Thursday, November 29, 2012

"SouthLAnd" -- A Case Study Course Proposal For John Paul The Great Catholic University

I have learned that there is a rather prestigious university that offers a course based on the TV series "The O.C." So, I have decided to propose such a course based on the series "SouthLAnd" for my daughter's alma mater, John Paul the Great Catholic University (referred to herein as JP Catholic).

JP Catholic is a university which concentrates on instructing students in the areas of entrepreneurial business and media.  One of the degrees offered is a B.S. in Communications Media with an emphasis in Entertainment Media.  The course which I am proposing would be particularly applicable to this degree.

"SouthLAnd" is a television series centering around the lives and work of officers of the Los Angeles Police Department.  It is a work of fiction, but the storylines are based on the actual experiences of these officers.  The show began its run in 2008 and will be entering its 5th season on the network TNT in February of 2013.

Media students may benefit from the study of the following aspects of "SouthLAnd":

     1. technical -- cinematography and sound:  "SouthLAnd" is filmed primarily on location using hand-held cameras.  Much of the work is done outdoors.  A lot of the action and dialogue take place in moving vehicles.  These things present special challenges to the film-maker.  Learning how these challenges are met by the technical crew of "SouthLAnd" would be invaluable to the students.
     2.  writing -- The students will:
          a.  examine how character arcs are adequately developed when a series contains a relatively large number of main characters, as this show does.
          b.  study how the development of each character in this show leads to many possibilities for future plot lines.  The students may also practice writing future plot lines for the various personas, with a special emphasis on keeping each one appropriately in character, and yet letting each develop in a manner that would be engaging to an audience.
          c.  learn how to write appropriately for this specific genre, asking -- for each type of character -- how he/she would think, speak, and behave.  This may be a bit difficult for young film students, but is an essential part of learning to write a story well.
     3.  directing -- The students will:
          a.  study how this job is structured when a show is as complex as "SouthLAnd".  Each show involves many locations, scenes, and story lines.  Is the job delegated to many assistant directors?  If so, how much say does the principal director have over the decisions of the assistant directors?  How do they coordinate their activities?  If the show is directed -- for the most part -- by one person, how does that individual schedule his/her time in order to complete each episode efficiently?  How does that individual ensure the quality of each episode when being bound by a tight shooting schedule?
          b.  examine how to direct a show that may contain some disturbing elements -- such as the violence which would necessarily be a part of this type of series.  The students will ask themselves how these elements can be realistically and appropriately portrayed.  I believe "SouthLAnd" does an excellent job with this, and the students could greatly benefit from a study of it.
          c.  examine how to direct a show that contains some elements that may be personally uncomfortable for them -- such as strong language and sexual content.  How does a director handle these scenes, so as to ensure the show's realism, while at the same time ensuring that the cast and crew are treated with dignity.
     4.  production:  "SouthLAnd" utilizes many different locations and sets for each episode.  The students will study how such a complex series is managed by those tasked with both securing locations and props and decorating sets.
     5.  public relations and marketing -- The students will:
          a.  learn how a target audience for a show such as "SouthLAnd" is determined.
          b.  learn how a target audience for this show would be reached and how the marketing of the show to that target audience would be best accomplished, based on that audience's demographic.
          c.  ask themselves what type of television network would be a good fit for a show of this genre, and learn how to best pitch that show to such a network.
          d.  discover how the cooperation of the LAPD has been enlisted for the production of "SouthLAnd".  What was necessary for that cooperation to come about?  What is necessary for that cooperation to be sustained over several seasons?
     6.  Catholic thought -- As this is a Catholic university, the students can examine this show relative to Catholic teaching, as follows:
          a.  The students will ask themselves what qualities of each character and character arc, and which elements of the individual episodes and overall story lines, are consistent with authentic Catholic teaching.  Having discovered this, they can examine how these things are presented in a way that is believable and sensitive, not "preachy" or condescending.
          b.  The students will also ask themselves what elements of the show are not strictly in line with Catholic thought.  They will be asked to discuss, in a way which invites their sincere opinions:
               *Is it appropriate for a Catholic person to incorporate non-Catholic ideas into his/her stories?
               *If not, why not?
               *If so, why?
               *How can the inclusion of non-Catholic, or even anti-Catholic, ideas in a television show contribute to beneficial discourse in our society between people of differing opinions?

If you are still reading at this point, thank-you for lending a listening ear to this proposal.  I realize that it is problematic in various ways.  For example, the students would have to actually watch the show.  How they would accomplish that would have to be determined.  And the scope of the course I have outlined is quite broad, so it would probably have to be narrowed down quite a bit.  I do think, though, that this type of course would benefit an aspiring film-maker.  And a case study can be a very valuable learning experience, as the merely conceptual takes on a more concrete form.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

So, My Daughter Says That I Am A...



Well...perhaps I am.  A little bit.  Maybe.

I was driving around town with Bridget (my 22-year-old girlie) one day.  We were doing things like going to The Dollar Store and Starbucks.  It was great fun, as she is very entertaining.  And we started to talk about actresses.  I said that I think it is cool how actresses these days are so very diverse, as compared to when I was a kid.  When I was growing up, actresses -- typically -- seemed to be required to be caucasian, with large breasts, small waists, and tiny noses.  They also tended to lack well-developed muscles, as that was generally considered to be unfeminine.  Now you see actresses of different races and mixed race, with larger noses, figures that aren't 36-24-36, and some pretty epic arm muscles.  And these actresses are portraying beautiful and sexually alluring characters.  I mentioned how on "SouthLAnd" -- yes, there I go again with "SouthLAnd" -- one of the characters who had bit of a "romance" with the character of Officer Ben Sherman (if you can call any of the things that Officer Ben does with women "romance," in the traditional sense of the word) was an absolutely beautiful girl, but not your "typical" Hollywood type.  Racially, she appeared to be some lovely combination of black and white, or perhaps black and Latina.  She was rather petite, but strongly built.  And she had a great figure -- although with a bust to hip ratio not traditionally seen amongst women who play sexy females in movies and TV.  This actress's character -- besides being one of Officer Ben's "love" interests -- was also a cop.  And the woman was AMAZING in the role.  So, not to belabor my point anymore, I expressed to Bridget my delight that Hollywood is beginning to appreciate and cast a more diverse group of women to play characters that are both smart and attractive.  Based on this opinion of mine -- combined with other things I have been saying lately -- Bridget told me, "Mommy, when I was growing up, I never realized what a feminist you are."

I am sorry if I did not quote you in a totally exact fashion, Bridget.  I have done my best to be accurate.

Anyway, this made me laugh.  I asked her, "Do you really think I'm a feminist?"  To which she replied in the affirmative.

I had never been called a "feminist" before -- in my entire life.  In fact, most women think of me as the opposite.  I mean, I eschewed having a career to be a wife and mom -- in the 80's, mind you.  And the majority of women I knew were quite incredulous that I would do that.  Most of my friends who worked sincerely wondered how I wasn't bored being at home with the kids.  I was pretty much seen as the "anti-feminist" amongst my peers.

So, I began to wonder -- both aloud and silently -- about my "feminist" self.  And I came to a couple of conclusions.

My first conclusion is that I am just sort of a rebel.  If the people I am around are one way, I tend to go the other way.  And when I was young, most women were into the feminist sexual revolution in one way or another.  So, I just had to push back.  And, in more recent years, I have been around women who tend to be, for lack of a better term, "militant traditionalists." So, I have had to stake out an opposing position, just for fun.  Yeah.  I am sort of a pain in the ass. 

But (and this is my second conclusion), if my rebel nature has a more reasoned aspect to it, maybe it is this.  I like to look at things fairly.  I like to be treated fairly and see others treated thusly.  And I hope that all women can be appreciated for their unique qualities -- physical, mental, and spiritual.  I have seen the feminist movement and the "militant traditionalist" movement both try to define the female nature too narrowly.  One of these viewpoints would almost have us throw out any concept of femininity and the value of motherhood, while the other proclaims that women who have careers and don't stay with their children 24/7 are denying their femininity and shirking their true duty.  I don't find the truth in either of these extremes.  And I don't want my daughters being put "into a box" as far as their life choices go.  I want them to be able to dream their dreams, have their goals, and make their plans -- without a false view of womanhood interfering.

I will now sum this post up with a little anecdote.  When I was growing up, my favorite TV shows were "Dragnet", "Adam 12", and "Emergency".  I so much wanted to be a cop or a paramedic, and I mentioned this to my father one day when I was probably about 9 or 10 years old.  He replied, "I don't think they allow women to do those things."  Now, lest you get the wrong idea, my father did not come across as being opposed to women doing those jobs.  He was just stating the facts, as he knew them.  But, I was appalled and horrified.  I did not want to be a nurse or a stewardess or a secretary or a teacher (although a teacher is what I did become).  I wanted to be a cop or a paramedic.  And the thought that being a female -- and only the fact of being a female -- would keep me from one of those careers was devastating.  Now, I do believe that a woman needs to be able to fulfill the requirements of a job -- including the physical requirements -- in order to be allowed to do it.  And that, in the end, is why I didn't choose to become a cop or a paramedic.  I just didn't feel that I was up to snuff in the physical strength department.  But, this experience of being told that I couldn't do a certain type of work solely because of my gender probably caused me to develop whatever feminist leanings I do possess.

So, here's to all the ladies!  I hope you will all be appreciated for your beauty and be allowed to dream your dreams, whether those dreams are of hearth and home or breaking down a door with Michael Cudlitz.  #SouthLAnd  ;-)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Turkeys In Black Glad Trash Bags -- And -- If You Fall Out Of Your Wedding Dress

Happy Thanksgiving!

First, I will talk about the wedding dress thing. 

My younger daughter, Bridget, was telling me that a friend of a friend was wearing a strapless wedding dress for her special day.  While dancing at the reception, she had a wardrobe malfunction -- and fell out of said dress.  My daughter was expressing to me how utterly humiliating such a thing would be.  Her eyes were big and her face was rather red as she imagined having this experience.  "Listen," I told her,  "If that happens to you, you just shove it back in and keep on dancing.  No. Big. Deal."  There are much larger problems in life than accidentally flashing your wedding guests.

I don't know why I thought of telling you about this.  But, there it is.

Now, onto the Thanksgiving-related story.

While I was growing up -- and well beyond -- my mother hosted Thanksgiving every year.  My mother is an excellent cook and a fine thrower of excellent parties.  She is also very neat and tidy and detail-oriented.  So, within a couple of hours of the end of the meal, the leftover turkey would always, ALWAYS be completely carved up and laid appealingly on plates in the refrigerator.  And this is how I thought everybody did it. 

Then, at age 22, I met my husband.  The day following Thanksgiving, I was hanging out at his family's house.  His mother had also cooked a fine meal for the holiday.  As lunchtime approached, my then-boyfriend and I decided to make some turkey sandwiches.  Upon opening the refrigerator, I saw a large black trash bag, of the GLAD brand.  Looking inside, I saw the leftover turkey.  The WHOLE turkey carcass, mind you.  Meat, bones, everything -- still intact.  With the leftover stuffing still inside it.  My husband took the bag containing the turkey out of the fridge and we cut some meat off the bones, scooped some stuffing from the cavity, and made sandwiches.  And he was acting, the entire time, as if this was a totally normal thing.  A leftover turkey carcass, complete with stuffing, inside a trash bag, in the refrigerator.  I was floored.  I would never, for the life of me, have imagined such a thing.  And I thought it was SO COOL! 

What is the significance of this story?  Well, it is a Thanksgiving story -- and today is Thanksgiving.  But, it also basically reflects the nature of my husband's and my relationship.  It reflects our individual upbringings and ways of looking at life.  It reflects how those two upbringings and ways of looking at life meet each other in pretty much every situation that we encounter.  And I think it is a formula that works out quite satisfactorily.  Usually, anyhow. ;-) 


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

"The O.C.", My Father, And My Jewish Brother-In-Law

Yeah.  Here I go again with "The O.C."  I do admit that TV shows and movies often cause me to reflect on things in my own life.  And those things show up on my blog.

I guess one of the factors that causes me to have the "warm fuzzies" when watching "The O.C." is the fact that the Cohens are a family of mixed religions -- a Jewish father and a Christian mother.  And I really enjoy how the Jewish creator of the show -- Josh Schwartz -- has instilled in the marriage of these characters such great love and respect.  This is especially significant to me as my sister -- a Catholic -- is married to a Jewish man.

My two sisters and I were raised in a very Catholic environment, by very Catholic parents.  My father always explained to us that marrying someone of the same faith would probably be easier in the long run, because -- as he told us -- "there will be enough things to fight about, without fighting about your religion."  Pretty practical and sensible, right?  My father never indulged in deep philosophical reasoning about how you should live your life.  He always had very down-to-earth reasons for why he did what he did.

Anyway, my sisters and I never "left the Church."  Our faith has always been a central part of our lives.  I married a very serious Catholic man.  One of my sisters has not married, but is a kick-ass kindergarten teacher.  And my youngest sister (Gina), when she was about 29 or 30 years old, began to date a Jewish man named Aaron, and they married a few years later.

Now, my dad could have flipped out about Gina and Aaron and the fact that Aaron was not only not Catholic, but not Christian, either.  In fact, Aaron is a rather agnostic individual.  But, my dad always said, "You tell your kids your opinions about marriage before they fall in love.  Then, you accept their decisions."  And that is just what he did with Gina and Aaron.  And my dad's relationship with Aaron, before my dad passed away, was an inspiring good example for everyone.  My father became one of Aaron's closest friends and confidantes.  They took piano lessons together.  They often went out for breakfast.  And they talked about any and all subjects -- including those where they had some serious disagreements (faith, religion, and politics) -- without any hard feelings.  In fact, they enjoyed their spirited discussions and would always end up laughing.  And when Aaron's father would come out from Philadelphia to visit, he would join Aaron and my dad in their discussions and adventures.  Aaron's father actually delivered a eulogy at my father's funeral.  He said that even though their religions were different, they shared the same values in the areas of friendship and family life.  And he spoke of how he would so much miss my father, who had become his close friend.

 I will not say that Gina and Aaron's road to the altar was an entirely easy or smooth one.  Her Catholic faith remained (and still remains) important to her.  And Aaron was no doormat about his opinions, either.  Once, he presented Gina with a 12-page list of his objections to the Catholic Church.  She sat and patiently (or, maybe, not-so-patiently) went through the list line-by-line and responded to each item.  Through it all, though, my father was gracious and supportive of their relationship.  He encouraged Gina to stand up for what she believed.  But, he also encouraged Aaron to express himself.  And then he trusted that they would make a wise decision.

Their wedding, in the end, was celebrated in a Catholic church with a Chuppah on the altar.  Both a deacon and a rabbi officiated.  The "Ave Maria" was sung, as well as some wonderful Jewish music. One of the cool things about their wedding preparations -- and one of the things I found most inspiring -- was my father's sensitivity to the Jewish guests' possible feelings about being in a church with a crucifix.  Jewish people can be rather sensitive about crucifixes, as they have often been wrongfully and unfairly accused of killing Jesus, resulting in a lot of serious anti-semitism.  So, my father brought Aaron's parents to the church well before the scheduled wedding date.  He wanted them to check it out and have the opportunity to express their feelings about whether or not they and their friends and family members would be comfortable there.  Aaron's parents graciously gave their blessing for the wedding ceremony to be celebrated in that church building.

Gina and Aaron have been married for 11 years now.  They have a beautiful son and daughter.  Their children are being raised as Catholics, but the Jewish Sabbath and holy days and seasons are also observed in their home.  The children are learning to love and respect the faiths of both of their parents, primarily because Gina and Aaron respect each others' faiths.  And it is lovely to hear their little girl chant the prayer before meals in the Hebrew language.

So, when I watch "The O.C.", the relationship of Sandy Cohen and his wife and the way they treat others -- regardless of faith or politics -- reminds me a lot of the mixed-religion marriage within my own extended family.  And I am grateful for people who are gracious and grace-filled enough to make such a thing work.   And I am grateful for artists like Josh Schwartz, who are able to paint a beautiful picture for us of such a relationship.  For art can and should reflect truths about us and what we are capable of doing -- both the sweet and the salt.

Oh.  I also must say that it was great fun to hear my father tell people -- rather proudly -- that he had a son-in-law who "is one of the Chosen People."

Monday, November 19, 2012

"The O.C." And The Best Of Liberal Thought

As I have mentioned before, I really enjoy watching "The O.C."  Yes, I am behind the times a bit.  And, yes, this show has many dramatic soap-opera elements about it.  But, it has many other elements, as well.  The one I will be discussing today is how, to me, this "sexy, teenage soap" espouses the best of liberal thought -- at least, the best of liberal thought as I have experienced it in my life.

I am a pretty conservative person -- religiously, politically, in my life as a wife and mom.  I did earn my college degree at San Francisco State University, though.  And most of my teachers at that storied institution, and many of my friends, were pretty (extremely ?) liberal.   In watching "The O.C." I have been reminded of my experience in college and the things I learned to appreciate there from those who embraced the more "progressive" view of things.

One of the main characters in "The O.C." is a man named Sandy Cohen.  He is a Jewish, Berkeley-educated public defender married to a beautiful, kind, very wealthy Protestant woman.  These two have a 16-year-old son, Seth, who is rather socially awkward, but has great potential for a certain romantic coolness.  The premise of the show is that, in the course of doing his job, Sandy comes across an enigmatic, soulful young man (Ryan Atwood) who has run afoul of the law (albeit, rather unintentionally).  Seeing the goodness in this young man, Sandy doesn't want to leave him to the whims and vagaries of "the system," so he brings the teenager home to live with his family in a monied area of Orange County.

Throughout the four seasons of "The O.C.", Sandy faces many situations -- with Ryan and Seth, with his wife, in his work and community -- which challenge him and necessitate a response.  He is not a perfect man and doesn't always make perfect decisions, but the humanity with which this character responds to both people and situations reflect what I consider to be the true beauty of liberal values.

First of all, in bringing Ryan home, Sandy personifies the liberal value of reaching out to the less fortunate.  Of seeing the true potential in someone who has been treated rather harshly by life -- unstable family situation, low socioeconomic status, sub-par schools.  He is willing to give that person a chance to see what he can really do with his life.  And Sandy doesn't give up on Ryan when he makes poor decisions at times.  He encourages Ryan to reflect on and rectify situations in which he hasn't handled himself properly.  Sandy trusts Ryan, when all is said and done, to do what is right.  He trusts in that people are, generally speaking, created to be good. 

Which leads me to the next "liberal value" I see Sandy Cohen putting into action.  And that is the value of withholding judgment when someone (especially a young someone) screws up -- allowing that person to learn from his mistakes without humiliation.  Having hope that the person will, in fact, go on to be better for the experiences he has had.  Throughout my education, the liberals in my life  gave me confidence, because they gave me the freedom to try things out -- both actions and ideas -- in order that I could learn and figure things out for myself.  I tried to make good decisions; but, of course, I wasn't always successful in that effort.  And when I made mistakes, I didn't feel condemnation from these progressives.  Instead, I felt compassion and understanding.  This compassion and understanding gave me the strength I needed to pick myself up and move on.  The sense of freedom and trust these individuals gave me also allowed me to express myself with sincerity, instead of making me feel I had to conform to a certain way of thinking out of fear that I would be rejected.  And in being able to express what I truly felt, I was able to "shake out" my ideas -- test them among different people and in various situations, to see if they would truly hold up.  And this is what I see in the interaction of the Sandy and Ryan (and Sandy and Seth) characters.

Sandy Cohen also embraces the best of liberal thought in his religious outlook and community life.  One of my favorite episodes centers around the Jewish celebration of Passover in the Cohen household.  At the Sedar meal, Sandy leads the prayer.  As part of the prayer, he calls to mind an individual's and family's obligation to society -- both in the smaller community and larger world.   And this character does put that idea into practice throughout all the seasons of the show.  He struggles against the temptations of selfish individualism and material greed, always attempting to do what is truly the right thing for people and society.  Even if it costs him personally.

Of course, Sandy Cohen -- progressive maverick -- at times does things much differently as a parent than I would.  I would never be making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for my 18-year-old son so that he could go off to Vegas for New Year's Eve to have sex with his 18-year-old girlfriend.  (Knowing Sandy as I do, I must say that he probably sneaked some condoms into that cooler, along with the sandwiches).  I also would never give my handsome, charming stepson his own pool house, equipped with a king-sized bed made up with satin sheets and fluffy pillows.  And one of my favorite scenes -- I love it especially because it is something I would NEVER do -- is when Ryan is going off on one of his missions of vengeance.  In the COHENS' RANGE ROVER, of all things.  And Sandy is standing calmly by the open driver's side window, trying to calmly talk Ryan out of his insane plan.  And Ryan drives away.  And Sandy calmly lets him.  I WOULD BE FREAKING DIVING INTO THAT WINDOW AND REMOVING THE KEYS FROM THE IGNITION AND DRAGGING RYAN BY HIS EAR BACK HOME AND LOCKING HIM (BY HIMSELF, WITH NO GIRLS) IN THE POOL HOUSE UNTIL HE CALMED THE HELL DOWN.  But -- hey -- that's just conservative old me. ;)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Asthma Attacks and Holiday Decor

I have not blogged much this week, as things got a bit out-of-hand. 

This past Tuesday, my Bridget went off to work, as per usual.  I guess there was a stinky smell permeating the office, so one of her co-workers decided to spray some ammonia-based air freshener all around the place.  Causing Bridget to have one heck of an asthma attack.  She called me to come pick her up around mid-morning, and her boss and doctor gave her orders not to return to the job until this coming Monday. 

Those of you who are aquainted with Bridget know that she is a very fun person.  She is full of joyful enthusiasm and creativity.  And I have been having a great time hanging out with her all week.

The first couple of days she was at home were kind of low-key, since she was feeling pretty crappy.  We drank Starbucks coffee.  We watched "Numb3rs" -- also known in our household as "The Colby Granger Show."  Colby Granger is one of the best characters ever created for a TV show.  Colby runs fast and knocks people down and shoots a really big gun and drives FBI vehicles in a daring way.  He is also very funny, if you are paying attention.  He is played by Dylan Bruno.  I don't know anything about Dylan Bruno, except that he has a really nice older brother named Chris.  Chris obviously taught Dylan everything he knows about being funny and knocking people down.

But, I digress.

After a couple of days, Bridget started to feel better.  And that enthusiastic, creative mind started looking for ways to stay entertained.  So, she began teaching me about theology -- how Jesus is a divine person and how the Holy Spirit is spirated.  She worked on the quilt she is making for a friend's wedding.  She scrap-booked.  And she came up with a nefarious plot to decorate our house for the holidays.

Those of you who are aquainted with me know that I do not decorate.  I do like to put up the Christmas tree, but that is about it.  To me, decorating the house for the holidays means that you are just going to have to un-decorate it again and somehow figure out what to do with all the decorations for the remaining 11 months of the year.  Decorating also means that you have to clean the house and get all the dust and grime off the surfaces that are to be decorated. 

Bridget, though, does not see eye-to-eye with me on this issue.  So, off we went to the craft store and the fabric store, where we purchased some shiny baubles and paper and ribbons and other decorative doo-dads.  And Bridget went-to-town.

All the pictures on our walls are now wrapped in Christmas paper and ribbons, so it looks as though Christmas gifts are hanging on all of our home's vertical surfaces.  There are vases filled with gleaming silver, gold, and red holiday "stuff" in our living room and family room.  There are turkey-shaped place cards forming on the dining room table, in anticipation of our annual Thanksgiving dinner.  A dinner which has never before featured place cards.  Some sort of silver garland is being planned for the hearth.  There is glitter on the sofa. 

And it is all so much fun!  My decorating cynicism is being stripped away.  Of course, I would never do any of this if left to my own devices.  So, when it comes time for Bridget to fly away from the nest, Christmas gifts will not be seen hanging on any of my walls come December.  For now, though, I admit that I am greatly enjoying the festive atmosphere and watching my not-so-little girl happily put the house into a proper holiday mood.

I can't say that I'm at all glad Bridget had that asthma attack.  But, all-in-all, she did take the lemons which were handed to her this past week and turn them into one hell of a pitcher of spiked lemonade...

Monday, November 12, 2012

Monday Morning Almanac

Ok.  So, it is Monday evening.  I have always been a bit unconventional.

Anyway --


*Noticing God's Glory:  My washing machine went on the blink today.  Whilst full of water and clothes.  What to do???  I called the wonderful, sweet, generous, elderly widower who lives next door, who let me borrow his washing machine.  He has been our neighbor since we moved here over 16 years ago, and a finer person you never did meet.  Thank-you, Lord!

*Listening To:  Myself typing on the keyboard.  Otherwise all is silent.  The only other person who is at home right now is my 22-year-old daughter (Bridget).  She had to come home early from work as someone sprayed Febreeze all over the office, and she is allergic to it.  So, we got peppermint mochas at Starbucks and are just hanging out.

*Clothing Myself In:  Something uninteresting.  So, I will tell you what my daughter is wearing.  Flannel pajamas in a red-rosebud print.  So pretty!

*Talking With My Children About:  Bridget and I have tried watching "Rescue Me" on Netflix, because we are big Diane Farr fans.  And Diane Farr rocks in that show.  But, the main character is played by Denis Leary and, though he is cool and all, watching his fictional persona drink, hallucinate, and have sex is getting old pretty fast.  Also, whenever he speaks, all we can think of is the Saber Tooth tiger he did the voice for in the "Ice Age" movies.  Kind of kills the romantic lead thing for us....

*Thinking And Thinking:  About how the holidays are upon us.  This always stresses me out, because I pretty much suck at all the things women are expected to do during this season.  For example, every time I wrap a gift, it just turns out looking asymmetrical and lopsided.  And thank God for Trader Joe's turkey gravy.  The trick is to pour it into a pot and dispose of the container before anyone notices you got it out of a container.  Same trick goes for the cranberry sauce.

*Pondering Prayerfully:  How it is really not a nice thing to enjoy needling people who annoy me.  It is good that Advent is almost here.  I will go to Confession.

*Carefully Cultivating Rhythm:  Just when I think I have this down, something weird happens to disrupt it.  Such as the washing machine breaking or my daughter getting poisoned by air freshener.  Making it necessary for me to go pick her up.  Because she doesn't drive, as she has this little issue with fainting unexpectedly.  So, it is best that I just hang loose and listen to some Van Halen.

*Creating By Hand:  Not a chance.  But, my daughter is making a quilt for her friend's wedding.  Can I take credit for that, even if it is just in an indirect manner?  Nah, probably not.

*Learning Lessons In:  When my daughters are out at night, I do pretty well until about 10:00 pm.  Then I start to worry about them getting kidnapped.  I am learning to stop this lame habit.

*Encouraging Learning:  I am reading this great book entitled "The Righteous Mind -- Why Good People Are Divided By Politics and Religion."  The author is a psychology professor at UVA.  I highly recommend it!

*Begging Prayers:  For my mom, who is having heart valve replacement surgery at the beginning of December.  The docs are very positive, but prayers are very welcome.

*Keeping House:  My husband vacuumed all the carpets for me over the weekend.  He rocks! 

*Crafting In The Kitchen:  I made a bunch of hard boiled eggs today.  Pretty talented, ain't I?

*Loving The Moments:  When my oldest daughter (Andrea) shows me how to use my iPad properly.  She is such a tech wiz; and I am not.  I love the looks she gives me when she realizes my level of ignorance in the operation of Apple products.  #bemused

*Giving Thanks:  For kids who get along with each other and love being together.  And who all sing well.  And who swing dance -- with each other, even.

*Living The Liturgy:  Yesterday, we went to the Latin Mass.  One thing I love about the Latin Mass is that it tends to be pretty peaceful.  I enjoy that.  It is good for my prayer life and my blood pressure.  One thing I don't like about the Latin Mass is that a lot of the people who go to it tend to look down their noses at the English Mass.  And this is not good for my prayer life and my blood pressure.  Can't we just appreciate all of the beautiful variety that is in our Church?  It's all good...

*Planning For The Week Ahead:  Thanksgiving approaches.  And even though I hate chopping celery, it will be fun to have a big dinner with good company.  Maybe I'll get some champagne.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Persuasion, Acceptance, and Friendship

There is a friendship that I had once upon a time.  Although, I am not sure I can consider it a true friendship.  I did enjoy this person's companionship, and I believe she enjoyed mine.  But, I often felt as though I were more a "project" than a "friend."  As with all friends, there were issues on which we disagreed.  They had to do with the usual things moms talk about -- parenting techniques, nutrition, medical issues, finances, home management, religion, politics...

Now, I don't mind back-and-forth discussions with people.  I enjoy entertaining various ideas about various topics.  I usually don't mind friendly disagreement; and I am quite content to "live and let live."  (Although, one area where I admit that I have no patience whatsoever is Conspiracy Theories.) 

With this particular friend, however, I often had the feeling that what she really wanted -- and the ultimate goal of her relationship with me -- was to win me over to her way of thinking.  I often felt that she put up with me mainly because she was hoping to "save" me from the error of my ways.

Last week's election got me to thinking about this "friendship."  It got me to thinking about the nature of friendship, in general, and how friendship, persuasion, and acceptance are interconnected.

As no two people are exactly alike, it is normal to have disagreements with our friends.  No two people are going to see things in precisely the same way.  And, because of this, we will sometimes have discussions with our friends in which one will try to win the other over to his or her way of thinking.  And this is all good.

But, in the end, if you are truly a friend to someone, you will like that person whether or not he or she disagrees with you about certain things.  Maybe even important things.  You will seek out that person's companionship because of genuine affection.  You will actually and truly accept that person just as he or she is.  You will not feel a continuous need to change or "save" that person.

At least, that's the sort of friendship I want.  The sort of friendship I wish to both give and receive.  That sort of friendship is a true gift.  And it is, most likely, rare.

Maybe it is because I have had a few dealings with people who you might say were "not of good character" that I look at friendship this way.  If I can trust you, if you are a person of good character, if you are an individual of good-will who is good to people, if you are kind-hearted, if you accept me as I am, it really doesn't matter so much to me if you share all my beliefs.  

And I want to feel that you are my friend because you actually like me and enjoy being around me -- whether or not we agree on everything.  I don't want to be your project.  I don't want you to be mine, either.  I just want to be your companion on this journey through life.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

I Just Have To Laugh...

...or else I might cry.

On election night, there was a hash tag being used on Twitter.  It was #stayinline.  This hash tag was meant to communicate to people who were lined up at various polling places around the country that they should not give up and leave even if the time was nearing for the polls to close.  Hence:  they should "stay in line."  I do believe this hash tag was started by supporters of Obama, who were trying to get out the vote for him.  But, it was advice that could easily by applied to Romney voters, as well.

Anyway, there is this lady who likes to say things on Twitter.  She goes by the name "the normal middle" -- although, she is anything but that.  She is extremely conservative and pretty outspoken.  She made some comments to the effect that she thought #stayinline was an attempt by Obama and his supporters to tell people to "fall in line."  Meaning:  shut up you conservative American people and do what Obama and the liberals say.  She totally misinterpreted the hash tag, taking it (as she seems to do everything coming from the Democrats) as an attack on her own viewpoints and way of life.

And this pretty much sums up my frustration with my own political party.  A lot of Republicans -- and conservatives, in general -- take everything coming from Obama and the Democrats as an assault on them.  They often do not bother to find out the true meaning or intention of what they hear.  They jump to hasty conclusions without gathering all the facts.  They do not give the liberals the benefit of the doubt in any way, shape, or form.

If we are going to move forward as a country, if we are going to solve any of our problems, if we are going to maintain any type of fraternal spirit among the citizens of our nation -- this kind of thing has to stop.  We have to cease the suspicion -- bordering on paranoia -- that so many of us seem to harbor toward one another.

This is a change for which I greatly hope.

And My Election Night Social Media Winner Is...

....Ben McKenzie.


Well, it is not because he has amazing forearms and looks good in a gun belt (see: SouthLAnd).

And it is not because there weren't many other good people -- both men and women -- putting themselves out there on social media during Election Night.

And it is not because I agree with his positions on most things.  In fact, our votes were probably diametrically opposed.  The majority of them, anyway.

It is because he played the game the way I believe it should be played.  Kind of like the best sort of football coach.  He said nothing nasty about his opponents or their positions.  He just rallied his team and pushed them on toward the goal line until the game was won.  He used very few words, but he did have an intensity about him.

He said only three things:
     1.  Folks, get out and vote please!  I'm looking at you WI and OH voters.  Also IA and NV and CO... #forward
     2.  #stayinline
     3.  Tammy Baldwin wins.  Historic.  #forward

In the weeks preceeding the vote, he rode on buses and spoke in some cities across America which his party realized were part of the key to victory in the election.  And, again, when he used social media, his words were few.  But, he comported himself in a dignified and positive manner.  Here are a few examples:
     1.  Excited to come to Iowa Friday....on the campaign's RV tour to reelect Barack Obama.
     2.  Iowa, are you ready?  #BeTheFirst to vote early for Barack Obama.
     3.  Can't wait to rally the Obama troops in Reno!
     4.  Thank you Reno!  Amazing turnout at UNR.  On to Vegas! #packdecides

He did not use inflammatory language when discussing the "other side."  He did not post pictures of Mitt Romney with glowing, demonic eyes photoshopped in.  He did not accuse the Republicans of having a desire to "persecute" him.  He did not declare that if the other side won that it would be the "downfall" of our country or culture.

He kept it positive.  He kept it upbeat.  He kept it fun and spirited and lively.  He kept it the way it is supposed to be during an election season and on Election Day in America.  You get with your team, you rally your side, and then you accept the results of the process with dignity and grace.  And you have hope for the future, as an American should.

As my kids were growing up, I made sure they each read Rose Kennedy's autobiography.  In case you don't know, she was John F. Kennedy's mother.  My parents were big Kennedy fans, and Rose's book was one that my mother read aloud to me when I was a little girl.  It is truly enjoyable.  And in this story, Rose describes her son's presidential campaign.  Her description of that campaign reminds me a whole lot of the way Ben McKenzie behaved throughout this most recent election cycle.  You get on the bus.  You talk to the people.  You give them some hope and optimism.  You encourage them to vote.  You do the grassroots thing.

I hope the Republicans can learn from this for the next time.  I don't want to hear another word about the "47%".  Anyone who hopes to win the presidency needs that 47% -- at least a good number of them.  I don't want to hear another word about how the Democrats are going to ruin America.  I am tired of hearing them be compared to commies and fascists.   Let's take a lesson from Ben, and others like him, about how things should be done from here on out.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Marital Thoughts On Election Day

Upon navigating the internet this morning, I came across a couple of things.  One was a little article promoted by a conservative Catholic dating service about the difficulties inherent in a marriage where the husband and wife have significant political differences.  Especially, as the article stated, in the core issues -- abortion, gay marriage, what-have-you...  The other item of interest was an article written by a conservative black man who attends a rather liberal black Baptist church. 

Several people commented on the article promoted by the Catholic dating service.  These individuals seemed to feel that it would drive them over the edge to have to be married to and live with a politically liberal person.  Indignant and apoplectic they seemed to become upon having to entertain this thought even a tiny bit.

In the article written by the conservative Baptist black man, however, he discusses his pastor and the pastor's wife, who are apparently on opposite sides of the political spectrum.  And this husband and his wife are seemingly quite happy with each other.

So, what gives?

As I have said before, I have been married for 25 years.  I do not mean to lord this over anybody.  I have witnessed enough to know that disaster can await any marriage, no matter how longstanding that relationship.  But, my husband and I have seen each other through a lot over the years.  This, therefore, is my two cents on this whole politics-in-marriage arena.

My husband has been pretty stable in his political opinions over the years.  He is pretty conservative, but he also understands the importance of preserving a social safety net for the poor.  And he has never, ever complained about paying his fair share of taxes, as he appreciates their necessity for the promotion of the Common Good.  And my husband is a big believer in the Common Good.  In the area of ethics and morals, my hubby is all in line with the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  And the Catechism of the Catholic Church is pretty much all about true justice and authentic love and real mercy.

I have tended, in my political opinions, to swing about rather wildly.  I do not know why this is exactly, except to say that it is easy for me to see things from all angles.  It is easy for me to see the truth that resides in almost all viewpoints. 

So, how has our marriage and our love survived the times when I am swinging away from, rather than toward, my husband's point-of-view?

Maybe it is because I really love and accept HIM and he really loves and accepts ME -- unconditionally.  And we know that we can count on each other and trust each other.  We each know that the other strives to be a person of good character.  We each know that the other really does want to know and believe and do the right thing.  And we try to listen to each other.  We attempt to truly understand each other, even when we don't agree.  We strive to respect each other, even when we don't agree.  Because we can see the truth in each others way of seeing things, even if we don't always have the same way of seeing things.  And -- sometimes -- when we disagree and we talk honestly about those disagreements, we actually come to a position that is an improvement on each of our original positions.  The two become one -- a better one than the original two.

Now, this does require patience.  And sometimes it involves being annoyed with one another.  And sometimes -- on my part, anyway -- it involves some foot stomping.

But, in the end, we love each other and enjoy each other.  And, when the subject of politics has been beaten to death, we turn on some Van Halen and put on a little performance together in our kitchen.  My husband is great on the air guitar.  #EddieRocks 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Seeing Things With Merciful Eyes -- Or, Some Rambling Stories About Women

There are some people who are fortunate enough not to have screwed up in some major way.  I am not one of those people.  And this is a blessing.  I understand temptation.  I understand not being treated with compassion.  I understand being misunderstood.  I understand being the outcast.  And so I understand the importance of looking at people and situations through merciful eyes.

This morning, I read a story.  Mom #1 saw Mom #2 in Starbucks.  Mom #1 is very motherly.  And this is cool.  But, she saw Mom #2 with a baby.  This baby was in a baby seat with a bottle propped up next to her.  When the baby fussed, Mom #2, who was busy on her phone, rocked the baby with her foot.  This pretty much enraged Mom #1. 

Don't get me wrong.  I am all for giving proper and healthy attention to your babies.  But, Mom #1 really had no idea of what Mom #2 or her life is like.  And the baby wasn't being abused in any sense of the word.  For all we know, Mom #2 went home from the Starbucks and played with the baby for the rest of the day.

And to risk beating the whole Lena Dunham thing to death, I think if Jesus met her along the way, he would just wrap her up in a big hug.  Why?  Because Jesus understands women.  He understands their hearts, their hurts, their circumstances, their perspective.  When you read the stories in the Bible, you discover that women were often drawn to Jesus -- even and especially women who were living in what we might call "troublesome" circumstances.  Why might this be?  Certainly not because he sent them angry and hurtful Tweets when they offended his sense of values.  Maybe it was because he gave them real love -- something that they may have never really known.  And, if you are a Christian, it is your job to reflect some of this kind of love to women, even women who might offend you in some way. 

I also read another story this morning.  One woman -- a married mother of 6 -- told another woman about the extra-marital affair that she had fallen into and how she had become pregnant through that relationship.  She described how she almost got an abortion, but didn't end up doing so.  And she shared a picture of the little baby boy to whom she had given birth.  Now, the woman to whom the "sinful" woman told her story might have been very judgmental about the whole thing.  Her attitude may have been -- "How could you, a married Christian lady, have done such a thing?  And how could you have even contemplated having an abortion?"  I have known people who would have brought this attitude to the table.  But, the woman who listened really listened.  And she looked through merciful eyes at the woman who had fallen.  And she wrapped her in her arms.  And I bet that she would have been compassionate even if the woman who had failed in her vows had gone through with the abortion.  Because that woman who listened is a real Christian.  And she knows that real Christians must always have compassion.  It is only through compassion that people are drawn to the good, drawn to love.

When I was teaching high school, many years ago, there was a lovely little blond girl in my class.  She was 15 years old and she had just moved from out-of-state to live with her father, as her parents were divorced.  One day, in the middle of class, she leapt from her seat and told me she had to go.  And there was a young man waiting for her at the door.  I said something like, "But, it's the middle of class."  And she replied, "I'm going to get a pregnancy test."  She then quickly left with the young man.  I was a fairly new teacher, and I was fairly stunned.

The next day, she was not present, and I was very concerned.

Upon her return two days later, I brought her into my office, and gently asked her what had happened.  She said, "I had an abortion.  I was 16 weeks."  I cannot begin to tell you how I felt.  It turns out that she had gone to a party, gotten drunk, and had sex with the young man who had been waiting for her at my door.  Fifteen years old she was.  A lovely, sweet girl.  I just wrapped her in my arms and said, "Well, you know, God loves you.  And he can forgive anything."  "I know," she said.   And her demeanor reflected quite a sadness and an aloneness.  I was the only person who knew about her abortion, besides the young man and the medical personnel.  Eventually, her father did find out about her situation, which ended up being a good thing.  He showed her great love and support.

I happened to get pregnant with my first child that school year.  And this sweet young woman kind of became my little helpmate at school -- always wanting to make sure that I was comfortable and had everything I needed.  Nothing has ever been more touching to me as the way she treated me when I was expecting. 

So, when people act in ways or say things that some may view as "offensive" or "sinful," let us try to look with merciful eyes.  From where inside of them are these words and actions coming?  Is it a place of pain?  Is it a place that fears rejection?  A place that is dying for a listening ear, for some understanding? 

Can we, next time we hear someone say something that cuts at what we might value most in our lives, keep still and quiet in our hearts and souls, and really listen -- not just to what is being said, but to what is being left unsaid?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The "Drug Dealer" Next Door

Sometimes, kindnesses come when and where you least expect them.  On the other hand, people from whom you expect to see charity can disappoint.  Thus is the human condition.  As I reflect on this, it reminds me of something that happened many years ago when my oldest daughter, who is now 24, was just a little baby.

As I have previously mentioned, during those years, we lived in a working-class neighborhood in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Our neighbors included a mailman, a secretary, two grocery store butchers, a lady who provided home day care, a retired couple, and some unemployed people.  Our street also was home to two purported drug dealers and an undercover narcotics cop.  At least he said he was an undercover narcotics cop.  There was really no way to verify his story.

Anyway, one of the purported drug dealers lived right next door to us, with his wife and little girl.  He was a bit scary-looking.  Sturdily built. Long, wild hair. A bit of a crazed look in his eye.  And he never seemed to actually go to work.  He and his wife would give these insane parties during warm weather, which lasted from sundown on Thursdays to sundown on Sundays.  There would be loud music, drinking, and smoking of various things.  He and said wife would also have these knock-down, drag-outs in the middle of the night on the weekends when they weren't throwing parties.  Never a dull moment, you might say.

Anyway, my 25-year-old self was pretty terrified of this guy.  And everyone in the neighborhood said he was a drug dealer, which added to my terror.

Well, one day I was packing the car with my baby's things, as I was preparing to take her to visit her grandma, who lived about 10 minutes away.  In and out of the house I was going with all of the stuff that babies can't live without -- even for a couple of hours.  In order to keep my daughter safe while I accomplished this task, I laid her in the playpen that was in the middle of my living room.  Alas -- on one of my many trips out the front door to the car -- I absent-mindedly closed said door.  Which happened to be locked.  So my baby was locked in the house.  No other windows or doors to the house were open or unlatched -- except for the bathroom window.  A VERY SMALL window about six feet off the ground, which was about two inches open.  It was the type of window that opened out from the top -- not the kind the slides back and forth.

I had to get my baby out of the house.  And I needed help.  And the only other person who was home that day in the entire neighborhood was -- drum roll -- the drug dealer next door.

With some trepidation, I made my way over to ask his assistance.  And he was so amiable.  He got his ladder and climbed up to my teeny, tiny bathroom window and managed to get it all the way open.  Then he wedged his not-so-small, muscular frame through this window and into the house.  Now the drug dealer was alone in the house with my baby, and I was not just a little bit frightened.  But, he merrily came right to the front door and opened it for me so that I could get my baby.  And he was just so very nice about the whole thing.  If he hadn't been there and if he hadn't helped me and if he hadn't been so good about it all, I don't know what I would have done.  Nobody had cell phones in those days, so I couldn't call anyone.  And, as I said, no one else who lived on the street was home that day.

This experience taught me a good lesson.  Though I don't care to hang out with drug dealers as a regular social thing, you never know who will come through for you when you need it.  Kindness can surprise you in the most delightfully unexpected ways.