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September 4th, 2002
Life at the Bottom of the Corporate Heap

A few weeks before she finished her pharmacy degree, my younger sister called to tell me she’d just been offered a job paying something like $60,000 a year. My mind sprouted dark, envious thoughts as she described the retirement plan and giant signing bonus, but I gritted my teeth and congratulated her. “Wow,” I said, trying not to choke, “good for you.”
That phone call left me depressed for months. I had logged just as many decent grades and years in university as my sister, more even. No high-paying career for me, though. Thanks to a combination of choice, chance, and a not-quite-planned baby, I hadn’t gotten any farther than the bottom of the corporate heap. I earned my living…

September 2nd, 2002
A Young Catholic Looking for Mercy

I’m a good Catholic. I go to Mass every week. I’m involved in my local parish. I oppose both capital punishment and abortion on demand. I’ve attended Catholic schools from kindergarten to graduate school. I’m young—just ten years out of college, and barely into my thirties. I am Catholic. I am young. And I’m divorced. Divorced. GULP. Kind of goes down like a horsepill, doesn’t it?
Very much like a pill, in fact. Bitter and chalky, difficult to swallow. Bitter the taste of anger and tears that had passed between my husband and I. Chalky, like the rubble that lay where a vibrant relationship once had stood. And so, so difficult to swallow the fact that I had failed to live out…

September 1st, 2002
Sounding Off As a Nation

Friday night, 7 p.m., Central time. I’m sitting in my favorite chair, anxiously staring at my radio, when those familiar words come through the air: ” From WBEZ Chicago?and Public Radio International ?it’s This American Life . I’m Ira Glass.”
Have you heard this show? I stumbled upon it accidentally, when surfing the far left end of the radio dial, and I have been laughing and musing ever since. Each week the show profiles regular Americans, just like you and me, and tells their stories. Okay, most of them are nothing like you or me (at least they’re not like me), but that doesn’t stop me from finding them fascinating.
Every TAL show has a theme and they offer several stories…

September 1st, 2002
Adventures in Office Romance (on the QT)

Approximately a year ago, I wrote a well-thought-out, carefully polished essay on the subject of dating a co-worker.
The entirety of it had been pulled directly from my ass. I can’t even remember the last time I was simultaneously employed and in a relationship. One destroyed my energy and the other never paid enough. (It’s a Catholic website. You figure out which is which.)
I came to Florida’s Kennedy Space Center for a job. Cast over my shoulder into the Ohio River back in Cincinnati was a marriage-bent relationship that was ended by the potential groom with an email. I wanted that beaten away by the ocean, the vastness of the Atlantic purging my heart, the salt water returning me to a self-contained…

September 1st, 2002
Lessons from Desolate Places

Empty, desolate and dry. Although these are the words most commonly thought of when describing the desert, they only tell a small portion of the story.
For much of the world the desert is a surreal place, conjuring images of a wasteland. At first glance, California desert locales—the Mojave, Death Valley, Joshua Tree —may seem empty or even void of interest, but upon closer examination they are anything but that. Although I might extol the beauty and grace of the desert, this would only be a distraction from its true purpose. Besides, rating beauty is a question of taste, and I would no more ask you to visit the desert in search of beauty then visit Antarctica in search of cold. Rather, it is emptiness and desolation…

August 30th, 2002
The Unexpected Joy of Parenthood

Their faces keep surfacing on the evening news, in snapshots pulled from fireplace mantels or the pages of the family album. These are photos never meant to be here, at the tragic center of a swirl of frightening images—police detectives, disbelieving neighbors, yellow-taped crime scenes. To my horror it goes on and on, the story beginning again every few days.
Another child vanished, snatched from the sidewalk or her bed or while walking to school. Mercifully I am only a bystander. I have little to do but shut off my television and pray, and turn to my belief that God is with those who suffer.
Once, stories of stolen children disturbed me. Now, two years into my unexpected motherhood, they have a cold, haunting…

August 26th, 2002
Americans Behaving Badly Out of Country

Our internet connection was out�a serious problem for the BustedHalo.com booth on site at World Youth Day (with the Pope) in Toronto, Canada.
So I hiked the hundred feet or so to the official Exhibition Office to chat with the woman in charge about what could be done. I waited while a journalist from the U.S. discussed with her how to get a television feed. She was originally from Quebec , and he was having a bit of trouble with her French-accented English. Unable to accept this confusion as a normal part of an international gathering, he mocked her accent (which I had no trouble with) and then lectured her on why he couldn’t understand her.
Several times in Toronto I wanted to hide my face, or at least my U.S. citizenship,…

August 17th, 2002
Lessons from Trash TV

“Anna Nicole Smith is busting out with a wild new reality sitcom. It’s the place where pop culture and cleavage converge, so tune in and stay abreast of Anna Nicole’s big adventures.”
– Program description from e! Channel Web site
Although the program description above says it all, there are really only two points to make about the new “hard-to-believe-this-is-really-someone’s-reality” show “Anna Nicole,” which premiered on the E! Channel recently, and received the network’s highest ratings. Ever.
Main Point Number One: we don’t have to watch it.
Well, actually, I DO have to watch it. How else would I be able to help my loyal…

August 17th, 2002
Corporate Scandal Calls Us Back to Our Ethical Roots

There’s a favorite story in my family that goes something like this…
My father-in-law, a Frenchman, had just arrived in Latin America. He made his way to the government offices in the capital to get his papers in order. Upon arriving he was met by a polite doorman who, noticing his accent, addressed him as “Monsieur.” My father-in-law explained his business in broken Spanish and asked for directions to the government offices he needed. The doorman smiled a benevolent smile and, looking around at the throngs of people standing in various lines, asked him, “Do you have about $100 in cash in your wallet, Monsieur?” “Yes, I do.” “Very well, follow me.”…

August 15th, 2002

Have you talked to your Mother today?
You might want to contact her.
She’s been waiting for you.
She loves you very much, and would like to know how your day went.
She will listen to tales of traffic snarls, snarling customers, and snarling bosses all day long if you let her. She wants to know if your lunch was soggy or if the new girl has smiled at you yet.
Your Mother will listen without interjecting the opinion that you really should get the toilet clean, get married, get a child. She loves you with or without these things.
She’s older than you are, and knows better, but waits quietly until asked for advice.
Your mother is aching to hold you, for this woman knows sorrow. She is never closer than when you are bleeding…

August 10th, 2002
Your Summer Romance Could Be Divine

Men and women of a certain age were simply unable to reach maturity without attending some social event that featured the soundtrack from the movie Grease, particularly that portion in which the phenomenon of the summer romantic fling is celebrated (or, more specifically, as the song goes: “Oh, those su-um-mer nigh-igh-ights…….”). This was John Travolta’s—and, quite possibly, America’s—finest hour.
I’m not precisely sure what it is about summer that makes us more apt to release our phone numbers to the opposite sex; perhaps we’re simply trying to avoid the loser status of the one-seat line at the roller coaster.
What I do know is that you can also…

August 1st, 2002
23 Defect at World Youth Day in Toronto - Right in Front of My Face

The Cuban exile now living in Canada told the Cubans at the World Youth Day celebrations in Toronto: “If there is any way I can help you at all, please let me know.”
Ismael Sambra spoke these words to a group of young adult Cubans at a picnic I attended during the pope�s visit there. I thought Sambra was just showing some northern hospitality.
I totally missed it. Actually he was offering passage on Toronto’s underground railroad for freedom-seeking Catholic Cubans. Political asylum. The picnic was July 27. On July 28, it was reported that some 23 of the 200 Cubans attending World Youth Day had defected.
Ismael Sambra, in interviews, said he was coordinating safe housing and legal aid for them…

July 27th, 2002
Trust Takes a Plunge

The lake was warm. I dropped into the water and pushed off from the dock. I swam into the sunshine, floated, and waited for Steve. He swam near and pointed down. He motioned to my mask and snorkel. He said, “Look.”
I hesitated. I slid my chin beneath the water. Then, my lower lip. Soon, my snorkeled mouth was submerged and my mask tickled the lake’s surface. I peered into the water. I saw fish and underwater flora and, for the first time in years, wasn’t worried about what lurked beneath the waves.
Going down
I’m not afraid of the water. Indeed, since childhood, I have known how to swim and swim well. During adolescence, however, my eyesight floundered, and soon I couldn’t read a…

July 21st, 2002
Being Happy with the Things You Own

Once upon a time, I owned one bowl and one spoon. I carried them from meal to meal?eating, washing, drying – and allotted them their own shelf in my otherwise empty cupboard. It was a low-maintenance lifestyle: I rode a bike, wore used clothes, and slept atop a futon. I aimed to own nothing. In my mind, having possessions blocked me from true happiness.
Let’s be clear. I’m not a communist. Rather, I hate commercialism and the all-powerful push to shop. I believe I am a godly creation whose worth doesn’t depend on funky sunglasses or shoes that blink. In fact, my worth is augmented when I resist the urge to own. And I have resisted. Or, at least, I did?before I got engaged.
Take this blender……

July 18th, 2002

You feel for Moses. He walks through the desert for forty years leading his Jewish people to the Promised Land, and in the end, he never gets to live there.
Move the scene a few thousand years later. Susan B. Anthony, a Quaker, led the struggle to secure voting rights for U.S. women. For some 37 years�from 1869 to 1906�Anthony appeared before every Congress to ask for passage of a suffrage amendment. In 1872, she and three of her sisters were arrested for voting. Anthony was frequently scorned, arrested, and hung in effigy. She died in 1906 at the age of 86 never having voted legally.
In 1920 Tennessee became the 36th and final state to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment, also known as the Susan B. Anthony Amendment.…

July 18th, 2002
The sad reality of garbage and cities

Toronto stinks. Or at least it has since June 26, when the 6800 City of Toronto Outside Workers went on strike . This means that, until union and employer agree on a new contract, garbage collectors will be picketing the city instead of picking up its trash.
This isn’t good. Torontonians toss nearly one million metric tonnes of garbage each year and, unless local businesses and residents pay for private removal, much of it will be rotting on sidewalks for the next few weeks. Needless to say, no one’s impressed. July in Toronto means heat and smog ; if the trash stays put, World Youth Day pilgrims might have to wrestle rats for a seat in the shade.
Is recycling still cool?
One million metric tonnes of garbage…

July 5th, 2002
The Importance of Being Real

At the movies, do you stay until all the credits have rolled by?
Everyone knows that behind-the-scenes folks in the movie industry get the short end of the stick. Directors and producers are not (for the most part) the household names that actors are. The recently released film Simone takes on the inflated sense the public has of movie stars and the value we place on fame in our society.
Al Pacino plays film director Stanley Turansky, all washed up after several bombs. His last chance is in big trouble when the star actress walks out claiming he’s impossible to work with. Because of his reputation Turansky can’t get any other actress as a replacement and it appears his career is over.
Enter Hank. A computer…

July 1st, 2002

There’s only one thing worse than waking to a blaring alarm clock five days a week, flailing away at traffic, flailing away at co-workers, flailing away at management, peeling Saran Wrap away from warmish tuna salad in the middle of the day, and trundling home as night falls to start all over again: Not doing it.
I know a few people who are between projects right now, and for the most part there is pluckish perseverance and pseudo-bragging about arising at the hour of The Price Is Right . But I’ve been there, and I know the sinking stomach, the shrinking checking account, the 3 a.m. conversations with the ceiling tile: Aren’t I good enough? Why did they let me go? Did I really do the right thing when I…

June 29th, 2002

I’ve been listening to the stories of young immigrants lately.
To me they sound to me a lot like the classic tales of the spiritual journey of life. Not so religious really, but they are all about awakening.
L. arrived here five years ago from Iran, the young wife of a physician husband taking up his medical residency. Before two years had elapsed she and her husband had divorced, not exactly what anyone had scripted for this adventure. Yet she calls the divorce “the best thing I ever did.” She decided not to go home to Tehran. Maybe it has something to do with the opportunities she has here as a woman in this more secular and open culture. Yet still she misses her home and family and sometimes thinks about…

June 19th, 2002
Where did those pesky wedding traditions come from?

Summer’s here and weddings abound. While there’s nothing wrong with love, there’s plenty amiss with weddings. It’s a pressure cooker. Bride and groom are attacked with advice and guided towards pricey options. Money vanishes. Fights brew. It’s no surprise why couples elope.
Still, weddings are rituals and most couples follow the rules: the traditions. But what are wedding traditions and where did they come from? Are they real traditions or are they just money-grabs by the enormous wedding industry – Let’s take a look at a few.
Satin and silk
Hold on to your lace: the white dresshas only been a fixture at weddings for two hundred years. Before the nineteenth century,…

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