How is being a "gestational carrier"....

....different than being a prostitute?

"Weasel Words"

Great article on Zenit regarding "surrogate parenthood".  I especially appreciated this quote:  Miranda Devine, writing in the Sydney-based Daily Telegraph newspaper on Jan. 19, was also highly critical of the term used: "Even if she was paid, as most U.S. surrogates are, what she did was an act of enormous personal generosity, and ought not be diminished by weasel words that seek to dehumanize the most intimate human relationship." - on the term "gestational carrier".

Are we really at the point where we've "de-humanized" the creation of new human life?  Why, yes, we have.   You, my dear, are no longer a mother:  you are a gestational carrier.  Hello, Sad New World.

Sacred Place of the Day

Feeling some Ireland today:  Reasc Monastic Settlement, County Kerry, Ireland

Losin' my mind

art by Amber Osterhout
Our local paper is launching a series on mental health issues.    I applaud this, and hope that the series will bear good discussion, enlightenment and encouragement.

Victorian newspapers would not use the word "cancer".  Fifty years ago, one would not admit he or she was homosexual in public.  Many of our ancestors changed the spelling of their names or changed their names completely to avoid ethnic stereotypes.  This has all changed.

But to live with mental illness is still a stigma.

I know, because I'm the mother of a mentally ill daughter.

If my child had a physical disease, my church would hold a spaghetti dinner to help us pay for medical bills.  People would want to be updated on her health and status.  Offers of help would be forthcoming from neighbors.  Instead, no one talks about it.  In fact, they studiously avoid the topic all together.

Living with mental illness is like having a tornado in  your living room.  You don't know which way it's going, how much destruction you're going to find when you open the door on your way in from work, or what, if anything, has been destroyed or damaged.  You live in a constant state of alertness, never knowing when you'll need to act.

The most frustrating thing for me is that our mental health system is set up so that one must follow pre-ordained steps in gaining access to help, and those steps must not be skipped, jumped or otherwise vaulted over.  Imagine, if you will, taking your child to an ER, and she is bleeding profusely from every orifice.  The doctor then tells you he must first use band-aids.  That is the necessary first step.  It is the only thing he is allowed to do.  If the band-aids don't work, then he will try applying pressure, but if and only if the band-aids aren't working.  By the way, he is the only judge of the band-aids not working.  If you, as the parent, yell,  "Hey, these aren't working", you will be ignored, since you are not the expert in treating this type of problem.  And so it goes, with your child bleeding to death in front of you, as the steps are rigorously followed.

It is a bad system.

Dear husband and I have been standing in the ER room for almost two years, desperately trying to get someone to stop the bleeding.  We "think" we may have help on the horizon, but it remains to be seen.  Like everything else with mental illness (and, by the way, illnesses like cancer and MS and Parkinson's and diabetes), the future is unpredictable.  For now, all we can do is pray that our daughter is safe, we are safe, and that we can move forward.

Mad girl

What my beautiful Curly Haired Daughter does for fun.  I'm calling this one "Mad Girl".

A bit of beauty

From "Holy Card Heaven":

New movie: "The Rite"

I've been reading a lot about this movie in the Catholic blogosphere the last week or so ( and the reviews are overwhelmingly positive.  With Sir Tony in the lead, it might just be worth it!  I'm not a big fan of the horror genre, scary movies, etc., and I really don't like giving the Enemy any attention, but I might just go see this one.

Sacred Place of the Day

Uppsala Cathedral, the largest church in Scandinavia.  It is the home to St. Erik's relics.

Chinese New Year
February 3 marks the beginning of the New Year for China (and many Asian countries).  This year will be the Year of the Rabbit.  Dear Husband just got home from China, where a co-worker there urged him, as this is his year (zodiacally-speaking) to wear a red belt and red shoes on New Year's day in order to ward off evil and bring good fortune upon himself.

I am now dutifully scouring the Internet for these items.

Admonishing the sinner

Today would have been my sister-in-law's 62nd birthday.  She died in a car accident a number of years ago, and not a day goes by that I don't miss her - fiercely.

Her name was Regina, which was a rather courtly name for a humble person, but it fit her.  She and my brother started dating when I was three and married when I was five (my brother is 16 years older than I am), so Regina was always a part of my life. 

Regina taught me a lot of things - probably enough to write about her for months.  Today at Mass, I was thinking about all the things she taught me, and what was most valuable to me.  I really can't pinpoint just one thing, but Regina had one amazing ability that I constantly pray I can emulate.

The Church teaches us that one thing we are supposed to do is "admonish the sinner" - that is, point out to our brothers and sisters where they are erring in their lives, and point them in the right direction (and pray they do the same for us).  This is an incredibly hard thing to do:  no one wants to have their sins pointed out to them!  "How dare you?  You are a sinner, too!  Who are you to point that out?"

Regina was able to do this though, in the most loving way, and - I swear this is true - people actually were happy after talking to her.  Really.  They would get up from a conversation with her thinking,  "I am going to do better.  I CAN do better."  I've actually analyzed how she did this, and I still am not really sure, but I know two things:  Regina loved Christ, and she wanted others to know His love.  Everything she did came from that.

So, today, my birthday present to her was to pray for her at Mass, ask her to pray for me, and to love Christ enough to lead others to Him. 

Can't get this song out of my head

I love "Mental Floss", both the website and the magazine, and found this article while crusing through today:

There are certain hymns that one could definitely use to torture me.  Top of my list would be "How Great Thou Art".  I get to hear this one a lot, as it is a "favorite" at the church where I work, both as a Sunday hymn and a funeral choice.  I will probably hear it in Purgatory as well.....

I got nothin'

I haven't written in the last couple of days, because I don't have anything to say.  I had a really great idea about 2 a.m. this morning, and it had something to do with dogs and dog shows.  Now, it's gone.

Actually, I've been struggling with some health and sleeping issues (sleep disorder and study anyone?).  I'm horribly, horribly lazy and tired right now, so posting here seems to be a bit...slow.

Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you ad learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden light. - Mt. 11:28-30

Petulant ponderings

I've been in a bad mood.

Dear Husband is out of town and I've been doing a one-woman show at home.  The reviews are in:  this show is gonna close soon. 

The first few days of my husband's absense are (don't tell him) a bit of a treat.  I get the whole bed to myself, don't have to make conversation after a long day, don't have to make regular meals.  The kids enjoy the break in routine.  And gets 

There is a reason God designated two parents for a child, and I think it essentially has to do with the rate of homicide (just kidding).  Really, after about four days of single-parenting, we all get sick of each other, and I don't have anyone to "trade off with".

On top of that, my fellow castmates in this show are all teens, and are - shall we say - lazy.  They don't want to do any chores, and then I feel put out.  I'm the nag, the housekeeper, the chaffeur...everything.  And I get petulant.

Today's Gospel was Jesus trying to get some breathing space.  He had his disciples procur a boat so He wouldn't get crushed by the crowds - people clambering for just a touch, a word, to be close to Him.  It must have been overwhelming and claustrophobic, but there is no word that Jesus got mad.  He didn't get grumpy or upset.  He just looked for another way to do things.

Clearly, I am not He. However, I am supposed to be like Him, and this week hasn't been my best effort.  Time to stop being petulant and start looking for my "boat":  another way to do things that isn't hurtful or mean-spirited.  I'm heading for calmer water.

Children = Plague?

You know, the world would be so much better off if people would just stop reproducing!

Great thoughts from Matthew Archbold:

Life in a frat house

A friend sent me this via Facebook - how life in the frat house is just like life with toddlers:

I suggest that life with teens is also just like life in a frat house:

10.  No one gets up on their own before noon.

9.  Any food brought on the premises is immediately inhaled.

8.  "Dressing up" means picking up a shirt, sniffing it, shrugging and putting it on.  Add a pair of khakis and you're are set.

7.  Sheets?  Who needs sheets?

6.  The TV is always on.  Doesn't matter if anyone is in the house, let alone the room:  the TV is always on.

5.  "Can we get pizza?"

4.  Any flat, horizontal service is "storage".

3.  Socks are toxic.  Leave 'em where they lie.

2.  No one will ever willingly do dishes.  And there aren't any spoons.  Anywhere.  They're gone.  Just buy new ones.

1.  As obnoxious as it can be, some really great things happen here - things we will laugh about for the rest of our lives.

Fascinating economics

I know, economics don't seem too fascinating.   However, comparing lifestyles around the world sure puts things in perspective.  For me, the kicker was the lady who spent $530 a week (?!) on a cleaning lady.  I'm just trying to get my Curly-haired Daughter to vacuum!

Joy in keeping the Commandments

I love my Kindle.  It allows me to buy new books at about the price of a paperback, plus I can carry several books with me in one small package, and read whatever strikes my fancy (isn't that a great term?) whenever I have a few minutes.

That being said, nothing beats the thrill of a book store, especially the hunt in a used bookstore.  You just never know what you'll turn up, and what will open a new world for you.  There is a fabulous independent bookstore - with a great used book department - just a few minutes from my office.  Last week I found "Teachings of the Jewish Mystics", a lovely little book that has great quotes, sayings, and stories.  Here is one to munch on:

A person ought to derive greater pleasure from the joy of serving God and fulfilling His commandments than from all the money in the joy in the world may be compared with that of the commandments." - Elijah De Vidas

On the anniversary of the Haitian disaster

Lest you think this is an old photo, it was taken yesterday at the National Cathedral in Port au Prince.

Clogged drains and demons

Yup, that was my day yesterday: clogged drains and demons.

My kitchen sink is clogged.  It got clogged on Monday night, at which point my kitchen came to a screeching halt.  That is, what to do with dirty dishes?  Can't rinse 'em, can't run the dishwasher. (Trust me, in a house full of teens, this is no small issue.) There's just this sink full of filthy water, and nothing else going on.  I tried all the "home remedy" stuff and am now sitting here waiting for the plumber to show up, pay him a gob of money and then go to work late. 

Then, the Gospel yesterday was about another screeching halt.  Jesus is teaching in the synagogue, and some guy in the back starts heckling Him.  Actually, it's the demons that start heckling him, and Jesus has to stop teaching and deal with the demons.  When the demons were gone, the teaching could go on.

Apparently, God thought I needed to pay attention to something yesterday.  And the message I got was this:  I need to stop and clean stuff out.  My spiritual life gets clogged, and then nothing happens.  There's a screeching halt, and then a piling up of garbage and filth.  Even if I don't "want" to deal with it, it gets to the point where I have only one choice:  clean up or surrender to the filth.  That isn't an  option for me, so I need to clean up.  Unclog the drain, deal with the demons, take out the garbage.  Drive out the sin and move things along.

Now if the plumber would just show up.

More from the Museum of Bad Art

It is hard to imagine that someone not only has poorer art skills than I, but combine that with poor judgement of subjects and viola':  the "Bone Juggling Dog in Hula Skirt".

What is our obligation to health care?

Let's take a moment to think about our obligation to health care, not just our "rights".  (Another time, let us discuss the word "rights", shall we?)

Do we have an obligation to make sure the poor and vulnerable receive adequate health care?  Absolutely.  Does the health care plan proposed by President Obama meet that obligation?  Can it meet that obligation without bankrupting us?  Does that health care plan obligate us to use our own personal liberty and freedom to be responsible stewards of our own health?  Here is a helpful discussion to these issues:

Is it okay to treat kids as sexual objects or not?

I confess that I haven't been able to wrap my head around the whole Wikileaks thing.  To me, it sorta seems like junior high gossip, and I didn't have a real firm grasp on that whole scene either. 

However, blogger and Catholic writer Mark Shea brought this to my attention via Wikileaks and it is worth a look:  Apparently, US policy is that child sexual molestation is wrong, wrong, wrong.....except for this one itsy-bitsy circumstance.  After all, we don't want to trample anyone's cultural mores with our fluid ideas of right and wrong.  As one leak reported:  “To dismiss the existence of this dynamic out of desire to avoid Western discomfort is to risk failing to comprehend an essential social force underlying Pashtun culture which can potentially effect the success”.  Basically:  "we think child molestation is wrong, but if you wish to molest a child in your culture, we won't oppose it." 

Are you "discomforted" by this?  I sure am.

Sad, mad and violent

I'm sad and I'm mad (I'll explain the violent part later).

In the past few weeks, I've given food and shelter to three teens who've needed help.  One has a hare-brained mom who kicked her kid out two days before Christmas, and one has a AWOL mom and a dad in jail.  One has a mom hooked on drugs, and as the oldest child, has taken over the role of provider for four younger sibs. None of these kids is a joy to be around 24/7, but everyone deserves a warm bed and food, and these kids were missing those things.

Today, there is news of shootings:  a State Representative from Arizona, and then closer to home, one in West Michigan.  (That's the violence part.)

There are no apparent ties between these events, but I don't think I'm stretching it when I say that the type of deprivation I'm seeing in kids around me leads to violence.  If you don't have any way to get food, what are you going to do?  If you don't know anything but fear, shame and hopelessness, what are you going to do?  If your mom and dad don't provide the very essential things such as structure, nurturing, forgiveness and love, what are you going to do?

There is so much healing needed in our culture right now.  Much of that healing can be done right at our fingertips, if we take the time to notice it.  I'm mad and I'm sad.....but I'm also motivated.  

What about you?

Sacred Place of the Day

The Hanging Church, Cairo
The name of this church is intriguing:  the "Hanging" Church.  However, it means "hanging" as in "suspended", as its nave is suspended over a passage to a fortress.

On the eve of the Epiphany...

(For all purists, the Feast of the Epiphany is traditionally celebrated on Jan. 6 - still is in the Orthodox Church - but the Latin Rite has moved it to the closest Sunday.)

Chinese artist He Qi
I read this from Fr. Francis Hernandez and thought it was worth sharing:

...on the eve of the great feast of the Epiphany, we could ask ourselves in the depths of our hearts:  Why, at times, do I let my life follow the dim light of my whims, my fears, my comforts?  Why don't I always go to the light of the Gospel wherein lies my star and my future filled with happiness?  Why don't I take a step forward, and abandon what could be a situation of spiritual mediocrity?

Are you settling for the mediocre?  Are you standing in dim light?  Time to step forward, perhaps, and see what lies ahead.

Sacred Place of the Day

Coptic Church at Maquattan Mountain, Egypt

Kindness and a reasonable pace

My mom is old.

Even she will tell you that.  It wasn't too long ago, that she told me (only partly in jest), that the real shock wasn't looking in the mirror and seeing your mother - it was seeing your grandmother.  No magic potions or Dorian Grey-portraiture for us.

With age comes a distinct lack of speed.  She walks slowly.  She is a bit slower at the grocery store.  It takes her a moment longer to get her change back in her wallet and her wallet back in her purse, then pick up her cane and her purchase and move on.  And with this realization, I have something to say to all of you:


Really, you are in that much of a hurry to buy your 12 pack of soda and your box of Honey Nut Cheerios?  You are on your way to a rocket launch and can't wait 15 more seconds at the shoe store?  Really?? 

We are all in such a hurry today, and we don't take the time to acknowledge the people in front of us.  That kid that gathers carts at the grocery store?  Make his life a little easier and put your cart in the little "corral".  The old lady at the dentist office that is struggling with her coat?  Help her out.  The old man down the street who yells at your kid for riding his bike on the lawn?  Take him some cookies and tell him you were thinking of him. 

People are not obstacles to be overcome or gotten around.  People are the very reason we exist - to serve them, get to know them, share their burdens and their joys.  Slow down today, and acknowledge those people in your life that you might otherwise overlook.  Slow down.

Forcing it down my kids' throats

There are times when my kids hate going to church.  Even worse, they have a mom who has spent her entire adult life studying religion and teaching the Faith in one capacity or another.  Clearly, I am bonkers.  They have claimed (and will proclaim again, undoubtedly), that Dear Husband and I "force religion" on them, dragging them to church most inconveniently, and torture them with the dullness of Mass.

All true.

Just as Dear Husband and I chose names for each of them, carefully and thoughtfully, we choose Faith.  Just as we choose to keep healthy and nutritious foods in the house, we choose Faith.  Just as we choose to live out examples of charity and kindness, we choose Faith.  Just as we choose to make them sit down and eat with reasonably good manners, we choose Faith.

Here's a great link to Fr. Tim Finigan's blog and his thoughts on the topic;  very funny:

Remembering the New Year

One way to remember to write "2011" on all your papers:


Today is the Feast of the Epiphany.  At the Mass I participated in, the priest pointed out that "ephiphany" has to do with a revealing, seeing something that you'd forgotten, missed, or didn't know was there.

My weekend was rather ephiphanal.  As a mom,  it has been my experience that there are times when I don't like my kids and they don't like me.  That doesn't mean I don't love them; it is just that I don't like 'em.  Tallest Son and I have spent the better part of the last five years sparring.  He has been - at times - insufferable and intolerable.  I've wanted to give up.

This weekend, he was my traveling companion, and we spent time with my mom, whom I don't get to see nearly as much as I'd like.  He was a pleasure to be with, a great companion, lovely and sweet to my mom, and fun to chat with over meals.  I'd nearly forgotten these things about him over the past few years, when teenage angst, metal music, and a lot of immaturity seemed to rule his psyche and our relationship.  (For the record, I know I've been a pain as well.  However, both Tallest Son and I would agree that the bulk of the horribleness has been on him.)

Two things:  first, if you are a parent, the lesson is, 'don't kill 'em, they will typically come around.'  In fact, I thanked my mom for not allowing me to kill Tallest Son, when she'd "talked me down" a couple of times when I thought all hope and patience was lost.  Second, the next time you're having a fight with God, remember this teenage drama.  Just as my son is starting to realize, I do have a bit of wisdom and experience to share with him.  While I am certainly not the Almighty, Son is beginning to see that Mom might just know something, and it might be valuable to him.  God knows you and me, and His vision for us is always the best.  Sometimes, we just throw a little teen drama at Him, and miss what He has to reveal to us.  Give yourself a moment this week to see if there is something there that you are missing.

The Best Laid Plans...

About 20 years or so ago, I stopped giving up things for Lent. It's not that I didn't find it a worthy practice; I did. It's ...