May 2006 Archives

Thanks to all your prayers....

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The glitches in paperwork were fixed so that Smock and the Smockhub and the Smockchitlins were able to begin the move today! Hurrah! Moving from a small house into a much bigger one should be lots of fun, and I'm sure the Smock has put on her Justice League Super Mom uniform and is bossing things at this moment.

No wait, it's after 10 p.m. I hope she's getting some rest and a pint of Ben and Jerry's ice cream.

At any rate, the moving and unpacking will continue for a few days. She'll probably remain scarce 'til they're all set up again. But I know she'd want to thank you for keeping her in your prayers!

please keep the smockmaison in your prayers. i will let you know His answer as soon as He moves. [this is not an urgent prayer for life and death -- more like a prayer for smocksanity. many thanks!]

the vision of the valley of dry bones by gustave dore'
And He said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord God, thou knowest... (Ezekiel 37.3)

PSALM 84 5 Blessed is the man whose strength is in You,
Whose heart is set on pilgrimage.
6 As they pass through the Valley of Baca,
They make it a spring;

The rain also covers it with pools.
7 They go from strength to strength;
Each one appears before God in Zion.[b]

8 O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer;
Give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah
9 O God, behold our shield,
And look upon the face of Your anointed.
10 For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
Than dwell in the tents of wickedness.

11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
The LORD will give grace and glory;
No good thing will He withhold
From those who walk uprightly.

studying psalm 84, two things strike me in this passage about ezekiel's valley of dry bones, also interpreted as the valley of tears. the first is that we are called to pass through it (verse 5 [pilgrimage] and 6). and the second is that it takes great humilty and trust in God (see one of mamaT's favorite passages in verse 10). so far, i've yet to meet anyone who hasn't been called to pass through their own valley of dry bones (it wasn't until i became a catholic that i heard the term referred to as a sort of dark night or night of the soul). call it what you like, i've learned that if i talk about it, even in very vague terms, everyone i know has gone through this valley in one form or another. what's erie is that the experiences are so very personal for what seems like such a universal experience. but isn't that the beauty of catholicism? we know that even in the midst of excruciatingly lonely experiences, we are never alone.
for the first time ever in my own personal spiritual struggle, i have been experiencing the truly dry portion of the experience; and it wasn't until i found out yesterday that the word "baca" is also interpreted as "tears" that everything started to make sense. of course, this may mean nothing to you since it is so personal, but for me this was a huge epiphany! and, i'm sharing just in case someone else stumbles across this site. just remember, His anger is but for a moment,His favor is for life; weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. psalm 30.5

I laughed out loud....


....while eating breakfast this morning, and reading the latest edition of First Things. What made me laugh was this poem by Michael Juster. (I hope I'm not in trouble for putting someone's poem here!)

Rejection Note for Paradise Regained

Loved that first book--it's got no equal--
but, Johnny, we don't love your sequel.
If you would only take a chance
on self-help or a gay romance,
we'd let you keep your last advance.
Phony conspiracies would do
if you could find a hook or two--
like someone famous who won't sue.
Marketing knows you'll see the light
and thinks Da Vinci is just right.

Prayer request

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As we've noted on the blog in prior weeks (and months!), 2006 has been a challenging year for the Mamas.

I have hit a couple of extra bumps this week. Of course, just when I thought things were better! Ah well. Anyway, could ya'll give a shout out to God for my special needs and intentions? I'd appreciate it, and will return the favor any time upon request!

Bless ya'll!

The best line I've read today.....


.....though certainly not the most heartening, written by Anthony Esolen at Mere Comments. I happen to think he is spot on.

The governments of Europe are assuming that people are too poor to have larger families; but the truth is, they are too rich, and do not want to give up the toys of egoism.

DVC review....


.....from the New Yorker,by Anthony Lane.

A small snippet, about the book, before he goes on to trash the movie:

There has been much debate over Dan Brown’s novel ever since it was published, in 2003, but no question has been more contentious than this: if a person of sound mind begins reading the book at ten o’clock in the morning, at what time will he or she come to the realization that it is unmitigated junk? The answer, in my case, was 10:00.03, shortly after I read the opening sentence: “Renowned curator Jacques Saunière staggered through the vaulted archway of the museum’s Grand Gallery.” With that one word, “renowned,” Brown proves that he hails from the school of elbow-joggers—nervy, worrisome authors who can’t stop shoving us along with jabs of information and opinion that we don’t yet require. (Buried far below this tic is an author’s fear that his command of basic, unadorned English will not do the job; in the case of Brown, he’s right.) You could dismiss that first stumble as a blip, but consider this, discovered on a random skim through the book: “Prominent New York editor Jonas Faukman tugged nervously at his goatee.” What is more, he does so over “a half-eaten power lunch,” one of the saddest phrases I have ever heard.

Should we mind that forty million readers—or, to use the technical term, “lemmings”—have followed one another over the cliff of this long and laughable text? I am aware of the argument that, if a tale has enough grip, one can for a while forget, if not forgive, the crumbling coarseness of the style; otherwise, why would I still read “The Day of the Jackal” once a year? With “The Da Vinci Code,” there can be no such excuse. Even as you clear away the rubble of the prose, what shows through is the folly of the central conceit, and, worse still, the pride that the author seems to take in his theological presumption. How timid—how undefended in their powers of reason—must people be in order to yield to such preening? Are they reading “The Da Vinci Code” because everybody on the subway is doing the same, and, if so, why, when they reach their stop, do they not realize their mistake and leave it on the seat, to be gathered up by the next sucker? Despite repeated attempts, I have never managed to crawl past page 100.

A great quote....

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.....from Stephen Greydanus' review of DVC:

Catholic writer Mark Shea tells an anecdote about a college bull session among students at Central Washington University over The Da Vinci Code. “Even if it’s just fiction,” a student opined, “it’s still interesting to think about.”

To which another student replied: “Your mother’s a whore.” And then, to the first student’s stunned incredulity, he added, “And even if that’s just fiction, it’s still interesting to think about.”

Frederica Mathewes-Greene's review...


....of the DVC can be found here.

A small snippet:

The first hour, though very busy (and bloody), is so packed with verbal exposition and so lacking in character dynamics that it plods laboriously. It feels like a droning afternoon class, where you have to pay attention because this is going to be on the test. A bright spot is the editing, which is impressive right from the opening sequence, as the film cuts between scenes of Sauniere's murder and those of Langdon's book lecture. But if the first thing you can find to praise in a film experience is the editing, the second is likely to be theater décor.

27 Years and Counting

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I love you Papa C!

NY Times review....


.....of the DVC can be found here: warning! It made me laugh out loud!

moving stinks

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so last sunday night smockdaddy calls me and says, "i'm about to make an offer on a house."
i said, "what! you can't put an offer on a house i haven't even seen."
"okay. then put the kids in the car and come look at this house so i can make an offer."

we close on the 25th. i have a week to pack up a house of eight, lived in for six years. any prayers or moving advice will be appreciated. thanks!

Non sequiter, deluxe....

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Driving the Mckid home from preschool is sometimes a challenge. She doesn't always want to leave. And sometimes she doesn't want to leave WITH ME. You know the drill.

But yesterday was OK. She was quiet getting into the carseat, and I chalked it up to being tired. We drove more than half of the way home in silence.

Then from the back of the car comes a tiny voice:

"You know? I never thought of Eskimos."

Followed by a long silence again.

Well, you know? Neither did I......


I was driving to pick up the McKid yesterday, with my mind on many other things, when I came around a corner to see a beautiful, huge mimosa tree in full bloom. It made my day! I've driven past that corner every time I drive to the preschool, but something made me look and see. Benjamin? Was that you tapping me on the shoulder? I think so.

You know, mimosas have the reputation among landscapers as being pretty much a "trash tree." They are messy, and drop a lot of stuff on the ground. But I love them still. They are fanciful looking--silly, almost. And it makes me remember that creation was GOOD.

So enjoy!

This is so worth reading.....


.....Writers Who Whine About Work Are Full of the Wrong Stuff by Garrison Keillor.

A little snippet:

Young people are pessimistic enough these days without their elders complaining about things. Shut up. Life is pretty good when you grow up. You own your own car, you go where you like and you sing along with the radio or talk to yourself or chat on your cell phone. You pull into the drive-up window and order the Oreo Blizzard. What's not to like?

Got the link from over at People of the Book, a swell blog written by Jim Manney about Catholic publishing.

Watched a rather odd movie...

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....this weekend: Grizzly Man. It's a documentary by Warner Herzog about the life of Timothy Treadwell, the Grizzly Man of the title. Treadwell spent 13 summers living with the grizzly bears. He saw himself as the bears' advocate, protector, and true love. At the end of the 13th summer, both he and his girlfriend were killed and eaten (yes, eaten!) by a bear.

Treadwell seems to have started out with good intentions. He lived with the bears during the summers, then spent the winters giving free talks at schools and setting up conservation type programs. But my sense is that as time went on, he became more and more weird about what he was doing and his ability, because of his self-described "grizzly mojo", to live among untameable predators.

However, no matter what Treadwell THOUGHT he was doing with his videotapes of himself and the bears, the viewer comes to realize that the tapes were never really about the BEARS. They were really about Timothy Treadwell. As the tapes reach the final days of Treadwell's life, it is obvious to the viewer that this is a man slipping further and further into delusion. Probably a good textbook for a student of psychology!

You feel pity for him, in a way. But at the same time, it is impossible not to smack your head with your hand and yell at the screen, "You idiot! What did you THINK would happen!" I suppose it is a testament to the documentary maker that you can think both of these things. I remain confused by Treadwell. I never got to the point of some reviewers, who basically took the line, "Come on bears! Let's eat this idiot and get it over with!" But he is impossible to LIKE.

So I can't quite make up my mind about this movie. Not even whether I really liked it or not. Stephen Greydanus has a more coherent take on it than I do, and you can read his review here.

Happy Mother's Day!

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May your day be filled with all that makes you happiest!
And may God bless us, every one!

Just gotta love....

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I just spent more time than I should have had to, looking for a bathing suit for a 3 year old girl that wasn't a tied on the sides bikini or a gold lame number. Go figure. Even at my beloved Target, there were only a couple of appropriate (to these old mama eyes) suits for the McKid. What ARE we thinking?

Here's an article on Christianity about her take on what we need to do in response to the Da Vinci Code.

A little snip here:

And here's another thing that troubles me about the "opportunity for dialogue" stance. The debate is all on hell's terms. I am somebody who reads about exorcisms. I don't know why. I just do. And one of the first rules of exorcism is that you never answer the Devil's questions. You don't debate the Devil. You do not give evil the authority to question God.

DVC represents a debate in which the questions start with Satan's presumptions. I find it beyond naive to convince myself that the folks who are lapping up DVC are on a "search for truth." They're not. They are on a crusade to validate their own rejection of the authority of Christ and the Church.

And a little more from her, quoting Mark Shea:

I thought of this when I read a recent DVC rant from Mark Shea, who wrote that "the most maddening thing about this book is the thought of somebody losing their faith over this—this!—stupid piece of dimestore erudition. If you are going to risk your eternal soul, it should at least be over something noble and romantic and big. If you are bound to damn yourself, then at least let it be over a torrid and star-crossed love affair, or out of tragic hubris that sought to know What Man Was Not Meant to Know .… But to lose your soul over this cartoonish, illiterate, dishonest piece of hack drivel?"

To which I say, AMEN.

The inimitable Mark Steyn....


.....on the DaVinci Code and the Gospel of Judas can be found here.

A small snippet:

On the face of it, sticking a bunch of speed bumps into every sentence would not normally be considered helpful to the reader. But once again the point is tonal: it's to remind you, relentlessly, that this is "authentic" -- it was actually written by long-time Jesus sidekick Judas! Well, okay, it wasn't. It's a fourth-century Coptic text by some guy, but it's believed to be pretty close to the original second-century Greek text. Okay, Judas wasn't around in the second century, but the fellows who wrote his "Gospel" likely got it from a friend of a friend of a friend of his. As Dr. Simon Gathercole of the University of Aberdeen told my old pal Dalya Alberge in the London Times, the alleged Gospel of Judas "contains a number of religious themes which are completely alien to the first-century world of Jesus and Judas, but which did become popular later, in the second century AD. An analogy would be finding a speech claiming to be written by Queen Victoria, in which she talked about The Lord Of The Rings and her CD collection."

And that would probably sell, too, if you put in a bit about how she was the love child of John the Baptist, but the Knights Templar covered it up until the manuscript was discovered at an Elks Lodge. The "Gospel" of Judas isn't a Gospel as the term is understood in the New Testament. It has minimal narrative and no moral teachings. If it's authentic, it joins the club of marginal second-century Gnostic texts that are floating around out there. If you're a believing Christian, it's thin gruel.

quote du jour


"to love abundantly is to live abundantly, and to love forever is to live forever."
~ henry drummond

wow. i had no idea that the dad on diff'rent strokes was so deep.

....on Anthony Esolen over at Touchstone. Read this entry on the "Mere Comments" blog and see why. Here's a little excerpt:

I could go on adding examples, and maybe you've guessed by now the cause of my dismay and astonishment. Most of the streakers, and every single one of the other teenagers I have mentioned, were girls. They have liberated themselves, it seems, by clapping on their wrists the vices that beset their brothers; they have not adopted the virtues of their brothers, nor have they freed themselves from vices that are predominantly their own. Yes, now they are foulmouthed, drunken, boorish, and lewd; but not frank, not comradely, not farsighted, and not brave. Nor have they given up gossip, cattiness, manipulativeness, touchiness, and guile. It is a distressing sight; they do not know how sadly they have distorted the surpassing beauty of their sex. I spend most of the year teaching medieval and Renaissance poetry, including praises of women that our drab age can hardly fathom. How I miss sometimes, not the company of females, but the company of women!

(And no, Mr. Luse, it in NO WAY diminishes the crush I have on you. I am a multi-crush kind of girl.)



When we must do something we dislike, let us say to God, "My God I offer You this in honor of the moment when You died for me."
– St. John Vianney

(Found on my home page this morning as my saint quote for the day. Don't tell me God doesn't know what I'm up against!)

We've also seen a few good movies lately. That's one advantage of a son taking a Film Appreciation class--you get to talk about a lot of good movies. We've seen four good ones in the past couple of weeks:

First an oldie but a goodie:


Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains. What's not to like? We saw this because the Zman wrote his film appreciation paper on Alfred Hitchcock and it was either this or watch those awful birds peck people's eyes out. I'll take Cary Grant every time. Even when he's being a horse's you know what to the beautiful Ingrid Bergman. Aaaah.

Then a fabulous documentary:


The story of the United States wheelchair rugby team and its quest for a gold medal in the Olympics.

A new release on video, PapaC had no desire to see, Zman and I LOVED it:


Easy to see why Phillip Seymour Hoffman won best actor for this. He was practically channeling Capote. Very odd. If you can't get past the voice, you won't enjoy the movie. He was a narcissistic, often sad, little man. And I loved the look at his friendship with Harper Lee.

And finally, after months of hearing the Smock rave about Joaquin Phoenix in this movie:


I thought Phoenix did a better job being Johnny Cash than Reese Witherspoon did being June Carter. Especially in the singing department. Worth a look, we watched it with my parents, and we all gave it a thumbs up.

.....seriously, did you think I was just sitting around watching TV or something?

#11: True Notebooks by Mark Salzman. We read one of Salzman's novels in book club last year, so when I saw this non-fiction book by him at Half Price Books, I just had to pick it up. This is the author's story of working with kids in a writing program in one of California's juvenile detention centers. Heartbreaking and eye-opening. He doesn't sugarcoat what the kids have done, but he also shows us their humanity, which a lot of us (including ME) would be more comfortable denying. He has no solutions and doesn't act like he does. A funny, touching, harrowing look inside a place most of us will never see. 4 stars out of 5.

#12: Welcome to the World, Baby Girl! by Fannie Flagg. I adore southern literature good, bad and in-between. I'd say that Fannie Flagg falls somewhere into the top part of the in-between part. This is the story of Dena Nordstrom, an up and comer in the network news game, just as the trend moves to a more tabloid style news product. She's a hard driver, with health problems, busy running away from the past she barely remembers. She learns the hard way to value place, family and friends. And if you don't love the psychiatrist who falls in love with her, you have a heart of stone.
I loved it, but it's not great literature.

#13: A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson.The sometimes pedantic, sometimes hilariously funny story of Bryson's decision to hike the Appalachian Trail. He is at his funniest when telling personal exploits. He's at his worst when hammering us over the head with the incompetency of the National Park Service, the Army Corps of Engineers, the government in general, and Southerners in specific. Fortunately, he considers himself largely incompetent as well, which is his saving grace. But when he's funny, beware! Don't be drinking a Diet Coke or anything while reading. You'll either have to clean off the book pages or send yourself into a coughing fit. Yeah, parts of it are THAT funny. I'll never be able to think of bears in the same way.

#14: The Staggerford Murders by Jon Hassler. Hassler is my hero--an author whose every book I have enjoyed, even as I realized that some were better than others. The is a book that contains 2 novellas, only one of which is really about murder. In the first one, the guys at the hotel piece together the solution to an old murder--aided by the mistaken confession of Dusty the garbageman.

The second novella is the story of W. D. Nestor, an aging farmer, who lives with the memories of a wife he loved, but never told. He lives with his daughter and son-in-law, but is unhappy with that situation. Easily the darkest, most bitter of anything by Hassler that I've read.

#15: Literary Giants, Literary Catholics by Joseph Pearce. A book of collected essays and reviews about the works of "literary Catholics"--largely Chesterton, Belloc, Lewis, Tolkien, Roy Campbell--but with entries also on Maurice Baring, Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene and some miscellaneous essays on other topics at the end. Too repetitive, but it did give me some more ideas about things to read.

#16: Salt of the Earth by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. An interview with Peter Seewald from 1997--lays out his background and relationship with John Paul II. Then goes on to talk about the problems in the Church and his hopes for the future. What is staggering to me is the breadth of his knowledge and mind.

#17: Stories for a Woman's Heart compiled by Alice Gray. Now, see, the prideful part of me started to leave this book off the list, and just not tell ya'll about it. It's a sort of "Chicken Soup for the Soul" book--just a collection of little feel-good stories. But, you know, sometimes a book like this is just the right thing. When you're sitting in a chemotherapy infusion room with a 79 year old friend, it's the right thing to read. When you have had all the sorrow you can handle for a day, it's the right thing to read. When the world seems awfully dark, it's the right thing to read before bed. And yes, I like the jokes in Reader's Digest, too. So there.

The Mamas recommend:

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courageous love.jpg
We're using this in a women's group we belong to, and are pretty impressed with it so far. Not many women's Bible studies out there from a Catholic perspective, and we were glad to see this series. Lots of scripture, lots of Catechism, lots of saints. We do one chapter a month, so it'll take us forever to finish! But we'll update you as we go along. There are also two other titles in the series, Courageous Virtue and Courageous Women. From the same publisher, Emmaus Road, there is also a Bible study for married women, Woman of Grace.

Today's great hymns

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First from my main man, Charles Wesley, the Introit was the following:

Come, let us with our Lord arise,
our Lord who made both earth and skies,
who died to save the world he made
and rose triumphant from the dead;
he rose, the prince of life and peace,
and stamped the day for ever his.

This is the day the Lord hath made
that all may see his love displayed,
may feel his resurrection's power
and rise again to fall no more,
in perfect righteousness renewed
and filled with all the life of God.

Then let us render him his own,
with solemn prayer approach the throne,
with meekness hear the gospel word,
with thanks his dying love record;
our joyful hearts and voices raise
and fill his courts with songs of praise

Here's the tune, if you want to sing. It has an odd rhythm, and is difficult when you first start....

Offertory hymn was this one:

Hail, thou once despised Jesus!
Hail, thou Galilean King!
Thou didst suffer to release us;
thou didst free salvation bring.
Hail, thou universal Savior,
bearer of our sin and shame,
by thy merit we find favor:
life is given through thy Name.

Paschal Lamb, by God appointed,
all our sins on thee were laid:
by almighty love anointed,
thou hast full atonement made.
All thy people are forgiven
through the virtue of thy blood:
opened is the gate of heaven,
peace is made 'twixt man and God.

Jesus, hail! enthroned in glory,
there for ever to abide;
all the heavenly hosts adore thee,
seated at thy Father's side.
There for sinners thou art pleading:
there thou dost our place prepare;
thou for saints are interceding
till in glory they appear.

Worship, honor, power, and blessing
thou art worthy to receive;
highest praises, without ceasing,
meet it is for us to give.
Help, ye bright angelic spirits,
bring your sweetest, noblest lays;
help to sing of Jesus' merits,
help to chant Emmanuel's praise!

The tune is here. I love this one, maybe because it is in a nice range and lots of people can kind of belt it out. And I love the idea of a "Galilean King."

Then the communion hymn was this, but I didn't get to sing it because it is short and I wasn't finished thanking God before the song was over! (Written out it LOOKS long, but it sings fast, if that makes sense!)

Here, O my Lord, I see thee face to face;
here would I touch and handle things unseen;
here grasp with firmer hand eternal grace,
and all my weariness upon thee lean.

This is the hour of banquet and of song;
this is the heavenly table spread for me;
here let me feast, and feasting, still prolong
the hallowed hour of fellowship with thee.

Here would I feed upon the Bread of God,
here drink with thee the royal Wine of heaven;
here would I lay aside each earthly load,
here taste afresh the calm of sin forgiven.

I have no help but thine; nor do I need
another arm save thine to lean upon;
it is enough, my Lord, enough indeed;
my strength is in thy might, thy might alone.

Mine is the sin, but thine the righteousness:
mine is the guilt, but thine the cleansing
here is my robe, my refuge, and my peace;
thy Blood, thy righteousness, O Lord my God!

Feast after feast thus comes and passes by;
yet, passing, points to the glad feast above,
giving sweet foretaste of the festal joy,
the Lamb's great bridal feast of bliss and love.

Here's the link to the music.

And then last, but not least, the post-communion hymn, and one that took me straight back to all the years I taught Vacation Bible School in the church I grew up in. I have played this on the piano at least one gazillion times while 3 year olds lisped the lyrics.

Savior, like a shepherd lead us;
much we need thy tender care;
in thy pleasant pastures feed us;
for our use thy folds prepare.
Blessèd Jesus! Blessèd Jesus!
Thou hast bought us, thine we are.

Early let us seek thy favor,
early let us learn thy will;
blessèd Lord and only Savior,
with thy love our bosoms fill.
Blessèd Jesus! Blessèd Jesus!
Thou hast loved us: love us still.

And here's the music.



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