Sunday, July 31, 2005

Sometimes They Surprise Me--P. IV

Maybe this should go in the category "If you look for good, you will find it."

One of the most frustrating things about parenthood is that you're never quite sure that your messages are getting across. My two oldest are going through their "crisis of faith" at the moment: organized religion is "stupid," the Catholic Church has nothing to offer, "I didn't learn a thing in my nine years of Catholic school," the Church is full of hypocrites.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Fine. I know some of it rebellion; some of it is youth; some of it is heartfelt. While I cannot dictate how they feel, I can, however, remind them of how their actions affect those they live with and, hopefully, care about.

So I've been looking at their actions for clues to their hearts, figuring that might be a better indicator of what values they do have and if those values align at all with what Hubs and I have tried to teach.

Yesterday, DS#1 was going to finish painting the hallway. In the morning, he got a phone call. A friend from high school, who had a liver transplant seven years ago, was hospitalized for jaundice and in the ICU.

"A bunch of us are going to go over and visit him," he told me.

He burned a CD of some stuff he thought his friend would like to listen to and labeled it "Hospital Mix." Then he left.

He got lost trying to find the hospital, but he and two friends made it, eventually. A couple of others from "the gang" also showed up.

"Was he glad to see you?" I asked when DS#1 got home.

"Yeah. They only let two of us at a time in, though."

"How did he like the CD?"

"He didn't listen to it, but he seemed to be happy to have some decent music."

And, so, five or six 20-something kids gave up a Saturday afternoon and evening to visit a friend in the hospital. And my son thought to bring something to help his friend pass the time.

He had done a "corporal work of mercy," a "mitzpah," his Scouting "Good Deed." I am cautiously hopeful that more will come, in God's good time.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

The Fifth "P"

…is “Procedure.”

In our parish we have a new pope, a new pastor, a new parochial vicar, and a new principal of the parish school. In April, our bishop decreed that all parishes need to follow the General Instruction of the Roman Missal. Now, if my parish was a Jewish synagogue and we had to pick our tradition—Orthodox, Conservative, or Reform—we would probably be Conservative: not pining for the “old” days, but not pushing the envelope, either. The changes we had to make were not major ones, but since our pastor was leaving (to become the pastor for the parish of the new Cathedral), he asked if he could let the new pastor make the changes. The bishop was firm: all parishes had to be in compliance by June 1.

A training session for Eucharistic Ministers was called. The new procedure was demonstrated, but on Sunday distribution of Communion was less than smooth. Our new pastor and parochial vicar arrived at the beginning of July and now it wasn’t just the Eucharistic Ministers who weren’t quite sure of what to do—the priests weren’t sure as well.

So another training session was scheduled.

During last night’s training, I got a glimpse of the personality of our new pastor. Our previous pastor was originally a refugee from Vietnam, who nearly died during his escape. He came to the U.S. with only his faith, his vocation, and a wonderful sense of humor. (It took us awhile to discover that—we had to translate his English first! J) He had to learn a new language in order to fulfill his vocation and had to learn the many different customs celebrated by his parishioners. The fact that he was successful during the ten years he was with us, first as a parochial vicar, then as pastor, is a testament to his intelligence and will.

Our new pastor, on the other hand, has a much different background. He was born in the States. His last assignment was with the Diocesan newspaper. (In fact, he was in Rome for the funeral of JPII and the conclave.) He has a wonderfully dry sense of humor which hasn’t surfaced yet in his homilies. He also has a much better understanding of the thinking of the bishops when they wrote the GIRM as well as the underlying theology. He would read a passage, explain the reasons for it, and then answer our questions. He also shared some of the horror stories he had heard from priests in other parishes: how some Eucharistic Ministers did not understand the significance of the consecrated Hosts and would mix them in with the unconsecrated ones or would simply pour the consecrated Wine down the sacrarium sink.

I appreciate hearing the background. Now that I understand the “why,” there is a better chance I will remember the “what” when I am called to be a Eucharistic Minister on Sunday and we can bring the solemnity and dignity to the distribution of Communion that it deserves.

Sometimes They Surprise Me--P.III

The first thing I noticed when I got into my little white station wagon Tuesday morning was that the seat had been moved. I could not reach the pedals. Since this is a very good sign that DS#1 has borrowed the car, the next thing I did was check the Trip Meter. My car has a particularly slow moving gas gauge, so I zero out the trip meter when I fill up the tank. I can go about 225 miles before I start getting worried about really being low on gas. DS#1, on the other hand, thinks nothing of going 250 miles between fill-ups. But then he doesn't drive on the freeway during the morning commute. On this particular day, the Trip Meter had three miles on it. I know I hadn't filled the car the previous day. Had DS#1 fiddled with it the night before?

As I adjusted my seat, I noticed the car was clean. The stray papers that always seem to hang around were gone. The seats were crumbless. And then I realized the car smelled different, like someone had put deodorizer in it.

I turned the key and watched the gas gauge rise up past the halfway mark. I had enough gas to get to work. As I drove off, the morning sun left no glare on the windshield.

On his own initiative and--more importantly--on his own dime, DS#1 had filled my car and taken it to the car wash to have the inside and outside detailed. His thoughtfullness was a wonderful gift on a workday morning!

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Fairy Tales & the Battle of Good vs. Evil

Continuing to wax philosophical…

I love fairy tales, myths, and legends: Charles Perrault, the Brothers Grimm, and Hans Christian Anderson; Aasgard and Olympus; Zorro, Paul Bunyan, and Pecos Bill. I loved fairy-tale type stories, too: Wonderland, Neverland, and Oz, Narnia and Middle Earth, Camelot and Sherwood Forest.

There is a pattern to these tales. Good always triumphs over evil, but not easily. The hero (or heroine) has to journey away from home and pass several tests, usually three, seven, nine, or twelve—the magic numbers. The evil force is powerful; the outcome never certain. At the end of the battle the hero is triumphant, but changed significantly, physically, spiritually, emotionally, or all three.

Originally I read the children’s versions of the stories. The wolf was chased off or ran out of the open door; the Prince and Princess lived happily ever after. As I grew older, I found translations of the original versions. I read Beowulf and Le Morte d’Arthur. In these versions, good fights evil physically. People—good people—die. The gods are not always kind, not always just, not always good, and the innocent often suffer.

In other words, just like real life.

Originally these myths and stories were told to children and adults to serve both as explanation of the world around us and as warnings. But my generation and the ones that have followed have been told the cleaned up version. We know the story of The Sword in the Stone, but not of Arthur’s final battle with Mordred. We know of The Little Mermaid, but not that she throws herself into the sea when her Prince marries his Princess. We see Hercules as a gawky adolescent who doesn’t know his own strength, but not that he was driven mad and killed his wife and children.

I have a theory of why our fairy tales are sanitized. I think it started with my parents’ generation, who had lived through the Great Depression, fought two evil dictators, and saw the effects of war on great and ancient civilizations. They wanted to forget. They wanted a world that was clean and bright and safe for their children.

And now, we, their children, believe that we can deter evil without resorting to violence. If we give the dragon his space, if we respect his culture, we can live in harmony. There is no need for hard choices—we can find consensus, we can have a “win-win” situation for everybody, everywhere.

But we can’t. And, I think in our heart of hearts, in our souls, we know we can’t.

In Skywalker, George Lucas talks about writing the original Star Wars. Alec Guinness agreed to play Obi-wan Kenobi and was the Big Name Star. The script wasn’t entirely finished when Lucas & company began filming. About halfway through, Lucas realized that he had to kill off Obi-wan in order to advance the story. But how was he going to tell his Star that his character was going to die? Apparently, Guinness knew and suggested that Obi-wan let Darth Vader kill him once the trio was safely inside the ship.

The rest is movie history.

In Lord of the Rings, in the Harry Potter series, in The Chronicles of Narnia, the fight against evil is a real, physical one. Favorite characters are seriously wounded. Some die. In the end, evil is vanquished, not metaphorically, but physically. We read those books voraciously. Our children snap them up. They speak to us, they appeal to us—the necessity of putting our physical bodies as well as our souls on the line to defend good over evil. And, yet, we are surprised that we must do the same in real life. The Wicked Witch must die, but we don’t want to kill her. We want to understand her. We want to change her. She’s not evil; she’s misunderstood.

Perhaps. But Evil exists and not naming it doesn’t make it go away. That’s one of the points in the Harry Potter series: no one wants to say the name “Voldemort.” If they don’t say it, he won’t reappear. He will leave them alone.

Evil comes whether we name it or not. And it’s much, much better to name it, to discuss it, to bring Evil to light so it can be known and destroyed. Evil operates in the darkness of the night (like Dracula) or in the darkness of ignorance.

Humankind needs to remember that lesson. We need to teach our children and our grandchildren that lesson. We need to tell the stories.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Ron Weasley, St. Peter, & Me

I like Harry Potter. I really do. But I have a soft spot in my heart for Ron Weasley.

I recognize the Weasley clan. I come from one much like it. “More kids than money,” my mother used to say. Rowdy and boisterous, if we weren’t teasing each other unmercifully, we were challenging each other. My parents were a lot like Molly and Arthur, too: Mom tried to keep us and the house in order while Dad worked hard and was often interested in our escapades.

Yet, the Weasleys are incredibly loyal to each other and to those they’ve “adopted” into the family, which includes just about anyone who has walked through the door. Fred and George may hector Ron unmercifully, but do not allow anyone else to bully him. Ron protects Ginny, Harry, and Hermione with his life. He may not like where Harry is taking him, but he follows because Harry is his friend. Harry needs his help and this is what friends—and family—do.

Ron is beset with insecurity. He is either throwing up in the bathroom or exaggerating his exploits. He doesn’t seem to have any natural gifts, except, possibly, for Wizards’ Chess: he’s neither a natural flyer like Harry nor an intellectual like Hermione. He’s hot-tempered, which gets him into trouble, especially with Malfoy. Of the three (four, if you count Ginny), Ron seems the least likely to be destined for greatness, and I think he knows it.

Yeah, I identify with that, even though I’m the oldest child, rather than #6.

Yet, out of all the students at Hogwarts, Harry chose him as a best friend and has stuck with him for six years.

Simon Peter wasn’t the brightest apostle of the bunch—that would probably be Matthew or John the Evangelist. He was impulsive: he sees Jesus walking across the water and jumps out of the boat to greet Him. Halfway there, his insecurities take over and Peter begins to sink. Peter is emphatic that he will never deny his Lord, but when confronted, he denies Him. Peter was hot-headed, too. Although Matthew doesn’t say, I’ve always thought it was Peter who cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant—that seems like something Peter would do.

Yet it is Peter that Jesus chooses to lead His Church. When there is a debate on whether Gentiles can become members or if they must become Jews first, the other Apostles turn to Peter for the decision. When Peter is again given the choice to deny Jesus, he gives up his life instead. He has learned from his mistake.

The tone of his Epistles seems to reflect certain humility of spirit. In his first letter, Peter speaks of the power of love and obedience; in the second he speaks of the dangers of false prophets and teachers and that the day of the Second Coming is unknown. In these, Peter sounds more like Dumbledore than Ron, reflecting the maturity that comes with age and experience.

In Peter, I recognize the journey I am making. God did not knock me off my horse on the way to Damascus. Rather, He persistently and insistently asks me to feed his lambs, much like Jesus kept asking Peter. Like Peter, I struggle with trusting completely and my insecurities. I am not a brilliant theological Teacher or Doctor of the Church. My message is delivered to a much smaller audience and it is “Love” and “Obedience.” (I struggle with the “Obedience” part, too.)

Like Ron, like Peter, I’m not the main act. I’m just a supporting player.

Please Pray For...

...the four Scoutmasters from Alaska, who were killed in a tragic accident at the National Scout Jamboree yesterday and for the Scout volunteer from North Carolina who died of an apparent heart attack.

Please remember their families and the Scouts in their troops as well.

UPDATE I: Michelle Malkin has information online today with more details as well as where to donate to help the families of the Alaskan Scoutmasters.

This accident is very much a tragedy--the Scoutmasters had been planning this trip for years and there sons were at Jamboree with them.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Who Is Reading What

This rings true...

"Who is reading what
This was part of a research project looking at bias in the media during the last election and this gets it about right. "

Read the rest at A Redleg's Perspective.

(H/T: The Mudville Gazette)

Appropriate Clothing

Robin Givhan of the Washington Post deigned to critique the clothing choice made by Mrs. Roberts for her two children (link here). In that same article, she also critiques the shoe choices of Northwestern's Women's Lacrosse team.


I don't know if Ms. Givhan has children. I don't know how old Ms. Givhan is. But when I was growing up, in the '50's & '60's, every kid I knew had three sets of clothes: church/dressy, school, and play. If you went to Catholic school, you wore a uniform. If you went to public school, girls wore dresses or skirts and boys wore slacks and collared shirts. T-shirts, jeans, and sneakers were for play. Dressy clothes were for church and special occasions: church, Easter, dad getting nominated by the President for the U.S. Supreme Court.

My closet is still organized along those principles, although "work clothes" have supplanted "school clothes." I have tried to instill these principles in my children--the idea that you dress appropriately for the occasion. So, yeah, my boys have worn knee socks, oxfords, and short-pant sailor suits. My girls have worn dresses with crinoline petticoats, starched white collars, boys, and patent-leather maryjanes. Being at the White House, Dad being nominated for the Supreme Court, meeting the President--these are major life events. So why not dress up the kids? After all, these may even have been their Easter outfits and at the rate kids grow, they won't be able to wear them much longer. (One reason why short pants on boys are a good idea!)

The women on the Lacrosse Team looked like they took Ms. Givhan's advice about dressing in Gap-style clothing (and price point), yet she criticized them for wearing flip-flops. Perhaps she did not note the irony: learning to dress appropriately begins at home at a young age, when the adults--okay, when mom picks out the outfits. So which would you rather have, Ms. Givhan? Flip-flops or "Old World"?

(H/T: The Anchoress)


I have a second question for advocates of Affirmative Action: when does it end?

When I went to college (1971-1975), Affirmative Action was seen as a way to level the playing field. There is a great disparity in the quality of high schools across the state and Affirmative Action was seen as a way to give kids who had gone to substandard high schools in the ghetto or the barrio a chance to go to elite universities. (Never mind that California has an extensive community college system in place.)

The concept was then expanded to include graduate schools. A student’s ability to be admitted to an elite graduate or professional school should not be limited by the fact that the student came from a less-than-elite college. After all, the argument went, was it the student’s fault that his/her high school did not provide adequate coursework to allow him/her to attend a first-class university? S/He should have a chance to prove herself/himself with the best.

What ended up happening was that students used Affirmative Action to get into a first-class university and a first-class graduate or professional school. This is when I said, “Wait a minute!”

I can understand giving someone a helping hand up. But you should only be able to play the Affirmative Action card once. After that the playing field should be level. If you’ve got an undergraduate degree from Cal or Stanford or UCLA, then you should compete with the rest of the pack to get into Boalt Law School or UCSF Medical School or Stanford’s MBA program. And if you’ve graduated from the Haas School of Business—or Wharton or Harvard or wherever—you should be able to compete with your peers and not need “minority set-asides.”

Truly, the ultimate answer is to improve the quality of education all the way down the line so the cream can truly rise to the top. Then there will be no doubt about whether a student deserves to be at a particular college or university.


LaShawn Barber has gone after Affirmative Action again. And, boy, is she steamed. This is my two cents worth on the subject…

There is an elephant in the middle of the room that no one wants to talk about: some minorities are more “minority” than others.

However, first a disclosure: I graduated from Cal in 1975. And I’m white.

At the University of California, Berkeley—flagship school of the University of California system—Asians make up 32% of the freshman class admitted last year. According to Model Minority ( “Asian-American students are less likely to be admitted into the University of California than students from other racial groups with comparable academic qualifications, according to a UC study released yesterday.Additionally, African-American and Latino students are more likely to be admitted than students from other ethnic groups, when most other factors are considered equal, the study said.”

According to information on the State of California website, in 2003 Asians made up only 10.87% of the population of the State. Whites were the next largest number: 47.44%. Hispanics were third at 32.44%. Blacks were 6.53%. Native Americans were 0.54% and Pacific Islanders were 0.32%--less than those who identified themselves as “Multiracial”—1.86%.

This means, of course, that Asians are overrepresented at U.C. Berkeley, according to their percentage of the population.

Unfortunately, the breakdown does not include gender as well as ethnicity. Too bad—it would be interesting to see if white males are, in fact, underrepresented at U.C. Berkeley, based strictly on percentage of population, which is just what those who favor Affirmative Action claim to want.

So advocates of Affirmative Action now change their tune: they want to increase the admission rate of underrepresented minorities, not merely all minorities. What they do not say is that qualified students of Asian backgrounds will be excluded, as well as “just” qualified white students.

The University of California has 10 undergraduate schools. Minority admissions overall have, in fact, increased, just not at Berkeley— the flagship school and the standard-bearer for all that is liberal. The U.C. system has committed to accepting students in the top 3-4% from all California high schools and the system does, just not to Berkeley or U.C.L.A. But Affirmative Action advocates are not concerned with the racial balance in the other 9 campuses. They suffer from a peculiar myopia, focused on Berkeley, and do not consider if Berkeley is even the best fit for a particular student. Is it wrong to have an elite school for elite brains? Is it wrong to redirect students who may need more nurturing to a smaller campus, where seats in lecture halls don’t number in the hundreds? Where tests and sections are run by professors and not T.A.s?

Sometimes I have the feeling that advocates for Affirmative Action are all about the numbers and are not interested in the people behind those numbers. If they were, they’d be more concerned with graduation rates rather than simply admission.

(H/T: The Anchoress)

How Many Shades of White Are There?

You may be able to tell by the title: we painted over the weekend.

In two weeks, we are hosting two Japanese scouts for a week: a Boy Scout and a Girl Scout. I haven't quite figured out who is sleeping where yet and the living room is a disaster area of major proportions. The hallway, however, does really need to be painted.

We have been in this house 19 years. For all 19, I have talked about using the hallway on the stairs as a family portrait gallery. Recently, on a commercial for a cable company, I noticed that the set designers had taken ordinary trellis, mounted it on the wall and hung pictures on it.

"What a neat idea," I thought. But rather than use redwood or cedar trellis, I wanted white trellis. Kind of a white-on-white or a white-on-off-white idea: the trellis would add texture, but not color because the hallway is rather dark and I wanted the emphasis to be on the pictures.

DD#1 was home from camp to do laundry. She has pretty good style and color sense, so she and I went to the major Big Box Hardware Store. We began to look at paint chips. I tried to explain my idea. She thought I was nuts. After about 30 minutes, I said, "Follow me," and we went off in search of trellis so I could show her my idea.

We found it, in lightweight plastic, in almond, in the right size, at the right price. This never happens to me. So, we grabbed it and went back to the paint section. She's looking at the two chips we had when I spot a booklet of paint chips. All "neutral"--which means, essentially, white and beige. Now, instead of two shades of white to choose from, we had ten, all subtly different under the glare of the distant fluorescent lamps of a massive warehouse. I had to buy two gallons of a shade that would look good in my darkish hallway with an almond trellis on it that will be covered with portraits.


Once we decided on a color, I then had to pick the paint. I knew what I wanted, but each manufacturer has a different name for their product. I want latex semi-gloss. Is that the same as satin? Is that the same as eggshell latex enamel? And there is white and white base--which one do I bring to the front so the color can be mixed? DD#1 has no clue either.

Finally, we get everything we need and pay. We stopped to do some grocery shopping, then headed home. Hubs & DS#1, who had been doing yard work in the back, helped unload the car.
"So what color did you get?" asks DS#1.

"It's that splotch on the can lid," I answer.

"What splotch?"

"The one next to the label."

"We're painting the wall bird splotch white?" Only he didn't use the word "splotch."

"Yes," I answer. I was hot. I was hungry. I was mentally drained.

Hubs and DS#1 finally got the hallway painted yesterday.

"Are you going to finish tomorrow?" I asked.

"What do you mean, 'finish'?" Hubs replies. "I thought you just wanted the stairway painted."

"Well, it looks kind of stupid not to do the hallway to the bedrooms," I point out.

DS#1 is home today. He is supposed to finish the hallway and maybe do a second coat, although this paint is good and we might be able to get away with just one.

"So when are you going to put up the trellis and the pictures?" DD#1 asked.

At the rate we're going, probably just before Hubs and I move into a care home!

Sci-Fi Friday: Firefly & Galactica

This is kind of a catch-up post regarding the above.

I've heard good things about Firefly from Julie over at Happy Catholic. Sci-Fi Channel will be showing it in order--but not until this Friday, July 29.

Battlestar Galactica still continues to put the series that bookend it to shame, which is too bad because those series are also very good. (I was reading Half-Blood Prince at the time and watched only Galactica live. I watched the others later. I have my priorities!)

For those of you who do not have cable or who missed the first season, the DVD will be coming out on July 29. Check the SciFi Channel website for more information.

Book Review: Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince

March Hare Rating System: 4.5 Golden Snitches out of 5.

I studiously avoided all reviews and Harry Potter websites (except J.K. Rowlings). I'm glad I did. I'm a little bit smug because two things I expected to happen did. But there were a couple of twists I did not see coming, although when they did, they were perfectly logical. Not everyone is going to be pleased with how this book turns out, but just trust Ms. Rowlings and her vision of the story.

Order of the Phoenix did carry a lot bigger emotional wallop for me--I felt I had been punched in the stomach. The emotion in Half-Blood Prince seems less hysterical, more subtle, and, maybe because of that, stronger. Harry has matured and J.K. Rowlings' writing with it.

Based on comments on her website, Ms. Rowlings hasn't started Book Seven. I expect it will be a three year wait for the last one. But while I want to know the conclusion, knowing that the series will be over makes it a bittersweet occasion.

Friday, July 22, 2005

TV Review: Battlestar Galactica

This is not your father's Battlestar. Heck, it's not even my Battlestar!

This is one of those series where the remake is much, much better than the original. The story line is the same: humans created "cylons"--robots/cyborgs--who evolved and then came after the humans. Most of the humans on Caprica and the other eleven planets (all with names derived from the zodiac) are killed. Galactica, an old battlestar rescues some and is shepherding a ragtag fleet of ships in search of the mysterious and mythical homeworld, Earth. The series is the story of their journey.

What makes this series unique among science fiction series is that as much--if not more--care has been taken in developing the characters as in the special effects. (George, Steven--are you paying attention?) Much like the Star Trek series, this is ensemble acting. The main characters all have backstories and are complex persons. They have strengths, they have weaknesses, they have blind spots, they are capable of great heroism and abject pettiness and selfishness. Above all, their actions remain true to their character.

Not that there isn't special effects. But for a civilization that can "jump" through space, build cylons, and space fighters, some of their technology is downright primitive. They speak through handsets that have the curly cords of old telephones. They network their computers using thick cables and old-fashioned plugs. There are no teleporters--people travel from base ship to base ship on shuttles. No tricorders, no high tech medicine, no anti-grav boots.

And they have religion. In fact, their religion is the guiding principle of their civilization. The legends of their religion, written in a sacred book, have given them Earth. When people die, they are sent off with dignity and ceremony. Main characters are shown praying and consulting with the high priestess--including the President and the Captain. Their theology is based, loosely, on Greek and Roman mythology (if you couldn't tell from the names of the planets), but snakes and other creatures play an important role.

Hmmm... Where else have we heard about a people forced to wander in the wilderness to find The Promised Land? BTW, the Captain's name is... Adama.

March Hare Rating System: Our DVR is programmed to record this series. Stay home and pass the popcorn, please!

On a side note, three other series "bookend" Battlestar Galactica: Stargate: SG-1 and Stargate: Atlantis before and Andromeda after. Andromeda was conceived by Gene Roddenberry of Star Trek fame. His widow, Majel Barrett Roddenberry (the voice of the computer and Troi's mother) is the executive producer. These series are good, but pale in comparison to Galactica. All in all, a good reason to stay home and snuggle with Hubs on Friday nights.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Please Pray For... S-I-L (Hubs' oldest sister) and her husband. She had surgery earlier this week and developed allergic reactions to the anesthetic and the pain meds they gave her. Her husband is managing to hold it together pretty well, despite having health problems of his own.

Sometimes They Surprise Me--P.II

All last week, DD#2 seemed fidgety.

"What's up?" I asked.

"I don't know," she said. "I feel kind of nervous."

"About camp?"


"Nervous-excited or nervous-scared?" I asked.

"Both," she admitted.

"Really?" I was kind of surprised. This is not her first time being away from home. She's been tent-camping since she was 4 weeks old. She's been to Girl Scout camp, to an outdoor education camp with her class, and has spent a week with her grandmother.

She waved her hand in a brush-off motion. "I always feel this way when I go somewhere for the first time," she said, "because I don't know what it's going to be like."

DD#1 is a counselor at a local Girl Scout camp, although not the same one where her sister is going. DD#1 has limited access to e-mail, so I've been sending her notes and cards by snail mail and I mentioned her sister's nervousness.

On Monday I have an e-mail at work from DD#1: "Have Sis check her e-mail before she leaves."

DD#2 does. There's nothing special there. "Check mine," I suggest. (DD#2's access to the internet is limited.) There's a message from DD#1 titled "For Sis's Eyes Only"

DD#2 recapped the message for me: "The weather's been nice during the day, cool during the evening. The counselors are great. The only problem has been the mosquitos." During pre-camp training, DD#1 had met some of the counselors at the camp where DD#2 is going. DD#1 contacted them by e-mail, asked a couple of questions and sent the answers to DD#2.

Now, DD#1 and DD#2 are 7 years apart. They share a 9'x 9' room, which has barely enough space for their bunk beds and dressers. The closet is tiny. Their turf wars are loud and long. They know how to push each other's buttons faster than I can hit the buttons on the keyboard, with DD#1 having the advantage b/c she is older. Yet, they are also capable of great acts of kindness towards each other, which I don't get to see very often. As a counselor, DD#1 gets only a 2-hour break during the day. For her to spend it reassuring her younger sister is a quite a gift.

And reassures me that maybe I'm doing an okay job as a parent: some of the seeds of the values I have planted and carefully tended over the years have found fertile ground. I have hope that maybe the rest are there, too, hidden among the weeds, waiting for the harvest.

All Quiet On the Western Front

Yesterday morning DD#2 left for a week of Girl Scout camp. She packed her duffel bag by herself, with only a few suggestions by me. She even remembered she forgot to pack pajamas! :) For better or for worse, she's on her own and will have to make do with what she has. (Realistically--what more does she need than her hiking boots, swimsuit, and sleeping bag?)

With DD#1 off being a camp counselor (different camp than DD#2) and DS#2 still a C.I.T. at Boy Scout camp, that leaves Hubs and I home with DS#1, who is pretty independent. It's almost like having no children at all! :)

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Scotty Beamed Up To The Final Frontier

Posted by Kevin, at Whizbang:

"The phrase 'Beam me up, Scotty,' will be forever attached to memory of James Doohan who played Scotty. The quote, much like the series, is fiction that's no part of popular lore."

I'm sorry to hear that Mr. Doohan suffered from Alzheimer's. I heard him speak at one of the first Star Trek conventions, in Oakland, CA. He was funny, witty, could do several different accents (I believe he was from Canada originally, but I could be wrong), and had made peace with being forever known as "Mr. Scott."

Hubs and I are big Star Trek fans. Scotty was one of our faves. He had a boy's fascination with making things work. He had a sheepish grin when he got caught out. But he was efficiency itself when the going got tough. Practical, intelligent, a sense of humor--and a taste for good whisky. What more could you want from a Chief Engineer?

Rest in Peace, Mr. Doohan. You've earned it.

Extreme Acronyms

From the News Wire:

Black Conservative Group Blasts Ebonics Plan for California Schools

( - A black conservative group is criticizing a controversial pilot program in San Bernardino, Calif., schools that would inject "Ebonics" slang into the schools' curriculum.

The project, known as SANKOFA or Students Accumulating New Knowledge Optimizing Future Accomplishment Initiative, is designed to improve the academic performance of black students by keeping them interested in their studies.
Is it just me or is the acronym for this plan just a little--strained?
Reading on:
Sankofa, an African word from the Akan language currently spoken in Ghana is translated as "We must go back and reclaim our past so we can move forward; so we understand why and how we came to be who we are today."

I wonder if there is as much thought put into implementing this program, and its effects on the Black students, as there was into finding a way to make the acronym work.

But that has nothing to do, Project 21 said, with Ebonics. The group called it the "legitimization of modern urban American slang" and warned that it would "harm the professional development of black children if it is put on the same level as Standard English."

I happen to agree. I also wonder if this is yet another way to isolate Blacks from Whites. In my younger, idealistic days we used to sing about a color-blind world, where children wouldn't pay attention to the color of their playmates skin. It was the big, evil adults who made skin color important.
Guess what? The big, evil adults are still making skin color important. Only now they call themselves "liberal" and "culturally sensitive."
Update I: And, of course, today Thomas Sowell has a column about this very thing! He is much more eloquent than I.

Pakistani Girl Becomes Microsoft Pro

I found the link to this article through Heather's Reading Assignments. Heather is Neal Boortz's intern and has her own section on his website.

According to the article, the 9-year-old Pakistani girl said that meeting Bill Gates was "second only to visiting Disneyland."

So... is Pakistan going to allow the Islamofascists to take over and lose this genius?

Valerie Who? And the SCOTUS Nominee

Okay. I'm done. I have read so much by so many about the Valerie Plame/Joe Wilson/Karl Rove kerfluffle, I can no longer remember what I read where. The Comments section of all the blogs have been most enlightening and discouraging. While I understand the frustration of having to re-state your discussion points for the hundredth time (I am a mom, after all), I am dismayed when I start to see the level of discussion begin to sink.

Now that President Bush has nominated Judge John Roberts to the Supreme Court, the MSM has fresh meat to go after. Interestingly, on the San Francisco Chronicle's website, the lead article admits that Judge Roberts has a brilliant legal mind. And the fact that he has "sterling legal credentials," according to the article. That won't stop the MSM and the rest from trying, I suppose. Judge Roberts is also a Catholic (wonder if he was an altar boy, too?), so expect attacks on his position on abortion, end-of-life issues, and embryonic and therapeutic cloning stem cell research. Oh, and, of course, gay marriage.

The Anchoress also has a few comments and links to other articles. (I thought she was going on retreat? :) Michelle Malkin has, as usual, a detailed roundup of links and reactions. Captain's Quarters has an interesting take on the reaction of the MSM: Stunned and Cautious. (Looks like the MSM/LLL misunderestimated the Prez yet again!)

Will You, Won't You, Will You Join the Dance?

(Title from "The Lobster Quadrille" from Alice in Wonderland.)

Come join the dance at the Cotillion, which is up and hosted by Dr. Sanity, Annika from annika's journal, Girl on the Right, and My Vast Right Wing Conspiracy. As usual, a full dance card of articles to choose from along with pictures of some classical hunks and illustrations of life in the 18th Century (I think).

So... grab your gloves and fan and join the dance!

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

What's on My Nightstand?

Julie D. at Happy Catholic sent me this meme. (My first one! I'm so excited!) It's kind of embarassing, actually. Flat surfaces in my house tend to become horizontal filing cabinets. Keep in mind that my nightstand is only 2' x 1.5'.

As of yesterday, the top of my nightstand held:

  • a lamp
  • a phone that is a clock with an alarm
  • an AOL CD that had been made into a coaster
  • a "Camp Build-A-Bear" baseball camp for my stuffed rabbit
  • a banana peel (care of DD#2)
  • a flattened box of Kleenex
  • a plastic box of migraine meds
  • assorted letters & cards
  • a plastic glitter bracelet (DD#2)
  • a plastic whistle (DD#2)
  • a Christmas-themed fingertip towel
  • the handset to a broken phone
  • a pocket pack of Kleenex
  • a toothbrush
  • a Bookmark
  • a Brownie Try-It (from DD#1's era, I think!)
  • a film negative from DS#1's trip to Japan
  • a pair of boy's briefs that are too small for any of the boys in my house
  • two copies of Paper Pizazz (scrapbooking paper)--Teen Years & Jewel Tones
  • a blank VHS tape
  • books--
    • Coyote Rising (my current bedtime read)
    • Catholic Student Bible (DD#1's copy from grammar school)
    • The Princes of Ireland (a previous read)
    • Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine--July 2004
    • Mr. Blue
    • Miryam of Judah--Witness in Truth & Tradition
    • Joy Breaks
    • Jo's Boys (adapted version--also belongs to DD#2)
And, at the very bottom, the crocheted doily that's supposed to be there to protect the top of my nightstand. Oh, and some crumpled Kleenex and other assorted bits of trash.

Needless to say, my nightstand holds considerably less now!

I think I'd like to pass this on to The Anchoress, the guys at Sigmund, Carl, and Alfred, and Barbara at The Church of the Masses. I hope they're not too busy to play!

Monday, July 18, 2005

Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

A Tragedy on So Many Levels

Heather MacDonald at Michelle Malkin's Immigration Blog has an update on the shootout between Jose Raul Pena and the LAPD at his car lot. During the shootout, Mr. Pena used his 18-month-old daughter as a human shield. Tragically, his daughter was caught in the crossfire and killed.

Ms. MacDonald blogs about the Monday-morning-quarterbacking going on in the Hispanic community and the repercussions for the LAPD. My question is who provided Mr. Pena the loan for his car lot? Here is a man who is not just an illegal alien from El Salvador, but one who had been deported previously for cocaine possession. As Ms. MacDonald points out, Mr. Pena was an illegal felon. How does someone like that get a bank loan? Who was the loan officer? Which bank? Can they be charged with aiding an illegal felon and fined? What kind of scrutiny do they give to prospective business clients?

Tequila and cocaine were found in a drawer in Mr. Pena's desk. What a surprise--NOT! I would not be surprised if there were more to this story--and to Mr. Pena's activities.

In the meantime, my prayers for the repose of the soul of Susie Pena.

(H/T: Heather MacDonald. Link:

MOVIE REVIEW: Charlie & the Chocolate Factory

It’s been at least 30 years since I read Charlie & the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, so I don’t remember all the details. I do recall thinking, “Kids like this? It’s so preachy!”

And then there was Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Orange Oompa-Loompas, catchy tunes, bright colors, and, of course, the dry wit and physical comedy of Gene Wilder and Jack Albertson —I thought these captured the spirit of the book quite well, even if the script did add the “fizzy lifting drinks” scene and the subplot about Slugworth and the Everlasting Gobstoppers.

Why would anyone want to mess with a classic?

Tim Burton’s Charlie & the Chocolate Factory does more than restore the original title. It’s not a musical, although the Oompa-Loompas do sing the morals of their story once a child gets his or her “just desserts.” But this is, after all, Tim Burton—the same Tim Burton who brought us Edward Scissorhands and Nightmare Before Christmas. Let’s say his vision of Willy Wonka is a bit… dark. And warped.

In the book and in the original movie, Willy Wonka is definitely not Santa Claus. He doesn’t particularly like children. He doesn’t particularly like people. Johnny Depp’s Willy Wonka enhances those qualities. He smiles and speaks quietly, but you’re never quite sure if he’s sincere or malicious or just plain crazy. Freddie Highmore plays Charlie, the poor little boy who won a Golden Ticket just by chance and is, in Willy Wonka’s words, “just happy to be here.” Freddie looked very familiar—turns out he played Peter in Finding Neverland. David Kelly plays Grandpa Joe. They don’t have much to do during the tour. Grandpa Joe’s big scenes come before; Charlie’s come after. Again, the last part of the movie is altered from what I remember of the book, but it’s plausible enough that maybe I’ve forgotten.

So… did I enjoy it? And would I recommend it?

Charlie & the Chocolate Factory is rated PG and, I think, deservedly so. Charlie is desperately poor. There is a scene before the children enter the factory that sets the tone of the strangeness to follow. Of course, the children are put in peril—through their own doing, but still, you’re not quite sure if they’re going to come out all right. Willy Wonka is downright weird, from makeup to glasses to costume. If you have a young child who is going to need braces, you may have some reassuring to do afterwards.

If you like Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, then go see the movie. One complaint I had was that I couldn’t understand all the lyrics to the song the Oompa-Loompas sang because the music overwhelmed the singing.

On the March Hare Rating Scale: One Golden Ticket. Go see it if you like a slightly skewed perspective of things. And keep in mind this is an entirely different movie than Willy Wonka.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Spoiled Children

Dilpazier Aslam is an intern at The Guardian, one of the leading newspapers in London. The Guardian unapologetically liberal, as is, I assume, Mr. Aslam.

Mr. Aslam is a Muslim, born and bred in Yorkshire. He damns, faintly, the bombings by other Yorkshire-born Muslim lads in London. He then says, "Second- and third-generation Muslims are without the don't-rock-the-boat attitude that restricted our forefathers."

In other words, his parents were working hard to make a better life for him and his mates in England, and didn't have time to blow up the Underground.

Thomas Sowell, an economist at the Hoover Institute at Stanford, wrote an article (link: pointing out that most radical leftists come from affluent families. Many of these children have never had to work for a living, so they have plenty of time on their hands to create "social theories." They also have the means to support efforts to implement these theories, either through violence, politics, or the educational system. Osama bin Laden is a case in point: he comes from an affluent family and was educated in the West. He wasn't getting up every morning and going to a job, trying to raise a family.

Was that the case with the Yorkshire Muslims? Apparently, they had time to go to the mosque and hang out at a youth center, though one of them seemed a little old for that. Their parents had the money to send them to Pakistan to study. And they repay their parents' hard work by blowing themselves up, along with several trains and a bus.

Those who immigrate, especially those who immigrate to a country whose language and customs are totally foreign, do so for many reasons: economic, education, religious and personal freedom. Most parents want their children to have a better life than they had themselves and work hard to establish economic security. Sometimes it's easier to give their children money rather than time. Sometimes, as a parent, what you think is obvious isn't obvious to your children. They don't always see the relationship between freedom and the ability to rise economically. Mr. Aslam doesn't seem to appreciate the fact that, were he in Pakistan or Iran, his freedom to write his opinion would be quite circumscribed. Intellectuals, often the fomenters of revolution, are also often the first victims: France during its revolution, China, Vietnam, the Middle East.

A dose of real life seems to be the answer for Mr. Aslam and his fellow Muslim sympathizers.

(H/T: Michelle Malkin. Link:

UPDATE I: This was posted on View From The Right:

British Muslims’ anger at Britain

According to a must-read article in the New York Times, many British-born Muslims have a burning hostility against Britain, as shown by their expressed “understanding” of the anger that drove the London suicide bombers. To describe this as assimilation in reverse would be an understatement. Yet it was all completely predictable. The people of the immigrant generation know themselves to be immigrants, not British, and so are not concerned about the question of identity, and in any case are too busy working and making a living in their new country to spend too much time thinking about it. Their children are born and raised in Britain, yet realize that they are not really British but Muslim. In painfully looking for an identity in this land where they were born but don’t belong, they recoil back to Islam and adhere to it more strongly than their parents ever did, even calling for the re-imposition of the Caliphate which will rule the whole world including Britain. Naturally, when any particular difference arises between Britain and Islam, such as the war with Al Qaeda, it only feeds their sense of grievance against their native land.

The only way to have avoided this hideous problem of British Muslims who hate Britain would have been not to admit Muslims into Britain in the first place. The only way to solve the problem now is to return the Muslims from Britain back to their ancestral lands, where the ordeal of identity—and the extremism that often results from that ordeal—will not afflict them.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at 12:31 PM

Saturday, July 16, 2005

French Perspective

Lee Harris wrote an interesting article about French culture.

(H/T: Heather the intern at Neal Boortz).

According to Mr. Harris, “The French have a method of analyzing human conduct that makes them see truths that are invisible to other forms of the human intellect, especially our boisterously pragmatic American one.

We believe in the power of positive thinking-they believe in the power of intellectual lucidity, even at the price of an increased pessimism. For an American pessimism is a sin; for the French it is prudence.”

Mr. Harris discusses “amour propre,” which he defines, more or less, as the love of status. “Amour propre” is different from doing something for the sheer joy of the action. It is doing something because it will bring you—or you hope it will bring you—increased status in the eyes of others.

Furthermore, “The French, in short, see ‘amour propre’ behind every human action, and regard it as quite impossible for human beings to act without it.

To some this may be depressing and jaded. But to others, including myself, there is something stimulating about such a complete lucidity about what is in fact the source of so much misery in human existence, namely our inability to let go of our desire to outshine and outrank others”

Mr. Harris sees this attitude as primarily a French one because their language has a word for it. And, actually, that seems to be a good indicator as any of the importance of an idea in a culture: do they bother to define it, to give the idea a special word.
“And make no mistake about it: ‘amour propre’ must be outwitted. And it requires an entire civilization to succeed in doing this, which was exactly what the French gave to the rest of mankind, in the form of civility, manners, and, above all else, taste; in clarity of expression and cleanness of intellectual line; and in that intrinsic hatred for the prolix felt by the truly polite, so beautifully expressed in the French genius for the epigram.”

I don’t agree that the French culture has succeeded in outwitting “amour propre.” I don’t pretend to be familiar with French culture—I haven’t read Rousseau, Voltaire, Sartre, Camus, or Proust. I’ve spent a grand total of four days in Paris. My father’s family is French, but they are, in my dad’s words, “hillbillies.” Bernadette of Lourdes was one of them. They were busy farming. Their foods are simple and hearty. About the only thing I recognize from Mr. Harris’ description of the French I know personally is the epigram—my grandfather was a master. And, of course, those who came to the U.S. are different, fundamentally, from those who chose to stay.

Still, I think that the idea “amour propre” explains much about how the French political system views the world and why they often react the way they do. In the French legal system, one is guilty until proven innocent and a worldview that includes “amour propre” would explain why that is so. One must always be suspicious of the actions of other nations, other leaders, because they must be acting from “amour propre.” And, therefore, it is the duty of the French to expose that motive.

Mr. Harris and I are both oversimplifying, as one must in a short article. Still, the idea is worth thinking about and keeping in mind every time M. Chirac holds a press conference.

Book Review: The Princes of Ireland

I actually read this one earlier this summer. I lent it to my mother and just got it back from her last night. She enjoyed it much more than the Faulkner (As I Lay Dying) that her book club is reading this month!

Edward Rutherfurd has written a historical novel of Ireland, centered mostly around the region of Dublin. He begins with the time of St. Patrick, about 480 A.D., and concludes about the middle of the reign of Henry VII of England (the late 1400’s, or thereabouts). He follows the fates of the four fictional families through the thousand years to highlight the changes in Irish culture, highlighting its strengths and its weaknesses. Historical people and events are used to anchor the novel in time and to show major changes in Ireland’s history.

Mr. Rutherfurd also includes a pronunciation guide in the back, which I found very helpful. I was fascinated by the Anglicization of words that took place over the course of the novel, especially place names and family names (Dublin was originally “Duv Lindh,” for example). And while I knew the Celts had displaced the original population of the island, I didn’t realize that the Norse had also invaded and occupied Ireland.

Ireland is a fascinating place, practical and mystical, its people poets and warriors. They are also backstabbers and connivers, extremely loyal to their clan. Had their early leaders a vision of the island as a distinct nation, instead of a collection of tribes, Ireland probably would have remained independent. Mr. Rutherfurd captures that complexity well. I found the book engrossing, reading far later into the night than I should have. It’s a big book—over 700 pages, but a relatively quick read. A good beach/camping/cabin book.

On the March Hare Rating Scale: 4 out of 5 bookmarks.

Book Review: Coyote

Coyote is subtitled: A Novel of Interstellar Exploration. And it is, but like most good science fiction, it’s more about the people than the science.

Allen Steele begins the book on Earth in the “near” future: 2075. One hundred people are scheduled to lift off to explore and colonize the moon of a jovian-type planet in a distant star system. However, the Captain and several of his crew conspire to steal the starship. The original passengers are replaced by “Dissident Intellectuals” who have been persecuted by the government for disagreeing with various government policies. (As it turns out, many of these are scientists who helped design and build the starship.)

They are successful and once they are on their way, they are placed in biostasis for the next 240 years until the reach their destination. One event happens during that time. The significance of that event is hinted at, but not completely explained.

The rest of the novel is about the settlers of this new world learning about the planet, themselves, and others, as they build a civilization from scratch. Mr. Steele has done an excellent job creating a world that seems alien, but plausible, based on current scientific theories. He does this without being heavy-handed: no math, no long-winded scientist expounding on Why Things Are The Way They Are. Mr. Steele also explores the interpersonal relationships among the colonists. The major characters are complex. They make decisions, some good and some bad, suffer the consequences, learn something, and alter their future behavior accordingly. The characters seem very real.

Many of the stories in the book have been published as short stories in magazines and anthologies. In fact, since I subscribe to one of them, reading this book was almost like re-reading it.

WARNING: This book is the first of two (at least—I have my suspicions that there will be more). One of the reasons I read it was because I found the second book, Coyote Rising, in the new book section of the library. I figured I’d read them in order.

March Hare Rating Scale: 4 bookmarks out of 5.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Satisfying My Inner Geek

It doesn’t take much to make me happy. Really. I just figured out how to add links to the sidebar of blog and I’m so excited that they actually show up! And they actually work!

There is a lot of geek lurking within me. I was the kid who took Science in summer school—for fun. I had a great teacher my 5th Grade summer (I was entering 5th Grade). His classroom had microscopes and gadgets and stuff that wasn’t available at my local Catholic school. One of the concepts he taught that summer was Base2 and how computers worked.

This was the time before silicon chips, when computers took up entire buildings and were named “Univac” and “Multivac.” Instructions were fed on punch cards and results came out in long strips of punched tape that had to be translated. But the basic workings of a computer were (and still are) simple. They are switches and switches are either “on” or “off.” On is symbolized by “1” and off by “0.”

Our teacher had a long board with a string of lights. Behind each light was a switch. Behind each switch was a student. The number one was represented by the first light on. The number two was the first light off and the second light on. The number three was the first light and the second light on. He compared that to place values in Base10, which is what we use in everyday life.

“Oh, I get it!” I said and by the end of the session I was doing simple addition and subtraction in Base2. Or Base3. Or Base12. I couldn’t add or subtract in Base10, but I would willingly spend time that summer with oddball bases. It became kind of a game among a group of us in class.

In high school, I had the opportunity to learn Fortran 14. My typing improved, too, because I found it was easier and quicker to type my own punch cards than to have the punch typists at the local community college do them. After I wrote my first program--adding 2 + 2--and realized how much time it took, I came home and confidently told my parents, “Computers will never take over the world. They’re too stupid.”

I didn’t actually do any more programming until personal computers were introduced at work and I began to learn DOS. This was back in the days when even Bill Gates thought that a 64KB machine was memory enough for anyone. We had canned word processing and spreadsheet programs (WordStar and Lotus 1-2-3), but renaming a file or looking for a file on a disk required I learn a few commands. Once we moved to PC’s with hard drives, I actually needed to create a menu to find the word processing, spreadsheet, and database programs. Other than the IT programmers, who were paid to be geeks, the rest of us in the office were stumbling around, discovering how to make things work by trial-and-error. When we discovered something useful, we shared. About that time, I bought a used Compaq “luggable” from my S-I-L for use at home. It came with a set of DOS manuals which I used for reference.

I left office work after DS#2 was born. The luggable and its daisy-wheel printer, did what I needed it to do. About a year after DD#2 was born, though, Hubs decided we needed a “real” computer. It had Windows 3.1. It had a hard drive. It read CD’s and 3-1/2” floppies, but not 5-1/4”, which was, of course, what all my programs were on.

Best of all, though, it came with a modem. Since we had a dial-up connection and only had 5 hours/month of access, I got really, really good at finding what I needed to find quickly. I learned Windows. I learned how to use MS-Word and Excel.

Our latest computer runs Windows XP-Home. I don’t use DOS at all anymore. I don’t know how HTML works, but I know how to copy and paste and plug in values. (That’s how I got through Calculus. :) I think about taking a class in HTML. But that would be so unlike me. Maybe I’ll just buy the Dummies book…

Thursday, July 14, 2005

The Least of My Brethren...

I think of them as “The Regulars.” They stand at the same locations nearly every morning or every afternoon. It’s almost like they are assigned morning shift and evening shift.

One stands next to the Federal Reserve Bank. He’s quiet, holding his sign and occasionally shaking his cup to get our attention. For awhile, he looked like he was getting his life together. His clothes were clean and neat, he had shaved, his hair was combed, when I made eye contact and smiled at him, he saw me and smiled back. Lately, though, his clothes have been rumpled, his hair has been matted, his eyes have a glazed-over look. He was not there yesterday morning. I’m worried something might have happened to him.

Another works the afternoon shift, selling The Street Sheet, a newspaper by and about the homeless. He chats, sometimes with other people, sometimes to those only he can see. His movements are awkward and jerky. He reminds me of an ostrich.

There is the guy who calls out, “Help a transplanted New Yorker!” He also asks for a smile. When I oblige, he responds, “Ah, that’s beautiful, girl. Have a nice day.”

One puzzles me. She is an elderly Asian woman and usually stands by the entrance to the BART station. She, too, doesn’t say much, just sort of smiles and shakes her cup as I pass. I’m surprised that she’s there because in the Asian cultures I’m familiar with, taking care of the elderly is a serious responsibility. She is always clean and neatly dressed.

There is the couple that trade off standing in the middle of a busy crosswalk, just passed the bus stop island. Their bag or bedroll is plunked just in front of them. Of those I see on a regular basis, they are the ones who look to be in the worst shape. I am amazed they haven’t been hit by oncoming traffic or a bus.

I wonder what their stories are, how they got to be standing in The City with a crude sign and a cup, begging for change. What happened in their childhood? Do they have brothers, sisters, children, ex-wives or –husbands?

They tug at my heart. These are fellow souls, in pain, in need. But I do not know how to help them. Dropping a few coins in their cups isn’t the answer, even if I had spare change.

So I pray. I contribute to St. Vincent de Paul or the Souper Kitchen. I wish I could do more, but I cannot ignore the needs of my family and my children. I look the street people, the homeless, in the eye and smile, acknowledging their dignity as fellow human beings. For now, that will have to do.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Serendipity II-Update

I received the following update from my Internet friend about Serendipity II:

"The message that was written by Pat is from my granddaughter's natural grandmother, Siobhan's natural father is the one needing the heart and lung transplant and I have forwarded your message to them. I want to thank you deeply from the bottom of my heart for your caring and prayers. God Bless and Keep You."

I've asked my friend to keep me updated on the progress of her granddaughter's natural father and will also post them here...

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

I Guess It Depends On What "No" Means


"On March 7, 2000, the people of California voted on Proposition 22, a proposal to enact a state "Defense of Marriage Act" as an initiative statute. The text of Prop 22 reads:

“Only marriage between a man and a woman
is valid or recognized in California.”

Proposition 22 was ratified by an overwhelming majority of California voters, prevailing by a 23-point margin. Statewide, 4,618,673 votes were cast in favor of the proposition, comprising 61.4% of the total vote. Opponents garnered 2,909,370 votes, for 38.6% of the vote.

Final vote counts revealed that Proposition 22 won in 52 of California's 58 counties, including all of the major metropolitan areas except for San Francisco. The six counties which did not approve Prop. 22 were all in the immediate San Francisco Bay area, including: Alameda county, Marin county, San Francisco county, Santa Cruz county, Sonoma county, and Yolo county. "

So the issue is dead. The people have spoken, right? Not quite.

Assemblyman Mark Leno, a Democrat from—where else?—San Francisco, introduced a bill to legalize gay marriage earlier this year, but it failed to move out of the Assembly. So, Mr. Leno is using a technique called “gut and amend,” where using a bill already passed by the Assembly (in this case, a marine fisheries and research bill), he takes out the original language, and substitutes new. In this case, the language of the new bill is essentially the language of his bill that failed earlier this year.

The amended bill has moved out of the State Senate Judiciary Committee and will move on to a Senate hearing and the Senate floor. According to the article in the San Francisco Chronicle (link to article here:, Mr. Leno believes he has enough votes in the Senate to bring the amended bill back to the Assembly where he needs only three more votes.

Forget the moral arguments of gay marriage or whether this is truly a civil rights issue. The simple arrogance of the Mr. Leno and other members of the State Assembly and Senate is truly astonishing.

Again, from the Chronicle:

State Sen. Gilbert Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, acknowledged that the majority of voters opposed gay marriage when they approved Proposition 22 five years ago but said: "The people have spoken. They have spoken. But people aren't always right."

The people aren’t always right… But Mr. Cedillo is?

If Mr. Leno were in the private practice, what he is doing would be called “bait and switch.” If his bill had merit, he would not have to “gut and amend.” If his bill had merit, it should be able to withstand public scrutiny and debate. Instead, Mr. Leno waited until most citizens were distracted by the annual State Budget Crisis and thinks to slip his bill in. If he were a magician, this would be called “redirection.”

Why is this even legal?

I first heard this mentioned on the radio. The Chronicle had an editorial about it on Monday. Today is the first real article I’ve seen and, since I’m reading online, I’m not sure how deeply it’s buried. I haven’t checked my local paper, but it’s not on the front page. I guess this is considered “business as usual” in Sacramento.

I don’t know about you all, but I get really steamed when the people who are ostensibly working for me try to tell me I didn’t know what I wanted. And then try to enact legislation through the back door. Time to write a few letters and e-mails…

Serendipty II

I received this e-mail this morning. I don't know Pat personally--she's the Internet friend of another Internet friend. There's a group of us that seem to have the same sense of humor (at least, Midas--who started this all--thinks so!) and we share jokes and stories.

Once in awhile, life gets serious behind the laughter. I will pray for Pat's son. I have no idea if the story that follows the request for prayer is true. It probably isn't. But consider it a modern parable. Jesus taught in parables because stories are easier for us to understand. For all our modernity and sophistication, we're not hardwired differently than the Jews of His time. We still learn best from parables...


This story was written by a doctor who worked in South Africa...

"One night I had worked hard to help a mother in the labor ward; but in spite
of all we could do, she died leaving us with a tiny premature baby and a
crying two-year-old daughter. We would have difficulty keeping the baby alive, as
we had no incubator (we had no electricity to run an incubator).

We also had no special feeding facilities. Although we lived on the equator,
nights were often chilly with treacherous drafts. One student midwife went for
the box we had for such babies and the cotton wool that the baby would be
wrapped in.

Another went to stoke up the fire and fill a hot water bottle. She came back
shortly in distress to tell me that in filling the bottle, it had burst
(rubber perishes easily in tropical climates). "And it is our last hot water
bottle!" she exclaimed. As in the West, it is no good crying over spilled milk so in
Central Africa it might be considered no good crying over burst water bottles.
They do not grow on trees, and there are no drugstores down forest pathways.

"All right," I said, "put the baby as near the fire as you safely can, and
sleep between the baby and the door to keep it free from drafts. Your job is to
keep the baby warm."

The following noon, as I did most days, I went to have prayers with any of
the orphanage children who chose to gather with me. I gave the youngsters
various suggestions of things to pray about and told them about the tiny baby. I
explained our problem about keeping the baby warm enough, mentioning the hot
water bottle, and that the baby could so easily die if it got chills. I also told
them of the two-year-old sister, crying because her mother had died.

During prayer time, one ten-year old girl, Ruth, prayed with the usual blunt
conciseness of our African children. "Please, God" she prayed, "send us a
water bottle. It'll be no good tomorrow, God, as the baby will be dead, so please
send it this afternoon."

While I gasped inwardly at the audacity of the prayer, she added, "And while
You are about it, would You please send a dolly for the little girl so she'll
know You really love her?"

As often with children's prayers, I was put on the spot. Could I honestly
say,"Amen". I just did not believe that God could do this. Oh, yes, I know that
He can do everything, the Bible says so. But there are limits, aren't there?
The only way God could answer this particular prayer would be by sending me a
parcel from homeland. I had been in Africa for almost four years at that time,
and I had never, ever received a parcel from home. Anyway, if anyone did send
me a parcel, who would put in a hot water bottle? I lived on the equator!
Halfway through the afternoon, while I was teaching in the nurses' training school,
a message was sent that there was a car at my front door.

By the time I reached home, the car had gone, but there, on the veranda, was
a large twenty-two pound parcel. I felt tears pricking my eyes. I could not
open the parcel alone, so I sent for the orphanage children.

Together we pulled off the string, carefully undoing each knot. We folded the
paper, taking care not to tear it unduly. Excitement was mounting.

Some thirty or forty pairs of eyes were focused on the large cardboard box.
>From the top, I lifted out brightly colored, knitted jerseys. Eyes sparkled as
I gave them out. Then there were the knitted bandages for the leprosy
patients, and the children looked a little bored. Then came a box of mixed raisins
and sultanas - that would make a batch of buns for the weekend. Then, as I put
my hand in again, I felt the.....could it really be? I grasped it and pulled it
out - yes, a brand-new, rubber hot water bottle. I cried. I had not asked God
to send it; I had not truly believed that He could. Ruth was in the front row
of the children. She rushed forward, crying out, "If God has sent the bottle,
He must have sent the dolly too!"

Rummaging down to the bottom of the box, she pulled out the small,
beautifully dressed dolly. Her eyes shone! She had never doubted!

Looking up at me, she asked: "Can I go over with you and give this dolly to
that little girl, so she'll know that Jesus really loves her?"

That parcel had been on the way for five whole months. Packed up by my former
Sunday school class, whose leader had heard and obeyed God's prompting to
send a hot water bottle, even to the equator. And one of the girls had put in a
dolly for an African child - five months before, in answer to the believing
prayer of a ten-year-old to bring it "that afternoon."

"Before they call, I will answer" (Isaiah 65:24)> This awesome prayer takes
less than a minute. When you receive this, say the prayer, that's all you have
to do. No strings attached. Just send it on to whomever you want - but do send
it on. Prayer is one of the best free gifts we receive. There is no cost but
a lot of rewards.

Let's continue praying for one another Father, I ask you to bless my friends
reading this right now. I am asking You to minister to their spirit at this
very moment. Where there is pain, give them Your peace and mercy. Where there is
self doubting, release a renewed confidence to work through them. Where there
is tiredness or exhaustion, I ask You to give them understanding, guidance,
and strength as they learn submission to Your leading. Where there is spiritual
stagnation, I ask You to renew them by revealing Your nearness, and by
drawing them into greater intimacy with You. Where there is fear, reveal Your love,
and release to them Your courage. Where there is a sin blocking them, reveal
it, and break its hold over my friend's life.

Bless their finances, give them greater vision, and raise up leaders and
friends to support and encourage them. Give each of them discernment to recognize
the evil forces around them, and reveal to them the power they have in You to
defeat it. I ask you to do these things in Jesus' name."

Serendipty I

I regularly read the blog of The Anchoress. In fact, she is one of my leading inspirations for writing this blog! (The other two are Michelle Malkin and LaShawn Barber, who I will link to as soon as I figure out how this works...) Anyway, The Anchoress recently received some bad news about her hearing. Read her excellent post here:

I am a lector in my parish. The Monday before we are to read, we meet in a small group to study and to pray over the readings for the coming Sunday. In one of those not-really-so-rare moments of serendipity, this is the second reading for Sunday, July 17:

Brothers and sisters:
The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.
And the One who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because He intercedes for the holy ones according to God's Will.
--Romans 8: 26-27

Our lector workbook points out that this is one of the briefest readings in the whole Lectionary (and, for Paul, one of the easiest to read, IMHO). But it packs a punch. And combined with St. Benedict's instruction to "Listen", it forms a powerful message.

May the Anchoress, and the rest of us, find succor in the Spirit.

Monday, July 11, 2005

The Times They Are A Changin'

Shortly after JPII died, the principal of our parish school announced she was leaving. A week later, our pastor was reassigned to the Cathedral Parish and our Parochial Vicar (Assistant Pastor) was recalled by his bishop to the Philippines.

"That's four new 'P's' in one year," I pointed out to my children, who thought it was kind of funny. Well, at least DS#2 and DD#2 did.

Everyone did their jobs--we have a new pope, a new principal, a new parochial vicar (also from the Philippines) and a new pastor. We also have new procedures for distributing the Eucharist and for handling the Lectionary (the book containing the readings, the Psalm, and the Gospel for Mass on Sunday). To our old pastor's credit, he had held off making any procedural changes in the Mass, wanting to let the new pastor design them. But orders came down from the Diocese that the changes were to be made by June 1. So they were because my parish, while often innovative, is also obedient.

Two things I have learned over the last 52 years: change happens and people don't like it. Traditions mark the Big Events of the seasons and of our lives. Threaten those traditions, and many people begin to lose their sense of themselves, of their relationship to the world. And they protest, "But we always..." "It doesn't feel like Christmas/Passover/my birthday unless we..." So the complaints have started with the changes in the parish. No one, including Father, is quite sure of what the new procedures are, how to make them work seamlessly in the context of the Mass.

This weekend marked our pastor's second weekend on the job and his first homily. He spoke of change, of the need to mourn. He had been in Rome for JPII's funeral and for the conclave and used pictures of his experience there to reassure us in the parish that it was okay to mourn the passing of the old, the familiar. When BXVI was elected, Father asked one of the many who were in St. Peter's Square, how she felt about BXVI. The woman said, "I trust the Holy Spirit."

And so do I. Sooner or later, we'll figure out how to make the procedural changes work. We'll know when we're supposed to stand instead of kneel, what to leave where, how to accept the chalice and the ciborium from Father before we distribute Communion. Father and the new principal will find out what our Oktoberfest is all about. They will have suggestions, which will be met with varying degrees of acceptance from the parishioners, the faculty, the staffs, the parents, the students. Change is life. And, with apologies to Bob Dylan, the times are ~always~ a changin'

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Sometimes They Surprise Me

On Friday, DS#1 comes into my bedroom, flops on the bed and says, "So, what do you think about the flag-burning amendment?"

"I think it's stupid," I reply.

"Thank you," he says.

"Why?" I ask.

"The Senate just passed it. They got the two-thirds vote."

"Well," in my best Teacher's voice, "it still needs to be passed by the House and ratified by two-thirds of the States. (My high school Government teacher would be so proud!) I don't think that will happen."

"But it's still stupid," DS#1 says.

"It is. But after the bombings in London, no one wants to look unpatriotic."

"True." We were quiet for a moment.

"So, will you vote for Hillary?" I ask.

"Well, it depends on who she's running against. There are other women who are more qualified. But if it was a choice between her and say, Pat Buchanan, I'd vote for her."

"Honey, if it's a choice between her and Pat Buchanan, I'm moving to Canada," I reply. He got a good laugh out of that one. Occasionally, I surprise him.

"I saw Hillary on the TV after the London bombings," I say, "talking about how we need to beef up security on our transit systems. I wonder if it's occurred to her that she's a Senator. If she wants more transit security, she can propose a bill. I bet she hasn't taken the subway lately, either."

DS#1 laughed again.

"The other problem with Hillary is that she's like a leopard, trying to hide her spots. She's pretending to be more conservative than she really is," I add.

DS#1 shrugs. "She's a phony. The American people see through that. That's why Kerry wasn't elected."

I'm shocked. He had voted for Kerry but realized he was a phony. Interesting.

DS#1 is 21. He's a college student at our local community college, trying to figure out what he wants to do with his life. Academic work does not come easily for him and his first two years show it. Lately, he seems to have found some direction and this summer is teaching at the community college's "College for Kids" program. Politically, he's liberal, as many college students are. He thinks Bush is an idiot. He's for gay marriage and abortion, though I haven't asked him if there is a line somewhere. (Two of his cousins were born three weeks early; one was five weeks. That can alter a person's perspective concerning late-term abortions.) He hasn't made the connection yet between the bloated government budget and the amount of taxes taken out of his paycheck. He thinks religion is a waste of time, although he will come to Mass when he knows it's important to me or to the family. I pray for him, that he will let God into his life. I remember St. Monica and St. Augustine, so I ask her and the BVM to watch over my son.

So we argue. A lot. And loudly, as if volume alone will convince the other person of the correctness of our position.

But once in awhile we have moments like this. Moments where I can see that the values that Hubs and I have tried to plant have actually taken root and are growing, despite the onslaught of modern culture and college professors. These moments give me hope that maybe, just maybe, we were good enough parents after all.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Movie Review: Cinderella Man

March Hare Rating System: Run. Do not walk. Run to your local movie megaplex, buy a ticket, and see this movie before it disappears into the dreck of the Summer Movie Season.

It's that good.

WARNING: The fight scenes are very difficult to watch. This is not "Rocky." This is so well choreographed that I winced and cringed at every blow. I know why Mae Braddock stayed home.

This is the story of Jim Braddock, a light-heavyweight fighter during the '20's. He's unusual in that he's a family man who lost his money because of the Crash, not because of high living. His wife, Mae, stands by and with him, through good times and the bad. And the bad times are pretty low.

The scenes of the Depression are powerful. Jim's fight is not just in the ring, against an opponent he can hit, but against forces he can't see. He fights to keep his family together and to keep their values intact. He and Mae don't always agree, but they work out their problems together.

Like "Seabiscuit," the casting of the main characters is impeccable. Russell Crowe continues to impress me with his skill. He truly becomes the character he is portraying. Renee Zellweger, unfortunately, doesn't have a lot of screen time as Mae, but she is also convincing. Paul Giamatta plays the role of Jim Braddock's friend and fight manager and manages to be a "wheeler-dealer" and straight-up guy at the same time. And Ron Howard's directing and editing are subtle and wonderful.

Hubs and I saw this without the kids, which was a good thing. The fight scenes are definitely intense and would probably be too much for DD#2, who is almost 12. The other kids weren't interested in the subject matter and chose not to come. It's too bad because this movie has a lot to teach about family, about being a responsible husband and father, about integrity. And also about how the Depression affected people and communities and how they came together and supported one another.

The problem is this movie is not a Box Office Hit, despite Russell Crowe, and is in danger of disappearing quickly.

God & Me

I went to school during the early '60's. The sisters who taught me were a missionary order with convents in what was then known as "French Indochina." They had close ties to Europe as well--the novitiate was in Ireland; the "Motherhouse" was in France. So the threat that Communism would take over the country was, to them, very, very real.

They taught us about the saints who refused to renounce their faith and were killed. They challenged us: would we do the same? Of course we would! We, who had barely begun our lives, would eagerly give it up for the love of God and Jesus Christ! They were serious and we were sincere.

Much happened to the world over the next few years. I was in fifth grade when President Kennedy was assassinated. Vatican II was coming to a close and the Latin we had so painstakingly learned was being replaced by English. The French had long since left Indochina, now known as Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Sister began getting us ready for Confirmation.

Two things were all important: memorizing all the questions and answers to the "Baltimore Catechism" so we would be ready to counter any arguments from non-believers and choosing our patron saint. I read a biography of St. Therese of Liseaux and chose her.

What attracted me most was her idea of "The Little Way." She had wanted to be a missionary, but her poor health kept her cloistered. So she made everything she did--washing the dishes, gardening, sweeping the kitchen--a prayer. Once she even scooped a spider into a teacup and released it outside rather than kill it, even though she was afraid of spiders. This idea appealed to my 12-y.o. self. This was something I could do. But I still wanted to show God my love for Him in a Big Way.

Fast forward many, many years. I am now a wife and a mother. I have all the daily bumps and grinds and joys of middle-class life found in the suburbs of a big city. Which means every time I think we have a little bit of money to do something fun, something major breaks: one of the cars or the washing machine or the oven. Or tuition is due. Or an opportunity presents itself for one of the kids that should be taken advantage of. The train runs late; I've left the lights on in the car and the battery is dead; somebody needs something for a school project NOW.

Suddenly, St. Therese's "Little Way" is more difficult than I thought.

My relationship with God is a lot like Tevye's in "Fiddler On The Roof." I talk back, I plead, I complain, I whine. Finally, I surrender. At least until the next battle. I realize that this is the lot God has given me: to keep the Faith through the drudgery of every day life. To keep the focus on Christ and "What Would Jesus Do?" on the train, on the freeway, in my relationships with my husband and my family.

"This is NOT what I signed on for!" I yell. "This is NOT what I wanted!" No, but this life is what God wants for me.

I try to remember that when I pick up the dirty socks for the thousandth time. When DD#2 brings home yet another deficiency because she didn't have her homework done. When DS#1 drops out of a college class too late to get a refund because he didn't like the teacher or the grade he was getting. When I make dinner and no one likes it and they all complain, "What did you make THAT for?!" When the computer doesn't work or the driver next to me won't let me merge when my lane is ending or the checker at the grocery store is slower than molasses in January.

My lot--so far--has not been to endure major faith-shaking events but rather the little, everyday, "papercut" annoyances. I may have enough faith to move a mountain, but God wants me to move the beach. Not as dramatic, but some days just as hard.