Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Magazine Good News

My story, Surprise Squash, made the cover of Our Little Friend in the June 2005 issue and is going to be reprinted sometime in 2011. And Highlights is considering my fiction contest story for regular purchase ...

I'm writing again, as in productively, on my novel, instead of just free writing. I'm so close to the end and yet so far away. Still haven't made it to the climax ... my main character is discovering something about herself, which I had not planned when I wrote the outline. I'm trying to get out of the way and I am enjoying watching the story unfold in my head. Too bad it gets mangled on paper in the process. But that's what revisions are for.

I've had some extra time on my hands this week so not only have I cleaned house thoroughly, I've spiffed up my blog and cleaned up all the labels. You like?

I can't believe it's almost the end of June. Where is the warm weather? Oh, it's very pleasant, but I want to feel the heat. I want to know it's summer. Thankfully the salmonberries and huckleberries in the woods are loaded ... our usual 40-min walk easily translates to an hour as we stop to pick and eat and pick and eat. It's a great treat after lunch or dinner. But Wind, won't you chase Cloud, so that we can have our Sunshine?


Monday, June 21, 2010

This Gorgeous Game

Donna Freitas' This Gorgeous Game opens with a provocative quote from Thomas Merton: I simply have no business being [in] love and playing around with a girl, however innocently ... After all I am supposed to be a monk with a vow of chastity and though I have kept my vow -- I wonder if I can keep it indefinitely and still play this gorgeous game!
At first I thought, oh no, a sex-abuse-by-clergy story. I've read about the scandals in the newspapers. It makes my heart hurt because the deepest trust is violated.
But from the very beginning I was drawn to what Olivia had to say. This wonderful writer-priest, her idol, is giving her attention, telling her she has a gift from God. The story unfolds and I was reminded of my college days, how smart and pretty young things were given lavish attention by professors, but they didn't know how to stop it without hurting the professor, the very person who is supposedly helping them. This happens in every spectrum of the teaching world, be it religious or secular.
I loved the chapter headings, the division of the book into three parts with quotes from Merton, and most of all the gorgeous writing. Kudos to Ms. Freitas for writing about this sensitive subject without condemning the Catholic Church. The priest is flawed. People forget that priests are human. Just like some mothers are terrible and abuse their children does not make motherhood an evil institution. Likewise with the Catholic church. A few bad priests cannot change what the Catholic Church is -- the Bride of Christ.
I will leave you with Matthew 16:18: And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Father's Day, Wives and Husbands

I am blessed to have a good husband. He is a kind and loving man who provides for our family and is a great example to the children. My son is learning how to be a man and my daughter is learning what kind of a man she ought to give her heart to. I honor, respect and yes, obey, him, even. When we were married, I made a conscious choice to defer to him if we had any disagreements. I told myself I'd only fight if he were wrong about something. And this decision has served us well. Oh, we still end up having stupid fights once in a while, like who should clean out the cat box, but they're so dumb we end up laughing. The unexpected consequence of deferring to my husband is that he always takes my wishes into consideration. And I'm not shy about letting him know what I need or want.
So earlier this year, when I was reading the Bible and came across these verses (1 Cor 11:1-11) on veiling yourself to show obedience to your husband, I decided to cover my head in church. I grew up in a culture where women typically cover their heads during prayer. And the Muslim women were always covered. So this was not strange for me. My mother always pulled the palloo of her sari over her head in church. The Catholic church doesn't say that married women should or shouldn't use a veil, but I feel compelled to. There is an interesting shift in my mind as I cover myself. There is a cocooning effect for one. I can fix my eyes more easily on Jesus and be less distracted by others around me. And it is to honor, respect and humble myself before my Lord and my husband that I veil myself.
Here is a short passage for wives in Ephesians 5:22-24.
Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
It is not popular in our culture to submit to anybody. But consider the responsibilities of the husband as well in Eph. 5:25-32.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body.
Read these excellent reflections on marriage and on fatherhood by Msgr. Pope.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


It's officially summer even though it doesn't feel like it. We've had more rain than sunshine and I'm missing hanging out my clothes to dry. Soon, soon. I have faith. Then I can lie in my hammock outside and read. Except ... I'm dreaming. I don't have a hammock. Oh, well, the sleeping bag will have to do. Aren't those clouds amazing? My son took that.

The kids came home in high spirits today ... We went over the report cards, last minute drawings and rocks and pencils and plastic animals that were discovered in the depths of their cubbies. Already they want to go to the library, but today I wanted to stay home and cook a nice meal and have supper all together in a relaxed manner instead of having to rush off to baseball.

But what an amazing season our son's team had. They went from losing eight games in a row to winning eight, then losing the championship game in a nail-biting game. I loved watching how all the boys grew over the season. Lots of life lessons to learn from baseball. And I, who never dreamed that I would ever write a *sports* story, have half a dozen baseball shorts percolating. Maybe this summer, I will write up one of them.

Of course, I teach all-year round, so summer almost always presents a challenge, but with a lot of help from my family, I am able to get it done. I do a lot of free-writing and it's one of the best things about summer -- writing without destination, chewing on ideas, trying them out, playing with words in my notebook. I don't feel like I get much writing done in the summer and it's true that the pages of novel won't be stacking up, but that's okay as well. There is a season for everything and summertime simply lends itself to a more relaxed pace of life.

I hope you will enjoy the summer, wherever you are, whether or not the sun shines.


Friday, June 11, 2010


I'd like to share some good books I've been reading and I'm saving the best for last.

Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt. I enjoyed this story of the orphan Keturah who only wants: “to have my own little cottage to clean, my own wee baby to hold and most of all, one true love to be my husband.” It's a tale of love and sacrifice, with a very fairy-tale like setting.

Wanting Mor by Rukhsana Khan: This is based on a true story about a little girl who was abandoned on the streets of Kabul. People ask me why I like such stories because they can be so depressing, and they are, but they are also uplifting. I have seen the most generosity in poor places, where a child will tear off pieces of a roti he's been given with younger siblings, instead of eating it all himself. Good will always prevail.

My Life as a Rhombus by Varian Johnson: I had loved Wendy Lichtmann's book Do the Math: Secrets, Lies and Algebra and so when I came across another math-based novel I had to pick it up. Well, let me tell you that the two books are entirely different in nature. Do the Math is for MG and up, but Rhombus is definitely YA. It's a tale of love and forgiveness, of things that cannot be undone (abortion), and how one moves forward. The characters are believeable and I loved the ending. The last chapter was brilliant. In less than half a page, Johnson told me how the rest of the near future of these characters develops. Yup, math is succint.

The Migraine Brain by Carolyn Bernstein and Elaine McArdle: I'm educating myself. If you suffer from migraines, pick this up and learn what's available to developing strategies to having fewer migraines. There are many online resources as well.

Time to Write by Kelly L. Stone: Well, summer's here and I need to remind myself how to make time to write with kids and teaching and housework, etc. My plan is to write shorts this summer. I've got so many baseball stories percolating, it's time to start fleshing them out at the pool or park or backyard.

The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson: This book is so insanely rich, I had to go back to page 1 as soon as I finished it. I wanted to eat this book. It's got stories within stories, folklore and more. It's a terrifying story of love and redemption, of love and sacrifice and the best love story ever that I've read in a long time. Even better than the Time Traveller's Wife.

Happy reading folks.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Disappointments and Silver Linings

It's been a tough week. I've been having a migraine that I can control only partially. It started innocently enough last Wed. and by late morning I knew I couldn't go to meet Amy Efaw, author of AFTER and BATTLE DRESS, at her book-signing. We exchanged regrets.

Since then, I've missed games, have had to cancel volunteering duties, and not been able to do the things I've planned with my kids because I am only doing the things that must be done. My husband and kids help, but it's not like I can simply go lie down and let everything run itself because frankly, it doesn't. My husband is busy with work and baseball tournaments (he's an umpire and a darned good one at that), the kids need feeding and they can only eat so much cereal and oatmeal, the lessons need to be corrected, etc. etc. I have whittled down my to-do list to the necessities and I take time to rest with an ice pack, read, relax on the Blueboards, even blog. The only music that soothes me is that of the Priests.

I'm under the care of a neurologist now because after two years of suffering stoically, I realize I need help. So I'm educating myself about migraines and how best to prevent them, manage them and lessen the impact on my life. I've not yet accepted how much time I lose with the people I love and care for, including my story people. I miss working on my novel in what I consider a productive fashion. But I still write in my notebook and get some valuable insights.

There's still a lot of laughter.

This evening, I dished out dinner to my kids -- lamb stew with salad, bread and milk. Then I laid down with an ice-pack on my head and a cat on my stomach. I closed my eyes. The kids blessed themselves and the meal and asked God to make my headache go away. There was a lot of talk about school (it's almost the end), how much they love their teachers and how much they'll miss them, the books we have on hold at the library that I've not had a chance to go pick up yet, the grass that just keeps on growing, the baseball game tomorrow. They were go good and sweet and kind to each other. And let me tell you they are not always like this, but when I am not well, they cooperate and take care of each other.

I know the kids thought I was sleeping because my eyes were closed, but I heard a lot of whispering how they should take a picture of me, but how the flash might wake me up. They decided against it.

This has been my worst migraine ever, not in the intensity but duration. After six days, I am less cranky and more exhausted. I want this to be over. It's hard to sleep, it's hard to enjoy all the little things that bring me joy, it's hard to write coherently and I feel sorry for my poor family. But there is a silver lining: my prayers are more fervent. Sometimes it's simply the Kyrie (Lord have mercy) or Psalm 23. And I've learned the art of silent prayer. God knows what's in my heart and He always provides, big or small. I am humbled. My children see me in my weakness and forget their rivalry. Family and friends pour their love out on me.

Today I had a lovely note from a friend telling me that her daughter had shelved my books (she works at a library). This little bit of news made me smile; children are reading my books. Another friend stopped by to share her story. It made me cry. She cried when she wrote it. I think it's pretty obvious that her heart is right there on that page.

And so I end this post with a Bible verse (1 Thessalonians 5:18): Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

I have a grateful heart. Amen.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Corpus Christi Procession

Today was the feast of Corpus Christi and it's the first time we participated in the procession, just around the block. Oh, if more people would realize what they are being fed at Mass -- the Word of God and the Body and Blood of Christ, they'd come more often. You are what you eat, and I am being slowly transformed week by week by week.

My son took the pictures. I had to remind him to be mindful because we are here to adore our Lord, but I am glad for these pictures.

The cross-bearer leads the way.

The priest is underneath the canopy holding the consecrated Bread (Body of Christ) in the gold monstrance (it means to show, demonstrate, not monster).

Four strong men are needed to hold the canopy. My husband is on the left.

The Grand Knights of Columbus follow right behind.

And the rest of the congregation and choir follow behind. It poured all morning, during Mass, but we had a lull in the rain for our procession! God hears our prayers.