Fonticulus Fides

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

I am sorry to report that my brother-in-law's marriage is in dire straights. They've been living apart for some time now, and a couple of weeks ago, his wife left their daughter with him and went on a two-week vacation with a new friend. He was expecting her to come home yesterday, but she has informed him that she is not interested in working things out with him and that in her opinion, the marriage is over.

My brother-in-law is, understandably, devastated and wondering what he could have done to prevent this. From what little I've been told, it sounds as though his wife succumbed to depression and is dealing with it by bar-hopping and other similar activities with her new pals. Her own parents have said they hardly recognize her these days and they hope that my brother-in-law will get full custody of the little girl, who is only three years old. Whatever is going on -- whether it's alcoholism or some other form of substance abuse or a chemical imbalance caused by the depression or something else -- Heidi is not acting rationally. She told my brother-in-law she's not even sure she believes in God any more.

I am convinced she is in spiritual and personal crisis, and I hope any of you out there will remember Heidi in your prayers, as well as my brother-in-law and his little girl. There is so much emotional turmoil and dealing with that is difficult enough, but there are the added complications of legal stuff. Heidi's parents have urged my brother-in-law to seek custody immediately because they fear for his daughter's safety due to Heidi's current lifestyle. An attorney has suggested taking similar action, the sooner the better.

The whole thing is just awful. I'm praying every kind of prayer I can think of and calling on the help of as many saints as come to mind. But even as I say them, I wonder how far this will much hurt will be much will the child suffer and will she ever be able to recover?


Monday, September 29, 2003

I think we've inadvertently turned Zooey into a food snob.

Last week at preschool, a like-minded parent sent apples for the morning snack. I was overjoyed to hear it! Especially because I know that apples are one of the three fruits that Zooey will eat consistently (along with red seedless grapes and bananas).

But Zooey informed me that he took one bite of his apple and didn't like it, so he refused to eat it. That thud you just hear was my heart hitting the floor.

Near as I can figure, they were just ordinary Delicious apples from the grocery store. Unfortunately, there's the rub. Several years ago, my husband would only eat Delicious apples. I preferred Granny Smith for snacking, and I used all different types for apple pie, but still, we mostly bought Delicious.

And then we embarked on an apple odyssey. First it started with organic Delicious apples -- my goodness, they were so much more delicious, we wondered how the non-organic variety could still carry the label. And then we launched into Fujis, Galas and organic Macintosh. A whole new world of apples appeared before us as we sampled Pink Lady and Braeburns and numerous other varieties. We started exploring the local orchards for different types. We dreamed of starting a small organic apple orchard on the family farm (not practical due to the prevalance of cedar trees out there -- cedars and apples are not a good mix, especially when you are trying to go organic).

Through it all, we've never gone back to the average grocery store "Delicious" ones. So the only apples Zooey has ever had have been these other varieties, and the apple he received last week must have been pretty bland by comparison.

I feel bad that he rejected the apple at preschool. On the other hand, I have no intention of giving up our practice of buying better-tasting apples, particularly when the difference in cost per pound is negligible this time a year, when the apples are in season. I told Zooey that I expected him to eat his fruit at preschool, whether he liked it or not, but the kid is four. I don't think he understands how a bland-tasting apple can be good, when he knows there is a sack full of yummy ones at home. I'm sure he thought there was something wrong with the piece of fruit he was given.

This isn't the only food item, either. A grilled cheese sandwich made with Kraft singles on Wonderbread just doesn't compare to the ones I make at home, with rich Wisconsin Cojack on a nice grainy whole-wheat. And if we happen to go out for burgers, we go to one of our favorite restaurants, Lazlo's, not McDonald's. My intentions have always been good, but have I unwittingly turned my kids into picky food snobs who will turn up their noses at what most children think is perfectly acceptable food?


Friday, September 26, 2003

Siiigh. I'm having one of those days in which I keep checking the mirror to see if the word "LOSER" is plainly tattooed on my forehead. Figured a fun quiz would lift my spirits, so I headed over to Quizilla. Dismal results!

My inner child is sixteen years old today

My inner child is sixteen years old!

Life's not fair! It's never been fair, but while
adults might just accept that, I know
something's gotta change. And it's gonna
change, just as soon as I become an adult and
get some power of my own.

How Old is Your Inner Child?
brought to you by Quizilla

Well, I guess that explains the "loser" thing, anyway.


Thursday, September 25, 2003

Okay, I might have done this right. If so, the sonogram scan of my new baby's face should be right below these words.

It's not as dramatic as the 3D ones you've seen on the web, but it just melted my heart. Then again, I'm the mommy -- the pregnant, overly hormonal mommy -- so maybe it's just me. Note the pointy chin -- just like mine, Zooey's and Edyn's. The orthodontist is going to love us some day...


Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Well, the doctor's office called and they said the choroid plexus cyst had resolved -- it's gone and everything else looked just fine with the baby. Thanks to all who prayed for us! And I'm still praying for several others who were dealing with much more grave diagnoses.


P.S. Thanks also for the photo tips. I'm trying to get the scan down to a reasonable size. Every time I try to reduce it, it gets bigger for some reason. Maybe I should try to make it bigger and see what happens? LOL, I am so clueless about this stuff...

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Can anybody tell me how one would post a photo to a blog? I have a new ultrasound scan of the baby's face that's kind of cool.

The ultrasound went fine, btw. I don't have a report from the doctor yet, but the ultrasound technician led me to believe that everything is looking great and the choroid plexus cyst is probably a non-issue at this point. Thanks to all who prayed! Now I just hope and pray that all the other moms facing uncertain diagnosis whom we've been praying for will get the same kind of good results.


Monday, September 22, 2003

As long as I'm still in a recipe-minded mood, I'll post one for the Mushroom Orzo I made for dinner last night. Please don't tell Erik about this -- he'll probably have a fit that I manage to misuse both orzo and mushrooms in one recipe. Although if he had a tastier alternative, I'd be interested!

I based this on a mushroom orzo my husband got at an Italian restaurant long ago, served alongside steak. It took a couple tries, but this is pretty close. It only takes 15-20 minutes to make.

Mushroom Orzo

1 quart chicken stock
1/2 box of orzo
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
3-4 green onions, chopped fairly small
4-6 oz. mushrooms, sliced thin (a variety is nice, but I've been known to make this with plain white mushrooms when our budget is tight)
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper

Bring chicken stock to boil. Stir in orzo. Simmer 9 minutes or until al dente, stirring fairly often. Drain well in a sieve. Melt butter in a skillet. Saute green onion for a few minutes, then add mushrooms and saute until all is tender. Stir in orzo and heat through. Add kosher salt and pepper to taste.


My brother sent e-mail last week, just the usual what's-new sort of thing. But I don't usually get or send these types from my family, because we're not that close. Anyway, it was great to hear from him.

He told me about a mission trip he and his wife went on this summer, associated with the Independent Baptist Church and a couple of pastors who graduated with Bob Jones University. They went out street-evangelizing in New York City.

Kind of weird that just as my husband and I become Catholic, my brother becomes more evangelical than ever before. They used to go to a non-denominational Protestant fellowship, so the whole Baptist thing was news to me.

My brother asked where we were going to church, and honestly, it took me a couple days to phrase my reply. I told him -- of course -- that we had become Catholic, and that we were as surprised as anybody that the Catholic Church could have been right for us, but it was and here's why.

So far, my brother hasn't written me back. Which might not mean anything -- I don't usually hear from him more than a couple times a year anyway. Or it might mean he thinks I've gone off the deep end again. He thought I was nuts 14 years ago when I got baptized in the Assemblies of God church I was attending. Of course, he was still an atheist then. I remember him telling me, "I just don't understand how an intelligent person like you could fall for all of that." I think I said something about how once you know there really is a God, there's no turning back. He became a Christian only about 5 years ago, and at that point we were both "evangelicals." But now I've gone Catholic on him, and I can see why he might find it mystifying. Especially if he's been taught all the misinformation about Catholicism that I was when I was evangelical.

I hope we get a chance to talk about it sometime soon. His birthday is a week from Thursday, and I'll be calling him that evening as I usually do. It might be an okay time to bring it up again.


Envoy Encore posted this bit from the BBC about "eugenics" and the increasing pressure for expecting parents to abort their less-than-perfect children.

I'm not very coherant this a.m., so the best I can come up with is "God have mercy!"


Friday, September 19, 2003

When Edyn was a tiny baby and still having an 11 p.m. nursing session, I got into the habit of watching late-night sit-com reruns, specifically a show called "Everybody Loves Raymond." I stuck with that one after learning that the leading actress, Patricia Heaton, was honorary chair of Feminists for Life -- not too many Hollywood stars are so open about their pro-life stance.

Anyway, there was an episode in which the family was supposed to bring snacks for a child's t-ball game, and they brought a box of pretzles and some juice. The "snack organizer" parents threw a major hissy fit, pointing out that pretzles were not on the "approved snack list." While the nutritionally anal husband argued with Patricia Heaton's character, his wife saves the day with kiwi fruit and granola bars, or something like that.

Well, I've just become one of those parents who want to micromanage everybody else's snack choices at Zooey's preschool. Lucky for them I'm in no position of authority, so all I can do is grumble about it on my blog.

We're all supposed to bring snacks once a month, and the teacher specifically requested nutritious snacks, such as muffins, fruit, veggies and dip, a loaf of raisin bread, etc, instead of cookies or other treats. She does allow for treats on birthdays or holidays, but not for your average snack. Regardless, there have been a fair share of parents who have sent a pan of brownies or cupcakes. At this point, I'd be happier with a box of pretzles.

Today was Zooey's first turn to bring something and we had the time, so we washed and bagged seedless red grapes and baked banana bread -- still on the sweet side, but at least it's healthier than a cupcake. See, I'm not over-the-top like the kiwi people on that TV show, but I do try to maintain a fairly healthy standard.

When parents send cupcakes, the teacher is augmenting them with her own supply of "something healthy" -- each kid gets a graham cracker or a half of banana or something before indulging in the sugary snack. What's more, some of the parents have "forgotten" to send snacks with the children, despite that bright orange snack bucket she sends home with a note, "Tomorrow is your snack day!" The poor lady must be using a hefty portion of her paycheck to provide snacks when these parents fail to maintain their commitment, and it's bothering me. But again, I don't have any authority, so I guess I'm just going to have to handle it by donating several boxes of graham crackers and granola bars for her to have on hand, just in case.

Zooey, of course, doesn't mine chowing on brownies at 9:15 a.m. And since he doesn't get too many treats overall, I shouldn't be so bothered by it. I just have this theory that the healthier kids eat, the more able they are to learn (better brain stimulation) and the more able they are to resist the colds and other minor illnesses that come with the territory.

Well, in the meantime, I'll post my recipe for banana bread, which I copied out of the American Heritage cookbook so long ago, I wrote it in pink crayon. This one is made with yogurt and a bit of lemon zest, so it has a nice refreshing undertone to it.

American Heritage Banana Bread

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (or half a/p flour and half whole wheat)
1/2 tespoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder (a pinch more if you are using whole wheat flour)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3/4 - 7/8 cup sugar (depending on how sweet your bananas are)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
2 very ripe, mashed bananas (about 3/4 cup)
optional, 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (325 if you are using mini-loaf pans). Grease a regular loaf pan or three mini-loaf pans.

Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt together. Cream butter; gradually add sugar and cream until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, vanilla and lemon rind. Add flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the yogurt. Stir in mashed banana (and nuts if desired). Spread into pan(s) and bake one hour for a regular loaf, 45 minutes for mini loaves, or until top springs back when lightly touched and a tooth pick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then turn out on a wire rack to cool completely.

I've doubled this recipe successfully, but my mixer is too small to take a tripling.


The state of Virginia took a beating from Hurricane Isabel, and the Two Sleepy Mommies report that at least one of our resident St. Blog's families is without water -- Davey and his mommy and daddy. Neither Chirp nor Honk loaded for me this a.m., and I do hope this doesn't mean they are without power as well. Prayers offered for their safety, nurishment and all as Isabel's aftermath comes to a close.


Thursday, September 18, 2003

Fr. Rob has posted everything I could have hoped to say about Terri Schiavo if I was even remotely articulate. Please go read his comments. Also, check out this prayer written by The Mighty Barrister, various input from Amy Welborn and commentators at Open Book, more thoughts and comments from Two Sleepy Mommies, and the web site established by Terri's parents, which includes some very moving photos of this very alive woman whom a judge just sentenced to death.

I urge you to join with so many of us who are praying that Terri's life will be preserved!


Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Those of you in Hurricane Isabel's path, please know that I am praying for your safety and a quick end to the storm.


Okay, this story has me a bit miffed. The gist of it is, a student gets accepted to two prestigious universities, one of which offers a better financial aid package than the other. Her parents are divorced. Her mom agrees that she should go to the school she likes best, which happens to be the one that offers the lesser financial aid package. Her dad wants her to go to the cheaper of the two options. It goes to court, and the dad is ordered to pay double what he wants to pay, so his daughter can go to the school she wants to go to. The difference between his share for the cheaper school and the desired school is $3,000 per year.

First of all, I don't think parents are necessarily obligated to pay for a child's college tuition, if only because the children have usually become adults by the time college is an option, and they ought to be responsible for the costs they incur at that point. Helping a child pay for college is a nice thing to do, but not everybody can afford it. I paid my own way to college (and it wasn't cheap). My husband and I together paid for him to finish his college education, and we're still paying back the loans he took out before we were married, when he was paying for it by himself. Right now, we have one savings account earmarked for college, but it only has about $1,000 in it and it's been a long time since we had any extra to put into it. I don't think it's going to go very far divided three ways (and who knows if we'll have to split it up even more than that?). My kids are very likely going to have to do what I did when I chose to go to college -- get scholarships, work before and during college, scrimp on everything and try to take as few loans as possible. But we'll be as supportive as we can be, financially or otherwise.

However, if parents have said they are willing to help with college, then I don't think they should dictate which school the child chooses. Every student is different, with different needs. I assume this bright young woman who had two prestigious schools to choose from had good reason for choosing one or the other. And by that I don't mean, "My boyfriend is going there," but "They have a better curriculum for my chosen major," or "They have a better professor-student ratio," or something like that. I think it would be okay for the dad to place conditions on the child as far as maintaining a specific GPA, contributing her own money via a job on or off campus, etc., but I don't think he should be dictating the choice of school based solely on financial issues.

Also, I don't think any parent should be forced to give more than they can actually afford -- I don't know if the court system had taken the fellow's income into account, but they should have. Now in this case, we are talking an extra $250 a month. I couldn't scrape that together myself right now, and I don't know if this guy can or can't. If he can do it, I don't know what he's complaining about. If he can't, how can the courts order him to do it?

I know parents can be unreasonable in their expectations regarding college education. About a year and a half ago, I taught one class at the local university as an adjunct professor, and I ran into this with one particular student. He was a great kid but extremely unmotivated -- at 23 he was still a junior and he openly admitted to me that he didn't want to learn the material in the class, he was just there because it was required for his major. By semester's end, I couldn't pass the kid -- he just hadn't learned enough to earn the points he needed.

He and I had a long talk about it, and when I had a better understanding of his career goals, I suggested a nearby trade school. I had good reason to do so -- in his particular career of choice, the local industry actually preferred the two-year trade school degree to the four-year university degree, because the trade school students had a more focussed, comprehensive education that made them better employees right from the start. I told him -- truthfully -- he would be better trained and have a better chance at starting his career if he switched to the trade school...which, by the way, is about the same cost as the state university.

Initially, he thanked me for the advice, and I thought he'd be transferring. But his parents blew a gasket at the whole idea. The mother called me personally to complain that I had suggested such a thing. I explained the industry preference for the trade school, but she couldn't believe that I could be right about it, despite the fact that I have connections to the industry and she doesn't. The father went to the chairman of the department to complain and threatened to go to the dean. The next thing I knew, this student's non-passing grade was overruled (even though he had not demonstrated that he deserved to pass the course) and he was able to proceed with his studies at the university. He graduated last May...with a fairly worthless degree that he neither wanted nor earned, and which will not bode well for him in the job market.

Meanwhile, I've not been invited back to teach at that school, and honestly, I'm not holding my breath that the phone will ever ring. Anyway, I'm not sure I want to teach for a university that is willing to pass students who haven't learned the material, just because their mommies and daddies make a stink. I worked too hard for my own college education to put up with that.


Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Updated the links to the right, at long last. A few newly found blogs listed there, and some that I have enjoyed for a long time but neglected to put up sooner.


Scones for breakfast this morning. I like these because they're fairly healthy and not too sweet, but easy to eat. A nice change of pace. My recipe is called "Scottish Oat Scones" but I don't know for sure how Scottish they really are.

Scottish Oat Scones

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/4 cups oats (quick oats for finer texture, rolled oats if you like things grainy)
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup melted butter
1/3 cup milk
1 large egg, beaten

1/2 cup dried currants or raisins

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Melt butter. Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in butter, then milk and egg. Stir just till moistened, then stir in dried fruit.

Turn dough out onto a non-stick cookie sheet and pat into a large circle about 3/4" high. With a rubber spatula, separate the circle into 8 or 12 wedges. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until lightly golden.

For the record, I usually leave out the cream of tartar, which makes for a crumbly texture. I tend to eat these on the run so I prefer them to be more cake-like (less messy). Also, instead of making one big disc divided into wedges, I usually make 9 individual discs, also 3/4" high, which adds to the "portability." I imagine any dried fruit would work, as long as it was small pieces. I plan on trying dried apples this fall and dried cranberries at Christmas time -- I'm thinking about making baskets with fixings for Christmas breakfast, like a hot drink mix, scones, sweet bread, biscotti, a small bag of good quality coffee, and some fruit. September and planning for Christmas gifts already!


Monday, September 15, 2003

Well, Real Simple magazine did indeed respond to the many letters it received on the "Breastfeeding is a Waste of Time" bit they published in August.

They back-peddled. Take a look:

By saying that no great harm will come to your child if you are unable to breast-feed, Real Simple is not implying that it is better to forgo nursing. (In fact, in the article we clearly outline the benefits.) But not all mothers are able to nurse for the 12 months recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The advice in the article is intended for those women — women who sincerely want to do the right thing but are defeated by circumstance and subsequently saddled by guilt. In no way are we suggesting that breast-feeding is a waste of time.

Um, okay. Funny, though, that the whole article was about time-wasters we could all do without. That was the gist of the piece, and breastfeeding was right in there with how you get food at the movie theatre (Wait in line to buy their snacks? Not when you can smuggle your own Twizzlers in your purse!) or what to serve with dinner (Out of red wine and serving beef? No need to go to the store -- just pour the white and forget about it!), so I don't think those of us who were appalled were mistaken in any way.

By the way, they say they published a "sampling" of the letters, but it looks pretty 50/50 to me. Funny, in my circles, I would have expected they would have received an onslaught of "You idiot!" letters and very few of the "Good for you" variety. But hey, I don't work at that magazine, so what do I know?

Thanks to Mommies at Law for the update. Good commentary over there, btw.


UPDATE 9/16/03: The on-line community for Mothering magazine is having a field day with this. In fact, the Real Simple website was asking for readers' best tips for saving time during the holidays, and a bunch of the Mothering group wrote in to suggest "breastfeeding" as their top tips, hee hee hee! Since then, Real Simple has changed the question to something about the most useful gift you've ever received. Boy, did they underestimate their audience.

We went out to the farm yesterday, as my husband's grandparents were visiting and our kids don't get to see their great-grandparents nearly enough. However, by the end of October, they'll be moving back up here. They are my mother-in-law's parents, but my father-in-law is welcoming them to the farm, and they are having a manufactured home put up across the lane from the farm house. It will be nice to have them closer -- Grandma just turned 85 and Grandpa is a couple years younger, and they are just getting to the point where they need a little extra help in day-to-day things.

I asked my father-in-law about his crops. They got 8.25 inches of rain in three days last week, and at this stage of the game, that could have been bad news. It would have been great in July but the crops are supposed to be drying out now, in preparation for harvest. At one point, my father-in-law's best stand of soybeans was underwater, but he said the ground soaked it up pretty quickly, and he's not worried about losing too much to that. He thinks he'll do okay on corn, too, although he's got a little corn borer damage out there.

A corn borer is a nusiance worm that drills into the corn stalk, causing it to pretty much break off at that point. If the corn borer goes in above the ear, just the top of the stalk breaks off and it doesn't affect harvest. My father-in-law thinks most of his corn borer damage is above the ear like that, but he knows he's lost a little due to lower entry.

I have more to say on all this, but I don't feel like putting on my Wendell Berry hat for the moment. I've got a couple things bothering me this morning. While we were out at the farm, we found out that my brother-in-law's wife is "taking a break" and has left him and their daughter for a couple of weeks "vacation." So their temporary separation continues (she and their little girl have been living with her parents while he has been redoing the wood floors of their recently-purchased house). I'm nervous about it. It's hard to work through your problems when you don't have to face them every day. And I'm getting a vibe that she thinks it will be too hard to stay, although I haven't had the opportunity to speak with her personally.

Also, my mother called and my parents want to come visit next month. They were just here in late June, and we're accustomed to only seeing them once a year for various reasons -- most of them good ones. I'm not sure how to handle the request, and I always hate being in the middle of these things. My husband doesn't want them to come -- neither do I, really, but I wonder if they don't have some reason for wanting to visit again so soon? And I'm feeling a little guilty because I just told them I'm expecting another baby last week. Part of me knows I shouldn't have waited so long -- I was already half-way when I told them. I waited because I was expecting a lot of negative comments like, "It's too soon for another" or "You're too old" or "You are going to abort this one if there is something wrong with it." And then I didn't get any of those comments. Maybe because my mom was too surprised that the baby is due in late January, not March or April like she had anticipated.

So anyway, it's a struggle. I feel the obligation to be hospitable and charitable to them, but I don't want them here. I know I just blogged about this like last week, but I've only grown to the point where I can handle the idea of them being in Heaven, in a perfected state. Interacting with them on earth is still an issue.

Always more room to grow, always more of the "old man" to kill off so I can live for Christ. Ugggggh!


Friday, September 12, 2003

When June Carter Cash passed away last May, I took one look at the photo of her husband, Johnny Cash sitting in a wheelchair at the funeral, and I knew it wouldn't be long before he left this world, too. People who love each other like Johnny and June did can't be separated for long. Read some of the poems June wrote for Johnny and you'll see what I mean.

My paternal grandparents had a relationship like that. And oddly enough, it's just been the 18th anniversary of their passings.

My grandma, Vivian, had been orphaned at the age of 9, and as was the custom of the day, she was passed around from relative to relative as it was convenient for them to have an extra helper around the house. At 12, she married a 27-year-old man named Bill something-or-other, just to put an end to the craziness. I don't know what Bill was thinking, but it was the 1920s, so maybe it wasn't all that unusual to take a child bride. They had three sons, Billy was born when Vivian was 13, Johnny came a year later, and Bobby was born shortly after her 16th birthday. Then the diptheria epidemic hit, and Billy came down with it. Vivian and the boys were quarantined in the house while Bill was at work one day. He came home and saw the yellow notice on the door, then shouted to Vivian through the window, "I'll be back when it's over."

Then 18 years old, Vivian did the best she could, nursing her boys. Johnny and Bobby had lighter cases of the disease, but no matter what she did, Billy got worse and worse. When he died, she sewed his body up in a white sheet and the city wagon came to take him away, to be buried in a mass grave with other diptheria victims from poor families. Even if there had been a funeral, Vivian couldn't have gone -- she and the other boys were still quarantined. I asked her once why she didn't get sick too, and she said, "My boys needed me."

When the quarantine was finally lifted, Bill never came back. Vivian didn't know what had happened to him -- if he'd caught the diptheria and died, or if he'd just run out on her. Regardless, she didn't have a choice. She had to impose on family again, taking her two young boys with her to live in an aunt's back bedroom while she went to work in a factory. They moved a lot -- never staying more than a couple months with one relative or another.

They were actually staying with friends, not family, when Vivian met a young swank who was pals with her co-worker's husband. He was a taxi driver who owned his own cab and came to call wearing a tuxedo and a silk top hat. He tried to speak with Vivian, but she was too sensible to pay any mind to a fop like that. Plus he was in his late twenties -- what a man like that was doing without a wife and family, she couldn't say. Or maybe she was remembering the last man in his late twenties who wanted to pay her some attention. Besides, Vivian had two little boys to think about.

Well, the taxi driver -- Jim -- wouldn't give up. He came to call on weekends with a ukelele, singing "Let Me Call You Sweetheart." During the week, he would stand outside the factory at the end of her shift offering a flower or a bag of candy. "Save your money," Vivian told him. "A woman like me who is trying to keep food on the table has no need for sweets." The next day, he came bearing a loaf of bread and a quarter pound of cheese, festooned with a yellow ribbon.

She laughed.

He kept coming to walk her home after work. She was amazed by Jim's persistance -- suspiciously at first. She wouldn't let him talk to the boys, or take them to baseball games or buy them things. But part of her knew she needed a man to help her keep the boys in line. Johnny was only six and already getting into fist-fights and smoking cigarette stubs he found in the street.

One day, Jim showed up at the end of her shift with a brand-new dress and a marriage license. "I hope you'll do me the honor of marrying me," he said.

Vivian looked at him like he was nuts. "How'd you get a marriage license without me signing it?" she demanded.

His eyes twinkled. "I paid the feller a dollar and he let me forge your name."

This time, she didn't laugh. "Please, Viv," he begged, dropping down on his knees. "I love you, and I never want to be without you. I want to be a father to your boys. I want us to have a home of our own."

They walked and talked all night. Then they took Jim's taxi down to the justice of the peace and were married. And then they went looking for an apartment -- turned out this dandy of a fellow who seemed to have it made lived in his cab and only had two suits of clothes, his driver uniform and his tuxedo. But Vivian didn't mind so much, because she'd been poor all her life. She loved Jim, and she knew they'd be together forever.

A year later, Jimmy was born -- my dad. Five years after that, Vivian had her first daughter, and then another boy followed two years later. Jim and Vivian were always crazy about each other, always together. Though there were many hard times, they found a way to keep their family afloat.

They dreamed of buying a house of their own in the country, and they saved spare change in tin cans to make that dream a reality. They tried to put something away every week. Sometimes, they had to empty out a jar to pay for a medical bill or what not, but they kept the dream alive. When Jim was 62 and Viv was 57, they were finally able to retire from factory work and move out of the city. They found a little house in central Illinois and paid cash for it -- nickles, dimes, pennies and quarters.

Ten years later, Viv was stricken with liver cancer. She started chemo and radiation, but she only made it six months. The family and friends from Chicago crowded into the funeral home with so many folks from the little town who had grown to love Jim and Viv. And then at the gravesite, as the last words were spoken, Jim stood up shakily and put a hand on Viv's coffin and sang "Let Me Call You Sweetheart" to her, one last time.

Ten weeks later, Jim slipped away in his sleep. He couldn't live without Vivian. Or at least, he didn't want to. A marriage like that -- two people, one flesh for about half a century, how could he? I think Johnny Cash must have felt the same way.

Rest in peace, Grandma and Grandpa. Rest in peace, June and Johnny.


Boy, I'm long-winded these days. Look at the size of these posts! But for all of you who are still hanging with me, I appreciate it.


Thursday, September 11, 2003

How I learned to pray after 9/11

I think nearly every single American was horrified by the attacks of this day two years ago. Like so many others, I still remember how I learned the news of the first plane and assumed it was an accident…then how the second plane’s strike made it abundantly clear that our country was under attack.

At the time, there was so much horror and loss to consider I could hardly process it all. And as a mom, I found myself in those first few days focussing on the children.

There were only a handful of children who were killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Three were schoolchildren, accompanied by their teachers on a plane bound for California. Perhaps the best students in their classes, who had won this trip as a result of their hard work.

Then there was a pair of sisters on their way to an exciting vacation with their parents. Two other girls, each travelling with her parents. A little boy travelling with his.

Beautiful, innocent children…lives cut short by suicidal madmen, dying in untold fear.

As I read their names and ages in the victim lists, I wept and prayed that somehow, parents or other caring adults were able to calm these children in their final moments. I wanted someone to have told them not to be afraid, that the worst would soon be over, that God’s mercy awaited them.

In the weeks that followed, I was obsessed by the other children wounded on that day – children who had lost their parents on planes or in the Pentagon or in the World Trade Center towers. Children who had to face the sudden, senseless death of their moms or dads. Were there any who lost both parents? I’ve never been able to find out.

Then the witnesses, the children in the elementary school that sat in the towers’ shadow, who saw the attacks, who saw people falling from the upper floors, who saw the towers collapse and fled with their teachers.

A woman who was part of an on-line community I belong to was dropping her first-grade daughter off at that school when the first plane hit. She stayed at the school, trying to reach her husband on a cell phone to tell him not to go into work at the South Tower but she never could reach him. When the first skyscraper buckled, she snatched her daughter out of the classroom and ran, ran, ran as fast as she could to the north. Covered in ashes, mother and daughter finally met up with the husband and father 25 blocks north. He’d been held up and hadn’t made it to the office before the planes hit. He’d been running north, too. Even though they were all safe, the daughter was forever changed after 9/11. Witnessing it without personal loss was horror enough for a child.

My son was two years old at the time, and I failed to shield him from the events as well as I could have. He saw the taped footage of planes hitting the towers. He wanted to talk about it. My husband told him, "It makes me very sad that this happened. It makes Mom sad. It makes everybody sad." After that, we kept the television off when he was awake.

As our nation prepared to answer the attacks, I thought about the other children who would surely die as a result. Children always seem to be caught in the crossfire in any war, and that has proved true in the war with Iraq. And suddenly, I had to face the realization that this could happen to my child. The same senseless death, by terrorism or by war.

It’s a hard thing for a mother. We have these babies (or adopt them) and our main goal from there on out is to keep that child alive and safe from harm. And now I had to accept the fact that I really couldn’t guarantee that my child would always be safe. The best I can do is to teach my kids to love the Lord and trust in Him when their time comes.

The way I pray for my children changed forever on September 11, 2001. Now I pray, "Lord, let them be courageous in the face of death, and let them die at peace with You."

I pray this way because whether my children die in this conflict or die in some other untimely way, or die as wizened old people surrounded by loved ones, courage and peace with God will be the only things they need…

…the only things that any of us will need.

Please, as you remember the souls of those lost this day two years ago, remember these children by name.

Christine Lee Hanson, age 2.
David Reed Gamboa Brandhorst, age 3
Dana Falkenberg, age 3
Juliana Valentine McCourt, age 4
Zoe Falkenberg, age 8
Bernard Curtis Brown II, age 11
Asia S. Cottom, age 11
Rodney Dickens, age 11

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

I completely forgot to blog yesterday, but I meant to write about our first "Home and School" meeting for St. Mary's School. This is something like a Parent-Teacher Association in public schools.

We've already figured out that the parents are an integral part of the education system at St. Mary's. Even if a parent tried to just drop their kids off in the morning and that's it, I don't think the school would let them get away with it. In fact, they give you a sign-up sheet with a lot of creative options as to how you can help. If you've got little ones at home or a day job and can't read to the younger grades or help on a field trip, you can make posters or stuff envelopes on your own time, or come in on Saturday to help take all the cans to the recycling center (the kids bring in cans every Friday, and they are traded for cash which is used to buy library books). Or take one long weekend during the summer to help paint a classroom.

This is a whole new experience for my husband and I, especially since neither one of us had parents who did anything at our schools at all, except sign report cards and go to an occasional parent-teacher conference.

We were both surprised to find out that the president of the school board this year is a rather famous former city councilman. He's famous because he was elected on a Democratic ticket, but while still in office, he "got religion" and switched to pro-life, casting his vote against continued city funding of the one-and-only local abortion clinic. At the time, we'd thought "getting religion" meant it was a fundamentalist kind of religion. We had no idea he'd "gotten" Catholic. Anyway, he got booted out of the city council by his district at the next election, but I guess the city's loss is the school's gain.

The meeting itself was short, being the first of the year. Father introduced the faculty and office staff, recognized the out-going board members and introduced the new ones. Then the parents were all free to have a look at the classrooms and meet the teachers, if they hadn't already done so.

Oh, and we ate, pot-luck. It's kind of funny to call it that now, because when I was a fundamentalist, such church-sponsored meals were called "pot-blessings." Anyway, everybody was supposed to bring a dish that reflected their family's ethnic heritage. I was really looking forward to this meal, because our school is very multi-cultural and I just love sampling foods from other countries, and now that my morning sickness is about over, I was ready for some culinary adventure. I was not at all disappointed. There were more things than I could put on my plate, but it was a fun mix of Vietnamese, Cambodian, Italian, Mexican, etc., etc., dishes. Actually, I was a little disappointed that there apparently was no Thai family represented -- I adore Thai food. One family brought sausage and sauerkraut, just like my German grandma used to make (although I didn't take a chance with my stomach on that this time). There were also the usual Nebraska farm-style offerings, like homemade mac and cheese and sweet-and-sour meatballs (not Asian -- they're made with grape jelly and ketchup out here). Plus a couple funny things like pizza from a carry-out shop and fried chicken from the deli counter.

I brought Irish Stew. It turned out really well and I was surprised that there weren't many leftovers. Here's the recipe if you are one of those recipe types out in St. Blog's...

Irish Beef Stew

1 lb. thick-sliced bacon, diced
4 lbs beef stewing meat, cubed (2")
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, diced
1/2 cup water
4 cups beef stock
3 cups diced carrots
3 diced potatoes
2 large onions, chopped
1 tsp dried thyme
2 bay leaves
6-8 oz. Guinness Stout Ale
Salt and pepper to taste.

In a cast iron skillet, saute bacon until crisp. With slotted spoon, remove bacon to paper towels to drain, reserving as much fat as you can in the pan. Mix the flour, salt and pepper, coat the beef pieces. Brown the meat in the bacon fat (I had to add a little olive oil in the end). Remove meat to paper towels to drain. Saute the garlic and onion in the remaining bacon fat until the onion starts to turn translucent. Deglaze the skillet with 1/2 cup water, scraping as much of the drippings up as you can. Transfer to stock pot, add bacon, beef and beef stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer covered for 1.5 hours or until the meat is tender. Add carrots, potatoes, onion, thyme, bay leaves and ale. Simmer 20-30 minutes, or until veggies are tender. Taste and correct seasoning if need be.

Tastes best if refrigerated overnight and heated up the next day! My recipe says it serves 10, but I think it's more like 16.

See my Weather Pixie today? She's holding an umbrella! Rain, rain, glorious rain! It's fairly slow and steady, and there are those medium-grey clouds blanketing the sky, the kind that you think might mean it will rain all day. Hurray! And thank you, Lord.

We'd have to get a whole lot of rain over the next several days to bring us even with expected rainfall for the year, and more than that to get us out of the "extreme drought" conditions that we're in, but this is a start.

It's too late for most crops out here, by the way. I won't have a complete harvest update until October, but I'll find out what I can this month. I know there are a lot of farmers out there sighing, "Too little, too late," but if we have a good rainy fall, it will put them all in better shape for next season.


Friday, September 05, 2003

Just got back from the doctor's office -- had a good prenatal check-up. The baby's heart sound strong, my blood pressure was good. Everything seems to be progressing nicely. I'm not anemic any more, either, thanks to being able to eat meat again. Well, only well-done beef, but heck, that's better than trying to make up the difference in refritos. Maybe we'll get to poultry in a month or so. No worries about the CPC for now -- another ultrasound will be scheduled for the last week of September, and I'll just leave it to God for now. I am still praying, but not only for myself -- for all expecting moms who are facing uncertainty and/or difficult diagnosis.

When I picked Zooey up from St. Mary's preschool this morning, he was all excited because two third-graders had visited their classroom to tell them all about the coming celebration for the Holy Mother's birthday on Monday. "I get to go to Mary's birthday party!" Zooey shouted with glee.

Quick -- somebody tell this haven't-been-Catholic-long-enough mom what sorts of traditions, etc. are observed for this special day? Any particular meals, decorations, etc.? I want so much to build a "Catholic Culture" into our home ... just don't really know how at this point.


Thursday, September 04, 2003

I've been mulling over the execution of Paul Hill for the last couple of days, wondering if I should even make an attempt to blog anything worthwhile about it. It's been hard to sort out all my feelings about it, but as I have been preparing to make another confession, our Merciful Lord has provided me some clarity of thought, and I really do think I have something to say after all.

Leaving aside the whole "How can a pro-life person commit two murders without regret?" thing (it's addressed on plenty of other blogs and on-line communities), I find myself peculiarly interested in the speculation of Mr. Hill's current (post-execution) state. Mr. Hill, his pastor, and his family are all convinced he's enjoying a great reward in heaven. I've read some Catholics speculate as to Mr. Hill's surprise to find himself in purgatory with a long, arduous journey ahead of him before he can reach the gates. And then there are a whole lot of people from all different faith/non-faith traditions who think his soul is burning in hell as we speak. One fellow on an electronic bulletin board posted, "Geoghan will be there to greet him."

I thought about this a lot since reading those words. And it occurred to me that what people are really saying -- between the lines -- is, "I don't want heaven tainted with the likes of him!"

I have to say, I understand the sentiment. There are some people who have walked this earth that make me recoil inside. I wouldn't want to stand in line behind them at the Safeway, let alone spend eternity with them.

But therein lies the problem.

I am closely related to two people whom I don't like. Throughout my life, they have been alternately abused me or dismissed me as a non-entity. I have long considered them people without honor and I've done just about everything I can do to remove myself from all association with them. This is not to say I don't forgive them -- I do. But forgiving them hasn't changed their behavior and probably never will. And I've got two little kids now, plus another on the way, whom I must protect from the potential abuse this pair can dish out.

Trouble is, they are my parents.

You don't get to pick your parents. You're stuck with who you've got. I got a couple who I honestly believe probably should never have been parents. I say this after 38 years of reflection on who they are and how they behave, with the added advantage of being a parent myself now. I wasn't raised properly -- I wasn't taught to say please, to do my chores properly, to be kind to my siblings, to be industrious, to be honest, to be modest, to respect authority, etc., etc., etc. The whole concept of "family" was perfectly meaningless to me until I took a job as a nanny and watched how other parents and siblings operate.

But hey, that's the lot I was given, and I haven't let it rule my life. I put my childhood experiences aside and came to know God and learned from other people what a family is supposed to be. I'm different from my parents. My marriage is different from theirs. The family my husband and I created is different from the one I grew up in. And in a lot of ways, I thought I was over it.

Except for one thing. I haven't been able to bring myself to pray for my parents' souls. Oh, I've given lip-service to it here and there since becoming a Christian 14 years ago. But to be honest, I simply don't want to see them in heaven. I don't want to have to deal with them for all eternity.

And that's a sin.

I mean, really. What is it to me if my parents or Paul Hill or John Geoghan are eventually welcomed into Heaven by God? Do I think He is so foolish as to allow somebody into His presence who shouldn't be there? Do I think somehow that I will have to go through the purification process but they won't?

Well. I'm off to work this through with a priest and to do my penance and change my ways. Regardless of how I feel about my parents...or Paul Hill or Geoghan...their souls are precious to God. It is such a little thing to pray for a person -- takes hardly any effort at all. I need not let my own sinful attitudes prevent me from offering such a small act of charity.


Wednesday, September 03, 2003

I'm thinking about writing a note to our Bishop, just to say thanks for everything and all that. Does anybody know how one phrases the salutation in such a letter? "Dear Bishop..." sounds sorta funny. But maybe that's just because I've never written a letter to a Bishop before.


Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Kathy clued me in on this great post by Christine over at Christus Victor, on the difference between the Protestant and the Catholic approaches to worship. Please pop over and read it!.


Monday, September 01, 2003

Remember that poor mentally disabled woman in Florida who became pregnant due to rape? Her guardian (or somebody) was trying to procure an abortion for her, since the woman has "the mental capacity of a preschooler." Gov. Jeb Bush sought to have the courts appointa guardian for the unborn baby, but failed. Anyway, the case got tied up in courts and the woman gave birth to a baby girl on Saturday, via C-Section. The baby is now in custody of the state, and I hope they will be able to handle the parental rights bit soon, so the baby can be adopted.

I'm just grateful the child was saved!