in society was affirmed in the Second Vatican Council’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern Word: “The Church, by reason of her role and competence, is not identified with any political community nor bound by its ties to any political system. It is at once the sign and the safeguard of the transcendental dimension of the human person.”(Gaudium et Spes n.76)

A Right to Speak Out on Issues

At the same time, it is important to note that the Catholic Church in the United States has always cherished its right to speak to the moral issues confronting our nation. The Church has understood its responsibility in a democratic society to do its best to form properly the consciences of her members. In continuity with the long history of the efforts of American Bishops to assist Catholics with the proper formation of their consciences, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) this past November issued a statement: Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. In that document our brother bishops took care to note: “This statement is intended to reflect and complement, not substitute for, the ongoing teachings of bishops in our own dioceses and states.”

It is in this context that we offer the following reflections to assist the Catholic people of Northwestern Missouri and Northeastern Kansas in forming their consciences in preparation for casting their votes this November.

Many Issues: Prudential Judgments

Every Catholic should be concerned about a wide range of issues. We believe in a consistent ethic that evaluates every issue through the prism of its impact on the life and dignity of the human person. Catholics should care about public policies that:
a) promote a just and lasting peace in the world,
b) protect our nation from terrorism and other security threats,
c) welcome and uphold the rights of immigrants,
d) enable health care to be accessible and affordable,
e) manifest a special concern for the poor by attending to their immediate needs and assisting them to gain economic independence,
f) protect the rights of parents to be the primary educators of their children,
g) create business and employment opportunities making it possible for individuals to be able to provide for their own material needs and the needs of their families,
h) reform the criminal justice system by providing better for the needs of the victims of crimes, protecting the innocent, administering justice fairly, striving to rehabilitate inmates, and eliminating the death penalty,
i) foster a proper stewardship of the earth that God has entrusted to our care.

This is by no means an exhaustive list.

While the above issues, as well as many others, have important moral dimensions, Catholics may and do disagree about the most effective public policies for responding to them. How these issues are best addressed and what particular candidates are best equipped to address them requires prudential judgments – defined as circumstances in which people can ethically reach different conclusions. Catholics have an obligation to study, reflect and pray over the relative merits of the different policy approaches proposed by candidates. Catholics have a special responsibility to be well informed regarding the guidance given by the Church pertaining to the moral dimensions of these matters. In the end, Catholics in good conscience can disagree in their judgments about many aspects of the best policies and the most effective candidates.

The Priority of Rejecting Intrinsic Evil

There are, however, some issues that always involve doing evil, such as legalized abortion, the promotion of same-sex unions and ‘marriages,’ repression of religious liberty, as well as public policies permitting euthanasia, racial discrimination or destructive human embryonic stem cell research. A properly formed conscience must give such issues priority even over other matters with important moral dimensions.
To vote for a candidate who supports these intrinsic evils because he or she supports these evils is to participate in a grave moral evil. It can never be justified.

Even if we understand the moral dimensions of the full array of social issues and have correctly prioritized those involving intrinsic evils, we still must make prudential judgments in the selection of candidates. In an ideal situation, we may have a choice between two candidates who both oppose public policies that involve intrinsic evils. In such a case, we need to study their approach on all the other issues that involve the promotion of the dignity of the human person and prayerfully choose the best individual.

Limiting Grave Evil

In another circumstance, we may be confronted with a voting choice between two candidates who support abortion, though one may favor some limitations on it, or he or she may oppose public funding for abortion. In such cases, the appropriate judgment would be to select the candidate whose policies regarding this grave evil will do less harm. We have a responsibility to limit evil if it is not possible at the moment to eradicate it completely.

The same principle would be compelling to a conscientious voter who was confronted with two candidates who both supported same-sex unions, but one opposed abortion and destructive embryonic research while the other was permissive in these regards. The voter, who himself or herself opposed these policies, would have insufficient moral justification voting for the more permissive candidate. However, he or she might justify resorting to a write-in vote or abstaining from voting at all in this case, because of a conscientious objection.

In 2004 a group of United States Bishops, acting on behalf of the USCCB and requesting counsel about the responsibilities of Catholic politicians and voters, received a memo from the office of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI, which stated: “A Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil, and so unworthy to present himself for Holy Communion, if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate’s permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia. When a Catholic does not share a candidate’s stand in favor of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons.”

Could a Catholic in good conscience vote for a candidate who supports legalized abortion when there is a choice of another candidate who does not support abortion or any other intrinsically evil policy? Could a voter’s preference for the candidate’s positions on the pursuit of peace, economic policies benefiting the poor, support for universal health care, a more just immigration policy, etc. overcome a candidate’s support for legalized abortion? In such a case, the Catholic voter must ask and answer the question: What could possibly be a proportionate reason for the more than 45 million children killed by abortion in the past 35 years? Personally, we cannot conceive of such a proportionate reason.

Time for Catholics to Exercise Moral Leadership

The number of Catholics and the percentage of Catholics in the United States have never been greater. There has never been a moment in our nation’s history when more Catholics served in elective office, presided in our courts or held other positions of power and authority. It would be wrong for us to use our numbers and influence to try to compel others to accept our religious and theological beliefs. However, it would be equally wrong for us to fail to be engaged in the greatest human rights struggle of our time, namely the need to protect the right to life of the weakest and most vulnerable.

We need committed Catholics in both major political parties to insist upon respect for the values they share with so many other people of faith and good will regarding the protection of the sanctity of human life, the upholding of the institution of marriage between a man and a woman as the foundation of family life, as well as the protection of religious liberty and conscience rights. It is particularly disturbing to witness the spectacle of Catholics in public life vocally upset with the Church for teaching what it has always taught on these moral issues for 2,000 years, but silent in objecting to the embrace, by either political party, of the cultural trends of the past few decades that are totally inconsistent with our nation’s history of defending the weakest and most vulnerable.

Thank you for taking time to consider these reflections on applying the moral principles that must guide our choices as voters. We are called to be faithful Catholics and loyal Americans. In fact, we can only be good citizens if we allow ourselves to be informed by the unchanging moral principles of our Catholic faith.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Our Own Horror Story

JoJo fell out of bed three nights ago and fractured her clavicle (collar bone). And I do mean fractured it. I'm too sleep deprived to go into any more details. Suffice it to say, my darling, easy going three-year old channeled her dark side--an alter ego fueled by pain, frustration, boredom, and several Tylenol-with-codeine-cocktails. Picture the demure little damsel from The Exorcist. I'm pretty sure JoJo's head was spinning when she bellowed (in a voice four octaves lower than usual), "I NEED ANOTHER MOVIE IN MY DVD PLAYER AND I WANT IT NOW!!!!" Who knew she had it in her??

Wisecracks aside, she is in a lot of pain. And it's hard to see. But when we find a position she can endure, she's back to being my precious lamb.

Sorry Halloween 2008 was such a bust for you JoJo. Maybe we'll have a dress-up party with some of your friends when you get all better!

E's Halloween, on the other hand, was picture perfect. Class party, trick-or-treating, family Halloween party with his cousin K. In his world, it doesn't get much better than that!

Thanksgiving, Christmas--here we come!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Mr. Obama: A Few Moments, Please

Barack Obama has occupied a lion's share of my thoughts these past few days. I've often said that I wish we conservatives had someone like him--someone whom inspires and rallies unprecedented support from every walk of life. While I've vocally disparaged his political and ethical positions, I have never doubted his sincerity. I truly believe that he believes what he says. By his own admission, he's no saint. But I get the sense that he's the type you could probably trust with a secret. Something tells me he's likely to keep his word when it's critical to do so. I'm especially impressed by his commitment to his family, which by every indication, is genuine and unwavering.

As of late, I've often thought about what I would say to Obama if given the chance. Forget about lottery fantasies. My windfall daydreams are all about having a good chat with Barry. You know--the guy. Not the politician. No reporters, no cameras. No calculated talking points or "gotcha" questions. I would, however, bring along a few photos--images that belie the Obama who has justly earned the scorn of conservative America. Here's how it would go...


Mr. Obama. Barack. My fellow American, my brother in Christ...

When I see these clear expressions of tenderness

and of whimsy

reflecting an unfeigned enjoyment of children....

I can only wonder why you have chosen to actively and staunchly support abortion. I ask this not in a rhetorical, argumentative way. I'm not asking for a well crafted, special-interest-group kind of answer. What I genuinely yearn to know is how a man of your intelligence, your empathy, and your compassion, can so obviously display concern for one young life...

and simultaneously reject the worthiness of another?

You've told us that determining the starting point for humanity is "above your pay grade". I'll trust that you simply fumbled with an unintentionally glib response in an attempt to distance yourself from the question that has become the political Achilles' heel of our time: When does life begin?

So, I humbly submit...If you, like so many others, are unsure when human life is deserved of full legal protection, might we agree that there is at least the possibility that our humanity begins at conception? As such, if there is even the slightest possibility that life does indeed begin long before a child leaves her mother's womb, wouldn't the most prudent course of action be determined by a willingness to err on the side of caution--in this case, on the side of life?

If not, help me understand, why not? Please. I've yet to hear a remotely convincing argument when I have posed the question in this manner. So, I hand it to you, Mr. Obama. I know you are capable of great reflection and intellect. I'm told you are a man of character. Please use these gifts when you respond. But first, do me a favor. Remove your presidential candidate armor. Base your answer in the courage you've mustered as a father. Root it in the respect you developed as a grandson. Couch your answer in language that honors the love you have known simply because you are your mother's child.

I can only hope, only pray, that the answer you now provide will reflect far more of the sentiment we see in your mother's loving gaze...

and much less of the political rhetoric we have come to expect...

May God bless you and inspire you to truly hear the pleas spoken on behalf of those with no voice at all.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

American Church Leader Weighs In...Finally

Finally, an American Catholic Church heavyweight, Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput,publicly cautions against support of Barack Obama:

"To suggest - as some Catholics do - that Senator Obama is this year's 'real' pro-life candidate requires a peculiar kind of self-hypnosis, or moral confusion, or worse...the work of Democratic-friendly groups like Catholics United and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good have done a disservice to the Church, confused the natural priorities of Catholic social teaching, undermined the progress pro-lifers have made, and provided an excuse for some Catholics to abandon the abortion issue instead of fighting within their parties and at the ballot box to protect the unborn.Pro-Obama Catholics "seek to contextualize, demote and then counterbalance the evil of abortion with other important but less foundational social issues."

Not surprisingly, Archbishop Chaput chose to qualify his words with the notation that he made this statement, not on behalf of the Church, but as a private citizen. Traditionally, the clergy has been resistant to oppose or support political candidates for fear of losing the IRS tax-exempt status attributed to all qualifying, religious organizations. Still, you have to hand it to him...he used a precarious loophole to unequivocally communicate what is surely the collective conscience of our Church leadership. And you have to believe that the Catholic powers-that-be knew he was going to do it. My guess is even the Holy Father gave at least a tacit approval of the Archbishop's public declaration of these gutsy assertions.

My only criticism is one you might expect: What took you guys so long?? We're in the homestretch, with the McCain campaign flailing as much as 3-4 percentage points in the polls. I am convinced that more Catholics would side with their Church if presented with a clear declaration as to which side this is. On the face of it, one would expect that the appropriate choice in a candidate should be obvious based on Church teaching. But that's just it. Many Catholics are confused on even the basics.

The Church must consistently and repeatedly counter the near endless barrage of hokum spewed by non-Catholics and "new age" Catholics alike--seeking to reinvent traditional tenants of the faith. American Catholics are especially vulnerable to the prolific forces which work long and hard to convince us that a vote for Obama indeed equates to support for the sanctity of life. After all, he opposes the Iraq War. And he seeks to implement universal health care. More than a few Catholics are convinced that his positions amount to a pro-life stance. Throw in Obama's charm, charisma, celebrity status, and all around likability factor and what you have is a Catholic Obama supporter, albeit an errant, Catholic Obama supporter. Unfortunately, however, their errant statuses in no way invalidate their votes. Like any politician, Obama will gladly take 'em where he can get 'em. And I'm pained to say, he'll get 'em from many, many Catholics.

In the last ten years especially, we have seen our Church deftly wield the power of PR. And yet, when it comes to Obama and his unwavering support of abortion, Church communication has been tepid. As such, it does appear that Catholic leaders have been hesitant to put more of their own skin in the game. And because of it, we repeatedly witness Catholic Christians badly losing their way. It is a certainty that any Catholic committed to Obama's campaign has strayed from the core teaching of the Church. The thing is, I'm not at all convinced that these Catholics, brothers and sisters in our own parishes, are even aware that their pro-Obama support is tantamount to a repudiation of Catholic Doctrine. We're told during Lent that a complete refusal to fast and to sacrifice as directed is seriously sinful. And yet, similar direction with regard to withholding our vote from a politician known to actively support the death of hundreds of thousands of human beings, is often voiced in timid and unenthusiastic tones.

I'm thrilled that at least one daring Catholic man-of-the-cloth is willing to make the matter perfectly clear... Better late than never, anyway.

I've often said that we can learn much from our Evangelical friends. We have grown accustomed to their ability to form a united and consistent voting block--one that repeatedly influences and perhaps even sways electoral outcomes at every level. If most American Catholics voted in alignment with Church teaching on the issue of life, Obama's chances for winning in November would be non-existent. This cohesion, this much coveted solidarity, is a worthy goal but has been utterly elusive.

We have much work to do. Let's all put some skin in this game--even if the topic is uncomfortable and perceived as overly controversial. When we remain silent, and I mean any and all of us, the reality is that children die.

Over and over again.

Mommy's One-Liner Hall of Fame

"This aint no Etch-A-Sketch.That's one doodle that can't be un-done homeskillet!"
-From "Juno", Screenplay by Diablo Cody

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The T-Shirt Says It All

courtesy of Zazzle

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Palin Sanctioned ?

Alaska Panel Says Palin Abused Power In Firing?

To that I say...So what? Frankly, I would have done the same thing. If I knew that my ex-brother-in-law had tasered a 10-year old boy, I too would have done everything in my power to see the guy out-the-door. And if his boss didn't want to oust the creep, he'd be gone too. Apparently, that's the way it happened. Oh well.

I agree with Oracle. Palin's got testicular fortitude. You know...balls. I'm not looking for a squeaky clean do-gooder who follows every rule in the book. For that matter, I'm fairly certain that such a person couldn't accomplish anything in our system of government. If anything, this just further confirms that she does the right thing despite legislative minutia enacted to protect the status quo. ABC News reported that the sanction in question imperiled her status as a reformer. If anything, it seems to me that it CONFIRMED her status has a reformer.

You just have to see past the main stream media's "spin". By the way, is it just me or does this "sanction" seem particularly well timed?

We're in the home stretch. Let's not get side tracked by these trumped-up diversions.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Most Crucial Election Issue

I have often heard..."Why do YOU PEOPLE make abortion the number one issue in every election?" I've spoken and blogged about this at length so I won't reinvent that wheel on this post.

This video, however, speaks volumes. It's powerful and unequivocal. Mind you, it is not politically correct. But the piece truly and clearly delineates the position that the Church has taken on this and other issues. As Catholic Christians, we are called to elect leaders who will uphold the basic tenants of our doctrine. It's just that simple.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Getting Down To Business

Yesterday, Oracle and I were more than a little deflated about the prospects of the upcoming presidential election. McCain has a major hill to climb...largely because many voters are choosing to associate his policies with those of George W.'s train wreck. With Bush leading the charge, the House and Senate passed the mother-of-all economic bail-out bills--with the intent of restoring confidence on Wall Street and re-invigorating grid-locked credit markets across the globe. So far, this hap-hazard, ill-conceived scheme has created a mere ripple in our current cesspool of an economy. For $700 go-zillion, the U.S. tax payer is entitled to a tsunami of relief. C' and I know that the tidal wave 'aint coming folks. With nearly 100+ leading economists clearly stating that this spending orgy will only delay the economic pain that we must endure anyway, it seems clear that we've been had. What we bought, friends, is what the old timers used to call a pig-in-a-poke. This little piggy is gonna soak us for a long time indeed.

So, out of sheer anger alone, I'm not willing to give up. John McCain has got his detractors among the core base. No doubt. But if you think this latest government boondoggle is a mere stone's throw from a centralized economy, just wait until Barry and Company get a chance to impose their Michael Moore-esque policies on the misty-eyed proletariat. Celebrities who insist on using three names will be downright miffed by the change in cadence when COMRADE is added to their highly crafted monikers. Comrade Evan Rachel Wood. Comrade Robert Downey Jr. Hmm. Not quite the same ring, I dare say.

OK...I'm being snarky. Do I really think Obama is a card carrying communist of the Trotsky ilk? Of course not. But do I think that he has an elitist mentality? Yes! Do I think that he will impose a bevy of burdensome regulations on business and the free economy? Yes! Will he tax everything that moves? Yes! Does he value individual freedom over group think? No. Does he have ANY experience that lends itself to resolving the most fierce economic crisis to be seen in decades, perhaps in our lifetime? No, no. no.

So yes, McCain and Palin have election catch-up work to do. A lot of it. But the race is not over. Not by a long shot.

Four weeks left. A lot can happen.

Let's get crackin'.

World's CUTEST Car

Y'all know I luvs me some vehicles!

A few forward thinking townsfolk have buzzed by in these cuties.

They're called SmartCars, I'm told.

If you've been to Europe, especially Italy, you know that they have similar cars all over the place. Not sure if the trend will take hold here in the U.S. but something tells me it just might. After all, no one really expected the VW New Beetle nor the Mini Cooper to have the long term appeal that both mega compacts have enjoyed. (I really miss my 2000 New Beetle manual 5-speed turbo. But I sold it to a dear friend in the Bay Area who reports it is still going strong with well over 100K miles!)

We'll have to keep this chunky little car on the mommy radar screen. (FYI: the scaled down coupe starts at around $12K and the cabriolet starts at $16K. When is the last time you heard car numbers that low--for something that has this much style. And, incredibly, the safety ratings are surprisingly high. Amazing.

We love, love, love.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Saturday, October 04, 2008

For What It's Worth

"Loved the wedding. How about inviting me to the marriage?" - God

(author unknown)

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Prayers Please

Dear Friends,

Once again, I ask for your help. Our family faces yet another loss.

...My dear Aunt Melody is quickly losing her battle with ALS/Lou Gehrig's Disease...For the days or hours that remain of her fifty-seven years, please join me in prayer for her journey home. Pray for courage, for peace, and for an end to her suffering...I have no doubt that God is near. When we parted this August, I told her that very, very good things awaited her. I'm not sure she believes this and I cannot imagine enduring a very painful death without the comfort and assurance that our Faith brings. So mostly, I pray that she will feel His Grace and lose her fear...and her doubt.

If you can, take a moment to listen to "Prayer" by Gina Loring. It's a perfect and beautiful sentiment for anyone who feels doubt and needs His reassurance.

(Thanks Gina. Your voice is from Heaven above.)

Update: Melody passed on this evening. Thank you for all of the e-mail and your commitment to prayer. Her children and husband will continue to need our prayers as they cope with this loss.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Taking a Break

I'm behind on everything. And I mean everything. Not only is mind clutter at an all time high, but so is house clutter, car clutter, basement clutter, garage clutter, body clutter. Once again, I am knee deep in just about anything that you can think of. It's getting me down.

I love to write but the reality is that journaling, blogging, ranting…it's taking up more time than it should. True to form, when I enjoy something, I can't just do it a little bit. I've got to go all out. What began as an online family journal has blossomed into something that takes a great deal of my time. It occurred to me the other day that writing about my mommy life life has somehow become more time consuming than actually participating in it. Meanwhile, a few bills have been late when the money is there to pay them. Phone calls/e-mail go unreturned. Home projects are in a state of indefinite limbo. My exercise routine is non-existent.

Here's the bottom line: Had I conducted my work career with my current level of scattered, disorganized crisis management, I would have been out the door in short order. How sobering it is for me to contemplate that I was once considered a role model of effectiveness. Now, I'm the queen of flying by the seat of my pants. Getting it done, sort of, by the hair of my chinny, chin, chin. (At 41, trust me, there is plenty). Forgetting this, overlooking that. Getting enough done so that we don't have a family implosion. But not doing the necessary things, in a timely manner, to make our home calm and peaceful.

So, I'm taking some time off from this diversion that I so dearly love. I will not be creating any new posts until August. In the meantime, the immediate future is packed with school field trips, First Communion parties, showers, church, two vacations, t-ball games, soccer camp, visits to the zoo, swim lessons, cookouts, get-togethers with friends. And yes…taking better care of ME. Dropping some weight, eating right, exercising.

In my case, I have to make a choice between writing about life and actually living it. Lots of folks can do both and I think I'll be one of them in the not-so-distant future. I'm just not one of them now.

The blog archive will remain online and I will respond to any post comments or blog related e-mail as appropriate.

In the meantime, have an incredible, love-filled, family-focused summer.

John Lennon said it best…

Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.

God bless each and every one of you!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Who Says There's No Free Lunch?

I do.

But I've got an even better freebee! If you're in the market for a pre-school size backpack monogrammed with "McKenna"--you've hit pay dirt, my friend! Pottery Barn Kids just couldn't get it together and sent me the incorrect size not once, but twice. Because the backpacks are monogrammed, they don't want them back, so they told me to keep them both for free. We like free. Free is our friend.

The free backpack is the smallest one, far right, with whales.

Free can be your friend too. If you have a daughter named McKenna (or know someone) who wants this backpack--it's yours. Yes, for free. Just send me your address and your little McKenna will be toting in style in just a matter of days. If you feel like reimbursing me for the postage, I won't argue with you, but no biggie if you you don't get to it. I just hate to see something this cute sitting around collecting dust.

Please send your address via my e-mail--which is listed in my blog profile. Please, to protect your privacy, do not provide any identifying information in the comments section of this post.

P.S. This isn't some weird scam or promotion. I'm just a mom trying to pay it forward a little bit. If you're a conspiracy theorist, you might think I've created 200+ posts over the last three years to lure you in to something "not on the level". But that would be your alternate reality. Proceed to your space ship.

Yes, Marge...I guess there is a free lunch. Sort of.

UPDATE 5/3/08: One of the two backpacks has been given away. Only one left!!!!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Heroes: Famous and Otherwise

These are mine. In no particular order.

Jane Austen

(This image is thought to be the only authentic portrait of her likeness in existence. It is believed that she was 14 when she posed for this painting.) She never married and died relatively young at 42. Yet her writing set the standard in her genre for centuries to come; no one before or since has so perfectly captured both the wit and heartache of courtship. Think of her as the Carrie Bradshaw of the pre-Victorian set.

Father Jim Mifsud

This outspoken, blunt, and charismatic priest is no stranger to ruffled feathers.. At ten years old, I was mystified by this larger than life personality. In one breath, he would challenge us fifth graders to devote our lives to the service and care of others. In the other, he would yell about some *&^!@! motorist who cut him off on the *@#!#! freeway. Fill in the expletive of your choice...because he probably used any and all of them. While patience and decorum were not his strong suits (at least they weren't in 1977), no one could ever question his devotion to the core mission of Christ. His commitment to "the least of our brothers" has been nothing short of amazing. But he could lose patience easily and show much consternation over perceived apathy, resignation, or lack of involvement on the part of his parishioners. Let's just say he never appeared to withhold an opinion. From his direct involvement in the care of orphans in Korea to job placement for those with troubled backgrounds, Father Jim never asked anything of others that he wasn't willing to do himself--several times over.

Frida Kahlo

Her life fascinates me. She made an indelible artistic mark despite the very large shadow cast by her husband, Diego Rivera. There are some who credibly argue that she was the more gifted painter of the two. I'm not an art critic but I do find myself drawn to her work--which illustrates a life marred by tragedy and nearly unbearable physical pain. And yet, to relegate her painting to the work of a tormented soul is far too cliche'. You truly get the sense that despite everything, she believed in the rejuvenating power of beauty. A kind of beauty that surrounds us but is not always visible to the dismissive eye and the closed mind.

Cat Stevens aka Yusuf Islam

Gave up the drug called fame at his career pinnacle in 1978 and retreated to the recesses of his faith and its culture. His beautiful, deeply spiritual "Morning Has Broken" is moving and timeless-- as are "Father and Son", "Peace Train", "Wild World", and "Oh Very Young". I don't share his politics but I'm nonetheless convinced that there must be a great deal of good in a man who could compose such lyrics.


He made it pretty hard NOT to love him. You kinda just knew that under the white vestment was the happy, devoted, hardworking priest who had to pinch himself to make sure this whole papal thing wasn't a dream. Besides his status as national hero in Poland, the once Bishop Karol Wojtyla stood firm against the Soviet's desire to rid Catholicism from the national landscape. He vocally supported Lech Walesa and the Solidarity movement to protect the labor rights of workers. And as Pope John Paul II, he charmed the world with his desire to share the papacy in the form of several world tours. I, like so many others, gasped in horror as Sinead O'Connor shredded his photograph on national, live TV. I'm sure he had his human frailties. But there was nothing to justify such blatant irreverence for a man who exemplified peace and social justice. By the way, would it be disrespectful of me to say that I thought he was an attractive man in his earlier years? I hope not. I'm just saying....

Oscar London, M.D. (aka Arlan Cohn, M.D.)

My former physician, employer, confidant, and friend. I met him as a young adult and he was my first brush with someone truly literary. His patients adored him to the point that he literally had a circle of "groupies". You were never sure just who was going to show up at his office...poets, writers, homeless people, political activists, pundits, students, business leaders. He's the only doctor I know who could wisecrack during a less-than-pleasant exam and actually make patients laugh to the point that they forgot about the discomfort. He came to my aid and provided counsel on countless occasions. And he introduced me to Creme Brulee. How could he not be a hero?

Eleanor Roosevelt

Took lemons and made lemonade more frequently than most people realize. Rather than allow the infidelity of her husband to destroy her, she reinvented the purpose of her life. Not blessed with beauty, she relied on a her intellect, a direct but likable personality, and an acquired self reliance to pursue her goals. While she remained FDR's wife and curiously, his good friend, the discovery of his long standing love affair with Lucy Mercer forever altered her perception of a woman's place in the world. To only devote oneself to the needs and aspirations of a man was foolish in her mind. So she changed her course and discovered she could make a difference. Now that's my kinda woman.

William 'Sandy" Muir, Ph.D.

By way of introduction, he shared with our small class that he was a recovered, compulsive liar. Wow. Nothing like a complete bearing of one's soul to initiate the first-day-of-class meet and greet! He traversed the hilly campus terrain via a golf cart as he was physically impaired due to childhood polio. A Berkeley professor who was...(gasp) conservative. He inspired me to reexamine the liberal indoctrination of my college career. And while my full transformation did not take place until several years later, I often credit him for planting that initial seed. He also gave me the courage and incentive to interview a then, well known politician. That one-hour meeting with a California state senator taught me a lot about the personal nature of politics and human frailty. This topic actually deserves a post all its own. Another time.

My maternal grandfather, Elmer Whistance

WWII veteran, Battle of the Bulge hero, recipient of the Silver Star for gallantry in action. And I never knew any of this until I was an adult. When the war ended, these guys just came home and re-started their lives. He was humble, kind, patient, and generous. I really miss him.

Steve Martin

Most folks still associate Steve Martin with his "wild and crazy guy" persona of the 1970's. Or his performances in a host of family-oriented, feel good movies (some of which I really like, including Parenthood). But if that's all you know about this immense talent, you're really missing out. Yes, he's a comedic giant. He is also an incredible writer of both fiction and prose. His ability to articulate insight with subtlety and yes, humor, really is of the highest caliber. I appreciated his film Shopgirl but I truly loved his novella on which the movie is based. I can't really describe the essence of Martin's appeal except to say that he somehow just "gets" women. That is to say, he describes female weakness, talent, allure, treachery, and magnificence in much the same way a woman might. Somewhere along the line, he learned an awful lot about what makes us girls tick and he tapped a great literary talent to share his spot-on observations. Even at his most cynical, there is a tenderness about him that is endearing.

Anne Frank

Had she not died at Bergen-Belsen, this young girl was undoubtedly destined for greatness. If you have never read "A Diary of a Young Girl", you simply must. It is considered one of the most important written works of the twentieth century. If you knew nothing of her background when you read the book, you would be flabbergasted to learn that its author was a mere teenager. While much of her subject matter is consistent with the concerns of a young girl, the depth of the insight she provides greatly belies her chronological age. Having visited her family's hiding place in Amsterdam, I found myself imagining I was her. I peered from the very window she describes in the diary, my imagination captured by the incomprehensibility of her lengthy and bleak captivity in the annex. And it struck me that the only way she escaped these protective yet suffocating confines was to write. Yes, her real-life story ultimately ended in tragedy. But I, like so many others, still see her with that charming, hesitant smile, penning the latest thought with the skill of an author far more educated, infinitely more seasoned than Anne could ever hope to be. She forever possess the hopefulness that is entirely a product of her eternally preserved youth.

Meryl Streep

An actor's actor. Brilliant, unmatched performances. Dignified yet personable public persona. No tabloids, no controversy. The consummate, professional artist who performs her craft and keeps her private life private. No one could ever, ever be Sophie but Meryl Streep. No one.

Laura Ingalls Wilder

I'm as enthralled with the writer as I am with her "Little House" image. There is a small but vocal contingent of scholars and fans who make the argument that most of the Little House books were heavily ghost written by her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane. After years of my own research and examination, I do not share this opinion. Lane had a strong hand in the editing process, admittedly. But Lane's own work never rivaled the critical nor financial success of her mother's. Most believe, as do I, that they were partners who brought unique skills to the table. Editing is not writing. Writing is not editing. Bottom line: Laura's real life was every bit as interesting as the fictional version which continues to enchant millions of readers. Few other sources provide such a charming, innocent, and surprisingly accurate depiction of the the American pioneer experience.

Sister Helen Prejean

Her life's work is the subject of the film, "Dead Men Walking". Sister Prejean's ministry continues, driven by the mission of abolishing the death penalty. She bases her commitment upon the simple but oddly controversial tenant that life is sacred. Not just innocent, new life but ALL LIFE. Like other Catholic leaders such as Cardinal Bernadin, Sister maintains that a true pro-life position defends not only against abortion but against suicide, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, and yes, capital punishment. Her question, "Would Jesus pull the switch?" instantly speaks to the heart of the matter. What's more, she decries the insitutional racism and inherent social injustice that leads to a disproportionate number of poor, disenfranchised men residing on death row. Many conservatives, who are traditionally pro-death penalty and often mitigate the impact of social injustice, find her message troubling. Perhaps it is because so many conservatives quote Jesus freely but can't or won't adhere to the reality of His message--which values compassion, eschews vengeance, without compromise, regardless of circumstance. Sister Prejean says it best, "Is God vengeful, demanding a death for a death? Or is God compassionate, luring souls into love so great that no one can be considered an enemy?"