Sunday, October 24, 2010

Autumn 2010

Asters and dinner plate yellow dahlias.

Just as I was convinced I would never have time to write another post, God provided a quiet, sunny Sunday afternoon to relax and explore the garden. The dahlias, asters, and cosmos in several shades are blooming in a riot of color, defying the increasingly cool autumn weather.

Not only this, the little chicks we adopted in April have been busily producing eggs--some with double yolks--since July. We are busy eating omelettes, making custard, whipping up mayonnaise, and baking eight-egg cakes as fast as we can. The chickens also have a high entertainment value: They are ready to put on a show at feeding time, and rush up to the door of the pen clucking in unison whenever someone approaches.

A day's worth of output from the chickies

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Birthday Blast

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Mother's Day coincides with our twin niece and nephew's birthday every year, and sometimes we have the pleasure of hosting their birthday party. This year, the celebration was simple, but the weather was perfect, and a good time was enjoyed by all. We updated traditional games, including apple bobbing (suspended from the porch with fishing line), hula hoop (the winner had more than 100 spins), pin the tail on the donkey (actually, pin the earrings on Indian glam actress Asywarae Rai--after 14 blindfolded spins to note the birthday milestone), and egg-on-spoon relay race, which is a blast with no updating necessary at all.

Refreshments featured root beer, homemade pizza, corn on the cob, double chocolate cake, and mint chocolate chip ice cream.

Click on the collage to see the action unfold.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

May Day Dinner

The dressing for this salad had a touch of sugar, which vastly improved the flavor.

Last week, I realized it had been a while since I had prepared a special meal from scratch, so I decided to create a three course menu for May 1, in honor of the Blessed Mother. The starter was a simple composed salad--Boston lettuce, endive, two kinds of oranges, and avocado, served with mustard-garlic dressing. The main course, osso bucco, was from the New York Times Cookbook . So was the accompaniment, Paula's Cold Tomatoes, which I served with asparagus spears and roasted potatoes.

The cold tomatoes were stuffed with spinach and pine nuts, and served at room temperature.
Lemon cheesecake topped with strawberries finished the meal.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Great Raid

Members of the Sixth Army Rangers on the eve of the Cabanatuan raid.
Here is a good film to integrate into your history curriculum and/or family discussions about 20th century history—the dramatization of the largest military rescue operation in U.S. history, the liberation of 516 American prisoners of war from a Japanese prison camp on the island of Luzon in the Philippines during World War II. The prisoners, survivors of Japan’s Bataan Death March, were days away from being executed by their Japanese jailors at the Cabanatuan prison camp, when they were freed in January 1945 by several hundred soldiers of the 6th Army Rangers.

The film provides good material for discussing the war in the Pacific, MacArthur’s battle to return to the Philippines following the defeat of Allied forces in 1942, the cultural differences between the Japanese and Allied troops as reflected in their behavior on the battlefield and treatment of prisoners of war, the role of the Catholic clergy and Filipino guerrillas in the resistance, and the definition of the “just war” as discussed by Saint Augustine.

The film showcases the role of the young Captain Robert Prince, who formulated the plan for the raid and led two Army Rangers platoons to overtake Japanese defenses at Cabanatuan. Prince’s rescue plan, put assembled based on spotty intelligence, is still taught at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Prince received the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second-highest award for valor. The storyline also features U.S. nurse Margaret Elizabeth Doolin Utinsky, who organized a network to smuggle quinine and other medicine to U.S. soldiers, saving hundreds of lives between 1942 and 1945. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Harry Truman.
Although this film is rated R for violence and brief strong language, it is suitable for adolescents, with parental input: there is no gratuitous bloodshed, the portrayal of the Allied troops and civilians puts a high value on human life, and the religious life of U.S. soldiers and Filipino guerrillas is shown as a positive force in determining the outcome of the military action.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Springtime in Virginia

Even on a rainy April day, springtime is beautiful in Virginia. The shrubs and tulips are in bloom, and the landscape is a rich green.

Down the road, in a low lying stream bed that can't be easily accessed by foot, the bluebells are back in bloom.

Easter Menu 2010

Our Easter feast this year ended with a delicious strawberry-covered cheesecake, seen here on the dining table set off by the lovely placemats knitted by a dear friend in my favorite color. The menu--in full--was:

Cream of fresh asparagus soup
Fresh fruit cocktail in pineapple boats
Baked ham with port and apricot chutney
Sweet and white potatoes with leeks
Wild rice salad with almonds and cherry tomatoes
Key lime torte
Strawberry cheesecake
Lemon mousse (see Top Ten Recipes)

The weather was perfect and the company was lively.

Peeps Turn into Chicks

The little peeps we got on Holy Thursday are beginning to turn into feathered chicks. Featured here are chicks Samson, Persephone, Nani, Apollo, and Aby, snapped through the screen in their little pen (top), nephew Daniel building the pen (middle), and the peeps on the day they came home. We have about a month before they definitely need a bigger place to live!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter 2010

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Click on the collage to see larger snaps of our tree-house building, new little chicks (they are now housed in an old bookcase, but we'll need a bigger home for them in about four weeks), lox and bagels breakfast, key lime meringue pie, cheesecake with strawberries, and strolling musicians.

Happy Easter to all!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Joyous Easter

The Resurrection, Deiric the Elder, c. 1455

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Considerations on Personhood II

I wrote last week about the defeat of Virginia House of Delegates Bill HR 112, which would have established legal personhood for all human beings from the moment of conception. It puzzled me that the Virginia Conference of Bishops declined to support this legislation, saying in response to my inquiries only that there is a disagreement on strategy within the pro-life movement--some pro-lifers support initiatives such as H.B. 112 and some do not. Since then, I have read through another blog, Fundamental Things, written by Rita, a Virginia lawyer who helped draft H.B. 112.

Rita writes that the prior policy of American Catholic bishops, including Bishop Paul Loeverde of the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, has been to refuse to support personhood initiatives in state legislatures. This policy seems to contradict what the bishops actually say about personhood: “The 1974 Congressional oral and written presentations of four Catholic Cardinals before a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee made it unmistakably clear that establishing the pre-born child as a person under law was an essential element of a legal response to the Roe and Doe pro-abortion decisions,” Rita writes. You can read quotes from the presentations, encyclicals, and other official Church statements relating to personhood here.

What about arguments against personhood initiatives based on the assertion that they will open the way to actions against negligent mothers in the months before birth, change the tax laws, interfere with the Census, and—some think this is most important—do no good in the campaign to end abortion, or even set back the pro-life cause? You can read about these issues, with Rita’s questions and answers, here.

The picture above is Samuel Armas, and his mother, Julie Armas in 2004. Samuel was first made famous in 1999, when photojournalist Michael Clancy photographed his tiny hand reaching out of his mother's uterus when he was 21 weeks old. Samuel was undergoing prenatal surgery to correct spinda bifida, which could have left him with major disabilities. Samuel wrapped his little fingers around the surgeon's index finger, showing unusual tenacity for such a small person.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Two Virginia GOPers Block Personhood Bill

Not a person?

Here is Virginia Delegate Bob Marshall's report on the defeat of important legislation in Virginia:

Despite excellent testimony in favor of HB 112, Delegate Bob Marshall's bill to begin the process of restoring civil rights for preborn children, HB 112 was rejected five to two in the House Courts of Justice Constitutional Laws subcommittee Wednesday, February 10.

Delegates Albo (R-Springfield), Kilgore (R-Wise), Toscano (D-Charlottesville), McClellan (D-Richmond) and Watts (D-Annandale) voted no. Delegates Athey (R-Front Royal) and Jackson Miller (R-Manassas) voted yes. Delegate Miller moved to report HB 112 and Delegate Athey seconded the request. (Please thank them!)

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli sent his Solicitor General to testify in support of passing HB 112 and to affirm its constitutionality. Attorney Rita Dunaway expertly fielded questions of Committee members. Attorney Pat McSweeney along with Delegate Marshall also testified in favor of HB 112.

The ACLU, Planned Parenthood and NARAL representatives testified against HB 112. Virginia Family Foundation (VFF) representatives were present but did not speak. The Virginia Catholic Conference (VCC) told the Committee that the bill's purpose was acceptable, but they did not support HB 112.

Delegate Dave Albo cited the VCC's position in his explanation for voting against HB 112. “Even the Catholic Church through its legislative affairs representative stated that … the Church does not think this bill is the way to implement it. Delegate Kilgore in a 2/11/10 email told an HB 112 supporter that "The bill as presented was not even supported by the Catholic Church."

Had delegates Kilgore and Albo voted for HB 112, it would have passed to the full House of Delegates! (The position of the two Virginia Catholic bishops and the Catholic Conference in not supporting HB 112 is in direct opposition to the testimony of four Catholic American Cardinals before the US Senate in 1974. The Cardinals said establishing legal personhood for preborn children was essential to outlawing abortion. For details, contact Del. Bob Marshall.)

Opponents to HB 112 claimed the bill would have adverse consequences, such as counting preborn children in the census, criminalizing miscarriages as homicide, outlawing birth control, taking income tax deductions for children before birth, or closing in vitro clinics, yet in the three states which have laws similar to HB 112, nothing like this has happened. HB 112, though not identical, was modeled after a 1986 Missouri law which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Delegates Albo and Kilgore both told Delegate Marshall and other HB 112 supporters Wednesday night at the hearing and later that had HB 112 contained the original Missouri language they would have supported HB 112. Delegate Marshall therefore had the Missouri language drawn up as an amendment the next day, hoping a Courts Committee member would offer the original Missouri language at the full committee meeting on Friday.

However, on Friday, February 12, no Republican member of the full Courts of Justice Committee brought up HB 112 in order to amend it, apparently because a Republican Caucus policy (applies only to Republican delegates) states that bills failing in Subcommittee should not be taken up by the full committee even though the Rules of the House of Delegates and Parliamentary Rules allow for such actions.

Delegate Albo noted that HB 112 did not stop even one abortion. Delegate Marshall explained that HB 112 was not introduced to outlaw abortion now. However, HB 112 challenged the two legal assumptions of Roe vs. Wade by affirming the humanity and personhood of preborn children, and providing a definition for a human being which the Roe Court said it was unable to do. However, HB 112 would require Virginia Courts to allow “wrongful death” suits for the parents of a preborn child who was killed. HB 112 would also create a public policy tension by questioning why some persons are not protected under Virginia law, and then later offering a direct challenge to the conclusion of Roe and Doe by outlawing abortion and providing for criminal penalties for doctors who perform abortions.

Delegate Albo wrote to a constituent on February 12, that HB 112 "is in violation of Roe vs. Wade." This is not correct as the original Missouri language was upheld in 1989 by the US Supreme Court in Webster vs. Reproductive Health Services, which also affirmed Roe vs. Wade.

This fact was explained to Delegate Albo by attorney Rita Dunaway at a public hearing on February 10 and in a memo from Rita Dunaway sent to Del. Albo several days before the hearing. Del. Albo also wrote that HB 112 would make the Pill and In-Vitro clinics illegal, even though he was told that this has not happened in Missouri, Louisiana or Illinois which have similar laws, and the Dunaway memo pointed out this claim was false. Delegate Marshall also explained that a corpus dilecti, (dead body) is needed for proof of homicide, which would be impossible to produce by use of the Pill.

HB 112 provided rules of legal construction for statutes for Virginia Courts and state agencies to affirm personhood for preborn children. HB 112 could not be applied as a criminal statute because of constitutional due process requirements to clearly specify the elements of a crime.

Attorney Pat McSweeney (former Chair, Republican Party of Virginia) eloquently told the Subcommittee that it was unconscionable for legislators to duck the simple task of affirming personhood for preborn children and that legal definitions matter and have profound personal and social consequences. McSweeney pointed to the practice of German guards, who wrote on box cars containing Jews, the number of "sticke" which meant "pieces," a dehumanizing label which allowed the Nazi’s to rationalize the killings.

For clarification, here is the text of the bill that the GOPers voted against:

Whereas, the Constitution of Virginia provides in Article I, Section 1 that all men are by nature equally free and independent and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety; and

Whereas, the Constitution of Virginia further provides in Article I, Section 11 that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; now, therefore,

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of Virginia:

1. § 1. That a human being is any organism, including an embryo, who possesses a genome specific for and consistent with a member of the species Homo sapiens. For the purposes of certain inherent and constitutionally guaranteed rights, every human being is deemed a legal person in the Commonwealth.

§ 2. Unborn children have protectable interests in life, health, and well-being, and the natural parents of unborn children have protectable interests in the life, health, and well-being of their unborn children.

§ 3. Subject to the United States Constitution and the Constitution of Virginia, the laws of the Commonwealth shall be interpreted and construed to acknowledge on behalf of all human beings, including unborn children at every stage of development, the equality and inherent rights guaranteed by Article I, Section 1 of the Constitution of Virginia and the right to due process guaranteed by Article I, Section 11 of the Constitution of Virginia.

§4. Nothing herein shall be construed to expand, limit, or otherwise modify any determination of law regarding what constitutes appropriate medical services for pregnant women.

I have asked the Virginia Catholic Conference for a statement about its non-support of this legislation and will post it, when and if it arrives.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Let's Hear It for Feel-Good Films

Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy with son Micheal on the field at University of Mississippi, where he began his football career.

If you are going to drop $10.50 to see a film at the local movie theater (rather than waiting a few weeks for it to be released on DVD so you can watch it at home from the comfort of your recliner) you may as well enjoy the full silver screen experience. By this I mean that you should come out of the theater feeling happy and convinced that life is good--rather than despondent about the fact that Columbus discovered America (think Avatar), confused about precisely how an evil genius expected to take over the world (think Sherlock Holmes), or convinced that the human race will never overcome racism (think Crash) .

I give five stars to The Blind Side, the story of NFL star Michael Oher's adoption by Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy (and their biological son and daugher), of New Orleans. The family befriended and adopted Michael when he was 15 years old. The Tuohys have become national spokesmen for the adoption of older children out of foster care.

Pienaar and Springbok teammates in Soweto, at a rugby clinic with local children. Mandela sent the Springboks across the country to promote the national game under the slogan: One Team, One Country.
I also recommend Clint Eastwood's new movie Invictus, and not just because Matt Damon does a splendid job as Francois Pienaar, who led South Africa's Springbok rugby team to an upset victory in the 1995 World Cup. I like it because it's a masterful mix of sports drama and politics, and quite useful for educating children on the challenges of statesmanship.

Madela congratulates Springbok captain Francois Pienaar, who holds the World Rugby Cup. Pienaar told the press his team played for "all 45 million South Africans."