Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Final Confirmandi

On Thursday, April 23, DD#2 was confirmed. The name she chose, Bernadette, is my mother's middle name and the name of my baby sister who died hours after her birth (I was five at the time). DD#2 decided that her Aunt Bernadette is her guardian angel. And why not?

And Lourdes is only a day trip from the village my great-grandfather came from.

The Confirmation was held at the new Cathedral, Christ the Light. This was the first group to be confirmed at the Cathedral; unfortunately, our new bishop has not been installed, so they were confirmed by the Diocesan Administrator with the assistant of the priests from the parishes of the confirmandi. There were 175 confirmandi from six parishes. Add sponsors and families, and the Cathedral was full. Still, it went very smoothly and we were done by 9:00 p.m. Add time for pictures, we were on the road by 9:45 p.m. And this included a full Mass.

I loved the sermon given by Fr. Danielson. He spoke of the time and devotion it takes to become good at something: soccer, music, art, football. You can't sit on the couch and expect to become a great athlete. Nor can you sit on the couch and become a good Catholic. Confirmation is a beginning, not an ending. Get up off the couch and get involved. Live your faith, keep learning about your faith, keep practicing your faith.

It was a great message; I hope it reached its intended audience.

On the other hand, DD#1, who has been having issues with being Catholic, not only came to the ceremony, she also received Communion. She goes to Mass on those occasions where it's important to me or to one of the family, but she usually doesn't receive Communion, although she will ask for a blessing by crossing her arms over her chest and bowing her head. (That's the custom in our parish.) I didn't ask why--I've been praying to St. Monica and St. Augustine for both DD#1 and DS#1--but I know if I push, she'll shut down.

Our pastor, Fr. P., was there, along with Fr. K., and they congratulated the confirmandi. Fr. P. asked me how I was doing and I smiled and said, "My job is done." Okay, not really. But I hope I've given all of my children the blessings of our Faith and the tools to deal with the world, the strength to find the answers to their questions. I know I'm going to keep St. Monica and St. Augustine busy for a long time yet. And continue to set the best example I can.

15 Questions for Heavy Readers

This post is blatantly borrowed from Julie D. over at Happy Catholic, who is certainly a more organized reader than I am. (I don't keep lists.)

15 Questions For Heavy Readers

Via Thomas L. McDonald on Facebook ...

You know the drill: answer and pass along. Unless you’re tired of these things. (Who could POSSIBLY be tired of these things?) Go ahead, include up to 3 answers each if you like. We won’t tell. If you’re religious, consider The Bible or other religious texts a gimme, particularly for question #15.

1. Most treasured childhood book(s)?
Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass; Peter Pan (Roy Best illustrated picture book that was my mother's); Heidi

2. Classic(s) you are embarrassed to admit you’ve never read?
A Tale of Two Cities

3. Classics you read, but hated?
Little Women (got through the abridged version in 8th Grade; never have been able to finish the complete edition)

4. Favorite genre(s)?
If it's printed, I'll read it.

5. Favorite light reading?
Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, Jane Austen, Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon

6. Favorite heavy reading?
American History & biographies, especially David McCullough's works.

7. Last book(s) you finished?
The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold; Falling Up, Nick Hornby

8. Last book(s) you bailed on?
A study guide to the Bible that I'm supposed to review. I feel guilty about it, too, in good Catholic fashion.

9. Three (only three!) books on your nightstand?
The Master, Colin Toibin (a novel about Henry James); a copy of the Catholic Student's Bible that I "borrowed" from one of the kids; the aforementioned Bible Study Guide; a Year with Pope John Paul II--different excerpts from John Paul II's writings, sermons, and addresses for each day of the year; Tales of Beedle the Bard, J.K. Rowling

10. Book(s) you’ve read more than once?
Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass; Pride & Prejudice; Bridget Jone's Diary; the Harry Potter series

11. The book(s) that meant the most to you when you were younger (ie, college/young adult)?
Mr. Blue, by Miles Connolly; Poetry of Robert Frost; Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov; Earth Abides, by George R. Stewart; Poetry of Dylan Thomas; Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert Heinlein

12. Book(s) that changed the way you looked at life?
Earth Abides, by George R. Stewart; Mr. Blue, by Miles Connolly

13. Favorite books
Most of them! ;)

14. Favorite author(s)
Wow--a tough one. But there are certain authors who rarely disappoint me: Jane Austen, Stephen King, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaimon, Nick Hornby, Agatha Christie, Alexandre Dumas, Charles Dickens, Connie Willis, Nancy Kress.

15. Desert Island Book
Can we count all 7 Harry Potters as one book? Although I think the Boy Scout Field Manual would be more helpful. :)

Desert Island Book for Your Worst Enemy
Wifey, an adult novel by Judy Blume. I finished this book only because I kept hoping it would get better. It didn't.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Movie Review: Monsters vs. Aliens

It's Susan Murphy's (Reese Witherspoon) wedding day and she is about to marry up-and-coming Modesto news anchor, Dexter Dietl (Paul Rudd). During the preparations, Susan and Dexter have a moment alone and Dexter confesses that they are not going to Paris for their honeymoon. Dexter has a chance for a job in Fresno, which could be his stepping stone to a larger market. Susan is disappointed, but as part of "Team Dietl," she'll accept the change in plans.

Dexter heads back to the church. Meanwhile, a meteor crashes nearby and Susan is irradiated. At the altar, she begins to glow green and grow. And grow, crashing through the ceiling of the church.

The men in the black helicopters are not far behind. Susan is captured and taken to a secret facility where she meets other "monsters": a blob (Seth Rogen), a mad scientist who is a cockroach (Hugh Laurie), the "missing link" (Will Arnett), and Insectasaurus--a giant caterpillar. And their guard, General W.R. Monger (Kiefer Sutherland), gruff and officious. There is no hope of escape; no hope of returning to "normal"--which is what Susan desperately wants.

Meanwhile, an alien is trying to recover the mysterious substance from the meteor that made Susan big. Gallaxhar (Rainn Wilson) at first sends down his evil robot to do his dirty work. General Monger realizes this job requires the talents of his "monsters" and takes them to the fight, which happens to be on the Bayshore Freeway (Highway 101), just south of Candlestick Park.

The ensuing fight takes place all over San Francisco, including a scene where the Golden Gate Bridge is demolished. Eventually, the alien robot is also destroyed. As a reward, Susan and her new friends are allowed to visit her family in Modesto, where she learns a few things about Dexter.

Meanwhile, Gallaxhar decides to retrieve the substance himself--which means he has to kidnap Susan. And so he does. However, her friends decide they have to rescue her. General Monger drops them off on the spaceship and promises to return.

Gallaxhar is using the substance to make clones of himself so he can take over the Earth. So our brave "monsters" not only have to rescue Susan, but also thwart Gallaxhar's plan.

Hubs and I paid an extra $3.00 to watch this movie in 3D. The effects were pretty awesome: the movie starts with a guy playing with a paddle ball that had me ducking in my seat. And the writers pay homage to several B-monster movies, including the aforementioned scene at the Golden Gate Bridge.

The attention to detail is amazing. Strands of hair and fur move, the backgrounds are realistic, including just the right amount of fog on the Bayshore Freeway, the buildings in downtown San Francisco, the streets of Modesto. The story is okay: believe in yourself, don't judge people by their appearances (even generals).

But this is not a story for younger kids. One toddler spent the entire time crying (and mom was trying to explain that they couldn't leave older brother, who was enjoying the movie, alone). I'm not sure if younger children would handle the 2D version better. I discussed this with my sister-in-law who has a five-year-old and a 2.5-year old. The five-y.o. would probably enjoy it, especially in 2D, because he loves Shrek and Monsters Inc. The 2.5-y.o. wouldn't be able to sit still for it. Some children will be scared by this.

For a DreamWorks movie, it wasn't bad. For once, the actors personalities didn't overwhelm the animated characters. And the storyline wasn't completely left behind for the special effects.

On the March Hare scale: 3.5 out of 5 Golden Tickets

(crossposted on Catholic Media Review)

Book Review: The Lovely Bones

The novel, by Alice Sebold, starts with the stark facts: "My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name , Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973." Susie is a member of the Chess Club, the Chem Club, burns everything she tries to cook in home ec, and loves biology and her teacher, Mr. Botte. A boy in her class, Ray Singh, has a crush on her and is close to kissing her for the first time. Her sister, Lindsey, is a year younger, and her brother, Buckley, is four. She is lured into the underground hiding place built in the cornfield by her neighbor. The design intrigues her and she is too naive to realize what is going on until it is too late.

Susie finds heaven a different place than she has imagined. She has a roommate, Holly, and an intake counselor, Franny. Heaven, for Susie, looks a lot like her neighborhood and the people she sees are in their version of heaven that overlaps hers. Franny tells Susie and Holly that they can have whatever they desire--except to grow up.

But Susie can watch her family and friends left behind on Earth. The police are stymied by the lack of clues to her death--the only part of her body that is found is an elbow. Her sister, Lindsey, handles her grief by pushing it down deep. Buckley doesn't understand, at first, that Susie will never be coming back. Her father searches for the killer on her own. Her mother moves away and Susie's Grandma Lynn comes to take care of Lindsey and Buckley. The detective handling the case can't forget it.

Life continues on Earth and Susie's understanding of Heaven and what she can, and cannot, do broadens. Two classmates of Susie's continue to feel her absence: Ray Singh and Ruth Connors. Susie's spirit had brushed by Ruth on her way to heaven and Ruth had felt it. Susie's spirit haunts Ruth throughout high school and her memory affects Ray.

But the story is not dark and gloomy. Ultimately, it's about love, the different ways it's expressed, and the healing love brings. And, for us parents, it's about how we can't always protect our children from evil, but we have to let them grow up.

Ms. Sebold's idea of heaven and the afterlife doesn't exactly jibe with any Christian theology I'm familiar with, although I like the idea that there are dogs in heaven. But it works really well for the novel and what a fourteen-year-old girl might envision.

On the March Hare scale: 3.5 out of 5 Golden Bookmarks

(crossposted on Catholic Media Review)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished...

California is in the third year of a drought, so the Water Company has been urging us all to conserve--shave 13% off your usage or pay a penalty. As a water-conserving family--we let our lawn & garden die out long ago and have installed low-flush toilets and low-flow showerheads--it's been really difficult to find that 13%. A couple of months we have had to pay a penalty. Hubs is threatening to install a timer in the shower, especially for DD#1 who has been known to use all the hot water.

Overall, the customers served by our Water Company have done a tremendous job. So well have we conserved that the Water Company is going to reward us--by raising our rates!

Yep. We're using so much less water, that revenues are "too low" and have to be made up.

Caltrans is using the same logic on the six bridges spanning the Bay that are under their purview (the Golden Gate Bridge is under a separate district). Because of the drop in employment, increased use of public transportation and carpooling, toll revenues are less than expected. Never mind the fact that traffic is flowing more smoothly. Forget that the bonds that built these bridges,especially the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, were supposed to be paid off forty years ago and the bridge is supposed to be toll-free. Forget that the new Oakland-to-Yerba Buena Island part of the span still isn't finished and isn't likely to be for several more years (the Loma Prieta Earthquake that damaged the bridge happened 18.5 years ago).

No--revenue is down, so the customer/taxpayer must pay more! Including carpoolers, who now drive through free of charge. Forget the havoc this will cause during commute times, the long delays, the gridlock. The Bridge Needs More Revenue!

There goes my tax cut...

Monday, April 13, 2009

He Is Risen!

"Who will move the stone?" According to Mark, that's what the women wondered as they approached the tomb with oils and spices to anoint the body that had been crucified three days before.

What they found was "a young man, dressed in white." Mark does not call him an angel. So who was this young man?

I love the Triduum. I love the rites and the rituals from Holy Thursday through Saturday. The covering of the statues. The washing of the feet. The story about the Last Supper. The procession of the Holy Eucharist through the church to the Altar of Repose. The empty tabernacle. The extinguished candle.

And then the solemnity of Good Friday. The necessity of the Death so that Christ may triumph.

This year, I was privileged to be a lector, sharing the reading of Genesis--the beginning of it all. Reading in the dark Church, with just our voices. Then the story of Exodus and Isaiah--the story of God's Promise to His People.

Then the Gloria, the bells and the light and the celebration.

And the best part: welcoming those who have chosen to "cross the Tiber"--or to complete their journey. This year we welcomed an entire family as well as a long-time parishioner who had never been baptized.

Afterwards, there is the chorus of "Happy Easter!" as we head out of the church, back to our homes, knowing we have been saved and that Good has, indeed, triumphed over Evil.

I am dependent on these rites, these rituals. They mark the passages of my life. I love it when Passover coincides with Easter, the way it was in the beginning, the way it should be. There is a strength to that, a Power.

Add the prayers of those celebrating Pascha (Mimi--did I get that right?) and God is truly Here.