Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Joan Baez Before Camp Crawford

What Joan Baez was doing before returning to her first love, Protesting:

Joan has just wrapped up her return engagement (June 9 - July 24) with Teatro ZinZanni in San Francisco. This year Joan inhabited the persona of the Gypsy "Calliope" in Teatro ZinZanni - Love, Chaos & Dinner (see photo at right!). Joan has joined the cast of ZinZanni for several years now, and she is always thrilled to be a part of the show. Be sure to check out the website for Teatro ZinZanni for more information about this wonderful cabaret-antics-music-comedy-dinner show. You'll always remember an evening at Teatro ZinZanni, and if you missed her this year, don't fret - she plans to be back again next summer!

After all… a girl’s gotta eat…

A Mission of Mercy

There are days I wish I had a digital camera. Today is one of them.

During my lunchtime constitutional, a hospital ship was steaming out through the Bay Bridge. Although I work in the maritime industry, I couldn't find any confirmation of who she is and where she’s headed. So I asked one of my co-workers, who I guessed might know of a hidden phone number or website.

“What a coincidence!” she exclaimed. “One of the guys in my carpool this morning happened to mention his brother is on that ship. I think it begins with an ‘M.’”

So, a little searching reveals the USNS Mercy, sister ship to the USNS Comfort. The Comfort, based in Baltimore, is heading to the Gulf. The Mercy was scheduled to head back to her homeport of San Diego, CA. It’s possible the Mercy will head to Gulf Coast but she has to sail down the west coast of Mexico and Central America, through the Panama Canal, then back up to the Gulf of Mexico. The Comfort has a much shorter journey. So far, I have read nothing in the press about the Navy sending both hospital ships (the only two they have) to the Gulf.

Picture courtesy of the USNS Mercy webpage

Blogging for (Charity) Dollars

Tomorrow the Blogverse is coming together to recommend how to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina. If you’re a blogger, consider registering at Truth Laid Bear’s website.

Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit also has a list of charities and links to their sites.

Michelle Malkin has a roundup of Katrina bloggers and information. While there have been tales of extraordinary human courage and effort, the scum of the earth are also making an appearance. What I gather from the reports, it wasn't Katrina, per se, that has caused the flooding; it's the breaks in the levees. Because most of New Orleans is below sea level, the water has nowhere to go.

Yahoo also has a page of links for donations.

And, of course, there is prayer for the folks in Louisiana and Mississippi whose lives have been devastated by Katrina.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Book Review: The Emancipator's Wife

Mary Todd Lincoln has received short shrift from history.  The wife of Abraham Lincoln has been called a termagant, dismissed as Lincoln’s second choice as a wife, accused of being a Confederate spy during the Civil War, a spendthrift, and committed to an asylum for the insane by her oldest, and only surviving son.

The list of personal losses she endured during her lifetime is staggering.  Her mother died when she was six; her father remarried when she was eight, and Mary and her stepmother did not get along.  She lost one son while he was a toddler, a second son to typhoid fever while in the White House, her third son about ten years after.  Her three youngest brothers and a brother-in-law were killed fighting for the Confederacy.  Her husband was sitting next to her when he was shot; his head slumped on her shoulder.  

And, later, the Great Chicago Fire came within three blocks of where she was living, with her son Robert Todd Lincoln.

I think I would have become insane, too, just trying to deal with it all.

The Emancipator’s Wife, by Barbara Hambly, is “A Novel of Mary Todd Lincoln.”  In other words, it’s historical fiction.  And, like all historical fiction, it can be difficult to separate the historical from the fiction.  Fortunately, Ms. Hambly provides some of that information at the end of the book.  

Some of Mary Todd Lincoln’s problems would be resolved today with drugs:  she suffered greatly from migraines, was probably bipolar, and might have had diabetes.  Some of her problems would be resolved with therapy:  the feeling of abandonment, the trauma of seeing her husband shot, of witnessing the panic in the Chicago Fire.  But such things weren’t available in the 1800’s, especially not to a genteelly raised Kentucky belle, which Mary was.  Ladies did not think about money or politics.  Women married to struggling lawyers had to.

Ms. Hambly seems to have the academic credentials to do the historical research and get it right.  She’s written powerfully about what Mary Todd’s inner life might have been like, with her sons and with Mr. Lincoln.  Mary was passionate, intelligent, and in Ms. Hambly’s book, more than a little frustrated with the limitations imposed on her by society because of her gender.  I liked this Mary Todd and Abraham Lincoln; although she would have been a frustrating friend (I have a few of those already).  As for Ms. Hambly’s style—well, I made the mistake of planning to read “just a chapter” before I had to get out of bed on Monday morning and somehow an hour slipped past.

On the March Hare Book Review Scale:  4 Bookmarks out of 5

Another Actress Heard From...

This is what happens when (some) actresses speak without a script:

“In any case, she has no desire to be in America; if she hadn't been here already, she would certainly have moved after Bush was re-elected. 'I know people who are embarrassed to be American. They don't like showing their passports. It's becoming a scary place. It takes someone very brave not to be quiet, someone who doesn't mind death threats, their life being turned upside down, news cameras outside their door. There is no freedom of speech in America anymore. They are not living up to the constitution. There's so much fear in America and control.' For this reason, she relishes our overtly critical press, for all that it used to send its photographers to stand outside her house.”

Guardian Unlimited Interview with actress Gillian Anderson

(emphasis mine)

Where do these celebrities and other kooks get these ideas? I read blog articles by Cindy Sheehan. I read the about the kind of hate mail Michelle Malkin gets. Molly Ivins is published in my local paper, which is also carrying daily reports about Cindy Sheehan and the woes of the Iraqi Constitutional Convention. Uh, guys—it took the U.S. two tries and thirteen years to get it right. And that was without outside interference and an international press looking over our collective shoulders. Although I understand that the betting in London and Paris was that the new “United States” would self-destruct in a matter of years. (War of 1812, anyone?) Let’s give the Iraqis some credit and some breathing room.

Where is the fear? Where is the control? Maybe people are not protesting the War in Iraq because they support it? Or don’t care about it? Or think—at the minimum—we need to stay until the situation is stable (the “We broke it, so we have to fix it” camp)? Am I missing something? Does the Looney Left really believe the only reason people aren’t out in the streets like they were during ‘Nam is because we’re too afraid and that our freedom to speak has been curtailed?

Quick! Someone tell DailyKos so he can be shut down and wipe his hard drive! Someone tell Camp Crawford before Cindy and the Rev. Al are arrested!

I’m SO confused!

Monday, August 29, 2005

Benedict XVI and Vatican II

The second thing is that there was quite a significant difference between what the Fathers wanted and what was conveyed to the public and then became fixed in the general consciousness. The Fathers wanted to update the faith -- but this was precisely in order to present it with its full impact. Instead, the impression increasingly gained hold that reform consisted in simply jettisoning ballast, in making it easier for ourselves. Reform thus seemed really to consist, not in a radicalization of faith, but in any kind of dilution of the faith.However, we increasingly see that choosing the right form of simplifying, concentrating on and deepening the essentials is not simply a matter of lightening loads, adapting, and making concessions. In other words, there are basically two concepts of reform. The first concept has more to do with renouncing external power and external factors, in order to live all the more by faith. The other consists in making history more comfortable, to caricature this approach somewhat. And then things go awry, of course.
Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI)in an interview with Pete Seewalt,The Salt of the Earth

Julie D. at Happy Catholic shares this choice bit and more about Pope B XVI’s thoughts on what happened to the reforms of Vatican II. As one who “came of age,” theologically speaking, during that time, I remember much confusion over what the changes meant. Many of those who were teaching and writing at the time saw VII as a return to the fundamentals of the Church. And there was a great emphasis, at least initially, at returning to what Christ and the Apostles actually said. My home parish hired a lay theologian who held classes on The Documents of Vatican II and Bible Studies became more common and increasingly important, at the adult level (through parish-sponsored adult classes) and at the youth level (in our religion and CCD classes). Now that the Mass was in English, we could hear the Word of the Lord in both the Old and the New Testaments. There was less rote memorization of what we believed and a greater emphasis on why. Gone was the certainty of the Aquinian-based Baltimore Catechism, that was supposed to equip us with the answers to any questions a non-Catholic might ask us about our faith. We were invited and encouraged to make the Catholic faith our own. To many that meant, unfortunately, make the Catholic Church into our image and likeness, rather than taking the Truths of the Catholic Church into our hearts.

It’s that silly pendulum thing that we humans all seem to do—one side, then another, always passing through the midpoint. I think the Holy Spirit is bringing us back to center, through JPII and BXVI.

When A Soldier Dies in Battle...

There is a section on Neal Boortz’s website called “Reading Assignments.” Always interesting; usually provocative, as this piece is from the San Antonio Express-News:

T.R. Fahrenbach: When a soldier dies in battle, there is no tragedy
Web Posted: 08/28/2005 12:00 AM CDT
San Antonio Express-News

In 1969, my grandmother and a cousin died.

I remember saying to someone that there was no tragedy in either death. My grandmother was 89, long past normal life expectancy, and her last years were not good. In fact, she was kept alive on medications, which in consultation with family and doctor, we stopped. Shortly after, she passed peacefully away. She had lived a long and splendid life.
My cousin was young, a recent graduate of the Air Force Academy. He was killed at a fire base in Vietnam. He was an only son, and this was a bitter blow to family.

Unfortunate, painful, but hardly tragic. He had taken the shilling, a regular officer, and he was doing what men do when he died. He did what he wanted, a short but also a splendid life.

I think we dwell too often, when soldiers die, upon the living rather than the dead.

And in doing this, we dishonor our honored dead.

Every soldier has a mother. I had one, of course. She was not happy when, at age 18, I went to war. However, then every mother's son was going, in the great fatherland patriotic war, sometimes called World War II.

There were some 300,000 Gold Star mothers before it ended. A Gold Star in a window signified a child killed in action, and it was both proudly and sadly displayed.

But that kind of war was different. Everybody was involved; cosmic consequences were at stake. We have not fought that kind of war again.

Mothers react in different ways. My closest friend in school, again an only son, died in combat in the Ardennes. His mother never forgave me for living while her boy was killed. When I met with her after the war, she had nothing to say, and I did not call again.

Which made me wonder about my own mother, when I took the shilling and voluntarily went to a new war. She didn't like it, nor did my grandparents. Which I understood. But it was my decision; I was of age, and men untie the apron strings. We do it when we marry and when we go to war.

Had I been killed, I would have expected my mother to grieve. She grieved when one of her cats died. In fact, if no one grieved at my passing, my life would not have been worthwhile.

But if my mother had condemned my service and my dying, I would have felt that she dishonored me. I was not a child, her little boy. I did what men do, though women may weep. The way it's always been, and probably always will be, world with or without end.

When men or women make honest choices, families should respect those choices and honor them, whether the girl I married or the peril I accepted, as due course.

I was in a war with great popular support (we're right behind you) and one with little of it. To the real soldier, it does not make all that much difference. When you take the shilling, pledge to serve your country right or wrong, your home becomes the service and war, any war, your profession.

If you argue this is wrong, I point out that we have never been free of armies since before the flood. We have soldiers because the human race has always had to have them. We are not a peaceful species, and some tribes always permit the others no peace. So Thucydides wrote, and nothing's changed since his day.

Spartan mothers, it is said, told sons to return with their shields or upon them. In other words, death before dishonor.
Our culture does not allow us to say such things today. But the ethos still lives. Which is why we honor the valiant dead.

I cannot speak for others, but I would hope my mother would have done so had I not returned.

Dance, Then, Wherever You May Be

Sometimes when I’m singing a familiar hymn or saying a familiar prayer, a veil lifts and I am allowed to glimpse the powerful meaning behind the words.  

This happened to me on Sunday.

I love the old Shaker hymn, The Lord of the Dance.  I love the bouncy music, the imagery, especially of the chorus:

“Dance, then, wherever you may be.
“I am the Lord of the Dance,” said He.
“I’ll lead you all wherever you may be,
“I’ll lead you all in the Dance,” said He.

This Sunday,  I was suddenly struck by the phrase:  “I’ll lead you all wherever you may be…”   Jesus will lead us wherever we are in our journey in faith, in life.  I don’t have to be perfect.  I don’t have to be a saint.  When Jesus called the Apostles, he called them from their everyday lives:  fishermen, tax collectors, ordinary men.  He did not require they go through intensive interviews or extensive training.  He did not require that they prove their intellectual prowess.  He led them from where they were, as He leads us from where we are:  parent, worker, son, daughter, spouse, believer, nonbeliever, or even those on the cusp.  He leads me, despite my temper, my impatience, my doubt.  I am invited to Dance with Him from where I am now and to move forward in the Dance to its conclusion.  Jesus is a patient partner.  He will go over the steps with me as often and as many times as I need them until I get It.  Until I understand.  Until I can Dance as naturally, as freely, and as un-Self-consciously as I was intended to as a Child of God.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Modern Dame

I'm Zoe (73%) on the Firefly Personality Quiz. Way cool!

(H/T: Julie at Happy Catholic)

Book Lists

Since school is either back in session or close to, I've been thinking a lot about book lists and comparing the books I read with those my children have been (or are being) required to read. I have noticed that certain books that I consider important are now being left out. My children are no longer being exposed to Huckleberry Finn or MacBeth or The Federalist Papers. Some of that is due to "political correctness" and "cultural sensitivity." And, yeah, there is only so much you can expect a student to read over the course of his/her studies. But without a common canon of important works, how can we make a unum out of a pluribus?

For what it's worth, here is the list I have come up with so far. It is in no particular order and includes books that are of historical import as well as literary. This list is subject to revision at the author's whim.

Huckleberry Finn
Walden Pond
The Federalist Papers
Bible Stories (at least as literature)
The Iliad
or The Odyssey
The U.S. Constitution
The Declaration of Independence
The Gettysberg Address
Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech
The Magna Carta
The Brothers Karamazov or Crime & Punishment
Earth Abides
The Emigrants by Vilhelm Moberg
Hiroshima by John Hershey
Guadacanal Diary by Richard Tregaskis
Elements of Style by Strunk & White
The poetry of Robert Frost and Carl Sandberg
Short stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Shirley Jackson, James Thurber, Flannery O'Connor, Carson McCullers
To Kill A Mockingbird

Just for fun, here is the summer reading list for Bishop O'Reilly Junior & High Schools. All the books were to be finished by the first day of school. It's ambitious--even for a reader like me! But I like most of their choices (still no Huckleberry Finn, though...)

The Great American Author You've Never Heard Of

If you've called the wind "Mariah" or heard about Hurricane Katrina or know of the ordeal of the Donner Party or heard a story where civilization is not destroyed by bombs but by a plague, then you know of the work of this man.

If you've ever read a book about how places got their names or where your name (or your children's names) came from, you know the work of this man.

But chances are you've never heard the name of this man: George R. Stewart.

Stewart died 25 years ago. He left a legacy of some 40 books that have influenced many of the major American authors whose works you probably do know (especially if you read a lot of science fiction): Wallace Stegner, Kim Stanley Robinson, Greg Bear. Stewart was friends with Robert Frost and Carl Sandberg. He was on the track team at Princeton with F. Scott Fitzgerald. His Ph.D. thesis identified the California landmarks Robert Louis Stevenson used in Treasure Island. He wrote a definitive biography of Brett Harte and his experiences in the American West. He was a Professor of English at U.C. Berkeley during the Depression, the War Years, the Loyalty Oath Years, and the Free Speech Movement.

Of the 40, Stewart's most well-known are Ordeal By Hunger (the story of the Donner Party), Storm (the storm, named Maria, is the main character), Fire (the story of how a fire grows and dies), Earth Abides (the fall of civilization), U.S. 40 (the first "road" book), and Names on the Land (the first book to look at place names and the reasons behind them).

Google "George R. Stewart". I got 7,750,000 hits.

My best friend read Earth Abides as a junior in high school and recommended it to me. My high school history teacher, who was working at the time as a State Park Ranger, met Prof. Stewart and his wife at a local State Beach. My teacher recommended Fire, Storm, and Ordeal By Hunger--which my mother read while camped near Donner Pass in California.

In honor of Stewart, Alan Kaplan, a naturalist at Tilden Park in Berkeley, gave a hike talking about the names of the local cities and features. He read excerpts from Names on the Land and The Concise Dictionary of American Place Names. Prof. Stewart's son, Jack--a Ph.D. in geology in his own right--was there, along with my former history teacher who is now writing a long overdue biography of Prof. Stewart.

Read Storm some day in January when snow and rain are swirling outside the window. Read Ordeal By Hunger when you feel overwhelmed by life. Read Earth Abides when you're not sure whether to fear the bomb or the bug. Do not read Fire when you are camped in the middle of a great pine forest (especially if you are in the Sierra). After you do, find the echoes of those books in art as diverse as a musical (Paint Your Wagon), a movie (Plague), a book (Robinson's Mars trilogy) or music (Philip Aaberg). He's there. And you never knew.

Classic Dames

Several years ago, a group of us went out for beers after work. Nothing remarkable about it, really, except that only two of us were women. I looked around and asked the other woman, a good friend of mine, "Were you always 'one of the guys'?"

She knew immediately what I meant. "Yes," she answered.

"I guess that makes us dames," I said. And she laughed.

Instead of "Maiden-Mother-Crone," I was "Tomboy-Gal-..." Now I'm a Dame. So this quiz comes along at the perfect time.

And if I had to be a dame, Roz Russell would be one of my top choices (Katharine Hepburn would, of course, be another). Gypsy, Auntie Mame, His Girl Friday, The Trouble With Angels--I can identify with those characters!

(The Trouble With Angels was based on a great book, Life With Mother Superior by Jane Trahey. I received that book the summer before I started at an all-girls Catholic high school. Although not a boarding school, I had similar experiences. The movie doesn't begin to do the book justice!)

Rosalind Russell
You scored 16% grit, 38% wit, 28% flair, and 23% class!

You are one wise-cracking lady, always quick with a clever remark and
easily able to keep up with the quips and puns that come along with the
nutty situations you find yourself in. You're usually able to talk your
way out of any jam, and even if you can't, you at least make it more
interesting with your biting wit. You can match the smartest guy around
line for line, and you've got an open mind that allows you to get what
you want, even if you don't recognize it at first. Your leading men
include Cary Grant and Clark Gable, men who can keep up with you.

Find out what kind of classic leading man you'd make by taking the
Classic Leading Man Test.

My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 0% on grit
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on wit
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 0% on flair
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 75% on class
Link: The Classic Dames Test written by gidgetgoes on OkCupid Free Online Dating

(H/T: The Anchoress)

Friday, August 26, 2005

Another Senseless Shooting; More Lives Destroyed

There is a truism that states “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished.” Tragically, that happened in this case. Mr. Terence Martin was shot when he tried to stop a young man who was beating his pregnant girlfriend. The young man is 17. His girlfriend is 16. Mr. Martin was 40, with his own 16-y.o. daughter.

According to today’s Contra Costa Times , the young man responsible has been arrested and will be tried as an adult. His life is probably over. His child probably grow up without a father, with a teenage mother who may not bother to graduate from high school.

Some may claim the young man and his girlfriend are victims. The corner where this happened is in one of the poorest areas of Richmond, CA. The schools in that area are among the worst-performing academically, although the DeJean Middle School is only five years old and both high schools are being rebuilt. Gang shootings and general violence are common. Does that excuse a young man from beating a pregnant girl? Or shooting an older, unarmed adult?

Richmond has had many candlelight vigils calling for the violence to stop. Pastors and preachers have called from the pulpit. The City Council and the Mayor have formed commission after commission to study the problems. Neighborhood groups have spoken out at several townhall meetings. The police department has worked with them, increased patrols, increased minority officers.

It’s not working. In fact, it’s spreading, not just in Richmond, but to the surrounding communities.

How do we stop this insanity? How do we prevent these children, our children, from self-destructing?

Meantime, the district has set up a donation account for Terence Martin at The Mechanics Bank. Donations will go towards a scholarship fund for Mr. Martin's 16-year-old daughter, Brittney Nicole Martin.
If you wish to offer a donation, please make your check out to: The WCCUSD Terence Martin Memorial Fund Please indicate on the check: Account #139-627065.
Donations may be dropped off at any branch of The Mechanics Bank, or at:
West Contra Costa Unified School District Attn: Business Services Office, Room 106 1108 Bissell Avenue Richmond, CA 94801-3135

From the WCCUSD Web Site: District employee fatally shot while coming to aid of a teenager

The West Contra Costa Unified School District is mourning the loss of one of its own. The shooting death of Furniture Driver Terence Martin has stunned employees throughout the school district community. Mr. Martin died Tuesday evening at John Muir Medical Center from a gunshot wound suffered as he tried to stop a fight earlier that day between the suspect, a teenage boy, and his pregnant teenage girlfriend.
“Our hearts and deepest sympathies go out to the families and loved ones who are affected by this tragedy,” said Interim Superintendent Dr. Cynthia LeBlanc of the West Contra Costa Unified School District. “We have lost not just a wonderful employee, but a valued member of the community as well. His death is especially heartbreaking because he died as a result of helping someone in distress.”

Mr. Martin was a dedicated employee who had worked for the district for the last 22 years. He began working for the district in 1983 as a substitute maintenance worker and became a permanent, full-time employee in July 1984. His prior positions included Maintenance Worker, Custodian, Head Custodian, and Warehouse Driver for the district’s Maintenance and Operations department.

“We are all grieving the loss of Mr. Martin, a fine individual who dedicated himself to serving our students,” said School Board President Glen Price. “Somehow we must use this devastating incident to come together as a community to deal with the reality of the conditions that our neighborhoods face,” Mr. Price said. “The problem is bigger than any one city or group of cities, and we need to deal with it on this level, as well as in each and every neighborhood.”

Minor Miracle

My father loved to do macramé. He would lounge on the couch with his latest project, working on it while watching T.V. He had a couple of big projects that will forever remain unfinished unless one of us gets inspired to complete them. But he did make me a lanyard for my pocket knife.

Actually, he made two. The first one was destroyed by two Cub Scouts. So he made me another, which is on the knife now. And he made it long enough so that I could use my knife while it was still clipped on my belt loop—very important when you work around boats!

This knife is part of my essential outdoor gear, along with a compass, a whistle with a Cheshire Cat charm, and a bandanna. Since I am a creature of habit, I keep those particular items together, usually in the top drawer of my dresser or in the backpack or belt pack I use when I’m at camp. So when the knife and the whistle went missing, I was a bit mystified.

Usually when I misplace something, especially something highly sentimental in value, I am a crazed person, tearing apart drawers and backpacks and belt packs where I know the missing item has to be. The knife itself and the whistle could be easily replaced. Losing the lanyard was the tough one to deal with (the lanyard is permanently attached to the knife). I went to Day Camp without them. I went to Camporee. I felt—naked. I kept looking, in the same places, in different places. They were not to be found. And I came to accept that maybe the knife and lanyard were gone. I remembered the lanyard and knew that Dad had made it just for me and that was enough. I mourned its loss, but did not obsess about it—which is most unusual for me.

My grandmother, a Christian Scientist, had a strong belief in the power of St. Jude, Patron Saint of Hopeless Causes. The other day, when talk of Girl Scouts and camping brought thoughts of my knife to my mind, I tossed off a quick prayer to St. Jude. And to St. Anthony, Finder of Lost Items, just to be complete. The prayers were nothing formal, just “It would be really nice if I could find my knife” kind of thing. And then I went on with my life.

Last night, DD#2 brought home her book report list. She is trying to be more organized this year and was collecting books in the different categories so she would be ready. She had four of them and was looking for three more.

“Bring me the Library Bag that’s hanging on the closet door downstairs,” I asked. I had stashed some books that DS#2 had read last year in there.

She brought me the bag and we dumped it out. “This one will work for science fiction. Or this one for the Newbery Medal,” I said.
“Read that one last year,” she answered. “This one looks pretty good, though. What else is in there?”

There was a second, smaller bag inside the first. I pulled out a couple of more books and then…

“What’s this?” I pulled out what looked like a mass of string. “Oh my God! It’s my knife!”

Not just my knife, but my whistle and a couple of compasses.

“Cool!” DD#2 said. She knew I’d been looking for them because I had mentioned it when she packed for Girl Scout camp this summer.

Hubs looked over. “Were they missing?” (See how much of a fuss I hadn’t made?)

The blue belt pack where those items were supposed to be was also in the bag. I must have been in a hurry, or wanted to use the belt pack for some other event, and just dumped it in the larger book bag. In 18 months, I had never thought to go through it or the smaller bag. In fact, I had just dropped DS#2’s books in the smaller bag without looking inside.

In heaven, my dad is standing next to St. Jude, nudging him and sharing a laugh at my expense.

Thursday, August 25, 2005


For several years my children did not own a Game Boy. We had Nintendo—several versions of them, in fact. But I drew the line when it came to portable electronics.

“We are not going on vacation so you can play Super Mario Brothers,” I explained. Instead, my children were forced to sleep, look out the window at the passing scenery, or listen to classic books (White Fang, The Jungle Book, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) on tape.

Then Nintendo came out with Pokémon, available only on Game Boy. DS#2 was hooked on Pokémon. How hooked? His favorite video was a Pokémon one DS#1 brought back from Japan—that was completely in Japanese. All he wanted for Christmas was the video game. He played the ultimate kid card: he asked Santa for it.

Santa brought it.

Since that fateful day, other portable electronic devices have infiltrated our minivan. A couple of other Game Boys. Portable CD players. We no longer share music, although the kids have an uncanny ability to unplug themselves should Hubs and I begin to have an “interesting” conversation.

Now there are personal DVD players as well as bigger ones for the car. No more will parents have to hear “Are we there yet?” Instead, they will hear, “I don’t want to watch that! That’s stoooopid!” Parents will no longer have to worry about younger children listening to the “inappropriate” music of their older siblings. Everyone will have their own channel.

And the art of compromise and absolute parental authority in the car (“If you don’t settle down, I’m playing Sourdough Slim, the Yodeling Cowboy!”) will be diminished. Gone will be games like I Spy or the Out-of-State License Plate Game (the only time it’s permissible to—gently—punch a sibling in the shoulder or on the leg), Highway Sign Alphabet, or Travel Bingo. Kids will miss the majesty of Mt. Shasta rising up in the sky in glory as you come around a corner of I-5. Or exclaiming over cows. (For some reason, the cows on the road are more noteworthy than the cows close to home.)

It’s not just kids and video games, though. I resisted getting a camcorder because I didn’t want to become one of those people who are so busy filming their vacation they forget to live it. I am amazed by folks yakking on their cell phones at amusement parks. Who are they talking to that is so much more important than what they are doing with their children now? Fortunately, the trees where we usually go tent camping are not yet equipped with outlets or DSL/T-1 connections, so this is not a problem.

But I bring my PDA. For addresses for the postcards I mean to send. That’s all. Cool

(H/T: Suzanne Fields, of Townhall, on vacation with her grandsons, has the same misgivings. And, yes, Lego Star Wars is a pretty darn cute video game.)

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Back to School

DD#2 was the last one to start school this year. She's also our last child at our parish school, which means that she gets to ride in the front seat of the car and she is responsible for The Family Envelope.

She dropped her backpack and supplies off at the 7th Grade spot, introduced herself to the new girl in the class (who doesn't have her class sweatshirt yet and was trying to keep warm), and began the process of finding out what everyone else had been up to all summer.

One of the girls was SO excited: "We're in SEVENTH GRADE! Can you BELIEVE it?!"

"You know," I said, "this is your second-to-the-last first day."

She thought about it for a minute. "Oh, WOW! I have to go tell my mom!"

The school day begins with a prayer, a hymn, the Pledge of Allegiance, and a song for those celebrating their birthdays. This year it included introductions of the new principal, the new pastor, and several new teachers (and one who got married over the summer and so has a new name). Once the kids were dismissed, we had a Welcome Back coffee for the parents. A group of us gathered: last year's 8th Grade parents, back for once again with our last children. We laughed about it and talked of how our sons were handling the challenges of high school and trying to figure out when they received First Reconciliation because we have to register them for the first year of the Confirmation program.

This is my second-to-the-last Welcome Coffee. It's as much of a rite as buying school supplies and the first-day-of-school pictures taken at the front door. After 15 years, I can hardly imagine starting the school year without it.


It’s all Hubs’ fault, really.

A week ago Tuesday he came home and said, “There is a mouse in the front seat in a cookie box. Wanna see?”

The girls and I had an appointment in The City and I was in a dither, trying to get everything done.

“In a minute,” I answered. And ran off to do something else.

Ten minutes later, I came downstairs.

“Mom, you should really take a look at this mouse,” DD#1 said.

If it was a mouse, it was making a lot of noise. I peeked in. It was a tiny gray kitten. One eye was kind of gunky. And it was HUNGRY.

“I’m going to get evaporated milk,” Hubs announced. And off he went. DD#1 began looking up the care of orphan kittens on the ‘Net.

In walks a friend of DD#1. She has raised an orphan. “You need kitten formula,” she states and names a local chain store that would carry that sort of thing. DD#1 gets Hubs on the phone and advises him while I herd DD#1, DD#2, and friend to the car.

Later that evening, friend persuades her mother to pick her up at our house instead of having me drive her home. Friend’s mom has more good advice and says to friend, “Your father would disown us if we brought home another cat. And you’re leaving for college in a couple of weeks.”

Because of her size and her color (and we’re only assuming the kitten is female), the kids named her Mouse. To their credit, they have been taking care of her, with DD#1 doing the night shift. Mouse is gaining weight and her eye has cleared up. She tries to leap out of her box and loves to explore on the beds, the couches, and the floor. The dog is very protective of her and very gentle—which is a Good Thing as the dog’s nose is about the size of Mouse’s face. The Other Cat hisses. The Other Cat also has Feline Leukemia Virus and is an excellent hunter of small animals, so we try to keep the two separate in any case. The kids are looking for a home for Mouse, although she is not weaned yet. Personally, I think we’re now a two-cat family, but the jury is still out. It’s kind of cute to see her nestled in the lap of DS#2, who can hide her with his hand.

I took some pictures and will post them when they’re ready.

Welcome Home

Some communities are doing it right:

“Army Sgt. Manuel Mendoza Valencia, 24, a combat engineer who lost both legs in an explosion in Iraq, rolled up to the door of his new home Saturday afternoon.” Read the rest at The Contra Costa Times. And don’t miss this bit: “Besides his medical progress, Mendoza already has logged other accomplishments. On Dec. 13, he was sworn in as an American citizen at Walter Reed.” So Sgt. Valencia volunteered for the Army during war time in a country where he doesn’t have the right to vote.

(No, I don’t know—the story doesn’t say—if he immigrated here with his family legally. I don’t know what the Army’s procedures are to determine that. )

Gateway Pundit has this story: “Hundreds of residents lined the streets to honor Lance Corporal Timothy Maguire on Tuesday night in Festus, MO a small rural town south of St. Louis.”

Kind of warms the cockles of your heart, doesn’t it?

(H/T: Michelle Malkin)

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Prayers Needed

For the younger brother of blogger Kobayashi Maru.

For The Anchoress and her family.

For Karen & Norm of The View from My Chair.

For Elaine, one of the members of my parish who has end-stage colon cancer.

For my mom's second bestfriend, who was diagnosed with stomach cancer.

School Clothes

I am rather lucky in that DD#2 goes to Catholic school and wears a uniform. She’s 12 and is more fashion-conscious than DD#1 was at the same age.

The other reason I’m lucky—and I never thought I’d say this—is because my girls are built big. In fact, DD#1 commented on that their builds would be more suitable for their brothers. No Abercrombie & Fitch for my daughters. Nothing there would fit them. In fact, no Hot Topics, either, although there is a plus-size version of that store (I can’t remember the name right now). J.C. Penney’s has a plus-size “tween” section where DD#2 has bought some dresses for special occasions. And, since she is now my size, my closet has skirts and blouses, none of which reveal midriffs or décolletage.

While I can take some credit, DD#1 has an excellent sense of what styles flatter her body type. We’ve discussed it over the years while we’ve searched. I passed on my mother’s wisdom as well: “The reason why French women always look so well-dressed is because they dress in a classic style.” (Not to mention it’s easier on your budget!)

Rebecca Hagelin has written a column with more stories about the modesty wars and the numbers of parents fighting this battle. She also includes a few ideas on how to present the idea to girls so they will accept that “modesty is beautiful” as well as websites to find clothes that aren’t cut short or tight, so you don’t spend all day at the local mall in vain.

Julie D. over at Happy Catholic had a different sort of problem with school clothes with her older daughter. But the appropriate saints came through!

I Love It When A Meme Comes Together

I found this article by Dennis Prager persuasive (in part because it echoes how I feel about the Left), especially this portion:
The Marxist worldview is based on a materialist understanding of life. In popular jargon, "materialism" means an excessive love of material things. But philosophically, "materialism" means that the only reality is matter, that there is no reality beyond the material world.
That is why, for example, to most leftists it is a great wrong that amid Latin American poverty, the church would build expensive cathedrals. In their view, all that gold and treasure should be spent on the poor. To a person with Judeo-Christian values, on the other hand, while feeding the hungry is a primary value, there are many other values, including the need to feed the soul. Moreover, the fact that many of the world's poor people would prefer having a cathedral to distributing whatever money selling such edifices would provide has disturbed the Left since Marx. To a materialist, the notion that poor people would place non-material concerns over material ones is absurd, if not perverse.
The recent best seller "What's the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America," by liberal author Thomas Frank, perfectly illustrates this point. The theme of his book is that Americans of a lower economic status who vote Republican do so against their own (economic) interests. When I dialogued with the personable Mr. Frank on my radio show, he seemed incapable of understanding that many millions of Americans consider the Left's attempt to redefine marriage, for example, more important than the alleged economic advantages of voting Democrat.
Until the Democrats understand why the attempt to redefine marriage is more important than economic advantages, they will continue to lose elections, especially national ones.
Mr. Prager makes a few other points as well, such as how the supposedly “materialistic” Right is more likely to make material sacrifices to allow one parent to stay home to care for children than those on the Left.

Good stuff.


Monday, August 22, 2005

I Am Too A Grown-Up!

From Mark Steyn’s column in the Chicago Sun-Times of August 21, 2005:

They're not children in Iraq; they're grown-ups who made their own decision to join the military. That seems to be difficult for the left to grasp. Ever since America's all-adult, all-volunteer army went into Iraq, the anti-war crowd have made a sustained effort to characterize them as "children." If a 13-year-old wants to have an abortion, that's her decision and her parents shouldn't get a look-in. If a 21-year-old wants to drop to the broadloom in Bill Clinton's Oval Office, she's a grown woman and free to do what she wants. But, if a 22- or 25- or 37-year-old is serving his country overseas, he's a wee "child" who isn't really old enough to know what he's doing.

Yep. That’s about the way I see it, too.

Until the early 1970's, "legal age" was 21. That's when a person was deemed old enough to drink, old enough to vote, old enough to sign a contract, old enough to marry without parental consent (for men--women could marry without parental consent at 18). However, the draft included men from 18 through 21. The argument was made that if you were old enough to die for your country, you were old enough to vote. And, I admit, there is a certain logic to that argument. I was one of the beneficiaries of the change in the law--I voted in my first Presidential election in 1972. So, now, 18 is old enough to vote, but not to choose to defend that right?

But the Left's creeping "nannyism" isn't limited to just the military. That outlook permeates their philosophy: after the 2004 election, the Left dismissed all the voters in "flyover country." Ted Rall wrote a particularly scathing article, stating that he grew up with these folks and they were all small-minded, uncouth bores, and he is well shut of them. He never goes back to visit and he doesn't miss them. (Somehow, I think that might run both ways.) An acquaintance of mine said of the voters in the rural community where she owns a cabin, "They vote against their own self-interests." Of course, the voters only live there; she "spends time."

Experts know what is best for children, for the economy, for world peace. There are rules and regulations governing the space between crib slats, air bags, warning labels, who has to wear a helmet and when. Some of these make good sense. Car seats are safer for infants and squirming toddlers, especially when I was driving. If my cell phone rings while I'm driving, I usually let one of the kids or Voice Mail pick it up.

But, requiring that I do (or not do) these things denies my responsibility as an adult for my own actions. I don't get to practice common-sense decision-making, which means when a crisis happens, I am much less likely to know how to respond. And it forces a Catch-22 situation: either law enforcement resources are spent enforcing all these petty laws or I am encouraged to flaunt the law and not take it seriously.

Perhaps the reason the level of discourse devolves so quickly into juvenile rants and name-calling is because we have fewer and fewer opportunities to behave like adults: to make decisions and deal with the consequences. Perhaps it is the Left who wishes to establish an oligarchy, to return to feudalism where the few determine the welfare of the majority.

No. I have worked too long and too hard to get to the point where I can make my own decisions about my life to relinquish that freedom willingly. As for my children... Hubs and I know them pretty well by now. The younger two we are guiding towards adulthood, teaching them useful tools, encouraging them to keep their options open, fighting so they get the tools they need to fully use the talents God has given them.

The older two are learning that adult decisions carry serious consequences. To deny them the opportunity to make those decisions or to experience and learn from those consequences is to deny them their humanity, their personhood. But unless we do, they will not learn, they will not grow. I do not want my children to become stunted adults any more than I want to have my learning, my growth stunted by some well-meaning oligarch.


Book Review: High Rhymes and Misdemeanors

First off, I'm a sucker for a clever title. Maybe that's because I have trouble coming up with my own.

Secondly, I bought this book from the author (it's signed!), Diane Killian, after she finished a set of Celtic folksongs at a local Highland Games & festival. This particular festival is relatively small and low-key, so I got to chat with the author for several minutes.

And it's a murder mystery, set in England's Lake District. The heroine is there to study the Romantic poets, including Byron, Shelley, and Wordsworth.

I was hoping for something a bit quirky. Maybe not as quirky as The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde, but something that lived up to the promise of the clever title.

What I got was a pleasant read.

It's not a bad read. But it's not a "stay-up-way-too-late-because-I-just-have-to-finish-it" read. The story is told mostly from the heroine's point-of-view, and I think one of the weaknesses is when the point-of-view shifts to the hero. There is a murder, a lot of mysterious people, and some missing "gewgaws" related to Lord Byron that everyone assumes the hero has. However, he doesn't even know what they are. Plus, he has A Past, which complicates things.

Someone who has actually studied 18th Century English poetry could probably find more plot holes than I did.

On the March Hare Scale: Two bookmarks. More entertaining than most of what is on TV or than sitting in a waiting room.

However, Diane Killian is a member of The Browne Sisters, a Celtic-flavored folk group (she sings with her two sisters) with incredible harmonies. Hubs and I have one of their albums that we both enjoy. I highly recommend their CDs.

The Change of Seasons

Tomorrow DS#2 starts at our local high school. The day after DD#2 starts 7th Grade at our parochial school. The oldest two have been back to college for a week, although they still have some fine tuning to do on their schedules.

I don't care what the calendar says: summer is officially over.

The readings yesterday dealt with the transfer of authority--from Shebna to Eliakim, from Christ to Peter. This week I will transfer my parental authority, temporarily, from myself to the teachers and school administration. Hundreds of others will join me. I met some of them yesterday as we bought new backpacks and binders and completed school supply lists. But before we joined that crowd, we visited my uncle who has just been moved to an assisted living facility.

The baseball game was on and, fortunately, the hometeam won. We--my mother, DD#2, and DS#2, and I--watched with him and talked about the upcoming college football season. We avoided any mention of why he was there and not in the home he bought almost 60 years ago.

He did ask if we had seen his car. The DMV has taken away his license officially, although the family has unofficially been limiting his driving for the last several years. "I think one of my daughters has it," he said, but he wasn't sure which one.

"That's okay," my mother reassured him, patting him on the knee. "I don't drive either." But she gave up her license voluntarily.

Later, while we were waiting for my mother to come out of the restroom, I looked at my two youngest.

"Get used to this," I said. "You'll be doing a lot of visiting like this for the next several years."

DS#2 was eight when his great-grandmother died. He has hazy memories of visiting her at her senior apartment, then at the assisted facility, finally at a nursing home. Now it's his great-uncle. DD#2 has vague memories only of the nursing home.

As I drove my mother back to her home, the one she bought 50 years ago with my father, we talked about how she could get there on the bus and what we could bring to share with him, that he might still enjoy. "We should time our visits with a ball game," I joked. She smiled.

Later this week, while I attend Welcome Back-to-School functions, she will visit her second bestfriend who is in a nursing home dying of cancer. That friend's husband is also in an assisted living facility. "If I send a card," I said, "will he know who I am?"

"No," my mother admitted. "But his boys will."

In his sermon yesterday, Fr. Paul pointed out that Simon Peter was probably the least likely of the apostles to be chosen as leader. But Jesus Christ, for His own reasons, chose him to be the foundation of the Church. Ready or not, I see the keys being passed to my generation, the robe and the sash. And I am glad God is there...

Saturday, August 20, 2005

My Need for Aloneness

I am a chatterbox. Always have been. I am outgoing and friendly and loud. I love parties. I love to laugh, to be with people.

I also need my time alone.

If I don't have some quiet time each day, I become cranky. I lose my equilibrium. During the week, I'm up at 5:30 a.m. Hubs has left for work and the kids are still in bed. Even the dog is asleep. My train of thought is not interrupted by someone walking into the room or by the phone ringing. But Fridays and the weekends are different. Hubs wants my attention. "Why are you getting up so early?" he asks. "Come back to bed." And I do. Because we both work, because he gets up earlier than I do Monday-Thursday, because our lives are so busy, I feel guilty that he's not getting enough of my attention. After all, he's the one I'm spending the rest of my life with, not our kids (God love 'em) or Scouts or even my parish. He doesn't demand much or often, so when he asks and I can oblige, I do.


Hubs knows writing is important to me. He wants to support me. So he asks questions. Lots of questions. While I'm writing. My train of thought breaks and it's not as easy to reboard it as when I was younger. Or, if I'm writing on one of the computers in the living room, he stands behind me. Or the kids do. I should be flattered, I guess, that they're curious enough to wonder what I'm thinking.


I find I'm like a pendulum, swinging back and forth, passing over the equipoint, but never settling there. Sometimes my swings are extreme. Those are the swings everyone in the household notices. Sometimes the swings are smaller, less noticeable. That's where I try to live my life--in the smaller swings. I would have thought that at my age I'd be better at finding the equipoint and staying close to it.

No such luck.

Some Questions...

Last night I went to an Eagle Court of Honor for three young men, two I've known since they were Cub Scouts. In the audience were many others I know from Scouting; again, several I've known since they were shorter than me.

One of these young men was dressed in his Marine Corps dress blues. His stepmother is not happy with his decision to enlist and part of it is the war in Iraq. The other part of it is that he tends to be impulsive and she doesn't feel the decision to enlist was well thought out on his part.

He has injured his knee and is currently home getting treated. Hubs had the same injury 30 years ago, so they were comparing experiences. (Their conclusion: Navy medical corpsmen are incompentent.) His biggest worry: his unit will be deployed to Iraq in January and he won't be able to go with them.

"I'm fighting them on it, but they're not budging," he told me. "Don't get me wrong--I don't want to go to Iraq, but these guys are my family. If something happens to them while I'm not there, I don't know what I'd do. I'd feel guilty."

I was not really surprised by his attitude. I've read the words of other soliders, sailors, airmen and women, and Marines expressing the same feelings. I've been to the funeral of a local Boy Scout, killed in action in Iraq, who had said the same thing to his family during his deployment. Is loyalty to a group, to a gang, to a clan hardwired into human beings? Is that why we form social groups and gather together to worship our gods? Does the military just happen to do a very good job in forming group loyalties?

Still, I am in awe that this 19-y.o. man is willing to sacrifice his personal well-being for his group. He didn't speak of "saving America" or "making Iraq safe for democracy." He wants to be with his guys, to share the hardships with them, to help bring everyone home safely. That's a pretty mature attitude in my book, one that I know I didn't have at 19. I am awed.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Casey Sheehan's Decision

I take responsibility partly for my son’s death, too. I was raised in a country by a public school system that taught us that America was good, that America was just. America has been killing people, like my sister over here says, since we first stepped on this continent, we have been responsible for death and destruction. I passed on that bullshit to my son and my son enlisted. I’m going all over the country telling moms: "This country is not worth dying for. If we’re attacked, we would all go out. We’d all take whatever we had. I’d take my rolling pin and I’d beat the attackers over the head with it. But we were not attacked by Iraq. {applause} We might not even have been attacked by Osama bin Laden if {applause}. 9/11 was their Pearl Harbor to get their neo-con agenda through and, if I would have known that before my son was killed, I would have taken him to Canada. I would never have let him go and try and defend this morally repugnant system we have. The people are good, the system is morally repugnant. {applause}"

--Cindy Sheehan, Rally for Lynne Stewart, SFSU, 04/27/05

My heartfelt sympathy goes out to Ms. Sheehan and her family on the loss of their son, brother, grandson, nephew. Mothers often have a special relationship with their firstborn, simply because everything is a first, both the good things and the bad. And the most difficult thing we have to learn, as mothers, is when to let go.

We want to protect our children. And, especially with our firstborns, we think we can. Keeping our kids safe is our duty, our moral obligation, and that includes their mental well-being along with the physical. But we can’t. Sooner or later every child skins a knee or is called a name. We kiss the boo-boos and try to make them better—a duty that becomes more and more difficult as our children grow up—until, at some point, we have to let them go. They are adults and they have to live with the choices they’ve made. They have to live their life, not the one we would have them live.

Letting go is hard, I’ve learned, as DS#1 and DD#2 make choices that I think they will later regret. But I also know—from my own growing up—that it’s better to let them make bad choices now and learn from them, rather than when they are older and have families of their own. But, beyond discussing the possible ramifications of their decisions from my perspective and my experiences, as my children reach their late-teens and beyond, I can do very little.

In the quote above, Ms. Sheehan talks about taking her son to Canada. Would he have gone? What about her second son? Or her daughters? Why hasn’t she taken them to Canada, especially now that she knows that her family is living in a “morally repugnant” system?

The truth is, whether Ms. Sheehan wants to admit it or not, her children are adults. Her oldest son chose to join the Army, for reasons that made sense to him. He chose to go to Iraq. He knew his decisions could cost him his life: when a recruit joins the Army, they have to write their Will—something I have yet to do and I’m 30 years older than most of these soldiers. They are encouraged to discuss the types of funeral services they want with their next of kin. Death is a very real possibility and, from what I have been told by those who were either in the Armed Forces or had someone close to them join, the Forces do their best to impress this on their recruits.

Perhaps her grief is causing Ms. Sheehan to second-guess herself: what could she have done differently to keep her son out of the Army? Because if he wasn’t in the Army, he would still be alive. He might not be the Casey she remembers, though, because our children, like ourselves, are the sum of the choices they've made—or not made—during their lifetime. If she had been successful in taking Casey to Canada, he would have been a very different person than the Casey she remembers. (And it could be that moving would not have made any difference: he might have joined up anyway. After all, it’s not like Canada is on another planet.)

Casey Sheehan made a decision, and made it as an adult. That decision put him in harm’s way and ended his life. Ms. Sheehan could not have altered his decision without altering who he was and I pray that some day she will accept that. For she will have no peace within herself until she does.

(H/T: Michelle Malkin)

Catching Up

This is what happens when I absent myself from "The Real World" for a week--everything goes nuts. So now I'm trying to catch up with and make sense of Cindy Sheehan, Air America, and Able Danger. One of the problems I have is that I've been skimming through articles in my local paper and on my favorite blogsites. But I have the same problem reading blogs as I do when I read an encyclopedia or a dictionary: one post links to another and pretty soon I don't know where I am.

For example, I thought I read a quote by Ms. Sheehan where she claimed that "...if I knew where this war was going, I would have taken Casey to Canada." I thought it was an interesting quote: how do you "take" your adult child somewhere he (or she) may not want to go? What would she have done if Casey had said, "No, Mom, I'm not going." What about her other kids--would she have uprooted her entire family to save one child?

The problem is, however, I cannot find the quote. It's not on Michelle Malkin, The Anchoress, or Angry in The Great White North, who I know have been commenting extensively on Ms. Sheehan. I might have read it in my local paper, which makes finding it an entirely different problem.

I could have a notebook handy when I read so that I could jot down names, titles, and sources. The problem is that often something strikes me as being comment-worthy long after I've read about it. And often it is something I didn't realize I was going to comment on at the time.

How do other bloggers handle this?

And how in the heck does The Anchoress find time to read all these different blogs???

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Book Review: Coyote Rising

March Hare Rating System: 3.5 bookmarks out of 5.

I got sidetracked while reading this book, the sequel to Coyote, by Allen Steele. This is never a good sign! The first sidetrack was the latest Harry Potter and the second was our visitors.

Coyote Rising continues the story of the colonists from Earth who escaped the tyrannies of their government to settle the moon of a distant planet. However, while they were traveling at near-relativistic speeds, their government on Earth was overthrown and taken in by a new one, a socialist collective that comprises most of the Americas. Technology has improved, so a ship from this new government arrives on the planet, Coyote, only four years after the original colonists do. The original colonists have established a democracy and do not want to change their way of life. They disappear into the wilds of Coyote and begin a series of guerilla raids.

Some old characters from Coyote return: Robert E. Lee, Carlos Montero, Matriarch Luisa Hernandez. There are some new ones as well, and their stories are woven in. These new colonists have their own reasons for coming to Coyote and their own survival stories. Some of them were originally published as stand-alone short stories and it shows because the integration of these stories into the larger narrative is not as smooth as it could be. The ending has a bit of deus ex machina about it as well.

Because the structure is similar to Coyote (in fact, the divisions in the book are listed as "Book Four" and "Book Five"), Julie D. probably won't like it any better than the first.

Will there be a third book? Mr. Steele leaves the possibility open, although I haven't seen any "test shorts" in Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, which is where the short stories have appeared in the past.


And I'm not doing a pirate imitation.

DD#1 and I have been driving each other crazy the last six months or more. I blamed it initially on "senioritis," a condition that afflicts high school seniors. But it's more than that. I think she's restless--she wants to be on her own, to be an adult, but she's not quite sure how to do it. She has never been very good about asking for help and, generally, she is quite competent on her own.

We've had some serious disagreements this last year, however, about her Girl Scout Gold Award (she blew it off), about her scholastic abilities, about college. She had made a decision to live with my mother across the Bay and attend a community college there. Fair enough.

I asked her about registration. She told me "it was taken care of." I asked her about placement tests. She didn't know about it; she didn't think she had to take one.

"I had to take one when I went and so did your brother," I pointed out. She shrugged.

She has been a camp counselor at a local Girl Scout resident camp this summer (getting that job was another story of frustration!) and, frankly, it's been kind of nice not having her home. DD#2 has had to assume some responsibilities, but she's discovering her own style. DD#1 came home from camp because the Japanese Scouts were here. I quickly discovered it was better if a third party asked her to do something like lead songs or be a patrol leader.

Yesterday I left a note asking her to follow up with her selected college. I came home and found her reading in her room. I got into mother-mode and said, "Register for class. Now."

And she discovered that she'd blown it. She did have to take a test and meet with a counselor. Registration is closed and classes start this week.

"Well, you'd better start looking at other community colleges, because if you don't have 12 units you're not covered by health insurance and you can't have your oral surgery." We've been waiting for this surgery for 18 months. It's part of her orthodontia care, which is paid for, but it's covered under our health plan. Her other option is to get a full time job with her own benefits.

Fortunately, one member of our Boy Scout Troop works at the local community college and can help DD#1 get classes at the last minute.

Still, I'm pissed. And I'm trying desperately to make this her problem and not mine. Except that, of course, it affects us financially.

Why, oh why, did she choose this year to become an airhead? I am so tired of hearing her say things like, "I'm not as smart as you think I am." Or, "I'm just average." I told Hubs that if she had worked hard and had given school or her Gold Award her best effort and had fallen short, that would be one thing. But I have the impression that she didn't even try. That she couldn't be bothered. That attitude is what truly upsets me because Hubs and I have always been hard workers. Doing less than my best meant that I let my family down; I let myself down. I thought I had passed that value on, by example and by exhortation.

Now I am second-guessing myself. Should I have insisted that we sit down together and go over her registration? Should I have demanded that she produce a schedule and made her stick to it for her Gold Award project? What could I have done differently so that she would see that she is shortchanging herself? That life is about overcoming challenges and that's how we grow?

This last year I've really wanted my daughter back--the one who would dress up in beads and my old negligees and dance around the room. The one who was not cynical or sarcastic, but who would laugh with pure pleasure. The one who was curious about everything. The one who believed in herself. She's in there, somewhere. I still catch glimpses of her. I want that daughter back. I want DD#1 to find her and embrace her. I don't know how to help her. I don't know if I can.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Whoo-Hoo! I've Evolved!

I'm not sure how, but over the last week, I've moved up from "An Insignificant Microbe" to "A Flippery Fish" in the TTLB Ecosystem. Wow! And it didn't even hurt! :)

Cat & Dog

Oddly enough, the Dog behaved herself. She barked briefly when the Japanese Scouts came in, then settled herself on the couch next to them. The biggest problem we had was that she is shedding and we were picking large clumps of golden-red hair from our jeans and uniforms. The Cat was also polite--she waited until after our guests left to leave a "present" on the floor of the bathroom in front of the only shower we have!

Rollin' On the River

One of the activities we did with the Japanese Girl Scouts was to go camping and river rafting on the American River. This is a picture of my toes from in the river (disposable waterproof cameras are great!). The water was "brisk and refreshing"--okay, it was cold! The day was hot. Our guides told corny jokes. The American Girl Scouts groaned; the Japanese Girl Scouts laughed politely. The stars were brilliant. The campfire was warm. The s'mores were sweet. And Wintergreen Lifesavers still spark in your mouth if you crunch on them.

The Japanese Came... And Went

Whew! What a week!

On August 5, Japanese Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and their leaders (26 in all) were supposed to arrive at the airport at 4:55 p.m. Their flight from Japan was delayed and they missed their connecting flight. The Girl Scouts got in at midnight; the Boy Scouts had to take two flights and got in at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday. Thank God we all had cell phones. I hung out in a bookstore after work (don't feel too badly for me) until I got the final word. DD#1, who had just come home from Girl Scout Camp, came with me to pick them up.

And thus began my week of adding two extra teenagers to my household.

DD#1 decided to sleep on the couch. DS#1 decided to stay with friends. He also pulled out some of his textbooks--like math and electronics--to review them before class starts.

I learned to say, "Arigato gozimas," "Ichi, Ni, Sen," "Domenici," and that "Taco" means octopus--so pictures on the menu at Mexican restaurants are a good thing. Pictures on any thing are good, as are Japanese translations and pamphlets.

DD#2 and I are now committed to going on the exchange to Japan in two years, God willing. I wish I had started studying Japanese in 1997, when we hosted our first Japanese Scout. But now I have two years to learn some essential Japanese. DS#2 would like to go again.

There were many tears as they boarded the bus for their next California adventure (Yosemite). The Scouts will be back briefly tomorrow and fly home Wednesday morning and some of us will go to the hotel with last parting gifts. Then we have about a month before we begin fundraising in earnest and planning our next trip. Two years is not really a very long time!

Friday, August 05, 2005

The Japanese Are Coming!

In a couple of hours I'm off to the airport to meet and greet 8 Girl Scouts and 18 Boy Scouts from Japan. Two of them (one of each!) will be staying with my family for the next 8 days. It will be a whirlwind of events and people: besides Hubs and I, we'll have DS#1 (21), DD#1 (19), Japanese Girl Scout (19), Japanese Boy Scout (16), DS#2 (15), and DD#2 (12). Can I deal with all the hormones? Can we cope with 8 people in a 1400-sq. foot house with one shower? And a dog who barks anytime anyone comes through the door.

Blogging will definitely be light to non-existent for next week!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

What Part of "Illegal" Don't They Understand?

From the Houston Chronicle:

"Relatives of seven immigrants who died in a nearly airtight truck trailer as they were being smuggled into Texas in one of the country's deadliest human-trafficking accidents have sued the truck driver and the trailer owner and manufacturer in federal court.

"The lawsuits allege that Great Dane Trailers 'manufactured and designed the trailer to be used without any warnings, safety precautions or human escape mechanisms. The design of the trailer allowed operators, occupants and/or passengers to be trapped inside the trailer and yet have no rescue hatch, pull string or other escape mechanism thus placing trapped occupants of the trailer in danger of suffocation or death. There were no warnings, instructions, decals or other means of warning of the dangers of transporting individuals inside the trailer nor where (sic) there safety switches within the trailer to allow escape in case of emergency.'"

You've seen Great Dane Trailers on your local interstate. They are designed for carrying cargo--furniture, electronics, apparel, auto parts. There are no warnings inside about the dangers of transporting individuals inside the trailers because they aren't designed to carry them. (And we wonder why there are wacky warning labels on things.)

But, while I agree the owner and driver of the tractor-trailer should be prosecuted for murder, suing Great Dane makes no sense. If the seven immigrants would still be alive had they entered this country legally. They chose to break our law and get into a truck with no ventilation or means of escape. (If there were, would those labels have to be in Spanish, Chinese, and Arabic as well?) What legal standing do the families have to sue a third party in federal court? Can a foreign national file a civil suit in the U.S.?

I'm not big on using the law to solve every problem. But, since common sense appears to be more and more uncommon in the legal profession, we may need a law that says that if you are killed or injured in the commission of a felony, you and/or your heirs lose your right to sue. And entering this country illegally--or staying past your visa--should be a felony.

(H/T: LaShawn Barber)

Please Pray for St. Helena BSA Troop 1

Mt. Diablo Silverado Council is my local Boy Scout Council. St. Helena is just north of Napa, in the wine country--less than an hour drive from here. Please pray for the families of Ryan and Stephen as well as for the rest of the troop, who are pretty traumatized. Several of the boys were injured during the lightening strike; only Ryan was killed. They did everything right on the hike. This was truly an accident.

--March Hare

As I am sure you are aware, Troop 1 in St Helena (part of Mt Diablo Silverado
Council) lost a Scout, Ryan Collins, and an ASM, Stephen McCullagh, in a
lightning accident while on a 50 miler.

Memorial service is Friday morning 11 am in St Helena.

A few people have expressed interest in knowing the date/time etc.

Please remember these two scouts, thier families, and Troop 1 in your prayers.
If anyone is interested in attending the service and would like to be in touch
with others who are going, feel free to let me know.

Below is the info sent out by the council.

//quoted text //
We have just received a notice that a memorial service for Assistant
Scoutmaster Stephen McCullagh and Scout Ryan Collins is scheduled for
Friday, August 5th at 11:00am at the St. Helena Catholic School Gymnasium at
1340 Tainter Street, St. Helena, CA 94575 (gymnasium is behind the Church).
A link to to Church follows.

For directions click the link below.

//// quoted text

Update on Troop 1, St. Helena

We continue to receive updated information regarding the tragic events that
occurred on Thursday, July 28th regarding Troop 1 out of St. Helena.

Assistant Scoutmaster Stephen McCullagh and 13 year-old Scout Ryan Collins
passed away while on a 9-day Troop outing hiking along the John Muir Trail.
There has been and continues to be a great deal of coverage, both locally and
nationally, regarding this tragedy. It has been a weekend filled with grief for
all of us in the Scouting family.

Our local television, newspaper and radio have been extremely sympathetic to the
family and all those from Troop 1 that have suffered. The coverage that I have
seen appears to be genuinely sincere in conveying the sadness all of us in the
Mt. Diablo Silverado Council feel. The courageous actions that Scouts and
Leaders took in the moments following the lightening strike have shown the
quality and character of Troop 1 Scouts. We wish we could change the outcome
but we know that everything was done to prevent even greater injuries.

Jeff Johnson, the Commissioner for Troop 1 has been in contact with the Troop 1
committee and with our Scout Council since early Friday morning and has been
instrumental in keeping us informed of the wishes of the Troop 1 family. Jeff
asked that wherever possible, all Scouts and Scout Leaders wear their Scout
uniform the week of July 31st in a show of respect and support for not only
Stephen, Ryan and their families but the Scout Leaders that were lost at the
National Jamboree on July 25th.
As of August 1st memorial services are
pending and we will notify everyone as soon as we receive the information.

In lieu of flowers or gifts, the Collins family has asked that their son Ryan be
remembered with donations to St. Helena Boy Scout Troop 1 and sent in c/o Robert
Darter at Upper Valley Medical Group, 1222 Pine Street, St. Helena, CA 94574.

Thank you for all that you do and I know will continue to do on behalf of

Bill Dalton
Scout Executive
Mt. Diablo Silverado Council

/// end quoted text

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

A Heartwarming Story (for a change)

A friend of mine shared this story about her sister, her B-I-L, and the little boy they adopted.

The Little Boy asked his new mommy if he could wear something special to the courthouse on the day his adoption would become final. New Mommy said, "Of course!" and took him to the local mall. The Little Boy saw a tuxedo store and asked to go in. It was spring time and a small, white tux caught his eye. So New Mommy rented it for him.

On The Big Day, The Little Boy wore his white tux to the courthouse. The baliff, the court reporter, and the judge (all women) were very impressed at how handsome he looked. After New Mommy and New Daddy signed the paper making the adoption official, The Little Boy asked, "Don't I get to sign, too?"

The Judge said, "Of course you do!" and made a special line on the papers just for him. She also let him bang the gavel (which was pretty neat).

New Mommy, New Daddy, and their New Son went out to the boardwalk and rode the rides and walked on the beach all dressed up. They went out to dinner at a restaurant The New Son picked out. The hostess asked what the special occasion was. The New Son looked at his New Mommy who told him that it was okay, he could tell her. So he did.

The hostess sat the New Family at the best table in the restaurant. A bit later, she came over and asked the New Mommy and the New Daddy if she could buy their New Son a virgin daquiri. The New Parents said, "Yes." When it came time to pay the check, the hostess told them that the manager of the restaurant heard about their special day and comped their entire meal. And gave The New Son about $20.00 in tokens to play the video games.

Two big, burly men who had been sitting nearby. They approached the table and kind of stood there, hemming and hawing. The New Parents were a little bit nervous about this. One of the big, burly men finally handed them his business card. They were players on the local arena football team and would be happy to arrange for tickets for the New Family if they should ever want them. The New Parents were overwhelmed.

All this happened in a city on the Left Coast. Which means we haven't entirely lost touch with our hearts out here!

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Open Season on Boy Scouting

Per Michelle Malkin:

A San Francisco liberal compares the Boy Scouts to Hamas jihadists-in-training (scroll down to the fifth letter).
But don't question her patriotism!
Hat tip: Reader Daniel G.
Update: More
Bay Area Boy Scout-bashing spotted.

Okay. I’ve had it.

Boy Scouting and Girl Scouting are an important part of my family’s life. Shoot, Hubs and I met while chaperoning a Sea Scout Bridge and Ball. And I am sick and tired of the Loony Left taking potshots at an organization they do not understand.

There was a time in the mid-1800’s- early 1900’s when some people looked around, saw a need, and—to borrow a phrase from Henry J. Kaiser—filled it. They did this on their own, without sanction, permission, or funds from the government, using their own time, talent, and—very often—their treasure. Or the treasure of other like-minded individuals. From these individuals came organizations like the American Red Cross (Clara Barton), the YMCA, the YWCA, Campfire Girls (Dr. & Mrs. Luther Gulick), the 4-H (A.B. Graham), and, yes, the Boy Scouts of American (Daniel Beard, Ernest Thompson Seton, and William D. Boyce) and the Girl Scouts of the USA (Juliette Gordon Lowe).

Now the Looney Left want to dismantle these organizations. They do not want to replace them—oh, no, that would take Work. Commitment. Money. It’s much easier to "tweak" an organization that doesn’t fit your criteria so that it becomes closer to what you think it should be and bears no resemblance to its previous self. Will it serve the needs of the community it was originally designed for? Who cares? The goal is to make sure it is “politically correct” and completely inoffensive, not that it works. (An example would be our public schools.)

If Steven Spielberg is so upset with the Boy Scout policy on gay leadership, then he should start an alternative program. You’re an Eagle Scout, Steven! Use your leadership skills and put your money where your mouth is! Ted Kennedy has a couple of nice compounds—one in Hyannisport and one in Florida—that his dad bought with ill-gotten gains. Maybe Ted could donate them for campgrounds for gay youth, instead of for chasing nubile and naïve girls. The camps could be named “Kamp Kopechne.”

George Soros is trying to buy the Democratic Party—he might have better luck if he started his indoctrination process young. Call the group the “Soros Sitizens for Society” (don’t worry about the spelling—it’s a lost art as far as kids are concerned). Barbara Streisand can donate one of her estates so that transgendered youth have a safe place to stay to learn how to be the gender they’ve always wanted to be.

Just leave my Boy Scouts and my Girl Scouts alone, thankyouverymuch.

While I don't agree with all the policy decisions either organization has made, I happen to believe in Duty to God, Duty to Country, Duty to Family, Duty to Self. I think being loyal, trustworthy, cheerful, brave, thrifty, responsible for myself and others, a sister to every Girl Scout, etc., etc., are worthy ideals. They are values I try to live by and want my children to live by. That Scouting also offers opportunities not easily available for my children in other venues is entirely due to the hard work of the adults involved. There is no magic. And it's true of all organizations that serve youth: Little League, Babe Ruth, Pop Warner, youth soccer, children's theater. Adults are in charge. Adults donate a lot of time, energy, and money to make these experiences happen. If you don't like what you see, create your own. But be prepared--it's not easy being a Leader.

Monday, August 01, 2005

This One I've Sailed

This one Hubs and I actually crewed on, BC (Before Children). It's a gaff topsail schooner named Adventuress and they have a sail training program that I participated in as a working chaperone for a crew of Mariner Girl Scouts many, many years ago. We impressed quite a few people when we pulled into the dock at Victoria, B.C., and they realized the crew were all girls! Adventuress is a National Historic Landmark and takes out schools, youth groups, individuals, and families. Their website is WARNING: This is not a "barefoot cruise." It takes the muscle of the entire crew to raise the gaff-rigged main! And you're the crew. :)