Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Why Does Phil Angelides Need John Kerry?

No, really, I'm serious. In a state that is strongly Democratic, why did Phil bring John Kerry in to shill for him?

Do you think maybe Phil forgot about John's foot-in-mouth disability?

Do you think Phil has watched much-to-much Cal football (or Raider football) over the years and subconciously wants to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?

Here's the link to the Blog on Phil's Official Website:

There are pictures of Phil and John, but no video. No transcripts. No mention at all of John's speech to the students at Pasadena Community College. In fact, no identification at all of where these pictures were taken. (To be fair, he doesn't have much information about the pictures with Senator Obama, either.)

The Good Sisters who taught me many years ago used to claim that "silence means assent." Does Phil's silence on John's faux pas mean that Phil actually agrees with what John said?

How far is Pasadena from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA? You know, where at the Defense Language Institute, military personnel and a few other Government-employee types can learn languages that may be useful in protecting National Security. Like French. Or Chinese. Or Arabic. Easy languages like that.

But, surely, John did not mean those fine men and women! He must have meant the grunts on the ground. Or the ones at the guns, like on his Swift Boat.

Well, Phil, why don't you say what you think John meant? Be a pal; help him remove his foot from his mouth. It must be very uncomfortable by now, especially since he seems determined to drive it in deeper...

Monday, October 30, 2006

Light at the End of the Parenting Tunnel?

Last week Hubs, DD#2, and I had conference with DD#2's teacher, who greeted us with a hug and, "It's your last parent-teacher conference!"

Yes, it is. This particular teacher is the only one to have taught all four of our kids. Her oldest daughter was in DD#1's class through high school and part of community college. In fact, I knew her as a mom before I knew her as a teacher.

We've been through a lot together.

DD#2 is having a terrific year. We can all feel it and the evidence is in--except maybe for math. But DD#2 seems to have found her niche. She has her core group of friends to hang with. She seems more relaxed. She's smiling and laughing more. She's being more responsible, even if she did have to stay up until midnight to complete her book of poetry, finishing up the illustrations and binding the book.

And why am I concerned that she didn't pack everything on her list for Caritas Creek this week? Why am I a bit worried that not everything will come home? Because I'm still her mother, she's still my "baby," and she's still a blonde.

There seems to be a pattern in our family: we don't come into our own until high school. It could be that it's tough to find classmates who share our interests in the relatively static population of a Catholic grammar school. It's easy to get stuck, especially when you've been together for eight years.

However, when I was growing up, kids were expected to work out their own social problems and the adults only intervened in cases of blood or where the ostracism was truly blatant. Now it seems like the adults jump in all too quickly.

"She doesn't smile enough. She doesn't play with others during recess."

Well, how often is she supposed to smile? And is she not playing with others because she's excluded or because she doesn't want to? I tried to explain that, in a large family, finding time to be with your own thoughts is difficult and sometimes you just want to be alone.

The adults at school weren't buying it. And so part of my job became protecting my children's right to be unpopular, to have a few friends rather than a lot, to let them develop at their own pace, in their own way.

The kid who got in trouble for being a smart-aleck then is now considered witty. The tomboy is now wearing make-up and jewelry--jewelry that she's made. The class goat now makes friends easily and flows easily between jocks, Scouts, nerds, and "normal" kids. The kid who listened to discussions in the car about infinity and imaginary numbers is good in math.

So, with the grace of God, they will turn out okay after all.

Although DS#2 is going to school tomorrow dressed as a Girl Scout for Hallowe'en...

Book Review: The Thirteenth Tale

From the back cover of the book:

My gripe is not with lovers of the truth but with truth herself. What succor, what consolation is there in truth, compared to a story? What good is truth, at midnight, in the dark, when the wind is raoring like a bear in the chimney? What you need are the plump comforts of a story. The soothing, rocking safety of a lie. --Vida Winter

I bought this book because the review in the Borders ad was enticing and the discount with the coupon brought the price of the book down to a reasonable level. The Thirteenth Tale is a mystery story. A detective story. A ghost story. A love story. A story about the special relationship between reader and author. The perfect Hallowe'en book for those of us who appreciate a well-written sentence, who have read Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Turn of the Screw, and, perhaps, a touch of Rebecca.

Margaret Lea grew up in an antiquarian bookstore, amidst a treasure trove of books: timeless classics, specialized histories and mathematics. As Margaret notes, "The shop itself makes next to no money. It is a place to write and recieve letters. A place oto while away the hours waiting for the next international bookfair. In the opinion of our bank manager, it is an indulgence, one that my father's success entitles him to. Yet in reality--my father's reality and min; I don't pretend reality is the same for everyone--the shop is the very heart of the affair. It is a repository of books, a place of safety for all the volumes, once so lovingly written, that at present no one seems to want.

"And it is a place to read."

In the bookstore, Margaret found her vocation: writing biographies of the "also-rans" in literary history. She enjoys finding the diaries and memoirs of those who were almost famous in their lifetimes and have since become unknown.

Then she receives a letter from Vida Winters. Vida is contemporary writer, still alive, though gravely ill. She has chosen Margaret because the time has come to tell the truth about her life. That night Margaret takes a copy of Miss Winters first book: Thirteen Tales of Change and Desperation. Despite her best intentions, Margaret is sucked into the stories and discovers there are only twelve stories, not thirteen. Whatever happened to the thirteen tale?

According to Mr. Lea, no one knows. The thirteenth tale was not ready at the time the book was published. No one knows what became of it. Perhaps Margaret can resolve this mystery.

Margaret meets Miss Winter who persuades her to write her biography. Miss Winters conditions are simple: every story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. And Margaret must let Miss Winters tell her story her way. No skipping around. No questions.

And there's one more thing:

"Tell me your story," Miss Winters askst.

"I don't have one," she answers. Of course, that is not true. Everyone has a story and slowly Margaret's story is revealed.

Diane Setterfield is a masterful storyteller. And she is a Reader, one of the Tribe for whom books are not merely pieces of paper but a necessary part of life. I found myself nodding in agreement with several descriptions of losing oneself in a book, knowing a book by its feel, writing and having time slip away. I believe this is Ms. Setterfield's first novel and there are few "clunky" passages--for the most part, the novel caught me up and carried me along with it. It has a quiet, deliberative feel: events march at their own pace, there is very little sense of hysterical urgency. It is a very British book--moors and manors and countrysides--and there is also no sense of when this all might be taking place. It could be the early-20th Century, it could be more modern, though there is no mention of the modern gizmos most of us take for granted. (Ms. Lea, for example, writes in long-hand, with pencil and paper.)

The Thirteenth Tale is a good book to use to take a break from the sturm und drang that accompanies this election season. A wonderful escape!

On the March Hare Scale: 4.5 out of 5 Golden Bookmarks

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

One More Thing to Worry About

Yesterday there was a bomb scare at the community college DS#1 and DD#1 attend. DS#1 found out about it when he arrived early to do some studying for midterms and the police had the campus blocked off.

This morning, Hubs called to let us know the campus is still closed.

Two bomb threats were called in to the local police stations on Sunday and Monday stating that a bomb would be placed on campus during the next three days. The campus has been searched and, fortunately, nothing has been found.

DD#1 is quite nonchalant about it, "Somebody must have had a midterm." DS#1's girlfriend left a breathless message on his voicemail asking him to take care because she "didn't want to be picking up pieces of him." I know he's anxious to get back on campus--he has midterms and labs due, work that can only be done on site.

The target is rather odd. There are many, many other colleges and universities close by where a bomb threat would have a greater impact. This community college is out in the 'burbs. It's not known as a hotbed of radical activity--not like Berkeley, which is about 30 miles down the freeway.

This is the same campus DD#2 attended during "College for Kids," an enrichment program where she built a video game, programmed a computer, and learned some Japanese.

I hope that whoever called in the threat used these two days wisely...

Monday, October 23, 2006

Twenty-three Years Ago Today...

...I was in the hospital with a brand-new baby boy. 8 lbs. 4 oz, 21" long, with red fuzz on the top of his head, ten perfect little fingers, ten chubby little toes. He came with a healthy pair of lungs, which I was to become quite familiar with later.

DS#1 was our first and, as such, many precedents and traditions were set. Including saving the day's San Francisco Chronicle.

The headlines on that day? 241 Marines killed in Beirut Barracks Bombing.

"Are you sure you want to save this?" Hubs asked me.

I nodded. What good was it going to do to hide this from him? Eventually DS#1 would find out. But part of me--the part that lived through the Vietnam draft and war--wondered if the draft would be reinstated once he came of age.

Six weeks before his 18th birthday--when he would have to register with Selective Service at our local post office--was 9/11. That weekend was an Eagle Court of Honor for one of the young men we've known since Cub Scouts. The room was filled with 17-, 18-, and 19-y.o. males. Many were Eagle Scouts or soon-to-be. They were leaders, go-getters, with a strong sense of duty and honor. The kind of young men America has depended on in moments of crisis.

Again, I wondered: will there be a draft? How many will serve? How many will die?

Despite having a grandfather who served in the Navy in WWII and a father who served in the Marines during Vietnam, DS#1 has no desire to enlist. He has finally found a subject (engineering) that interests him. I think he would make a great math or science teacher, especially since he has struggled with ADHD and with reading. But he has always been the kind of person who had to make his own discoveries, his own decisions. This trait made for a rough childhood for the most part, especially with adults who thought he should be treated as a child because, well, he was a child. I felt his pain, his frustration, knowing that those very weaknesses would become strengths once he got older.

Now I hope he finds his way back to God. He is wrestling with the angel and, like Jacob, I think he's going to require dislocating something to get him back on track. (I see spirituality in him. But then, I'm his mother. Wishful thinking? Maybe. But I also know he has been given a very strong Guardian Angel. One who may be as stubborn as he is.)

Motherhood, for me, has been as much about giving up control as it has been about controlling. About discovering gifts and talents as well as civilizing heathens. Because of DS#1, I have met people, learned things, and gone places I would never have.

The world is still an uncertain place, as uncertain as it was twenty-three years ago. The difference is that I no longer have a baby to worry about. I have a man.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Book Review: Coyote Frontier

The third book in the Coyote trilogy by Allen Steele brings us back to the sparsely-settled world. After successfully defending itself from the predations of the Western Hemisphere Union, which had absorbed the United Republic of America, the citizens of Coyote begin to develop their own culture. Carlos Montero, the former rebel known as Rigel Kent, is now President. Much of the technology brought to Coyote on board the Alabama is wearing out. The citizens of Coyote realize that while they are pioneers and Coyote is the frontier, technology is nice to have.

Fortunately, one of the original Dissident Intellectuals who did not make it to the Alabama was frozen on Earth and has just been thawed. Conveniently, this scientist was working on a "starbridge"--also known as "Faster Than Light" travel. It also means that instead of the hundreds of years it took Alabama to get to Coyote or the decades it took the WHU vessels and settlers, travel will now take hours.

Which means the neat toys and gadgets of Earth will become available to Coyote. As will the problems.

However, not everyone thinks this is a Good Thing. One of the indigenous species on Coyote, the chireep, are sentinent. They have language. They have social structure. They have art. And there is a group on Coyote who feel the development of chireep culture is threatened by the invasion of humans from Earth.

Coyote also becomes a pawn in the political struggles on Earth, mostly between the WHU and the European Alliance. (There is also a Pacific Coalition, which I'm guessing is primarily Asian, although this is not as well-drawn.) Global warming has caused the Greenland and Antarctic ice caps to melt, flooding the coastal towns of North America, and changing global weather patterns, pushing the Northern Hemisphere towards an Ice Age (wait--how can that be? Wouldn't the Ice Age freeze some of the water flooding the coasts and cause the ocean levels to drop again? Or am I just not following the argument here?).

Anyway, because Manhattan is flooded, the UN has moved its headquarters to London, which is managing to remain fairly dry only because they had the foresight to build dikes.

The EA seems like the Good Guys in all of this, but this is politics. And there is an Evil Industrial Filthy Rich North American Capitalist who has managed to save several breeds of horses from extinction. He has his own reasons for wanting to negotiate with the government of Coyote.

And, of course, there are those who want to protect the chireep and protect Coyote from the ecological devastation suffered by Earth. There are those who see dollar signs as well. There is the inevitable clash between the two.

Guess who wins?


This is probably the weakest of the three books in the trilogy. Too much jumping around. Too much PC science. Too much gee-whiz technology as deus ex machina. Not enough character development!!! (Which is also my biggest complaint about Lucas and Spielberg.)

The best science fiction, for me, literally transports me to another time, place, and culture. The world the author presents becomes real. Doesn't happen here, although I really want to like the characters. But just when I'm getting into their thought processes, their way of thinking, Steele changes viewpoints.

And just when you think the series has ended...

And--please, please, please!-- can't we have the world end some way other than by Global Warming? A nice pandemic, perhaps? Biological warfare? Dirty bomb that eliminates some, but not all? Blasted by Martians with ray guns? C'mon--writers are supposed to be imaginative. Show some ingenuity! Show some individuality!

Coyote Frontier won't make much sense if you haven't read the previous two: Coyote and Coyote Rising. I borrowed them from the local public library and they are available in paperback. They're good vacation/beach/airplane books.

On the March Hare scale: 2.5 out 5 Golden Bookmarks.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Sex and Celibacy

As part of my morning ritual, I've been reading A Year With John Paul II: Daily Meditations from His Writings and Prayers. This week the readings have been from The Jeweler's Shop, a play written by John Paul II during the Nazi occupation of Poland.

Today's reading discussed love, particularly how when we first fall in love we think we've discovered all the mystery love contains. But, really, our journey has only started. It is the belief that there is more to love--more depth, more mystery--that keeps couples married. (I['m paraphrasing now because I don't have the book at hand.)

What struck me most, though, was that the author, Karol Wojtyla, knew what it was like to be in love--sexual love. He would have had to, in order to write about the feeling, the emotion, so clearly, so well. And that he had experienced this love and chose to give it up to serve Christ makes his celibacy all the more meaningful.

I was at a poetry reading shortly after Cardinal Ratzinger was elected Pope. During the open reading, one of the poets read a story that referred to the College of Cardinals in general and Benedict XIV in particular as dusty old men who had withered genetalia under long black robes. The image upset me because it was a cheap shot--Benedict hadn't been given a chance and he was being condemned. The poem revealed more about the poet's prejudices than about the Cardinals or the Church. Now I realize the poem also revealed the poet's ignorance. The author hadn't read The Jeweler's Shop or the writings of John Paul II about human sexuality. He only knew--and perhaps he only chose to know--what the MSM had decided to tell him what the Pope had written.

Reading the passages of The Jeweler's Shop, I had a sudden flash of insight: if John Paul II had experienced these feelings, had this understanding, then most of the priests I've known have experienced them as well. In fact, the best priests have probably experienced this and have chosen celibacy fully understanding what they were giving up. (A point well made in the film Keeping the Faith, which is probably one of the more honest portrayals of a priest's life I've seen.) Those who only see "no sex" part of celibacy miss the reality of the sacrifice: those who have chosen celibacy don't deny their sexuality or the power of that sexuality. Instead they are focusing their energy on another goal. And because they are on the "outside," they have a better perspective of the importance of sexuality in the human experience.

And that is one reason why abuse by priests--or by anyone who claims to practice celibacy--is so terrible. They know and they have used that knowledge for evil.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Modern Technology and Classical Names

Sometimes I think that our appliances conspire against us.

First the washing machine sprung a leak. Then the freezer died. The "Service Engine Soon" idiot light came on in van (which is the "Scout" car as well as the car Hubs uses for his daily commute). Now the newer computer--the one with all the kids' homework and e-mail accounts and family pictures--blew a fuse or a motherboard or a processor. DS#1 thinks he can fix it and upgrade it at the same time for much less than buying a new one. And, since he's buying computer parts, he wants to upgrade the old computer, which still runs Win98. Since that computer doesn't have all the latest and greatest multimedia devices, it's the one I use. The hard drive has much of my writing and records for the Girl Scout troop.

Of course, DS#2 has a paper due. He used DS#1's laptop--which purposely has limited video capability, as DS#1 knows his addictions. DS#2 couldn't access the printer, so he e-mailed the file to himself and will print it this morning at school. I hope.

So the debate this morning was about what to name the rebuilt computers, since they will be, for all intents and purposes, brand new. Currently, the old computer is named "Thor." The newer computer is "Hercules."

"Who is the son of Hercules?" I asked.

"Hercules had a son?" DS#1 replied.

"How about Dino... Dino..." said DS#2. He's reading Antigone in his English class.

"Dionysus?" I offered.

"Yeah. Him," he replied.

"What about the one who was the messenger?" DD#1 asked.

"Why are we naming our computers anyway?" DD#2 wanted to know.

"Because it's easier to set up the network," DS#1 replied.

"Because our very first computer was the 'Mickey 'Puter' because it came with Mickey Mouse Learn to Read game," I said.

"What about the gal who was the hunter?" DS#1 asked.


"No, the other one. A... something."


"Yeah, that's it."

"We have one Greek and one Norse god now. Why don't we keep it that way?" I suggested.

"How about Loki?" DS#2 contributed.

"Ah, the Trickster. I like that," I answered.

"And the messenger god," offered DD#1.

"Mercury. Or Hermes. I like Hermes," I said. (We're in the Herms Boy Scout District, which is often misspelled and mispronouced as "Hermes." It's kind of an in-joke among the Boy Scouts in our area.) "Who is the Norse messenger god?"

"Loki. He's the fastest one," replied DS#1.

DD#2 just shook her head. Normal families don't discuss the characteristics of mythological gods vis-a-vis their computers before 7:00 a.m. on a school day.

So we are now awaiting the arrival of the guts for Hermes and Loki. And we will limp along using DS#1's laptop, the computers at school, and at the public library for the next week or so. And then I hope DS#1 is as good at rebuilding a computer as he thinks he is.

His last words to me, as we were walking out the door? "By the way, what are you getting me for my birthday?"

DD#1 actually came up with the best reply, "They're taking you off Dad's health insurance."

Friday, October 06, 2006

I'm Out!

The Anchoress has thrown down the gauntlet and I'm accepting it...

I'm a middle-age woman who enjoys having sex with an older, married man. Been doing it for years, although neither of us were middle-aged when we started (he's always been older, though). Indoors, outdoors, night, day, T.V. on, T.V. off, children in the house--been there, done that, will probably do it again tonight.

I also sing to the radio--off-key and loudly--and talk to myself, out loud, when I'm alone in the car.

A has some terrific pictures of men who make her raise her eyebrows. Kiefer Sutherland in a kilt--priceless!

Besides Kiefer, Darcy, and Bryn, here are a few manly men that I wouldn't kick out for eating crackers in my bed:

Mel as "Braveheart"

Jim Caviezel as "The Count of Monte Cristo"

Richard Chamberlain, "Thorn Birds" era (and, yes, I know he's gay. As I told my mother, "Like I'd have a chance with him anyway!")


Hmmm... Time to dig out some movies and candles tonight, I think... Perhaps a glass of wine. Or Drambuie...

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Karmic Konfluence

Update: I mentioned this to Hubs and DS#2. DS#2 said, "Oh, yeah. Today was 'National Cut Day.'" When I asked what that meant, he shrugged and said, "I guess to protest the war or something."

So for a lot of kids, this was a chance to cut school. I'm glad the weather didn't cooperate.

DS#2's school decided to have a "Shelter In Place" drill instead. He thought it was pretty pointless to hid under their desks. I reminded him that was SOP for earthquakes and probably wasn't a bad idea if someone started shooting. Although I got to admit, at 6', he's not going to be protected much under the desk-chairs they use in high school.


Today is National Bush Derangement Syndrome Day. There is supposed to be a march, starting at noon, from the Ferry Building to Civic Center and back. The protestors plan to camp out at the plaza near the Ferry Building, have a rally in the morning, and leave.

The plaza is made of brick, surrounded by cement steps. It's actually a very pleasant spot to eat lunch on a nice day.

It's raining. Has been all day.

The Blue Angels are in town. They're buzzing The City despite the low ceiling. They're kind of fun to watch as they circle around and through and over the skyscrapers.

They're here because it's Fleet Week. Which means The City will host hundreds, if not thousands, of sailors and Marines.


Life is never dull.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Lamb?

Apparently, many people.

In his Townhall column today, Michael Medved asks, " Why would a major corporation invest big money in a gratuitous insult of millions of potential customers who, according to the company’s own figures, represent a clear majority of the American public?"

Mr. Medved examines a full page ad appearing in The New York Times headlined "
“RELIGION=MADNESS?”, announcing the publication of A Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris. According to the ad, A Letter to a Christian Nation is "The courageous new book that arms all rational Americans with powerful arguments against their opponents on the Christian right."

Let me get this straight: there are Muslim leaders who are telling the U.S. to "convert or die" and we have to worry about the Christian Right?

I didn't know those Left Behind books were so darn powerful.

Of course, attacking the Christian Right is, for the most part, safe. Mr. Harris is not hiding himsself or his family in fear of their lives. George Soros is still happily giving money away. Michael Moore and Oliver Stone are still making movies that are being played in public theaters. Barbra Streisand can still claim she's Jewish while flipping her own hair in public and enjoying mu shu pork. No mosques have been burned. No iman has been shot in the back and killed on his way to his job.

So, while reading Mr. Medved's article, I had to wonder--as he did--why does the Left fear Christians so much? Why do they feel so threatened by a religion who has two primary Commandments: Love God With Your Whole Heart, Your Whole Soul, and Your Whole Mind and Love Your Neighbor as Yourself? Frankly, the second Commandment seems pretty close to what Lefties are always telling the rest of us that we should do.

Mr. Medved points out that,"...
as recently as 1955, the nation clearly exemplified all the accommodations to faith desired by religious conservatives for the future. Did the recital of a non-sectarian prayer after the pledge of allegiance in public school classrooms some fifty years ago constitute the essence of theocratic tyranny? Did minority religions find themselves relentlessly persecuted because local service clubs installed nativity scenes in public parks?"

Well, in some cases, yes. A friend of mine who grew up in Southern Ohio during the 1950's remembers reciting The Lord's Prayer after the Pledge of Allegiance with his class. The problem was the version used was the Protestant version and he was Roman Catholic. His parish priest, in those pre-Vatican II days, told the children that they were committing a sin by saying the Protestant version (it was heresy). But if they didn't say it, they got in trouble with the teacher.

I wonder what the Jewish students did?

Christians can't even agree on the Ten Commandments, the number of Psalms, or the Book of Tobit. How can we come up with a "non-sectarian" prayer?

However, I do not have a problem with a moment of silence (or a moment of reflection). I think removing religious symbols linked to the local through history, like the cross from the seal of the City of Los Angeles (c'mon, folks, the name of the city is religious!) is fatuous. And, if you're going to celebrate a religious holiday like Chinese New Year because it's quaint, colorful, and brings in a lot of tourist dollars, then you'd better be willing to allow displays and celebrations of other religious holidays.

Either we celebrate all ethnic and cultural diversity or we don't.

Still, that doesn't seem to explain the almost primal fear of Christianity that many secularists have.

Mr. Medved nails it, I believe, "In Letter to a Christian Nation, Sam Harris unwittingly provides the answer. Addressing his believing fellow citizens, he dramatically declaims: “If the basic tenets of Christianity are true, then there are some very grim surprises in store for nonbelievers like myself. You understand this. At least half of the American population understands this. So let us be honest with ourselves: in the fullness of time, one side is really going to win this argument, and the other side is really going to lose.”

So that's it: the Left sees this as a "win-lose" situation, despite many of them advocating "win-win" and "consensus." (Ironically, this was the way the Catholics saw things for, oh, about a millenium or so.) They marshall up all the logic and rationales they can; they search through history for examples of the Church Behaving Badly, and they contrast that with the "peaceful" and "holistic" native religions (ignoring human sacrifice and cannibalism if necessary).

But, like Jiminy Cricket in Pinocchio, that little voice just keeps whispering in their ears, "What if you're wrong?"

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Plot Sickens or Safe Environments

Last week, Hubs and I spent an evening at church participating in the Safe Environment training provided by the Diocese of Oakland. All parish staff, school staff, CYO coaches, volunteers, and ministers are required to be trained. Annually.

Our trainer acknowledged that this came about because of the scandal of sexual abuse by priests. But, he also pointed out, abusers cut across all racial, ethnic, gender, income, religious boundaries. They can be any age.

The best defense is parental vigilance. If an adult is giving you the "creeps" or makes you (the parent) uncomfortable, don't ignore it. Watch. Listen. Make sure you're there. The one trait all abusers have is that they prey on the weakest, the most vulnerable. They seek out those children and cultivate a relationship with them.

Hubs does the Youth Protection training for the Boy Scouts. Each Pack, Troop, or Unit has to have at least one adult on every outing who has been trained. Much of the material presented to us was familiar:

  • Never be alone in a room with a child or teen
  • Always have two adults at every outing or practice. At least one of the adults must be the same sex as the children
  • Don't hug a child; let the child hug you
  • If you suspect child abuse, report it
  • If a child tells you of abuse, listen
  • Know the signs of the four types of abuse (physical, emotional, neglect, and sexual)
I received the same information during staff training for Girl Scout camp.

The message repeated over and over: if you suspect abuse, report it. Let the professionals do the investigative work. Whether or not we're mandated to report it is irrelevant. As Christians we're morally obligated to report suspected abuse.

Apparently Congress doesn't get the same training. In fact, they don't appear to get any type of youth protection/safe environment training, even though they deal with minors all day long.

Frankly, they should. And Congressmen and Congresswomen (Representatives and Senators) should be mandated to report child abuse. They are a government officials, like police officers, probation officers, firefighters. They should be setting the example.

Frankly, I'm not holding my breath.

(H/T: Michelle Malkin (see Ms. Malkin's post for the inspiration for the title of this one); The Anchoress; LaShawn Barber)

Monday, October 02, 2006

October is Rosary Month

October is Rosary month, as the Anchoress reminds us. The rosary is a very powerful prayer, as Our Lady reminded us at Fatima.

But it does put me to sleep.

I have a very mixed relationship with the Rosary. When I was about 9 or so, Fr. Peyton and his "Rosary Rally" came through town. His tagline was "The family that prays together, stays together." And the Rosary was the most powerful prayer around. So rosaries became a popular present that year, as I recall. Problem was, I would try to pray the Rosary before going to bed and would wake up on the floor with the beads twisted or the string broken.

A few years later, I joined the Junior Legion of Mary, a group devoted to Mary and to praying the Rosary. I had a bit more success: I'd get through about three decades before nodding off.

Over the years, I have have broken many rosary beads by falling asleep with them twisted around my fingers, even my nice silver-plated set that I received for Confirmation. I even broke a rosary bracelet the same way. I stopped praying the Rosary for the most part, except for group prayer at a devotion or a wake. I could stay awake for those!

Then I read--somewhere--that the Rosary is an excellent means of meditating and calming a racing mind. And my silver-plated set happened to be in my purse, left over from the wake of a family friend. So when I went for my first job interview in 11 years, I prayed the rosary while riding BART. I got the job and became a regular commuter. For 45 minutes, I'm sitting on a train and I might as well pray.

That worked well for about the first month. Then I found myself falling asleep. Around the third decade. Again. At least this time I haven't broken any beads.

In her memoir, John Paul II: Remembering a Spiritual Father, Peggy Noonan talks about receiving a rosary from JPII after a visit there. She was going to frame them and make a collage with other mementos of her visit, but, instead ends up grabbing them (because they have a case) and putting them in her pocket. She prays the Rosary on the subway and credits its power to bring peace to a confrontational situation. She also mentions a friend who prays the Rosary while she's on the treadmill. Her friend says (and I'm paraphrasing because I lent the book out) that the day just doesn't seem to go right if she doesn't pray.

I know what she means.

I have tried to pray the Rosary while driving, but find it too difficult to keep track. Instead, I start with the Apostles' Creed the minute I hit the platform, while on BART, while walking up the stairs to the street. I have a little pocket-sized prayer book that lists many of the traditional Catholic prayers (including the Creed) as well as the Mysteries, including the Luminous Mysteries. Some days I do better than others--usually on the days where I feel the most anxious, the most need of Divine Help.

This month I will make a special effort. This is my pre-Advent warm-up, my chance to ask Our Lady to watch over all her children and help us find our way back to her Son and His Father.

And I'll try not to drool when I doze off...

Sunday's Lesson While Ministering

In my parish, the Eucharistic Ministers, the Lectors, the Altar Servers, the Deacon, and the priests meet in the back of the Church before Mass. We greet each other and pray that the Holy Spirit may guide us in our ministry. I appreciate the opportunity to focus my mind and spirit on why I am doing what I am doing.

Yesterday, before the prayer, a young woman came up to me.

"Are you a Eucharistic Minister?" she asked.

"Yes," I replied.

"Would you bring Communion to my grandmother? She's sitting with us over there. She'll be 102 this November. Normally she likes to go up to receive, but she's hurt her knee and she can't move too well."

I assured the young woman that it would be no problem at all, especially since they were sitting near my "station." And I also expressed how wonderful that her grandmother was still mobile and still participating in Mass at 102! I hope I'm able to do the same.

Fortunately, I remembered to administer the Eucharist before I got to my position. When everyone was in position, I turned and began distributing to my section. Most Communicants prefer to receive the Host in their hand and part of my mind is struck by the beauty and diversity of the hands that cradle the Lord. Some of the hands have done years of hard, physical labor and, if they're male hands, I think, "St. Joseph must have had hands like these." Hard, callused, scarred, yet capable of such gentleness. There are female hands that are rough and chapped from washing, cooking, scrubbing. Those are the hands of Our Lady. The children's hands are chubby; some still have their baby dimples. The teens and young adults have softer hands, often stained with ink (especially those who came from Confirmation class). Some hands are well-manicured. Some bear rings made of precious metals and stones. Others wear plain bands.

Each set of hands is unique and, I'd like to think, reflects the soul of the owner, and that soul--at least for the next few minutes--reflects the Glory of its Creator.

I usually smile at those to whom I say, "The Body of Christ" because we are sharing Communion with Our Lord and Savior and it is a joyful occasion. We have something no other religion has: we Catholics have an actual piece of the Body of our God. What an awesome idea! And we can have Him with us directly from the time we are 7 until our death.

How many times has that 102-year-old woman received the Body of Christ? And she still seeks it out!