Book Review: – The Pope and I – by Jerzy Kluger

Here is my review of the book The Pope and I at Our Sunday Visitor.  It’s an account of lifelong friendship with Karol Wojtyla, better known as Pope John Paul II, and Jerzy Kluger, a Polish Jewish engineer who, even when he’s influencing international policy and Church and state relations, can’t stop talking about food.

If you are thinking of buying this book (or any other item from Amazon!), I would appreciate it if you would do so through this link:

The Pope and I:  How the Lifelong Friendship between a Polish Jew and John Paul II Advanced Jewish-Christian Relations

I get a small percentage of sales through Amazon if you click through from my blog.  Unless maybe you want the little Fishers to have to have another Imagination Christmas this year.  Heh.  No, but really, I know it’s an inconvenience, so I appreciate it when people use my links!  Thank you.

Oh, and Brandon Vogt is on the job with the social media meme!  Love it.

7 quick takes: what I learned today


1.  If you were planning to spend the day with nine children at an art museum a few hours away, but decide, when the three-year-old throws up all over you TWICE before you’ve even had your coffee, that you’d be a fool to take her to the art museum, you’d be right.

But if you think that that would be the worst way you could spend your day, you’d be wrong.  (See here.)

2.  If you are going to keep all of your nails, screws, bottles of paint, billions of plastic beads, nuts, bolts, bottles of glue, grout sealant, screwdrivers, paintbrushes, pipe cleaners, bits of felt, googly eyes, sequins, wrenches, pencil sharpeners, bouncy balls, clothespins, curtain rods, broken picture frames,  dried up Play Doh, broken tape measures, and flattened coffee filters that will probably be useful for something some day in two rickety cabinets stacked one on top of the other, it is probably best not — NOT, I repeat — to keep several gallons of loosely closed paint on top of those cabinets.

3.  Or at least, holy crap, why would you keep it so close to the computer?  (Yes, what I learned is “holy crap.”)

4.  Sobbing.*

5.  I always think my husband is going to yell at me and make me feel bad when I do something incredibly stupid, but I learned again today that he never does.  Instead he reassured me that he knows I didn’t do it on purpose, and that he would find a way to retrieve all the photo files from the last seven years somehow, and that we didn’t really need electricity in that part of the house anyway (I actually just silently said that part to myself, and assumed that he would agree, but just thought it too obvious to mention).

7.  A computer that will not turn on is not a computer that will never turn on!  Sometimes it just needs to have each of its 427 individual bits cleaned out so there’s not so much paint on them anymore, and then your husband will devote a mere five hours of his only day off this week to setting up the wireless milgram remote connectivity port mesodrive modulator.

Happy Friday!

*This is not actually something new I learned today.  I was just brushing up.

LOL books

Book recommendations!  Get yer hot book recommendations here!  Once again, should you happen to want to buy any of these titles, you can use the links below and my wallet will fatten with pennies upon pennies per sale!  Fanks.

Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis

Scoop by Evelyn Waugh

The Egg and I by Betty MacDonald

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody by Will Cuppy


Sand and sounds

Even though I know the poem is not really about sand (or is it?), this

[more macro photography of gorgeous grains of sand here]

made me think of this:

Mock On, Mock On, Voltaire, Rousseau

William Blake

Mock on, mock on, Voltaire, Rousseau;

Mock on, mock on; ’tis all in vain!

You throw the sand against the wind,

And the wind blows it back again.

And every sand becomes a gem

Reflected in the beams divine;

Blown back they blind the mocking eye,

But still in Israel’s paths they shine.

The Atoms of Democritus

And Newton’s Particles of Light

Are sands upon the Red Sea shore,

Where Israel’s tents do shine so bright.

Far and away the best thing about our six years of homeschooling was our weekly poem memorization.  I know my kids hated every minute of it, the bums, but someday, when they’re trying to put something into words, they’ll thank me.
Now that the kids are back in the classroom, I keep meaning to resurrect our habit of learning poems.  I didn’t try too hard to make the kids analyze things — I just wanted them to have the sounds and images in their heads, in case they needed them later.  Hearing the Psalms at Mass is good for this, too.  I printed out a bunch of short poems, and I’m just going to hang them up around the house, in places where people tend to hang out and stare at the walls anyway.
No offense, Billy Blake, but you’re going in the bathroom.

Pregnant and scared

This is a personal note to the young woman who entered “i’m 19 i am due september 7,2012 and i am scared about giving birth and dying” into a search window and came to my blog:  how can we help?  There is a whole community of people here who want to help you.  Please contact me at

Don’t be scared.  You can do this, and you don’t have to be alone.

Just call me Corrie ten Boom; plus more blabbering about my house and soul, etc.

And another reason I’m grateful for the snow:  it gives me an excuse to resurrect this post from my old blog.

Jen Fulwiler just celebrated her 35th birthday, and asked people under and above the age of 35 how they feel about this time in their life.  As someone who just turned 37, I can sum up this time in my life by what’s happening today: I’m old and mature and responsible enough to be expecting an assessor from the bank to come over in a few hours to look over the house in preparation for our refinance, which should save us a few hundred dollars on our monthly mortgage payment.

But I’m also tired and cynical and lazy enough to have put very little effort into cleaning said house, even though I know it will cause me considerable embarrassment when the assessor comes over.  Unlike the party guests we recently hosted, he will be (DOOM!  DOOM!) Allowed To Go Upstairs.

I tried to kid myself for a while that the house is simply charmingly cluttered, filled with the sweet, if somewhat chaotic, hallmarks of an enviably happy and bustling family.  I even clung to this fantasy while (not even lying, here) wiping ketchup off the bathroom mirror this morning.  Wiping, not scrubbing — which means it was fairly fresh.  Which means that someone was . . . using ketchup in the middle of the night, in the bathroom?  I don’t want to know.

But when I went to wake up the kids, I had to face the hard fact that — well, all moms say, “It looks like a hurricane hit here!”  Well, my house really looks like a real hurricane really hit, and hit, and hit.  It looks like there should be burnt-out refrigerators scattered here and there.  It looks like there should be people standing on the roof, shooting at helicopters.  Worst of all, there are actual high water marks in one room, even though we have never been flooded.  At least, I think it was water.  Uh.

A few years ago, I would have broken my back to have the place spic and span.  But a few years ago, we couldn’t even have considered owning a house, much less refinancing one.  A few years ago, we would have had more free time to clean, because my husband was working one job, not two, and I wasn’t working at all.  Our kids would  have been home to help clean, because they weren’t going to art classes or field trips or planning sleepovers with their friends, because we didn’t have any friends, because we never left the apartment.  And our credit was shot because we did things like buying things and then not, you know, paying for them.   And I would have done all the cleaning myself, and been furious about it, because my husband and I were not in the habit of communicating with each other, or helping each other, or working together.  Today, the kitchen is kind of grimy, but there are fresh flowers on the counter.  My husband brought them home for me the other day, because he thought I could use some flowers.

So, at age 37, have I broken even in the ledgers of personal responsibility?  Have I really made any progress, or have I only become more adept at making plausible excuses for my failings?  Is today a cause for pride, or a prime opportunity to do an assessment of my own soul, seeing as I’ve repaired my own spiritual credit to the degree that I probably qualify to refinance my own time, and could be saving myself years off purgatory by just getting off my behind and cleaning the bathroom for once?  What if I got a sheriff who so offends the people of Rock Ridge that his very appearance would drive them out of town? Wherever will I find such a man?  Why am I asking you?

Well, happy birthday, Jen!  DOOM!  DOOM!

Seven Benny Pics

Share one of my lovely moments with sweet baby Benedicta, who is now over a month old:


She’s a rather solemn baby so far, but for some reason she cannot resist the comic genius of the words, “looby looby loo.”

Don’t forget to check out Conversion Diary for everyone else’s Seven Quick Takes!


A stink vote is too good for them.

Last November, I wrote about the Stink Vote – how I wish we could tell the candidates,

Okay, you get my ballot, but you need to know that you are not fooling me for one second.  You need to know that I will vote for you because your stench isn’t quite as stenchy as the guy from the Stench Party.

But just because I voted for you, that doesn’t mean I think you smell all right.  You don’t get my trust, you don’t get my support, you don’t get my approval.  All you get is my stinking stink vote.

This year, for the primary?  Well, I wrote today’s Register post “Eight Things to Cheer You Up On This Terrible, Terrible Day” yesterday, and I started with the words, “I voted today,” assuming I would do just that today.  I drove up to the polling place this morning.  I slowed down.

But I did  not stop the car.

Couldn’t get myself to do it.  No matter how I figured it, there was no possible way to cast a vote in a way that would not make me feel like I’d made life worse for everyone.   If I could have submitted an angry essay in lieu of a vote, I would have done it.  But vote for any of those guys, even to keep the other ones out?  Even I, the missionary of mediocrity, couldn’t do it.  Instead, I went home and made some meatloaf.  I think that was more productive than anything else anyone else in NH will do today.

Why I’m voting for Romney

So, I figured I would annoy a few people when I wrote about the GOP candidates the other day.  For some reason I forgot how mad people get about politics, especially this late in the game.  I was a little taken aback!

I’m not a political blogger, and I haven’t had the stomach to follow the race in detail this time around (and I may be the only American who hasn’t seen one single political ad this election), so don’t expect my thoughts to be especially consistent or admirable, or even very edited.   I’m not trying to convert anyone, or even argue.  But several people did ask (with varying degrees of outrage) why I feel the way I do about the candidates, so I’m ‘splaining myself.  You can take this little rant as a sample of what your typical semi-informed conservative Catholic voter thinks, and why I’m so mad about our choices this election.

HUNTSMAN:  He’s one of the only Republicans who is anti-torture.  Opposition to torture is a fundamentally pro-life issue — so am I morally required to vote for Huntsman?  No.  I believe that there are many ways a Catholic can interpret their obligation not to cooperate with evil.  People need to work out on their own how practical or canny or idealistic they need to be with their vote.  I really don’t see the point of voting for Huntsman.

PERRY:  What is there to say?  He’s just a useful idiot for the kind of conservative who puts the death penalty right after apple pie.  The only good thing about him is that, when people stopped liking him, it made me like people a little bit more.

GINGRICH:  Was his religious conversion genuine?  Probably.  Who knows?  Who cares?  I have a personal problem with Gingrich the man, but that wouldn’t keep me from voting for Gingrich for president, if I had a good reason.  But I don’t.  His very long political record is abysmal.  What has he done for us, as pro-lifers, and as social conservatives?  He is what’s wrong with the Republican party, so why would I count on him to bring it back to life?  I blame Newt Gingrich and everyone who admires him for creating the America that wanted Barack Obama for president.  Conservatives beclown themselves by putting any kind of faith in this man.  He is a pig, personally and politically.

PAUL:  I don’t blame people who find him appealing.  Some of his ideas make perfect sense, and he says things that nobody else is saying.  Very refreshing, when the United States has gone so bonkers so fast in the last few years (or, if you’re feeling cynical, in the last fifty years).

But there is so much wrong with him, I just can’t even deal with the thought of voting for him.  Every good idea he has brings a brain damaged twin along with it.  For instance, he thinks the Iraq War was a horrible idea — okay, good (and good for him for saying so when no one else was).  But he also thinks we had no business getting into World War II.  If you adhere to a Just War Doctrine, there is a lot to like about Paul’s distaste and mistrust of war — but he’s not basing his ideas on a Catholic understanding of the responsibilities of power.  He’s basing them on an unwillingness to get involved, period. He’s consistent,  yes, but in a Cain (as in Cain and Abel, not Herman!) way.  This is no good.  This is terrifying.  Scratch a libertarian and you get  a cold hearted SOB.

Not only are his foreign policy ideas anti-Christian, they’re incredibly naive.  All politics is global politics now — that genie’s out of the bottle.  You can’t just opt out anymore.  Many of us hate how the US pokes its nose into every other country’s business — it stretches us too thin, fiscally and with the lives of soldiers; and most of the time we’re not being altruistic at all, we’re just trying to put the squeeze on other nations.  BUT.  Can you even imagine  how President Ron Paul would comport himself in diplomatic meetings with other countries?  Whatever shred of dignity we have left as a nation after four years of Obama, that would be g-o-n-e after Ron Paul does his Rumplestiltskin “it’s not fair, leave me alone, mine mine mine” routine.

As someone who has needed help many and many a time, I do not trust a man who apparently prides himself on not wanting to help — whether it’s through foreign policy, or domestically, in the form of welfare or even taxes used for the public good.  I remember when he spoke out in favor of a couple of local tax evaders who stockpiled weapons in their home, expecting a gun battle with police (over no issue other than non-payment of taxes).  He called them heroes, and said it was civil disobedience.  That was when I first started to mistrust him.

Plus, YES, I think he should give back the money the neo-Nazis gave him.  Even non-Catholics should be able to understand that giving scandal is bad news.  And yes, I think he should ask himself why it is he appeals to neo-Nazis in the first place.

Moreover, he has absolutely no facility for getting things done, as far as I can see.  Blame his fellow congressmen if you like, but his record shows that he has lots and lots of bad ideas, and is such an a-hole in general that nobody wants to work with his good ideas.  After a certain point, it’s all his fault.  How would he be different as president?

These are just a few things off the top of my head that give me serious pause when I consider giving Ron Paul any sort of real power.  He’s said enough things that jar and disturb me to make me realize that he’s not just a quirky, honest-to-a-fault, down home guy — there’s something really wrong with him.

SANTORUM:  I don’t hold it against him that he had to do business with Arlen Specter.  Santorum is enough of a political adult to realize that you have to return political favors.  The other 99% of the time, the guy is decent and dependable (and I guess that’s why people got so extremely upset when I made fun of him in what I thought was a mostly harmless way).  But I just don’t see him beating Obama, at all, at all.  He is prissy and querelous and always speaks like a man with a grievance, which is tiresome and uninspiring.  Gotta bring in the guy who has a chance of beating Obama.

Which brings us to ROMNEY.  Yes, I resent the political machine which drags up these ridiculous stooges and waits for us to take responsibility for voting for them.  The guy is an empty suit.  I see this.  I used to be so angry at the Republicans, and say that they were just as bad as the Democrats — that there was no real difference, just a different flavor of corruption.

Well, after life with Obama, I think differently.  I would be immensely grateful to have a president who only does a little bit of harm, instead of striding around the globe with a meat cleaver, the way Obama has done.  All right?

So that’s why I’m voting for Romney.  I don’t really think he’s terribly pro-life . . . but he’s not avidly pro-abortion, like Obama.  I don’t really think he gets what’s so bad about Romneycare . . . but he’s not going to use heathcare as a Catholic-persecuting machine, like Obama did.  I’ll be voting against Obama, and I think I have a serious responsibility to do that.  I’m not thinking about four years down the road, or what “message” I’m sending to the GOP by appearing to support a joke like Romney.  I’m  just trying to stop the bleeding.

The beginning of this election season was like moving into a new house.  Oh boy, a chance for a fresh start!  You look around and make all these wonderful plans:  going to paint all of this part, take this wall out, maybe put in a little Japanese garden outside the kitchen window.  The possibilities!  So you start to make inquiries, and realize that everything costs more than you expected, and the only workmen in the area are druggies and ex-cons.  Okay, so you lower your sights.  Maybe just a few, really simple changes — even that could make a big difference.

Then the furnace blows up.  At first you think, “Okay, we’ll use the renovation money to upgrade the furnace instead.”  But then you discover that the previous owners, apparently just out of sheer awfulness, had jerry rigged the furnace in such a way that the vibrations it caused were steadily wearing away the foundations of the house.  So never mind getting even a very basic new furnace:  what you need to do is put up some emergency beams to keep the house from collapsing, and

– oh, you’re still cold?  Pick up a $30 space heater at Walmart on the way home, just to get you through until the spring.

Mitt Romney is that space heater.  Nobody’s pretending he’s a long-term solution.  He’s certainly not what you wanted, or even what you need, and when you think about your original dreams for your country, just less than a year ago, you laugh bitterly, and curse the former owners.  But you have to do something, just to get by.  At least it’s better than leaving things the way they are.  Meanwhile, you have some major repairs to do.

visions of women who went to hell because of wearing trousers

 i.  ok
You take photos like Harley man!
If she farts, ka-blu-ee.
Becoming less masculine,
Marx Brothers sexistic.
Ok, let’s pray and see.
I am married but I want to be a priest.
(They have got married recently.)
Fatman sex.
Simcha Fisher drinking.
Bless somebody’s sole.
ii.  the technical details

Where is Kincaid in the list of great painters?Sitting down that needes to be worn.Have you ever flashed women while wearing a kilt?

My church doesn’t talk about the technical details.
Maurice Sendak Jewish goat;
Stupid fertility questions.
Feel the difference:
Shitzu and Starwars.
Spray chrome feel chrome like chrome.
iii.  finally
Can`t you see this is my shoes size?
Natural family planning designed to fail.
My mother in law was giving out to me while I was giving birth.
Hysterical postures!
Big fat woman sitting on little men:
What is there to resist?
Finally got around to watching Annie Hall.
My husband goes along.
iv.  all day
Home schooled children sit on their asses all day.
Girls wear plastic pants, St. Marys, South Bend.
Girdles pantaloons tubes;
Lady Barbara shoejob.
The church takes but doesn’t give anything.
v.  all over
Catholic women can no longer act as spiritual advisors.
All over the place in her writing.
Stupid trampoline!
The joke’s on you.
No legitimate excuse for a relapse.
What does it mean if my husbands co worker bakes him a desert?
Is Thomas Kinkade a big ol’ jerk?
Anyone who’s crazy enough to want to be a Jew is a Jew.
I vote for fat.