Tuesday, May 15, 2018


The weight of fecundity
In the greenery
Crushes more than a stratus sky.
Heavy, honey-scented air
And bumble bees buzzing
Are the reason why
I know the petals, stamen, stigma
Call for fertility,
Call for pollination,
Call for seeds to rise.
The weight of this demand
Makes me sleepy in the sun
And sluggish.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

And the problem is...

When it is announced at Sunday mass that there is a holy day of obligation that week, you can almost feel the feet dragging and hear the groaning. A few eyes might roll. And yet we know that this is supposed to be a happy day, so why does it feel like such a burden?

Right now, the holy day is just one more thing we are obliged to do within our already overly committed schedules. It adds to the stress and fatigue without adding much joy to compensate. Over the years, I have noticed something though. When I decided to go to daily mass as often as possible, suddenly the days of obligation didn't seem like a big deal. Heck, I was already going anyway! While going to daily mass is a good thing, it is a choice. The only thing that holy days changed was that we tried to have a nice dessert that night. Well, at least that was something...

But it should be a day of joy. If we call them holy days of obligation, we send the wrong message: you are obliged to come to mass or go to hell. Why aren't they called holy days of celebration? A supporting culture would close stores, give everyone the day off, and we would have rip-roaring celebrations. Dream on. The secular culture does a better job with Fat Tuesday than Catholics do with virtually every holy day. Well, I admit that some of that secular celebrating obliges people to visit the confessional...

It doesn't help that the bishops sometimes don't make some of them days of obligation because it is just too much to ask people to acknowledge a holy day with mass attendance.

I have always been puzzled why Catholic schools don't cancel classes that day. What would get kids more exciting about a holy day than no school? Well, maybe if we have to have school in session, it would be an all-fun-and-no-homework day at the very least. As far as I can tell, the holy day only gets a nod and lectures and lessons go on as planned.

But I still feel that somehow our Catholic culture does not embrace holy days with the joy and celebratory attitude that they were intended to evoke. As Catholics, we need to get better at having a good party. Where are the parades, the costumes, the fireworks, the feasting, and the music? The problem is we stink at partying.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Being Beckoned

Recently I read the entire Horatio Hornblower series of books, and I also just completed the first book in the Master and Commander series. This reveals an obvious fascination with life on the sea during the Napoleonic era. Before the Industrial  Revolution and the age of machinery hit, men at sea were entirely dependent on and at the mercy of the weather to get anywhere. What becomes acutely obvious when reading these books is that a sensitivity to meteorological change meant the difference between life and death. Knowledge and skill in exploiting those changes heightened the chances of survival. Reading the winds meant escaping from the equatorial doldrums, riding the titanic storm, or outwitting the enemy in battle. Skillful maneuvering always brought high praise while poor seamanship elicited disdain of shipmates in the best circumstances, mutiny in the worst.

For most of us, our lives have become comfortable since then. We have to create situations to experience distress from the elements. We go camping, mountain hiking, surfing, and snorkeling to expose ourselves to the elements and danger. Watch the Olympics, and you wonder what new sport will be created by the time of the next Olympics for people to compete in, and how much more dangerous will the risks be. When I watched the skeleton competition (it's the opposite of luge where you go down the track on a tiny sled feet first on your back--skeleton is head first on your stomach), I could only wonder what kind of mind you had to have to go 80 plus miles per hour with your head only an inch from the track. Considered one of the most dangerous of Olympic events, it had difficulty getting accepted as a sport because of how risky it was. These people obviously love the challenge of danger.

We recently had a decently large snowfall. It created inconvenience and cancellations. There was no ducking this one. We had to face and deal with the weather. I find big snowfalls invigorating. I love to get outside and embrace it. I love to drive in it, shovel it, and stomp through it. Why? Because it is a challenge. I feel the weather is inviting me to come out and wrestle with it. And when that wind blows in my face, and my cheeks are chilly, and my legs begin to ache from wading through knee deep snow, I feel alive and that all is well. And when Horatio Hornblower or Lucky Jack Aubrey decline going to their cabin when the winds get strong and the rain is pelting down, I know that they also are glad to be alive and on deck. The elements beckon to them to meet the challenge.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

I shouldn't be doing this right now.

It has been one month now since a vicious, relentless virus hit me, and I have not felt good since. Sinus pressure, choking on phlegm, hacking uncontrollably, headache, blah.

Christmas is four days away. I managed to get the Christmas tree up and listlessly threw a few ornaments its way. I put up the stockings. That may be it for decorating this year. I may only bake one kind of cookie. Being sick simplifies life.

My husband makes the best hot toddies in the world. His kindness this past month has kept me from becoming a puddle of weeping snot.

I should not be doing a blog post right now, but it takes little energy, and that's what I have. Only a little.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Life Is Good

I teach. Why do I do that? It is my passion. There is nothing more exhilarating to me than to see a face light up and get excited about my subject. When I teach, I am fully alive.

Some background. I went from kindergarten all the way through college without having a single teacher get me excited about their subject. I was convinced that teaching was the most boring, dead-end, passionless job one could choose. There were no role models for me.

Then I began teaching my own children. Here was a task with an incredible investment in it. To cover things that I couldn't do well myself, we joined a co-op where I had to teach others. The small experience I got there was like lighting a match in a room full of pure oxygen. A fire roared to life. I was hooked.

Find your passion. Your passion also just happens to be what you are good at! And then, if at all possible, find a way to make a living doing it. It is like putting the hot fudge sauce on the ice cream! It is slicing into a home-grown tomato from a plant you hovered over all summer. It is the killer serve you've perfected in your tennis game. What you have done has brought you joy. How good life is.

Monday, September 12, 2016

True Forgiveness

Suppose there are two people who we will call "A" and "B" for simplicity's sake. They live together with a brick wall around them for shelter and protection. One day they get into an argument that gets out of hand, and in the course of the dispute violence is done to the brick wall, and it falls down. They live for a while with the rubble around them, but then it becomes apparent that their hostile neighbors, cannibals, have discovered their vulnerability and are preparing to do something about it.

A approaches B and says that they should rebuild the wall together. B agrees but says that the broken wall was not his fault. A says that he is willing to repair his part of the wall, and B agrees to do his part. They both begin at the same spot to build a circular wall, the supposed plan being that they would meet again half way around the circle.

A begins to build. Ah, this feels good. He gets half way around the circle and looks up. B has assembled a few beginning blocks, but now considers his part finished. A has a problem. He could just say he did his part, but he can see the threat outside the wall growing. He could try and persuade B to do his part, but that might result in the half circle of wall getting broken down again. He decides to keep building.

A builds until he has come full circle. While he was building, B undid the little that he had done. Finally A puts the last brick in place. He approaches B and shakes his hand. B is satisfied because the wall is built again, and together they face the enemies with their wall of protection.

Sometimes life is like this. You meet people who are so willful and stubborn that they cannot give an inch. They will not admit wrongdoing. They are so blinded by your faults that they cannot see their own. These people don't compromise, and they don't become better people. If we can't escape them, we have to accept their brokenness. Sometimes this means we have to do more than our share. We have to repair not only what we have broken, but what they have broken too. It's not fair. But if we can do it and shake their hand without resentment, we have done all we can do. It is called forgiveness.

The best case scenario does not always happen. In fact, most of the time it doesn't. That's why walls get broken down in the first place. Someday B might just decide to build a roof over the wall to protect both of them against the elements and remind A every time it rains how much A owes him. And if A has truly forgiven B, he will simply say, "Thank  you."

Friday, July 22, 2016

Becoming God

There is a certain frustration we have all run into when arguing points with someone whose views are opposite to our own. Eventually the other party may come out with the line, "I don't trust your sources." There's not a lot you can say after that, since what they are really saying is, "What is true for you is not true for me." They have decided that your sources are unreliable, and so they are invalid. You may think the same about theirs.

It all boils down to trust. When we trust our sources, we are confident in what we believe. When valid doubt is cast upon their reliability, we find ourselves standing on sand. Edith Stein, a Jewish convert to Catholicism and a respected intellectual of her time, recognized the truth when she read it. She was so convinced that she went on to be martyred in a concentration camp and became St. Theresa Benedicta.

Trust is a basic part of life. Anyone who says, "I don't trust anyone" is a liar, unless of course, they don't have a bank account where they trust their money is there, don't expect anyone to stop at stop signs because they can't trust anyone to obey the law, or don't own anything because everyone is a virtual thief anyway. You'd turn into a crazy, paranoid anarchist if you didn't trust even some basic law-abiding ideas.

Some people cast doubt on anything from ancient history. Why make a distinction between what happened millennia ago and what happened yesterday? If we don't trust basic scholarship that has stood the test of time, then all history, even the most recent, ceases to have any meaning.

If we are honestly seeking the truth, we will look it in the face even when it disagrees with our most cherished assumptions. If we don't sometimes react with, "Rats!" when we find ourselves in opposition to the truth, then we must be on the road to sainthood. When we make ourselves the highest authority, then we will never find the truth, but we will insist on going our own way, and that is tragic. And we will have repeated the original mistake by making ourselves god.