Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Safest Lie by Angela Cerrito

Ever since I was 10 years old and I read the Diary of Anne Frank, I’ve not been able to stay away from Holocaust stories. I always prefer a survival story but I also realize that for every one of these, countless others have died.

I learned about Angela’s book many years ago when she won an SCBWI grant to conduct research in Poland on Irena Sendler. Her story is woven into the fictional story of a young Jewish girl, Anna Bauman, who is smuggled out of the ghetto with a fake identity. She learns to behave like a good little Catholic girl, never forgetting that she is Jewish.

THE SAFEST LIE is a fast-paced book (just look at that suspenseful cover), covering four years of Anna’s life, from the time Jolanta (alias of Irena Sendler) meets with Anna’s parents to the various safe houses and convent that Anna goes to, until she settles with a foster family who love her unreservedly. But danger lurks everywhere and it is a miracle her true identity is not discovered. The ending is heart-rending. Once the war is over, the children are returned to their families. Most do not survive the ghetto because they've been taken to death camps. For the children who were babies when they were smuggled out, all they know is the Catholic faith, so it is a shock to learn they are Jewish. Angela Cerrito is a powerful writer who bears witness to the trials of these children and the many people who took great risks to save them. Thank you so much for writing this book, Angela.  
This is the second book I’ve read that addresses the retention of religious identity during an adoption (the first was Rory's Promise). In the case of these Jewish children, it was impossible to place the children with Jewish families since they were all in the ghetto. So they had to learn how to behave like Catholics. Anna, being older – she is nine in the beginning of the book – remembers her parents and particularly her grandmother’s Yiddish sayings. She embraces the Catholic faith and at the end, knows how easy it would be for her to forget the faith of her people, but she doesn’t. She hangs on.
We also wonder about the morality of lying and it is clear that lying to protect the innocent is perfectly permissible. The Vatican issued thousands of fake baptismal records to save as many children as they could.
I can’t help but think about the Planned Parenthood exposé, which was obtained because the folks conducting the interviews pretended to be from a research company. However, since many babies’ and mothers’ lives will be saved, this lying is for the greater good.

It should come as no surprise that the arguments for the Holocaust, slavery, systematic genocide and abortion have much in common. It's evil couched in terms that make it sound like progress. They don't call the devil the father of lies for nothing. Ye shall be like gods, he said. And we bought it.

"We all want progress," says C. S. Lewis. "But if you're on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive."

I'll stop rambling now. Read and share THE SAFEST LIE with your children. A mature 8-year-old can handle this but I would wait until the child is 10 if the child is sensitive. But know that this book focuses more on the goodness of people's hearts rather than the evil.

I will close with a quote from Anne Frank: It's a wonder I haven't abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart. It's utterly impossible for me to build my life on a foundation of chaos, suffering and death. I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness, I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too, I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more.

Yes, Anne, I hope and pray too. Requiescat in pace.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Lots to Celebrate -- School, Writing, Anniversary and Feast Days

I am glad to say goodbye to the worst summer (and spring) of my life. Oh, I don’t mean to be a curmudgeon when there have been so many wonderful gifts but it is so great not to be in constant pain. I don't mind being sick off and on but I am praying for a complete recovery.

And now the kids are in school – high school! It’s so nice not to have to drive anymore. They walk or ride their bicycles and are far more independent. I pretty much stay on the island unless I have to go to Sunday Mass but during the week I can go to the high school for daily Mass.
I am slowly diving into writing again. I have two new composition notebooks with kittens and puppies on the cover. I am writing madly in it. I have goals. Write the first draft of a new short nonfiction book. Revise my novel Damaged so that I can send it out again (Gasp! But I won’t think about it just yet otherwise I might get constipated). And make some magazine submissions so that I can have some good news trickling in for the remainder of the year. But the more I write, the more ideas are demanding my attention and I'm in danger of starting a whole slew of books and not finishing any of them. Still, it's wonderful when the words spill out.
We celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary! And it was perfect. We went for Mass and Adoration, just the two of us, the night before and then grabbed a bite to eat. The next day, on the Feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe, who I believe has been guiding me since my birth to Truth, I had a great pleasure of going to Mass and listening to the children’s choir. They were angelic. I especially enjoyed the Magnificat arranged for two voices and flute. I can't stop singing it :) Then Saturday, I went to sing for the Feast of Our Lady’s Assumption (Scott Hahn gives a wonderful personal reflection). My family had planned on going to a movie so I stayed after to gab with friends, not realizing that they’d wait for me. We took in a later show of Shaun the Sheep! I loved it. If you are a picture-book writer, this is a must-see. The characters are so wonderfully expressive.
I finally have the perfect solution for my Scapular Cross. I used to wear a regular brown scapular but ended up going through three of them -- the cat chewed one up when I took a shower. And the others just got too worn out. So I got this scapular cross, but the ball-chains I wore my cross and couple of other blessed medals looked so grungy. I was looking around in my jewelry box and the silver chains were too thin. Finally, I took out my mangalsutra -- every Indian woman gets one on her wedding day -- and Michael got this very traditional Maharashtrian one with the two little cups (vatis) for me on our trip to India a couple of years after we were married. I was used to wearing my mother's short gold chain and it looked goofy to have two chains, so I rarely wore my mangalsutra. But it is sturdy, so armed with a pair of pliers, I affixed my scapular cross and angelic warfare medal. I'm very pleased with the results! And not that I forget, but it's a physical reminder to be obedient to God and my husband. I know that last sentence can make women chafe, but really, my husband is the kind who is worthy of obedience. He is a man after God's own heart. 

Have I mentioned I love August? I do, I do, I do!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

St. Clare, Little Children, and Guardian Angels

The newest parish in America, St. Clare of Assisi Catholic Church, is celebrating her patron saint's Feast Day on Daniel Island. What joy! In these trying times, we really do need her clarity and courage to do the right thing. St. Clare, pray for us.

Today's Gospel reading (Matt 18:1-14) struck me with such force. The disciples ask Jesus who is the greatest. Jesus calls a little child over and says, "Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven ... and whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me ... See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father..."

I can only imagine the guardian angels of the millions of babies whose life was brutally cut short due to abortion. Are they pleading for justice? Mercy? I hope both.

Because we were on vacation and completely unplugged, I had missed some awful news about Planned Parenthood, namely their damning confession of trafficking of baby-parts. See here the courageous work of exposing PP but be prepared to throw up. I couldn't watch all of the clips. My younger atheist self could have though. In the scientific world, this has been happening for decades. See here for just one example. I never paid much attention to this since I was in the field of bacterial physiology, but I am still shocked and confused that I had no sense of outrage like I did when I discovered the horrible experiments conducted by the Nazis on the Jewish people. By the time I was in college and doing my own research, I had become numb ...  when I read papers outside my field, I skimmed the materials and methods section. Words like "fetal tissue" didn't give me pause. Lord have mercy.

The misuse of a human being is entirely unacceptable. We've made laws against it. Yet, in the name of progress we forget. The majority of it is government-funded work with our tax dollars. Is this really what *you* want? Where are the committees on ethics? Without a moral compass, we do unspeakable things. We not only misuse but kill outright without remorse. Why, we have more compassion for a lion. My husband sent this picture to me (sorry for not attributing it -- if you know who made it, please let me know):

It reminds me of Stalin's quote about the starving people. "A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic." 

Oh, but how we'll pay. If we do not stop the carnage, we'll have hell to pay. The guardian angels of the little ones are praying.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Good Friends

We had a chance to visit with our good friends in WA on our way home. We were neighbors for several years and not a fence between our properties so we'd go often to enjoy their walnut tree and creek and fresh cookies. Lots of wild-life -- you can see here a deer that came to eat plums!



Oh, that water was COLD when I first stepped into the creek, but once I got used to it, I cooled my head off as well! It was so lovely to relax with the sound of the creek. I am so grateful to have friends who know how to just be. Later, they fed us a scrumptious Mediterranean meal. I was stuffed until late the following day when we arrived home! I have a few words about my friend -- she is an artist and she's made her life a work of art. She is very talented, making the most beautiful cards with gorgeous calligraphy (she taught me the basics and I hope to make her proud one day), she clothes children with one-of-a-kind outfits (my kids are just one of the lucky recipients), and because she has such a sense of style, I've been lucky to have her hand-me-downs (I call it the Colleen Collection). Now if only we wore the same sized-shoes! But I truly admire a woman who takes such lovely care of her husband and home without a hint of pride. God bless you, my friend. I've missed you too long. 


I only wish we'd had time to visit all our friends in WA. Good friends are a treasure, just like family.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Summer Fun

My daughter, 14, is asking to have driving lessons early ... I just went through this with my son, so I'm not quite ready yet. She'll be 15 soon enough. I'm glad she got to drive the tractor -- she mowed a good 2 acres and Grandpa was glad for that. Last time, she was 9 or 10 and nearly ran into the house. My husband had to jump on the back to steer it away.


The kids went on several day trips with their aunt and uncle -- Mt. Baker, Lummi Island, kayaking around Whidbey. My husband and I enjoyed our quiet time with his parents. I read a lot, but I'll talk about that in a different post. R&R is over and I've been catching up on getting our household ready for school. I've organized the school books, the shoes, and looking forward to buying notebooks and pens and pencils. Although I hate shopping, looking at writing implements always gives me a little thrill.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015


I love August. Not only because it's summer and we celebrate our wedding anniversary but because we get to celebrate some of the giants of the Church, our good friends in heaven, who did so much here on earth when they were alive. We begin with my friend St. Alphonsus, St. John Vianney, St. Dominic, St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Bernard, St. Pius X, St. Augustine, and many more. I left out all the great women -- St. Edith Stein, St. Clare of Assisi, St. Monica, and the Blessed Virgin Mary --  because I wanted to focus on what these men had in common.

They were all priests. They worked tirelessly and often without any thanks, taking care of the poor, the sick, the weary, instructing the faithful with moving homilies, spending long hours in the confessional, and writing on the teachings of our Lord. Oh, they wanted to bring as many souls to heaven as they could. And today, I see the same devotion in so many of the priests I've gotten to know. So here is an old prayer for all our priests. 

O Jesus, Eternal Priest, keep Thy servants within the shelter of Thy Sacred Heart, where none may harm them. Keep unstained their anointed hands, which daily touch Thy Sacred Body. Keep unsullied their lips, purpled with Thy Precious Blood. Keep pure and unearthly their hearts, sealed with the sublime mark of Thy glorious Priesthood. Let Thy holy love surround them and shield them from the world's contagion. Bless their labors with abundant fruit, and may the souls to whom they minister be here below their joy and consolation, and in Heaven their beautiful and everlasting crown. Amen.

While we were in Oak Harbor, we had a chance to go to Mass twice at St. Augustine Catholic Church. Four years ago, they were remodeling. Look how beautiful it is now! A perfect space to give thanks and praise for all God's creation.


Deception Pass -- I want to write a book with this title :)  Alas, I am no thriller writer. But I should be able to concoct a story about deception given the times we live in, no?

Lavender farm. How I loved the buzzing of the bees and the fragrance! Ummm. We had lavender ice cream and root beer as well. So good. Time for me to plant some here. 

Rest and Relaxation in WA

Max looks like he flew us out to WA. I love that he's not shy about asking for favors.

We've just returned from a most wonderful vacation visiting my in-laws. What a  gift to spend seven glorious days in the summer sunshine, being completely cared for, and spending oodles of time with all our immediate family. It's been four years since we last saw my nieces and nephews and whew! They've all shot up. Just like our kiddos. Here are some of them with Grandpa. Only the oldest is missing because he had to work.
We had such a good time playing games, picking berries and plums, watching movies (I must mention three outstanding ones -- Gone with the Wind, 42, and The Prize Winner of Defiance), and taking day trips to enjoy the natural beauty. I will post more pictures later, but I wanted to share one picture in particular -- the very creative impending birth announcement of Michael's older brother, written by his maternal grandmother. I love it.


I adore all the old photographs too. Michael's sister has made a beautiful scrapbook detailing the family history. She's gone back as far as the mid-1800s to both Sweden and Lithuania.

Here is a drawing of them made at one of those fairs. It resides in Michael's bedroom and I've seen it for over 30 years and always admired it. Yet, I never tried to get an artist to do one of my kids when they were little. So here's a piece of advice. Don't wait ... if you really, really want to do something, carpe diem. I am glad I didn't wait to start writing until I had more time.

Speaking of writing, I didn't do much. I jotted down a few thoughts but mostly I was content to just be and soak in the familiar surroundings. I know my next breath is not guaranteed. I cannot take all this for granted. Lots of ideas are percolating and although we've been back for a couple of days now, I don't feel a sense of urgency. My brain is still on vacation, although I'm going about doing the housework. I am luxuriating in the memories and pondering the books I've read. 

Thank you Don and Charlanne and thank you, dear Jesus, for making it all possible.