Time to wander in the forest a bit

Art by Lulu22 @ Deviant Art
My eyes are gritty and my feet are sore. My heart aches for all that had to be left behind. And yes, even as a woman of strong faith, I cry out to Abba, "Why?"

Yes, I know that so many others have suffered far more than I: the Syrian Christians, the people of Turkey, the mother whose child has been hospitalized for more than a year with a rare illness.  Their suffering has been enormous.

Now is one of those times in my life when prayer becomes a gaping yaw. There are often no words, just tears. I cling to my rosary, talking to Mary.

My biggest concern right now is that I have lost all trust in people. My last two jobs, I had bosses who've nurtured and taught me professionally, pushed me when I needed it, were stringent regarding my writing and were so very kind to me.

Until I got booted.

Now, I'm wondering if I can ever trust someone in management above me again. I'll always be second-guessing myself, trying to figure out if what they are telling me is some sort of veiled declaration or clue - and here I am, with no decoder ring.

It hurts me to my very core. I worked at a place where I truly believe I made a difference, and that my skill set was valued. I thought the work I did was important, not just to the company but to the people we served.

But: no. I'm not valuable or necessary or important. I am done.

Thankfully, we have a bit of a financial cushion so that I can take it easy for a month or so. I'll be looking, but several people have told me I need to be writing. I have two books in mind right now (one started), so maybe this is it.

My path is very dark right now. The brambles scratch my ankles, and the thick blushes on eather side seem to be hiding ... something. Something venomous or dangerous is lurking. I feel not only alone, but scared.

I've got some things in the positive column, but I keep thinking: who the hell is gonna hire a chubby 52 year old to run their social media? If I'm up against a lithe 25 year old, I'll lose every time.

For now, I am resting, reading, praying. It's all I can do.

"God has loosed my cord and humbled me"

Andrei Rabodzeenko, artist

For the second time in less than two years, I lost my job.

In case you're marking my scorecard, in the past 18 months, we've lost our house, my mom died, I've been diagnosed with inoperable spinal cysts, my daughter moved 1000 miles away and I've been through two jobs.

Can anyone say, "Job?"

Did I not weep for him whose day was hard?
Was nor my soul grieved for the poor?
But when I look for good, evil came;
and when I waited for light, darkness came.
My heart is in turmoil, and is never still
days of affliction come to meet me. (Job 30:25-27)

I was told yesterday, before I even set my purse down, that I was being "let go" since my department needed a third graphic designer, not a writer and editor. Budget, you know. So I hurriedly tossed the contents of my desk into a bunch of boxes and drove home, hot tears burning my eyes.

I am so incredibly tired. I have no desire to find another job. I have poured myself, heart and soul, into my past two jobs, both of which I would have gladly worked at until I retired. I loved my work. My co-workers are kind, caring, thoughtful people with whom I prayed every day. I worked hard, did everything asked of me, never gave a fig about "job descriptions."

And I got booted. Tough luck, kid. We don't want you anymore. I don't think I can go through this again.

Summer stretches in front of me. I'd love to enjoy the long days, no schedule. Maybe I will. Dear Husband thinks I need to write, so I'll investigate some possibilities there.

Like Job, I try to stay faithful to God, but I sure would love to know His plans for me. I am feeling like I am the biggest failure ever. Just as we are starting to get back on our feet financially, we lose my income. Back to squeaking by, back to having no money for extras, back to no vacation (third year in a row.) Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

How incredibly defective I am. What a terrible disappointment I must be to my parents. God keeps stripping me: of jobs, our home, money, kids. What is left, God? What more do I have that must be lost? Must I have my skin torn off, be left completely raw? Will I ever have understanding?

I'm going to rest, and read, and pray. Next week, I'll look for a job, and file for unemployment. But, really God, what more do I have for you to take? Maybe that is a question I shouldn't ask, because if I lose my husband, my children ... I will have hit my limit.

God has loosed my cord and humbled me. I am just hoping that the cord doesn't end up around my neck.

Teaching Religion in Public Schools: A Bad Idea

1986: St. John Paul II welcomes leaders of world religions to Assisi
I have taught religion for many years. I taught at both the high school (a Catholic high school) and the college and university level. My educational background is in world religions, and I hold a B.A. and an M.A. in this field.

I am wholeheartedly against teaching religion in public schools.

Why? Because there isn't anyone who can teach it well  at most public schools. Public schools do not hire people with degrees such as mine. So, who is going to teach religion? The history teacher? The sociology teacher? The lit. teacher?

Now, all of those teachers may have some inkling of religion, as it intersects with their field of study. However, I can pretty much guarantee that none of those folks have done the work I've done.

When one of my kids was in high school, she did a "unit" on world religions in a history (I believe) class. She came home and told me what her teacher had told them about Hinduism. And I said, "That's wrong." I went and got one of my books, gave it to my daughter and said, "Show this to your teacher."

She did, and the teacher corrected herself. However, she really had NO idea what she was doing. She kept the book for awhile, to use as reference.

Now, I truly love the study of religion. I love how humanity - whenever, wherever - asks "How did I get here?" "Why do I suffer?" "What brings meaning to humanity?" And from there - we see how Muslims answer these questions, how Sikhs answer that question, how ancient Egyptians answered those questions.

While some fields of study intersect with the study of religion at some point or another, it is highly unlikely that a public school teacher has an extensive background in this. We don't allow the English teacher to teach algebra because we need someone to fill in. The gym teacher doesn't teach literature, unless she has a degree in both. Why do we think it's ok to let someone wholly unqualified teach religion?

It's too important a topic to be taught badly. Nancy Flory, in a piece at The Stream, notes one case where this is illustrated all too clearly:
The school required her to affirm that “Most Muslims’ faith is stronger than the average Christian.” The school required all students to recite the Islamic conversion prayer. The prayer, called the Shahada, states that “There is no god but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet.” The school also required students to profess the Five Pillars of Islam.
Wood said his daughter’s school forced her to write statements that offended and denied her Christian beliefs. When she refused to complete the assignments, she received failing grades. Her teacher sent her to the school library away from her classmates. As a result, she felt ostracized because of her Christian beliefs.
I do believe religion can be taught ONLY AS a field of study. That is, one need not subscribe to any particular faith in order to learn about that faith. (A brain surgeon does not need to have brain surgery in order to be effective at her job.) However, when it is taught badly, you get this mangled mess of kids having to "profess" the Five Pillars instead of simply learn about them.

I taught world religions in a Catholic high school, and it was valuable. As I told my students: "It is highly likely that you will have a neighbor who is Muslim, a co-worker who is Jewish, a roommate who is Sikh. It's imperative to world peace that we learn to talk to each other." And, as my fave psych professor in college used to say, "We are all more alive than we are different." (And if you're Catholic, and think this is a bad idea, go read Nostra Aetate.)

Yes, religion CAN be taught well in public schools, but until we have qualified people who can do that: STOP.

My Spinal Cysts (Upon Learning More Than I Wanted To Know)


My dad served as a U.S. Marine at the tail-end of WWII. He was an MP, serving in Occupied China, Hawaii and Washington, D.C.

When the Korean "Police Action" broke out, he was called up. However, after a physical, he was told that he had spinal cysts, and could not serve. (He wasn't too broken up about that.)

I have inherited many things from Dad. I love military shows and movies (although, I confess, I do not share his love of Tora, Tora, Tora.) I love to read. I have bunions and hideous seasonal allergies.

I also have spinal cysts.

To be precise, I have Tarlov cysts. These are rare. Some people who have them are asymptomatic (like my dad) and others suffer a great deal. I seem to fall somewhere in the middle.

I spent most of last year trying to get relief from the incessant nerve pain. To that end, I had a spinal cord stimulator implanted, which seems to have done the trick.

Except, it does nothing for muscle pain. Which I have a lot of.

It's disheartening to realize that the spinal cord stimulator was not a magic elixir. I'm also afraid that, somehow, I'm going to let people down by admitting that I'm not pain-free, and probably never will be.

What causes Tarlov cysts? No one really knows, although traumas such as falls and auto accidents are suspected. There is also the hereditary thing. And nothing can really be done to "cure" them, although treatments are available.

When I was 15, I was able to go to Fatima. Whenever we girls on the trip had a complaint about anything ("Is this ... goat meat?"), the Sisters accompanying us said, "Offer it up." Of course, the young seers of Fatima became dedicated to the suffering of the world and of Our Lord, and went to great lengths to offer up their suffering.

This is not a club I ever wanted to belong to. But: God calls us and we can respond or turn away, despite our own will.

Writer Ann Voskamp:
[W]e don’t need hindsight to know God is good. We already have hindsight. On that cross. In that empty tomb.And whatever road we’re walking one now—then somehow, someway—that road is good. There’s not just breadcrumbs of good for you on it; It is for your benefit. My benefit.In this hard, He is doing something holy. He is doing something transformative. Even as our hearts rage. Even as they break.This upside down road, where His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9), where troubles are an opportunity for great joy because troubles usher us into His presence, and in His presence, there is fullness of joy.This God is no stranger to the hard road. This God walked the hardest road for us.

Both of my parents died holy deaths. However, we do not presume that anyone is in Heaven, unless the Church declares it. So I pray for their souls. I do, though, believe I have two allies in Heaven, and I'm sure Dad is praying for me.

No one signs up for suffering. But if we do God's will, there is always hope. So: now I have hope. And cysts.

"A Personal Relationship With Jesus"


When I was in college, there was a woman who worked in our food service. Since it was a small college, and we all ate in the same cafeteria, we got to know the workers, at least by face.

Whenever this lady was working, if she caught your eye, she'd ask, "Do you know Jesus?" Of course, we were all smart-alecky about it.

As Catholics, we often get asked that perplexing question: "Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus?" And our answer is usually, "Uh......"

Catholics don't use that phrase. It's not Biblical for one thing. (Then Jesus commanded His disciples to go out and make personal relationships in His name...) For another, it is sort of ... obvious. We are baptized in the name of Christ, we receive His Body and Blood at every Mass, we are devoted to His Sacred Heart and His Divine Mercy .... That's about as personal as you can get.

Pope Benedict XVI was great at reminding us of this:
For us, the Holy Father concluded, Christianity "is not a new philosophy or a new form of morality. We are only Christians if we encounter Christ, even if He does not reveal Himself to us as clearly and irresistibly as he did to Paul in making him the Apostle of the Gentiles. We can also encounter Christ in reading Holy Scripture, in prayer, and in the liturgical life of the Church - touch Christ's heart and feel that Christ touches ours. And it is only in this personal relationship with Christ, in this meeting with the Risen One, that we are truly Christian."
I was talking to one of my nieces this morning. She told me that she babysits a couple of kids in the summer, from a family she knows from church. The first time the kids came in their house, they looked at a wall of photos - family pics mostly, but also a prominent picture of Jesus. One of the kids turned to her, stupefied, and asked, "You know Jesus personally?"

The next time you get that "Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ" question from a hearty evangelical brother or sister, you can easily say, "Of course. In fact, my relationship with Him is so personal that I have His life within me, just like He says in John 6. What about you?"

Thinking about Mother's Day: please don't buy anything


It's hard to miss Mother's Day. The commercials are hammering it home. I saw a billboard yesterday along the expressway from an asphalt company: "Wishing you a pot hole free Mother's Day." That sure was warm and fuzzy. Thanks, guys.

Sometimes, I am the most unsentimental mother in the world. I didn't keep every precious card my kids made me, those sticky construction paper and glue creations. If you ask me how much my kids weighed at birth, I'll have no idea (I wasn't there remember: adoption.) Even still, my blase' attitude about that last fact has shocked some moms.

Other times, I tear up just thinking about a kid. That time my youngest came home from school adamant that we needed to go to the funeral home that night. A 4th grade classmate's mother has died, and my boy said he needed to be there for his friend.

Waiting for my Curly-haired daughter to get here! She's coming home, since the big move to South Carolina in January. I can't wait to put my arms around her!

One of the reasons I'm not very big on Mother's Day is that I spent so many years feeling miserable on that day. Wondering why we'd been saddled with infertility, I could barely face the idea of going to Mass and having the priest ask the mothers to stand for a blessing. I just wanted to cry out: "Why not me??"

I've always wondered about my kids' birth mother. What must Mother's Day feel like to her? She's a mother, but she's not. That's a weird (and I imagine, sometimes painful) club to belong to. I do pray for her, and am thankful to her for choosing to have those kids that I had the great honor to raise. N: you have my eternal thanks and gratitude - truly.

Then, there are those of us who've lost our moms. No phone call on Sunday, no flowers ordered. Just a pang of sadness and loss. A yearning for Heaven.

Now that my kids are young adults, parenting is of course, very different. Sometimes, it's just a call for a "loan" - rent is due and budgets are stretched. It's cooking for them, and just simply enjoying watching them around the table, laughing, eating. That's good. Really good.

Then there was last night. Almost home, and I got a call that Youngest Son had hurt his hand and needed to have it looked at. Well, the numbskull punched a wall - and found the stud. No breaks, thankfully. He was so overwrought, he never shut up the entire time. Finally, as we were nearing home, he seemed to relax a bit. We also found out he's lost 30 lbs. in the past three months, and on a 6'7" frame, that's not good. "I eat," he says. I don't think junk food bought at the gas station is doing it for him. So, put "Buy groceries for kid once a month" on the to-do list. I sat in the waiting room with him yesterday thinking, "How LONG am I gonna have to do this?? This kid is 20!"

I don't need any cards. I don't want jewelry (I have plenty!) I"d like to hug each kid and tell them how much they mean to me. They likely won't allow that.

This is what I'd like for Mother's Day: to remember all those who want to be mothers and can't, to pray for the moms who have hard kids (impaired, special needs, prodigal, imprisoned), and to wrap my own kids in my arms. I don't need anything else.

Musings on meds, scapulars, PTSD and dogs



I haven't written much here lately (my work blog keeps me busy!), and I keep thinking, "Oh, I don't have anything to write about.

Which is a lazy writer's cop-out.

I've been telling people I have a 3-ring circus going on in my head right now, but I heard a line on TV last night that also seems accurate: "He's crazy! He's got squirrels juggling chainsaws in his brain!" Work is crazy-busy, but in a good way. Hubby is in the midst of (a rather depressing) soccer season and our calendar keeps shifting and filling and moving.

I have slowly been weaning myself of the meds I've been on the past two years. So far, I've cut two of them in half, dosage-wise. I've also been making a concerted effort to eat better - and I'm doing fairly well, surprisingly.

I found a brown scapular laying on the ground Monday, outside the doctor's office. It's got lovely embroidery, with Our Lady of Guadalupe. I feel bad for the person who lost it, but it now has a home in my office work space. (Mary is always looking out for me!)

We found out this week that a dear family friend has cancer. We don't know much more than that - she is scheduled for surgery in a couple of weeks, and we'll know more. Dark-haired daughter is taking this extremely hard, and her PTSD has taken hold. I walked in the door on Monday and she got two words out and then fell into my arms, sobbing. She told me she kept seeing "those men" (the ones who assaulted her so violently 5 years ago.) We are working through it, but: Lord Jesus, has she not suffered enough?? Please bring her peace!

Speaking of praying, go get Heather King's new book, "Holy Desperation: praying as if your life depended on it." Really. Now - go get it.

My sister is looking to get a new dog, and wants a big breed. There may be a bull mastiff joining the family soon.

Last week, I was feeling so out-of-sorts, and could not figure out why. Then it hit me: I haven't been praying regularly. I needed to get back to that. It calms the squirrels in my brain, allows me to help Dear Daughter better, and generally, allows my sinful soul some desperately needed grace.

Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!

There is a bike in my dining room....

Really. There is a bike in my dining room. DH got obsessed with cycling after we bought our first house. You know: young, married, no ki...