Maybe It’s Time to DIY

Money doesn’t grow on trees, kids.

There’s an article in my local paper today in which a teenager and his dad lament the closure of a skateboard park in a nearby town. They imply unfair treatment of skateboarders by local police and whine that people don’t accept the skaters because they look/dress/act different. And because the skateboard park was closed (due to unsafe conditions) in December, this teen seems to believe that the police shouldn’t bother skaters who want to take their tricks to Main Street, which is crowded with shops, pedestrians, and car traffic.

It’s nice to have a park where you can practice your skating and enjoy your friends’ company. But it’s not your right to have that park–and if the park is no longer available to you, it’s not your right to break the law and skate in the middle of a crowded downtown area.

Money’s tight. It’s time that towns (and school districts, states, and the nation) learn to live within their means. It’s time that the people entrusted with public funds be more careful about how they choose to spend those funds. And it’s time that we stop expecting our towns (and school districts, states, and nation) to provide facilities for us to practice every single niche sport that exists.

The teenager in the article I read today is 17. He’s old enough to respectfully approach the township officials and find out what needs to be done before his favorite park can reopen. He’s old enough to organize a fund-raiser or get his friends together to work on cleanup or construction, and even to make a commitment to the kind of ongoing maintenance a skate park requires.

Instead of whining about the lack of a place to play, and taking his games to Main Street, this young man could be channeling his energy into finding solutions to the problem. If that happened, chances are good that people wouldn’t continue to misjudge him and his fellow skaters, but rather admire their initiative and civic spirit.

I’ll end with a quote from the movie Robots: “See a need, fill a need.”

Tweety Bird and Jesus

This morning I opened up my email and found yet another “forward” from an acquaintance of mine. She has my email address because we both belong to the same organization, but I rarely get any email from her related to that. However, a few days a week she sends me a “forward.”

In general, I’m not a big fan of “forwards.” They’re like the chain letters of the Internet world. I’ve been told in “forwards” that if I don’t forward them to nine people, I don’t love Jesus. Other times I’ve learned that deleting this “forward” means I’m not patriotic.

The email I received this morning opened up with a cute picture of Tweety Bird and then the telltale all-caps, 3-different-font, brightly-colored text. (At least this time the sender cared enough to delete the email address that had sent it to her and to address it to a BCC list!) The email described an encounter with Jesus, as if he had come into the room with the sender, and then informed me that He was being sent to my house. I should not allow Him to sleep there, I was told, but instead I should send Him on to other people.

I just don’t have patience for these things. Even though the sentiment is nice, I don’t feel like there’s a personal connection when one of these is passed along. And while I might have my reasons for being a little cranky this morning, which may make my reaction to this email a little over the top, it was a long time coming. I’ve used the internet long enough that I’ve seen (over and over again) most of the “forwards” that are going around.

My love for God, my country, and my family and friends has nothing to do with whether I forward an email. And I think the inspiration in the story about Jesus was more than a little diluted by the Tweety-bird opener.

We Don’t Want Any

…nanny state, that is.

I’m getting tired of the government’s efforts to protect people from their own stupidity.

Michelle discusses a California law that removes toys from the Happy Meals. Because the TOY is what causes child obesity. Uh huh. Who knew toys had that many calories?

And here in New Jersey, they’ve passed a law that few people want–one that makes young drivers a target for police profiling as well as criminals who prey on young people–in a misguided effort to keep inexperienced drivers from hurting too many people.

My son already has a “Cinderella” license, as a first-year driver. He has to be in by midnight. Now, Kyleigh’s Law will require him, until he’s had his license for one year or turns 21 (whichever comes first), to be in by 11. He will also be allowed ONE passenger in the car, unless a parent is present, at which point he can have as many people as he has seat belts in the car. This means he can’t have both his siblings in the car at once. So much for his ability to pick them up at school if I’d need him to! Sorry, not allowed! He’s got to show that he’s a new driver by displaying a special sticker on his license plates, stickers that we have to pay extra for AND make a special trip to get. These same stickers will identify him as a new driver to police, and as a teenager to criminals and predators. This is especially disturbing to any parents with daughters!

This law is supposed to help discourage behind-the-wheel cell-phone use as well. Now I realize that teens are heavy phone users, but sit near a traffic light sometime and see just how many adults are on their phones while they’re driving. Check those soccer moms leaving the athletic fields and texting dinner plans behind the wheel. Bet there’s no limit to how many kids they can have in the car while they use their phones. After all, they’re over 21.

What’s next? No listening to the radio while driving? No refereeing squabbling kids? No eating McDonald’s french fries? (Wait, I forgot, that’s probably already against the law.)

If the Suit Fits

I have the feeling that clothing manufacturers are fooling with sizes.

Little Brother inherited all of Big Brother’s old stuff that was still in wearable condition.  This included the Communion Suit. I think Big Brother wore it twice.

But Little Brother fit in that suit last August, when he wore it to Pop’s funeral. He wore it again on Christmas, and I realized that there was no way it would still fit in May for Little Brother’s First Communion.

Big Brother’s old suit was a size 7, so I ordered a new suit in size 8. Despite the fact that Little Brother has grown since Christmas and Big Brother’s suit is definitely too small for him now, this size 8 is absolutely huge. Well, the jacket is fine–but the pants are quite big.

With a good belt and a hemming job (I can do that!) we can make this suit work. The good news is, Little Brother will have this suit to wear for a good long time to come.

But I just don’t get how the jump from a 10-year-old size 7 to a present-day size 8 involves FOUR inches in the waist and three in the length.

I guess they are growing kids bigger these days. However, that doesn’t mean I am in favor of anything as silly as taxes on sugary beverages.

But it would make organizing the hand-me-downs a lot easier if manufacturers kept their size standards, well, standard.

Another Musical Rant

Otherwise known as, “if I got to pick, things would be different.”

Wishful thinking.

Today is the Solemnity of the Blessed Mother, a feast of Mary in the Christmas season. You’d think we’d have sung a carol or two at Mass.

Anything would have been better than “Sing a New Song,” which is no longer a new song and which has just had a lyric change. We’re not allowed to say “Yahweh” anymore. And they further “improved” on it by clumsily replacing a male pronoun used for God.

I will give props to the choice of “Ave Maria” at Offertory, though it still toasts my marshmallows that the Offertory song (oops, sorry, Preparation of the Gifts) is apparently not meant for congregational participation. It’s the one time that people are sitting in the pew, not busy!

“Prayer of Saint Francis” is not a long enough Communion song when you have a full church. And believe me, I was thrilled to see the full church. Maybe next year Father will add an extra Mass on this feast! It was standing-room-only.

And the version of the Magnificat to close out the Mass was a nice choice on a Marian feast–but the cantor obviously didn’t know it. No one in the congregation did either. I think “Joy to the World” would have gone much better.

Deacon J gave a very nice homily on how Mary “pondered these things in her heart” while the shepherds and wise men fell away, lured by other cares and concerns. He challenged us not to forget about Jesus once the manger scenes and Christmas trees are packed away. And he used an interesting term to describe Mary: “the perfect disciple.” I never thought about it that way!

My Not-so-Humble Musical Opinion

The musicians at church have received our copies of the new Breaking Bread for 2010.

It’s a rare occasion when I get to pick the music for a Sunday Mass. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t have an opinion. Having volunteered as a church musician since 1981 (except for my 3 “maternity breaks”), I’ve had plenty of time to cultivate my opinion about the music.

  • Some of my opinions are theological. I’m not a fan of the songs that make us “sing the words of Jesus” even though they may be musically beautiful and Biblically-based. However, I think those songs definitely have a place, but not for congregational or even choral singing. And many of them are beautiful, as I’ve said–musically and lyrically.
  • Some of my opinions are musical. I don’t care for the kinds of songs that sound more like show tunes than hymns.
  • Some of my opinions are editorial–there are songs out there that are just plain bad poetry.
  • Some of my opinions are nostalgic. It drives me nuts when the lyrics to a perfectly good song get changed because they are no longer “PC”–for example, the masculine pronouns are used for God. (Oh, the horror!)
  • And some of my opinions are based upon exhaustion, because there are songs that have been so overused that I simply cannot stand to have to hear them again, let alone sing and play them.

So here’s my list, based on the 2010 Breaking Bread, of songs I’d rather not have to sing during the coming liturgical year. I’ve only included songs I know. If I don’t know the song, no matter how bad it may be, it’s not going to be on my list.

Let the Valleys Be Raised (Schutte)–this one was wonderful before they changed the words to be PC.
Ashes (Conry)–ick.
Beyond the Days (Manalo)–belongs on Broadway, not in church.
In These Days of Lenten Journey (Manalo)–could we get any more self-congratulatory than these lyrics?
Resucito (Arguello)–fortunately, the music director who had us singing this has moved on. We’re not a Spanish-speaking parish, so there’s no need to sing in that language. And the translation is terrible. The English and Spanish verses have little to do with each other, and neither one is good poetry.
Gather Us In (Haugen)–this one is bad on so many levels.
Gather The People (Schutte)–it’s not very original; many of his songs have the same theme. He’s been very big on “inclusion” lately. And that last line of each verse: “Here we become what we eat”–I get what he means, but there has to be a better way to say that.
Song of the Body of Christ (Haas)–whiny melody, and bad poetry. Not a good combo.
I Am the Bread of Life (Toolan)–if I never have to sing this one again, it’ll be too soon. Every time I’m told that we’ll be singing it, my response is “Kill me now.”
Pan de Vida (Hurd)–again, we don’t speak Spanish here (but I do, and the translation is horrible). I don’t switch well between languages, so it drives me crazy that the refrain is half English, half Spanish.
That There May Be Bread (Weston Priory)–along with just about all the Weston Priory songs, the lyrics are bizarre. Nice words that really say nothing.
The Summons (Bell)–first-person singular.
Servant Song (McCargill)–I like the sentiment, but not the lyrics, and not the melody.
Here I Am, Lord (Schutte)–first-person singular.
All Are Welcome (Haugen)–this is not a bad song in itself, but it has a bad association for me. It was sung at a special Mass where we said goodbye to the Sisters who had been told by the pastor that they needed to relocate because we could no longer afford to keep the convent open. All are Welcome–but don’t let the door hit you on your way out.
Sing a New Church (Dufner)–don’t get me started.
Endless is Your Love (Kendzia)–sounds like something the leading lady sings when she’s alone on the stage. To her boyfriend.
You Are Near (Schutte)–this was fine until they took out the “Yahweh.” I understand that we want to be sensitive to other faiths…but it’s hard to rethink lyrics I’ve known since the ’70s.
The Spirit is a-Movin’ (Landry)
Come to Me (Weston Priory)–first-person singular.
You Are Mine (Haas)–first-person singular.
The Lord Is My Hope (Ridge)–more Broadway stuff.
We Have Been Told (Haas)–first-person singular.
Anthem (Conry)–FUN to play. I love playing it. But the lyrics are STRANGE!
We Are the Light of the World (Greif)–kill me now.
Sing to the Mountains (Dufford)–it was great before they made it PC.
Lift Up Your Hearts (O’Connor)–same thing.
Sing a New Song (Schutte)–this is no longer a new song. Let it go.
Speak, Lord (Uszler)–the refrain is great but the verses are a little off. You can tell that some of the verses were by a different lyricist.
They’ll Know We Are Christians (Scholtes)–overdone.
Join in the Dance (Schutte)–I especially can’t stand verse 2.
Isaiah 49 (Landry)–first-person singular.
Seek the Lord (O’Connor)–they’ve got the PC and the original versions here. How are you supposed to announce to the assembly that you’ll be singing one version or the other? “We’ll do the ORIGINAL verses, you know–the ones that offend a certain population because a masculine pronoun is used in reference to God.” Yeah. That’ll work.
Turn to Me (Foley)–first-person singular.

So there you go.

Too Little, Too Late?

These days, it seems to be all about ID, all the time.

This week I had to go get my driver’s license renewed. Even though I proved four years ago that my marriage is valid in the State of New Jersey, the first time I had to get that special “fake-proof” driver’s license, I had to dig out that marriage certificate again. Not the one from the church, people. The one from the State is the only one they will accept. We won’t discuss the time and gas I wasted on this one, for the second time.

Then I got a letter from the kids’ school. It seems that if I want to continue as a school volunteer, I not only have to go through the VIRTUS training program (done, 3 years ago), but I now have to be fingerprinted and issued a Diocesan ID.

I am going to be treated like a criminal (and required to present, AGAIN, the very same IDs that I had to present this week to the DMV or whatever they’re calling it these days) so that I can stamp library books in my children’s parochial school.

Yes, the parish will pick up the tab (and believe me, I’ll be turning in that receipt!) but the cost is not the point. And believe me, I’m all for Protecting God’s Children. Again, that’s not the point.

Most of the people who are involved in school volunteering, Scouting, coaching and Religious Education are parents. That’s not to say that parents are blameless and that they would never endanger their own children or their children’s friends or classmates. But the vast majority of people who have put the children in the kind of danger that has caused us to need VIRTUS are not parents. Yet we parents must pay. I’ve already paid for my fingerprinting tab through my tuition and my weekly contributions to the parish–so when they reimburse me, it’s just my own money coming back once when I’ve paid twice. Not to mention the time and gas that I’m going to just consider wasted. And apparently, if I forget to bring and wear that Diocesan ID, the school can tell me that I can’t help in the library today.

I wonder how many volunteers the Church and schools will lose because of this policy? I’m not going anywhere, but I’m quite sure that this will chase people off.

Lawn Rage

I am generally a pretty even-tempered person, unless I’m driving…or unless my across-the-street neighbor is outside with his (insert curse word of choice here, this is a family blog) leaf blower. Did I mention that he lives on a corner lot, so twice the sidewalk? I swear it takes him an HOUR to blow every last little blade of grass off his walk.

Get a broom!