Friday, August 1, 2014

Sequels and Prequels I'm Not Writing

10) Helen and the Sparkly Vampires. She doesn't like to be outshone by anyone.

9) Helen vs. Sharknado. "It's really more Odysseus's kind of thing." she said.

8) The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Mediterranean, by Nobody. Working title, I had trouble getting to Ithaca too.

7) He Had it Coming --Clytemnestra's Story.

6) Over 399 ways to Kill Your Enemies, a Practical Guide. --By Hector, Achilles and Several Other Heroes who killed more but get virtually no press.

5) "1000 tips to launch your First Ship, Extreme Makeovers" Pitched it to Helen, but she said, "If you're not going to bother to move at least an armada, it's not worth the trouble."

4) Looking Gift Horses in the Mouth and Other Truths from Beyond the Ilium Wall --by Paris.

3) She Came with Baggage, We should Have sent her packing --penned by Queen Hecuba before the sacking of Troy and the gods turned her into a canine. "Even before that happened, she was like a dog with a bone, she just wouldn't let this go." --Helen.

2) The Bachelorette: Ithaca Season. 104 Suitors, One throne, One Woman. This was nixed due to concerns it was rigged and that the main contestant didn't have any interest in any of the potential men vying for her hand.

1) A new version of the Iliad, three times longer than the original text, with more women in it so as to have parity, and maybe a new villain, like some necromancer type orc and a romance that isn't in the original sources.
If you're wondering, The Book of Penelope, 71K and growing. But I wanted to be silly for a change.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Other Side of the Story

Adolescence isn't easy, especially when you are trying to carve out your own identity and feel so utterly stamped by your family.  I know the instant we show up somewhere, with the big van and the sheer numbers, (not to mention the loudness of some of our children who have not learned to curb their natural enthusiasm in order to draw less attention to our grand exiting of said vehicle), we've already driven our teens crazy. 
The older ones cope by appearing to be "responsible adults," grabbing the nearest cutest toddler and becoming their sole custodians for any outing we might take.   It's the middle ones who struggle.  They do not want the task of caring for a younger sibling, or the association with all the other younger siblings.  Being part of a mob of children and unable to escape, my teens struggle to maintain their cool, and to look cool. 
The other day, I read Matt's piece "I'd Kill Myself if I Had That Many Kids."  It bothered me because while I've been on the receiving end of this sort of thinking many a time, I also know some of my own children have leveled a parallel charge at me when they feel underserved. "There's too many!" they shout.  "I don't want to be in such a big family. It's too big!"  It is a weapon in the teen arsenal, sometimes effective, sometimes not, but indicative of the corrosive thinking that permeates our secular culture.  
Yesterday, I heard the canard one too many times.  So I called the two leveling such charges to come outside and told them to knock it off.  Lectures as a rule, don't work, which is a shame because I'm good at it.  So I did the next best thing.  I told them a story.  
Before I had my own children, I worked as a special needs teacher and took my students to a McDonald's.  The manager and I had become friends over the year, with her coming to sit down and visit with me and the students each time we came for lunch.   She let on that she was one of ten children. 
I started to wax poetical about how much I loved my Dad's extended family and having tons of Aunts and Uncles and cousins but she shook her head.  "I had too many siblings." 
I asked without thinking, "How many of your brothers and sisters do you think should never have been born?"  It floored her and silenced the up until then easy flow of conversation.  "What do you mean?" she said, her hand over her heart, as if I'd stabbed it.  I was 26 at the time, so I can't blame youth, but tact has never been my strong suit.
I explained, "You said there were too many, so which ones do you think shouldn't have been there?"  And she walked back from it, "Well, it was hard."  I agreed, it probably was.  We stayed friends. 
I told my children, taking care of, raising, feeding, clothing, managing all ten of you, no question, it is hard.  There are days, minutes, moments, nights, weeks when it feels mind blowingly hard.  But I'd never stop.  I'd never quit.  They are the only reason I do this, but because they are, I could never not do this.  
So the answer to the woman who thought she'd prefer death to more people to love, is the same as the answer to my manager friend, is the same as the one to my teens.  I can't imagine living any other way, and that the absence of any of them, is a body blow to the heart.  And my teens, like my manager friend, and (one day, I hope the woman in that conversation understands), knew or rediscovered, all these noisy silly bouncing off the wall can we go to the pool when do we eat next people, all of them, were and are infinite parts of all of our hearts.  

The answer is, we cannot live without any of them, for each of them, make us more alive. 

Small Success Thursday Home Edition

Normally, I post Small Success Thursday over at, but my good friends Sarah Reinhard and Lisa Hendey are taking a much deserved hiatus during the first two weeks of August.  So today, we'll hang out at my place.  

Small Success Thursday started for me as an exercise in willful cheerfulness when the amount of laundry I faced threatened to drown out the idea of ever having any fun.   It is a meme started originally by Danielle Bean  of Catholic Digest, which she handed over to me when she became that magazine's full time  editor.  

The purpose is to count one's blessings, to cultivate gratitude, and to remember that we are making progress, even if we cannot see it for all the socks that cover the floor.   Parenting is a sticky messy and 24-7 business. It involves the systemic training of little souls which in turn trains our own, to be more submissive, more servile, more selfless.  We love these little people, but we love haltingly, grudgingly at times, and imperfectly. 

If the goal is to imitate Christ, we should become transparent, we should become people who don't spend much time saying, "But what about my time? or what about me?" but who pour everything out because love demands it.   I'll be the first to say, come five o'clock and I need to stop what I'm doing to make dinner, I'm not feeling it.  Come 7 o'clock when I need to power back up to do bedtime routine, again I'm not feeling it.  And dishes not done that I get to do in the morning first thing?  So not feeling it.   But the trick is not to let feelings dictate actions, love is an active constant choice we have to make and remake and remake every day.  (Sort of like the beds).  

So with all that in mind, here's this week's Small Successes.

1) Was asked to write an article for a newspaper for December. (Yay! Very excited about this one too). 

2) Registered 2 for high school and 4 for Elementary this week.  

3) Hosted a party for my 15 year old.  He's introverted by nature and so his natural response to such things is to push back, but we invited his whole class and afterwards, he gave me a hug, one of those sly shy full smiles and said, "Thanks for giving me the party I said I didn't want. It was really fun."  

4) That same child made me exercise yesterday.  He's made it his personal goal to get me moving. He runs for pleasure so I've now a personal trainer I can't evade. 

Now it's your turn.  Have a great week!

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