31 July 2007

Swiss Fest

If you are looking for something to do this weekend near the Twin Cities, head to the Berne Swissfest. (Below clipped from their webpage)

Berne Swissfest, Minnesota, USA (54th annual)
The Charm of an Old World Festival, Family Entertainment at its best!
Saturday and Sunday August, 4th/5th 2007

Once a year the descendants of the Swiss settlers bring Berne back to life. More than a thousand visitors come to see the festival each August, conceived as a means of keeping the Swiss heritage alive and vital. Visitors come from many states and even some foreign countries to see this Swiss Festival.

Family features:
Historical Village
Fahnenschwingen (Flag Throwing)
Steinstossen (Stone Throwing)
Bauernmalerei (Box Painting)
Kinder Corner
- William Tell
- Swiss Story Telling
- Sackgumpen (Sack Races)
Bobbin Lace Making
Bratzel Making

Swiss Alphorn (104 kB)
Swiss Dancing
Handbell Concerts
Style Show
Swiss Yodeler
Stage Programs
Swiss Band
There are continuous activities throughout the day before and after each program.

Special Guest Entertainer from Switzerland:
Astrid Schuler - a very popular Jodlerin - Schwyz, Switzerland
Pius Egli - accordionist, accompanist - Horw, Switzerland
Guest Woodcarver from Switzerland
Mario Fuchs - Hofstetten, Switzerland. A very gifted woodcarver.

There will be many other craft people demonstrating Bauernmalerei painting, bobbin lace making, using a spinning wheel, scissor cutting and other special craft.

Food fair - Traditional Swiss Entrees:
Hot Meals
Fancy Desserts
Swiss Pastries
Swiss Cheese
Berner Platte, famous Bern platter will be served in the food tent on Saturday from 5:00 until 7:30 p.m.

American Entrees:
Toasted Raviolis
Cheese Curds
Hot Potato Salad
Soft Serve

Opening hours:
Saturday August, 4th 2007 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Sunday August, 5th 2007 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Sunday Special Special Swiss-American Sunday Worship Service 10:00 a.m.

Adults $ 4.00
Children - 12 and under $ 2.00
Families $ 10.00
Pre-school free
Parking free

by mail: Berne Swissfest, 23148 County Highway 24, West Concord, Minnesota 55985
by phone: 1-800-322-2478 (toll free)
by e-mail: bernechurch @ pitel . net

Simple faith

A priest at our parish used to talk about having a simple faith, to be childlike in our relationship to God. To be trusting and patient, even when our human selves tell us to take action. St. Therese was like this. From Story of a Soul, italics are those of St. Therese:

"See, then, all that Jesus lays claim to from us; He has no need of our works but only of our love, for the same God who declares He has no need to tell us when He is hungry did not fear to beg for a little water from the Samaritan woman. He was thirsty. But when He said; "Give me to drink," it was the love of His poor creature the Creator of the universe was seeking. He was thirsty for love. Ah! I feel it more than ever before, Jesus is parched, for He meets only the ungrateful and indifferent among His disciples in the world, and among His own disciples, alas, He finds few hearts who surrender to Him without reservations, who understand the real tenderness of His infinite Love."

And, another:

"O my Jesus! what is your answer to all my follies? Is there a soul more little, more powerless than mine? Nevertheless even because of my weakness, it has pleased You, O Lord, to grant my little childish desires and You desire, today, to grant other desires that are greater than the universe."

With the popularity of EWTN and Relevant Radio, many Catholic converts and apologists are being heard. This is a wonderful thing. It has helped me learn about the incredible gift of faith that has been handed down to me, providing a more solid foundation than I had. I could listen to many of the programs all day long, but feel I'm being called to grow in my faith without having all the answers, not being able to quote scripture or council documents, not knowing all there is about the early Church. This is a challenge for me. All my life, school and work have ingrained in me the need to have a solid and broad base well prepared before you take the next step, because everything builds upon it.

The more I reflect on St. Therese, one of my patron saints, the more I can identify with her, as I've seen examples of trusting God right in my own family. My brother, a fallen away Catholic, criticized my 82 year-old aunt for saying she had a simple faith in response to one of my brother's very high-brow questions. She didn't have all the answers herself, but the Church did. Within her bible and Catechism, she had nearly all the bases covered. Why should it bother her that she doesn't retain everything about the Church in her head? No one has all the answers.

I never knew my dad's father. He died before my parents married. An older cousin who lived with my grandparents has told me stories about my grandfather that pretty much sum up my idea of him; glues together the pieces told to me about him. By all accounts, he always had a rosary in his hand. He was a big, powerful man, but also gentle and kind. His physical presence afforded him respect, but his personality is what retained it. Years of struggle to feed his family and financial insecurity during the depression taught him to rely on Our Lady. He had a great sense of humor, loved to read the paper and loved sports. The story I love about him is where he was watching a football game. He was also, as always, saying the rosary (not the preferred or recommended way to say the rosary). As my cousin walked by the room she heard him yell to the TV, "Run, dammit. RUN!!" Followed softly, without missing a beat by, "Hail Mary, full of grace..." I think he must've been meditating on the Pigskin Mysteries.

My maternal grandfather was very similar. I cherish the example he provided of having a simple faith. He was beloved by his family, friends and the entire community. He lived his faith by being humble, generous, kind and effervescent with his joy. If a neighbor needed anything, be it help or food, it was generously and kindly given from his own meager means. He was a farmer that trusted in God completely. No work was done on Sunday, even if it meant that crops might be ruined if left in the field. God would provide. Many times, his last dollar went in the collection, never reluctantly and never begrudgingly, but with gratitude. After chores were done, often late at night, he would gather his children into his bed and read them stories. Before going to bed himself, he got down on a small kneeler and prayed.

When I started reading, Story of a Soul, I didn't appreciate it for all the lessons it contained. Despite the fact that many things St. Therese wrote about are evident in my own family, I didn't think it applied to my life. My grandfathers, I'm certain, didn't read about St. Therese, but they stumbled onto some of the same ideas themselves through their faithfulness. I think there is much to learn from St. Therese's life and the lives of other saints. It seems there is no cookie-cutter mold that makes a saint. They all had their own strengths and weaknesses. I may want to be a better apologist or be able to quote scripture, but it might not be what God is calling me toward. After reading, Story of a Soul, I have learned that if I have a simple faith and trust in God, He will gradually show me what His plan is for me. I just wish I was a better student.

"O Mother, how different are the ways through which the Lord leads souls! In the life of the saints, we find many of them who didn't want to leave anything of themselves behind after their death, not the smallest souvenir, not the least bit of writing. On the contrary, there are others, like our holy Mother St. Teresa, who have enriched the Church with their lofty revelations, having no fears of revealing the secrets of the King in order that they may make Him more loved and known by souls. Which of these two types of saints is more pleasing to God? It seems to me, Mother, they are equally pleasing to Him, since all of them followed the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and since the Lord has said: "Tell the just man ALL is well." Yes, all is well when one seeks only the will of Jesus, and it is because of this that I, a poor little flower, obey Jesus when trying to please my beloved Mother."
Story of a Soul, St. Therese of Lisieux

30 July 2007

Lough Tay - Guinness Lake

Over the weekend, for some strange reason, I was thinking of Lough Tay in County Wicklow, Ireland. Then I visited a blog by someone who had happened upon my blog and saw a post about Loch Tay (not the same lake, Loch Tay is in the Scottish Highlands in Perthshire) and thought it was serendipity.

Lough Tay is also called Guinness Lake, because part of the lake borders the Guinness family estate. The Guinness family brings in creamy sand to create the thick foamy head that every on-tap glass of Guinness is topped with, making the lake look like a pint of Guinness.

If you're in Ireland and driving south out of Dublin towards Powerscourt Gardens or Glendalough, you might want to swing by and take a look.

Door-to-door evangelization

Pope John Paul II called for a New Evangelization. I think some avenues of evangelization have been chartered, but why is it that Catholics don't go door-to-door? Not that I think it's a great idea because I find the people who do this to be intrusive and presumptuous. They may be very sincere in trying to save my soul, but I don't like having to elude these folks and their questions while I'm standing at the door holding a child or a dust rag.

Maybe door-to-door evangelization should be my response to these people. Evangelize them when they come to my home. My father used to do that, but he was a great debater and could articulate his beliefs very eloquently. He was very unselfconscious and charming. He frequently turned the discussion back on the person(s) going door-to-door. I know this isn't my strong suit, at least not yet. It might not ever be.

Stuck in the door
When we got to our cabin, there was a pamphlet from the "Watchtower" folks. Seems they have been doing a full-court-press on getting out the word, or their version of it. A large number of my husband's family is in the area. His parents retired to their cabin on a nearby lake. Shortly after that, my sister-in-law and her husband bought a few wooded lots close to them. My husband's divorced grandparents, then in declining health, were moved into a home together in the very small town close to my PIL. My husband's uncle also moved in with them. Not too long after all this happened, my husband's aunt and her husband bought a lot on another lake in the area (there is a chain of lakes all within a few miles of each other). It seems all of us have been visited by the Watchtower/Jehovah's Witness crew.

My husband's aunt and uncle have a lot that is what they call "high bank." It's almost alpine in its height and steepness. In order to get to the lake, they had to cut a zig-zag path into the side of the hill. It's still incredibly hard to get down to the lake. It's even harder to get back up the hill. A mountain climber would be winded after walking up the path. But, twice the Jehovah's Witness gang navigated the path and knocked on their tiny cabin door at the bottom of the hill. All this despite the place being well off a road that sports "Private Drive" and "No Trespassing" signs. Obviously, they are a determined bunch.

But, where are the Catholics?

Personal experience
Even growing up we would get knocks on the door from people of various religions/denominations. I was in college and a group of ladies from Jehovah's Witness came to the door. No one else was home and, in the heat of the morning, the house was wide open. They saw me before I was able to hide. They gave me their spiel about things, then asked me what religion I was. I answered "Orthodox Catholic," which I erroneously thought they would understand as a secret code to leave me alone. Nope. They obviously hadn't heard that term before and asked me about it. Considering it ruse to engage me in conversation, I simply told them I was in full communion with the beliefs of the Church and the Pope, merely trying to distinguish myself from a non-practicing Catholic to let them know to leave me alone. They kept trying to sell me their books, which I thought was idiotic seeing as I was a very poor college student (I was living at home!) and I had just told them the Catholic password for, "I'm solid in my beliefs."

They persisted while I stood there and gave them an attitude and look that only a 20-something can pull off. It was well past the point of trying to be charitable and kind, they were not letting me go gently or gracefully. It was almost to the point that I had to either physically remove these women from my doorstep or close the door in their face. Fortunately, I had just gotten out of the shower and my hair was all wet. I told them I didn't have time to talk since I had to get to work. One of the ladies reached into her bag and pulled out a small pamphlet that she wanted me to have, actually, she wanted a donation for it. I told her to keep her pamphlet because I wouldn't read it and there was no way I was paying for something I wouldn't read. She then told me she still wanted me to have it even if I wouldn't read it or pay for it. I reiterated to her I would simply throw it away. We bantered back and forth about it, but she insisted I take the now contentious pamphlet. Right inside the kitchen door was an open garbage bag ready to be set out. It was garbage day. As the lady handed me the pamphlet, I moved my hand over the garage bag and dropped it in. I looked up at her and said, "I TOLD you I would just throw it away." Then I closed the door. Yes, it was mean and uncharitable, but I was 20 and felt like I was being ignored and manipulated, that they were forcefully trying to indoctrinate me.

What I didn't tell them was that my cousin had married a Jehovah's Witness and all the money in the world wouldn't make me sign up for their ranks, even if I had been "church shopping."

While I lived in Seattle, I had several friends who were Mormons. Not to bash my poor LDS friends, but their religion is like Voodoo or Santaria, taking parts of Catholicism/Christianity and mixing it with something very alien. Mormons, compared to their Voodoo cousins, are more mainstream because they have adopted a clean outward appearance; they are better packaged. Their belief system is still as extreme as Voodoo, but more palatable to people in the suburbs. Mormons will cut you from their ranks as quickly as the Jehovahs if you don't tow the line, then you are anathema. Not very forgiving.

New Evangelization
So, where is the Catholic Church in all this. Lately, people are up in arms because the return to the Latin Mass will remind Catholics to pray for their Jewish brethren. That's "anti-semitic." There are deep and painful scandals the Church is still recovering from. Possibly, the suffering of the Church will get worse before it gets better.

We need to evangelize by example. Clean up our own house. We need to embody our beliefs, not just espouse them. Show and share the joy we have. This should go a long way to help with public relations. Catholicism is such a rich religion that if we are just able to utilize the tools and gifts we are given, with God's grace, evangelization would be a by-product of our example of faithfully living the commandments.

I might not be able to evangelize door-to-door, but I can work on the example I provide. This needs to start with my children. The bible study I just completed really emphasized this and showed what happened to the Israelites who failed to instruct their children. I can see this happening in my own extended family. My great, big, Catholic family is not so great or Catholic anymore. It seems that evangelization needs to start on this side of the door, within our own families, nurturing a good example that can be shared with the world.

26 July 2007

Retreat from the heat

Going to be at the cabin for the weekend.

Have a good weekend everyone. Stay cool.


Annunciation, by Fra Fillipo Lippi

For several years, I have been trying to grow in my Catholicism. I've been like a rudderless ship for awhile, in need of a good spiritual director. Like St. Teresa describes, my fervor kind of waxes and wanes. Two steps forward and one back. Maybe I'm making progress but it is slow, hindered by my own weaknesses.

One of the weaknesses is lack of humility. In recently reading, The Story of a Soul, by St. Therese, I didn't understand why she talked about her self love when she was merely a child. At the time, I didn't see that she was far more astute than I am, recognizing at an early, early age how pride (lack of humility) clouds the relationship with God.

I've been praying for humility for many years. I only ask God for humility on my terms, because the first time I asked for a lesson in humility, it was incredibly painful. I took to asking Him to teach me humility, but gently, don't hit me over the head with it. No growth in humility really came about. God doesn't like to be dictate to, he wants us to come to him meekly. It was a incredible act of pride on my part to tell God how to teach me to be humble. I doubt the irony was lost on Him.

I'm not even done reading, The Story of a Soul, but have asked for humility again, more on God's terms. Before I even was able to read another chapter of the book, a very painful, and humbling, experience happened. This is a lesson I will have deep in my heart for the rest of my life. Painful, but necessary. Nothing I would've chosen as a "teaching tool," but clearly, God's ways are not my ways. Thanks be to God.

Humility, from the Pocket Catholic Dictionary, is defined as:
The moral virtue that keeps a person from reaching beyond himself. It is the virtue that restrains the unruly desire for personal greatness and leads people to an orderly love of themselves based on a true appreciation of their position with respect to God and their neighbors. Religious humility recognizes one's total dependence on God; moral humility recognizes one's creaturely equality with others. Yet humility is not only opposed to pride; it is also opposed to immoderate self-abjection, which would fail to recognize God's gifts and use them according to his will. (Etym, Latin humilitas, abasement, humility, from humus, ground).

Our Lady was perfectly humble. From "The Glories of Mary,":
...Our Lord showed St. Bridget two ladies. One was all pomp and vanity. "She," he said, "is pride; but the other one whom thou seest with her head bent down, courteous towards all, having God alone in her mind, and considering herself as no one, is Humility, her name is Mary."

Again, another passage:

"O how dear are humble souls to Mary!" says St. Bernard; "this Blessed Virgin recognizes and loves those who love her, and is near to all who call upon her; and especially to those whom she sees like unto herself in chastity and humility." Hence the saint exhorts all who love Mary to be humble.[snip]

Then, O my queen, I can never be really thy child unless I am humble; but dost thou not see that my sins, after having rendered me ungrateful to my Lord, have also made me proud? O my Mother, do thou supply a remedy. By the merit of thy humility obtain that I may be truly humble, and thus become thy child. Amen

And, Father Corapi has something to say about humility. He said that humility is the recognition of Truth.

The truth I am finally starting to see glimpses of is that everything I have is a grace and a blessing. I have done nothing on my own. Nothing. The cloak on my shoulders is God's; I have not put it there.

Finally, from "The Glories of Mary,":
Whosoever loves, resembles the person loved, or endeavors to become like that person; according to the well-known proverb, "Love either finds or makes its like." Hence, St. Sophronius exhorts us to endeavor to imitate Mary, if we love her, because this is the greatest act of homage that we can offer her; "My beloved children," the saint says, "serve Mary, whom you love; for you then truly love her, if you endeavor to imitate her whom you love."

May Our Lady, full of grace, teach me to imitate her in everything I do.

25 July 2007

Science fish

I'm not sure what to think of this fish. Does it mean that science and religion can co-exist? Not in this sense...

or, am I being naive? Then what is the following saying? You can still be a Christian even if you like Bristish food? No, wait, that's unheard of.

Does the following mean you are Christian on the outside and Buddhist on the inside? Maybe Richard Gere would know.

I don't know what to think any more.

Heart talks with Mary

One of the books on my bookshelf that was my father's, given to him by Father Jakobek, is Heart Talks with Mary, Second Series, 1938, by Rosalie Marie Levy. Here's one of the entries:

Have you tried them?
A little more Patience, to bear up with this person with whom I am compelled to live, and who is not at all congenial to me.

A little more Firmness, to continue this work which duty demands and which is so repellent to me.

A little more Humility, to remain at the post to which God has led me and which does not fit in at all with my dreams and plans.

A little more Common Sense, to take people as they are, and not as I should like them to be.

A little more Prudence, to bother as little as possible about others and their affairs.

A little more Strength, to endure an event which so suddenly and profoundly disturbs my peace of soul.

A little more Cheerfulness, so as not to show I have been hurt.

A little more Unselfishness, in trying to understand the thoughts and feelings of others.

Above all, a little more Prayer, to draw God to my heart and to take counsel with Him.

24 July 2007

Gargoyles - Not just drain pipes any more

Darth Vader at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

A professor and gas mask dude at my alma mater, U of Washington

A shell face from Prague

A more traditional gargoyle from Liverpool, UK

One from Tuscany

Not again

It seems that Christmas just gets in the way of everything. From OneNewsNow.com:

Unless history repeats itself, Christmas may be canceled at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport as holiday decorations are once again the subject of a proposed ban. The Port of Seattle's Holiday Decorations Advisory Committee says the airport should be decorated for Christmas this year, but without any religious symbols. Last December, nine trees decorated with red ribbons and bows were removed after a rabbi threatened to sue unless a menorah was added. However, the trees were put back on display after the rabbi said he never wanted them removed. Mat Staver is founder of Liberty Counsel, which intervened in the dispute last year. He says legal action may be necessary again. "Obviously, Liberty Counsel will get involved as we did last year with this airport," the attorney explains. "We sent a letter [last year] demanding that they return the Christmas decorations to the airport -- and with the public outcry, the airport did. This year, obviously, we're back to the battleground again, and we're certainly going to go to bat for protecting Christmas." Staver says it is absurd that government officials in Seattle are once again trying to censor Christmas in public. "I think it's ridiculous in a country where we have December 25 as a state and federal holiday to celebrate and honor Christmas -- something that's rooted in the history of America -- that governmental entities would come to censor it out," he says. Staver predicts that legal action is likely if the panel does not revamp its proposal to accommodate religious symbols.

Prayers please

Please pray for a friend who is nine weeks pregnant. She has a long history of miscarriages.

Please pray for my brother who is in a lengthy training course for the Army. He will be separated from his family for four months, then probably sent to Iraq for 18 months. He's already been there once.

May Our Lady look out for all of them.

Mid-summer's night reflection

This summer has been a busy one. Despite the fast pace, I need to pull myself away from all of the chaos and appreciate the people in my life.

During my childhood, my mother had cancer come and go for over a decade. She endured every imaginable surgery and treatment. The experience had a profound affect on my life, probably the most profound. Initially, when I learned my mother had cancer, I was in denial. I prayed with everything I had that she wouldn't have cancer. From my grade school perspective, I never believed God would allow it. When He did, I wasn't angry at Him, I just pulled myself up by the boot straps and tried to face the crisis as best I could at such a young age.

My mother's suffering taught me to appreciate those dear to me. Never to let things go unsaid, actions to go undone. It made me both strong and sentimental. I learned that regret is a horrible thing that can't be undone. The people that are in my life now might not be there tomorrow.

Fortunately, I don't have too many regrets about my relationships with people. I did and said the things I always wanted to do for or say to my mom. I regret she wasn't around to be at my wedding and see my children, but those are things that were beyond my control. I have no regrets that I didn't do something I wished I would've or could've. I might not have done things perfectly, but I did them as best I could at the time. Knowing I did my best, that I didn't allow my own selfishness or reluctance to get the better of me and that any oversights weren't intentional, is comforting.

I also grew to appreciate just how comforting Catholicism is.

Now, my family is getting older. This may be the last summer for some of my aunts and uncles. There are a handful of them that are in their 80s. Up to this point, they all had been incredibly healthy, vibrant, exactly as I remembered them in my childhood. But, one aunt is now nearly 90 and in failing health. Another just had a stroke, one just had cancer surgery. An uncle had bypass surgery and now needs to have a knee replaced.

Even my husband's family has its share of suffering. My husband's grandmother, who is almost 90, has Alzheimers. She no longer recognizes anyone. Very sad situation. Two summers ago, she was still living on her own. We would visit her nearly every weekend. None of my husband's cousins ever did, despite only being a mile or two away from her. I only wish they would've had the knowledge I did, because now it's too late. You can visit grandma, but now she just thinks you're a kind stranger. It's not the same.

In the next few weeks, I will be making a conscious effort to get off the busy treadmill and visit my aunts and uncles. I know how I felt about the kind souls who visited my mother. I want to keep that going in a world that is becoming more self-absorbed every day. Not that long ago, people looked in on the elderly and visited the sick. We have truly lost something when we are too busy to take an hour to check in on someone or pick up the phone.

23 July 2007

Silly Swiss

Just read an article about some problems in Switzerland at Rütli Meadow, which is where Switzerland began, kind of like our Philadelphia or Boston. From the article:

Known as the Rütli Meadow, it was there, according to legend, that in 1291 representatives of the three original Swiss cantons, Schwyz, Uri and Unterwalden, took an oath to protect one another from the great threat of the era, the Austrians. So each year on Aug. 1, the purported date of the Rütli oath, the Swiss celebrate their independence and courageous beginnings.

"It's a bit of Bastille Day and the Fourth of July rolled into one," said Urs Studer, Lucerne's mayor, seated in his spacious office in a gingerbread kind of town hall just a short stroll from the lake shore.

Seems the annual celebration in this beautiful part of Switzerland is being disturbed by some skin head and Neo-nazis.

Then, two years ago, the tradition seemed to shatter. The committee invited the incumbent president, Samuel Schmid, who decided to speak about the delicate topic of immigration. But the event was crashed by dozens of skinheads and neo-Nazis, who whistled and hooted and saluted Schmid with extended arms, Nazi-style, making it impossible for him to be heard. Television cameras magnified the event for the Swiss at home.

Samual Schmid is a member of the Swiss People's Party (SVP). In Switzerland's round-robin way of "electing" a president, I guess it was SVP's turn at the helm. From Wikipedia:

The SVP is the right-most of the four co-governing political parties in Switzerland. It is best known for opposing Swiss membership in international organisations such as the EU and UN, and for its campaigning for tougher immigration, asylum and penal laws. The party is socially and fiscally conservative, but secular in outlook. It is in favour of traditional family values, deregulation and reduced government spending (except for the areas of domestic security, the military and agricultural support). The SVP supports the Swiss traditions of private gun ownership, armed neutrality and the national militia army and opposes most forms of international security cooperation.

The party is often considered divided into a centrist-agrarian wing and an activist-nationalist wing. The latter, based in Zurich, is clearly predominant on the national level and, under the leadership of the popular and controversial businessman Christoph Blocher, functioned as a de facto opposition party from circa 1980 to 2003. The former, to which Samuel Schmid belongs, is more of a traditional mainstream party rooted in the Cantons of Bern and Graubünden, where it holds many seats in communal executives. It stresses the party's responsibilities as a member of the governing coalition and is more oriented towards seeking a consensus with the other parties. It is also more open to Swiss membership in international organisations.

My family is from Graubünden, although they left there generations ago. Currently, however, my brother lives outside of Geneva, which is one of the most liberal areas in Switzerland. It is interesting to note that this neutral country was slow to give women the right to vote. That happened in 1971, however women were only given the vote in various cantons gradually and the in the last remaining canton (Appenzell Innerrhoden) only in 1992, and then by a judicial decision against the will of the resisting canton.

As Orson Welles said in the movie "The Third Man," in centuries of brotherly love, democracy and peace, the Swiss produced only the cuckoo clock.

Curious country.

On the nightstand

Currently, I am reading, "The Story of a Soul," the autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux, and "Surprised by Joy," the autobiographical conversion story of C. S. Lewis.

Since I haven't been too much of a reader, I hadn't read them, although they have been on my bookshelf for years. My parents were voracious readers, but I hadn't picked up the fascination of reading until lately. I have an entire bookcase of my father's religious books and have only begun to read them. The two books I mentioned are some of the first I've opened. Maybe you've read them.

It is odd that I picked the two that I did, simultaneously. I'm only half way through both and almost abandoned Lewis' book since it is, in my opinion, very dry. But, thinking about it, that's probably the point he's trying to make. His life was dry, it had little joy. His mother had passed away when he was young and his father was a remote figure who sent his sons to boarding schools despite their lack of quality. Lewis had few friends and didn't mix well with other children. From a review of the book:

The subtitle of the book, "The Shape of my Early Life," succinctly captures the scope of Lewis's autobiography; it deals almost exclusively with his adolescent search for "joy" and those events leading up to and just subsequent to his conversion at age thirty-one. It comprises what Lewis himself would refer to as "spiritual autobiography," but not in the genre of "Confessions" like those of St. Augustine or Rousseau. Lewis views himself in Surprised by Joy as no more or less a sinner than anyone else, but it is chiefly his intellectual journey that needs charting; his is not a grand repentance from fleshly indulgence but a recovery of a child-like wonderment at the world and its mysteries.

On the other hand, St. Therese is filled with joy at every little thing, the common things. Like Lewis, her mother dies when she is a child, but her sisters and her father display so much love, affection and guidance, that her life is the complete opposite of Lewis'. Unlike Lewis, however, Therese was obviously in God's hand at an early age. Reading her autobiography is humbling and inspiring, while at the same time, quite a challenge for the reader. How anyone could be so Christ-centered at such a young age provides such a contrast to Lewis AND to one's own life. Although I can't identify completely with either, they both provide insight on how one finds God. For Therese, it was an all-consuming thought; for Lewis, the path went from atheism and, catching him off-guard, veered off into Christianity.

No wonder my father had a bookcase full of these types of books. In reading one, it presents so many ideas to explore, so many tangents that intrigue. I already have a list of books I want to read after these.

In reading Chesterton, as in reading MacDonald, I did not know what I was letting myself in for. A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. . . . God is, if I may say it, very unscrupulous.
From Surprised by Joy, C. S. Lewis

20 July 2007

Gone for the weekend

Yes, we are heading to the cabin again for the weekend. Trying to finish the deck. Might be a tough one in the heat. We will try to prime it this weekend. Paint it next weekend.

Have a great weekend everyone.

When does my subscription run out?

I've been getting St. Anthony Messenger magazine for a few years now, off and on. I got tired of their watered-down, touchy-feely articles, so I cancelled. Two years went by and they kept calling with sales pitches to tug at your heart strings. Their magazine helps to put men through the seminary. Hard to argue with that. I renewed again this year because I wanted to support Catholic causes/charities. I was also tired of the windy and rambling articles in the Wanderer and New Oxford Review. My father had given me subscriptions many years ago to the latter two as as gifts. Sweet hubby really liked NOR, so kept renewing, until recently. We can get the Wanderer at Mass. Now I'm going to tell St. Anthony Messenger to not renew my subscription again. I think there are better places to spend my money.

A few issues ago, SAM had that saint of virtue, George Clooney, on the cover. Granted, his humanitarian efforts are commendable, but there are a lot of other people that they could've had on the cover without being controversial. Some people might like the warm and fuzzy articles in SAM, but like I told the people when I cancelled the first time, I get nothing out of the magazine.

I'm considering a few magazines, but would like to hear any suggestions. I'm looking for something that is way more hard-hitting than SAM, less wordy and more edited than the Wanderer, and less slash and burn than the NOR (I'm still pondering this one). Any body get First Things? NCR? Other?

19 July 2007

Sherlock in MN

If you are looking for something to do, someplace to take the kids that is family friendly, check out the Sherlock Holmes exhibit at the University of Minnesota's Elmer L. Anderson Library. "Victorian Secrets and Edwardian Enigmas: The Riddles of the Rooms of 221B Baker Street" will be on display until August 20. Supposedly, the U of M has one of the largest Sherlock Holmes collections in the world.

Or, Lumberjack Days are going on in Stillwater and Highland Fest starts tomorrow in St. Paul.

Stupid utterances
Yes, it was late and I was tired

Last night, my husband and I were talking...can't even remember what about. He said something to which I said:
"Yeah, back when we were married."

I meant to say, "Yeah, back when we lived in Seattle."

Needless to say, hubby looked at me weird and I was on the floor laughing.

It does harken back to when we did get married. Father Ince and my husband said the vows, I didn't. I was too busy trying to put the ring on hubby's finger to notice I was supposed to be saying something. We have always joked that my husband and Father Ince are married, I was just their witness.

Then Father Ince came to our reception wearing a button that said, "Stay Single." What a card ;} During our rehearsals, he kept telling us to make things look "schmaltzy." Sorry, Father, we kind of missed on that note too.

Brazilian guilty of nun's murder

This is kind of old news, but something I hadn't heard. Just awful. She was probably killed more for being an environmental activist than a nun, but this is completely callous. This is from May 15, 2007. From the BBC:

A Brazilian rancher has been found guilty of killing US-born nun and environmental activist Dorothy Stang.

A court in the city of Belem sentenced Vitalmiro Bastos Moura, 36, to 30 years for paying gunmen to shoot the 73-year-old missionary dead in 2005. Sister Dorothy campaigned for poor farmers' rights and to preserve the rainforest from loggers and developers. Her murder followed a dispute with ranchers over land they wanted to clear for pasture and she wanted to protect.

'Justice done'
Judge Raymond Moises Alves Flexa imposed the maximum sentence. He said Moura had showed "a violent personality unsuited to living in society" and that the killing had been carried out in a "cowardly manner". Activists saw the trial as a test of whether the government could act to curb lawlessness in the Amazon.

Dorothy Stang's brother David, who was at the trial, said "justice was done".

Prosecutors said Mr. Moura had ordered Sister Dorothy's killing because she had sent letters to the local authorities accusing him of setting illegal fires to clear land, which led to him receiving a substantial fine.

The Ohio-born nun had lived in the remote town of Anapu for more than 20 years, helping peasant farmers defend their land. She was found dead on a muddy track in February 2005, shot six times at close range. Three men - two gunmen and an intermediary - have already been convicted for the killing, but this was the first trial of someone who ordered it. Another rancher charged with ordering the killing goes on trial later in the year.

In the past 30 years, more than 1,000 people have been killed in land disputes in Brazil, the BBC's Brazil correspondent Gary Duffy says - more than 770 of those in the state of Para.

Heard today

Man is deformed and in need of reform,
The doctrine of the Church is NOT deformed, and NOT in need of reform.

Father Corapi

Motu mania

In his 5 Rules of Engagement about the Motu Proprio, Father Zuhlsdorf gently admonished conservative-minded Catholics about getting too uppity about the potential return of Masses said in Latin coming to a parish near you. The reaction of these conservatives, IMHO, was measured and polite. Above the background noise all that was heard was, "Ah, finally."

What I didn't understand was the reaction of some Catholics and others outside of the Church.

Those within the church, including priests and bishops, criticized this move by Pope Benedict as taking us back to the dark ages and undoing all the good that Vatican II had brought about. They whined that they didn't know Latin, didn't like that the priest said Mass with his back to the congregation, along with a bunch of other nonsense that didn't always have anything to do with the Tridentine or "Latin" Mass. It is an ignorant position, probably a result of poor catechesis. You can still say your prayers in English. No one is going to come to your house and force you to attend Mass in Latin. There won't be a quiz.

Outside of the Church, an entire spectrum of people criticized the Motu. It was, heaven forbid, an old Mass, a Latin Mass. It was anti-semitic. According to them, it would make the Catholic Church even more archaic, more out of touch with the rest of civilization. These same people who don't believe a great deal that the Catholic Church teaches and daily ignore its message, were the ones up-in-arms and quick to criticize the Church, not for reiterating that abortion is wrong or that homosexuality is wrong, but for wanting to internally make some changes...or more correctly re-establish something it had pushed to the side. The same people who get all hot and bothered about the Church coming into their homes, didn't see the hypocracy of coming into the kitchen of the Catholic Church and criticising how it wanted to go about its business.

Some within the Church even said there was no desire on the part of Catholics for this Mass, despite a growing voice of faithful pleading for it. According to Pat Buchanan:

"Ever since Pope John Paul II issued his 1988 indult, which authorized, but did not require, bishops to allow the Latin Mass, the number of Catholics requesting the Tridentine rite -- and the number attending -- has steadily grown. Indeed, it was the stubborn resistance of some bishops to allow the Latin Mass to be said that brought a rising chorus of pleas to Rome from the faithful for the pope to overrule a recalcitrant hierarchy and order them to permit the old mass."

And, Mr. Buchanan's response to the claims of anti-semitism:

"Liberal European bishops were said to have fought restoration of the Latin Mass. And, according to The New York Times, Abe Foxman, resident theologian at the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, is about to anathematize the whole lot of us. Declared Abe, speaking ex cathedra for ADL:

"We are extremely disappointed and deeply offended that nearly 40 years after the Vatican rightly removed insulting anti-Jewish language from the Good Friday Mass, that it would now permit Catholics to utter such hurtful and insulting words by praying for Jews to be converted."

What is Abe talking about?

Does he not know that Catholics are required to pray for the conversion of all peoples to Catholicism and Christ? Who duped Abe into thinking this requirement was suspended by Vatican II?

Indeed, if one believes, as devout Catholics do, that Christ and his Church hold the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, it would be anti-Semitic not to pray for the conversation of the Jews. Even Abe."

Like so many, I'm glad the Motu Proprio was released. There is a longing for accessibility to Mass in Latin. Deo Gratias. Dominus vobiscum. Amen.

18 July 2007

Sense of entitlement

About six years ago, a gentleman I worked with asked me if I would talk to his son who was choosing a college and a college major. Dad was a Johnnie; Grandpa a Tommie. For me, the answer to the "what college" question was a given: Tommie. As far as college major went, dad wanted his son to go into engineering, but didn't know which type his son would be interested in, if any. Dad arranged for his son to meet with a mechanical engineer and an electrical engineer that I worked with, and with me, a chemical engineer.

I spent some time to gather information on the coursework that the son would need to take, types of jobs he could do once he graduated, some information on good engineering schools, and starting salary data. Dad arranged for his son to come in to where we worked and talk to us.

"Michael" was a good kid. Never gave his parents any big problems, did well in school (Benilde-St. Margaret), active in a variety of extracurricular activities, etc. He was as clean cut as they come. I presented my material to him and he listened intently and asked questions.

As I neared the end of my little pitch, I pulled out the starting salary data. I began with some caveats about how salary is important, but you should choose a major you like over what you could potentially earn in a profession you disliked. Liking your job was important, a higher priority, at least to me, than salary. Reluctantly, I handed him the salary data for a fresh-out-of-college, no-experience chemical engineer. I had a strong sense that the numbers would unduly influence his decision.

He looked at the number and his demeanor instantly changed. "That's it?" he indignantly said in an elevated voice. At that time, years ago, a new chemical engineer fresh out of college was making around $60K. I figured the salary data would be a reason to seriously consider studying engineering and his reaction was 180 degrees from what I thought it would be.

I knew immediately that he would NEVER study engineering.

Actually, my first thought was, "You little ingrate. Go to college, go find a job and let's see what you make when you graduate. If $60K isn't good enough for you, there is something wrong."

What's going on?
That narcissistic attitude is understandable in my kids, but it is very unbecoming in an adult. Today, there are those that believe that the world "owes" them and they want to everything immediately. They are never satisfied; they always want more. Nothing is never good enough for them and they frequently show no gratitude or express any thanks.

Sometime parents are to blame for giving their children everything they want and not providing an accurate view of the world, a world that isn't fair and isn't going to hand you everything right now, if ever.

Michael's reaction surprised me, but then I remembered the culture we live in. The culture Michael was raised in. The immediate gratification, the false notion that bigger is better, the more you have the happier you will be -- compromising their future to live for today.

In the book, Thirty and Broke, it discusses the mentality of this generation. The comment in red is mine:

“the first generation that came of age with the Internet, grew up marketed to at every turn… and they could be the most indebted generation in modern history.”

“When these students start out in the working world, many use their credit cards to fund a richer lifestyle (that they have grown accustomed to) than they can afford, get by between jobs, or cover emergency expenses. The average credit-card debt among 25-34-year-olds was $5,200 in 2004, 98% higher than in 1992.”

They exemplify “a generation with an unusual sense of entitlement. They were brought up as consumers, comfortable with prosperity, certain of their eventual success. For many 30-year-olds, establishing themselves takes longer and is more complicated than they thought it would be.”

Meanwhile, back at the ranch
I was raised with different axioms: The world owes you nothing. Life is tough and unfair. There is always some poor SOB that has it worse than you do. Thank God for the gifts He has given you. Be thankful. Appreciate what you have and take care of it. Finally, stop your bitching (what can I say, my dad was a Navy man).

I'm trying to teach my kids to appreciate what they have. To not have a sense of entitlement. However, it seems everything is against me. Go to a grocery store or many other businesses and your kids get candy or suckers. Take your kids out to dinner and they get crayons and coloring books, balloons, toys.

Resistance is futile. We took the kids to McDonald's one morning after Mass. Didn't buy them Happy Meals, just a burger. Guess that's against the rules. The manager of the store came out with Happy Meal toys and gave them to our children. He probably thought we were mean parents and he was a generous soul to do this. What he didn't get is that we didn't buy them Happy Meals for the very fact we didn't want them to have the stupid toy! The world won't end if they don't get a toy every time they go somewhere.

My kids are not deprived. They have far more than I ever did as a child and I had a good childhood. We weren't wealthy, but we weren't poor either. My parents could've afforded to give us more "junk" than they did, but consciously chose not to.

Now that I'm a parent, I appreciate my parents' prudence and sense of what is proper. It's not easy to put your foot down because you so often want to give in, to give your child something that will put a smile on their face. However, that smile on their face will turn into a surly attitude if fed with all this consumerism and sense of entitlement.

I don't want my kid to grow up and balk at the idea of making $60K a year right out of the shoot.

Michael ended up studying accounting...at St. John's.

17 July 2007

Don't mess with Grandma

Ok, I think this is a joke. I couldn't find any mention of it in the NY Times, but maybe it is for real. Regardless, it is funny. H/T to sweet hubby.

Bounced Check

Shown below, is a letter that was sent to a bank by an 86 year old woman. The bank manager thought it amusing enough to have it published in the New York Times.

Dear Sir:
I am writing to thank you for bouncing my check with which I endeavored to pay my plumber last month. By my calculations, three nanoseconds must have elapsed between his presenting the check and the arrival in my account of the funds needed to honor it.

I refer, of course, to the automatic monthly deposit of my entire pension, an arrangement which, I admit, has been in place for only eight years.

You are to be commended for seizing that brief window of opportunity,and also for debiting my account $30 by way of penalty for the inconvenience caused to your bank. My thankfulness springs from the manner in which this incident has caused me to rethink my errant financial ways.

I noticed that whereas I personally answer your telephone calls and letters -- when I try to contact you, I am confronted by the impersonal, over-charging, prerecorded, faceless entity which your bank has become.

From now on, I, like you, choose only to deal with a flesh-and-blood person. My mortgage and loan repayments will therefore and hereafter no longer be automatic, but will arrive at your bank, by check, addressed personally and confidentially to an employee at your bank whom you must nominate. Be aware that it is an offense under the Postal Act for any other person to open such an envelope.

Please find attached an Application Contact which I require your chosen employee to complete. I am sorry it runs to eight pages, but in order that I know as much about him or her as your bank knows about me, there is no alternative.

Please note that all copies of his or her medical history must be countersigned by a Notary Public, and the mandatory details of his/her financial situation (income, debts, assets and liabilities) must be accompanied by documented proof.

In due course, at MY convenience, I will issue your employee with a PIN number which he/she must quote in dealings with me.

I regret that it cannot be shorter than 28 digits but, again, I have modeled it on the number of button presses required of me to access my account balance on your phone bank service. As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Let me level the playing field even further. When you call me, press buttons as follows:
#1. To make an appointment to see me
#2. To query a missing payment.
#3. To transfer the call to my living room in case I am there.
#4. To transfer the call to my bedroom in case I am sleeping.
#5. To transfer the call to my toilet in case I am attending to nature.
#6. To transfer the call to my mobile phone if I am not at home
#7. To leave a message on my computer, a password to access my computer is required. Password will be communicated to you at a later date to that Authorized Contact mentioned earlier.
#8. To return to the main menu and to listen to options 1 through 7.
#9. To make a general complaint or inquiry. The contact will then be put on hold, pending the attention of my automated answering service.

While this may, on occasion, involve a lengthy wait, uplifting music will play for the duration of the call.

Regrettably, but again following your example, I must also levy an establishment fee to cover the setting up of this new arrangement. May I wish you a happy, if ever so slightly less prosperous New Year?

Your Humble Client ....

Where's Sr. Joan when you need her?

Not too long ago, three nearby parishes were combined into one: St. Gregory's, St. Therese's and St. Leo's. They combined to make Lumen Christi Catholic Community in what was St. Leo's. Millions of dollars were spent to expand the church. It is really nice inside, although the "worship spaces" leave much to be desired.

Now they are sans priest. Father Bauer, the former pastor, was assigned to the Bascilica. The parish now has no pastor, but a nun has been assigned in the interim. According to the Catholic Spirit:

Six priests have been given new or additional assignments by Archbishop Harry Flynn. He also appointed St. Joseph of Carondelet Sister Frieda Kalenze as interim parish life administrator of Lumen Christi Catholic Community in St. Paul, beginning Monday, June 25. Sister Frieda most recently served as parish administrator at St. Peter in Mendota and St. Olaf in Minneapolis. She also has served her community in several positions on its administrative team.

I know there is another priest working at the parish, but how long can this parish function without a pastor?

From this side of the trenches
For Ma Beck

I took some more donations to Highland LifeCare Centers.
It was a beautiful day. A bit hot, however.
While I was there, a young woman came in for counseling.
She told the receptionist she wanted some counseling since she knew she was pregnant.
Being a mom, my first reaction was to tell her, "Congratulations!" Instead, I just smiled sheepishly at her.
She seemed distressed, but more overwhelmed at the situation than desperate. Not desperate enough to go down the street to Planned Parenthood.
I was so thankful for the ladies that were in the office. So kind, understanding, professional and loving. If I was pregnant and in a difficult situation, I would've wanted to find these ladies in the office.
But, even being in the pro-life office that I was, I was glad I wasn't the counselor, though I am sure they get a great deal of training on how to help pregnant women.
I didn't know what to say. I still don't. Although this woman was making steps in the direction of life, I was tongue-tied.
Though I wasn't working or volunteering there and didn't need to say anything, it was hard and very awkward for me.
I was filled with joy because it appeared that this woman was trying to find positive solutions to her crisis, but still knew that if this woman wasn't at TLC, it would be very easy for her to abort her baby.
It was a very powerless feeling and I was struck by how hard it hit me.
Just down the street is Planned Parenthood. Babies are dying. It's the dark and gritty front-line.
The people that stand outside the clinic and try to help save the lives of babies are incredible. All the people involved in the pro-life movement are.
We need more people like them.
Maybe, one day I will be able to stand along side them. Not an easy place to be.
At least, in this office, babies are being saved. THANK GOD.
Not all battles are lost.

Ma Beck over at WardWideWeb had a different experience. God bless you, Ma, for trying to help in a very difficult situation. Check out her blog for her very moving posts.

Like I mentioned in prior posts, Highland LifeCare Center will be moving practically right next to PP. The Archbishop is allowing the Holy Eucharist to be reserved there for Adoration. I might be overwhelmed, tongue-tied and powerless, but the Body of Christ right next to PP can work miracles.

You can read my prior posts about Total Life Care Centers

Eliminating the need for confessionals?

Is it a quark or is he a quack? A University of Washington (my other alma mater) physics professor is working on a quantum physics experiment to prove the existence of reverse time. Stephen Hawking, well-known scientist and atheist, doesn't believe in it. He thinks time only moves forward. However, I have listened to a brilliant (I mean brilliant) physicist talk about reverse time like it was a given. I tend to believe in the possibility. Anyway, it is interesting.

If we only had a chance to undo past sins, that would be wonderful. Or, is it more of a curse? Would we be forever correcting our mistakes, like Hindus or Scientologists, in this life or past lives, until we somehow managed to achieve Nirvana or Enlightenment or...?

Confession actually starts to look good compared to having to do things over and over until you get it right.

Beam us up, Scotty!

16 July 2007

One of his many hurdles...

Strong drink required

A week or so ago, I was listening to Relevant Radio and they were talking about abortion. Specifically, partial birth abortion. Despite my strong stomach, I HAD to turn off the radio. What barbarism have we come to that this atrocity takes place AND is on polite Catholic radio. Not that it shouldn't be talked about, not that it was improper to have it on Relevant Radio. Just the fact that our society, we, you and me, have gotten to this point and we are jaded to it.

The gentleman said everyone should read the 2000 and 2003 partial birth rulings. The ruling on partial birth abortion should be REQUIRED reading for everyone. For the 2003 link.

Strong warnings apply. Sit down. Hug your kids and be prepared to be nauseated.

Not just sitting on the front porch

I just got an invitation in the mail. Another 50th wedding anniversary. Incredible! The summer my son was born, four summers ago, I had three 50th wedding anniversaries to attend for two aunts/uncles on my mom's side and one aunt/uncle on my dad's side. This one is for my mother's cousin.

These people are my examples, and what wonderful examples they are in many, many ways.

When I first got married, almost 19 years ago, I couldn't imagine being married for even a year. It just seemed like such a long span of time to a young kid. Once the first year mark was attained, the rest just kind of followed without much anxiety on my part. 50 years still seems like a huge milestone in my eyes.

My maternal grandparents also made 50 years. My family is blessed. I am blessed. Even my areligious parents-in-law are a good example. They are coming up on 50 years too.

I found a calculator to determine the odds of my making it to my 50th wedding anniversary. It was approximately 25%. Seems kind of questionable to me. I don't even think it takes into account life span, life style, temperment, etc. It just looks at your age when you got married, education level, how religious you consider yourself, number of kids, previous marriages, and prior divorces.

According to the blog I found this on:
Now that you've seen the generic probability that you'll still be married to your current spouse at the anniversary of your marriage that you entered, you may have more questions than answers. If the probability is really low, that might be a good place to begin a conversation with your spouse.

Obviously, the person writing this hasn't been married too long since part of the magic of staying married for decades is to know when to just leave well enough alone. Starting a conversation about the low probability of making it to our 50th wedding anniversary is not a good idea. With both of us being engineers, we tend to be practical/pragmatic, so would figure if the train we are on isn't going to make it to the station, get off now and try to find one that will!

Where was this information when I got married? What do we need priests to counsel about marriage for? Maybe the odds makers in Las Vegas should be required to provide this information to prospective couples as a public service. Save everyone the time and trouble and just use a handy-dandy calculator!

15 July 2007

Stay for the coffee and doughnuts

We went to several parishes over the past half dozen years trying to find a parish we liked within 45 minutes from our cabin. I won't ramble on about all the problems since it's the same old song and dance, sometimes literally, that we all are familiar with. What bothers me isn't the clothes people wear or the songs that are sung, but the "check-list mentality."

During the spring, the parish we regularly attend in the woods of NW Wisconsin has a baptism during Mass fairly often. Sometimes the children being baptised are toddlers, sometimes infants. Most of the people showing up to have their kids baptised are completely unfamiliar to me (it's a small parish with only one Mass). A good deal of the time, the families don't go up for Communion and leave before Mass is even over. Some families, and their entire entourage, leave as soon as the "baptism part" is completed. Their seats are reserved for them in the front pews, so their leaving is obvious.

Aren't the parents supposed to be parishioners in good standing, meaning practicing? Why go to the trouble of having your child baptised Catholic if you don't adhere to the beliefs yourself? Baptism appears to be a novel idea, like the first time riding a bike or losing a tooth. A chance to take pictures to fill in the requisite pages in the baby book.

When my kids were baptised, the priest mentioned several times how this was THE MOST IMPORTANT day in their lives. To treat baptism as just a fulfillment of an expectation, or as an obligation, or some rite of passage, is to miss so much of the beauty God has provided in the sacrament.

Thank goodness they are getting their children baptised, but it's like getting a post card in the mail from a far-off place as a souvenir. Kind of a let-down, a disappointment. Instead of just getting a suitable-for-framing-baptismal-certificate, they should give their child and themselves the "real deal."

12 July 2007

Goin' to the cabin to refinish the deck

Taking the kids to some garage sales this morning. I have to ply them with cookies to keep them from mutinying. My son is actually starting to up the ante by asking for cupcakes. So much for innocence!

Going to the cabin later today. Hope to scrape the deck, prime the deck and then paint the deck. Fun job. I also hope to dig up one really ugly bush and get a garden ready for next year. If we even get the deck scraped, I'll be happy.

Have a good weekend!

The train has left the station

Your Personality is Somewhat Rare (ESTJ)

Your personality type is serious, fair, independent, and competent.

Only about 9% of all people have your personality, including 7% of all women and 11% of all men
You are Extroverted, Sensing, Thinking, and Judging.

I can't believe that! I've taken the Myers-Briggs Personality test many times, mostly at work (check out the link provided for a slightly better test), and always was a:

Your Type is
Extraverted Intuitive Thinking Judging

"Creating order out of chaos" is one extraverted thinker's way of describing her volition. Determined, logical, critical, they love a challenge, especially one that will allow tangible improvement in productivity, efficiency or profitability. They are direct, finding the quickest, most direct path between what is and what should be.

They excel at implementing ideas and are often on the lookout for good ideas worthy of their attention. They are quick to organize, orchestrate, find resources, coordinate, and follow through to the end of a project. They love a problem, especially one that will make full use of their competencies, their logic and sense of order, justice and fair play.

Many find competition to be stimulating and fun. "These are the rules of the game now let us play." Fairness is sharing and respecting the same set of rules, so may the best one win. And since they readily acknowledge that there will be a winner and a loser, they would simply much rather be the winner. So they hone their strategies on the fine knife of experience and sharpen their skills to meet the next challenge head on.

They love having greater challenges bestowed on them as a result of having successfully met the last, as this attests to their competence and skills. They appear dispassionate because of their impersonal and objective approach, but close observation will reveal deep passion and enthusiasm as well as sensitivity, especially to cherished ones. However they expect others to roll up their sleeves as they do and meet the task in spite of personal hardships or discomfort.

They have little tolerance for personal whims that threaten a smooth running operation. They are direct and honest with most things that displease them and expect others to do the same. Their humanity shows in their sense of fairness and justice as well as their love of humour.

Like Doritos, you can't just take one of these goofy tests:

You Are Somewhat Machiavellian

You're not going to mow over everyone to get ahead...
But you're also powerful enough to make things happen for yourself.
You understand how the world works, even when it's an ugly place.
You just don't get ugly yourself - unless you have to!

Father Welzbacher would be proud.

You Are Apple Red

You're never one to take life too seriously, and because of it, you're a ton of fun.
And although you have a great sense of humor, you are never superficial.
Deep and caring, you do like to get to the core of people - to understand them well.
However, any probing you do is light hearted and fun, sometimes causing people to misjudge you.

How I've lived this long and not known what color red I am is baffling.

11 July 2007

Short changing individualism

Pretty soon my kids will turn 2 and 4. They have the same birthday. As some people like to say, twins born two years apart. When people find out my kids have the same birthdate, they think it was great planning. I didn't plan anything really. Both kids were complete surprises, despite what my mother-in-law believes.

Because both of my pregnancies were high-risk with lots of complications, I had two planned C-sections. This allowed me to, within a window of a week or so, pick the date of both kids' births. When our families found out that I planned to have my daughter born on the same day her brother was, we got a lot of grief. That caught me off-guard. Even though, at the most, they would be born less than a week apart, people thought it was an offense to their "individualism" to have them share the same birthday. My brother said, "That's just wrong." Some of my husband's family kept pushing for me to have their birthdays be just one day apart.

Before all this unsoliticted advice came my way, I thought that the kids having the same birthday was a great idea. I still do. I thought my kids would forever be connected in this small way and their birthdays would be a celebration of them together and apart. Pop psychology aside, the Church is a good teacher on the role of the individual, but also on our roles as a community. From the Archdiocese of Cincinnati:

In a global culture driven by excessive individualism, our tradition proclaims that the person is not only sacred but also social. How we organize our society—in economics and politics, in law and policy—directly affects human dignity and the capacity of individuals to grow in community. The family is the central social institution that must be supported and strengthened, not undermined. While our society often exalts individualism, the Catholic tradition teaches that human beings grow and achieve fulfillment in community. We believe people have a right and a duty to participate in society, seeking together the common good and well-being of all, especially the poor and vulnerable. Our Church teaches that the role of government and other institutions is to protect human life and human dignity and promote the common good.

Society has gone off the deep-end in pushing the cause of individualism. It is the down fall of Libertarians who believe you can do whatever you want as long as it doesn't interfere with me doing what I want. Individualism finds its extreme in abortion, euthanasia and some medical research where the rights of the individual outweigh the rights of those not afford the same status. We fall into the trap of thinking that our own lives are more important than those of our neighbors, contrary to Jesus' message of loving your neighbor as yourself.

Not that long ago, kids used to share rooms. In some cases, they even shared beds. Extended family lived under the same roof. People had a more immediate sense of how their actions affected others. In today's world, sins like pornography, prostitution, etc., aren't believed to be "that bad" since people don't consider the sin as affecting them. It's the modern belief of "to each his own."

In a few weeks, the kids will have their joint birthday party. Even if they had different birthdays, it is unlikely they would've had separate parties. It's hard enough to get everyone together for one day out of the year, but ask them to do that twice within a week and those people who rallied for different birthdays would tell me I was crazy to try to monopolize their calendar with my kids' parties.

My birthday is Christmas Eve, so don't tell me I don't know what's it's like to have my big day overshadowed by someone else. I don't think my kids' sense of individualism will suffer from having their birthdays on the same day. They might have to learn to share and think of others. After all, aren't those things we want our children to learn?

10 July 2007

More quotes

Don't use Al Capone as your moral compass.
Father Mitch Pacwa

Faith makes miracles; miracles do not make Faith.

A happy life consists not in the absence, but in the mastery of hardships.
Helen Keller

Wisconsin or anywhere but here

I was living in Seattle when Jesse Ventura was elected governor of Minnesota. Everyone I worked with wanted me to shed some light on how this could happen. What were the people in MN thinking?

No answer. All I could say was, at least he wasn't Humphrey.

The people of Minnesota spent the next four years cringing every time Jesse felt threatened and lashed out at reporters and the media. They tolerated his tenuous affiliation to the Navy SEALS, but criticized him when he shut down the governor's mansion. In the end, they were just glad to see him go without having him cause too much damage to the State. Harvard, where he went to "teach" after leaving office, could have him, the same with Mexico, where he reportedly went to live. So long, farewell, Auf Wiedersehn, GOOD BYE!

Now that I've moved back to MN, I still shake my head at the politicians we have.

According to a recent article, Al Franken, who is running against Senator Norm Coleman (not a favorite of mine), recently raised more money than Coleman. Although most of the donations were of $100 or less, it doesn't hurt to have Hollywood types backing you. Franken, despite his Harvard and Hollywood pedigrees, has an even thinner skin than Ventura. I guess he'll invoke the grade school play ground rules of not hitting a kid that wears glasses. Franken might find that Minnesota Nice melts around election time.

Earlier this year, the University of Minnesota mulled over the idea of giving Al Gore an honorary doctorate. They gave one to Hillary...and Yanni. I guess he'd be in good company. The U of M is probably waiting to see if Gore announces a run for President or if the latest concerts put Gore in "rock star status." The U of M has it's own reasons for bestowing this degree and I have a feeling it changes with which way the wind blows. Hey, it's not my Alma Mater!

I just hope I don't have to be like Alec Baldwin and feel I have to leave the country if these things come to fruition. Maybe I'd just go to Wisconsin, or Canada, or Mexico, until all this blows over. I should check to see if Jesse has a guest room available.

Organized religion is a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people who need strength in numbers. It tells people to go out and stick their noses in other people's business
Jesse Ventura in a Playboy interview

09 July 2007

Total Life Care Centers in the news

Over the weekend, BOTH papers in the Twin Cities ran articles on Total Life Care Centers (Highland Life Care specifically) moving two doors away from Planned Parenthood in Highland Park. That's pretty incredible. Just when we hear that abortions in MN rose 7%, hopefully, this move will help decrease that number by making Total Life Care Centers more visible.

The Star Tribune article

The Pioneer Press article

America's Cup goes to the Swiss

With the 4th of July holiday, I forgot to mention that the Swiss team beat the Kiwi team for the trophy. I didn't even hear about the race on the news, probably because the US wasn't in the running.

The Alinghi team repeated as America's Cup champion, defeating Emirates Team New Zealand by just one second in the seventh flight to win the series 5-2. Switzerland is only the third country to repeat in the event's 156-year history.

For more on the story, go here.

08 July 2007

Generation Jones

My father was a member of the "Greatest Generation," and my mother was of the "Silent Generation." My parents, however, didn't get married until later in life, resulting in me being a late Generation Jones or early Generation X. This is something I didn't know until I recently looked it up...I had never heard of Generation Jones. My generation had always been called the "Baby Bust."

Greatest Generation  1911 to 1924
Silent Generation       1925 to 1942
Baby Boomers             1946 to 1964
Generation Jones      1954 to 1965
Generation X              1965 to 1977
Generation Y              1978 to 1997

The Baby Boomer generation is absent in my immediate family. I had never really thought much about Baby Boomers or had a bone to pick with an entire generation of people until another local blogger accused the generations that followed the Boomers of being ungrateful. Just what does my generation, and the subsequent generations, have to be thankful for? Dylan? And?

I was not even on the planet when Kennedy was shot. I do, however, remember Man landing on the Moon. My generation came home to latch-keys, TV dinners and sitcoms featuring Mork and Mindy. We also had the "unrequited craving of unfulfilled expectations," and were left to deal with:

1. Abortion and birth control
2. The questionable implementation of Vatican II, including wreckovation of churches
3. Society of victims
4. Drugs prevalent in all aspects of culture
5. Feminism and the emasculation of men
6. Vanity, ageing is to be avoided at all costs
7. Schools that bend to pop culture, pop psychology, sensitivity, and sex ed
8. Sexual revolution
9. Decay of the family structure and the morals of the country
10. Cafeteria or Library Catholicism

I'll try not to blame all the ills of society on the Boomers, so will stop at 10.

Dealing with what came before
The Boomer generation brought us affluence, excess and self-indulgence. Prospering off of the sacrifices and successes of their parents, they forged a new path and didn't stop to look back. In my extended family, it was the first generation to divorce and leave the Church. The nostalgic notion of the Boomer generation being "the generation that would clean up our cities, end racial inequality, and find the cure for the common cold" has been found to be lacking. A CNN article comments:

"Some of us were old enough to participate in the money rush in the '80s," he admits. "But for the most part, Generation Jones came of age watching the slow, hypocritical sellout of the lovefest of the '60s -- it turned into the money grab of the '80s."

"They swore they would never sell out. They gave in, they gave up and joined the establishment."

The idea that my generation, or more specifically, women of my generation, owe something to the Boomer generation is absurd. I worked in a strongly male dominated field, and doors to this field may have been opened by Boomers, but that door opened a Pandora's box. My generation followed in the footsteps of women like Gloria Steinem, who fed us a good line, but didn't deliver on the idea that "you can have it all." We were led down a path and then left there to find our way out of the woods. The second bite of the apple didn't taste any better than the first.

The bottom line
Despite spending this post criticizing the Baby Boomers, I think the whole pointing-fingers thing is a waste of time (I never claimed my generation made sense or wasn't conflicted!). I might not be overtly grateful to the Boomer generation, but I don't have disdain for them either. All of us are called to deal with the hand we are dealt. Life isn't fair (refer to the above list, item #3), but life is good. Stop yer whinin' and get on with it.

People try to put us d-down (talkin bout my generation)
Just because we get around (talkin bout my generation)
Things they do look awful c-c-cold (talkin bout my generation)
I hope I die before I get old (talkin bout my generation)

The Who

07 July 2007

Motu Poo Poo Fever

Mass in Latin?

We're there.

(Actually, this is from the 4th after a day at Como Zoo)

First the Motu, now the Dreamliner

I'm kind of a bit sad I didn't get to work on this plane, the 787 Dreamliner. It is set to roll out tomorrow, 8 July (which is 7-8-07!). Tom Brokaw will be the emcee. You can watch the rollout on satellite or webcast. Millions and millions of parts came together to build this thing!

I was wondering, when I looked at the orders placed at the Paris airshow, why so many orders were made for Airbus products. Of course, my husband thought I was light-years behind not to know that Boeing already had well over 600 orders for the 787 and the next available slot to order a plane is several YEARS out. So, with Boeing's production of the 787 roaring at capacity, the airlines who didn't get in on the ground floor and place their bets when the 787 was in development, have to settle for what's left (Airbus).

What's really interesting is that about 50% of the plane (fuselage) will be built out of composites, with the manufacturers being Alenia (Italy), Vought (South Carolina), and Spirit Aerosystems (Boeing's old Wichita facility), instead of the huge aluminum fuselage pieces being built by a variety of Japanese manufacturers (Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Fuji Heavy Industries, etc). This makes the plane much, much lighter. Also worth noting, is bleed air off the engines won't be used to provide cabin pressurization and air conditioning, allowing for greater full efficiency (which is a BIG thing with airlines). Air conditioning and cabin air will all come from outside fresh air. Ah, breathe!

Boeing bet the farm on the 777 and now on the 787. Seems they are poised to take back their #1 position. For more on Boeing and the Dreamliner, go here.

For a YouTube clip on the static load (ultimate load) test on the 777 (not 787) back in 1995, go here. They bend the wings up, up, up, as far as they will go until they fail. And, when they fail you'll know it!! Kind of campy, but VERY cool. Rumor is the 787 wings will be able to touch wing tips above the plane without breaking, but will only be tested to a little over the required 150% to pass the test.

04 July 2007

Let Freedom Ring

Have a blessed, safe and wonderful 4th!!

I will be gone for most of the weekend. Taking the kids to the cabin so sweet hubby can have the house to himself so he can strip paint.

Pascal's wager

Back when I did the post on Buridan's ass, I was really going to post something on Blaise Pascal (June 19, 1623–August 19, 1662) since it was the 384th anniversary of Pascal's birth. Not that I keep track of these things, it had just been mentioned on TV and jogged my memory a bit. Pascal has his own "philosophical mind game," along the lines of Buridan's ass.

Blaise Pascal is from the old, old school of scientists. The ones that were both schooled in science and in theology. Pascal was a French mathematician, physicist, and religious philosopher. He was a child prodigy who was educated by his father, made important contributions to the construction of mechanical calculators, the study of fluids, and clarified the concepts of pressure and vacuum. As an engineer in my past life, I dealt with "Pascals" (a unit of pressure equivalent to one newton per square meter) on a daily basis, but never really gave much thought to the man behind the units.

Pascal's wager is actually very simple and it's simplicity brings about criticism and atheistic parallels. I don't believe Pascal, who possessed a mind of incredible talent, was using his wager to prove anything, but as a ponderable for those who didn't believe in God. An impetus to start a conversation, not an end in itself.

A description of the wager:

The Wager is described by Pascal in the Pensées this way:

Let us consider the paraphrased translation of Pascal. "God either exists or He doesn't. Based on the testimony, both general revelation (nature) and special revelation (Scriptures/Bible), it is safe to assume that God does in fact exist. It is abundantly fair to conceive, that there is at least 50% chance that the Christian Creator God does in fact exist. Therefore, since we stand to gain eternity, and thus infinity, the wise and safe choice is to live as though God does exist. If we are right, we gain everything, and lose nothing. If we are wrong, we lose nothing and gain nothing. Therefore, based on simple mathematics, only the fool would choose to live a Godless life. Let us see. Since you must choose, let us see which interests you least. You have nothing to lose. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is."

In his Wager, Pascal attempts to provide an analytical process for a person to evaluate options in regarding belief in God. This is often misinterpreted as simply believing in God or not. As Pascal sets it out, the options are two: live as if God exists, or live as if God does not exist. There is no third possibility.

Therefore, we are faced with the following possibilities:

You live as though God exists.
If God exists, you go to heaven: your gain is infinite.
If God does not exist, you gain nothing & lose nothing.
You live as though God does not exist.
If God exists, you go to hell: your loss is infinite.
If God does not exist, you gain nothing & lose nothing.

With these possibilities, and the principles of statistics, Pascal attempted to demonstrate that the only prudent course of action is to live as if God exists. It is a simple application of game theory (to which Pascal had made important contributions).

The irony is, Pascal was a Jansenist. He is also considered the father of probability theory. How he reconciled probability with his predestined Jansenist beliefs...the odds are against us ever understanding.