Saturday, July 29, 2006


I will be away from the computer, as far as I can tell, for the next week. My dad has this habit of coming and sitting right beside me as I type or check email when I'm in his house. He just wants to be with me and I just want to be alone when I'm online! So, we'll see how that goes. If I'm silent, you'll know why.

Last evening was spent at one of dearest one's siblings, celebrating their 25th anniversary. Have I ever told you dearest one has 11 siblings? We were the lone non ultra conservative Mennonites there in a crowd of 100 plus people. That was okay. After almost 25 years of marriage ourselves most of the people in the crowd know who I am. There was a time in my journey where my dress and head covering was not much different than these people. That is a long story.

This morning I went to my AA meeting and later had coffee with both sons. There is something very comforting to me that despite them making decisions that are contrary to how we raised them, they come and ask us for prayer. I am so thankful for that.

Last night youngest son and his girlfriend came with us to the anniversary celebration. If you can picture all these women wearing modest dresses and head coverings and my son's girlfriend walking around with a low, low top, belt buckle that had LED readout of her name and tight, tight jeans. I was pretty proud of how she made herself at home in the crowd. I thought back 25 years to me being in that exact situation and now I know why everyone knew who I was. It's hard to be anonymous when you stick out so much!

My mother-in-law did not want dearest one and I to marry all those years ago. I don't blame her. Last night as I greeted her and we talked about her own upcoming holidays I lamented with her about how she was going to spend hers. She whispered to me that I knew her better than some of her own children. And later on in the evening I went to say goodbye to her and I spontaneously said, "I love you." And I had to think of all that has transpired in the past 25 years and if there was(is)hope for me there is hope for anyone. She has been a beautiful example to me of what a mother-in-law can be. I love her for her honesty, compassion and her sense of humour. She had 11 babies in 14 years and kept her sense of humour through it all. And even though she had to stop having babies her heart ached for one more and so they adopted another child. She has understood my own heart ache for more children when I too, had to stop having them.

Tomorrow is another 25th anniversary celebration and then Monday morning I leave bright and early. I will be visiting a friend who is in a hospital between here and where I am headed. She was transferred there a week ago. She had a double lung transplant two and a bit years ago and she is in rejection. Thankfully her body has rallied and she is better than she was a week ago. Her name is Karen if you feel led to pray for her. Through my own lung issues she has been a beacon of light and hope for me. Someone I could phone when I ran out of spoons and not have to explain a thing....she simply understood. We know one another so well now that we can tell by each other's greeting on the phone how limited the other's spoons are.

Tomorrow I will receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation before Mass. Here is a prayer by Catherine Doherty that speaks to my heart. God bless you.

O Lord of Hosts,
I stand before you
with a heart full of tears
and a soul filled with repentance
for all the moments I have been away from you.
Sins of my past life stand before me
in all their horrible nakedness.
And I have only your mercy to fall back upon.
But, then, it is an infinite mercy,
so I throw myself into its sea
and swim to the shore of your love.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Dropping Some Weight

"You know, Lily, people can start out one way, and by the time life gets through with them they end up completely different." ~Secret Life Of Bees

I went through a phase in my spiritual journey where I was convinced that reading adult fiction was, if not evil, pretty darn close. After all, it wasn't true. Uh, ya - thank God people change.

Reading the above quote set me thinking about a conversation I had with my younger sister recently. She is working on a dvd for my parents' 50th anniversary celebration. Something that is a cross between a video and a powerpoint presentation. We have a brother who is a wiz with computers so she spent the weekend at his house getting the vision of the completed work out of her head and onto the screen.

My (two) sisters and I have kept up with one another over the years. My brothers have not. Not with each other, not with us. Any information I get about them comes through my mom. My older brother has been in my house once in 25 years and it's been nearly 20 years since my younger brother has been. To be fair there is quite a bit of distance separating us geographically but even if we had lived closer I am not sure how much more I would have seen them. My sisters and I would have been in and out of each others' houses often.

At one point in their weekend together my sister was telling my brother what was new in her life - that she was going to school and what her dreams were. He looked at her and said, "It's nice to see you have more direction than you had at 18." She shot back, "When I was 18 I was working 3 jobs. What were you doing?" Touche.

I was sitting on my deck the other day reading this book. When I read the above quote I got lost in my thoughts. I thought again about this conversation between my siblings. And I was thinking about how my brother still saw my sister as if she were still only 18. How he had her pigeon holed without much thought given to the 20 years that have flown by since then. He had an idea in his head about who she was and that was that. I thought of a homily I heard a few months ago about the dangers of boxing people in by seeing only one aspect of the truth about them. The priest said when we did, it became destructive truth. Jesus saw the truth about people but he didn't pigeon hole them by it. The priest said that to see one facet of truth about someone and have that truth enclose and define them with no hope for the greater Truth of who they were, was wrong.

No sooner had I thought about how sad it was that my brother hadn't given my sister any room to grow or change in 20 years than into my head came a barrage of questions. "How about you? How about only seeing your brother as the one who offered to take away your virginity when you were 17? And your other brother, the one who forced you to give him a blow job when you were 8? And your mother....isn't there more to her than the abuse she dished out? And what about you? Do you want your kids to pigeon hole you based on one incident of their childhood?"

Sometimes the Holy Spirit feels like a pair of boxing gloves socking it to me. I started bawling my head off as if I had been pummeled. I thought about Father Charlie telling me last month that it was possible to have a relationship with my older brother that was not defined by the abusive incident. I couldn't wrap my head around that. I thought about a movie Father Charlie had told me about - The Mission - where Robert De Niro is carrying a pack of belongings and how he loses his grip on them and they start to scatter. And try as he might, he can't pick them all up. He told me I could choose to drop the baggage I carry.

I believe forgiveness has layers. And over the years forgiveness has peeled away like sheets of onion skin paper. And I have no idea if I am at the bottom of the tablet of paper but I sat on my deck and said outloud, "Ok God, I forgive. I choose to drop the baggage. I choose to stop letting the baggage define me. I choose to stop letting my baggage define them." And I bawled and I bawled and I bawled.

And when the tears subsided I realized that by choosing all this I was also choosing to finally have a voice. That instead of jabbing my finger into their chest and saying, "This is who you are because this is what you did to me" I was now free to stand up and speak my truth with confidence. Now I could say, "This is what happened. This is how your actions affected me. But that is not the whole of who you are."

"You know, Lily, people can start out one way, and by the time life gets through with them they end up completely different." ~Secret Life Of Bees

Touche, indeed.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Choosing What Matters

"You know, some things don't matter that much, Lily. Like the color of a house. How big is that in the overall scheme of life? But lifting a person's heart - now, that matters. The whole problem with people is - "

"They don't know what matters and what doesn't," I said, filling in her sentence and feeling proud of myself for doing so.

"I was gonna say, The problem is they know what matters, but they don't choose it. You know how hard that is, Lily? I love May (my sister), but it was still so hard to choose (to paint the house) Caribbean Pink. The hardest thing on earth is choosing what matters."

I read this bit in the book The Secret Life Of Bees the other day and thought to myself, "oh shit." Life would be hunky dory if other people's words didn't mess with my head.

Next Monday I leave for a week long getaway full of business and pleasure. I visit an old friend, have an appointment with a cardiologist, see only daughter and end the week with the celebration of my parent's 50th wedding anniversary. It will be a 2500 km round trip. My husband and kids will join me for the anniversary celebration.

Many of you know that youngest son chose to move in with his 15 year old girlfriend this past March and how heartbreakingly difficult that was for me. I initially wrote about his relationship with her here and about the heartbreak of him moving out here.

Last weekend youngest son's girlfriend came up with the brainwave that instead of coming with youngest son and his dad on the weekend maybe she could come with me instead. The friend I am going to visit used to be her bus driver and she has a love for only daughter. Plus she figured it would give her and I a chance to get to know one another better.

My initial reaction? No. Fucking. Way. I treasure my solitude. I love driving on long trips by myself. This girl talks non stop. I told only daughter it would be so much easier to decide what to do if I wasn't a praying person. Much easier if I didn't read these words in my big book every day: "Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out." If all that didn't mean anything to me I would do whatever the heck I pleased. It felt like pulling teeth to pray about taking her with me. I thought to myself, "God, you have a fucked up sense of humour." Yep, the f bombs were ricocheting around in my head and I felt like having a temper tantrum that resembled a tap dance performance.

In my more lucid moments I thought to myself...."God, isn't it supposed to be me that is reaching out to her?" It doesn't seem to matter how much I struggle in my relationship with her, she keeps coming back. I thought of my pithy words to youngest son when he first started dating her, "Your relationship with her is temporary and what I want her to take with her from being with our family is that God loves her as she is." Ha. Those words flowed effortlessly from my lips. Then I got to try and live them out. I still suck at it.

And so I struggled. Could I say no without feeling guilty? Could I say yes with abandon? And I squirmed around not wanting to really face God about it. And it's not that I think everything that we initially blanch at turns out to be God's will. There's this thing called boundaries that comes into play too.

I look at my mom and see a woman who spent her life saying yes to things that sucked the life out of her. Saw her pour her life out for others without looking after her own needs. She now says no to just about everything. If she doesn't feel like it, she doesn't do it. The consequences of this is that she ends up saying no to relationships too. With her kids, with her neighbours, with herself. It's sad to see what looked like sacrifice in the beginning got exchanged for sacrificing what really matters.

Not too long ago I told my sister that one of my biggest challenges, since my kids have left home, is seeing myself leaning towards following in my mom's footsteps. I too, gave of myself, said yes to things out of obligation and fear; out of a need for control, and it sucked the life out of me. With the freedom to say no to anything now I can see how easy it would be to do just that. And I see what a lonely path that could be. Having said yes without discernment for 25 years often makes any yes/no decision today confusing.

And so I took this request of youngest son's girlfriend and asked God for knowledge of His will and the power to carry it out. Said it not quite through gritted teeth, but almost. And over the course of a few days my heart started to soften. I stepped back and looked at the big picture. I looked at what I would be saying no to. And what I would be saying yes to as well.

You need to know this about youngest son's girlfriend. She is a typical 15 year old in many ways. Makeup, clothes, and boys (my boy) fill a lot of her headspace. She lives in a home so dysfunctional that it makes me sad, mad and like a mother bear at times. Her mother never misses an opportunity to slam her verbally in front of anyone. My son often parents her more than her parents do. She has a general mistrust of any adult. She has a spunk that is admiral even though it gets channeled in ways that cause her problems. Her eyes follow a person, wary, always watching. She is quite sure she is unloveable. That she will never measure up. She often makes choices to try and prove those statements true. And my God, sometimes it is hard to love her.

But God won't let me give up on her. For as many times as my attiude towards her has reinforced her feelings of being unloveable I keep getting reminded of what matters.

And so yesterday I stopped at her house, put my arm around her shoulder and said, "I hear you are coming with me next week." She looked at me and said, "I am?" "Yes, you are," I told her. And we hugged and her eyes lost that wary look while hope flickered to life in them instead. I drove away a few minutes later and went to thank God for giving me the power to do His will. My words got swallowed up in big gulping tears.

When I was making my decision I had an overwhelming sense that this was not about me. It was not a time to choose to do what I wanted to do. It was a time to set that aside for someone else. For her. I felt like I was standing at a pivotal point in my journey. That by choosing to take her with me I was cutting off the tendrils that threatened to wrap themselves around me. The tendrils that wanted to take root in my life. That wanted me so desperately to follow in my mom's footsteps.

"You know, some things don't matter that much, Lily. Like the color of a house. How big is that in the overall scheme of life? But lifting a person's heart - now, that matters. The whole problem with people is - "

"They don't know what matters and what doesn't," I said, filling in her sentence and feeling proud of myself for doing so.

"I was gonna say, The problem is they know what matters, but they don't choose it. You know how hard that is, Lily? I love May (my sister), but it was still so hard to choose (to paint the house) Caribbean Pink. The hardest thing on earth is choosing what matters."

Update: Her dad decided she couldn't come with me so she is flying with dearest one and youngest son in time for the anniversary celebration.

Saturday, July 22, 2006


I sat here and asked myself if I could write honestly. If I can't then it's a waste of writing, of your time and mine.

There is nothing so honest as a full length change room mirror like the one I stood in front of today. I've been practicing asking myself this week "Can you love yourself for that?" I stood in front of that mirror this morning and had a good long look at all 200 plus pounds of me and asked myself if I could love myself for it. And I found that I could. That's progress.

I went to an AA meeting this morning. Going back to meetings has helped clear my head. Listening to people whose lives also depend on leaving the bullshit behind has fine tuned my ears to hear the bullshit coming out of my own mouth. I think the Saturday morning meeting will become my home group. I look forward to celebrating my 19th year of sobriety with those people next March. Since I've been sober I've had one birthday celebrated in AA. Ron gave me his 7 year chip that time. I never went to meetings consistently enough to have a home group to celebrate with before that year. And now I do. I've hardly walked the talk for the past 18 years and I can admit that now. Not beating myself up for it, just recognizing how much I have to learn.

I have scrabble board with little slots for the tiles to fit into. I like the orderliness of it all. Messing with the lives of those around me is kind of like trying to fit into all the slots at once instead of being content to only be in my own. It's really the only place I fit. In charge of my own life and no one else's. Going back to meetings has reminded me of that reality.

I grew up in crisis mode. Or at least looking forward to tomorrow but not living in today. Sometimes I feel like this blog has been drama queen central. And part of my silence this week has been because ever since I started going to meetings the drama has begun to evaporate. Writing in my journal as opposed to processing every detail of my life on here is another factor. Don't get me wrong, I know those are good things.

Yet I sit here and write today because there's that insecure part of me that worries you'll all disappear from my life if I don't. I admire it when people say they write their blogs for themselves. I don't. I write for me and you. It sounds rather egotistical to write that but in all honesty, it's the truth.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

I Swear I'm Moving Forward

I swore a lot today. While talking to Father Charlie. When f bombs start coming out of my mouth with ease it's because my emotions are bubbling to the surface and scaring the bejezuz out of me. My tears, anger and swearing meld together at times like that.

It's much easier being an impostor than it is being me. Being committed to being in the moment, to feeling the feelings is hard work. But I know there is no going back. Oh, I could. But as hard as it may be, I am going forward. In fact, after Father Charlie sifted through my mine field of cuss words today, he told me all he heard was forward movement going on within me.

A while ago I got this picture in my head of letting go of all that ensnares me, watching it fall away, each bit a brilliantly coloured layer of cloth, settling around my feet. I stood in the center, the me that God sees, strong and free and completely myself. I have carried this picture around with me ever since and then last week the words, pathetic and power came into my head, too. And I saw the word pathetic fall like another piece of cloth to my feet and I stood there laying claim to myself. I've had so few examples of people who walk with a power that is God given and good; that tramples on no one, but empowers others to become who they are created to be as well.

I've found myself saying no a lot lately. And it's coming out of my mouth with a clarity and force that has me thinking it is coming from somewhere deep inside. A no that is speaking up for the past 44 years of being unable to say no without feeling fear, guilt, or shame. A no that is really saying yes to what is true within me.

I told Father Charlie I was still walking around with this gaping hole inside, trying to keep it free of addictive behaviour and soothing side trips. I'm at the point of turning those directions much less often because they have become illuminated to some extent; shown for the impostors they are. And besides, they do nothing to fill the hole and it's pissing me off. I mean, what's the point, when they've lost their anesthetizing effect and afterwards I have guilt and shame on top of it? He asked what I was going to fill the gaping hole with instead. I told him I had no idea, that the only things that came to me were what I thought were supposed to fill it, and they didn't feel authentic. I expected him to tell me what to fill it with. I don't know when I am going to get used to a pastor not giving out answers. He told me I got to choose what I filled the hole with. And in my head I saw layers of cloth, building on one another of all that is good, all that I celebrate, filling the hole, layer by layer, the colours overflowing.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Catholic Carnival # 88

There was a good mix of posts submitted for this week's Carnival. Lots to read on a variety of themes. Enjoy!

Stating that religion can survive without government, you can read the reasons why at Shining City Atop A Hill in this post called Why This Catholic is Against Prayer In School.

Scared that being spiritual meant saying goodbye to being herself, Christine Kane is relieved to find out that being spiritual means being herself, being real.

Don’t miss reading This Is How We Swim by Amanda at Imagine Bright Futures. In this post Amanda shares how we swim, pray and stay afloat; floating on the current of shared stories.

The Blog From The Core presents the third of nine lectures by Cardinal Newman in the summer of 1851. Introductory material is here: Lectures on the Present Position of Catholics in England

In her post - Feast Day of St. Benedict Miss Kelly does a little research on St. Benedict of Nursia (480-547), whose feast day was July 11th, and who is the namesake of our beloved Pope Benedict. She adds that St. Benedict started the system of monasteries, which famously preserved Western civilization during the early Middle Ages. The monasteries contributed a great deal to our modern world, including Gregorian chants, musical notation, schools, ales and liqueurs, and our notion of the value of manual labor.

Jay at Living Catholicism gives an overview in his post called Teaching Religion to Your Childrenof what has worked in teaching Catholicism to his children. He gives references the books that work for them.

At Deo Omnis Gloria is a post called Understanding The Priesthood which explains the priesthood using the Old and New Testament.

At Kicking Over My Traces you'll find a post called More on Christian Art which examines how the Pre-Raphelite Brotherhood returned Christian art to realism, producing stunning images.

The Anchoress writes beautifully about her experience of Adoration in a post called Adoration and the Mist, the Veil

AdoroTeDevote in her post The Bible Is Patriarchal and Oppressive To Women gives a summary of a talk she heard at a conference. In it she challenges the claims that the Bible and Christianity are oppressive to women...and asks how does scripture hold up to this attack?

Penitens over at A Penitent Blogger writes of the blunt suggestions from Isaiah for improving a life of prayer in a post called God Will Not Listen To You

Elena at My Domestic Church has a critique of Mr. Douglas Phillip's essay ":Why the Life of the Mother is Not a Valid Exception for Abortion - Vision Forum Ministries" in her post called Two Beating Hearts. While she agrees that Christians do need to stand strong without fear, she also believes that strength has to be include compassion, and the truth has to be said in love. She says that Mr. Phillips is a strong and passionate writer. If he could add some of the traditional Catholic elements such as these to his writing, she believes he will become an even more effect advocate for life.

In his post Exclusive Diversity Lee at View From The Choir examines how the word diversity has been transformed into a code word for acceptance of acts you might consider immoral whether you like it or not.

A reflection called God's Temple and Prophets on the Mass readings for Sunday 7/15, at HMS Blog focuses on the importance of our response to God’s messengers.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Reaching Out At Last

My friend Ron used to tell me that anytime I needed help I only had to reach out my hand and someone would be there to grab it. Most of my life I've had a I can handle this on my own, thank you anyway mentality. He would tell me about reaching out a hand and I would put up a wall inside. He knew I was thinking "f you" and he never stopped telling me while I never stopped resisting his words. I wrote about Ron at the beginning of starting this blog and you can read his story in three parts. There is a part of me that is still pissed off at him for choosing to kill himself rather than reach out his hand for help.

Ron's words echoed in my head as I made my way home from Mass this morning. Earlier I had tried to decide if I was going to drive one direction for Mass or the other direction for an AA meeting. The ever increasing gas prices ($1.07L or $4.80/gal) factored into my decision to choose the 65km round trip over the 150km one and so I went to Mass. I came away with the thought from the gospel reading this morning that God speaks to us in the dark. (Matthew 10:27). God speaks to me in the dark. Okay, I thought, I know I feel like I am in the dark. God can reach me here and that means I don't have to worry about being anywhere other than where I am at right now.

There is this simple, yet beautiful house between me and the little town where I sometimes go to Mass. Dearest one is most likely sick of hearing me proclaim that it's the house of my dreams. When I went back to AA last month several people came and talked with me afterwards. When they found out where I lived they said there was an AA member in my area and after describing to me where he lived I was sure I knew the place. Yes, he lives in that house.

People in AA can be keen. That can be comforting or scary, depending on your perspective. In retrospect I can see I have worn a figurative pair of sunglasses to just about every AA meeting I've ever been to. Masks. It came as a shock to me when someone told me, during coffee after an AA meeting not too long ago, that once I started coming to meetings, getting a sponsor and working the program that I would get a sparkle back in my eyes. My instant reaction was to put on a real pair of sunglasses. I had forgotten that my inner world was written on my face. I wanted to protest but I knew there had been no energy to put on a mask when I walked into the meeting. I know several people thought I was newly sober. In a way, I guess I was. And to be honest, I did tell this fellow that I had made a step 5 last November as a way of deflecting his comment. I might as well have been wearing the sunglasses because I simply couldn't let the truth of his observation hang in the air. I felt exposed for the world to see.

This morning I finally took Ron's advice. I drove into the yard of that house, reached out my hand to the man who lives there and introduced myself as a friend of Bill W's. He invited me in for coffee. He was keen and I had left my sunglasses in the van. As our conversation progressed beyond niceties he said he could tell when someone was troubled. He said he knew because he'd been there. A while later he told me he could see that I was troubled. Instant tears welled up and rolled down my face. He was gentle and kind yet didn't mince his words. He told me honesty was the key. He's been in the program a long, long time. I have lots to learn.

Reaching out my hand is something I rarely risk because it is so scary. And for all Ron's bravado, maybe it was for him too. Maybe Ron used to say it to remind himself, I don't know. I do know that his voice still echoes in my head and today I was thankful it did. There's no way I can fight this battle on my own and it's a relief to be ready for Step One all over again. God help me keep the sunglasses off.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Frozen Reality

I feel frozen inside. It took me until last night to realize why. Knowing why doesn't change how I feel. Shit.

I do know that feelings don't last. That eventually something shifts inside and whatever seems to loom so immense on the horizon that it blocks out the sun, shifts enough for a ray of light to shine.

This past while all I have expected of myself is to be open to being aware. No heroic revamping my life. No plan to become what I thought I was already. Just be aware. Damn, it's much harder being aware than oblivious.

I found the bit below in a book the other day. It's meaning might be lost without being read in context of the book but the gist of it is that grace is a gift that we simply are open to and we can't make happen.

"As you rememeber the day just past or think about the day ahead, you will be tempted to make resolutions like 'I am going to try hard to remember.' Don't do it, and if you catch yourself doing it, stop. Resolutions mean willpower, willpower means achievement, achievement means success and failure, and the whole sequence means losing an appreciation of the gift. I have learned two sure things in the struggle between my desire for love and the oppression of my attachments. The first is that God is absolutely trustworthy. The second is that resolutions are absolutely not."
~ Gerald May in The Awakened Heart

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Catholic Carnival 87

Some great posts to read in this week's Catholic Carnival.

Sunday, July 09, 2006


It's somewhat of a family joke that I am as curious as sheep. This is the first summer in 10 that we don't have any actual sheep and lambs running around the place. Only daughter and I used to make up conversations we thought the sheep were having about our lives. They used to watch us intently, their eyes following our every movement. The chickens, on the other hand, used to cackle like crazy when we would bring out the bucket of scraps for them. We used to make up conversations we thought they were having too. ("Hey, Mabel, you should try this tomato, it's heavenly.)(other than the fact if one hen found a delectible piece of food she would try to carry it away for her own enjoyment only.) What a racket they made over new food.

I never seem to run out of things to be curious about. I tell my family that's what makes a good writer. An endless possibility of "what ifs". On second thought it's also what life's like living with a young child. Maybe I am more young at heart than I thought.

Deb over at Abiding recently gave her readers the opportunity to ask her any question in order to jump start her writing. I'd like to give you the same opportunity. From the glimpse(s) I have given you of my life what questions spring to mind? That's what I'm curious about today.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Of Books and Sports

I have a stack of library books to read and that pleases me to no end. That and it is Saturday which means there is Sports Saturday on CBC TV. Did you know I am the sports fanatic in our house? Dearest one often gets puzzled looks from co-workers when they ask him what I am up to on a Saturday while he is working. "Watching sports." is his typical reply. I can get so involved that I have learned to watch with the sound off so that the adrenalin of the sports casters doesn't make mine that much worse!

Here is a snippet from each of the books I have either recently read or am in the midst of reading.

"The way to find your thread again is to be still and remember who you are, to listen to your heart, your inner wisdom, as deeply as you can and then give yourself permission to follow it. If you can't give yourself this permission, then find someone who can. Everybody should have at least one permission giver in her life."
~ Sue Monk Kidd in The Dance of The Dissident Daughter

"He still had some doubts about the decision he had made. But he was able to understand one thing: making a decision was only the beginning of things. When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decision."

"We are afraid of losing what we have, whether it's our life or our possessions and property. But this fear evaporates when we understand that our life stories and the history of the world were written by the same hand."
~ Paulo Coelho in The Alchemist

"Anything capable of decay is also capable of regeneration. Passion is a given when we are young. As children we burn with it, unless it gets smothered or beaten out of us. But as adults, it becomes so elusive, as if there were thin ribbony veils of music playing someplace just beyond our everyday hearing, pale and near-transparent. How do we evoke the untamable in ourselves, the part that dreams and imagines beyond what is known? How do we open fully to what life brings us, letting it lift us and carry us?"
~ Dawna Markova in I Will Not Die An Unlived Life

"As I left the bar, God convicted me about my proud addiction to morality and my attempt to look like a decent guy so that others would like me. I was so insecure that I feared not only my Christian friends would see walking out of a gay bar with queer cowboys but also that the queer cowboys would reject me for being a Bible thumper who, deep down, believed they were running headlong to hell in their cowboys boots. I care more about how I appeared to people than about whether I shared the passion of Jesus for those who are lost."
~Mark Driscoll in The Radical reformission

"One of the neighborhood kids who hangs out at our house all the time came up to me one day very upset because one of the bullies in his school was picking on him. I told him, "Rolando, that means you get to show him how friends treat each other. He must not know what love and friendship feel like, so you get to teach him," Rolando said, "Aww man, love is so hard."
~Shane Claiborne in The Irresistible Revolution

"The truth is you can both love your children and acknowledge you are disappointed in them or that they are not perfect. Similarly, you can say "I am or was a decent mother" and "My child is having difficulties." And as we will see later it may be a conceit to take too much responsiblity for our children. Your children are not a commodity for you to shape."~Barbara Moses in Dish: Midlife Women Tell the Truth about Work, Relationships,and the Rest of Life

"My life of prayer has always been stumbling and fitful, but has convinced me of some basic truths. We are in love. God is absolutely and always present, intimately active and involved with us, and endlessly good. As God's creations, we bear an essential part of God's own goodness in our hearts that can never be removed, not matter how selfish, predujiced, and vindictive we may be, no matter what we have done or what has been done to us."
~ Gerald May in The Awakened Heart

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Deeply Afraid

My bathroom scale became a flying object a few weeks ago when dearest one got fed up with it. No, he wasn't weighing himself - the man's weight has barely changed in 24 years of marriage - he was trying to weigh out the seed for the field work and the scale was being persnickety. It's uncooperative spirit earned it a ticket into outerspace and all the pieces have yet to be found.

Now, there have been a time or two in my life when I have wanted to chuck the scale into outerspace as well. The only time I've been really happy with it was when the battery was dying and every time I weighed myself I had lost a little more weight. Eventually I clued into the reason for my effortless weight loss and begrudgingly bought a new battery.

I'm in no hurry to buy a new scale. I could write a book a foot thick of how my moods have been uplifted or deflated by the number on the scale. So I am quite content to be without one. That is, I would be if I didn't look to it to tell me how serious I really am about this journey.

Yesterday I read an essay in the latest Oprah magazine by Anne Lamott on bingeing. One sentence in particular fairly screamed at me. It went like this: ".....whenever I want to either binge or diet it means that there is some part of me that is deeply afraid."

I sat in the library, where I was reading the essay, and asked myself what I was afraid of. And the answer that popped into my head startled me. I was afraid that perhaps I could actually be okay, be acceptable, just as I was in this body of mine, fat and all.

That thought reminded me of one that popped into my head a few weeks ago. I was just sitting in the silence when the thought "How about being at home in the skin you're in?" bubbled to the surface. The next thought was that if I couldn't learn to be at home in my skin the way I am now it was going to be a false sense of security to think I could be any other time. I didn't like the way this line of thinking was going so I stopped sitting in silence. Most likely I went and got something to eat.

I'm trying to remember the last time I was at home in my own skin without it hinging on the number on the scale.

Never. Ever.

Sometimes I wonder when I will see and value the real me - the core of me that has nothing to do with my weight. And sometimes I wonder when I will get emotionally healthy enough that feeding feelings/numbing emotions will cease to be an issue. Will I be disappointed if I die a fat lady? Give me the right incentive and I can follow a food plan perfectly. The last time I tried that I realized following things perfectly was a problem. It made me about perfection and not the journey. So I said farewell to that particular food plan until I can live without equating perfection with holy; perfection with good; imperfection with bad. Until I can stop passing judgement on myself for every morsel of food that goes in my mouth. Intuition tells me to simply be right now. That the eating will straighten itself out if I just continue to be present and aware. Another part of me wonders just who the hell do I think I am kidding? Present and aware are not near good enough. Couldn't I at least get my appetite under control and be present and aware? I say that to myself as if I am unworthy unless there is some part of me striving for God knows what.

I was writing in my journal the other day when I thought: "How do I tell the difference between intuition and denial?" And I wrote the sentence down and closed my journal very fast. Too bad my brain didn't close too. Intuition is life giving. Denial isn't. Those were the next thoughts that came crashing through my veneer of "I don't want to know the truth right now, thank you very much".

Present and aware. I can do that.

A Flippin' Hug

During the month I was away from the keyboard dearest one did get some answers to his health issues. After one particularly agonizing night he was able to get a same day appointment with a surgeon. He was diagnosed with bruised ribs and cartilage with some (temporary)nerve damage. Whew. So much easier to deal with than what could have been. The surgeon said it was like looking at the ribs of someone who had been in a car accident. Dearest one had fallen outside more than a month previous, hard enough to knock the wind out of himself but hadn't really thought much about it. They think the nerve damage prevented him from feeling the pain until the nerves began to heal. He is slowly losing the need of using pain killers to function. We are grateful. They said it can take 3 months to heal and that broken ribs are easier to live with than bruised ones. The CT scan of his innards is still scheduled for next month as a precaution.

I've been processing my own medical appointments from last week. The good news is that I have improved my exercise capacity from two and a half minutes on the treadmill to six minutes. I was pretty pleased about that. It gave me hope.

I had a satisfying visit with the geneticist about my EDS Type III. It was such a relief to talk to a medical professional who got it. He understood the frustrations and limitations I deal with on a daily basis. I gave him a copy of the spoon theory and he photocopied it so he can share it with 200+ patients he has with EDS. He told me that doctors need to think outside the box with EDS. We spoke specifically about the one test I was going to have done the next day (and that came back worse) and his view that I was entitled to an explanation - an investigation about where the actual problem was originating. This was exactly what the doctor I saw the following day said was simply not going to happen. They were looking for things they could fix and because mine wasn't fixable it became an "oh well" moment. Nor was he ever going to repeat the test that came back worse. Great. Just about one fifth of my blood is going through my system without picking up oxygen but because they can't find out where that is happening in my body it's a non issue. My blood oxygen levels continue to decrease but the mystery of that finding coupled with improvement in other tests translates into it remaining a mystery.

It has taken me until today to process this all and decided how I am going to respond to it. The thought that keeps coming to me is to deal with what is. That I can do. I have to trust that when the oxygen thing starts creating havoc in my body in other ways they will take a look and hope there won't be permanent damage by then. The geneticist did warn me that even if they could find the source of the oxygen shunting they might not be able to fix it anyway. EDS causes problems with blood clotting and surgery is always a risk.

I see a cardiologist at the beginning of next month to discuss some of last week's tests and I have some questions to run past her. If the shunting is happening in my heart there is nothing they will do anyway. Dealing with what is is what I am going to focus on. Forward. That is how one doctor I saw last year said I needed to face. I have worked hard since then to shift from fixating on what I can't do to doing what I can. Days like today it's easy. Give me a day where I can't afford to use up one of my spoons washing my hair and it isn't. Having one doctor listen well to me and talk to me like a real person was good. Having the other doctor treat me in a dismissive manner pissed me off royally. At the end of the day I still get to choose my response. Flip the one doc the bird and give the other a hug. Ha. And beyond that deal with what is. I can do that.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


"Retreating into oneself to find purpose can be like straddling a boat leaving the dock, pulled in opposite directions by the intense desire of the mind for human involvement and the equally instense need of the soul for its own company. In the sheer immensity of solitude, when one can no longer draw energy from external sources, we come to see how much of what we habitually call meaningful purpose is merely the evasion of sitting still and meeting what is most difficult for us to receive with compassion - our own pain."
~Dawna Markova in I Will Not Die An Unlived Life

Monday, July 03, 2006

Comic Relief

Some days a person just wants some comic relief. Some days a person is the source of comic relief for someone else. That would be me, today, for you. I can still laugh (and cry) at the following true story.

If you have read my blog for long you know that numbing my feelings with food is something I find easier to do than not. As with most things I struggle with on a regular basis I wax and wane between wanting to be free of them and wanting to hug them close forever.

Last week I got up early one morning to go to Mass and drove into town only to find out Mass wasn't scheduled that day. I had a little bit of business to do so all was not lost. When you live in the midst of nowhere like I do, you plan trips to anywhere with hopefully more than one thing on your to do list. I needed to fill the van with gas and that was a problem. It would be fine if I only bought gas. But more often than not I end up adding $10 worth of junk food to my bill. I delayed filling up the van by driving around and around town repeating the mantra "no junk food" to myself. I think the town has less than 2,000 people in it so I literally did drive around and around town talking to myself. So much so that at one point I was sure I was going to get reported to the police. I could just imagine them getting a call about a strange white van circling the outskirts of town. I would have had to confess to them that I was no wanna be thug only a real life glutton.

Initially I did pretty good. I grabbed two cans of diet coke and was on my way to pay for them when I walked past a rack of Cracker Jack popcorn. Instant memory lane moment. When I was little my mom would phone in our grocery order every week and when my dad would bring home the groceries he would always bring us a treat. Before we could read we got some candy and Cracker Jack Popcorn topped my list of favourites. I distinctly remember being disappointed the week I graduated from candy to my very own comic book instead.

So I make it home with two cans of diet coke (gotta have some self control somewhere) and a bag of Crack Jack Popcorn. By some miracle there is more than half the bag of popcorn left so I continue to eat it while I open up my email. Every day I get something to think about from Inward/Outward. Picture me stuffing my face with popcorn as I read the following:

The Contemplative Option

Loretta Ross

Much in the spiritual life depends on where we place our attention and what we allow to take up space in our minds. One ought never to underestimate our horrible external and internal resistance to the contemplative option. By contemplative option I mean the choice to respond contemplatively and prayerfully to ourselves and the world. The contemplative option awakens the power of Christ in us that allows us to be reconciled and to enter into right relationship with creation and one another - a relationship of gentleness, love and forgiveness.

Contemplation is a choice about what we will have on our minds. Sometimes contemplation is a choice to step back, wait and to tolerate the withdrawal of not satisfying every appetite and desire. The contemplative option may be a choice to face into our own insatiability and discern what truly satisfies from what leaves us numb, jittery and still hungry. There is no getting around it. The contemplative life is a sacrifice. Our yes to God will likely mean a no to something else.

Source: Making Haqqodesh

Can you imagine reading that with a mouthful of Cracker Jack Popcorn? "Sometimes contemplation is a choice to step back, wait and to tolerate the withdrawal of not satisfying every appetite and desire." It was a holy shit moment for sure. Then I get the great idea to print it out. As I try to do that the computer freezes. I was convinced I was never going to be able to read anything else on my screen ever. To top it off bobbie phones me as my screen freezes. Bobbie is someone I confess to regularly about numbing my feelings. I could hardly answer the phone I was laughing so hard. Funny how one can laugh on the outside to keep tears within.

Eventually I printed it and tacked it to the wall above my keyboard. I know myself well enough to know I could have chosen three chocolate bars, one rented blue movie or even compulsive religious activity to numb my feelings that day instead.

I told Father Charlie last week that choosing not to numb my feelings leaves me with this big gaping hole inside. He assured me that accepting the gaping hole without filling it with mindless stuff, was really honouring it as part of the journey of transformation. He wasn't in a panic to make sure I filled it with something. I had been expecting him to tell me to fill the hole with God, with religious activity, with all things good. But then I remembered the last time I went to confession and as we talked I told him that I couldn't bring myself to pray like I used to - couldn't fill my God time with things that used to feed my spirit but don't anymore. He answered me by holding his hand across his throat as a cut off point and telling me that God wanted to hear from my heart not my head. That if I was going to do "religious" stuff from my head simply to pat myself on the back and reassure myself that I was okay I was wasting my time. God wanted my heart. Father Charlie has no way of knowing that almost every time I go to Mass and gaze upon the Statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus I end up getting this image of my heart exposed and pressed up against Christ's, the blood of His dripping over mine. He wants my heart, indeed.

Wow, it's taken me several hours to write this post. I honestly thought I was going to share with you the humourous way in which God spoke to me about stuffing my feelings and leave it at that. I do hope you found the image of me stuffing my face while reading the contemplation excerpt funny. Because it was. It felt like being in a Candid Camera moment courtesy of the Holy Spirit and Company. I read the last paragraph especially of The Contemplative Option regularly. It continues to speak to me.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Wrung Out

Do you remember wringer washing machines? My grandma used to write in her diary every Monday morning how thankful she was for hers. I have many memories of walking over to her house on a Monday after school and seeing that machine in her kitchen. We were warned more than once to keep far away from the wringer.

Two days before my birthday last month I had my very own wringer washer moment. I am still somewhat puzzled as to how I am here to tell you about it. The moment definitely got my attention.

I tend to be anal about lawn mowing. You can do a great job at mowing the whole thing and I can fixate on that little strip that somehow got missed. Lawn mowing is one of the few things in life one can do that won't get messed up overnight. (Other than those dandelions who duck their heads when the mower passes over them!)

Dearest one had just fixed the lawn tractor. Before I started to mow lawns he told me not to get myself in a spot where I had to rely on the clutch to stop because it was going to take some breaking in for the thing to be reliable. No problem. 'Cept for that little strip of lawn that lies between the A shaped frame on the end of the heavy duty swing set in our yard. The strip I can get anal about. Normally I inch my way up to that strip to mow it, back up and go on my merry way. The weed eater thingy takes care of what I can't reach with the mower. I was trying to inch as close as I could get when the clutch worked just fine to stop me. So I thought I would see just how close I could inch. The next thing I knew I was being squeezed wringer washer like between sitting on the mower seat and the cross bar on the A frame of the swing set. Did I mention that space was 6 inches high and I am a 200 pound woman? Or that the swing set is held down so tight there is no give to it? I had no time to think. Next thing I knew I was out the other side in pain. A small tear in an abdominal muscle was the extent of my injuries. It felt like the tractor seat bent over backwards as I went under the cross bar. But we checked the seat and there is no bending backwards to be had. It also felt like my esophagus had rubbed all the way up as I went under but there is no explanation why my chin didn't catch on the cross bar as I went by.

I have had plenty of time since then to sit in my gazebo and look out at the swing set and think. My husband spends part of his work day in ER and he sees the sometimes tragic consequences of stupid accidents. Preventable accidents. Ones like mine. I was pretty shook up and cried some because I knew that there are people every day who don't live to tell about it. Every time I see the swing set I have a little talk with God about life. And I thank God for sparing mine that day.

And being anal about lawn mowing? That little strip of grass can grow three feet high for all I care. Sure, it being there will bother me but being able to see it and tell you about it, feels like a gift.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

"Listen, Listen"

Often, when my kids were younger, one of them could be found chattering my ear off. Little tidbits of mental woolgathering would make its way out of their heads and into my ears. On days when I was tempted to zone them out completely I was often reminded in my spirit to "listen, listen." I knew the window of opportunity was short and if I didn't pay attention to what was on their hearts they would find someone else to talk to. Permanently. I wanted it to be me. Other days I wanted it to be anyone but me. It was so much more work to listen than to ignore. Often, for instance, as I was setting the table they would start talking to me and I would find my mind drifting off about some detail about life when the words, "listen, listen" would make me jump inside as if they had been spoken through a megaphone from God's spirit to my own. Sometimes I would tell my kids I couldn't give them my full attention at the moment so they either could choose to have me mindlessly say, "uh, huh" to whatever they just had to tell me or they could wait until I could given them my undivided attention. Often I would put aside what I was thinking about to listen to them. And yes, there were times when I simply did the "uh, huh" routine while they were (almost)none the wiser.

My kids range from newly adult to fully submerged in adulthood these days and now I am faced with a new person who has thoughts begging to be heard. That would be me. This month off from blogging has brought me face to face with myself. Again. I have written more pages in my journal in the past 4 weeks than in the previous 9 months. It's been good. It's been bad. It's been hard. It's been hopeful. It's been. I did a lot of reading, a fair amount of simply sitting in silence and I took time to be child-like with daily views through my new kaleidescope (thanks to only daughter). I turned another year older this past month. I took out my bubble wand and blew bubbles into the sky. I tended to my flowerpots and painted pictures. I felt sad a lot. I also felt hope filled. I found myself confused that sadness and hope could be such bosom buddies but I also cut myself enough slack to simply feel the feelings instead of having to make sense of them before I acknowledged their presence. I refrained from doing anything that smacked of being busy in a religious sense - things I have done in the past that looked like they would bring me closer to God but really were tactics to keep my head full of noise and God's voice out of my range of hearing. I did a lot of listening instead.

In the past month I went back to AA for the first time in 8 or 9 years. At that meeting there was an audible gasp around the table when I said I'd been sober for 18 years but hadn't been to a meeting in over 8. I hate walking into a room full of strangers alone but my fear of falling off the wagon grew bigger than my fear of meeting strangers, so I went. That night the meeting topic was fear. As I listened to the stories around the table I knew I had been closer to a relapse than not.

One Saturday found me unapologetic for once, when I reached out for help instead of isolating and pretending that living on my solitary island would be enough to get me through the day.

A new magnet is holding my latest painting up on the fridge. It says, "She wanted most of all to live from her heart." I'm convinced that the more I listen, listen the more I will live from my heart.