28 November 2009

Unanswerable questions

I went out for a walk today.

Yesterday was Black Friday, the traditional day of shopping madness. In my family it is a tradition that we all go to my sister's house for a huge meal that lasts all day and into the evening. More food just magically appears whenever any of the trays run low....turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, broccoli and cheese casserole, dinner rolls, corn casserole, pumpkin pie, pumpkin cookies, peanut brittle, hot apple cider...so it goes all day and all evening. Football games are interspersed with cartoons and video games. And my family and I sleep over there, so that we can take part in the continuation of the festivities, namely Black Friday shopping. The girls all get up insanely early to go shopping. The guys sleep in and hang out at home with all the kids, and they bring the kids to the mall for lunch and pictures with Santa. It's just what we do.

We came home last night and I was thoroughly exhausted. Thanksgiving morning, I had gone downtown to take part in another local tradition, the Cincinnati Thanksgiving Day 10K. I have never run it before, but I really enjoyed it...a good race, a fun day, good company. So I was tired from that to start with, then I got up at 4:30 am (!!) Friday to go shopping. When we got home Friday night, I was wiped. out.
Went to bed and spent a much needed 12 hours there.

Today, before the husband left for work, I went for a walk. I thought about going for a run, but decided on a walk instead. No races coming up....don't want to work too hard today, feeling a bit...not lazy exactly, but I don't feel like working hard. It's a gorgeous day...almost painfully blue, clear sky, chilly but not cold. Instead of the music I normally listen to when I exercise, I decided to go with a podcast I download but don't always remember to listen to, called "Catholic Under the Hood." It's done by a priest who is a professor at Franciscan University across the state. I was listening to a segment he did on marriage, specifically Eastern Orthodox ceremonies, and I was thinking about the differences between Eastern ceremonies and Western or Roman Catholic ceremonies, and what the symbolism meant.

Since I've been back in school, studying science (because I have to), history (because I want to) and philosophy, and learning to think more critically, as in asking questions, weighing evidence, and coming to logical conclusions, my faith has raised an awful lot more questions than it has answered for me. And I'm not sure what that means. I found myself in a discussion, almost a debate, about religion recently and it really made me think. Who says my way is the right way? Is there "one true faith"? Are Protestants, Lutherans, Episcopals, Jews, Buddhists, Assemblies of God congregations, all going to hell because they aren't Catholic? How can I believe in a God I can't see, touch, or smell? Am I really hearing or feeling Him, or is it just that I want to so badly that I've convinced myself He's real? Science and the theory of evolution explains a lot about the way the world works, in a scientific way, where all the loose ends get tied up neatly and everything is explained.

How can you explain faith to a person who demands hard evidence? There is a component of mystery to faith, something that simply cannot be explained. The Holy Trinity.....how do you explain that? Three persons in one? And the religious sects that broke away from the Church because they couldn't subscribe to the same beliefs? How does it all make sense? They say we pray to idols and images and statues....we pray to the Saints and therefore are worshipping someone other than God Himself....how does this stack up neatly to make a complete picture of the one true faith, led by a supposedly infallible human man? What does it mean if I disagree or have a hard time being obedient to, or just flat out disobey, certain aspects of my chosen faith?

The only thing I know for sure, and this makes me a terrible debater, is the overwhelming peace I feel when I hear Mass. The soothing cadence of the prayers, the structure that doesn't change, the rhythm of sitting, standing, kneeling....I feel whole. My friend told me about explaining the Eucharist to her grandson....he wanted to know what it tasted like. She said it didn't really have a taste, but it was more of a feeling than a taste. And the Eucharist brings up another big question....if transubstantiation is real, then are we really eating the Body and drinking the Blood of Christ? How? And does that make us, as some people accuse, cannibals?

In my heart, I don't doubt. God is real. The Bible is the Truth. But again with the questions....which version is true? Is the Bible not just a bunch of stories passed down through the ages? Whose perspective? Were they really prophets?

Only when I try to communicate what I believe, and why I believe it, do I sound like I doubt. And so I hope that what I've heard is true...the truly faithful ask the most questions. Your faith really becomes your own and becomes fuller with each question you ask, and seeking to understand more fully means strengthening your faith. Boy, I sure hope so. 'Cause I still have a lot of questions.

24 November 2009


Maybe it sounds a little like I'm hating on Stephenie Meyer. I'm not. I'm just envious, to some degree. I haven't read anything she's written other than the Twilight series, and I know she has published other things. Twilight is written for a certain audience, I get that. I still don't think hers is a sophisticated writing style and I still think Twilight in general is overly wordy. It's still a fun escape that takes you back for a minute to the breathless first love that actually loved you back.

But whatever. I'm going to go see New Moon again tomorrow night. By myself. Unless I can talk another of my Twi-Mom friends into going again. But I'm ok going by myself...I can indulge my little high school fantasies in anonymity.

We went to the dentist today and the littlest dude has a cavity. That he needs filled. Poor kid. But the upside is that it's Thanksgiving break and I let them start it early instead of making them go back to school after the dentist appointment.

So, being Thanksgiving and all, everyone always wants to talk about what we're thankful for. I'm thankful for the alarm clock that wakes me up too early, because that means I have a reason to get out of bed and a family to take care of. I'm thankful for the gas that runs out too quickly in my car, because that means I'm active and busy. I'm thankful for being sore from running, because that means I have a healthy body that can run for miles. I'm thankful that I haven't finished college yet, because that gives me a goal to work towards. I'm thankful that teaching my preschool PSR class stresses me out a little, because that means I am concerned about doing it right and sharing God's word with His most precious children. I'm thankful that I have a family that cheers me across finish lines, understands why I leave them to go to school at night and to work one weekend a month, is happy to see me come back in the door, and always catches me when I fall. I'm thankful I have a husband who still loves me even though our path has been bumpy and sometimes downright scary. I'm thankful mine is not a perfect, trouble-free, never-ending joyride existence, because then I'd never have learned to appreciate what I have. And what I have is pretty great.

A lyric from a current favorite song :

Don't you give up now
The sun will soon be shining
Gotta face the clouds
To find the silver lining.

A very happy, peaceful and blessed Thanksgiving to all.

22 November 2009

Vampires and love stories

I went out Friday night with a couple of my girlfriends and my stepdaughter to see New Moon, the new movie from the Twilight series. I guess you could say I'm a Twi-Mom. After being asked, oh, 64 times about the appeal of Twilight even though it is obviously written for much younger women than myself, I really tried to nail down what it is that I like about it.

I loved Twilight, the first book; liked but didn't love New Moon, the second one; loved Eclipse, the third one, and not so much with Breaking Dawn, the fourth one. I'm going to discuss the events of the books freely so I guess that could count as a spoiler alert.

Twilight is a breathless, swoony, ridiculously over the top love story. The kind that only happens in high school. Which is where this book conveniently takes place. Well, Bella is really in high school and Edward is pretending to be. I do not mean to belittle the author's accomplishments in any way...holy cow, she spawned a whole phenomenon! But honestly her writing style is not real sophisticated. And it's really wordy. It takes her 700 pages to tell a story that is really only about 400 or so. Being a writer myself, I cannot help but notice mechanics and grammar and such things....I have been known to be called "the grammar police" on more than one occasion. And I'm not saying I think I could write it better, but....for an English lit major, it's just not quite what I would expect.

It started getting a little strange in New Moon. Let me put out there as a disclaimer that I am not into the whole fantasy realm in any way, shape or form, so I was surprised to like this as much as I do. Because there is some serious fantasy involved. Vampires, werewolves and shape shifters stretch my tolerance quite a bit. I hung with the whole werewolf thing through New Moon and Eclipse. The fights between the vampires and their assorted enemies made me laugh and roll my eyes a little. And I think that allowing vampires get away with a lot and writing it off to "well, they're vampires, they can do whatever they want" almost amounts to literary cheating. Like you write your character into a situation that is seemingly impossible and then he just...gets out of it. Really? He can disappear at will? Honestly? He magically knows everything there is to know and holds several PhDs? And reads minds? Oh, well, he's a vampire, of course he does. But, it's her story and she can do what she wants with it. That's the writer in me picking someone else's work apart.

Eclipse was good. I liked it better than New Moon...it seemed like it more about the love story again, and New Moon was about Jacob turning into a werewolf. I thought the whole "let's get married so we can truly be together for eternity" was maybe just a little teeny bit hokey but I'll go with it. Who wouldn't want to marry Edward? He's perfect. I am very much looking forward to seeing the movie in the spring when it comes out. I love Robert Pattinson as Edward. I've not seen him in anything else, although I know he has been. In my mind he IS Edward and after Twilight it will take a little getting used to, to see him as other characters. But that's neither here nor there. I think the movies have been very well cast, we can just leave it at that. Taylor Lautner looks awesome as Jacob but given the fact that I am old enough to have a child his age.....that makes me view him a little differently. The girls in the theater Friday night were literally screaming and giggling when he was onscreen and took his shirt off. He will be truly fabulous when he is all the way grown up...got tremendous potential but he's still growing up.

Breaking Dawn stretched me about to my breaking point as far as the fantasy stuff where I had to just suspend all sense of reality. The thing about the other books is, it almost seems like it could really happen. Breaking Dawn, not so much. I just couldn't get to the place in my head where I still felt like it had the possibility of being something that could happen. Up until the part where Bella has become a vampire, it's ok....it's Edward and Bella on their honeymoon and the discovery they make while they are away, of Bella's super warp speed pregnancy, and it's ok. But when she starts drinking blood because it's what the baby wants, being half vampire and all, I kind of lost my grip on it. And Renesmee? Really? That's just ridiculous. And the big showdown with the Volturi that didn't happen was a letdown to a lot of people but frankly I was relieved. Bella pushing her "shield" out of her own mind and wrapping it around other people pushed me over the edge.

But all of that said, at its core, the Twilight series is an epic love story, that starts out against all odds, and yet somehow, love conquers all and they live happily ever after. Literally forever. All of Bella's ends are neatly tied up and she gets all of what she wants. She gets to be with Edward forever, she gets to be a vampire like she's been begging for since the beginning and she gets to keep Jacob without breaking his heart. We all love a happy ending where the heroine gets what she wants.

Who doesn't remember that breathless first love where you felt like you couldn't breathe when he looked at you and smiled? Who wouldn't want to feel like that again, just for a minute? After discussing with my other Twi-Mom friends I've come to a conclusion. Those of us in the midst of the chaos and tedium that marriage for a certain number of years, and having young children bring, joyous and wonderful certainly, but chaos nonetheless, love an escape from the routine of everyday real life. Not that we want to escape permanently, just for a little bit. And dream that someone as perfect and brilliant and swoon-inducing as Edward could love plain old us. Not that our husbands aren't wonderful, but come on, they're not Edward. Only Robert Pattinson is. And I heard he's taken.

Stephenie Meyer's story gives me hope....she was a stay home mom of three boys and the kernel of what grew into Twilight came to her in a dream. She's living my dream. Well, I don't know if I would want the extent of what Stephenie's got going on....movies and fame and all that goes with that....but what I wouldn't give to have a great idea for a story, start writing and just watch it take off.

13 November 2009

More than anything in the world, I hate

throwing up. OK, maybe that's a slight exaggeration, but I really really really hate being sick to my stomach. There are other things I hate more, like real disease, terrorism, crushing poverty....you know, things that really make life difficult.

Wednesday night, we were at the beginning of a long weekend. The older two spuds were off from school and the little guy only had to go in the morning, so we were going to have pizza and watch a movie after the scout meeting that Daddy and the oldest had to go to. But middle spud suddenly didn't feel good and asked if he could put on pj's and lie on the couch after dinner. This kid never does that. Never. So we curled up on what we call The Sleepy Chair in the family room and watched America's Funniest Home Videos. Why people crashing dirt bikes and falling off a skateboard onto their heads is funny, I'll never really understand but somehow it's still entertaining. I could feel the poor guy getting warmer and warmer and when I took his temperature at bedtime it was 103.5. Yikes! He took some Tylenol and was asleep before his head hit the pillow. So I was feeling a little tired myself and decided to just to go bed early. I fell asleep pretty much right away.

At 11:00 or so, I woke up and something just didn't feel right. Couldn't put my finger on it, but I just felt....strange. The thing that was wrong made itself clear about 20 minutes later and I spent the rest of the night back and forth between bed and the bathroom. Matt complained of a stomachache when he came up to go to bed shortly after I got up the first time. Then around 12:30 or baby spud came in, crying and saying, "I frowed up in my bed." Then it was a merry go round of taking turns in the bathroom. Interestingly, middle spud with the fever was perfectly fine the next morning. I, however, wished for death.

Thursday, I dragged myself out of bed long enough to go to teacher conferences for the older two spuds....both were good....then I crawled home and laid on the couch whining and moaning for the next 12 hours or so. Baby spud missed his school pictures in the morning. He was all dressed and ready to go, seemingly feeling better, then he frowed up all over his nice clean sweater. He was recovered enough to go in the afternoon and smile for 15 seconds, then come back home to lie on the couch with me, moaning and watching old Looney Tunes.

I feel 1000% better today and even went out shopping with my awesome sister and my awesome niece and her adorable kids.

But man, I don't know if I can adequately express how much I hate being sick to my stomach. I think I'd rather have the swine flu. Blech.

11 November 2009

Why, oh why

do I do this to myself? I am fascinated by politics and history, and how one feeds the other. So, naturally I'm drawn to political websites, news discussion boards and the like. And being who I am, I can't usually keep my mouth shut for very long. So I join in the online conversation/debate from time to time.

I guess I'm just too thin-skinned to debate much of anything, because I just don't get the need to state your case and then heap insults on top of your well thought out and well stated argument. You know, people lay out this whole researched and clearly elaborated position and then they call you a ****ing idiot and soulless pig who should burn in Hell because you disagree. I got into a discussion about the health care reform bill and whether or not it is fair and/or right to have a public health care option that includes abortion coverage. Now, I don't want to debate abortion. My problem is using taxpayer funds to pay for them. Many, many of said taxpayers do not support abortion and would not knowingly pay for one under any circumstances. But see, if they pass a reform that includes a public option, and that public option includes abortion coverage, guess what? We the people, are paying for abortions. No matter what President Obama tries to tell us about how they are not using federal funds for abortion.

Anyway, I jumped into the discussion and was promptly told to "keep my opinions to myself" because abortion is a "sacred and private affair" that is a legal procedure, and my objection gets us nowhere. I spoke my piece respectfully and calmly, then was called a "religious zealot" and a "fanatic." Never mind the fact that I had not once used the word God, faith, Bible, religion or anything of the sort. I HATE ugly debate. Hate it. How does calling anyone names and insulting their mother get us any further than my saying I oppose abortion and I don't want to pay for it?

In the spirit of full disclosure, I continued my discussion with the gentleman and he retracted his comment where he called me a zealot and a fanatic. But that debate goes there, so frequently and so easily, is just stupid. When you start swearing and calling people names, it means you have run out of intelligent things to say. You need to step away from the keyboard and take a deep breath.

So, even though I didn't swear at or insult anyone, I'm going to take my own advice, or at least try to. I'm still going to read it all because you can still learn something and sometimes gain a new insight, but I am going to try to step away from the keyboard and stop beating my head against a brick wall. No matter how good it feels when I stop.

06 November 2009

A heavy heart

My heart goes out to all those affected in any way by the horrific shootings at Fort Hood, Texas, yesterday. There's really nothing else to say. I will keep praying for the victims, the families, the people who were injured and the people who were witness to it.

Let the facts come out and don't jump to conclusions about why it happened, or any of the circumstances.

On a happier note, the middle offspring and his class, along with the kindergartners, were responsible for morning prayer today at school....he had a reading to do. They are just precious. I love those sweet little voices and those sweet faces, and I hate that they're growing up so fast. I've never been one to bemoan the fact that children do in fact, grow up, and I didn't really cry on the first day of school. Ever. But I'm a little more conscious than I have been before about the passage of time and how this time next year, all my children will be in school all day long. I'll drop them off at 8:30 and I won't see any of them again till 3:30. Now, there is a part of me that does a little happy dance, at the thought of all that time to get things done, run all my errands in peace, do my schoolwork uninterrupted....but then again, the other part of me likes having little people underfoot and sticky hands that only want to hug me and pull me down on the floor to play Legos.

I'm getting all misty just talking about it. But it'll pass. As much as I have loved mothering babies and toddlers, I'm digging the school years too. It's fun to watch them learn and grow and develop into their own people. Frustrating as hell at times too, for sure. But pretty cool too....awe-inspiring even. I'm looking forward to knowing the young men my little boys are growing into.

There's nothing quite as pure and innocent and sweet as a child's love.

05 November 2009

Life happens

I keep saying that, don't I? Lame excuse for being lazy and tongue-tied. Can you be tongue-tied if you are typing and not speaking? Hmmm....

Ongoing issues with the 9 year old and his meds. I so wish he didn't need the meds, or that I could find some way to help him not need them. So many times I feel like I fail him, by losing my patience when he needs me to be the grown-up, or by leaving him to his own devices to figure out how to cope with ADHD and anxiety. This hasn't been a good week for us...he's not only not doing his work at school, he's lying about whether it's done or not, and weaseling out of punishments. He was supposed to come back to his classroom after lunch to finish some work the other day and he just decided he'd rather go outside so he did. You can't not go to detention! I don't think it's detention per se, but the 4th grade version of it. Anyway, not a good week, and I'm not handling it very well.

I picked up a packet of stuff after school today, to make a presentation at school for Veteran's Day. I'm going to be in the second grade classroom with the 7 year old, and there's a story to read and a few activities. I read the story standing in the kitchen and promptly burst into tears. How am I going to read it to the kids? I love to go in on Veterans' Day...I always go in uniform, and I really like doing it. I think it's so important for kids to have positive images of military people and realize that they/we are just normal people, moms and dads, and not the sometimes really ugly things that the media puts out there. I just posted something on my Facebook page....an article about how 75% of America's youth (people in the prime recruiting age range) are either "too fat, too lazy, too dumb or too dishonest to get into the Army." Article's words, not mine. Obese, can't pass a test, don't come to appointments on time if at all, or have a criminal record. 75%. Horrifying.

I get that the military isn't for everyone. I get how scary it is to watch your child do something that could potentially get them killed. But ponder this: every person in uniform is someone's kid. Thank God someone's kids answer their nation's call; where would we be if no one did? I have heard, more times than I care to think about, parents say things like, "My kid will join the military over my dead body." A mom in Seth's ADHD therapy group told us (the other parents) that her son wanted to be a Marine, but she looked him in the eye and lied to him, telling him they wouldn't take him because of having ADHD. And she was PROUD of lying to him. I nearly bit my tongue in half....so, let me get this straight. It's perfectly OK for other people's kids to put on the uniform and go to war. Just not YOUR kid. I tried not to, but I had to say something. I just said that I had been in the service for 18 years, and I was still here to tell the tale. It's not a prison sentence or a death sentence.

After I calmed down, I got to thinking, why do people feel this way? What is so wrong with serving your country? If it's about the danger, we're all in danger all the time. You don't have to be a soldier carrying a gun to have a horrible accident, to get in a car crash, to get sick. You can fall down the stairs or hit your head in your own home. Yes, maybe it's morbid to think that way, or to say it out loud, but it's true.

I don't want to think that people don't value military service. But many parents don't seem to instill that spirit of service, of giving back, and so many kids don't understand what it means to hold something so dear, something that is bigger than your little corner of the world, something that cannot be possessed or touched to felt, something so important that you would go out of your way to defend it. Defend it to the death if it came down to it. I have one kid in the Army, I have been in the AF for over 18 years, the husband spent almost 28 years in uniform, and when my younger kids get there, I'll encourage them to consider military service. I'm PROUD of my kid for choosing to serve something over himself. I'm proud of him for choosing the uniform. Am I scared something will happen to him? Sure I am. I put him in God's care every single day. But does my fear trump his desire to serve honorably and nobly? Not on your life.

Military rant over. It just makes me sad that so few people have that desire to serve. Yes, I know, there are lots of ways to serve your country; wearing a uniform is but one. But still. Oh wait, I said it was over didn't I?

Hmmm, what else? H1N1 is so yesterday. We are not doing the shot. Why are people so freaked out? Tens of thousands of people die every year from the seasonal flu and you don't see this mass hysteria. It's here, in my small town. Unless you are in the high risk category, in which case my opinion most definitely changes, my impression is you get sick, have a fever and a cough for a week or so, and you get better. Several kids of friends of mine have had it, and they got over it in a few days, week or so max. One kid had a fever of 105 on Monday and was at football practice on Friday.

I got my GI Bill claim approved!! I'm going to finish school! Hallelujah! Money was really becoming an issue, as in, there wasn't enough. And now I've got help paying for tuition! A year from June, and I'll be walking. I'm the first person in my family to go to school at all, let alone graduate. There was a part of me that thought I'd never really get there. And I'm not there yet, don't want to count those chickens just yet, but it feels good to see the finish line from here.

SO thankful for my friends who keep me grounded, keep me laughing and keep me in their prayers. Peace out.