Saturday, October 30, 2010

Almost All Hallow's Eve

These are our pumpkins for this year. We have the perfect Halloween cat of course. I didn't grow up with this tradition -- mine was strictly a religious one -- remembering the dead. For Catholics, All Saints Day is a Holy Day so we shall be going to Mass Monday night. It really is lovely to remember the greats -- we have our favorite Saints. What great role models. Ignatious Press has made some excellent biopics and we've been watching them periodically. The Saints struggle just like everybody else with temptations. They give in. But they pick themselves up and try again to live holy lives.
I often think of my mother. She was a saint too. Nobody knows of all the sacrifices she made to raise us. Nobody will sing her praises. There is no glory in yelling after children who do not listen, who give you grief. But she took such pleasure in feeding us whatever little food we had, in fattening us up, in singing to us, reading to us, in sewing us clothes. One of my greatest pleasures was to lay my head upon her lap, or to tell her I had a stomach ache and stay home from school and have a free day to read. She let us. We didn't do it often, my sister and I.
We have no grave to visit. Only stories. Memories. Pictures. But she is surely in the company of Jesus and Mary and all the Saints and angels of heaven.
In our secular culture, everything must be celebrated by stripping the holy out of the holiday. Now Halloween is about pumpkins and candy. Forget about the beloved dead. I hope you will light a candle for the people you remember and love and miss who have died. Do it for them. God bless you and God bless them.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Don't be Buffaloed

My student's story, Cowgirl Morning, not only debuted in Cricket, it made the cover! Isn't it stunning? I must get a copy of it this weekend. Luckily, my local Borders carries the magazine. So after my daughter's soccer game, we shall make a stop. By the way, their team is doing awesome in the playoffs! Go Colorblind Purple Pumas! (Long story).
Congratulations to Bryn Fleming!
Teaching is such a joy for me. And not just because of successes like these. Every student has a deep desire to share stories and these are stories that only they can write. They are self-selected population who come through ICL -- from grandmothers to high school students. Some have a great deal of experience, others not so. But the journey they begin here, the tools they learn, will last them for their writing life. It's lovely to take a part in making dreams come true.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


The dog loves the kittens ... and they love to cuddle up with her.

Down-time. As you can see, we are a family that loves relaxing. Nothing beats cuddling up with a cat right after school, before homework and football practice.

The 17-year-old brown cat tolerates the kittens just so he can be with us.

The 12-year-old tortie does not like to be in the middle of mayhem. She has always slept with our son and does not join all the commotion in the family room in the afternoons. Here she claims a Highlights.

Looks like these two are already beginning to look like the kitten!

Look at us lazy parents. When our kids were little, they'd join us for afternoon naps. Now they're too busy running amok with the camera.

I'm ready for the weekend. How about you?

Monday, October 11, 2010


"We're not getting a kitten," I said, negotiating our station wagon around a bend the shape of a pretzel. "We're just going to look."

So begins Cleo: the Cat who Mended a Family by Helen Brown. Poor Helen. She's like my husband, who didn't know you don't just "look" at kittens. The writing is exquisite in this book. But I'll admit I stopped reading it for a couple of days when tragedy hits the family. I simply could not go on. My own daughter is nine. And to even imagine losing her to some freak auto-accident is a place I cannot go to and remain sane.

Now that I'm in the thick of it, I'm savoring it. There is love after loss. Even laughter. My family thinks I'm bonkers sitting in a corner cackling to myself as I read this book. I can't help but think of the half finished stories of my own first cat. I got him at a tumultuous time in my life ... he's still with us (17 years old), still demanding our attention, still behaving like an Indian husband. Ah, yes, he deserves his own book. Someday.

I was a bit put-off by the cover saying: the next Marley and Me. Don't get me wrong. I've read it. Enjoyed it. But Cleo is nothing like Marley. For heaven's sake, don't the people who market know anything about cats and dogs? Marley is a dog. And some of us are right offended by the comparison. Puh-leeeese.

So, cat lovers ... get this book. Cleo will burrow into your own heart as have other cats. Perhaps it will jog some of your own cherished kitten and cat memories. Pen them. Write a tribute.

I love the title chapter and subheadings. Here's a sampling:

Choice ~ A cat chooses its owner, not the other way around.

A Name ~ There's only one correct name for a cat -- Your Majesty.

Loss ~ Unlike humans, cats are accustomed to loss.

The Intruder ~ A cat doesn't go where it's invited. It appears where its needed.

Trust ~ A cat is always in the right place at exactly the right time.

I could go on and on, but you simply must get the book, curl up with your own feline and enjoy this book for yourself.

Ciao meow.


ps: I wish the owners of Marley and other dogs and their owners only well. After all, we also have a lovable doggy in the house. But cats are cats and dogs are dogs, and the two shall not compare. Cats rule!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


What a rollicking good read this was. Scumble is the companion book to Savvy.

Ledger Kale's savvy busts things apart. You'll have to read the book to know how he learns to control it, with his cousins giving him lessons. Ingrid Law can spin a tall tale, but her savvy has got to be picking the best names for her characters: Fedora, Rocket, Marisol, and who can forget Mibs?

Here's our cat Savvy (the kid who named her is herself named after a book character). I like this picture even though it's fuzzy because she looks like she's glowing, kind of like Rocket in Scumble.

Other books that I enjoyed:
North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley -- this one is not just about a girl struggling with a port-wine stain. It had so many layers. I loved all the mapping metaphors used throughout. I especially enjoyed the family relationships, the unexpected plot twists. It's beautifully written. My only criticism is that the characters often started their conversations with: "God." This might be realistic, but it grated on my eyes and ears. Why? If characters start every sentence with the f* word, would we use it as writers?
Writing a Book that makes a Difference by Philip Gerard -- My pet projects are all important books. I want to make a difference in this world. Why else would I write? Oh, yes, I write for money and experience, but ultimately it's to bring a voice to the voiceless. Make a difference.
Quit Your Day Job: How to Sleep Late, Do What You Enjoy, and Make a Ton of Money as a Writer by Jim Denney -- Isn't that the greatest title? I saw it on Kristi Holl's blog. And I've made some changes to my writing life and boy golly, I'm going to be a career novelist.
After a month of being neurotic, I've finally settled down to my novel revision. Happy reading and writing, folks.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Blessing of the Pets

It was a gorgeous day for the blessing of the pets at Eastside Catholic. We brought our dog and the two new kittens. The older cats have already had their blessings, many times over.

Here's my son, trying to get the kittens out of the bag. I put a stop to that.

Father Bill blessing our dog. She barked, "AMEN!"

After we got home, I took a nap with one of the kittens. It's been a rough two weeks for me with intractable migraines ... these furry, purry pets bring such comfort and joy. God's creatures are marvelous ... and we are one of them as well.

I wanted to leave you with this Prayer of St. Francis, sung by Westminster Abbey Choir.
Make me a channel of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring your love.
Where there is injury, Your pardon, Lord.
And where there's doubt, true faith in You.
Make me a channel of your peace.
Where there's despair in life, let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness, only light.
And where there's sadness, ever joy.
O Master, grant that I may never seek.
So much to be consoled as to console.
To be understood as to understand.
To be loved as to love with all my soul.
Make me a channel of your peace.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.
In giving of ourselves that we receive.
And in dying that we're born to eternal life.