Thursday, December 17, 2009

It's not like there's nothing happening around here...

My husband actually reads my blog and tells me that I should blog more often. I think at least one of my college kids reads my blog too. I wish they would comment every now and then just so I know there are living beings reading this. (hint, hint).

My husband is very encouraging, sending me emails with subject lines like, "For your blog" and "You should really blog about this." I appreciate it, I really do. If I didn't have one million and one things going on at any given moment, I would really love to blog about all the wonderful topics he sends me.

The trouble is that real life keeps intruding into my blogolife. We've celebrated our oldest daughter's graduation from college (yay!!) on December 12th. We're very proud of her and her accomplishments. She majored in Physics and worked very hard, not only in her classes, but also working as an assistant manager for the university catering service. She managed to work her way through school without relying on mom and dad to pay her way. She is now applying to grad schools across the country, hoping to pursue studies in Medical Physics.

I'm promising more updates after the new year and hope everyone who reads this blog has a very joyous Christmas.

We're taking the family to the mountains for the week of Christmas. We'll be staying in a cabin at about 9,000 feet...lots of snow and cross-country skiing, sledding, ice skating...and maybe a sleigh ride. There is a lovely little parish nearby, in Granby called Our Lady of the Snow. We're looking forward to midnight Mass there and taking up half the pews.

A very blessed final week of Advent to you all!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Remembering Aunt Louise

Despite the fact that I'm the eldest of two daughters, who's the eldest of two daughters, who's the eldest of two daughters, and that I come from a looooong line of WASPs, dating at least back to the American Revolution, if not the Mayflower, I do have some colorful stories from my childhood.

I was reminded of one of my favorite elderly aunts when I was reading The Philosopher Mom's blog posting for today. My story isn't quite as detailed as Kalynne's because my memories are sporadic and disconnected, but quite vivid all the same.

My great great Aunt Louise was my grandmother's aunt (on my mother's side), although she was only about nine years older than my grandmother. Aunt Louise became like a sister to my grandmother when my grandmother's mother died in childbirth just before her little girl was delivered by cesarean. My grandmother was only three years old when her mother died. Her grandmother took her in and raised her and her baby sister because their father didn't feel he could raise two little girls on his own. My great great grandmother had already birthed fourteen children of her own and Aunt Louise, at age twelve, was the youngest still at home. We always visited with Aunt Louise when we'd go to Kentucky to see my grandparents. We'd drive there nearly every summer from Colorado, except for a few summers when my grandparents would come to visit us.

Aunt Louise was married to Uncle Bill and they lived in a big ol' white house with a big ol' white goose in the backyard who always managed to evade our attempts at catching her. Aunt Louise's four poster bed was so high there was a step ladder to climb up into it. She had an attic upstairs and would let me explore it by myself. I always loved sneaking away to the attic alone while the grown-ups were talking. I don't know if she put the toys up there just so that I could find them or if I really was clever enough to uncover those antique treasures. One of my favorite toys was a tiny cast iron stove that was fully functional (less the fire burning inside it) and it looked just like the one she had in her huge country kitchen. There were also little china dishes that seemed to me to be at least a hundred years old. I always felt like I stepped back in time when I would climb up into her attic.

Aunt Louise was a rather large woman...must've been at least 5'8" and over 200 lbs but she never seemed fat to me, just large and full of love. When she hugged me those huge bosoms of hers would swallow me up and I knew that everything was right with the world. She made the best sweet tea, fried chicken, corn on the cob, biscuits and gravy, grits and turnip greens and to top it all off--homemade blackberry pie--and that was just lunch. We'd sit in her spacious homey kitchen for hours eating, and as the grown-ups were talking about people and places I knew nothing about, I'd stare at the countless do-hickeys and knick-knacks scattered around her kitchen, hanging from the walls and ceiling and tucked into every nook and cranny.

Her husband, Uncle Bill, liked to hug me too, but I always felt uneasy when he'd hug me just a bit too long. Turns out when Aunt Louise had to put him in a nursing home because he was getting a tad senile, he tried groping all the nurses and he got himself into a heap of trouble.

I still smile when I think of Aunt Louise, and I'm relieved that my kid instincts on Uncle Bill were correct enough to know to push away when his hugs got a little too much.

RIP Aunt Louise and Uncle Bill.

Monday, November 09, 2009

The Berlin Wall and Other Forms of Bondage

It was twenty years ago today--November 9, 1989--that communism collapsed. It was a rather sudden and inexplicable lifting of travel restrictions from East to West Germany, specifically within the divided city of Berlin, that caused swarms of people to head for the West. East German guards had to stand by and watch as both East and West Germans chipped away at the wall which had divided their city, their nation and even families for the previous twenty-eight years.

I remember watching the news reports myself twenty years ago today, dumbfounded. I knew it was monumental, but I don't think it struck me (being only 26 years old myself), how truly monumental it was.

President Ronald Reagan was no longer in office when the wall fell, but he is often credited with helping to pave the way for the wall's destruction. His speech of June 12, 1987, in which he famously tells Mr. Gorbachev to "Tear down the wall," is cited as one of the keys to Reagan foreign policy. There was certainly no doubt what President Reagan believed:

We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace.

There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

Pope John Paul II is also credited with helping to end communism. He was a Pole and a fierce opponent of communism who had lived much of his life under the oppression of a communist state. He was a beacon of hope to those living under oppression. His first words as pope were, "Be not afraid!"

Thank you God, Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II for helping to bring down the Berlin Wall.

May we never forget the spiritual, political and economic bondage that was communism.

But communism of yesterday has been replaced by government control of a different sort. Today, we freely give up our sovereignty and liberty under the guise of unilateralism and compromise. The European Union is a fine example of what happens when states turn over their sovereignty. Italy has been told to "Tear down crucifixes" from its public schools in the name of uniformity and compromise. President Obama is poised to sign the climate change accord at Copenhagen next month which would require the US to abide by carbon emission standards set by other countries for us.

We are on the brink of being saddled with what some analysts say is a $1 trillion price tag for government run health care, which would include health care rationing.

Our government seems more concerned about fighting a two-degree rise in global temperatures over the next 100 years than fighting Islamic terrorists.

According to a Wall Street Journal editorial in today's paper, Global Warming as Seen From Bangladesh, three billion people worldwide do not have access to basic sanitation and safe drinking water. These people would much rather have covered sewer drains and clean drinking water than worry about rising temperatures or sea levels. In fact, cutting carbon emissions will "likely increase water scarcity, because global warming is expected to increase average rainfall levels around the world." Too bad poor people everywhere.

If we are to learn from history, then we must never forget the scenes of utter joy as humanity was released from bondage on that day twenty years ago. And let's not allow our elected officials to enslave us again.

Pres. Reagan and me, circa May 22, 1985
~shameless plug~

Sunday, November 08, 2009

We need a conscience clause!

At Mass this morning, our priest read a letter from the US bishops, commenting on the proposed health care bill, which was voted on late last night by the US House of Representatives.

One of the bishops' objections, our pastor pointed out, had been addressed by last night's vote. The Stupak Amendment rejected federal funding for abortions. However, there are still many objectionable elements in the current health care bill. One of these is the lack of a conscience clause for Catholics and other health care workers who object to participating in actions which are opposed to their personal beliefs and the teachings of the Catholic Church.

President Barack Obama promised America, in his commencement speech to Notre Dame, that his administration would promote a rigorous conscience clause for health care workers. There is nothing in the current bill which would allow health care workers to recuse themselves from medical procedures which violate their consciences. The consensus of the current political climate seems to be: no objection allowed.

The US bishops have declared that access to health care is now a human "right." What happened to it being a "work of mercy"? It is now a basic human right. The popular culture has long declared contraception to be "health care." Does this mean that Catholic taxpayers will be required to fund contraceptive drugs and devices, many which act as abortifacients? How have we slouched this far to Gomorrah that we now view contraception as a "basic human right?"

The US bishops have also declared that all "immigrants" are entitled to comprehensive health care. By using the term "immigrants," do the bishops really mean "illegal immigrants"? I can only assume they do, since many American citizens are immigrants, but no one would question their right to anything granted to citizens by birth.

Rather than guilt-trip American Catholic taxpayers into funding health care for illegals, why don't the bishops start a Catholic welfare organization which would fund health care for all persons, regardless of immigration status? It is the work of the Church to help the poor, but it is not necessarily the work of the state to do that.

Furthermore, why promote benefits for illegal immigrants who have already violated US law? Why not instead promote easing of the restrictions for US citizenship, so that more people would have access to the benefits of legal citizenship?

Saturday, November 07, 2009

The Philosophy of Relativism and the Catholic Way of Looking at Things

Have you ever been in a discussion with someone about something important to you...say, politics or religion or education and you find that you and your colleague are in sharp disagreement, and you really don't want to start a row, so someone says something to the effect, "You have your way of looking at things, and I have mine and that's okay" ?

That happens a lot among polite people who don't want to lose a friendship or stop speaking to a relative because they didn't vote the same way in the last election.

You can't argue with someone else's experience. But when they start using their own experience as proof that their opinions are true in all cases, you've got a problem. The problem with relativism is that each individual gets to choose their own reality based upon their own experiences. In effect, each person becomes their own little god. And when they try to ignore the conflict that arises when different people have radically different experiences, they say, "You have your truth, and I have mine."

Taken to the extreme, this idea that opposite opinions can be equally valid is one of the aspects of relativism which has taken hold of our modern culture in our effort to promote "tolerance," "empathy," and "diversity."

On second thought, some opinions are not considered by our culture to be equally valid if they infringe upon the real or supposed rights of a protected class of people. Just try sending your child to school in a t-shirt that says something like "Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve."

Tolerance, empathy and respect for diversity are noble qualities, don't get me wrong. I want my kids to be tolerant of their annoying siblings, empathetic to the plight of the poor and respect people who don't speak English, but I don't want them to think it is good to be annoying, poor or ignorant.

Mark Shea spoke at Theology on Tap last night in Denver, and his topic was "101 Reasons NOT to be Catholic." He listed the various reasons people object to Catholic beliefs, such as: "The Catholic Church is against Choice," and "The Catholic Church says believers can lose their salvation." Or, "The Catholic Church is anti-sex," and "The Catholic Church wants people to have lots of babies." He juxtaposed these radically different claims, usually made by radically different folks, to show that perhaps the Church is really in the middle...and the observers are on the extremes.

Jesus promoted tolerance, empathy and diversity more so than any other person of his day. After all, he ate with sinners, told rich folk to give all their money to the poor and collected a motley assortment of followers to be his disciples.

The relativistic person who says, "Your beliefs are true for you and my beliefs are true for me," are really saying there can be two competing claims of "truth" that are both equally valid. They are really the ones in the extreme. But remember, no one really believes that in the important areas of life, (religion, politics and education, for example), opposing viewpoints have any merit. We're just trying to be polite.

But in those important areas of our lives, we need to assert our claim of truth. For example, those who claim that a woman has the "right to choose" abortion of her unborn child because she is the only one who really knows her situation and it is between "the woman and her god," are forgetting there is a competing "reality" in this situation, and that is the reality the unborn child experiences. If the promoters of relativism were really true to their beliefs, they would consider that others have competing claims that are equally valid and worthy of respect. The unborn child's claim to life should therefore hold equal weight to the claim of the woman for independence from the unborn child. In a span of nine months or less, the woman's claim for independence can be granted, and the child can be placed for adoption. In this incidence of competing claims for reality, it seems logical that both claims should be balanced so as to protect the rights of each to the greatest extent possible and doing the least harm to each.

The teachings of the Catholic Church, therefore, protect the rights of both parties to the greatest extent. Far from rejecting the claims of the woman for independence, the Church recognizes the reality of the unborn and fights to have the value of each person protected.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The lost tools of learning: will we ever find them?

I've been doing a lot of off-blog debating these days. It concerns the direction our little homeschooling co-op turned public school option program is going.

We have been happily partaking of the federal trough of taxpayer funded homeschooling resources through a great program called Home Option Program of Education. What began as a few moms sharing teaching efforts in a Christian co-op has expanded to utilize public funds for teachers and facilities and is now looking at creating their own charter high school.

I went to a few charter committee meetings during the summer to share my ideas for curriculum and a classical education, having used such a method, with some degree of success, for the past 18 years of homeschooling. As one of the early members of the program, and with four high school graduates under my belt, I figured they'd want to listen to my ideas.

Boy, was I wrong!

Little did I know the charter committee had already decided their course of action would have no part in medieval ideas of classical education, for they had already charted their course for "collaborative learning" and "critical thinking."

There's nothing like having to do a little research in educational theories and methods to fully convince one of the merits of homeschooling. I just did another re-read of Dorothy Sayer's essay, The Lost Tools of Learning. I'd forgotten just how delightfully refreshing it is to read her essay, first presented at Oxford in 1947.

I was struck by just how appropos this excerpt is today. Perhaps even more so now than it was in 1947:

For we let our young men and women go out unarmed, in a day when armor was never so necessary. By teaching them all to read, we have left them at the mercy of the printed word. By the invention of the film and the radio, we have made certain that no aversion to reading shall secure them from the incessant battery of words, words, words. They do not know what the words mean; they do not know how to ward them off or blunt their edge or fling them back; they are a prey to words in their emotions instead of being the masters of them in their intellects. We who were scandalized in 1940 when men were sent to fight armored tanks with rifles, are not scandalized when young men and women are sent into the world to fight massed propaganda with a smattering of "subjects"; and when whole classes and whole nations become hypnotized by the arts of the spell binder, we have the impudence to be astonished. We dole out lip-service to the importance of education--lip- service and, just occasionally, a little grant of money; we postpone the school-leaving age, and plan to build bigger and better schools; the teachers slave conscientiously in and out of school hours; and yet, as I believe, all this devoted effort is largely frustrated, because we have lost the tools of learning, and in their absence can only make a botched and piecemeal job of it.

I would love to say that after 18+ years of homeschooling, I've gotten it right and I am doing a great job of introducing my kids to the lost tools of learning, but the more I learn, the more I realize I don't know. I just hope my kids end up being smarter than me. Some of them already are!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A brief review of "A Raisin in the Sun"

My two high schoolers and I went to see a performance of A Raisin in the Sun at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts this past Thursday. There were also about 500 rather rowdy Denver Public School kids there, who insisted on hooting and hollering every time the house lights went down. Fortunately, they were better behaved when the lights went up and the actors were on stage.

I had never seen the play or the movie before, so I was going into it cold. But let me tell you, I'm so happy I went. It's not my normal choice of theatre; I prefer a musical or a comedy or Shakespeare...but this was a serious drama of racial tensions in the 1950's in Chicago's southside, but I found that it spoke to me on several other levels.

This is truly a timeless story. There is a scene where Walter Lee Younger, who is drunk, is going on and on about his "dreams" and how no one understands him, while his mother is trying to get him to listen to his wife who is trying to tell him that she is unexpectedly pregnant. Money is tight and this family is already stressed, and all his wife needs to hear from her husband is that he loves her and he will help her deal with this pregnancy. She gets no reassurance from him because he is so caught up in his own self seeking. She has already given the abortionist a down payment, perhaps knowing how her husband would respond.

The grandmother (Walter's mother) tells him to "be a man" like his father was and not let his "child be destroyed." She told him that they are a people who loves their children and not a people who destroy their children.

I couldn't help but think about the current state of the black family in America, where their abortion rate is 5 times greater than whites. Additionally, 80% of African American children are born to fatherless homes. If you want to make sure a child grows up in poverty and is at greater risk for violent crime and other social ills, then take the father out of the home.

I won't tell you how this story ends, but it is well worth watching. The classic movie version stars Sidney Poitier as Walter Lee Younger.

Friday, October 23, 2009

When life gives you lemons...sing a country song

I heard this song today on the radio. Sometimes you just need a good dose of country music reality. Truck died? Just got out of jail? Did you girlfriend leave you for your best friend? When you feel like whining or complaining, think about the words of this song, and "...suck it up."

Sounds Like Life to Me
( Darryl Worley, Wynn Varble, Phil O’Donnell )

Got a call last night from an old friend’s wife
Said I hate to bother you
Johnny Ray fell off the wagon
He’s been gone all afternoon
I know my buddy so I drove to Skully’s
And found him at the bar
I say hey man, what’s going on
He said I don’t know where to start

Sarah’s old car’s about to fall apart
And the washer quit last week
We had to put momma in the nursing home
And the baby’s cutting teeth
I didn’t get much work this week
And I got bills to pay
I said I know this ain’t what you wanna hear
But it’s what I’m gonna say

Sounds like life to me it ain’t no fantasy
It’s just a common case of everyday reality
Man I know it’s tough but you gotta suck it up
To hear you talk you’re caught up in some tragedy
It sounds like life to me

Well his face turned red and he shook his head
He said you don’t understand
Three kids and a wife depend on me
And I’m just one man
To top it off I just found out
That Sarah’s 2 months late
I said hey bartender set us up a round
We need to celebrate

Sounds like life to me plain old destiny
Yeah the only thing for certain is uncertainty
You gotta hold on tight just enjoy the ride
Get used to all this unpredictability
Sounds like life

Man I know its tough but you gotta suck it up
To hear you talk you’re caught up in some tragedy
Sounds like life to me
Sounds like life

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Speed Dating or Courtship?

Have you heard of "speed dating"? According to Mr. Wikipedia (whoever he is!), "speed dating" originated with "...Rabbi Yaacov Deyo of Aish Ha Torah, originally as a way to help Jewish singles meet and marry." Supposedly it's been around since 1998, and made a huge splash when it was featured on "Sex and the City."

If you're not up to speed on this latest dating fad, don't feel bad. I've only recently heard about it, but I assumed it was for promiscuous work-aholics who didn't have time to develop real relationships or have anything other than a power lunch.

So, imagine my surprise when I heard my daughter's Newman Guide school's Catholic Campus Ministry was sponsoring a speed dating event.

I sure hope nobody takes it seriously, because for the life of me I can't figure out how chaste Christian courtship has anything to do with speed dating.

I think back on my very first date with the man who has been my husband for the past 22+ years. We sat at our table in an Italian restaurant (in Italy!) lost in conversation, staring into each other's eyes. We were barely aware of our surroundings, or that our waiter kept returning to fill our water glasses and ask us if we wanted anything else. The other tables had been stripped of tablecloths, silverware and glasses and the staff must've been eager to get home that night, but they let us sit there, lost in each other's gaze. It wasn't until we finally got up to go home that I realized the place was empty except for us, the waiter and the cook. They smiled knowingly at each other as we left the restaurant that night.

Keep your speed dating, I'll take mine nice and slow.

Monday, October 19, 2009

First Communion Preparation

We recently joined a new parish because we were looking for a parish home that would help us pass along the faith to our kids and give us a place where we would be fed the Gospel of Truth without apology. Our youngest two boys (ages 7 and 8) are preparing for their first confession and first communion and our 12 year-old daughter is also preparing for the sacrament of confirmation this year, so finding a good place was a big deal for us. We talked about it all summer and I looked into at least 7 nearby parishes.

We have such a busy family schedule that evening classes weren't going to work for our daughter for confirmation. Some of the parishes wouldn't allow a 7th grader to be confirmed. We also discounted two-year programs because of the time commitment and because it seemed most of them just filled the time with fluff programs that were designed to keep the kids coming rather than teach them the basics of their faith. My daughter was asking to be confirmed, so I thought it best to do it while she was eager to do it.

We could have prepared the youngest at home for first communion, since that's what I've done with all my others, but since our new parish offers CCD classes for all grades on Sunday mornings, right after Mass, we thought it would be easier (and more fun for the boys) if they were all in classes on Sunday. It is a sacrifice because it means we have to get everyone up early on Sunday for the 8:30 am Mass. But the sacrifice is worth it if it means our kids are getting solid teaching of the faith.

I'd forgotten some key items. First, the CCD teachers don't know us from Adam, so they have no idea if these kids come from a practicing Catholic home or a pagan home. Second, classes mean teachers talk, kids listen and write in their workbooks and kids have to read aloud.

Yesterday, my sons' first communion teacher told me they were struggling in her class. The comment surprised me because they have been asking to receive their first communion for well over a year. They weren't struggling with the material; they were struggling with the reading aloud and written assignments.

Reality check: these are two little boys who have only been in this country for 6 years. They are mostly average 7 and 8 year old boys, but they aren't independent readers yet. The younger one has some health issues (neurofibromatosis) which have been linked to learning delays and he has vision problems on top of that. He's also got some speech and language delays and has been receiving speech and cognitive therapy for over a year. On top of that, the parish is using the wonderful "Faith and Life" catechetical series. It's wonderful, and I've used it to prepare my older kids at home, but it most definitely isn't a second-grade reading level book! Additionally, some of the kids in their CCD class are in fifth grade.

The teacher told me, "It is the policy of our parish that a child must be able to read and write well in order to receive first confession and first communion, because they can't tell right from wrong if they can't read and write."

I repeated her words to her, "They can't tell right from wrong if they can't read and write?" I was astonished. I had never heard such a thing before.

This morning I called the parish religious education director to verify if this was the case, which indeed it is. Since we are newbies at the parish, (we joined the parish because of the excellent CCD classes), I gave the RE director some background on the boys. He seemed somewhat appeased by the fact that they have been asking to recieve communion for over a year, but he said he wouldn't make a final decision until he talked to the pastor and had a chance to meet with the boys.

I'm somewhat relieved, but also frustrated. I ended our conversation by saying that I had hoped we would be able to pass along the faith orally, rather than just by the written word, since that is how kids that age best learn. I can't help but wonder about kids who are more profoundly disabled or the many illiterate folks in the world who still need the sacraments.

I'm wondering if anyone else has experienced this? Have you ever been told your child can't recieve a sacrament because they can't read and write well enough?

Thursday, October 01, 2009

When vulgarity masquerades as poetry

I've been in a quandry lately and I couldn't quite figure out how to express it in my blog without bringing discredit to others.

I was in a quandry at least until I read this blog today.

In her Conversion Diary blog, Jennifer Fulwiler reminds Christian bloggers to take heed the advice of St. Francis de Sales. In his book, Finding God's Will for You, St. Francis, tells us "...those who follow...hellish suggestions in the belief that they are heavenly inspirations can usually be recognized because they are unsettled, headstrong, haughty, and ready to undertake or meddle in affairs. Under the pretext of zeal, they subvert everything, criticize everyone, rebuke everyone, and find fault with everything. They are men without self-control and without consideration, who put up with nothing. In the name of zeal for God's honor, they indulge in the passions of self-love."

You see, my daughter attends a university named for St. Francis de Sales. She had an unfortunate experience recently, in that she attended a poetry reading on campus featuring a vulgar "poet" who goes by the moniker Oveous Maximus and whose rap lyrics were full of graphic sexual images. I wanted to scream out to the rooftops and tell the world just what I thought of Mr. Maximus and the University that brought him there to pollute the minds of their students. But St. Francis de Sales' words cautioned me to slow down, take a deep breath and think about the effect my words may have on others. As one who considers herself a Christian blogger, I need to consider every word I write so as not to take myself too seriously or assume all my words are "heavenly inspirations." Yet I am still a fiercely loyal mother and I can be pretty scary when I get my ire up. Consider yourselves forewarned.

In this digital information age I was able to view his poetry on youtube. Surprisingly, he has also has some good poems, like "Dulce de Leche," which exhalt the dignity of womanhood. In fact, he tells one audience the reason he chose the name Oveous Maximus was to do precisely that: Oveous coming from the Latin ovum, which celebrates the life-giving role of woman. Maximus elevates the role of woman to near god-hood, or so he says.

Yet one particular poem that upset my daughter was titled, "Letter to My Future Ex-Girlfriend," and it begins similarly to "Dulce de Leche," but then it veers dramatically to the vulgar and begins to take a more violent rhythym while describing unsavory acts which he would like his girlfriend to perform on him.

My daughter's complaints to the Multicultural Office that sponsored the event have thus far been met with a condescending pat on the head, and " nice it is that you feel secure enough to express your opinions because that's what college is all about and yet we must remember that he has the right to express himself as well..." So, we are continuing our attempts to relay our displeasure to the University and to get them to recognize that Mr. Maximus is not the ideal role model for Catholic youth striving to be holy.

It wasn't until I was discussing this for the upteenth time with my husband last night that I realized there was some good in Mr. Maximus and I should recognize that when I write about him. However, a bit of dog poo in a batch of brownies can destroy the entire pan even if it's only a bit. And some of his stuff is, poo.

If you'd like to see an excerpt of my daughter's letter to the Mulitculturalistas, here it is.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Hiking Jurassic Park

Geologic point of interest on the south side of I-70.

We have some amazing hiking trails right in our backyard here in the Denver area. Yesterday we went on three hikes: two short hikes and a longer hike. The two short hikes were along either side of Interstate 70, to step back in time and see the geologic formations that were unearthed when they blasted through a hill in order to connect the interstate highway system in 1971. The other hike was a 4.2 mile loop near Red Rocks amphitheater. All three hikes are literally minutes from our home.
Close-up view of the layering.
First we stopped at a geologic point of interest on the south side of I-70 as it enters the mountains west of Denver. The last time my husband and I had been there was about 15 years ago, before any of our young hiking companions were born. We were excited to show them the signboards which explained the different colors of layers of rock that had been uncovered when road crews blasted through this chunk of mountain when they were finishing building I-70.

We were amazed at the amount of erosion that had occurred since that time. All the sign boards were gone and large rocks had fallen into the paved path. The guard rail had warning signs about not getting too close and in many places the path was covered by sand, loose sandstone and shale. Nevertheless, we could see the cut-out on the north side of I-70 and that there were still signboards on that side. We decided to visit that side at the end of our hike. A rock on the trail.

White sand from erosion on the trail.

We kept a close eye on the weather because the beautiful blue sky of the morning was quickly filling with clouds as the afternoon came. Honestly, I didn't think we'd be able to complete our planned 4.2 mile loop with our youngest guy. He's not a really strong hiker and I wasn't about to carry a 7 year-old (no matter how small he might be!)
The Red Rocks trail head.

We found the trail head near a parking lot just before the amphitheater at Red Rocks. If you haven't heard about the natural amphitheater at Red Rocks, it is a world-famous concert venue. The Beatles played here. And the Fray played a sold-out concert here. Yesterday, another sold-out concert was preparing for an evening performance.
Side view of the amphitheater from the trail.
The scenery was gorgeous! Sometimes we get so busy with our lives that we forget to look up at the stars in the night sky, or simply look around us. This hike is so close to our home, but the landscape is so amazingly different and beautiful that I couldn't stop taking pictures and exclaiming, "Oh! Look at that rock!"

Dung beetle?

There were still wildflowers blooming, and what I think must be a dung beetle, though I haven't taken the time to look it up yet. But this little fella was crawling around a pile of poo and I couldn't resist taking his picture.

Looking down on our van.

Soon the path began to climb rather steeply. Our brave hikers kept up a good pace and once we got to the top of the ridge we knew we had to keep going. The sky was darkening and a brisk wind came up, but the view from the top was stunning.

Buckley AFB "golf balls" in the distance.

From the top of the trail we could see the cut-out on I-70.

The path down was called the Morrison Slide Trail, but fortunately we didn't encounter any rock slides. There were a few tricky bits that made us happy to have our walking sticks with us!

We made it down the mountain and to our van just as it began to sprinkle lightly, but we were enthusiastic about seeing the other side of I-70 because we felt very brave and strong for having finished such a hike with our three young companions (and dog).

Happy hikers!

The north side of I-70.
The drive to the other geologic point of interest was very short...probably less than 10 minutes. When we got out of the van we were met by very strong gusty winds, which made the boys giggle and squeal with delight! I held on tightly to small hands because I was a bit concerned that someone might be picked up and tossed onto the highway below. Fortunately, we were able to walk in the wind and we had rain jackets because it was now starting to rain rather steadily.

The signboards are still in place on the north side.

The signboards were in place, which described in great detail the both the age and the composition of the rocks we were looking at. These rocks were formed over a period of about 45 million years...they represented the time period from 140 million to 95 million years ago, which spans the end of the Jurassic period and the beginnings of the Cretaceous period.
The formations we saw are part of the Morrison Formation, which includes nearby Dinosaur Ridge, where you can see actual dinosaur footprints imbedded in the rock along the roadway.

Cold and tired but happy.

It's a good thing we went on our hike yesterday. Today, on the last day of summer, there is snow in the foothills!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Detachment Parenting: from birth to college

When I was pregnant with my first child, I was a naval officer in Naples, Italy. I was working at a communications station and mostly sat behind a desk. I was thrilled to be pregnant and I would sometimes think how wonderful it was that I could bring my unborn child with me where ever I went! I could feel her kicking me when I was writing reports or making official-sounding phone calls. She was safe and always close to me, under my heart.

I was terrified of the day when I would have to leave her in day care to return to work after her birth. How I wished I could keep her snug and close to me always.

By the time I was pregnant with our third child, I was near the end of my obligated service to the Navy, so I was looking forward to being able to stay at home with my three small children. I had not yet heard about the idea of attachment parenting, but once I became a stay-at-home mom, I had more time to read up on mothering topics and I gobbled up all I could on attachment parenting, co-sleeping and on-demand nursing. I had breast-fed all my babies, but early return to a demanding military job meant I couldn't nurse them as often as I would have liked and, as a result, it also meant an early return to fertility for me!

As I grew into my role as a mother of many, I became very comfortable with a more natural type of parenting, which included home births and only breast milk for the entire first year of life (and NO pacifiers). This meant I was always very close to my young children and never left them with a sitter for more than a few hours at a time. This also meant we slept with our new babies for about the first six to nine months until they began to sleep through the night. Breast milk is digested much more easily than formula, so breast-fed babies eat more frequently than formula-fed babies, meaning they don't often sleep through the night until they are several months old.

I didn't mind sleeping with my baby because it meant more rest for me! No more getting up in the middle of the night to stumble around in the darkness and find a crying baby in his crib. In fact, co-sleeping babies don't even need to cry. Mom and baby are so attuned to one another that I'd know when my baby woke and needed to nurse. I'd roll over and nurse and we'd both soon fall asleep.

Homeschooling was a natural continuation of attachment parenting. We were bonded to our children; we loved being around them and we felt it would be better for all involved if we continued that close relationship through homeschooling our kids.

Now we come to the other end of the parental spectrum as we are beginning to see our children grow up and move away. Sometimes I feel like the mother bird who has to give her fledglings a little nudge to get them to try out their new wings. Sometimes I feel like I barely turned around and they've flown away. Now is the time to learn detachment parenting.

We decided when our children were small that they'd have to pay their own way to college. That was a flippant response to nosey folks who demanded to know, "How are you going to PAY for all those kids to go to college?"

Yet so far it seems to be working. We had some rough spots we had to work out in the beginning, but I'm so glad we did. We're so proud of our college kids because they've all worked very hard to earn money and scholarships and have had to take out student loans to pay for their education. As a result, I think they appreciate the value of their education and understand how important it is to pay back the money they've borrowed to finance their education.

Three of the four kids currently in college don't drive. They don't drive because they don't want to pay the insurance and upkeep on a car because they are paying for their education. The one who does drive no longer has a car because it died and she can't afford a new one right now.

I was in the grocery store recently and one of the baggers was telling the checker why she wasn't going to college: she had to make her new car payments and she couldn't afford to both pay for her new car and pay for college. Unfortunately, no one told that young lady that a car will depreciate in value, whereas a college education appreciates in value over time.

I've been thinking a lot about the virtue of detachment. It is a most difficult virtue to practice. Oh, I can tell you how my neighbors could develop that virtue in their own lives, but it's not so easy for me to see how I need to improve. I can point to the numerous "McMansions" in the subdivisions near my house and make snide comments about how they "must have a dozen children with a house that large," but fail to see the McMansion in my own eye.

Having fledglings leave the nest and me having to sort through (and store) what they've left behind has got me to thinking about how much stuff do we really need? (The answer: not much).

Perhaps we don't need most of this stuff we have: a lifetime's supply of wonderful homeschooling books, enough clothes so we don't have to do laundry for weeks, enough toys so that we forget what we have and have no place to put the rest!

Over the next six months I'm going to declutter my house. Yes, that is my noble goal. The kids have been notified. We're going to reduce, reuse and recycle...because it's good for our souls. We're going to get better at this thing called detachment. We're going to learn to love people and use things. And not the other way around. It's more than cleaning up messes. It's a change of heart.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Book review: Our Lady of Kibeho

Our Lady of Kibeho: Messages from the Mother of God in the Heart of Africa Our Lady of Kibeho: Messages from the Mother of God in the Heart of Africa by Immaculee Ilibagiza

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Immaculée Ilibagiza has done it again. She has captured hearts and minds with her truly amazing book. I was so entranced by its story and the author's deep and trusting love for the Blessed Mother that I still find myself thinking about it several days since I've finished reading it. And I pray that I will take its lessons to heart.

Our Lady of Kibeho is an approved Marian apparition site in a tiny, obscure village on the edge of Rwanda. The Virgin Mary appeared to 3 school girls in Kibeho, one by one. Later, Mary and her son, Jesus, would appear to at least 4 others, including an illiterate pagan to whom Jesus himself taught scripture, prayers and basic doctrine. The nuns at the school, the village priest, and all their classmates were at first unbelieving and taunted the visionaries, calling them liars and devils. When the girls would fall into a trance-like state of ecstasy when being visited by the Blessed Mother, their classmates would pinch, poke and burn the visionaries to try to illicit some response but they only kept their blissful smiles and radiant faces turned toward the sky and were totally unaware of any harm being done to them.

As a natural skeptic myself, I appreciated the thorough tests and interviews the Vatican put the visionaries through. After 20 years of investigations, the Vatican approved Kibeho as an authentic Marian apparition site in 2001. This means it is worthy of belief, yet the Church never requires belief in any Marian apparition.

Our Lady came to Kibeho in 1981, it would seem, with a message of urgency for Rwanda and all the world: to repent from our sins and believe. She revealed to the visionaries the terrible violence that would befall Rwanda during the genocide of 1994. The prophecies were horrifically accurate. One million Tutsis were mercilessly slaughtered to death. They were pulled from their homes and chopped to pieces by machete by their own friends and neighbors. How could this evil have happened? Our Lady's message to her children was that we are all capable of such evil if we hide it in our hearts.

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Never Forget

Images from that horrible day always make me cry. My little boys were hugging me today and asking me why I was so sad, as I was watching the video below. I tried to explain to them about all the thousands of innocent people who died the day that evil men attacked them. I share it with you, despite its horror, so that we will never forget.

But if you want to read something to make your heart swell with pride, read Peggy Noonan's column about the heroism of the New York City firefighters.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Freshmen orientation at DeSales University

Day 1: all smiles upon arrival at DeSales University

We just arrived home in Colorado after dropping off our daughter to begin her freshman year at DeSales University.

She was able to move-in a few days before the regular move-in day because she signed up to attend a "pre-orientation service opportunity" with the campus center for social justice. They had about 30 or so kids who came early and a few peer mentors from the upper classes. The kids worked on a "Peace Garden" spreading mulch and pulling weeds. They also visited the elderly in an Alzheimer's unit of a nursing home, stocked a food pantry, and did some cleaning for different nursing homes and church-related charities. They also had some fun--movie night and mini-golf.
A lovely covered bridge over the Jordan River

While our daughter was doing her service projects, my husband and I took the opportunity to do some local sight-seeing. (The bus ride from Newark airport to the Allentown airport convinced us to avoid driving into NYC, as we had considered doing one day). We went on a covered bridge tour and did some wine tasting at two local wineries (one of which, Amore Winery , is owned by Dr. Greg Amore, who is a psychologist and head of counseling at DeSales). We also did some walking around historic Bethlehem, and a short hike at the Trexler Nature Preserve . Afterwards, we dined at the Schnecksville Diner. Their sign advertized: We make our own pies. They must've had at least two dozen different pies, but no pecan pie (my husband's favorite...I guess there really is a Mason-Dixon line!)
Wildlife spotted near the nature preserve

And we also spent a lovely day in Nazareth, home of the C.F. Martin Guitar Company, which we toured. (It's free!) And ate a lovely lunch across the parking lot from the factory, at a place the lady at the reception desk recommended. (Mivajo's Pizza; very good.)
All in all, we were very impressed with DeSales University and it's Catholic identity. However, it was rather disappointing to go to daily mass at the university and find there were only the three of us and one or two others in attendance. Once classes begin, the number of students attending daily mass goes up to about a dozen or so, but my daughter has already met some classmates who plan on going to daily mass together, so our hope is that the numbers will start to swell and they'll have to move out of the priests' house and into the regular chapel for daily mass. One of the priests who lives at DeSales is Fr. John Harvey, the founder of Courage . He can often be seen con-celebrating mass with one of the many Oblates of St. Francis de Sales who are in residence there.

Saturday evening was the opening mass and induction of the class of 2013. Father President Bernard O'Connor, OSFS, was the celebrant and he gave a wonderful homily about sacrificial love, service to God and others, and finding your true vocation. The field house was the site of the mass, which was attended by all 400 or so of the incoming freshmen, their families and faculty of DeSales. It was probably at least 90 degrees inside, but no mention was made of the air conditioning being broken, so I was left with the impression that they had no a/c in the field house. Despite the heat, the mass was beautiful and no one passed out.

The freshmen class was asked to stand and recite together their class pledge, which I will quote below:

As a member of the 45th class of DeSales University
I ask to be formed in the tradition of Christian Humanism,
As taught and promoted by this Salesian university.
I pledge to be an active part of my formation
Into the principled and thoughtful Christian Gentleman or Gentlewoman
That God has called me to be.

I seek to blend my love of knowledge with my love of God
And to continue to be open to the Mystery of Truth and Beauty,
I pledge to grow in the true strength a gentle character gives;
To pursue the good rather than to just avoid evil;
And to prepare myself to assume my unique vocation
As a mature believer, a responsible and global citizen,
And a co-creator of the Kingdom of God.

I pledge to be open to all learning,
Respectful of the God who is in me and in all others,
And to bear the good name of this university proudly
At all times and places.

I pledge to make a sincere effort
To understand myself more truthfully every day
So that I may, in turn, discern the movement of God in my life
And to treat others with the same dignity and compassion
As I should treat myself.

As I pledge my effort,
I ask for the support of family, classmates and friends,
The support and guidance of the University's Faculty and Staff
And, most of all, the support of my God.

May I grow in knowledge, wisdom and grace
So as to become the person I was created to be,
And to be that well,
For the good of others and the glory of God.

Fr. O'Connor mentioned the incoming freshman class had one member from India and "as far away as Colorado..." I think our daughter may be the only student west of the Mississippi in her class. We met many, many families who said they chose DeSales because other schools were "too far from home." The vast majority of the people we met were from an hour or two away. I hope this doesn't mean our daughter will be one of the few left in the dorms on the weekends! (Don't worry, Lizzy, I know you'll be a frequent guest at people's homes.)

Two icons leading the procession into the field house for the opening Mass

The spirit of St. Francis de Sales is evident throughout the university. In the mass procession on Saturday evening, the freshmen were preceded by two students carrying large icons of St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane Frances de Chantal. All the dorms are named after Oblates. One of the dorms is a new and beautiful building named for St. Leonie Aviat, one of the founders of the Oblate Sisters of St. Francis de Sales. We left a rather sad and homesick young lady at a school that is 1700 miles from home. We are confident she is in good hands, but we pray the school's Catholic identity is ignited by the Holy Spirit and that more faithful Catholic families send their kids there.

The freshman class of 2013: arrayed in their colored t-shirts for orientation

-->Late breaking update: Our Lizzy has since reported a huge increase in daily Mass attendance, as well as 25 or so students who showed up to pray the rosary outside an abortion clinic in Allentown this past Saturday. The pro-life student group is thrilled. Many of the students who came are new freshmen.

We love you, Lizzy!

New York priests' ordination

I was going to attempt writing a book review on a fluff-book called The Dream Giver, by Bruce Wilkinson, best known as the best-selling author of The Prayer of Jabez. My posting was going to be about how the book merely begins to speak to the human heart which will not find peace until it rests in God. I was going to try to explain how the book could be used to ignite a spark in a high school senior getting ready for graduation, or a new college graduate who doesn't know what comes next, but for me, it was rather a dud.

Instead, watch this YouTube clip. It really says everything much better than I.

"For those who believe in God, no explanation is necessary;for those who do not believe in God, no explanation is possible." Franz Werfel, author of The Song of Bernadette.

~Thanks to The Deacon's Bench for the YouTube link.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Sad duty

Image from

I helped my husband with the sad duty of clearing out his brother's effects from his apartment today. His brother had leased a small apartment in Colorado to use while he was here working and getting ready to move his family to Colorado from California.

We were both pretty snappy at each other as we worked. Hating what we had to do while at the same time knowing we were the best ones for the job.

Towards the end of clearing out the apartment I just couldn't take it anymore. I was so angry and sad at the same time. I'm not normally a crier. I was pretty stoic for four years at Annapolis. I was stoic (if not slightly cheery) when I dropped off the first four kids at their respective colleges. But this sad duty breaks my heart.

There's so much to say, yet it's so incredibly difficult to say.

I'll be holding down the fort while my husband and his mom fly to California for the funeral. We were considering driving the van the 1250 miles each way so that we could all be there to support his widow and the cousins, but two of my kiddos are quite sick with strep and some sort of croupy-coughy thing that wakes them up at night feeling like they can't breathe. During the day it's just a horrid croaky froggy sounding cough. But we decided putting them in a closed car for 20+ hours to get to California wouldn't be good for them or for the other passengers. So when Mom decided to stay with two of the kids, it made more sense to stay with all of them so Dad could fly and be totally available to help in whatever way he's needed. Flying gets him there in part of a day instead of two days and he's better able to help.

Okay, so I'm trying to look at the bright side of this. But really, there is no bright side. At least not for now.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Please pray

For my brother-in-law, who died suddenly and very tragically yesterday, and for his wife and two daughters. He is also the brother of Mary, at Hilltop Farm.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Eric Genuis--again

Eric wrote this song about his newborn son who died shortly after he was born. It was performed at a pro-life benefit concert in Connecticut last year. If you like it, check out the other video below this one.

Eric Genuis: Catholic classical composer

The pianist in this video is a good friend of mine and I just discovered this video on Youtube. If you like it, there are many more of Eric. You can also find out more about him at his website:

Music to stir the soul (or at least mine)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Awesome guest at kids' play

The lead singer of the Fray attended my daughter's play the other night. He told her she did a good job of singing and acting in her role as "Mac TeaVea" the computer-obsessed kid in Willy Wonka.

Pretty cool.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Experts prove: Government should mandate all Americans have large families in order to fight global warming


The front page story (below the fold) of today's Wall Street Journal disturbed me greatly. I suppose I was naive to think that the government was going to do something with those old "clunkers" it proposes to take off the roads. Like recycle them or use them for spare parts.

Not so.

The engines of operable vehicles must be destroyed beyond repair per the government's requirement for car dealers wishing to take part in their "cash for clunkers" reimbursement plan.

Somehow, the government's reasoning goes, trading in an operable vehicle that gets 18 mpg for a new one that gets 26 mpg is better for the environment. It doesn't matter that we fill the landfills with thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of old vehicles that someone could still drive. We are reducing carbon emissions by taking them off the road and replacing them with more fuel efficient models.

Where are all the Green People? Why no outcry of injustice for the environment? Is it because we want our share of the government's benevolent handout?

My 9 year old son tried a similar tactic this morning. When told he couldn't play with his Game Boy anymore today and that his younger brothers would certain rat on him if he tried to hide in the closet to play, he tried offering them a chance to play his Game Boy. Good old fashioned bribery.

The government is bribing us to look the other way at its asinine programs.

And while I'm on the subject, what about those mercury-filled fluorescent light bulbs that are supposed to be so green? We're supposed to call the haz-mat folks if we break one and we're supposed to pay extra to dispose of them via hazardous waste. How many of us just toss them into the garbage with the rest of our trash?

Here's my proposal for reducing our carbon footprint: Everyone have at least a half-dozen kids and drive a big van. Don't buy cars for each kid. Let them ride a bike or walk if they have to go somewhere without you. Otherwise, drive everyone in the big van. One big van that gets 12 mpg (that's city driving) but transports 8 to 15 people is a heck of a lot more fuel efficient than 2 people driving their so-called Smart cars to the mall on Sunday to buy long-life light bulbs and organic dog food for their child-free-condo-with-pool-lifestyle.

Let's do the math, using my family as our sample set: Twelve people ride in a 15 passenger van to church on Sunday, taekwondo several times per week involving 8 of us, various homeschool activities (music, drama, etc.) throughout the week. Let's say we log 300 miles per week (a common occurrence). At 12 mpg, we use about 25 gallons per week. Here's the clincher: divide 25 gallons per week by 12 people and you get barely over 2 gallons PER PERSON per week.

Let's take 12 people driving Smart cars that get 33 mpg (city driving). Assume those 12 people share rides, so they use 6 cars. If they only travel a total of 300 miles, that's 50 miles per car, or 1.5 gallons per car per week. Multiply 1.5 gallons per car times 6 cars, means 9 gallons of gas used to transport those 12 Smart car owners a grand total of 300 miles.

That means 15 passenger vans are four and one-half times as fuel efficient as Smart cars! Just think about how fuel efficient they would be if we actually transported 15 people each week! My mind is reeling with the possibilities.

Perhaps the government should start by mandating each family have at least 8 children. The carbon footprints per person would be vastly decreased. And we could all sleep soundly at night knowing that we're doing our part to save the planet from global warming.

Not this

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Geography lesson: driving to Portland on the way to Indonesia

Got any extra prayers (or pray-ers) floating around? Send a few out our way, please.

My eldest, Maria, is on her way to Bali, Indonesia, by way of Portland.

She and her boyfriend and two of his younger siblings drove from Arvada, Colorado to Portland, Oregon yesterday morning and arrived safely this afternoon. (Thank you, Lord!)

But the best is yet to come as they are planning on flying from Portland to Vancouver, BC; then on to Tokyo, Japan; followed by Singapore; completing their trip to Bali.

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Her boyfriend grew up in Indonesia and is fluent in the language and they'll be staying with his folks, so she'll be pretty safe once they get there. It's the getting there that has to happen first.

And to think when I was a kid, taking the train to St. Louis from Denver was a big adventure!

Postcards from France

Lizzy is in France for a couple of weeks, staying with relatives of old friends. They have taken her to Bandol, between Marseille and Toulon, in the south of France for her entire stay.

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She wrote each of her family members postcards from France, which arrived in today's mail. She gets home Monday, so we will see her soon, but it is so nice to "hear" her voice today in her postcards.

Well, Dad is right—heaven is French cooking. In the past week I’ve had croissants and baguettes that would make the Costco bakery die of shame. The soups and salads are feasts in themselves and the wine (of course) is exquisite. But the French people sparkle as much as the sea itself.

When a Frenchman speaks, every word sounds like a song that the world would pause to hear. No wonder theirs is a romantic language!

Here everything seems to sing—from the strange, tangy ocean breeze to the far-off hum of a cruise ship skimming the horizon. The cicadas fiddle ceaselessly in the pine trees, the gulls caw one to another, the terns cry to the sunlight on the waves—even the sailboats swish and creak like soft flutes. Behind it all I hear the quiet breathing of the surf against the shore. I wish you were here to listen to it all with me.
The ocean has dozens of shifting moods and it changes them often, “like a girl changes clothes.” Tonight, as dusk settles cloudless and clear, the sea is but a peaceful kitten breathing softly in its sleep. When the wind awakens it and churns its waves to snow-white froth, I fancy I can hear its cougar-like scream. At other times, the sea cat only wants to play. Then it bats its velvet paws against the wooden hills of fishing boats. But tonight, all I hear is the ocean’s heartbeat: a steady, pounding thrum.

All the French have voices that could charm the wind, or make it stop to dance. The wind is often set to dancing here—whether with the flapping terns or the laughing gulls, the sunlit waves or the tropic flowers. When the people dance (as our friends do nightly), they choose American pop tunes—Britney Spears, Michael Jackson, and garish rap are among the favorites—and American dances that oddly resemble those of the Roaring Twenties. ( I think I shattered their iconic image of Americans when I voiced my preference for Taylor Swift!)

No I haven’t seen any dolphins yet; they don’t live near Marseilles (I’ve been told they don’t live in this ocean at all). I have, however, seen some greenish-gray eels swimming in tight figure eights near the dock, with sudden flashes of white light bursting from their sides. Electric eels!

I have yet to swim far out from shore, but I heard other swimmers warn of poisonous jellyfish near the beach and even great white sharks farther out.

The views here are spectacular—from the vast expanse of crinkling ocean, to the rocky gray islands, to the wind-twisted evergreens with roots exposed to the elements.

More flowers grow here, it seems, than anywhere else in Europe. I’ve photographed loads of them in perfect late afternoon light (and even an amateur like me can take a decent picture of these gorgeous blossoms). Perhaps you’ll want to paint a few, once I’ve shown them to you. Till then, I miss you and I wish you were here!

We love you, too, Lizzy. And we miss you! See you soon.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Don't know much about philosophy...

I really have a very dull life. Sometimes I wonder what the heck I'm doing blogging at all.

Not so my dear (old) friend, The Philosopher-Mom, who's upcoming visit to the big square state has me nearly giddy with delight. Yes, she has a PhD, and it don't stand for PhillyDelphia...

I am in awe of her and her boundless energy and amazing mind and I'm hoping some of it will rub off on me when she comes for a visit next week.

Never mind that she arrives two days after my daughter, Lizzy returns from the south of France with our 16 yr-old French guest and their room is currently trashed.

Never mind that the lovely mutt (yep, dog #2) we were supposed to acquire today is coming tomorrow instead...(perhaps Blog Dog will fill us in on the finer details at a later date).

Never mind that two of my dramatic kids are in two separate plays that week and doing technical rehearsals the entire week preceding the performances.

Never mind that our illustrious taekwondo instructor will be back from his honeymoon and expecting us to be in class, eager and ready to endure his workouts all week.

Never mind that my house is in utter chaos, my dishwasher died, my sofa is an embarrassment and the hailstorm destroyed our siding.

Never mind that my eldest is planning a trip, for which she leaves tomorrow, which entails driving to Oregon; flying to Vancouver, BC; flying to Tokyo; flying to Singapore; hoping boyfriend's father will then buy them tickets to fly to Bali where dear daughter and boyfriend will stay with his parents while touring the islands of Indonesia where said boyfriend grew up, then repeating the entire trip backwards before college classes begin again in late August.

I hope Philosopher-Mom will give me some of whatever keeps her going...

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Miracle of Sharing: The loaves and the fishes

Today's Gospel reading from John 6:1-15 is about the miracle of the multiplication of the five barley loaves and two fishes to feed the five thousand. Or at least I used to think it was about a miracle of Jesus' multiplying loaves and fishes until I heard the homily today and learned it was all about sharing.

It turns out the miracle was similar to going to a parish potluck and finding lots of people but very little food. But as we let our guards down and open up and share what we have brought with others we find we are less concerned about getting our fair share and more concerned about sharing what we have with our neighbors.

Silly me! And all this time I thought it was about Jesus actually performing a certifiable miracle. I though it had something to do with prefiguring the Eucharist, where Jesus feeds us with His own flesh and blood.

Christianity itself is based upon a miracle without which there could be no Christianity. That is the miracle of the Resurrection. Catholics share in another miracle every day at the sacrifice of the Mass. That is the miracle of Jesus coming down to earth on the altar and becoming the bread and wine at Mass. He is truly present, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity but because He cares so much for us, He takes on the appearance of bread and wine (so we won't be grossed out, I believe). This is what Catholics call transubstantiation, and it is one of the foundations of our belief.

So the God who became an Infant who died on the cross for us and rose again from the dead becomes bread and wine to nourish our souls as well as our bodies. But even He knew better than to try to feed 5,000 when they could've just shared what they brought with each other...right?

But then again, maybe that's just my parish. Maybe there are still others out there who actually believe the account of the loaves and fishes is a certifiable miracle, since it is the only miracle (other than the Resurrection) which appears in all four Gospels.

Here's what Steve Ray had to say about it.

(Note to Dear Readers: My husband says I'm being way too harsh and sarcasm doesn't become me, but I'm really hacked off right now, so please be understanding.)

Friday, July 24, 2009

Hope and Inspiration from the Rwandan Genocide

Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust by Immaculee Ilibagiza

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I've had this book sitting on my nightstand for several weeks, after checking it out from the library thanks to many recommendations from friends and acquaintances. I'm so glad I finally made the time to read it. It really is a page turner and doesn't take long to get through it. Once you begin you can't put it down, in part because you want the suffering to end.

Left to Tell is the true and horribly detailed account of a tremendous evil that left over one million dead--most of them chopped to death with machetes by their own friends and neighbors at the urging of the government, while the United States and the rest of the civilized world did nothing. The Rwandan genocide lasted only about one hundred days, but in that brief span of time, the ruling Hutus brutally murdered over their Tutsi countrymen. Any Hutu who resisted or sheltered Tutsis was also brutally murdered. Husbands were made to watch their wives being gang raped before they were slaughtered. Mothers watched their babies being slashed to death, or had their babies left motherless on the road while they were killed. The atrocities that were committed are mind-boggling and left me feeling bitter and angry at the perpetrators and our own government for doing nothing.

But the message of this book isn't about violence or atrocities or retribution or blame. It is about forgiveness, love, hope, prayer and God's loving kindness.

I can't recommend this book highly enough. I know I needed a shot in the arm to remind me of the bounteous blessings I have living in this country. Despite my concern about the Obama presidency and their blatant anti-life agenda, their smug arrogance regarding global warming and their socialistic ideas of big government, I have it pretty darned good. For starters, I can walk down the street without fear that my neighbors could chop me to pieces.

Another thing I loved about this book is how the author, Immaculée, immersed herself in prayer during her 91 day stay in a tiny bathroom with six other women. She learned to connect herself to God and He gave her the strength she needed to endure the tremendous hardships of her bathroom imprisonment as well as facing the heart-wrenching horrors of apocalyptic proportions during and after the genocide.

Don't let the forward by Dr. Wayne Dyer distract you from the amazing book. I was a little put-off by his description of Immaculée as "Divine" and his comparison of her to an Indian woman "who some believe is the Divine Mother."

Immaculée, (as her name suggests), is a devout Catholic, whose inspiring story speaks to all Christians, but especially to Catholics who can see in her story some glimpse of the lives of the saints. Surely there are a host of Rwandan martyrs looking down on us from heaven. After reading this story, I'm convinced among them must be the family of Immaculee and that she may be a living saint.

To read more about Immaculée, or to order the book, visit the website for her book here or her personal website here.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Happy Natural Family Planning Awareness Week!

I couldn't let this momentous week pass without wishing everyone a Happy Natural Family Planning Awareness Week! My goodness, how time flies when one is busy spreading the good cheer of large families, driving one's progeny hither and yon to various and sundry classes, events, museums, oral surgeons and grocery stores. (Just a brief glimpse into the joys of motherhood...)

To commemorate this week, I'd like to direct my dear readers to a pertinent article which proposes the rallying cry: "Use NFP: It Doesn't Work!"

Have a happy week and go out and be NFP aware.

Cats are God's way of showing us not everything in life has a purpose

The cat has me well-trained.

Whenever he wants to go in or out (usually several times in the middle of the night since he needs to catch up on his sleep during the day...and besides, who wants to go outside in 90-plus degrees in mid-summer?) all he has to do is come yowling at my second-story bedroom window (to be let in), or yowling outside my bedroom door (to be let out). Sometimes I try to ignore him outside my door, hoping if I put my pillow over my head he'll give up and yowl outside someone else's door. Unfortunately, he seems to have figured out how to reach a paw up to the doorknob and turn it after several attempts and lots of scratching at the door, ensuring I'm already wide awake. Once the door swings open with a rather loud clanging sound, he prances in the room continuing his annoying yowling and jumps onto the dresser beneath his favorite window until I open the screen to let him out on the roof, whereby he descends to his happy hunting grounds by way of a large tree.

Thus he did the other night post-hail storm. The roof was still very wet and had several inches of marble-sized hail on it, so I assumed he wouldn't want to go outside. He wanted out, so I let him out onto the roof. About five minutes later he evidently decided he would prefer to be inside, so he yowled to be let in again. A few minutes later he must've had another change of heart, so he yowled to go out again (perhaps hoping the hail had melted?) At this point, I decide enough was enough and I would never get any sleep if this continued. I decided to lock him in the downstairs laundry room where the only one who could possibly hear his plaintive cries for help was the dog, who wouldn't really notice anyway. This I did, but since we were out of cat food, and he wasn't going to be able to obtain his nightly ration of baby bunnies, I actually gave him half a can of tuna to ease the pain.

The next night he came to my room as I was reading in bed and asked to be let out the window, which I did and went back to my reading.

Not fifteen minutes later he was back at the window yowling to be let in again. I thought this was rather odd since the weather was nice and he hadn't been out long, but I figured he'd have to spend another night locked in the laundry room. I opened the screen to let him in and he jumped into the room quickly...with a baby bunny in his mouth.

I gasped (expletive deleted) and he dropped the (fortunately dead) carcass at my feet. Was this a gift to thank me for the previous night's delicacy? Or was this a warning of future carnage to come if I threatened his nightly freedoms again? After all, the screens are now ripped to shreds, (thanks to the hail storm). And because we don't have air conditioning we sleep with the windows OPEN.

Needless to say, we (that is my knight-in-shining-armor husband) bagged the dead bunny and I locked the kitty in the laundry room for yet another night of solitary confinement.

The next morning upon being freed he promptly left me some baby bunny guts on the front stoop which we affectionately call the "altar of sacrifice."

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Acts of God (not the good kind)

Last night around 10:30 p.m. we had a whopper of a hail storm. This spring had been pretty quiet for us weather-wise. We'd had more rain than normal (waaayyy more rain than normal), but had escaped all the hail and tornadoes that had done damage to other parts of the Denver metro area earlier in the summer.

There were still piles of hail, several inches deep the next morning.
This used to be lettuce.

This used to be pumpkins and winter squash.

This used to be cucumbers and beans.

There used to be lettuce, kale, cabbages, broccoli and peppers here.

Only a few grapes remain on the vine.

The remnants of the sunflower house and bean teepee...

Whats left of the tomato plants in the cages (a dozen different heirloom varieties!) and some shredded beans by the poles...

At least we just had minor damage. My garden was pretty much wiped out, our siding has some holes in it, some of our window screens are ripped and we had some water seep into the patio room...

The front of the house covered in leaves (and some hail still on the roof from the night before).

...and our lovely dining canopy was shredded.

But, by the grace of God, we didn't have anything terribly serious. No major structural damage, no big tree limbs down, no loss of power, nobody hurt. Now we'll see if any of the garden recovers. Maybe the tomatoes can bounce back. I'm pretty sure the pumpkins, grapes and basil won't. I can re-plant the lettuce and some cabbages for the fall. The beans and sunflowers will probably recover. I'll take more pictures as soon as something new and green begins to grow!