Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Christmases past

Here's a Christmases past photo essay:

Christmas 2002

in England

~Christmas Day 2003~

Our first Christmas back in Colorado after England

~Christmas 2004~

~Christmas 2005~

~Christmas 2006 and record snowfall!~

~Christmas 2007~

(taken on Epiphany, January 6, 2008)

~Christmas 2008~

(this Christmas!)

Happy 7th day of Christmas!

I caved and decided to accede to my kids' requests and we're having a few friends over on New Year's Day. The house ain't House Beautiful, but it's warm, so we're going to celebrate the day with family and friends.

We took a studio portrait yesterday...not the picture perfect one I had in mind, but my guess is a few years down the road I'll look at it and smile.

I still have to write that Christmas New Years' letter, but maybe I'll get to it once the college kids go back to school.

Five more days of Christmas left!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas guilt and blessings

I tend to have high expectations of myself and how our family is going to celebrate holidays. I've read so many wonderful books about celebrating the liturgical year and bringing the faith alive to your kids and I want to try it all. I would love to be able to do more of these things, but life and grocery shopping too often cut into my time. I was thinking about some of the things I wanted to do this Advent but didn't do for various reasons. For example:

The Jesse tree and ornaments stayed in the box. The nativity scene didn't even make an appearance until December 24th!

The Christmas cards are still in their boxes and the first draft of the Christmas letter is still on the computer, unsent.

I didn't make homemade gifts for all the kids' teachers, neighbors, friends and relations. I hardly made any homemade gifts at all!

I didn't get together with my friend who plays the viola, as we had planned to have a string trio or quartet for Christmastime.

I didn't even wrap some of my Christmas gifts until the afternoon of Christmas Day!

We haven't gotten all the kids together yet for the traditional Christmas photo op. Hoping to do so on Sunday.

Haven't planned the annual Christmas week/New Year's open house and it don't look like it will happen this year unless I get some lightning bolt of inspiration from heaven above.

On the other hand, there were some very good things that happened this Advent, among them:

We were able to get to daily Mass quite frequently this Advent, and everyone was able to get to confession before Christmas.

We were able to reign in the Christmas gift-buying this year and tone down expectations for Santa's generosity. This alone accounted for far less stress and more enjoyment of the holiday.

We were able to buy a beautiful tree for far less than we had spent in previous years. It looks lovely and smells marvelous.

We were able to eat dinner together most nights and say our Advent prayers together, which was also a huge thing for us as most nights we are going different directions with so many evening activities.

We are all together, safe, healthy and happy and for this we are truly thankful!

Friday, December 26, 2008

On the second day of Christmas...

My tummy still feels full from yesterday's sumptuous repast. And my brain feels somewhat squishy too. Wondering if those words are spelled correctly and my spellchecker says "no misspellings found".

Anyhoo, (wonder if that's spelled correctly?) We had a great Christmas feast with all ten kiddos home, two grandmas and one grandpa, one boyfriend and his sister, which (if you're counting) totals 17.

The prime rib, which worried me endlessly, since I don't normally spend that amount of money on a piece of meat, turned out splendidly, if you enjoy really red meat dripping blood. Well, I do, so everyone else better enjoy it too! And I dug up fresh horseradish from the winter-frozen garden to complement the meat. The Cabernet Sauvignon from Balistreri Vineyard was stunning with the meat. We also had garlic mashed potatoes, steamed asparagus with butter-lemon sauce, fresh green beans (the skinny French kind), fruit salad, dinner rolls, and my mom's delicious corn souffle. I made three pies (chocolate pecan, mincemeat, and an apple-cranberry thing I made up), light AND dark fruitcake, all topped with freshly whipped cream.

Any wonder, then, that I felt so full, I thought I would explode last night?

And I still feel full this morning. The bathroom scale says I should exercise more (at least that's how I interpret the numbers) and my stomach says, "weak tea and toast, please."

But, it's the eldest daughter's 21st birthday today, so a celebrating, we will go. We plan to walk the dog first, then spend time talking about used cars (her car recently went kaput), visiting Balistreri for some adult wine tasting and ending the day by taking her and her boyfriend out to dinner. (Salad, anyone?)

Happy feasting to one and all!

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Blessed Virgin Mary in England--out in print!

Check out this new book, volume 1 of The Blessed Virgin Mary in England, by Brother Anthony Josemaria, FTI.

Brother Anthony contacted me while we were living in England, after reading one of my articles about visiting a shrine in England. We were able to collaborate a little, though my contributions will appear in Volume 2, which, I understand is still at the printers.
It looks like a wonderful book of meditations on the Blessed Mother, particularly her role as England's dowry. Congratulations on completing your fine work, Br. Anthony!
Ave Maria!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Blessed objects for sale at Walmart

While perusing my local Walmart today, near the toy aisle I happened upon the above air freshener for sale. I noticed it was a rather attractive ceramic/plastic-looking image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, (whose feast day is tomorrow). What really caught my eye, after the $1.97 price tag (I'm still surprised how cheap everything at Walmart is...but that's another blog posting), is the wording on the packaging. If you can't read the image, I'll quote it for you here:

"Formally blessed by a Catholic priest."

Now, correct me if I'm wrong...but isn't Walmart guilty of the sin of simony?

Friday, December 05, 2008

St. Nicholas' Day

Tomorrow is the Feast of St. Nicholas.

My kids love putting their shoes outside their doorways the night before and waking up to shoes full of treats. He usually leaves them something of chocolate and an orange or tangerine. I love it because it is a low-key way to emphasize the origins of Santa Claus.

For more information on the saint and celebrating his feast day, check out the St. Nicholas Center.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

An Early Christmas Present

Who says cousins can't get along?
I just wanted to share this picture. I found it online and I was wondering if anyone knows who the artist was or any more information? I find it enchanting!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Catholic response to the movie Twilight

I still don't get it! Some folks...okay, some females are stark raving crazy a go-go over Twilight and it's male lead, Robert Pattinson, who plays the "vegetarian" vampire, Edward Cullen. Again...I just don't get it. He's not even cute in my book. He's creepy.

But, my 13 year-old daughter has already read all the books. And spent the summer talking about them with her friends. And she really, really, REALLY wanted to see the movie. So, I asked an adult friend whom I trust and who had read the books (and liked them), and saw the movie (and liked it), if she thought the movie was too violent? She said, "no," so I decided to let 13 year-old daughter see the movie with two of her friends. Her 15 year-old brother came along just for fun. (His decision).

The consensus was: the girls liked loved the movie, and my son thought the previews were pretty cool. (Pride kept him from admitting he wasted 7 of his own dollars).

I liked what The Wall Street Journal film critic, Joe Morgenstern said:

Attention, all 13-year-old female readers of this newspaper: Run, do not walk, to the nearest multiplex playing "Twilight," the screen version of Stephenie Meyer's best-selling potboiler about a principled vampire and the teenage girl who loves him. Others needn't run. Or walk.

Evidently the movie didn't appeal to Joe.

There is a Catholic movie review by Steven Greydanus that sums up the movie and the books. And since I didn't want to waste my time reading the books or watching the movie, I appreciated the work he put into it. You can read it here.

Surprisingly (to me anyway), there are a large number of moms who are all a ga-ga over Edward/Robert. They have their own website...


mugs...bumper name it.

By the way...if you haven't yet read Steven Greydanus's review, please do it now. It will explain that second t-shirt, which all of us should find quite alarming.

I found this interesting summary on another review page:

"Twilight" really does have an infatuation with surface beauty, especially where the vampires are concerned. It leads to one of the few moments of, possibly unintentional, insight in the film as Edward confesses to Bella that his kind are made to be impossibly beautiful, but it's fake, a lure to trap unsuspecting prey. That sums up "Twilight" pretty well.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Guatemala Mom

Our youngest child, DJ, is turning 7 on December 18th. We adopted him when he was 2 years-old, from his native Guatemala. We gave him a new name when we brought him home to his "forever" family. The other day, while we were driving in the car, he was asking me about his "Guatemala mom" and I told him his story about how he came to be in our family. Of course, the story is always told at the level an almost 7 year-old can comprehend.

"Your mom in Guatemala was very poor. She was also very young. Not much older than your sister, Maria. She knew she couldn't feed you or take proper care of you and because she loved you so much, she wanted to give you to a mom and dad who could take good care of you."

That prompted a sorrowful reply from DJ, (heavy sigh): "I want to go see my mom in Guatemala."

"You can do that when you're older, because we can't go right now. But you can pray for your mom in Guatemala."

"I miss my mom in Guatemala!"

"You really never knew your mom in Guatemala. She gave you to a nice foster mother right after you were born."

"I miss my foster mom."

"Well, your mom and dad here love you very much and we are so happy that you're with us," I said, trying to get off the subject. "And do you know why we gave you the name we did?"

When DJ was born, his "Guatemala mom" gave him a very American name, obviously wanting him to fit in to his new culture. But she didn't give him a middle name. Since all our other kids have first, middle and last names, we decided to move his first name to the middle slot and give him a new first name. Both names have special Biblical significance, especially at this time of year, so I told him the story of how he got his names.

(Heavy sigh): "I love you, mom. And I love my names."
"I love you too, DJ."

December Births Remembered

My oldest, who's turning 21 on Dec. 26th, was born on St. Stephen's Day. When I went into labor in the early morning hours after Christmas Day, I knew I was going to have a boy since we had picked out the name Stephen. My husband didn't like the name Stephanie, however. I think he either dated someone by that name or knew someone and didn't like her...anyway, Stephanie was out. So, I was quite surprised when my baby was a girl! We had talked about girl names, so we had some picked out, but I just knew that since I was going into labor on St. Stephen's Day, my child would be a boy!

Shortly after giving birth to Maria (as in three months later!) I found myself pregnant for a second time. My second baby was due on December 26th! Fast forward to the following December. It's 4 days before my due date and my daughter's first birthday. We had just moved into military housing and still had moving boxes piled everywhere. I was on active duty in the Navy and my husband was on shift work for a defense contractor. We had a young child and precious little time to unpack boxes!

On December 22nd, I picked up Maria from her day-care provider. As soon as she came in the house she threw up on my expensive Pakistani wool rug. I had a very bad feeling as I cleaned up the mess. Within a few hours, my stomach wasn't feeling too good either. Since I was so close to my due date, my husband drove me to the urgent-care clinic at a nearby Air Force base. There was a lot of this sort of stomach virus going around and several people were throwing up. All they could tell me was "don't get dehydrated!" Before we left the urgent-care clinic, my husband had to run to the bathroom to throw up.

We went home and proceeded to throw up all night. Fortunately, there were two toilets near the master bedroom because we were using them both. The next morning I felt much better, but I called in sick to work because I had terrible stomach cramps.

"Were they at regular intervals?" my Navy petty officer asked me.

"Why, yes! They are coming about once every 5 minutes!" I replied. "Maybe they're not stomach cramps after all. Maybe they're contractions!" So I decided to make a hasty trip to the Air Force hospital at Andrews AFB. When they put me on the scale, I had lost 5 pounds from my last prenatal visit. So I guess I was a bit dehydrated, which brought on labor. As soon as they got an IV into me I felt better. My poor husband, who had also been throwing up all night, had to coach me through labor without the benefit of an IV.

Our son, Pier, was born on Dec. 23rd, 3 days before his sister turned one. On Christmas morning, as we waited for the on-call doctor to sign the release papers, we went to morning Mass in the hospital chapel with about a dozen or so others, some of whom were wearing hospital gowns. At least I could put my clothes back on! A friend had given me a cute little Santa suit for my newborn baby to wear on his homecoming. The nurses all thought he was so cute, one of them asked if she could "borrow" him to show him off to some nurses on other floors. I said, "sure," and she whisked him away for about 20 or 30 minutes. My husband, who wasn't there at the time, thought I was crazy letting someone go off with my baby. I fretted until she came back with him.

We came home from the hospital on Christmas Day. We had just moved into military housing three weeks before his birth, so we still had moving boxes everywhere and the Christmas tree, which was propped up in the corner of the room until we could find the Christmas tree stand, was dropping needles like crazy.

A kind-hearted neighbor brought us some Christmas dinner on paper plates, which we ate while sitting on moving boxes. We were so exhausted that evening, that we decided not to try opening Christmas presents until the next day.

So, here's to my first two Christmas babies, who will both be 20 for three days this year! There's a good reason to have babies when you're young!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

First Sunday of Advent

Today is the first Sunday of Advent. We don't typically put up our Christmas tree or other decorations until much closer to Christmas, as we try to remember the penitential aspects of the Advent season. Granted, Advent doesn't seem nearly as penitential as Lent. For one thing, we celebrate FIVE family birthdays during Advent. Mine is this Thursday, followed by Libby's next Thursday and DJ's the following Thursday (see any pattern there?). Pier's is two days before Christmas and Maria's is the day after Christmas (she'll be!)

Anyway, it is hard to be penitential during the Advent season because we're thinking of sugerplums and fudge and gingerbread houses and sugar cookies and fruitcake. And, of course, there's St. Nicholas Day on the 6th...Our Lady of Guadalupe on the 12th...St. Lucy's Day on the 13th and several other name days for our family members. December is just one big party at our house.

So, in order to make an effort to maintain a bit of the penitentialness of the Advent season, we are going to make an extra effort to do some other things this year, among them, a Jesse tree. Some explanation and directions for making your own Jesse tree can be found here.

Additionally, we are planning on making our own gifts this year for our Secret Santas. Since there are 12 of us in our immediate family, we found it a bit easier to write names on pieces of paper and draw these names out of a hat on Thanksgiving Day. Each person draws a name and will be the Secret Santa for that person. But this year we made an extra caveat that you must do something creative and make a part of the gift yourself. So, it doesn't have to be entirely handmade, but it has to be at least partially handmade. For example, it could be a gift basket that you assemble yourself, with things that the person enjoys like a movie themed basket or a spa treatment basket. The little kids can make cards or coupons good for helping Mom around the house or doing a special job for Dad. Or, they can do a spiritual bouquet of prayers for a certain person.

We're also going to make an extra effort to eat dinner together as a family each night, light our Advent candles and say the Advent prayers. Along with this, we may have each of the kids read a passage of Scripture.

One other thing we are going to try to do this year is to make some Christmas treats for our neighbors, many of whom are elderly.

I know from past experience not to make too many plans for Advent because I always think I can do more than I realistically can. But I hope this year we will remember to keep Christ in the Season and escape the materialistic madness that always seems to envelope society this time of year.

Blessings to you for a Christ-centered Advent!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Military Mommy of Five Goes to Iraq

A friend of mine, a Naval Academy grad and Catholic homeschooling mom of five young children, is going to Iraq for a year.

"But can't they send someone else?" another friend said to me.

Yes, I'm sure they can. But we must not forget that duty, honor, country and making oaths, really matter. My friend has not forgotten. She serves her country because it is her duty and it is the honorable thing to do.

When someone is enlisted or commissioned into the armed forces they take an oath. Ours went something like this:

I, [name], do solemnly swear, that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

I know my friend is scared and she wants nothing more than to finish her time in Iraq as quickly as possible and to get home safe and sound to her family. She doesn't want to go to war any more than any of us do. But she knows that she has made a promise to God and her country to serve faithfully.

She's a reservist, which means she is used to being home with her kids, except for that one weekend a month and two weeks a year that she wears a uniform and serves her country. She will be activated in a few months and will then be carrying out her duties 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for approximately one calendar year.

She will be going in harms' way to help protect our country and our way of life, but also, to help our global neighbors live a better life and experience freedom and justice in a way that they hadn't previously been able to experience. She goes to help prevent another terrorist attack like the one on September 11, 2001 that claimed nearly three thousand lives.

She risks her own freedom, happiness, and security, and that of her family, in order to carry out her duty. She risks leaving her youngest child, not yet 2 years old, that he might not recognize her when she returns.

Her husband and parents will be carrying on without her and trying to keep a normal routine while mom's away. They'll be homeschooling her kids and taking them to Mass and to family reunions and birthday parties and soccer games and piano recitals. And they'll be counting the days until Mom returns.

Please remember Eileen and her family in your prayers.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

La Vida Grande Goes to a Winery

My long-suffering husband took me and his mom to a local winery on Sunday. Yes, we do have a local winery in fact, I've recently been informed there are others.

But we shall concentrate on the one, most lovely, and most gracious, and most wonderful winery called Balistreri Vineyards.

This was our third visit there and each time we have been most impressed by the relaxed, and familial welcome we've received. Mr. John Balistreri, the vintner, runs the winery with his wife, Birdie, and daughter, Julie. We have also been there when one of their sons and Julie's three kids are working there. (The kids were making homemade pizzas, tossing the dough into the air and cooking them in an outdoor oven...that was the last time we went there for the free pizza and free wine tastings...with all of our kids...'cause Julie said, "Sure! Bring all your kids for free pizza!" So we did). I was saying, the first time we met them was at the Festival Italiano at Belmar in Lakewood. That was the only time we actually paid for wine tastings. It was $5 for, I think, 6 small glasses. And our kids got to stomp grapes for their Little Feet Merlot, which is the real reason we went. It sounded really, really, cool.
As you can see, they had real vats of grapes and the kids really got in there and stomped!

But, after a few minutes, it started getting pretty crowded as more siblings decided they wanted to give it a try after all.

And then some other kids showed up and it got REALLY crowded!

But, getting back to my lovely Sunday at the winery...we sampled, oh, probably 10 or 12 really good wines. And we had a lovely chat with John and Julie and a little bit with Birdie. We bought a case of wine, and joined the wine club...Oh, and we picked up our three pre-ordered bottles of Little Feet Merlot 2007, that our kids helped stomp. It's not as good as the 2006, but Birdie promised me that if I kept it for another year, it, too, would improve. (Husband says, "No way are we keeping bottles aroung that long!")

We all came home with smiles on our faces and thoughts of cheery reds to warm us this winter!

Whereever the Christian son doth shine,

There's always laughter

And good, red wine.

At least I've always heard it so,

"Benedicamus Domino!"

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Priests

Have you heard of this new singing trio made up of three Roman Catholic priests from Northern Ireland? Check out this video and their website for more info about the upcoming PBS special on November 29th.

And, if you want to read what the Wall Street Journal has to say about them, click here.

Obama and the Race Card

Check out this article in the Los Angeles Times by an African American conservative and Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Shelby Steele.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

On being a female veteran

The following is from a National Review Online article from yesterday (Veteran's Day):

"For most, military service is a short period, a few years. But they may be dramatic and formative years, very significant for the life to follow. Some may look back on those as their best years. Others may not want to remember them. Most return from war unscathed if not unchanged, others with varying degrees of wounds, some physical, some emotional, or both.

The experience may shape and define one’s future, or not. But as a veteran you can be guaranteed a spot in the hallowed ground of Arlington or another of the national cemeteries. You can salute the flag (rather than placing your hand over your heart), whether in uniform or not. More importantly you will have the satisfaction of having done something exceptional, something you share with over 23 million Americans. (Only 7.2 percent of American men are veterans, and if you are a female vet, you are in a more exclusive club of 1.8 million, or six tenths of a percent of the US population.) And you will enjoy the admiration of a country that recognizes your sacrifices and is grateful."

What surprised me was the low percentage of the population who are veterans. I suppose this is due to the fact that we have had relatively little armed conflict since Vietnam. Despite the fact that we've been fighting a war in Iraq for over 5 years, we still have a very small minority of the population who has served in uniform.

Perhaps most surprising to me was the fact that only 0.6% of the population are female vets! I don't think of myself as such a small minority since I know quite a few female vets and am part of a Yahoo email group of female Naval Academy grads (an even smaller group) that has 626 members.

Being a mom in the military was tough. I had two babies (ages 1 and newborn) that I had to get ready for daycare and drop off at two different locations for about 6 months. Later, my neighbor across the street on Bolling Air Force Base, was able to watch both my kids for me. This made my life tremendously easier for me during my last year or so of active service. I was so indebted to her that I named my next baby after her and asked her to be that child's godmother!

I often wonder why I didn't just stay in, or stay a drilling reservist. I know several military moms who did just that. They can proudly say they served their country for 20-some odd years in uniform while juggling the stresses of military service, marriage and kids. They are just some of my mom-heroes.

I wasn't called to that level of sacrifice. I chose to instead give myself completely to having a whole passel of kids and homeschooling them, while moving with my husband's job to 5 different locations after I got out of the Navy.

Friday, November 07, 2008

President Obama and the African American Community

I grew up mostly in Colorado, by open-minded parents who taught their children that people shouldn't be judged by the color of their skin. I went on to serve in the military for a total of 9 years, where there still existed some racial prejudice, but among those who were professional (which I would consider most of those in uniform), it didn't matter if you were black or white, Asian or Hispanic, male or female. What mattered most was if you had integrity, honesty, and trustworthiness and if you carried out your duties properly. In short, people were respected and judged according to their character.

It never occurred to me that there was such deep-seated racial bias, particularly against African Americans, and that because of this tragic flaw in our society, the idea of a black president would resonate so deeply in the African American community. I suspect most of us white, middle-class, ordinary, traditional-values type Christians were equally stunned at the unity of the African American population when it came time to vote. The percentage varies, depending on the location, but in mostly black DC, 95% of registered voters chose Obama over McCain.

I found this curious, because pro-lifers have tried (evidently quite unsuccessfully) to make a comparison between slavery (which was favored by the mostly Democratic South) and abortion. It was a Republican President who finally gave slaves their freedom, calling on all mankind to reject the abomination of enslaving another human being. In my mind, the Republicans have a history of helping the African American community while the Democrats opposed it. But maybe I'm reaching too far back into history...

I sincerely hope President Obama is able to unite the country and part of me is very proud that Americans were able to once again show to the world that we are the land of opportunity. I just hope and pray that he takes heed of the fact that the African American community is still suffering from racial inequality in the abortion facilities across the country. According to the website of the National Black Catholic Congress, the leading cause of death of African Americans since 1973 is abortion. Over 13 million African Americans have been put to death by the abortion industry in the past 35 years. That's one-third of the present black population in America.

I guess I thought African American Christians knew this and cared about this. I thought we were doing a pretty good job of getting the information out there. But we're not doing a good enough job. Most abortion clinics are located in predominately lower-income, minority neighborhoods and they target that population. Don't be fooled, abortion providers are making money on this industry. They're not in it for the good of mankind--unless they see some good in annihilating minorities.

My family and I were very fortunate to see and hear Dr. Alveda Scott King, niece of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., speak at a pro-life rally here in Denver last month. She spoke eloquently about the strength of her family and their love for her, but also about the desperation and shame she felt that caused her to abort two of her unborn children. She experienced a change of heart and now travels across the country trying to spread the word to African Americans and the rest of us, that the just society that her uncle envisioned, will not come to pass as long as we condone the racial genocide which is happening under our very noses. As she spoke that October evening in the park which bears her uncle's name, the new Planned Parenthood abortion facility, loomed behind her. Several thousand people, black and white, Asian and Hispanic, young and old applauded her words. We then followed her and several other pro-life leaders in a peaceful and prayerful walk around the Planned Parenthood building. There were enough of us there that evening to completely encircle the entire city block and fill the streets around it. We shared a common hope that one day abortion would no longer be tolerated or needed in our society.

But don't just take my word for it. Please read Archbishop Martin D. Holley's Reflection on the African American Family and the Culture of Life.

And let's pray that President Obama open his eyes to the horrors that are the abortion industry.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

I have some Good News and some Bad News...

You already know the Bad News...

The Good News is that the greatest nation on earth has now proven to itself and the world that we do not judge a person by the color of their skin. The charge of racism, which threatened to reappear its ugly head, if the Democratic candidate were not elected, can now be put to rest. Forever. I hope.

The other Good News is that marriage between one man and one woman has now been put into the state constitution of California.

The other Good News is what President-elect Barack Obama said in his victory speech last night regarding those pesky bad guys who would do America harm: "We will defeat them."

That's a big deal. That's not the talk of candidate Obama. Let's hope that President Obama will become the kind of president this country needs. And may all patriots unite in support of our country and our Commander-in-Chief. We don't need to spew hatred and behave toward our new president the way the left has hated President Bush. We can choose the high road.

Now here's a bit of bad news. You know that "change" that we kept hearing about? It reminds me of a story I heard about a POW camp in Germany during WWII:

The camp commander had all the prisoners lined up for morning inspection and announcements. They were dirty and hungry and many of them suffering from parasites and intestinal difficulties. It was winter and they stood shivering in thin trousers, with only thin coats to keep out the bitter wind that whipped through the frozen camp.

"I have some good news and some bad news," said the commander. "The good news is that you are all getting a change of underwear."

A cheer went up from the men. Their spirits lightened considerably.

"The bad news is," said the commander, looking at the front row, "you will change with will change with him..."

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Halloween and Politics

Somehow it was easier when the kids were little. We had a collection of saints' outfits which I'd made over the years and which could be combined and rearranged to make a myriad of other saints' costumes. After all, Halloween is the eve of All Saints. We would go to All Saints parties and play games designed to inspire our kids to higher levels of sanctity.

Slouching towards Gomorrah, for the past few years we have just done regular ol' Halloween and bought whatever costume is cheapest at the discount stores and isn't one of those "sexy" adult costumes. Sometimes we get creative and make something unique from already owned parts. But for the most part, it's a big headache for Mom, who doesn't feel like putting in hours at the sewing maching so her teens and pre-teens can dress up for Halloween.

So, here you have the results of this year's Halloween: Anakin Skywalker (complete with light saber...looks an awful lot like his taekwondo pose), a witch (she's too pretty to be a "bad" witch!), behind a Transformer, a really lame Sarah Palin striking a Nixonian pose (Tina Fey does a much better imitation), Queen Isabella of Spain, a "gangsta'," Capt. Jack Sparrow, and a Boy Scout/hiker/outdoorsman.

Politically, it was an interesting night...we spent Halloween evening at G'ma's Westminster Obama campaign headquarters. Little bit of 'dissing of Gov. Palin going on. After all, that IS the politically correct thing to do, no matter what your party affiliation, right? At least everyone who is properly indoctrinated on the role of women in society can agree that the women's movement did not authorize attractive women in their mid-40's who are the governor of a state to actually give birth to an imperfect child! The audacity of it all!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Why Would a Conservative Vote for Obama?

For those of you unfamiliar with Iowahawk, be advised he is for mature audiences and is a master satirist. However, his explanation probably holds true for some old-school Republicans.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Not another campaign video!

Yes, this is another campaign video. I wish everyone would watch this video because these are unedited exerpts from each candidate and exactly where they stand on the issue of life.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Patron Saint of Bloggers?

I noticed that today is the feast day of St. Narcissus, born around A.D. 99 and died around the year A.D. 215, living to the ripe old age of 116!

He was named the bishop of Jerusalem when he was 80 years old, but many said that he had the energy of a young man.

I was going to suggest he be named patron saint of bloggers, but after reading his biography, perhaps he should be the patron saint of Republican Presidential candidates?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Don't Cry for Me, Mr. Bleeding Heart Liberal

Don't listen to the liberals - Right-wingers really are nicer people, latest research shows

...According to Peter Schweizer at the UK's Daily Mail.

Right Wingers Attack Public School System in Colorado

Warning: Political satire embedded in the voter's guide by Right Wing Radicals right under the noses of Public School Officials in Colorado!

The following is an excerpt from an actual voter's guide put out by the Jefferson County Clerk and Recorder, Jefferson County, Colorado. Amendment 3A proposes a tax increase and Amendment 3B proposes a bond issue for the county schools -- projected amounts for the amendments are a tax increase of $34 million per year and a total bond debt of $754 million.


The following summaries were prepared from comments filed by persons FOR the proposal:

Yes, the economy is bumpy now, but Colorado has always been able to beat national trends because we INVEST in ourselves. Jeffco homeowners will accomplish the goals in 3A for only $2.92/month for each $100,000 of actual home value. YES on 3A is the right investment.

Taxes should be increased $34 million annually by a mill levy of 4.4 mills. Past increases have not resulted in the desired student performance improvement and a greater infusion of funds is required. Compared to other professions and trades, teachers are poorly paid and hopefully beginning salaries in the six-digit range can be offered within three or four years.

Senior citizens with fixed incomes are hard-pressed to shoulder increases in property tax. These people should recognize that their reduced productivity calls for them to be replaced by the youth of our nation. This measure calls for some of the property taxes to be earmarked for:

"Expanding options for career job skills and technical training to prepare students for today's work world." Half of these should be committed to the following:

Seniors on fixed incomes, to whom this school tax is burdensome, need training, as well as compassion. They must be offered the opportunity to learn how to locate more modest accommodations than those they currently occupy, and how to cope, in other communities if necessary.

This tax increase furthers the goals of our teacher unions. It is consistent with a presidential candidate's promise for change, and hope for progress toward the Socialist utopia through education. This increase could create a pad until the oppressive TABOR measures can be repealed, and the Amendment 23 extra millions for schools be made permanent. The same criteria and logic should be applied in consideration of ballot question 3B, resulting in a resounding approval of the $754 million debt. This will add as much as $69 million to the $34 million for 3A, annually, a picayune amount considering the future of our youth and well-being of the District's employees.

But wait! The Jefferson County School District just caught wind of this deceit and trickery! Evidently no one from the school district read the voter's guide until 10 days before the election. Quick! Send out a notice to all parents in the school district!

Here's the official rebuttal:

Voter TABOR Statement is Not District Endorsed

In response to continuing questions, the following is a public statement issued by Jeffco Public Schools regarding the summary of written comments for the 3A/3B Ballot Propositions printed in the 2008 Jefferson County Tabor Notice booklet.

The booklets were mailed to Jefferson County registered voters recently as required by state law.

The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights gives citizens the right to express their views on ballot measures, and have their views amplified at government expense through the so-called TABOR notice. The statement that appears in the TABOR notice is NOT the statement of the School District and the Jefferson County School District does not condone the remarks made by a citizen who submitted comments for publication in the notice that many people find misleading and offensive.

Instead, court decisions make it clear that government officials may not deny a citizen access to this avenue of communication because government officials believe the citizen’s comments are sarcastic, offensive, or even dishonest.

Jefferson County School District has great regard for its senior citizens; does not intend to pay its beginning teachers six figure salaries, and has no interest in establishing a socialist utopia.

(Editor's note: "Yeah, right!")

The Jefferson County School District is confident that the voters of the community will make an informed decision on ballot measure 3A without regard to political dirty tricks.

Friday, October 24, 2008

What Goes Around, Comes Around

It's that time of year again. The leaves are displaying their glorious display of reds, oranges and yellows. The air is crisp and cool and the sun is warm. Nights are cold but days are warm. The sunrise this morning was an amazing hue of bright purply-red all across the sky.

I felt a sore throat coming on last night after my husband left for his weekly nocturnal adoration hour. I decided to go to bed with a great book...A Canticle for Leibowitz. I didn't read too long before my eyelids were getting heavy.

My husband stayed home sick today. And we've got several sick kids, including one with strep.

Hey, kids! Let's read some nursery rhymes!

Hey, Diddle Diddle (with apologies to M. Goose)
Hey, Diddle Diddle,
The dog did a piddle,
The toddler's making a moon.
The little ones laughed
To see such sport
And the kids are all sick with the flu.
Hot, Cross Moms!
Hot, cross Moms!
Hot, cross Moms!
Must be the time of life for her,
Hot, cross Moms!
I've got a lot of daughters,
I've got a lot of sons.
Why doesn't someone take out the trash?
Hot, cross Moms!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Some Inconvenient Truths...published at last!

The online edition of the Denver Rocky Mountain News published my little ditty which I submitted to them for the Speakout section.

It didn't make the print edition. Nor did Catholic Exchange answer my query. The National Catholic Register thanked me but said it was too close to the election. (They have a long lead time).

So, dear readers, please pass the link along to your friends, neighbors and others who might be tempted to vote Democrat. ;-)

By the way...they changed my title...too close to home?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Young Writer's Program

Attention: Home Educators! Have your students enroll now in the Young Writers Program of National Novel Writing Month.

It's free...and students can create their own word counts. My kids are giving it a go this year. And we downloaded some really creative workbooks from the website, put them on a CD and took it to Kinkos, where they printed them out with a spiral biding and laminated covers. Cost about $15 each (or what you'd pay for a nice workbook). My kids are fighting over the workbooks, so I might have to go and print up some more.

Home Educators don't forget to sign up on the YW site as an Educator and have access to the Teacher's Lounge!

Remember: National Novel Writing Month begins November 1st.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Some things my grandchildren might like to know about me

Things I wanted to be when I grew up:

1. a penguin (I was only 4 or 5 at the time).

2. a Hawaiian (but my mom told me you actually had to be born one, which I found grossly unfair and totally against the attitude of the '70's which said women could be anything they wanted to be...I was about 6 or 7)

3. a nurse

4. a teacher

5. a U.S. Naval Officer

6. an astronaut

7. a writer

Things I have done:

1. I wore combat boots--on several occasions--most notably for a week during the summer of 1984, when, as a second-class midshipman, we had our U.S. Marine Corps indoctrination introduction. I also got to fire an M-16, a grenade launcher, and a machine gun; sit in the co-pilot seat of a helicopter (sorry, I can't remember what kind...but it had a distinctly Vietnam sort of feel as we flew low over the trees of northern Virginia), and paint my face with camo-green grease paint. After a night of war games in the woods of Virginia, we came back to the barracks and picked the ticks off. There were hundreds. Yes, hundreds.

2. Flew upside-down in a T-2 in Pensacola, Florida. Decided I didn't want to fly for a living.

3. Sailed on a 98-foot yacht from Annapolis, Maryland, to Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada and visited several ports of call, including New York City. While underway, in heavy seas, with 95% of the crew seasick, we had a fire at sea.

4. Sang back-up for Donna Summer (with the U.S. Naval Academy Women's Glee Club) at Pres. Reagan's 1985 Inaugaration Gala. Backstage, Lou Rawls told us, "Ya'll sounded real good;" Crystal Gale told us we looked "pretty" in our formal dinner dress uniforms; and Dean Martin winked at me. (Okay, I admit he winked at a lot of young ladies that evening). Oh, and Frank Sinatra sang with a glass of scotch in his hand and Tom Selleck was holding hands with his lady friend while all of us gals were desperately trying to catch his eye.

5. Shook President Ronald Reagan's hand when I received my Baccalaureate degree, May 1985.

6. I met Diego Maradona when I lived in Naples, Italy.

7. I have been mistaken for a prostitute. (In Naples, Italy).

8. Although I've never been arrested, I did have a police officer shine a flashlight in my face once and say, "You look familiar. Have you ever been arrested?"

9. My dh and I appeared on the Maury Povich show. (When Philosopher-Mom was deemed too smart, she gave them my name, I was phone-interviewed and deemed ditsy enough for the show). The topic of the show was, "Childfree by Choice," and we were the freaks with FIVE children! (Addendum: Also on the show was, Ben Wattenberg, who displayed great class in congratulating us on our five kids and he inscribed a copy of his book, The Birth Dearth, to us: "To Debbie and Joe...who are doing their part...with high regard, Ben Wattenberg, NY/NY 11/93.")

10. I once considered changing my name to "Aurora Borealis." *

Things I have eaten:

1. rattlesnake

2. Rocky Mountain oysters

3. alligator

4. frog legs

5. horse

Jobs I have actually had:

1. Youth Conservation Corps youth worker--2 summers

2. midshipman

3. 45 caliber pistol instructor

4. communications watch officer

5. telephone officer (liason with the Italian telephone company)

6. celebration of the bicentennial of the US Constitution coordinator

7. security officer

8. crisis pregnancy volunteer

9. Girl Scout leader

10. homeschool mom

* O.K. Not really. That one was supposed to be a joke. But I do think it's a pretty cool name.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

On being a white belt adult testing for a taekwondo color belt with a bunch of eleven year-olds

Today was taekwondo testing at our studio where 7 of us now take classes. Yep, the 5 awesome kids pictured here, plus dh and me. My husband and I tested for our first color belt today. The testing consisted of doing our "form" of 16 moves. These moves were a series of blocks, punches, and kicks that comprise the "white belt form." My dh and I were the only white belts in our testing of adults and "high rank" students ages 7 to 12. We had to do our form in front of our instructor (5th degree black belt), two guest judges (3rd and 4th degree black belts), and the entire school with requisite parents, grandparents, siblings, friends and neighbors in attendance. (I purposely did NOT invite any other relatives, friends or neighbors to my first testing!) We also had to perform our "one steps," which is a series of moves which one would perform if attacked. We alternated playing the role of attacker and defender in front of the judges. Our only misstep of the day (I suppose I should say MY only misstep of the day since I'm the one who misstepped), was when I began attacking before receiving the appropriate signal (a sort of grunt "ay-ya!") from my dh. Evidently it wasn't the end of the world and life continued on and we survived, nay, evidently passed, our first test.

Dear Edmund, who is a 2nd degree black belt recommended, and who has attempted to test for 2nd degree decided on a previous occasion, was not able to break one of his three boards in three tries, and thus didn't pass on to 2nd degree decided today. He will attempt his entire testing, which is quite lengthy for 2nd degree black belt, again on December 20th. Third time's a charm. His good sportsmanlike conduct is commendable, and I hope to one day have as good a form as he does.

Also testing were my "Tiny Tigers," JP and DJ, who did a fine job with the under 7 year-olds. They were testing for their green decided belts. And Bernadette, did a super awesome job testing for her brown belt decided. She broke her boards on the first try!

Not testing today due to some "attitude" difficulties, was young Paul. He should have been testing for brown belt recommended, but his instructor and parents agreed that his performance has not always been the best and that it would be unfair for other kids who actually paid attention in class and worked hard. The upshot of that is that my driving schedule is going to continue to be crazy hectic as I have to drive kids to most of the 14 classes we take each week and Paul won't be able to join his sister in her classes, thus eliminating 3 of those classes.

Aren't we terrifyingly and ridiculously good-looking in our pure-white uniforms and belt?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Some Inconvenient Truths

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. The Declaration of Independence; July 4, 1776.

Of all the issues that divide Republican and Democrat candidates, none is more crucial this election year than the issue of protection of human life, from conception to natural death.

Sadly, the party that has traditionally stood for human rights, for the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized, is the party that has made abortion a sacramental rite on the altar of lies.

Yes, lies.

Lie #1:
We don’t know when life begins.

There are some inconvenient truths that Democrats have been scrambling to deny ever since the advent of Roe v. Wade in 1973, which took away some states’ rights to outlaw abortions. The court found a privacy clause in the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment, which they used to support their majority opinion. The opinion dismissed the concern that the unborn might also be entitled to some of these rights to privacy, stating that since we are unable to know when life begins, we must not worry ourselves about it. Yet, wouldn’t the more prudent stand be one of preserving life, even the very possibility of life?

Thanks to advancements of modern science and medical technology, there is now, no doubt about when life begins. Whether or not an unborn child has human rights, is another question, which can only be decided by the legislature and the courts.

Lie #2
Abortion is a women’s health issue.

Waiting in the wings, for a Democrat-controlled legislature and presidency, is the “Freedom of Choice Act,” which would overturn any and all state regulations on abortion, such as: parental notification laws, regulation on unsafe abortion clinics, abortions provided by non-physicians, and taxpayer funded abortions for any and all reasons, including sex selection and as a form of birth control. It would also overturn the federal ban on partial birth abortions, which the Supreme Court upheld in 2007.

The high priest of this religious zealotry is Senator Barack Obama, who, on his own website states: “…it's never been more important to protect a woman's right to choose. Last year, the Supreme Court decided by a vote of 5-4 to uphold the Federal Abortion Ban, and in doing so undermined an important principle of Roe v. Wade: that we must always protect women's health. With one more vacancy on the Supreme Court, we could be looking at a majority hostile to a women's fundamental right to choose for the first time since Roe v. Wade. The next president may be asked to nominate that Supreme Court justice. That is what is at stake in this election.”

Interestingly, “women’s health,” is a vague term which is batted around as if abortion is somehow a form of preventive medicine, like vaccinations or flossing. Common sense tells us abortion is less about women’s health and more about doing away with inconvenient children.

Lie #3:
The declaration of human rights is above our paygrade.

Since the Democratic leadership seems to be spending a great deal of time discussing the abortion issue, let’s examine some of the things they’ve been saying:

Sen. Barack Obama, at the Saddleback Forum, was asked by Pastor Rick Warren: “When does a baby get human rights?” Note, he didn’t ask him, “When do you think life begins?” as has been quoted throughout the media. He asked him, “When does a baby get human rights?” This is a perfectly reasonable question to ask someone running for public office. The protection of human rights should be paramount to the duties of public office. The government is in the business of deciding what rights will be granted to which people.

Instead of answering, “Under Roe v. Wade, a baby gets human rights if that baby is chosen to get rights by its mother; otherwise, it's when the baby is born into an environment where a live birth is desired;” Sen. Obama said, "You know…I think that whether you're looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity, you know, is above my paygrade."

Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, was asked by Tom Brokaw to comment on Sen. Obama’s answer to the above question, but Brokaw misquoted Pastor Warren’s question, saying, “what would you say to Sen. Obama about the question of when life begins?” Her misguided answer drew immediate rebuke from Catholic bishops throughout the United States. There is no question that she misrepresented thousands of years of Catholic teaching on the sanctity of life. Yet she was not held accountable by the media for her wrong answer.

Senator Joe Biden’s comments on abortion are even more puzzling. Jumping into the fray after Obama and Pelosi, Biden was asked on Meet the Press, “When does life begin?” His response was that he knows when it begins for him. “Look, I know when it begins for me; it’s a personally [sic] and private issue. For me, as a Roman Catholic, I’m prepared to accept the teachings of my Church.”

Author aside: Joe…Can I call you Joe? I have some more questions for you, Joe: Since when is the question of when life begins a “personally and private issue”? Can the beginning of life be anything other than a scientific fact? Are you saying there are multiple realities? What’s alive for you may not be alive for another? And, if you’re really prepared to accept the teachings of your Church, which says it is a grave sin to assist one in procuring an abortion, including voting for laws enabling abortion, then how can you say you’re “pro-choice”? And if, as you say, “…life begins at conception…” how can a just and free country allow the killing of that life, based on the inconvenience of the child?

While we may disagree on the appropriateness of doing away with inconvenient children, there must be no doubt that abortion is the taking of a human life. Science can and does answer with specificity when life begins. It is our elected officials who must decide when human rights begin.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

National Novel Writing Month

I've taken the plunge and signed up for National Novel Writing Month. You should too!

I'm doing so after the good example of my friend, Anna Scott Graham, who welcomed my family upon our arrival in northern England in June 2000, with a batch of freshly picked strawberries. Now that's neighborly!

The idea is to force yourself to write. Just write and write and write. And maybe, just maybe, out of that glob of 50,000 (or more) words, you'll have something worth reading. Or maybe not. But it sounds like a great way to get the creative juices flowing. And since I've talked about writing a book for years and years and years, but never done something about it, I thought this sounded like a great excuse.

And, particulary noteworthy for homeschoolers, there is a great site for young writer's so they can participate as well.

I've convinced my dh and several of my kinders to take the plunge with me. I'll keep you posted on how we do!

Monday, October 06, 2008

I took my kids with me to Planned Parenthood

Today I went to the Rocky Mountain Planned Parenthood clinic to participate in the 40 Days of Life. I brought along Lizzy and Bernadette and we prayed the rosary while we walked along the west (entrance) side of the building. Such a simple act, yet it never fails to affect me. The horror of it all seems masked by the new, neatly landscaped, multi-million dollar building that covers an entire city block and is surrounded on all sides by an 8-foot high barbed-wire topped fence.

The people that we saw going in and out this afternoon looked to be mostly the workers. They don't look at you. What amazes me is the strength I feel when I pray there. Evil has no hold over the voice of Truth. The evil one knows his days are numbered. The power of the cross will prevail.

Here's an interesting story about what's going on with the 40 Days of Life in other parts of the country. Eduardo Verastegui, the handsome star of the movie Bella joined the prayer vigil in Los Angeles and some of the nurses came out just to meet him!

Saint Bruno, pray for us!

A Meditation on Children: By the Numbers

Author's note: After reading my friend, Philospher-Mom's, posting on Answer to Challenge Math Problem for Gestational Genuises , I started thinking about some child-related math questions of my own. This is the result.

Last year, a local family magazine ran an article on large families. They wanted to know funny stories and interesting anecdotes that would make people-who-drive-normal-cars-that-still-hold-their-entire-family laugh. They wanted to know things like: how many loads of laundry we do each week (10-12), how many socks are included in that set (168, plus or minus one, since there's always an odd number), how many gallons of milk we drink each week (5-7, same number of loaves of bread), and how many times we've forgotten kids at various locations throughout the planet (Editor's note: deleted for space).

They were too tasteful to ask more personal questions regarding pregnancy and bodily fluids--after all, it is a family magazine!

But you, gentle readers, are eager to know these intimate details, so I have decided to hold nothing back. So pour yourself a cup of coffee, turn down Oprah, and enjoy the math.

How about the total length of time I've been pregnant? 76 months. This includes 8 full-term pregnancies, 1 miscarriage and 2 adoptions. (Math answer: that's 6 years and 4 months).

How long have I been a nursing mom? A whopping 111 months! (That's more than 9 years...and that includes a 14+ hour military transport flight from Naples, Italy to the U.S. via Germany and Iceland with me in uniform and a newborn infant whose diapers I changed on the in-flight tray table...remember that next time you dine at 30,000 feet!)

How long have I been a homeschooling mom? Over 17 years.

We currently have 3 in college. We will have between 1 and 4 in college every year for the next 16 years (assuming all go to a 4-year college after high school).

We currently have 5 teenagers.

I've driven a 15-passenger van for 13 of my 21 years of marriage.

If you add up my kids' ages, you'll find we have 113 kid-years' experience as parents. (Editor's note: we should be honest and subtract the first 2 years of our youngest 2 children's lives because they didn't come home to live with us until they were 2 years old). O.K. That makes 109 kid-years!

So that should make me some kind of authority on parenting, right? All I know is this: before I had kids, I thought I had time. Now that I have kids, I know I don't have time. Before I had kids I thought I knew what love was. Now that I have kids, I do know what love is. Before I had kids, I thought I had patience. Now I have kids, and I'm just beginning to learn the meaning of patience.

Finally, my top ten rules learned after 109 kid-years of parenting:

1. Keep your sense of humor.

2. If it stinks, wash it.

3. "Because I said so," is a good enough reason.

4. They are cuter when they're asleep.

5. No matter how much we try to deny it, the fact is, we do become our mothers.

6. This, too, shall pass.

7. We need these kids as much as they need us.

8. (Often said 9 months later): "What were we thinking?"

9. Tell God (or your mother) your plans; it'll make them laugh.

10. If all else fails, see #1.

copyright Debbie Nowak 2008

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Today is the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi

...and dh and I, along with 6 of our offspring, went to the Catholic Mass for the homeschoolers of Northern Colorado, celebrated by our new auxiliary bishop, Bishop James Conley. Since St. Francis of Assisi is the patron of Colorado (he was named thus about 10 years ago), we were able to celebrate this optional memorial as a feast.

Cool. Feast. The name implies a big party, with lots of food. Well, it was rather like a party. Seeing lots of folks you only see once a year at the homeschool conference. Seeing old friends. And lots and lots of newbies. As for food...well, at least we had the Bread of Life, cause we ran out of food at the reception pretty darned quickly. After standing in line to meet Bishop Conley, and receive his blessing, we went into the reception hall and lo and behold, there wasn't much food left. Lots of hungry little ones and it was nearly noon. Fortunately, I had baked a loaf of zucchini bread this morning and I still had it in the car. So much for the miracle of the loaves and the was gone almost as soon as I cut it!

But...there was a really cool relic of St. Francis of Assisi. For non-Catholics, that means we had an actual piece of his bone. It is housed in a reliquary, a little stand with a glass window in it. We had the chance to venerate his relic. (In actuality, dh and I said some silent prayers to ask the good saint to watch over our wild animals, I mean children.)
Which is super cool, because he's a favorite saint of mine. And not because of the bird bath thing, but because he was so radical. He gave himself so totally to God that when his bishop told him to give his wealthy father back the money he took, which Francis had planned to use to rebuild a dilapidated church, Francis gave his father all the money back. Not only that, but he stripped naked in the public square in front of a crowd of people, including the bishop and his father. He gave his earthly father everything he had...even the clothes off his back, and went naked into the wilderness to meet God.

I don't advocate walking into the woods naked, because you'll either get poison ivy, frostbite, or arrested.

But St. Francis was such a cool dude because he had so much wealth, status and friendships, but he gave them all up to follow God. He was a real radical.

At the same time, he was perfectly obedient. When the bishop said "give the money back," he did...even though God told him to rebuild the church. He never set out to start an order, or reform the Church, or change the world. He just gave himself completely to God and God took care of the rest.
Now that's a real radical.

Friday, October 03, 2008

God Moments

Have they ever happened to you? I had one of my own last night.

My husband and went to see Les Miserables at the Arvada Center for the Performing Arts last night. It was an impluse purchase...$45 tickets on a weeknight. We took along 13 year-old budding actress, Joan, and her friend, M. (They paid for their own tickets...I figured teenage girls who would pay that kind of money to see a show deserved to go...)

Shortly after arrival, as we were standing in the lobby, me sipping Merlot from a plastic cup, dh sipping Coors from his, I spotted a face in the crowd that struck me as a face from my long-ago childhood. I was not going to let this moment pass. Having let moments like these pass before, I've learned in my mature years to capture the moment. So I purposely left my husband and strode up to the man (whose face I noticed) and his wife.

I asked them if they were Mr. and Mrs. C...they said "yes," and I introduced myself with my maiden name. They remembered me! Their daughter had been my best friend from 1st grade through 4th grade. In 5th grade we moved from Denver to Del Norte, a small town in a remote part of Colorado. Their daughter and I had kept in touch, sporadically. I think I last saw her when I was in high school and the two of us attended Girls' State at the same time.

I had many lovely childhood memories of being at their home. They were the only Catholic family that I knew. Their home was different from mine. First of all, there were twice the number of children...four! Second, the walls had religious pictures on them. I distinctly remember one in the kitchen of a peasant praying before eating his meal. And I remember seeing pictures of their girls in white communion dresses and wondering what that was all about.

Their home was always open and was always a place of love and joy.

I still can't believe I recognized them after 35 years...or that they remembered me! Perhaps my memory isn't as bad as I thought it was...


While I'm on the subject, I have to tell about a couple other God moments I've had.

One was about two years ago, when I was working in the nursery of my kids' school. In walked a tall blonde women who introduced herself as D... She and I chatted for a few minutes about Guatemala, as she noticed my two boys were Guatemalan. She told me she had lived there for over 7 years, working as a nurse in a mobile medical unit. Her husband was the business side of it, she said. They had just moved to Colorado and were homeschooling and using the same option school we were using.

I said goodbye and began driving home. But it suddenly hit me and I turned around, parked and went back into the nursery.

I asked her what her last name was and she told me. I told her that I had met her husband when we were in Guatemala to visit our boys before we adopted them. We had brought with us two suitcases full of shoes and medicines for their medical mission. I had totally forgotten about it when I first met her!

A month or so later, I was on retreat at the Abbey of St. Walburga, for a knitting retreat. It was my first retreat at the new abbey location (they had been located in Boulder before moving to northern Colorado). The retreat leader introduced herself on Friday evening and thus we began our knitting retreat. Her name didn't seem familiar to me at the time. It wasn't until later the next day, when she was talking about being raised in a small town in Colorado, but also moving to Africa, where her dad was a missionary doctor, that I had a clue. I asked her the name of the small town in Colorado. She said "Del Norte," and I realized who she was! Her mother was my Girl Scout leader and I remembered going to her house sometimes for meetings. Her dad had been a doctor in our small town, but had gone back to Africa with his family. The funny thing was that she was not Catholic, (nor was I when I lived in Del Norte). And she had never led a retreat before. Yet, here she was, at a Catholic Benedictine monastery, leading a retreat. And here I was, someone who knew her from her childhood.

Those are God moments to me. I think God gives us these glimpses into the mystical body of Christ...or maybe they're just glimpses into our humanity and how we're linked to one another. I am constantly amazed when this happens.

I'm thinking of more God moments as I write...but they'll have to wait until next time...

Monday, September 29, 2008

A Glorious Autumn Retreat: Then Comes the Fall

This past Thursday and Friday I spent a glorious day and a half at a Benedictine monastery retreat house in northern Colorado. I took my daughter, Elizabeth (16), and we attended a day retreat on Lectio Divina, given by the Mother Abbess, Mother Maria-Michael.

We thoroughly enjoyed the refreshing solitude, the exercise (walking 3/4 mile from the retreat house to the chapel several times a day for retreat sessions, liturgical prayers and Mass), and the spiritual renewal. We also enjoyed several walks on the grounds. We saw three bobcats when we walked the stations of the cross on Thursday afternoon!

We were also pleased to be able to visit with two groups of novices and their novice masters, who attended the same retreat as we. The Dominican novices from Denver, and the Holy Cross novices from Cascade.

We returned on Friday to a husband and 6 kids who were really happy to have us home.


Just when you think you have life under control.....

There goes the plumbing!

We spent the entire month of July and well into the month of August repairing major water damage in our downstairs study which was caused by the upstairs bathtub faucet malfunctioning. Water poured into the room below, and also caused damage to the interior closet in the master bedroom, which is adjacent to the bathroom.

We paid our huge deductible (ouch!) to our insurance company and let them assign a general contrator to oversee the reconstruction. This was after we hired a plumber to repair and replace the worn out tub fixtures.

WELL...Saturday night, dear Edmund (15, who is now residing in blessed solitariness in the former downstairs study), called our attention to some water that had mysteriously appeared on his floor. We immediately looked up to see if we could find the source of the water, since nearly all our children had bathed that day (in preparation for the Sabbath...aren't we squeaky clean?) It was quite a mystery, since there was absolutely no water stain on the ceiling or walls, but there was a definite pool of water in the middle of the floor, as if someone had spilled an entire glass of water! (This was the option I chose, since it seemed most likely).

Additionally, there was water on the carpet, underneath the radiator by the window. We haven't had the heat on since last winter, so it seemed unlikely that there was a radiator leak.

Even more bewildering, there was a small pool of water outside the window, on the stone ledge, and we'd had no rain, nor had anyone turned on the outside faucet...

I held to my opinion that it had been a small child with a wayward cup of water who had perhaps dropped the glass, splashing some toward the far wall, underneath the radiator, with the bulk of it on the floor.

But yesterday afternoon we discovered the real source of all that water. We decided to re-enact the scene of the crime by filling the tub with water (no children this time), and letting it drain, to see if any water reappeared. We filled it to the overflow spout and could hear the water draining down the pipes in the wall, but no water leaked. We then drained the entire tub, listening and watching all the while for any leaks. Still nothing.

"It must've been a cup of water," we thought.

Blogging momentarily interrupted by insurance company calling back to tell me I get to pay another deductible!

About 30 minutes later, Edmund calls me to come and take a look. There is water pouring from the ceiling fan (with light) in the center of his ceiling. It collected on the floor, the same spot we found the water the day before. ARRGGHH!

Update: the insurance company is notified; they in turn, notify the water mitigation crew, who is prepared to come out today and help dry out the ceiling and the wall and check the wiring on the electric fan. I try to get a hold of the plumber, so he can come out and locate the source of the leak.

God certainly has a unique sense of humor.

Sts. Michael, Gabriel and Raphael! Pray for us. Please watch over our house and guide the workmen as they seek to find and repair the cause of the leak. And please, help them fix ALL the problems so we don't have to do this again!