Friday, May 24, 2013

Shakespeare Festival and Graduation

I've been too scatterbrained to take my camera along but I hope to procure some pictures from the more conscientious parents. We are blessed that our principal is a failed actress with a love for the Bard because she brings him to the children. Seventh and eighth graders studied three plays -- Romeo and Juliet; Two Gentlemen of Verona; Macbeth -- and then wrote their own modern-day scripts. I have never seen a more comedic tragedy. The kids made their own props and a good time was had by all. I'm so impressed.

Today we had a beautiful baccalaureate Mass. I'm the mom who didn't cry when her little boy went to kindergarten or graduated from there. But the tears began to flow as the first young woman came up to thank her teacher for taking care of her. Yes, truly, we've been blessed with wonderful teachers in the various schools we've sent our children to. Some of the children have been together for a decade! And although we were newcomers, we fit right in. It's been a wonderful school year, and I can't believe my young man will be going to high school in the fall ... how quickly they grow up! God bless all our new graduates.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Books and Author Love: Fulton Sheen

I've been reading Life of Christ and From the Angel's Blackboard and Three to Get Married by Venerable Fulton Sheen. Every time I check out a book by him from the library, eventually I end up buying it. We already have several of his books, and it looks like we just can't seem to have enough of him. Not only is he a wonderful writer (I think he's a poet at heart) but his teaching is always clear and beautiful.

I urge you to take a look at some of his works. Much of it is free, but I can guarantee you'll want your own personal copies of books to highlight and scribble in.

If you prefer to listen, you can download MP3 files. Lots of great topics from the philosophy of life to the mystery of sex to the necessity of wasted lives, and much, much more.

He is a gift to the Church! Pray for us, Blessed Fulton Sheen.

Here are some quotes. Although they are all taken out of context, they still pack a punch. Enjoy.

The essence of prayer is not the effort to make God give us something. Prayer, then, is not just informing God of our needs, for God already knows them. Rather, the purpose of prayer is to give God the opportunity to bestow the gifts He will give us when we are ready to accept them.

Nothing ever happens in the world that does not first happen inside a mind. When one meditates and fills the mind for an hour a day with thoughts and resolutions bearing on the love of God and neighbor above all things, there is a gradual seepage of love down to the level of what is called the subconscious, and finally these good thoughts emerge, of themselves, in the form of effortless good actions.

Hearing nuns' confessions is like being stoned to death with popcorn.

Sometimes the only way the good Lord can get into some hearts is to break them.

We are more often tempted to do good than we are to do evil and it is a temptation
that we don't often enough give into.

God love you!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Music to Lift your Spirits High

If I have spoken too much about the ugliness of this world, forgive me. My mind continues to be lifted towards God, Who is all good and beautiful.

We've been praying a novena to the Holy Spirit in preparation for Pentecost. My daughter accidentally said, "Spiritual unicorn" instead of "unction" and so now and forever more I doubt I shall ever be able to say the original phrase without imagining a little white unicorn anointing me. Ah, kids.

I don't think I ever shared that last year we sang the Missa Brevis K140 by Mozart along with the Westminster choir for Pentecost. The soloists were magnificent, and for many it was the first time to sing the Mass in the context it was written, not just as a concert piece.

Here's a taste of the Gloria. Lovely, no? It takes about four minutes, and even if you don't understand Latin, you can still make out the words.

Contrast this to the Gloria in Little Organ Mass by Haydn. It's ... FAST! Same words, but sung in a minute. I learned that the king who commissioned this Mass to be written hated long Masses, so Hadyn wrote the music so that each choral part takes one piece of the Gloria and we sing them in parallel. Except for the Amens at the end, we're all singing different words :)

We'll be singing the Haydn for Trinity Sunday (see a picture of the Trinity made imaginable by Guido Reni). Again, the Westminster choir will join us -- they're coming down here for Spoleto and we are so thankful they want to sing with us.

I'm thankful to be here, for our wonderful priests who offer Latin Mass, and for our musical directors who are happy to work with amateurs. If you're in the Charleston area, come to Stella Maris Catholic Church on Sullivan's Island for a taste of the beautiful and sublime.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Gosnell Convicted

Justice has been served. I thought it ironic that Kermit Gosnell asked for his life to be spared, when he is the murderer of hundreds of babies. He chose life for himself. Let's hope he repents.

I am thankful that this trial has brought the sin of abortion into the public eye again. We no longer have the horror of sin because it is so common. I'm estimating from the statistics at the Guttmacher Institute that nearly half the women in the United States have had an abortion. That's staggering. We are a nation spiraling downward into death and destruction. How can we have a future when we kill our children?

Our current President gave a speech to Planned Parenthood and praised it "for saving lives and helping women and families." And then he had the nerve to say, "Thank you, Planned Parenthood. God bless you."


Mr. President, you have it backwards.

Abortion always ends in the death of a baby. It ruins the life of the mother. It tears families apart. And God does not bless the slaughter of innocents.

Pray for our country.

Monday, May 13, 2013

On Motherhood and Career

I hope everybody had a lovely Mother's Day. May God bless you always, and give you all the graces you need to be a good mother.
Twelve years ago, we celebrated Mother's Day in the hospital. My daughter was born, and like her older brother, was jaundiced due to ABO blood incompatibility (similar to Rh factor incompatibility, but much less severe). We stayed in the pediatric ward for a couple of weeks, with my daughter spending most of her time in the incubator under bright lights getting a tan. I was smarter this time round and wouldn't let us get discharged early, only to have a setback like we did with my son. He almost had to have a blood transfusion when he was a month old, but his red-blood cell counts began coming up instead of going down. Oh, every little detail about my children was (and still is) fascinating and I could write volumes!
My mother-in-law took care of the home-front, and every day I had a visit from the family. On this particular Mother's Day, we all celebrated with ice-cream and strawberries.

I still don't know how I forgot the joy of bringing new life into the world. Life with a busy toddler and what seemed like constantly nursing baby wasn't restful, but I enjoyed the simple pleasures of life. I spent many hours gazing into the eyes of my babies, kissing them, nibbling on their delectable ears and toes, and looking through their eyes at everything. Still, dissatisfaction crept into my heart. Is this all there is? I wanted more. I had taken my first writing class a year before, and once I began to get night-time sleep in four-hour chunks, I started writing again. Small successes came quickly. I had magazine acceptances and realized this was a dream come true. I was also making little homemade books for the children. I knew then I would write always, even if no publisher bought anything.

But how quickly my desire for worldly success made me lose sight of the important things. When my daughter was 18 months old, I thought I was pregnant. I was terrified! Hello? It's the natural consequence of sex. But I had tasted success and believed I'd have to give it up if I had another baby. Life had just gotten easier. Everybody was sleeping well, and I was writing for a couple of hours daily. It was all about keeping me-time. I didn't want to go through another Cesarean, didn't want to be sleep-deprived or stuck in a hospital for two weeks, and thinking of the longer term, not be able to write for another year, with increasing demands on my time.

My husband was open to more children. He said, "the more, the merrier." But given that I was the mother, the primary care-giver, with desires to further my career, he agreed to a vasectomy. Can you see the Eve in me? We were so self-satisfied sterilizing our marriage. We dreamed of things. But here's the rub. As much as I love my comforts, writing being among them, it is the raising of the children that has been the most satisfying. Our natural instincts are ordered towards having and nurturing children. It is the hardest work we do, but gives the most joy. It is a shame that we have come to view children as a burden instead of a blessing, that we think having a career is more important than caring for a new soul. In the end, all of this will be gone -- the house, the books, the things we treasure, the career we spent our time on. What will remain are souls.

And so to the young women who are reading this. Choose life. It will not be easy. But it will easily be the most important thing you ever do. And you can still write -- there are many mothers with a passel of kids who are writing. I have never heard of a woman who regretted having a baby. But I have known many who regretted not having them. I know many who mourn the loss of their children (real and possible). I am a witness to this.

It is hard to admit that I was climbing up the wrong tree most of my adult life. Instinct led me in the right direction, from fornication to marriage, from contraception to openness to life, from selfishness to service. I gave up my first career as a scientist to stay home with my children. Instincts only take us so far; it is in our nature to sin. We need God to order our lives ... towards Him. He continually draws us near, and thank God for that.

Two years ago, we were compelled for my husband to have a reversal surgery. Our marriage is again open to new life. I know the world thinks we are absolutely insane to think about babies at such a late age. But I hope you will pray for us. Because now I know that *this* is all that matters. It is enough.

God bless all mothers.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Boundaries for Writers

For several years I've been coveting a Kindle and now I have my own paper-white version, which I love. It's easy on the eyes and more importantly, many books are only available in an electronic format. Plus, I've downloaded many of the classics for free or a small price. My bookshelves are going to thank me, though as I look around the house, we still have plenty of piles and I doubt I'll ever give up the book. But it's nice for this little device to share some of the load. But I digress ...

I've been reading another wonderful book (on the Kindle but you can just as easily read it on the computer) by Kristi Holl, ICL instructor of many years, author of many MG books, and her helpful Writer's First Aid blog. Over the years, I've applied many of her suggestions to my own writing life and I am very thankful she has given so freely of her expertise. Her newest book, Boundaries for Writers, is a quick read ... but I have a feeling that even if you feel you do not need this, you'll need to return to the advice and encouragement she offers when healthy boundaries collapse, as they are bound to from time to time. We're writers. We're also nice people. And there are always going to be demands on our time and space.

I really could've used this book when I first began writing. Whenever there is a change, there is resistance. It's natural. Even though I tried not to sacrifice time with my family, invariably, some sacrifices had to be made. In retrospect, they were good changes -- my husband spent more time with the children even though they were very attached to me. And my children learned to wait if I was finishing up a thought at the kitchen counter. As my children and writing career grew, we learned to make adjustments so that I would have both the time and space to write.

My husband has been very supportive, but in those early years, it was tough. I wasn't making any money, but was spending plenty on books and classes. The children weren't always cooperative or content, especially when they were cranky and I wasn't available. I asked to have one evening after supper to myself, either to attend class, critique group, or make a trip to the library. I resented the little comments my husband made about being abandoned. And so we argued.

"I don't say that you 'abandon' us when you go to work," I said.
"It's just a joke," he said.
"Do you see me laughing?"

You can imagine the black looks we gave each other. My husband can often make insensitive comments. He's an engineer ... (it's a joke sweetie) but one of our strengths is communication. I think it's been even more important than being-in-love. We are good about listening and quick to make amends when we hurt each other. And we're aware of how easily these lines of communication can break when we're tired or overextended and not had the time to hold hands.

You can see how easily a writer can be made to feel guilty. It's a boundary issue. And even though I have a supportive family, my boundaries are still breached from time to time, usually by non-family members now. But it is easier to recognize them, whether they come from outside or inside.

Kristi tackles the tough areas of life -- living with someone who does not value your writing work, belittles you, or is abusive. I hope none of you are facing such difficulties, but if you are, Kristi lists several resources. She does a great job of giving the necessary tools to rebuild collapsed boundaries, or ones that just need minor repair to guard your writer's heart and dreams. I especially appreciated the section on scriptures that emphasize doing the work you are called to do.

Finally, I am going to add a very good link to discernment. Many of us are caregivers and we are called to serve. But it takes some care and prayer to discern God's will vs. other people's will and our own.

Kristi, thank you for writing such a helpful book.