Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Shrove Tuesday

More commonly known as Mardi Gras ("Fat Tuesday"), this is the last day of Carnevale. Lent begins tomorrow. Tonight, while everyone else is out drinking beer, we're going to be eating pancakes.

Back in the day, Lent was a strictly vegan affair. The faithful had to rid their houses of all meat and dairy products before Ash Wednesday. And how else to better use up eggs, milk and butter than by whippin' up a big ol' batch of pancakes? My favorite bit of Shrove Tuesday lore is that in some European countries and most notably in England, housewives would hold pancake races on Shrove Tuesday, runnning a course through town, flipping hotcakes from skillets. I don't know how prominent an event it is still but I would love to revive it. I'd have to get The Neighbor to go along. Fun indeed, but it would, undoubtedly, convince our Orthodox neighbors once and for all that the goyim are completely meshuggina.

Oh, and the meaning of the word "shrove"? "To confess one's sins". One would traditionally make his or her pre-Lenten confession on this day. Then go home and eat pancakes. I just love being Catholic.

Dutch Babies

Beat 2 eggs.

Mix together: ½ c. flour
½ t. salt

Alternatively mix dry ingredients with egg and ½ c. milk

Beat until smooth.

Stir in 2 T. melted butter

Pour batter into skillet (which, if the same one used to melt the butter, will already be greased)

Back on bottom shelf of oven at 450 for 20 minutes.

Prick shell, reduce heat to 350 and bake another 10 minutes.

To serve:

Drizzle with lemon juice and sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar. Serve fresh fruit salad on the side and add spoonfuls of salad to pancake as desired.

(This recipe makes one pancake, which isn't near enough for our appetites so I'll be tripling the recipe. And serving sausages. Yum. Breakfast for dinner.)

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Monday, February 27, 2006

NSA, Did You Get That?

Conversations in our home are actually not worth spying on. More's the pity. But this was heard tonight:

Child: "I'm done with my definitions".

Me: "Did you look them up or did you guess?"

Child: (with tone of disdain) "I know what they mean".

Me: "Try me".

Child: "Forewarn. A warning before the warning".

Me: "Try again. And this time, look them up".

Child: "Mom!!!! I know what they MEAN!"

Moi: "And I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English from (university name to be withheld in order to preserve my secret identity) and I suggest you not try to argue with me about the correct meaning of words".

Child stomps off to dining room table, Webster's grudgingly thrust under her arm. (3 cookbooks fall to the floor in the process. She does not pick them up).

Spouse (entering stage left and offering a high five) "And you thought you'd never be able to use that degree".

Good Grief

It's 2 o'clock and I haven't written anything. I've been a little pre-occupied.

The Child didn't sleep much last night. She blames the book she had to read for Literature Circle, which is set in the Middle Ages, a heartwarming tale that combined the fun and games of The Black Death with evil lords and stewards and an orphaned kid who was falsely accused of murdering a priest. Can't wait for Disney to get their hands on it.

I knew she wasn't rested so let her sleep in but when it was time to get moving she started complaining that her stomach hurt. Here's the thing: you have to semi-believe a kid when she says she's sick because if she really is you don't a) want her infecting all her classmates and 2) booting all over the car. But who among us hasn't pleaded illness when we just didn't want to go to school? So, spidey senses tingling, I start the Program:

Part I: The Inquiry
Are you worried about anything? ("Just death".)
Is anything going on at school I don't know about? ("No, everything is fine".)
Is someone being mean to you? ("No. I told you, everything is fine".)

But her stomach still hurts.

Part II: The Big Build-Up
I proceed to help her focus on the positive. She has all her homework done, she's getting good grades (I didn't bring up math...I was going somewhere with all this), she's happy with her friends. I suggest that her stomach ache isn't organic, that she's feeling ambient anxiety about returning to school after a routine disrupted by genuine illness and Winter Break. She just needs to get back in the swing of things and she'll feel better.

But her stomach still hurts.

Part III: The Guilt Trip
"People are counting on you. What about drama rehearsal? You have a performance this week. What about volleyball? You have your first game this weekend".

But, you guessed it, her stomach still hurts.

Part IV: Game Over

Done with all the touchy-feely crap, Marshall Mom orders her out of bed, into her clothes and into the car. Touchy-feely Mom makes one brief appearance to say that if she really doesn't feel any better she can have school call and I'll come get her. (No better vetting process than having to convince a veteran School Secretary that you're not well).

Heartened by the fact that the class erupted into applause when The Child entered the room, I ran some errands, went home and started some laundry. I talked to another mom about volleyball transportation for tonight. Then the phone rings again. It's School Secretary.

Back on campus I immediately encounter The Child, who is not looking at all ill. She says she just has to find her teacher so she can get her stuff. I vent to School Secretary who tells me that The Child is not a malingerer and that there is a low-grade stomach thing going around. She also, however, affirmed that strong-willed children are a challenging gift and that even if The Child goes home, School Secretary thinks I won this round.

I go in search of The Child who is dawdling in her classroom. Teacher is present. I say, "Child, I think you're fine." She looks at me and says, "Well, it is kinda coming and going". I say, "You need to stick around. Drama Teacher is counting on you and we're giving N a ride to volleyball". Teacher mentions that she had been playing happily at recess. "It's just a few more hours, Child", I say. Suddenly, she breaks into a huge smile, takes me in her arms for a good, long hug and a kiss. "I'll stay, Mom. I think I'm fine".

Suddenly, I'm reminded of the toddler years, when she'd push and push and push against boundaries, even as we held firm. She'd fight and cry and fuss and then, when she was sure we weren't going to let up, sure that her world was still spinning on its axis, she'd relax into a peaceful docility. Children, they say, need limits. They crave them. Because even as they are learning to negotiate the world, asking the big questions and taking on responsibility, they want to feel safe. They want to know that we are still in charge. Being a tween is about as fraught as being Two. You want to be independent but it's a big scary world out there. After a few wobbly steps you kinda want to run back and make sure Mom or Dad is going to catch you.

Was The Child pushing the limits today? Sure. It's her job. Did I hold firm? Yes, because that's my job. Is that keeping me from worrying about her? Nope. Also part of the job. Maybe, after all those poor parents dying in the Plague, she just wanted to be sure that I was still going to catch her. And I did.


Sunday, February 26, 2006

Just in Time for a Lazy Sunday Afternoon

Thanks to Viola over at The Americanization of Emily I have for your diversion and general time wasting Googlefight.com . Pick your own set of key words and see who or what is the victor.

Some of my matchups were:

Shredded wheat v. Mario Batalli (wheat)
Shredded wheat, however, couldn't hold up against the heavyweight, Julia Child.
My husband v. geeks (The Spouse)
My daughter v. Rachael Ray (The Child)
Stephen Speilberg v. Woody Allen (Allen kicked butt)

On an egotistical note, "my blog" handily beat "his blog".

There are also some fun classic fights on the site. You'll be happy to know that the pen is indeed mightier than the sword.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Carnevale Report

The guests have gone. There are wine stains on the table cloth and The Dog keeps trying to bring the lamb bone into the house. It was a swell party.

Brooke asked that I post the menu so she can keep her long distance bill in line. And the New Jersey Cousin will want to know what we ate as well. So here 'tis:

Smoke Salmon & Apricot Chutney on Rye Toasts
Almond Champagne
(The champagne was a happy accident. It said it was from "Almond Cellars" and I stopped reading after that. Turns out it was almond scented but it wasn't nauseatingly sweet or weird and worked beautifully with the chutney. I think apricots and almonds are in the same family).
Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Orange Cream
Celery & Parmesan Salad
Roast Leg of Lamb with Artichokes & Potatoes
Thyme Roasted Carrots
Parsnip & Hazelnut Gratin with Bacon
Amuse-Bouche of Toffee Almond Swoops with Whipped Cream
Chocolate Wontons with Chili Sugar

Yum. Yum again. Dear friends. Sweet prayer. Laughter 'til wine came out of our noses. A fine party indeed.

The Synapses Aren't as Supple as They Used to Be

So it took me a few days to figure out the nature of the Administration's spin problem with the sale of some of our ports to a company in Dubai. But here's the thing:

The first step in empire-building is to create an "other". There must be a scary "they" to fight against. For Rome it was the barbarians (everyone else). For Hitler it was the Jews. To win the West we had to have "savages". In the "war on terror" it's Arab terrorists.

We've heard a steady drumbeat of fear-mongering for 5 years. Even those of us who think this Administration is full of crap have been feeling the rhythm. It has gotten into our blood even if it hasn't found purchase in our intellect.

The port deal has sent shockwaves through the nation. The Republican leadership has broken with the President on this one, having finally stumbled across the concept of Congressional oversight. The Administration has gone so far as to suggest that the reaction is born of racial discrimination, that people are against this just because they don't like Arabs and shame on us.

But as is the case more and more, this is a mess of their own making. They've been telling us to fear the Middle East. Then, when we do, it gets in the way of a business deal and a whole new kind of spin has to happen. It's no fun when your own tactics start to bite you in the bum.

Weather Report

We woke this morning to find our world still and silent under a blanket of snow. Not. More like someone in heaven went a little crazy with confectioner's sugar and a sifter. But it looks pretty. The Child, sensing a shift in the fabric of her existence, sprang from her bed, into warm clothes and out into the snow in one seamless motion. She knows this is fleeting. May snowballs before the sun shines. The sky is cloudless and the snow will be gone in no time.

Good thing, too. I have a leg of lamb to fetch, chocolate and parsnips to find (not to worry...they are for separate courses). Must purchase champagne and smoked salmon, cream and peppers. While I would be perfectly content to hole up before the fire this weekend, it can't snow tonight. The lamb and other treats are intended for guests who must not become snow-bound. It is a collective failing of Seattlites that we panic in the face of any amount of snow. Few dare attempt driving in it, however little there is, and full-scale panic abounds. It is a source of much amusement to transplants from snowier climes. There's less than 1/4 of an inch in our back garden but that is enough to close schools and start a run on bathroom tissue at all the markets. Silly rabbits.

Hurrah. The snow in the street has already melted. I'm off to buy the Carnevale groceries.

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Thursday, February 23, 2006


Tomorrow night is one of the best parties of the year: Carnevale (literally 'farewell, meat'). Instituted a good 10 years ago, we hold it the weekend before Ash Wednesday. One last chance to indulge before the disciplines of Lent.

In the church calendar the Carnevale season begins on January 6, which is also the 12th day of Christmas, and runs until Ash Wednesday. Traditionally, this was the time for lots of parties and dancing because everything fun had to go in Lent. The quality of Lent, while still penitential, is no longer so restrictive and harsh so the notion of a season for indulgence has disappeared outside of Rio and New Orleans. But that's enough church history for today.

This is a big feast for us. We gather our nearest and dearest. There will be no less than 5 courses, possibly 6 and that doesn't count at least one amuse-bouche . (I'm still working on the menu). This is not a meal for the faint of heart nor anyone with a heart condition as it is not about moderation. We have 6 weeks of Lent for that. Back in the day rich foods were served during Carnevale because you had to use up all your eggs and butter as there was no way to keep it fresh during Lent, when all meat products were forbidden. So the menu is all about what will taste amazing, calories and cholesterol be damned. One year I used fully 3 pounds of butter in preparing the meal. That record still stands but I try my best. There is always a leg of lamb for dinner, which actually has semi-religious connotations: Jesus as the Paschal Lamb, the sacrifice. Dessert is always chocolate.

The feasting goes on for hours. Wine flows. We wear masks and strings of gold, green and purple beads (which we just hand out...no one has to humiliate themselves to get them). But, because Lent is coming and we're good little Catholics, we also have a prayer time. After the meal but before dessert we take a time out to talk about what everyone is hoping to accomplish in Lent. We're big on not just giving up something for it's own sake, but what will be replacing that habit or activity. Because it's all about the journey and finding those places in ourselves that need to grow or change to become more like Christ. Then we pull names from a hat and everyone at the party leaves with a secret prayer partner, someone who will be praying for them and their stated intentions throughout Lent. I make up little sheets of stationary and envelopes and in Holy Week everyone sends off a reveal letter. It might sound a little corny, but this has become one of the most important times in all our lives throughout the year.

But we're only serious for a while. Then it's all about the chocolate, "smokin' 'em if you got 'em" and usually a tutorial from The Spouse for someone who has expressed an interest in single malts. Then everyone toddles off, a purple votive clutched in their hands, to rest up for the 6 weeks of Lent. At that moment, stuffed to the gills and feeling very sentimental about the wonderful people in our lives, I wander into the kitchen, look at the stripped lamb bone and the piles of dishes on the counter, turn heels and go straight to bed. Do the dishes first, indeed.


Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Pop Quiz

Students, please take out a number 2 pencil.

Fact: The United States is engaged in a self-declared "war on terror".

Fact: Most governments in the Middle East officially hate our guts.

Please explain a) why we are selling some key ports to the UAE and b) why in the face of mounting opposition the President says he'll veto any bill designed to stop the deal.

Extra credit for explaining how any of this makes us more secure.

Olympic Gold

The Child was in one of her thoroughly delightful, makes-me-glad-to-have-a-tweenager moods yesterday. It may have had something to do with the burgers and shakes for lunch (at a place called Mom's in the U Village, which we love). It may have had to do with her successful shopping expedition at The Gap. She found a great sweater on sale but what made it really special was that it was an XS on the women's side of the store. Excitement value right up there with her first school dance.

Whatever it was, she was in fine form as she prepared dinner last night, taking the time to get her mise en place together and preparing, with very little assistance, a delicious steak and pepper hash. Since she didn't have school I told her she could watch "Gilmore girls" with me but alas, no show. Luckily for us, last night at the Olympics was women's figure skating (short program). We love our figure skating. So we ate strawberries and watched that instead.

I know nothing about figure skating. I've never tried it, unable to muster the requisite suspension of disbelief required to stay upright on two thin blades while moving on a frozen surface. I have trouble walking in kitten heels. So I pretty much think everyone is turning in an amazing program unless they touch ice, fall on their butts or hit a wall. I have to rely on the Scott Hamiltons of the world to point out when a leg isn't extended fully or that a planned triple was executed as a double. Personally, I think you should get credit for staying upright with only one foot on the ice but for obvious reasons no one asked me.

We loved watching all these young women, critiquing their costumes, oohing and aahhing. Sasha Cohen was magnificent. It was an inspirational evening. There were, however, dishes to do and you know how I like waking up to a clean kitchen. So during a commercial break I went out to tidy up. The Child came with me. I started saying things like "Lorraine is taking the bistro glasses out of the dishwasher and moving toward the shelf...degree of difficulty is...OH! Unbelievable! She stuck that landing and now she's going back for more!" Suddenly, The Child was at my side, carefully washing a knife and saying, "The knife relay has been a challenge for some of the teams tonight...she hands it off to The Mother...Score! The knife is in the drawer!" In short, we completed the Mother-Daughter Kitchen Relay in a time of 5.736 minutes, setting a new record and winning the gold!

Later, at the medals ceremony, we remembered all the words to the National Anthem .

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

"I Smell a Rat Named School"

That was a line The Child used in her blog today, complaining about the homework she has to do during break. Kid has a sense of humor.

Yesteday she and I had a meeting over coffee to talk about what she had to do for school. She came up with a schedule for the week, which is important because this is about her figuring out how to manage her time and responsibilities. Right? She did what she said she'd do yesterday with a minimal amount of drama and today was pretty good as well. It may help that while I am not standing over her nagging, I have also made it clear that if she doesn't get her work done in the morning then we don't party in the afternoon.

I wish it were easier to impart life's lessons to my child. I wish it could be done calmly, dispassionately, over a couple of drinks. I wish there were some way to demonstrate clearly, once and for all, that big jobs are only horrible and looming if you sit around worrying about them but that if you just take babysteps and get to it not only does it get done but it also usually takes less time than you thought. I wish I could help The Child understand that homework is like laundry, not fun but necessary. I want to tell her that if you pile up all the laundry until the weekend you will feel overwhelmed and want to drink bleach but if you just do one load a day, from start to finish, it never gets out of hand and oddly, you never run out of underwear.

I wish I could tell her outright that yes, most of the math she is currently doing is completely useless and all she ever really needs to know is how to balance her checkbook, how to tip at least 15 percent and that for the rest, hello, it's called a calculator. I wish I could prove that this really and truly is the only time in her life she'll be expected to study a hundred different things and that the GNP of Israel and the names of the state capitols will probably only matter in her adult life if she wants to be really good at party games. I want her to understand that as she gets older she gets to pick what really interests her and focus on that and that the ABC, 1-2-3, DoReMi of elementary education will be bent to serve her, not make her nuts.

But I can't do that, anymore than I can guarantee her that mixing tequila and anything is a bad, bad idea or share from my alarmingly expansive experience how to tell if a) a guy is not into you or b) that you are getting way too desperate about a guy who isn't into you. The hard, sad truth of it is that there are some things you just have to learn on your own and the wisdom I have to offer cannot be quickly imparted in a tidy, neat package with a big satin bow. So I stand aside, try not to nag and hand out the occasional nugget of helpful advice when necessary. The rest of the time, I pray.

Bad Dreams

All night long I was negotiating difficult and perilous routes, like tall and narrow metal ladders, in very high heels and whenever I got where I was going Brad and Angelina were there. Every time I encountered them I'd let fly with a load of invective that would burn the souls and eyeballs of a normal couple but all they did was blandly smile at me.

The shoes were Manolo Blahnik and they were amazing.


Monday, February 20, 2006

Winter Break

The Child has Winter Break. Not just President's Day, but a whole week to do nothing. Except, that's not true. The "break" part didn't completely register with her teacher and the children have been assigned a list of things to accomplish this week. Personally, I think that is ridiculous. A break is a break. But they are nothing if not academically rigorous over there at St. G's and so things must be done.

Getting The Child to do her homework is a challenge under the most ordinary circumstances. Trying to get her to play along when she's on break...I can't imagine this happening without threats and door-slamming. And honestly, if it were up to me, the only thing she'd have to do this week is read a little every day and maybe practise her typing. Which means that I'm going to be forced to enforce something that I don't really endorse. And a horse is a horse, of course, of course.

Here is my plan. We will sleep in every morning. We will do something groovy every day. She still has some certificates and gift cards from Christmas and her birthday, for example. She will spend them all. Sushi will be involved, as will board games. Evenings will be totally fun because she doesn't have volleyball practise this week, either, so there won't be any rushing around and we can have lovely meals at the table. I will let her go all Martha Stewart on the table setting. But before all this bliss she will have to spend about an hour every morning at the books. Which, if she gets to pretend she's Hermione Granger and I'm Professor McGonagall, should be just fine.


Sunday, February 19, 2006

Ode to Coffee

After my family of origin, the longest, most enduring relationship of my life is with coffee.

Mom was the coffee drinker. Dad hated the stuff. We owned a perculator but it was only employed for guests. Most of the time, I think, mom made due with instant coffee crystals. This made it easy for me to start sneakily helping myself. I adored my mom (still do) and anything she did was worthy of emulation. If she loved coffee, then so did I. I'd sneak into kitchen, boil some water and mix up a mug, heavily laden with milk and sugar, but delicious to my 9 year old palate. I was in the closet about my coffee consumption, knowing as I did that it was stunting my growth. (I topped out at 5'7" so perhaps I did myself a favor).

I "came out" in high school, drinking my coffee more openly and feeling tres sophisticated for order it at the pie shop with friends while they were still ordering Coke. I remember seeing a movie where a character ordered a hamburger and coffee in a diner and thinking that was the essence of New York cool. (I tried it. It was ok).

By college, of course, one couldn't survive without the stuff. Somewhere around sophomore year was when I went to one sugar and then started leaving out the milk as well. This was also the advent of those nasty International Coffees with which one could celebrate the moments of her life. Nasty now, tres chic at the time. Mom would often include a tin of said coffee in her care packages to me and the smell of faux amaretto and coffee still takes me back to all nighters in my room in Ashton hall. Good times.

In so many ways my evolution as a coffee drinker can be tied to my evolution as a human being. From a provincial, fundamentalist farm girl I grew into a semi-sophisticated liberal urbanite. That this transformation roughly corresponds with the establishment of the first Starbucks down in the Pike Place market is, I'm sure, no accident. All of a sudden coffee wasn't Folgers brewed within an inch of its life and it sure as hell wasn't instant. It was a deep and vibrant cup of soul. It was my destiny. The consumption of coffee had always been a ritual for me...boiling the water and measuring out the precise combination of coffee and sugar to perfectly balance bitter and sweet, cupping the mug and inhaling deeply before the first sip. But now the liturgy of coffee became more High Church, requiring paraphenalia of the highest order: a grinder, Melitta filters, whole beans. Always whole beans, stored just right so as to retain the peak of freshness.

And then, somewhere in there, the sugar became history. I had my first cup of black coffee and that was it. The purity of it was astounding. Even now I rarely get a latte and never a mocha. My standard order is a "tall drip, no room". Coffee, straight up.

(My wine drinking followed a similar path. The first wines were stupid and sweet, like Cella Lambrusco, for heavens sake. Then I had dinner in a French restaurant with a visiting French professor and drank my first burgandy. Real burgandy, not Gallo burgandy. And there was no going back).

Extreme youth is the only excuse I can offer for the snobbery that followed next. I couldn't go home for a visit without carting along all my paraphenalia and trying to educate any poor sod I encountered as to the proper consumption of "real" coffee. And I endure many complaints about how strong I made it. (And I do make it strong but I figure you can always dilute it. There's simply nothing to be done about weak coffee except to pour it down the drain and start again). And yes, eventually they all took to improving their coffee pots and buying whole beans but sheesh, I was an arrogant twit. (I was also a snobby enophile for a while but thankfully got over that as well. Our house wine is now 3 Buck Chuck from Trader Joes. Deal with it).

About a year before I met The Spouse I bought a small 2 cup coffee maker for my bedroom. I'd fill it with coffee and water the night before. When the alarm sounded I would turn on the coffee instead of hitting the snooze button and wake to enjoy my first cup in bed. This device was one of the reasons The Spouse fell in love with me.

I switched to decaf when pregnant with The Child, with the approval of my midwife. She and others suggested that I might not want even that as the smell of coffee is often ananthema to pregnant women. It never bothered me.

I pour many cups of coffee a day but the only one that counts, and the only one consumed in it's entirety is the first cup. Even with a thermal pot, the quality changes over time. It is the first and freshest cup which tastes the most like coffee, lending its perfume and steamy magic to the morning. This is the one I sit with, doing nothing else but savoring thinking randomly and somewhat prayerfully about what the coming day will bring. I do refill my cup but it's a sip here, a sip there and then it grows cold while I tend to the business of the day. The first cup signals the start of the day and admission to the little cafe society in my head.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Can't Help Lovin' that Geek of Mine

There's a problem with telling people about your blog: some of them read it. This poses a moral dilemma. If, for example, someone did something really stupid (but tres amusing) at a party, would it be wise to blog about it? I'm thinking not, unless I had them sign a release. But after a while, people might stop hanging out with me for fear of an unsightly mention. (They don't mind if I'm saying nice things about them, of course. And the truth is, I don't really have the sort of friends who do stupid things at parties. They are all far too intelligent, sophisticated and glamorous for that sort of thing. Aren't you?) But you see the problem.

And of course, I think about what will happen when The Child figures out that she's fodder for my blog. That'll really give her something to slam her door about.

So I am in some quandry about what I'm about to do. But I can't resist. I tried, for about 3 seconds, but I can't.

The Spouse is currently in his office, making a movie of the war game he plays. No, he's not recording the game to look over later. He is actually making a war movie with some of his imaginary war buddies. He's giving them direction. He's saying "action" and "cut". He's telling them that "the shot was a little wide but it was sweet". I bet these other guys feel like they're working with Ron Howard.

He's been playing this WWII game on-line for quite a while now. He plays at a particular server with a particular group (the 28th Infantry) and they recently invited/recruited/inducted him to be a regular member. Some of the guys are actually in the military. One is in Iraq. The Spouse prays for him every night. (Oh, man, he is so going to kill me when he reads this). Anyway, he has been assigned to the 28th MoPic unit. The commander figures it would be fun to make a promotional film for the unit, develop training films and that sort of thing. On-line gaming AND movie making. I don't think The Spouse has ever been happier.

I think I'm going to go play The Sims for a while. Not the same thing, exactly, but it lets me decorate without actually moving my own furniture. The Spouse will like that.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Ever Have One of Those Days?

If I were still single this would be one of those days when I would have called in sick. I would have stayed in my jammies, made a nest on the couch and watched TV all day. Ocassionally I would have napped. I would have made an omlette around 11a.m., because eggs and cheese would be all I'd have in the house and I would have eaten the omlette and left the plate on the coffee table. I wouldn't have done laundry or dishes or swept anything. I might, possibly, have rung up a friend in the evening to see if he/she wanted to come over for take-out and watch TV. I wouldn't watch a video because back then I didn't own any and going to the video store would have required putting on clothes, which would not have been the plan and staying in your jammies all day makes bedtime so much easier.

I am in a fine mood. I feel perfectly well. But I just don't have a lick of will. I did pick up the shredded toilet paper that The Dog scattered all over the living room. I also did get dressed and go to coffee, only to remember as I pulled into the lot that my coffee friends kids don't have school today. So I got my bagel and coffee to go and got the grocery shopping done early.

I need to go by school. The Child has a gnarly cold and I let her stay home today because Winter Break starts next week anyway and what the hell. But I need to pick up her assignments. And as long as I'm out I'll stop by McPherson's, a local produce stand that has stuff for so stupid cheap that you can come home with 4 bags of produce having dropped only $10-15. I need avocados because we're having tacos for dinner tonight.

And I have to remember to go by the Cathedral this afternoon to pick up some photos for a mystery project that The Neighbor is working on for the choir's trip/pilgrimage to Roma next month. So much for getting back into jammies and watching TV all day with The Child.

I must rouse myself. I will spend 15 minutes being a house fairy and restore little bits back to order. If the dishes are done and the groceries put away then I'm pretty sure I won't feel at all bad about spending a couple hours playing "Age of Mythology". Because it's just one of those days.


Understanding Article II

From constitutional authority and future new daddy of The Child, Steve Martin:

"Vice President Dick Cheney, while hunting wild geese in the Rose Garden, accidentally shot President Bush twice, once in the heart and once in the head. 'I didn't really shoot the President twice,' said Cheney. 'The second time I shot him, I was president.' "


Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Chocolate Hearts

Unlike most of the people of my acquaintence, I am not a chocoholic. I'm more of a hard candy/caramel kinda gal. Given the choice between a bar of any sort of chocolate and a bag of Trader Joe's caramel corn, I'll take the latter every time.

That said, I just ate a Dove chocolate heart that The Child gave me yesterday. It was delicious.

The Child announced yesterday that she was a chocoholic. I had taken away a box of chocolates she had received for Valentine's Day, as she had already ingested 412 pounds of sugar. She had stolen it back for the third time. Admitting you have a problem is the first step toward overcoming it.

In other news, she also came home with a very pretty heart shaped box made of red glass, a gift from Matthew. (This is the boy The Spouse supports for the job of First Boyfriend. Because he thinks he's gay). The Child was very cool about it all, although when pressed she does get a little giggly. She doesn't use the B word. She refers to him as a crush. But he has admitted a mutual crush on her, to her, which technically puts this in a different sphere. Except that we're not making a big deal about it because, frankly, her nonchalance works just fine for us. No sense in having her get all giddy any sooner than need be.

Hey, Pat. The whole toddler with conjunctivitus thing? It's easier.


Only in New York

There's a reason NYC is one of the fashion capitals of the world. This is not how people dress for weather here in Seattle.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Breaking News

This just in...after only 209 posts I've finally been flamed by an anonymous person who didn't like my letter to the Vice President. This individual also apparently doesn't like Democrats. There are, of course, plenty of people who don't like Democrats, including most Democrats, but usually I know their names. Still, I think I'd rather get slammed by an anonymous person than someone I know because I'm really very tender-hearted. Unless Anonymous is someone I know. But I doubt it. Most of the Republicans I know still blame Bill Clinton for everything and Anonymous didn't actually go there. I was, however, accused of not appreciating the job his/her party is doing to protect me and mine from terrorist attacks. Which is so not true because I totally appreciate it. And did I mention that I know all the words to the "Star Spangled Banner"?

Anyway, I responded to the anonymous poster. I don't know why. I suspect that he/she will never come by my neck of Blogtopia again. Why bother when you've got Ann Coulter, who is so much blonder and meaner than I am? I probably just responded because it's my bloody blog. Which, unless it gets majorly out of control, is open to all comers, including those who don't happen to agree with me.

I'm sure this would come as a surprise to Anonymous but I happen to believe that there is at least a smidgen of good in everyone (well, nearly everyone) and that we can all learn something from each other if we are willing to keep an open mind. I have decided to stop making wisecracks about the vice president and his bad week-end due to the heartfelt sentiments posted by Anonymous. Well, that and because it really is just too easy and the kids over at The Daily Show did it so much better. But still.


Two Valentine Stories

After I wrote the previous post, I got to thinking about what it's like to not have a Valentine on this ridiculous day. It is ridiculous. If you aren't in a relationship and want to be, there's not much worse than a made-up holiday to emphasis your singleness. Even if you are perfectly content with the present state of your life you suddenly feel compelled to make excuses for your satisfaction and no matter what you say or do you it seems like you're just covering up, like the vice president after a hunting accident. (OK, I'm done). Trust me, I know. While I have been happily married for 14 years, I was nearly 34 when I got married. I had my share of Valentine's Days sans amour.

It's actually not that easy for people in a relationship, either, especially men. You're a decent guy who manages to say "I love you" to your sweetie nearly every day. You might even ocassionally bring flowers or leave a little note. You might be one of those guys who is fairly willing to snuggle up and watch something with Hugh Grant in it instead of something with explosions. But all of a sudden, today, if you forget to give a card, accompanied by the largest possible box of Belgian chocolates and 3 dozen red roses, you're a putz. It's ridiculous.

So let me tell you about two of my best Valentine's Days, ever.

The first was back when Shakespeare in Love opened. Valentine's Day was on a Sunday and The Spouse and I opted for an afternoon adventure. A friend took The Child home from church and we went downtown to see the movie. I don't know what got into us. Maybe it was seeing all the gooshy couples around us, but we decided to play a different game. He looked deep into my eyes, sighed and said, "I rue the day I met you". I leaned my head on his shoulder and cooed, "I rue the day your parents met". And it went on from there. Maybe you had to be there, but we were cracking ourselves up, trying to outdo each other in lovingly delivered insults. After the movie, which we loved, we went to Obachine for sushi and mango kamikazes and kept up the banter. We had a different waiter every time we ordered something and finally found out that they were taking turns coming to our table because we were making them all laugh so hard. One woman said, "Everyone else in here is being so sappy and there you are, just having a great time with each other".

We did have fun and more to the point, that is the enduring characteristic of our relationship. We have our moments and we've even had a couple of not great patches, but no matter what, The Spouse makes me laugh and I do the same for him. It's what has helped us weather our storms and brightened all the good times.

Second story. When The Child was in the first grade. The Spouse had a contract that kept him in Philadelphia for 6 months. (It was supposed to be 6 weeks, but that's another story). He came home every other weekend but Valentine's Day fell during the week so he had to say it with flowers. I decided that I wasn't going to fall into the pity trap so invited a bunch of girlfriends over for dinner. We drank Pink Squirrels and I made the chicken and artichoke pot pies that I'm recreating tonight. There was champagne and chocolate. I had asked everyone to bring her favorite romantic movies, cued up to her favorite scenes. We spent about 2 hours watching classic and sometimes surprising movie moments. It was thoroughly entertaining and I don't think any of us felt that there was something missing just because all the men were on celluloid.

I concede only this: it isn't Valentine's Day without a little poetry so my Valentine's gift to you are these, my favorite lines of Shakespeare:

Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more;
Men were deceivers ever;
One foot in sea and one on shore,
To one thing constant never;
Then sigh not so,
But let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny;
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into 'Hey, nonny, nonny'.

Be Mine

On this day, which honors the confused legend of a saint who may or may not have existed, my thoughts turn fondly to all the things I love.

I love the word "thing". I had an English teacher in high school who I adored. She taught me many things and one day she will get a credit in one of my books because she affirmed and encouraged my nascent interest in writing. But she hated the word "thing". If you used it in an essay you were immediately marked down. To this day I am concious of my use of "thing" and I struggle mightily to avoid it. Sometimes, though, it just works. Maybe it's laziness. Probably is. But whenever I use it I think of BJ and her winning ways as a teacher, demonstrating that the word is, in fact, useful.

I love that some adventurous soul once found bitter berries on a bush, held them over a fire, smashed them with a rock, steeped the powder in water and took it to his wife who said, "This is the best part of waking up". I also love my Cuisinart coffee maker.

I love The Dog, though he barks at all living creatures. I love The Child, even though she thinks I'm ridiculous. I especially love The Spouse because he is my own darling geek. He is no Steve Martin, but then, he also never felt compelled to remake the "Pink Panther" movies.

I still love Steve Martin, though.

I love that The Spouse has figured out how to incorporate movie-making, which he loves, into his life without requiring us to live in LA.

I love my little house with it's colorful walls, big ass stove and amusing dust bunnies. I love my broom.

I love my Jane Austen action figure, my laptop and Kitchenaid stand mixer. They do not return my affection but they brighten my days.

I love all my imaginary friends in Blogtopia. There are some very funny, literate people out there and I look forward every day to their comments on the world.

I love chicken and artichoke pot pies and wine-poached pears with chocolate sauce. That's what I'm making for dinner tonight. The Neighbor is joining us and I expect we'll have a very festive time. I love that there is a fresh episode of "Gilmore girls", tonight of all nights.

And so, Dear Reader, I hope you too have a list of things you love. If there is a person on it, by all means tell him or her, although I certainly hope you do so more than once a year. And if you don't have someone at the moment, please don't let it bother you. Love usually sneaks up on you when you aren't looking, anyway. Meanwhile, I wish you a very happy Completely Made-up Hallmark Day.

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Monday, February 13, 2006

An Open Letter to Mr. Cheney

Dear Dick,

I know you are probably feeling really bad right now. Peppering a friend with bird shot? Must have really put a crimp in an otherwise fun day. To top it off, suddenly every one who doesn't like you is talking like you climbed into the bell tower on campus and went postal. There will be lots of jokes, too, like how you were aiming for Michael Moore. (Although, let's face it, even a man in your reduced health could hardly fail to nail a target that big. I give you credit). My point is that I don't know what the big deal is. Dude, accidents happen.

This one time we were having a party out on the deck and I decided to serve dessert. (Probably one of those fabulous apricot tarts I make in the summer. Yum. I'll send Lynne the recipe). Anyway, I get up to go in the kitchen and walked right into the glass door. And I'd had maybe one glass of wine! But there I was, smacking right into the door with my face. And it hurt! Then there was this other time when we were having a cocktail party for our friend, Sarah. I was out in the front garden showing off my prize-winnning roses and felt a tickle on my finger. I looked down and this big honeybee was sitting there, looking a little worse for the nectar, if you know what I mean. My grandpa used to keep bees so they don't really freak me out or anything. I just tried to flick him off, you know? (I'd moved my vodka tonic to the other hand, though. I wasn't looking to spill anything). Anyway, he took it wrong and instead of flying off he nailed me right above my wedding ring. My finger swelled up like a Polish sausage. I didn't have to go to intensive care or anything, but it still hurt.

I know what you're thinking: 'These are stories of how you harmed yourself. I shot a man!' But listen, Dick, I've accidently hurt other people, too. Once I thought I dropped a bottle of syrup on my newborn's head. I didn't actually but you can bet the guilt was just eating me up. And once I was in a really crowded mall (I think it was Christmas time but I can't be sure) and I bumped into an old lady and she dropped some of her packages. I picked them up of course, apologizing profusely. Which I understand is exactly what you were doing when your medical staff was working on poor Mr. Whittington. I mean, why wouldn't you apologize? It was an accident! All I can say is, thank heaven you travel with your own medical detail. That's really good planning.

Listen, I know we don't agree on much of anything. I think you're a putz and if you haven't gotten around to wiretapping me yet, trust me, you wouldn't like me much either. But I think this is one of those times when our common humanity should transcend petty political differences. And what is more human than thinking that your buddy is a quail and letting loose with a round? Could happen to anyone. Heck, I'd probably do the same thing if I was startled and had a bad heart and was carrying a gun and wasn't exactly the most beloved vice president in history.

You can't let this get to you. Compared to authorizing security leaks, ignoring the Weather Service and making up all that stuff about Iraq this is nothing. I suggest you go rest up in one of your undisclosed locations, have a beer and try not to beat yourself up. The media will take care of that for you.

Hang in there, buddy.

Your pal,



Winter Games: Without a Single Smart Alecky Comment About Dick Cheney's Shooting Accident

The only thing I care about less than the Winter Olympics is the Summer Olympics. But I watch snippets. It's February. What else am I supposed to do? Normally, I would spend a Sunday evening watching "West Wing" and "Crossing Jordan" except, hello, that's the network running the Olympics.

We saw some men's short pipe (dude!) and a little luge (always fun although no one can really explain to me the athleticism required for that sport. I'm not saying I could do it but it seems like the luge and gravity do the real work). We saw Apolo Ohno win a qualifying race although apparently he fell in a subsequent race so is out of medal contention for short track (or something like that). He's a local boy, you know, so we cheer for him. Plus, except for the skanky beard both The Child and I think he is very cute.

In other news, poor Michelle Kwan has dropped out due to a recurrance of her groin injury (ouch!) and that's sad because at the tender age of 25 she's too old ever to compete in the Olympics again. (Obviously she's old. Hip and groin injuries? I just hope she understands her Medicaid policy). I like Michelle Kwan. I would have loved to see her win a gold, just for grins.

We also got to see a smidgen of a medals presentation and the gold was going to an American who was faster than some other guys doing something wintery. He teared up when the National Anthem started playing, which frankly, I would, too, in a similar situation because I'm sappy that way. Only the camera was tight on him and he started singing along and right around "so proudly we hailed" he clearly didn't know anymore of the lyrics. And the camera stayed on him the entire time so the whole world (or at least the ones with TV sets owned by people who care) knows he doesn't know the words to his own anthem.

"The Star Spangled Banner" is a pretty dumb national anthem. For sure, it's no "America", which would be my first choice. But not only do I know all the words, I can even sing it. Seems to me that part of the Olympic training should include a few music lessons, just in case. One doesn't have to sing, of course. Another option is standing silently, hand over heart or even fists raised in protest...that works, too. But if you opt for singing you should know the words. Or at least employ the old choir trick of singing "peas and carrots, peas and carrots" until you find your place again.

Speaking of sports, C(atholic) Y(outh) O(rganization) volleyball starts this week. Now The Child will be spending two evenings a week at practise. We've gone over her schedule and she's sure she can keep up with homework. The next few weeks will be a little busier, until Drama Club ends, but she loves volleyball and it wasn't even a question in her mind that she'd play. I'm supportive because she is good at it, really good. And also, if she keeps playing well maybe it will help pay for college. Maybe she could even go to the Olympics, although I think I'd then have to care about the Summer Games. Which is fine, as long as she knows all the words to the national anthem, just in case.


Sunday, February 12, 2006

A Poem for Sunday Morning

I catch on Fire

Long black dress to my toes -
Flowing black sleeves and veil.
A walking bolt of black material.
Fourth grade religion class -
Teaching full force:
The Gospel according to -
Lit candle.
Fifty little eyes wide.
Twenty-five voices shout:
"Sister! Sister! You're on fire!"
Flames shooting. Hands beating.
Silence. Breathing.
Children, this teaches us always
to be careful with fire.
Now, years later, when I pray
I catch on fire. Amen.

- Sister Helen Prejean, CSJ

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Saturday Morning

Waking rested without an alarm (ironically, at exactly the same time the alarm would have gone off of a week-day).

Hot, perfect coffee.

The Child watching Jimmy Neutron.

Keeping The Dog indoors so he doesn't bark at the Jews walking to shul. I know he's just saying "Shabbat Shalom" in Dog but it doesn't sound that way to the little children.

Thinking about next week's menu and a trip to the produce stand with The Neighbor.

A clean kitchen that will stay that way because we are having dinner at The Neighbor's.

Another cup of hot, perfect coffee. Man, I love my java.

Friday, February 10, 2006

They're Not Going Down

The Spouse just said this, after telling me how much he liked the "Excellent Smithers" picture of the veep I had in an earlier post. My sister-in-law said the same thing this morning. It's something I hear a lot. "They'll get away with it"..."no one cares"....

Tell it to Richard Nixon. Tell it to Bill Clinton.

These guys simper and smirk and blame. They stick crap into the budget that they can't get any support for. (Note: the "privitization" of Social Security is in the new budget). They keep wire tapping INNOCENT AMERICANS who have no connection to terrorism and try to tell us it's for our own good. They act like they've got a mandate. But every single day more evidence stacks up proving what lying, self-serving (cover your ears, Mama) bastards these guys are and they are sweating. Every day, it seems, yet another Republican calls out for investigations. Republicans. There are a lot of people in Congress who are starting to figure out that these clowns are no longer good for business. Meanwhile, we've got mid-term elections in a few months. If the Dems regain control of Congress the first order of business could easily be impeachment.

Am I dreaming? Many would say so. But while I don't pretend to understand physics but I do know this: you can only stack a house of cards so high. Then they all fall down. Gravity is our friend. Repeat after me: they will go down, they will go down.

It's a Beautiful Day

I spent the morning at the NW Flower and Garden Show with my sister-in-law. The most fun thing was seeing my dearest friend, Lorene, who owns Fremont Gardens, one of the best nurseries in Seattle. After I bought a mess of seeds at her charming little booth and caught up on life, we did the next most fun thing, which is looking at the display gardens. I am not and never will be a gardener on that scale but I love seeing what really talented people do with the common elements of stone, dirt and plants. This year's theme was "outdoor rooms" and I got 3 pages of noteworthy ideas.

It's always the little details that get me. A wine press as a water feature. Thick bamboo poles cut in varying heights, planted with moss at the top and used to give the hint of a fence. A kind of Japanese maple that has beautiful red bark and would look so fabulous in a winter garden whose defining color is brown. You gotta think outside the box every once in a while and an event like this points the way.

Not that I'll likely employ many of the ideas I got. I always run out of money, will or frankly, interest before I get too far. Last year I treated my garden like Brad treated Jen. But this year I'll do better. I'll acknowledge the existence of my garden. I'll weed. I'll actually water what I plant. That would be a good start.

The other day I started a new blog, just for writing about my garden. The years when I'm really into it I think about my garden a lot. But I figure you won't be all that interested in every little garden related musing so I started the other blog as a kind of electronic garden journal. It won't take up any space on my shelves and I won't end up leaving it out in the rain.

It is freaking gorgeous outside today. I am starting to think that changing into mud clothes and doing some weeding might be very enjoyable.

Shock and Awe

Dick authorized Scooter to blab about Valerie. I did not see that coming.

('K, maybe I had an inkling)....

(Fine. I win the pool. Again).

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Writing Projects Part Deux

Wisconsin wants to know what goes into a liturgy book. Since you asked...

The Book, which was 10 years in the making, was born out of my work back in the day with the infant baptism program at church. We conducted retreats with the families before the big day wherein we stressed, among other things, the role of parents as the first teachers of faith to their children. There was only one real problem. Most parents aren't theologians. In fact, a lot of parents hadn't darkened the door of a church since their wedding day. So my particular piece of the program evolved to include a discussion of what it meant to teach faith to their children. And the bottom line is that you don't teach it so much as live it. Great. Wht does that mean?

One of the documents that came out of the Second Vatican Council refers to the family as "the church of the home". So I started thinking about what that means, how parents with any amount of faith impart what they believe to their children. And, being Catholic, I looked to the tradition of the Church to guide me. Catholics are liturgical people. And liturgy literally means "the work of the people". Further, I had a very strong conviction that teaching faith to our children is not something we can just leave up to the Church, however tempting that might be. Participating in Sunday worship, enrolling the kids in religious ed. is all well and good but if it's going to have any staying power, they need to see us living it.

So family liturgy starts with "what we always do". Within this context we aren't just talking about specifically God related stuff. Family liturgy is also comprised of all the little stuff, pizza and a movie on Fridays, getting to pick the menu for your birthday dinner, whether you open presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas. What we do says something about what we value. Actually, it says quite a lot about what we value.

All this stuff was noodling around in my head when I ran across an out-of-print book by Maria von Trapp (yes, those von Trapps. The hills are alive with the sound of music). This book described the cycle of the church year and outlined what their family did. Some of it was pretty great but they also had their own personal priest. Those days are long gone. So I thought about adapting the idea for our time by sharing how our family (and those around us) keep the feasts and fasts of the Church throughout the year. So I did. Bet y'all just can't wait for the book signing now.

Writing Projects

Omaha was asking what sort of writing projects I'm working on. This week I'm finishing up some short pieces for submission to a book called Real Moms Speak. If any of the essays are included in the work and if the work sells more than 10,000 copies I'll actually be paid for it. Which would be abundantly cool. Although just being published would be pretty great because then I could lay claim to being a published writer. (The poetry in the student literary journal from college doesn't count. The poetry is indulgent and embarrasing. Ah, youth).

The rest of February will be spent polishing the draft of the family liturgy book I finished in January. I've got a friend who has offered to read it and pass it on, if it so merits, to his agent. What I'll do with it if his agent doesn't like it is another story and one I hope I won't have to tell only because I am a very lazy person and don't really want to investigate the ins and outs of the publishing world. But I'll cross that bridge if I come to it.

Meanwhile, some of the stuff I've been blogging about has been pointing me in the direction of something still nebulous and blurry but which will have something to do with parenting without being a diva. There are only about 412 million books on parenting at the moment. I might try to make it an even 413. We'll see.

Here's what you can pretty much bet you'll never see from me: fiction. I've had ideas for novels from time to time. These are currently filed in my computer under "Really Bad Fiction". Because it is truly awful. The fictive voice is not something I've been gifted with. And I'm ok with that. Part of the trick in life is playing to your strengths and mine is telling the truth. I wouldn't mind being the next Erma Bombeck, though. Only not dead.


Thursday Reflection

This week has been so blissful. After the rush and jangle of the last couple weeks I am so enjoying the quiet. I am getting things done.

I am also very tired. After the realization that I am not completely happy unless I'm writing I changed my schedule. I decided that the morning hours until noon would be given over entirely to writing and writing related pursuits, with the afternoon left for homekeeping and mothering. I am so blessed to be able to arrange my life in this way. I am so thankful that I don't have to be away from my home and my writing, making a few shekels at something I don't really care about. I suppose if I were to take a job that was interesting it would be fine and I'd arrange my life to make it work but for now I'm glad that I don't have to do that.

But up until this week, even when I was working furiously to finish the book or what-have-you, I was still doing a fair amount of futzing around. Because I can. If I hit a sticky place I can spend an hour reading other people's blogs, emailing, whatever. And I can waste a lot of time that way. By setting aside the morning as writing time I have started to treat it like a job. I take coffee breaks. At noon I break for a real lunch. But I'm pretty much writing for 3 or 4 hours straight. And it's exhausting. Really exhausting. Gratifying, too. I have something to show for my efforts. Just at this moment it feels like everything is exactly as it should be. I'll enjoy it while I can.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

I Just Realized Something

There are all sorts of strategies for engaging the cooperation of your children that have nothing to do with smacking, bribing or boarding school. I even know a few of them. Sometimes I really impress myself with my calm, mature responses to situations. Sometimes, not so much.

The Child and I spend a lot of time together and we talk a lot. We talk about school and schedules and what she's reading. We eat breakfast together every morning. We spend an average of 30 minutes in the car every day, talking.

But here's the thing: The Child and I spend a lot of time together but it's not necessarily what the child rearing experts would call quality time. When we're in the car I'm up front and she's in the back. No eye contact. No ability to read facial expressions and such, unless I want to wreck the car. It occurs to me that a fair amount of our communication at home isn't exactly face-to-face either. It's calling from room to room, talking through the bathroom door. If it weren't for breakfast and dinner we wouldn't sit down together at all.

I'm going out on a limb here, but do you suppose that some of the tension between us has to do with the fact that most of our communication is around "shoulds" and "musts" facelessly called from room to room? Do you think maybe, just maybe, I should try to spend some time with my daughter just sitting and talking about whatever without an agenda? Ya think?

The mother/daughter thing can be very fraught. I think one or two books have even been written on the subject. But I refuse to accept as a fait accompli that my daugher and I are now destined to argue until she is 25 and realizes again how wonderful I am. This is parenting, not rocket science. She needs my time and my attention as much now as she ever did. Maybe even more. I'd best make myself available.


Took a little trip to the edge of insanity last night. The Child was driving. I realize she's "at that age" but for the love of God! Here's a typical exchange:

Me: "How much homework do you have left?

Her: "A few problems of math".

Me: "Do you understand it?" (She's currently flunking math. Her teacher says it's because she doesn't ask for help even though she (the teacher) has set up a stigma-free zone for getting help).

Her: "Yes".

Me: "OK. I have to run an errand (something specifically for her, mind you). Can you be done by the time I get back or do I need to stick around?"

Her: "You can go."

I go. I return. She's playing with The Dog.

Me: "All finished with homework?"

Her: "Almost."

Me: "Almost? What's left?"

Her: "A few problems of math".

And it went like this all night. Whenever she was spoken to she processed it in some convoluted manner which took her 412 miles from where she was supposed to be. She sauntered into dinner last night about 10 minutes after being called for the third time. I suspect it was because she heard "Dinner's ready" and thought, "Mom just called me to dinner. The food is hot. She and Papa are sitting down to eat. Maybe I'll dress for dinner. Yeah, that's it. I'll put on all the cool new clothes Godmom brought me from Europe. I'll look super fantastic and they will think I am so cute". Sure, she was cute and furthermore, her table manners were very precise and grownup. But that is so not the point.

Then there's the whole vicious cycle of not turning off her light when told because she's too engrossed in that damn Harry Potter 6 which means she can't get up when I wake her which means she can't move beyond a snail's pace getting ready which means we're rushing out the door which means she's late to school which means she's scrambling into class behind the bell and not turning in her bloody homework so she's getting "missing assignment" citations for stuff that's in her freaking book bag.

Color me frustrated.

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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Baptism Anniversary

Yesterday was the 12th anniversary of The Child's baptism. Growing up in an evangelical Protestant home, infant baptism was pretty much the last holdout when I "went over to Rome". I finally came around but partly because I understood that it is the obligation of the parents to make the sacrament come alive for their children. One way to do that is to gather every year and tell the story.

We have a little prayer, The Child picks the menu (shepherd's pie). We bring out her beautiful baptismal gown, the one hand-made by her Protestant Nana. There are presents. The grownups share their remembrances from that day. Some of the bits are repeated year to year but there is always something new as well. Last night was no different. However, since this is my blog, here are the bits that always stand out for me:

Lent was early in 1994 and the Cathedral was going to be closing for renovations right after Easter. We were going to be worshipping across the street in the high school gym for the next year or so. Baptisms, except in very rare and urgent situations, are not performed in Lent. So we had a choice. We could have her baptized right away, have her baptized in a gym or we could wait until we were back in the Cathedral. The gym part was easy. The sacrament would be just as valid performed in a space full of championship banners and bleachers but we wanted The Child baptized in the same place where I'd been confirmed and we'd been married. We didn't want to wait until she was a toddler, not because she'd go to hell, but because the logistics of a squirmy toddler vs a sleeping baby were less attractive. So it happened that she was the last child baptized in the "old" Cathedral (and her Papa was one of the first adults baptized in the renovated version. That's a little Cathedral trivia for you).

Then, for a variety of logistical reasons it turned out that all the other families who were scheduled with us changed their plans. So, possibly pre-figuring her destiny, The Child was baptized, at 10 days old, with all the pomp and pagentry we papists are so fond of and she had it all to herself. One of the coolest things to me was that Father used her name in all the prayers and blessings, as opposed to the "these children" sort of thing he'd have said otherwise. After she was baptized the choir sang a gorgeous "Alleluia" and Father invited the congregants to welcome the newest member. The Child had slept through the entire liturgy but when she heard that applause her little eyes flew open and she looked around. I smiled at her and told her everything was fine and she settled back down to sleep, the smug little smile of one adored on her face.

I have encountered a few people who think we're asking for trouble by "forcing" our religion on our child. I get that. I was away from any sort of organized religion for nearly 20 years. There aren't any guarantees that she's going to remain Catholic or even, I suppose, Christian. But this is the family she got. We're Catholic, and with all it's "what about the Borgias" history, we love it. It's not perfect but happily neither are we. The Child is also informed by all the cooking, movie-watching and politics around her. The Spouse talks to her about making films, I talk to her about writing. You could argue that we are "forcing" her to enjoy dinner parties and vote blue but I figure that our job is to inform and influence her. At least while we can. What she does with it will ultimately be up to her. If she's going to rebel she might as well have something really excellent to rebel against. I'll love her anyway. Even if she votes...no, I can't say it. But I would still love her. My parents still love me.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Rock the Casbah

NPR isn't known for editorializing. Which is why I couldn't help but notice a remark on "Morning Edition". I'm paraphrasing here but it went something like "Muslims in Europe continue to be offended by the depiction of the Prophet as violent. So they burned a Danish embassy and ransacked a Christian neighborhood".

I've seen the cartoon in question. I understand that any depiction of the Prophet is offensive to Muslims, let alone a depiction of the Prophet with a bomb for a turban. Particularly because it's not the Prophet who is running terror networks. Bin Laden with a bomb turban, sure. Just like Garry Trudeau depicts Bush as a little bomb. That's funny. I would be offended if someone depicted the cross of Christ as a surface-to-air missile because it isn't reasonable to me to blame the founder of a faith for the unmitigated and faithless way his followers mess up.

It's the whole infidel thing that is disturbing to me. How upset are believers supposed to get at the things non-believers do? I know how fundamentalists of any stripe would answer that. Getting upset at non-believers is their stock in trade. I'm talking about the rest of us. I've had to listen to my share of priest and little boy jokes. They make me sad. Sometimes they make me angry. Not all priests are pedophiles. Not all Muslims are terrorists. I think it is up to those of us who see the nuances of grey in the world to resist the efforts of the few to suck us up into their pettiness and hatred. We shouldn't be conned into by the few into tarring entire peoples with the same brush.

European papers have reprinted the offensive piece as a way of demonstrating the democratic principle of free speech. You don't have to like what I say but you can't keep me from saying it. However, democracy and free speech are not necessarily valued by all parties so it's only making things worse. Meanwhile, the US and Britian are taking a touchy-feely "tolerance for other faiths" tack which is ironic considering how busy we are foisting democracy on sovereign nations.

I keep reminding myself that it was the Arab world that gave us zero and probably yougurt. I have to remember that there are mothers and fathers in the Middle East who no more desire the death and destruction of the West than I enjoy the rotting fruit of our misbegotten war. It takes a lot of work to rebuff the "other" mentality that is operating in our world but for those of us who still dream of our children living in relative peace it is necessary work.

Man, the Crusades were SUCH a bad idea.

Two Other Fluke Lessons

Something that saved me from complete mania last week were a couple of reprieves. Now that everything is, for the moment, quiet again, I started thinking about them and how happy they made me and how I don't want to live in such a way that I need a reprieve.

I will always welcome the cancellation of an evening meeting but last weeks reprieves were of another kind. One, the deadline that got pushed back, was welcome because it was something I wanted to do but hadn't committed time to doing. The other reprieves were things I should never have committed to in the first place. Neither of them were that big a deal in their own right. But when you pile them on to everything else that was going on, they were the weights pushing down on my spirit. They were the "have to but don't want tos". I have to be more careful about when and where I say "yes".

"'No' is a holy word". Sr. Frances taught me that a long time ago. She didn't mean that we never have to do anything uninteresting or mundane. (Garbage, after all, must be taken to the curb. We have to get up to go to work. Laundry must be folded). Her lesson, which I neglected, is that we don't have to agree to do everything that is asked of us. Our gifts and talents should be our guide. Taking on a challenge because you desire to push yourself is one thing. Saying 'yes' just because you don't want to let someone down is something else. Which is exactly what I had done. When presented these tasks I didn't sweetly say, "I do want to be of help to you but trust me, there is someone better for that particular job. How else can I help?" Instead, both times, I said 'yes' right away, even as my stomach turned over with dread. Must remember the holiness of 'no'.

Another reminder is that I have to, have to, have to make sure I am making time in the day for myself. Men so rarely need to hear this. They are perfectly capable of shutting out the world behind a newspaper or stopping for a beer on the way home from work. If The Spouse is tired he takes a nap. He doesn't make a big announcement, he just goes into the bedroom and goes to sleep. When he watches television he's just watching. He's not making notes, ironing or writing out a shopping list. He doesn't multi-task. And that is a good thing. It's good to just do whatever you want to do to rest and restore yourself.

Women are not good at this at all. We always feel like we have to be doing something else. And ladies, it's just stupid. The busier we are, the more we neglect ourselves, which eventually results in plenty of misery to share with everyone around us. It's the classic airline instruction. You have to put on your oxygen mask before you help someone else. I think part of the reason we're so bad at this is that we just don't see where we have the time. The kids constantly need us. Work is never done because even if we've crossed off everything on our to-do list we are still thinking about myriad other details. When are we supposed to put our feet up, even for 5 minutes? I don't know. You have to figure that out. But you should. I should. Because even if we have to hide in the bathroom for 5 minutes to eat a Hershey's Kiss and read a poem, we need to do something that is just for us, just because it makes us happy. I know that when I do I am a much more pleasant person to be around.

The sun is still shining (even though there is no joy in Mudville today). I have 3 crocuses up in the front garden. The Child has Drama Club after school so I have a nice long day ahead of me with nary a thing on the calendar. Life is good.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Lance & Cheryl

Lance Armstrong and Cheryl Crow have broken their engagement. Speculation as to the reasons abound. My money is on Angelina Jolie.

Seahawks by 14, Not So Much

Second guessing, woulda, coulda, shouldas all notwithstanding...

The refs took away at least one Seahawk touchdown and granted a Pittsburgh TD wherein the ball was, in fact, not carried over the line. I'm not saying the Seahawks played their greatest game ever but if you were to factor in those two plays then the final score is Hawks 16, Steelers 14. That's all I'm saying.

Of course, my brother-in-law, the Republican, blames George Bush. He figured the fix was in so W wouldn't have to call a blue state mayor with congrats. Whatever.

It's Just a Fluke

There was a big wind storm here yesterday, although nowhere near as apocolyptic as the local news suggested. The front door blew open once, there were sundry creaking noises and the lid flew off the garbage can. But that was about it. Today has dawned freakishly calm. There is a shining orb in the sky that portends I know not what and the sky is an eerie shade of blue. These are strange signs in a land of wet and mud and grey and I do not understand them. But I found myself drawn to sit outside on the kitchen steps, drinking very hot coffee and marveling at the calm and warmth. It was almost like spring.

As I sat there, contemplating the weeds in the potagers, I realized that last week, and much of the week that preceeded it, was very busy just because it was. The busyness I've been wrapped up in, which has stressed me out, is not really the true pattern of my life. It was stressful, in fact, because it challenged the Routine of my days. I am used to having large chunks of time in my day to accomplish my agenda, to be alone, to think (or not). Last week I only had little bits stuck inbetween the much larger call of a crammed full schedule. It was the rushing around, the lack of time to focus that made me so crazy. Sheesh, I think we only even ate at the table once last week, which is very, very weird for us.

I spent a lot of time yesterday just doing as I pleased and it was odd to find so much silence while the weather was running amok outside but I suppose that's an important metaphor. When craziness swirls around me I have a choice. I can get sucked into it and allow it to blow me off course or I can trim my sails and use it to my good. Or something like that.

There is a writing project that I hope to contribute to and the deadline for submissions was Feb. 7. I realized that part of my stress last week was that I didn't have the time to write that I had counted on and I was way behind in shaping the pieces I have. I went to the website to check some details and saw that the deadline has been moved to the 15th. I can't tell you how relieved I was. I don't' have to "cram" tomorrow to finish up. I can still attempt to do my best work. And that is when I had my revelation.

I really am a writer now. Not because I talk or dream about it but because I'm finally doing it. And when I don't do it, or don't do that much of it, I start to feel wonky. It's what I'm supposed to be doing, as much as I'm supposed to be loving The Spouse and caring for The Child. It's my call and when one fails to heed the call there is dis-ease. In the years and years when I wasn't writing I didn't feel stressed about not writing because I hadn't owned it. It wasn't a daily requirement for happiness. Now, I realize, it is.

Ok, that orb thing in the sky is really bugging me. It's casting heated light on my computer screen, reavealing quite a lot of dust. What's that all about?

Seahawks by 14, More or Less

On this hallowed day, when the eyes of most Americans turn to a tiny hamlet known as Detroit, please remember it is not about the Lil Smokies, the chips or the beer. It is not about the big-budget commercials or praying that Mick doesn't have a wardrobe malfunction. Today is about one thing and one thing only: a big-ass football trophy coming home to Seattle.


Friday, February 03, 2006

What the...

With the Super Bowl approaching this won't be easy but I have got to make some time this weekend to just sit and contemplate my life. Because for a "stay-at-home mom" I have been awfully busy lately and I need to figure out if that's just a fluke or a trend.

If it's a trend I have to figure out how I feel about it because I am feeling a little stressed. This suggests that all the items that fill my plate are not to my liking. Or maybe I just haven't taken enough time for myself. Maybe I just need to kick back with a stack of magazines that don't have Brangelina in them and some chocolate. But I'm going to have to stop DOING for a while to get an accurate read. Just thought you'd like to know.

Bono at The National Prayer Breakfast

Number 1 of the top 5 non-Springsteen concerts I've ever seen was U2 at the Paramount. It was 1982, the "War" tour. U2 had only just started getting air time on MTV (back when the M stood for 'music'). Tickets were something like $8 and we sat in the 14th row. It was beyond awesome. I was in love with Bono.

In the subsequent years my admiration for him has grown. He is mocked as much as honored for his vocal stands, for being a rock star who acts like a prophet and a prophet who lives like a rock star (except for the whole faithfulness to his 1st and only wife thing). But I'm glad he's out there and my only real criticism is that he's too short.

You can stop reading now if you want. But below I have a transcript of Bono's remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast and I think it's really good. I just like picturing him saying this stuff to people like, well, the President. His is truly a prophetic voice. (Note: "prophecy" as in speaking the truth even if it isn't what the powerful want to hear not "prophecy" like Pat Robertson on another of his paranoid-schizophrenic tirades). I lifted this straight from an e-zine I get from "Sojourners" because if I linked you to the site you'd have to register first and I don't think you should have to do that even if it is free.


If you're wondering what I'm doing here, at a prayer breakfast, well, so am I. I'm certainly not here as a man of the cloth, unless that cloth is leather. It's certainly not because I'm a rock star. Which leaves one possible explanation: I'm here because I've got a messianic complex.

Yes, it's true. And for anyone who knows me, it's hardly a revelation.

Well, I'm the first to admit that there's something unnatural...something unseemly...about rock stars mounting the pulpit and preaching at presidents, and then disappearing to their villas in the south of France. Talk about a fish out of water. It was weird enough when Jesse Helms showed up at a U2 concert...but this is really weird, isn't it?

You know, one of the things I love about this country is its separation of church and state. Although I have to say: in inviting me here, both church and state have been separated from something else completely: their mind.

Mr. President, are you sure about this?

It's very humbling and I will try to keep my homily brief. But be warned - I'm Irish.

I'd like to talk about the laws of man, here in this city where those laws are written. And I'd like to talk about higher laws. It would be great to assume that the one serves the other; that the laws of man serve these higher laws...but of course, they don't always. And I presume that, in a sense, is why you're here.

I presume the reason for this gathering is that all of us here - Muslims, Jews, Christians - all are searching our souls for how to better serve our family, our community, our nation, our God.
I know I am. Searching, I mean. And that, I suppose, is what led me here, too.

Yes, it's odd, having a rock star here - but maybe it's odder for me than for you. You see, I avoided religious people most of my life. Maybe it had something to do with having a father who was Protestant and a mother who was Catholic in a country where the line between the two was, quite literally, a battle line. Where the line between church and state was...well, a little blurry, and hard to see.

I remember how my mother would bring us to chapel on Sundays... and my father used to wait outside. One of the things that I picked up from my father and my mother was the sense that religion often gets in the way of God.

For me, at least, it got in the way. Seeing what religious people, in the name of God, did to my native land...and in this country, seeing God's second-hand car salesmen on the cable TV channels, offering indulgences for cash...in fact, all over the world, seeing the self-righteousness roll down like a mighty stream from certain corners of the religious establishment...
I must confess, I changed the channel. I wanted my MTV.

Even though I was a believer.

Perhaps because I was a believer.

I was cynical...not about God, but about God's politics. (There you are, Jim.)

Then, in 1997, a couple of eccentric, septuagenarian British Christians went and ruined my shtick - my reproachfulness. They did it by describing the millennium, the year 2000, as a Jubilee year, as an opportunity to cancel the chronic debts of the world's poorest people. They had the audacity to renew the Lord's call - and were joined by Pope John Paul II, who, from an Irish half-Catholic's point of view, may have had a more direct line to the Almighty.
'Jubilee' - why 'Jubilee'?

What was this year of Jubilee, this year of our Lord's favor?

I'd always read the scriptures, even the obscure stuff. There it was in Leviticus (25:35)...
'If your brother becomes poor,' the scriptures say, 'and cannot maintain himself...you shall maintain him.... You shall not lend him your money at interest, not give him your food for profit.'
It is such an important idea, Jubilee, that Jesus begins his ministry with this. Jesus is a young man, he's met with the rabbis, impressed everyone, people are talking. The elders say, he's a clever guy, this Jesus, but he hasn't done much...yet. He hasn't spoken in public before...
When he does, is first words are from Isaiah: 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,' he says, 'because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.' And Jesus proclaims the year of the Lord's favour, the year of Jubilee (Luke 4:18).

What he was really talking about was an era of grace - and we're still in it.

So fast-forward 2,000 years. That same thought, grace, was made incarnate - in a movement of all kinds of people. It wasn't a bless-me club... it wasn't a holy huddle. These religious guys were willing to get out in the streets, get their boots dirty, wave the placards, follow their convictions with actions...making it really hard for people like me to keep their distance. It was amazing. I almost started to like these church people.

But then my cynicism got another helping hand.

It was what Colin Powell, a five-star general, called the greatest W.M.D. of them all: a tiny little virus called AIDS. And the religious community, in large part, missed it. The ones that didn't miss it could only see it as divine retribution for bad behaviour. Even on children...even [though the] fastest growing group of HIV infections were married, faithful women.

Aha, there they go again! I thought to myself judgmentalism is back!

But in truth, I was wrong again. The church was slow but the church got busy on this the leprosy of our age.

Love was on the move.
Mercy was on the move.
God was on the move.

Moving people of all kinds to work with others they had never met, never would have cared to meet...conservative church groups hanging out with spokesmen for the gay community, all singing off the same hymn sheet on AIDS...soccer moms and quarterbacks...hip-hop stars and country stars. This is what happens when God gets on the move: crazy stuff happens!

Popes were seen wearing sunglasses!

Jesse Helms was seen with a ghetto blaster!

Crazy stuff. Evidence of the spirit.

It was breathtaking. Literally. It stopped the world in its tracks.

When churches started demonstrating on debt, governments listened - and acted. When churches starting organising, petitioning, and even - that most unholy of acts today, God forbid, lobbying...on AIDS and global health, governments listened - and acted.

I'm here today in all humility to say: you changed minds; you changed policy; you changed the world.

Look, whatever thoughts you have about God, who He is or if He exists, most will agree that if there is a God, He has a special place for the poor. In fact, the poor are where God lives.

Check Judaism. Check Islam. Check pretty much anyone.

I mean, God may well be with us in our mansions on the hill. I hope so. He may well be with us as in all manner of controversial stuff. Maybe, maybe not. But the one thing we can all agree, all faiths and ideologies, is that God is with the vulnerable and poor.

God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives. God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war. God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them. "If you remove the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness, and if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness and your gloom with become like midday and the Lord will continually guide you and satisfy your desire in scorched places."

It's not a coincidence that in the scriptures, poverty is mentioned more than 2,100 times. It's not an accident. That's a lot of air time, 2,100 mentions. (You know, the only time Christ is judgmental is on the subject of the poor.) 'As you have done it unto the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me' (Matthew 25:40). As I say, good news to the poor.
Here's some good news for the president. After 9/11 we were told America would have no time for the world's poor. America would be taken up with its own problems of safety. And it's true these are dangerous times, but America has not drawn the blinds and double-locked the doors.

In fact, you have doubled aid to Africa. You have tripled funding for global health. Mr. President, your emergency plan for AIDS relief and support for the Global Fund - you and Congress - have put 700,000 people onto life-saving anti-retroviral drugs and provided 8 million bed nets to protect children from malaria.

Outstanding human achievements. Counterintuitive. Historic. Be very, very proud.

But here's the bad news. From charity to justice, the good news is yet to come. There is much more to do. There's a gigantic chasm between the scale of the emergency and the scale of the response.

And finally, it's not about charity after all, is it? It's about justice.

Let me repeat that: It's not about charity, it's about justice.

And that's too bad.

Because you're good at charity. Americans, like the Irish, are good at it. We like to give, and we give a lot, even those who can't afford it.

But justice is a higher standard. Africa makes a fool of our idea of justice; it makes a farce of our idea of equality. It mocks our pieties, it doubts our concern, it questions our commitment.

Sixty-five hundred Africans are still dying every day of a preventable, treatable disease, for lack of drugs we can buy at any drug store. This is not about charity, this is about justice and equality.

Because there's no way we can look at what's happening in Africa and, if we're honest, conclude that deep down, we really accept that Africans are equal to us. Anywhere else in the world, we wouldn't accept it. Look at what happened in South East Asia with the tsunami. 150,000 lives lost to that misnomer of all misnomers, "mother nature." In Africa, 150,000 lives are lost every month. A tsunami every month. And it's a completely avoidable catastrophe.

It's annoying but justice and equality are mates. Aren't they? Justice always wants to hang out with equality. And equality is a real pain.

You know, think of those Jewish sheep-herders going to meet the Pharaoh, mud on their shoes, and the Pharaoh says, "Equal?" A preposterous idea: rich and poor are equal? And they say, "Yeah, 'equal,' that's what it says here in this book. We're all made in the image of God."
And eventually the Pharaoh says, "OK, I can accept that. I can accept the Jews - but not the blacks."

"Not the women. Not the gays. Not the Irish. No way, man."

So on we go with our journey of equality.

On we go in the pursuit of justice.

We hear that call in the ONE Campaign, a growing movement of more than 2 million Americans...Left and Right together... united in the belief that where you live should no longer determine whether you live.

We hear that call even more powerfully today, as we mourn the loss of Coretta Scott King - mother of a movement for equality, one that changed the world but is only just getting started. These issues are as alive as they ever were; they just change shape and cross the seas.
Preventing the poorest of the poor from selling their products while we sing the virtues of the free market...that's a justice issue. Holding children to ransom for the debts of their grandparents...that's a justice issue. Withholding life-saving medicines out of deference to the Office of Patents...that's a justice issue.

And while the law is what we say it is, God is not silent on the subject.

That's why I say there's the law of the land¿. And then there is a higher standard. There's the law of the land, and we can hire experts to write them so they benefit us, so the laws say it's OK to protect our agriculture but it's not OK for African farmers to do the same, to earn a living?

As the laws of man are written, that's what they say.

God will not accept that.

Mine won't, at least. Will yours?
[ pause]

I close this morning on...very...thin...ice.

This is a dangerous idea I've put on the table: my God vs. your God, their God vs. our God...vs. no God. It is very easy, in these times, to see religion as a force for division rather than unity.
And this is a town - Washington - that knows something of division.

But the reason I am here, and the reason I keep coming back to Washington, is because this is a town that is proving it can come together on behalf of what the scriptures call the least of these.
This is not a Republican idea. It is not a Democratic idea. It is not even, with all due respect, an American idea. Nor it is unique to any one faith.

'Do to others as you would have them do to you' (Luke 6:30). Jesus says that.

'Righteousness is this: that one should...give away wealth out of love for him to the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and the beggars and for the emancipation of the captives.' The Koran says that (2.177).

Thus sayeth the Lord: 'Bring the homeless poor into the house, when you see the naked, cover him, then your light will break out like the dawn and your recovery will speedily spring fourth, then your Lord will be your rear guard.' The Jewish scripture says that. Isaiah 58 again.
That is a powerful incentive: 'The Lord will watch your back.' Sounds like a good deal to me, right now.

A number of years ago, I met a wise man who changed my life. In countless ways, large and small, I was always seeking the Lord's blessing. I was saying, you know, I have a new song, look after it¿. I have a family, please look after them¿. I have this crazy idea...
And this wise man said: stop.

He said, stop asking God to bless what you're doing.

Get involved in what God is doing - because it's already blessed.

Well, God, as I said, is with the poor. That, I believe, is what God is doing.

And that is what he's calling us to do.

I was amazed when I first got to this country and I learned how much some churchgoers tithe. Up to 10% of the family budget. Well, how does that compare with the federal budget, the budget for the entire American family? How much of that goes to the poorest people in the world? Less than 1%.

Mr. President, Congress, people of faith, people of America:
I want to suggest to you today that you see the flow of effective foreign assistance as tithing.... Which, to be truly meaningful, will mean an additional 1% of the federal budget tithed to the poor.

What is 1%?

1% is not merely a number on a balance sheet.

1% is the girl in Africa who gets to go to school, thanks to you. 1% is the AIDS patient who gets her medicine, thanks to you. 1% is the African entrepreneur who can start a small family business thanks to you. 1% is not redecorating presidential palaces or money flowing down a rat hole. This 1% is digging waterholes to provide clean water.

1% is a new partnership with Africa, not paternalism toward Africa, where increased assistance flows toward improved governance and initiatives with proven track records and away from boondoggles and white elephants of every description.

America gives less than 1% now. We're asking for an extra 1% to change the world. to transform millions of lives - but not just that and I say this to the military men now - to transform the way that they see us.

1% is national security, enlightened economic self-interest, and a better, safer world rolled into one. Sounds to me that in this town of deals and compromises, 1% is the best bargain around.
These goals - clean water for all; school for every child; medicine for the afflicted, an end to extreme and senseless poverty - these are not just any goals; they are the Millennium Development goals, which this country supports. And they are more than that. They are the Beatitudes for a globalised world.

Now, I'm very lucky. I don't have to sit on any budget committees. And I certainly don't have to sit where you do, Mr. President. I don't have to make the tough choices.

But I can tell you this:
To give 1% more is right. It's smart. And it's blessed.

There is a continent - Africa - being consumed by flames.

I truly believe that when the history books are written, our age will be remembered for three things: the war on terror, the digital revolution, and what we did - or did not to - to put the fire out in Africa.

History, like God, is watching what we do.

Thank you. Thank you, America, and God bless you all.