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.