Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy birthday, Kitten!

Today, my sweet oldest daughter turns 18!  Since she's now an adult (!!) I'm going to turn this whole post over to her--except for this sentence, in which I tell you that she is wonderful, amazing, talented, beautiful, and so organized that I depend on her for just about everything.

Here she is:

Hi everyone!  Today I officially turn eighteen.  It doesn't seem possible, does it?  

When I was younger, I was sure that by the time I turned eighteen I would have everything figured out.  It turns out that that is not the case at all, but I have gotten better at faking it.  ;)

I've had a wonderful year with many exciting events.  Perhaps one of the most exciting events was finishing my first semseter of college with a 4.0.  Another really exciting event for me was winning 4th place in a short story writing contest at my college.  Other exciting events included starting my own blog.   :)

I am still learning to play the guitar and I am happy to report that I have gotten much better at it.  I was even able to play a few Christmas carols this year.  I credit my success to the teacher at Justin Guitar, a free online guitar lesson website.  I want to take a minute to explain this guitar website to you all.  The person who teaches the guitar is an accomplished guitarist who, aside from teaching guitar lessons, has been in several bands and has a new album out for sale.  He wants everyone to learn guitar, so he puts all of his professional lessons online, in a video format, for free.  All he asks is that people who use the site donate money if they can.  I really appreciate what he has done, and if any of you are interested in picking up guitar, I highly recommend him.

Tackling the Korean language is still a project of mine, and although I have lots to learn, I am pleased to report that I have learned a lot more words and I am learning to write the language.  It's been a blast and I can't wait to keep learning more.

On the subject of Korean, I am having a South Korean themed birthday party today.  Dad and I started the celebrating a little early by going to the best Korean restaurant in town yesterday afternoon.  It is an authentic Korean restaurant run by a Korean family.  The food there is the best and getting to see some of the Korean culture while you eat is amazing.  While I was out with Dad my sisters decorated the house with decorations such as paper lamps and pictures in a Korean style.  Tonight, Mom is making a Korean style dinner and I plan to watch some Korean television after we come back from Mass.

I hope all of you have a great day and a happy New Year.  God bless you!

                                       
(Since I'm eighteen, I'm going to put a picture of me on the blog.  This is from yesterday while we were at the Korean restaurant)

Monday, December 30, 2013

The seventy-five percent

News articles and opinion pieces discussing the continuing controversy over Eastside Catholic's radical decision actually to act like a Catholic school for once (and not an "...exclusive private school in the Catholic tradition...") have made mention of a curious statistic: the claim that at least seventy-five percent of the students at the school are protesting against the school's decision to fire the "married" gay administrator and demanding that not only the school, but Church teaching as well, should change at once to suit their totally erroneous ideas and heretical notions.

Why is "at least seventy-five percent" a curious statistic?  Because it closely tracks to the number of US Catholics who don't show up for Mass on Sundays, a number that is actually around 76 or 77 percent.  Only twenty-three or twenty-four percent of Catholics in the United States of America bother to haul their hindquarters out of bed on Sunday mornings (let alone popping in to a local parish on Saturday night) to fulfill the Sunday Mass obligation--and let's just remember that failing to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of obligation without a valid reason for your absence (such as illness, the care of children, an unprecedented ice storm such that your pastor can't even make it to Mass himself, etc.) is a serious sin, which, under the usual conditions, can be a mortal sin--you know, the kind that could keep you from making it to Heaven.

I am not claiming that the students engaged in the silly, nitwit protest over Church teaching at Eastside Catholic are among the seventy-five percent of Catholics who don't make it to Church on Sundays, of course--some of them may still show up, either because their parents expect it or because they earnestly believe that they will "reform" the Church from within, and dream of such stupid things as a female priestesshood and other vanities.  Or maybe Mass attendance is just a habit they haven't yet "outgrown," as some of their peers on the protest line most likely already have.  What I am claiming is that I would be radically surprised, should diocesan Catholic schools ever survey their graduates to find out how many of them still attend Mass on Sundays within ten years of their graduation, if the number was even as high as twenty-five percent.

It is one thing--a scandalous thing, to be sure, but one thing--if in a post-Christian nation which is openly hostile to religious faith seventy-five percent of the people steeped in narcissistic autonomy with a side of soul-deadening consumerism fall away from the practice of their faith.  It is another thing altogether if Catholic parents are paying for Catholic education as a counter to that corrosive culture only to discover that their children are being handed the scorpions of trendy approval and protests in favor of the Mortal Sin of the Week instead of the Bread of Truth, with the result that their children fall away at the same or even higher rates than the rate of those who didn't receive the "gift" of a diocesan Catholic education.  When paying anywhere from five to twenty thousand dollars a year for a Catholic education produces as many heretics as the public schools produce, why should anybody sign up for diocesan Catholic education at all? 

The media is focusing on the obnoxious loud ignorant students whose words are as embarrassing as their actions, but the kids I'm concerned about here are the twenty-five percent, the ones who go quietly to Mass with their families and ponder a religious vocation and keep informed about Church teaching and go on Confirmation retreats even when they know more than the retreat leaders ever will about the Catechism already--and who know quite clearly, and can even express articulately, why "gay marriage" is an ontological impossibility that no clear-thinking Catholic can ever support.  Because they, the twenty-five percent, are the real future of the Church. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve

Just popping in to wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas!  Blogging will continue to be spotty until after the New Year.

I want to share Hatchick's Christmas comic with you!  Here it is:
Merry Christmas to all!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Exhibit A: Why Catholic Education is a Rip-Off

So, in Seattle, a Catholic high school had to fire an administrator after school officials found out the guy had gone and gotten gay-married without mentioning that to his employers.   The so-called "Catholic" students at the school are protesting:
On Thursday afternoon the Sammamish school announced that Friday classes would be canceled and the school would close early for Christmas break due to forecast snow “and in light of the difficult day” the school had had after hundreds of students staged a sit-in and rally against the dismissal that drew widespread media attention.

Their protest spread via texts and Twitter to students at other area Catholic schools. Seattle Preparatory School students showed solidarity with a similar protest. [...]

Sophia Cerino, a freshman at Eastside Catholic, said most students support the rights of gays to marry.

“Just because I’m Catholic doesn’t mean I need to believe every rule the church has,” Cerino said. “We think the rule over gay marriage is totally unfair. Everyone seems to think the same thing — that we should all be treated equal.”

Clearly this Catholic high school isn't teaching the Catholic faith.  Or grammar, for that matter.

Now, how much do Catholic parents pay to send their children to this cesspool of heresy?  According to the school website:
For the 2013-14 school year tuition (before scholarship or tuition grants) is $18,995. There is a $25 application fee and a $500 non-refundable enrollment fee for incoming students and transfer students, payable at the time of enrollment. Returning students are charged a $350 non-refundable enrollment fee annually. [...]

See, kiddies, if you want your children to lose their faith altogether, if you want them to organize protests and sit-ins because the mean old Catholic church won't celebrate the gay wedding of a school administrator, if you want to raise children with the morality and virtue of Roman courtesans--the cheapest ones--you can have this privilege for just under twenty-thousand bucks a year.

I attended a Seattle-area Catholic school a few decades ago.  The handful of us kids who were actually Catholic, who understood that sex outside of marriage was wrong (instead of complaining that the mean ol' Church frowned on Catholic girls using condoms with their boyfriends, when everybody knew that was the right way to date a guy), were pretty much constantly attacked for our beliefs both by the teachers and by our fellow students.  That was the breaking point for my parents, who started homeschooling us the year I was a sophomore in high school at one of those cesspools not unlike Eastside Catholic--in fact, I recall touring Eastside Catholic with my parents because they were really hoping that there was at least one authentic Catholic school left in that diocese, and they were disappointed to find out that, if anything, Eastside was a bit further gone along the road to heresy, moral midgetry, and overall spoiled-bratism than the school we were presently attending.

Clearly, nothing has changed.  Except the tuition, which is more outrageous than ever.  I am starting to think that the dire situation of the Catholic Church in America won't change until factories of rot like this one are shuttered by the bishops, solemnly destroyed by expert demolition crews, and then the ground they stood on spread with blessed salt while prayers of exorcism are intoned with serious purpose.  Then, just maybe, it might be possible to rebuild actual Catholic schools instead of cute and pricey little heretic factories, which are good at churning out "former," "lapsed," and "ex-" Catholics, but not much else.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

...and Amazon already has it on sale!

Just checked in at Amazon, and saw that A Smijj of Adventure is on sale at present for just under $11.00.  I have no control over their discounts and have no idea how long this sale price will last, but I just wanted to share the news!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Available on Amazon! A Smijj of Adventure!

Guess what?  A Smijj of Adventure is now available to order at Amazon.com!  Depending on where you are and what shipping method you choose, you may even still be able to get your copy in time for Christmas!

Go here to order:

A Smijj of Adventure

Many, many thanks to my endlessly patient readers!

I do still plan to get the Kindle edition ready as soon as I can.  But I'm thrilled that the print copy is available before Christmas! :)
 

A Smijj of Adventure...

...will be available soon on Amazon.  I'll post the link just as soon as the title appears.  Again, this is the part of the process I don't control--I'm still hoping the book will be available before Amazon's Christmas shipping cut off, but I don't know for sure.

In the meantime, if you don't necessarily need the book to arrive by Christmas, you can order A Smijj of Adventure directly from the Create Space eStore here:

A Smijj of Adventure

Based on Create Space's estimate of print and ship times, I think this book might arrive by Epiphany instead of Christmas.  By then, though, it should also be available at Amazon.

I'll put up a new post when the book appears at Amazon; I'll also be working on the Kindle format soon.

Thanks to all my patient readers!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Working and waiting

Those of you waiting for A Smijj of Adventure--we're almost there.  I'm still hoping to get this out in time for last-minute Christmas ordering, but some parts of the process are out of my control, as I'm sure you can guess.

If anyone has a child on his or her shopping list who really wants this book for Christmas and you'd rather buy an Amazon gift card or certificate now than wait with me for Create Space to finish up the process, I can tell you that the book's list price should be $13.49, if that will help with a gift card purchase!  I'm sure Amazon will offer discounts on that price at some point, but again, I don't control that part of the process.  (And in case anybody wants to know why this list price is slightly higher than the list price of The Telmaj, it's because Create Space's pricing formula depends on the number of pages in the finished book; The Telmaj had 258 pages of story, while A Smijj of Adventure has 285.  Most of the later books in the series are between there and 300 pages, so fans of longer stories should take heart!)

Many thanks to those of you who have been waiting so patiently for this book to come out.  As always, the edit and review process takes me so much longer than I ever think it will, especially since I'm still a homeschooling mom with lots on my plate.  So your enthusiasm for more Tales of Telmaja books and stories and your kind emails have meant a lot to me, and I appreciate all of my readers so, so much!

I'm going to start working on the edits of book three in the series soon, and my goal this time is to have it available well before December, if all goes well.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Swamped...

...not by melting ice, but by a certain writing project that is nearing completion.

Tales of Telmaja/Smijj fans: I should have VERY GOOD news to announce before the end of the week about the availability of at least the paperback version of A Smijj of Adventure.  Stay tuned!

Monday, December 9, 2013

This is not snow, by the way...

...this is ice:


That was our backyard this weekend.  Beyond the fence is a wilderness area, and while it almost appears in the photo that the ice is melting, those things sticking up are not grass, but tall plants.  There's plenty of ice covering the ground below them which isn't really visible in the picture.

This is why our pastor again cancelled the Masses for today's Feast of the Immaculate Conception (which was not a Holy Day of Obligation this year).  He still couldn't get to either of the churches in our parish!

There was some melting today, which is good, and by tomorrow afternoon I think things will be back to normal.  Whatever "normal" is, in a Texas winter.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

It is NOT a sin to miss Mass due to impossibly icy roads

I know I don't usually post on Saturdays, but we received an unprecedented email from our pastor this evening, letting us know that all Sunday Masses (including the ones scheduled for tonight) were canceled for the weekend.  I've never lived somewhere where all Sunday Masses were canceled due to inclement weather, but then again, I've never lived somewhere where all the roads, the church parking lot, and the walkway up to the church were solid sheets of ice either--and here in Texas there just isn't enough road-clearing equipment to get the job done, especially when the high temperatures will remain either at or below freezing until Monday afternoon.

Some other parishes in the area didn't have to cancel Masses because one or more of the parish priests lives on the church premises and can say Mass whether or not the congregation can be there.  As one such parish noted on its website, though, "Those that can not safely make it to the church have had their obligation dispensed.  So please use caution and your best judgment to stay safe."

It's a good reminder to all of us who will experience inclement weather this weekend.  It is not a sin to miss Mass on a Sunday when you are putting yourself or others at risk of harm in an attempt to get to the church.  Icy roads are a serious hazard to safe travel, and if you can't leave your house and safely get to work or the store or anyplace else, you aren't under an obligation to drive on those same roads to try to make it to Sunday Mass.

How dangerous is too dangerous?  While that will obviously depend on your location, your means of travel, your experience driving on snow or ice, etc., I find that one good place to check is your local department of transportation.  Right now, ours shows locations of ice all over local roadways, contains comments such as "Travel discouraged due to black ice;" and a Tweet from a local Txdot official says that road clearing equipment is being brought in from out of state, but local residents can help by staying off the roads tonight and tomorrow.  Other advisories in our area say quite clearly that any non-emergency travel is discouraged.  When the people responsible for maintaining safe roadways tell you that travel is a bad idea, I tend to listen.

UPDATE: Several area churches are reporting that Msgr. Berg, the Fort Worth Diocesan Administrator, has granted a dispensation from attending Mass in the Fort Worth Diocese due to the weather.  I've never seen this done--historic, I think!
Those that can not safely make it to the church have had their obligation dispensed. So please use caution and your best judgment to stay safe. - See more at: http://www.iccdenton.org/#sthash.tLldfMhM.dpuf

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Santa repost roundup

Happy St. Nicholas Day!  My children, who are teens and therefore old enough to be Santa's helpers themselves, were nonetheless charmed and delighted with their St. Nicholas Day treats when they awoke today.  They were mainly charmed and delighted because a) they sometimes think we'll forget, though we never have, and b) we're iced in, here in Fort Worth.  Planning ahead paid off this year! :)

Since it's usually around this time of year that the polite and charitable suggestion that says "Santa is a lie!  Stop lying to your kids!" gets posted on people's blogs, I thought I'd post a handy link list to some of my posts on the subject here.

My Santa essay

Sex, lies and Santa Claus

We need St. Nicholas

Wishing you and yours a blessed St. Nicholas Day! 



Thursday, December 5, 2013

Look at the fruits...

A report from the life-after-RC blog shares this story from the National Catholic Register:
ROME — The Legion of Christ has expressed its “deep sorrow” after internal investigations revealed that a Legionary priest has been found guilty of sexually abusing a minor.

The charges against Legionary Father William Izquierdo involve a novice when Father Izquierdo served as instructor of novices in Cheshire, Conn., between 1982 and 1994.

Legionary Father Luis Garza, North American territorial director of the congregation, was informed of the case in July 2012, the Legion said, and added that a third party and independent investigation of the allegation then took place that concluded in August of this year, ruling that the allegation was true. [Emphasis added--E.M.]

But that's not all:
A total of 35 Legionary priests have been accused of sexual abuse of minors throughout the congregation’s history, the Legion has revealed, although Father Clariond told the Register he expected more to emerge in the future. Of these 35, nine have been found guilty (including the founder) and punished canonically (two were laicized, and seven had sanctions imposed on their life and ministry), 14 have been acquitted (10 priests were found innocent after an investigation was made, according to Canon 1717 of the Code of Canon Law; the other four cases involved imprudent behavior, but not crimes that would require sanctions), and two had already left the ministry when the allegations were presented, and, therefore, no canonical procedures were initiated against them. Ten other cases are still under review.

Of six accused Legionary of Christ superiors and formators, three have been found guilty of sexually abusing adults under their authority, one of whom includes Maciel. The other three have been acquitted. Two cases were judged to have been imprudent behavior that did not warrant restrictions on ministry. The other case allegedly occurred 40 years ago, but the accusation was made recently. Even though the investigation pointed to his innocence, by common consent, restrictions were imposed on the priest, “in an abundance of caution,” the Legion said. The spokesman didn't clarify how many acquittals were civil or canonical in nature, but said they were a combination of the two. [Emphasis above added--E.M.]


The Legion, according to the article, hastens to point out that the percentages of abusers or those guilty of improper conduct are still quite small.

You know what gets me about this?  When Fr. Maciel was still living and still running the order, the refrain from many Legion supporters was "Look at the fruits!"  That is, look at all the good the Legion was doing in forming and teaching solidly orthodox Catholics who could then go out and make a difference in the world, taking over moribund parish education programs, inspiring youth with alternatives to the parish youth group, and inspiring young men to join the Legion of Christ as seminarians!

Why is it that when the "fruits" show that a novice director is one of those found guilty of abusing a minor (one minor--so far?) and that Maciel's culture of deceit and spiritual blackmail and silence in the face of problems only helped other abusers to hide their abuse, that isn't considered to be one of the "fruits" of a toxic order that has yet to define its charism?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A life stolen

I can't get this story out of my mind:
The next day, it was all taken away. The dream became a nightmare.

Christine, his wife, was attacked and killed at their home in Williamson County, Texas, just outside Austin. Michael Morton was at work at the time. Still, authorities suspected him.

"Innocent people think that if you just tell the truth then you've got nothing to fear from the police," Morton says now. "If you just stick to it that the system will work, it'll all come to light, everything will be fine."

Instead, Morton was charged, ripped away from his boy, and put on trial. The prosecutor, speaking to the jury in emotional terms with tears streaming down his face, laid out a graphic, depraved sexual scenario, accusing Morton of bludgeoning his wife for refusing to have sex on his birthday.

"There was no scientific evidence, there was no eyewitness, there was no murder weapon, there was no believable motive," Morton says. "... I didn't see how any rational, thinking person would say that's enough for a guilty verdict."
But with no other suspects, the jury convicted him. "We all felt so strongly that this was justice for Christine and that we were doing the right thing," says Mark Landrum, who was the jury foreman.

Morton spent nearly 25 years in prison.
But Michael Morton wasn't guilty.  And his conviction was a travesty of justice:
A few years ago, a group of attorneys, working pro bono on Morton's behalf, managed to bring the truth to light. Not only was Morton innocent, but the prosecutor, Ken Anderson, was accused of withholding crucial evidence. 

The little boy, Eric, had seen the attack and told relatives that daddy was not home at the time. He described the man who did it. Neighbors had described a man parking a green van behind the Mortons' house and walking off into a wooded area. A blood-stained bandana was found nearby. None of that evidence made it into the trial.

It took years of fighting, but Morton's attorneys finally got the bandana tested for DNA. It contained Christine Morton's blood and hair and the DNA of another man -- a convicted felon named Mark Norwood.

Norwood had killed Christine Morton. And since no one figured that out after her death, he remained free. He killed another woman in the Austin area, Debra Baker, in similar circumstances less than two years later, authorities say.

Norwood has now been convicted in Morton's killing, and indicted in Baker's killing.
Morton was freed in October 2011. He was 57 years old. "I thank God this wasn't a capital case," he said. [Emphasis added--E.M.]

I think we should all be thankful that Morton's case wasn't a capital case, that he wasn't executed as his wife's killer before the truth could be revealed.  I also think it is quite probable that an innocent person (at least one) has been executed for a crime in our modern state, and that we may never find out about it if so.

But as thankful as Michael Morton is that he has been cleared and released, the truth is that twenty-five years of his life was stolen from him.  His chance to raise his son was stolen from him.  His chance to live as a free man and even to grieve properly for his wife's murder was taken away by the zeal of a prosecutor who hid crucial evidence that could have cleared him shortly after the murder.

One of the reasons I've become convinced that the death penalty, while not an intrinsic evil like abortion or torture, is still something Catholics today ought generally to oppose is precisely because of cases like this one.  Prosecutors can be wrong.  Evidence can be concealed or even falsified if the pressure to produce a conviction is strong enough.  Innocent people can be framed by the guilty. 

In time the truth may be known.  But when it takes twenty-five years for a man who wasn't even at home at the time his wife was killed to clear his name and be restored to his family, we ought to be wary of advocating for the execution of convicted criminals.

UPDATE: A reader shares the awful sequel to this story: the prosecutor convicted of concealing evidence was sentenced to ten days in jail.  And served five.  Five days, for stealing a man's life from him.  Words fail.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Cupcakes



Just sharing a picture of the birthday cupcakes Bookgirl made for me.

We've been having a fun day celebrating!  I get spoiled on my birthday around here.   :)

Monday, December 2, 2013

An Advent blogging experiment

Before I get to the subject of this post, I want to share a link to my sister-in-law's blog today; at #4 in her post you will find all of my Jesse Tree reflections gathered into one Scribd document along with links to her lovely printable symbols.  I may be needing to print them out myself if I don't find our Jesse Tree--I realized yesterday that I'm so used to the Jesse Tree readings starting on a day other than the first Sunday that I hadn't gotten the Jesse Tree and its symbols out, and now I can't find the darned thing! :) 

Now, on to my Advent blogging experiment.

As you know, I've been a bit flaky this year with the blogging.  I've felt like something needed to change, and I spent quite a bit of time playing around with WordPress to change the look and feel of the blog before deciding I'm just not ready to switch platforms.  I've also noticed that life in general and fiction writing in particular is taking up more and more of my time, leaving a bit less time for the blogging.

While my blog traffic remains pretty consistent, I admit that I don't pay that much attention to stats anymore.  Lots of people have advised me to move my blog to Facebook because everybody has done this, but I hate Facebook even more than I hate Blogger (and that's saying something).  I keep up with a handful of blogs, but rarely comment on most of them (Rod Dreher's blog is the biggest exception, but somehow he manages to keep his comment threads like a real conversation--and believe me, I know how much work that takes).  And I've noticed that I don't get all that many comments here anymore--or, rather, I don't get all that many that I can approve and post; there are a depressingly large number of people in the world who feel free to put all sorts of sludge in your comment boxes, and even though I send these straight to the trash it takes time to read them and realize they're trash and send them that way.

So my Advent experiment is going to be this: I'm going to post more regularly, but for the season of Advent, I'm turning comments off completely.

I've never tried this before, and have never really wanted to do it.  But since comments have been dwindling (at least here; I suppose when people share my posts on Facebook they may comment on them over there, but I never see that), I don't know if it's really necessary for me to keep comments open on my blog.  I think the experiment will let me know for sure.