Checks and Balances

“Well I know I never have to worry about you judging me; your house isn’t just glass…yours is paper thin antique glass from a used furniture store in Vermont.”

There’s nothing quite like having an old friend who will call it as he sees it. He’s right of course. I’m pretty well aware of the fragility of my glass house and I try to be very open-minded. Operative word: try. But while I tend to be open-minded about the escapades of others, I’m usually far harsher with myself. Most times when I go to Reconciliation, my penance involves cutting myself some slack, accepting that I’m not ever going to have it all together. I don’t really know why that’s so hard for me. It just is, even more so now that I know how closely the boys are watching me. They’ve picked up some of my habits and mannerisms. Sometimes that’s a good thing. Their fierce competitiveness when playing a game is fun to watch. They’ve picked up my sarcasm, for better or for worse remains to be seen. Sometimes it’s not so good. One has my tendency to insist on having the last word in every argument. Ever try arguing with a mirror image of yourself? It’s maddening. The other has my tendency to throw things when he’s frustrated or angry. Also not cool.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have an honest friend who has no problem calling me out on my stuff without making me feel like a complete horse’s ass. That’s a rare gift indeed. We all need to have checks and balances in our lives. We’re all blind to things in our lives that hold us back. It takes someone who can mirror us back to ourselves to see that blind spot. Funny thing about glass houses, when you’re on the outside looking in, if you look closely, you can see your own reflection. If you’re looking for someone to be that check and balance in your life, I highly suggest you find someone with a glass house all their own.

Out of Answers


Hey Mom:

“Where’s heaven?”

“Did God make houses?”

“Why do we have to go to church?”

“Why do people argue about the Holy Grail? We know there was a cup. They say at Mass, ‘He took the cup…’, so what happened to it?”

“Who took over as the angel of light, you know, after Lucifer fell?”

“Why did Jesus and the apostles wait until after supper to drink the wine? You know how they say, ‘After supper, he took the cup…’ What did they drink with dinner?”

As my kids have grown, so have their questions. I’ve gotten some questions over the past year that are way, way over my head. They’re asking me the kind of questions that have sent me looking for answers from people with far greater theological knowledge than my own. Okay, so that’s not really saying much. My point being, I’ve never had a problem admitting to the boys when I don’t something. I don’t want them to think I know everything because, quite frankly, I don’t. Sometimes, the most important thing is just knowing where to look for the answers.

Last Tuesday, Andrew was sitting in his Language Arts class at the middle school, having a fairly typical day when the PA clicked on, “LOCKDOWN. LOCKDOWN. LOCKDOWN.”

He spent the next 45 minutes huddled quietly in a corner away from the door to the classroom, waiting. Waiting for what, he didn’t know. All he knew was that this was not a drill. He and two friends worked out a plan using sign language and lip reading to take out anyone who made it through the locked classroom door. All I knew was what sparse information I could find online. A fellow mom had tipped me off. She went to the school to scope out the situation while I scoured the internet. Police were at the school. Four people were arrested with weapons in an incident at the school. No one was hurt.

No one was hurt. That was all I cared. As soon as the lockdown was lifted, Andrew was able to text me. We compared what limited information we had so far. Four men with handguns and rifles were found in the woods next to the school and were arrested on the spot. It turned out they were carrying high-powered pellet rifles and pellet guns. A fair number of parents rushed to the school to pick up their kids as soon as the story broke. I offered to do the same but Andrew wanted to stay and finish out the day. I had to tell Eugene what had happened when I picked him up from the elementary school. He already knew something had happened and I’d rather he get his information from me than the news or his friends.

Enter the new round of questions.

“What were they thinking when they built that cafeteria? Two walls of floor-to-ceiling windows? Are they trying to get us all killed?”

“If someone’s breaking in the school or is already in the school, it’s already too late to call lockdown. They’re just telling the bad guy exactly where to find us. Everybody knows we’ll be hiding in the corners. What good is it going to do?”

It didn’t help that one of the men arrested outside the middle school rather blithely told the police, “If I was going to hurt kids, I would’ve done it already.”

I tried to answer my kids’ questions. The best answers I could give were that the windows were supposed to let in sunshine, light and fresh air. The locked classroom doors were to stall for time, so the cops could show up to stop the bad guy. Both were met with incredulity.

“Great. Sunshine, light and nowhere to hide.”

“Sure Mom, like the bad guy’s just gonna look at the locked door and be like, ‘Oh darn, it’s locked. I guess I’ll have to go back to my truck for the tools to take the doorknob off.'”

I don’t have better answers. I don’t even know where to look to find them this time. This isn’t the way I grew up. Classrooms were for learning, not hiding. Windows were for daydreaming, not avoiding. I’m trying so hard to teach my sons to look for the beauty and goodness in the world but society is telling them to be afraid. Be very, very afraid. Schools are beefing up security. More lockdown drills. More cops around the schools. More guns. Protect yourself. Defend yourself. HIDE!

Lord, give me something to work with here, because I got nothing. Not a damn thing. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

Not totally true. Nightmares. I have nightmares. A little help here….

Just a Random Tuesday

January 1, 2013. New Year’s Day. For many New Year’s Day is symbolic of a fresh start. A vast unsullied plain full of soaring hopes and endless possibilities. A new breeze is blowing. Changes, big changes, are in the air.

For me. It’s Tuesday and the date doesn’t really matter much. I’m guess I’m getting jaded in my old age. I’ve stood on the cusp of many a new year, making all those empty promises to myself about how this year, it’s going to be better. It’s going to be different. All those things I’m going to somehow do better. But over the last few years, I’ve slowly come to realize that New Year’s Day is just a day. All those grand, sweeping resolutions fall by the wayside. By the end of March, I’m usually hoping to get it back on track. By October, I’ve abandoned all hope of getting it together. By the first week of December, I’m just waiting for the year to end so I get to the magic reset button that is New Year’s Day.

Funny things is, there is no reset button. Today isn’t magic. It’s Tuesday. It’s not rocket science really. I can probably tell you how I’m going to approach life today but I can’t tell you how I’m going to handle things on some other random Tuesday, let’s say May28th, 2013, because I haven’t experienced all the days in between. I guess that’s where New Year’s loses it’s sparkle for me, in the day-to-day life between New Year’s Days. Before long the stuff of life settles like dust on the hopes and dreams of January 1st.

In reality, every day offers that vast unsullied plain full of soaring hopes and endless possibilities. Every day presents it’s own set of choices and challenges. We rise to the occasion or we fall woefully short. Either way, the next morning offers us the chance to try again. There’s not much sense in waiting for some magic day to do things differently. Tuesday is just as good a day as any. It’s just a matter of remembering to brush away the crud now and again so those new days don’t lose their sparkle.

Happy Tuesday my friends. May all your days sparkle.