Sacred Place of the Day

Thien Mu Pagoda, Hue, Vietnam

I hate my teenage daughter?

Fox TV is promoting a new fall show, "I Hate My Teenage Daughter", described on their "211" website:  
I HATE MY TEENAGE DAUGHTER  is a new multi-camera comedy about two best friends who are single moms struggling to raise their difficult and over-privileged teenage daughters.

Isn't that special?

I am an expert in teenagers.  I have five of my own, and if that doesn't make me an expert, I don't know what does.  Here is what I know about teenagers:

They are annoying and messy.  They are also kind and generous.
They are thoughtless and self-centered.  They are also learning something new about themselves and how to negotiate the world nearly every minute.
They cannot fathom mortality, and that can make them reckless.  Yet they are some of the fiercest defenders of life and human rights.
Boundaries??  What boundaries???  Yet teens know when  something is wrong, really wrong, and want to make it right.
They are short on experience but long on adventure.
They are wearisome.  Sometimes they need to learn the same lesson over and over before it sinks in.  But they get it eventually.
They think that they are the smartest human beings on the planet, and that adults are, well, dumb.  And yet, they listen to, ask, focus on and emulate us.
I know that like all of us, they don't want to hear the  words, "I hate you".  That's hurtful, especially to a group of very vulnerable humans, which is exactly what teens are.

I don't hate my teenage daughters, or my teenage sons for that matter.  I rather like them.  They are fun, bold, creative and generous.  I feel sorry for the folks at Fox and for anybody that looks at that show title and thinks, "Yeah.  Me, too" because they are missing a grand adventure.

The Way

I am so utterly excited for this film.  I'm a huge fan of both Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez, and I think the chemistry cooking here, along with the artful, soulful topic is gonna be simply outstanding!

Watch the trailer and tell me what you think!

Islam and freedom

I am just beginning to delve into Mustafa Akyol's writings on Islam, but I'm finding them very intriguing.  He is Turkish, and offers a unique perspective into Middle East politics and religion.  His article here offers some insight into his upcoming book, which I'm looking forward to reading.  Here's a snippet, but go read the whole article:
"...the scarcity of liberty in the Muslim world is not always connected with Islamic theology. There are many other factors, such as nationalism, political conflicts, secular tyrannies, and the deep-seated “oriental despotism” in that part of the world."

Planning gone awry

But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain;
The best-laid schemes o' mice an 'men
Gang aft agley,
An'lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy! 

Steinbeck of course borrowed on this:  the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray.  Ain't that the truth?

We plan to save some money and our car breaks down.  We plan to have a perfect 2.1 child family, and that little blue line shows up.  We plan our career after college and then find ourselves scratching our heads 20 years later and wondering how we ended up in this cubicle.

Then, there is the daily stuff:  we plan to eat that apple we brought for lunch, but then someone brings in donuts for the break room.  We plan to mow the lawn and do a load of laundry, but the game was on.

Sometimes, when our plans don't turn out well, we're thankful.  Standing in line at the grocery store means we miss getting caught in an accident.  Even though we only plan the 2.1 child family, we can't imagine life without #3. 

There is something about us humans, though, that is always a bit disconcerted when things don't go as planned.  It's unsettling.  We aren't in control like we imagined we were.  We want to hold the reins, steer the ship and organize the troops OUR way. 

And we can't.

And it's a darn good thing we can't.  Look at this:  For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare, not for woe! plans to give you a future full of hope.  (Jer. 29:11)

Left to our own devices, we screw things up.  When we give ourselves over to God's plans for us, we do so much better.  That doesn't mean our lives will be perfect (this ain't Heaven, and if it we aren't in Heaven, it ain't gonna be perfect), but it does mean we will have hope, and that our welfare rests in far more capable hands than our own.  Our little "mice paws" can't possibly hold what God's hands hold for us.

Budget Reform...not that hard, actually

Four steps.  Now, if we can just get the guys in DC to get on board....

Sacred place of the day

Abbey of Gethsemani, Kentucky

An open letter to the jack-asses in DC

Dear Politicians,

(This is for both Democrats and Republicans, because you're both equally to blame.)

For the past few weeks, the news has been filled with  your inability to sit down, like adults, and negotiate a budget.  Jack-asses.  That's what you are:  jack-asses.

My family budget, modest to begin with, just dropped by $1000 a month.  My car needs new tires, back-to-school is right around the corner, our house payment is still due, my 14 year old son would like to continue to eat in the manner in which he has become accustomed, and we have to figure out how to do it all with less money.  We will.  We have to.

Now, you have been wrangling and jockeying for political position.  Do you think we, the American people, are unclear as to the concept of budget cuts?  We know, deeply and keenly, what it means to have to get rid of not just "wants" but "needs".  We go without all the time.  Now it is time for you to get tough, say "I will give this up" AND NOT EXPECT ANYTHING IN RETURN.  That's right:  don't expect a pat on the back, a reciprocal move from the opposing party, a Presidential medal or a return to Congress.  Do it because you have to.  Because you're doing your job. 

Stop being a jack-ass.  Be realistic and get us a budget. 

A very ungrateful constituent


See below for the contest.  Just to sweeten the pot, so to speak, all new members (anybody who joins from the start of the contest to the close) will be in the random drawing for a $15 gift card.  Let's have some fun!

Total rip-off Tuesday

My Tuesday tradition is to rip-off another writer.  As a grad. of a liberal arts college, this topic is near and dear to me.

The point that employers and liberal arts educators are making is that today's technological world – where knowledge doubles every 18 months and industries are created in less time – requires workers with the transferable skills they need to be ready for as many as 11 different jobs in a lifetime. As David Kearns, the late Xerox chief executive officer once noted, "The only education that prepares us for change is a liberal education. In periods of change, narrow specialization condemns us to inflexibility."

Read the rest here.

Contest! Contest! Contest!

I'm back from vacation and ready to roar!  Rejuvenated, rejoicing and realizing...I need more followers.  So, a contest is in order!

Starting today, July 25 until August 1, 2011, I am having a follower-drive.  For those of you who are regular followers, this gives you the chance to win a $25 gift card!!  Here's how it works:  urge your friends and followers (for those of you who blog) to become a follower here.  When that person becomes a follower, they have to leave a comment that they found my blog through you ("I came here from XYZ blog" or "Mary at Mommies on Wheels sent me here") AND they have to become a follower!  For those of you who read me on FB but are not an official follower, you can sign up too AND send me followers.  The person responsible for sending me the most new followers wins!!

Get out there and get me some followers folks - tell them what fun we have here!

Death of an actor, and a fine film

Yeah, I know I'm supposed to be on vacation, but I couldn't let this pass without a comment: 
David Ngoombujarra, one of Australia's best known indigenous actors whose films included "Australia" and "Rabbit-Proof Fence," has died. He was 44.

If you've never seen "Rabbit-Proof Fence", do yourself a favor and watch it.  Not only is it a brilliant film, it is a story that should not be forgotten, and is unknown by most Americans.

Little-to-no blogging alert!

I won't be doing much, if any, blogging for the next week.  I'm gonna take some time off for play!

Total rip-off Tuesday

My Tuesday tradition is to "rip-off" another writer on the web.  Today's provocative choice:  are sex/gender and race the same?  From the Public Discourse on!

Balaam's Ass

I've always loved the story of Balaam's ass.  First, a talking donkey is just funny.  Second, the donkey is smarter than the human.  Here is another choice from Madeline L'Engle's A Cry Like a Bell":

Balaam's Ass

Least important of all animals, I am a beast
of burden.  I can carry heavy loads
and I am more patient than a camel,
gentler of nature, though occasionally stubborn.
I am not considered particularly intelligent,
and my name is used as an insult.
"He's an ass,"
someone will say with great contempt.

But when I see an angel in my path
I recognize a messenger of God.
"Stop!" the angel said to me, and I stopped,
obeying God, rather than curse my master, Balaam,
who hit me and cursed me and did not see
the angel's brilliance barring our way.

Later, I took the path to Bethlehem
bearing God's bearer on my weary back,
and stood beside her in the stable,
sharing her pain, her loneliness, and then her joy.

I carried on my back the Lord himself,
riding, triumphant, into Jerusalem,
and all the crowd cried, Hosannah! and blessing!

But the blessing turned into a curse,
Hosanna into Crucify him! Crucify him!

Least important of all animals, beast of burden,
my heaviest burden is to turn the curse into a blessing,
to see an angel in my path
and to bear forever the blessing of my Lord.

Oh, to have this faith!

My God, I am yours for time and eternity.
Teach me to cast myself entirely
into the arms of your loving Providence
with a lively, unlimited confidence in your compassionate, tender pity.
Grant, O most merciful Redeemer,
That whatever you ordain or permit may be acceptable to me.
Take from my heart all painful anxiety;
let nothing sadden me but sin,
nothing delight me but the hope
of coming to the possession of You
my God and my all,
in your everlasting kingdom.


Suscipe of Catherine McAuley - 1778-1841

"Cry Like a Bell"

Did you know that Madeleine L'Engle (A Wrinkle in Time) wrote poetry?  Well, neither did I.   I picked up a little book by her at a garage sale the other day, Cry Like a Bell.   It's a lovely book, poetry based on Biblical characters.   I thought I'd share one (or two, later this week...)

Mary:  after the Baptism

Yes, course.  On many days I doubted.
My faith grew out of doubt.  The child was good
but other babies have been good.  He shouted
when he was hungry, like any child, for food.
One simply does not think of the Messiah
cutting teeth, eating and eliminating.
He springs, full-grown, in the great Isaiah -
God, servant, king.  And I was waiting,
remembering in my heart the very things
that caused my doubt: the angel's first appearing
to me and then to Joseph; shepherds, kings,
the flight to Egypt.  Remembering was fearing;
doubt helped. I had to face it all as true
the day John baptized him.  Then he knew. 

What is "gay marriage" about?

In short, gay “marriage” is prelude to legal persecution of the Church for teaching what it teaches about sexuality.  That’s where this is going.  That’s what this is about.

Mark Shea and George Weigel discuss the re-definition of a human institution and the encroaching limitless governmental decisions in our lives.

Somewhere between "Glory be" and "Good God"

For Catholics, we are now in "Ordinary time" - the part of the liturgical calendar when we aren't strictly celebrating or mourning anything in particular.  "Ordinary time" isn't really meant to be ordinary in a mundane way;  it's meant to blend and hum with the rhythm of life as most of us of know it:  the typical-ness of going through our daily routines, the flow of family life, our work and our recreation.

It struck me that most of us live our lives in this ordinary time - somewhere between "Glory be!" and "Good God".  The "Glory be" prayer is one of my favorites - it's short and to the point, but very powerful:  pure praise (Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.  As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever.  Amen.)  For those that pray the Liturgy of the Hours, this prayer is said many times a day:  a reminder constantly that God is to be praised, and all glory is His.

Then, we have those "Good God" prayers.  Those are the prayers that come from the groanings of our heart: when we don't understand, when we are lost or in pain.  The beautiful city of Grand Rapids, MI is in the midst of this "Good God" time right now, as we recover from and pray through the aftermath of a  shooting spree - one man taking the lives of seven people and then killing himself.  It makes no sense, and never will.  All we can do is pray "Good God" - partly out of hurt, partly to remind ourselves that only God is good, and that evil will never make sense.

What we are really meant to do though is to always merge these "Glory be" times with the "Good God" times:  being able to praise God in the midst of sadness, pain, sorrow and shame.  That is what Ordinary time is meant to be:  a mingling of the celebrations and sufferings that we all face.  There is nothing wrong with praying "Good God", but we hurt ourselves when we get stuck there.  We can't remain mired in pain, or we become bitter, depressed and doubtful.  "Good God" must always become "Glory be", or we risk losing sight of the "Good" part, failing to give God the glory that is His. 

Whether you are at a "Good God" point in your life, or a "Glory be" point, remember that both prayers are right:  God is good, and His is the glory.  In this ordinary time, we must remember that these extraordinary facts surround us in God's eternal love.

Total Rip-off Tuesday

In keeping with my Tuesday tradition, I "rip-off" another writer on the web.  Today's choice: picked up at the Ginger Jar, an L.A. Times story about Guadalupe shrines in the Los Angeles area.  A lovely bit of folk art, tradition and religious devotion.

The True Beauty of Liturgy

A young man who is interning at Acton this summer wrote this lovely piece for Crisis Magazine.  Definitely worth a read!

Sacred Place of the Day

For the feast of St. Benedict:  reliquary of St. Benedict, crypt of Saint-BenoĆ®t-sur-Loire, France

Let It Be

Sir Paul has always been a bit coy about the inspiration of this song, but it sure sounds like a hymn to me.

Oh, those stupid poor people!

We all know poor people are stupid, right?  Otherwise, they wouldn't be poor, right?

That's what the current President of the Phillipines apparently thinks.  Benigno Aquino is pushing for "reproductive health" (that's code for abortion and contraception), and said in a meeting with Catholic bishops:  “In a situation where couples, especially the poor and disadvantaged ones, are in no position to make an informed judgment, the state has the responsibility to so provide.”

Huh.  Guess being poor = stupid in Mr. Aquino's mind.  A person with limited financial resources couldn't possibly be capable of making sound choices about his/her family.  What a bunch of crap!  It is just this type of paternalistic, elitist attitude that helps keep the poor where they are at.  Instead of partnering with those people in need, and looking to them for guidance in what they find most helpful, we are just gonna tell 'em:  "You aren't capable of making decisions for yourself, so we're gonna step in and make 'em for you."  So much for human dignity. 

Good news for many trying to conceive

Crazy people and stray dogs

I have a well-deserved reputation for "collecting" stray dogs and crazy people.  (I know some of you don't like the word "crazy", you prefer "mentally ill".  I mean no ill-will, but a lot of the people I'm gonna talk about are pretty...nutty....)

First, the dogs.  I find 'em all the time.  Really - I probably find strays 4 or 5 times a year.  It is not unusual for me to call ahead and tell the kids to set up the dog crate we keep in the garage, as I've found another one.  I've also got a pretty good track record for getting them back home, but a couple of times, I've had to call animal control.  But at least for a short period, they are safe, loved, fed and cared for. 

Then there are the crazy people.  I once had a really strange conversation in the National Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC with a guy that hadn't showered in the recent past.  Here I am, just soaking in the glorious art and grace of this beautiful building dedicated to Our Mother, and then I'm talking about aliens with this guy.

Yesterday, I got on the bus to go to work, and a man who obviously was living on the fringes of society offered everyone who got on a hearty "hello".  I was the only one who responded, and thus, he conversed with me for awhile.

I talked about this once to a friend of mine, who is both a Franciscan Sister and a therapist.  She said crazy people (and stray animals, presumably) had a sense of who is "safe", and I was a "safe" person.  I'm glad of this, but it sure makes life interesting sometimes.

I felt really bad for the guy on the bus yesterday.  Yeah, he was a little weird and a little dirty, but he was kind, and having a good morning and wanted to share it with others.  No one else responded...or even made eye contact.  It didn't cost me anything to converse with him, and it made both our days a bit nicer.

I cannot imagine life on the streets, either as a person or as a dog.  There literally is danger everywhere.  You are unsure about the very basics of life:  food, shelter, water, etc.  People treat you badly simply because of the circumstances you find yourself in.  It must be constantly terrifying, unsettling and sad.

Christ was homeless.  He was born homeless, and then had to flee with Mary and Joseph because of the risk to His life.  He said Himself He had nowhere to lay His head.  While it can be a bit jolting to have these incidents occur in my life, I try to look at it as the "perfect joy" St. Francis spoke of, and let Christ be present, as only He can be, in crazy people and stray dogs.

Adoption is...funny

There are far too many people who are far too serious about adoption.  Sometimes, the whole situation is pretty funny.

When Tallest Son was in 5th grade, his class underwent the ubiquitous "drugs are bad" class presented by the local sheriff's department.  Tallest Son - for whatever reason that would possess an 11 year old boy - stated to the cop and his entire class, including teacher:  "My mom took cocaine while she was pregnant with me."

When he told me this at home that afternoon, I asked,  "Did you also happen to mention you WERE ADOPTED?????"  Er, no, he had not.  Great for the next parent-teacher conference, let me tell you.

That's funny.

It's funny when I had two toddlers: one black and one a blue-eyed blond in the shopping cart at the store.  The cashier looked at the blond one and said,  "You look like your momma!"  Then turning to the black child (my Eldest Son), said,  "You must look like daddy."  I muttered,  "He must...."

That's funny.

When Tallest Son was getting ready to present his graduation speech a few weeks ago, he told me and Dear Husband that if he really screwed up, we had a great excuse.  We could just whisper conspiratorially to people:  "Well, you know he's adopted...." and just let that gently drift off, letting them draw their own conclusions.

That's funny.

My kids big joke now is that Dear Husband and I are going to sit them all down soon and tell them,  "You know.  We've been keeping something from you.  You AREN'T adopted."

"What???  You're my 'real' parents?  How could you do this to us???  How could you lie all these years???"

That's funny.

Adoption is...hard

Occasionally, women used to tell me I was "lucky" in that I had my kids the easy way - implying that without physical labor - actually carrying a child for nine months and then pushing said baby out of your body -I had it easy.

Oh, I disagree.

My response has always been,  "Adoptive moms have labor too, it's just different."

Adoption is hard.  It's fundamentally built on loss.  Many of us adopt because of infertility, which is a loss of fertility.  Birth parents have the loss of raising their child, even if by choice. (My kids' birth mom didn't have the choice - she lost the right to raise her children.)  Adoptive kids suffer the loss of biological knowledge.  Kids like mine grieve the loss of a caring parent;  they know that their birth parents lost them due to bad behavior, poor judgement, plain ole not caring.

Then, there is the adoption process itself.  Dear Husband and I had to undergo a series of classes, baring our souls to social workers and other would-be adoptive parents.  Dear Husband had to undergo psychological testing due to his messed up family of origin.  Once we got the kids, we had months and months of lawyers, social workers, courts, etc.  For parents who adopt privately or overseas, it is a financial and legal marathon.  If this doesn't all constitute "labor", I don't know what does.

Adoption is hard.  And it should be - we shouldn't just be handing over babies and children to any person who shows up for one.  Besides, the goal is to make sure that children have the best environment in which to grow up:   a loving, safe, caring family who have the child's best interests (not their desire to parent) at the forefront of their mind.

Now, many states are trying to make it harder.  Because of the strong gay political lobby in many states, Catholic charities are getting out of the adoption business because of their religious stance that gay families are not the best environment for kids.  Faced with losing funding for ALL their services or stopping adoptions, they choose to drop adoptions from their services.  And who loses?  Kids.

Adoption is hard.  Let's not make it harder.

Sacred Place of the Day

Saint Martin du Canigou, France

New homeschool curriculum

For those interested in economics, politics and jobs - high school level.

Remembering Dad

My dad passed away four years ago today.  I was honored to be with him when he died, peacefully and at home.  He was a very good man.

John E. Graveline


photoJohn E. Graveline, 80, of Gladwin, passed away Wednesday, July 4, 2007, at his home following a lengthy illness.

He was born June 15, 1927, in Detroit to Manzel and Anna (Kaniecki) Graveline. John managed to complete high school in time to join the U.S. Marines to serve his country during World War II in China. He married the former Elizabeth Heffron on Nov. 8, 1947, in Detroit. They came to Coleman in 1955 and Gladwin in 1984. John worked as plant manager for Kal & Alma Plastics, which became United Technologies in Beaverton, retiring in 1987. After retiring John graduated from Mid Michigan Community College with an associates degree in the Visual Arts. He served on the college board of trustees. John was very active in his community. Starting in Coleman, he was on the committee to procure ambulance service to Coleman. He was on the United Way committee for Gladwin County and also served on the board of the Mid Michigan Medical Center-Gladwin, and the Gladwin Pines which he was chairman. He was active in Gladwin Rotary, being past president and received the Paul Harris Award. He served as usher at St. Joseph Parish in West Branch, St. Phillips in Coleman and his current church, Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Gladwin. He was also a member of the K of C # 5280 in Gladwin.

Surviving are his wife, Elizabeth; one son, Paul and Cathryn Graveline of Gladwin; three daughters, Michele Graveline of Newaygo, Martha Winchell of Grand Rapids, and Elise and Ed Hilton of Sparta; 27 grandchildren; and 17 great-grandchildren. John was predeceased by one brother, Daniel; and two sisters, Ruth Crest and Marie Pare.

Services will be held 11 a.m. Saturday, July 7, 2007, at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Gladwin. Fr. John Cotter will officiate, and burial will be in Sacred Heart Cemetery, Gladwin.

THE American song?

This post over at Pentimento started me thinking:  what would be the quintessential American song?  (And let's not get obvious with the national anthem, folks....)

Much to the chagrin of my family, my pets, and many co-workers, I have a great love for country music.  Is the perfect American song from that genre?  Or would it be rap or hip-hop?  Rock-n-roll?  Delta blues?

What song would get your vote as the American song, the song that illustrates our liberty, our independence, our spirit?

God bless America

"Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."  John Adams

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 ...