Wednesday, November 26, 2014

writing wednesdays: why did the turkey stand in the corner?

Because he relished his alone time, of course!

Well, don't you?

This turkey's got a lot more to say about carving out time to himself (no pun intended, honest!). Head on over to Peace Garden Writer for a gander, gobble gobble.

Monday, November 24, 2014

meaningful mondays: our extra-special 23rd anniversary with the timberwolves

This weekend, we celebrated our wedding anniversary...with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

It was a special one - 23 years on the 23rd - so merited a special celebration. Our trip to Minneapolis definitely felt special.

Through my husband's work, we were offered the chance at courtside seats. I doubt this will ever happen again in our lifetime, but for a few short hours, we were treated VIP style at a professional sporting event.

We traveled with Troy's co-worker and wife, Joel and Jill, and enjoyed a meal together before heading to the Target Center.

While there, we flipped a coin to see who would get the courtside seats the first half. Troy called heads. Guess who won the toss?

Our special tickets meant that we were treated extra special. People looked at us like, "How do you rate?" Then they congratulated us for getting lucky. This kind man was our escort to the hidden places where only special people go.

We were taken to a special room with private lockers and treats on the house. After placing our coats into classy wooden lockers, we made our way to the courts via a special "courtside folks only" entrance, arriving just as the teams were being introduced.

Flashing our special tickets, we were led to our special seats, which were even more "courtside" than we'd imagined.

Earlier, Jill had commented that she wanted to get so close to the players that they could drip sweat on her. We were THAT close.


I can't exactly describe how it felt, but it's a wholly different experience being right ON the court, just inches from the action.

The media was right there.

The security guards came within feet of us every time there was a break in the action on the court. See the guy on the left? He was like a Swiss Guard, never cracking a grin. He'd just stand there, surveying the crowd for any unwanted monkey business.

The mascot, Crunch, paid a visit to our section and made this little guy giggle.

We were so close to everything that it almost felt surreal, like we were inside of someone's dream. These hip hop dancers, The Pups, came out on one of the breaks to shake their booties.

I'm sure we looked wide-eyed, while others near us seemed to be settled in like this was all so very usual.

I love basketball, so it wasn't hard to watch the game, and during our half courtside, the Timberwolves were ahead pretty much the whole time. My characteristic four-fingered whistle got lots of use.

Then at halftime, more special stuff when we were treated to the extra-special Backcourt Club (like backstage), where all sorts of special things were going down.

At the start of the second half, we switched seats and were relegated to the spot where our friends had been earlier. See Joel in the orange? That's where we'd been, cozy with the courts.

Once we left our coveted spots, the game went downhill in a hurry. I'm sure the Timberwolves sensed our absence and just couldn't quite recover.

Now, the real truth is, their loss had nothing to do with us. In fact, we weren't special at all. Just extra-special blessed for a few hours the night before our 23rd wedding anniversary. This trip could not have happened without the generosity of others, and we are grateful. Not only was it exciting, but it gave us a chance to glimpse how the other, maybe more like the other 4

I have to admit. I enjoyed being treated like royalty for that short while. But the second half gave me a chance to pause and reflect, and by then, the excitement had worn off a little and my emotions had given way to thought. I'll save most of those deeper reflections for another time, but suffice it so say...I began to feel very grateful for my humble little life in North Dakota. No, it doesn't provide lots of chances for glitz and glamor. But my life is so incredibly rich. And if I had to choose between the two -- regular courtside seats and my usual life of mostly nosebleed section seating -- I'd trade in VIP for a more humble existence any day.

The truth of the matter humble, ordinary life of being a mom and wife married to a humble, ordinary guy and raising five fairly ordinary children in a pretty humble city is really where it's at.

I don't think I'm just trying to convince myself of it. I've got a sweet deal going on.

And we must be doing something right. After all, try as we might, we couldn't even get into Hell...or Hell's Kitchen at least. We tried, but we were turned away. Too nice, they said. 

No, I'm kidding. We just hadn't prepared enough in advance (made reservations).

We missed out on some good food, I hear, but the place we landed instead was very pleasing with its rooftop view with lots of light and a heavenly gaze.


What a great celebration! So many fun city sights...


And as I told my Facebook friends tonight, each year more that Troy and I find ourselves celebrating this milestone of another year of marriage, it feels like that much more of a miracle.

Q4U: What is the miracle you celebrate at this time in your life?

Friday, November 21, 2014

faith & family fridays: a pause can change the world

It's the simplest thing, really, and yet often hard to do, it seems.

The pause. It all comes down to this, I'm realizing. As in, our life depends on it. Our salvation depends on it. The flourishing of humanity depends on it.

Let me explain. Without morality, our world would crumble in an instant. We are moral people, made thus by our moral God. Morality has taken on a negative tone in this age, but I'm here to offer a different vision of it. I'm here to say morality is very, very good, and we can't do without it.

And for morality to work, the pause has to happen. What I mean by pause is...that moment of restraint. The little bit of time to think before acting. The chance to hold back from our reactive, human inclinations and choose another path.

Do you see where I'm heading now? And do you see why it's such a big thing?

Think about it as it relates to social media. We read something that rubs us the wrong way and immediately, our brain engines begins firing. We want to engage. But should we? And if we do, what should we say? Does it matter? We live in a world that seems to be leaning in the direction of it not mattering, and yet I think it does, a great deal.

The pause can change the whole outcome of the conversation, or whether we even have a conversation, or whom we have it with.

I'm coming to see the pause button as a gift from God to allow us enough time to challenge concupiscence (the inclination toward sin) and do what's right. Often, the right thing is not the first thing that comes to mind. If you're human, you know what I'm talking about, and I am the first among those who have failed in this at times.

Since my earliest days I've been quick to react, but my first reaction hasn't always been the most prudent. The older I get, the more I am getting this. I still don't do it perfectly, and when I don't, I know it. I feel it. I didn't pause long enough and now I've gotten myself in a mess. I should have utilized the pause.

Have you ever paused before acting, then acted, and felt relief, knowing that if you'd reacted on gut instinct everything could have turned out much differently, far worse?

The pause matters. But without developing one's conscience, the pause could end up being a waste of time, a spinning of one's wheels, fruitless. So there must be something there to begin with; a base to build upon.

God put something in our moral well to get us started, but it's up to us to follow through, develop and build  so that when push comes to shove and we're in a position of needing to make a moral decision, we'll have something in reserve. The bigger the reserve, in some ways, the better the pause, the more right the action or reaction.

It's pretty simple, really, and yet I know it's a journey, and that each soul comes at it individually and in its own time.

What's most important is that we recognize the value of the pause, work to build spaces for it to dwell, and know when to use it.

Reflection, restraint, prayer, holding back, being mindful, taking time to ruminate, discernment, fair judgment, choosing the right words.

We live in a world of weak words, when cursing is acceptable and reactions come at the quick click of a button. We're all susceptible, but we don't all have to cave to the pressure. There's a better way.

Consider the pause. Regard it. Honor it. Get comfortable with it. The pause doesn't mean you are rendered powerless. The pause just means you're going to commit to taking a little more time so that what comes from you will be thoughtful and just and right.

Q4U: When did you pause recently in a way that made all the difference?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

writing wednesdays: following fiat

Yes, that's right, but not like the car.

No, not that.

This is the Fiat I'm talking about.

You can follow Fiat, too. Just swim on over to Peace Garden Writer and take a little dip!

Monday, November 17, 2014

meaningful mondays: school family dance!

For 13 years now we've been gathering canned goods each November to gain entrance into our elementary school's fall family dance.

It's always very noisy and energy filled. The kids come dressed in themed attired. This year's theme? Neon!

My son and his friend came equipped with neon goggles thanks to Joey's mama. They danced until sweat beads were running down their temples and dripping onto their shirts.

I still remember when the song "YMCA" by the Village People hit the radio waves. Who knew all those years ago that it would still be fun to stay at the YMCA in 2014?

If for some strange reason amnesia has erased this fine song from your memory, "there's no need to feel down" you go!

Our sixth-grader has graduated from elementary, and often laments over the simpler days of yore. I encouraged him to come to the dance with me, "for old times sake." He did, and I think this pretty much fixed his pining inclinations. After a while of wandering around with a couple of his pals, he decided he was too old for this nonsense, and sat with me on the sidelines, spinning a neon bracelet.

One of the highlights of every fall family dance is the d.j. Nate Callens has been providing music for this event for 11 years now. He has a way of making it super fun for the kids. There are very few who are hanging on the walls. Most are out there on the dance floor most of the duration, and it's a lot because of Nate's fun presence, I'm sure of it.

At one point, I took a bathroom break, and while wandering the halls of the school, noticed the adorable artwork coloring the walls. Each class chose a saint to depict "in abstract." So many of my favorites were represented, but I had to take a photo of this one to share with my friend, Blaise, husband of Karen of the Flannery brigade from this summer.

Isn't Blaise a cool name? If I were to have another son, I'd cast a vote to name him Blaise.

Our fabulous art teacher, Jean Eppler, is doing amazing work with the kids, from what the halls attest.

St. Blaise, pray for us!

Q4U: What memories does the YMCA song bring back for you?

Friday, November 14, 2014

faith & family fridays: if bible alone, which one?

I have to start this post with an admission. I didn't understand during my childhood or even teen years one of the major dividing points between Catholics and Protestants; the Protestant doctrine of "sola scriptura," or "Bible only."

The short explanation of the doctrine, at least how I understand it, is that everything we can know about the Christian faith is contained in Holy Scripture. We need nothing beyond that. By and large, Protestants believe that anything else is extra, and a distraction, perhaps, from the Holy Word of God.

I also want to say that I truly do admire the Protestant verve over Scripture. After all, there are few things more invigorating as words of our Lord himself, not to mention the stories of those who lived in Jesus' time, and in the case of the Old Testament, the base of Christian history, and how pre-Jesus and post-Jesus all flow together into one cohesive guide. The emphasis many Protestants put on Scripture should be a light to us all.

But having said all that, from early on in my "entering the real world" years, I was stumped over the idea that some Christians were "Bible-believing" and some were not. Churches touted their offerings by those very words. "We are a Bible-believing Christian church!" The problem to me was, aren't we all? I scratched my head, wondering what I'd missed along the way.

I'm still looking for the answer to that one, actually, but in the meantime, I've come to a partial understanding of what the term "Bible believing" means. The idea, I think, is that if your church places a strong and whole emphasis on the Bible alone as the authority on which the Church stands, then you are a Bible-believing church. Anyone else -- namely the Catholics, and I'm sure there are other variations of the Christian faith that might qualify too -- would be the non-Bible-believing churches...I guess?

I'm still stuck on that, because our Mass and the Eucharist at its center -- the source and summit of our faith -- is completely Biblical. But I want to move past this temporarily to get to my main point, which is this. Yes to holding the Bible high. I'm there. And for the sake of discussion, I'll even grant this idea of sola scriptura, even though I have a different understanding of what the whole of Christendom comprises. But there's something else that bothers me, especially since having invested in my current read, "Where We Got the Bible," by Henry G. Graham.

Now full disclosure here, Graham was a convert from Presbyterianism to Catholicism, in the early 1900s and at a time when converts to Catholicism were very rare, especially in his native Scotland. The son of a minister destined to become the same, he somehow landed in Rome. I'm reading about his conversion now.

In the main part of the book, he goes into great detail on the origins of the Bible, and it's all been more than enlightening to me, especially given this idea that the Catholic faith is labeled, by some Christians, as not being Biblical. Graham makes the case, and very expertly, that this isn't even close to being true. And having read it now, and realizing just how many translations and editions and variations of Holy Scripture have come into being, both in the years since the canon was finalized and prior to it, I'm now asking new questions. Including, if it's really sola scriptura, which version?

After reading Graham's very well laid out case for the origins of the Bible, I can't help but wonder that if, indeed, the Bible is our only authority for our Christian faith, should we be in more conformity over what version of the Bible is the right one? Consensus has been hard won through these many years since Christ's death, and that concerns me, and should concern anyone who wants to get it right.

It seems to be a matter of importance, especially if one is basing his whole life on Scripture, that the version of Scripture serving at that base should be solidly agreed upon. There should be no question whatsoever that it is the complete word of God, right?

More and more, Christians are being challenged on Scripture, stories that have an increasingly secular world confused and, therefore, are refuting its validity and relevance. It's becoming harder for Christians to argue their points based on Scripture given this environment.

Now I certainly wouldn't propose getting rid of Scripture, but I am wondering more and more how we're going to settle the variances among ourselves so that we will have a unified version to offer that we can all agree to stand by.

I haven't even dared yet open the can of worms of differing versions between Christian and Protestant traditions -- the reality that the Catholic Bible has more books, and that those extra books also can change our understanding of our Christian story.

All of this might seem benign, but in the end, if we are going to rise and fall by Scripture, we should care, I would think.

So, what's the answer? How do we solve the variances? I feel confident in the Catholic Church's view of Scripture. We uphold and honor and live by Scripture too, but it's not all we uphold and honor and live by. We have Sacred Tradition to complement Scripture, and together, these two make the whole. In fact, Sacred Tradition came first, and Scripture from Sacred Tradition. Or, as Graham says toward the end of his book, "The Bible is the Church's offspring."

I didn't write this to unnecessarily challenge my Protestant friends on sola scriptura, however. That's an age-old difference between our traditions that likely will stay firm. But that doctrine and the variances of said scriptura raise questions in my mind; questions that, in an increasingly secular world, we're going to need to answer.

This is an inquiry post more than anything; a chance for me to try to wrap my brain around something that has confounded me for a while now. I'm open to the ideas of others regarding the above thoughts that have me perplexed, or any related subject matter.

Q4U: What questions about Scripture tug at you?

Monday, November 10, 2014

meaningful mondays: party hopper!

The older I get, the more I appreciate weekends at home, hunkering down with a book or just taking a breather and catching up. But every once in a while a weekend comes along with a host of possible social events, and in the case of this last one, four came in the course of a day.

In trying to decide which to attend, I ended up committing to all four, which made for a whirlwind but very fun day and evening. I try to avoid situations in which I might spread myself thin, but this time around, I discovered that party hopping can be a blast!

I didn't find out until Saturday that some friends who moved to Arizona this past summer, who've been back visiting this week, would be guests of honor at a party at a friend's house that same evening. But how can one refuse seeing friends who have gone missing when they show up? I wasn't about to turn down the opportunity to see Patricia and catch up on the latest. Plus, when the host mentioned her husband would be cooking his native Peruvian food, well, at that point it was settled.

I missed the chance to take a photo of Patricia, but sneaked a few from the party. The center of attraction besides Patricia was the lomo; Lomo made by Lucho. Lucho, by the way, had to make a hasty exist just as the lomo was about to be served. A doctor, he got a call to do a baby delivery, so he did not get to enjoy the meal with us, but had the privilege of helping bring a new soul into the world, which is just the coolest thing!

I do hope there was some lomo waiting for him when he returned. Seriously, I am going to be craving this stuff everyday from here on out. It was that good.

Tender, well-flavored strips of meat with tomatoes and onions on rice, along with a side of fresh green beans, fresh fruit and apple crisp for dessert made for a tantalizing visit. Invigorating conversations and a hug from Patricia topped it off.

The next party was at Stella's and Greg's. I have no photos to show, but the house was filled with people who had worked super hard on a recent effort to pass Measure 1. While I wasn't super involved in that effort, I did help from the sidelines. They had planned this party before the eventual defeat of the measure, but called it a victory party. After all, some victories are seen only from the long view, and we are convinced that the cause for life is worth the fight; the lifelong fight, if that's what it takes.

This proved to be the perfect party for me because it was filled with people who believe in the kinds of things I do, had great snacks, and ended with a small collaboration of people gathering around the table to have a truly deep and delightful discussion. For an introvert like me, this is when things get fun at a party -- when the crowd has thinned out, and just some die-hards remain. That last hour made it all worth it, and I felt energized, having helped close out the party.

Earlier in the day, I had a chance to mingle with my longtime children's author mentor, Jane Kurtz, who lives in Oregon now, but previously was a North Dakotan, and did much to inspire me in my work in children's literature. Jane is such a beautiful soul; it's never a bad day when she is around and I adored the chance to hang with her for a bit. Add my friend Bethlehem, "Bette," to the mix and there was no chance of things going sour. I'll write more about this gathering on Wednesday.

Finally, a friend posted on Facebook a couple days back that she'd be selling her awesome-applesauce mittens at a special event, so I pulled my daughter with me to do a little Christmas shopping. Not to mention grab a pair for myself, since my mittens have all gone AWOL. Her business, which she runs with her mom and sister, is called Three Woolly Chicks and a Gopher and produces the cutest, and warmest, mittens around! I was so pleased with this little venture. I'm not much of a shopper but I just love shopping local and crafty around this time of year.

All these events happened in one day and by the end of it, I felt filled up on "happy," good food and love.

Q4U: What party did you attend recently?