October 30, 2012

Have You Met Sandy?

There she is. 

We live far enough away from the east coast that moderately gusty winds are all we will see from Hurricane Sandy. My dear hubby, on the other hand, is right in the thick of it. We have been able to keep in touch via email and brief, broken-up phone calls. He keeps reassuring me that they are perfectly safe and I keep praying, convinced that they are not. We are a well balanced team, he and I.

I talked to Matt this morning. The storm is still raging, but it looks like the worst is over. Matt was on duty yesterday and all through the night. He had to walk the lines (massive mooring lines) at least once an hour. Outside. On the pier. In the wind and rain. With waves crashing over him. Let me say that again. WITH WAVES CRASHING OVER HIM. Yeah. Just the kind of thing a wife likes to hear.

He did have a couple funny stories to relate. Both involve working to secure the lines. At one point he and and one other were really struggling to (Here's where I admit that despite 23 years as a Navy wife I still don't remember most of the technical terms.) wrap the line around a ... thingy.  A voice behind them asked what he was doing. Thinking it was another guy from duty section he responded in true boatswain's mate fashion - a.k.a. my hubby can cuss like a sailor. 

"I'm trying to get this #@%$@ line wrapped around this #@$&! Why don't you grab a hold and help instead of @#$! standing there?" 

The voice replied, "Hellooo. Captain."

Sure enough it was the C.O. He laughed it off and told Matt to carry on.  Personally, I think he should have lent a hand - captain or not.

I think I enjoyed the second story better. Yesterday they lost a line and had to get a new one attached. Eight less experienced sailors were hauling on a line trying to pull the heavy thing across the pier and attach it to a cleat (?). Handling mooring lines looks something like this:

Disclosure: This is not my husband's ship.

Only it was not a pleasant, sunny day. The weather was more like this:

Disclaimer: This is not my husband's pier.

They were taking too long, and tired, wet, and cold, Matt's patience washed away with the crashing waves. He had had enough. That was the moment he, as he calls it, "went Bosun on them". He grabbed the line away from them, told them to stand clear, and single-handedly hauled the line to the cleat and in a flash had it secured. The sailors stood, gaping at him. News travels fast and by the time he got to the foc'sle (area  inside the ship where he works) he was greeted by several seamen on their knees, bowing to him.

"We don't need to secure the ship to the pier. Just have Boats (his nickname) stand outside holding the lines!" 

It was a moment of silliness in the midst of a very tense day.

My husband is very strong, but he assures me this was simply his greater experience that allowed him to move that line on his own. "Anyone can do it if they know how." I tend to react more as the young seamen did. My hubby is my hero and I am amazed at the things he can do. Here he is on the ship:

My hubby. My hero.

We are keeping everyone still in Sandy's path in our prayers. I pray that the good Lord will send those in need an angel to lend a helping hand. Or at the very least, an experienced Boatswain's Mate.

September 27, 2012

Something Beautiful

Someone recently reminded me to listen to - to sing along with - praise music. "There is nothing like praising Our Lord to lift a hurting heart." What a blessing it was to bump into this recording. It's made even sweeter to my ears because I actually know these lovely girls. Enjoy.

September 25, 2012

Pea Soup, Angels, and a Birthday

I raised my eyebrows at the baby as the dog licked split pea soup off my socks. Joseph was throwing a fit for no apparent reason and had splattered my clothes with a spoonful of the thick, green stuff. Why do babies wake up so horribly cranky? I don't like waking up either, but you don't see me throwing a fit - or soup.

Perhaps today he had an excuse for tantrum throwing. Matt was home for a brief visit and left again in the blink of an eye. These past few days have felt so off. I know Joey feels the loss. We all do. The reason for Matt's visit was a happy one. He came to celebrate my 40th birthday, and celebrate we did, but first I had to bring him home from the airport.

I have never been a very confident driver, and driving long distances or through areas I am not completely familiar with cause my hands to get sweaty and my stomach to knot. The airport was over an hour away and the only route I knew was closed for road construction. It was also the middle of the night... and it was raining...hard. Really.

 I started on my way, nervously praying, straining my eyes in the darkness to see the deer I knew waited to spring in front of my car. I had looked up an alternate route and the map sat on the passenger seat beside me. The sound of the wipers swishing across the windshield was strangely calming. I was going to make it, on time, even. Minutes ticked by and as I drew closer to my destination, excitement took over. In a few moments I would see my husband! ROAD CLOSED. Wait. What?!?

I had forgotten to check for construction on this new route and there it was - orange cones, flashing lights, and everything. From where I sat I could see several other roads had likewise been blocked off. I had no idea which way to turn. I was a woman alone (wearing a skirt and heels, I might add), at night, in a strange part of town, and had the distinct displeasure of knowing Matt's plane had just landed without me there to greet it. 

Taking a chance, I made a turn down a side road and found a gas station. Oh relief! I would ask the attendant for directions! The lights were out. The station was empty. It was a little creepy.

"What do I do, God?"

A car pulled in around me and parked. Two women were inside. Women! Not scary! I pulled beside them and popped my head out the window. "I'm lost. I need to pick my husband up from the airport, but I can't find my way around the road work!" The response was immediate.

"I'll take you there. Just follow me."

She navigated through the maze of roadwork, driving slowly enough for me to follow, and several minutes later - the airport. Had I just been assisted by angels? I'm inclined to think so. But, whether angels or no, I am convinced they had been sent to help me. God is so good.

It was wonderful to see my husband again. (He had only been home for a week since May. Stinky ol' Navy...) I couldn't believe he had been able to come for my special day! He had planned something special. The following day I was instructed to pack a swimsuit and a dress, and off we went for a romantic overnight get-away.

The drive was beautiful. Fall color is just beginning to appear. For the first time in years I got to swim, really swim. (I'm usually too busy making sure children aren't drowning.) It was so much fun. We dressed for dinner and headed out to a local casino for a fabulous seafood buffet we'd heard about. Visions of crab legs danced in my head.

We're not gamblers and neither of us had been to a casino before. (I did peek inside one as a child.) We had no idea what it would be like. Once we arrived we headed straight for the restaurant only to be told there was a two-hour wait. How would we pass the time? (As if the casino didn't know.)

Matt ordered a margarita for me and while I sipped at the pretty drink we talked and people watched.

"Is this what old folks homes are like in Vegas?"

There were old ladies using walkers and old men on oxygen support (some puffing away on cigarettes) seated before slot machines with names like "Lucky Tornado" and "Million Dollar Goldfish". We walked past a craps table where a man with an extremely serious-looking expression rolled dice across a table.

"What exactly IS craps? It sounds naughty." I looked at Matt. He shrugged his shoulders. "I have no idea."

We passed blackjack tables and more slot machines. "We still have an hour and a half. Do you want to try a game?" Matt turned to a slot game called "Party Time" that featured a polar bear in a birthday hat. "It's your birthday. You try it. This one lets you make penny bets." He put a dollar bill in the slot. We must have looked ridiculous, pushing buttons at random. "What is 5 line?" "Don't know. Try it." "Hey, I won 45 cents! Hit the cash out button. I want out while I'm ahead." Yeah. I think I'm what they call a high roller.

Now it was Matt's turn. I chose a game for him and he put in the money. By now we had figured out which buttons to push and knew we could make this tiny amount of money last a long time. Then Matt pressed the button for the second time. A light began to flash and a bell sounded "cha-ching, cha-ching!" "What did you do?" I asked. "I think I won the jackpot." The numbers on the screen kept going up and when it finished our penny had turned into $26.70. "Cash out!" we laughed. Neither of us had any desire to continue. I don't think we would make good gamblers. "This will pay for dinner." Nice. Very nice.

Dinner was even better than we expected - crab legs, oysters on the half shell, smoked salmon, and even caviar! (Okay. The caviar was icky, but now I can say I've tried it.) And, thanks to that silly jackpot, it was on the house. I felt so spoiled.

On leaving we bumped into some friends...from church(!) who were just arriving. They looked at us and we looked at them. I had to laugh. "So, this is where all those sinning Catholics go - to the casino!" Of course word would get around. The very next day... No. The very next morning we met another man from our church and his first words to us were, "So I heard you two went to the casino."

The rest of Matt's visit was quieter and was over before we even had the chance to feel settled into his presence at home. Other deployments during Matt's 23 years in the Navy were so hard, but this one... this one is the hardest yet, with the possibility things will get harder still. Some days I am sure I have reached my limit and just don't have the strength to carry on. I'm leaning on my God. Sometimes I fear how much it will hurt before we are through, but I know He will see us through it.  I'm grateful Matt was here. I'm sorrowful that he has left. I feel like... I feel like... I feel like ... throwing pea soup!

August 30, 2012

In Defense of Trudging

William: Oi sir, what are you doing?
Chaucer: Uh... trudging. You know, trudging? To trudge: the slow, weary, depressing yet determined walk of a man who has nothing left in life except the impulse to simply soldier on.

Trudging. It feels as dreary as it sounds. When feeling overwhelmed, I must admit the thought of giving in - plopping down in a chair, closing my eyes, and ignoring the world -  flickers through my mind, (for all of about ten seconds.) 

"Ugh. Breathing. Not really feeling it today."

That is when reality (often in the form of my very busy toddler) smacks me on the forehead and demands that I get moving. Of course I must keep moving. I must plod onward. I must trudge ahead. There are children to care for, dishes and laundry to wash, lessons to plan, and lots and lots of lawn to mow. The wood needs to be split and stacked. The car needs an oil change. There's butter to churn. (Okay, not really.) There are fitted sheets to fold, toilet paper rolls to be changed (over, not under), and shoes to be found.  Oh, and then there is dinner to cook...

I think trudging gets a bad rap. Perhaps I would rather be seen as striding, cantering, or even sauntering through my day, but truly, trudging will do. Trudging implies an act of the will to keep moving when everything in you begs you to go take a nap. Trudging means I haven't given up entirely. Trudging means... Dare I say it? Hope. Yes, that's it. Hope. Hope that if I just keep on keeping on things will get better.  

Here's hoping that in time my trudging will give way to a forward motion that better resembles the slo-mo-hero-walk toward the camera. 

Oooh, yeah.

August 17, 2012

I Want This On A T-Shirt.

I laughed when I saw this on facebook. I have no idea who created it, but wanted to share it anyway. Don't we all need to be dragged a bit sometimes?

July 23, 2012

Fessing Up

Washing migraine pills down with a gulp of cold coffee is not my favorite way to start the day. I'd rather still be in bed. And it's not just the headache that's bothering me. The fact is I am a fraud. Despite my brave posturing, I have been the guest of honor at my very own pity party. And even though I have realized that fact, rather than ending the party, I'm still hanging decorations. Balloons? Streamers? Oh yeah. The works.

He left again. It was hard the first time. It was worse the second. Matt was with us for a week. A very short week. I reveled in it. I snuggled up to him on the couch, I sat beside him at the table, I watched as he played with our children. I washed his laundry. He made dinner. We stayed up late into the night catching up on all the little things that never made it into our phone conversations. It was happy and sad at the same time. Happy that he was home, sad that it wouldn't last. Sad that this had been the shorter separation and the next would be longer. Perhaps many months longer.

I usually try to look for the best in any situation or at the very least take on a "suck it up" attitude. I well know that there are so many who are facing difficulties I cannot even imagine. My piddly problems are so small in comparison, and yet, here I am feeling sorry for myself. Not just a little - I'm wallowing in it. Pitiful. Even worse, I'm not sure I want to feel better. Like a little kid who refuses to calm down and shouts, "No! I'm not done being mad!" How dumb is that? Even I'm rolling my eyes at me.

This isn't the first time I've fallen far short of the me I thought I was. I much prefer the heroic, virtuous woman I am in my own head. The imaginary me is awesome. The real one, not so much. I take comfort in knowing that my Lord is not surprised by my shortcomings. He knows all about my true self, and rather than pushing me away in disgust, He calls me to come closer. I am thankful.

I'm slowly shaking off off the depressing effects of my own self-pity. I am leaning hard on the knowledge that my God is beside me every step of the way and that His grace is sufficient. It's a good thing. Left on my own I'd probably be hanging a disco ball about now.

June 15, 2012

Talk of the Town

Did you add lime?


Did you mix in manure?


He scratched his head. I waved away a fly that kept buzzing my face. The seconds ticked by as the hot sun beat down on us. Quietly, I waited for the wisdom I knew would be forthcoming. He was an expert. At last he spoke.

Do you ever water them?

I tried to keep a straight face.

Water them? Do tomato plants need water?

He just stared at me 'til his wife nudged him in the ribs.

Of course she waters them, Dear.

This was embarrassing.

Earlier that morning another neighbor from the farm down the road had stopped by and I gathered the courage to ask his advice on my failing tomatoes. Farming here for most of his 70+ years, I figured that if anyone knew this soil and how to get things to grow in it, it would be him.

I had been so proud of the lush, healthy seedlings I started weeks before in my window sills. I carefully followed directions for hardening them off and planted them in much anticipation of a crop of the loveliest tomatoes anyone had ever seen. Oh, yes. This would show all my neighbors that I truly belonged out here in the country.

But there I was, asking if there was any way to save the spindly, shriveled up, pitiful remains of my plants. My neighbor tried very hard to encourage me, but I could see it on his face. There wasn't much hope for this novice gardener. He made a couple of suggestions (You could try some Miracle Grow.) then headed for his truck. As he drove off I thought I heard him saying something about stopping by another neighbor's to ask if they had any ideas. Surely not. I probably misheard him over the noise of the truck tires on the dirt driveway.

It didn't take long. I wanted to hide my face as a four-wheeler rumbled up my driveway. The man and his wife carried four good-sized leafy plants.

You like cherry tomatoes, don't you? We had too many. It was either throw them away or bring them to you.

The lie was meant to protect my pride. I had no use for that pride anymore. It quickly vaporized in the face of such kindness.

Thank you, yes! We love cherry tomatoes. *sigh* Come take a look at my garden. Maybe you can advise me.

We planted the tomatoes, covering them with empty plastic milk jugs with the bottoms removed. This would shelter them a bit while their roots became established in their new home.

We then visited for a good while. We discussed the merits of various soil additives and plant types. We talked about cows and dogs and children and chickens. I listened with interest to tidbits of information about the goings on in the neighborhood and town. They knew everybody it seemed, and everything about everybody, too. They weren't the only ones who knew. There were no secrets in this tiny town. I wondered how long it would take for the news of my tomato troubles to make the rounds. I didn't have long to wait.

A couple of days later we were asked over to see some newborn calves. I was introduced to a very nice young man who upon hearing my name politely asked how my tomatoes were doing.

Wow. I've never been famous before.

Just wait 'til they see my radishes.

May 30, 2012

He's A Genius I Tell You

Little Joey is just so smart and helpful.

It would never have occurred to me to use an entire bottle of baby shampoo to clean the bathroom floor. 

It only took me two large bath towels, a few million gallons of water, and 15 minutes on my hands and knees to create a large sparkling clean spot on the floor in front of the tub.

As a bonus, the room now smells like the top of a baby's head.


May 28, 2012

A Little Perspective

I know.
It's been a while.
I have an excuse.
There have been some CHANGES. *sigh*

I want to whine. I want to complain. I want to tell you how awful, lonely, hard, unfair it is; how I miss him so much it hurts to breathe. I want to sit in a corner and cry. (Oh. Wait. I guess I can check that one off the list.) I want the little peon responsible for my husband's oh-so-sudden-totally-not-expected-he's-too-close-to-retirement-and-they-promised-he-could-stay-put deployment (ugh) to come down with a bad case of poison ivy... in places he can't scratch in public. (Guess I still have to work on that whole not holding grudges thing.)

I Miss him!!!

But then comes a day that puts things into perspective.

Then comes Memorial Day.

Why? Why do people volunteer to serve their country instead of themselves? Why would anyone choose to sacrifice comfort, time with family, personal freedom, and sometimes even life itself?

It is the acknowledgement that there is something higher than self,

that liberty is worth fighting... and dying for, 

that the strong are compelled to protect the weak.

It is a God-given call to to confront evil with good whatever the cost,

and a call to hope for the future while honoring the past.

Yes, I do miss my husband. Our whole family feels the loss, but, God willing, it's temporary. Hard as it is, there is a reason he does what he does. We are proud of him and all who sacrifice to serve. Today we remember.

On this Memorial Day
Grant peace to the souls
of all those soldiers who died in war.
We remember the tears and grief of their families,
The pain of mothers, wives, husbands and children
Who lost precious loved ones.
To build a meaningful memorial to them,
We ask God to give us all the will
To work for peace around the world
So no more sons, daughters, husbands, wives, fathers, nor mothers
Are slaughtered by the guns and bombs of war.
We ask Mary, who held the lifeless body of her son
And was pierced by the sorrow of his suffering and death,
To grant us the compassion and wisdom to affirm life
And honor the dead through forgiveness and peace making.
May God have mercy on the souls of the departed.
Grant them peace, O Lord.
May we have mercy on the living.
Grant us peace, O Lord.
In Your name we pray.

April 8, 2012


He is risen!

Death is swallowed up in victory. 
O Death, where is your victory?
O Death, where is your sting?”

Happy Easter!

April 6, 2012

What True Love Looks Like

 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5: 7-8)

Blessed Good Friday

April 3, 2012


"You don't want that one," the lady told us as we gazed at the little black and white furball at our feet. "She's not very well behaved." The puppy wagged her tail and frantically kissed the faces of two-year-old Annie and baby Brendan.

"A better choice is this dog over here. She's already housebroken," the shelter lady insisted, pointing at an older dog cowering under the table. Hmmm...

As if to affirm the lady's argument, the puppy stopped licking the children, ran to the middle of the room and peed on the floor.

"We'll take her," I found myself saying. Ignoring the shelter lady's frown, we signed the paperwork and took our newest family member home.

We tried to call her Sadie, after a puppy I had as a child, but somehow the name just wouldn't stick. Every time we tried to say her name it came out "Sassy". After a couple of days, we gave in. Sassy it was. And despite what the shelter lady thought of her, she turned out to be one of the most gentle and well-mannered of dogs.

Annie and Sassy were instant friends. Annie would squish mud pies onto Sassy's head and Sassy would sit very still, only her tail softly swishing back and forth.

Annie and Sassy

Sassy held a soft spot for Brendan, too. Once when little Brendan was being scolded by his daddy, Sassy seated herself between them to shield her boy from his daddy's disapproval. Daddy couldn't help but smile at the sight.

Each new baby in our family was one more little one for Sassy to adore. She followed the twins and Mary everywhere they went, dancing with excitement when one of them would grab the leash. Sassy often walked over to baby Joseph to give him a little kiss on the top of his tiny head.

She traveled with us from Texas to New York, from Wisconsin to California and back. For 14 years she was at our sides giving the kind of love only dogs can, and we loved her back.

It's a sad day when a beloved pet dies. We miss her. Our home, full to overflowing, is now a little less full. We keep looking for her as we move about the house. I was looking for something under my bed and glanced at the spot she used to sleep, expecting to see her there. I teared up as I washed and put away her bowl. I stumbled over my words this morning. "Brendan, please feed the dogs...uh...dog... Please feed Hurley."


 Dogs were such a good idea, God. We are grateful for the ways our dogs have enriched our lives. Thank You for 14 years with our sweet Sassy-dog.

March 14, 2012

Little Joe Is One!

Some surprises are better than others.

Some joys are sweeter.

Some treasures more precious.

Some diversions more enchanting.

Some delights come straight from the hand of God.

On some birthdays - the presents are for everyone.

Happy Birthday, Joseph Michael!
God bless you always!!

March 10, 2012

Silver Linings

I laughed at the crunching noise my footsteps made in the snow. The few flakes lazily swirling through the air were bluffing and we all knew it. Winter's last gasp was drawing near and I held the proof of it clutched tightly in my arms. My garden seeds had arrived! Not just any garden seeds, these. I held heirloom gardens seeds, crossed off the list and put back on, researched, dreamed about, and finally purchased online at http://www.stclareseeds.com/

Walking back from the mailbox, I stole a glance at the spot that would one day hold Green Zebra Tomatoes, Sugar Baby Watermelons, and Cascadia Peas. Soon. Very soon.

A half dozen gardening books were stacked by my chair, atop them all, this book:

I consider it ammunition for upcoming battles. I would be prepared. I need only wait. And then... it happened! Snow was melting. Yes! So long, Winter! Don't let the door hit you on the tush on your way out.

Wait. What was all that wet stuff? A river in my yard? No! Slow down! Winter come back! I'm sorry. I didn't mean it. Why did you rush off like that? You needn't have departed so abruptly. I like long goodbyes. You could have stood in the doorway, one foot on the porch, s-l-o-w-l-y easing your way out. We could have chatted for another moment or two.


Thanks be to God, the water quickly receded. Sadly, what it left behind was much, much worse. I thought I knew mud. No. Oh, no. I did not. I have come to discover that in fact, mud is a four-letter word.

And it's not so much mud in the house I am dealing with - rather it's getting to the house in the first place. Or getting out. Our driveway has become one long mud slide, deep, thick, slippery...

Stepping outside our door, boots sink several inches down into the dark, oozy stuff. It slurps and sucks at each footstep in an attempt to glue you to the spot. It is also pleased to deftly flip you onto your backside, covering half of your body with enough crud to make several mud pies. Poor Brendan can attest to that. Just ask him. He'll love it.

Never one to be kept down for long, I decided to look for a bright side to our slimy mess. I found two reasons to be grateful about the mud. Yes, I did. The first is meeting some new (very nice) people, driveway gravel salesmen. The second stems from the fact that deep down, mud is cool. And it makes me look cool. You see, tough outdoorsy folks sometimes enjoy driving around in mud on purpose. They call it mudding. I know!

So, here's how I look at it. All that mud covering my van makes me look tough and outdoorsy, too. Yeah. It's given me more "street cred." Of course I take my family van (complete with baby seat and grahm cracker crumbs) off-road mudding.

"Cause that's how I roll, Baby!"

Oh yeah. Spring's gonna be a blast.

February 21, 2012

The Truth Comes Out

I have always loved watching wildlife from my windows. Along with all the cows, I've watched Bald Eagles and Wild Turkeys, squirrels and rabbits, and even the occasional wolf or bear. I've loved it all, but there is one animal who's visits have been particularly enjoyed. Deer.

They are so quiet and beautiful. A big buck showing off his spectacular headgear, small herds swiftly leaping over shrubbery while waving white tails in the air, pretty, young does walking slowly with their tiny, speckled fawns in tow - sometimes so well camouflaged I felt privileged to have spotted them at all.

Funny just how quickly things can change. Yesterday had me day-dreaming about shotguns, tree stands, and venison.

After moving from our tiny house in the woods to our little farm, I have come to see deer as the Jekyll and Hyde of the animal world. Deep in the woods they roam around happily, doing their deer thing, not bugging anyone. Out in the open fields, however, they undergo a drastic personality change, becoming needy, greedy, and even depressed. Yes. I said it. Our deer are depressed. Seeing no hope for life outside the forest, many of them become suicidal. (They also develop a hatred for motorized conveyances. This is a bad combination.) Loitering by the side of the road these bummed-out hoodlum deer wait for a vehicle to jump out in front of.  (One of our friends claims this as the reason she has lost every car she has ever owned - except one; that was when she hit a cow.)

Some of the deer do resist such an over-dramatic response to being "wood-less." They successfully head off the more severe depression by binge eating. They become furry, four-legged locusts clearing everything in their paths.  Our neighbor lost a fair bit of his corn crop last year to deer with the munchies. I felt bad for him. I really did, but since I wasn't the one who's fields were being eaten, I held on to my affection for the creatures. That has come to an end.

Last fall we planted four young apple trees. They were the first things we planted after moving in, and I felt they were special outdoor signs announcing to our new neighbors we were here to stay. I envisioned them years from now, gracefully spreading their fruit-laden branches over our driveway and picnic table. Now I realize we will have to fight to see this dream come true. The deer have found our trees. And they found them delicious. Did you know deer will eat the bark and tender young branches right off a baby tree? Even if said baby tree is...mine?

This is a problem. Not only do we wish to protect the trees we have already planted, we are also planning on beginning our apple orchard this year. They will all be at risk until they are larger. It will be like a candy store for deer!

I went straight to the Internet. Deer are a tricky pest, and other than fencing in our entire property with a VERY tall fence (How high can a deer jump? Make a guess - then double it.) complete with razor wire across the top, it seems nothing is entirely deer-proof. I have neither the money nor desire to make our farm look like a maximum security prison, so I believe some experimentation is in order.

The first solution suggested was urine.

"You want me to take the boys outside to pee on the trees," my husband asked. Oh our neighbors would love that.

"Actually, My Love, I believe the suggestion was to buy bottled coyote urine."

"How do the coyotes know to pee in the bottles?" He was laughing at me.

"Another idea is to scatter human hair around the trees," I read on.

"Well, I need a haircut now anyway, but once the orchard's in we'll have to shave the kids' heads, too. It's a good thing we have so many!"

I made a face at him. "So, what do you think we should do?" 

"No problem. I'll shoot 'em. I'll stay up all night, every night  lying in wait for them, then... BLAM-O! Venison burgers."

There were other suggestions: blood meal, mothballs, even stinky buckets of waste obtained from a local sewage treatment plant. Eeeeewwwwww!!!!! (I'll think about it.)

It seems I have a bit more research to do. If you have any ideas, feel free to throw them our way. In the meantime, keep an eye out for deer. Now you know the truth. And so do I.

February 17, 2012

Only Mostly Dead

First the "check engine" light came on. So, I checked. Yes, the engine was still there. A moment later a "hold" light lit up on the dash.

"Wow, Little Car! I didn't even know you had a light for that!"

The hold light began to flash - "hold, Hold, HOLD!"

Demanding little thing. I guess the car really meant it. I tried to sympathize.

"I know how you feel. Sometimes I need to be held, too."

My kind words were ignored. Little Car's demands became increasingly dramatic. Such a drama queen! She shuddered and slowed. My sympathies dissipated as she continued her display of ill temper. And that's when it happened. Everything stopped. Through the shock, a realization dawned upon me that Little Car was... dead.

Oh no. What do I do? Were Last Rites out of the question?

Matt came to take a look. He lifted the hood and asked me to turn the key. Little Car made a noise. A glimmer of hope! She wasn't dead dead. She was more what Miracle Max would call "mostly dead". That was good, 'cause mostly dead was slightly alive. There was still hope. If she had been all dead the best we could do is go through her seat cushions looking for loose change.

If only Miracle Max lived nearby. Oh, well. We have the next best thing. It's called Mechanic Steve. And Steves can be just as effective, with the added benefit of being less obnoxious.

February 14, 2012

Til Death Do Us Part

How will Matt and I celebrate this romantic day? Flowers? Chocolates? Sweet sentimental cards? Nah. All that stuff is so cliché. So what will we do?

Well... Matt says we can watch Walking Dead tonight. 
He's so romantic!

"Oh, can we?" *trying REALLY HARD to not roll my eyes*

Just so you know, I said yes. You see, there's nothing like zombies to show a woman how much you love her. (He once told me that if I ever turned into a flesh-eating zombie, he'd double tap me. Now that's love.)

Happy St. Valentine's Day, Honey!

February 11, 2012

And Now For Something Completely Different

No. Not Monty Python. (Extra points if you got that reference.) This is another animal altogether. So different, in fact, I feel a warning coming on.

Well, darn! That counts me out. Kind of awkward since I'm the one writing it. I know I usually write about kids, cows, and laundry but the topic today is the Church, contraception, and s-e-x. *gasp!* I know! I'll just have to avert my eyes as I write. That warning up there? I mean it. Last chance.

Still with me? Wow, you're brave.

Recently the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) made an announcement that, like it or not, all employers with more than 50 employees must provide health coverage for contraception and sterilization - or else!

The Catholic Church, with all of her hospitals, schools, universities, charitable organizations, etc. said, "Not gonna happen. Obeying would go against centuries of teaching, violate our consciences, and take away our religious liberty by preventing us from freely practicing what we believe." HHS responded, "You have one year to get used to the idea." To which the catholic bishops replied, "We think you need your hearing checked."

Along with calls, emails, petitions, etc., I have engaged in discussions with family, friends, and even complete strangers (some stranger than others) who have commented online regarding this news. While some agree this is, in fact, an attack on religious liberty in this country, most of their energy is expended in taking the Church to task for her stand on birth control. Apparently, any opportunity for Catholic-bashing is not to be wasted.

"Government shouldn't tell any religion what to believe or how to practice their faith, BUT..."

I could be annoyed the conversation is getting sidetracked, but filtering out the most obnoxious and ignorant comments, I see real questions and opinions that beg to be addressed. And opportunities for this kind of conversation are not to be wasted either.

Disclaimer: If you insist the issue is not about religious freedom, I'll wrestle you to the ground, sit on you,  and rub your head with my knuckles until you cry "mercy."
Also, Catholics are not the only ones speaking out against the mandate, but since I am Catholic that is the perspective I'll be writing from. No, I am not a theologian. I am a mom. I am, and always will be, learning. VOLUMES can and have been written on these subjects. I have not read every scrap of print that has been written on this subject, because... my days are almost completely filled with math lessons, doing dishes, and changing diapers. When I'm not doing those things I like to sleep.

Most comments fall into one of three categories:

  • "Why all the fuss? Why is the Church is taking such a stand? It's not like contraceptives are evil or anything. In fact, most Catholics use contraception, too."
  • "Natural Family Planning (NFP) is just Catholic birth control."
  • "Why does the Catholic Church think she can tell people what to do with their own bodies? What about the very poor around the world, women and families in desperate situations? The Church should not force them to keep having children they cannot provide for!"

Okay. Deep breath. Here we go:

"The Church doesn't say contraceptives are evil does she? Well, does she?"

Oh, man. Really? Do we have to go there?
Fine. I'll say it. I'll be the big meanie.
Yes. Yes she does. In the catechism, even.
Whew! There. Done. Short and sweet. So glad I used my Easy Button.

I'd love to leave it there. I really would. But I can't. There is just too much behind a statement like that to let it stand all alone. Perhaps evil seems too strong a word. Evil is just soooo...EVIL. (Cue creepy music.) Why would the Church use a word like that?

adj. e·vil·er, e·vil·est
1. Morally bad or wrong; wicked: an evil tyrant.
2. Causing ruin, injury, or pain; harmful: the evil effects of a poor diet.
3. Characterized by or indicating future misfortune; ominous.
4. Bad or blameworthy by report; infamous: an evil reputation.
5. Characterized by anger or spite; malicious: an evil temper.

For, well, just for-ever, the Church has maintained that contraception is morally wrong and causes injury, and harm to husbands, wives, and society at large. I'll not spend time here cataloging the physical harm certain forms of contraception can cause. (The harmfulness of artificial contraceptives like the pill or IUD have been thoroughly documented. The more these products are studied, the more health hazards are revealed. Don't believe me? Read the package inserts - like this one, or this one.)

I'd like instead to focus on the harmful effects of the contracepting mentality so prevalent today. In order to do that we should take a look at how the Catholic Church views sex.

Many people think Catholics have all sorts of hang-ups about sex; that we are taught the Church wants us to have as many babies as humanly possible all the while feeling horribly guilty because "sex is bad, dirty, and sinful." After all, everyone knows Church teachings about sex are made up by a bunch of fuddy-duddy old men who don't have sex anyway. It's all about control, and the world wanting none of it cries, "Stay out of our bedrooms!"  

What a bunch of hogwash. That sort of Puritanistic view has always been rejected by the Church.

"So, sex is good?" 
Nah. It's better than that. 
"Sex is great?" 
Getting closer. 
"Sex is amazing!" 
It can be pretty amazing, but no. 
Try this one on for size. Sex is holy.

Well that just sucked all the air out of the room, didn't it? Most of us, myself included, have a hard time thinking about sex in that way. We think of holiness as belonging solely to the spirit, and the body with it's senses, with it's messiness and frailties as somehow beneath any expression of holiness. We breeze past the part of scripture that tells us God looked at his creation and declared it good. Really good.

"So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it... God saw all that he had made, and it was very good." (Genesis 1:27-28,31)
See that? Our bodies are good - and not only good - as images of our Creator they are sacred. Our bodies, masculine and feminine, have a worth that is transcendent. They share in Divine goodness as signs created for and expressive of God's love for us. If we have trouble with that reading from Genesis, what then do we make of the poetic images of love, physical love, found in the Song of Solomon?

"How beautiful you are and how pleasing, my love, with your delights! Your stature is like that of the palm, and your breasts like clusters of fruit. I said, 'I will climb the palm tree; I will take hold of its fruit.' May your breasts be like clusters of grapes on the vine, the fragrance of your breath like apples, and your mouth like the best wine. May the wine go straight to my beloved, flowing gently over lips and teeth. I belong to my beloved, and his desire is for me." (Song of Solomon 7:6-10)

It's in the Bible, people. Look it up.

"Okay, so physical bodies and lovemaking are good, but how do you get from that to holy?"

Right here:

"Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it... So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loves his wife loves himself. For no man hates his own flesh; but nourishes and cherishes it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. " (Ephesians 5: 25, 28-32)

The union of Christ and His Church is imaged in the union of man and wife as one flesh. Christ gave totally of Himself to His Bride, the Church, holding nothing back, even His very life. He poured himself out completely, without reserve. His Bride joyfully receives that life, germinates, then brings to fruition what has been given to her. She brings Christ's presence to the world, united with Him as His body.

Husband and wife are called to that same unitive, sacrificial love. The physical human love expressed in marriage reflects an amazing truth about the way God loves us. In a very real way, during sex husband and wife become one flesh, one heart, one soul. They become part of each other. The husband, by virtue of his masculinity, shows the generative, life-giving power of God. The wife, by her very femininity, receives, then grows and brings forth that same life into the world. 
In loving each other, they acknowledge the essential goodness of each other's bodies, male and female. They affirm the essential goodness of their own bodies as they love the other without reserve. They love each other intimately and completely, not rejecting any part of their beloved. 

Sex bonds spouses to each other and opens the door for new life. Babies and bonding. Bonding and babies. Two sides of the same coin. When we try to separate the two what do we have? If sex is only for babies the beauty of the act itself is stripped away and our bodies are degraded from images of God to machines in a factory producing a product. The baby, rather than an expression of her parent's love, becomes an object, a possession to be owned.

If sex is only for bonding than how do we understand the necessity of egg and sperm in the creation of new life? The design of our bodies cannot simply be explained away, because we have no good use for it. Ask women (if you're particularly bold) why desire for sex is strongest when they're ovulating. Ask men (if you don't mind the strange looks they'll give you) why a woman is more attractive to them during that time. Sex is pleasurable by design. The arousal and desire are the motivation. The next generation is the purpose.

Everyone knows what body language is. When someone smiles, shrugs their shoulders, or makes rude gestures with their hands, others understand the message conveyed.

Our bodies speak during sex, too. We are speaking love and acceptance of the other. We speak a communion of total self-giving and trust. It is a language freely expressed and powerful in it's beauty. At least that is how it's supposed to be.

When we contracept we are speaking a message, too. Whether we realize it or not, we are saying "My love only goes so far. I give you a piece of myself, but not all of me", or "I love all of you - except that undesirable part." Contraception changes the language of sex. When purposely destroying or blocking that life giving power, we say to God, "I reject part of who you made me to be. I withhold it from you. I refuse to image the sign of Your love for the world." We can do that. God does not force us. The choice is ours.

In 1968  Pope Paul VI wrote  a little thing called Humanae Vitae. In it he warned of effects contraception would have on our society should they become readily available.
  1. Moral standards lowered across the board
  2. More adultery, more unwed mothers
  3. Women reduced to sexual objects
  4. Government coercion in reproductive matters
Sound familiar? 

"If that's really what the Church teaches, than why do so many Catholics use birth control?"

That's what I'd like to know. Really. Is it ignorance? There are many who just don't know what their Church teaches. Some may have never been told, some were clearly asleep, the rest probably had their fingers in their ears.  Without clear guidance they follow the culture around them. We need to fix that.

Could it be arrogance? "I know more about right and wrong than any old Church that's only been around for thousands of years." There are an abundance of so-called "cafeteria Catholics", who pick and choose what they want to believe. They form a religion of their own making while continuing to call themselves members of the Church. Their actions ask the question, "Can I not be Catholic and still be Catholic?"

Again, they have a choice. We all do. The Church is not forcing anyone to be Catholic. More like a loving parent, the Church teaches, she admonishes and explains, she implores us to follow the safe path, so that we will live life abundantly and avoid that which leads to harm. The Church says, "Don't run into the street or a big ol' truck will come along and turn you into a greasy smear on the asphalt. I don't want that to happen to you!" But, like any child, we can choose to go our own way and ignore the advice of our parents. We can run out of the safely-fenced backyard yelling, "I'll play where I choose. I want my freedooooom!" Oh, yeah. It's all fun and games until someone goes "Splat!"

"What if you can't feed your 72 kids, and you're homeless, and you have no money what-so-ever, and another pregnancy will cause sudden, instant, and even immediate death?" 

Don't laugh. I have actually been asked questions only slightly less hysterical. According to some of the folks I have engaged online, this ubiquitous problem presents only two options - 
Birth Control or Death
That's it.   

So, are there ever reasons for avoiding pregnancy? Yes. That's where Natural Family Planning (NFP) can be helpful. A couple can learn to recognize signs of fertility and prayerfully decide to delay pregnancy for a time. In our 20+ years of marriage, Matt and I have followed NFP methods to space births during particularly difficult financial times and episodes of poor health. I still remember the dire warnings a doctor gave me regarding a medication I took that could be fatal to an unborn baby, and until that medicine was out of my system we chose to avoid pregnancy. Is it easy to do? Sometimes, other times not so much. The cool thing is that it's free to use. It requires no fancy gadgets. And, unlike the pill, there are no negative side-effects!

"Natural Family Planning is just birth control for Catholics. What a double standard!"

Natural Family Planning (NFP) is like birth control in the same way carrot sticks are like Cheetos.

"Well, I don't get what the difference is. A person using NFP or something as simple as a condom gets the same result. The intention is the same."

Fair enough. Let's look at it in another way. Say we're talking about losing weight. Obesity is a real problem. It severely affects the health and well-being of the people in question. It also affects their families on so many levels - physically (They are likely to become obese too.), mentally (unhealthy attitudes towards food and exercise), emotionally (They worry about the health of their obese family member.) , even financially (Health problems are costly!) There are also consequences to society at large. Something must be done!

The medical establishment says there are healthy ways of losing weight, but those require hard work, time and dedication. Not everyone is going to want to go through all of that.

There are other ways of losing weight. They might not be as safe and healthy, but they will achieve the same end. Diet pills come with side effects, but they are so easy. Fad diets may not be nutritionally balanced or have lasting results, but they are fast. And then there is always bulimia... Gross, but weight loss will be the result. It is the same result no matter which method one chooses, and that is the important thing, right?  Now the Medical Profession urges people to work with the natural processes of the body and these other methods work against the natural function of the human body, but they both have the same intention, don't they? That Medical Establishment is really mean to tell people that one of those choices is better for them than the others. (Catch the sarcasm?)

With NFP a couple's combined fertility is not treated like a disease that must be medically relieved. Rather their fertility is an intricate, sophisticated, awe-inspiring, inseparable part of the amazing created beings they are. I love that the times we used it I never felt taken for granted. Indeed, in order for NFP to work Matt has to love my whole self and respect the natural timing of the way my body works. We appreciate knowing when it's possible to conceive. If we have a serious reason to delay another pregnancy or limit our family size we have the means to do so while respecting that same natural timing. It does require periodic abstinence which I'll admit can be frustrating, but there is a payoff. Imagine desiring your spouse and knowing that you have both decided to wait until the infertile times of the month. Together you both begin looking forward to the time being right, and then it is! Instead of looking at those times of abstinence as a burden, see them as a courtship that builds up to a lovely honeymoon! 

"Other than the fact that it's "natural", how is NFP different from other methods of contraception?"

It's true NFP can be used with a contracepting mentality, but using Natural Family Planning to avoid pregnancy - month in, month out, year after year - is not the desired norm for couples. There is some truth to the joke, "What do you call a couple who uses Natural Family Planning? Parents." Not because it is not effective (Studies show 98.8% effectiveness.), but because those who use it tend to be more open to having children. Matt and I have found our mutual desire does give us pause when we are discerning a need to wait. "Is our reason serious enough to keep our hands off each other?" And really, NFP is about more than avoiding pregnancy. It's about knowing the way our bodies work and respecting our dignity as a children of God. It's about letting God be God, and being open to new life. It's about receiving each child when they do come as a gift. Many couples use NFP to achieve pregnancy, too!

What's not to love?

"If any Catholics object to contraceptives, they don't have to use them; but it's not fair to deny them to non-Catholics who merely work in Catholic institutions. Not everyone believes as you do. And what about the poor all around the world?"

So, we don't have to use them, we just have to pay for something we believe is completely immoral? Our words need to be backed up by action. If we really believe something, we should act as though we really believe it. Contraceptives are available elsewhere - often free of cost. We are not keeping women from obtaining contraception, but no one needs to get them from us. To supply or be forced to pay for anything that we truly believe harmful would make us liars. How then can we be people of Truth?

There is no denying there are situations where prudence tells us pregnancy should be postponed, even indefinitely in severe cases. If the situation happens to be particularly desperate, how much better to empower husbands and wives with the knowledge and support they need, with a method of avoiding pregnancy that does not rely on money, does not expire, and will not make things more difficult by adversely effecting their marriage or health.  So much better than throwing pills or condoms at  the problem! It works. Mother Teresa's Sisters of Charity teach Natural Family Planning to the poorest of the poor. Missionaries around the globe have found success in teaching NFP in conjunction with other health care. You can read about a parish in Kenya who has just begun this important work. It's really good stuff!

 Did you really read all this to the end? Wow. I'm impressed.  I'm exhausted. I've never written a post this long. My head hurts. My fingers hurt. Can I ask a favor?  I need your help. I need you to pretend I came up with a fantastic way to end this post, tying up all the loose ends and writing a smooth conclusion. Got it? We good? Okay. Time for bed. Good night!