Thursday, October 31, 2002

quote of the day
“I’m an angel, not a ******* fairy”
Bridget vH 10/31/02
Oh, really? Thank you for not saying this in front of the young people. Excuse me while I fume about where we picked up this language. And puhl-eez, you can put on a halo and wings, but when you open you mouth...........
Pride Issues.........
Preparing our religion lesson for tomorrow is a no-brainer. So why am I anguishing?

I’m wrestling with the temptation to start talking to the boys tonight to start thinking of who might be their favorite saint. This would be done on the off-chance that Mass tomorrow would have one of those All Saints’ homilies in which the priest walks into the congregation and asks the eager children to volunteer their favorite saint. It is apparent to me right now that our saints discussion would be priming the boys to show off and make me look good. I know this is not right. I also know that at least one of my children has social anxiety to the extent that he would raise his hand to speak during Mass only to, perhaps, save a life. Mater’s aggrandizement does not fall within these parameters. Nor should it.

Yet I think.......what if Father should ask them, “who is their favorite saint?” I certainly wouldn’t want them to clutch. This year finds St. Jerome as the default saint for Chuck. Whenever I ask him a question about the saints and he doesn’t know the answer he will blurt out, “St. Jerome!” There are saints that we had more ‘fun’ studying and our school is named for St. Benedict. But St. Jerome keeps popping up. So........maybe we should spend the evening reviewing our facts about St. Jerome. Or maybe prudence dictates that I save any discussion for after Mass and resist the temptation to use my children to show off.
It’s Quiet.....too quiet
Dad and the boys are going up and down the street Trick or Treating. Business is less brisk than last year. Maybe it is the raw weather or some parents warned their children away from the house with the ‘raw’ scarecrow.

Eddie looks very dapper as the Phantom of the Opera. He’s just 8 and the antique top hat that I salvaged from my late uncle’s attic fits him perfectly. (Large craniums do run in both sides of the family...........luckily(?) most of the kids have large enough bodies to support them.) Chuck is wearing the ‘monk’s’ robe that my mother-in-law stitched together for my husband for a frat party back in 1973. We’ve certainly gotten somebody’s money’s worth out of that old curtain material. (And you can bundle up underneath without compromising the ‘look’) It’s so chilly tonight, Chuck is going to keep the hood up, too.

I must admit to dreading hauling everyone out of bed for Mass tomorrow morning. It will be a rough night with the gang being all jacked up on morning will be grim. There is a Mass at 7:00 pm, but that almost seems after the fact. Well, at least we’ll all look fairly normal. Last year, Eddie wanted to have a really spiky mohawk. I consented to his growing hair longer than usual on the condition that he would have it cut off after Trick or Treat. His fine hair was so uncooperative that Fran finally resorted to using wood glue (after a quip I made, in jest, of course). The outcome was that he needed the closest possible buzz. So he was one tired, scalped looking parishioner on November 1. No one said anything. I’m sure they were trying to be polite........

Our parish has another morning Holy Day Mass for the children of the parish school and whoever else might show up at 9:00. That’s the one we went to last year. Too many kids in one place.........and my kids said they felt like freaks (Eddie’s bald head notwithstanding) because the other several hundred kids were wearing school uniforms and their homeschooling status was ‘obvious.’ So tomorrow we’ll go at 8:00 with the old folks and other public school escapees.

Oh, the humanity.........
Eeeek, now more of my archives are gone.
The only ones left are the heretofore 'missing' ones - one week in August.
Emily, call me.........
Dr. Dictionary likes Dylan, too
Word of the Day for Thursday October 31, 2002

tenebrous \TEN-uh-bruhs\, adjective:
Dark; gloomy.

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Mission Accomplished
The pumpkins have been carved. All children possess original digits.

This is the first year in decades that I haven’t spent 10/30 obsessing and running around putting the finishing touches on costumes. (With all due apologies to Emily, I couldn’t find the ‘cartoon hands’ in the laundry room. They’ll turn up when we pull out the Christmas stuff.) Eddie wants to dress up as the Phantom of the Opera. He’ll wear the phantom mask that has been blowing around here for ages plus an antique top hat and a cane. Should be simple enough.

We didn’t make the usual expedition to a charming farm in Wisconsin for pumpkins this year. Just not enough time. So we bought pumpkins at the less than charming Home Depot. Plus some bulbs to plant. I found myself staring wistfully at the Ralph Lauren paint display (which didn’t strike this well trained eye as substantially different from the colors at Wal-Mart) and ruminating again about painting the living room/dining room/upstairs hall. Rick bought a new toilet seat to cheer me up. It worked. (I mean it cheered me up. It doesn’t take much. I’m sure it will ‘work.’ When we get around to installing it.)
Something fine
I just finished reading the most wonderful essay in the new issue of First Things. Called Dakota Thanksgiving by J. Bottum, it caught my attention because of my angst over where to spend Thanksgiving. What kept me reading was the author’s description of a childhood, not unlike my own and not unlike the childhood I hope for my children to have. He does bemoan the fact that he learned to do many things, but none particularly well. I think his parents did well - and I think he knows it, too.

The description of his memorization of The Raven, interspersed with instruction on fixing a toaster, is hysterical.

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December (First make sure the toaster is unplugged) and each separate dying ember (Now take a Phillip’s-head. A Phillip’s-Head. The one with the pointy cross on the end.) Eagerly I wished the morrow (Finally. Now turn the toaster over and look for the screws on the bottom), vainly I had sought to borrow.......

.....and not more than a little reminiscent of my boys memorizing parts of Macaulay’s Horatius, learning to rewire a lamp and cook a decent omelet.

I won’t spoil the surprise for any of you who get a chance to read it. (I don’t think you can find it on line yet. The net stuff is a month behind.) Suffice it to say, the author provides many warm laughs and then a twist of the knife at the end with a poignant description of the meaning of parenthood.
When it’s my turn.........
I hope the people at my funeral don’t start chanting the name of my successor.....
The shouts resounded through the auditorium, and eventually segued into a
cheer for former Vice President Walter Mondale, who is expected to
take Wellstone's place on the Democratic ticket today.

"Fritz! Fritz! Fritz!" the crowd shouted as a smiling Mondale

For the story in its entirety..........
This explains.........
why I feel like the stinky cheese while partying with my sister’s liberal friends. They’re pleasant to me, but in the sort of condescending way one might treat a person of very borderline low intelligence or someone who had just been thawed out after 1000 in a glacier. Sursum Corda has a link to an article by Rev. Ronald Rolheiser on Living in a Moral Diaspora:
Increasingly, to believe in God, is to find yourself within a moral diaspora, seemingly a minority-of-one, awash in a world that, while wonderful in so many other ways, is non-supportive in terms of what's deepest and most important to you. To carry real faith and moral conviction today is to feel yourself part of a cognitive minority, a deviant of sorts, isolated, morally lonely.
Jesse Ventura and I agree?
Jesse Ventura didn’t care for the bogus ‘memorial’ serivce for Paul Wellstone either. He walked out. I had it easy; relief was a click of the remote away.
Madonna - an equal opportunity offender
Amy Welborn gives a link to delightful article on Madonna, rolling ever onward, offending anyone who gets in her way.

IN HER NEW video for the Bond theme song “Die Another Day,” Madonna appears with Hebrew words written on her and wearing a sacred Jewish prayer item, says a source.
The singer has become deeply involved in Kaballah, a Jewish form of mysticism, but the use of the sacred images is said to be “offending” and “outraging” Jewish leaders, according to various reports.
“The Hebrew tattoo she has means fight your pridefulness, your ego,” one source said. But apparently one of the items she wears, a tefillin, is only worn by men.
Em - I've done suggested drill to retrieve missing archives as suggested in the basic help column. Still missing two months work. Now this is starting to annoy me - if only because I'm just a prickly person. I know this is a free service, and I shouldn't be complaining about things that don't go well with a free service but it's making me irritable.

Feel free to work on it yourself.
Call me if you forgot the password.
Or even if you just want to talk - I'll tell you about my haircut.........
Note to Emily.........!pleh
My archives are still missing. Except the (missing) archives for the first week that I had the blog have now mysteriously shown up. I've been republishing - but now they are off in the ozone. It wasn't brilliant stuff, but I would kind of like to know what I've written.

Oh, my checkup went well. And I had time left to get a haircut and go to Wal-Mart/Target etc. andt still get home in time to work with the boys.

Another reason why I'm better off without money.......
I caught myself looking over the new Stones 40 Licks cd. I put it back. There are better things to spend my money on............The Beatles White Album on cd, shoes for the boys, food........

More Like Mary, Less Like Martha
“Daily blogs from a Catholic mom (who should be doing the dishes)!”
This is a cool blog that I found yesterday. I’d love to give attribution to the site that linked to it, but my mind appears to be scrambled by the r**t c***l, you, know, the procedure I vowed not to discuss but that continued yesterday morning.
Oooh. And she's a CathSwap mom, too. That's the biggest temptation to come up on my computer since eBay. (And get your mind out of the gutter, anyone who finds the term CathSwap on the snarky side. It's a wonderful Catholic curriculum exchange............which has actually saved me big bucks. As long as I control myself........)

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Random Thoughts
I stumbled upon the C-SPAN coverage of the memorial service for Paul Wellstone. It is sad that at such a moment the emotion that afflicts me is more outrage than sorrow at the passing of a fellow human being. I won’t go in to how tacky I found the political/pep rally to be. That must be the way these things go in politics. The irony of the maudlin eulogizing was overwhelming. To hear how Wellstone spoke out for the powerless, the voiceless and how he stood for those who could not stand for themselves was painful. Did not one soul in that crowd think of the voiceless, powerless, and truly unable to stand constituents - the unborn that he betrayed? That he did not speak out for........Where was Paul Wellstone for the most disenfranchised group of the American people?

I certainly will postpone mentioning this to my spousal unit, since I don’t want to put a damper on a pleasant evening. Tho he is as pro-life as I am, he tends to judge many politicians by their environmental and energy policies as well as their stand on life issues. Unlike me (in what is probably my vast ignorance), he tends to see energy policy as contributing to life issues. That leads to stand-offs such as last Friday, when he glared at me as tho I had personally shot down the Senator’s plane with one glaring, conservative dirty look. I wouldn’t, even if I could. Altho I might like to bollix things up for some of these people - just enough to keep them out of office.....
until they can see the error of their ways.


The Seven Deadly Sins and the Pursuit Of Happiness in America
By Dan Savage

This book sounds interesting. Though from the review I would have to surmise that Mr. Savage, to paraphrase my dear late father, “hasn’t learned the difference between fun and happiness.”

Sometimes they intersect. Sometimes they don’t.
Child Learns Shocking Facts on Internet
Just received a phone call from Emily.
I never told her that I didn’t ‘carve’ my own pumpkins in my childhood.
Well, that explains my shrill paranoia while supervising our carving sessions.
"Hallowing Halloween"

Gerard gives a link to a wonderful article in Christianity Today that reaffirms the way I feel about Halloween.

"It's Satan's Holiday, Dr. Rearick," affirmed one of my students. "Didn't you know?"

Well, no, I didn't know. And I am reluctant to give up what was one of the highlights of my childhood calendar to the Great Impostor and Chief of Liars for no reason except that some of his servants claim it as his.

I just can’t buy into the mindset that Halloween is a holiday that no decent Christian should participate in. We are free to draw are own boundaries of aesthetic expression and financial outlay. (The fact that Halloween is the second largest money grossing holiday, after Christmas, bothers me. A fun holiday that should involve lots of sweets and home-made decorations has been coopted by corporate America. But that is another debate.) But having some pumpkins, candy corn, and children dressed as M&M’s doesn’t make us Satanists. Tacky, gluttonous, less than perfect Christians but not Satanists.

I can’t think of a better way to alienate the children from our Church than to tell them that what they had previously participated in, in the most innocent way, is now strictly off limits. For a family that converted when we already had four children this would be a strange, and hard for me to rationalize, turn of events. Homeschoolers rub shoulders often with evangelical Christians who are adamant about Halloween’s evils. There is the temptation to take their earnest advice without to much of an examination of what we are really doing.

The author of the article does give credit to those who have had bad experiences with the occult and wish to shun any association, no matter how suprfluous, in the future. But he also giveshearty support to those of us who wish to communicate our disdain for the devil by laughing in his face.

The one thing Satan cannot bear is to be a source of laughter. His pride is undermined by his own knowledge that his infernal rebellion against God is in reality an absurd farce. Hating laughter, he demands to be taken seriously. Indeed, I would say that those Christians who spend the night of October 31 filled with concern over what evils might be (and sometimes are) taking place are doing the very thing Lucifer wants them to do. By giving him this respect, such believers are giving his authority credence.

Not all believers should celebrate Halloween. For those who have been redeemed from the occult, Halloween in its foolishness may contain what was for them deadly seriousness. While their souls were in deadly peril, however, what they experienced were lies and illusions.

It is understandable that they look with horror upon what once enslaved them. Such sensitivity may be appropriate for them, but it is not appropriate for the majority of Christians. Holding their opinions as appropriate for most believers is like having a former bulimic dictate how Christians should regard church hot-plate socials.
word of the day......
Doctor Dictionary knows about the fake pumpkin I have in the living room window:

Word of the Day for Tuesday October 29, 2002

ersatz \AIR-sahts; UR-sats\, adjective:
Being a substitute or imitation, usually an inferior one.

We have yet to get real pumpkins. (Except for the funky one on the porch.) So I guess tonight is when the really scary business of Halloween comes in. Children and knives are just a little ‘edgy’ for me. When you consider that I never carved a pumpkin the traditional way until I was married, I have adapted well. But it is still unnerving.

Did I live 23 years without ever having a pumpkin? No. I just was never allowed to carve one. My sister and I would be handed Magic Markers and we would design the faces and then excuse ourselves from the room. Dad would plug in his saber saw and go to town cutting out our designs. Many years he would also surreptitiously slip a silver dollar inside each pumpkin, just to add a little thrill to the tedium of cleaning out all the pumpkin ‘guts.’ Karen and I always had to have huge pumpkins, so there were a lot of ‘guts.’ What memories.

My job today is to make sure that the next generations memories don’t include a trip to the emergency room. And this year I’ll try not to burn the seeds - last years batch were lost in bad patch of over-extended multi-tasking.

Monday, October 28, 2002

All the fun....and no mosquitoes
Tom Abbott suggests this fun way to replay the summer. From the comfort of your own home.

Gag me with a spoon...........
Victor Lams gives a link to an extremely irritating article about some delusional women in Michigan. I’m glad I read the whole article before shutting down the computer and running out in search of some tranquilizing chocolate. If you read far enough into the article, they also introduce Ave Maria Law School Professor Nora O’Callaghan, the former head of the Respect Life Office for the Archdiocese of Chicago. There have to be some sane folks representing the truth. Unfortunately, most of the article focused on the escapees from the CTA/CFFC/WomanChurch Circus.

Victor also has a link to a picture of him doing his Fred Astaire best at a wedding reception.
Nice moves. diaper at a time
Bill White has some good things to say about the sanctifying work of parenthood, especially at the times when it is the most aesthetically repugnant. (Reading his piece brought back many memories. Sweet might not be the word. But they’re etched on my mind and heart just the same. Like the time I had at least two little ones in bed with me. During the early morning hours they became ill along all points of the digestive tract, but not so ill that they woke me up with loud complaints. So I had a general waking that led to the sensation that something was not quite right in the bed, sort of like the scene in The Godfather where movie mogul Jack Woltz wakes up to find a horse head in his bed. Only mothers of sick children cannot scream at the top of their lungs - as much as they would like to - but must confine themselves to a few “dear, dears,” and “oh, you poor babies.”)

This also reminds me of a fabulous (and unfortunately out-of-print) book by the late Catholic maternal humorist author Theresa Bloomingdale. In I Should Have Seen it Coming When the Rabbit Died, she talks about the rich opportunities that parenthood provides for carrying out the corporal works of mercy: for instance, feeding the poor can included nursing the baby, making stacks of PB&J sandwiches, baking birthday the naked can run the gamut from baby’s diapers to sports uniforms right up to a bride’s gown. This is such a funny book, but one that can wring a few tears from me, too. I was hoping to catch it when the inevitable discard came up, and I missed it. AAARRGH. And after all those years I kept checking it out every once in a while, just to keep it in circulation.
Ivory, 24th Street, Flag

Was just taking a sanity break and playing on the computer. I noticed that Eve Tushnet gave me a very nice mention........I am most appreciative. And she certainly has me pegged. Mad homeschooler is a good definition for me today.

Mondays are always difficult. (I was born on a Tuesday, probably God’s way of giving me 6 days to prepare myself for my first Monday.) Today is typical. By about 3:00, I’m ready to jump out the window next to the school table. This wouldn’t help, since the window is a sliding door and the whole student body would just follow me anyway.

There was a visit we made to the neurologist ,about five years ago, with one of my sons. The doctor did the usual neurologist thing, including saying, “I’m going to tell you three words. I’ll ask you later to see if you remember them. Ivory, 24th Street, Flag.” The words were remembered. The doctor was pleased. Six months later, the words were told to the neurologist again. With the question, “When can I forget them?” Ivory, 24th Street, Flag is still blowing around our house. Chuck will blurt this phrase out - totally unrelated to what is going on. It has even become something of a joke, as in, “Hey, Chuck, Dr. Swisher called. He said you can forget Ivory, 24th Street, Flag.”

Three words so easily learned. While we struggle with math facts that float thru our brains like fine sand thru a sieve, these three words stick. Some things are soooo excruciatingly difficult and other things stick like glue. And I never can predict what is going to be relatively easy and what is going to become a Sisyphean task. It keeps the job interesting.

Oh, well. Enough of my complaining. Time for Jeopardy and then off to my ‘fun’ job at Church. I have this down to a science. Since I am relatively low maintenance, I can perform my beauty routine and change my clothes during the break before final Jeopardy and be out the door by the time the final credits roll. And tomorrow will be another day.........

And thanks again to Eve. (My Google referrals aren’t nearly as interesting. I do seem to have tapped a rich vein in the tin tinsel set, tho.)

Sunday, October 27, 2002

2 interesting articles......
Catholic Light points out how a culture of ‘mere choice’ rots society’s core as demonstrated by Tennessee Williams’ classic A Streetcar Named Desire. (n.b. - That’s Tennessee Willliams, not Tennessee Tuxedo)

For homeschoolers who might have that Sunday night lull in enthusiasm, Verus Ratio has Your Children Are Not Safe (From Liberals) Anywhere, Anytime, with a link to to a FrontPage Magazine article

The Little Girl Who Went to Bed an Hour Earlier Every Night
My favorite story as a child was called, “The Little Girl Who Went to Bed an Hour Earlier Every Night. This was a short tale of a little girl who was feeling less than top-notch, and took the family doctor’s adivce to get more rest “by going to bed an hour earlier every night” at its most literal interpretation. In a fortnight, we now saw a child who was going to bed at 6:00 am and was up thru the dark of the night with only the little mice who sought her out in the kitchen as her playmates. A trip back to the doctor was needed to straighten her out on what was meant by ‘an hour earlier every night.’ I thought this was just the funniest story. It must have appealed to my literal-mindedness, in a sweet yet scolding way. For I was much like the girl in the story. The foremost example to come to mind is the time when my mother told me not to put a hand on the hot electric frying pan. So I licked it. It took about three days of lapping ice water like a kitty for the swelling to go down to the point where I could argue my case that I didn’t put a hand on the frying pan, so what was the big deal?

I was hoping to get out of my Little Girl loop when the time changed last night. I had been finding myself waking earlier and earlier every day and then having increasing trouble staying awake thru the evening. I was becoming a totally involuntary Little Girl Who Went to Bed a Little Earlier Every Night. So, woke up today at 5:00. Which was really 4:00 last week. But last week I was getting up at 5:00. I know a lot of people get up at 5:00 but this has put me totally out of synch with the rest of the family, who are much more of the night owl persuasion than lark. This too shall pass. It was worse in the summer - I’d hear the birds start in around 4:00 and I’d be up for the day. I’ll just have to look on the extra quiet morning time as a blessing and an opportunity to pray/think/work without the usual cacaphony surrounding me.

Mark Shea had a link to an article of his that is still timely. Especially this time of year. Take a look at You Can Trust Me, I'm a Psychic. A very interesting exploration of the various ways the occult has crept into modern society. I guess I would fall into the group he describes thus, “The whole enterprise is shot through with such quackery and hokum that many people can't believe anyone takes it seriously.”

But some people do. For them:

For the irony is that when we seek security by placing our faith in power and self rather than in the love of the Blessed Trinity, we necessarily find ourselves, sooner or later, in a universe of fear -- fear of greater powers who believe in themselves more strongly still. This is the source of a zillion schemes for appeasing spirits, dealing with hexes and the whole complex jungle of superstition which is rife, not only in pre-Christian paganism, but in post-Christian supermarket checkstand culture, as well. Which is why, in the midst of her promises to deliver you into a future of peace and plenty, Jeanne Dixon's Web page features a promise to remove spells. It's a god eat god world.

And my advice? Never break open A Magic Eight-Ball to find out what is inside.
There is a twenty-sided object (it has a name; they mentioned it on Jeopardy once) surrounded by a cup or so of inky indelible blue liquid. The force needed to break the ball open spatters the blue liquid in all directions, making the room look like CSI examines a murdered Smurf.
This is true. There were still blue stains on the laundry room wall when we moved out.
(Ten years perspective makes me thankful that the interested parties decided the laundry room was a better venue for this experiment, rather than the dining room or kitchen. At least the laundry had a floor drain. And mother’s screams were muted coming from the basement.)
Time Change
fails to reset body clock of the Girl Who Went to Bed an Hour Earlier Every Night.
More later......

OK, Fran, now I believe you....
You weren’t kidding when you said you couldn’t afford to go back to working at The Gap or anywhere else in the fashion/industrial complex.
a deep, cleansing laugh has a salutory effect.
I found this thru the usually kind and pious Rosa Mystica. It has its vulgar points - but speaking strictly as a parent who has had fridge art comprising the majority of the refrigerators’ insulation over the past 20 years or so, it ‘resonated.’ I feel so much better..........

A bit of ‘froggerel’ to enliven your day!
Martha found this in the Marshall Field’s catalog.....I present it in tribute to the frog who lived in the laundry room:
May the light always find you on a dreary day.
When you need to be home, may you find a way.
May you always have courage to take a chance.
And never find frogs in your underpants.

Bear in mind, Field’s wants $32 for this.

Saturday, October 26, 2002

Caught Up!
All the dentist visits have left me caught up on my light reading. It’s such a reflief to know there is no People unexamined. Yesterday’s visit reminded me of how much I miss Esquire and GQ now that my local library has let its subscriptions lapse. The library is very big on subscriptions that are funded by community members and therefore has a lot of niche publications.............age and/or disease oriented. Yes, if I had money and gumption I could give them a subscription to something good - First Things, Faith & Family, MAD. Something good. (My daughter has let me in on a little secret. The staff has a subscription to The Onion, but it is never put out in the periodical room. Staffers read it in the back room when they should be working. Patrons are stuck with lively stuff like Arthritis offense to anyone with arthritis.............I have a few bad joints and some auto-immune problems myself. I just don’t want to read about it at the library.)

I had never before realized how much Esquire resembles women’s magazines in its need to make the reader feel insecure. Do you need Viagra? Is your hair thinning? Need more $100 shirts in your wardrobe? Perplexed by the woman in your life? Are you unattractive? I always thought men were more secure. Maybe they are. But someone has figured out that there is gold in making men feel that they must be personally shored up by ‘products.’ Not just selling them tires and Craftsmen tools, but undermining their sense of self worth and then offering a salve in the form of clothes, fragrances, gadgets and other male enhancements.

I’m starting to sound like my father when he would warn me about the damage Glamour, Mademoiselle and the like were doing to my soul. You there, young man, drop that Esquire, it’ll only make you feel bad...........
Not feeling so pretty today?
Tenebrae has some words on pretty vs. beautiful.
Sound thoughts.
Perhaps I should print out 1000 copies and slip them into Glamour, Seventeen, and other magazines that corrupt the minds of young girls (and some of us not so young girls......) Maybe some homemaking magazines, too, like Martha Stewart and Traditional Home........
I am uncomfortable with some of the elaborate Halloween tableaux in yards around here. Faux coffins, nooses, lots of ghoulish stuff. I don’t call the people to protest..........
All this fuss has distracted me from my task of the day - making a perch for my raven. I think it is really a crow, but it’s close enough. Martha Stewart had them (for a small fortune)in her catalog last year at Halloween, but I found one at Michael’s before Christmas. Still sealed in its plastic wrap, it must have evaded the sales shelves only to be found later and tossed in the bargain bin. My $3 raven has been packed away for almost a year..........time to figure out how to put it above my chamber door.........
The Inevitable......... Arrives while I am not home or
Honi soit qui mal y pense

We were counting the hours until the woman down the street voiced her dismay with the scarecrow. I missed her call. Why would I need to be at work and miss the delicious squeal of her indignation? Now pater wants us to scoot those trousers up a little just to get her off of our case.

For anyone else, I would make immediate remediation. Especially if we had received a polite request. But this woman is never polite. She goes from zero to ballistic in one second. Last summer she stood in the street and screamed at us about the Winnebago parked across the street. It wasn’t ours, but she figured we were the ‘type.’

So, what did I do? I sought legal advice. Actually, I called my sister who thought it was just hysterical and didn’t think our scarecrow violated any community obscenity standards. This is just a pumpkin - exactly the way it grew - and a pair of trousers. And in her estimation, just an extension of the genre of lawn art that is made up of those plywood figures that look like stout ladies bending over in the garden. (It is just a pumpkin- no added gourds, zucchini etc.)

In most circumstances, I am the family guardian against the vulgar. And I wouldn’t do anything to foist vulgarity on my fellow citizens. But the uppity ‘artiste’ in me doesn’t like a woman from down the street telling me what kind of art I can install on my front porch. I am enjoying this too much - and am thankful that it will all be gone by Thursday. I’m dealing with a lot of problems of pride........humility is a real struggle for me and this is just the type of situation that is a pitfall for me. (There is the temptation to rationalize this as an opportunity to teach the children about not capitulating to peer pressure. It’s a stretch, but I could do it.........)
And it’s only a pumpkin.....

Friday, October 25, 2002

I found them...........sort of........
Someone had asked me how I came up with the name Oblique House. When I went back to my archives the first week was gone. I can’t get them to re-publish, but was able to track down the first couple of posts. So I’m posting them again, just for posterity’s sake (and clarification of the noodle reference that I made the other night.)

Use your noodles...........

I probably won't have the link 'thing' figured out until tomorrow.............This has a sharper learning curve than I had expected.

So I thought I'd just go ahead and share a little 'homeschooling' hint.
This is the time of year when I usually think of packing away the pool/beach stuff, such as the 'noodles.' Those foam rods that are used for floating and other water hijinks. This year I won't even bother to put them away.
Sometime in the spring, the noodles found their way out of the garage and insinuated themselves into just about every unstructured outdoor playtime that my boys had.

The Feast of St. George was the first time I noticed the boys on the front lawn - re-enacting the day's lesson. Whacking each other with the noodles.
Then came the Battle of Agincourt. Joan of Arc. The Hundred Years' War.
And just about every chapter from Famous Men of Rome.
Study breaks turned into noodle fights.

This alarmed me at first. Being a girl with no brothers. And my first four children are girls. (Not wimpy, sedentary girls. But girls without much of an interest in pounding on each other........) I was relieved when neighbors reassured me that boys do these things. And they had always been good enough not to attack each other with the plastic swords that came with the Gladiator and Crusader outfits they just had to have.

So, I have now made peace with the noodles. (Always uttering a small prayer begging protection from corneal abrasions and other assorted worries that tend to plague the 'worst case scenario' mindset.) I won't pack the noodles away this fall. In fact, we just found some new ones. School starts soon - so much history, so much
Shakespeare, so much energy to expend..........

Why Oblique House?

Just a little play on words.
Partially a tribute to Dickens - and the Bleak House quote that I keep next to the phone:
"It is right to begin with the obligations of home, and while these are overlooked and neglected, no other duties can possibly be substituted for them."
And in tribute to my own home and family where nothing is quite parallel nor perpendicular and likewise not as bleak as it may sound.
(I also like Dizzy Spot and/or Wonder Spot, as in that marvelous tourist trap at the Wisconsin Dells, where one feels as if gravity and other rules of physics have been suspended. But I would prefer not to be sued by them, so I'll stay with Oblique House and take my chances with the proprietors of the Estate of the late Mr. Dickens.)

originally posted by Ellyn vonHuben - Thursday, August 22, 2002

The Angelus
Here is an interesting article on the Angelus and the decline of public prayer in the West.

This is something we have added to our routine this year. Our timing isn’t always perfect - usually instead of noon, it’s just the last thing before we break for lunch. But we’re coming along....... It is easy at home, but public prayer is hard for those who are not used to it. The children are mortified that we say so much as a low key (English) dinner blessing when out. Sorry, kids, it isn’t easy being trendsetters.
Not Our Finest Moment
Fran answered the phone during dinner and took a message for me, “Aunt Karen called, she said to tell you that Richard Harris died. Wasn’t he that Senator from Minnesota?” There are some big gaps in people’s education. Would listening to MacArthur Park ten times help straighten her out?
[WARNING: Do Not Attempt to Recreate this work of art at home]
I forgot to mention my pathetic college days attempts at achieving the Pre-Raphaelite look by braiding my hair when wet. I was no Lizzie Siddal and my beaux did not turn into junior Rossettis, either.
Gerbil-land update.....
Emily bought a little house for the gerbil (It looks like an igloo - let’s call it the ‘gigiloo.’ ) and a water dish. This was to be the end of all my little glass prep bowls disappearing into the gerbil house. The rodent is unclear on the concept - she hides her food in the gigiloo and sleeps in the dish. Does anyone (thing?) here use objects in their intended manner?
On it goes.......
Did I promise to say nothing more about my dental problems? Hmmmm. No more until Tuesday. Just a little more work and this will no longer be a root canal, it’s going to be a lobotomy.

Topics left untouched.......
Missed out on the details of the death of Senator Wellstone because I couldn’t hear the radio in the dentist’s office. This is sad. The loss of any life is sad. But I can’t talk for too long with Rick about this because the conversation disintegrates into a debate over energy policy, Democrats/Republicans, Minnesota, fear of flying, liberal politics, too many hot buttons.

Shall we blame the artists?
We have been trying to find a gracious way to decline an invitation to spend Thanksgiving at the family ‘farm’ in the UP with Rick’s family. There are 101 reasons not to go.
1. Driving five hours with the whole family in the van would be too.......(fill in the blank)
2. Can’t afford the gas.
3. Van probably couldn’t make it.
4. Some nicotine addicts would have a hard time hiding their habits from Grandma. Hiding behind the barn is unpleasant in the cold November weather.
5. Eddie would drive everyone insane.
6. Brother-in-law is a strict anti-TV person and won’t allow his children to watch. (I don’t like TV too much, but I’ve rolled over on this issue.)
7. There is nothing to watch on TV up there if we were allowed to turn it on.
8. We would bring the total to 18 - we doubt if the house has 18 places to sit.
9. Many of us must work on Wednesday and Friday.
10. I would spend the whole time fighting the urge to say what I really think. I feel that I am being baited sometimes and after so many boring hours in the middle of nowhere, I just might take the bait.
.........the list goes on.

Rick doesn’t want to make his parents unhappy. The way I see it, they will be made unhappy either way. The unhappiness caused by our participation in this debacle would be more ‘colorful’ and memorable.

Yesterday, Rick tossed the new Lands’ End catalog in front of me. (And he wasn’t offering me a new coat) He said that the cover explained it all. The cover has a Norman Rockwell painting of family holiday reunification. It’s all Rockwell’s fault for planting this delusion in my in-laws’ minds that having everybody locked in a farmhouse for a long week-end would be the ultimate in family happiness.

My first reaction was that he was being absurd. But I thought more about how art has influenced my outlook on life. There are plenty of occasions when I have attempted to have a Norman Rockwell moment. And I must admit times of discouragement that my spiritual life has none of the, well, ecstasy of a work such as Bernini’s St. Theresa in Ecstasy. (If I’ve looked like that, it probably wasn’t religion at work) There is a hazard in wanting life to imitate art. Why didn’t any of my art history instructors warn me? [WARNING: Do Not Attempt to Recreate this work of art at home]
The HSLDA has this interesting article on the funding of the NEA.

Biding my time..........waiting to leave for the dentist
The church (my parish, not the Vatican) gave me a lovely mum on Secretary’s Day. It was in a four inch pot. My theory of gardening is “Miracle-Gro, Miracle-Gro, Miracle-Gro.” When we moved it in today it measured about 4 ft across. Looks like it is going to bloom again. I think we caught it before the serious frost got to it.

Miracle-Gro Violet Food has done wonders for the violets that Bridget gave me this summer. I decided it was time to take care of plants instead of waiting for them to die and then throwing them away. Now it has become something of an obsession. I’ve managed to help revive a moribund violet that Emily brought home from the library. (Even I knew that keeping it on a cart in a dark backroom and not watering it was not the way to treat it........)

This must mark a new phase in my life. There was a time when I resented the gift of a plant. It would remind me of the ads that the Humane Society puts on TV before Easter to discourage the giving of live animals. Why give a living thing as a gift. Especially after having a baby, my reaction would be, “Great, I already have another person to take care of and now you want me to nurture a plant, too? Why not give me a bunny or a chick while you’re at it?”
slip of the tongue....
We were talking last night about the way the media refers to notorious people by their full names - eg. John Wayne Gacy, James Earl Ray, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Wayne Bobbitt. Now we have John Lee Malvo and John Allen Muhammad. It was just a matter of time until someone slipped and got all these names confused. A correspondent on Fox News just started to refer to Muhammad as James Earl--- , then he caught himself.

My mother had no middle name. Good thing she didn’t choose a life of crime.
I know, I know....
I know that the law is the law, but somehow I don’t feel safer knowing that a midwife went to jail for the illegal dispensing of drugs. The county sheriff knows who the drug dealers are in the apartment complex 100 yards from my house. Those people aren’t going to jail. Do I sound bitter? Mordant? Maybe.......

Is it Picasso’s birthday?
I never liked Picasso, but Google does have a nice Picasso logo thing today. So I wonder if it’s his special day.

Thursday, October 24, 2002


Just when I thought I’d heard the last of annoying Illinois Lt. Governor Corinne Wood, I found this funny article in the Sun-Times on Monday night:
Lt. Gov. Corinne Wood gave so much money to Planned Parenthood’ s political action committee during her failed GOP primary run for governor that under state law, the PAC had to change its name to the “Planned Parenthood Votes Illinois Corinne Wood” PAC.

The statute calls for a name to reflect anyone giving at least 33 percent of the total funding for the politcal committee.

In September, the PAC gave Democrats Blagojevich $25,000 and Madigan $10,000.

There’s something satisfying in seeing her money go to the Democrats because she had such a stake in ingratiating herself with Planned Parenthood.

I don’t like Corinne Wood. Not just because she mispronounces her own name (it’s a free country, you can pronounce your name anyway you wish - and look like a fool), but her relentless hammering on the abortion issue was..........absurd. And there is something sinister about a woman who portrays herself as a loving, typical soccer mom giving so much money to an ‘anti-child’ organization.

Oh, yeah, doesn’t the Bible have something about “where your treasure is, there your heart will be?”
Who Needs Miss Cleo when there is Dr. Dictionary........

halcyon \HAL-see-uhn\, noun:
1. A kingfisher.
2. A mythical bird, identified with the kingfisher, that was
fabled to nest at sea about the time of the winter solstice
and to calm the waves during incubation.

1. Calm; quiet; peaceful; undisturbed; happy; as, "deep,
halcyon repose."
2. Marked by peace and prosperity; as, "halcyon years."

So true. And no, there is no mythical bird in my backyard. To the best of my knowledge......

Don’t tell me the Rabbi drives a Jaguar...........

There is some controversy about Chevrolet backing a tour of evangelical Christian musicians. I don’t find it quite as alarming as some do.

"This may be a sign of the times, but it's not a good sign," said Rabbi James Rudin, spokesman for the American Jewish Committee in New York. "America is increasingly multiethnic and multireligious. So, for an American icon like Chevrolet to link itself to one religion, Christianity, and then one specific group within Christianity is divisive.

"The majority of Americans are not evangelical Christians and it would be very, very bad business for Chevrolet to put the idea into people's minds that they're the evangelical brand."

Corporations will do what is expedient for their business. And people can still make judgements apart from the ‘vibe’ given off by the advertising. I’m thinking specifically about Tantrist Sting and his Jaguar promotion. That wouldn’t stop me from driving a Jaguar (if one magically appeared in my driveway.) Altho........I am rather repelled by the car ads (and I can’t even remember what car it is!) that have James Brown squealing about being a Sex Machine. That’s the limit

I hope....
they have really caught the sniper.

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

At least it didn’t happen on my watch.....
It warms a mother’s heart to return from work and find that her children have been involved in a cooperative art project. (There were clues.........the desperate phone call to church to get this secretary to give up the secret of the hidden duct tape; Bridget’s procurement of a pumpkin with the perfect ‘gluteal cleft.’) I was delighted to turn in to my driveway and see a life size scarecrow propped in the corner of the front porch mooning the residents of our lovely street. The intricate amount of counter-balancing involved is indicative of paternal involvement. I guess if Dad ok’d it, it’ll stay. There is a certain amount of uncharitable satisfaction in knowing that it will outrage the nasty woman ( and homeowners’ association head!) down the street who thinks we are overpopulated, vulgar and driving down her property values.

In the same vein, I’ve been tempted to put up a yard sign for my sister’s campaign for District Attorney (in another county, in another state). Campaign signs are strictly forbidden by association rules. (reason enough in my book to want to put up a ton o’ signs.) My rationale: since this is not related to any local election, it is really an art installation. And the boys whacking each other with noodles are performance artists and the slackers on the cul de sac are a tableau vivant. I have a degree in art - don’t argue with me.......
Meditations for Women Who Think Too Much....
I do need to start getting more sleep.
This reminds me of something that happened at my Bible Study group last week. Somehow we got on the subject of death and the final disposition of our soul. Having recently had a funeral in our parish for a young person who died suddenly, I was moved to speak on how this always catches me off-guard. And it is worrisome because the age at which people begin to put away childish things and approach life with some gravitas is creeping ever higher. (example: the cast of Friends) From there I expounded upon how palpable the finality of death is to me when I enter the name of the deceased in the death register. Some times on a quiet evening I wonder I surmise that one of the lines in the book is for me - barring relocation or doing something dreadful enough to get excommunicated. And I’ll even flip thru the book and wonder which line it is. We’re only on page 13. (Or if it will be a different book, think about how that book has already been printed and is just waiting for me.) At this point, a friend, possessed of much wisdom and wit chimed in, “Ellyn, get some sleep.”
I may have told this story before. Forgive me. I’m sleep deprived.

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

No More about My Teeth.......That’s a Promise
It was just the crown that came out. I am OK. Sorry for putting everyone thru my tortured descriptions of dental agony. I was starting to feel like that guy in Delirious, the one whose teeth started dropping out spontaneously.

Academic Progress Report
Martha has received her first progress report from one of the finest public high schools in our country. I hope we can attribute the teacher’s comments to exhaustion from over-work:
”Maraha need to keep turning the home work”.(sic)

At least Martha has a new nickname. When she’s tired of Mookie or Marfa, Maraha should do just fine.....

Went to Mass, about 45 minutes early because I was uptown taking Martha to school early.
Didn’t have my usual prayer book with me, but doubted that it had anything specifically for dental problems. So I was left unguided to pray for many causes, especially, I’ll admit my teeth. A simple fiat voluntas tua is often best.

After Mass, I stopped by the dentist’s office and was able to catch him between appointments to explain my despair. He told me to come back at 4:00, he thinks it can be re-attached. Either way, I can handle it now.

This is “discouraging”!
The Out & In Column in the latest Vanity Fair (p. 304) lists the new “in” grammar pet peeve as:
Quotation marks as ironic “literary” device. So “where” does that “leave” “me?”
Shall I just disable that key to discipline myself?
I’m up early, taking care of loose ends and glad to put an end to another dreadful night’s sleep.
I’m about to lapse into the mordant again, but my mood is adjusted back to an understanding of real tragedy by turning on Fox News and seeing that there has been another shooting back East.

Years ago, when I first started having children, many books referered to maternal dental problems and the old wives’ tale, a tooth for every child. Well, I think I’ve reached that point. Last night while flossing, the molar that I had a root canal and post done in about 6 months ago just popped right out of my mouth. No pain - nada. I don’t think it was worth putting in a glass of milk and rushing to the ER. But I was in as much shock as if a limb had fallen off unannounced. Turning to my husband for solace, I received, “What tooth, I can’t really see what you’re talking about.”
And just to make sure I ended my day with self-esteem intact, “I still think you’re hot.”

I have six children and can’t afford to lose five more teeth. I hope our three little souls in heaven would please intercede for mother’s continued dental and thereby, mental, health. Just two hours ‘til the dentist’s office opens up. And I’ll just try to remember that if you can see my tooth is missing, you are too close.

If it weren’t true, it might be funny.....
Victor Lams has some interesting info on the mess in Michigan with Jennifer Granholm and her four funky defenders. Makes me wish I could move to Michigan so I could vote for anyone but her.

But I must hold down the fort in Illinois. Planned Parenthood has brought back a series of TV spots featuring a rape survivor (who does have my sympathy) who whimpers about how lucky she was that she didn’t get pregnant because if we had a Governor like (candidate) Jim Ryan, she could not have had an abortion. So she is a pity object, talking about what didn’t happen, and how it would have been affected by a man who was not in office at the time this didn’t happen.
Strange - offensive.

Go ahead and look at Gretchen’s Story. And tell me if, “Jim Ryan would do away with Gretchen's right to choose ? and the rights of thousands of women across Illinois to make their own decisions about their lives and families,” does that mean thousands of women in Illinois are being impregnated by rapists? Then we also have a massive law enforcement problem.

Monday, October 21, 2002

Reality Check?
My sister and her friends arrived home safely yesterday. They managed to have a good time in New Orleans without me. They muddled thru. Karen’s girlfriends had never been to New Orleans before, so she had a great time showing them around. I was able to get a little vicarious enjoyment out of her description of their adventures. Everything was fun as usual, with a little disappointment that the talented “Big Al” Carson was on a sabbatical of some sort from the Funky Pirate. Oh, well, you can’t have it all.

Then reality sets in - waiting in the driveway at home is six inches of snow. That’s a little too real for me.
Dr. Dictionary sees into my heart......
Just another example of how my e-mail word of the day seems to come from an omniscient source:

Word of the Day for Monday October 21, 2002

mordant \MOR-d'nt\, adjective:
Biting; caustic; sarcastic.

Guess that’s a clue for me to tone it down.
Ask me about the time I offended several family members by posting the word "wastrel" on the word chart.
Hey, I don’t pick ‘em, I just pass them along.......
Monday........and wolves at the door
A very slow school Monday. Martha has a cold and stayed home from school. So I didn’t get to Mass and tried to play “catch-up” before it was time to run to the dentist. At least I made up for the time I missed with the Rosary group this morning - there was plenty of time in Dr. B’s chair. I didn’t get home until 12:30 and tried to jump in despite no feeling in most of my head.
Drooling while leading Angelus with boys caused them to say I should just take a nap until everything wore off.

I knew the mail would bring some sort of waker-upper. I lovely full color brochure from Illinois Planned Parenthood (where do these clowns keep getting my name?) showing a candidate for Illinois Attorney General dressed as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. (Not a pretty picture - Isn’t there some sort of a law against taking a less than flattering photo of a person and photo-shopping it into a sheep? Scary, kids......) They damned him with his perfect rating and endorsement by Illinois Right to Life. Begged me not to throw my ‘right to choose’ to the wolves. That’s good enough for me. Thank you Illinois PP for clarifying matters for me.

Can I use my ill humor and numb head as an excuse to rant against all the cars I see in my church parking lot bearing a bumper sticker for a blatantly pro-choice candidate? What’s wrong with these people? This is not a candidate who is low-key, try-not-to-discuss-it pro-choice. This woman flaunts her defense of a woman’s right to choose and her approval from Planned Parenthood. Doesn’t anyone read her literature? Don’t they care? Does the fact that she helped put in a neat kind of stop light with a timed walk signal in downtown Lake Forest make up for the fact that she doesn’t care a bit for her fellow (unborn) Americans?
Thank you very much.
Thanks to Davey's mommy.......
for this fun test...........
Book Worm Meter for Ellyn

Shut In 71%
29% Out Of The House
Intellectual 95%
5% Moron
High Attention Span 95%
5% Low Attention Span
Bookitude 96%
4% Book Burner
Book Worm 89.25%
10.75% Bug Stomper
Take your bookworm readings.

Sunday, October 20, 2002

That Time of Year
It’s the time of year when all the mail order catalogues come pouring in.
May I offer some suggestions from the latest batch?

Signals has two containers of meticulously hand tooled replica Victorian tin tinsel in gold or silver. Each container has 50 pieces each. Do not laugh. My sister gave this to me two years ago - most likely as a punishment for the way I tormented my mother by throwing tinsel at the tree by the handful. This forces you to hang the tinsel one excruciating piece at a time. When the job is finally done, the effect is delicious. And the truly anal retentive do so enjoy counting up the tinsel when the tree is taken down. We were short two this year. One turned up in the gutter in front of our house. The other was lurking along the base board and was found when the Christmas stuff was almost all packed away.

Karen gave me this tinsel when I was visiting her up near St. Paul. I was a tad worried about getting on a plane with two metal tubes in my carry-on luggage. The last time I had flown out of Midway, my Altoids tin caused me to be pulled aside and manually searched. But I walked right on thru - no problem. Today I don’t think they would even allow the tinsel on a plane. Too pointy.

Another good Signals item is Sanctus: 1000 Years of Sacred Music. This was also a gift from my sister. Unspoken subtext: You want religious music? 15 CD’s should keep you happy for a while.....

integrations a catalog for kids with learning and sensory differences has some cool stuff. The boys would like an edible bubble kit. Like your regular bubble blowing equipment but with non-toxic fruit flavored bubble liquid. At. $35.95, I’ll think we’ll pass.

Did you know that there are individuals that use chewing to calm or refocus? (Does this include tobacco chewing ball players?) integrations has Chewy Tubes as a safe and effective tool for redirecting chewing. Wish I had known about those years ago, before Bridget and Fran ate the erasers off of 1000 pencils or more.

Then what I would really like is a set of Velvasoft Weighted Lap Pads. They can be adjusted to the correct weight (heavier than the apron a dentist puts on you before an X-ray) and put on a child’s lap to remind him not to hop out of his chair. They also have a heavy dog and turtle for the same purpose.

Monastery Greetings has some lovely food and graphics items. The boys liked this catalog and were actually up for joining the Trappists until I explained that the Trappists make the cheese and fudge, but don’t sit around all day eating it.
Maybe this is what I need......
The New York Times has an article of Provigil, the non-amphetamine drug that can allow one to function without sleep indefinitely.............Provigil, which is short for "promotes vigilance," was approved late in 1998 for treatment of sleepiness associated with narcolepsy, a condition in which people fall asleep uncontrollably. But use of the drug is expanding rapidly, with more than 80 percent of the prescriptions written to treat the fatigue and sleepiness associated with many other diseases, like depression and multiple sclerosis, or even just sleepiness caused by no disease at all.

If the trial is successful, the company will ask the Food and Drug Administration to expand the approved uses of Provigil from just narcolepsy to excessive sleepiness associated with any medical condition. That would allow the company's sales force to begin calling on general practitioners rather than just sleep specialists, neurologists and psychiatrists, potentially expanding sales to the billion-dollar range...............

"There are no warts on this drug," Dr. Baldino, 49, who has a doctorate in pharmacology, said with characteristic bluntness at his office in this suburb of Philadelphia. "The only question is how big we can make it."

This is a bit worrisome. There will be warts on this drug. It just remains to be seen.
If I didn’t think there would be ‘warts,’ I’d be tempted to call my doctor first thing in the morning. If my sleep is so crummy, why don’t I just give it up altogether? Then I could be really efficient...........until I would be carried away by the men in the white coats.
Babe Meets Gone With the Wind.......
Now Church will be delayed until 6:00pm because we couldn’t pull everything together in time to get to Mass at 10:30 to be back at noon when the Bears are playing. Personally, I like it when the Bears play at noon on Sunday. The parking situation is much easier.

Em brought her hair clippers home for the week-end. So it was time to shear the boys. I have my own clippers (bought out of a combination of boys with sensory integration problems and the need to save money) but Em’s have a better assortment of length settings.

Chuck did not want a hair cut, but could be convinced that he had reached the point of either cut or dreds. Eddie just didn’t wanted to be touched. And lacking the vibrant curls of his brother, he just looks messy and uncared for. So we had to round the guys up and clip their hair in a scene that was a cross between the sheep shearing scene in Babe and the unanaesthetized limb amputation scene in Gone With the Wind. If only it were ethical to give a good shot of whisky to the patient - I mean customer. Not that it would help, some of my children have not been knocked out by (hospital administered, mind you) drug combos that would take down Rasputin.
We’ll start trimming them for Christmas on Thanksgiving week-end.
Just $30,000
And I forgot to mention that the Iron Chefs were working with $30,000 worth of shark fins.
When I'm in the calculating mood, I shall try to see how long we could eat on $30,000.
Em's boyfriend, who is Chinese and has actually eaten shark fin stuff was salivating, but I didn't think it looked worth that much.
After a vain attempt at ‘sleeping in’ I’m back at the ‘puter. There is little for the early riser to do except prayer and reading since most family members don’t appreciate the clatter of housework at 5:00am. If I were able to sleep I know I wouldn’t. The downside to this early waking is that I need a nap by about 1:00pm. Which makes the family think I’m slipping into my decline. Skipping the nap does not improve the quality of my sleep, just makes the second half of the day less productive.

Soon it will be late enough that I can start puttering around. Work some more on the antennae for the ancient stereo receiver in the living room. The car is the usual radio source around here - but it would be nice to crank up Breakfast with the Beatles while eating the pancakes that I am no longer allowed to cook. Sunday breakfast is officially Dad’s. First it was the whole wheat pancake thing. Then the kids complained that the homemade pancakes had a funny metallic taste. Perhaps I was using too much baking powder to make them fluffy. So I turned to Hungry Jack or whatever it is that comes in a box. Those are “too thick” for pater. This is the first day of my ‘lifetime ban’ from pancake cooking. I’m good with that. I’m still allowed to do pain perdu. And play on the computer.

If I didn’t want to make sure Dad didn’t have some sort of nervous collapse getting Rod and Todd to Mass by himself (hmmm, now that Martha is back he does have an extra buffer to put between them) and because I do so want to look like the model family, I would be up and out of here to Mass already. The 7:30 Mass is lovely. Sometimes it seems that the congregation is half comatose but there are few squawking children (not that I’m anti-child, it’s just that I’m more distractable than I used to be) and little wiggling and crobbling from the older folks.

Then I could devote the rest of the day to doing the laundry that hasn’t been done since the dryer tanked on Friday afternoon. This isn’t servile labor really is it? I mean, people will will need towels, socks, tidy whities, etc. to face the world tomorrow.

Let’s Codify Conditional Love!
This was not the inspirational uplift I was looking for this morning.
Well, except for the end quote from the mother of 12, almost 13.

Saturday, October 19, 2002

Another Saturday Night....
so much to little ambition
instead -
play with computer
read news - leave tomorrow’s Trib alone
go back to computer and play Shanghai
turn on Iron Chef - watch chefs cook with shark fins costing more than I spend on groceries
in a year (years..........)
listen for cries for help from laundry room while Rick fixes drier
resolve to become more like a shark fin - firm, yet flexible
No News - Means They’re Having Fun Without Me
Haven’t heard from my sister. That means she is having fun.
I tried to avert my eyes when the weatherman pointed towards the Crescent City, but I think I heard the words “eighty” and “sunny.” I’ll take his word for it.

They may take one of those spooky walking tours of the French Quarter tonight. This would be a good time of year for it. Wish I were with them.........One of the tours stops at the Lafitte Guest House on Bourbon St. to see a mirror in which a ghost supposedly turns up from time to time. We stayed there once. Didn’t see any ghost. But we did stay in a room on the fifth floor, which was once inhabited by Tennessee Williams in his less successful days when the guest house was just a flop house. I was so excited to tell the family about this upon my return home, that I blurted out that I had stayed in the same room as Tennessee Tuxedo. They would be about as impressed either way. Tennessee Tuxedo was as obscure to them as Tennessee Williams. Well, Rick remembers Tennessee Tuxedo. And probably enjoys his ‘work’ more than that of Mr. Williams. So much for my brush with greatness.
One good reason........
from Victor Lams that I’m glad a very large lake is between Michigan and me. Altho, if I kept walking straight north I could still run into Michigan.

The election here in Illinois is not nearly as entertaining. The pro-choice people are pretty blatant and religion doesn’t come up much. I appreciate the lovely brochure that Personal PAC sent to me, with lovely picutres of who not to vote for. Spelling out the candidates who are 100% pro-choice is very helpful.

I’m so amused by a local candidate for State Senate who is obnoxious in her pro-choice stance, including big endorsements by Emily’s List, Planned Parenthood and Personal Pac. And she sends campaign literature to the priests at my parish. I know how things can get overlooked when large amounts of bulk mail are handled, but isn’t there some functionary who might see that the most egregious of this literature not get sent to a Catholic rectory? It’s a hoot when I sort the mail.
This makes up for being Flanders:

Congratulations, you're New Orleans, the wild city.
What US city are you? Take the quiz by Girlwithagun.
Is it just me or has Bravo turned into the Godfather network? All Godfather/all the time.

It’s probably just a phase - there was a time when I could turn on the tube and be guaranteed of finding Zulu somewhere. Whatever it takes to keep an overwrought housewife happy - young Michael Caine, young Al Pacino........
Lingua alert
Jeff Miller has gone to the trouble of translating the Our Father into Pig Latin. (or to go from Latin to Pig Latin - the Aterpay OsterNay). It’s not as easy as it looks......
We used to use a lot of pig latin to talk ‘around’ the children when they were little. Then they became quite fluent in it. And will speak to us in a urriedhay isperwhay when they are trying to communicate a secret.

If I have time I must start on a list of 1000 ways to humiliate and drive your children to distraction. Here’s a good one: I wrote a comment to Emily’s Latin teacher in Pig Latin. All in good fun. Not possessing the Latin necessary to communicate our pleasure with her progress, I simply wrote in the comment line of her report card: eway aray osay easedplay ithway erhay ogresspay. Emily’s take : otnay unnyfay
You’d never see this in my neighborhood........
Gerard has posted a beautiful picture of a procession thru central Lima, Peru. I wish things like this happened in our neighborhood.

Too bad I didn’t know about this a few weeks ago. It would have made for interesting conversation when I was privileged to meet the auxiliary bishop of Lima. Naturally I was tongue-tied and terrified of saying something stupid. (At work, too, my IQ goes into remission when a bishop or the Cardinal calls) My sister had also planted a bad idea in my head (we do like to do that to each other) and told me to make sure to ask if he had ever met Paddington Bear. So fighting that thought was my obsession for the evening. The bishop was charming and kind and obviously well practiced at dealing with the temporarily dumbstruck.

Friday, October 18, 2002

I must never look at the TV.......
Just when I thought it was safe.........up pops that Grandma who birthed her own grandchildren.
And everybody is laughing and chatting like this was the greatest idea sinced sliced bread.
I must stoop to quoting a popular catchphrase amongst the young crowd that passes thru my home.........KEEP IT IN THE CIRCUS!!!!!! (The appropriate rejoinder is for the group to yell, “FREAK”) I’m too polite to say that out loud, but I can think it here, can’t I?

Oooooh, Nooooo. Now’s there’s a bride in Green Bay being escorted down the aisle by her pug. Suitably attired. He does look cute, especially with the top hat, but this is a sacramental occassion for heaven’s sake. Please, Lord, tell me it’s not a Catholic Church. (And someone tell the pug, that a ‘gentledog’ removes his hat indoors, especially in Church)
The Archbishop of Canterbury is coming to Lake Forest for 3 days...........
Must pump the Princess for floral details..........
Martha said a friend had to bail on plans for tomorrow night because she has to sing at an Evensong service at which the Archbishop will be present..........’free’ tickets sold out.
Everyone psyched because it’s “like, you know, if the Pope came to town.”
Yeah.......except he ain’t the Pope.
A favorite personality
I was pleased when the New Yorker published Fierce Pajamas this year. This book is a great collection of seventy-five (I think?) years of New Yorker humor. Classic old stuff and great new material. I was relieved to find a favorite essay included, since I had lost the page I tore out of the magazine when I received it about 5 years ago. In this piece, the author talks about the decline in number of ‘personalities’ in the world of tennis (such as John McEnroe and Ilie Nastase) and then goes on to deconstruct the meaning of ‘personality.’ He boils it down to being a synonym for a word that starts with a and end with e (not Aristotle) with an ‘sshol’ in between. This essays can still make me laugh until I cry. And it started our familial use of the word ‘personality’ for when we meant the more vulgar personal assessment.

Which brings me to my point. Michael Medved has written a good review of Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine. Roger and Me was a good movie. Some family members found Mr. Moore to be ‘grating’ but I thought he had a certain honest, homespun charm. His short-lived TV series was OK. I thought he was kind of cute in a scruffy sort of way. He was on the Today Show last week. His interview confirmed what dawned on me when I read Stupid White Men one night at work (the fact that I could finish my work and read this whole book gives an approximation of its substance). Michael Moore is just a ‘personality.’ He’s either become one or it was just latent before. He doesn’t even look cute. My husband asked for a critique of his ‘look’ one morning and the easiest way to convey to him that he looked slovenly and not as bright as he is, was to say, “You’re starting to look like Michael Moore.” I try not to be critical of people’s looks, as this is superficial and something not always within a person’s control. But Mr. Moore is a personality and he’s doing a good job at looking the part. Oy, and then he opens his mouth and erases any doubt..........
One last Love Act to mention.......
I neglected all the people who come to my aid. Because of a torsion problem with my left hip, it is difficult unto impossible for me to put a sock on my left foot or tie my left shoe. And I forgot to mention all the family members who will ‘do my sock’ when I’m in a hurry. And my dear sister who has socked and shod me thru Paris and New Oreleans. Many thanks.
Right in my (150 mile radius) backyard
This icky retreat incident was written up in the Sun-Times but I didn’t find out about it until I looked atMark Shea’s blog.:
A fight between parents and a south suburban Catholic church over behavior on a religious retreat has resulted in their two children being expelled from parochial school.

The parents, Daniel and Anna Lisa Gianni, say their children are being punished because they complained that one of the children was forced to wear pantyhose over his clothes at the retreat.

This is creepy - making kids wear pantyhose as a retreat ‘icebreaker’ is just - creepy. For children who are more or less immune to doing the indignified it is creepy. For a shy person such as myself, I might have had to delay confirmation a good 20 years to adjust to the shock. A reserved person (such as my late father, who didn’t even like playing charades at family gatherings) might have found a new religion. And someone with social anxiety that Paxil can’t touch (like one of my sons).......well, who knows?

Thursday, October 17, 2002

With Outfits like these.......
The November issue of Vanity Fair arrived yesterday. It is still sealed in its plastic wrapper.
The wrapper is what I use as an incentive to finish my real keeps me from peeking and then drifting off reading and accomplishing nothing. This is the big Music Issue. From the looks of the cover, it is the skanky babes issue. The headline says, “With outfits like these, it must be THE MUSIC ISSUE.” Gwen Stefani, J-Lo, Sheryl Crow, Alicia Keyes - talented ladies - dressed up like...........? I’ll open it tonight anyway. Lured in by the promise of a Springsteen article. Oh, and Barry White. This should be interesting. In the world of ‘romantic’ popular music, I find Barry White to be too overproduced, too, perhaps, ‘rococo.’ I’m an Al Green girl myself. Tight precise production. No wasted noise or effort. It would be pleasing to read thru and see if the Rev. Al finally gets the credit he is due.
Now NARAL has TV Ads?
Check out this link at Catholic Exchange.
Sad. And the kids who appear in those ads........are there parents so heartless that they use their children to promote murder or do they just want to promote their little careers regardless of the ‘product?’
And then there’s Oprah....
There are probably 99 good reasons not to listen to Ms Winfrey. But she catches my attention...and sneaks into my brain just the same. I read a quote from Oprah the other day.
She tells us, “Do what you love..........and the money will follow.”

Show me the money Oprah. I love what I do. I love my family. I love teaching my children. I love my job at Church. So where’s the money? (I’m not implying that the church is late with the paycheck. But I haven’t been working as many hours as I would like)

Oprah aphorism may be true, in some areas of endeavor. But not all. I am wise enough not to buy into her philosophy hook, line and sinker. I am, nonetheless, rankled by hearing a woman who isn’t worried about keeping the heat below a certain level for the sole reason of staying out of ‘hot water’ with People’s Energy, tell me how the purity of my motivations will lead to material success. I am doing what I love, but if the money is following it is far behind. Maybe I should start an eponymous magazine. Yeah, that’s the ticket..........
Curiosity Salted the Snail
Or so says Sponge Bob. Looking thru the bookmarks I came across Gold Of Pleasure. This is the common name of an agricultural crop, (Camelina sativa L.) high in natural anti-oxidants, which my husband was doing some research on.

To my bad mind, I thought it was something either deeply spiritual or dreadfully obscene.
That didn’t stop me from clicking on it to see what it was. Oh, well.
a good day....
I did my Bible homework.
Bible study was good.
I probably talked too much, but when I’m on a roll...........
(If I see the leaders with duct tape next week, it’s not going to be for wart removal!)
Now it’s time to start my day job.........
I’ll dispute that.....
The claim on Disputations of being late to find this fascinating blog: Tenebrae. I’m usually the last to find out anything. (Were you aware that dark blue denim jeans are fashionable again?) If it weren’t for Dylan leaving a comment about singing Oblique House to the tune of...........well, it’s too awful to start again. Once that song gets in my brain I just can’t get it out. And heaven forbid my husband finds out, he can sing Brick House (oh, there I let it slip) with such dreadful abandon.

And he’s been so kind in his comments about me. I’m glad the tune thing led me look up his wonderful musings. Otherwise, I’d still be sitting here..........not aware.......... just wondering what to do with all those Beta videos........and faded jeans.......
For those of you who doubt...
the existence of World Famous Love Acts!!! (Fourth picture down) Karen and I aren’t the only ones to have a take on the juxtaposition of sin and salvation - love and ‘love.’
Is there such a thing as the Society for Neuroscience or is that just the name given to a group of guys who go out every year and do the Mardi Gras thing? Either way, I might be interested in joining.

I appreciate the zeal of the street evangelists. It’s not an easy place to work (altho in February I’d rather stand outside and preach in New Orleans than in Chicago). Maybe we need more preachers like that everywhere. My soul is probably in more peril every time I walk into my local Target - the temptations there are more insidious and subtle. If there were just someone in the Target parking lot to remind me not to worry too much of the tangible and transitory things of this world. (Of which Target sells many delightful examples.........)
News Flash..........New Jersey
Anyone remember an old Harry Chapin song about a truck crashing with 10,000 pounds of bananas? Fox News just showed something similar in New Jersey. A truck has crashed and disgorged itself of an amazing amount of frozen chickens. No injuries. That is quite amazing. If those chickens had fallen out while the truck wasn’t moving there still could have been a number of serious foot fractures to anyone standing too close. A six pound roaster escaped from my freezer the other day, missing my foot by less than an inch. Could have been serious...........

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

If I can’t be a good example.......
I’ll have to be a bad warning. This is the year I took the final leap into Church Ladyland and signed up for a Bible study. It was the third year they invited me and this might have been my third strike, so what the heck. I could use this - couldn’t most of us? I felt a lot more sincere talking to the boys about St. Jerome and his admonition about the ignorance of scripture knowing that I am trying to overcome this ignorance. And as a homeschooler who has the luxury of Dad home in the morning to be with the boys, I can consider it part of my ‘continuing education.’ Now I must get off of the computer and do my homework. Which I have had 2 weeks to do, and now I’m down to a mere 12 hours............tsk, tsk

World Famous Love Acts!!!
My sister left on her road trip to New Orleans this afternoon. It hasn’t been easy to keep my envy in check, especially since she had me look up a bunch of addresses and info because all of her travel books are in storage while her new house is being built. Paging thru those books reminded me of places I had forgotten that I wanted to return to.

When Karen called to ask me for any souvenir requests, I asked for the usual. Maybe another French Market coffee mug or some more Mardi Gras decorations. (The Mardi Gras decorations are on my top ten list of ways to embarrass your children - you’ve never seen such a group of teenagers happy to greet Ash Wednesday.) In the course of our conversation, we talked about World Famous Love Acts!!! There is an establishment on Bourbon Street - we’re not even sure this is the name - that we always notice because of its big neon sign advertising World Famous Love Acts!!! We shudder and walk on by, not wanting to think about what they are showing in this place. The conversation later in the evening, usually over a few cocktails and many shrimp, turns to how fabulous it would be if people gleefully paid their admission and found, upon entering, tableaux of real World Famous Love Acts!!! It is fun to come up with our nominees for the show - some of my favorites: bone marrow donors, Missionaries of Charity picking maggots off of lepers, St. Maximillian Kolbe, a friend of mine, with plenty of troubles of her own, who still takes the time and effort to drive a load of surplus frozen foods up to a food pantry in a neighboring community. People want to see love, we sure could show it to them.

So, I told Karen if she sees a shirt that says, “Ask me about World Famous Love Acts!!!,” I would love to have one.

Another thought on the anniversary of JPII’s Papacy......
counting our blessings....

If you’re reading this Emily, you probably won’t really know how cool it is until you are my age.......
I remember when Pope Paul VI died the summer of ‘78. I remember exactly where I was when John Paul I died - I was a newlywed working as a temp. office worker. In a steel mill. (It was a living........) I remember when John Paul II was elected. He was so impressive. And I wasn’t even a Catholic.

My children have grown up with one amazing Pope as head of their Church. (Sorry I didn’t have the presence of mind so that they would all be ‘cradle Catholics’)

This is just one of those moments when you look back at 24 years and think, where did the time go? It’s enough to make one’s head spin. I was your age, Em, when John Paul II was elected.

It is wonderful that the Pope has dedicated a special year to the Rosary. Encouraging for those of us who are already practicing this devotion and a nudge to those who think it is passe. (Like maybe a DRE who I was teaching for who didn’t think the rosary was ‘appropriate’ for young children. Right. If a certain 8 year-old in my family can handle at least one decade, any child can......) It’s even being mentioned on the TV. The Tribune had an article yesterday, complete with a chart on how the Rosary is prayed. (it was missing the Fatima prayer, but still, this was the Tribune showing how to pray the Rosary - talk about weird) When was the last time we saw rosaries in the media, other than as totemic devices to indicate ‘old school religious nut?’

Now I need to find a mnemonic device to help me learn the luminous mysteries. For ages, I had to keep the letters ASCCC in mind when praying the sorrowful mysteries. (agony, scourging,crowning,carrying, crucifixion.) BWATE should work - baptism,wedding,announcement,Transfiguration,Eucharist. Kingdom would be better for announcement of the Kingdom, but I need a vowel in there.
If I were a Rich Woman........
Karl Schudt of Summa Contra Mundum is job hunting.
If I were fabulously well-to-do I could hire him to be my house philosopher. That would extremely helpful. Luxurious........And I could turn that whole sticky mess with teaching Traditional Logic I over to him.

I will, indeed, pray for his job prospects and will call him immediately should my fortunes change.
He’s hyper, but I like him........
A business pundit on CNN said that Steven the Dell kid may be on his way out.
Talk about corporate ingratitude - after all he’s done for them.

Pater says Apple should swoop in and sign him when his contract lapses. He could say something along the lines of , “Dude, you coulda had an iMac”

Dell may very well have some sort of copyright on the word “Dude.” And it is a little too close to Wow, I coulda had a V-8.

If Steven is going, could he take the “Dude” with him? (ie - would it be possible to never have to hear anyone say dude again?) PLEASE.......
This is just too.........
There is a story about a woman who gave birth to her grandchildren. Not that this is the first time it has happened. Will it become a whole new genre in the area of grandparenting? Grandmas shouldn’t feel put upon when asked to babysit - after all, there are grandmothers who are willing to carry out the whole gestation process. Doesn’t this sort of up the ante on maternal devotion? Or is it just like some bad song from the Dr. Demento show?

The Irish Princess showed up at breakfast on Sunday and requested a crepe when the rest of us were having pancakes. I knew I was being a little too indulgent, but I just added a little extra milk to some batter, threw it in a crepe pan and voila! Well, now I know where the ultimate line would have to be drawn. I’ll drive you around, I’ll lend you money, I’ll take in your indigent friends, I’ll even make you a crepe, but don’t ask me to carry your children. That’s just wrong.

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

Now that my head is so big I could pass for a balloon in Macy’s Parade......
I just am getting around to catching up with computer stuff - had a busy day getting caught up after time lost to the dentist. And will have to plan on the next couple of Mondays being less than stellar.....until this tooth thing passes. (Luckily, I could speak adequately by the time I got to work. And I’m fortunate that I’m not answering phones for “St. Francis,” since it is S’s and F’s that give me the most trouble when my mouth is numb)

Now I see myself mentioned on Tom Abbott and Steven Riddle’s blogs. I’m extremely flattered. Thank you. This could go to a girl’s head.

There is some sort of Blogger server problem. Another load of laundry, some dishes and, I’ll admit it, watching Judging Amy, then I’ll try again. It doesn’t take much to get me confused.
Go ahead, Emily, smirk. At least I’m trying.

an hour later.........
Still keep getting a server error with Blogger. Of course, I’m taking this personally.
And Netscape keeps crashing.

This explains...........
why the vacuum cleaner doesn’t have warts!
An involved scientific study found duct tape to be effective (if not time consuming) in the treatment of warts. It is thought that irritation caused by the tape stimulates an immune response which ‘kills’ the wart. Or destroys the virus causing the wart. Or something along that line.

This is reassuring. We always have plenty of duct tape.
(And I can’t resist the temptation to say that one could always apply an essay by Garry Wills to the wart - with duct tape, of course - to crank the irritation up a notch.)

Monday, October 14, 2002

More Computer News........
With Netscape 7, even those guest maps work.
This is fun...........
Computer News........
Now we’re back with Netscape. But it’s just a little different. So I’m still confused.
But..........the good news is that Netscape allows me to avoid the Javascript errors that locked up the machine when I would try to read the comments on other blogs. So I’m back to being obnoxious again.........
Somebody here needs paper dolls.......
No, not the boys.
Martha did get a set of Pride and Prejudice paper dolls last Christmas.
These are even better. They’re nuns.
I wonder if the habits would fit my Ellyn paper doll? (She’s packed away on account of her weak neck. I was hardly allowed to play with her as a child. She was so fascinating, my face on a paper doll.) That would be fun.......
Memento Mori
I was laughing at the people on Oprah this morning who are afraid of aging and facing the world without cosmetics. (I only saw a little bit of the show, but I thought it was rather pathetic.) Of course, an hour in the dentist’s chair gave me time for reflection on my lack of charity. And it dawned on me that most people have something that reminds them, uncomfortably, of time and the inevitability of physical death.

This is the time of year that we receive the politely phrased letter from Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center asking if Mr. v. is still alive and, if so, how’s he doin’? If a scar that goes half-way around his abdomen/back isn’t reminder enough of his rare benign -yet- malignant- tumor -which -was -removed -but -only -with -a- brush- with -death isn’t reminder enough, he gets a form letter every year asking if he is still alive. Although there is something life-affirming in writing back, “Yes, I’m fine, thank you.”

Yesterday morning, while hustling to get breakfast on the table and pull the troops together in time for Mass at 10:30 am, I was humming along with Breakfast with the Beatles. Until I was taken aback by an obscure George Harrison song - all I can remember is his singing about loosing one’s teeth. This was not funny. So there’s my Memento Mori - anything having to do with dental despair.

Both of my parents had not-real-good teeth. So they took care of mine like I was some sort of show pet. Fluoride tablets (to compensate for well water), fluoride treatments, constant brushing, flossing, cleaning. And good health habits. (Until stress caused me to turn to things like Twizzlers. But I’m done with those babies.....) I’ve never smoked. I can only think of two times in my life when I when to sleep without brushing......

There was the stupid summer night during my college years when I came home so inebriated that I fell asleep in my sister’s bed. And she was in it. And when she pushed me out, I didn’t even stop to brush. (All I can say in my defense? At least I wasn’t driving that night.)
And there was the blissful night that Eddie was born in the first floor guest room of our old house and I neglected to ask for someone to bring me my toothbrush.

And still. Time marches on. Decay snuck in around a filling I had put in twenty years ago. I, too, have my fears. Call me, Oprah. We’ll talk.
*$#*$(!#! or when bad teeth happen to ‘good’ people
Root canal. Starting next Monday when the nerve in my tooth has calmed down enough to work on it.

‘Thkool’ temporarily cancelled until the teacher’s upper lip unfreezes enough to talk.

So I curled up on the couch to pout and watch the news.
Fox News Channel had an encouraging short item about the resurgence of Latin in American education. Some children appeared to be dancing the Mexican Hat Dance while chanting, “sum,.es, est, sumus, estis, sunt.” Excuse me, but we invented that. Oh, well, it only works with your shorter verbs. For example, “ambulo, ambulas, ambulat,” becomes more difficult. Especially if you try to dance while conjugating.

St. Isidore Foundation

I cannot live under pressures from patrons, let alone paint.
-- Michelangelo, quoted in Vasari's Lives of the Artists

Meet the Family...
Collect the Action Figures

Yes, three jade ribbons. 15 Years!
(not all the same child)
If you need to ask, you may not wish to know.

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