Reflections on life, faith, family and the times we live in
... by a mom at home raising kids.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Winter's Last Gasp......We hope.
Halfway through April and we received about three more inches of snow last night, adding to what was already a record breaking amount of snow for this year.

The table below is my official measurement. :-)

It's been a brutal winter.  Very icy.  I love the snow, but I am not fond of the ice.  There's no ice today so it's all right, although I did just hear that we might get 3 MORE inches of snow before the end of the day.  Some 40,000 people have lost power in an adjacent county because of the high winds that accompanied this snowfall.

I used my remote starter this morning.  Love that device.  I start the car from inside about 10 minutes before we're going to leave, so it's warmed up when we set out.  Really helps with the defrosting of the windows.  The side door was frozen shut again.  

Yesterday the snow covered plants pictured below were blooming daffodils.  I almost took a picture of them, they were so delightful to see.  Now I wish I had so I could have posted the juxtaposition of yesterday and today.

Michigan winters are completely unpredictable, reluctant to end, and....

fearsomely, awesomely beautiful.  Spring is just around the corner.....
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Monday, April 14, 2014
The End of an Era
For at least 15 years now, maybe 16, I have been a drama mom.  Five of my six children were in numerous high school plays and I think I have sold tickets and refreshments at each one.

The shows included:  Harvey, West Side Story, Diary of Ann Frank, Midsummer Night's Dream, Les Miserables, My Fair Lady, Hello Dolly, South Pacific, Guys and Dolls, The Crucible, As You Like It, Cinderella, Grease, Sound of Music, Into the Woods, The Miracle Worker, Oklahoma, West Side Story, The Drowsy Chaperone, Curtains, The Man Who Came to Dinner, and many Christmas plays, of greater and lesser merit, written by the students.  I'm sure I've also forgotten some too and a few were done more than once with different kids.

I knew this day was coming.  My youngest is now a senior in high school.  But, somehow, a part of me didn't seem to know it was coming.  Yesterday, at Liz's last high school drama performance, I suddenly realized that I would no longer be a high school drama mom.  It was a shock.

I'm able to let go.  I don't think that was what was upsetting me.  I've had five other children graduate from high school.  I know what it's like.  It's a joyous time with also a layer that is bittersweet.  Knowing that your child will be leaving home soon is the bittersweet part.  I'm always happy for what they have accomplished, excited for their futures, but also sad that I will not be seeing them so often, that we soon will no long be living in the same house.  I have never had a child who was so unpleasant as a teenager that I was happy for them to move on.  No, I like having them around.  Each of them gives me great joy.

Still, this is a little different because this is the youngest.  There is no one coming up behind her as there has always been with her older siblings.  And....I will no longer be going to her school, no longer selling tickets for the plays, no longer going to the concerts.

It truly is an end to an era in my life.  I have lots of other things I want to do.  It's not that I'll be bored.  It's just that it will be so different.  And certain people will no longer be here.

God has a plan.  It will be interesting to see how it unfolds!
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Thursday, April 10, 2014
Exhilarate-- to gladden, to make cheerful, to enliven (Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary)

Bike riding exhilarates me.  It does.  Yesterday was a sunny day in Michigan.  And the temperature was in the forties.....that's pretty warm for us.  So I got my bike out, put on a fleece and leather gloves, and took off riding.

The day had started out great even before that.  I got up promptly at 5:30.  (That was not the great part. I am not a morning person.  But I did it!!)  Made it early to the 6:45 Mass at my parish.  I have to get there early to ask the sacristan for my low-gluten host.  Then, when Mass was over, I had a wonderful prayer time and a chance to say the rosary before heading over to Domino's chapel for confession.  What a way to start the day.

When I got home I knew I just had to take my first bike ride of the Spring.  It occurred to me that maybe I shouldn't take my favorite ride of about 7 miles to beautiful Gallop Park, around the pond, and home again.  After all, I haven't ridden in several months.  But I got on my bike and would hear none of it.  Had to go there.

It was wonderful.  All the grace of the sacraments had gladdened my soul and I carried that over with an appreciation of the joy of riding and the incredible beauty of the ride.  Here is what I see as I ride to Gallop Park.  Those of you who have read my blog for a while have seen these pictures before.  I apologize.   I just can't get over how scenic this ride is and how I lived where I do for several decades before realizing that I could indeed ride my bike here.

The glory of God all over everything.

 Makes my heart sing.  God is so good.

 All the time.

Happy Spring!!!
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Tuesday, April 08, 2014
Winter is hanging on...
I have lived in Michigan for over 45 years and this has been the most brutal winter I can remember.  The ice just never melted.  We always have ice.  We always have snow.  But this winter we never had enough sunny days where the temperature crept up just a little to let the sun, together with the rock salt, do its work and give us a dry pavement again.

Even now, after the first week of April, the morning and evening temperatures are usually below freezing, although it is warming up a little during the day.

Here is the last of the ice in my driveway which did finish melting just a few days ago.  For most of the winter this was a wide and treacherous swath of ice, three or four inches thick.  We just could not get it melted.

And lo and behold! Life returns to Michigan.  I was so excited to see these.  There are even some crocuses blooming.  Today, if we're lucky the temperature could head into the sixties, the warmest yet.

I may just have to get my bike out and go for a ride!
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Wednesday, April 02, 2014
Mammograms-- What's the Deal?
I have a confession to make.  I haven't had a mammogram in years.  Why?  Because over the years a number of studies have questioned their effectiveness.  I have also wondered about the wisdom of radiating a part of the body prone to cancer.  We know that radiation exposure over time increases the likelihood of cells becoming cancerous.  I also thought that it was nearly impossible to protect my liver from radiation from a mammogram and, because of my medical history, my liver was vulnerable to cancer.

I also found that, because of breast density, I nearly always was told to come back sooner than a year so they could double check something-- very stressful.  I always escaped having to have a biopsy.  And I  thought it odd that medical people would say that a biopsy increases your chance of later having cancer but that the reason would be because of the original condition, not because of the biopsy.  Really?  How could it be possible to tell which was the reason?

Let me tell you, I don't take breast cancer lightly.  My dear sister-in-law died of it way too young.

I'm relieved that more and more studies are questioning the efficacy of mammograms.

Here is a link to Reuters, Feb. 12, 21014, describing some of these newer results in a piece called "New study adds to evidence that mammograms do not save lives."
Instead, the study "found no reduction in breast cancer mortality from mammography screening," the scientists wrote, "neither in women aged 40-49 at study entry nor in women aged 50-59."
No reduction in mortality?  Then why would I have a mammogram?  It gets worse.

In addition to not reducing mortality from breast cancer, the study found, mammograms are leading to an epidemic of what the researchers call "over-diagnosis." Nearly 22 percent of the invasive cancers detected by mammography were harmless, meaning they would not cause symptoms or death during a woman's lifetime.    
In other words, not only did this study find that mortality is not reduced by mammograms, but that 22 percent of the women being treated for breast cancer would have been just fine without treatment.  So mammograms do not reduce mortality and also create a risk for unnecessary treatment.  I have been though chemo., for something else.  You DON'T want unnecessary treatment.  It's not a little thing.
Today's Wall Street Journal has an article on a study just published Tuesday.  "More Doubt on Mammograms' Value."  For me, here is the key point.
For women in their 50s, 10 breast-cancer deaths would be averted for every 10,000 women screened annually for 10 years. For women in their 60s, 42 breast-cancer deaths would be averted. But as many as 137 women in their 50s, and 194 in their 60s would be diagnosed and treated unnecessarily.   
Let's break that down.  Since I'm in my fifties, if I were to get annual mammograms for 10 years, I might be the 1 in 1,000 women (according to the figures above) whose life would be saved from a death from breast cancer.  For younger women the number of lives saved is even smaller.   In my sixties, I might be one of the 5 women (4.2) in 1,000 whose lives would be saved.  BUT...I could also be one of the 13 or 14 who received cancer treatment unnecessarily.  Chemo, surgery, radiation.  I eliminate my one in a thousand chance of dying from breast cancer or I eliminate the 13 in a thousand chance of unnecessary treatment.  I'm willing to take my chances on not being the one in a thousand.  Seems to me that the conclusion from the Reuters article says it all:
But in countries such as those in North America and Europe ..., the scientists wrote, "our results support the views of some commentators that the rationale for screening by mammography should be urgently reassessed by policy makers," since annual mammography "does not result in a reduction in breast cancer specific mortality for women aged 40-59 beyond that of physical examination alone or usual care." 
An accompanying editorial agrees that policy makers should stop pushing mammograms but points out that this is easier said than done: "governments, research funders, scientists, and medical practitioners may have vested interests in continuing" that push, since mammography is a multi-billion-dollar industry. Annual screenings also give women the sense that they are taking active steps to reduce the chance of dying of breast cancer.
Read the whole Reuters article here.
I am in neither a medical field nor am I an expert in statistics.  Am I missing something?  Seems to me mammograms are not worth it. 


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Monday, March 31, 2014
Over the weekend the Wall Street Journal weekend edition had as its headline, "Putin Calls Obama as Crisis Escalates."   Read the entire article here.

Here is an excerpt:
     Defying Western warnings, Russia has continued to reposition and augment its forces on the border of eastern Ukraine, according to U.S. officials, raising fears of a wider confrontation.
     Russia's Foreign Ministry on Friday dismissed the allegations as invented, saying that Western officials should "take a pain reliever."
Excuse me.  "Take a pain reliever?"  No one.  NO ONE!  would have ever said that to Ronald Reagan.  Ever.  Nor do I think it would have ever been said of George W. Bush.  Certainly, no one would have ever talked to Ronald Reagan like that.  Why?  Because of his personal strength, his stature as a leader, and his courage.  The world knew that Reagan would act militarily if necessary.

On the day of Reagan's inauguration, 52 Americans who had been held hostage for 444 days in Iran were released.  The left is fond of saying that this release had nothing to do with Reagan's inauguration because it was in the works under Jimmy Carter.  Some on the left are quite fond of jumping to conclusions that are not well thought out.  No one knows whether or not the Iranians went ahead with plans for the release because they were afraid of Ronald Reagan coming into office, and the Iranians would certainly never reveal such a fear.  In my mind, there was no doubt.  Ronald Reagan was an unknown commodity and he was widely recognized as a hawk.  If the Iranians were not afraid of what he might do, they certainly should have been.

I might add that Ronald Reagan also brought down the Soviet Union without firing a shot.  Bullies don't pick on the strong.  They pick on the weak.  Ronald Reagan's strength brought a gravitas to U.S. foreign policy that is sadly and conspicuously missing now.

Today's Wall Street Journal headlines..."U.S., Russia Talks Fail to Ease Crisis."  Read the entire article here.  For me, the telling paragraph was this:
     The question of Crimea's future also appeared to be largely drowned out during the diplomacy Sunday.  U.S. officials had only a few weeks ago been demanding Putin reverse his annexation of the territory and pull back his troops.  Mr. Kerry didn't mention Crimea during his remarks-- giving the impression that the U.S. has largely given up reversing the region's absorption into Russia.
It appears that our demand that Putin reverse his annexation was just talk.  A handful of Russian officials got a slap on the wrist-- some passport restrictions to the U.S. and monetary restrictions on U.S. accounts, actions that were mocked on twitter by several of the officials themselves.  Then Russia was kicked out of the G-8, an action Putin said he did not care about.  And Kerry has not not even made the annexation of Crimea part of the negotiations?  Not even part of the discussion?   The Russians are running diplomatic circles around us.  It appears that they got away with the annexation of Crimea.  If they want more territory, why should they stop there?  It's no wonder Russia's Foreign Ministry feels free to mock us.

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Friday, March 28, 2014
Presidential Subterfuge?
There seems to be some discrepancy between what our president is saying was discussed in his meeting with Pope Francis and what the Vatican is saying. 

What follows is the complete text in English of the statement the Holy See press office released on Thursday, the day of the Holy Father's meeting with President Obama.

This morning, 27 March 2014, the Hon. Barack H. Obama, President of the United States of America, was received in audience by His Holiness Pope Francis, after which he met with His Eminence Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Secretary for Relations with States.During the cordial meetings, views were exchanged on some current international themes and it was hoped that, in areas of conflict, there would be respect for humanitarian and international law and a negotiated solution between the parties involved. In the context of bilateral relations and cooperation between Church and State, there was a discussion on questions of particular relevance for the Church in that country, such as the exercise of the rights to religious freedom, life and conscientious objection, as well as the issue of immigration reform. Finally, the common commitment to the eradication of trafficking of human persons in the world was stated.
In contrast, the White House has issued this text of President Obama answering questions about the meeting.
Mr. President, I just want to follow up on Jim’s question on your meeting with the Pope today.  Do you think some of the schisms that he referenced on social issues would stand in the way of you and Pope Francis collaborating or forming a strategic alliance to tackle income inequality? 
PRESIDENT OBAMA:  First of all, I just want to make clear -- maybe it wasn’t clear from my answer to Jim -- that we actually didn’t talk a whole lot about social schisms in my conversations with His Holiness.  In fact, that really was not a topic of conversation. 
Here is my question to the president.   Mr. President, did you not talk a whole lot about the social issues or was it not a topic of conversation at all.  If you talked a little bit, then it was a topic of conversation.  If it was not a topic at all, then why did you say you didn't talk a whole lot about it.  It seems to me that your two sentences contradict each other.  And your second sentence claiming that it was not a topic of conversation directly contradicts the Vatican's statement.
I'm betting that the Vatican statement is the accurate one.  Your words, Mr. President, seem to me to be subterfuge.


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