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Wise as a serpent, gentle as a dove

When our family started visiting "our Sisters" once a month or so, I was assigned the job of cook. When we had work days, Ed and the kids would be out raking leaves or planting bulbs or picking apples, I'd be cooking hot dogs and making applesauce for the 50 or so folks who'd be working with the Sisters that morning.

My constant kitchen companion in those days was Sister B. Sister B has an education in pharmacology, and despite being retired, she uses that same exacting care with quilting, cooking and dozens of other things that fill her days.

Sister B comes up to about my chin, which is to say she is petite. She has silver rimmed glasses that sit properly on her nose, a quick grin and smiling blue eyes. With the soft voice, she always asked me far more questions than I asked her, as we cooked and prepped the lunch.

It would be easy to brush off Sister B as a "nice little old nun." I know, because that's what I did. I got accustomed to her sweet voice …

Theological Questions Re' the Nature of God, Humanity and Our Co-Existence (or "Why Does God Hate Me So Much?")

We got home from a lovely vacation this past weekend. Despite my neuroses and anxiety, everything went pretty darn well. Shout-out to AirBnB for a great place to stay. I even managed to keep my pain under control for nearly the entire trip.

Then there is the post-vacation let-down: the laundry to take care of, the mail to sort, why did we think we'd have food here when we got home? stuff. And we diligently went about taking care of things.

(Here I must insert a comment. We have two cats, a good cat and a bad cat, if you will.)

We had to figure out where the black sand came from in the living room (a small pot for a succulent that I had forgotten about, but our bad cat didn't! No, he was doing a little happy dance as we left because he knew that black sand was his.) This cat also has developed a taste for electronic charging cords. We have no proof, of course, but we knows he's to blame for the chopped, short and now completely unusable cords scattered about the living roo…

Boneheaded Questions While Trying to Manage A Life

Comedian Bill Engvall has built a career of joking about dumb people. And to be honest, we all are dumb once in awhile:

"I was driving around in Texas and got a flat tire. I managed to pull into a gas station. The attendant came out and said, "Tire go flat on ya?"

I couldn't resist. "Nope, I was just driving around when those other three swelled up on me. Damnedest thing...." And here's your sign.

A couple of weeks ago, the Gospel of Luke has Jesus, post-Resurrection, visiting the bewildered Apostles. Jesus, "Why are you so troubled?"

I don't mean to be flippant, but ..... Really, Jesus?? Really??

The Messiah has come to his people. He is their salvation. Turns out, he's a carpenter from a backwater town. Now, he's been executed. He was buried, but now his body is missing. Mary Magdalen has told the Apostles that Christ is Risen, just as he promised.

But still....

That whole dead-and-coming-back-to-life thing? We are still a bit ..…

Let's talk about love

via GIPHY


Ah, love. Since it's spring, young men's fancies (what???) are turning to thoughts of love. It's nearly as thick in the air as pollen.

We use the word "love" liberally. We "love" our mom's mac & cheese; we "love" our new car. Of course, many of us take the time to tell friends and family that we love them.

In the immortal words of Tina Turner: What's love got to do, got to do with it? What's love but a second hand emotion?

All props to Tina (I hope I look half as good at her age!) but that song got many, many things wrong.

Everyone say it together now: "Love is NOT an emotion." Nope, it's not the butterflies in the stomach when that really cute 8th grade boy makes his way across the gym floor to ask you to dance. Love is not about coveting a designer handbag. It's not our affection for our car, our cat or any other possession.

Love, dear reader, is an action.

That's right: love is what you do, no…

Credo or Credon't?

Quick Latin refresher: credo means "I believe.")
We've been baptizing babies left and right at our parish. Our pastor, Fr. L., is amazing and joyful. He also loves baptizing babies. 
Last week, the little doll that got baptized thought Fr. L was nothing short of magnificent. The babe stared up at him as the baptismal waters were dumped on her precious head (Fr. L believes in liberal amounts of holy water.) When Father anointed her, she cooed and smiled. It was picture perfect.
Yesterday, Father didn't have the mojo, at least for this baby girl. From the moment Father stepped in front of her to trace the cross on her forehead, she starting wailing. Not just a tear - nope, full-on terror. By the time Father baptized her, she was wailing so hard, she was red in the face.
Father's homily yesterday focused on our friendship with Christ, and read a lovely section from Pope Emeritus on this topic. However, Father had to acknowledge that Jesus was a friend to the little…

Living in the traumatic past

We all know someone who "lives in the past." Maybe it's a high school friend who is constantly bringing up those "glory days," as Bruce Springsteen put it. Maybe it's an elderly relative whose memory of breakfast is weak, but can recall the most minute details of her First Communion.

The past, as good as it may be, is not a place to live. Being mentally healthy means, in part, that we visit the past, but we don't stay there.

Unless you've suffered trauma. Trauma - when it's not fully integrated and successfully treated - drags us back to the past, over and over. (We generally call this PTSD.)

Last year, I lost two jobs. I couldn't do all that was required well. I was constantly making mistakes, and being told the same thing over and over didn't help. I was, for the first time in my life, failing miserably at work. Why?

As a recovering perfectionist, I told myself all this was my fault. For some reason, I was not remembering details of t…

Unsettled

I read "Pioneer Girl," the annotated autobiography of Laura Ingalls Wilder about 2 weeks ago. Her life, as reflected in her work, was pretty unsettled. She was young enough to remember the last of the Sioux Indians being driven from their own land.

Her Pa started getting itchy feet whenever he would feel hemmed in by people in what many saw as a vast prairie. (He apparently tried to talk his wife into moving to Seattle in their later years. Ma put her foot down.)

As a reader, you don't get the sense that Laura felt unsettled. Every outing was a new adventure, a new place to explore, new people to meet. She may have moved a lot, but Laura never felt unsettled.

I am a "settler." I like the familiarity of a place, the curve of the ground in my backyard, the knowledge that my neighbors are the same today as 20 years ago.  I lived in the same house for the first 19 years of my life, and watched the world blossom, bloom, die and fight back to life out of the same wi…

Holy Week: not so holy?

Generally, our Holy Week is very structured. Our relationship with the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist makes it so. And of course, we try to participate in the Triduum liturgies as much as possible.

Except this year.

This year, our Holy Week is a scramble for boxes and tape. (And who has the markers??)

This year, our Holy Week is counting pennies, so that we can pay everyone who needs to be paid as we move.

Our Holy Week this year is a reflection of God's will in our life, which has been pretty tumultuous lately.

Holy Week is finding that space to ponder the Holy Family. They had to move when they didn't want to, either.

Holy Week right now is being thankful for all those who are praying for us.

Holy Week 2018 is not going to make anyone's Top Ten Catholic Holy Folks list. Instead, it's just going to be quiet moments stolen in between filling boxes. It's going to be short and sweet prayers. It will be that journey to the tomb, going not where we want but where…

"My God, my God; why have you abandoned me?"

This is the mournful refrain of today's psalm, one that will echo through Good Friday. We are a people bereft, wondering how it is that Jesus is not only taken from us, but murdered. If that is not abandonment, what is?

Clearly, I've been away from blogging this Lent. There are a few reasons. First, I'm unemployed (again.) This time, it seemed like a matter of life or death. Every day, wracked with stress, going into a job for which I was totally ill-suited, I thought, "Is this the day I'll have a heart attack?"

If that wasn't enough, we have to move. Our current apartment complex decided to not renew our lease. I reacted as if it were a death (anger, denial, bargaining, etc.) And I was good and angry at God. Once again, I believed I'd followed the rules, and I got punished anyway. What good is friendship with God if you don't benefit from it?

I stopped making Lenten plans many years ago. It became obvious that God always had other plans anyway, …

"Beat Down" and in the company of ostriches

In their introduction to the Book of Job, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops explains that this Old Testament book is "an exquisite dramatic treatment of the problem of the suffering of the innocent."

What this means is: "This is great to read, especially if it's not about you."

No one, of course, escapes suffering, but one person's suffering is never the same as another's, even if they are going through the same experience. These differences - after a few rounds of suffering in our life - begin to strike us as "unfair."

It's unfair that our child has cancer, and yours does not. It's unfair that my husband lost his job, and yours just got a big fat promotion. It's unfair that my health is so poor, while you're out running marathons.

Of course, we can turn each of these situations around. I'm so sorry your child has cancer, but mine's a drug addict. It's terrible that  your husband lost his job, but mine is a phi…

A work in progress. Just not THAT work.

My work life has been spotty at best the past two years. My job at Company A (which I adored and would go back there in a heartbeat) got budgeted right out of existence. I was totally bowled over - never saw it coming.

That meant months on unemployment and serious financial pinching.

I was hired by Company B (alas, no bugle boy), an organization who's business plan was written by blind and deaf chimpanzees. It was unpleasant, in the way that diarrhea is unpleasant.

I was having some issues with the way things were done, and my understanding of processes that I had not been hired to do. My tenure there lasted 2 weeks. Good-bye.

Then, a round of interviews for a job with the local diocese. Sure, it wasn't what I was looking for but I could easily do the job.

Or so I thought.

My last two jobs have taught me something: my brain does not function the way it used to. Oh, I'm not saying I've got a serious medical condition having to do with my brain. No, it seems as if the t…

Crossing Guard

I saw you
today
as you guided
your little man across that busy street.

You were wearing some
big man boots
and
watching cars and lights.

Your little man had on
black sneakers and
a Mickey Mouse hat
that bounced
as he walked.

He wasn't watching nothing but
your big man boots
and
the white stripes of the crosswalk.

Just before
he got to the sidewalk again,
his step bounced a bit
- he hopped over
a spot where the asphalt broke.

You turned to look,
holding out a hand to
your little man.
Not rushed or angry,
just making sure
he got up
on that sidewalk.

Then you walked on,
in your big man boots,
face into a cold Michigan wind,
with the little man behind,
his hat bouncing.

A Perfect Mess

I've said here before: I'm a recovering perfectionist. Since my young teens, I've wanted everything planned, thought out, well-executed and: perfect. Yes, it's an unattainable goal, but dammit, I was up for the challenge.

That meant never giving my parents a moment of worry. Striving for the Dean's List and making it. Having that paper done weeks in advance. Making sure my kids were not only dressed well, but well-mannered.

What I never bargained for was that the Universe is not geared toward "perfect." It's geared toward "good enough," "survival of the fittest," "natural disasters," but not "perfect."

I was always missing the mark. And I was always unhappy with myself. Why, God, did you make me crave "perfect?"

This week, I got what I wanted. And it is really, really painful.

I took a job a few months ago because I really needed a job. I told myself that the place I worked would balance out the fact …

"What doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

People say that when they don't know what else to say.

"It's always darkest before the dawn."
"There's a light at the end of the tunnel."
"What doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

It's not true.

Your heart is shattered into a million pieces. Your grief overwhelms you. You can't eat or sleep. Everything you know about your life now seems wrong.

But, hey! Perk up! In a little while you'll be stronger.

This has not been my experience.

When you are grief-stricken, down on you knees and weeping, you are not getting stronger.

You may be getting more empathetic.
You may be getting more faithful.
You may be getting clarity on what really matters in this world.
You may be getting bitter and angry.

You are not getting stronger.

No one handles tragedy well. Some of us crumble, some of us remain resolute. But stronger?

When you drop a piece of china, you do not make it stronger. It breaks.

You can do one of two things. You can sweep up …

Hate your boss? Hate your job? Welcome to the club

I've got a relic of Bl. Solanus Casey over my desk. I pinned a note next to it: "'Sacerdos Simplex' yet still a saint." He strikes me as a genial fellow, but he must have felt some sense of disappointment when he finally graduated, was ordained and then told, "Yeah, you can't do a bunch of priestly stuff. But you can answer the door!"

While St. Damien of Molokai volunteered to head to Hawaii and care for the lepers, he really had no idea what he was getting into. The living conditions when he arrived were about 7 steps below squalor. Over the years, he helped his people build homes, a church, organized choirs and planted gardens. I'm sure he had his moments - he could not possibly have dreamed as a child that he would travel to a tropical paradise, only to find it full dreadfully sick people.

Whenever a pope is elected, he is asked if he will serve. If he assents, he is taken to the Crying Room, where 3 sizes of white robes await. And those men…