Saturday, December 31, 2011

"So, I went to confession, and ended up in a bar..."

Sounds like a joke, but it's what happened this afternoon.  I'm visiting my 86 year old mom for the holiday weekend, and suggested this afternoon that we head over to her parish for confession.  We went...and waited. No priest.  Really.   Huh.  (My mom said this was not all that unusual for the priest not to show up for confessions on Saturday afternoons.  When they are scheduled.  And published.)

So, we left and headed to the local tavern for a wet burrito, one of Mom's favorites.  Do you think we got points for showing up at confession?  Geez......

Saturday sighing....

artist Tara Donovan
Dark-haired Daughter has been home for about 3 weeks now, and we've had our first string of bad days.  Now, when we have bad days, I'm not talking about moodiness and being out-of-sorts; I'm talking about Daughter banging her head against the wall so hard it leaves a fist-sized dent because she is told she can't use the phone.  I'm talking about Daughter threatening to drown herself in a near-by pond.  Bad days.

The worst part for me is the stress it creates for the other kids.  I literally see them shrink.  They flee - anywhere but home is a good place, and that is exactly the opposite of what life is supposed to be.  I haven't been sleeping, so...here I am, up way too early on a Saturday morning (I've spent the last two hours curled up in a chair in the living room, listening to quiet music), and wondering if God hears my prayers.

Listen, God, to my prayer;
do not hide from my pleading;
hear me and give answer.
I rock with grief; I groan
at the uproar of the enemy,
the clamor of the wicked.
They heap trouble upon me,
savagely accuse me.
My heart pounds within me;
death’s terrors fall upon me.
Fear and trembling overwhelm me;
shuddering sweeps over me.
I say, “If only I had wings like a dove
that I might fly away and find rest.
Far away I would flee;
I would stay in the desert. 
“I would soon find a shelter
Selahfrom the raging wind and storm.”  Psalm 55:2-9


Well, the sun will be up soon, and my tea is hot.  I've thrown in a load of laundry and said my Morning Prayers.  Even if I think God does not hear me, I will act as if He does, because He is faithful and true, even when I am tired and wavering.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Are you a 2/3rds Catholic?


Loved this article by Randy Hahn!


"Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better."

That quote from Samuel Beckett was probably never meant to reference one's spiritual life, but it sure applies.  Paul Shoemaker has written a book called Brilliant Mistakes in which he encourages (!) companies to use mistakes in a thoughtful way. 

From Forbes.com, here is a snippet of what the book suggests for corporations:

 Brilliant Mistakes starts from the premise that 99% of successes come from failures. Therefore, he argues that it’s puzzling for failure to have such a negative label. And he believes that since mistakes are so valuable, people should learn from them. This observation leads Schoemaker to three implications for managers:
  • Mistakes should be planned. Companies go to great lengths to avoid mistakes. Instead, Schoemaker argues that organizations should not let them occur by chance but should actively plan to make mistakes. His common sense kicks in here and he suggests that companies should manage their mistake-making in a disciplined manner. Specifically, that means using criteria to rank mistakes — such as low cost, quick learning, and extending the bounds of what managers think is possible. This is the sort of thing that is a matter of course for start-ups but very difficult for large organizations to pull off.
  • Mistakes must be mined. Schoemaker argues that even if companies do not take a systematic approach to making more mistakes, they should learn from the ones that they unintentionally make. As he put it, “you’ve already paid the tuition so why not get the learning.” To do that, Schoemaker argues that organizations should take a forensic approach to mining the learning by understanding at a detailed level why the mistake occurred and figuring out how the company should change its processes.
  • Mistake-making must be promoted. As anyone who works in an organization knows, people will follow the leader. Unless the CEO is encouraging people to make mistakes and learn from them, following Schoemaker’s prescriptions will be a career-ending decision. However, if the CEO changes an organization’s incentive systems to give bonuses and career advancement to people who make mistakes that provide meaningful learning, then Schoemaker’s prescriptions could indeed come to life.
Now, let's look at this from the stand-point of spirituality.  Most of us are trying to avoid mistakes - or sin.  We want to be good.  We are striving to please God....but we fail.  I'm not saying we should plan to sin (yeah, that would be stupid), but that we should be prepared for when we do.  Hit your knees and pray for forgiveness.  Recognize it RIGHT AWAY.  When you are uncharitable in speech - notice it.  When you have that sneaky little (albeit private) thought that isn't very nice, notice that.

Learn to notice patterns of sin in your life.  Where is it that you are most tempted?  When is it you are most likely to lose your temper or be unkind?  With whom do you have the most trouble remaining calm and pleasant?  Learn from that.

That last point, I believe, is most valuable to those of us who are parents, or who are in leadership over others.  When those "beneath" you see you striving to recognize your sinful patterns and correct them, it will make an impression.  Having a parent who asks for forgiveness for a mistake or behavior is a powerful examples to a child.  How encouraging to know that your parent or boss is striving to be a better parent or boss!

I am certainly not encouraging anyone to "sin better".  What I am saying is that we can stay stuck in sin, or we can learn and move closer to God.  Our mistakes can help us make our souls more brilliant...if we keep trying.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Totally enchanted by...

the sculptures of Jin Young....

Religion, iPhones, church and apps....

This Wall Street Journal article shows that religion and technology are getting quite cozy. 


Some specialized apps help parents keep track of what their children are studying in Sunday school and offer discussion tips. Church leaders also hope the apps will entice teenagers to stay involved with their churches and will help provide spiritual guidance when they're away.
"That's their world: their iPhone. If it ain't in their pocket, it's not real," says Tom Wray, a consultant within the Archdiocese of Cincinnati who has promoted such apps to Catholic churches.
So far, mostly large, mainline Protestant and evangelical churches have had customized apps made, developers say. Typically, the apps aggregate information including a pastor's blog, church calendar and sometimes a public, digital wall on which congregants can request and offer prayers.

What about it?  Has technology impacted your faith life?

Yet another good reason to be Catholic...

From Hillare Belloc:

“Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine,
There’s always laughter and good red wine.
At least I’ve always found it so.
Benedicamus Domino!”



Addendum:  Unless you're in Utah, where daily drinking is set to be out-lawed in 2012. No kidding.

Three Good Things Thursday

pic from the Graphics Fairy
1.  Okay, this first one is tough, since I've had this never-ending-tooth-saga for months now, but the good thing is that I have insurance.

2.  Another good thing is that I got to sleep in a bit today, even though I had to go to the dentist.

3.  Finally, it's a good thing that my friend Jeanna made me birthday cake truffles for Christmas.  You know when the little monk who made champagne for the first time declared,  "It's like drinking the stars!"?  Yeah, well, these little nuggets of sugary awesomeness are like that.  Yummmmmmm.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A gentle reminder, dear readers....

I love comments on my blog posts, even when you don't agree with me, but I don't publish anonymous posts.  Leave your name, or no deal!  Good manners, dear readers, demand it.

Delight in reading

Do you have a young reader, say 8 to 12 years old?  Are you looking for something that will appeal to either a boy or girl?  Want fun, wholesome adventure?  Have I got a treat for you!

Welcome to Patria offers a entire kingdom to explore, teasing one with the idea of "stout hearts and whizzing biscuits".  I personally joined Madame Mimi's Well-Ordered School for Ill-Mannered Girls (and Heaven knows, it's the place for me!), which promises to take me from an awkward flibbertigibbet to a poised and learned young lady capable of sipping soup at the Castle with the most delicate of slurps, and conversing with the King on subjects ranging from epic poetry to how best to prepare Mousse au chocolat. Perfect!  (There's a Knighthood of the Blue Sock for the young man in your life.)

There's a lovely map to explore online, and the books are available from a variety on sources and downloadable on e-readers.  Looks like good fun for young readers, and for those families that like to read aloud.  I am especially enchanted with Princess Rose (what girl doesn't love a princess?) who, despite her delicate name is no shrinking violet—er, rose. She has, let us say, strong opinions, and isn't shy about making them known, according to the website.  My kinda girl!


I know Christmas is just over, but with long winter months ahead, you might want to stock up on reading material.  And doesn't an adventure to another world sound lovely when it's cold and drippy-dreary outside?

Feast of the Holy Innocents


The Holy Innocents bore witness to you not by speaking but by dying.

Lest we get to caught up in the sentimentality of a baby borne in a manger, the Church, in Her great wisdom, gives us two feasts to ponder immediately after Christmas:  the feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr for the faith, and the feast of the Holy Innocents, the babies slaughtered by Herod's men as he seeks to kill off the rival he thought he had in Christ.

Christ's birth is a joy and a wonder, but we are to be careful not to make it into a syrupy, greeting card moment depicting a lovely poor family overcoming great odds to bring a baby into the world.  This baby is not any baby:  He's God, and He's come for a reason.  And the reason is to bring souls, at great cost, to God.  Christ says in Matthew:  "My mission is to spread, not peace, but division."  The division is God's side, and everything else, between which lies a great chasm.

The two feasts of St. Stephen and the Holy Innocents are meant to help us decide which side of that great chasm we stand upon.  May we all choose Christ.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

5 things you should stop doing in 2012

I am loathe to jump on the end of the year band wagon, but this IS a good time to take stock of where we're at in our spiritual lives.  With that, 5 things you should stop doing in 2012.

1.  Stop spiritual practices that don't work for you.  The Rosary is a lovely, wonderful meditation.  It doesn't work for everyone.  Lectio Divina is awesome - if it helps you develop spiritually.  Listening to Gregorian chant - uplifting!  But not for everybody.  If you've been struggling to do something because you think you SHOULD, but it doesn't work for your life-style, personality, spiritual life...then stop.  Do what works.

2.  Stop putting off the Sacrament of Confession.  Make it a regular part of your life.  Regular.  As in, at least once a month.

3.  Stop zoning out at Mass.  The new translation seems to be helping us be attentive, but we all have the tendency to "zone out" during the Mass.  Really practice being attentive - get a missal, follow along.  Work hard at praying the liturgy.

4.  Stop being judgmental of others' spiritual practices.  Angry that your sister hasn't been to Mass in months?  Pray for her.  Can't get over the fact that your son married a Lutheran girl?  Pray for them.  That lady in front of you at Mass that hauls out all the toys for her kid to play with during the liturgy?  Pray for her.  When you catch yourself having a judgmental thought, pray for the person instead.  And then pray for humility for yourself.

5.  Stop letting yourself off the hook.  It is so easy to say,  "Oh, I'm a good person.  I go to Mass every week" or "Hey, I pray more than most people".  It's still not enough.  Having an active, holy spiritual life is rigorous - you can't "let up".  You're training for the Eternal Olympics, and you want the gold!  When you catch yourself slipping, it's time to dig a little deeper, pray a little harder, ponder Christ on the Cross a bit longer.  Don't allow yourself to think "good enough" when it comes to being a Christian.  You can rest when you get to Heaven.

Down time between the holidays

This is a very practical article on what to do this week when things are a bit slow at work.  Even if you work at home, and spend a lot of time on the computer, there are some things to glean here. 

Of course, my fave tip here is updating your work wardrobe.  If you've slipped into the habit of thinking greys and browns are colorful additions to your wardrobe, or keep that schlubby sweater at your desk to wear every day, or think that Ugg boots look good on anyone over the age of 12,  maybe you should take advantage of some after-Christmas clothing sales....

Total Rip-off Tuesday

Wherein I "rip-off" another writer.  I am going to be doing some reading from St. Teresa of Avila, so here is a bit from the beginning of her "Interior Castle":

I thought of the soul as resembling a castle, formed of a single diamond or a very transparent crystal, and containing many rooms, just as in heaven there are many mansions. If we reflect, sisters, we shall see that the soul of the just man is but a paradise, in which, God tells us, He takes His delight. What, do you imagine, must that dwelling be in  which a King so mighty, so wise, and so pure, containing in Himself all good, can delight to rest? Nothing can be compared to the great beauty and capabilities of a soul; however keen our intellects may be, they are as unable to comprehend them as to comprehend God, for, as He has told us, He created us in His own image and likeness.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Urbi et orbi 2011

 Pope Benedict XVI's message for Christmas:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Rome and throughout the world!

Christ is born for us!  Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth to the men and women whom he loves.  May all people hear an echo of the message of Bethlehem which the Catholic Church repeats in every continent, beyond the confines of every nation, language and culture.  The Son of the Virgin Mary is born for everyone; he is the Saviour of all.

This is how Christ is invoked in an ancient liturgical antiphon: “O Emmanuel, our king and lawgiver, hope and salvation of the peoples: come to save us, O Lord our God”.  Veni ad salvandum nos!  Come to save us!  This is the cry raised by men and women in every age, who sense that by themselves they cannot prevail over difficulties and dangers.  They need to put their hands in a greater and stronger hand, a hand which reaches out to them from on high.  Dear brothers and sisters, this hand is Christ, born in Bethlehem of the Virgin Mary.  He is the hand that God extends to humanity, to draw us out of the mire of sin and to set us firmly on rock, the secure rock of his Truth and his Love (cf. Ps 40:2).

This is the meaning of the Child’s name, the name which, by God’s will, Mary and Joseph gave him: he is named Jesus, which means “Saviour” (cf. Mt 1:21; Lk 1:31).  He was sent by God the Father to save us above all from the evil deeply rooted in man and in history: the evil of separation from God, the prideful presumption of being self-sufficient, of trying to compete with God and to take his place, to decide what is good and evil, to be the master of life and death (cf. Gen 3:1-7).  This is the great evil, the great sin, from which we human beings cannot save ourselves unless we rely on God’s help, unless we cry out to him: “Veni ad salvandum nos!  – Come to save us!”

The very fact that we cry to heaven in this way already sets us aright; it makes us true to ourselves: we are in fact those who cried out to God and were saved (cf. Esth [LXX] 10:3ff.).  God is the Saviour; we are those who are in peril.  He is the physician; we are the infirm.  To realize this is the first step towards salvation, towards emerging from the maze in which we have been locked by our pride.  To lift our eyes to heaven, to stretch out our hands and call for help is our means of escape, provided that there is Someone who hears us and can come to our assistance.

Jesus Christ is the proof that God has heard our cry.  And not only this!  God’s love for us is so strong that he cannot remain aloof; he comes out of himself to enter into our midst and to share fully in our human condition (cf. Ex 3:7-12).  The answer to our cry which God gave in Jesus infinitely transcends our expectations, achieving a solidarity which cannot be human alone, but divine.  Only the God who is love, and the love which is God, could choose to save us in this way, which is certainly the lengthiest way, yet the way which respects the truth about him and about us: the way of reconciliation, dialogue and cooperation.

Dear brothers and sisters in Rome and throughout the world, on this Christmas 2011, let us then turn to the Child of Bethlehem, to the Son of the Virgin Mary, and say: “Come to save us!”  Let us repeat these words in spiritual union with the many people who experience particularly difficult situations; let us speak out for those who have no voice.

Together let us ask God’s help for the peoples of the Horn of Africa, who suffer from hunger and food shortages, aggravated at times by a persistent state of insecurity.  May the international community not fail to offer assistance to the many displaced persons coming from that region and whose dignity has been sorely tried.

May the Lord grant comfort to the peoples of South-East Asia, particularly Thailand and the Philippines, who are still enduring grave hardships as a result of the recent floods.

May the Lord come to the aid of our world torn by so many conflicts which even today stain the earth with blood.  May the Prince of Peace grant peace and stability to that Land where he chose to come into the world, and encourage the resumption of dialogue between Israelis and
Palestinians.  May he bring an end to the violence in Syria, where so much blood has already been shed.  May he foster full reconciliation and stability in Iraq and Afghanistan.  May he grant renewed vigour to all elements of society in the countries of North Africa and the Middle East as they strive to advance the common good.

May the birth of the Saviour support the prospects of dialogue and cooperation in Myanmar, in the pursuit of shared solutions.  May the Nativity of the Redeemer ensure political stability to the countries of the Great Lakes Region of Africa, and assist the people of South Sudan in their commitment to safeguarding the rights of all citizens.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, let us turn our gaze anew to the grotto of Bethlehem.  The Child whom we contemplate is our salvation!  He has brought to the world a universal message of reconciliation and peace.  Let us open our hearts to him; let us receive him into our lives.  Once more let us say to him, with joy and confidence: “Veni ad salvandum nos!”

Did you hear what I heard?

artist unknown
I don't know about you, but I am finding the language of the new translation of the Roman Missal to be beautiful and up-lifting.  Of course, you have to be paying attention - actively listening - or little you miss little gems.

This was the prayer after Communion at Midnight Mass for Christmas:

Grant us, we pray, O Lord our God,
that we, who are gladdened by participation
in the feast of our Redeemer's Nativity,
may through an honorable way of life become worthy of union with him.
Who lives and reigns for ever and ever.


I latched onto that "honorable way of life".  It makes me think of  the great saints:  Teresa of Avila, the Blessed Mother, Augustine.  It makes me think of the little saints, patient in their humility:  Andre of Montreal and Solanus Casey.  It makes me think of my dad and my sister-in-law.

As we near the end of the year, we are going to be seeing a lot of those lists that get trotted out at this time:  the best-dressed of 2011, the top ten movies of the year, the best-selling gadgets of the past twelve months.  But I bet there won't be any listing pondering the most honorable people of the year, those who lived their lives with grace, humility, charity and service to others.  That's okay - those folks don't want anyone to notice anyway, and we know who they are in our own lives.  But as we celebrate our Savior's birth, and pray that His Coming has true meaning in our lives, it will serve us well to think about our own way of living.

Am I living a life of honor, so as to become worthy to live in union with the Christ Child, the God-Man, Emmanuel?

Mary Cassatt Monday

Fillette au grand chapeau

Thursday, December 22, 2011

"My Heart is Bethlehem"

Eternity stepped into time,  
And drew a mortal breath.  
Mystery so clearly seen  
The world could not forget  

That in the town of Bethlehem, 
In the most unlikely place, 
God, the father wore  
A child's face.
 

There's something in the heart of God,  
So purely meek and mild 
That finds its best expression in  
The longings of a child.
For every child's heart is hungry,  

To be found and loved and known  
A someone who would make their heart a home.
 

My heart is Bethlehem  
I will make room for him.  
This humble dwelling place  
Made worthy by his grace.
 

This child is still adored, 
Because he still is born  
Deep in the hearts of men, 
(To love and not condemn)  

My heart is Bethlehem
I wish for you this Christmas Eve,  

That you would find true peace. 
But silent nights are holy nights  
And wonders never cease.
There's no remembering,  

The ghost of christmas past  
For God's forgiveness finds your heart at last.
 
(lyrics by Michael Peterson, recorded by John Berry - look it up, you won't be sorry.....)

December 22 Nativity

antique German nativity - Victorian era

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Summer Internships for college students

Do you know a bright young person who would enjoy working at a religiously-based think tank for the summer?  Acton Institute is now accepting applications for summer 2012 internships:  http://www.acton.org/about/internship-opportunities

Putting on your elf

I am the first to admit that I have not been in the Christmas spirit this year.  Our financial strains have been enormous this past month, we've had to replace a vehicle and I've had root canal surgery - twice, same tooth.  But, by golly, yesterday I was determined to do some decorating and get the house looking like Christmas.  The vicodin from the dentist probably helped.

I wrangled Curly-Haired Daughter and Youngest Son and put them to work.  They dusted and put out Nativities, hung some ornaments from light fixtures, swept and generally made merry.

Tallest Son was assigned to dish washing and general kitchen cleaning, and we scurried around him.  He was a grouch, a grinch, a general pain.  He was (as determined as I was to make merry) determined to be a brat.

Finally, after the umpteenth grumpy remark, I told him,  "Look, either you get in the Christmas spirit RIGHT NOW, or you have to find another ride to work."  His response,  "You're kidding?!  You're gonna make me feel something I don't want to feel???"

That was a pretty profound moment.  In reality, we can't MAKE anyone "feel" something - not even ourselves.  I haven't "felt" Christmas-y at all this year.  Not one bit.  But I made the decision the other day that I was going to ACT like I was feeling Christmas-y, regardless of how I felt.  And that's what I told Tallest Son:  "I can't make you 'feel' anything.  But you are gonna adjust your attitude and your behavior.  You have control over that."  And he did.

I know this works, because I've been struggling with the same thing all during Advent.  I haven't "felt" the spirit of Christmas, the hope of new birth, the dawning of the coming of Christ.  And I've been dwelling in that darkness....by choice.  Now, I'm making the decision not to dwell there.  I might not "feel" all joy and jingle bells yet (or ever), but I'm going to ACT as if I do.  

There aren't any excuses for sinful, bratty behavior. We choose it.  We may feel like it's justified, but it isn't.  I'm adjusting my attitude, and putting on my elf for the remainder of the holiday season. 

Give thanks to the LORD, invoke his name;
make known among the peoples his deeds!
Sing praise to him, play music;
proclaim all his wondrous deeds!
Glory in his holy name;
let hearts that seek the LORD rejoice!
Seek out the LORD and his might;
constantly seek his face.
Recall the wondrous deeds he has done,
his wonders and words of judgment

Expanding your vocabulary, and making friends with Wil Wheaton

Oh, the joy of words!  How much fun to increase one's vocabulary, learn something new and fly one's freak flag!  From the Mental Floss website, a list of words one MUST know - just for the sheer fun of it!  Besides, who wouldn't want to know a word that literally means "grief bacon"??


1. Kummerspeck (German): Excess weight gained from emotional overeating. Literally, grief bacon.
2. Paper-belly: A person unable to drink liquor straight, or one who grimaces after drinking.
3. Petrichor: The clean, pleasant smell that accompanies rain falling on dry ground. It’s from the Greek petra (stone) and ichor (the blood of Greek gods and goddesses). The term was coined by two Australian researchers in 1964.
4. milliHelen: The quantity of beauty required to launch just one ship.
5. Dysania: Having difficulty getting out of bed in the morning.
6. Karoshi (Japanese): Death from being overworked.
7. Lawn Mullet: A neatly manicured front yard and an unmowed mess in the back.
8. Koi No Yokan (Japanese): The sense upon first meeting a person that the two of you will fall in love. 
9. The Wheaton: The delightfully geeky Wil Wheaton was one of the first celebs to attract a massive number of followers. When half a million people subscribed to his Tweets, that number was dubbed a Wheaton by John Kovalic. Today, Wil Wheaton actually has about 3.8 Wheatons.
10. Oldfangled: Old fashioned.
11. Bakku-shan (Japanese): The experience of seeing a woman who appears pretty from behind but not from the front.
12. Zeg (Georgian): The day after tomorrow. Why don’t we have a word for the day after tomorrow?
13. Crwth: An ancient Celtic musical instrument. Comes in handy when you’ve got no vowels in Words With Friends.
14. Punk Day: A day when children are admitted to a carnival or circus free.
15. Badinage: Playful, joking banter.
16. Pretzel-bender: 1. A peculiar person; an eccentric; one who thinks in a round-about manner. 2. A player of the French horn. 3. A wrestler. 4. A heavy drinker; one who frequents bars.
17. Glabella: The space between the eyebrows.
18. Tsktsks: Who knows? But it’s the longest vowel-free word you can play in Words With Friends (however, its play in WWF is only possible should you elect to use a blank tile as the second ‘K,’ since there is only one ‘K’ tile per game).
19. Gay-cat: A hobo not wise to the ways of hobo life; a hobo who is considered unacceptable by his fellows.

December 21 Nativity

Polar Nativity

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Thinking about blogging

Blogging can be hard.

Okay, it's not hard like childbirth, or walking barefoot on Legos, or teaching a teen to drive without losing your mind.  But still hard.

Actually, it's only good, relevant blogging that's hard.  Anyone can make a blog, throw up pretty pictures day after day, and call it it a day.  But most of the bloggers I know really want to make a difference, start conversations, have some fun, be creative and delve a little deeper into issues that are important to them.  And that's hard.

One of the hard things is that you sometimes feel like you're talking to yourself.  Some of the "big" bloggers get a lot of traffic and feedback, but most of us scrape by and aren't really sure what people think of what they're doing. 

Jennifer Fulwiler had this conversation at the National Catholic Register, as to why there weren't any Catholic mom blogs on a "top 100" list of mom blogs.  There was a lot of speculation about what makes a good blog. 

For a blog to be good, there are a few things, in my opinion, that really help.  You need good writing.  Yeah, you have to make it pretty and "eye candy" is important, but if your blog doesn't say anything, and say it well, people won't come back.  Unless it's just daily funny pictures of cats, and there's enough of that on the internet.

You need a strong point of view.

You need to be creative and motivated.

You need to be do it day after day...after day after day....Without fresh stuff on a regular basis, you lose your audience. 

You have to be patient.  It takes a looooong time to build up a following, and even then, you have to work hard at keeping them.

What makes a good blog?  If you're a reader, what makes you come back? If you're a writer, what helps you keep it fresh and relevant? 



Total rip-off Tuesday

Wherein I "rip-off" another writer, artist, etc.  No taking credit - just sharing good stuff.

Today, from Fr. Erik Richtsteig at the Orthometer blog, on Random Liturgical Gripes:

Advent Police. My first year at the seminary, the Ice Queen (tm) decreed that there would be no Christmas decorations at all during Advent. (I think she was descended from Burgermeister Meisterburger.) It made for the most depressing December EVER! Jesse Trees just don't cut it. I hear more and more of similar bans. Get a grip folks. I understand the desire to appreciate the Liturgical Season of Christmas, but get a grip folks. Saying Merry Christmas does not destroy Advent and neither do Christmas lights and trees. This problem can addressed by the gradual introduction of Christmas decorations culminating on December 25th and by leaving them up until the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Liturgical Puritanism in not the answer.

(
Later addition) Liturgical Newspeak.  "Eucharistic Liturgy", "Reconciliation", and "Gathering Space (or any 'space' for that matter)", I am thinking of you! The liturginazis hate traditional terminology. While the Mass is a Eucharistic Liturgy, it is not the only one; see Benediction and a Communion Service. Confession is only Reconciliation if one is guilty of a mortal sin. Our churches are more than just 'spaces' for worship. Just stick to the traditional terms and everyone will know what you are talking about.

December 20 Nativity

Mexican Nativity puzzle - worldnativity.com

Monday, December 19, 2011

Great Catholic blogging

The Pulp.it consistently rounds up the best in Catholic blogging on a daily basis, with a great variety of topics, writers and styles.  It is a worthy place to check out!

December 19 Nativity

Asian Nativity - source unknown

Sunday, December 18, 2011

10 really good points

....from an Orthodox website, on how to get your spiritual life in order:

1. Praying Daily
Have a regular prayer rule that includes morning and evening prayer.

2. Worshiping and Participating in Sacraments
Attend and participate in the Divine Liturgy receiving Holy Communion regularly as well as regular participation in Confession.

3. Honoring the Liturgical Cycle of the Church
Follow the seasons of the church and participate in the fasts and feasts of the Church.

4. Using the Jesus Prayer
Repeat the Holy name whenever possible throughout the day or night.

5. Slowing Down and Ordering Your Life
Set priorities and reduce the stress and friction caused by a hurried life.

6. Being Watchful
Give full attention to what you are doing at the moment.

7. Taming the Passions
Overcome your habits, attachment to your likes and dislikes, and learn to practice the virtues.

8. Putting Others First
Free yourself from your selfishness and find joy in helping others.

9. Spiritual Fellowship
Spend time regularly with other Orthodox Christians for support and inspiration.

10. Reading the Scriptures and Holy Fathers
Be inspired by the lessons of the Holy Scriptures, the wisdom of the Holy Fathers and the lives of the Saints of the Church.

Eskimo Hallelujah




I'm not sure what I like best about this:  the fact that seemingly EVERYone in this village took part, the total and complete lack of enthusiasm by some participants, or the sled dogs.

December 18 Nativity

paper nativity - artist unknown

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christ in a cab

I don't ride in cabs very often.  Hardly ever.  But I did today.  And I met Christ there.

My driver was loquacious.  He had Christmas music playing, which sort of annoyed me, since I've been avoiding Christmas music.  I'm just not in the mood.  But there you go.  Then he mentioned that he hadn't always celebrated Christmas:  "before I knew Jesus".  He told me that he'd been driving a cab a number of years ago, Christmas Eve, waiting in a Rite Aid parking lot for a fare.  The radio was on, and the announcer said, at the stroke of midnight, that many people were now celebrating the birth of Christ....and then it started to snow.  The cab driver said,  "That's when I believed."

He said he'd spent a Christmas in San Diego,  "Crazy....heh....lights on palm trees."  He mentioned a Christmas in the Marine barracks when he was a young man, "We made the best of it."  He laughed and said "All I want for Christmas this year is for my boss to fix the wind shield wipers on my cab."

His coat was torn, and his hair was shaggy.  He wore a lot of experience on his face.  His voice was soft but I knew his vocal chords had been swimming in smoke for a long time.  This was not a "man of means".

I didn't know today that I'd meet Christ in a cab, but I did.  A sweet man, scraping out a living, who invited me to his church's Christmas concert on  Sunday night.  Spreading a little Christmas cheer - and being Emmanuel, God-with-us to a total stranger.  Christ in a cab.  Who knew?

It's still 43 people too many, but good news about the death penalty in the US

Death sentences dropped dramatically this year, marking the first time in more than three decades that judges and juries sent fewer than 100 people to death row, according to a new report from the Death Penalty Information Center.


Just 78 offenders were handed capital sentences, and only 43 inmates were executed — almost half as many as 10 years ago.

Read the whole story here at NPR.

December 15 Nativity

Artists:  Maud and Miska Petersham
This is from the Glencairn Museum collection.  The description of this piece and the artists is terrific: The Petershams were a husband-and-wife illustration and writing team who produced many books for children. In 1931 they published a Nativity book, The Christ Child, with text taken from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke (Garden City, NY: Doubleday). This pop-up paper crèche, produced in 1933, is adapted from illustrations in that book. In 1949, while living in Glencairn, Raymond and Mildred Pitcairn gave over 100 copies of The Christ Child as gifts to family and friends. The Pitcairns also commissioned two watercolor paintings by Maud Petersham that they used as Christmas cards in the 1960s. Collection of Glencairn Museum.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

"D'oh!"

I may be the only person in America who has never seen an episode of  "The Simpsons".  I'm okay with that....I mean, they are ubiquitous, so I get the cultural references.  And today, I had a Homer moment - pure "D'oh!"

There's a little sticky note on my desk, right next to my computer.  It says, "D.B.A.I.", which reminds me:  "Don't be an idiot."  Despite this, I am still an idiot.  I make dumb mistakes, I make non-dumb mistakes, I speak before I think, I leap before I look, I assume I know when I don't.  I am an idiot.

I am in good company.  I think this is why I so love the Communion of the Saints.  They often did dumb things.  Look at Peter - first pope, sure, but complete and total dummy.  Got three chances to stand up and say, "I'm with Jesus" and blew it each time.  Fell into the water when Jesus was standing RIGHT THERE to catch him.

St. Thomas Aquinas:  the Dumb Ox.  (Okay, maybe he doesn't count as dumb, but I'm throwing him in just because of the nickname.) Solanus Casey was told he was too dumb to hear confessions or say Mass - his job was porter.  Same with St. Andre Bessette:  he was barely literate, and was considered only good for manual labor.

So, I take small solace in this company of idiots.  I am dumb, and I'll be dumb again.  Fr. James Martin, S.J., has the perfect prayer for this:


Loving God, you made me who I am.
I praise you and I love you, for I am wonderfully made,
in your own image....

Please God, help me remember my own goodness, which lies in you.
Help me remember my dignity,
which you gave me when I was conceived.
Help me remember that I can live a life of love.
Because you created my heart....

One more thing, God:
Help me remember that nothing is impossible with you,
that you have a way of making things better,
that you can find a way of love for me,
even if I can't see it right now.
Help me remember all these things in the heart you created,
loving God. Amen.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

December 14 Nativity

recycled materials - artist unknown

In the category of "Don't you people have anything better to do?!"


North Korea threatens military action over Christmas lights 

 

North Korea has threatened South Korea with a “sea of fire” because the Communist state views large tree-shaped Christmas lights placed on the border as “psychological warfare” and a “provocation.”

Total rip-off Tuesday

Where-in I "rip-off" another writer, artist, etc.  Not taking credit - just passing along something good.  Today's choice is a song that I've been trying to hold in my heart lately:




Building 429 "Where I Belong"

December 13 Nativity

Hmong Nativity - Glencairn Museum

Monday, December 12, 2011

December 12 Nativity

schnerenschnitte nativity
"Schnerenschnitte" is German for silhouette, and is a form of paper art.  This one is from Kathryn at the Kitchen Table Crafter.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Gaudete Sunday...and not really happy about it

Today is Gaudete Sunday, the "halfway mark" of Advent that focuses on the joy of the nearness of Christ.  In fact, the readings virtually shout "rejoice, rejoice" at us - He is almost here!

And I'm not very happy about it.

Let's be clear.  Today is not about "happiness".  Happiness relies on external stuff:  your belly is full, you've got the stuff around you desire, you're comfortable, etc.  Joy is a whole other state:  it's about being able to rejoice DESPITE the lack of these things.  Joy is about recognizing that I'm never going to be completely happy in this life - because I'm never going to have all I want here.  It is only in Christ that we find joy.

All that being said, I'm not very happy today.  Our van got totaled this week - right after we borrowed $600 to have it repaired.  I spent the week scrambling to find a school to take Dark Haired Daughter, who got released from residential treatment about a month earlier than we had originally been told - and we got very short notice about it.  As you might imagine, schooling choices for a mentally ill and cognitively-challenged teen on probation are limited - ahem.  I finally found a place, but couldn't get anyone there to return my phone call.  Finally, I just showed up, papers in hand and demanded (nicely, but demanded) to enroll her.  All of which is great, but they have a uniform, and today I have to head out and shop for her....with money we don't have, 'cause the van just got totaled......and on it goes.

I had to get a surprise root canal (and let me tell you, the only thing worse than a root canal is a surprise root canal) and it still hurts.  This whole week was just horrid.

In the midst of it, I got a note from one of our spiritual advisors, a Franciscan Sister:  I kept asking myself what I could do to help the situation.  Finally it dawned on me - I can offer my suffering and pain that I have been living regarding our dog, Sophia.  It has been an arduous journey, but we finally came to the decision to have her put to sleep, and I just returned from the Vet's office.  She will be buried on our land.  I believe that my suffering through this whole process will be redemptive for you.  It is what I have to offer.

If I hadn't been at work, I would have put my head down and wept at that:  it was a moment of joy...pain and passion and support and knowledge that we are not alone in this very difficult time.

Today is Gaudete Sunday, and I'm not very happy.  But I am resolved to be joyful.

December 11 Nativity

tramp art nativity
"Tramp art" is a uniquely American form of craft, popular in the Depression and often made by men who rode the rails and wandered the country - "tramps".  I imagine the soul who made this knew a thing or two about not having a place to lay his weary head.

Friday, December 9, 2011

"The Way": wandering aimlessly or seeking the eternal?

I finally got to see "The Way" last weekend, the movie with Martin Sheen as a dad who carries the ashes of his son on the pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago.  It was written, produced and directed by Emilio Estevez (if you've been living under a rock for the past twenty years or so, Emilio is Sheen's son in "real life").

First, it was sheer pleasure watching Sheen.  He's really a fine actor, and this is a nuanced role.  His character is a pretty unhappy man (although he doesn't seem to realize it), a very thin-lipped, constrained man.  Sheen does a superb job of keeping it subtle in a very affecting way.

The rest of the cast is terrific too, although it almost - almost, mind you - slips over the line of buffoonery and caricature.  However, the fine acting and the humor with which the other actors (Debra Kara Unger, Yorick Van Wageningen, James Nesbitt) embody their roles keeps this in check.

The idea of pilgrimage is one that has attracted artists for centuries (remembering trying to get through "Canterbury Tales" in high school English class?), and with good reason.  The outward journey - the physical act of getting from one place to another in a rather trying manner - mirrors the inward journey every thoughtful human goes through:  how do I get from birth to death in a good way?  What does it all mean?  How do I become the best person?  How do I make up for my faults?  How do I deal with the people who annoy me, but I can't seem to shake?  How do I journey through life?

I enjoyed the movie.  It was well-crafted, beautifully shot and wonderfully performed.  I saw it with Tallest Son, who is a skeptic of all things religious, and he enjoyed it as well.  If it's playing on the "big screen" near you, go see it.  If not, watch for the DVD - you'll definitely want this one in your collection.

December 9 Nativity

Alexander Girard, artist.  Made of maple.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Top Religions Stories of 2011?

These were chosen by the Huffington Post.

What do you think?  Agree/disagree?  Additions?

I certainly think that Mormonism took a spot front and center in American politics this year, and that the new translation of the Mass was big news, not just for us Catholics.

December 8 Nativity

On the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, I thought I'd feature the Nativity of Mary:

Maria Bambina
Holy Child Mary, mystical dawn, gate of heaven,
you are my trust and hope.
O powerful advocate, from your cradle stretch out your hand,
support me on the path of life.
Make me serve God with ardor and
constancy until death and so reach an eternity with you.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Re-Branding "Women"? Another stupid idea takes hold

In the course of a day, I read some stupid stuff.  I read a lot of inspiring stuff, a lot of uplifting stuff, a lot of  mundane stuff.  But there is plenty of stupid stuff out there.

Today I read this:  Ads To Rebrand Girls

Yeah, apparently, we females aren't good enough on our own.  Major parts of the world  want to get rid of us before we're even born, and now even Americans are 'fessing up to the fact that they'd prefer a boy.  Fast Company thus asked some ad companies to give us - the fairer, weaker, less-wanted sex - a boost.  And the results are horrifying.  Click the link above to see for yourself.

Apparently, you should want a girl because she's funny and high-performing.  We live longer, so perhaps we'll be able to support you in your old age.  We're not very strong, but we are unique. Also, we don't tend to set things on fire. So there.  Have a girl;  they are a great "brand" of human.

What a bunch of hooey.  Hooey, I say.  All this does is make it - once more - a "one gender is inherently better than the other" argument.  And guess what?  One gender is NOT better than the other.  Different:  yes.  Better:  no.

Blessed John Paul the Great, in 1995, addressed this very topic (and trust me, his treatment is so much easier to swallow than those stupid ads referenced above).  He actually got to the heart of the matter: 


The Book of Genesis speaks of creation in summary fashion, in language which is poetic and symbolic, yet profoundly true: "God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them" (Gen 1:27). The creative act of God takes place according to a precise plan. First of all, we are told that the human being is created "in the image and likeness of God" (cf. Gen 1:26). This expression immediately makes clear what is distinct about the human being with regard to the rest of creation.

We are then told that, from the very beginning, man has been created "male and female" (Gen 1:27). Scripture itself provides the interpretation of this fact: even though man is surrounded by the innumerable creatures of the created world, he realizes that he is alone (cf. Gen 2:20). God intervenes in order to help him escape from this situation of solitude: "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him" (Gen 2:18). The creation of woman is thus marked from the outset by the principle of help: a help which is not one-sided but mutual. Woman complements man, just as man complements woman: men and women are complementary. Womanhood expresses the "human" as much as manhood does, but in a different and complementary way. (emphasis mine)

When the Book of Genesis speaks of "help", it is not referring merely to acting, but also to being. Womanhood and manhood are complementary not only from the physical and psychological points of view, but also from the ontological. It is only through the duality of the "masculine" and the "feminine" that the "human" finds full realization.

You see, "woman" doesn't make sense without "man".  There is a uniqueness and a complementarity that both express, but are made manifest wholly only with the other.

And the genius of women does NOT come at the detriment of men, or vice versa:

Necessary emphasis should be placed on the "genius of women", not only by considering great and famous women of the past or present, but also those ordinary women who reveal the gift of their womanhood by placing themselves at the service of others in their everyday lives. For in giving themselves to others each day women fulfill their deepest vocation. Perhaps more than men, women acknowledge the person, because they see persons with their hearts. They see them independently of various ideological or political systems. They see others in their greatness and limitations; they try to go out to them and help them. In this way the basic plan of the Creator takes flesh in the history of humanity and there is constantly revealed, in the variety of vocations, that beauty-not merely physical, but above all spiritual-which God bestowed from the very beginning on all, and in a particular way on women.

You know what's great about girls?  God made 'em.  And God made boys, so they are great too.  One gender is not a better "brand" than the other:  iPhone vs. Android,, Coke vs. Pepsi, Gucci vs. Chanel, Zelda vs. World of Warcraft.  Each gender is genius - made in the image and likeness of God, both meant to be celebrated, enjoyed, and encouraged to live to our fullest human potential.  Parents should treasure a boy OR a girl, love, play with, read to, discover, relate to, encounter, discipline and rejoice over each child, in HIS or HER singular expression of God's epitome of personhood and personality in the world.  A clear view of God's creation makes this definitive and certain.

We don't need an ad campaign to do that.

December 7 Nativity

Haitian Nativity

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Le' Advent

Or should it be Adlent?

It seems like my Advent is more Lent this year.  I'm not feeling the joyful anticipation, laced with humble resignation of sinfulness, that Advent is supposed to signify.  Instead, I'm feeling a bit.....hmmmm....penitential.  Is there a word for when penance is thrust upon you?  Perhaps Shakespeare knew something of that:

 
O! for my sake do you with Fortune chide,
The guilty goddess of my harmful deeds,
That did not better for my life provide
Than public means which public manners breeds.
Thence comes it that my name receives a brand,
And almost thence my nature is subdued
To what it works in, like the dyer's hand:
Pity me, then, and wish I were renewed;
Whilst, like a willing patient, I will drink
Potions of eisel 'gainst my strong infection;
No bitterness that I will bitter think,
Nor double penance, to correct correction.
   Pity me then, dear friend, and I assure ye,
   Even that your pity is enough to cure me.



Maybe I'm just looking for pity, as the Bard says.  I keep lighting the Advent candles, and the flames keep getting blown out.  I'm wondering what I'm doing wrong:  are my candles not strong enough to withstand the winds that blow?  I "wish I were renewed", but it's not happening. 

Of course, I'm fighting to remember that Christmas isn't about the lights and gifts and big splashy displays.  It's about the humble, almost hidden birth of the Incarnate Word.  It's about saying "yes" when all you want to do is run and hide and hope all the troubles go away.  It's about imaging the hope and truth and joy that await when all that surround you are problems and bills and ills and burdens. 

O come, o come Emmanuel!.....and the sooner, the better....

December 6 Nativity

National Museum of Popular Cultures, Mexico

Monday, December 5, 2011

Total rip-off Tuesday


Wherein I "rip-off" another writer - not taking credit, just passing along something good.

Today's choice:  Fr. Robert Barron on "being good".  If I "feel" like I'm good, am I?

A team of sociologists, led by Catholic University professor William D’Antonio, recently published a survey that has gotten quite a bit of media attention, for it shows that many Catholics disagree with core doctrines of their church and yet still consider themselves “good Catholics.” For instance, 40% of the respondents said that belief in the real presence of Jesus in the eucharist is not essential to being a faithful Catholic. Perhaps the most startling statistic is this: fully 88% of those surveyed said “how a person lives is more important than whether he or she is a Catholic.” In a follow up piece in the Chicago Sun-Times, a reporter asked a number of people on the street for their reaction to these findings. One man said, “I’m a very good Catholic because I follow what’s in my heart, more than what the church tells me to do…”

As even the most casual student of societal trends knows, this sort of cavalier attitude toward doctrine is rampant, at least in the West. I dare say that most people in Europe or North America would hold some version of the following: as long as, deep down, you are a good person, it doesn’t much matter what you believe. The intellectual pedigree of this popular idea can be traced back at least to the 18th century German philosopher Immanuel Kant, who held that religion is fundamentally reducible to ethics. All other forms of religious life and practice—dogmas, rituals, liturgies, sacraments, etc.—are meant, Kant thought, simply to contribute to upright moral behavior. In the measure that they fulfill this purpose, they are acceptable, but in the measure that they contribute nothing to ethics, they become irrelevant, even dangerous.


I would argue that what is truly dangerous is precisely the bifurcation between doctrine and ethics that Kant inaugurated and that has become so ingrained in the contemporary imagination. For though we rarely aver to the fact, so many of the ethical norms that we take for granted are deeply rooted in very definite doctrinal claims of the Judeo-Christian traditions. When the dogmas are ignored or declared irrelevant, the normativity of the moral claims is, sooner or later, attenuated.


I would imagine that, if pressed, most people in our society would characterize “being a good person” as treating others with love, honoring the dignity, freedom, and inherent worth of their fellow human beings. And most would agree that ethical violations—stealing, lying, sexual misbehavior, infidelity, cheating, doing physical harm, etc.—are correctly seen as negations of love. But what is love? Love is not primarily a feeling or an instinct; rather, it is the act of willing the good of the other as other. It is radical self-gift, living for the sake of the other. To be kind to someone else so that he might be kind to you, or to treat a fellow human being justly so that he, in turn, might treat you with justice is not to love, for such moves are tantamount to indirect self-interest. Truly to love is to move outside of the black hole of one’s egotism, to resist the centripetal force that compels one to assume the attitude of self-protection. But this means that love is rightly described as a “theological virtue,” for it represents a participation in the love that God is. Since God has no need, only God can utterly exist for the sake of the other. All of the great masters of the Christian spiritual tradition saw that we are able to love only inasmuch as we have received, as a grace, a share in the very life, energy, and nature of God.


So far we’ve looked at the subjective side of love. But what of its object? Why, precisely, are we convinced that our fellow human beings are in possession of rights, endowed with dignity, and of inherent worth? This conviction has become so ingrained in us, so taken for granted, that we forget how peculiarly theological it is. Every human being, regardless of considerations of race, education, intelligence, strength, or accomplishment is a subject of inestimable value because he or she has been created by God and destined by God for eternal life. Take God out of the equation, and human dignity rather rapidly evanesces. If you doubt me on this score, I would invite you to look to societies in which belief in a Creator God was not operative. In classical Greece, the society of Plato and Aristotle, only a certain handful of people—aristocratic, virtuous, propertied, and well-educated—were seen as worthy of respect. Everyone else was expected to do as he or she was told; infants deemed imperfect could be exposed; and a startlingly large number of people were consigned to slavery. And in the secular totalitarianisms of the last century, societies in which God was systematically denied, human dignity was so little respected that the piling up of tens of millions of corpses was seen as an acceptable political strategy, Lenin’s “cracking of some eggs to make an omelette.”


In our commitment to love and to human dignity, we are, whether we know it or not, operating out of a theological consciousness. When the doctrines and practices that support religious consciousness are dismissed—as they so often are in contemporary secularism—the moral convictions born of that consciousness are imperilled. This is the massively important point missed by those who so blithely say, “it doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you’re a nice person.”

December 5 Nativity

Peruvian Nativity - artist unknown

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Joke for the day: you'll have to be Catholic to get it....

A guy goes to a Franciscan church, knocks on the door, a Franciscan opens, the guy says, “Will you say a rosary for me for my intention?” Franciscan says “Sure, what’s your intention?”  Guy says, “I want a Lexus.” And the Franciscan says, “What’s a Lexus?” And the guy says, “Well forget it, I’ll go to another church.”  Goes to the Jesuit church, knocks on the door, a Jesuit opens up and he says, “Father before I ask you something, can you tell me, do you know what a Lexus is?”  And the Jesuit says “Sure, top of the line car. A lot of my parishioners drive it.”  He says “I want one.”  Jesuit says, “I don’t blame you.”  He says, “Will you say a rosary that I get one?”  The Jesuit says, “Sure…what’s a rosary?”

December 4 Nativity

"With mandolin and tambourine" - Coptic nativity
From the University of Dayton Nativity Collection

Friday, December 2, 2011

That light at the end of the tunnel: it's a train, isn't it?





After months of being out of our home, Dark Haired Daughter is set to return next week.  Back in January (while on probation for another matter), she assaulted me and her sister and was arrested.  She stayed in detention for months, as Dear Husband and I fought for a residential treatment placement for her.  She's been in treatment since early spring, where she was diagnosed as bipolar.

She's done well in residential.  She always does well in residential - she's been through this a few times.  You see, residential is a place that is staffed 24/7, with strict rules, limitations and limited choices.  For someone with her depth of mental illness and limited cognitive abilities, this is just the type of structure she needs to be successful....and just the type of structure that two parents in a two-job house can't provide.  A staffed facility offers eyes and ears and limits we just can't sustain.

And just to add insult to injury:  for the first time in YEARS, she is doing well at her school, loving it, achieving, and getting positive feedback from the teaching staff.  Now, I don't even know where she'll be at school in mere days.  She's been suspended and kicked out of almost all of our choices. 

I had a meeting with Daughter's social worker a few weeks back.  It's yet another new worker....and the woman hadn't even opened the child's file prior to the meeting.  Now, Daughter's file is now the size of the Gutenberg Bible, so I understand that it's daunting, but still.  And at this meeting were three other adults....none of whom have ever met my Daughter...and the consensus:  send her home!  She's been doing great here!  She's ready!

But no one else is.

I dread having her home.  There, I said it.  It will be fine for a while, and then it will be really, really not fine.  It will be dreadful.  It will be dangerous and awful and screaming and running away and stealing and suspended and violent.

It will put my other children in harm's way.

It will be stomach-churning stressful for all of us.

And there isn't a damn thing I can do.  Because the law says she has to be at home - "family unity" is key - and there is nothing else anyone is willing to do.  I sat in a meeting with three social workers and told them that this was going to be a dreadful mistake, and they were setting Daughter up for failure.

They had nothing to say.

Look upon me, have pity on me,
for I am alone and afflicted.
Relieve the troubles of my heart;
bring me out of my distress.
Look upon my affliction and suffering;
take away all my sins.