Life in Every Limb

Why I Love Ebay

It really is true that you can find almost anything on ebay.  I know that many people shop for clothes there, and even big ticket items like cars, but I like to shop for treasures from the past, childhood toys, the kinds of things you think you will NEVER be able to find.  I have, for example, a small collection of the Fisher-Price Little People toys from my childhood.  I have the original school that was really mine, but most of the other things did not survive, so I bought some on ebay.  In our new house, I have shelves to display them on, and I let my two little ones play with them if they take good care of them and put them away when they are finished.
I have quite a collection of Eloise Wilkin books I compiled via ebay (although my very favorite one, Linda and her Little Sister, my little girl found in the McKay’s giveaway box!  A copy in decent condition on ebay is over my budget–$60!).  I have always loved the adorable chubby chiuldren and babies she drew, the houses she placed them in, and pretty much the whole lifestyle her books depict.
As you can see (or probably already know, if you’ve spent much time there yourself) ebay can get seductive–and expensive.  So in recent years I’ve restricted my browsing to items that were more or less necessary, like new old-fashioned Christmas ornaments to replace the heirloom ones that were destroyed when our tree tumbled over  on Christmas Eve several years back (that was the FIRST time–it did it again this year! In a new place, we forgot that we always secure it to something with rope.).  Or traditional Catholic textbooks to use in homeschooling (much more on that in another post).
But a couple of weeks ago I did indulge myself with a little present.  My very first job after college, for about six months, was head two-year-old teacher at Arlington Children’s Center.  Not having babies of my own yet, I contented myself with mothering other people’s.  A previous teacher had left behind a lullaby tape that the children and I just loved.  I kept my kids outside running around for about an hour before lunch.  Then I brought them into the darkened classroom to eat, and we would calm down to the first side of the tape.  Then the four of them would lie down on their mats, and I would flip the tape over and lie down too (I was working full-time nights as a waitress also, so I was always tired!).  They would sleep from noon until about 3 p.m.  I’m convinced the tape helped.
I took the tape with me when I left, and I played it for my first baby less than two years later.  But somehow it got lost.  For years I wished I could find it, but I did not even remember who the artists were or what it was called.  And the lullaby names on it that I could recall are so common I couldn’t search for it that way–I had forgotten the names of the more unusual, ethnic selections.
By chance I saw somewhere a title I remembered: “Oh Can Ye Sew Cushions.”  I put that into a search with the words “lullaby tape,” and, like magic, Google produced a title, Golden Slumbers: Lullabies from Far and Near.   What Google could not produce, however, was a copy of the tape.  Site after site listed it at the attractive price of $12, but it was out of stock or special order everywhere.  I learned that other people shared my passion for this recording, which was apparently kind of a big deal, but the only copy I found was on Amazon, for the somewhat ambitious price of $900 (of course, now when I went to get the link, there are currently abridged copies available at more or less reasonable prices.  That’s life, I guess.).
So I turned to ebay.  And no, they did not have the tape–but they had the record!  And for $20, it is now mine to play on my new old-fashioned turntable (2008 Christmas gift from my husband–the only thing I asked for–which looks old-timey but actually is a record player, radio, cassette player, and CD player all in one). 
And that’s why I love ebay.

What Is a Baby?

Twenty-eight years ago today–and I remember well my horror at the time, the parents of a child known forever as Baby Doe apparently decided that he was not a human being deserving of love and care when they allowed him to starve rather than correct a minor defect.  Baby Doe was the victim of the abortion mentality even though his death occurred after he was born.  When it’s acceptable to kill unborn babies for not being perfect, we are only one step away from euthanizing imperfect newborns.  Reading this story reminded me of a column I wrote about five years ago, which I reprint today in his memory.

Teenagers aren’t the only ones who love to hang out and chat with online friends.  I’ve been a member of various virtual communities since I went online in 1995.  My family and many of my “real life” friends don’t get this.  “Why would you want to talk to people you’ve never even
met?” they ask.
For me there are two great aspects of virtual communities.  Online you can quickly find a lot of people who share your interest, no matter how obscure.  It might have been difficult for me to find hundreds of people who were obsessed with The X-Files and writing fanfiction about it here in Knoxville, for example. (For a long time my husband was sorry he had encouraged me to get online!)  On the other hand, these people who share one interest with you are probably more different from you in other ways than the people you hang out with at home, giving you a chance to incorporate a little diversity into your life.
Most people I know well in Knoxville are pro-life, and if they aren’t, they know me well enough to avoid unpleasant discussions about life issues.  My current online homes are newsgroups devoted to pregnancy and breast feeding.  United by a shared interest in these topics are women who are married, divorced, and never married; doctors, retail workers, and stay-at-home-moms; straight and lesbian; Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, pagan, and atheist; American, British, Danish, and more; pro-life and pro-choice.  Being among them gives me an opportunity to hear from people who make choices I would never make, could never imagine making.
I read discussions of whether to have prenatal tests, of what anomalous ultrasound results might mean, of what disorders are severe enough to warrant abortion.  I know people who have received ominous prenatal diagnoses and have followed them through their pregnancies to the births of children whose problems have rendered them no less precious; I know others who chose to abort and shared those experiences with us.
Modern society now almost universally accepts that there are some pre-natal diagnoses so severe that abortion is justified. Although statistics for “eugenic abortion” are hard to come by, medical researchers indicate that 80% of babies prenatally diagnosed with Down Syndrome are aborted; in some areas of the country as many as 95% of all babies prenatally diagnosed with cystic fibrosis are never born.  According to the American Association of People with Disabilities, many disabilities–Tay-Sachs Disease, for example–have virtually disappeared from the United States, and many others–spina bifida, for one–are on the decline, not because of advances in treatment and prevention, but because of the acceptance of death as the ultimate solution.
And what happens when abortion for truly horrific conditions, those incompatible with life, becomes accepted?  It’s that good old slippery slope again.  A recent online report from the Daily Mail (a United Kingdom publication) asserted that people in Great Britain are now aborting for club foot and extra digits.  Far from being incompatible with life, these conditions can be corrected surgically.  Fertility specialists are taking this one step further: with pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, they’ll test your embryo and once they’ve made sure it’s free of whatever disease you were worried about–including now in some instances only a chance of developing cancer or Alzheimer’s later in life–they’ll let you choose the sex for good measure.  Finally, and even more bizarrely, some disabled people are using PGD technology to ensure their babies are born with their parents’ disability (deafness, for example).  
Here’s what’s scary.  I can’t demonize the people who kill their babies for not being perfect as I’d like to do because I know these people.  I can’t say, “Oh, I can’t imagine what kind of people would do these things,” because I don’t have to imagine them. In the main they are good people, people who think the right things, do the right things, and love their other children. They are frighteningly normal.  And if aborting babies for not being perfect is normal, then what is the world coming to?   

Mysterious Wisteria

I love Springtime in a new house.  Every day is a discovery, as blooms appear, whether seeded by chance or some long-gone resident.  Just now I am basking in the beauty of wisteria.  I’m sure some people consider it invasive, but I’ve always wanted some.  And now I have it in spades.  The stuff is EVERYWHERE.   Tangled in bushes, festooned across trees, creeping across the ground, dangling from the gutters of the abandoned house in our woods.  The air is simply redolent with it–you would think someone had been spraying perfume, even inside the house.  I may have gone just a little crazy taking pictures, but a lot of this may be cleared away by next year and I want to remember it–and I want you to enjoy it too.

Christ is risen from the dead! Alleluia, Alleluia!

I loved Easter long before I appreciated its religious significance–the excitement of the Easter Bunny, the new clothes, the family dinner, the egg hunt, and most of all the springtime.  It’s my favorite holiday as an adult, not just because for Christians it is the climax of the Church year, but because it is a fun family time that is not as demanding as Christmas and which takes place at the time of year that makes me happiest.
This was our first Easter in a new home, and we had a wonderful time.  We put the kids at our new outside table, and later we all sat outside and enjoyed the beautiful day.  But it was an emotional day, too.  The evening before, both my mother and my youngest sister were present at the Easter Vigil service at our church, Immaculate Conception.  There was a freakish accident involving the sacred fire from which the Easter Candle was to be lit.  My mother saw our deacon and two altar servers catch on fire.  My sister and my niece, just arriving, heard the screams and knew that something was terribly wrong.  We have known Patrick, one of the servers, since he was born, and he is in my son’s class at Knoxville Catholic High School, so we were particularly upset and worried about him.
I haven’t been to the Easter Vigil in years, as much as I loved it as a child, because a service that lasts from nine until midnight just doesn’t work well with five children.  So I got my first inklings of the news from a Facebook post, more from WBIR’s Twitter feed, and the rest from a phone call to my mother who had stepped out of Mass (which did go on, and how our pastor did it is a miracle itself).  As you might imagine, we thought of little else the rest of the evening, even as we went about the usual holiday preparations, filling baskets, rolling out dough.
Father Joe rose to the occasion again at Mass the next morning, encouraging us to sing out those alleluias, upset as we all were.  Then during the Prayers of the Faithful came another blow when we were asked to pray for the soul of Bob DeWine, who had died just an hour before.  His death was not tragic–he was 90 years old, and died surrounded by his family on Easter Sunday morning, surely a significant and blessed day for a Christian to enter New Life.  But how the church will miss him!  How difficult it was that morning, to celebrate and sing the joyful songs while death and tragedy were still so near.
The three people injured in the blaze are going to be O.K.  The deacon and his daughter are still being treated at the burn center at Vanderbilt; Patrick has been released and is recovering at home.  Bob DeWine is celebrating Easter in Heaven this year.  Resurrection takes on a new meaning for all of us this Easter season.

bob dewine 1

Here’s one view of a memorial set up in the back of our church for Mr. DeWine, who was an usher at the 10 a.m. Mass for many years.

bob dewine 2

He always had a big smile and a “good morning” as he held open the church door.

False Fronts: A Visit to Gatlinburg

Just a little over a week ago I wrote of the fires that have been consuming East Tennessee.  One of those fires raged out of control last night and destroyed over 150 homes and businesses in Gatlinburg.  Just about all Knoxvillians have fond memories of Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains, and we are all grieving today.  Thinking about all this made me remember this post, one of the first I ever wrote, which alludes to a side of Gatlinburg most people probably never see.

My family and I spent part of our Easter Break in Gatlinburg.  Most of our vacation time and money is used for trips to Baltimore to see my husband’s family, but we try to make little trips to Gatlinburg at Christmas or Easter.  It’s close, there’s plenty to do, and we’ve found condos to stay in so that we don’t have to pay for two hotel rooms and can cook some of our own meals.

Despite living so close to the Smokies, my family rarely visited when I was a child.  Once a year at the most we picked up some fried chicken at the Kentucky Fried Chicken at the last stop light in Gatlinburg–it’s still there!–and took it to Metcalf Bottoms for a picnic.  My father hated Gatlinburg so we hardly ever stopped there, although we did stay at the Glenstone Lodge just one time.

Gatlinburg has changed a lot since those days–it’s even changed a lot since I was in college.  The family owned gift shops that used to line the streets (like Rebel Corner, which was lost to a fire), full of hokey gifts like Indian headdresses and souvenir shot glasses, are mostly gone now.  In addition to a lot of tacky t-shirt shops and martial arts stores, there are many nicer gift shops.  Ripley’s seems to have taken over the town.

I do love The Village.  Anchored by the 50-year-old Pancake Pantry, this copy of a old-time European town is attractive and peaceful, and we love the German restaurant there.  The golf course at Reagan Terrace Mall is well done too, with little plaques at each hole that detail the history of Gatlinburg.

There’s more to Gatlinburg than the main strip, though–there’s a side of it that many tourists never see.  It reminds me of those Old West Towns with their false fronts, which made the little buildings behind them seems fancier, with two stories instead of one.  That strip isn’t the real Gatlinburg.  Back behind it there are homes and neighborhoods.  And there’s history.  We discovered some of it when we were there.

white oak flats

 Keep reading this blog and you will discover that there’s nothing I love quite so much as a stroll through a graveyard.  Taking a shortcut, my teenagers discovered an enormous cemetery that was established in 1830.

cemetery view

 In nearly 40 years of driving through Gatlinburg, I had never seen it or known that it was back there, just one block behind all the excitement.

baby stone

My little boy kneels by the stone of an infant, which made him sad.

From the graveyard, you can see all the activity down below, all the changes that have come about since 1830–really most of them since 1930.  Yet the graveyard remains, testimony to the Gatlinburg that once was White Oak Flats, and most of all to the Ogle family, who were the first settlers.
cemetery view 2
ogles everywhere

kids and graves

My children have learned to enjoy visiting cemeteries along with me.


Two nice surprises in the graveyard: this trillium (I think!) . . .

clayton's stone

and my Great-Uncle Clayton’s grave! I had no idea he was there!

The graveyard wasn’t the only surprise in store for us.  We found a shortcut back to our condo that took us right past this lovely Methodist church.

Gatlinburg Methodist Church

Look at the interesting contrast in the photo below.  I call it “Two Spires” and it’s a view of the steeple of the church above juxtaposed with the top of the Space Needle, as seen from Reagan Terrace Mall.

two spires

Maybe there’s a message for us in the sign below:

Please consider donating to help alleviate some of the suffering of those who have been affected by this tragedy.  There’s a partial list of efforts available here.

What's in a Name?

The following is a reprint of a column that ran in The East Tennessee Catholic newspaper on August 11, 2002.  It explains the name of my former column, which is now the name of this blog.
Names are important.
Think of the time we spend choosing the names we give our children, the hours poring over baby-name books, making lists, asking opinions, only to be told years later by an unappreciative adolescent, “I hate my name!”
Now, any writer or artist will tell you that his creative product is something like “offspring” to him.  So when it was time–past time–to name this column, I agonized over the choice for days.  Then, coming up blank, I followed my usual procedure for titling my work:  I stole.
Image result for bartlett's familiar quotations
Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations with its handy index is an old friend that has proved its worth to me many times.  I looked up life in the back of the book, and voila, the works of far better writers than I were at my disposal.
The phrase “life in every limb” sounded perfect at first reading, and once I investigated the source became even more so.
First, the author:  William Wordsworth, famed English poet of the Romantic Period, and as it happens, an old favorite of mine.  My first college English professor, later my advisor, is a preeminent Wordsworth scholar who spends summers at Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage in the Lake District.  By virtue of his enthusiasm almost as much as Wordsworth’s talent, he taught us to love Wordsworth too.  This seemed like an omen.
Image result for wordsworth
Next the poem whence the line came: We Are Seven. The poem’s narrator encounters a “little maid,” who in answer to questions about her family asserts again and again that there are seven children, even though two have died.  This inclusion in the family’s number of two who are unable to speak for themselves resonated with me as I thought of the voiceless unborn and their need for similar champions.
Finally, the enire quotation:  “A simple child/That lightly draws its breath/And feels its life in every limb/What should it know of death?” I thought of the unborn child, alive in every way, in every part of its tiny body, heart beating, blood pumping, at the very beginning of its life doomed so often to a premature and violent death.
I wonder what Wordsworth might add to the abortion debate if he were with us today.  My first child’s godmother (a fellow student of the aforementioned professor) created a beautiful cross-stitch as a gift for Emily when she was born from a paraphrased Wordsworth quotation: “Children come trailing clouds of glory from God who is their home.”
This comes from his Ode on the Intimations of Mortality, in which he expounds upon his belief that children are closer to God because they remember glimpses of heaven that are more and more lost to us as we grow older.  His own heavenly visions, the “spots of time” he celebrates in his long autobiographical narrative poem The Prelude, were a continuing source of inspiration to Wordsworth.  I have a feeling that he would have viewed the killing of the innocent unborn, fresh from God’s hand, as the worst kind of sacrilege.
Moving to a different sort of literature, the phrase “life in every limb” calls to mind St. Paul‘s metaphor of 1 Corinthians 12: ” . . . [T]he body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body . . . .”  Each person, born or unborn, is a part of that body and has a unique role to fulfill.
In valuing all members of the body equally, our church espouses a consistent ethic of life.  Although abortion is the focus of this column, I plan to write about many other life issues, such as the death penalty and euthanasia.  We might think of the abortion issue as just one of the many limbs of the church’s pro-life teachings.  For we are a church that embraces and celebrates and protects all life, that of the innocent unborn equally with that of the convicted murderer, of the ill and disabled along with the healthy, of the non-Christian along with the Christian–life in every limb of the Body of Christ.

Uncle Charlie

The picture that currently heads this blog comes from this image:

This is a picture of my Uncle Charlie holding my oldest child at the hospital the day after she was born–that’s more than 19 years ago.  I treasure this picture because Uncle Charlie died just a few weeks ago of lung cancer at 64.  At his funeral my little cousin said to me, “He really was the best grandfather in the world.”
I say Uncle Charlie even though we weren’t related by blood.  He was my aunt’s husband, and they were in the process of divorcing when the above picture was taken.  But he was a big part of my childhood, and I never stopped thinking of him as my uncle.  He and my father were in high school together–they both graduated from Fulton High School–and we have moving pictures of them with my mother and her sister when they weren’t much older than that, goofing around in my grandparents’ driveway. 
Time’s a funny thing.  It certainly doesn’t seem possible to me that the above picture was taken almost 20 years ago, and I’ll bet it didn’t seem possible to Uncle Charlie that more than 40 years had gone by since he was a kid with a big smile goofing off for my grandmother’s camera, all his life still ahead of him.

Hello world!

Since 2001, I have written a bi-monthly column on life issues in the East Tennessee Catholic newspaper.  Recently I learned my column was being cut “to make room for some new voices.”  I was disappointed because I still felt like I had more to say.
I’ve often felt that I should have a blog.  I’m a writer and I have lots of opinions, so why not?  I’ve tried a couple of times over the years put never made it to a second post.  But I think this time is going to be different.   What I’m planning is to take a couple of different ideas for blogs that I’ve had in the past and combine them.  I’ll still write about life issues–which most often has meant abortion in the past, but also includes war, the death penalty, assisted reproductive technology, contraception, and more–but I have other issues I want to talk about as well.
So you may read about abortion one day, and the history of Knoxville the next.  One day I’ll write about being the mother of five, including three teenagers; the next I might rant about my theories on education for awhile (my family will no doubt be glad that I’ve found a new outlet for my occasional rants!).  Because I am so busy, I will flesh the blog out by rerunning old columns that I still think are topical.
So, welcome!  Please join right in and comment–because a blog is no fun if you feel like you are talking to yourself.

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