Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Preparing for Easter

This year, Easter dinner will be held at my brother and sister-in-law's home.. which was my Grandmother's house. It will be nice to be there again for a major holiday.

My contribution to Easter is chocolate cream candy. My brother asked for these specifically, and I was happy to oblige.... ok, maybe I did grumble a little. The cream filling is very similar to Cadbury Creme eggs... not exactly Weight Watchers friendly, but delicious none the less.

When I was growing up, my maternal Grandmother made the majority of our Easter candy. She had made her own chocolate solids and filled chocolates for years, and had a plethora of candy molds and forms. Once I reached a certain age.. I started to help her make the chocolate, though not with the enjoyment she had. Grams found candy making to be very relaxing and could do it for hours straight. I find it to be tedious and the smell of the melted chocolate makes me sick after a while.. haha.

Grams, like me, was a very stubborn person when it came to how things were to be done. That meant arguments would arise as to how to make the chocolate and fillings. Gramps used to like to sit in the other room and just watch us bicker... both wearing our aprons and dripping chocolate all over the table. Despite our arguments, we made a good team.

I told Grams that the candy making was going to be a tradition that died with her.. as I had no desire to do the work on my own. Since her death in 2005 though, not an Easter goes by that I don't find myself making SOME sort of chocolate concoction. Never to the extent that she did... but I get out the old heating tray and end up with bowls of melted chocolate none the less. I can still hear her telling me to do things her way.. and I still ignore her advice. haha!

This year... as I searched in my baking cupboard for some chocolate chips to melt, I came across one of Grandma's old plastic candy molds.. this one of the character Woodstock from the Peanuts cartoon. I LOVE all things Snoopy and Woodstock, and used to get one of these in my basket for years. I thought I had thrown all of the molds out since they were much too old for further use. I have no idea where Woodstock came from... as I had not use for it, or come across it since Grams died in '05. I felt all warm and fuzzie inside.. like Grams was reminding me of our times together back in the good old days... in her kitchen... making a chocolate mess!

Included here is one of my favorite pics of my Grams and I. It was taken one year at Walmart when I had to be the Easter bunny for free photo shoots with the customers. I always hated that job... it was the hottest outfit imaginable, and never enough oxygen to breathe!

I was so surprise when my family showed up with Grams to see me. By this time, her balance was rather poor due to a previous stroke.. but she still insisted on trying to sit on my lap for a picture. This is my favorite picture of the two of us... even though I don't look quite like myself.

I miss my Grandparents during holidays such as Easter.. all of them.. and carry them with me in my heart, and remember them all in a special way at Easter Mass.

So as you prepare for Easter.. take note of some traditions you may have... and remember the people who started them, or passed them on to you.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Who is to blame?

What really irks me about the newspapers and news reports in regards to the atrocious sex abuse scandals, is that they expect a man thousands of miles away to be the only source of protection. Take the case in Milwaukee with that monster in priest's clothing. "Everyone" is slamming Benedict because, as cardinal, he didn't laicize (we would use the term "de-frock") the priest. The then Cardinal Ratzinger did not get directly involved in the case until the mid to late's 90s, and was presented with an elderly and dying priest who had allegations against him almost 20 years earlier.

Ratzinger made the decision for good or bad, right or wrong.. to allow the man to die with his priesthood... all four months he had left after Ratzinger made that decision. Ratzinger didn't allow him to remain a priest all those 20 years, he allowed him 4 months to his death... and let me assure you, whether Ratzinger can be called merciful or foolish for that decision.. the man had to face a much higher court than any one here on Earth.

But what keeps bugging me about this case and so many others is this question "Where the hell are the civil authorities in all this?" The police don't need approval from the Vatican to throw a sex offender in jail.. or to bring him to trial. And yet, with the monster in Milwaukee, the police department dropped the charges because they couldn't find enough evidence. Really?!? 200 reported cases, and there wasn't enough evidence?!? But yea.. the Pope dropped the ball on this one.

That's like telling me, if you or your child is raped by an employee of Toyota.. you are going to write a letter to the corporate office in Japan and wait for them to act. I should hope not!! You'd be beating down the door at your local police station demanding an arrest.

Throw the bastards in jail and let them rot.... whether they Vatican strips them of their clerical status or not, let the courts and justice system do their jobs.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Church Scandals

Catholics are not alone with the problem of sex abuse scandals. Here in WNY, it's all we hear about in our local news regarding our government. Maybe if we let people elect their leaders.. this type of thing would not happen. Oh.. we already do that. Simply "google" "youth minister sex abuse" and hundreds of articles will pop up that didn't make the headlines on CNN.. probably because they don't sell as many newspapers as anti-Catholicism does. Perhaps Protestant ministers should be allowed to marry.. that would stop the sex abuse. Oh wait.. they can be married. Perhaps allow women to be ordained? No.. they have that too.

Churches, like anything where man gets a say... have many faults. We are made up of sinners... BUT.. with the chance to become saints. People don't realize when they ramble off these stories about clergy abuse... everyone gets hurt. --- The many people who practice their faith are now targeted and demonized for attending a Church that "allows" such abuse. The many priests and religious who have never harmed a child now become the victims of verbal and even physical assaults as they are painted as criminals because of their vocation.

I don't deny these abuses have happened.. are happening. I don't deny that they have to be prevented at all costs... but I don't agree with what the media is doing -- selling newspapers by singling out one group and making them be the only representation of a global organization.

I agree completely with the Pope's stance to deal with these matters privately. This does not mean the police/authorities are not to be involved. It means that these issues, when brought to light, are not plastered all over the front page news and become headlines for every talk show across the globe. It means the matter will be handled by Church officials with the cooperation of local authorities to address the matter.

Below I have pasted an expert from Father Z's blog, What Does the Prayer Really Say? -- where Father comments on a recent article from the Catholic News Agency. I ask that you pray about this whole crisis... not fuel the fire and allow more people to be hurt in the rampage.

Accused Munich priest resigns in sex abuse case wrongly linked to Pope [wrongly]

Munich, Germany, Mar 17, 2010 / 03:35 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Tourism chaplain for the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising has been immediately suspended from ministry after more allegations that he sexual abused minors. While some news reports have tried to link Pope Benedict XVI to the charges, a subordinate in the archdiocese has claimed responsibility for failures in responding to the case. [It is necessary to repeat here something not mentioned in any news stories I have read. The role of the Vicar General in German dioceses is very strong. They handle most personnel issues for the bishop.]

A statement from the archdiocese said that it had been presented with evidence the clergyman committed sexual abuse since an episode in 1986.

The accused, known as Priest H., had held youth services and took young people camping despite a ban on his contact with children, says.

Archbishop of Munich and Freising Bernhard Kellner on Monday announced that he would be suspended from service with “immediate effect.”

Priest H. reportedly abused at least two children in Essen in 1979 and in Bavaria in 1985. He was sentenced to 18 months probation in the latter case.

One victim, 41-year-old Wilfried Fesselmann, is from Gelsenkirchen in North Rhine-Westphalia. He said that he was 11 at the time of the alleged abuse.

According to Fesselmann, the priest invited “nice children” to sleep in the rectory. Priest H. gave Fesselman an alcoholic drink and forced him to perform an oral sex act.

Priest H.’s superior, Prelate [This is "Monsignor". "Prelat" is the German title for Monsignor.] Josef Obermaier, resigned on Monday. A spokesman for the archdiocese said he accepts responsibility for “serious errors in the course of his supervision.”

Some media reports have tried to link Pope Benedict XVI to the scandal because he was Archbishop of Munich and Freising between 1977 and 1982.

Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See’s Press Office, released a statement on Saturday morning on the issue. He said that a recent communiqué from the Archdiocese of Munich answers questions about Priest H. He stressed that the document shows [NB] that as archbishop the future Pope Benedict was completely "extraneous" to the decisions made after the abuses were verified. [This is because the Vicar General handled it.]

The archdiocese said during Pope Benedict’s tenure as archbishop Priest H. was in the pastoral care of the vicar general at the time, Fr. Gerhard Gruber.

"Gruber assumes full responsibility for these mistaken decisions," the archdiocese reported.

Fr. Lombardi’s statement also criticized media coverage of the charges.

"It’s rather evident that in recent days there are those who have sought – with a certain tenacity, in Regensburg and in Munich – elements for personally involving the Holy Father in the questions of the abuses. For every objective observer, it’s clear that these efforts have failed."

The Vatican spokesman concluded by reaffirming that "despite the tempest," the Church sees the course to follow "under the sure and rigorous guide of the Holy Father."

St. Joseph's Day

Today is the feast of St. Joseph, foster father of Jesus. I make that clarification because Joseph isn't exactly a rare name. In my family alone, if you say "Joe", a few guys turn their heads to see whom you are talking to.

Even though I feel a bit more patriotic for Ireland (seeing as my last name is Irish) on St. Patrick's day... and do the "wearin' of the green", eat corned beef and cabbage, and all that fun stuff.. I hold a special place in my heart for St. Joseph's feast day. St. Joseph is the patron saint of the Diocese of Buffalo, and also the patron of the parish/school I grew up in... St. Joseph's in North Tonawanda. Sadly, the parish and school are now closed.

I have fond memories of our annual St. Joseph's Day table and celebration when I was in school.. before our school merged with the other two Catholic schools in N.T. We would be preparing all week... making homemade loaves of bread shaped like hearts and canes... peeling apples and making apple sauce (as this is a meatless meal.. since it takes place during lent)... and even making paper lilies (symbol of St. Joseph's virginity) to decorate the statue of St. Joseph in our Church.

We'd be doing all this during school time.. it was a big community event... then we'd have the celebration on his feast day, the last half of the school day. We'd have a Mass and long procession, then the actual meal in the school hall. We'd have a special collection at Mass and at the dinner... all proceeds of which went to the poor.. as is tradition with St. Joseph's tables. It is a part of our Catholic heritage that has crumbled and dissolved over time. People still see what externals of the faith remain, but are too busy or too lazy to LEARN why we do them, and what they mean.

I was happy to see my current parish of St. Anthony's, originally a parish for Italian immigrants in the city of Buffalo, still going all our for St. Joe's feast day. As you can see from the very fuzzy cell phone picture I snapped last Sunday before Mass started, a statue of St. Joseph was set up in a place of honor, with red, white and green candles before it, representing Italy. For Catholics.. it's much more than Italian pride... it's a celebration of faith, tradition and charity -- sharing food with friends and family.. and raising money to help the poor. The money raised from St. Anthony's version of St. Joseph's table went to the Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund.

I didn't even mind... that much... that the choir played a hymn to St. Joseph instead of "Hail Glorious St. Patrick".... I sang that hymn on the way home. :)

When my former school closed two years ago, I was gifted with a statue of St. Joseph. We kept a statue of St. Joe or the Holy Mother in each classroom. It meant so much to have one of these symbols that had been in one of the classrooms since the 50's as a memento of a school experience I hold so dearly in my heart. I brought the statue upstairs and put him in the dining room (I live downstairs from my parents and two siblings) to remind my family of our heritage.. not just as Italians.. but as members of a living tradition and community... faults and all.. we are still a universal (the meaning of Catholic) family.

I remember a woman once saying she used to ask St. Anne to bring her a husband with the humorous prayer "St. Anne.. St. Anne.. bring me a man. St. Anne, St. Anne.. as fast as you can!". Me? I ask St. Joseph to keep an eye out for me. Sure, he was heterosexual.. and I don't hold that against him... but he knew what it meant to be an awesome husband and father... so I ask him to keep his eyes open for me to find my own husband. I know the Vatican might not like me saying that out load.. but heck.. they have enough to keep them busy right now.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


When I was a wee lad, my FAVORITE movie was Disney's The Brave Little Toaster. If you haven't heard of it, you're not alone. It came out in the early 80's, and to my knowledge, was only shown on the Disney Channel. Back then, Disney was not part of the standard cable line up, so my parents had to pay extra for it.

We'd get a monthly magazine.. the Disney Channel Guide.. to tell you what programming was offered on specific dates. My Mom would always tell me when The Brave Little Toaster would be on... and I'd eagerly await watching it... still with the same excitement as if it was my first time seeing it.

One of the main characters is Kirby.. the grumpy old vacuum cleaner. I always had a love for vacuums... even at an early age. Even now.. I enjoy doing the vacuuming.. I find it very calming.. maybe it's the hum of the motor.. maybe it's the back and forth motion... whatever it is.. I have the cleanest carpets in town.

My grandparents happened to have an early 1960's model Kirby sitting in their basement. It had long been retired by the time I had come around.. and Gramps only used it to vacuum out his car. It looked so much like the "Kirby" in the move. I used to go down to the basement and play with it.. pushing it around the floor, pretending it was the real character. I never actually turned it on since it actually scared the hell out of me... maybe it was a little too life-like.. that when the motor turned on and the bag inflated.. it was too much for my young heart and wild imagination to handle.

Recently, I found an old Kirby Dual Sanitronic 80 on ebay. The motor had been professionally restored, and the aluminum polished. It is a late 60's model.. so it's a tad different than the one I grew up with... but it's GREEN... like the one in the cartoon, as well as being my favorite color. So, I bought it.

I was so excited when it arrived.. I know... only I would find a vintage vacuum cleaner to be exciting. I assembled the unit.. and before turning it on.. felt the same sense of hesitation I had as a child.

The unit works great!!! It does a better job than my parent's 5 year old all plastic Dyson. Like I've said before.. there's something so cool about usable antiques. It's so much more fun when you can actually USE something from the past instead of having it just sit on a shelf. It's a bit of continuity with the past. For me, this vacuum links my fond memories of playing in my grandparent's basement with my favorite childhood movie.

I may be a nerd.. but at least I'm a clean one.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Couldn't help but notice.....

The Introit of today's Mass (3rd Sunday of Lent) seemed to be speaking directly to me:

My eyes are ever towards the Lord: for He shall pluck my feet out of the snare: look Thou upon me, and have mercy on me; for I am alone and poor. -- (Ps. 24. 1, 2). To Thee, O Lord, have I lifted up my soul: in Thee, O my God, I put my trust; let me be not ashamed.

Being single for a number of years takes its toll... as well as not finding a job in your field (like so many others in this Great Recession).

It is hitting me harder and harder that my life has not progressed much at all since I graduated High School 10 years ago. I am still a college student.. still work retail.. still live at home... and am still single. None of this seems like it will change any time soon. ---> especially with all the budget cuts in education. Even the dreaded idea of moving to another state does not look promising as education cuts and budget cuts are sweeping the nation.

I'm grumpy and admit it. I feel as if the world is passing me by while I've been standing still. I check the online teacher employment system everyday.. and there is nothing posted for jobs in any of the major academic subjects.. let alone Social Studies. When a job does become available, there are thousands of applicants for one position... and I'm not exaggerating.

Where do I go from here?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Death of the Telephone?

My grandfather used to always complain how nothing was built to last anymore. He had seen this particularly in American cars. He worked for GM (which I am still loyal to), and saw the quality of cars drop over his lifetime. He would always lament the fact that they were made to be so disposable, and were becoming more difficult to repair on your own.

Older technology may seem more primitive to what we have today.. and usually it was. They were simple devices, made for one basic function.. but made to do that function well, and for a long time. Now, things are made to be multi-taskers, which in my opinion, makes them sacrifice quality in one area to provide us with mediocre performance in multiple areas. Nothing is designed to last too long. "Planned obsolescence". One or two years, then throw it out and buy a new one.

Where did all the repair shops go? Oh, they too became obsolete. Why fix something when you could just replace it all together?

This brings me to a piece of technology I thought we'd never dispense of.. the telephone. Yes, cell phones are probably here to stay, but what about what are now referred to as "land lines"?

When I was a kid, I remember thinking nothing would change much in households in terms of technology like it had from my Grandparent's and parent's time... with the exception of computers. Never would I have dreamed that so many people would be ditching the telephone line. I still remember learning to dial my grandmother's phone number on our kitchen rotary phone.. yes.. I caught the tail end of the rotary phone craze before moving to all touch tone phones.

In fact, my main telephone in my sitting room.. still connected to our land line.. is a chrome plated, heavy bakelite handset, Western Electric 202 telephone. It was made in the early 1920, and works better than any phone in the house!! I love the zip-click-click-click that the dial makes when placing a call.. and the metal bells chiming the call as it arrives. My God-son came over for Christmas last year and was fascinated by it. I taught him how to dial his Mom's cell phone number with the rotary dial and he thought it was the neatest thing!

Since I share a home with my folks, the majority of my incoming calls go to my cell phone. I'm not a big fan of talking on cell phones.. I find the clarity poor.. no matter what phone or service I have. It's just too choppy.. but none the less, I use the cell... and am addicted to texting people (the modern day telegram?). To make my Blackberry more at home in my sitting room of yesteryear, I devised a retro charging station for it. I took a dial-less Western Electric 302 telephone (like the one seen in the old "I Love Lucy" episodes), took the handset off, and replaced it with a HULGER penelope handset that connects right to the Blackberry.. allowing for better hearing for me, and a more comfortable and familiar way to gab on the phone. If I have to use disposable technology, I can at least give it some of the style of its classic ancestors.

As long as it is financially possible, we will be keeping our landline. I know digital phone service is just as clear, but I don't like the fact your phone goes dead when the power goes out. I want something I can depend on.. and for now.. the old phone lines give me the safe warm and fuzzy feeling.. in case of emergency.. it will still be there. I am pleased to know however, that should the day come when digital phone is mandatory.. there are new pulse to tone converters for my old WE 202... so this 80+ year old beauty will still allow me to "reach out and touch someone" for years to come.