Monday, December 31, 2012

Writing in The New Year!

Hello, my long lost Coffee Talkers!

I'm back! To the people who asked when I was going to write again, thank you. To the few people who sent question but I have not yet answered, sorry for the delay. And to the 163 Russians who viewed Coffee Talk with Leslie during the month of December, despite the fact that I have not written anything on here since August... Why?!?

But all Russians aside, I'm so happy to be here Coffee Talking with you all once again, as the US West Coast New Year fast approaches!

Some (well, about 3) of you have asked why I stopped writing for a while, and ya know what? I have been blessedly busy with other non-Coffee Talk commitments, many of them involving PAID,
PUBLISHED writing! I don't really know how it all happened, friends, but to anyone who threw out a little prayer for me, thanks!

Could you keep praying? I'm hoping to wrap up a big writing project by the end of January in which I've been helping to turn a religion text book series into a parish series, and I'm responsible for the 1st - 8th grade   parish teacher manuals. It is taking me longer than anything I've ever done. I need focus and determination. I need caffeine. I need YOUR PRAYERS! In advance, accept my gratitude.

I got to do another feature article on some pro-life saints for a Catholic magazine -- that was fun! And then I got an offer to submit religion commentary pieces for publication in our local newspaper, The Daily Press. Neat-o mosquito!

Also, in the midst of all of that, and while  teaching for the Diocese and taking a college class for the first time in approximately 900 years, I got a new job. A full-time job. In the high desert. Using my degrees in music and Catholic theology! Who said that miracles do not occur these days?

Naturally, as I count the numerous blessings for me and my family this year, I also count the losses to so many and hold those people close in my heart.

I think of the moving words spoken by our beloved and Blessed John Paul II at World Youth Day in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in 2002. The words still ring true today:


A blessed and peaceful New Year to all!

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,
Leslie

Thursday, August 2, 2012

50 Shades of Chick-Fil-A and True Love

Coffee Talkers!

How kind of you to join me again after another respite from blogging. Thus far, I have remained completely silent in the internet world as to the recent happenings surrounding Chick-Fil-A and the controversy surrounding the company president's statements regarding marriage. (I'm sure you could Google it if you don't know what's up.) Let me tell you up front that I am not here to endorse or boycott Chick-Fil-A or anything else (sorry to disappoint). Anyway, I read an interesting post in regard to this business -- it had some good points, but then I felt disturbed by the philosophical underpinnings of others -- and I decided to hold my little Facebook tongue in regard to any of it. But now I've seen quite a lot of people posting that same article (I'm not going to link to it, because that's really not the point I'm wanting to make here) and I finally am fed up with the whole drama enough to do the one hopefully more constructive thing on the internet than spouting off strangely isolated, vitriolic, or polarizing comments -- and that's to blog!

The thing I really liked about the article that I see all y'all posting is that the author mentioned something really important -- that people are being unfairly categorized and judged as to where they stand on the issue of Chick-Fil-A (and in turn, of same-sex marriage) as if there was no other issue, or quality of the person, that mattered. The author reminds readers that it is quite possible for a person to be for same-sex marriage but still to be a 'homophobe' (although I question what was meant by that particular term), or for a person to be 'gay' but to stand in opposition to same-sex marriage. I truly applaud the author for making this point, because I think it leads to what is essentially missing from, and to what is fueling such extreme polarization, in this debate. I see a lot of people posting things that point to a really black-and-white Chick-Fil-A mentality here: If you do not boycott Chick-Fil-A, you are a homophobic hater who wants all gay people to be jailed, and possibly killed; If you are boycotting Chick-Fil-A, you are supporting a subversive subculture that is calling down judgment upon our nation. (Nota bene: I DO NOT hold either of these views -- hopefully obvious?!)

The thing I really did not like about the article was that it went on to suggest that, while people do not have to agree with gay people on everything, all people should repudiate Chick-Fil-A (including 'unliking' them on Facebook) and that, if you cannot do that, that you should consider whether or not any person is really your friend. Because, the author insists (among other things, of course), "If things were reversed, I'd stand up for you."

Alright. A few things. (Oh, who am I kidding? A half dozen things!)

1. When I made a personal choice to no longer support a certain girls' organization because of their open partnership with a certain abortion provider, despite the fact that it was at the pain of loss in regard to a certain kind of rather delicious cookies, people jumped all over me like white on rice and insisted that I was attacking the girls themselves. I can assure you that quite the opposite is true, but it seems that a rather large number of people engaged in the current boycott have taken to verbally harassing and bullying those who participated in the day of support, yelling things at the customers about eating 'hate sandwiches' and 'bigot chicken.' Sound a leetle bit like hate speech or bullying to anyone? Can we all agree that this is wrong?

2. If things were reversed, you would not stand up for me. You know that little thing called the HHS Mandate, which really affects my ability to get health care as a mother of two young children who works for the Catholic Church? Not only that, but it may put me, as a practicing Catholic and church employee, at the risk of fines, imprisonment, and possibly death (hey, it seems as likely as what this author suggested when he said that Dan Cathy wants him to be killed) for civil disobedience against the mandate. Sorry, but I actually didn't see a single LGBT rights organization standing up for me or the Catholic Church, and I have enough LGBT friends that I think I would have heard the news. Strangely, the main non-Catholic groups I saw supporting us were fundamentalist Evangelical Christians, who generally consider us Catholics hell-bound but I guess decided to back us up this one time. Hey, help is hard to find these days, so I'll take it in whatever form it comes. Still, I question the 'If things were reversed, I'd stand up for you' line.

3. The author does not want to be judged on one particular aspect of his life, but he vows to judge others on whether or not they have 'liked' Chick-Fil-A on Facebook. I have seen many other people making similar promises to 'unfriend' on the same basis. Interesting.

4. The term 'homophobe,' to me, points to a fundamental misunderstanding prevalent in our American culture -- that if you do not agree with some aspect of a person's life, that you are either afraid of them, or that you hate them. This is simply not true. I am not denying that there are people who are fearful of those with same-sex attractions, but I think this term is often applied (these days, especially) to anyone who does not stand in full legal support of same-sex marriage throughout the United States. I'm sure that many of you reading may disagree with some aspect of my life as a Catholic, or perhaps with what you mistakenly believe about Catholicism. I do not equate that with you fearing or hating me. Similarly, many of us have a family member or friend who we have serious concerns about certain life choices they have made, but we don't feel afraid or hateful. You get the picture.

5. Our society is obsessed with sex, and people are much more than their sexual attractions or orientations. Seriously, can we all get over our American hang up with sex? When I meet a person and develop a friendship with them, I am not primarily interested in their sexual orientation, and if you are, I'm more than a little concerned. Really. Every person is a unique and complicated individual who deserves to be treated with respect regardless of their sexual attractions or whether they live a celibate life. From gay dance clubs to the convent, I have had friends from all backgrounds and belief systems, and I think it's worthy of mention that some of  the people who seemed to lead the happiest and most fulfilling lives are the ones who have chosen to live out their 'sexual identity' in voluntary celibacy. (I think I hear Sigmund Freud rolling in his grave now, just under the sound of your gasp.)

6. This whole debate is lacking in love, and love involves personal interactions between people who respect one another. I heard someone say the other day that they learned at church that the opposite of love is fear, and so everyone should stop being so afraid of gay people and start boycotting Chick-Fil-A. (Alright, I just threw in that last part, but it was clearly in regard to the Chick-Fil-A debate that they said this.) The Scriptures do say that perfect love casts out all fear, but the opposite of loving a person is not actually fearing them or hating them. Do you know what the opposite of loving a person is? Using. Utilitarianism is the opponent of the personalistic norm, or for us simple folks: stop using people and start respecting them and loving them for who they are and not for how useful they might be to you. So if a person is nothing more to you than a 'like' or 'unlike' click of the Facebook page for Chick-Fil-A, I think that might call us to examine our level of personal care and respect for that person. Sure, the virtual world allows us to 'keep in touch' with others all over the world, but at what risk? I think the best way to engage in dialogue about Chick-Fil-A, or any other matter, is to actually talk with another living person. If you can't meet with them face-to-face, why not give that person a call? And don't let it be just to debate them or to win them over to your way of thinking -- to me, that's slipping into using, and what we need here is loving, that on which true mutual respect and friendship must be built and earned.

If you got this far, perhaps you are a friend of mine, and in any case I thank you for stopping by. As always, be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,
Leslie


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Ten Days of Blogging for Blaise Part 10 -- Blaise Voita, Intercessor for Sick Children

There are so many more things I could say about sweet Blaise, but it's day ten of this little blog project already, so for now let's get down to business here!


Prayer for the Beatification of Blaise Voita

O God, who, among the many marvels of Your Grace in the United States of America, did cause to emerge from the desert of Arizona the pure and delicate butterfly, Blaise Voita, we thank You, the favor we begged through her intercession, that this Young Lover of Jesus and of His Cross will now be counted among the Saints of Holy Mother Church, and that our hearts may be enkindled with a stronger desire to imitate her innocence, joy, and faith. Heavenly Father, we ask you to glorify Blaise. May the Church raise her to the honor of the altars for the encouragement of all people, and most especially for children with life-threatening illness and for their families. Through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen.

Prayer for a Sick Child, Asking the Intercession of Blaise
O beloved Blaise, through the power of my most compassionate Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, I humbly beseech you to look with love and pity on (name) who is ill at this time. Stir up in him/her the same passion that impelled you to respond with joy and love to all around in the face of your own suffering, a sure knowledge of the Divine presence, and a complete trust in God's providence. Use once again your spirit of compassion and ever-present joy to restore her/him, through your powerful heavenly intercession, to full health if it is God's holy will. I ask this in the Name of Jesus who lives and reigns with the Father in unity of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

video 

I don't really know much about this, friends, but this is how I think it works: when someone has died whose life was marked by remarkable sanctity and virtue, a person (or group of people) can present their cause for beatification and canonization. I think the process starts out with a Mass (after which the person is declared "Servant of God"), then followed by a period of investigation where witnesses are interviewed about that person's life and anything that the person wrote, or that was written about them, gets examined as well. It all gets sent to Rome, and one authenticated medical miracle has them declared "Blessed" and a second has them declared a "Saint." (The Catholic Church teaches that anyone who dies and goes to heaven is a saint, and through the processes of Beatification and Canonization the Church holds up particular people as universal role models and intercessors for particular causes.)  I think there are some postulators, vice-postulators, a local bishop, and a bunch of theologians thrown in the mix, and the wait is typically five years after a person's death, to look at their life and achievements in a more objective manner. But the Vatican waived the five-year business in the cases of now Blessed Mother Teresa and John Paul II.

I never expected to be calling for someone's canonization (and don't get me wrong -- Coffee Talk is certainly not an official initiation of such a process!), but I do know this: when I was at Blaise's funeral Mass, on the drive home, and in all the days to follow, one thought keeps coming back to me: Santo subito! Sainthood now!

So whether this tenth day of blogging for Blaise is the end of something, the beginning of another, or both, let's all ask for Blaise's intercession. Do you know a child, or children, suffering from a serious illness? Why not ask Blaise to intercede for them from her heavenly home? Pass the prayer on to friends, relatives, neighbors, anyone who needs a special heavenly intercessor for a suffering child. And it doesn't matter if you are not Catholic -- the heavenly communion will intercede for us all, and I believe they are just waiting for us to ask for their help!

Servant of God Blaise Voita, pray for us!

Peace and all good,
Leslie

P.S. I really have no idea if anyone will take on Blaise's cause in a formal way or how it works, but if anyone has stories of Blaise's holiness or miracles that you believe to have been granted through her intercession, feel free to send them to me for now at CoffeeTalkWithLeslie@gmail.com. And if there are any priests, bishops, theologians, or canonists in the crowd who feel to called to help in this regard, do let me know!



Monday, July 9, 2012

Ten Days of Blogging for Blaise Part 9 -- Blaise's Travels

In her seven earthly years, Blaise was not able to do a lot of traveling because of her almost constantly perilous physical health. So one of her wonderful nurses (she had many who loved her so dearly!), Rosie, created a "Flat Blaisey" (inspired by Flat Stanley) so that she could 'bring' Blaise along on her trip to New York City! After that, Flat Blaisey traveled to Montana, Florida, and even China!
























Blaise's mom, Lisa, said that there were many other requests to take Flat Blaisey as a travel companion, but as real Blaise got increasingly ill, Lisa was not able to send out Flat Blaise to anyone else.

Blaise's story makes me think of St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower, whose own illness seemed to keep her from the travels and mission she desired:
 In spite of my littleness, I would like to enlighten souls as did the Prophets and the Doctors. I have the vocation of the Apostles. I would like to travel over the whole earth to preach your Name and to plant your glorious cross on infidel soil. But…one mission alone would not be sufficient for me, I would want to preach the Gospel on all the five continents simultaneously and even to the most remote isles. I would be a missionary, not for a few years only, but from the beginning of creation until the consummation of the ages.
And yet, despite leaving her earthly life at age 24, Therese truly is now a missionary to all continents, and a Doctor of the Church!

Similarly, I see little Blaise just now beginning her mission, her travels to all the ends of the earth. In just this past week, Blaise's story has traveled through the blogosphere to the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Philippines, Germany, Ukraine, China, Ireland, Australia, Belgium, Indonesia, Israel, India, and Samoa. And certainly, Blaise knows not even the internet's bounds now!

Blaise, keep us in your heart as your spirit travels the whole world and so far beyond!

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,
Leslie

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Ten Days of Blogging for Blaise Part 8 -- Blaise's Humor

Even in the midst of her many years of extreme pain and suffering, Blaise had a great sense of humor that brought joy and levity to those around her.

From Blaise's mom, Lisa, in September 2011:
So I sneak back into bed at 2:00 a.m. and nestle up close to Blaise, and I hear, in her deadpan munchkin voice, 'Nice chocolate breath'...BUSTED!

May sweet Blaise help us to always have such joy and humor, even in the face of life's greatest trials!

As always, thanks for stopping, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,
Leslie

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Ten Days of Blogging for Blaise Part 7 -- Blaise, Singing Her Heart Out

So many people have shared how touched they have been by Blaise's life and her beautifully painful story, but say that they are at a loss for words in how to respond.




Sometimes we are called just to sit with the mystery and beauty and suffering.




"Be still and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:11).



At times, this stillness can bring peace, but often it brings us to a profound place of sorrow before peace can be felt. And as we enter into the existential pain of our own human frailty, we sometimes experience a dripping of grace from above, a moment when the Divine breaks through our overwhelming sorrow and brokenness.



From Blaise's mom, Lisa, on May 22, 2012:
Four months today and I miss my girl more fiercely than ever. I was painting in her room yesterday and feeling very sad; I asked her for a sign to let me know she could 'feel' me, and our favorite Black Eyed Peas song came on the radio. She used to shake her little tush to it. I cried...then I shook my booty a little for her...Mazel tov, Blaisey!
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"The word mazel literally means “a drip from above.” ... Mazel is the term used in Jewish mysticism to describe the root of the soul. The mystics say that only a ray of our soul actually inhabits our body. The main part of the soul, our mazel, remains above, shining down on us from a distance.

Have you ever experienced a sense of spontaneous intuition, where out of the blue you suddenly feel at peace with yourself and the universe? Or a sudden flash of inspiration that makes you see life in a new light? Occasionally we may receive an extra flux of energy from our soul above. It can happen at any time, but is most common at a time of celebration ... It is especially at these times of joy that we are able to see beyond the mundane and the petty and to sense the deeper truths of life.

When we tell someone Mazel Tov, we are giving them a blessing: May this drip of inspiration from your soul above not dissipate, but rather have a positive and lasting effect, that from this event onwards you should live your life with higher consciousness. You should be aware of the blessings in your life and be ready to receive more and more."

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,
Leslie


Friday, July 6, 2012

Ten Days of Blogging for Blaise Part 6 -- On Suffering, Prayer, and the Risk of Love

Dear Coffee Talkers,

Thank you so much for joining me in this little journey with Blaise Voita (2004-2012). As I mentioned before, my girls and I never had the pleasure of meeting Blaise in person, but we came to know her in a few ways: through updates and pictures from her mom, through correspondence (the girls sent a few sweet pieces of correspondence and little gifts to one another), and most importantly through prayer. I say that the prayer is the most important because that is what actually drew us into the life and experience of Blaise in a profound and life-changing way. Let me explain.

While living in Ohio, I was part of a Catholic mom's group where it was a common practice for us to share prayer requests. One of the other mom's would sometimes mention a little girl named Blaise, a friend of her family's, who was frequently in and out of the hospital with a rare medical condition for which treatment was extremely difficult. I did not know much about her situation, but I did pray for her by name from time to time. When some tragic circumstances in my own family took me and my girls away from Ohio and the mom's group I continued to receive prayer requests for a time, and in summer 2010 something important happened. This is from a note I wrote to Lisa, Blaise's mom in 2011:

Life is much better now for us, thanks be to God, but I wanted to make something good come of all that suffering, and so I asked God if he would accept my sufferings on behalf of others families in crisis. I asked that he would help take me out of some of my unhealthy introspection and selfish misery in those darkest moments, and use my little offering on behalf of other people in need.

It did not take God long to make me aware of other suffering families, and your family (especially Blaise) have become a part of our story since that time.

In the summer of 2010 I decided to make some pilgrimages to many of the local shrines in the Philadelphia area on behalf of those other families in need. I took your Blaise as one of my main intentions to all of the shrines (St. Gianna Molla, St. Katharine Drexel, Miraculous Medal Shrine, Our Lady of Czestachowa), but there was one particular visit I made just for her. I checked my e-mail one day to see a message from Kate [the mutual friend from my mom's group] asking all of to please pray for Blaise -- she was dying. You and your family were saying your goodbyes to her. I looked at the clock, and saw that there should be just enough time (barring the interference of my poor sense of direction) to make it to evening Mass at the shrine of St. John Neumann in Philly. I prayed so hard for Blaise, and for your family. I waited for the next e-mail update. It came. Blaise was alive! And she would be going home soon!

Since then, Blaise has really been a special part of our lives. My girls loved getting the pretty little thank you card and picture from her, and they were so happy to send that rosary to her. (And the story of the rosary -- thank you again. Isn't it amazing when God gives you a little glimpse of what he can do with even our smallest acts of love and kindness?) When we pray, my girls often throw in one of their favorites -- "I pray for Blaise with all my heart!" -- and Patricia Rose (who has quite an astute memory for a 4 1/2 year-old) insists that Blaise came to visit us one day and play with her and Faustina. (Who knows? With God, all things are possible!)

Anyway, I just wanted to thank you so much for letting us be a little part of your lives. You & your Blaise have been a real inspiration to me on a lot of tough days, and even though we've all never met, I feel that through prayer you all have a very real presence in my heart. And it is a presence that has built my strength and trust in the Lord, my gratitude, my willingness to enter in more fully to the mystery of redemptive suffering, even in those moments that seem unbearably dark.
Blaise's life was one that called out for a profound response of love and prayer, and of the very deepest kind, since her life was so obviously fragile from the time before her birth until her death in January. The depth of the prayer and love that she drew from people was so profound because it really required a great deal of risk -- yes, in the good times, it seemed that everyone's love and prayers had sustained Blaise in being, but what about the day that Blaise's earthly life ended? What can we make of prayer then, in the face of such unthinkable tragedy?

Blaise's funeral Mass, which my girls and I were honored to attend, was one of the most uplifting experiences of my life. In addition to her brother Damien's letter, Fr. Anthony Sortino, LC (a priest from Blaise's family) helped to make sense of the tremendous suffering of love and risk of prayer that everyone had invested in Blaise's life, and helped everyone to move forward in a new kind of love and prayer. During Blaise's earthly life, Fr. Anthony wisely suggested that it was not only Blaise who needed our love and prayers, but we who needed to be able to love and to pray for her. (To me, Blaise was a very clear example of a child who had literally been loved into being by her family, most especially her mother and her father and brothers who sacrificed everything for her.) We needed to enter into Blaise's story, to become a part of her suffering, so that we might constantly intercede for her that God might ease her burden. And when God finally did ease Blaise's burden by taking her into eternal rest, Fr. Anthony suggested that there might be one thing left that we could do for Blaise from this side of heaven -- we could let Blaise go. We could, in our own hearts and minds, turn Blaise over to her heavenly Father, and let her enter into the fullness of peace. We could see more clearly now the mutual gift of Blaise's life to us and our lives to Blaise, and could now even ask Blaise to intercede for us and our sufferings.


In her short but profoundly beautiful life, Blaise showed us that the way to peace is an acceptance with joy of all that God gives us even in the midst of unthinkable pain and seemingly unbearable suffering. And Blaise showed us that the risk of prayer and of love are ultimately necessary risks of a life worth living. Through this type of prayer and love, we are drawn more deeply into the communion of saints, and I hope that Blaise's prayers will continue to take us all there day by day.

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,
Leslie

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Ten Days of Blogging for Blaise Part 5 -- Before I Formed You in the Womb, I Knew You

From Blaise's mom, Lisa, four months after Blaise's passing:

Is this NOT Blaise?!? I made this in HIGH SCHOOL and never finished it; I found it recently in my old box of mementos. The hair...the lips...the lashes...she even has a the red mark of irritation on her cheek from her NG tube tape. Good Lord...



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"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you" (Jeremiah 1:5).


As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,
Leslie

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Ten Days of Blogging for Blaise Part 4 -- True Freedom

Not too long after Blaise's funeral Mass, her mother Lisa said that it was helping her to sort through some of Blaise's things and give away some mementos. She was gracious and generous enough to send several beautiful things of Blaise's to my girls, who treasure those items very much. One night, my younger daughter decided to wear some of Blaise's beads to a dance recital, and something special happened:

Lisa, my girls and I went to my cousin's girls' dance recital tonight, and Faustina decided to wear the string of special Blaisey beads that you sent to us. I can't really describe the whole experience well in writing, but there was a point during the recital where I felt that your sweet Blaise was present with us in some way, enjoying the recital. As I had that feeling, I even noticed that my girls had moved around a bit to see (one moved over, one sitting on a lap) so that they had one open seat between them -- it struck me as being a seat for Blaise! I don't think I've ever had that kind of feeling before, and it was so moving, beautiful, sad, and uplifting all at once. I keep you in prayer so often, Lisa. Thinking of you as you grieve and heal, and thinking of your sweet girl.
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Oh, that's so sweet. It's funny because my nieces--the ones you saw at the service--I can't even describe to you how good they were to Blaise and how much they loved her. They are both dancers and, while it was so painful for Pat and I to see all those healthy dancing girls up there, she loved it. I don't know what went through her mind...she was SO smart and intuitive, but she never talked about her differences. Oh, I miss her so much. Thank you for sharing.

It seems that sweet Blaise, in spite of all of her physical pain and differences (or perhaps because of them), had a special degree of interior peace, joy, and freedom that was not only unusual for a child her age, but even an example to adults.  And I pray now, as she experiences the full freedom of eternal life free from earthly sufferings and constraints, that she will help us all to receive the grace to find that same freedom that comes from a quiet spirit, a peaceful heart, and childlike faith.

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,
Leslie

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Ten Days of Blogging for Blaise Part 3 -- Of Sleepovers, Wedding Dresses, and Easter Purses


As I mentioned before, my girls prayed every day for their little friend Blaise, and they had a wonderful sleepover party planned out for whenever Blaisey got better. When I told the girls of the sad news of Blaisey's death, they looked so sad and then said, "But what about the sleepover?" I explained that there was going to be a special Mass for Blaise so that her family and friends could say goodbye until they see her again in the next life, and they asked if we could go, which we did. They also decided that they could wait until they get to heaven for the sleepover, where they would have a really big party with Blaise, and they still pray from time to time that Blaisey is having a good time in heaven. What follows is a picture of my girls at the funeral Mass, and a note I sent to Blaise's mom, Lisa, after our return home.






When the girls and I were packing a few things to head out, both of my girls insisted on wearing their fancy white dresses, which they refer to as their wedding dresses. They are flower girl dresses, really, but they both insisted on wearing their 'wedding dresses.' Next, they insisted on bringing their 'Easter purses.' And then on the morning of Blaisey's service, they both insisted that I put their hair in 3 braids (this is not a common hairstyle for them -- haha!). Anyway, you can see all of this in the picture that your friend took of my girls, and it was all so very striking to me -- the wedding dresses, the Easter purses, the 3 braids that are within themselves each a little trinity. Because that Mass for Blaisey, was all of those things -- it was the liturgical moment of celebrating her wedding day, the start of her eternal Easter, her welcoming into the very heart of the Trinity. Oh gosh, I'm crying now even as I type it. The beauty and pain are almost too much to bear, and I can't even imagine how it is for you. I hold you up in prayer each day, and I thank you again for being so generous with your little saint, and with your own journey toward healing and wholeness. Peace be with you and your family during this Triduum and as you prepare to celebrate Easter, Lisa.
 As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,
Leslie

Monday, July 2, 2012

Ten Days of Blogging for Blaise Part 2 -- The Pink Beaded Rosary

Even though they had never met her my girls prayed for Blaise daily, and when a traveling Catholic bookstore came to our parish a couple years ago they picked out a rosary with pretty pink beads to send as a little gift for Blaise to help her feel better. In January 2011 Blaise's mom Lisa sent me this note:

So, I think I told you how much I loved that little rosary and sort of 'stole' it for myself for a little bit. You may have seen that my grandfather died and how dearly I loved him. He was SO special and the cornerstone of my Catholic faith. Whenever we got the chance (which I now regret was not more often, in hindsight of course) we would go pray a rosary with my grandparents. Blaise was always near the top of their list of prayers along with a whole host of other intentions, as they were the parents of ten children and umpteen grandchildren! They were inseparable and one of the things they used to do together was make rosaries. They made me one for my birthday which I now cherish more than ever. It's been missing for a while. I had slipped that pretty pink one you sent Blaise into the case they gave me...always having the intention to pop into the chapel and pray when I had some nurse/free time, but never seeming to make it! When my grandfather died it was a very sad time for our large family who were all very close to him. It was a monumental effort to get help for Blaise on short notice and get to Ohio. I'm so glad I went and SO glad I slipped that rosary into my purse before I left. I held onto it for comfort at the wake. The next morning, before the funeral, they unexpectedly asked if anyone would like to leave a memento in the casket. I think, because no one knew about this, no one had anything with them. I was a little nervous about it, because of all the ten children, just my one aunt slipped up there and I was the only grandchild. I knew I had to leave Blaise's rosary with him! My Grandma was grieving and crying and not paying too much attention and then I saw her eyes move down to something foreign in the casket by my Grandpa's hand. I whispered that is was Blaise's rosary and asked her if it was okay. She started crying fresh tears and said, 'I think that's beautiful.'

You can't imagine how blessed I felt to be able to leave a little bit of Blaise with him. I hate the idea of his body in the ground--I know it's not 'him' and he's rejoicing--but I love the idea of those heavy, crackly beads of Blaise's staying in the ground there for centuries, or however long they will last, in Grandpa's 'spot'.
So, just a short time ago we pulled out our bed because we're getting ready to move. I found my rosary from Grandma and Grandpa! It had slipped from under my pillow and behind my headboard--probably from a night of me trying to pray it, when I only got halfway through the first decade and passed out again! I was so happy and imagined my Grandpa smiling from heaven.

PLEASE do not apologize for not sending Blaise anything else. I've never met you and you've been so kind to my daughter. I wanted to share this story with you because you are one of the pieces of the puzzle of this sad, but amazing story of Blaise. Your one little act of kindness had a huge ripple effect. So many go unnoticed, but I'm so glad to trace this back to you so you know what your little gesture of sending that pretty rosary to Blaise meant to someone like her struggling mother.
God bless you.
Lisa


All of our small acts of kindness and love have a huge ripple effect. Thanks to Blaise and Lisa for helping us to remember.

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,
Leslie

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Ten Days of Blogging for Blaise Part 1 -- Dear Blaise

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

I'm back by the popular demand of the 3 or more people who asked about my blog, so welcome back to all of my faithful readers! To re-start things here at Coffee Talk, I'm starting a little project I call "Ten Days of Blogging for Blaise." You'll have to stay with me for all ten days to see this bittersweet, but deeply inspiring, story unfold. Sweet little Blaise died in January, but I feel certain that she is praying for all of us struggling folks down here now from her heavenly home. I mean, if anyone is there, Blaise is. My girls and I never had the pleasure of meeting Blaise in person, but the girls were pen pals for a while, and we attended her funeral Mass. It was truly awe-inspiring, and Blaise's sweet mother and brother have given permission for this letter to be shared:

Dear Little Sister,

Nothing I can ever say will ever truly express everything that is in my heart. I have been so filled with conflicting emotions for the past 72 hours that I can barely comprehend or deal with them. I am so, so proud of you. Proud of you for fighting for over seven years. From before you were even out of the womb, you were so full of spirit and fire that nothing could keep you down. The doctors gave you a 20% chance of survival through delivery because they thought your lungs would collapse from the surrounding fluid when it came time for you to use them. But you come out against the odds, yelling and fighting like the warrior you are. Time and time again, you beat the odds, forcing medical professionals with more education than your entire lifetime to eat their words and reconstruct their predictions. In the face of all the doubt and negativity, you pulled through like a champion every time. I know you are with the angels now not because you stopped fighting, but because you knew that we, your loving family were ready to let you go.

At the same time, I am so overcome with sadness that I can hardly face it at times. I have found comfort in the arms of family and friends, but the hole in my heart that your absence has left is more devastating than anything I have ever experienced. People speak about caring for a disabled child as though it is a burden, but I think that I, mom, dad, and Regan needed you far more than you needed us. I want so badly to hold your puffy hand again, to build Legos with you, to sit at the table and draw, and to let you stand on my feet and walk around with me. My heart is in a billion pieces, and while I know it will heal with time, there will always be a little Blaisey-shaped fragment that is missing as long as I walk this earth.

But I know, even though my own pain is great, that your life was an incredible journey that brought you to many people who needed you, and your spirit was a light that filled so many lives. I have heard it from individuals here and there over seven years, but in the days since you went to be with the angels, I have been so amazed by how many people have come forth to celebrate your life and express how much they cared about you. You were such a clever little girl; while you seemed fragile and delicate to those around you, it was through that guise that you commanded such an incredible power to move people and an influence that was more far-reaching than any of us could have imagined. We all thought we were the ones helping you and that you needed us to take care of you. But in drawing people away from themselves and provoking so many acts of love and selflessness, you were the one teaching us how to live and how to be good people.

I know that you taught me more than I could ever learn in any university or any career, and that you challenged me in ways no other person could. I am a perfectionist, and God sent me a little sister with a one-of-a-kind birth defect that no doctor could fix. I learned to see beauty and opportunities to grow from the imperfections in life. I am a control freak, and God sent me a little sister who presented us with a completely unpredictable new crisis or blessing every day. I learned to let go of things I cannot control and accept the things I cannot change. I am incredibly self-conscious at times, and God sent me a little sister who was very noticeably different from the people around her. I learned that it's not really important what other people say behind your back and to embrace my individuality. I am sometimes arrogant and quick to judge others, and God sent me a little sister with a situation that I'm sure made me act selfish, mean, and inconsiderate to those around me at times. Despite all that, I have been blessed with incredible friends, family, teachers, and neighbors who continually rise to the occasion to support me and remind me of the inherent goodness in all people. God sent me to you, Blaise and I am so incredibly grateful that you are my little sister.

I could go on for days about the ways that you have helped me, loved me, and changed me, Blaisey, but today it's not about me. It's about you, and under all my sadness and pain, there is joy. I am so happy for you, happy that your long, hard journey is over. No more pain, no more discomfort, no more fear. You are with the angels now, with Grandma and Grandpa. You have blossomed into the butterfly you were always meant to be, no longer held down by the earthly body that caused you so much grief. I will miss you every day for the rest of my life, but I find peace in knowing that you will always have my back and that you will be waiting for me with open arms and a giant smile on your face, just like you did every time I came home to visit you. My pain is great, but I am reminded of a line from one of my favorite songs--'I mourn for those who never knew you.' Take care of me Blaisey, I'll see you soon.

Love,
Damien


As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,
Leslie

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

If I Ever Do This On Facebook, Call the Authorities!

Hello again, Coffee Talkers!

I want to let you know a couple things -- first, rest assured that just because last night's post and this night's post have to do with Facebook does not mean that all future posts will!

Next, if any of you ever see me do any of these things on Facebook, or anywhere else on the internet, or anywhere else on God's green (or any other land-type or water covered) earth, know that I have a.) been hacked, b.) been kidnapped, or c.) have gone a little crazier than usual and need my internet right taken away immediately. So call the internet authorities if you see any of these things posted under my name:
  1. Me doing a kissy-face pose...
  2. while wearing a very low cut shirt and/or bikini top...
  3. and for some strange reason, feeling the need to squeeze my arms together near my chest region...
  4. and of course, this picture has been taken myself, with my phone, in the bathroom mirror.
  5. Me posting a picture which I have no rights to, but which has obvious emotional appeal...
  6. asking you to 'like' said photo if you agree with whatever sentimental statement I made along with the photo (but which I actually do nothing to support in real life)...
  7. and then telling you to 'subscribe' to me, so I can get you nine million new friend requests!
  8. Me, explaining in a very lengthy status update or note how overloaded my life is with commitments and how I can simply NOT do another thing...
  9. followed by me bombing your newsfeed with all of my progress reports from Farmtown, Castleland, and MyNewAquariumHasMoreLivingFishThanYoursVille.
  10. Me posting anything about any of the Kardashians. For any reason. EVER.
(Now you know that, just because I threw that last one in there, some big news item relating to some Kardashian and the Catholic Church will transpire, and then what am I gonna do??)

You now, I just thought of one exception to the 'kissy-face' photo rule. If you ever see a picture like this posted...

...it might really be from me. What can I say? I'm a sucker for baby chub!

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers!

Peace and all good,
Leslie

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Don't Judge a Family by their Facebook

Coffee Talkers!

Great to be back with you again! I have been intending to start writing more regularly again, starting this week, and then I got sick. But I've got some rockin' antibiotics now (I think the physician's assistant was afraid I would hug him after he said that he'd prescribe some) and so I'm happily taking advantage of this peaceful moment between feverish sweat and freaky chills to get back to Coffee Talk.

A while back, I saw a picture of a family on Facebook. I am not even Facebook 'friends' with whoever posted the picture, but I do know some members of the family. The picture was breathtaking. I mean, these are some really photogenic people! And to top off the loveliness of it all, the family looked happy and intact -- mom, dad, kids, all with very genuine smiles. And I felt happy for them, but at the same time, I realize now that I felt a tinge of jealousy -- why couldn't my family and life be so happy and perfect? (And while we're at it, why couldn't I look like a model?)

Weeks went by without another thought of the photo until one day I was introduced to the dad -- I had never met him before, and I just assumed that he looked a bit familiar to me from that Facebook photo. He shook my hand, and said hello, and it hit me. I realized where I had seen him before. And I realized that he is part of a 12-step program that meets in a building where I also have a commitment each week, and sometimes he would pass by and say hello or offer me some coffee.

And in that moment, I realized something wonderful -- that family is not perfect, that family is heroic. And heroic, we are all called to be. Because they got through some terrible times (I'll never know how terrible) and they got through them together. And now they are experiencing wonderful times (certainly still mixed with a fair amount of trial and suffering) and they are experiencing them together. Also, I happen to know that these people are people of prayer, and I am reminded of Mother Teresa's oft quoted, "The family who prays together stays together."

You know, I was gonna write a little more, but prudence calls to me, beckoning me to take a little Tylenol and head to bed, lest the crazy fever-induced dreams come again. Does that ever happen to anyone else? The best one I ever had was when, as a child, I dreamed that I was reading a book about a family who looked like the Jetsons and had a very large pet fish who got stuck in an air conditioning filter. And after I woke up, I searched around my house for quite some time looking for that book until finally someone convinced me that it did not actually exist. I'm still a little disappointed at not having found it.

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers!

Peace and all good,
Leslie

Monday, February 13, 2012

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Church?

Howdy, Coffee Talkers!

After my last post titled "A Call to Civil Disobedience: Why Catholics' Panties are in a Bind, and Why Yours Should Be, Too!" (on the HHS Contraceptive mandate and the so-called compromise), I had a friend post an article (regarding the GOP trying to introduce legislation that would allow employers to deny any preventive health service) and voice this concern:
"This is why I have a hard time getting behind the Catholics on this issue. I'm afraid of it becoming a slippery slope where any employer can deny any employee healthcare coverage based on their beliefs. I also worry that it will go beyond healthcare into lifestyle choices (like sexual orientation). I want religious rights to be protected, but as an agnostic who is borderline atheist, I don't want someone else's religious rights trumping my civil rights. I bring this up because I genuinely want your thoughts on my concerns. Why shouldn't I be afraid?"
Then today, I saw another friend suggest in a post that the Catholic Church is trying to wage war with everyone on the planet who doesn't agree with them.

Do people, especially American people, really view the Catholic Church as a frightening warmonger?


Well, apparently, many do, so I'm here to help clear up some misconceptions, and ease your fears, my friends.

Here's the main reasons I think that no person should be genuinely afraid of the Catholic Church:

1. The Catholic Church has been pretty much teaching the same things for about 2000 years;
2. The Catholic Church has nothing to hide;
3. The Church is not going to come after you;
4. For better or for worse, the Catholic Church is painfully slow to change.

Allow me to elaborate a bit on each point. First, the teachings of the Catholic Church have not changed substantially since the Apostolic times. Sure, doctrine has been developed and disciplines (such as how long you fast before communion) have been adapted, but the fundamental teachings of the Church have remained pretty much the same. And these teachings are easily accessible. So if you want to find out what the Church really teaches and where she stands on any particular matter (not what the media says or what some misinformed self-professed-but-hardly-practicing Catholic moron spouts off on national television), you can find out. And you can be assured that the Church (as an institution) isn't going to do anything that will deviate from those teachings. Lots of people have misunderstandings or misinformation about what the Church teaches. This is why, in my own teeny corner of cyberspace, I write Coffee Talk to explain these teachings to anyone who cares. You can agree, you can disagree, but you can do nothing until you know what the teachings actually are. And once you know, you'll find the Church and her actions pretty predictable.

Number 2, I know people love stuff like the DaVinci Code and wondering about the Vatican's secret archives. But from all of my experience with the Catholic Church (which has been pretty wide and varied, I'd say) I have not once had the experience of being deliberately deceived or misled by the Church. By individual people, of course (in and outside of the Church -- people are people). But I have never felt the Catholic Church to have some sort of hidden agenda by which they were trying to brainwash or oppress me, or anyone else. Really.

Number 3, I don't quite get it, but a lot of people seem to think that the Catholic Church is some sort of monster, trying to enforce their 'rules' and teachings on everyone in the known world. In fact, there could be nothing further from the truth. Just tonight, I asked the teens in my parish's confirmation program if they had ever received a call from a Church official asking why they missed Mass on any particular week. They laughed, of course, and said no. I asked them if they had ever been asked to punch or swipe a card to prove their attendance at Mass or other church function. Again, of course, the answer was no. (To be honest, I have witnessed these practices in other Christian settings, but never at any Catholic Church or institution of any sort.)

People in the Catholic Church violate the Church's teachings all the time. I say this not with any pride, but to point out that no one in the institutional Church is forcing anyone to follow her teachings, even among her own members! People leave the Church all the time, out the back door, so to speak, and no one hunts them down. To be frank, I think it would actually be nice if the Catholic Church were a little bit better with relational ministry and would follow up with or reach out more to these fallen away members (mostly so everyone felt that they had their chance to say what they wanted to say to someone in the Church, even if they still chose to leave). But the point is the Catholic Church ain't in the business of hunting anyone down. I personally have come to the Catholic faith quite openly and willingly, knowing that I am free to remain or to leave at any time I wish without fear of anyone or anything in the Church itself.

Number 4, the Church is slow. Super slow. Painfully slow. Those 'new' Mass translations that are getting implemented in English were many years in the making. And do y'all remember the whole Galileo controversy? Took a few hundred years to get that all straightened out. I'm not bragging about the slowness, by any means, but I am saying that we can all rest assured that the Catholic Church isn't gonna pull a fast one on us. The Catholic Church in the modern world (especially in the USA) does not have any special wealth, power, or political allies and they are very slow to change anything.

Back to the fear-inducing article, let me discuss a quote from it briefly before I wrap this up; my comments are in red:
"But Republicans and some conservative Catholic groups [Who are they? And why does this article not mention very liberal to very conservative Catholics are united in their opposition to the mandate, not to mention many other non-Catholic faith based groups and public entities?] are not satisfied with the accommodation [What accommodation? The so-called compromise is a rhetorical joke] and hope to use their false claim [fair and balanced reporting?] of “religious persecution” to deny women access to preventive health services [does anyone here really believe that all Catholics, along with all Republicans, are in cahoots to deny preventive health services to women?]. Despite Obama’s decision to shield nonprofit religious institutions from offering birth control benefits [this is an outright lie...I can't even bring myself to continue]...
When someone suggests that the Catholic Church is waging war on anyone in the planet who disagrees with their beliefs, I find this patently absurd. The Catholic Church is doing the same things she's always done, proclaiming those same teachings she always proclaims, but the Church is not forcibly requiring anyone to do anything, nor forcibly preventing them from receiving any service or care of any sort. Sure, the Catholic Church has a moral problem with abortifacients, for example, so Catholic institutions aren't going to pay for them. But they're also not gonna keep people from buying them. People have the right to do whatever they choose, and the Church has the right to proclaim her teachings. Since when did not paying for something amount to denying someone's right to that thing? That's like saying that, because my college charged me tuition rather than fully subsidizing the cost of my education, they were denying my right to access that education. Doesn't fly.

Should anyone be a little afraid of the GOP? Probably. Should people be mistrustful of the Democrats? Quite possibly. Politicians do not abide by any definitive set of social or moral beliefs, and so they can change what they're up to at any given moment. But to be afraid of the Catholic Church? To me, it seems silly at best.

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers!

Peace and all good,
Leslie


Friday, February 10, 2012

A Call to Civil Disobedience: Why Catholics' Panties are in a Bind, and Why Yours Should Be, Too!

Friends, Americans, Country people, Coffee Talkers,

The matter that brings us here today is the nonsense that is referred to as the HHS (Health and Human Services) Contraceptive Mandate, and today's alleged compromise. I think that most of us are confused on what is going on with the whole thing (myself included), and that with all the back and forth going on in the media, many have been left confounded by what the big deal is, anyway, especially for Catholics.

This is where I come in, to explain what I can of the Catholic deal.

First, let me address a couple common questions:

Question: Why do you Catholics have your panties in a bind over this whole contraceptive mandate thing, anyway? It's not like Obama is going to make you take birth control or abortion-inducing drugs personally, or make you go to get sterilized.

Answer: Let me address the second part first: not yet. But it is correct to say that, at this point, no one is forcing Catholics to use contraceptives, abortifacients, to get sterilizations, etc. However, the federal government is trying to force Catholic employers into PAYING for these procedures, which are contrary to the church's moral teachings. In other words, the federal government is trying to mandate material cooperation in a moral matter that the Catholic Church has always (and will always) preach, through her moral authority, as being gravely wrong. (If you'd like to know more on why the Church takes this position, read this excellent article from a totally secular source, shockingly titled "Time to Admit It: The Church Has Always Been Right on Birth Control.") In the past, there have always been exemptions for objectors for reasons of religion and/or conscience, not just in the realm of health care, and when those conscience clauses are taken away, all people who value liberty and good will among all people should be alarmed, to say the least.



Question: But doesn't the Catholic position violate the rights of others? What about non-Catholics (for whom birth control is not a moral issue) who work for Catholic employers? Shouldn't they have access to birth control, too?

Answer:  As I overheard one person amusingly explain, "the Catholic Church isn't saying that you can't get birth control or abortions; we're just saying, if you do, pay for it your own damn self!" Maybe the Church wouldn't use that exact language, but that's pretty much the sentiment behind the Catholic position. (Besides, there are plenty of ways that women can access these forms of non-health-care for free, if memory serves, but I'm not going to mention them here, because you are free to find out on your own from a non-Catholic source if you want them!) To explain another way, people are free to do or not do whatever they want. But when it comes to Catholic institutions, they are not going to give material cooperation to anything they see as a serious moral wrong.

Also, besides violations of religious liberty and attacks on freedom of speech, the next thing that really gets my goat (what does that saying mean, anyway?) is the misuse of rights language. In America, we agree primarily to the common rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. No where in there do I see a person's right to require that their religiously-affiliated employer violate their own conscience and religious moral teaching to provide them with access to free abortifacients (which, by the way, violate the right to life of the newly formed person).

What follows is a poor analogy, so I apologize in advance, but maybe it will make the point more clear to some -- if I worked for a company that was run by observant Jews, and I personally had a dietary need for pork (let's even go so far as to say that my own non-Jewish doctor had directed it), it would not be my right to demand that my employer provide pork for me at all staff luncheons. It would make even less sense if I asked them to provide pork for all employees at these luncheons, and it would be patently absurd for the federal government to require all Jewish employers to start making pork readily available, free of cost, for all employees. Now, like I said, the comparison is rather weak, but hopefully you get the idea.

Also, if we extend this analogy to address today's so-called compromise given by Obama, here's what he's saying now: alright, you don't have to tell your employees that you are paying for pork for all of them to eat. What we'll do is hire a catering service (who, of course, you will have still contracted with and paid) and the catering service will provide the pork. So now, the employer is not paying for the pork specifically, but as a part of the larger package offered by the catering service.

Obama has offered a very similar 'compromise' in regard to the health care mandate, which in no way addresses the moral issue at hand, nor the issue of religious liberty. Read more about the so-called compromise here.

Also, this federal mandate goes against the Hyde-Weldon Amendment, attached to all federal health-spending bills since 2004 (except Obamacare, of course) which prohibits state governments from forcing any agency, including insurance providers, from paying for abortions, on pain of losing federal health funding.

This is much more than a Catholic issue -- it is an attack on conscience and freedom for ALL people.

I hope that it did not go unnoticed that religious liberty is not the only freedom under attack when military chaplains were recently silenced; they were prohibited from reading a letter to their Catholic congregations urging them to resist this federal mandate that would essentially violate their religious beliefs, consciences, and their ability to not give material participation in something they found morally objectionable. They were ordered not to read the letter, lest it be 'potentially misunderstood as a call to civil disobedience.'

I think  that the letter would not have been at all misunderstood. I think it would have been perfectly understood. The time for civil disobedience is NOW. Either the mandate gets rescinded, or those of willing to stand up for what is right and good will be willing to go to bat for true freedom -- even if these demands risking steep fines, imprisonment, or worse. Trust me, I'm not some sort of ridiculous dreamer with a goal of martyrdom -- I'm a working, single mom who would much rather practice my faith freely, keep my job working for the Catholic Church (who may not qualify for the very narrow exemption of the current mandate, even in it's 'revised' form), and care for my children. But while I'm still free to say so, may I mention to everyone that Obama is a two-faced liar (I say this not as a means of name calling, but as away of identifying what he did when he recently assured the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, that he would do all that he could to preserve the religious liberties of Catholics in particular, just before he had Sebelius issue the contraceptive mandate as a clear attack on Catholic institutions). This is not about politics, my friends, this is about freedom, and NOW is the time for civil disobedience, not just by Catholics, but by all men and women of good will who value liberty and free exercise of conscience (it's more than a cricket on your shoulder, my friends!).

I have more to say -- much more -- but you're in luck, as I'll commit myself to prayer and sleep for now.

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers!

Peace and all good,
Leslie

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Good, The Bad, and the Bacony: A Candid Review of Jack in the Box Bacon Shake

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

When I recently heard the news of Jack in the Box releasing a bacon shake, I knew I needed to try one ASAP and give everyone a full review. I mean, even if we can't all agree on politics and religion, can we at least agree that we're all kinda wondering what the bacon shake tastes like? A few days passed with no time for bacon shake searching or consumption, but yesterday, as I pulled into a parking lot for something else, I saw the Jack in the Box sign. I never go to Jack in the Box (this is not a matter of moral or religious conviction, in case you're wondering -- I just don't go there), but as I saw the sign, I suddenly remembered: BACON SHAKE!

So I pulled into the drive-thru. While the people in the car ahead of me placed their order, I frantically scoured the menu for a bacon shake. Nothing. Oreo shake. Vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, blah blah blah. Where's my BACON? Another car pulled up behind me, so now there was no turning back. What if this location didn't carry the bacon shake? What if this whole bacon shake thing was a hoax, and the drive-thru girl was just waiting to laugh and laugh at anyone who tried to order one? I looked at the menu again, looked around for any special signs or banners. Still no bacon shake, but I did see the weird picture of the guy trying to marry his bridal-veil-wearing bacon burger, so I considered that a sign of hope.

The car ahead of me pulled forward, and so did I. The moment of truth had arrived. I almost chickened out and just ordered an Oreo shake to save myself the risk of embarrassment, but then I decided to go for it. "Hi, welcome to Jack in the Box. Would you like to try our [some kind of special uttered so fast that I could neither understand nor recall it now]?" "Hi. Um... Do you have... a... a bacon shake?" "Yes, we do." "WOO-HOO!" Silence. "Uh, then I'd like one bacon shake, please." "Would you like to add cookies to that?" [Are you trying to kill me, lady? I'm about to consume a bacon shake!] "No, thanks."

I pulled forward and got out my 3 bucks, trying to prepare myself for the bacon shake experience. I gave her the money. She gave me a dime. I waited for what seemed like a bacon eternity. And then, she handed me the shake. It looked just like in the picture:

I thanked the drive-thru girl, and she said, "Thanks for coming to Jack in the Box. Come again!" I almost said, "I doubt it," but I was so enamored with the bacon shake that I didn't have time to be smart-mouthed. After eating the maraschino cherry, I noticed something -- the shake was entirely uniform in color; it had no bits of bacon in it. I realized that, had I looked closely at the picture, I might have noticed that ahead of time. Still, I tried to give Jack in the Box the benefit of the doubt and think that maybe they had pureed the bacon into the shake. (A girl can dream, right?)

I took my first sip. As the shake went into my mouth, the ice cream reminded me of pancakes with syrup and bacon. "Yeah, that's a good taste combo. I'm down!" And then I swallowed the bite. That's when it hit me -- the strange bacon-flavored aftertaste, and the cold [pun intended] reality that this was just some gross kind of bacon flavoring! I started to suspect that no actual pigs were harmed in the making of this milk shake and quite frankly, I was offended. I took another sip to confirm my suspicion. The same experience repeated itself -- pretty tasty while in mouth, pretty grody aftertaste. I still drank the whole thing (I was gonna get my $2.90 worth, after all), and I decided three things:
  1. I'm still glad that I tried the bacon shake, despite the aftertaste, and found the mysterious ordering process alone to be exhilarating;
  2. The Jack in the Box bacon shake is definitely gonna be a one-time experience, and it's for good reason that they have it 'for a limited time'; 
  3. I'm gonna make my own bacon shake! With vanilla ice cream! And maple syrup! And maybe even little pancake chunks! And lots of bits of actual BACON!!!
My friend Maureen confirmed the absence of actual bacon with this article from HuffPo. So vegetarians, Jews, and Lenten-Friday Catholics can try out this bad-boy. But only once. You'll see why.

Peace and all good,
Leslie

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Some of the Most Beautiful People Are Missing...

At Mass today, I realized something. I was sitting in a side chapel with my fidgety girls, when a family across the chapel caught my attention. I have seen them before, but something really profound and beautiful struck me today when I saw them. A mother, a father, a boy of maybe 7 years old. The boy was the most noteworthy among them. He cannot speak, he cannot walk, and peeking out from just about the waist of his pants was a sight familiar to any mother -- the trim of a disposable diaper. But the most striking feature of the boy is that, every time I have seen him, he is smiling. The boy sat on his father's lap during Mass today, with his dad gently rocking him most of the time, and when it came time for communion the father carried the boy in his arms to receive the Body of Christ.


Tears came from my eyes. There was no thought behind the tears -- they came forth as a natural response to the mix of beauty and pain and suffering and love that I was beholding. And come to think of it, the response may have been more than natural. This boy and his family clearly pointed to the supernatural, to something beyond this valley of tears (which they most certainly have tasted rather bitterly) to a grace that both sustains them and directs them to something greater and more permanent than this transitory existence. That boy was cleansed from the stain of original sin at the time of his baptism, and he will (presumably) remain free from sin throughout his earthly life. When he received the very essence of the Godhead in Eucharistic communion, I could only imagine how tenderly and with what joy God communed with that innocent boy's soul.

I was transported back in time to the year when, while traveling with NET Ministries, I was at a Mass at a church in Louisiana. I saw a little girl and her mother enter the pew near me, but did not pay much attention until the little girl, completely out of the blue, scooted over to me to give me a hug and a kiss on the cheek. I looked over at the little girl, who had a big smile on her face, and I could not help but be won over by her guileless affection. She had Downs Syndrome, and her mother apologized profusely for the girl's unexpected display of affection, but to me there was no need for an apology; on the contrary, I wanted to thank that mother for bringing that beautiful girl to life and to Mass -- like the man born blind of the Gospels, this girl was born in the way she was "so that the works of God might be made visible through" her.

And as my mind returned to the chapel today, and to the boy and his family,  I realized something really shocking. I'd thought of it before, but today it became so real. Why do I not see more children like this boy, and why do I not see more families like this family? Perhaps not all families with profoundly disabled children go out as much as these people do, to be sure, but still, deep in my heart, I knew the real reason. Many of those children were aborted. And my tears continued, not as a sadness for this family and the difficulties that they have had to endure, but for all those families who never got to know their beautiful disabled child, and for all of us who have missed out on knowing them, too. I realized that, while many people talk about the famous people who could have been lost to abortion (Steve Jobs, for example), very few talk about the disabled who also could have been lost or the countless whose lives were lost prior to their birth.

Anyone who knows me (or even who regularly reads Coffee Talk) knows that I am not sharing this experience as some sort of rhetorical platform against abortion -- that's simply not my style. I share this as a true and profound moment of sadness, as a way to thank the families who have chosen to bring profoundly sick or disabled children to life and to care for them (National Catholic Partnership on Disability offers resources), and as a way to reach out to all the people who have suffered the tragic loss of abortion. Rachel's Vineyard offers retreats which facilitate an experience of post-abortion healing to those in need (post-abortive mothers, fathers, family members -- no matter how long ago the abortion was).

The mercy of God knows no bounds, for those who seek it with a sincere and contrite heart.

Peace and all good,
Leslie

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Is This "Birthday Wish" a Little Bit Weird to Anyone Else?

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

Alright, some of you might remember my mentioning Fr. Frank Pavone in a few other posts, and I like what I know of him and admire his work on behalf of the unborn and other people who cannot defend themselves.

Still, when I saw this post today inviting people to 'visit' Fr. Frank's birthday wish, I found it strange. So I need to run it by all y'all to see if it is in fact strange, or if maybe I'm over-reacting. But first, check it out:

Frank Pavone's Birthday Wish  

Alright, did you click on it? Did it strike you as weird, too? I'm trying to identify what made it seem strange to me, and here are a few of my best guesses:

  1. Why is there a need to raise $500 for "Pray to End Abortion"? Last time I heard, praying to end abortion was completely free. The economy must be worse than I thought if God's charging now.

  2. If prayer is the most powerful weapon against the culture of death, why are you raising money?

  3. Okay, I understand that there are many costs associated with the work of the Priests for Life. Fine. Clearly, that must be what Fr. Pavone wants people to donate to for his birthday. But I think he should be a little more clear on what the donation is going towards...

  4. ...especially in light of the fact that Bishop Zurik recalled Fr. Frank to his diocese in Texas specifically because of his "deep concerns regarding his stewardship of the finances of the Priests for Life organization." Whether the Bishop's concerns were valid or unsubstantiated, this certainly does seem a time when Fr. Pavone might be particularly motivated to remain financially transparent, you know what I'm sayin'? 

  5. And the last weird thing is that from the time that I first clicked on the birthday wish until now, the amount raised at the top reads $400, and the progress bar shows that 80% of his $500 'birthday goal' has been met. Has it really stayed at that same level all day, or is it just a way of getting people to think that since Fr. Frank has almost met his goal perhaps they should donate? 

     

    Alright, enough of my musings. What do you guys think? (Not that it really matters, but I'd like some feedback.) Is this strange to you, too? Or is it just a great idea lacking the best presentation? I don't know, but I'm gonna go pray for the unborn while it's still free in California. I'm sure that as soon the state gets wind of Fr. Frank's idea, they'll be taxing us for prayer, too!
     

    As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers!

    Peace and all good,

    Leslie

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Happy Blog-a-versary, SOPA, and the Oregon Trail!

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

Today marks the one year anniversary of my little Coffee Talk blog! It's also, coincidentally, the day of the widespread internet blackouts to protest the SOPA and PIPA bills. These bills were intended to stop internet piracy (arrr, matey!), but posed a real threat to the free internet as we know it, including such things as search engines, social networks, and [gasp!] blogs like little ol' Coffee Talk with Leslie! While this blog does not have an extremely widespread popularity (I suppose that reading about a Catholic perspective on news and reading answers to questions relating to Catholicism is an acquired taste), this past year of blogging has certainly made me appreciate the freedoms we do have and the widespread access to information (and even to personal opinion) that we have through web-based technologies. Honestly, for as small a scope as Coffee Talk has, a number of things still kinda blow my mind about the whole experience:
  1. the fact that anyone reads this. at all.
  2. the fact that the blog is nearing 18,000 page views!
  3. the fact that regular readers of the blog come from dozens of countries around the world.
  4. the fact that a few people have shared with me that they have been led to deeper understanding or practice of Catholicism through the blog.
  5. the fact that my Protestant friends have asked questions, and have better understood the ties that bind us as Christians (happy week of prayer for Christian unity, y'all!).
  6. the fact that a number of friends from non-Christian religions have dialogued with me on various topics thanks to the blog, and I am a better person for it.
  7. the fact that even some atheist and agnostic friends have read (and enjoyed) the blog!
  8. the fact that i can publish a blog, with virtually (ha -- punny!) no skill in web publishing.
  9. the fact that i can say whatever i want on here, without fear or censorship, and that people can comment and ask questions freely, as well.
  10. the fact that, when i was a kid, the idea of publishing a 'weblog' from my own home that people all over the world could read and interact with would have been completely and wildly unimaginable. because all i had then was the Oregon Trail game.
Man, I'm getting old. Please tell me that someone else out there remembers the original Oregon Trail game? I tried to look it up online to give you a sample, but it's not there -- the oldest examples I could find were in color. But the original Oregon Trail game was usually played on a boxy monitor which only displayed one color -- yellow or bright green -- on a black background with one ugly font and bad graphics on a slow and very large computer (from which, if you were lucky, you could also print things in black on your extremely noisy dot matrix printer with that long weird paper).
(Oh, and another thing -- I just accidentally navigated away from this blog page without saving to look for the paper pic without any problem, but let me tell you how many lengthy documents I lost back in those early days of computers, even when I did hit save! It wasn't pretty.)

Anyway, the point of all this nostalgic rambling is that we've come a very long way with computers, and the access we have to web-based media is truly amazing. And as today's bills stand to remind us, these are freedoms that we should not take for granted.

Thanks, everyone, for making this blog possible, and in honor of the blog-a-versary (and of the death of the SOPA bill in its current form thanks to all the protests), feel free to comment about why you enjoy computers or the internet or Catholicism or freedom of speech...or WHATEVER ELSE YOU WANT! (But keep it respectful, or I might have to censor you, not Big Brother.) ;)

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,
Leslie