Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Where are my sandals, anyway?

The sun shines today. Ahhhhhh. We need it, crave it, here in Minnesnowta. It's been a gloomy winter, full of the stress of economic downturns, angriness in the workplace, illnesses among my family and friends and all kinds of news that just makes people cranky and raw. So I think I'll go for a walk when I get home to breathe some fresh air, feel some light. Take a deep breath. We need a psychological as well as a meteorological summer. Key the Beach Boys. It's time.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Prayer for Emilie

T.S. Eliot started his most famous poem, "The Waste Land," with an equally famous phrase, "April is the cruellest month ... ." No truer words than his today.

I found out yesterday that a young woman I've known professionally (and, thanks to the blogosphere, I feel like I "know" her well), Emilie Lemmons, has an aggressive kind of cancer, and the prognosis isn't good. She has two little boys -- a newborn and a wee toddler. My heart is breaking for her. I've posted a link to her blog over on the left-hand side of this page if you want to read her eloquent posts.

Over the past several months I've become a fan of her writing. I started reading her blog because I loved her columns in The Catholic Spirit, our archdiocesan newspaper. She has a way of turning a phrase, matched only by an effervescent spirit, an energetic intellect and a joie de vivre. Whenever I read her column or her blog, I usually came away smiling. Until yesterday, when tears came instead.

Here is a faith- and love-filled woman in the prime of her life, bravely facing a dragon. She is strong beyond compare, but this is so, so ... wrong. How can I not blame someone, something, God, whatever, for something like this? I just can't get my head around it. So I fall back on my old crutch, prayer, and keep up a mantra day and night. Surely, in my immature faith, if I storm heaven (like a kid imploring, "Mama, Mama, Mama" over and over until she answers, "WHAT??! What IS it, child?"), then God will give me just what I want. Sound familiar? I know, I know: God doesn't always give us what we want, but he's said to give us what we need. And he answers all of our prayers. I can't not believe that, even though the cynic in me always points out that both are pretty unbelievable options. So what, what can be done here? Pray? What will prayer do? Well, my hope is that it's the best thing, the only thing, to do.

Join me in a prayer for Emilie, won't you?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Bon app├ętit

3-year-old Owen Spaghetti Face had this to say as we dined last night.

Me: "How's the spaghetti?"

O: "Weawwy, weawwy good!"

Me: "Yep, that mom of yours makes good stuff, doesn't she?"

O: "Uh-huh. She's a good cooker. Like Rattatouille."

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Yo mamma

The May issue of Real Simple hit my mailbox yesterday (I know, I know, not exactly The Nation or The New York Times) and last night I curled up and read a neat series of short essays by women writing about things they learned from their mothers. My favorite: One writer listed the top five things that her mother felt were essential to a well appointed home. They were: fresh flowers, a good-size dining room table, white wine and a cat. I forget the thing in the middle, but it was spot-on and just as genteel. You could almost imagine this woman answering the door: She'd straighten her hair, check her earrings and smile sweetly.

What might have been my mother's "essentials"? Well, our home always had four or more kinds of store-bought cookies, three kinds of ice cream, a really big bottle of Gallo Rhine, lots of scratch paper and back issues of the National Catholic Reporter. In earlier years, you could add a carton of Pall Malls and gobs of gloxinias (which nobody else I knew grew from seed). And a 20-pound cat who was rather vicious. When my mom answered the door, she had to check first that Penelope hadn't scared the visitor half to death.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Dumb and dumber

Author Susan Jacoby's new book, The Age of American Unreason, is raising some intelligent eyebrows among the MPR crowd and on editorial and books pages of some dailies. Even USA Today, usually a bastion of vanilla journalism, opined, "Have we become a nation of frogs simmering our brains and future to death in a warm bath of mindless infotainment, rotten schools and a proud contempt toward rational thought?" I've been wondering the same thing.

The other day I got a raft of e-mail messages from several university students, who, bless 'em, are busy and typically don't write sentences longer than four words in an IM. But I was kind of taken aback when their messages were chockful of spelling errors. Not just little dumb typos, either. Big dumb mistakes, like "their" for "there." And even "their" was misspelled. Another: "shure" for "sure" in three different messages from the same person. These were e-mails from presidents of student organizations -- even the president of the student government. Poor spelling reveals poor thinking, in my mind, and at least displays a general lack of credibility. Or (and this is probably the case) absolute laziness.

I kick myself for being drawn to the likes of "American Idol," "Dancing With the Stars," and even "Wife Swap" on TV when I know I should be at least watching, um, "Jeopardy." And when my amazingly well-read mother admits to "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" I know we're in trouble. Why is it so much work to not only be intelligent but to stay that way? Because we're lazy, too.

It's gonna get us in big trouble, people. It already has. Intelligence is essential to self-governance, and we're a nation full of lazy buggers who want to fall back on platitudes, patriotism and and, yes, mindless pap. And if we don't do something to push ourselves a little harder, we'll get kicked off the planet.

So ...

Why is it that I always think of nifty things to write in my blog, while I'm driving? Then I get a case of writing constipation when I actually sit down at the screen? Ugh.

Other questions I ponder today include the following:

Must I whine every time I blog?
When is the effin' sun gonna shine for longer than two hours?
How did I ever live before e-mail? (Answer: Probably much more calmly.)
Does anyone ever read this thing anyway?



Andy Rooney