Monday, July 6, 2015

Monday Morning Musings

1. It has been a long and crazy few days. Found out Dear Hubby needs a stent in his heart. Scary stuff, even though the cardiologist talks about it like you're getting a dental cleaning. Prayers are most welcome.
2. Been doing a lot of journaling/drawing lately. Found a book called Praying in Color that really has helped me sort out thoughts, pray through things and ponder more deeply my relationship with God. Don't worry,  you don't need to be an artist to do any of this; you don't even have to show it to anyone ever.
3. Eight years since we lost our father. Doesn't seem possible. I still always hope I'm making him proud.
4. I was blessed to lector yesterday. The second reading from St. Paul is so powerful:

Brothers and sisters:
That I, Paul, might not become too elated,
because of the abundance of the revelations,
a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan,
to beat me, to keep me from being too elated.
Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me,
but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you,
for power is made perfect in weakness.”
I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses,
in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.
Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults,
hardships, persecutions, and constraints,
for the sake of Christ;
for when I am weak, then I am strong.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Post Vacation Highlights, Thought and Wonderment





  • My trip to Louisville was grand! First, I found not one, but two possible dresses for Curly haired daughter's wedding. Better yet, I spent less than $100 for both at a lovely consignment shop!
  • Went to the Louisville Zoo, which neither my friend nor I had ever visited. The weather was lovely: high 70s and little humidity. We enjoyed the animals and the little kids enjoying the animals. There was also Lego art displayed throughout the zoo that was amazing! Plus, on our way in, a lady stopped us and said her two friends couldn't make their outing and would we like their tickets! Yes, please!
  • I FINALLY got to visit the Louisville Tea Company! I discovered them on Pinterest almost a year ago, and have been itching to go. Finally got there and was NOT disappointed. Let's just say hubby and I are set for tea for awhile.
  • My trip started off poorly. I made it to Chicago, but then my connection to Louisville kept getting pushed back, pushed back ... then cancelled. The airline reps told us to go to the airline counter and make other arrangements. Now, I was disgruntled, but come on - in the scheme of things, not a big deal. Let's face it, we live in an amazing country: you could catch the train, take a bus, get a rental car, etc. The people waiting in line were acting as if the zombie apocalypse had occurred, and they were only one step ahead of the game. They were also really rude to the folks at the desk - who of course had NOTHING to do with the flight being cancelled. I had only two words for those nasty folks: "Donner party."
  • Visited a sweet little grotto that had been built on a hospital grounds. The hospital's gone, but the grotto is still there, kept up by volunteers. It's tucked away, hard to find, but my friend (who shares my passion for anything Catholic and off-beat) knew right where it was!
  • And yes. We ate. Blue Moon Burgers. Cracked Eggs. I highly recommend both.
  • Monday, June 22, 2015

    "Isn't she the one who hates gays?"

    I have some family members who are gay (and I'm sure most of you do, too.) I love them madly. One is creative and smart and building an awesome career. Another served our country and has overcome some really big obstacles.

    One of them was "home" recently and brought his partner. I was told that his partner asked another family member, "So which sister is it that hates gays 'cause she's super-Christian? I heard she won't allow them in her house."

    Um, that would be me. Except of course, that it's not.

    I don't hate anyone. I don't hate any groups of people. I certainly don't hate my family, or the homosexual family members.

    I'm also really upset that somehow this equation has now become true: Catholic = hate.

    Now, I'm happy to say that I met my nephew and his partner for lunch and we had a delightful conversation. I love my nephew and I'm really proud of him. He knows exactly what my beliefs and values are.

    I just wish the rest of the family and world knew too. Catholics don't hate homosexuals. And the reason we don't is because God doesn't hate them, and we are striving to be like God as much as possible.

    Monday Morning Musings

    1. Another Acton University in the books. I'm not gonna lie: this year was tough. AU under the best of circumstances is hard (we have a small staff and a BIG conference), but this year, the pope decided to release an encyclical in the middle of it all! I was a teensy bit ... overwhelmed? Crazed? Exhausted? Yeah, all that.

    2. Two high points: I have a wonderful friend who attends the conference every year and we got to spend Friday lunch together, catching up. My only regret is that we don't live next door to each other; she is such a joy to me.

    Another friend grabbed me on Tuesday evening and said, "I have someone I need you to meet!" It turned out to be a woman who has been working in the area of human trafficking for years. This woman's feet aren't just planted in Scripture, they are cemented in. She is funny, bold, sweet, sassy, faithful ... I know I have a new best friend and mentor. That was truly a Holy Spirit thing!

    3. I'm going to Kentucky! Every year I take some time right after AU to go visit one of my dearest friends. And I get to go see her this week!! I'm so excited - she and I will talk and laugh until our sides ache. I cannot tell you how much I love her and how much I'm looking forward to seeing her.

    4. From my prayers this morning: "God is my mighty shield and my strong support." That will be on my heart today.

    Tuesday, June 16, 2015

    Closed for the week





    I'm not going out of business, but I'll be working at Acton University for the remainder of the week. Too busy to blog here!

    God bless you all!

    Monday, June 8, 2015

    Why I remain Catholic

    Elizabeth Scalia, the blogger-extraordinaire at The Anchoress, has challenged her fellow Catholic bloggers to answer the question, "Why do I remain Catholic?" This is my attempt to answer this.

    For me, being Catholic has never been a struggle. I have no amazing conversion story, I'm not a prodigal who has run home to the loving arms of Mother Church. It's kind of boring, actually; I've always been Catholic.

    I knew Jesus was real in the Eucharist from a very early age. I was allowed to make my First Communion a year ahead of my classmates.

    Despite the fact that I have both an undergraduate and a graduate degree in world religions, I've never been tempted to "jump ship." (I do have an abiding fondness for Buddha, but simply because I admire his tenacity in wrestling with life's Big Questions. He didn't get it all right, but he wasn't all wrong, either.)

    I love the saints. I feel a strong and passionate connection and friendship to many of them. I talk to them all the time.

    In my mind's eye, I can still see the black and red drawings in the Baltimore Catechism that neatly summed up huge theological truths in a way I could understand.

    When I was 15, my parents sent me to Fatima, and I pledged myself to Our Lady. She has been far more faithful to me than I have been to her.

    I vividly remember St. John Paul II being elected pope, and I became an adult in the church under his tutelage.

    I love the liturgical calendar, the seasons of the church, that allow for mourning and celebration, temperance and conviviality.

    Why do I remain Catholic? I remain Catholic because I believe Jesus is who He says He is, and that He founded a Church. I believe Christ gave us the sacraments. I believe in the powerful words of John, chapter 6: "I am the bread of life." I believe that Christ appointed Peter and his successors to guide us in the faith.

    Credo: I believe.

    Monday Morning Musings

    One of the WAR, International artisans
    1. I spent most of last week dealing with a muscle spasm in my back. If you've never experienced one, it's like a charlie horse that won't stop. And yes, it IS as much fun as it sounds. It's slightly better now, but I'm also heavily medicated.

    2. Took Curly-haired daughter out to shop for wedding jewelry. Big shout-out to Women At Risk, International and their beautiful War Chest Boutiques. We got the bride's jewelry, narrowed down options for the bridesmaids, table decor and I've got my eyes on a few pieces for the upcoming nuptials. Plus, all this shopping goes to support survivors of human trafficking here in the US and around the world.

    3. Feast of Corpus Christi! Is there a more beautiful feast? I'm so thankful that our priests have revived the tradition of the procession with the Eucharist and Adoration for this great day in the Church calendar. "I am the bread of life!"

    4. 2- 1/2 weeks and I'm off on vacation! Whoot! I hope I have energy - I don't want to go on vacation and nap it away....

    Friday, June 5, 2015

    No place at the ... camp?

    I must admit: I am disappointed. Dark-haired daughter, last summer, went to a camp for high school students sponsored by our diocese. It was a HUGE step for her: she has not been away from home since being hospitalized after her abduction, and it was a tremendous step for her not to give into anxiety and fear, but to trust.

    She loved camp! She was there with "normal" kids, who embraced her and loved her. She loved the counselors and the entire experience. Since last summer, all she could talk about was going back to camp this year.

    Yesterday I got a phone call from the camp that she couldn't come. She is now 19, and although she is still in high school, the camp board has declared that only 14-18 year olds can attend, due to diocescan guidelines on adults being with  minors without having gone through "safety training."

    I explained to the young woman that called that this issue had come up with our daughter, as she volunteers in our parish nursery. The person in charge of this training for the diocese, along with the diocesan director of faith formation, had told us that so long as our daughter was still in high school, she could forgo the training. In addition, at such time the training was needed, we could arrange a private session for her, given the nature of the training, and her past assault.

    I told the young woman from the camp that I was not telling her this to change her mind, but simply to inform.

    And then I had to tell daughter she couldn't go to camp.

    And that makes me sad. I am sad that so many children have been hurt in our church by those entrusted with their safety. I am sad that those in charge at the camp cannot be more flexible for someone with special needs. And I am sad that my daughter is once again told by the church: there is no place for you here.

    Monday, June 1, 2015

    Secrets to being the parent of a special needs child

    What is blogging if not ripping off good work from other blogs? One of my favorite sites it The Mighty; they focus on the lives of people with special needs and those who love them. This list is from 35 Secrets of Being a Special Needs Parent:

    “You have no idea how much potential you both have to exceed your expectations.” — Becky Hirsh Carroll
    “Your child with special needs is a child first.” — Erica Conway-Wahle
    You are not weak when you get angry and upset.” — Amy Sherian
    You know your kid best. Don’t be concerned with what others say. Trust your gut.” — Nancy Walchak-Body
    “It’s lonely. But when you meet someone who gets it, it’s transforming.” — Melody Statham Cameron
    You have to also take care of yourself.” — Amy Streater Bazerghi
    14.Pencil it in on the calendar, never pen. Be flexible.” — Kodi Wilson
    15. “It’s about progress, not perfection.” — Melissa Cote
    16. “My kid takes longer to ‘grow up.’ Secretly, that is sort of awesome.” — Rebecca Smith Masterson

    Monday Morning Musings

    1. This was a rough weekend. My elderly mother, who is a fiercely independent and strong-willed woman, now has a body that is weak. She can't be on her own any more. Oldest Sister and I spent the weekend with her, and her rather rapid decline was startling and hard to manage. Very emotional.

    2. Now, it's Monday. And I need a weekend to recover from my weekend.

    3. June is going to be busy. I know it's Ordinary Time, but it feels like a holiday - much to plan for and pray for.

    4. Feeling a bit sad? Emotional? Nostalgic? for having a child around. Met an 8 year old in foster care that I nearly fell head over heels for.

    And then I thought, "What are you THINKING????"

    (Proving that adoption and having kids is rather addictive.)

    5. Another round of shots at the pain clinic this Wednesday. Is it sick that I'm looking forward to it, just so I can have a day to rest?

    Friday, May 29, 2015

    The St. Francis of Birdies and Kittens, or the Real Thing?

    Pooor St. Francis. He's either relegated to the barnyard, or dancing around in a field, praising the sun. But that's not who he really was. He was a man madly in love with Christ, and wanted others to know that love.

    I wanted to draw your attention to two new books about St. Francis that look as if they are worthy of our time. (I haven't read 'em yet, so I'm not endorsing them!) However, they seem to take the saint seriously. We don't do God or his saints any justice by sentimentalizing them.

    Tuesday, May 26, 2015

    Tuesday Afternoon Musings, Because: Lazy

    Why is this baby smiling? She didn't have to clean the grout!
    1. Really, sheer laziness.

    2. We are getting some long-overdue work done on our house. Hurray! I decided to get a head start by recoloring some grout. I thought it would be a simple, one-day project for the holiday weekend. I don't know why I thought that....

    3. Spent the rest of the weekend making bridal shower and wedding plans (all via social media!). A small wedding requires just as much planning as a big one. Don't let anyone tell you differently. I am not complaining; I think  having a wedding planner takes a lot of fun out of it!

    4. Finally met both the "in-laws." We had met mom, but not dad (they are now living out-of-state.) I now know why my daughter has such a lovely young man as her espoused.

    5. We were kidless this weekend. Dark-haired daughter went camping for most of the weekend. It was a little weird rambling around in the house by ourselves. But maybe we could get used to it....

    6. Is it bad that we set our Sunday Mass attendance around soccer? Dear Husband's "team" was in the finals...

    Monday, May 18, 2015

    Monday Morning Musings

    1. Given the Gospel this weekend, I was sort of hoping our pastor would whip out a rattlesnake and give us some Appalachian Gospel. He stuck to the homily routine though.

    2. I am struggling with hope. I am trying to discern the differences and ties between theological hope - the virtue - and the hope of anticipating good here and now. I can't seem to bring myself to hope for anything good, because every time I do, I get slammed to the ground by a 2x4 to the head as I round a blind corner. This past week was an excellent example - huge problem with one of the kids that I thought was on the right track.

    3. When you have a mentally ill adult child, you have to learn that he/she must manage their illness. You can't. You also have to put up with all the people who think you are being a bad parent by not stepping in and managing something that A) they don't understand and B) you can't do anything about anyway.

    4. General thought: it must suck to be a meter reader in the city. You do your job and ruin someone's day.

    5. I'm tired. Really tired. For someone with depression, this is not good. I'm trying to drag myself out of the cycle of doing just what I need to do to get by and then sleeping. No fun.

    Friday, May 15, 2015

    A Citizen of the Nation of Chaos

    No, Chaos is not one of the cities in a dystopian youth novel. It is a very real place.

    There are a lot of people who live in the nation of Chaos. For some, their citizenship is earned because of a loved one's addiction. They never know if they are going to get Nice Dad or Angry Dad, if Mom will be making dinner when they get home or passed out cold.

    In Chaos, we pray our children are safe ... not doing something that could get them arrested. If they do get arrested, we feel a sense of relief, because we know that at least they are safe. And then we feel guilty for feeling that relief.

    In Chaos, mental illness is a familiar address. Whether it's the creeping darkness of depression, the sleepless, exuberant nights of mania, or the sinister voices in the mind only one person hears, mental illness makes itself right at home in Chaos.

    It's hard to make plans in Chaos. A family might get ready for a vacation, and then someone goes off the rails. A car accident - once - makes one forever leery of driving ... even though it's necessary. If the family does manage to get off on vacation, that one kid in the family will likely have a very public fit that makes everyone else in the family wish they had never left home.

    Living in Chaos means that faith, hope and love are always quite tentative. You know they are there, but they always seem just out of reach. It's like those stupid claw games that kids feed quarters into, aiming to get a cheap stuffed animal. You are manipulating the claw closer and closer to faith or hope or love ... and then you drop it, or miss completely. And of course, you don't have any more quarters to feed the machine.

    Being a citizen of Chaos means you have your own pledge of allegiance. You pledge allegiance to sticking it out, no matter what, but you know that the nation of Chaos offers no protection in return. There is no military standing at the ready to fight your battles - you are on your own. The nation is easily divisible, as it is often every man, woman and child for themselves. You learn not to count on people who are not fellow citizens too much, as they get very weary of dealing with you and your "issues."

    On the other hand, when you find another fellow citizen of Chaos, you don't need to explain much. They know. They know the humiliation, the sadness, the lack of looking forward to anything because you know it probably will just get mucked up anyway. They are fellow citizens, and companions on the way.

    Once you become a citizen of Chaos, you are always a citizen. You can move away, but you still belong to that place, and it is always a part of you. Everything about who you are and what you do is tainted by Chaos.

    In Chaos, there is faith, but you have to carry it around in your very heavy bag. It gets crushed down to the bottom, underneath the water and tissues and medication and snack bars and car keys and phone numbers to every mental health professional in the country. But every once in awhile,  you clean out your bag, and you find it. And it gets you through.

    Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. - Philip. 4:6-7

    Monday, May 11, 2015

    Mother's Day Monday Musings

    1. One of my dearest friends spent her Mother's Day making funeral arrangements for her daughter. Her daughter had battled many health issues since birth, but had made great strides in the past few years: living on her own, getting her degree, landing a job. After a recent surgery, an infection took hold and she just did not have the strength to fight it. Please keep them in your prayers this week.

    2. I got a Happy Mother's Day from 3 of my 5 kids. Those are pretty decent odds, given our family.

    3. Spent a lovely weekend with Dear Husband doing stuff we love to do: antique shopping, wine-tasting, playing cribbage. Yes, we are dull people, but we are OUR dull people.

    4. Our pastor, when he gave the blessings for the mothers at the end of Mass yesterday, reminded women who had conceived and lost a child to miscarriage that they should stand as well. Life begins at conception, he reminded us, and all women who have conceived are mothers. A lovely reminder.

    Thursday, May 7, 2015

    Eternal Rest, O Lord

    GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) -- Grand Rapids police have identified a body found in the Grand River Tuesday evening.
    The body of Terry Douglas Bailey was found around 6:30 p.m. Tuesday near the river's east bank under the Fulton Street bridge.
    Bailey, 51, was released from the Kent County Jail on Friday after serving four days for possessing open intoxicants in a city park.
    He listed his address as Mel Trotter Mission on Commerce Avenue SW, about a half-mile from where his body was recovered.
    Bailey has more than a hundred arrests for misdemeanor charges dating back to 2008, including consuming alcohol in public, disorderly panhandling and trespassing. A cause of death remains undetermined, pending the results of an autopsy.

    I don't know this man. I see a lot of men like him every day.

    This was one of the saddest things I've read in a long time. I pass no judgement on this man, for I do not know his story. However, he died a sad and lonely death, in what appeared to be a sad and lonely life. No one should go "unprayed" for at their death.

    Eternal rest, grant unto him, O Lord,
    And let perpetual light shine upon him.

    Wednesday, May 6, 2015

    News Flash: Catholic Church Hates Women!

    At least, that's what New York Times writer Frank Bruni says. Oh, he loves Pope Francis, and was overjoyed to hear the pope call for "equal pay for equal work" (which, in the US, is mandated by federal law), but it really doesn't count if women don't get to be priests.

    Pay isn’t the primary issue when the symbolism, rituals and vocabulary of an institution exalt men over women and when challenges to that imbalance are met with the insistence that what was must always be — that habit trumps enlightenment and good sense.
    Let’s be clear. For all the remarkable service that the Catholic Church performs, it is one of the world’s dominant and most unshakable patriarchies, with tenets that don’t abet equality.

    Uh. I'm not sure what to say to Bruni. Oh, wait: I do.

    You are wrong.

    And you are wrong on many levels.

    First, this pope did not decide women can't be priests. In fact, no pope did. Jesus did. If you want to pick a fight with Him, go ahead, but keep in mind that he is the Son of God, the Almighty. But, whatever.

    Bruni also claims that
    Male clergy are typically called “father,” which connotes authority. Women in religious orders are usually called “sister,” which doesn’t.
    Duh. First of all, calling someone "sister" is not an insult. (I hope Bruni has a sister himself to bonk him over the head.) And many women's religious orders elevate their members to "mother" - a woman who guides, prays for, walks with, instructs, nourishes. Yeah, what an insult.

    Bruni charges that doors are closed to women in the Church. I don't know what church he's looking at, but it's not my church. I myself have taught children in the faith from kindergarten through high school. I've instructed people who wish to join the church through RCIA. I've helped parents prepare as they get ready to baptize their children. I've taught children and adults who wish to be confirmed. I've helped people with special needs gain better access to the sacraments and to parish life. I lead a congregation in worship as cantor. I am graciously allowed to read the Word of God aloud in Mass.

    I am heir to St. Teresa of Avila, St. Catherine of Sienna, St. Therese of Lisieux, and Hildegard of Bingen - all Doctors of the Church.

    I have had the luxury and awesome blessing of receiving spiritual direction from the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist, and I am so honored to call these women "Sister" and "Mother" for they truly are.

    My role model is Mary, the humble and obedient servant of God, Mother of Christ Almightly, whose entire existence can be summed up in her Fiat: May it be done to be according to Your will.

    Women in the Church can't catch a break, Mr. Bruni? You are running in the wrong circles. Come meet my Church - the women here are incredible!

    Monday, May 4, 2015

    Monday Morning Musings

    Bangkok, Thailand
    1. Highlight of the weekend? (Besides the fact that Michigan is finally warm....) Our pastor's homily. So much great stuff to ponder for the whole week. Isn't that what a homily is supposed to be?

    2. I'm thinking weddings. Got a bunch of 'em this year, including my own daughter's. Much to celebrate, much to do!

    3. I'm hoping to go to Thailand next year, to help out human trafficking survivors and do research for my next book. If you are of the mind to help, you can!

    4. Mother's Day is this weekend! And I get to go away with my husband! We've been ships passing in the night lately, what with his work, coaching soccer and my schedule.

    5. From Magnificat, Fr. John Tauler, OP: And now let us consider the true way, and the shortest way leading into the very focus of this heavenly light. Briefly, it is unfeigned self-denial joined to boundless love of God - one's own self in not a single particular and God's honor in all things. Very much worth pondering.

    Tuesday, April 28, 2015

    Man Down

    I left work yesterday, taking my usual route from the office to the expressway. As I turned a corner, I saw a man lying in the street, with another man standing over him. The one in the street did not appear hurt. I think he was either drunk, tired or both and just decided he'd had enough. So there he was, lying in the street.

    Well, that won't do, I thought. I pulled over, put my flashers on and was getting ready to call 911. The man who was standing was urging the man down to get up, and just as I started to punch in the numbers, a police officer happened by.

    The man lying in the street, with no enthusiasm whatsoever, crawled to the sidewalk, out of the street.

    There are a lot of ways to look at this scene. One would be: "Damn old drunk. Deserves to get hit by a car."

    Another might be: "The city really needs to do something about the homeless population. We simply can't have this."

    I prefer the whole Jesus thing. Not the "what would Jesus do" idea (although that has merit), but rather "that is Jesus in His most distressing disguise" as Mother Teresa famously described the people she worked with.

    I hope that I always see Christ in the people I encounter, even if its a drunk, elderly homeless man lying in the street. I hope my first and only intention is to help, granting the other dignity. I know I'll fail at this - time and again - but it is my intention.

    Man Down! Jesus needs you!

    “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me." (Mt. 10:40)