Saturday, October 14, 2017

Epic: Camping With Kids

To be read in the meter of either Emily Dickinson 
or Gilligan's Island, depending on how classy you're feeling: 

Two hours in a car with kids
can quickly kill a soul,
so two days camping in the sand
was bound to take its toll.

We hadn't left the driveway yet.
"How long until the beach?"
And then each mile down the road:
"How long until the beach?"

Set up a giant cabin tent
for seven and a dog.
Hey wait, re-count! We're missing one:
The baby's in the bog.

Pass out more snacks and find the suits,
then hike out to the waves.
Quick grab the twins! They're wandering!
(Just one of many saves.)

And back to camp -- the tent's still there!
The wind put out the fire.
Quesadillas (thanks, propane!)
and s'mores with children's choir.

Sunset o'er adjacent swamp, 
silhouettes our line
of dripping suits and underwear: 
can't beat a view this fine. 

Tuck dirty kids in sleeping bags,
and gaze the Milky Way,
while prepping for an alligator
visit from the Bay.

"Hey where's the dog?" "He's over there."
"Is he asleep or dead?"
The next site over's smoking weed,
Guess we should go to bed.

The crickets chirp, the baby whines, 
Oomph, toddler on my face.
"The floor's too hard," "I have to pee," 
"I can't sleep in this place." 

"My tummy hurts," "My flashlight's gone,"
"My blanket makes a dome!" 
"I want to change my sleeping bag," 
"I miss my bed at home." 

It's five a.m. We're all awake. 
Our kids don't know "vacation."
They rotate through their potty chair.
We prep a breakfast station. 

Eggs and sausage, melted cheese,
their favorite, every week.
Until today, when they decide, 
to hem and haw and freak. 

And so the dog (who isn't dead)
enjoys their untouched food.
The baby runs into the marsh,
but Mom's not in the mood. 

She buckles him, despite his shrieks,
while passing out the towels. 
(Umbrella strollers in the sand 
are h-e-l-l bowels.) 

Jellyfish melt in the sun -- 
as dangerous as it gets. 
Hermit crabs crawl everywhere, 
but we don't need more pets. 

Sweaty, happy, beach-y kids,
This trip is so much fun!
Then suddenly it falls apart, 
and Mom declares she's done.

We pack up camp into the van, 
while babies fuss and cry.
Then upload happy Facebook pix:
"Camping! It's easy-as-pie!"

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

99 Parish Issues More Important Than Dress Code At Mass

Does he know that heaven kisses earth in this sanctuary? 

Why is he distracting all of us with this disrespectful attire? 

He couldn't even take the time to get dressed properly for church. 

I don't know about you, but those are always my first thoughts when I see a priest start down the aisle in a too-short cassock and faded vestments. 

If you find yourself distracted by how someone else is dressed at Mass -- whether it's too casual, too worn, too short, too baggy, too tight, too bright, or too goth -- here's a brief list of alternate questions to consider, that might be more beneficial for both you and your parish than "Why are they wearing that?" 

1. When was the last time I invited our priest, deacon, or youth minister over for dinner? 

2. How often does our parish offer Reconciliation? 

3. Do any parishioners need a ride to Mass on Sundays? 

4. How can I support perpetual adoration at our parish? 

5. How well do we resource our religious education classrooms? 

6. Can children in the cry room see what's happening on the altar during Mass?

7. How difficult is it for parishioners to access the sacrament of Baptism for their children? 

8. Is our parish networked with the local police department to provide pastoral support for Catholic victims of crimes, if requested? 

9. How difficult is it for parishioners to access the sacrament of First Communion for their children? 

10. How difficult is it for parishioners to access the sacrament of Confirmation for their children? 

11. How can I support the St Vincent de Paul ministry at our parish?

12. Is our campus secure, to protect children during religious education classes?

13. What percentage of parishioners participate in faith formation at our parish, and how can we increase that number?

14. Are we caring for the spiritual development of our parish staff, including opportunities for sabbatical? 

15. How does a new parishioner learn about faith formation and volunteer opportunities at our parish? 

16. Does a representative from our parish visit local nursing homes during the week to bring Communion? 

17. Does our parish diversity match the diversity of our community? Why or why not? 

18. Is it possible to run a parish solely on tithes, without fundraisers? 

19. Does our parish have a bereavement ministry? 

20. Do our high school students have the resources they need through our parish to start a Catholic student group at their public school, if they want to? 

21. Could I help prepare and serve a meal after a funeral at our parish? 

22. Can kids or adults with special needs attend our parish’s religious education? 

23. Are all parts of our parish handicap accessible?

24. Does our parish have a presence on social media?

25. Would parishioners participate in church clean-up days or landscaping projects? 

26. Could a children’s group from our parish regularly visit local nursing homes? 

27. Are there any potholes that need to be repaired in the parking lot? 

28. Could I sign up to help clean vessels after Mass? 

29. Is our parish website maintained with accurate information about Mass times, and contact information for different ministries?

30. If our parish invests in the spiritual development of our parishioners, will a natural response be more faithful tithing? 

31. How does our parish budget reflect the values of our Church? 

32. Did I invite anyone to attend Mass with me this week? 

33. Does our parish have a food pantry, or support a local food pantry, for those who are hungry in our parish and community? 

34. Does our parish have an adjacent Catholic school that’s accessible and affordable to our parish families? 

35. Is there a shortage of volunteers at our parish?

36. Could our parish help resource a local crisis pregnancy center? 

37. How could a parish priest explain Mass in such a way that increases the reverence and appreciation of those attending? 

38. Are there religious formation and fellowship opportunities available for the elderly at our parish? 

39. What are the needs of elderly parishioners in our community, and how can we help meet them? 

40. Are there religious formation and fellowship opportunities, including childcare, available for parents of young children at our parish? 

41. Are there ushers at every door, welcoming people before Mass?

42. Is our parish welcoming to children and adults with special needs? 

43. How can our parish improve pre-marriage preparations? 

44. Does our parish have an outdoor prayer space or garden that could be open to the public? 

45. Do parish staff and ministry leaders return emails and phone calls? 

46. Does our parish have a Stephen ministry to support those who are hurting or grieving? 

47. How could I volunteer to help our local homeless families and individuals? 

48. Are religious education programs accessible to all parishioners, regardless of ability to pay? 

49. How can our parish better support families caring for members with special needs? 

50. What are parish community building events that could include everyone? 

51. How accessible are natural family planning classes for engaged and married couples at our parish? 

52. Is our parish paying a livable wage to all employees, including janitorial staff and youth ministers? 

53. Are parishioners aware of their personal spiritual gifts, and how they can serve the parish with these gifts? 

54. Does our parish council represent the socioeconomic diversity of our parish, including the views of youth, young families, singles, older families, the elderly, etc.? 

55. Could I donate a rocking chair to the cry room?

56. Is our parish physically accessible to the elderly or handicapped? 

57. Does our parish have a running project list for student volunteers, such as Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, youth groups, and Confirmation students? 

58. Could the music ministry use my help?  

59. Does our parish have a ministry for local young adults? 

60. How can I better show love to my family and extended family today? 

61. Do each of the classrooms have a working clock?

62. When we gather for meals as a parish, are we inclusive of those with food allergies? 

63. Who can I pray for at work this week? 

64. Does our parish regularly visit the local hospital? 

65. Could I prepare a home-cooked meal for someone in our parish this week? 

66. How can we invite more people in our community into our parish? 

67. Could I volunteer to help teach a religious education class? 

68. Are any of the plants poisonous that grow around our parish? 

69. Does our parish visit sick parishioners, and bring them Communion? 

70. How often does our parish offer retreat opportunities to parishioners? 

71. Does our parish have good communication protocols among staff, ministries, and parishioners? 

72. Could Catholic Charities use me as a volunteer during the week? 

73. Does our parish have a ministry for local community college or university students? 

74. Does our cry room have nice religious board books to help toddlers better understand Mass?

75. Are any of our parishioners trained in natural family planning? 

76. How am I helping to foster religious vocations in our parish and community? 

77. Could I bring good creamer for the coffee maker in the parish office? 

78. Does our parish have a dedicated nursery or classroom for childcare during adult formation activities? 

79. How can I be a better friend to my neighbors at home? 

80. How many times does the offering basket need to be passed during Mass? 

81. Could I be a foster parent for children in need through Catholic Charities or another local organization? 

82. Are parishioners held hostage from the final blessing at the end of Mass while unnecessary, long-winded announcements that are already in the bulletin, are made from the ambo? 

83. Is the parish cry room inviting for weary parents of young kids? 

84. Does the offering need to be passed again after Communion? 

85. How can our parish include high school students in ministry opportunities? 

86. Does the youth ministry offer scholarships for students to attend events and retreats? 

87. When is the last time someone from our parish visited the local prison? 

88. What kind of adult religious education topics might be relevant and formational for parishioners? 

89. When is the last time I thanked the musicians at Mass, even if I didn't like the music? 

90. Could I offer to wash the altar linens this week? 

91. How can I support our parish's pro-life ministry? 

92. Does our parish have resources to share with parishioners looking for professional counseling? 

93. Are there any maintenance projects I could take care of for the parish? 

94. How can our parish better support families affected by divorce? 

95. Could our parish pray the rosary together before Mass? 

96. How can I better support our parish school and Catholic education in general? 

97. Is it possible to print a handout of communal prayers and songs, or project them on screens, during Mass, so visitors can more easily follow along? 

98. When is the last time I wrote a thank you note to the bishop? 

99. How can I better prepare my heart for Mass, so I'm not so easily distracted by the dress of those around me?

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Housewives Don't Talk Politics, And Other Nonsense

I’m told, as a housewife and stay-at-home mom, the contribution I make to our family is invaluable and irreplaceable. 
I’m told, as a housewife and stay-at-home mom, the market value of my in-home services  (accountant, chauffeur, tutor, housekeeper, nurse, personal shopper, general maintenance, etc.) is incalculable. 
Recently, I’ve also been told, as a housewife and stay-at-home mom, I shouldn’t speak on politics and should just post photos of my cute babies on Facebook instead.
How can a woman be so overwhelmingly qualified to manage a household and form the hearts of our next generation, and yet, simultaneously, disqualified from holding an informed political opinion?
Read the rest over at FemCatholic!

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