Sunday, July 19, 2009

Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

Being my children exposed to U.S. Vietnam years you might like to recall and read the Bob Dylan music's lyrics.

Bob Dylan - With God On Our Side

Oh my name it is nothin'
My age it means less
The country I come from
Is called the Midwest
I's taught and brought up there
The laws to abide
And that land that I live in
Has God on its side.

Oh the history books tell it
They tell it so well
The cavalries charged
The Indians fell
The cavalries charged
The Indians died
Oh the country was young
With God on its side.

Oh the Spanish-American
War had its day
And the Civil War too
Was soon laid away
And the names of the heroes
I's made to memorize
With guns in their hands
And God on their side.

Oh the First World War, boys
It closed out its fate
The reason for fighting
I never got straight
But I learned to accept it
Accept it with pride
For you don't count the dead
When God's on your side.

When the Second World War
Came to an end
We forgave the Germans
And we were friends
Though they murdered six million
In the ovens they fried
The Germans now too
Have God on their side.

I've learned to hate Russians
All through my whole life
If another war starts
It's them we must fight
To hate them and fear them
To run and to hide
And accept it all bravely
With God on my side.

But now we got weapons
Of the chemical dust
If fire them we're forced to
Then fire them we must
One push of the button
And a shot the world wide
And you never ask questions
When God's on your side.

In a many dark hour
I've been thinkin' about this
That Jesus Christ
Was betrayed by a kiss
But I can't think for you
You'll have to decide
Whether Judas Iscariot
Had God on his side.

So now as I'm leavin'
I'm weary as Hell
The confusion I'm feelin'
Ain't no tongue can tell
The words fill my head
And fall to the floor
If God's on our side
He'll stop the next war.

I read the big, big book CONSTANTINE'S SWORD couple years ago and awaited the film. James Carroll, the author, was a very young Catholic priest when family lived in Rockford, IL. Dad and I recognized him from the Peace Movement, NCR and CFM. One of those gorgeous, young celibates, Joan usually exclaimed over. The music cited above runs at the end of this film along with the credits. This documentary by Oren Jacoby examines the history of anti-semitism in the Catholic Church. Fr. Carroll was a son in this large, Irish, Catholic family whose dad became an Air Force General. As a kid he ran around the halls of the pentagon on Saturday's, his day with dad. The family lived years in Europe. He loved his family, his Catholic Faith, the Air Force but decided he needed to leave his priestly vocation that he might be free to tell his story. Interested? You might want to view this flick. You will see this individual your mom has admired through the years, and hear the story he has to tell. Historical, personal and a religious epic.

Saturday, July 18, 2009


Dad and I viewed a movie this week on DVD.
One True Thing (1998) More at IMDbPro »

When a tough New Yorker's Ellen's,(Renee Zellweger) mother (Meryl Streep), Kate, is stricken with a serious illness, Ellen is forced to quit her job and her relationship with her boyfriend to take care of her mother, finding out a lot of things she didn't know about her mother and father (William Hurt) and her life along the way. Written by L. Lim {}
One True Thing is a family drama revolving around a dying mother's final months in the care of her daughter. Ellen Gulden's father rebukes her for not caring enough about her mother to quit her job, move back home to Upstate New York, and leave her soulmate behind to fend for himself in their tidy New York apartment. But, when she succumbs under the strain of guilt and does as he asks, it appears that he is too busy to carry his part of the load. In fact, it begins to look like Ellen's father is more concerned with who is going to keep his life running smoothly than who will tend to his poor wife as she struggles with cancer. George Gulden is a gifted professor and English department head, but he is an unrealized novelist. His novel, "Come Back Inn," is still unfinished after many years of torturous self-editing and rewrites long after the advance he received from his publisher is spent. Still, he basks in the reflected glow of more famous and successful writers with whom he maintains tenuous ties. This realization humanizes him for Ellen who has always revered her father as something of a literary giant in spite of his occassional daliances with graduate students. Kate Gulden, dying of cancer at only 48, loves life, and loves her children and her husband. When her suffering finally ends from an overdose of morphine, the District Attorney suspects Ellen of having helped her mother to end her life. In the end, though, it seems to be Kate who still nurtures them, somehow even from the grave. Written by Mark Fleetwood {}
A few notes we had on this excellent film:
We experienced a few months living in a similar situation when Kev and Char needed us to be with the family the last months of her cancer. We see this movie as very, very real to life.
[Dad asks the daughter to leave her job and come home] Dad must support family yet he spends more time than he needs to away from her [how real, how one suspects he doesn't care enough, he needs to distance himself at times. And yet we see clearly the love each has for the other. We got really upset with Kevin because he would spend literally hours on the phone with neighbors rather than at Char's side. He was already going through grief stages. Hard for him to see one's love slowly dying.]
Char, too, had good days as when she would stand at the door with the mailman and talk on and on. So that he was flabbergasted when he learned she died. Good days and very bad days.
Kate at one point gets very angry and breaks things in the kitchen-- felt she was losing control in her home [Char laid down her laws to us-- Lest she lose control of her house-- made it clear she was still in charge-- how to set her table, where to seat the children-- how they were to be fed-- only her directions acceptable-- we felt like servants rather than family]
Bathtub scene so real. She tells helper she can do the bath herself and does so up to advanced stage. I believe this is modesty, privacy. Char would allow Luke, 3 years old, to be in the bathroom with her, he could hand her things etc. Well, one morning he came out to me and said his mom needed help. She was literally like Kate shown in the film-- no energy to rise-- to cover herself-- I was shocked by her helplessness]
There were times when Char went to the cupboard where the medicines were kept. Dad was to pass them to her throughout the day as prescribed. Times she couldn't wait and wouldn't have without strict control.
They even filmed the heavy guttural breathing hours before she died. Char, too, was now lying in a hospital bed downstairs in the family room. We stayed in an adjacent bedroom and heard that awful stressful breathing all through the final night.
There's a lesson for me, for us, in this experience. When an experience is new, a first time experience, the experience will teach each person involved something. Why anger when understanding was required. Why absent when presence so necessary. Why controlling rather than confidence in others. All things were new for each of us experiencing death from cancer in Rosendale.
So now, wondering, how often within the family have we misunderstood another because we had never had an experience.
[Understanding. A level of consciousness.] 1. Facts (the way it always is). 2. New Information. 3. A new level-- understanding. When I understand-- I can have empathy. We cannot understand what we have never been told to look for.
I would include this, for instance, our children adopting another Christian Church. This has never before happened in my ancestral family. And it was a big issue in not having it happen when dad and I married. One just didn't. One was loyal. These new churches were flaunted in our faces or so we felt them [feeling]. Even told, 'You'll go to hell'. Now I am able to understand after having the experience within our small family. I have no idea what each of you have learned but a lesson is there, a lesson in learning how to love another.

There might be an exercise here in gaining of wisdom to take each brother, sister, parent and look anew. Some information each brought to one another's attention that wasn't present before. And if weighed and understood each would learn something valuable. We would never downgrade a sibling or parent. We could feel once again we are family. Without this lesson in love we feel something negative and become judgmental
This is what God does. God knows what are our unique and individual experiences. Sees it all as a learning process-- maturation. I imagine at heaven's arrival that welcome, 'Well done good and faithful [child] servant. Enter. This is learning how to love one another. God is Love.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Some Folks Who Shaped My Life:

Two young sisters gave special attention to me, 2 years old, and also to my sister, 3 1/2 when my family moved to New York City. They lived in the home next door. We have a picture of our home in Minneola, from the family album, of the 4 of us sitting on the curb out front. 

 I was a sleepwalker for quite a few years. [I believe I passed on this gene to Timothy Stewart, grandson]. During my night walk I would find my parents, they'd give me a hug, and return me to my bed. My mother would often tell a story of the days when she would leave us with a black woman when she and dad went out for the evening. Those nights I would take my usual walk, climb up in this woman's lap, hug and kiss her, after which she would return me to my bed. All who heard the tale would exclaim and giggle or be shocked because in 1929 there was no mixing of the races, or so it was among us Irish. We were not equal. They were our servants. We often had black women come into our home to help my mother, probably up until the time we moved from Chicago to Hebron, IL. Often we were told to wash our hands well after holding coins as they might have been in a dirty nigger's hands. 

The BVM nuns at Gesu GRade School, in Milwaukee impressed me immensely for better and for worse. Sister Jean Allen was a young, beautiful woman who taught first grade. I believe each of us, Elayne, Bill and I, had her for our teacher. But, she is also the nun who put the tape on my mouth and that was a sad, sad tale for me. Then in 3rd grade I had a witch of a nun who also affected me negatively.  We had these beautiful passout sheets with number problems. I loved these. More than one day she pulled my hair, my braids, as discipline. I hated math after that. 

Yet, in the 4th Grade, after brother Jim was born and we moved to Greenview Avenue in Chicago's North side I attended Our Lady of Lourdes 4600 North Ashland Avenue. This was Sister Mary Edgar's class. She was truly an influential teacher for me. We sang songs, put on shows within the classroom. I only have the best of memories of her. And I feel she inspired me. I met her a time on the playground and my chin was down to my chest.I was quite shy by then. She stopped me, spoke to me, and said, " I must walk with my head held high". I can imagine now she would have followed this instruction with something akin to, "Remember you are a child of God, Who loves you completely". And I would have believed her because she represented God to me. 

In 6th Grade I took my teacher, Sr. Mary Barbara's, name for my Confirmation name.

Probably 1941 dad moved us temporarily from the Tullybrackey farm in Hebron to Chicago to attend school. He wanted us to be enrolled in parochial schools for the school year. Had we remained in Hebron for the winter we would have spent the year in the one room Burgett country school. This year I was in 8th grade at Our Lady of Mount Carmel on the very near North side. This was a wealthy neighborhood.I was impressed when several times the Monsignor Casey had his driver pick up us 8th graders in his limo. My best friend that year was Moira who lived a block from us in a house of mirrors. This is what I called it. Her father was a famous architect.We lived that winter in a coach house behind the big house. In this kitchen I spilled the sugar on the pantry floor when making a chocolate cake. My mother was so distressed because sugar was rationed and we had few stamps for replacement.  

Winter of 1942 I would be a Freshman and attend attend Senn High School, which was about a mile walk daily one way. Dad had difficulty renting an apartment because of us 4 kids. He told the landlords, Mr. and Mrs. Hummel that he had 2 children. Then we were told we had better behave ourselves. Our family satisfied their expectations and they treated us warmly. The final weeks each of these 2 years we returned to Hebron and did attend the one room country school. This was a treasured experience for me, 8 grades in one room, with Mrs. Reynolds coping with all through the day, now with 1st grade, and again with 8th graders, pump in the yard for getting our drinks, trees and green grass and chirping birds for recess and lunch hour. Perhaps a Moo or 2.  


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Elizabeth Alexander’s “Praise Song for the Day”
Posted: 24 Jan 2009 10:27 AM CST
Alexander did a tremendous job on Tuesday with her simple and brave inaugural poem. She held her own in the company of inaugural poets who include Robert Frost who recited The Gift Outright (1961), Maya Angelou who read A Rock, A River, A Tree (1993) and Miller Williams who offered Of History and Hope (1996).

Praise Song for the Day
An Occasional Poem for the Inauguration of President Barack Obama
by Elizabeth Alexander

Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each other’s
eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.

All about us is noise. All about us is
noise and bramble, thorn and din, each
one of our ancestors on our tongues.

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere,
with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky.
A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.

We encounter each other in words, words
spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,
words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of some one and then others, who said
I need to see what’s on the other side.

I know there’s something better down the road.
We need to find a place where we are safe.
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain: that many have died for this day.
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,
who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,

picked the cotton and the lettuce, built
brick by brick the glittering edifices
they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,
the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.

Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more
than you need. What if the mightiest word is love?

Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,

praise song for walking forward in that light.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Born Again American

Here's a video which I think you'll like.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Mama Mia

We were able to rent Mama Mia last week and view. We have been awaiting this view since last summer when folks up in Juniper were exclaiming over it.

We viewed it twice. I thought this necessary because after all the exclaiming sometimes I build up an idea and find disappointment because my idea was in error. So I began with this. It is a rollicking adult musical, first of all.

Meryl Streep has a 5 star performance.

What I mostly wanted to share is how I surely teared up with her number near the end. I believe it was "Slipping Through My Fingers". Wow! Just the thought and mention of it! How my girls slipped right on through my fingers. Yes. And it was my sons, also. From where I stand now those maybe thirty years were much to short. Even though the 'old lady after Sunday Mass at St. Michael's in Orland Park' told me love them and appreciate them now for the time is so short', I heeded. I still missed most and this song is the proper treatment of all that was left.

Happy New Year, all of my children. Michael, Patrick, Kevin, Joan, Robb, Chris, Buffy, Amy, Jaime and your lovely lifelong companions and our beautiful grandchildren, all

I viewed this film as an adult musical. I am thinking one needs to have lived a piece of life to see more depth to this artistic piece. I saw the film as a deeply spiritual venture. Adult because one cannot put it into a 3rd grade mentality of righteousness, of sin, of Hell, of guilt. The spirituality went much deeper than that. This was about family and friendships and community, of love lived. Human judgment held no place here. This told a story of how I face my life bravely and joyously, every day a new day. I trust my Creator that I will never be abandoned. How difficult this is for me with my truly large issues! Yet to live so will be a life well lived and the feeling of serenity. Trust. Be my best in sharing human love about me and leave the rest to God, my heavenly father/mother who is with me through all. Will make the rough places smooth. Live well. Appreciate all the gifts of nature I am given.