Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Here's what I love: having Her as a sister

Today is my sister's birthday, and I feel compelled to tell you all just how fabulous a sister she is, and how much fun she is to be around, and how lucky I am to even know her -- much less be related to her. You only wish you had a sister like mine!

She is hilarious and smart -- my two favorite things in a person. A true child of the sun and the water, she never met a beach, a lake, or a pool that didn't call to her to plunge right in. In fact, "plunging in" has been a theme of her entire life. She has always been willing to try new things, meet new people, learn a new skill, take a risk to make her life better -- I think she's the bravest person I know.

And people! This is a woman who loves the Lord! She's who I always think of when I hear the phrase, "Spread the Good News," because that is just the way she lives her whole life. She and her family have faced adversity and she has encountered more than her share of difficulty and worry. But she walks with joy and a spirit of gladness, and people just say, "I want me some of what she's got!" She's the poster child for Christianity! And such a gift to me every day.

I love you, sister! Happy birthday!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Here's what I love: Blessed John Henry Newman

So Pope Benedict XVI is visiting the United Kingdom this weekend; the highlight of his stay will be the beatification of the Anglican convert to Catholicism John Henry Cardinal Newman, the scholar, author, and theologian who is so beloved by both Anglicans and Catholics -- in England and around the world. I will be fizzing with excitement and joy, since I have regarded Cardinal Newman as my personal patron for years.

When I was a young English major I studied Newman's poetry; many of you may be familiar with his poem, "the Pillar of Fire" -- more commonly known as the hymn, "Lead, Kindly Light." He wrote it while he was stranded in Italy, as he yearned to get back to England and enter into the fight for the soul of the Anglican Church.

Lead, Kindly Light, amidst th'encircling gloom,
Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home,
Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.

Later I went to graduate school, where I studied the history of the university system. Again, John Henry Newman was there to inspire me. As he worked to found The Catholic University of Ireland, The Idea of a University gathered his thoughts about the true purpose of education in the most succinct prose.

And when eventually I came to study the literature of Victorian England as a graduate student, Cardinal Newman's fierce light and clear voice again moved and inspired me. His Apologia Pro Vita Sua is an emotionally vivid and intellectually powerful defense of his decision to become a Catholic. It can also be seen as a reassuring response to the shock felt by many Christians when they considered the implications of Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species. But even more, it's just so beautifully written! It shows us the purity of this good man's soul, and the brave greatness of his spirit as he faced the anger and repudiation of his friends, colleagues and even his family, when he left the Church of England. And it stands as a clear and reasoned defense of faith itself.

I know without a doubt that among the reasons I was drawn (sometimes against my will) into the embrace of the Catholic Church is the fact that Cardinal Newman was guiding me, and interceding for me with the Lord.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Snapshot: Best Coach Ever!

This summer the girl in charge volunteered at a baseball/softball camp. She was a big hit with the little urchins. (Get it? Big hit? Heh.) They gave her hilariously sweet cards at the end of the camp; in this portrait I'm sure you can discern the girl in charge -- she's the one with the softball bun on top of her head.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Why don't they give the mommies valium any more?

So it's been way too long since we've had any medical drama around here -- and that's clearly unacceptable. So the first week of school for my two fabulous girl urchins brought with it a trip to the emergency room AND a diagnosis of -- wait for it -- shingles.

The sunny girl started the shenanigans when she tripped on the stairs.

tangent: I'll wait for the chortles and snickers of my oldest friends to subside; as they continue to clutch their sides with merriment I will inform my newer cyber-pals that I myself have quite the reputation for, shall we say, wearing a pair of crutches with flair. Or at least with regularity. And all of my injuries have been sustained on or near a flight of stairs. I'm serious -- I feel like I've thrown a double-dog dare out to God by living in a three-story house.

Well, so the sunny girl yelled "ouch!" when she stumbled, but said she "stubbed her toe." Does this look like a stubbed toe to you?

Unfortunately, my family has spent enough time in emergency rooms that we know the primary rule of the E.R.: always bring a book.

The final diagnosis: it's broken, twinkle-toes. On the up side, she gets out of P.E. for a month AND she and Jolie Blonde make a matched set. Jolie Blonde also follows her mother's family tradition, sustaining injuries that require surgery and physical therapy.

You just think I'm talking about my sister with the bum wrist and her daughter with the broken volleyball arm.

But really I'm talking about Coleen the retired gymnast and her daughter Jolie Blonde, who loves horses but apparently not enough to stay on hers while she's riding him.

And oy! The trials and tribulations of a school-loving girl who has been quarantined are hard to describe. It's not enough that school is out of the question for now, or that the nerves in her throwing arm hurt like a -- well, you fill in the blank.

My girl in charge has also been banned from cul-de-sac capers because the littlest fabulous neighbors have not had chicken pox yet. This picture, taken last Thanksgiving, will not be replicated any time soon.

But me? I'm just fine!