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!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Commercializing Despair

Need I say more?

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.