I Hear America Crying

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear;
Those of mechanics—each one singing his, as it should be, blithe and strong;
The carpenter singing his, as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his, as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work;
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat—the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck;
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench—the hatter singing as he stands;
The wood-cutter’s song—the ploughboy’s, on his way in the morning, or at the noon intermission, or at sundown;
The delicious singing of the mother—or of the young wife at work—or of the girl sewing or washing—Each singing what belongs to her, and to none else;
The day what belongs to the day—At night, the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing, with open mouths, their strong melodious songs.

                  — Walt Whitman
We heard America singing–for real–last Thursday at the Spring Concert at Lorelei’s school.  I’ve endured attended countless plays, pageants, and concerts in my 21 years of parenting, but this one stands out.  In between renditions of our National Anthem and Yankee Doodle (that was Lorelei’s class) and other patriotic songs enthusiastically performed by cute kids and accompanied by hand gestures, we were treated to proclamations of the Gettysburg Address, the First Amendment to the Constitution, Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, and other words that symbolize what America stands for.
“I’m American, you’re American!” sang the children, and they were the melting pot personified up on the stage.  No one needs to preach diversity when you can see it right in front of you.  There is no better explanation of what it means to be an American than to see the great-grandchildren of slaves standing on a stage with white kids whose ancestors  probably landed two hundred years ago along with more recent arrivals from Asian and Latino countries, all of them smiling and singing in English “This land is my land.”
So with a happy tear in my eye I went on to my next engagement, a meeting of my book club at which we watched the famous movie adaptation of our most recent book, To Kill a Mockingbird.  It’s so easy, watching this vivid reminder of the dark history of race relations in the South, to feel complacent about how far we’ve come.  My older daughter attends college in Mobile, Alabama, and of course her classmates are as diverse as Lorelei’s are.  Twenty years ago, the sight of an interracial couple walking down the streets of Knoxville would make you look again.  No longer. 
But the human heart is a dark and secret place, and prejudices still lurk there.  All Tom Robinson’s troubles started, remember, when he walked past a white woman’s house.  And look what happened to Trayvon Martin, who had the gall to “walk while black” through a mostly white neighborhood.  That he had the legal right to be there, that he was actually a guest there, didn’t matter to a man who saw only the color of his skin and made predictable assumptions thereupon.
Prejudice against certain immigrant communities of the past, like the Irish and the Italians, may have died out, but there are new immigrants to take their place as the targets of our collective suspicion.  Just yesterday I heard someone talking about “all these people with their strange religions” coming in and changing our country which was “founded upon Christian principles.”  Religious freedom is one of the bedrocks upon which this nation was founded, actually.  And what is the Number One Christian Principle if it’s not “Love one another”?
At the end of To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout walks Boo Radley (surely the personification of the hated and feared “other”) back to his house.  She stands on his porch and realizes that she had “never seen [the] neighborhood from this angle . . . [Atticus] said you never really knew a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them.  Just standing on the Radley porch was enough.”  Later that evening she says of a character in a book Atticus is reading to her: “He hadn’t done any of those things . . . Atticus, he was real nice . . . ” and he replies, “Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.”

Linking up today with #WorthRevisit where bloggers “recycle” favorite posts each week.  The linkup is hosted at Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb and you can see this week’s posts right here.
 

What Is the Mass For?

The main altar at Immaculate Conception Church, decorated for Palm Sunday

Today is Holy Thursday, the day of Holy Week on which we remember that Last Supper Jesus shared with his Apostles, the birthday, as it were, of the Mass itself. We’ll hear the story tonight at church, and some of us will have our feet washed in commemoration of Jesus’ actions that night. At the end of Mass, the altar will be stripped and we will follow the Blessed Sacrament to the Chapel of Reservation. Tomorrow, Good Friday, is the one day of the whole year on which no Mass will be celebrated.
So it seems like a good time to address the question with which I entitled this post: What is the Mass for?
Except I’m not going to, because if you really want to know you can go read the Catechism (it’s online and searchable right here, folks) or you can look at this entry in the Catholic Encyclopedia (if you are feeling really scholarly). Because this post is not meant to be educational; it’s just a mini-rant.
I know exactly zero about how this week’s celebration will be affected by use of the Roman Missal, Third Edition.  And I’m not worrying either, because the whole thing has turned out to be a tempest in a teapot, if you ask me.  Sure I’m still smacking myself about half the time for saying, “And also with you,” instead of “And with your Spirit,” but big deal, you know?  Yes, I still have to look at the pew card to say the Nicene Creed, but that does have the effect of making me PAY ATTENTION to what I am actually saying instead of just chanting along like a parrot.
What inspired this particular rant?  Oh, you know me, it doesn’t take much.  Seriously, though, I am so tired of people whining about this.  Get over it already.  The comment that got me going this time was a Facebook commenter complaining about the changes because, “The Mass is for us.”
Without denying at all that I suspect we are supposed to derive some benefit to our immortal souls at the very least from participating in the Mass, I object to that simplistic and self-centered comment.  Disclaimer:  I’m not a theologian, and I’m not doing any research today because I’m already overdue to start work.  But given that Catholics are OBLIGED to attend Mass, obviously it’s not just “for us,” is it?   The reforms of Vatican II made it more accessible and participatory for the faithful, but the Mass was still the Mass when it was all in Latin and partly whispered at the altar while the faithful sat quietly in the pews and prayed.
For crying out loud, God made the whole world.  He sustains it–and us–in existence every second by the force of His will.  He sent His Son to DIE for us!  Like I tell my kids when they complain about going to church, is it too much to ask that we devote ONE HOUR each week to praising Him?
If the new translation is a source of such suffering to you, I’ve got a good Catholic suggestion for you:  Offer it up.

Over One Thousand Pounds


That’s how much weight my second son lifted (not all at once!) at the KCHS Football Liftathon on Monday night.  To be exact, it was 1,100 lbs. He benched 340, power cleaned 300, and squatted 460.

If you have kids, you probably know the special feeling it gives you to see yourself reflected in one of your children.    Like me, Emily was an early talker–she could say 80 words at the age of one year.  She loved books from an early age and always has her nose in one now.  She has always had a rich imaginary life.  She’s a writer.   Jake’s a writer, too, and he loves to sing, and cook, and does theatre, and is actually interested when I talk about plants and flowers.
But when someone asked John and me whence comes Teddy’s ability to lift large amounts of weight, we had to deny all responsibility.  We are not athletic and never were.  Teddy is the only one of our kids to show any interest in sports, and he was in the 8th grade before he participated formally.
But there’s another special feeling you get from watching your kid do something that is totally his own, something you never did, could never do, aren’t even interested in doing, but still admire and are almost in awe of.  That’s how we felt the other night, watching Teddy pick up all the Liftathon medals for his class.

This boy has amazing discipline and drive.  Two years ago he told me how much he planned to weigh by now, and he ate his way there (he’s always hungry).  All he wanted for Christmas and his birthday were exercise and weight-lifting related items.  If he doesn’t have workouts scheduled at school, he often goes to the gym on his own.
One of Teddy’s coaches called him Hercules the other night, and I told him that Teddy wore a Hercules costume around the clock for 18 months as a toddler.  I wonder if maybe Teddy has an inner Philoctetes urging him along today!

Teddy is not a totally foreign creature to his parents.  We can at least claim genetic credit for his academic talents (well, he thinks he is smarter than both of us), which are on par with his athletic abilities.  He does some pretty heavy lifting academically as well, maintaining a GPA that is actually HIGHER than 4.0, taking AP courses, and scoring a 34 on the ACT recently.  Again, though, it’s his own drive to succeed that keeps him up late studying when necessary due to his football schedule.  We never have to say a thing to him about homework or grades.
For once, the prognosticators got it right. Whenever people saw me walking around with chubby little Teddy (who weighed, they predicted he would play football one day.

Straight from the Horse's Mouth

I think the Internet’s pretty awesome, really I do. It’s great to be able to settle dinnertime arguments and answer children’s millions of questions with a click of an iPhone button. It’s way convenient not have to travel down to the library to check out a book or look in the encyclopedia when I want to learn something new. And it’s great to be able to go into greater depth on the issues I care about without having to rely on only the nightly news or the daily paper.
Do you sense a “but” coming? You are right, and it’s a big one.
BUT a lot of what you read on the Internet is–NEWS FLASH–not true. Or it’s incomplete. Or slanted. Or out of context.
My freshman year at Georgetown my history professor introduced us to an idea I had never considered before. He said that you can’t take the accuracy of historical accounts for granted. He said you have to consider who wrote the account and when, and what personal or cultural biases might have influenced what he chose to include, what he left out, what conclusions he drew. For our final paper, we had to pick a controversial historical figure and read several sources for information, picking from different eras. We were to discuss why each authority presented what he did, and then reach our own conclusion about our subject.
I had grown up thinking–most of us did, I imagine–that if I read or watched the news each day I pretty much knew what was going on in the world. If Tom Brokaw or Peter Jennings said it, you felt like you could trust them. Remember little Virginia O’Hanlon, who asked the editor of The New York Sun about the existence of Santa Claus, because her papa told her: “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so”?
Distrust of the mainstream media started before the Internet, of course, but has accelerated since. Now everyone can be an expert, and no one has to give up any cherished opinion because, after all, one can fine website after website to support any position or point of view. Far from educating us, it’s actually entrenching us further in willful ignorance.
I am that obnoxious person who will actually write you back to refute the email you just sent me saying that President Obama canceled the National Day of Prayer or that President Bush has the lowest I.Q. of any president in the last 50 years. I’ll send you the link from snopes.com to prove it. I’ll post it in the comments if you put it on Facebook and I might just blog about it too. That’s because truth is important and in the days of instant information overload, it’s in short supply.
Essentially, most of us are intellectually lazy.  And also we are accustomed to thinking that if we read a published account, especially if it’s on a mainstream website like AOL, it’s true.  Few of us realize how the very issues of importance are decided upon for us by the media.  We read what they want us to read, how they want to present it, and they are no longer driven by a quest for truth but rather by a quest for page views.  Any time I read something that is stirring up a lot of comments and controversy, I am immediately suspicious of it and start to delve further.
A good example is a story that made the rounds a few months ago that Pope Benedict said that “Gay marriage is a threat to humanity’s future.”  Long story short, that’s not what he said.  Creative reuse of one or two comments he made in a long speech created the impression that not only did he say that, but it was all he said or cared about.  But even in these deceptive stores, they include hyperlinks that can lead to the truth if you try hard enough.  Eventually I was able to find out when and to whom the remarks were made, and then I went to the Vatican website and read the whole speech myself.  That way I did not have to rely on AOL to tell me what to think.  I could think for myself.
(Side note to my Catholic readers: Do I seriously need to tell you that Huffpost News isn’t the best source for the facts about Catholicism?  Might I suggest the USCCB website, or the Catechism, or the Vatican website, or at the very least that you read the original source material for yourself before allowing your view of your own faith to be influenced by the media, which is at best ignorant and at worst hostile about religion?)
Same thing with the recent talk about how 98% of Catholic women use birth control.  That figure comes from a study, supposedly.  Much back-clicking finally yielded that study itself, so that I could see that the much-bandied statistic is inaccurate.
Or there was the whole Kirk Cameron-is-a-bigot “scandal,” which looks a bit different if you actually watch the interview in which his remarks were made or read the entire transcript, as I took the time to do.
Or there’s the perception that people with children need to keep them under perpetual lockdown because of all those people stealing kids out there? (As I told my mother yesterday, “If it happened all the time it wouldn’t be news.”)
Or there’s the email I received yesterday containing allegations that President Obama is a Muslim, or a Marxist, or both.
I cannot say this often enough:  consider your source.  Consider your source.  CONSIDER YOUR SOURCE!  What bias does it have?  Can it speak authoritatively to the topic?  What advantage does it gain by portraying the “facts” in a certain light?  Wherever possible, read the speech yourself (the whole speech).  Watch the video yourself (the whole thing).  Check a reputable, fact-checking site.  The Internet helps lies to spread like wildfire, but don’t forget that it also provides the tools you need to refute them.
There are always going to be stories that cannot be confirmed this way–ones in which, for example, eyewitnesses give conflicting accounts.  Or maybe you don’t have time to read the entire Affordable Care Act (although I am seriously considering making the attempt).  In such cases you should read several sources.  Factcheck.org is a good choice if you want to avoid bias.  I find it helpful to read sources with opposing viewpoints so I see both sides of the story before forming an opinion.
Does this sound exhausting?  Sometimes it is.  Sometimes I see an inaccuracy or misrepresentation on Facebook that I know is going to take more than a quick trip to Snopes to investigate but I still do it.  You can make it easier for me and other truth-seekers if you do the same, BEFORE you post that interesting article that supports what you were thinking already.  You can check Snopes, or look at Factcheck.org.  You can take a few minutes to click back to that article’s original source and read it and THINK FOR YOURSELF.  And if you are too intellectually lazy to do those things, you can choose not to forward or repost.

Why Do Catholics Contracept and What Can the Church Do about It?

Someday I’ll write a post about lies, damned lies, and statistics so you will know that the “98% of Catholic women use artificial birth control” you’ve seen bandied about as though it were gospel is a distorted statistic turned damned lie.  I’ve already written one in which I touched on how it doesn’t matter if every self-identified Catholic on the planet uses birth control; the Church isn’t a democracy–it’s here to proclaim the truth, not to succumb to the culture.
However, it is sad but true that most Catholics ignore the Church’s teaching on this issue.  And while I’m in no position to know the hearts of every contracepting Catholic out there, it doesn’t seem like there’s a whole lot of painful soul-searching and conscience-forming going on.  And the failure of the majority of even weekly mass-goers to adhere to this teaching cannot be solely blamed on them.  True, we are all products of a culture that puts things before people and gives us all kinds of messages about why small families are desirable and that artificial contraception is the way to achieve that.  But our Church has a much more compelling message, full of truth and wisdom and beauty, and it’s not being heard.  Why?
It’s not being HEARD, because it’s not being spoken.  By the Vatican, yes.  In the teachings, yes.  By teachers and parents and priests, from whom the majority of Catholics receive their catechesis?  Not so much.
Speaking for myself, I remember knowing, without knowing HOW I knew this, that the Church believed birth control was wrong.  I also recall having the definite impression that this was some old-fashioned idea we were all free to ignore.  Everyone used birth control, right?  In high school we watched some squicky movie about Natural Family Planning but all that cervical mucus talk was a big turn-off.  No one ever told me, NOT ONCE, why birth control was wrong.
What changed my mind?  I took a Christian Marriage class in college.  I read Humanae Vitae.  I squirmed uncomfortably as I read it, realizing that it made a lot of sense, that a Church with 2,000 years of Tradition and brilliant theologians and the Holy Spirit to back it all up probably was more trustworthy than the current culture I’d been raised in.  I could feel my conscience pricking me as I properly informed it.  But it wasn’t all negative–not at all!  The teaching was beautiful!  The Church’s vision of marriage and family–we read Familiaris Consortio as well–was so elevated compared to the world’s!  As I read, I was thinking, “Why did no one ever tell me this?  Why doesn’t everyone know this?”
I was already engaged–to a Protestant (at that time) who did not want children right away and did not (then) buy into all these “new” ideas I was sharing.  Fortunately, my Christan Marriage class also required that we read The Art of Natural Family Planning.  I was ready to read it then and I was sold.  I was able to convince my husband-to-be based on the science behind the method.  Not that our path to conforming to this teaching was smooth and easy–following your conscience can be hard.
What’s wrong with this picture?  I went to Catholic schools for 12 years.  I attended Mass every Sunday and lots of other days besides.  But I had to be a Senior in college taking a non-required class to hear this message.
My Catholic-school educated kids have heard a lot more.  They’ve gotten an earful from me, of course, but they’ve also heard at least some of this in their religion classes in high school.  I’m sorry to say though that if what they tell me is true, Catholic moral instruction should be starting a lot earlier.  And what about kids who get one hour of CCD a week?
I’m sure they go over all this in Engaged Encounters, but let’s get real.  Most of those couples are sexually active and contracepting already.
I have never, ever heard a priest address this from the pulpit.  NEVER.  I’ve heard there are some that do, but it’s rare.  Why?  For starters, a lot of them don’t buy into it themselves.  Or they feel that as celibates they cannot speak to this with authority.   My husband and I once went to discuss a disagreement we were having over family planning–not HOW but WHEN–with one of our priests.  Almost the first words out of his mouth were, “You know you can follow your conscience in family planning matters.”
Finally, does anyone want to tell all the people at Mass that somewhere around 85% of the sexually active ones need to confess their contraceptive use and change their ways before they approach the altar for Communion?  Of course they don’t.
But they need to.  If the recent brouhaha over insurance coverage for contraceptives has shown us anything, it’s demonstrated that even Catholics who dissent from these teachings respect the Church for holding fast to them even in opposition to most of their faithful.  Maybe, just maybe, if the Church would be as brave about proclaiming the teaching to its flock as it has been about defending it from the wider culture, more people might take it seriously!
I would never argue against the primacy of conscience.  But if you haven’t prayerfully studied Humane Vitae, the Catechism, and other Church teachings on these issues, your dissent is based on ignorance, not conscience.  If you would never, ever eat meat on Friday during Lent, but you swallow a birth control pill every day without thinking twice about it, maybe you should.

Hidden Mothers

I don’t remember how I happened to run across my first hidden–or even better, invisible–mother photograph.  But I’ve been haunted by the pictures ever since I discovered them.
There’s really nothing sinister about them.  The shrouded mother was never meant to be featured in the photograph.  Here’s how it was supposed to work:
I can remember my mother being asked to do something similar at my baby sister’s first portrait session when she was four months old.  They wanted her sitting up, so they had my mother put her hand under a rug and prop her up from behind.  When my own kids were little, I was asked to sit right next to them just out of view while they were being photographed, for safety reasons.  Remember that not only did these Victorian photographers not have access to fancy baby-propping devices, but that pictures were not instantaneous back then.  The kids needed to be kept safe, and STILL.
But even knowing the history, these pictures still speak to me.  Whatever their intention, the result is that we have pictures of these little children, but not of the mothers who bore and raised and loved them.  Even without knowing the names of these little ones, we can see they existed.  The mothers, on the other hand, are just gone.   Disappeared.  Nothing of them is left.
The shrouded figures signify to me the death of self that takes place in every woman who becomes a mother–because once you have a child you just aren’t the same person anymore.  You aren’t separate and apart from your children, either before birth or after.  And isn’t it the way of many mothers to sit back while their kids stand in the spotlight? To hide their own light in favor of their children’s?
Sometimes when I walk in cemeteries and look at the graves of little babies, I will say to them, “I see your names.  Today someone remembers you, even if everyone else has forgotten.  Today someone cares that you were here.”  And I find myself wanting to say the same thing to these faceless mothers.
Because I know what it’s like to feel like an invisible mother sometimes.  Do you?

I’ve linked this up to the great #WorthRevisit series hosted here and here.  Check it out for some especially thoughtful posts.

Bookmark Hidden Mothers

Best Picture = Best Worldview?

Okay, y’all, this is essentially an irrelevant fluff post, because I lost an hour of sleep this weekend and it took extreme heroism for me not to just go straight back to bed after John and Lorelei left this morning.
So, John was reading Time Magazine the other day while we were driving somewhere (aren’t we ALWAYS driving somewhere?) and he informed me that Time readers had selected the two top Best Picture Oscar winners.  And the Oscars go to . . . (Why can’t they just say, “And the winner is”?  Who do they thing they are kidding?) The Godfather and The Lord of the Rings (well, you know, really it’s The Return of the King, even though they said The Lord of the Rings).
I first saw The Godfather when Teddy was a baby.  I can remember hearing about it when I was a child–you couldn’t escape hearing about the horrific horse head scene, probably one of the most shocking scenes in any movie, ever.

As for The Lord of The Rings, I saw all three films at the theatre as they came out.  I rarely go to movies but these were a must-see for me.  I’ve read the books more times than I can count, and while no movie adaptation is ever perfect, this one comes very close.

As far as pinning “The Best” label on one or the other, I think that’s silly.  They are both masterpieces.  And at first glance they seem too different to even invite comparison.  But consider the following:
They are both myths, in a way.  J.R.R. Tolkien created his own mythology in a secondary world he imbues with such reality that we believe it.  Mario Puzo fictionalized and romanticized something from the real world.  And they are both journeys, with unlikely protagonists who are forced into roles they never really wanted to assume.
What is strikingly different, of course, is how those journeys end.  Frodo single-mindedly seeks the Ring’s destruction, even though he expects it will mean his own death.  He wears ultimate power on a chain around his neck, but he only wants to be rid of it.  That he does in the end put on the Ring and requires a little accidental help from Gollum to complete his quest doesn’t reflect on him because the Ring’s own supernatural powers would have overcome someone less pure of heart long before.

On the other hand, Michael Corleone, the good son who was supposed to do things right and stay out of the family business, quickly loses his purity of heart when he chooses revenge.  At the movie’s end he has willingly taken up the corrupting mantle of absolute power.  Certainly there were events that pushed Michael along the path, but the choices were his to make, and to quote another favorite movie: “He chose poorly.”

Do I have a point here?  Not really.  I just think it’s interesting that the top two movies present such opposing world views.  And as cynical as I sometimes feel, I am going to put my faith in Tolkien’s view.
What do you think?  Do you like movies better if they reflect your own worldview?  Does it even matter?  Which of these two do you prefer and why?

Sanctuary

When I was eleven my family moved to a new house. It was a split level, and I had the basement bedroom. I had a three yellow walls, one wall with yellow roses, and wall-to-wall spring green carpet under my French Provincial 1970s bedroom suite, complete with canopy bed (covered with one of Mima’s afghans, of course–yellow and green!). I wish I had a picture to show you. I guess it was a little loud, but it looked like springtime, and I loved it.
As a teenager, I spent a lot of time in the privacy of that room.  I used to love to sit on my floor, listening to my record albums (usually my soundtrack to the animated version of The Lord of the Rings), drawing with my colored pencils in my special sketchbook.  I studied there, in front of my wall heater. I wrote a book there, reading chapters aloud to my sister as I finished them.  I talked on the phone for hours there (by pulling the long cord of the downstairs extension into the room!).  I entertained my friends there.  I cried there.   I loved being able to go downstairs and lock myself in, away from everyone.  It was a sanctuary.
For four years in college, I shared a bedroom.  Then I got married, and quickly was sharing my bedroom not only with my husband, but with a succession of babies and small children and an abundance of clutter.  First we had a creaky old bed; later we switched to box spring and mattess right on the floor to keep rolling babies safer.  When we moved into our Victorian house, I had high hopes for the bedroom-as-sanctuary:  it was a large room, with a fireplace and a door which once led to a balcony.  We even had a loveseat, but it quickly became a magnet for clothes waiting (and waiting, and waiting . . . )to be hung up, and the rest of the room quickly filled with the clutter that was overtaking the whole house.
The bedroom in what the little ones have christened “the burned down house” was kind of an anti-sanctuary.  We could not even get our boxspring up the stairs of this 1960 split level, so we had our mattress right on the floor.  It was stiflingly hot from May through September, and there were no screens on the windows, so that we learned to live with pollen everywhere and an abundance of flying and crawling friends.  We usually had two cats in bed with us, not to mention Lorelei AND William.  There always seemed to be either dirt (courtesy of the aforementioned bedmates) or crumbs (thanks, to John, who WOULD NOT STOP eating crunchy snacks in bed) amongst the sheets.  And this room was smaller than the last, and the clutter just as bad.  I hated going in there, frankly.
But now.  Oh my.
Can I just say that going up to my room at night is just about my favorite part of the day?  And not just because I love to sleep.  No, it is that sense of sanctuary that was pretty much completely missing from ANY room of the last place we lived. (And is it any wonder, in retrospect, that I never felt quite safe or at home there?)

The room is enormous.  And there’s no clutter because we don’t own any.
There’s a huge bathroom with two sinks and a spa tub.

Lorelei enjoys the spa tub

It has a walk-in closet.  You’d laugh if you saw a picture of that.  John, who was given all my Uncle Charlie’s clothes, and received shirts and ties from many other sources as well, NEEDS the closet (for that matter, as an attorney, he needs the clothes).  My side, on the other hand, is sparsely populated at the moment!
I love the furniture in the room, donated by a friend of my father and step-mother.  And there is no accumulation of knick-knacks to detract from it (the collection of . . . shall we say, CRAP, that used to sit on John’s bureau had been annoying me for years.).
And the bed.  Oh, the bed.

The bedspread is EXACTLY like one I inherited from Mima that was lost in the fire.  I never got to use it because it was too long with the bed always being on the floor.  The sheets are Ralph Lauren with a ridiculously high thread count.  Getting into this bed every night with my book and my book light and my reading glasses is truly one of my greatest pleasures in life.


By now it probably goes without saying that every single thing in this room–the pictures, the linens, the books, the furniture, the pillows–even the nightgown I sleep in each night–came from the love and generosity of friends, family, even strangers.  That makes the room feel like even more of a blessing.  I feel safe and loved here.
What about you?  Is your bedroom a sanctuary?  Do you have another place that is–or has been–a sanctuary for you?

Eleven Answers

So the other day my friend Christi (whose blog is hysterical, by the way–check it out!) was feeling sorry for what a hard life I lead, so she decided I needed an easy blog post to do and included me in the following challenge.
Here’s the deal:
1. post these rules.

2. post a photo of yourself & 11 random facts about you.

3. answer the questions given to you in the tagger’s post.

4. create 11 new questions & tag new people to answer them.

5. go to their blog/twitter & let them know they’ve been tagged.
Here we go!

(Posting a picture of myself is not perhaps intended to be challenging, but since I take most of the pictures, and run from people holding cameras, finding an acceptable one wasn’t easy!)
1. What is your least favorite chore to do around the house, and why?
Cleaning bathrooms.  Perhaps not an original answer, but true (as a quick look in any of them right now would attest).
2. What part of motherhood has been the most challenging, so far?
Teenage boys.
3. What was your high school experience like?
Disgustingly wonderful.  Best-years-of-your-life material.  I was the co-editor of the newspaper, starred in plays, was valedictorian, won awards for Mock Trial, had a wonderful group of friends, had a supportive family, was a good girl who never got in trouble . . . I suffered my share of teenage angst, naturally, and bemoaned the fact that I did not have a boyfriend, but as far as high school experiences go, I’d say I did pretty well.
4. What’s the maddest you’ve ever been?
This is a hard one because I don’t hang on to anger very well.  I forget fairly quickly things that infuriated me terribly at the time.  Probably, but only probably, it was at my husband, but I can’t even be sure about that.
5. How would you spend your birthday if money was no object?
I’ve already experienced this particular birthday treat three times, and it really cannot be improved upon.  I hope we will have the money for me to do it again this year.  What I do is stay downtown in a nice hotel all by myself.  I write, go one walks, go to the library, shop a little, hang out in Market Square, go to nice restaurants–ALL ALONE.  It is bliss.
6. What’s the most annoying thing your husband does?
I’m not going to say it explicitly but it has to do with him being sloppy about little things around the house.  He thinks he’s some kind of neat and organized person but really he can be kind of a slob.
7. What would your husband say is the most annoying thing you do?
Thinking I am always right, probably.
8. What’s your favorite movie and why?
Moonstruck.  There is the sentimental reason that John and I saw it together on our first dating anniversary, but it really is a perfect movie in every way.  The humor, the family stuff, the love stuff, the acting . . . we watch it together at least once a year and annoyingly recite all the lines.
9. If you could change anything about your wedding day, would you? And what?
Only one thing:  I wish we had had enough money to provide some hors d’oeuvres at the beginning of the reception while people were waiting for us to get back from having our pictures done.  People got hungry waiting.  The wedding, however, was absolutely perfect, and that’s the important part–as so many people nowadays seem to forget.
10. What is something that scares you?
Dying and leaving my children.  Or the fact that as they grow up there are so many things I cannot protect them from.
11. What is your favorite part of the day and why?
When I go in my bedroom and close the door and get into bed with my book.  I have a sense of sanctuary in my room that I did not have before moving here.
Now it’s my turn to dream up some questions and tag some unsuspecting folks . . . <evil laughter ensues.>
1.  When did you first get online and what did you do back then?
2.  What faith do you practice and why?
3.  What have you or will you do differently with your own kids, compared to how you were raised?
4.  If you could relive one day in your life so far, which would it be?
5.  What is your favorite piece of furniture in your house, and why?
6.  What is your favorite vacation you ever took?
7.  Do you like the city/town you live in?  Why or why not?
8.  Who is your oldest friend?
9.  Share a childhood memory featuring a grandparent or an older relative.
10.  If there was one thing you could get your children to really understand, what would it be?
11.  Is there anything about you that you think other people consistently don’t get or misunderstand?
I am going to tag Julie, Emily, and Dwija.

That's What I Like About . . . Me

Okay, y’all, I’ve kind of been procrastinating about participating in this challenge.  Making a list of things I like about myself is sort of cringe-inducing.  If you know me in real life, you know that I have a pretty high opinion of myself in several areas.  But years of being in the spotlight as a child (for being a precocious spelling champ) led me to shrink away from the spotlight as I grew older.  And I’ve also always felt it’s rude and obnoxious to brag about oneself.

But I promised I’d do it.  And in the interests of promoting the idea that we should all spend more time loving ourselves and less time thinking about how inadequate we are (which I also do), here goes:
THINGS I LIKE ABOUT ME
1.  I can make quick decisions.  I can pick out birthday cards in seconds.  If I really decide on a course of action (as opposed to just letting things happen) I don’t usually look back and second-guess myself.
2.  I am good at saving money.  I comparison shop, use savings cards, and irritate people at the grocery store with my wad of coupons.  I impress cashiers.
3.  I can accomplish amazing amounts of things in a short amount of time.  It’s kind of like a super power.  In college I could write two five page papers in three hours, and get A’s on both of them (drove my best friend crazy!).  I can whip out a grant proposal in one evening.  I can make 30 pies from scratch in a couple of days.  I hear a lot of this:  “You are finished already?”

4.  I write well. Or so I’m told. 🙂
5.  I am smart.  This is important to me.  When college was over I remember feeling a little lost because I would no longer be receiving grades.  I wondered how people would be able to tell that I was smart.  I wanted to make sure that they knew this about me.  So just in case you missed it, go back to the beginning of this entry.
6.  I can sing.  I love to sing, any time, anywhere.  I have a habit of bursting into song randomly, and often with lyrics that are appropriate to the conversation at hand. I sang in one of the Mass choirs in college, but have been too busy corralling small children during Mass to join as an adult.  Maybe some day.
7.  I can act.  I loved drama in high school, was too intimidated to join in while in college, and made my triumphant return to the stage last summer by a fluke.  I doubt that I will do anything further about this, but who knows.
8.  It is more important to me that I like me than that other people like me.
9.  I use my intelligence and my writing talents to attempt to inform others about the issues that matter to me.
10.  My faith is strong and central to my life.

Ten seems like a good number, so I will stop there.  I need to save something for next year!
If you blog and want to join in the challenge, click the link above–you have until midnight tonight.  If you don’t blog, or it’s too late, tell me in the comments what you like about YOU.