Convos with My Three-Year-Old: The Leaves

I love these. They are so true.

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My Drug Addict Family Member and the Witching Hour

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I called it the Witching Hour.

Toddlers melt down at around 5pm every single day. This fact is well known to stay at home moms and other peculiar people who spend a great deal of time with little children.

Just about the time you are up to your elbows in getting supper on the table, the babies start cranking out tantrums, whines, arguments and fights. It’s as if someone put crazy drugs in their afternoon snackies.

Nobody told me about the Witching Hour. Like so much about raising little children, I had to learn it the hard way. But once I got it figured out and took the This-is-gonna-happen-so-put-your-foot-down-and-slide attitude, it became manageable.

I thought I was through with all that when my kids grew out of it.

But I find that I am once again caring for a toddler, and the Witching Hour is back. This particular toddler is approaching 90 years of age and has a random memory of having once been an independent, free-wheeling adult. She remembers that she once paid her bills, balanced her check book and fought all my battles.

She is my mother, and I love her so much it makes my teeth ache.

The Witching Hour evidently applies to elderly toddlers as much as it does baby toddlers. Every day at about 5 my mother melts down. She doesn’t roll on the floor and wail the way babies can do. Her tantrums take the form of hand-wringing anxiety and fear. If she doesn’t find something to hang this anxiety and fear on, I can distract her out of it. But thanks to the the occasional slip-up, or, more often, the family drug addict who has no conscience about ripping off her elderly grandmother, there are days this becomes impossible.

One day this week, my mother found a bill from her latest hospital stay. How she got it, I don’t know. Everyone in the family works at keeping anything that will set her off away from her. We censor her mail by lifting the bills and any advertising that looks like something she might think was a threat (she’s amazingly creative at interpreting advertising as threats) and only letting her see the harmless stuff.

For years, I wanted to end her subscription to the newspaper. Every time they said something nasty about me (there are spells where that can be an almost daily occurrence) she would warp out. I kept telling her that I didn’t care and it was fine, but she is my mother and … well … you know.

Somehow, despite our almost paranoid vigilance, she got her hands on this $35 bill from the hospital. And she warped out. It took forever for me to pry the fact that this was about a bill out of her.

We’re in a horrible mess, she kept repeating. They’re going to take everything. 

When I asked her who “they” was, she would say, I don’t know. 

When I asked her what she was talking about, she would say, I don’t know. 

She cried and begged me to take care of it. PLEASE take care of it. 

I finally figured out it was a bill. My son took it and tore it into tiny pieces, which is pretty much the way we all felt about the thing.

I was so shot by the experience I wanted to go somewhere and just curl up in a little ball. When my mother cries like that, it rips me into as many pieces as my son did that bill.

Then, yesterday, she came to me in tears, almost vibrating with fear. We’re in a horrible mess. 

The house (meaning her home where she no longer lives) is in a shambles. Those people (meaning my drug addict relative) have trashed it and now it’s on us to fix it or the government will tear it down. 

 She was crying as if her heart was broken, and scared out of what remains of her wits. We went through another round of 20 questions and I slowly pieced together that she’d gotten a call from a bill collector over yet another fraudulent bill that the family drug addict has run up in my mother’s name.

The house, so far as I could tell, was fine.

This bill-collector-calling-about-things-the family-drug-addict-has-done-in-my-elderly-mother’s-name-thing happens fairly often.

For instance, about a week ago, I got a call from the adult day care center where Mama goes while the rest of us are at work, telling me that she’d been on the phone, giving out information to somebody. When the staff person took the phone and said this lady has dementia, who are you the caller got snotty with them. I dropped everything and went to the day care center, took Mama’s phone and called the number back.

When I got the caller on the line, they wouldn’t tell me who they were, even though I have power of attorney where my mother is concerned. It’s been a long time since I’ve been that angry. I mean, these people called and hounded an elderly woman who obviously has dementia at her day care center, and then would not tell the responsible party who they were.

After a round of me losing my temper totally with them, it turned out that they were trying to collect a debt for thousands of dollars somebody has hung on my elderly mother. I don’t know for sure, but if this isn’t more handiwork by the family drug addict, I’ll be surprised.

The Witching Hour is so common that the people at the day care center have their own name for it. They call it “sun downing.”

I don’t know if it’s just about end-of-the-day tiredness, or if there’s some sort of hormonal change that occurs in our bodies at that time of day. All I know is that people at both ends of life get upset and bothered around 5pm.

If there is no call from a bill collector or threatening advertising or some paper bill that slipped into her hands by mistake, my mother just tends to spin webs at this time of day. She’s cranky and she wants what she wants, which is my attention. But she doesn’t fall apart on me.

However, if anything slips through the net we put around her, she goes out on us.

The family drug addict’s parasitical behavior is by far the most difficult for me to tolerate. Everyone else in the family works together to care for and protect my mother. Then we’ve got the family drug addict out there, trying to prey on her and actively hurting and upsetting her.

I don’t know exactly why I’m writing all this. Maybe because I am worn slick with it today (I’ve had two really emotional Witching Hours back to back.) and I need to talk about it.

I do know this, and it’s a surprise to me to learn it. Taking care of an elderly parent is, if it’s a family enterprise and you have wonderful services such as Adult Day Care, surprisingly do-able. But when one member of the family decides to become an extra burden, they can wreak havoc.

I am privileged to be able to take care of my mother. I am also blessed to have sons who, even as young men in their twenties, are completely willing to care for her, too. I see them do this, and I feel vindicated as a parent. I raised two wonderful, loving men.

As for the family drug addict, I am at my wit’s end.

Chilli Tells Her Abortion Story

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Abortion deforms the powerful life-giving force that women possess. Here is Rezonda “Chilli” Thomas’ description of her abortion and what it did to her.

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Brit Hume: The Moral Case for Abortion on Demand Grows Ever Weaker

“The moral case for allowing such beings to be killed grows ever weaker, and its advocates resort to ever more absurd euphemisms to describe what they support.” Brit Hume

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I Bought the Lie: Life After Abortion

What does abortion mean to women after they’d had a few years to re-live the experience?

What does abortion mean to them when they realize what they have done?

Does abortion free women, or imprison them in a new form of misogyny?

Women deserve better than abortion.

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Forty-One Years. Dear God Forgive Us.

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I can’t do this anymore.

That was the thought.

It came after the realization.

I woke up this morning feeling sick without an illness. I was sorta dizzy, totally dispirited and generally feeling like it was a day to avoid.

Then, I remembered. Today is January 22, a date, to paraphrase Franklin Roosevelt, that lives in infamy.

And I thought: I can’t do this anymore. I can’t, I can’t, I can’t deal with the fact of … how many is it? who keeps this grisly toll? … tens of millions of lives taken, tossed in a trash can, flushed down the drain, “disposed of” as waste.

Forty-one years. And each life is a snowflake; unique, irreplaceable and beautiful.

It isn’t tens of millions of lives lost. It is one life lost, and another life lost, and another and another and another until we are looking, not at an individual who is his or her own bright shining star, but at an incomprehensible mass of anonymous bodies piled into mountains of wasted human lives. Their individuality, their essential humanness, lies hidden in the crush of numbers.

Forty-one years of easy killing, and the heavy toll it’s taken, not so much on the babies we’ve murdered, but on us, as a nation, as people, as free moral agents who bear the weight of our decisions, is too much.

Abortion is a gateway drug of killing and social destruction that appears to know no limits in its power to deform, deface and destroy the essential humanness, not just of the unborn, but of whole societies that partake of it.

Abortion. Euthanasia. Embryonic stem cell research. Egg harvesting. Paid surrogacy. Designer babies.

The beat goes on.

Dear God forgive us.

12 Unborn Animals in the Womb

Twelve unborn animals in the womb. Look at each of them, all the way to the end.

Beautiful.

 

Now Wait Just a Minute. If Chastity Applies to Nuns, It Also Applies to Priests.

I haven’t written about this particular story because it seemed like just one of those things.

You know. People fail.

Christianity, as I live it, is largely a matter of falling down and getting back up to try again. That’s why we have confession. It’s why we need to be kind to one another about our various weaknesses. Because we are all sinners who are bound to fail. None of us gets out of that.

So, when I read the story about the nun in Italy who had a baby, I basically just thought that she needed mercy and probably some help with her baby. I did not see it as the worst — or even close to the worst — thing that I had heard that day, much less ever in my life.

Then, today I was reading through some headlines and I saw that a local Italian bishop has called for the nun to “leave her convent in the North of Italy after breaking her vow of chastity.” (Emphasis mine.)

My reaction to that was an immediate and heartfelt Wait a minute buddy.

I agree that now that the sister is also a mother, her first responsibility is to her child. I think she should rejoin secular life (not be cast out, but helped to do this) so that she can devote herself to full-time motherhood. I also think it would be nice if dear old dad stepped up and took responsibility for his child, too.

Just for the record, and even though nobody has asked me, I want to say that priests and men religious who father children should also rejoin the secular world and take up their responsibility to their child. That includes marrying the mothers of their children and forming a Christian family in a stable, Christian home.

So I was ok with the idea that Sister/Mama needs to leave religious life and take care of her new baby.

But … kick her out because she has broken her vow of chastity????

The day Bishops start sending priests and men religious back to private life for breaking their vows of chastity, we can talk about that.

Not before.

I’m not going to go off on a rant about priests and men religious here. That’s really not the point.

What I am saying is drop the self-righteous, hypocritical double standard.

Chastity isn’t just for women. Men are called to chastity and are just as culpable when they violate it as the other half of humanity.  So long as priests are forgiven for violating their chastity and allowed to return to ministry, that same standard should apply to the sisters.

That’s just the way it is.

 

Obama to Meet Pope. Will the Holy Water Boil Dry?

I used to joke that the reason I never took holy water to my office at the Oklahoma House of Representatives is because I was afraid it would boil dry in the elevator on the way up.

I have much the same whimsical opinion about the news that our president is going to be visiting Pope Francis in March. When our Catholic-Church-attacking President steps foot on Vatican soil, will the Holy Water in the founts boil dry?

I don’t know of an American president who has been as aggressively anti-Catholic as President Obama. From his HHS Mandate, to the government’s many moves  to close down Catholic adoption agencies, ministries to trafficked women and on to closing the American Embassy at the Vatican, this president has been an all-in anti-Catholic politician.

The fact that he’s got a Catholic Vice President and a Catholic Secretary of State, cheering him on, only makes the plot sicken.

Catholics who appear to take their moral guidance from the Democratic Underground, Daily Kos and the Christian-baiting atheist blogosphere seem to occupy all the Catholic-faith-based podiums in this country. From the Governor of New York and his prejudicial anti-life rants, to mush-minded Vice President Joe Biden and his revolving moral understandings, the big public voice of big public Catholics is a veritable Greek Chorus for the Church-is-wrong-long-live-relativism viewpoint.

The question is, do they speak for more than themselves and their upper crust cronies? Do they speak for the priests in Catholic parishes, the presidents of Catholic universities, and, maybe even more to the point, do they speak for pew-sitting Catholic people?

Based, completely unscientifically, on the comments I see here on Public Catholic, I’m guessing that the answer to that question is mixed. For some, absolutely not. For others, sometimes yes; sometimes no. We have the occasional blip of a commenter who is all in for the secular culture, but they are, at least in the Public Catholic universe, pretty much standing alone.

Personally, I think President Obama’s visit to meet our Pope is a good time for us to pray for the man. Who knows? Maybe God will get through to him.

It is also a good time for us to take a look at ourselves, as Catholics.

The real question, and the only question that any of us can answer with authority, is: Who do you follow?

Do you follow the fallen Catholics in high places who appear to have a total and absolute contempt for the requirements of our faith? Or, do you follow the Church, which has, in spite of the many failings of its clergy and people, held true to the teachings of the Gospels for 2,000 years?

When you die, who will say to you, You belong to me?

Will it be Jesus?

Or,

Will it be someone else?

If you want it to be Jesus, you need to follow the Church.

It is really as simple as that.

 

David Hewson has a Blog

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David Hewson has a blog. On this blog, he describes himself in one sentence: I write for a living.

David Hewson is the author of the Nick Costa and the Killing series, as well as other books. His listings of best sellers on Amazon run page after page.

When David Hewson describes himself by saying that he writes for a living, he is not only stating the obvious, he is being modest about it.

David Hewson has, as I said, a blog. And in that blog, he talks about what he does so well. Reading David Hewson discuss the nuts and bolts of his writerly life makes for absorbing reading.

I spent a good bit of my Sunday, reading blogs written by writers about writing. None of them interested me more than David Hewson’s. He particularly snagged my interest with descriptions of his new-found love for Microsoft Word.

Mr Hewson has gifted a relative with his Mac and moved his writing life over to the care of a PC. He’s enamored with the simplicity of living his working life inside the Microsoft Office suite.

As much as I admire and respect David Hewson, who is so obviously my writing superior, I feel sad for any writer who entrusts their professional life to a PC running Microsoft Office. I’m going to take you through a bit of my personal history to explain why.

I spent years working inside Microsoft Office. I ran it on at least a half dozen different PCs. Back in the 1990s, I had a job that required me to work on a Mac, running the now-defunct Pagemaker. Macs back then were designed by bean counters, and they showed it. Macs of that era were so unreliable that they made PCs look stable.

I explained it to a friend this way: “Using Windows is like balancing on a board that’s on top a bunch of marbles. Using a Mac is like balancing on the marbles.”

It was bad enough that I took work home and did it on my PC — also running Pagemaker — to avoid the instability of the Mac. I was glad, glad, glad to go running away from those 1990s Macs and home to the PC.

For the next years, and on into my return to politics, I used a PC, running Microsoft Office. The only software I supplemented it with was a free-form document database called AskSam.

One reason I am able to conduct myself according to what I think is right in my elective office is that I run my own campaigns. I raise my own funds, maintain my own databases, do my own targeting, take my own photos, design my own literature, and, when time allows, print my own mailings (by the many thousands of copies) on my own Xerox printer. My campaigns cost a fraction of what other people’s do.

That lets me be independent, for the simple reason that I’m not owned.

It also made Microsoft Office and my PC a core campaign component. The first time my PC went turtle on its back during a campaign was about 12 days out from an election. It destroyed a huge amount of data I had collected about who was going to vote for me, who needed rides to the polls, who wanted a yard sign, etc. Fortunately, I had hard copies. But I had to stop everything else while I worked around the clock, getting the computer running again and re-entering all that data.

As it turned out, the election was a runaway. But if it had been close, that PC could have gotten me beat.

I never used an older PC again. I bought a new one — and a good new one — every two years. Despite that, the machines drove me nuts with their glitches and flip flops and constant need for care and attention.

I reached the blanket-splitting day when a computer that was only a couple of months old decided that it was stolen. The machine then began a process of shutting itself down. I’d launch a software (always by Microsoft) and the software would announce that it was stolen and shut down.

I tried reformatting the computer, but it wouldn’t give me access to do that because it thought it was — you guessed it — stolen. I couldn’t get help from Microsoft, not even when I paid extortionist fees for it. They said I should contact the computer manufacturer. Dell (who built the computer) told me it was a software problem and that I needed to talk to Microsoft.

After a couple of months of being bounced back and forth between corporations while my computer merrily went about shutting itself down, I had an expensive paperweight.

And I was finished with PCs.

I’d been using an iPod. It occurred to me that a company that could build something as reliable and usable as the iPod might also be able to produce a computer that didn’t think it was stolen.

I didn’t consider the decision beyond that. This was about my job. I had already used all my dither time trying to convince my PC that it belonged to me and was not stolen. I went to the Apple store and bought a Mac.

It was the single best technical decision I’ve ever made. I know two writers here at Patheos who’ve had their work deep-sixed by clunky PCs in just the past few months. Meanwhile, the lady who bought my old Powerbook is still using it every day in her accounting business without a single problem. I have a 7-year-old Mac Pro and a 5-year-old Macbook, both of which run like clocks.

As long as Apple continues to make machines that are as stable and reliable as the Macs I’ve had since I switched, I will never go back to using PCs again.

I understand the need for Microsoft Word. It is the lingua franca of the virtual world. When I grade papers for the classes that I teach, I use Word. When I correspond with my office, I draft letters and communications in Word. I know that when I finish the book I’m writing, I will have to deal, once again, with Word.

I dread trying to work with an editor and make corrections in Word. In fact, I dread putting the book in Word. I pray that it will stay together long enough to send it off. But that’s the reality, and there’s no changing it.

I will probably plunk down the dollars to buy Word 2013 and run it on my Mac in Parallels for that one purpose. David Hewson says that Word 2013 is stable. When the time comes, I will give it a shot.

But I’d just as soon keep a rattlesnake for a pet as try to write a book in Word. Been there. Done that. Back in my thesis days.

If memory serves, Word performs just about as well for writing long documents as the PC performed in my campaigns for election. It crashed repeatedly, and when it crashed, it corrupted the file so that I couldn’t use it again, which meant retyping from a hard copy. Writing a long (hundreds of pages long) document in Word was an exercise in temper-control. There were days when I had to get up and go for a walk to keep from throwing my expensive computer into the yard.

I finally had to divide the thesis into a separate file for each chapter, and then correct and re-write only when it was absolutely necessary. I actually did a lot of the drafting in Publisher to avoid taxing dear little Word. Submitting the thesis to faculty and then incorporating their changes — all of which had to be done in Word — was cold terror. It was like trying to sneak past that pet rattlesnake without waking it up, every step of the way.

I lived in fear and dread of Microsoft Word. By the end of it, I hated that software.

David Hewson, who is the writer I will never be, says that Word 2013 is stable for him. I suppose it’s possible that Microsoft has performed an exorcism on the software. But I honestly doubt it.

I think that David Hewson is such a consummate professional writer who has been doing this job of work so successfully for so long that his writing process is — at least compared to mine — on rails. I doubt very much that he takes all the side trips and makes the many adjustments and re-writes that afflict me.

My working “outline” for the book I’m writing resembles a spider’s web more than anything else. I am the only person who could ever make sense of it. I am convinced that if I had tried to create this outline in Word, it wouldn’t exist.

What I use to write long documents is a software that David Hewson and I both like. Mr Hewson likes it so much that he’s written a book about it. The software is called Scrivener and it is the answer to prayers that writers didn’t even know they were praying.

If the notes and “outlines” for your writing tend to look like someone took an office trash can and upended it on your desk, then Scrivener is for you.  I’m not going to try to describe it. If you’re a writer, have a look and decide for yourself.

I no longer house my research documents in AskSam. I’ve moved to a software called DevonThink Pro Office. David Hewson uses OneNote, which is part of the Office suite, for the same purpose.

The key is to find what works for you and to stick with it. Software is a considerable investment in time as well as money. It’s just a fact that the more you use a tool the more proficient with it you become. Computers and software are tools. If the PC honestly works for you, then stick with it and don’t change.

But as for me, the PC cost me too much time and energy just fiddling with it. It also had the infuriating habit of going turtle on its back when I needed it most. Life is too short and money too hard to come by to put up with that.

My kids tell me that this is just because I’ve got bad computer karma or something. All I know is that I was able to appease that karma right out of the box by changing to another type of computer.

What about you? Are you a Mac or a PC?

 


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