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.