Thursday, January 31, 2008


I have felt myself under tremendous temptation lately to doubt the things I know. That is, the temptation is not to doubt everything that I know, but to doubt those things that especially have grown up in my heart through faith. Wait, let me take another running leap at this thought: my struggle is with this whole concept of patience in verification -- I am amazed at the patience God extends to us. In School of Community this morning we read and discussed this section from The Journey to Truth is an Experience that discusses our need to verify the mystery of the visible Church, of visible Reality: Giussani says we need to
enter it and compare all its movements, motives, and directives with the ultimate needs of our humanity. And insofar as we discover that those suggestions, those directives, those initiatives respond to our authentic human needs and help us to understand them, our adherence and conviction will be deep and definitive (p. 98).

I remember now that this was something we talked about at one of the first School of Community gatherings I attended. Specifically, it was mentioned that Islam does not encourage, require this type of verification for its adherents. Today, again, I saw that in some ways, my heart wants to operate in this Islamic sense. In some ways, I expect God to say to me "Here is my will. Don't think about it, just do it. Don't question, just obey. Don't come to me with wonderings, just perform tasks for me."

Now, I know exactly why I am struggling with this, and it is not because I fear that God is despotic. It is because this is my parenting mode right now. Some may find that virtuous, but frankly I don't and I'm struggling because of it. I'm guessing it has something to do with mid-winter togetherness as an unschooling family. I've noticed this trend for the last few winters, and I keep thinking awareness of the difficulty will be enough to handle it when next it rolls around. Oh, but it's not! And when I am faced with Who God truly is, I know His sense of relationship and patience with frailty is infinitely beyond my natural abilities -- or my abilities in their most graced states! I am left with a vision of the gaping chasm of neediness which is my soul vis a vis my children. My task as a mother is to evangelize my family, and they me. I am to show them Christ. Well, right now what I can enable others to experience is how the Merciful Christ picks me up time and time again and forgives and sets me back out again. Perhaps one day they will experience the patient Christ who does not rely on barking orders and anger as a motivator, but who looks at them with loving wisdom, even when they are most surly, knowing that even the surlies are on a journey. (Wait a second -- isn't that what grandparents are for?!)

So, what is this about doubting things I know and being amazed at Giussani's insistence that Christ calls us to verify His claims ("Come and see")? This is like a multi-layer salad. I know how God would have me interact with my family because He has led me, I have verified, and I know the path. And I am reminded again that I have done it, and that I need to continue to do it. But at the same time I know how weak I feel to do the initial "coming" in order to see the way God has for me! Ack!

Mixed in with this personal muddle is a direction that I feel called in: to look more closely at the relationship between faith and reason. The reason why I feel the need for that should become another post, one I'll need to have slept decently to dive into.

So I'll leave this post with that messy, lived-in, work-in-progress, waking-up-in-the-morning and realizing-no-one-cleaned-it-over-night feeling.

Mine, Too

Leonie has this wonderful post for today's feast of St. John Bosco. It is entitled "My mothering and unschooling mentor."

Computer Woes Resolved

Yesterday for a reason no one in the family can pin point, we welcomed a malware on our computer. After it was removed we discovered that Internet Explorer was no longer working up to speed, quite literally. So, last night I learned about Firefox, which has become our new family browser.

I'm quite impressed, for some strange reason, that I have gained almost all of my computer knowledge in the same way my six-year-old has; good old exploration and experimentation. Well, I can read, so of course I have research and googling in the mix. But when I returned from Japan in 1997 I had never experienced email, internet, or Windows Anything. I mastered WordStar in college in the 80s, and in Japan I even learned to use a monstrously large Japanese keyboard with which I could type in English with significant effort. I felt behind the rest of the world for a short time, starting grad school with no modern computer skills. But somehow today I am the go-to parent for all computer woes, and most of the time I can get things running again.

Ok, boring post, I know, but it was stressful dealing with this glitch, so I feel some need to pat myself on the back and celebrate that I can still access the internet!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Life Is Beautiful

Last evening I had the rare chance to watch a grown-up movie. I had randomly picked one off the shelf at the library when, last week, I had a similarly rare chance to spend a few moments in the library alone. It had a nice title, and it looked sunny, bright and Italian.

It was Life Is Beautiful. If by some chance you haven't seen this movie but would like to, I'll give you a spoiler warning (Turn Back! Go to the next post!)

Ok, so if you are still with me I'll presume you've either seen it, don't intend to, or you don't mind missing your own fresh experience of the movie.

The setting is Italy during the rise of Nazism and World War II. The main character is a compulsively positive, happy Italian waiter named Guido who falls in love with beautiful Dora and eventually has a son, Joshua. Oh, and Guido is Jewish. Guido has an incredibly quick wit, explosive imagination, the bravery of at least 1,000 men, and the extroversion of at least two average Italians and my son rolled into one (in other words, 500% extroverted). On his son's birthday, Guido, Joshua, and all the surrounding Jews are rounded up and put on a train to a concentration camp. Dora, who is not Jewish and who was not home when they were taken, demands of the soldier to board the train with them. Guido manages to convince his son that they are involved in an elaborate game, and the winner, the one who gets 1,000 points, will get a real tank. Although his desperation is evident, he still manages to keep up good humor for his son, and even occasionally finds a way to broadcast his love to his wife, who of course is separated off with the women. Finally, it seems the war is ending. He hides his son, and warns him, if Papa is delayed in coming for him, to only come out of hiding when everything is quiet. While Guido searches for his wife, he is caught. A soldier marches him at gunpoint past the spot where Joshua is hiding; they exchange winks and Guido breaks into a silly Nazi-parody march. We hear machine gun fire, and the soldier returns alone. The sun rises, it is quiet, and Joshua comes from his hiding place. He sees a huge tank drive toward him and shouts "It's true!" The American soldier helps him into the tank, they leave the camp and he finds his mother. At that point, a narrator says "This was the sacrifice my father made for me."

Let me tell you, the promo copy on the video box did not lead me to think this movie would involve a concentration camp. When I saw what was coming, I grabbed the box and scoured it for a hint that this would have a happy ending. I strongly weighed whether I should turn it off, as I know how profoundly things like this can sit with me, and frankly I wasn't sure whether I wanted to commit myself to dealing with it. But honestly, Guido's courage inspired me to go on. Even after I heard the machine gun fire, I fully expected him to reappear, smiling and victorious. The closing line, revealing that the entire movie was really told from the perspective of Joshua, left me sobbing. (Well, I would have been sobbing even without that line, I'm sure.)

The opening scene makes it clear that the story is not factual, but a fable. But really, I know it is much more than that. In so many ways, Guido personifies the Holy Spirit. Guido is courage, hope, love, in the face of the most extreme opposites of these virtues. He is a human being living fully, never allowing himself to be diminished to victim status but always acting as if he were the one making all the choices that affected his life, and in reality, finding life beautiful even in the ugliest possible conditions. He is what all human beings are called to be, and yet we fear obstacles so overwhelmingly minuscule in comparison with what he overcame -- for his son.

And of course what I have not been able to escape thinking about is the all too factual and historical elements of the movie. I've wanted only to hug and kiss my children, and to thank God that they are perfectly safe and cared for, as all children should be. I've wanted only to do penance for all the atrocities, all the darkness that somehow mankind unleashes upon itself. I've wished for some concrete way to express "I value and respect your human dignity" to those I've met today. I've longed for some way to show my God that my heart is with Him and to beg for the graces to do all of and only His will.

I'm not much of a movie reviewer, but I'm hoping that getting this out on my computer screen will help me sleep better tonight than I did last night.

Dear God, have mercy on humanity.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Radical Hospitality: Benedict's Way of Love

So, I finally finished this book, and I highly recommend it. I was not taken with it immediately as the first few dozen pages seemed dedicated to two points: this is not about becoming Martha Stewart, but Jesus Christ; and September 11 had a profound affect on Americans. I was fully expecting the first point (perhaps not all book purchasers or browsers would), and I still have great difficulty revisiting my mental images of September 11, so one reference would have had sufficient effect for me on the second point. It took me some time to get passed that into the meat of the book, which really addresses what it means to encounter other human beings.

The book held many insights for me. One was the allowance for encounters, relationships to be truly meaningful without digging out one's deepest, innermost thoughts. I have a lot of deep, innermost thoughts; I splash them around quite freely on this blog for example. And for a long, long time I really struggled to know what to say to someone who didn't seem inclined as receptive to deep innermost thoughts. Small talk has been a skill I've picked up (to varying degrees of success) in only the last 10 years or so. But I think all this is because I've been focused on myself. I had great felt needs that I didn't know how to get around in order to go to someone else. This book verifies for me that small talk isn't necessarily stupid chit chat as I once thought. It can be a most beautiful welcome extended to Christ Himself.

The chapter on intimacy goes far to pluck apart the cultural misappropriation of the word. Another chapter discusses boundaries and the role of self-respect in hospitable relationships. The co-authors are a monk and a married woman with grown children. Even though the narrative style gets awkward and confusing with both of them always speaking in the third person, the combination of perspectives helps me as a lay person to know that monks who live Benedict's way of love aren't on the easy road; human work is human work regardless of vocation. And attention to prayer truly does change souls.

This book will not advise you on how to have the best dinner party, nor will it encourage you necessarily to invite Jean Valjean in for dinner and send him off with your candlesticks. But it will share what it is to touch a human heart with caring. It truly awakened me to prepare my heart, to see the people before me and to open my heart to them. Not in order to offer anything special or powerful or important, but to receive them as receiving Christ.

"The Best Day in my Whole Life"

It's been a long day.

The phrase usually carries a negative connotation, but I was extremely glad and relieved to have a long day today.

A typical day for me (it's true confessions time) has me getting out of bed around 8ish, piddling around with things like hygiene, food and playing with waking children until 9:30ish, and then packing off somewhere, like the chiropractor, with my children. We come home, and I get maybe a solid hour to concentrate on something before thinking about getting ready for the noon Mass. Travel, parking, and Mass has us returning home around 1pm. I piddle a bit more while I get lunch ready, which we are often finishing around 2:30. We then get about 2.5 hours of concentration, which might also include errands, before I think about making dinner. We eat, piddle through the evening, and one by one my family members drop into bed, with me being the last, typically somewhere after midnight. Ok, maybe 1:30.

I realized the other day that this is driving me nuts. I feel like I am making meals, eating, or cleaning up from meals all day long and that my days all fly by so fast, with my grip on them loosening.

Today was different. I got up around 6:30, did my personal piddling. My daughter rose at about 7:20 and my son an hour later. My intention was to go to the 8 or 8:30 Mass, but opted for a late afternoon Mass instead (Noon Mass did not exist today), much to sleepy son's delight. But we were all dressed and breakfasted AND we finished the last chapter in Call of the Wild all before it was even close to chiropractor time. My son then became absorbed with Brain Pop, a nifty on-line learning website I discovered yesterday. I spent over two hours cleaning our disastrous basement while my daughter played there, which gave a huge boost to my sense of productivity and accomplishment. We all reconvened for lunch, I shared some treasures dug out from the basement with my son, and we talked, played together, did some more reading, baking, cleaning. I started looking at the clock. Golly! Only 4pm! I even had some time to just sit and rest. I read some more, and then we trekked out to Mass, made dinner, prayed together, erranded, played some more, and now bedtime has struck.

I don't normally blather on about minuscule and uninteresting details of my day, but this was a pretty big joy for me. The last time I felt this type of joy was Christmas day.

At one point I told my son I was just very happy about the way the day was going. He told me "Me too. I think this is probably the best day in my whole life, this far at least." It really was a day of joyful connecting, instead of scattered "going". This was exactly the gift I desired and needed today.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Looking for Children's Hearts

I've been thinking some more about this post from the other day, especially the part I implied but didn't write.

Consequently this has been the prayer bubbling up in my heart today:

Lord, help me to see the openness, the potential for openness, to You in each person. Help me see it, help me honor it, help me not to block it nor to send it closed any further. Give me the patience, the wisdom, the courage that honoring that openness, that potential, requires. Help me to be genuine, to be childlike, but yet to stay aware of how "a little child will lead them." For that's the goal, Lord. Help me be a child so that I may lead other children to You.

Gabe, and Christian Unity

Almost twenty years ago, I met a man named Gabe. A Catholic by rearing, Gabe had attended some kind of a Pentecostal meeting and experienced Jesus healing him of a chronic back problem. As Gabe told the story, after this healing experience he went to his priest to tell him what had happened, and found a chilly reception. Whether it was skepticism about the healing or concerns about where it happened or plain lack of connection or human interest shown, I don't precisely remember. But Gabe walked away from the Church because of this sense that his experience of Jesus and his experience of the Church were diametrically opposed. Could anyone blame him, especially considering that he was likely hearing from his new spiritual context that the Catholic Church had nothing but evil to offer him?

This was a odd scrap of a memory to float into my consciousness today; I hadn't thought about Gabe in years. And I do pray that he has since found reconciliation with the Church.

What a lesson we can take from his experience: Charity requires us to accept people's experience of the Divine, even when it makes us uncomfortable or there is blatant error intermixed. All of our experiences, to some degree or another, will require some dusting off, some cleaning up (or some major overhauls) in terms of how our minds extrapolate truth from them, how we come to understanding of what has occurred, especially when we encounter Christ. None of that tends to stop God from acting. If I want any hope of being part of the process of discerning with another vulnerable person, I'd better have the charity to listen, to accept, and to praise God with him/her for what He has done. Otherwise I might just be rejecting Jesus on the grounds of not being orthodox enough for me.

A Nugget from Today's Homily

A rather hardened reporter was interviewing a pastor and asked, "Is there any way that God could actually change this world?"

The pastor thought for a moment and replied, "Yes, there are two ways God could change the world. The natural way, and the supernatural way."

Not being one to waste thought on the supernatural, the reporter asked the pastor about the natural way.

"The natural way is that God could send hundreds of legions of angels to earth to force everyone to accept His will," the pastor replied.

Completely flummoxed, the reporter asked "so, then what is the supernatural way?"

To which the pastor replied, "We could let God change our hearts."

From the story-telling heart of Fr. Brian Cavanaugh.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Pictoral Meditation on Carrying One's Cross

Perhaps Our Ideal Presidential Candidate for 2008 Died by Abortion

Thirty-five years is thirty-five years too long.

A CL Feast: Mother is to Child as Christ is to Me

Suzanne just arrived back from the CL Diakonia and has posted various gleanings from this gathering here, here and here.

Digesting something rich takes time, but for the moment I am taken by one thought that my eyes fell upon in the first listed post above; a quote from Fr. Carron:

Christianity is easy: always the child needs to find his mother beside him and life is easy. For us Christ is not so real as mother/child. Why? Because Christ is not real? This is the problem we need to face in the School of Community. This is the first problem. This one. That we are not sure of his presence. Many times Christ is an extra thing. Not so real as the mother is for the child. Many times we live as orphans instead of as sons.

My children, especially my 2 year old daughter, help me understand this deeply. Or at least they help me to be able to think about it deeply.

Some time ago I said to a priest in confession that while I knew Christ was "generally with me" I felt that perhaps He wasn't all that interested in what transpired in my life. The wise elderly priest counseled me, practically rising out of his chair with his words, that Jesus' response to me was "Woman, where is your mind!?!" His gift of bluntness helped me so much, really knocked me out of an unthinking spiritual stupor.

I am truly understanding more and more (and at this moment I see again how it is weaving together in a way that is not of my making) how Jesus is with me; with what kind of heart. Talk of making God happy, for me, has been relegated to a category of how to guilt children into doing what you want them to do (Share your toys with your brother; it will make God happy). If I dare remove the concept from that category... a happy God... I want to shudder and bow low even thinking of uttering it out loud... But if we truly are Christ in this world, if truly we are transformed by His grace and made His sons by adoption, is it not reasonable for the Divine to look upon us with "happiness"? To me, this is more profound than to look on us with love. Perhaps love is a worn out theologese term to me.

If God Himself takes delight in His people, and we are His people, surely our mission is so easy. Christian, be who you are! What child's heart is not drawn to what is delightful? Is this not why we must be like children to enter the kingdom of God?

Monday, January 21, 2008

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

We are in the midst of the annual week of prayer for Christian unity. This is the 100th year this has been observed among Catholics, as you can read about at this site.

The reunification of all Christians is something I mention in my prayer daily. It is one of those desires of Jesus that is disarmingly simple and yet causes deep anguish for many. Some seem to only be able to envision a unity that is false, and therefore reject the idea of working towards any unity, believing that if it really is important to God it will "just happen" some day.

No matter what two different kinds of Christians get together, there is the potential for friction. This isn't just about Catholic and Protestant or Orthodox and Catholic; it is Pentecostal and Evangelical, Methodist and Baptist, Calvinist and Lutheran, and a million other smaller splinters who all seem to find reasons to distrust each other.

There was a famous prophetic word spoken in an interdenominational meeting in Kansas City in 1977: "You bishops, mourn and weep because the body of my Son is broken. You priests, mourn and weep because the body of my Son is broken. You lay people, mourn and weep because the body of my Son is broken." All of our distrust and disunity should cause us to look and weep.

I've written in the past about my own ignorant and misguided rejection of other Christians, especially Catholics. I had a really wonderful experience when I visited Rome as part of my post-Confirmation pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I climbed the Holy Stairs, said to be the stairs Jesus took to his condemnation to death. I had first heard of these Holy Stairs as a child in Sunday School. Martin Luther climbed them on his knees when he visited Rome, and I took this as proof that the Roman Catholic Church wanted only to crush the dignity of human beings into the ground, forcing them to grovel. I understood a bit better by the time I climbed them myself, and with each step I prayed for reunification for each splintered Christian group that came to mind. (I had no clue that there are specific prayers traditionally prayed on each step; I'm sure Our Lord didn't mind me improvising.)

So we pray until January 25, the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. Let's pray for conversion of heart for all Christians, that Christ would be all in all to us.

(Read more about Fr. Cantalamessa's experience of the 1977 Kansas City meeting here.)

Leadership in Unschooling

Last week I received an email in response to my post on unschooling the creative child in which another creative Catholic mom shared her perspective on the personal benefits of the discipline of school.

I find it pretty exciting when people read my posts with enough attention to have a reply stirred up, and this reply was truly thoughtful and thought-provoking. The exchange brought into focus for me that I have gotten to a point of very low self-consciousness about unschooling. The self-conscious homeschooler does not take her children out during "school hours" for fear of what comments people will make, what questions they will ask. The self-conscious unschooler shies away from conversations with other homeschoolers about "how school is going" or curriculum choices. Now, I don't shy away from these conversations, but I don't engage in them either, just because of the company I tend to keep.

I am incurably serious, so the discussion did stir up in me the inevitable self-review. I had to look at how our reality was matching my ideal of unschooling. I looked at how the desires for learning in my heart were being met by my son's heart. As a Catholic unschooler, I do have a strong desire to see my children grow in virtue, and self-discipline is one of those virtues. So I had to ask myself, does that process really require "school"? Does it require meeting externally imposed requirements, regardless of how I feel about them? What of our goal that we set (which was discussed in the other post)? For the record, the goal was about learning the Japanese syllabary hiragana. It wasn't learning five new sight words in English or something that a school would expect of a 6 year old sort-of 1st grader.

So, after working through my thoughts on the subject I approached my son with my concern, and owned it as such (my concern). I suggested that we experiment with using the concept of a springboard, where each day would work in or start with some time to explore new learning together, with more hands-on direction from me. He could then take this learning and run with it, or run away from it, or whatever he chose to do. Much to my surprise, he was very enthusiastic.

To make a long story short, what I realize was a needed element was not more academic focus, for I really do see that he exercises his mind in what could be classified as academic ways daily. What is needed is a tad stepped up leadership from me. Our day was very peaceful after trying out our springboard, but it was because I had focused my attention on my son, and my daughter, in ways they really desired, helping them to grow. The help as I perceived it was mostly in attending, watching them learn. My son could pick up a book and sit next to me while I research recipes or fold laundry, but that is different from me looking over his shoulder while he reads it out loud. And that is not a difference I was appreciating enough.

Leadership is a strange thing. My son is a natural leader type, and really hates to be directed, instructed, told what to do and how. He has a strong need to figure it out himself. How to lead someone like this? I guess the key is to express validity of what he is doing, in more than words ("good job"). That gives me personal growth and change to focus on, as well.

So I am really grateful for my friend's email that sparked this thought and experience process.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Thrown for a Dietary Loop

Today I finished going through Dr. D'Adamo's new book The Genotype Diet. Dr. D'Adamo is the Naturopathic Physician who researched and promotes the Blood Type diet which I have been following with good success for the last two years or so. The Genotype Diet gets more specific and focuses more on genetic factors, including propensities to certain health conditions and diseases, and how to eat and exercise to "turn down the volume" on problematic genes and "turn up the volume" on helpful genes. It is all very interesting, and for anyone who is chronically or severely ill, I'm sure any piece of new scientific information can be a very welcomed new door to hope.

Of course I set out to determine my own genotype, so I followed the steps outlined and explained in the book. The primary steps have to do with various ratios such as leg vs. torso, upper vs. lower leg, and index vs. ring fingers. Then there are also various tests to fine tune the more general results these measurements indicate. (All of these measurements, by the way, can be scientifically explained on the basis of womb environment during our first nine months of life.) My genotype looks to be the Gatherer, which was a surprise to me. Based on cursory reading of the short summaries of the types, Gatherer was the one I immediately dismissed as impossible for myself. Gatherers are the type most likely to struggle with obesity and tend to be "full figured." While I am not a stick figure, I am not overweight either. I've really been struggling with this idea! Perhaps I have taken far too much comfort in that fact, or harbor far too much judgment against those who do struggle with weight. These are not comfortable things for me to think about!

If I go with the Gatherer genotype approach I also face a slightly different assortment of eating choices and things to avoid. It includes a list of things to temporarily avoid (for 3-6 months) to get the body on track, and then they can be added back in. This includes almost everything I have eaten as grains for the last two years: rice, spelt, kamut. Millet, teff and quinoa are all acceptable, as is barley (which I had avoided in the past). My fruit list gets hacked to shreds for those 3-6 months, especially considering winter in the Midwest. Apples, bananas, cherries, blueberries, grapes, oranges, pears, raisins, strawberries -- all out. Plums are out for good, which is pretty sad, and I'm left with apricots, cranberries, grapefruit, lemon, nectarines, peaches, pineapple, and then a host of weird fruits I never see in the grocery store.

I know enough to know that the blood type diet has helped me, and I probably need to be flexible enough to give this a try and see if it really makes me feel different or better. My main motivation is to keep my dang endometriosis in check, and to perhaps boost my 40-year-old fertility for a last hurrah (or two). Healthy Gatherers, actually, are supposed to be known for high fertility!
One thing I know for sure: I can't handle our whole family embarking on this at the same time! My husband's likely genotype, the Warrior, essentially does not do well on any red or white meats (turkey being acceptable), and is fish-dependent. I'm guessing (because the formula for determining children's types is not yet published) that my son is an Explorer and my daughter, a Teacher. And I thought keeping A and O requirements straight in my head was hard!

Friday, January 18, 2008

It's Time for a Meme

I've been pondering over meaningful things to say, but right now I'm tired, so I'm doing this meme that I found at Faith's Dumb Ox Academy instead.

1. WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE ? My great-grandmother, Marie Reik Blum. My daughter's middle name (which is hyphenated) is two of her great-grandmothers' as well.

2. WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CRIED? I don't know about full flowing tears, but drips at reading this prayer, or a translation close to it, on Tuesday.

3. DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING? I don't dislike it, but it is no longer the art form it once was. I hardly write by hand these days, anyway.

4. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LUNCH MEAT? I don't eat lunch meat often due to preservatives and junk, but roast beef would be it.

5. DO YOU HAVE KIDS? Yes. Two on earth and one in heaven.

6. WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU? That all depends whether I got up enough courage to talk to myself.

7. DO YOU USE SARCASM A LOT? Not a lot. I used to, but it feels so violent and ugly that I can't bear myself when I do.


9. WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP? Not voluntarily in any circumstance I can presently imagine.

10. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL? I like my homemade granola.

11. DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES WHEN YOU TAKE THEM OFF? My pair with ties will not come off unless I do.

12. DO YOU THINK YOU ARE STRONG? Physically, not very. Interiorly, yes, I do.

13. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM? Well, it is all forbidden fruit to this Type O, but if I'm going to eat it it had better be *real* cream stuff. Flavor is optional.

14. WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE ABOUT PEOPLE? If they are looking into my eyes or not.

15. RED OR PINK? I don't care much for either, but my dd likes pink, so I'll go with that.


17. WHO DO YOU MISS THE MOST? I miss Fr. John.

18. WHAT COLOR PANTS AND SHOES ARE YOU WEARING? Herring bone grey/black pants, and no shoes.


20. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW? The sounds of the computer whirring and my fingers typing.

21. IF YOU WERE A CRAYON, WHAT COLOR WOULD YOU BE? Black. Something definite.

22. FAVORITE SMELLS? Steak, or something that reminds me of my grandmother's house. Or lilacs.


24. FAVORITE SPORTS TO WATCH? Olympic gymnastics, Olympic swimming, or sumo wrestling.

25. HAIR COLOR? Light brown that is speckled with gray.

26. EYE COLOR? Blue
27. DO YOU WEAR CONTACTS? I did a long time ago. Sometimes I have this recurring dream about a contact about two feet in diameter that I am trying to fit on my eye.

28. FAVORITE FOOD? Beef. I'm happy to be a Type O.

29. SCARY MOVIES OR HAPPY ENDINGS? Happy endings. Being "forced" to watch the Walton's episode when their house burned down when I was a kid did me in for watching anything scary.

30. LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED? I watched a video tonight about survivors of the Titanic. But the last full-fledged movie I watched was the old Christmas in Connecticut a few weeks ago.


32. SUMMER OR WINTER? Summer. Please. Or just send me to the Philippines.

33. HUGS OR KISSES? If you aren't my husband or my child, please don't kiss me. Hugs are nice.

34. FAVORITE DESSERT? Anything I can eat and not regret. Let's see, that means no wheat, no dairy, no corn syrup, no chocolate after 12 noon.... Pamela's brand cookies usually work. I really like fruit, too.

35. WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING NOW? Radical Hospitality. Still. That will be a blog post when I finish it.

36. WHAT IS ON YOUR MOUSE PAD? Other than lots of holes because of ds biting into it, it is an ad for SRA International, which I know has something to do with one of my husband's former jobs.

38. FAVORITE SOUNDS? Wait a second, what happened to #37? Well, my favorite sound is silence, followed by my family members' laughing.


40. WHAT IS THE FARTHEST YOU HAVE BEEN FROM HOME? Well, being suicidally-minded as a teenager. But geographically-speaking, if I count the United States as home, Osaka, Japan.

41. DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL TALENT? I've always considered being myself to be special talent.

42. WHERE WERE YOU BORN? Madison, Wisconsin.

Fr. Giussani Medals

You can bid today on one of these sterling silver Don Giussani medals on ebay. Actually, you can bid until January 26!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Unschooling the Creative Child

For the sake of my Unschooling friends, occasionally I feel the need to remind everyone that this is my unschooling blog. I type this with a big smile on my face, because even though I write little about "unschooling", it really is all about unschooling. And I'll prove it.

This week I was involved in an exchange on a yahoo list for those who homeschool "right-brained" children, or creative little tykes. I was sharing a frustration that arose because I got inspired one day to have my son and I set a goal about some learning we'd been doing. The long and short of it was my excitement led me to want to work really hard with him, and this scared the joy, interest, and confidence straight out of my son. This is the mulberry bush that we went around that led me to unschooling in the first place.

So I shared my frustration with this list, and people's suggestions led me right back to the things I normally do with him, and the things I already have observed, but really, to be honest, have not honored in him enough. Sometimes I see what I do in negative terms: letting him off the hook, not demanding too much of him. If roles were reversed I would probably think that letting him go off and read and do workbooks would be accommodating his weakness, and I'd worry whether he was ever going to master a single visual art. The fact of the matter is, he takes in an enormous amount of learning. He just does it much differently than I.

Anyway, one of the homeschooling moms on this list shared what she has come up with as the timeline of her creative, right-brained learners. One helpful note in what she shared was what she considered the parents' job and key resources at the various stages of a child's development. For my son's age, she noted that needed resources were primarily for her, to free herself from the cultural educational value system, and to develop a more fitting value system.

This spoke volumes to me. I have told other people that my key task for my children's education right now is for me to change as a person. And sometimes when I forget that, or get tired of it or scared for a moment, I try to force something in. And I am propelled back out to where I belong.

I laugh to myself when I hear comments like "Your son is so smart; your homeschooling him is really paying off!" I gauge how well homeschooling is going by what I am bringing to the confessional!

(The helpful information shared with me is on Apple Stars, especially this post.)

Canadian Market Experience: The Prequel

It was only after I posted about my marketing experience last weekend that I remembered a tiny but significant moment that preceded it. To be honest and precise, I remembered it as I read what apparently had struck someone else as key words in my post (as Clarity had out quoted a few words when posting a link to the post on Cahiers Péguy).

I wrote about this little moment during my Wednesday evening holy hour, and then promptly forgot about it again, until reminded by yet another friend at School of Community Thursday morning.

So I think it's time I get around to the rest of the story. Here, more or less, is the prequel I wrote Wednesday night:

The market experience was Saturday morning. On Friday morning I attended Mass with my family at our parish. I was feeling some physical discomfort and some emotional hesitancy about heading out into the day (ok, it was far earlier than I'm used to being in public!) And I realized as I prayed for help, or thought I was praying for help, that I was really taking intellectual inventory of how well I figured I could do, given the circumstances and the force of a "good, solid try" as best as I could muster it. All at once, several things converged in my thinking, my awareness. I thought of a related struggle a friend had shared. I thought of the miracles of the loaves and fishes. I thought of St. Martin de Porres, of whom miracles were asked (and forthcoming) during his lifetime.

And suddenly I realized that the Lord was right there with me, and that day, like any other, He called me to love. I know myself; the Lord may as well ask me to walk on water, because loving and walking on water both come equally naturally to me. But in that realization was the "of course!" moment. When God asks something of me, expects something of me, I need to turn my eyes to Him, not in false humility whose my gaze stops with myself ("Oh Lord, I could neverst doest that which Thou asketh of meith"), but with expectation of His power. I am an instrument. As such, I can participate in doing all manner of things that are impossible for me alone. If it is asked of me in the course of my vocation, then I should have the expectation of being taken up by the Artist, by the Author, and used to produce the results. And that may be as a direct cause, or as an indirect cause. And all the while I require patience with my instrumental limitations (because brushes get gunky and need to be cleaned, pencils need to be sharpened, pens blotted, keyboards dusted, and every tool has its unique but limited purpose).

So, back to me at that Mass. I asked the Lord, as He was clearly waiting on me to do it, to love through me. And I had forgotten this exchange until I meditated on the experience of Him actually doing so at the market.
I have to say, something very unusual is happening with me. I spent a good chunk of this morning at the parish where my husband and son were working a Knights of Columbus breakfast. I can't or don't each much of the food that is served, and in many ways this breakfast ranked up there with the market: go if I have to, and get it over with. But today I initiated conversations with more than a half dozen people, maybe close to a dozen. Friends and readers, I've never done that before in my life. This is a work of grace.

I am currently reading a book called Radical Hospitality. It is all about Benedictine spirituality, which of course (but I didn't fully realize it) hearkens back strongly to Communion and Liberation. I intend to write more about the book once I finish it, presuming I do finish it. What I read this afternoon fit so perfectly with what I experienced this morning.

I find that the Lord's way with me is not at all haphazard, but one of definite purpose. It makes living so much fun!

Friday, January 11, 2008

I'm a Happily Married Bohemian

I have always loved self-discovery. I hope that isn't as narcissistic as I fear it sounds. But I love to understand myself, or just to understand, to get those "aha" (Naru Hodo) moments that make sense of life or settle some piece of its puzzle into place for me.

My experience of our friend who came for a semester and stayed a week afforded me one or two of those moments. For one, I have come to embrace my inner bohemian! All of my life I have had this right-brained, creative, disorganized, free-wheeling, buck-the-norm type person trying to emerge and I have tried frantically to shove her back down, put her on a schedule and make her behave. Well, shove her back down, probably; make her behave, wasn't too hard; but put her on a schedule, yes, definitely. My dear young friend is a planning, organizing, schedule-y person, and in her shadow I finally could acknowledge: It's just not in me! And I love it! I can cope, I can get places on time, I can find most things that I need. Ok, not that library book that is due next Wednesday, but most things. Marriage ushered in practices I found very difficult, such as preparing for dinner at roughly the same time every day, instead of my grad school routine of 4pm one day, 10pm the next, and random grazing other days. But I've managed that switch.

Today my children and I went to the Carnegie Science Center. I had this wonderful moment of freedom where I decided to spend the 50 cents to lock our coats and my purse in a locker, and I walked around with nothing at all to encumber me. This was a giddy moment for me. I have felt that "good" people schedule their lives rigidly, just like "good" women and mothers carry their purses everywhere. I ditched my purse. And we still got back to town in time to go to the chiropractor and evening Mass!

A second realization: My life has changed profoundly since I married. It is fair to say that before my marriage, I was retiring. My standard modus operandi for dealing with people was to proverbially hold my breath until I could get away from them. I was deeply lonely and did not really know how to fake in a social context. Well, I still don't know how to fake, so let's just say I felt that faking was the only way for me to interact with most people. My dear husband is not what I would call a faker, but he has very good skills in chatting about whatever with whomever. So when we started to get to know each other, I was excited to no end that he took the initiative to talk to me! It didn't take long for me to get past my faking worry, and the rest is history.

Somehow the grace of matrimony feels quite tangible to me. I know for a fact that I would not have been able to go into the world to do the things I have done without my husband, my marriage, as that mooring and launching point, to say what it feels like. I think especially of my experience of starting as an RCIA catechist. Even though I deeply wanted to do this, I was grieving, because we had wanted to have or be expecting a child by that time (18 months into our marriage). To accept the long-term responsibility of RCIA felt like I was acknowledging there would be no baby during all that time, either. I remember so vividly, cuddling next to my husband on our couch as I got ready to go to the first meeting. I was deathly nervous, terrified of dealing with all new people, having to speak, and teach, not knowing which door to go in. It was only because of his companionship that I was able to leave our house, go to the meeting, and start that growth process.

Now I can barely believe what grace hath wrought in my life in terms of relationships with others. Yes, I see CL and Fr. Giussani, and Anne, and my friends and all this internal work, but at the root I see the Sacrament of Matrimony.

So, my young friend, thank you for showing me my life by sharing yours.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Drinking Green

For great organic Japanese green tea, check out this company. The cited health benefits are pretty impressive. I've started drinking a cup of matcha sencha with breakfast every morning!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Longing for Home

At the end of this week we will be losing our house guest who came last week with the intention of attending University here. As the reality of her decision settled in for her, she essentially realized that she is not ready to be as far away from home as she is. Something in our conversation this afternoon rang a chord of truth, but I wish I could put my finger on exactly what it was. She spoke of her desire to not have to rely on others to come and go, and to not feel on the outside of campus life (both factors of living off campus with our family rather than in a dorm). I told her, freedom doesn't come from having a car or living with a certain group of people, it comes from being free on the inside. Yes, she answered, exactly. She recognizes a lack of internal freedom and has a felt need to develop that in a secure environment, and not 2000 miles away from everything she knows. She'll come back in the Fall and live in the dorm.

My approach to life at her age (which is 18) was to screech through life come hell or high water like a car running on only one quart of motor oil. And feeling that it was a great accomplishment to do that.

No wonder so much of my life has felt like rehab.

I've seen she hasn't seemed happy from the moment we met her at the airport. So, life moves on and we have a change in plans for our Spring.

Leaving the conversation with my young friend, I visited with our 91-year-old friend, Mrs. J. in her nursing home room. Long ago she lost her husband and several siblings. She lost a daughter in 2005, and two years later to the day she lost a sister. Her brother passed away on Christmas Day, 2007. She has one sister left now, who lives in Europe. Mrs. J. is losing her eyesight and her vitality. She longs so much to go home. It seems that some elderly feel that God has forgotten about them or left them behind, much like most people they once knew. Why, why be left to linger when the desire to go home makes the dead enviable. I told her what seemed clear to me: the Lord has her still here for my sake. "Patience," she tells me. Her mother gave her this word of instruction that seems to have carried her through life and is still her support.

Patience. She tells me my children are so beautiful and I must be patient with them.

Indeed. In all of my rushing off, in all of my trying-to-accomplish, where is my focus? Where am I hurrying? To where am I rushing others off? When I push and screech through my days, what is the point? My Home is a place of pure beauty, and somehow I am here to figure out how to live there.

And one day, when I am ready, I will go there. And I will finally know fully what Home is all about.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Perceiving the Imperceptible

I arrived home today from a long weekend in my husband's home province, namely, Ontario. For me, visits to family often serve as benchmarks. Or maybe the better metaphor is an optical exam. Leaving my daily context and entering another gives me the opportunity to see how well I am seeing. To see how my seeing perhaps has changed. Especially when I visit my own family I usually become aware of little nooks and crannies of my heart that appear different this time around. I suppose, as the intuitive introvert that I am, this is how I go about interacting with the world: interiorly.

Even though this latest visit was not with my own family of origin, I became aware of a change in me. I noticed it as seven of us bustled off to a downtown market before lunching with other family. I have customarily greeted my husband's interest in going to the Saturday morning market with a reluctance that bordered on grumpiness, mostly because it always seemed to involve me getting up earlier in the morning than I wished. And, there was just this thing about being in a crowd of people that I found unpleasant. But this Saturday being grumpy didn't really occur to me, even after we mistook the location of the market at first and had to go wandering about looking for it. We entered, and I saw interesting things all around me. I heard fun music. Lots of unique ethnic things caught my eye one after another. I was drawn to chat with a Japanese salesman about his organic green tea (and bought some). I wandered among the various ethnic food vendors and looked into the faces I passed; I noted that some seemed enchanted by my children, and some looked at them as if they were cockroaches. I felt distinctly sad for the latter and wondered what it was that had erased their joy.

As we walked back to our vehicle, I realized that a drastic but very slow change has occurred in my heart. Once upon a time not that long ago, I viewed experiences like this as an uncomfortable being-thrusted into a world that wasn't mine. Crowds of strangers in a culture not my own (yes, Canada has that) seemed a cold world. "They are not like me" is how I might have labeled it. But this weekend, I felt an excitement about a humanity that I share with all of these people. It felt like having a key into the door behind which everyone was. I was, am, "in" with them.

Being "in," in the past, somehow felt to me like it had to have something to do with being a Catholic. And not just "a" Catholic, but a like-me Catholic. To be frank, like-me Catholics are not the majority in Canada. I understand where I got this feeling, after all, I like to feel understood and I like to have a sense of community based on some common thinking and experience. But the grace that has come to me in these last many months of my life, which is summarized well by, but is by no means unique to, the charism of Communion and Liberation, tells me that I have that. I have it loud and clear, deep and firm, and It (His name is Jesus) lives within me. And Jesus loves the world. He loves humanity and longs for it and affirms its good and is not sitting in heaven with a clipboard ready to note our every slip up and chastise us for it in a way that leaves us feeling like nothing more than a series of imperfect acts, of failed tests. He loves us; I daresay He enjoys us, and I think this is what I feel: Jesus enjoyed the market with me, through me.

In 1993, about two weeks after I entered the Church, I went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land with a group led by John Michael Talbot and Dan O'Neill. It was a monumental life experience. One small sliver of that experience that comes to mind here is JMT's comment at Mass one day that the timing of us being in the Church and the Church being in us is not necessarily simultaneous. I believe he was speaking of our experience of the Church in a deep way. So when I say that this Communion lives in me, that Jesus lives in me, in a real way I know the Church lives in me, in a way that Giussani seems to talk about. (The Church being the continuation of Jesus Christ in time and space.) In this sense there is a huge, chasmic leap between only feeling comfortable around other people who belong to my Church and knowing the ability to encounter another human person because of the Church.

It still startles me how much Fr. Giussani's charism picks up my life and makes such sense out of it.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

January 1 Message: Carrying Your Cross

On the first of every month, Our Lord gives Anne a new message about His call to service.

January 1, 2008


I am always with you, dear apostles. You move through your days of service learning greater and greater lessons in holiness. I am the teacher. When you offer Me your day, you pledge to remain with Me throughout it. This in no way diminishes the need for you to experience your humanity with all of its joys and sorrows. On the contrary, it is through your daily joys and sorrows that you are learning the lessons of love. You might think that your cross is heavy and perhaps in truth the cross that you carry is heavy. You might think that you would proceed more easily or more swiftly without the cross. This is possible, My friends, but to what purpose? Surely, I, Jesus Christ, could have advanced more quickly and comfortably to Calvary without the jeering of the crowds, the physical infirmities or the weight of the cross. This is an obvious statement. But you were destined to be saved by My Passion. The whole world benefited by My decision to accept God’s will, which included suffering. In the same way, the world is benefiting from your decision to accept the crosses in your life. You offer Me your day. This is such a simple thing from the eyes of the world and yet, from the eyes of heaven, this is a very large offering indeed. Do not be afraid of the cross in each day. Do not think that your cross will interfere with the plan that I have for you. The truth is the opposite. The plan that I have for you includes suffering, and your holiness will increase because of your crosses. I do not rejoice in the suffering of My friends. No, I do not. I do rejoice in the willingness of My friends to suffer, for Me and with Me. This will never change. My gratitude toward each of My beloved apostles increases as each day’s commitment flows into the past. A stream of allegiance pledges trail behind you as you proceed into tomorrow. Be at peace in your crosses, I beg you, because your crosses benefit you in ways that you cannot understand. It must be enough for you that the Saviour understands. If you are weary, do not be afraid. You will have what you require to cope and I will sustain you. I was weary, also. If you falter, do not be discouraged. I faltered, also, and I will lift you back to your feet. There are no circumstances that should cause you to be anxious because just as you pledge your allegiance to the Father, I, the Saviour, pledge My allegiance to you. I will take care of you, My beloved ones. You will not be abandoned.