Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Too Late for a Novena to Stop the Healthcare Bill?

I know I should pray when I first wake up.  The Good Sisters tried to pound that into our hearts and souls in grammar school.  Instead, I checked the weather and the news headlines.

The weather is the only good news.

There was a line about Sr. Carol Keehan of the Catholic Health Association supporting the Senate version of the Healthcare bill.  I had to search to find a complete article: Catholic Health Group Accepts Abortion Language in Reform Bill.

From the article:  "She "has a major concern on life issues" about the bill, she said, and believes they will require monitoring should the bill become law. But she believes the concerns are adequately addressed by the mechanism to keep abortion coverage apart from the government-regulated health care markets."

For Sr. Keehan, the imperative to provide health care coverage is greater than protecting the lives of fetuses.  She thinks this bill will do that--or at least start:  "As I watched our president present his plan to pass the health reform legislation, it was clear this is an historic opportunity to make great improvements in the lives of so many Americans," Keehan said in her statement. "Is it perfect? No. Does it cover everyone? No. But is it a major first step? Yes."

Sr. Keehan now gives cover to all the wavering pro-life Democrat Representatives.  "Look, a sister in the Catholic Church approves!  The bill must be okay!"

I'm concerned and worried and feeling powerless--what can I, a single individual do?  I can pray.  It may be too late for a novena, but it's never too  late for prayer and fasting.  I will be praying that Congress listen closely to their consciences and follow God's Will in their voting.  And I will pray that I can accept God's Will in my life as well.

"Not my will, but Thy Will be done."  

Who knew that Faith would be challenged in such a way?  Almost makes facing lions in the Colosseum in Rome seem easier.  :)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Faith & Politics

Hubs is really, truly worried about the direction the U.S. is taking, especially the Health Care Bill.

"Is the President stupid?" he fumes.  (About Speaker Pelosi and Senator Reid, he has no doubt--they are stupid.)  "How can you not be upset about this?"

"Faith," I answer.  "I pray and I trust in God."

I'm not being flippant.  I lived through the 1970's and saw The Silent Majority being shouted down--by many of the same people who are bringing us the health care bill.  I heard the pundits proclaim the end of The American Dream, that the world would run out of food, potable water, fuel, and fauna.  The world was becoming Trantor--a completely built up world where the citizens never saw the open sky or grass or trees.

And I noticed it didn't happen.  Hubs and I were able to find jobs, buy our own house, raise our kids.  Our grocery stores and warehouse stores a full of food--and not just the foods of my childhood, but foods from other countries:  my children eat bread, naan, pitas, and tortillas and don't think it's unusual.  (On the other hand, I remember when I had my first souvlaki.  I was 19 and in Berkeley.)

Back in the 1970's, computers took up entire rooms and didn't have the processing power of the machine that sits on my lap.  My smartphone has more memory than my first computer.

I don't know what God has in store for us.  I'm not sure what lessons He wants us to learn.  Maybe the lesson is that we should appreciate the gifts we have received, that freedom and responsibility go hand-in-hand.  Or a very basic lesson:  people tend to value what they have paid a price for, whether it be in actual dollars or suffering, or personal effort (Churchill's "blood, toil, sweat, and tears").

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Prayer Request: For Sara D.

Sara is only 20 and has Crohn's Disease.  It's progressed to a stage where she has to have major surgery, removing most of her intestine.  Please pray that surgery will go well and that Sara will be able to have a full and fulfilling life.

Superwoman Lives!

Yesterday, while DD#2 was looking for a birthday present for a friend, I perused the Recent Fiction shelves in my local Big Chain Bookstore.  The novel I began skimming was definitely a "women's lit" novel:  the protagonist is a single mom of  teenaged daughter.  Mom has an Important, Demanding, and Responsible career that puts her in the public spotlight--and, therefore, the public microscope--of her small town.  Mom's friends are the mothers of her daughter's best friends.

Not only does Mom have a career, she is an entrepreneur and is building a business with the other moms.  Their business is based on their hobby.  It's not something simple, like scrapbooking or cooking or buying & selling on eBay.  These women dye their own yarn.  I'm not sure if they also shear the sheep, card the wool, and spin it--I was just skimming through the chapters.

Oh, and Mom is also an artist.  When she can't sleep (which is always, apparently), she opens her sketchbook and grabs her pastels conveniently kept on an uncluttered table.

Her daughter is also smart and talented and an overachiever--and it's the daughter's fall from grace and how it impacts Mom that is the plot of the book.

The title of this book doesn't really matter--it's the females characters I am interested in.  Mom is definitely a Superwoman and her friends aren't far behind.  That they have enough time and energy to invest in a labor-intensive hobby and have outside full-time careers and be compassionate, caring mothers and wives (or lovers) amazes me.  Their support system seems to be each other (Sisterhood Unite!).

Sadly, this isn't the only book that seems to feature impossibly talented, creative women in a tough situation who depend on Love to get them through.  In The Time Traveler's Wife, the heroine is not just an artist--she makes her own paper.  In The Secret Life of Bees, the middle sister is an accomplished cellist, the youngest is an amazing cook, and the oldest makes superlative honey and candles.  The heroine in The Mermaid's Chair is also an artist:  she makes shadow boxes and paints.  I don't read a lot of "chick lit" or "women's lit," so there may be other examples I've missed (I don't remember if the mother in The Deep End of the Ocean was a Superwoman or not.)

Meanwhile, my friends and I stumble through life.  We yell at our children to pick up their rooms, do their chores.  We run into the store to buy milk and orange juice and bread.  Our husbands alternately delight and frustrate us.  Between our families and our paying jobs we don't have time to turn our hobbies into paying enterprises.  We're lucky we have time for those hobbies.

I'm lucky if I have a horizontal surface that's not covered in the flotsam and jetsam of everyday life!  (If you're looking for something, chances are it's on or under the dining table.)

Is the message these Superwoman sending any less detrimental than the message of the 1950's where every woman was supposed to excel at homemaking and child-rearing?  Why can't we admit there are dust bunnies under our couches and dirty dishes in our sinks?  That our jobs aren't always emotionally and spiritually fulfilling, that sometimes we don't want to be Mom or Wife--we just want to veg in front of the TV with a glass of wine?  And we want to do that especially when our world is falling apart!

Friday, March 05, 2010

Reflection on a Year

I've been receiving a lot of comments lately:  "You look good!"  "Look at your hair!"

It's been one year since I started chemotherapy for breast cancer.  And my hair has come back:  salt-and-pepper gray, thick, and wavy.  The wavy part intrigues me as for most of my life my hair was straight.  I'm wondering if the curls will stay once I get a haircut.

And I do need to get my hair cut.  At least, styled.

But I have enough hair that I no longer wear a hat indoors, although I still do outside because it's cold.  (I always have, so this is not new.)

"How are you feeling?" is the other question.  That one is harder to answer.

Most of the time I feel pretty good.  Unless I have a Herceptin treatment, I'm back at work full time.  I'm back at the Y, doing aqua aerobics and aqua jogging three or four times a week.  My Girl Scout troop is active--we've got booth sales scheduled the next two Saturdays for Girl Scout cookies.  The next round for the Berkeley-Sakai Girl Scout Exchange is beginning.  There's the Coolbrith Circle and the Rubber Stamping Group--and so far I've managed to get cards made for birthdays and anniversaries done on time.

And then I come home and collapse.

I don't want to think about grocery shopping.  Or dinner.  Staying up past 9:00 p.m. is unusual--but then, I'm up at 5:00 a.m. most days.  (It's a shower schedule thing.)

The question the cancer gone?  My mammogram in December was clear.  I am choosing to act as though there are no rogue cells floating around my body.

I feel very lucky.  My cancer was caught early, I was treated immediately, the team has been competent, professional, and warm, and the side-effects were well-managed and transitory.  My kids were old enough to be pretty independent and to help out.  Hubs has excellent insurance and a great work schedule.  My company has been equally accommodating, letting me work from home or with a reduced schedule.

So last weekend I was at a party and cut loose.  There were some long-time acquaintances who had never seen that side of me.  There were others who suspected there was a crude and rowdy nature carefully constrained behind the conservative suits and heels.  Felt good to let her out, although I wasn't planning on it.

I am amazed at the outpouring of love and support I received, not only from family and friends, but from casual acquaintances, relative strangers.  I'm part of a Divine Mercy list and we're praying for people all over the world.  We call ourselves "prayer warriors" and we're effective--not always at changing the outcome, but at ensuring that those we pray for know the strength of God's love.

Thank you to those of you who have been following along and praying for (and with!) me.  Your support has made a difference.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Reviews, Movies and Otherwise

It has occurred to me that I haven't reviewed a movie or a book in a long while.

Right now we're in the pre-Oscar movie drought.  All the blockbuster and "important" films were released in December; now we have the studio backlog of films that will be forgotten by next year's Oscar season.  Hubs and I have caught up with some films at home On Demand, and a couple of them were good.

As for reading, I'm about a third of the way through a biography of Bruno Bettelheim, which covered his early life, including his incarceration in Auschwitz and Buchenwald.  He's divorced from his first wife, is establishing himself at the University of Chicago, and has married his second wife.  There's an interesting discussion of what it meant to be a secular Jew in Austria during the 1920's & 1930's that I found interesting because, of course, it affected Dr. Bettelheim's outlook on life and, therefore, his philosophy and methodology.  I'm also reading San Francisco Noir, a collection of short stories set in--where else?--San Francisco and the Bay Area.  Kind of Dashiell Hammett with dames, booze, and guns stuff.

But, truly, I'm waiting for How to Train Your Dragon.  I mean, dragons and Vikings and 11th Century geeks--how cool is that?

Prayer Request

This one is for a colleague (Debbie Z.) at work who is undergoing numerous medical tests because her doctors and specialists can't figure out what is wrong.  Kind of like an episode of House, except its happening for real.

Her spirits are holding up; she is able to work from home, which helps keep her from self-pity.  Still, she is getting tired of it all and wants it to be Over.  Please pray that she is able to maintain strength of spirit and that the doctors find out what's going on sooner rather than later.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

St. Peter as the Patron Saint of Lent

Back when Cardinal Timothy Dolan was Archbishop of Milwaukee, he had a series on EWTN of weekly reflections for Advent and for Lent (there may be more--so far these are the only two I've seen).  For Advent, he chose the Blessed Mother--okay, that one's obvious.

For Lent, he chose St. Peter.

My parish is sponsoring the series and last night was the first one.  I've always been fond of St. Peter--as one of the participants pointed out, he's the most human of the Apostles, yet he's the one to whom Christ entrusted His Church.

Rather reassuring.

Cardinal Dolan started with the story of Peter walking across the water to Christ.  But Peter becomes distracted by the wind and the waves and sinks.  Jesus rescues him and chides him for having so little faith.

The lesson for us is that we, too, are beckoned by Christ to come to Him.  But we become distracted by the wind and the waves in our lives and lose our focus.  Lent is our opportunity to identify those winds and those waves that distract us.  And Lent is the time for us to focus on the sanctifying grace--the presence of the Trinity--that resides in our soul.  Cardinal Dolan gave some great examples of prayer, not elaborate, but short sentences that his second grade teacher (Sr. Mary Bosco--great name!) taught him:  dedicate your morning to God, offer any challenge during the day to Him, and apologize for offending Him at night.

Okay, Cardinal Dolan--and Sr. Mary Bosco--was much more eloquent.

The session, including small group discussion, was only an hour.  I'm planning to attend all six in hopes that I can keep my focus.

Olympic Junkie

Hi, my name is March Hare and I'm an Olympic junkie.

I never watch ice skating, ice dancing, ski jumping, speed skating, aerials, or bobsledding during the regular winter season.  But put up five rings and a flame and I Am There.

While Al Michaels and Cris Collingsworth are not Jim McKay, I don't care.  I'll listen to them anyway.  I like hearing all the technical details about sports I know nothing about--what the judges are looking for, how the physics works, the strategies involved.  I love the human interest stories:  how the athletes got to the top of the mountain, the obstacles they overcame merely to compete on the ice, on the track, in the snow.

I enjoy cheering for my country.  But I also enjoy watching the underdog win (Go Canada!  Go Jamaica!  Go Finland!), watching how, in a split-second, hopes for a gold can turn into a major wipeout.

Fie, however, on NBC, who decided to show the Olympics on tape delay on the West Coast.  Vancouver is in the Pacific Time Zone, folks.  And it's disconcerting to watch competition happening in the sunshine when it's dark outside here.  Not to mention that I know the results of the events before watching the competition, thanks to the Internet.

No matter.  I'm glued to my set, staying up way past my bedtime just so I can watch.  Life will return to normal soon enough.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Happy Ash Wednesday!

The post title is courtesy of DD#2 who asked, a couple of years ago now, if we were have cheese tortellini to celebrate Ash Wednesday.  Apparently serving cheese tortellini on Ash Wednesday had become a tradition--without my being aware of it.

So, yes, we celebrate Ash Wednesday here at the Warren with cheese tortellini and ashes and discussions of what we are doing for Lent--which usually means what we are "giving up."  I encourage them to think of Lent as a time to "do," and I know they've heard that message in school and during the two years of Confirmation Prep.  For some reason that message is a more difficult concept.  

DD#2 and I are going meatless.  I will add Bible study, return to saying the Rosary daily, and take the class on Lenten Reflection offered by my parish.  More prayer is a good thing, right?  I'm not sure what DS#2 is planning.  I'll have to check.

Hubs is not thrilled with the meatless thing.  But it will be good for him, too.  He needs more veggies in his diet.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Why Working From Home Isn't Always Such a Good Idea

I had a MUGA test this morning followed by a Herceptin treatment, so I was going to be a good girl and work from home this afternoon.

That was before DD#2 woke up sick this morning.  Actually, she's been in her room, working on a project for the "Me & My Guy" Sweetheart Ball that our Girl Scout Association/Service Unit is holding this weekend.  Still, I needed to help her find the pieces of the project, which meant I had to remember which pieces were in which tote bag.  Fortunately, the bags are underneath the horizontal filing cabinet (also known as the dining room table).

DS#2 just came in.  He and a friend were going to practice driving a stickshift, using the truck.  However, the key is now stuck in the ignition.  He asked if I knew where the WD-40 was.  To our mutual surprise, we had some and it was where I suspected it would be.

I am currently sitting on the couch with a cup of tea, listening to classical music.  My keyboard for my Tablet PC is on my lap, with the monitor/CPU carefully balanced on brackets on the keyboard.  Two of the cats are helping me by laying across my arms while I try to type.  One of them is nuzzling the crook of my elbow and kneading it, trying to nurse.  Yet, it could be worse:  one of the cats like sit on the back of the couch and chew my hair.  Although my hair is growing in fairly quickly and thickly, I still would prefer it to remain on my head.

Well--I did check my voicemail and most of my e-mail messages.  I flagged the issues to deal with tomorrow, when I'm in my own cat-and-child-free office.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Happy Birthday, Boy Scouts of America!

Today is the 100th Anniversary of the incorporation of the Boy Scouts of America by William D. Boyce.  On behalf of my family, I'd like to thank him and the other men who gave of their time, their talents, and their treasure to build this organization that significantly impacted the life of my family.

How significant?  Hubs and I met while chaperoning a Sea Scout Bridge & Ball.  

Our boys are Eagles; we've welcomed Japanese Scouts into our home; we've traveled there.  There's been a lot of camping--in sun & snow, by car and by backpack--since.  And we've made some great friends along the way!

The Saints Came Marching In!

Okay, apparently for the second half.

On Friday, I trained customers located in Baton Rouge who said between Mardi Gras and the Saints just being in the Super Bowl, the area was nuts.  "Imagine if they win!" they said.  "The nation won't see anything like the party that will happen!"

So to those in Louisiana:  no, it's not a dream; yes, it is real; of course you drank too much; I imagine your boss will be calling in "sick," too.

(I'm sure glad training wasn't scheduled for today!)

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Abstinence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

Or something like that. Unless you believe that everyone has a right to free-fettered sex with anyone, anytime, no matter what the cost.

Not only did Pam Tebow chose not to abort her son, Tim; Tim is a virgin and proud of it.

Well, well, well. Lucky for him he's an outstanding football player. (Remember the time in the not so distant past when athletes were encouraged to abstain from sexual activity before a game on the theory that sex depleted their energy?)

Bookworm finds Tim's virginity refreshing and hopes that her daughter dates someone with the same values. At 23 and 16, my daughters are of dating age--and I hope they bring home someone like Tim, too! :)

So Time comes out as a virgin and respecter (respector?) of women and The Washington Post reluctantly reports that "Abstinence programs might work" in preventing teen pregnancies. Hmmm.

But mental and physical health aside, there's another reason to encourage teens and young adults to abstain from non-marital sexual intercourse: practice.

We encourage our children to practice a lot of things with the advice that they'll need it when they're older. Kids shoot hoops for hours, do wind sprints, throw footballs and baseballs at targets, write reports, do problems. Why shouldn't we use the same argument for abstinence? I don't know of many marriages where a partner has been available sexually 24/7/365. Life intereferes: business travel, pregnancy (and post-partum), serious illness. Had some famous men practiced sexual abstinence as teens and young adults, their marriages might not have fallen apart so spectacularly and so publicly.

In fact, John McCain admitted--and accepted responsibility for--the breakup of his first marriage due to his acting like a randy 25-year-old out to score rather than a mature husband and father. (One of the many things I admire about Senator McCain, BTW.)

Abstinence not only prevents unwanted pregnancies and STDs, it also keeps your name out of the front page when you're famous. Perhaps that's a message that's more understandable!

Technology and the Culture of Life

First it was Lennart Nilsson with his beautiful intrauterine photographs documenting the development of the fetus into a baby in A Child Is Born.

Now, 3D sonograms capture the fetus sucking its thumb, swimming, and even smiling.

Today there is a story on AOL: Study Finds Traces of Thought in Vegetative Patients. Using the latest fMRI technology, five patients previously thought "vegetative" showed signs of thought and awareness. That's five out of 54--not terrific odds, unless that happens to be your kid, your spouse, your sibling.

No discussion about the quality of the lives of those five, although one of the researchers did acknowledge (in an article about the same study on The Fox News website:

Monti and Laureys said it is not clear whether such patients have the mental capacity to answer more important but complicated questions, such as whether they wish to go on living.

"I'm trying to figure out what is the best way to tackle this," Laureys said.

Both articles stress that the responsive patients suffered traumatic brain injury, rather than oxygen deprivation, which is what caused Terri Schiavo's brain injury.

Still, I see this as yet another argument for choosing life. And that maybe the Catholic Church might have learned a thing or two about the mysteries of life in the last 2000 years.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

R.I.P., Kage Baker

I discovered her stories in the pages of Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine. My favorites were those of "The Company," a group of immortals sent back in the past charged with locating and hiding artifacts to be "discovered" in the future they could not return to.

The detail that won my heart, though, was that the transformation from human to immortal cyborg made the operatives especially sensitive to chocolate: hot chocolate made them drunk.

The Company stories became novels. And there were other short stories--I always looked forward to reading them in Asimov's.

Ms. Baker was my age, which is scary. She died of uterine cancer that metasticized to her brain.

Rest in peace, Ms. Baker. And may you continue to tell your stories.

(H/T: Julie D's sidebar over at Happy Catholic. Author photo from her website,, by Den'Al Damron-McElhiney.)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Happy Birthday, Mozart!

Mozart was born today in 1756. And we're still playing his music.

(Insert your own snarky comment about the longevity of modern music, including rap, here.)

To celebrate, KDFC is featuring his compositions along with snippets from the movie, Amadeus. Although we all know (don't we?) that Salieri got a bum rap.

In the meantime, there is much to enjoy. So play your favorite piece!

(DD#2 enjoys Lacrimosa from the unfinished Requiem.)

picture credit:

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Prayer Request--for a Breast Cancer Patient

This request is for Jeanine and Jeff. Jeanine has just been diagnosed with Stage II invasive breast cancer. They have two boys, ages 4 and 18 months. Jeanine felt a lump but since she was nursing her youngest, she thought it was a plugged milk duct. However, she was suffering from back pain, so went to the doctor. A core biopsy revealed the cancer.

Jeanine is the family breadwinner as well, since Jeff was laid off. She's only 44. Fortunately, Jeanine and Jeff have a lot of support from family and church, but prayer is always a powerful help!

Our PC Is Back--Again!

Our workhorse desktop PC, nicknamed Hermes, froze up several weeks ago. I called our local neighborhood geek (who I know through--what else?--Girl Scouts, thanks to his mom, his sisters, and his wife), who worked very hard to repair it and save all the pictures and files.

The problem: spyware and adware.

Two weeks later, we were infected again, this time by a very nasty virus posing as an Internet and PC cleaner. According to Stephen, it's really a "phishing" program, designed to capture your credit card info.

It took him awhile to clean it. But now it's all better. And we have a couple of new spyware/anti-virus programs.

If you're in the Bay Area, especially in West Contra Costa, give Stephen a call:

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Quakes and Corruption

In 2003, Thomas Sowell wrote an essay, Two Earthquakes and Their Results Under Different Social Systems. Dr. Sowell compared the results of two earthquakes of similar intensity in California (6.5) and in Iran (6.6). The death toll in California was minimal; the death toll in Iran was in the tens of thousands.

Dr. Sowell attributes this to the difference in wealth: wealthier nations have more resources, so can afford to build safer structures, especially for public buildings such as hospitals and schools. (One of the worst things about the earthquake in Haiti is the physical collapse of the few hospitals they have. I can't imagine being physically helpless and having the building collapse around me. A couple of months ago I was at the infusion clinic receiving treatment when they went through their disaster drill. I was very impressed--every nurse and clerk had a job and a responsibility. They knew it and knew what to do, whom to call, how to evacuate patients and where.) But one thing he doesn't mention is the importance of the rule of law and the lack of corruption.

One of the reasons the levee in New Orleans collapsed after Katrina was because the money that should have been spent reinforcing it was "redirected" to other purposes (casinos mostly). The newly-built City Hall collapsed during the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco because the contractor used an inferior concrete during construction and pocketed the difference in cost. Building inspectors knew this and were bought off. Strict building codes don't work if not enforced. Although corruption exists (there are several examples in Congress), Americans are generally honest and have a well-developed sense of fairness and fair play (do they have instant replay in World Cup soccer?). That sense of fairness is what makes many of us root for the underdog, sympathize with those struggling with personal demons, and inspire us to volunteer and contribute to charities.

And it's why many folks are upset with the current Congress and Administration.

I don't want my child attending a school where the contractor bought off an official. I want to know my hospital, my church, my fire station is built to withstand the next Big Quake. If I'm on BART in a tunnel, I want that tunnel to remain whole so I have a chance to get out. Technical failures, such as the collapse of a section of the Bay Bridge are one thing. Fraud is something else entirely.

Once people lose faith that the Government will protect them from that form of fraud--that those whose jobs are to keep us as safe as possible aren't doing their jobs--then the U.S. will become a Third World Country.

(H/T: The Anchoress, who also has links to many other articles as well as relief agencies.)
UPDATE: Looks like Michelle Malkin is on the same wavelength.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

More Prayer Requests...

For the repose of the soul of Mr. K., the father of my BFF, and for the solace of his family. Unlike some of the others who have passed, Mr. K. lived a long and full life. I spent a lot of time during my junior high and high school years at the K's house and he was always gracious and funny in a way much different than my father--which gave me the important insight that not all men were like my dad. :)

For my neighbor, M., who is going through a very rough patch. He will probably lose his house and his business and he's had both for at least 20 years. His son is a good friend of DS#2 and is over so often I jokingly call him DS#3. M. is not handling the setbacks well. May he learn faith and trust in God.

For the people of Haiti, who have suffered through a devastating earthquake--some of the aftershocks are as severe as any 'quakes we've had in the Bay Area. The difference, of course, is here there are building codes, especially for public buildings. In Haiti, if there are codes, they are ignored. The people are so poor and so beaten, with many struggling to survive. God give them strength in their time of trial. (I really don't know what else to say...)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Abortion, Taxes, and Civil Disobedience

An interesting discussion is going on between two of my favorite bloggers: The Anchoress and Bookworm Room. Book noted earlier how she came to change her views on abortion and how we, as a nation and a society, need to have an honest discussion about abortion.

There must be something in the air because I recently got into a debate with a young man I've known for awhile about this issue. He is pro-abortion and doesn't like the fact that the opposition uses the term "pro-life." He thought they should be "anti-choice."

I pointed out that I'm not "anti-choice": men and women have the choice not to have sex or to use birth control. He then went into the usual tirade about unwanted babies and rape and destroying the lives of young women and overpopulation and not being judgmental about someone else's decisions about their sex life. I tried to point out some of the fallacies of his arguments, but he wasn't having any of it.

It seems that there is a right to have sex, any time, any where, with anyone, with no consequences. And that attitude is what bothers me the most. I

Friday, January 08, 2010

Public Declarations of Faith

At the end of last night's game between Alabama and Texas, the on-field commentator interviewed Colt McCoy, quarterback for Texas. McCoy had been injured early in the game and was unable to play. The injury could also affect his chances with the NFL.

But McCoy said (and I'm paraphrasing), "It's in God's hands. He has a plan for me and I have to follow." In fact, he continued to stress that his future is in God's hands for the next several seconds. (He also praised Alabama for being a great football team.) The commentator seemed uncomfortable by McCoy's witness of his faith (to his faith?).

I thought his reaction was quite mature. Southern Universities have a reputation as "football factories"--indeed, the commentators last night kept referring to the fact that the quarterback for Alabama last lost a game he started back in 8th Grade. For a young man like McCoy to realize that football might not be his destiny is a good thing.

McCoy's remarks will generate much less controversy than Brit Hume's. For one thing, McCoy was referring to his personal faith, not urging someone else to embrace Christianity. For another, the media elites do not expect football players in general, and Southern football players in particular, to be particularly bright. So if they want to cling to an outdated, unhip religion like Christianity, well, who cares? Especially if they continue to play spectacular ball.

(The game was more exciting than the final score indicated. Texas was within three of Alabama and had shut them out during the second half of the game until about the last three minutes. Congratulations to both teams who played their hearts out!)

The Wonders of Modern Technology

The other night, DS#2 made dinner. I had pulled boneless, skinless chicken thigh fillets out of the freezer and he made a rub of taco seasoning and red pepper, sprinkled shredded cheese on top, popped the pan in the oven and then... realized he had no idea of how long to bake them.

Unable to get in touch with me, he called DD#1 (the family cook) in San Diego. She was more than happy to give him the directions. Since she's on our cell phone plan, the cost of the call is $0.00.

I was impressed. Of course, since DD#1's cell phone is on our plan, the cost of the call is $0.00. We may not have personal jet packs or flying cars, but the cost of communicating has radically decreased!

Meanwhile, computing technology is becoming smaller, faster, and cheaper. My smart phone (a Palm Centro) has more computing power than my first computer. If you have an autistic child and ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) inhibits your ability to talk or write, well, "there's an app for that" on the iPod Touch which will help you out: iPod Would Cut Medical Waste. (H/T: Neal Boortz).

American ingenuity is not dead. It's buried under layers of bureaucratic red tape.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Vocations and Avocations

The Anchoress is talking about Vocations over at her blog. She has a poll up with some interesting questions.

One of her questions is whether, as parents, we have talked with our kids about the religious life. Hubs is not Catholic; the idea that his children would have to become celibate and unmarried is foreign to him. He just doesn't get it.

In fact, the whole idea that you can go to college (or university) and study what you're passionate about is a difficult one for him to grasp. The son of friends of ours is studying music. "How is he going to make a living?" Hubs wonders. "A musician's life is horrible." By that he means unpredictable: on the road, finding gigs, playing all hours of day and night, no certain paycheck.

And Hubs loves music. He has a wonderful voice and played alto saxophone in junior high, was in chorale and musicals in high school, was in a barbershop quartet for many years. Still, he can't see music as a career. Or art.

But he is also not an studying sort. He's taken some courses through community college, but that's about it.

My take is different. "He's following his passion. It will all work out," I say. My life didn't exactly turn out the way I planned, but overall I'm pretty happy. In fact, I have met very few people in my line of work who actually planned to be in shipping as a career. Most of us "fell into it," and stayed there either because we enjoyed it or through inertia. Although I might not be "using" my degree in biological sciences to do research work or in the health field (my original plan), I am using the skills I developed while getting that degree.

My dad wished I had majored in English so I would "be a writer." When he first told me this, I was surprised: I didn't realize he valued--or even recognized--those particular talents of mine. But after taking a couple of college courses, I was glad I didn't. Deconstruction is not my thing and studying biology (and chemistry and physics and math) actually gave me important problem solving skills. Would I have majored in English had I known my dad thought I was talented? I don't think so. But I might have been more willing to change my major when I discovered that I really enjoyed my History of Science classes (and did really well in them).

When discussing the classes she's planning to take as a senior in high school, DD#2 lamented, "There are too many things I'm interested in!" I sympathized with her. Biology or physiology or geology; sports medicine or dance; art or crafts. And then there's classes like photography or psychology or drama. How do you choose, especially when you are 16 or 17?

I'm rather glad that most religious orders require that candidates have some college, if not a degree. Experience some of what the secular world has to offer; know what you're giving up. I think the Church will be better for it.

Julie D. over at Happy Catholic also has some thoughts about this matter as well.

Prayer Request: For the Repose of the Soul of...

I must say I'm getting tired writing these, especially since these souls are not those who have lived their "threescore years and ten." Not even close.

Please pray for their souls and for their families.

For Virgilio: A non-smoker, he was diagnosed with lung cancer last May and succumbed on Christmas Eve. He was one of the adults involved in DS#2's Confirmation Prep small group. Virgilio was one of those quiet men who worked hard in the background and without whom no parish (or any other organization) can thrive.

For Laura: She was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer a few weeks ago and died last night. She had a persistent cough, but had put off going to the doctor (and she was a smoker) until it got too bad to ignore. I didn't know Laura well, but we traveled in the same circles in the community (Scouts, school, soccer, church). She had a dry and sarcastic sense of humor and always made me laugh. Her youngest is the same age as DS#2.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

San Francisco

Bookworm has an article about San Francisco and, unfortunately, some of her comments are too true. But the clip from the 1940's is fun: San Francisco as it once was.

From my perspective, things have improved somewhat over the last twenty years. I'll have to share my reminiscences soon...

Google Chrome

As much as I think Google may be the next hi-tech "Evil Empire" (a la Microsoft and formerly AOL), I am really impressed with their browser, Google Chrome. It loads faster than Firefox, at least on my laptop, and that is important as I am often logging in on the fly. (DD#2 and I have to leave in about fifteen minutes.) Chrome is pretty easy to use as well.

My tech guy recommended it. And, although I haven't tested it, apparently my work's website application works with it (the application is noted for not playing well with non-IE browsers). Chrome is becoming my default browser, at least at home.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Be Careful What You Wish For...

Okay, I didn't exactly wish for all this drama, but God, having a sense of humor, decided to test my equilibrium today.

First, I am now the only woman in my office, recently downsized from five to four. I am the only one who is not a sales rep. Next week the guys will attend sales training Back East and I will be all alone in the office. I would throw a party, but most of the people I'd want to invite have also been laid off!

Then, the President of our division resigned. I've known this gentleman for twenty-five years--he started with the company when I was one of their first customers. While I understand why he and the company (which has undergone a buyout and major restructuring over the last two years) parted ways, he takes with him a lot of historical knowledge and personal contacts with our upper-echelon customers. I like the man named as his replacement: he is young, energetic, and enthusiastic about our product. He's also an excellent liasion between IT and the rest of us: he seems to be able to communicate with both groups.

While the above changes will not affect me directly, the former President was adept at soothing bruised egos and keeping those who micromanage out of the hair of those who don't want to be micromanaged. Unfortunately, one of those pairs is my boss, of whom I am rather fond, and her boss, of whom I am not. The jockeying for position will be painful and I am so glad I am Out Here!

The third thing today is rather amusing. Today was my first day back at Aqua Aerobics since early November, when I began radiation therapy. When I walked into the Y, there was a notice that the jacuzzi was closed but the pool was open--and the temperature was 71 degrees. Now 71 degrees ambient temperature is rather comfortable. 71 degrees water temperature is the equivalent of a polar bear swim. Okay, not quite: the Bay is much colder (around 55 deg). Still, 12 of us, all women, most regulars, followed our fearless leader as we jogged around the pool (with plenty of comments). We were just getting warmed up--literally--when the aquatics director pulled us and the lap swimmers out of the pool. There was at least one inch of water flooding the pool decks because the drains weren't draining. It was the shortest class I had ever attended (about ten minutes). But the hot shower felt good and, hey, I made the effort! I'm hoping the problem with the drain and the heater will be fixed by Wednesday.

Reading around, I noticed that one of Julie D's (Happy Catholic) resolutions is to not buy any more books, except those required for her book club. I wish I had thought of that! (Does asking for books as presents count?) I'm interested to see how she does on this. I have "given up" buying books and/or craft supplies (I'm a rubber stamper--it's amazing how many "toys" there are just for us!) for Lent and that was hard. But an entire year?! Wow!

Fortunately, she has a good public library available, so it's not like she won't have access to books.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

For Your Viewing Enjoyment--Or Not

We spent considerable time watching movies this past holiday season, either in the theater or at home. I don't have time to write individual critiques and some might find it interesting to learn what my family watches.

A couple of caveats: with the exception of DD#2 who is 16, my "children" are adults. My antennae are not quite so finely tuned to the occasional swear word (although overuse of the "f-bomb" bothers me) or sexual situation.

Plot holes to big to ignore, however, are another story...

Avatar: DD#1 summed this movie up nicely--Pocahontas with aliens. Only Pocahontas had better songs.

The graphics were stunning. The acting, with the exception of Sigourney Weaver when she was being a diva of a xenobiologist, was serviceable considering the characters were little more than one-dimensional. At one point during his impassioned soliloquy, I fully expected the hero to yell, "They may take our planet, but they will never take OUR FREEDOM!"

How bad was the story and the acting? When the xenobiologist dies, I didn't cry. Throughout the entire movie, while I marveled at the vision and the special effects, I kept thinking, "Imagine what Ursula K. LeGuin (whose father, Alfred Krober, earned the first Ph.D. in anthropology in the U.S. and founded the department of anthropology at Cal) could do with this!" I rather wish James Cameron had decided to forgo the story all together and just made a film about Pandora and the indigenous population, the Na'vi. An xenopological study, as it were. Ms. LeGuin did that with one of her books, which included a cassette tape of the "natives" playing their songs.

The rest of the family was able to overlook the lack of story and was blown away by the effects. We had several discussions on the importance of story and plot, believability, and internal consistency in fantasy and science fiction.

On the March Hare scale: 2.5 out of 5 Golden Tickets. Go for the razzle dazzle, so spend the bucks to see it in 3D IMAX. Go to the bathroom before the film starts; it's a long one. Definitely not for younger children or those who are sensitive to loud sounds and violent action.

The Princess and the Frog: Hubs was off with the older kids, so I took DD#2 to this one. I've been curious about Disney's "return to classic animation" since Hubs & I went to Disneyland this summer and saw the trailers.

I was impressed. The Disney magic is definitely there and the twist on the old story is clever and well-done.

Set in 1920's New Orleans, there is food and music and lush scenery everywhere. The heroine is Tiana, a young African-American (Creole?) girl whose mother sews for a white family. The daughter of the white family, Charlotte (or Lottie), loves princesses and the movie opens with Tiana and Lottie listening raptly while Tiana's mother reads the story of the frog prince while she finishes the latest princess gown for Lottie.

Historically accurate relationships between blacks and whites are ignored. Lottie's father, The Colonel, treats Tiana's mother respectfully. On the trolley home, Tiana and her mother sit in the middle of the car. They live in a modest home and there is a hard-working dad who comes in just after they do. Dad is proud of his daughter's precocious cooking skills and invites the neighbors over when she makes gumbo. His dream is to open a restaurant, called "Tiana's Place", and he shares that with his daughter. And while she may wish upon a star, like Lottie does, her parents remind her that success takes hard work.

Work she does, two jobs as a waitress, carefully saving her tips in coffee cans so she can put a payment down on the old sugar mill that she wants to convert to a restaurant. Meanwhile, Lottie is looking forward to the arrival of a Prince and the chance to become a "real" princess.

The Prince loves jazz and parties and hates to work.

There is voodoo, a gator whose ambition is to play jazz with Louis Armstrong, a Cajun firefly, an old blind "Mama" in bijou with mysterious powers. There is music--I especially liked the zydeco number. But while there is black magic and white magic afoot, the message about working hard to achieve your dreams and the satisfaction it brings is always present. Along with messages about the importance of love and family. No fairy godmother magically resolves our heroine's problems: she does the heavy lifting herself, with help from her friends. Oh--the Prince learns a few lessons, too. But DS#2 would definitely categorize this as a "girl film" based on the system he set up when he was four or five.

There was plenty of wit and humor in the dialog to keep the adults in the audience entertained. DD#2 enjoyed it as well.

On the March Hare scale: 4.5 out of 5 Golden Tickets

Sherlock Holmes: Honestly, with eye candy like Robert Downey, Jr., and Jude Law as Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson, even if this movie was horrid, I'd still want to see it.

I read my first Sherlock Holmes story when I was ten and was hooked immediately. I've read the canon as well as some of the "undiscovered" stories, like The Seven Percent Solution. I don't have quite the same familiarity with the movie version, although I've seen several.

But I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed this version. Robert Downey, Jr., is definitely too short and stocky and Jude Law is too thin, but they captured the essence of their characters. The movie takes place after Holmes and Watson have become a team; in fact, Watson is moving out as he plans to marry his Mary Morstan (Kelly Reilly). And Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams) shows up with barely an introduction--you have to listen as clues about who she is and her importance to Holmes are dropped throughout the movie. (Unless, of course, you've read the stories.)

But this story is not based on any of the stories of the canon, although it uses details from many of them. Someone is killing prostitutes and Sherlock Holmes is on the trail, which leads to a secret society and Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong). He is convicted and before his death, he asks to see Holmes. He tells Holmes that three more will die. The next day Blackwood is hanged and Dr. Watson pronounces him dead.

The next day, the groundskeeper of the cemetery swears he saw Lord Blackwood walk out of his grave. Holmes and Watson are called in to investigate. As the investigation continues, we also see the relationship between Holmes and Watson and how dependent Holmes is on Watson to keep him grounded and how Watson relishes the excitement Holmes brings to his otherwise conventional life.

Dr. Watson walks with a limp, keeping with his injury in the Afghan wars. Holmes has no use for social graces or conventions; he seems to enjoy insulting everyone he works with, even Watson. True to form, Holmes's knowledge is eclectic, encompassing esoteric poisons, botany, chemistry, biology, and music. He is a master of observation and of disguise. He smokes a pipe, though not a meerschaum, and he wears hats, though not a deerstalker cap. Watson is no intellectual slouch, either, having learned much while accompanying Holmes on his "adventures."

I thought the director, Guy Ritchie, did a terrific job recreating Victorian London through the judicious use of CGI as well as capturing the spirit of Sherlock Holmes without slavishly recreating him. Purists may disagree.

Hubs enjoyed it--there was plenty of action and he was able to follow it, although he is not as familiar with the Holmes-verse as I am. DD#2 also enjoyed it; DS#2 was the only one who thought it was just "okay."

I wish Mr. Ritchie, Mr. Downey, and Mr. Law return for another romp. (I hope Ms. McAdams does, too.) However, I don't think Sherlock Holmes will bring the kind of revenue or buzz to encourage a second one. Plus, Mr. Downey is in the midst of a multi-series, Iron Man, and he may not be eager to commit to another. Too bad--I enjoyed the clever story and the witty dialog.

On the March Hare scale: 4 out of 5 Golden Tickets.

Julie & Julia: DD#2 and I came home and later that night ordered this movie from the Comcast On Demand menu. The movie is based on the experiences of Julie Powell (Amy Adams), a mid-level government employee dealing with the aftermath of 9/11, and Julia Child (an amazing Meryl Streep), the wife of a diplomat assigned to Paris who finds herself at loose ends. Their stories intersect when Julie decides she is going to write a blog as she cooks her way through all the recipes in Julia Child's, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. As Julie blogs, the movie cuts to Julia Child's life in France (and beyond). After taking classes in hat making and bridge, Paul Child (Stanley Tucci) asks Julia what she likes to do. She replies, "I like food. I like to eat!" Her first day at the famed Cordon Bleu was less than successful. The class, Julia carefully explains, is too basic. She wants the more difficult class. That class, she is told, is for professional cooks, is all men, and is very expensive. No problem to Julia, who finds herself in the class, but behind in some very basic skills. Undeterred, Julia practices and perseveres.

Julie, too, perseveres. Her blog begins to gain readers other than her mother. Suddenly this isn't just a small thing she is doing--her goal and her blog are dominating her life, causing stress instead of relieving it.

Both Julie and Julia have supportive husbands. There are several small scenes where Julia and Paul show their shared grief over their inability to have children. Julie and Eric Powell (Eric Messina) have a rockier relationship--Julie is a drama queen and a bit neurotic and Eric puts up with her histronics patiently (for the most part).

Meryl Streep does an amazing job capturing Julia Child's voice and her physical presence. DD#2 commented how annoying it was and I told her that was how I remembered it. She was also a pioneer: the first woman to graduate from the Cordon Bleu, writing a cookbook making French cooking accessible to American women (which took eight years and while living in a different city, then country from her co-authors), then bringing cooking instruction--live!--to American T.V.

Amy Grant makes Julie Powell cute and endearing and plays some of her foibles for laughs. There is a gratuitous slam against "Republicans" by Julie's boss (as well as a scene where Paul Child is questioned by a Congressional committee about his time while serving in the OSS in China during WWII); otherwise this movie is really about food, finding your passion, and the amazing places that can lead.

This movie is also available on DVD.

On the March Hare scale: 4.5 out of 5. Made me want to get my own copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking and trying out the recipes. But then I had a drink and came to my senses. :)

crossposted at Catholic Media Review

Friday, January 01, 2010

Resolutions, I Have a Few...

One thing I have learned this year is to lower my sights, to scale back on my expectations of myself. I was able to finish the stationery sets my family has come to depend on receiving, but I didn't decorate the envelopes to coordinate. Sis#2 noticed in a kind of off-handed "Huh, the envelopes aren't stamped" way.

I spent a lot of 2009 on the couch (or in bed), especially after coming home from work, letting my brain veg. From talking with the nurses in the oncology unit, it will be at least six months before I feel completely "like myself." My brain has gone blank, withholding information I know I know. I blame "chemo brain" and find that I can often recall names or faces but not always both (embarrassing when I'm doing introductions, either socially or for business).

All this is in explanation of why I am trying to temper my Resolutions this year. I always feel like I should be doing more: more praying, more nurturing my family, more volunteering for my community, more responsibility at work, more writing, more exercising, more eating healthy, more "personal growth." My Resolutions traditionally run along those lines.

And, as always, 2010 will bring changes. Some I know about: my office is moving from its current location conveniently around the corner from the "Y" to further out in the SoMa. Other changes will be unexpected. Many will be beyond my control, although I will be affected.

So my goal this year to find the balance that works for me, which is a bit like standing on a ball. A great phrase I learned in biology is "dynamic equilibrium," which means that an organism constantly reacts to its environment, trying to maintain the optimum point. So I will be trying to find and maintain my "dynamic equilibrium." I need to let my body continue to heal, which means I must practice patience with myself.

Along with that, I need to continue to work on living my faith, of following Mary's example of saying "Yes."

I think that's quite enough for one year!

Okay, one more. Sis#2, one of my cousins, and I are discussing participating in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. It's a 2-day walk, 26 miles in all (I think) and it's held over my birthday weekend in July. I'm not in shape for it now; I don't know if I will be in 7 months. I'm nervous about committing myself to doing it, although I know other women who have participated and found it an awesome experience.

But, if not now, then when?

Happy New Year!

We have a lot to celebrate, Hubs & I, about 2009. DS#2 graduated from high school; DD#1 was accepted to UC San Diego, then rejected, then wrote (with considerable help from her friend) a letter explaining why she should be readmitted--and she was; DS#1 is being challenged by his senior project and learning about life choices; and DD#2 is learning some hard lessons that will benefit her later. So I wanted to celebrate the end of the year in style, perhaps by the 1940's era dinner dance on board the U.S.S. Hornet, or a gathering with friends.

So, of course, we both got sick: stuffy noses, sore throats, coughs, fevers, sinus headaches. We stayed at home with DD#2, who was glued to the computer, and Hubs and I watched Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and Master and Commander. We hadn't seen either of them in awhile (and we've done the Twilight Zone marathon). Epic stories, rousing scores, significant eye-candy, stunning visuals--and I didn't have to get dressed up.

This morning we watched the Rose Parade. It's 72 deg F. and clear in Pasadena, CA, but here in the Bay Area it's foggy and in the 50's. I'm still in my pjs and robe, waiting for the Rose Bowl to begin in about an hour (Go Ducks!).

DS#1 and DD#1 are back in their college homes. DS#2 is sleeping; DD#2 is probably watching TV in her room, enjoying having it all to herself again. Hubs is in bed, alternately watching football and sleeping off his cold. I'm sufficiently drugged, so I can function. (We need at least one quasi-functioning adult around.)

Wow--I'm not sure where the Capitol One Bowl is played, but it's been raining throughout the game and the turf is natural, so this game is turning into a regular mud bowl. Which is not a bad thing. Mud adds an extra dimension to the game.

Oh--signs of life from DS#2! (Turns out he got home around 5:00 a.m.)

Here's to a blessed and safe 2010 for all of my friends, IRL and on the Internet.