Monday, August 28, 2006

Is it Ok to Say "No"

My daughter brought home a note today. It said email....if you want to be a Girl Scout. Five years ago she brought home a similar note, which I dutifully filled out (back in the day of paper forms collected at school)even checking the box that said I would help. I didn't hear anything more from the Girl Scouts that year, but I heard from my daughter who wanted to know why there was Cub Scouts at school but not Girl Scouts. I figured leadership was the problem, so that summer I took the bull by the horns and called the council and volunteered. I got her best friend's mom to be my assistant and we led a troop of almost twenty girls. We had a ball.

The next year, right as school was starting I made a startling discovery--I was pregnant. It was the most miserable of my three pregnancies between the nausea and fatigue that didn't completely go away until almost Christmas and the swelling, itching and insomnia that commenced around March. Still, we had good girls and we had a good time--I even made a camping trip in late February. I hated the idea of quitting, but I knew I couldn't handle a troop and a baby. Luckily, my co-leader agreed to take over, if I'd help.

That fall, my co-leader backed out. She'd help, she'd do camping trips and some of the meetings, but she couldn't be reliable because of problems in her personal life. I had only a small group and decided that we could meet on Saturday mornings and rotate parents to give me the two adults needed. The girls were great, but all those Saturday morning meetings really cut into my free time, and I was having trouble getting parents to show up. By summer I was burned out so we did very little.

The next year our service unit was going to do a Washington DC trip. It was to be the girls' last year at that school and so I decided I'd try to keep the troop together at least a little, mostly because my daughter wanted me to. I said I'd be willing to do SU events and one or two camping trips, with a meeting before each trip, or, if the group wanted to do the WDC trip, I'd be willing to meet monthly and do fund raisers, if I could get a commitment from a mom to be a co-leader. A mom stepped up to the plate. A few hours after that meeting we evacuated for Katrina. When life had returned sufficiently to normal, I found that three of my six girls were no longer in town, nor was the new co-leader. I couldn't get in touch with two more. My daugther, however, wanted Girl Scouts. I decided that I'd try to get a troop going, and recruited at school across all grade levels and put together a troop that included one Daisy, several Brownies and several Juniors. Basically we did activities from the Brownie Try-It book using the Juniors as assistant leaders to earn their leadership badges. They had a good time, but again I had trouble getting help and attendance became a problem. I was glad when the year ended and though we did a few things this summer, I can't say that I had all that much fun.

My daughter enjoys Girl Scouts, and I think the shame of the program is that it doesn't manage to hold on to girls long enough for them to get into so many of the wonderful opportunities it can afford older girls. Yet, I'm tired of being the leader. I don't mind helping, but with a toddler and a high school freshman besides her, I don't have time to meet regularly. I'm tired of scheduling away my free time only to have no one (or practically no one) show up. Yet, she wants to be a Girl Scout. Is it ok for me to say "no" to leadership, and her to say "yes" to membership?

Has Life Changed?

Right now, here in the New Orleans area, it is time to look back and reflect, as it is the one year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. The paper today was full of articles about how different parts of town are recovering (or not) from the storm, and about people's plans for the future as well as the losses they are mourning. I started to reflect on how life has changed for me and mine.

We are fortunate. We are living in our house with our stuff, all of which was untouched by Katrina. Our kids are in the same schools they would have been in if Katrina. My husband and I are working the same places we were before the storm. In other ways, life has changed. There was a huge line at the courthouse today of people filing Katrina claims. My husband was hired to be a salesman, but since it is hard to find help and since they can't sell what they can't deliver, he spends part of the week driving a delivery truck. Two of my daughter's good friends did not return after the storm. I am working on several Katrina cases, and I'm sure a lot more are on the way. Macys hasn't reopened in our mall. The doctor's office is packed. There are "for sale" signs on houses on almost every street in my subdivision--and they aren't going down quickly. I wonder if Katrina is the reason my son's school won't have a bus this year. The bus driver said only two kids signed up, and of course he can't afford to run a bus for so few. Whenever a hurricane forms we are all glued to our TVs or computers, checking the path several times a day and discussing evacuation plans. I think our sense of safety has been shattered, we aren't sure things will be ok. I know we will all be glad when hurricane season is over.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

A Year Later

The big topic around here is "Katrina, One Year Later". It was a Saturday morning when we woke up and found she was heading our way. I had a Girl Scout meeting scheduled that morning, and my daughter's birthday party was supposed to be that afternoon. I didn't figure anyone would show up for the GS meeting, but since I was the leader, and called the meeting, I felt obligated to show up. All the girls came and we had a two hour meeting. On the way home, I told my daughter that we ought to go by the club and see if it was open. Of course it was not, so I told her she had a choice--we could have the party that day at the house and the kids could play in the hose, or we could wait until the next weekend and have it at the pool as planned. She decided she wanted to do it that afternoon, which was fine with me, since we had decided to leave, but late, so the baby would be sleeping. About eight kids showed up for the party and a good time was had by all. In the middle of it, my brother called. He lives behind my parents in Mississippi and wanted to know if we could stop and pick up my parents on our way to my sister's in Atlanta. Of course we said yes. My parents had never evacuated for a storm before--their house was fine during Camille in 1969, so they just hunkered down for a few days without power. This time however, my mom was on oxygen and chronically/terminally ill and she wanted out. We picked them up about six and headed toward Atlanta. We spent the night outside of Montgomery and got to Atlanta Sunday afternoon.

Monday we took the kids to the zoo in Atlanta and saw, among other things, the pandas. It was a dismal drizzly day, and since school had started, the zoo was practically empty. We got back to my sister's and watched hurricane coverage and worried. When we finally heard from my brother, we found that my parent's house had two feet of water in it. It took over 24 hours before we heard from my brother and sister-in-law who chose to ride it out in thier home in Bay St. Louis and ended up with four feet of water in thier house. We looked at the TV shots from New Orleans and figured that life as we knew it had come to an end. We set about enrolling the kids in school and trying to figure out where we went from there.

We were lucky. My husband heard that they were allowing people to return to our area to "look and leave" on Labor Day. He headed to Baton Rouge and spent Sunday nite at a friend's house (along with 14 other people). Our first good news was when he got home and found that we had no water in our house. That same weekend I found that our firm had opened an office in Baton Rouge and that I had a job. We knew we'd be going home sooner rather than later.

There have been a lot of articles in the paper about how things have changed. We are lucky--by October my kids were back in their schools, my husband and I were back at our jobs and the baby was at her sitter's. Our house is fine and in a lot of ways, for the last few months things haven't been that different from before the storm. Yet, in other ways they are different. We haven't been to be beach at Grandpa's (Grandma passed away in March) because of the debris in the water. Our damage (minor thought it was) is mostly not repaired because of the expense and the difficulty scheduling workmen. I'm working on a Katrina case at work that has changed the client's life forever. People we know have moved and will probably never return. Our neighborhood is dotted with FEMA trailers (not everyone was as lucky as we were).

Now Earnesto is in the Gulf. Our Lady of Prompt Succor pray for us that we may be spared loss of life and property this hurricane season.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

A Toddler with Ice Cream

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Friday, August 18, 2006

Where They Learn

I've read many times that one reason the mainstream media makes such mistakes reporting religious news is that many members of it are not themselves religious. So, where do they get information regarding the religions on which they report? According to Resource Shelf, they get some of it at It's an interesting place to surf.

Kids' Books and Our Reaction

Elena over at My Domestic Church commented about the book The Midwife's Apprentice and about how thought she enjoyed it, as did her sons, some Catholic groups are highly opposed to it. This brought to mind a book my son had to read this summer A Secret History by Procopius, a famous historian from the time of the emperor, Justinian. Evidently Procopius wrote a multi-volume history of his time focusing on the glories of Justinian. A Secret History tells, as Paul Harvey would say "the rest of the story". Basically it describes Justinian, famous for his Code, as a man who changed the laws whenever it suited him. It describes his wife as a harlot and indicates that both of them engaged in homosexual acts mentions other "unnatural" acts as well.

My son is on the immature and sexually innocent side. He has decided that he isn't getting married because he doesn't want to have to kiss on the lips. I was reading the book a chapter ahead of him, to make sure he understood what he was reading and of course he didn't understand the sexual references. As I was explaining them, one part of me was wondering why in the world a Catholic school would be assigning such stuff to the kids. I was seriously considering calling and complaining. As a I formulating my objection--I've found you get further with most people with calm, reasoned questions and/or objections than what you do with hysterical "how can you do that to my kid" remarks--I realized that in no way were those acts glorified in this book, but rather they were further proof of the evil of these people. I also realized that most kids his age would know what they were talking about, and that for us, it let me be the one to tell him that some people did that stuff, and that it was as wrong as what it sounded. I decided not to call the school.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Vacation photos

Down by the Old Schoolhouse

Kids on the sofa at our cabin Mom and kids on porch

Dad and kids on porch

Beautiful Country

Enjoying Ice Cream at Obergatlinburg

Mom and the kids at Newfound Gap

Friday, August 04, 2006

Book Review: Unveiled

Unveiled The Hidden Life of Nuns by Cheryl Reed was part of my vacation reading. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I've always had a fascination about what goes on behind convent walls, and when I ran across this at the library (with a copyright of 2004 rather than 1964) I grabbed it.

Cheryl Reed is a journalist raised as a Fundamentalist Protestant who flirted with Catholicism before rejecting it and its teaching on the hierarchy and birth control in favor of Orthodoxy. She spent five years visiting a variety of women's religious communities throughout the country and writes about her experiences and impressions.

She begins her journey in a Benedictine monastery in Minnesota where she meets both a nun who wears the traditional habit and keeps her hair in a crew cut and a feminist who says that she doesn't know if she would remain Catholic if she wasn't a Benedictine. Another community she visited was the Passionists. She noted that they still shave their heads and that they use the discipline (of DaVinci Code fame.)Some of her comments about them and their penitential practices indicate that she doesn't understand Catholic teaching about penance and indulgences.

She discusses the habit and I found this quote best summed up her attitude: "But to me it [the habit] signified total obedience, and aspect of religious life I was having trouble accepting. The orders that retain the habit seemed to require complete devotion to Church practices and theology and there didn't seem to be room for questioning and debate." She seems more impressed with sisters like one in Chicago who runs a shelter for women and children who around 1980 (remember, this book was probably researched in the late 1990's) stopped going to mass, unless it was a celebration with her community, or she was with her parents. Sorry, but I just don't "get" a nun who doesn't go to mass at least weekly. I have to say though that even she wondered if the Benedictines in Ferdinand Indiana were doing the right thing in creating a "summer camp" atmosphere for their vocation retreats and so carefully crafting the image they presented to the press (including her).

Using illustrations from the lives of sisters, she talks about the meaning of the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience to today's religious women. While she clearly is impressed by those who embrace material poverty to serve the poor, she also admits it isn't the lifestyle for her. She seems far more impressed with those who see the vow of obedience to be obedience to the will of God (as interpreted by the sister in question) than she does by those who see it as obedience to superiors and the Church.

She ends the book comparing two groups--a group of women who renounced their vows and broke away from the IMH Community in California and formed their own community which includes men and families (and lesbians in relationships) and the sisters who stayed in the community. The breakaway group welcomed her and she admitted that if they were closer to her home, she'd consider joining. The group who remained did not, and she described them as a bunch of old women waiting to die. She concludes that the future of religious life is with groups like the breakaway group, rather than with traditional religious communities. Frankly, I find it funny that she can't see why so many of these groups are having trouble finding recruits. She admits that some traditional habited communities were attracting young women, but just can't admit that they might be on to something. As I said on Amy Welborn's blog today, why would a young woman who loves the Church want to join a group of women who don't go to mass, who see the hierarchy as oppressive, or who practice Buddhism and Goddess worship (yup, she mentioned nuns that did)? Why would a young woman who doesn't go to mass, who sees the hierarchy as oppressive, or who practices Buddhism or goddess worship want to spend her life in a Catholic religious community?

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Book Review: De-Coding Mary Magdalene

I mentioned in the previous post that I read the blog of Amy Welborn, a Catholic author. Several of Amy's recent books were written in reaction to Dan Brown's The DaVinci Code. I recently read one, Decoding Mary Magdalene. I have to hand it to Amy. She has done a terriffic job of balancing readability, scholarly credibility (she lets you know the source of her quotes and ideas without microscopic footnotes) and spirituality. Her background as a teacher comes through when she ends each chaper with reflection questions. She takes on the modern thesis that Mary Magdalene was made into a whore by the Church so as to lessen her importance to early Christians and points out that in the middle ages, no saint had a bigger following than she did, except for the Blessed Mother.

I have to say though, that reading The DaVinci Code was more fun--kind of like comparing the well-balanced, low-fat, high fiber meal with the chocolate cake. One is good for you; the other has its place and can be more pleasurable.

Blogs I Read: Open Book

Yes, I'm one of Amy Welborn's fans too. For those who haven't read her blog, Open Book, Amy is a writer of Catholic books (I believe all non-fiction at this point) and the keep of a blog that is generally updated several times daily. She comments primarily on news, both Catholic and secular, but thows in enough about her family and life to make it somewhat personal too. She has a large following of regular readers who regularly fill her comments boxes. If you aren't familiar with her, take a look.

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