Friday, February 29, 2008

A New Addition

I've added another blog to themommymemoir family:

My new home for all things political. The first post is complete. Enjoy (or not).

Click here to take a look.

Monday, February 25, 2008


When I'm feeling kind of "blah", it always helps to tally a few blessings . I'm convinced that it is a singular grace to appreciate what you have, while you have it. I, like so many, fall into the trap of living in the future..."If I accomplish x,y,and z, then I will be satisfied". Worse yet, I occasionally look to the past and recount bounty that was unappreciated, presumed, perhaps even squandered. Sometimes, it helps to acknowledge that the here-and-now just might be as good as it gets. And that 'aint half bad.

I am thankful for:

My parents: Who gave me life, despite less-than-ideal circumstances. They did the best they could. For the major parenting screw-ups, all if forgiven. And that forgiveness is a gift, in and of itself. A gift for all of us.

Family. I married the right guy who is just crazy enough to put up with me. Still. I had children at the right time, built my own life, and fashioned the family I had always envisioned. I take note of this not to boast, but rather, to acknowledge that I'm blessed and honored to have these three wonderful people in my life, every day of my life. This may not be the case tomorrow and it most certainly will not be like this forever. Life is fragile. Life changes.

My husband's family. Which is now my family. It has been an adventure to be part of this loving, compassionate, giving, sometimes unruly, mega-social bunch of crazy Catholics. They truly are wonderful. And living satire to boot.

Faith. Living without faith is to have no true direction, no rudder. To not experience the abundant love and strength given to us by God is to feel abandoned, much like an orphan. When faith becomes a reality and not an abstraction, your life is transformed.

My Aunt M. She's more like a sister than an aunt. I can't imagine this world without her. My guess is that many people feel this way about her. She lights up a room.

Friends. I'm not a collector of people. That is to say, I'm not one to have hoards of acquaintances hanging about nor do I seek the company of others simply to avoid being alone. When I do call someone a friend, they have my complete loyalty. I'm blessed to have a number of incredible women in my life whom I consider "lifers". In one way or another, I'll know them as long as I'm living. And I do not take that gift for granted.

Art: I'm not a connoisseur nor am I an artist. But the world would be very bland without art. I don't think God intended us to lead purely practical lives. Everyone should produce at least one thing that achieves no prudent aim whatsoever. I'm thankful for this tiny, Bohemian inner voice of mine.

Home. It's more than my house, although the dwelling itself is nice and we worked hard to have it. It's everything else. Our photos, the children's artwork, my collections, our pets, our flowers, plants, shrubs. My little office right off of the kitchen. The children's growth marks in each of their closets. Toys. The kids' bedrooms--they're magical and they make me happy every time I enter either of them. Our books. It really does take so much to make a house a home. To make it your own.

Neighbors. Many of whom are also friends. Salt of the earth. Kind, generous, thoughtful. Within a few weeks of living here (back in 03), I knew the names of 15 neighbors. In California, in our first home, I never knew the name of our next-door-neighbor! After two years! Your neighborhood is, in many respects, more important than your house itself.

Love of words. Reading, writing. Writing, reading.

Simplicity. Despite my weakness for the occasional luxury, I also really appreciate the goofiest things. The way flowers make a hospital entrance seem so welcoming. Post-it Notes. William-Sonoma hand soap. Freshly laundered bed linens. Johnson's Baby Lotion. Baths. Crayons. The Zoo. Fireplaces. Crisp, new magazines. #2 pencils.

Turns out...I feel better.
Told you it works.

Give this blessing tally a shot. You might just be amazed once you see the words on the page.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

An Obama Supporter Weighs In

A friend from my Berkeley days is an ardent Obama supporter. As you can imagine, I've taken him to task in the comments section of his newly created blog. I've said many times, I'm always willing to listen to any well-formed opinion. If you're interested, click here to take a look.

Side note: Can it really be true that I graduated from college 20 years ago?? Yikes.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Through His Eyes

A few weeks past, I made mention of an African-American friend to my husband and for some reason that I do not recall, I described my friend as "black". Ethan must have heard this and tucked it away into his five-year old memory bank somewhere. While preparing dinner a few days ago, Ethan asked me why I described friend A as "black".

With flour up-to-my elbows, my first impulse was to simply respond with, "Because that's what he is" and proceed with my chicken piccata. But in a rare moment of parental clarity, I thought better of that curt response. My little boy, who understands nothing about ethnicity and race, deserved a better answer. So, I took a moment to translate my response into his 5-year old language.

"But Mommmm...Why is he called black? He's brown!!"

Good question.

My response was spattered with "uh" and "well" and then some lame analogy about me being "white". His response,

"Mommm you're not white. You're peach".

He's got me there.

After a short but deliberate explanation about why it's just better to use the more accurate description of "African American", he looked at me blankly and declared,

"Whatever. I just like calling him by his name. When's dinner gonna be ready mommmm?"

Point taken, little man. Point taken.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Three Cheers For Dr. Alveda King!

While vast numbers of liberal and centrist Americans are in the process of canonizing Barack Obama for political sainthood, I continue to shake my head in dismay. In moments of exasperation, I wonder why there is not more of an outcry with respect to Obama's unfettered pro-abortion stance. Despite the reality that respect-for-life is the central focus of the American Catholic Church's social justice agenda, we have heard little in the way of protest where Obama is concerned. Where are our Catholic leaders' voices in this matter? What, if anything, are they afraid of?

Enter Dr. Alveda King. The niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., she is vocal in her criticism of Obama. Obama's asserted that a “quiet riot” is building among black people "from New Orleans and the Gulf Coast" [out of frustration for the displacement and perceived lack of assistance after hurricane Katrina]. Dr. Alveda King minced no words in her response,

“Senator Obama may know of the ‘quiet riots’ coming from the black community but he doesn’t understand their source...The cries of those children, their mothers, and their families are what Senator Obama is hearing...I invite him to listen to those cries more clearly and compassionately. I pray he will realize that hopelessness and despair are only deepened by aborting those who are the future.”

Finally. It is heartening to hear of a notable public figure bearing clear witness to her Catholic faith. Furthermore, it's refreshing that she, an African American of prominence and distinction, is willing to shine light on the tragedy that indeed, surpasses Katrina.

"Over 500,000 babies were aborted in 2006 in the African American community – a number of unborn lives that could have populated a whole city"-- Pastor Luke J. Robinson.

At a recent pro-life march in San Francisco, Dr. King made a salient, pointed observation,

If the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is to live, our babies must live. Our mothers must choose life...The greatest injustice we face is the denial of the right to life. Without life, no other rights exist...

God bless this woman of courage and conviction. I can only imagine that she has encountered criticism for a perceived break of ranks, so to speak.

I'm thoroughly impressed and inspired.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Cabin Fever-- Suburban Style

The four seasons in my neck of the woods are:

Almost Winter
Home Improvement Season

To one degree or another, most everyone I know has cabin fever. When so much time is spent indoors, the walls seem to literally close in on you. Mild household irritations evolve into tortuous demons. Every closet, drawer, and cabinet seems unbearably messy. Paint dings, molding cracks, and wall smudges glare at me like menacing creatures from The Spiderwick Chronicles. Mocking my winter blahs, taunting me to engage in home repair battle. I'm compelled to redecorate every room--change the paint, rugs, furniture, artwork, window treatments. Rip this out, add something else. Call the carpenter, the painter, the plumber, the electrician, the interior designer... and anyone else who can possibly contribute to an extreme makeover.

Of my four-year old home.

Maybe the only service professional I truly need is a S-H-R-I-N-K.

At least I'm in good company. Several of my neighbors have conscripted their husbands to home repair duty every weekend until June. Another friend confessed she is going to remove and hand wash all window blinds in every room of her home. Wiping them down while still hanging is not at all sufficient. Upon completion of this momentous achievement, she will then proceed to hand scour every piece of base board on all three levels of her spacious abode.

I stood in awe. I'm not worthy. And then it dawned on me. Just yesterday, I singlehandedly eliminated all of the crud build-up from the tops of each and every tube of toothpaste in the house! And how could I forget that I used a Sonicare to clean the mystery goo in the crevices of every household faucet? We're talking kitchen, wet bar, bathrooms, and laundry room. Not bad. There is hope. But I have to face facts. I'm still not in her league.

Not yet anyway.

She kicked my compulsion into high gear. Much like an alcoholic triggered by a frosty, cold pint in a beer ad.....Break out the design books, blueprints, floor plans! Revisit all Martha Stuart publication archives. Brave the tundra to obtain a bevy of cleaning supplies, tools, sprays, candles, organizing bins, pillows, linens, picture frames. Fabric swatches, tassles, beads, and frindge. Potpourri, tart burners, scented oils, fragrance rings. Swiffer, Dirt Devil, Roomba, and Scoomba. A complete arsenal for the home spruce-up offensive. Not unlike Jack Nicholson's possessed rage as he chopped down the doorway in "The Shining". I'll be equally unhinged as I bash-in the door to my bedroom closet, armed not with an ax, but with a vacuum nozzle and a bottle of Fabreeze.

Heeere's mommy!

all work and no play gets mom locked away all work and no play gets mom locked away all work and no play gets mom locked away all work and no play gets mom locked away all work and no play gets mom locked away all work and no play gets mom locked away all work and no play gets mom locked away all work and no play gets mom locked away all work and no play gets mom locked away all work and no play gets mom locked away all work and no play gets mom locked away all work and no play gets mom locked away all work and no play gets mom locked away all work and no play gets mom locked away

Check on me when the ice thaws.

The house will be pristine. My electro shock therapy will have kicked in.


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day!

How 'bout them apples?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Bye Bye Gussy Gus...

Ethan discovered that his six-year old pet guinea pig "Gus" died today. My son was beyond consolation. And because of this, I was beyond consolation. In a small but significant way, Ethan learned his first lesson about loss. And about my inability to spare him from certain sadnesses.

Before we handed the yellow shoebox "casket" to the technician at the vet's office, my son said,

"You were a great friend Gussy. All the children loved you. I loved you. Sometimes I took a long time to feed you or give you water or clean your cage all perfect. You never really got that mad. You were a good friend for lots and lots of years. All the children will be really sad tomorrow when I tell them you are gone. I really, really love you and I'm sorry that I don't get to tell you that on Valentine's Day. I'm going to miss you. You were my buddy".

click on photos to enlarge

Rest peacefully sweet creature.

Rise and Shine

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Obama--Still Waiting...

Several weeks ago, I challenged someone, anyone, to name a single, substantive accomplishment of Barack Obama's. I'm talking about tangible, legislative achievement while he has held political office. His penchant to wax poetic, befriend celebrities, and give great speeches does not constitute proof of presidential acumen. You gotta think that someone, somewhere, will pony-up one credible achievement.

So, I'll wait. Some more...

While the vigil continues, I thought I would share the highlights of a recent Obama supporter gathering, where several minions were asked to name ONE accomplishment which demonstrated Obama's readiness to become president. (This, by the way, is not an exact transcript. I'm relying on memory here. A word or two may be off but the substance is accurate.)

Interviewer: Hey, can you name an accomplishment of Mr. Obama's?
Devotee #1: Uhhhhh...He's a great speaker!

Interviewer: What about you? What do you think Barack Obama has done that qualifies him for the presidency?
Devotee#2: Well, he's the only black man in the U.S. Senate.

Interviewer: And you...what do you have to say? What Barack accomplishment has especially wowed you?
Devotee #3: Uhhhh...I'll take a pass.

Interviewer: C''ve got one!
Devotee #4: Well...He just won a Grammy!

On an on it went. And this was among Obama supporters. Not a single, wide-eyed, fresh-faced sole could muster one achievement in keeping with presidential readiness.


And we may very well find ourselves calling him Mr. President in less than a year.

Mommy caveat: This is a rhetorical exercise for me. Obama's positions on abortion and national security eliminate my vote, despite anything that he has or has not done. But I just think a little intellectual honesty is on order here. Eliminating celebrity, packaging, delivery, and image...

What has he done?

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Prayers For Victims, Their Families, and Friends

One of the Lane Bryant shooting victims, Sarah Szafranski, 22, was well known to our dear friend M. Sarah lived in M's community and was a babysitter to M's children in years past. Sarah was also a graduate of the Catholic grammar school that M's children now attend. She was buried yesterday.

Sarah is pictured in the middle. She was a recent college graduate.

Needless to say, the close-knit community of Oak Forest, Illinois is devastated. And bewildered at this senseless, horrific crime. The perpetrator is still at large.

To M, B, and the kids...we're here for you!

Please keep Sarah and the other victims, their families, and friends in your prayers.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Cultivating Faith

Photos taken at home-- today.

Lent is here. For us, Ash Wednesday arrives in the heart of winter, when Midwestern skies hide the sun for weeks at a time.

Each winter, I'm convinced that every single perennial, shrub, and tree in my yard will surely die. How can any living thing re-emerge from this brutal, unrelenting exposure? All of that fertilizing, pruning, and mulching--well, it just won't be enough to sustain our beloved flora. Yes, the plants made it though last year's snow, wind, and ice, but the current winter always seems more menacing than that of the previous year.

I mentally bid a sad farewell to the tree-form hydrangeas, black-eyed susans, lilacs, gardenias, and star gazers. Surely this will be the year that my cherished "knockout" rose bushes succumb.

Of course, my imagined botanical calamity never comes to pass.

In a few, short months all of these beautiful, hand chosen plants will bloom in full glory. And every Spring, I stand in awe of this miraculous renewal. All that was bleak becomes glorious--and stronger, weightier. More resilient to face the inevitable winters to come.

Not at all unlike our own potential for renewal.

Blessings to all of you as we refresh mind, body, and soul this Lenten season.

Time to Celebrate!

Great news...

Grandpa Dave (my Dad) is certifiably CANCER FREE!
How's that for a Lenten opener?

Monday, February 04, 2008

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

As I turned to leave the room after tucking Kindergarten boy into bed tonight, he sat up, signaled a Hawaiian "hang loose" gesture, and offered this charming, bed time send off:

Rock on freaky fro!!

Would someone like to tell me why my five-year old boy is channeling Jeff Spicoli?

I informed Mr. Little Man that "freaky" is not a description to which most moms aspire. Luckily, I made it out of the room before I lost it. I laughed so hard I cried. Or did I cry so hard I laughed?

Passing It On...

Thanks to mum6kids, author of

Thinking Love, No Twaddle

Time to pay it forward...I'm a little late in the game, admittedly.

If you receive this award from me, find ten other blogs that meet your criteria for excellence and present accordingly.

Here are my various criteria for the rated "E" award (awarded blogs meet one or more of the following):

artful presentation, writing, and/or style )
solid composition (unintentional, poor grammar is a pet peeve)
creates literary envy in me
humorous, ironic

(1) Et Tu? The Diary of a Former Atheist
Powerful. She is a skillful, poised writer who conveys immense wisdom and inspiration. Her graphics and artwork are captivating. What else can I say? Run, don't walk. Wow.

(2) Ask Sister Mary Martha
She has brought me to tears (of laughter) with her glib retorts and tell-it-like-is advice for the hoards and masses. There is significant debate in the blogging world as to whether she truly is a nun. I'm going to suspend disbelief here and go with the "she is" camp. It just makes me so happy to think so. Whomever or whatever she is, or is not, Sister Mary Martha is not to be missed.

(3) Middle-Aged, Not Muddle-Headed
No nonsense, joyful ruminations that just make me smile.

(4) M.O.M.S. Mothers of Many Saints
Hope was born to write. And inspire. If she's not published somewhere, it's a shame. Her post about mothers' focus on the image of a loving home humbled me. And made me re-examine my own m.o..

(5) Ten Reasons The Observations of a Seditious Catechist
All things Catholic from a father's vantage point. Rich is literary and uber-poised in his delivery. It's erudite prose for sure, so don't expect any fluff. It's impossible to leave his site and not feel educated.

(6) "And Miles Go Go Before We Sleep..."
Very good blog but I have to tell you, she gets my props for the header photo alone! Beautiful! Lovely imagery which perfectly embodies the spirit of her blog.

(7) The Mac & Cheese Chronicles
Great presentation, imagery, and content. Inspiring in her ability to work through grief and loss.

(8) Zany Life & Crazy Faith
Talk about rising from the ashes! Gives the hope to us early middle agers that there is a lot more on the horizon --if you make it happen. Makes this mommy re-evaluate the glass-half-empty perspective!

(9) Laura The Crazy Mama
No pretense--all heart! Great blog without the hoopla. The bells and whistles aren't necessary if your content is strong. Self-effacing, funny, and to-the-point.

(10) The Ironic Catholic
Lots of chuckles, good natured snark, and a touch of highbrow cynicism. The author is clearly faithful and committed so no worries about offensive or disrespectful content. Poking-fun-at-ourselves commentary without rancor.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Lent Is Almost Here!

If suffering is the objective, we've certainly got that covered with these Lenten staples:

Oh well. So be it. I love Lent, actually. Guilt, suffering, and penance are wonderful filters for a dusty soul. The ultimate in spiritual spring cleaning. When Easter arrives, you feel cleansed and in your best form. Deprivation also gives scale to the bounty and abundance in our lives. You just appreciate things more. Even manufactured fish rectangles. Yum yum.

So start figuring out which form of deprivation makes you the most miserable, and come next Wednesday, start suffering. And don't look for Lent loopholes in order to take a break from your misery. Buck up and deal. You'll live.

More on Lent next week. Have a great weekend!