Monday, February 27, 2006

Now there's an idea......

The first Catholic town in the U.S., although I suspect that more denominations than Catholics will want to move there. Would you live there?

They'll know we are Christians by our........what?

At Sunday School yesterday, the children were gathered in a large group to sing,"They'll know we are Christians by Our Love"

As I scanned the crowd of singing children looking for Jack and Gus, I found them sitting next to each a head- butting battle.

THAT is what we at Four Crying Out Loud call.....Brotherly Love.

I could not have been more proud.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Mardi Gras and Youth Ministry

The youth council and I have been planning a Mardi Gras Dance and Carnival for the larger youth group for the last month or so. This event occurred this past Friday, February 24th. Keep in mind that when I say carnival, I mostly mean that the gym was filled with "kiddie" games like shuffle board, hoola hoops, bowling (with plastic pins), darts, a beanbag toss, henna tatoos and on and on. You would be surprised how much youth "get-into" the silliness of the night. We danced, ate lots of junk food, made our own masks and even crowned a king and queen! We are officially ready for Lent! Here are a few pictures:

The symbols of the celebration!

Yes, that is me in the purple wig with the king of Mardi Gras. It's not my color, but hey, I try to live a little!

The cha-cha slide....a classic!

Jack gets into the act with his own home-made mask! He was a very popular dance partner!

Friday, February 24, 2006

Lenten Resources

Lent is around the corner and preparations need to be made in my house for it to be a meaningful one for me and my family. I've found some really great resources that you may find helpful in deepening your conversion this Lent. Many of these resources are great for Sunday School Sesssions as well. Our Catholic Faith is rich and wonderful during this liturgical time, so be sure to take full advantage:

Here is a great Lenten Calendar at EWTN
Lenten FAQ's
Stations of the Cross
Lenten Ideas For Children
Family Resources
The Catholic Parent Book of Feasts

Ohhh, and don't forget those Meatless Recipes


Thursday, February 23, 2006

Sunday morning indoctrination--it's never too early!

Last Sunday morning, Jack and Gus, shirtless and in their jammy pants, made their way into our bed to snuggle. I say "snuggle" but it was more like a bombardment of spaghetti-like arms and legs interrupting my heavenly slumber. Chris awakened first to witness the giggles of our younger boys and started his Catholic-Dad indoctrination while I listened....half awake...half asleep.

Chris: know, one day, when you grow up, you will want to marry a beautiful girl like your mommy. (was he talking about me? morning breath and all? I don't think he was looking too closely at his sleeping beauty wife!!EWWWH)

5 year old Gus interrupted his dad with a painful moan: "OHHHH GOD"

Chris (continuing): And you will want to have lots of children.

6 year old Jack said excitedly, "Just like YOU dad!"

Chris: Yeah, just like ME!

Before Chris could continue his indoctrination, Gus promply sits up, sticks his arm out, hand in the STOP position and annouces with force, " I TOTALLY don't want a GIRL!"

I tell you all, Chris and I laughed so hard..................hmmmm, THAT will change.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Hormonal Moments

OK. I've got to clam DOWN! It could be the rainy weather or the lack of sleep, but the boys have been driving me cra-zy the last few days. Either they've gotten really good at being VERY loud, or I'm having hormonal moments!

Our third floor hold myriads of miniature knight toys, and things similar. For some reason, the boys have decided to 'be closer' to mommy by bringing our three bins FULL of these toys down to the first floor den. There are huge numbers of these little guys at my feet as I walk though the den. The thing is, they've been bringing these plastic bins down for the last week, and I've just about had it! Today, they brought the bins down in a addition to the Stratego game (more pieces). Before I knew it, the boys got bored with all the toys around and started battling with the BINS THEMSELVES!! in the DEN!

Jack: (holding a plastic bin over his head) HYYYY----YAHHHHHH

Gus: (Singing Star Wars Theme.) Dat, dat, dat, dah......dah.....dut.dut.dut........dah..duh

Following the the sounds of battle are crashes, blams, and pows using the bins.

Doorbell rings: Kid at front door asks, "Where's Nick, can he play?" (BANG,CRASH)

Me: Sorry Nick is not here right now, but I'll let him know you came by. (BANG, BANG, SLAP, SCREAM, More Star Wars Singing)

I close rings....Me: Becca don't answer it. (CRASH, BLASH, OWWWW....MOM! JACK HURT MEEEE!) Ring, Ring, Ring.

Doorbell rings again: Different kid: Is Nick here? Me: No, he's not here right now, but I'll let him know you came by. (CRASH, BLASH, POW!)

I close my eyes, take a deep breath.

Me: OOOOOOOOOO KKKKKKKKKKKKKayyyyyyy! BOYS! That. is. ENOUGH! I want all this stuff picked up back INTO the bins and back upstairs!!!! Do you boys understand me? I mean NOW!!! Go to the third floor and STAY THERE until I say you can come down!!

Jack and Gus: AWWWWWW.

Me: NOW!

After a few minutes of silence, I hear them coming back downstairs...

It was Jack. "Mom, I luf you."

Me: I love you too, Jack....NOW GO BACK UPSTAIRS!!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Disclaimer: Controversial Topic!!!!

I recently had a conversation with a friend that made me realized how much evil has permeated our world, even among those of us who seemingly have everything.

We were sitting together, watching our kids play. We were talking about our kids, chit-chatting about this and that, enjoying the unseasonably warm weather. She has two adorable children, a professional full-time job, a quiet husband, a beautiful home and a lifestyle some would label as "having it all."

Friend: How do you DO it with four children? I mean, I can barely keep up with what I have.

Me: Well, you know, there are hard days...juggling so much, but all in all, it's really not that hard. When you have four kids, they play with one another. Two of my kids are old enough to help me with chores, make their lunches, take was difficult when they were all tiny, but that goes relatively fast when you consider the big picture. In fact, I don't think it would be that much harder if we ever had another child. I feel like I've been through the hard part having Jack and Gus 15 months apart.

Friend: I kind of wish I could have another child. But I had to beg my husband for our second, and I know he would make me abort a baby if I got pregnant again. He does not want more children.

I just sat there, nodding like some dummy, pretending not to be shocked at such a statement. Inside I wanted to cry for her. To her husband, abortion would be a 'matter of fact' thing that would occur if she dared get pregnant. Her desire for another child is not even explored. But he still takes the sex. Lifeless sex. Separated from the beautiful reality of it's purpose. His desires are met. Her desires are killed. Now I know that these things are more complicated than how I'm stating them, but really! A man who LOVES his wife would love her NO MATTER WHAT... and if a baby is a result of that shared love....WHY WOULD YOU EVER WANT TO KILL IT?

God save us.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Letters from War

This post is dedicated to my grandmother, Guadalupe Tamayo de Salinas.

When I was a young girl, most Sunday’s after church, my parents would pack everyone up in the car and we would drive an hour to my grandmothers house in Lockhart, Texas to visit with relatives and indulge in my grandmother’s lemon cake, popcorn, and Coca-colas. There were always many relatives at my grandmother’s house but relatively little to do for the younger my brother and I usually entertained ourselves by exploring various parts of the house, shed, garage, water well and outhouse! Believe me, we always found something to do...even in the scortchingTexas summer heat.

I remember once, in one of my exploring moods, I found my way through the house, into the living room. There on the wall over her (out of tune) piano, were familiar pictures of my grandmother's seven aunts and uncles. My dad was the youngest, my Uncle Gabriel the oldest boy. I remember picking up one of my grandmother's tattered memory books. It was falling apart, holding precious pictures, letters, newspaper articles,memories of a time I never knew; a set of memories I did not relate to as a young girl. But one thing did make an impression on me in that memory book: they were the letters written by my Uncle Gabriel to my grandparents when he was a young man fighting in the front lines in WWII. I remember reading the letters thinking how brave he was and what a hero he was ....after all he went through, but I never thought about how my grandmother must have felt knowing that her oldest boy was dodging enemy fire in the trenches. What got HER through those days of uncertianty?

I had mostly forgotten those letters until today, when I listened to a beautiful song
about a mother and her son...a true story of him going to war in WWII. It left me in a puddle of tears. Here are the lyrics:

Artist:Mark Shultz
Song: Letters From War
Lyrics :

She runs to the mailbox
On that bright summers day
Found a letter from her son
In a war far away
He spoke of the weather
And good friends that he'd made
Said I'd been thinking 'bout dad
And the life that he had
Thats why I'm here today
And that the end he said
You are “what I'm fighting for”

It was the first of the letters from war

She started writing


You're good and you're brave
What a father that you'll be someday
Bring him home
Bring him safe

She wrote every night as she prayed

Late in December
A day she'll not forget
Oh her tears stained the paper
With every word that she read
It said I was up on a hill
I was out there alone
When the shots all rang out
And bombs were exploding
And thats when I saw him
He came back to me
And though he was captured
A man set me free
And that man was your son
He asked me to write to you
I told him I would.. oh I swore

It was the last of the letters from war

And she prayed he was living
Kept on believing and wrote every night just to say
Still she kept writing each day

You're good and you're brave
What a father that you'll be someday
Bring him home
Bring him safe

Then two years later
Autumn leaves all around
A car pulled in the driveway
And she fell to the ground
And out stepped a captain
Where her boy used to stand
Said mom I'm following orders
From all of your letters
And I've come home again
He ran into hold her
And dropped all his bags on the floor
Holding all of her letters from war
Bring him home
Bring him home
Bring him home

I KNOW what kept my grandmother from losing her mind with fear, it was her steadfast love of Jesus and Our Lady. My mom says that my grandparents prayed faithfully to Our Lady of Guadalupe and they never stopped until they passed away.
As a mom, I can now relate to my grandmother. The love she held for her children, the strength she must have drawn from her faith, the commitment she shared with my grandfather, the fortitude it took to consecrate her children to God. My grandmother passed away over 20 years ago, but her life taught me and continues to teach me a great deal. When it comes to mothering, not much has changed...moms are all the same. But what HAS changed is our ability to face adversity; we seem give up too quickly when the going gets tough. My grandmother WAS tough and she never gave up; even after sending two more of her sons into the military. My generation needs to take a few lessons from hers.

As for my Uncle Gabriel:

He is home. He is safe. He is good. He is brave. He became a good father and husband.

He is a hero. (He recieved the Purple Heart)

Thanks to the prayers of a faithful mom.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy

Speaking of unexpected surprises, I got a nice one today.

Our faith development team consists of 5 staff people. Most Catholic Churches have, at best, one or two staff people to organize and develop quality faith development programs for children/youth/ adults in a parish. We are blessed to have a team of 5: 3 part-timers (I'm one of those) and 2 full timers. Of the 5 there is one secretary, one high school youth director, one junior high youth director, and two elementary directors. We have over 700 youth/children in our faith development program at STM and so it is a formidable task to provide for these souls. Teamwork is essential when we strive for the one ultimate goal of building the kingdom of God...we work hard together, play sometimes together, pray together, fight every now and then and love each other as God wants us to love. I really enjoy the people I work with, but it's on days like today....I realize just how much.

It's customary that we celebrate each of our birthdays with a birthday lunch. The three women on the staff all have February birthdays, so the two guys decided to treat us all at once to our birthday lunch today. Normally, the birthday person (or persons in this case) picks out the venue, we all agree, and then enjoy lunch together, away from the parish office and the hustle and bustle of a normal work day. But today's birthday lunch was a little different this time. The guys went all out!

We arrived at one of the nicest restaurants in town (THEY picked) and were surprised to see a beautiful bouquet of birthday balloons as the centerpiece of the table. If that weren't enough, at each of our place settings was a gorgeous long-stemmed rose. The three of us were really impressed at the extra effort shown by the guys and felt loved and appreciated. To put it bluntly, we felt like queens. We were so excited, that we chattered on and on like three teenagers at the prom! We ate a yummy lunch (I had a fried green tomato BLT), complete with dessert. We sat there for 1 1/2 hours and just. enjoyed.

In reality, what the guys on staff did was a small gesture, but those small acts of kindness can make all the difference in the world. I know I'll never forget this birthday, and hopefully never forget how lucky I am to work with such special people. Thanks, Jim and Rob. May you be as blessed as I was today.

Rules for the month

From Ron Clark's Essential 55 Workbook:

Rule 23: Students should quickly learn the names of other teachers in their school and greet them by saying things like "Good Morning" or "Good Afternoon" and say the teacher's name. (If your child is in line with the rest of the class, the no-talking rule is in effect). However, he/she should be encouraged to speak to other teachers when entering or leaving school, at recess, on an errand, or when changing classes.

Rule 24: Your child should know to always flush a toilet and wash his hands after using the restroom.

Rule 25: Your child's classroom will often have visitors. Your child should understand the protocol regarding visitors: Your child should be prepared to shake hands, introduce himself/her to the visitor, and welcome the person to school.

Relationships 101

St. Valentine's Day is always an exciting time for the kids.

Yesterday, Nick decided to buy a medium sized chocolate heart for a "girlfriend" he's had since he was 5 or so. He was a bit hesitant to purchase such a gift; afraid he would get teased from the other 4th grade boys in his class. I encouraged him that it would be a sweet gesture to his good friend and that it would make her happy. I even suggested that he could "secretly" hide the gift in her desk and then tell her later that he was her mystery valentine.

Nick liked that idea.

Nick came in from school today and sat down to do homework.

Me: Nick! How did the secret Valentine gift go over?

Nick: (smiling and proud) Well, mom. I put the Valentine in her desk without anyone seeing. At first she did not notice, but after awhile she realized there was something kinda big in her desk. I watched as she pulled out her heart and her eyes were, like, really BIG! She kinda, just stood there, wondering where in the world it came from.

Me: Yeah, and?

Nick: Well then she decided to go up to the teacher and tell her that she received a mysterious Valentine and had NO idea who had given it to her. Mrs. Greene (Nick's teacher) ANNOUNCED to the whole CLASS that she must have a secret mom....everyone in CLASS knew of her gift!

Me: Oh, your friend must have been SO excited.

Nick: Yeah, but...everyone in class was guessing that it was ME that gave her the Valentine!

Me: And they were RIGHT!

Nick: Yeah. (Somewhat deflated) I don't think it was too good of an idea to give her the Valentine MOM! Now everyone thinks that I'm IN LOVE!!

Me: Nick..who cares what others say. You made a friend very happy today, no matter what! You should be proud. Plus, as handsome as you are, most of the girls are wishing you had given THEM a heart like that, and the boys are wishing they were as cool and smooth as you!

Nick: (giggling) I guess.

Happy St. Valentine's Day everyone! Everyone deserves a surprise on Valentine's Day!

Look what I got for my birthday....


Thanks to my sweet husband for such a wonderful surprise. "Blog On!", he says!

Monday, February 13, 2006

One of the best conferences I've ever attended....

and believe me, I've been to MA-NY!

This year's Ignited by Truth Catholic Conference is scheduled for this Saturday, February 18 from 8:30-6:00 at Cardinal Gibbons High School. The organizers of this conference are local lay people who saw a need in our Diocese for interesting, inspiring speakers that encourage laity in their day-to-day faith. You won't hear talks about Stewardship, Multiculturalism, or Liturgical Dancing. It's a conference where everyone can gain insight on how to be a better Catholic...apologist for the faith...defender of the faith--all in love, all in charity, all in hope.

Interested? Click here to see this year's speaker line-up and their bios.

Hope to see you there.

St. Bernadette of Lourdes, France

Our parish hosted a premiere showing of the newest Bernadette movie called, The Passion of Bernadette, with Sydney Penny playing Bernadette. It was well attended for a cold and wet Saturday night (her feast day is Feb 11); and most everyone enjoyed the showing despite the fact that it was in French and had subtitles. To add to the theatre-like atmosphere, we sold popcorn, sodas, and candy as well as copies of the movie, books and videos on her life. If anyone is interested in hosting a premiere of the movie at their parish, it's really easy!All you need is a pull down screen, a projector, someone's laptop and you can host your own showing. We plan to have another showing in a month or so for those who were unable to attend!

The incorrupt body of St. Bernadette as you see it today. Her hands and face are covered with a thin layer of wax to give her some color, but apart from that, she's all there!

Bernadette as a young girl.

Couch Potato

Sorry for the dead time, but I've been under the weather these days becoming good friends with the couch.

Nicholas came down with some sort of 24 hour bug yesterday and spent the whole day in bed as well. I kept him home from school today hoping that would get him on his feet for school tomorrow. Becca called from school complaining of neck pain and needed permission from the school nurse for some ibuprofin. "Go for it!" I told the nurse. So far, only Nick and I have the "yuck" bad enough to stay home. We've competed for the the coveted couch, and I admit, he's been on it longer than me. It's a comfortable couch.

When you lay on a couch for a few days, one starts to see the many things around the house that have been neglected: the dusty plants on the top shelf of the bookshelves, the dingy yellow paint on the walls, the fraying-fading furniture from 7 years of four crying out loud (when were the cushion covers last washed?), the clutter in the kitchen, the many stacks of paperwork from four different schools that need attention, the disorganized books on their shelves. It's enough to make one much sicker than they probably are and too depressed to move. Where to begin?

I think it's Nick's turn on the couch. He doesn't see what I see. I think I'll go have some soup.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Ahhhh, love!

It's almost St. Valentine's Day! Don't forget to include the "Saint" part of the holiday name. After all, there WAS a Saint Valentine according to our tradtions, so we must not forget about him.

I'm not ashamed to say that I love St. Valentine's day! One of main reasons is that it's my birthday (how lucky can I BE!). I love the colors of the season, the red cellophane wrap that covers the heartshape chocolate boxes, the kissing bears (from Hallmark), the balloons, the roses, the exchange of children's Valentine Hearts, and the chocolate that sits on the shelves of every store in the country!! It's all so perfect and I'm so thankful I was born on such a great holiday!

Most men, on the other hand, shudder at the thought that St. Valentine's Day is approaching. For my husband, he hates the fact that roses are twice the price than at any other time of year, that restaurants are nearly impossible to reserve, and that the holiday is marketed to "force" men to "show" their love by having to buy something "expensive" for their wives. (Woe to the man who forgets his love on St. Valentine's Day) Despite the fact that Chris hates all these inconveniences, he always makes the day a special one for me. He never goes overboard, never overspends, but always makes me feel loved no matter how old I feel. That's my favorite part of St. own Valentine...Chris.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Murder in them thar hills

Here is a picture of me (far right) and friends at a murder mystery birthday party. It was a western theme, thus the cowboy outfits and guns. I ended up being the murderer (do I look like one?). It was a great time and made me nostalgic for my Texas roots. (not that I murder people there) But it reminded me that I've been in N.C. far too long...when did it happen that I do not OWN a pair of cowboy boots anymore? sigh

Musings from watching American Idol

I'm sitting with my kids watching the latest installment of American Idol. Jack and Gus are not really watching, but playing at my feet with their Playmobil knights while Becca and Nick share opinions of who is a good enough singer and who is not. It's a harmonious picture and makes me so thankful for such a beautiful family.

I look at my kids and see this harmony between them..tonight..and wonder what it would be like if..if...IF there were another Clemens crying out loud to add to the mix. Am I crazy to even entertain the thought? Especially considering the negativity toward big families in my "open minded" University town. I admit that I shudder at what people would say to me if I were to announce a 5th pregnancy. Some would say that I should not care what others say, but I can't help but care. I mean, some of the most negative comments and surprised faces from my last pregnancy came from CATHOLICS! Not only that, but am I even in my right mind? For instance, the laundry is stacked up for miles, the kids are overdue for their dentist appointments, Jack is wearing the same pants as he did yesterday since we could not find a clean pair, and they had hot dogs for dinner twice last week...what am I thinking? I can barely keep up with the Clemens 4!!!

But on the other hand, the blessings of a child are too numerous to count. Somehow our society has forgotten these blessings and replaced them with the "hassles" of finding babysitters, restaurants where "no children are allowed", and where pets have been elevated to human equals. Don't get me wrong, I am a dog lover to no end, but no animal can ever replace a human being as being more important in my life. Children mold us as as we mold them into disciples. Raising children builds character, stamina, flexibility and unselfishness for those up to the challenge, not to mention the benefits for siblings of big families...the virtues they gain from having to share more, not having everything at their disposal, patience, more responsibilites in the house. Raising healthy kids is not for the weak. It's hard as hell, but in the end, with prayer and fortitude, beautiful people are formed.

So I don't know. The unknown is always scary; responsibility is scary. I wonder what Simon would say about all this? Clemens out!!!

Monday, February 06, 2006

One of the rarest sights seen at a secular university

Chris and I were pleased to have lunch on Thursday with Fr. Tim, a priest friend of ours who pastors two small parishes near the N.C. coast. We ate at a restaurant on the University property near Chris's lab and office. During our lunch, I suggested that it would be great if Fr Tim would bless Chris's lab and office space. Fr. Tim agreed.

So, Fr. Tim, all in black and Chris headed to the astronomy lab. You can imagine the looks one gets when you walk with a "man of the cloth" on a University Campus, much less when he pulls out the 'ol holy water and starts blessing large scientific equipment, tools, computers and workspaces. --- "Oh," Fr. Tim says, " We can't forget the windows." ---and the windows.

Despite the fact that God is Dead at most secular Universities, He is alive and well at the Astronomy Lab where my husband works.

So Cool.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Is it just me...

or am I the ONLY person in the U.S. who could care less about the Superbowl?

How to be a Good Catholic Woman in Today's Modern World

Below are excerpts of my talk for the Women's Guild at St. Ann's Church on Saturday, February 4, 2006. I hope you enjoy reading it.

Today I am here to hopefully give you some insight on how to be a Good Catholic Woman in todays modern world. Now I have to preface this by saying that I don't profess to actually BE a good Catholic Woman. I'm just not. Just like all of you in this room, I am a work in progress, but I DO take my faith seriously and continually try hard to live this Christian Catholic life to which we are called. I can honestly tell you God is working hard to mold and shape me into the woman He knows I can become....and that thrills me beyond belief.It is an everyday challenge and sometimes it is a FIGHT down to the wire between God and I , but in the end, if I can swallow my pride, I realize, He is usually right.

So I've learned a few things from God in my life as a cradle Catholic, a mom, wife, friend, church worker that you may benefit from and that I would like to share with you today. Hopefully this talk will inspire you to continue to bloom into women of God in this modern age and maybe take a few laughs home with you to get you started.

I'm here to make things really simple for you girls today. I can compare the Catholic church to some of the more complicated recipes that I have in my pantry for chicken. I mean, who writes these involved recipes ingredients that include spices and food that you've never heard of with a pinch of this and a dash of that? It's a complicated chicken recipe, and I'm sure it tastes really good, but I could have made plain ol' ordinary chicken with only one or two extra ingredients and it would be almost as good. But the one ingrediant you MUST have to make chicken, is, well, chicken. If you don't have the chicken, you can't have a chicken dinner. When it comes down to being a good Catholic Christian Woman in today's world, we Catholics sometimes make things really complicated. We read the Catechism and list the proper postures for our worship, and that is all very important and enhances our faith BUT if we miss the one ingrediant necessary to HAVE that faith. We essentially have no faith at all.

So...can anyone venture a guess to what that one ingrediant is?

It's LOVE!

Ahhhhh, Love-You have to love. In fact, the Bible has an awful lot to say about love.

The word LOVE itself is found 475 times in the bible! We hear in John Chapter 4 : to love one another, for love is from God, and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Faith, Hope and Love and the Greatest of these is LOVE.
We love because God first loved us. At weddings we constantly hear the 1 Corinthians passage of love is patient, kind, not jealous. We've even heard from our new Pope, Benedict XVI in his new encyclical Deus Caritas Est (God is Love) --which all of you should read-- about God's love for mankind.

All this is fine and good and yeah, we've heard that a million times and tell ourselves, I love people and I love Jesus and so I'm ok you are ok we are all doing just fine. Love is the easy part you say. You hear a lot about extra-ordinary love from the pulpit, the kind of love that lays down its life for another, but how often does that opportunity come up????? One time at most. (nine if you are a cat.) but if you are like me, we never actually get a sufficient picture of ordinary love. The kind you need every day. What that means for us in our everyday life or for your friends or for your spouse. Pope Benedict said in his encyclical, that the word LOVE has been so abused and misunderstood that it needs to be purified. I think it also needs to be made more ordinary....For us ordinary folk....who clean toilets, and organize closets, and vacuum rugs. How do I go about loving the way CHRIST intends me to love? Purely? Without conditions? How do love ordinarily...everyday....

I'm going to reduce the recipe of love down to only 3 ingrediants: how women of God can love. Love in their own unique way. I call it the 3 L's and they are all you need to know: Laundry, Lolipops, and Laughter. At this point you may be thinking: What in the world is this woman talking about? But before you write me off, let's see what the 3 L's teach us about ordinary love.

Laundry: We all have it, we cannot avoid it, it can be an unpleasant thing to do, and usually there is no relief from the mundane job of doing your laundry. You can learn a lot about love when you do the laundry. For example, it's easy for me to say that I love say, Vickie or Gina, but it's much harder for me to do their dirty laundry. Would you be willing to do not only your own laundry but your neighbors? friends, childrens? Ect.
:) Read this previous post about my mom and laundry.

My mom can say she loves me all she wants, but it is the showing of that love by doing something that is tedious, small and possibly unpleasant with NO expectation of getting anything in return is the real act of charity. It is through these ordinary, small acts of charity for one another, for our children, family members, neighbors, strangers, that we know we are loving the way God wants us to love: the laundry, cooking, cleaning, all these small things. When I go into my laundry room and witness the mounds of laundry piled up for what seems like miles, I tell you I just want to run the opposite direction, screaming. Same when the washer eats half of my children's socks and I'm left with 20 mis-matches,it all makes me want to pull my hair out!

But what keeps me going back, is knowing that I'm thankful for the little feet that go into those mis-matched socks, that I'm thankful that I have a husband who has a job where he has to wear those clean khaki pants, gleeful about the fact that I even have a modern convenience like the washer to aid me in such a monumental task, that I know that my children will go to school smelling fresh and clean. Doing that laundry reminds me that I am loved by my family and that God loved me so much that He sent me these children--only for a little while--sent me these children because he knew laundry would be a small sacrifice of love to practice every day. We must never discount the smallness of our deeds. The bible is full of evidence that God's attention is indeed fixed on the little things that we do simply because God loves us SO much that His presence is revealed even in the meaningless workings of daily life.

(Remember in John's gospel when Peter and John run to his tomb and go in? They saw Jesus gone, and wrappings lying on the ground? But then John adds an odd thing. He says that the wrapping from jesus head was rolled up in a place by itself, and then they believed. Why? Maybe it was rolled up like he always rolled his laundry, like Mary had shown him to do, and the disciples had seen him do before. They didn't believe only because his body was gone, it could have been taken, but apparently only Jesus would have rolled up his headcloth like that. If this story doesn't sanctify your laundry for you, it will at least give you something to think about while you fold clothes.)

God cares so much as to desire to be present to us in everything we do. So never, ever give up on doing the small deeds of charity,like someone else's laundry. Write that check, make that call to just say hello, smile at the check-out lady, Organize that rummage sale, participate in that 50/50 bazaar, donate items to those travel kits, pick up that trash, say that encouraging word, pour that Diet Coke for your spouse, read that extra book to your child, say that sleepy prayer, make dinner for a priest....Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can. (Cure for the Common Life: Max Lucado)

2. Lolipops I love lollipops. Lolipops are one of the simple things in life. When my son Gus was a baby, I tell you, he was the crabbiest baby in the world. Impatient, moody, cranky and impossible to go shopping with or anything else, for that matter, that required leaving the house. Early on, I would use a binky to sooth Gus when he screamed, didn't work. Later I tried his bottle, but to no avail. One day, when Gus was doing his usual screamfest,I quickly grabbed a lollipop that the bank teller gave me and popped it into his mouth...... Night. And. Day. I tell you....The miracle cure! Halleluia! From that day forward, I carried huge bags of lollipops in my purse for Gus. He stayed happy and so did I. Today Gus is 5, and has no teeth, but I have my sanity. (Just kidding about the teeth comment.)

But my point is: Everyone NEEDS a lollipop! We are all screaming about something in this crazy world of ours and God gives us lots of lollipops to help sooth our aching souls. We mostly know what our lollipops are. My lollipops include things like eating blueberry scones, foot massages, chocolate, a good movie, and hot sauce and chips. Finding someone elses lollipop and giving that person that soothing thing, is an act of love and sacrifice. It takes work and effort to find that one thing that sooth someone's soul, but if done in the right spirit, the spirit of unconditional love, God speaks. God speaks through the actions of others of us....little you and little me.

For example, when I was 8 months pregnant with my first child, Rebecca, I worked in a shoe store 40 hours a week to make ends meet for my husband and I while he did his graduate work at the University. We lived in a small two bedroom/one bath house that we furnished with the help of my parents and the money we were given as gifts from our wedding. At 9:00pm, when I would come home, my feet and back would hurt so much from the weight of the baby. I was big, fat, and all baby! I remember that I was so scared back then of the future, of how to raise a child, of childbirth, you name it..I was scared, but I just forged on praying for God to help me through. One evening, as I arrived home from work, Chris, my husband greeted me at the door and told me to go into the bedroom for a surprise. As I walked into the room, there, on the bed were chocolate covered strawberries on a silver tray, hot sauce and chips, soda and to top it off, he rolled the T.V. into the bedroom so we could watch the movie "The Mission" together in bed! Absolute heaven! I tell you, what a night! I loved it. It was just what I needed and through my husband's effort and love, God assured me that everything would be just fine. And it was. And it still is. Chris found the thing which soothed my soul. God spoke through the actions of my husband. Never discount the smallness of your deeds. Find what things are soothing to your loved ones, and give them to them.

Laughter: The late Erma Bombeck, one of America's funniest columnists and author of quite a few dissertations on the humor of life, knew the importance of laughter. "If I could live my life over," she once wrote, "I would have laughed more." People who laugh are pleasant to be with; the importance of laughter can never be underestimated. It is a part of life. Those who know me know that I love to laugh. In fact, I'm usually happy most of the time (except when I have to do the laundry). And it is proven that laughter can be the best medicine for any ailment. Laughter's importance can be observed in tense moments. It can be used to defuse potentially explosive situations at my house. Take my youngest son Gus, aged 3 at the time:

When all the other children would be asleep, Gus would be bouncing up and down in his bed, doing somersaults, and would regularly ignore my repetitive requests to GO TO BED. When Gus is naughty, he tends to resort to whatever means available to make the family laugh. This allows him to escape just punishment. One night in particular, Gus was bouncing uncontrollably in his bed and ignored my numerous pleas to go to sleep. I had my sweat pants on, my hair was up, no make-up and wearing glasses. I looked at Gus (who was upside down-mid flip) and told him in my most stern face that he would get a spanking if he did not go to bed. You would think I had struck the fear of God in the kid, but instead, he propped himself upright, looked straight at me and said,

Mommy, YOU look UGGLYYYYY!

I totally burst out laughing and walked away thinking, “What have I given birth to?

The point is that God loves to laugh with us as much as we love laughing with our family members and friends. Have you ever passed a room where people are laughing? Aren't you intrigued by what was so funny and wish you had heard that special joke or saying? Our world needs to laugh more and frown less.

One of my most valuable memories I have as a child was when my aunt and uncle would come visit from out of town. Every morning they would get up early, along with my parents; have their coffee at the kitchen table and talk. After a few minutes they would wake me and the whole house with their laughter bursting, busting, table slapping, belly shaking laughter. To this day, I smile when I remember those lazy mornings as a child, hearing the laughter. What WAS so funny all the time?
It has been many years since I've heard that kind of laughter, and I miss it. People don't laugh as often as they used to, maybe they are too afraid to hurt or offend, but we NEED to laugh just like we NEED to love. Laughing at the ordinary, the potatoes that overflowed on the stove, the dog that jumped up and messed up your new white pants, the child that plodded into you living room with muddy boots. All ordinary, all kind of funny, all to be taken with an attitude of joy and thankfulness.

So there is our recipe on how to be a good Catholic Woman in today's modern world. Just as in the recipe mentioned at the beginning. If we have not love, we have not faith...we are simply going through the motions. All the other things associated with our faith, the "other" ingrediants, such as Mass attendance, Eucharistic Adoration, Prayer, Service, Adult formation, Sunday School, Social Events, Youth activites... are wonderful and enhance and enrich our faith...but without pure love, we are simply going through the motions. I would even go farther to say that when you have pure love, you are naturally drawn to the other ingrediants of our beautiful Catholic faith...the love beckons you to deeper faith.

So, go forth and love. Do that laundry. Soothe those souls. Laugh at yourselves.

That's where you will see the face of God.

Thank you for having me this morning.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006


Tuesdays are usually my busiest days. After I get all four out the door into their four different schools, I do a full days work at the church (my one long day)and get home about 4:00pm. I'm usually not in the mood to make a full blown dinner, and Chris usually works late on Tuesdays, so it has become the Clemens tradition that kids and mom go to Chick-fil-A in the mall for dinner. As an added bonus, Tuesdays are .99 cent kids meal day, so it's a good deal all around.

The University Mall is small, but lovely. I especially like the large 20 ft. trees that have been aesthetically placed around the main section of the mall. These trees are planted in large, heavy, concrete planters so they can be easily moved from one location in the mall to the other. Greenery is nice when all you have around you is tile and brink, don't you think?

After our lovely (and cheap) dinner, the boys, Becca and I started to walk down the main section of the mall, when I see a friend of mine I had not seen for awhile. As I started to talk with her, the boys started to get antsy:


Me: Boys, just let me talk for a few more seconds and then we can go, OK? I have not seen Kim for awhile.

Boys: (Groaning) But we're boooorrrred!

While I continued talking to my friend Kim, I see in the corner of my eye, circular movement coming from where the boys are. It didn't strike me as anything unusual, seeing as 'thats what boys do' around in circles. So I continued my conversation.

But before I knew it, the unimaginable happened. Nick and Jack were holding the trunk one of those 20ft trees and were spinning themselves around it when all of a sudden the TREE. FELL. OVER. I repeat for those of you dozing: The TREE. FELL. OVER.

It was like a slow motion event. I just stood there stunned looking at this gigantic tree on the floor of the mall. My friend laughingly said: "Well, I'm glad to see that my KIDS arn't the only ones capable of such destruction!" I just looked at her and then looked at the tree and said, "Can you believe this?" We both picked up the tree, (luckily the pot did not break) and cleaned up the dirt as best we could. Good as new. Meanwhile, Jack is terrified.

Jack: (crying) I'm soooo going to jail. I'm soooo going to jail.

Nick just stood there patting Jack and stayed quiet. Gus was away from all the activity, watching and thinking about the whole thing.

I sent all 3 boys to sit against the mall wall while Becca, Kim and I finished cleaning and talking. As I was saying my goodbyes to my friend, I noticed that Gus had crept up near me and wanted to tell me something.

Gus: Mom.

Me: Yes Gus. You should be sitting next to the wall with your brothers.

Gus: Mom, I have to tell you something.

Me: Gus. What?

Gus: That would not have happened if you had stopped talking sooner. They were bored so that's why the tree fell.

Me: Thank you for your analysis Gus, now go sit down.

(I hate it when the 5-year old is right.)