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Saturday, June 30, 2007

Of Foundering Ships and Lifeboats

This blog has been silent for a few days, because I've been working on a huge decision. A life-changing decision. A fearful decision, but one that comes due. I can't say I have "peace" with it because I don't understand what true "peace" happens to be; it is not in my nature to do anything other than agonize over everything, especially the big stuff. But I am as close to peace as one with my temperment can get.

I have stated I hate my job, I am struggling in my work, etc etc, but I have never stated what I do, and for a reason. But I will tell that tale now; I work for a major insurance company, and I handle specialized claims involving a high risk of fraud. I've been at this company for nearly five years; when I began, I had a certain goal, a position to be obtained, and the path to that position was very clear and very obvious. So I worked very hard and even though I was constantly stressed out and overwhelmed, I kept my eye on the prize, and I was rewarded with a promotion to step one of my goal exactly one year from the date I was fully operational in my first position. For approximately six months to a year, I enjoyed my work, and I would go so far as to say I loved my job and it was a "dream job", although there were parts I really disliked.

Then the trouble began...things really began to change, both in management and company policy, and to top it off, in my faith. I was becoming a different person, the company was becoming a different company, and I hit my first low point.

I won't go into the details, but suffice to say I never came back from that low point; rather, I got deeper and deeper into my dissatisfaction. They made decisions that negatively affected my unit, and the other reps in the same position abandoned ship leaving me alone to handle the workload for months...when we were already behind. I had to absorb their workload and my own, and then take on the new stuff every single day. Additionally, the way things are structured and the way the numbers were measured for "productivity", meant there was no relief because I was REQUIRED to do the work of 2.5 or more people in order to meet the numbers for my UNIT, not for my own productivity.

This happened sometime in July/August two years ago, and I was not able to take vacation until late October because there wasn't another rep up and running yet to take on some of the workload.

My week off wasn't enough and I have never fully recovered from that first burnout, the first truly crushing load. Things got "better" only in comparison to the worst, but I would not call my job manageable, and let's just fast forward to present times; the company has restructured a few times and they've come out with a new method of determining what we have to do within what period of time. Some of this workload structure is logical and they should have done it long ago....but overall, for my unit, it doesn't make sense. We can't meet our numbers the majority of the time, and my unit has another issue...half of my unit in my specific job is in another part of the state, while the two of us in the Metro area, predicatably, must both do our own work and the work of those outstate because stolen vehicles are more often stolen and recovered from our area. People come to visit the Metro from outstate and their cars get stolen in Minneapolis...guess who has to deal with the cars and repairs in spite of our existing workloads??


I've become less and less motivated over time. I can't keep up with the demands. I can't keep up with the unrealistic schedule the company has set or the advertising campaigns that throw us all under the bus. Every day I have to work hard to get up to go to work. I can get up for everything else in life; but ask me to open my eyes and roll out of bed for work? That's the equivalent of asking me to get up and descend into Hell for eternity. The only thing that makes me go to work every day is my obedience to God and a form of praise for what He has given me...a house, a car, a certain amount of the same illusion of financial security everyone has.

But I can't do it anymore. On Friday at 4 pm I got a new claim, a recovered theft, in a suburb at the extent of my territory (which means it's an all-day or two affair to deal with the car alone, never mind the investigation), and I nearly got up and left at that moment. I've had too many moments like that.

I nearly left my job in March, requested a leave of absence, thinking to live on savings (which are meager but could have lasted me a month), but my leave was denied. My Manager, a good guy with a good heart, who understands that I'm burned out, gave me permission to take an immediate vacation if it would help. I gave a week or two for notice, actually wondering if I would just not come back. But I did go back, and two weeks after my return I was placed on a form of "probation" for performance. My management, both my Manager and my new direct Supervisor acknowledge that I'm burned out, but they have to follow what the Company says; the only answer is "work harder or we'll shoot your managment team!".

End of the line

Last week, my immediate co-worker, the other person suffering with me in the Metro area told me that she has a couple options lined up and she is giving notice this week. Neither of us wants to shoot the other in the back. She knows if I leave, she gets my work on top of her own. If she leaves...well, I've detailed this above....I can't do that again. If that happens, I will simply walk away because it's TOO MUCH. I will walk to my Manager's office, verbally state my purpose, box of my belongings in hand, and I will walk away.

I actually don't feel that's the best way to do things.

My feelings are not new, so I've come to my decision very methodically, and admittedly, affected by my co-worker's plans. I know what's coming.

1. I'm on probation, and right now, I'm behind. My file reviews are complete crap, both because we are overworked due to an unbalance in workload and being just plain worn out as a result of this Company's business plan. I have not had a goal here in years; I know I actually have no future here because my own personal goals have changed and due to an unjust accusation made a couple years ago...let's just say there's no redemption for me, either available or wanted. It's really hard to go a job day after day knowing there is no career path, knowing that the only road is doom. And after "that meeting" knowing that one is about to be fired.

2. I've considered being fired, and nearly prayed for it, only so that I can collect unemployment. If I walk away, I get nothing. Sure, I could go to a doctor and talk about how every time I see a car with damage (which is a lot....most cars on the road have some kind of damage and I have this ability to see it ALL), my stomach churns and my blood pressure rises. Every time I see a car with ground effects or a spinner kit (as an aside...these things are so tacky...don't buy them), I feel the need to vomit and then immediately go on a diatribe against any idiot out there buying aftermarket equipment with which to trick out their cars, because it only makes them a target for thieves, and they're not getting paid for the stuff when that happens, anyway. And it's not my fault so quit yelling at me for your ignorance.

You see?

But if I go to a doctor and relate all that, and they diagnose me with some sort of "anxiety disorder", guess what? Now I have a mental health label. I'd rather not have that on my record especially as that anxiety does not exist apart from my job. The rest of my life is fine; I love the rest of my life! Getting a mental health label for the purpose of arguing for unemployment benefits is, in my estimation, dishonest and fraudulent.

3. If I give notice now, I can leave on good terms; I can give sufficient notice for them to post the position and get someone in to it, and since no one will be able to step into it for about two months or so, it will also teach them not to hire someone outstate when the need is in the Metro. So my quitting is a learning experience for them. Additionally, I can leave with references.

I have been with this company for nearly 5 years...I'm quitting just short of my anniversary. Because of this, I simply cannot afford to sit there and get fired, leaving both with nothing there and nothing to show for my work. If I leave on my time, I take my dignity, I take references (already promised by my Manager), and I buy time both with the timeframe I give and my week of vacation time left for me.

So there it is. I simply cannot do this job anymore. I fight every day to go in, and those powers that be over my head have acknowledged my burnout. I can barely do each task, and I just don't care anymore. It's weird...I care about my customers, but not about the work. I don't dislike the people...I loathe the circumstances that bring them to me and the work I'm required to do for them. I like helping them...but I hate the way in which I have to help them.

And too often, as I have to investigate, I also feel I am defaming the innocent and rewarding the guilty.

I cannot live out that dichotomy anymore.

I've given this company nearly five years of my life and I will concede one more month...and that's it. I can't go on any further.

I am praying to our wonderful God that if He deigns that I should remain, that he keep me there. I still pray to be doing this according to His will. As a friend of mine told me yesterday, "God can work with decision...he cannot work with indecision."

So I make a decision to quit, and I give sufficient time.

Sinking ship

The ship I'm on is sinking, and it's obvious. This Company is losing people from the higest local levels, and my own immediate team is completely miserable. All of us plan to leave soon because we can't stand being robots anymore. We've all been in the workforce for a long time, and what we have experienced here is not typical of other fields, or even other companies. We know better, and we know that when the leaders flee the ship, we should have fled long before.

I don't have another job to fall upon, but it seems to me that it's far better for a beggar to dive into the ocean of God's mercy and providence than to remain in the hold of a sinking behemoth and be sucked down with no chance of survival.

My resume has been posted and I have cover letters to send out. Grad school is not an issue because I can't pay for it anyway. Some friends of mine will have soem benefitless part time work for me this fall if worst comes to worst, and I just learned there may be some mortgage assistance.

God will make his will known. All I have to do is turn in my resignation letter and allow God to act. I'm already doing all I can for now.

Please pray for me, my co-workers, and our immediate management; there are no personal problems as everything comes from above.

I need a new job, I am a highly qualified person in several fields, and I am a good and loyal employee. May God bring me to a position in which my natural gifts and obtained knowledge/experience are utilized in such a way as to glorify God.

And if not...well, I'd still rather lose my house than my mind. In all liklihood, my resignation will be turned in on Monday, although I may put it off if my Manager comes back soon, extending my last day into August. He's very ill and they don't know what's wrong with him. Please keep him in your prayers.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Stupid Comment of the Week

I was discussing movies with a co-worker. I don't mind Kevin Costner, she can't stand him, and I agree with some of what she said. Some of his past work was really bad, very wooden and without character.

Then I dropped the stupid comment, in my way of trying to defend Costner. I had meant to say that his abilities have increased over time, but what I said was:

"Kevin Costner has gotten older as he's aged."

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Fun with Statistics!

I have always hated of the reasons I hate my current job because it's all about numbers, all the time. I had a stats course in college as a requirement, hated it and didn't do so well, and I had to use the stats in the following class "Research Methods" which was all about using stats in research, interpreting graphs, etc. Hated it.

I really wish I had enjoyed it because stats can be really funny. So I'll just pass on the fun other people had with numbers. Mantilla twitch to Father Joe for this one:

Facts to ponder:

(A) The number of physicians in the U.S. is 700,000.

(B) Accidental deaths caused by physicians per year are 120,000.

(C) Accidental deaths per physician is 0.171.

Statistics courtesy of U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services.

Now think about this: [Guns]

(A) The number of gun owners in the U.S. is 80,000,000. (Yes, that’s 80 million.)

(B) The number of accidental gun deaths per year, all age groups, is 1,500.

(C) The number of accidental deaths per gun owner is .000188.

Statistics courtesy of the FBI.

So, statistically, doctors are approximately 9,000 times more dangerous than gun owners.

Remember, “Guns don’t kill people, doctors do.”

Fact: Not everyone has a gun, but almost everyone has at least one doctor.

Please alert your friends to this alarming threat.

We must ban doctors before this gets completely out of hand!!!!!

Out of concern for the public at large, we have withheld the statistics on lawyers for fear the shock would cause people to panic and seek medical attention…

The Sign of Peace

What a divisive topic.

I was just over reading Et-Tu, Jen, who happens to have a post on the Sign of Peace.

When I first went to church a couple of years ago, I was completely caught off guard by this practice. I was sitting there, minding my own business, when the priest said:

Let us offer each other the sign of peace.

And suddenly people started interacting with one another. "What?!" I thought, "This is chaos! Offer who the sign of peace? The people in front of me? The people behind me? Ack! I just made eye contact with that guy a couple rows up! Do I have to now shake his hand as well?" And though these days I'm not quite as shocked as the first time I experienced it, to a socially awkward person like myself this whole process just seems like anarchy, rife with opportunities for me to do something inappropriate and/or offensive.

Go and read the rest. It's hilarious!

Even among the hilarity, though, she has a point. Some people turn this part of the Mass into a complete free-for-all, running around the aisles, greeting everyone they know, etc. Actually, though my parish tends to be pretty low key, thus it is easy to spot visitors from other churches that enjoy the free-fer-all social hour during Mass. While everyone else has completed the Sign of Peace among those around them, the visitors are still socializing, and may have poured themselves a drink by that point and gotten out the cards for a friendly hand at poker before they realize that their chatting is out of place.

When I was a little girl, I loved this part of the Mass; mostly because I could be sociable while saying something proscribed, that being, "Peace be with you." I was a very shy child, but I could do this because it was brief and simple and without fuss.

Admittedly, though, my perspective has changed since I have come back to the Church, especially considering that I am single and I don't live near my family, thus I am usually at Mass alone. Back when I hadn't found my way "home" yet, I went into a church near my house that had the practice of "greeting one's neighbor" before Mass. That always annoyed me - it was superficial.

"Good morning, my name is ________, what's yours?"

I always felt like maybe this was supposed to be a lesson in rudimentary language skills, and was always tempted to say, "Buenas Dias! Me llamo es ________. Como se llama? Mucho Gusto!"

(No, this was not a Spanish-speaking parish. Insert your own language lessons here).

I never "met" anyone that way. I never felt more included, for, if anything, I felt more excluded from lack of any meaningful contact with someone else. And it was clear most of the people engaging in this forced social act were uncomfortable with it as well. The rest of the Mass was fine, and even the Sign of Peace itself was reverent and simple, which is why I did still attend that parish whenever I bothered to go to Mass. Somehow I knew that no place was perfect, and I'd seen the dissident barely-Catholic "Mass" in other places, so I was willing to put up with some discomfort.

Fast forward to current times. I love my church, I'm involved, and I've come to know many people there. It is definitely home to me. But I still go to Mass alone, which really, I don't mind.

Then enter the dreaded Sign of Peace. I don't really have a problem with the placement in the Mass, because there is scripture to back it up. I'm paraphrasing, but Jesus ordered, "If you remember you have something against your brother, leave your offering, make peace with your brother and return to offer your sacrifice."

When we approach Communion, we are offering ourselves as a sacrifice, and we cannot do this while holding on to some kind of a grudge.

I can't tell you how many times I have been irritated by someone near me, for whatever reason, but when I have to extend my hand to them and offer Peace, that irritation melts away, so I won't complain about the placement. Many people will disagree with me; that's all well and good, and it is a practice that does not have to be included in the Mass.

But let me tell you why I dislike it, and my reasons are purely personal.

I've heard/seen some people suggest that we shouldn't complain about this small act of offering someone Peace during Mass because we as Catholics often come across as unfriendly, from the perspective of people who don't understand why we approach worship with quiet reverence, wheras their experience is one of entertainment and social interaction. I say that during Mass is not the time to worry about social interaction; we are there to worship God, not the children, clothing, smile, vocal abilities, what-have-you of the people around us. There is no meaningful interaction there; just clearing spiritual air is what it's supposed to be.

I never felt more "welcome" in an unfamiliar parish because of an overly-enthusiastic "Peace be with you!" or even a "Have a nice day!" during Mass. Especially considering that typically that person who shook my hand so happily never even looked at me again. Mass isn't the time to be social.

The argument, then, that we should not do away with the social interaction of the Sign of Peace falls short of any actual effect, as far as I'm concerned and I don't find it to be a valid argument from someone seeking to improve our image.

In my parish, the Sign is here to stay, and I'm fine with it; as I said, it's really done simply and realistically, but I do still have a complaint, arising from my status as a single.

As Jennifer F. pointed out in her post, If, however, any of the people within this radius are part of a group, it is customary to offer the sign of peace to everyone within the group, up to a maximum of ten people.

Well said! And very good observation.

I would suggest that if any customs be changed, this should be the first.

Attending Mass alone is not a problem, for as we know, we are not really alone; we are in the company of the angels and the saints, as well as our brothers and sisters in Christ. But I dread the Sign of Peace, especially if I am not near any other Singles.

All too often, I am surrounded by large families (God bless them!), or groups of people related in some way, who like to converse and congratulate each other on being related and having cute kids or what-have-you. So there I stand, feeling like an idiot, looking around as the groups around me all have their backs to me, and finally, maybe someone notices that I'm there and reaches out to offer me Peace, too.

If there is another Single person nearby, we've normally noticed each other prior, in that solidarity Singles tend to have in these moments, and so we might have an oasis of social "Peace" in the midst of being ignored by the rest of the self-congratulatory crowd.

Oddly, though, we're the ones who feel stupid as we stand there, even though we can't even make EYE CONTACT with anyone and initiate reaching out to extend the offer of Peace.

I ask you...why are WE the ones to feel stupid and uncomfortable when by all rights, it should be the other way around?

What this has taught me, though, is an important lesson; when I go to Mass and I am with a group and in reach of another Single, I try to remember to reach out to them first, because I know what it's like to be outside of a group. It's not always possible and it makes sense to grasp the nearest hands. But really, we should do a better job of realizing who is around us and making an effort to extend our hands to them before we do so to those with whom we are attending the Mass.

I don't necessarily think the practice needs to go; but I do think all of us could do a great deal to improve our "image" by simply realizing this isn't time for a party and that those who may be alone at Mass could use a friendly hand and a friendly smile, too.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Darn it.

So I have decided to fall in love with the Coast Guard again. Why? Because I'm having a mid-life crisis, but I'm doing it early, that way at least it's done.

So I went to the website to look for civilian jobs, having the bright idea to just start there and see if it's an option.

As it turns out, it's not. Amazing. The Coast Guard in the midwest is all about the Great Lakes and Waterways. I live on the freaking Mississippi (my town is perched there, that is), and there's rivers all over the place up here! And this is a huge, thriving metro area! I figured they must at least have a base in Duluth...nope.

Minnesota isn't even one of the options on the job search page.

That makes me so sad; the Coast Guard will never have the opportunity to view my stellar and promising resume, and then promptly send me a rejection letter with the typical "we're going with another candidate who has more specific experience for this position, so thanks but no thanks" letter. I've decided to collect letters of that type, but I do have a certain standard; the position I apply for does actually have to be something I could legitimately do, and it must be an employer that does not require me to move to someplace, like, say, Juneau, Alaska. (Although it's tempting. They have great skiing up there. MMMMmmmmmm, Valdez....)

Anyway, there goes that idea.

I'm off today and tomorrow and trying to consider employers maybe I hadn't before. Already I've scratched the Coast Guard off my list. * sigh *

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Life's Lessons in the Small Stuff

My family came up this weekend to celebrate my birthday, and after we went out for dinner, we watched a movie; The Guardian, which, for those who have not seen it, is about the Coast Guard.

Perhaps I watch this type of movie differently than most people; whenever I view these kinds of movies, I can't help but take a trip down memory lane and recall lessons learned in my training for Law Enforcement, Firefighting, and Ski Patrol.

Some of what the movie portrays drives me absolutely crazy; Hollywood consistently can't get CPR right, they love to ignore technical details which would actually IMPROVE the movie if they were even close to accurate. And it also drives me nuts how they tend to glamorize certain aspects of such training and the jobs. Yes, it does make a good story at times, and yes, they get some of the details right, but having sweated and suffered through some very real stuff, well, let's just say there's no glamor and there's no mystery. It's hard work.

That said, I still can't help but fondly remember some of that hardship, because even now, I look back and realize that it helped to form me as the person I am today. I'll never forget our first day of Law Enforcement Skills training; Grant put us in the pushup position and proceeded to tell his life story. He'd been a Green Beret, was built like a "brick s***house", and had no problem with causing us pain. He knew what built physical strength and intestinal fortitude and didn't care if we were men or women; he was going to give us the benefit of his experience and his own training, and that began from the very first moment.

I thank God to this day that he was so good at what he did; he was one of the first people to teach me how to break through my own barriers and strive for the next step, no matter how much it hurt.

We had another instructor; actually a pair. They were part-time, were on the loca SWAT team and assisted at the Skills program. In reality, they just LOVED to pepperspray the unsuspecting students. They were good teachers, they were professionals, and they were two more guys who had no problem teaching us how to be tough, how to survive in the face of painful physical adversity, and when outside of class, they were personable and approachable and loved to talk about "the job".

Just this weekend, I actually saw one of my instructors on TV; he's the Sheriff now. I'm proud of him and I congratulate him, and I'm proud to claim to be one of his former students. My own failures were not his; and the lessons he taught carry far beyond "the job".

Another one of the cast of characters from my past is also a Sheriff. He was a Deputy at the time I was in high school, and I got to know him while I was a lifeguard at the pool since he was one of the lapswimmers.

I actually first met him while training to become a lifeguard; I was faithfully going to lap swimming every evening, and he asked me about it one day as we both happened to be taking a breather in between the facets of our training regimens. Not many high school students swam laps; those who were swimmers were training with the team, so he was curious. I explained my training, he wished me well, and we went on with our routines. (There is a certain solidarity among everyday lapswimmers - we get to know each other).

Well, as it was, I passed every lifeguard test but the sprint, and I only missed that by .08 seconds. I had a certain amount of time to retest, so I hit the training hard, really focusing on speed drills. This particular Deputy, if the pool was crowded, offered me his lane for awhile if I needed to practice sprints and couldn't do so safely. (ie; it would interfere with other swimmers, etc.).

He also happened to be there on the day I took the retest, and stopped swimming in order to see the results. Many of the other lap swimmers did as well - that solidarity thing again. I remember actually having 2 false starts; I was so ready to go that I dove in before I was given the signal!

In the end, I passed with flying colors - at the time, the requirement was 18 seconds. (It has since been raised to something like 20-25 seconds. Ridiculous). I can't remember my final time, only that I passed. That was enough.

That deputy was first in line to congratulate my success, and he happened to also be the one to offer me the Deputies' Association Scholarship for college a few years later.

He became Chief Deupty when I was in college, and as far as I know, he is still the Sheriff. I salute him; he never said much, I didn't know him well, but his support and assistance in more than one facet of my life made a difference, and I can guarantee you that there are many other people out there who also owe him a debt of gratitude.

I realize it seems that I go off track when I write of these kinds of things, however, as usual, I promise you that I have a point.

Going back to "The Guardian". This really is a great movie, because the two main characters are facing certain demons; an instructor, and a cadet, and their demons are the same. Not only does the movie take us through what created the problems, but how they were or were not resolved, and ultimately, there is triumph. What is a good movie without triumph?

But I'm going to drop a bombshell; one of the other reasons I really like this movie is because it brought me back to high school, when I seriously considered skipping college and entering the Coast Guard.


I was gonna be a "Puddle Pirate". As the Navy apparently calls them, according to the movie.

Almost every day, I went into the career center and perused information on the Coast Guard, going over the same things all the time. They had everything; they would train me, there were several things I wanted to do; law enforcement, paramedic, swimmer. I could do it all if I really desired it. There was career stability, in a way, and some of what my heart craved; adventure. But I wanted to be the hero, finally, get out of my life that was out of control, and move into the position of "savior" of sorts.

I told no one this. Some of my friends knew I was considering it, but my Mom would have flipped out, thinking I was going to war. (That's not what the Coast Guard is about).

Finally, though, I discerned it was not for me and I went to college and proceeded to build a great resume then failed my real-life tests.

Yet a part of me has always wondered "what it"? What if I had joined the Coast Guard? Where would I be? Would I love it? I know there's no glamour; time and experience in my own chosen fields taught me that even before I graduated college. But it's one of those things I never did, and I joked last night with my brother that, now, in the face of my career woes, I'll just go do what I almost did so long ago...enlist in the Coast Guard.

No, I'm not serious. And I smile to consider "what if", the idealism of my past, the hope I had so long ago, and the reality the these people face every single day. Yeah, maybe if I could do it over I'd take that leap (right out of a helicopter into a huge storm and 30 foot waves!), but in the end, it wouldn't have been the right decision, either. Besides, I didn't know anyone in the Coast Guard...still don't. I'd have been even more out of my element there than I was in real life. And all that's really just an aside.

My point is not really to discuss law enforcement instructors or Coast Guard instructors, but rather, to point out that all of us can be "that" person to someone else. It was never that someone did anything HUGE for me; the things that helped me along and gave me confidence were, in and of themselves, very small. They were simple things, courtesy, everyday encouragement, everyday affirmation, not things that stand out as one momentous moment.

We never know who we affect. We don't necesarily know why God puts certain people in our lives, and what their roles are, and very often, it's not about how they affect us; it's how WE are called to serve THEM.

I thank God for the people and situations he's placed in my life. I thank God for the lessons they taught me; not so much with regard to the jobs, but rather, how to treat others, how to help others, and how to remember it's the small things in life that move the biggest mountains.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

I've been Excommunicated!

And my big mouth in the comments section of this blog post was the catalyst for my judgment.

I'm so completely unrepentant.

I'm so excommunicated it's not even funny.

And the really cool thing is...Fr. Michael Heidrich carried out my sentence so poetically. It just makes me thrilled to have such judgment passed! I might have to convert...if their liturgies are anywhere near so poetic as their excommunications, well, it must be like Heaven!

Here's the transcript from my Inquisition:

* *
Adoro te Devote said:

Oh...kay. So let me get this straight.

1. A schismatic organization (that would be you...SSLI)

2. which by its very nature is actually in direct conflict with the promise given to the Church, that very same promise you quote, that the "Gates of hell will not prevail", et al.,

3. has the audacity to call others "schismatic",

4. having already thrown the actual yardstick away and continue to burn it in effigy?

Wow. Excommunicate me, Padre. It's not the "see" that is is your theology.

June 20, 2007 6:41 PM

Rev. Fr. Michael said:

“Ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and you shall find: knock, and it shall be opened to you. For every one that asketh, receiveth: and he that seeketh, findeth: and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.”

In accordance with the Word of God: Adoro te Devote… EXCOMMUNICATED

+ Rev. Fr. Michael A. Heidrich +

June 21, 2007 10:41 AM

So, like, this has to be for real because he quoted Scripture and everything. He forgot to cite his source, though. It's from Matthew 7:7. Except it appears he mixed his Bible versions. I just never realized that this scripture was part of the formula for excommunication pre-Vatican II.

So now I've been rejected by both extremes; Spirit of Vatican II has banned my blog, and the Society of St. Leo I, sedevacantists, have formally excommunicated me.

And I suspect that some of the Redemptorists might hate me, too. * sigh * It's so hard to be Catholic these days.

A Confession....

I really, really like this song. I know I shouldn't, but I do. And I really, really shouldn't both because of the fact I see this kind of behavior every day and completely abhor it, and because when my boyfriend cheated on me ('way back when in my mid-20's), I had no desire to do what the song describes. I simply do not have violent traits....but boy howdy, how I wish I had the opportunity to belt this song out with a good band!

I have been jammin' to this song ALL DAY LONG!

"Before He Cheats" (Carrie Underwood)

"Right now he's probably slow dancing with a bleach blond tramp,
and she's probably getting frisky...
right now, he's probably buying her some fruity little drink cause she can't shoot whiskey...

Right now, he's probably up behind her with a pool-stick, showing her how to shoot a combo...

And he don't know...

That I dug my key into the side of his pretty little souped up 4 wheel drive,
carved my name into his leather seats...
I took a Louisville slugger to both headlights,
slashed a hole in all 4 tires...

Maybe next time he'll think before he cheats.

Right now, she's probably up singing some
white-trash version of Shania karaoke..
Right now, she's probably saying "I'm drunk"
and he's a thinking that he's gonna get lucky,
Right now, he's probably dabbing on 3 dollars worth of that bathroom polo...
And he don't know...

That I dug my key into the side of his pretty little souped up 4 wheel drive,
carved my name into his leather seats,
I took a Louisville slugger to both headlights,
slashed a hole in all 4 tires...

Maybe next time he'll think before he cheats.

I might've saved a little trouble for the next girl,
Cause the next time that he cheats...

Oh, you know it won't be on me!

No...not on me
'Cause I dug my key into the side of his pretty little souped up 4 wheel drive,
carved my name into his leather seats...
I took a Louisville slugger to both headlights,
slashed a hole in all 4 tires...

Maybe next time he'll think before he cheats.

Oh.. Maybe next time he'll think before he cheats...

Ohh... before he cheats...

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Hottest Day of the Year

Traditionally, my birthday has always been one of the hottest days of the year. You'd think that June in Minnesota would be at least reasonably temperate, but no, that's not the case. It's right up there with "moving day" to anywhere - hot, humid, uncomfortable.

My Mom still loves to tell the story of my very dramatic sixth (?) birthday (in Illinois, actually) at which the "candles melted off the cake!". And the seafoam frosting melted, and we were all melting in the intense humidity in pre-central-air or AC days. We had no experience with climate control; we dealt with what we were handed, and we had box fans all over the house that just pushed the hot air around and didn't do anything else. Incidentally, they often served as cupholders, so they weren't entirely useless.

On that auspicious day, Mom also loves to relate how the heat and humidity just continued to build, and they finished my party in a hurry and sent everyone home, just in time, for then a storm hit. To hear her tell it, it was the storm of all storms. While Mom sent us to the hallway closet, she saw a tornado descending just across the river from us, touch down...retract as though it "bounced"...and then we later learned it came down on the other side of the hill that backed our neighborhood. I don't remember any devastation, but I do remember the humid darkness of the hallway closet and the scratchy winter coats as my brother and I sweated, and I held the dog who shuddered in my own shuddering arms.

So many years went by...always hot.

A few years ago when I bought my townhome, some friends came over to celebrate my birthday at my house; we were making pasta. We were experiencing a typical June heatwave, the first in my new home, and I had just discovered that my Central Air didn't work. The repairman couldn't get here until...get this...the following THURSDAY!

So we turned on the ceiling fan, which we'd also have to turn off periodicaly, because it dried the pasta out. As we worked in my cramped kitchen and "dining room", we alternately sweated and dried out pasta dough. We couldn't win. The heat from the oven and the stove rose to make the atmosphere even more unbearable, but all we could do was joke about it and try to keep the dough moist.

But we had wine, and we had music, and we had conversation, and we had picnic blankets, so all was well and we consumed the Italian-faire smorgasboard outside, and only 1 glass of red wine was spilled on my blanket from Mexico...and you can't even tell.

Fast-forward to the present day...

The last couple days up here in Minnesota have been nice, a wonderful break after a very hot week as the dew points fell, but today, true to form, the temps shot up and the dew points rose, and of course, severe thunderstorms raged around the Minneapolis-St.Paul area. I was completely unsurprised.

I learned today that on my actual date of birth, there was a solar eclipse. My Manager at work (who was 7 at the time) remembers going outside with a shadowbox in order to view the phenomena. (Not my birth; the eclipse!)

He sent out an e-mail today to the powers that be and anyone who might care about birthdays in his unit, and said something about the fact that in spite of the fact that the sun was covered on the day I was born, I tend to bring sunshine with my presence. (All together now....awww! And in reality, I do love my Manager...hate the job and the industry, but the people around me are great.) The picture he found to send with the email showed some poor guy trying to blow out the candle on the cake, but it blew up in his face. Hate when that happens! Apparently my Manager needs to come to a birthday party at my house...the candles melt before they can be lit.

Seriously...I think this reality about the "sunshine" has been bourne out year after year, because the sun certainly has shined on my birthday, every year of my life...and with it has come the uncomfortable heat and humidity that cause candles to melt off the cake before they can even be lit!

And yet, so many years, with the sunshine and the heat, there have been storms - big ones - and I have to wonder...should I be taking a lesson from this? If the same thing is happening year after year, while it could be explained as a simple June weather pattern, could it not also be seen as a pattern of God's grace?

We see the fact that the sunniest places of the world also experience the heaviest downpours and the greatest storms, so doesn't it stand to reason, if we look into the spiritual realm, that where God's light shines, the darkness works that much harder to conquer?

I cannot deny, no will I, that God has been very good to me. In so many ways He has "favored" me, but never without a price. For all of us, each of God's favors exact some kind of price, that being a form of growth. We cannot grow without adversity. We cannot grow without water. We cannot understand the sunshine without the presence of storms, and sometimes, the storms come hot on the heels of the sun.

We cannot understand who we are and the amazement that is our humanity apart from the sacrifice of the Cross of Christ. We cannot understand how to bring light to the world until we have had to shine in the darkness around us. We cannot learn to shine until something has tried to extinguish the light we were given.

Everything is a gift; we did not create ourselves, we did not create the air we breathe, and we did not create the sun and the moon and the clouds that cover them. We owe this life to God, and we are called to, in turn, offer ourselves as gifts to those around us. We are called to carry the light to the world, and in order to carry out such a task, we can expect to sweat, we can expect to have to take cover to shelter the flame, and we can expect to persevere through darkness and oppression.

I thank God for all I have been given, even for the heat and the humidity and the storms.

And so far, I have not turned on my Air today, but true to tradition, my box fan is in the window, moving the hot air around. Thank God for box fans!

Now please excuse me while I go find a candle to light....

Morning Coffee Musings


On this day in history, June 20,...Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II) was baptized. I learned this from George Weigel's book, "Witness to Hope."

Other random information....

Tradition holds that Jesus was crucified at the age of 33. That was a bad year for Jesus.

A theological definition of Justice indicates to us that Justice is paying what is owed, or giving someone what they are due.

If there was Justice, I would be at home hiding under the covers, not at work. I couldn't get the day off. So not only must I suffer the injustice of the inability to escape the Evil Empire of my employment in general, but I actually have to go TODAY of all days. There is no justice. But on the flip side, I'm taking Monday and Tuesday off, and I will be enjoying my freedom with much relish and much praise to God.

On to more important things...

This week's Catholic Carnival is up over at Just Another Day of Catholic Pondering. Our hostess this week did a great job, as always! Go on over and read this week's offerings.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

This N' That

Been busy lately, lots going on, and OLPH is no small part of it.

No, I don't have a new job, but I do have a new ally in the job hunt, a wonderful local priest who has connections EVERYWHERE. He now has a copy of my resume (which he thought impressive - I wish all the employers who have seen it agreed with him... *sigh *), and he is forwarding it on to other powers that be in hopes that this hook might snag a catch. He agrees with me...I HAVE to get out of where I am. God bless this man! Abundantly!

There may also be help coming for school, but I don't know for certain. The good thing is that people who know me seem to think that my going to Ave Maria for an MTS is a good thing, and you know who benefits from my studies? The Church. If I don't put the knowledge I will gain to use, then it is a loss. The program is designed to place those who partake into God's service. The secular world has no use for it.

And so I go, God willing. Or, in Spanish, "O'jala".

(Actually, that Spanish word has Moorish influence - it comes from the Arabic, "God willing". In Arabic, God is "Allah."

And that's your language lesson for didn't know I'd provide that for you, did you? And it's a twofer...Spanish and Arabic.

Speaking of school, I received an envelope from Ave Maria today, and I began to panic, thinking they are calling in the accounting already! But it's a thin envelope, if a large sized one, so I opened it and found my birthday gift: my official grade for my first official Graduate Theology credit!

I'm a 4.0!

Yeah, I know, that's not a surprise, I did well on my papers and you all know it, but it's different seeing the formal final grade in print, with the GPA right there, 4.0. The last time I had a 4.0 for the semester, it was from my Mexico semester, and just after I got that Grade, I was contacted by the Dean of Academic Affairs at my college as he wanted to give me the news that I was being nominated into a Social Sciences Honor Society - for my well-rounded and promising academic acheivements. I accepted, I have the pin and the certificate to prove my membership, but as it's never been of any benefit to me, it's not on my resume. Maybe if I put it there someone would hire me. Hmmm...Greek words with academic honors, years and years out of school....let's hire this girl and find out why she still hasn't figured her life out when she had such a promising written history!


So I have a 4.0. A 1 credit class. Somehow, I don't think I can live up to that GPA if I do take 5 cedits next semester, but hey, if God provides the money, I'll provide the effort, and if I fall short of an A but still do decently, God will still be glorified. The good thing is that God doesn't expect us to be anything but human, and where we think we're failing, He's still succeeding.

How's that for a paradox on a Tuesday?

I can't believe people are reading this drivel.

Sorry, all, I'm actually just working off some nerves. I'm giving a talk tonight on my occult affairs. I'll mostly be speaking of experience, will provide some definitions and Church teaching (to include the CCC) to start it off, and then I'm going to tell my story, including some that hasn't appeared on my blog. I don't know who will be there, if anyone, but these things are always fun. It's my first time as a speaker, and those who were there last month, most of them, anyway, expressed interest in the topic.

I'll do my best, but I may not be able to answer some of their questions. I may be able to point them towards resources that will answer them, however.

And in all these things, all of the above, all of what I am about to do...may God and God alone be glorified. I am only His servant, and usually not a very good one.

One thing I learned during Lent and the lesson keeps coming....there's a long ways between me and the title of "Saint". We are all called...but the road is narrow and the gate is pretty rusty.

UPDATE: I just got back; the talk went well, no one threw things at me, and the service was great at the restaurant! Theology of Tap is really a great program. In my neck of the woods we tend to have a lot of knowledgable Catholics who attend, a lot of people who are asking the right questions and trying to understand their faith, or have the knowledge already and just love to be with people who share their faith. We are a small group, but people are wandering in from other locales as well as our own, which is great. No topic is chosen yet for next month, it might be a "Grill the New Priest" session.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Novena Prayers to our Mother of Perpetual Help

For many, the novena begins tomorrow. However, in the Redemptorist tradition, it begins today. These are three traditional novena prayers to Our Lady of Perpetual Help, found at Vultus Christi. I don't know if the Litany is part of the Novena itself, but I recommend it just the same!

Novena Prayers to Our Mother of Perpetual Help

First Prayer

Behold at thy feet, O Mother of Perpetual Help, a wretched sinner who has recourse to thee and confides in thee. O Mother of mercy, have pity on me. I hear thee called by all the refuge and the hope of sinners: be then, my refuge and my hope. Assist me, for the love of Jesus Christ; stretch forth thy hand to a miserable fallen creature who recommends himself to thee, and who devotes himself to thy service for ever. I bless and thank Almighty God, who in His mercy has given me this confidence in thee, which I hold to be a pledge of my eternal salvation. It is true that in the past I have miserably fallen into sin, because I had not recourse to thee. I know that, with thy help, I shall conquer. I know too, that thou wilt assist me, if I recommend myself to thee; but I fear that, in time of danger, I may neglect to call on thee, and thus lose my soul. This grace, then, I ask of thee, and this I beg, with all the fervor of my soul, that in all the attacks of hell I may ever have recourse to thee. O Mary, help me. O Mother of Perpetual Help, never suffer me to lose my God.

Three Hail Marys.

Second Prayer

O Mother of Perpetual Help, grant that I may ever invoke thy most powerful name, which is the safeguard of the living and the salvation of the dying. O purest Mary, O sweetest Mary, let thy name henceforth be ever on my lips. Delay not, O Blessed Lady, to help me, whenever I call on thee; for, in all my temptations, in all my needs, I shall never cease to call on thee, ever repeating thy sacred name, Mary, Mary. O what consolation, what sweetness, what confidence, what emotion, fill my soul when I utter thy sacred name, or even only think of thee. I thank the Lord for having given thee, for my good so sweet, so powerful, so lovely a name. But I will not be content with merely uttering thy name. Let my love for thee prompt me ever to hail thee, Mother of Perpetual Help.

Three Hail Marys.

Third Prayer

O Mother of Perpetual Help, thou art the dispenser of all the gifts which God grants to us miserable sinners; and for this end He has made thee so powerful, so rich, and so bountiful, in order that thou mayest help us in our misery. Thou art the advocate of the most wretched and abandoned sinners who have recourse to thee: come to my aid, for I recommend myself to thee. In thy hands I place my eternal salvation, and to thee I entrust my soul. Count me among thy most devoted servants; take me under thy protection, and it is enough for me. For, if thou protect me, I fear nothing; not from my sins, because thou wilt obtain for me the pardon of them; nor from the devils, because thou art more powerful than all hell together; nor even from Jesus, my judge, because by one prayer from thee He will be appeased. But one thing I fear: that in the hour of temptation I may through negligence fail to have recourse to thee and thus perish miserably. Obtain for me, therefore, the pardon of my sins, love for Jesus, final perseverance, and the grace ever to have recourse to thee, O Mother of Perpetual Help.

Three Hail Marys.

Invocations to Our Lady

O Mother of Perpetual Help, thou whose very name inspires confidence.
R. Help me, O loving Mother.
That I may be victorious in the trying time of temptation.
R. Help me, O loving Mother.
That I may quickly rise again should I have the misfortune to fall into sin.
R. Help me, O loving Mother.
That I may break asunder any bonds of Satan in which I may have become entangled.
R. Help me, O loving Mother.
Against the seductions of the world, the flesh, and the devil.
R. Help me, O loving Mother.
That I may return to my former fervour should I ever become lukewarm.
R. Help me, O loving Mother.
That I may approach the Sacrament of Penance with a heart pierced by sorrow for my sins.
R. Help me, O loving Mother.
That I may receive and adore the Most Holy Eucharist with love, thanksgiving, and awe.
R. Help me, O loving Mother.
[Priests: That I may live my holy priesthood in intimate union with thy Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Victim and Priest.
R. Help me, O loving Mother.]
Against my own inconstancy.
R. Help me, O loving Mother.
Against my own infidelity.
R. Help me, O loving Mother.
In the spiritual battle against my vices and sins.
R. Help me, O loving Mother.
When the powers of darkness threaten me.
R. Help me, O loving Mother.
That I may persevere to the end in faith, hope and charity.
R. Help me, O loving Mother.
That I may never despair of the Mercy of God.
R. Help me, O loving Mother.
That I may ever love thee and serve thee and invoke thine assistance.
R. Help me, O loving Mother.
That I may make thy Perpetual Help known to others.
R. Help me, O loving Mother.
That I may invite others to pray to thee and to venerate thy sacred image.
R. Help me, O loving Mother.
At the hour of my death.
R. Help me, O loving Mother.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Grilling Salmon

Please pray for me; I'm grilling salmon for the first time.

Some time ago, my brother's boss went fishing in Alaska, and they vacuum-wrapped and froze their catch. He gave some to my brother, who in turn, gave some to me. I gave one fillet away to a neighbor at Easter, because I can't possibly eat all this fish. Part of being single...I know when the portions are too large, and fish doesn't tend to do as well as a leftover.

But last night I got brave and took out a fillet, cut it in half, and marinated it in a mixture of a ginger-garlic-teriyaki sauce mixed with a sesame marinade (I've used this mixture on steak...yummy!), and I just placed it on the grill.

Not wanting it to burn or spend half the day waiting for the charcoal to cool enough, I cut down on the charcoal...and I think I used too little.

I was going to grill this stuff for dinner, but then I realized that if I mess this up, I won't have time to fix my problem, thus I'm doing it for lunch. Brats and corn on the cob for dinner, along with fresh veggies and dip!


If it turns out well, I'll be bringing a salmon wrap with me to work tomorrow. :-)

Please pray I don't give myself food poisoning through this experimental endeavor....


OK, I just had my lunch. If Jesus came to my house, I would not be ashamed to serve him grilled salmon! Besides, based on what the Bible says, Jesus was a fan of grilled fish. And he'd probably be way too nice to mention the overcooked parts.

The marinade formed a very nice glaze. I had been planning to also grill asparagus with the same glaze, but I forgot about it, so my salmon was served with fresh uncooked sugar snap peas and ranch dip.

No wine; I don't have a wine in the house that can stand up to the strong flavor of salmon, even with the sweet glaze.

OK, back to what I was doing before...thanks for indulging me.

Saturday, June 16, 2007


I will never forget being picked up by my Daddy and held aloft, or swung around in circles as we played "airplane!". We still have photos of my Dad lying prone on the floor in front of the TV, propped up by his elbows, where he landed when he tired of playing "horsie" with his little girl, me, astride his back. I remained as I was, just a toddler, my thumb in my mouth, "boo bankie" in hand, a red fez on my head (don't ask), just hangin' out with Daddy.

I was a Daddy's Girl. So many of us were.

At the time, we had a very large yard, and I still recall when Dad got a riding lawn mower, a red Toro, which, he explained, meant "Bull" in Spanish. From that point on, I wanted to learn Spanish. Dad liked that idea.

(Incidentally, I also liked to hold out a blanket in front of the lawn mower and pretend I was a bull fighter. Dad thought it was funny but wouldn't indulge me...Mom condemned the practice and made me put the doll blankets away.)

Mom wasn't thrilled, but she allowed Dad to give me a ride on the lawn mower and to keep Dad company as we trundled back and forth and back and forth and back and forth across the lawn, cutting the grass. Every so often I'd have to dismount from the machine so I could pick up some sticks or rocks, and Dad always told me where to walk and where not to, just in case the mower kicked anything out from underneath. I was very careful to do what he said.

I was proud to be "helping" Daddy.

He was from Michigan, so whenever we went up to visit Gramma and Grampa in the UP (Upper Peninsula), he took me fishing off the pier in Lake Michigan. We didn't always catch fish, but that's not what our time was about, anyway.

But our lives weren't idyllic; Mom and Dad used to fight. A lot. And I remember when suddenly their loud, angry tones trumped my fear of the monster in the closet. I remember hearing my confused and sleepy brother's voice entering the fray; I sat up in bed to listen, wondering how he had the courage to even try to say a word. I heard his little voice in comparison to their loud ones, I remember him asking them to be quieter because he couldn't sleep.

I remember sudden silence, then a shouted demand for my brother to "GO BACK TO BED!"

Then I heard no more from him.

I don't know how long we lived like this, but I do remember the arguments usually ended with a slamming door, and it was always Dad who left and Mom who stayed.

I remember going to visit one of Dad's friends, a Shriner (Dad was a Shriner, too), and his friend was a clown. Really. My brother was disappointed but I was relieved when we arrived at his house and he was not wearing his costume. We hung out with the Shriner clown's children, who were a little older than us, and throughout the day we all realized what our Dads were doing; drinking a lot.

The kids we were visiting were visibly upset, and as the time for us to go home neared, they didn't think we should go, but they didn't know what to do. Their Mom was working, just as ours was that day. We didn't have anywhere to go; we didn't have anyone to call.

One of those children went to their Dad and quietly explained that they didn't think our Dad should drive; they got in trouble, for us.

As it was, we went home with Dad, and as he was so jovial, we soon forgot that he shouldn't be driving.

Dad ws driving funny, though, crossing the center line, going back and forth in his lane. We laughed, Dad laughed, and it was an all-around good time! And then we saw red lights in the rear window...a cop car! It was just like CHiPS!

The police officer asked Dad to get out of the car, and when he did, he asked us to get out and go sit in the squad car, in the front seat. He was very nice, and because my older brother chatted amiably with the officer, I followed him, too. He explained that they had to talk to Dad, and we had to wait, and then he would take us home.

My brother jumped into the squad car and was amazed by what he saw; we'd never been in a police car before. As soon as the officer who was driving us home got in, my brother was chattering away, asking questions, and the officer answered him and pointed out other very cool things. I just looked out the window, watching the red lights flashing around us and the shadows they caused.

I remembered my brother responding to the officer, "Oh, yeah, she talks," and he nudged me. I turned to regard the officer, who was looking at me at that point.

"Do you talk?" He asked.

I just regarded him silently, saying nothing. He waited patiently for me to respond, then continued chatting with my brother. He was very good with directions and showed him where we lived. Mom was waiting for us on the front lawn. She immediately ushered us into the house and would not tell us what was going on.

My brother was very excited about our ride in the squad car. I just wanted to know why Daddy didn't come home with us. Mom wouldn't say.

I learned years later, when I was old enough to understand, that Dad got a DUI that night, Mom refused to bail him out, and he spent the night in jail.

Ironically, years and years later, during college I volunteered as a Police Reserve officer, and one night on a ride along, I assisted in a DUI stop. It was my first one. We took the parent into custody, and removed the two children from from the back seat; a brother and a sister, about the same ages my brother and I had been at the time of Dad's DUI. I had to turn away and focus on the job I had to do. I knew I was looking into a reflection, one I'd hoped never to see.

I can't remember how old I was, but I remember one cold, rainy, dreary November day. Mom and Dad weren't getting along, and hadn't been for years. Mom grabbed something from Dad, went outside, slamming the door behind her. She didn't even have a coat on. I watched her slam a bottle against the maple tree in the front yard. She returned to the house, dripping, angry, yelling...and shortly after that, Dad left, with a suitcase in hand.

He never lived with us again. My parents were the first parents I knew who were divorced, and we had to define that word to our friends. None of them understood. Neither did we, really.


We moved to Minnesota after they foreclosed on the house, and for a couple years, I only occasionally got to see Dad. It was very hard. Then he moved to Minnesota, too, and we got to see him every other weekend or so. Dad always tried to plan something fun in order to make up for the time he otherwise didn't get to spend with us. But it all fell into a certain routine. Still, though, Dad was Dad, and I was still a Daddy's girl, even as I was growing up.

I had always loved horses, and this was one love Dad forever indulged, when he could. When I was 13, he paid for English Riding lessons for me. He could only afford every other week (actually, he couldn't, but he did it anyway), and this is a gift that benefits me to this very day. He was so excited for me, and always brought the camera. He loved to hear about the lessons, what I learned, and took a picture of me the day I learned to tack up a horse.

When I was 16, he indulged my fascination with horse racing, and we went to what was then called Canturbury Downs (now Canterbury Park). I had it down to a science, with my own list of leading sires, dams, jockeys, trainers, and owners. I picked the horses, Dad placed the bets. My brother was there, completely bored, but indulging me in this birthday gift.

Somewhere in all this, though, Dad's disease really took hold, and I couldn't deal with it anymore. So I found other things to do; the daddy I'd always known wasn't really there so I didn't see the point in going to visit him. All he was going to do was sit in his bathroom and drink while I watched movies or read in the sweltering apartment. I had better things to do.

Mom tried to get me to go up to Dad's more often, but I just didn't want to go; he wasn't the same person anymore, but I didn't know how to express what I felt. Mom, herself, was being overtaken by her bipolar, so it wasn't as though she was much of an authority figure for us, either.

The last time I saw my Dad was on the evening before and the day of my High School graduation. He had to head back to Michigan shortly after the ceremony. He was so proud! His little girl, graduating high school!

But I was so busy with my friends and all the guests, and trying to keep Mom intact that I barely had any time or the desire to really spend time with him. It was like we had, somewhere in there, become perfect strangers.

I went off to college, Dad continued to write and send newspaper clippings and cartoons he thought interesting. Once he sent an article from his local newspaper; he and some friends regularly met to brag about their children, and as my brother and I were doing well and especally as I was seeking to become a police officer, he was enjoying a certain status among his peers. The article was about these fathers and their friendship, but each one of them, when asked about themselves, pointed to their progeny.

I never admitted it, but I was flattered, and I was so happy to have the approval of my father in my law enforcement endeavors, because other than my brother and a random cousin here and there, NO ONE was supportive of me. Only Dad.

Always Dad. With all his imperfections, he never gave up on his little girl.

I spent a semester in Mexico, and before I left I called Dad to give him my address and the dates I'd be gone. He repeated the address and the dates back to me.

I got back to the United States on December 3rd, 1994. We were on our semester break, so I went to work because I had to make money to pay for my next semester, what financial aid did not cover.

My brother went to see Dad, who had moved to Michigan upon the death of our Grandfather about 7 years prior. He gave us daily reports; Dad was not doing well, he was very sick, and in the last stages of his disease. He didn't eat much, but he sure did drink a lot of Vodka.

He had to come home himself to be ready to go back to school early in January. On the morning of January 3, my brother woke me up. Dad was in the hospital. He was unconscious. He'd come downstairs, repeating, "St. Francis! St. Francis!" and collapsed. They took him to the hospital, where he remained.

We knew this was it. I went to work, waiting all day for that call. I had no other choice. I couldn't sit at home, so I worked, waiting, prepared for the news.

I arrived home around midnight as usual as I worked the evening shift. Mom heard me come in and got up to give me the news. Dad was gone.

My brother had gone back to school, so I called him. I couldn't even speak, but that was fine; that was par for the course. I was always the one who couldn't speak, just like when we were kids.

Two days later we were en route to Michigan for Dad's funeral, and it was the most horrible moment of my life, walking up to his casket, seeing Dad for the first time in almost four years, and the last time in this life.

I don't know how I survived the wake and the funeral, but one thing stood out to me, one thing to make me so proud I will never forget it.

There was a flower display there, near the casket, signed in scrawling handwriting. "To Mr. K---", signed by a little girl. We had learned the story; Dad was a collector of stamps, coins, and movies. He was also very sentimental, always had been. My friends had always loved my Dad, because he had the ability to make anyone feel welcome in his presence. That was such a gift.

Shortly after he'd moved to Michigan, one of his neighbors, people we knew, people he'd grown up knowing, took in a young woman and her little girl. They had been abandoned by the little girl's father. Dad, true to form, did everything he could to assist them, and each Monday, he sent a little gift over to the little girl, something from one of his collections. He usually delivered the gift personally, and she came to know him as "Mr. K---". This was always the highlight of his week.

My brother had made the last delivery for Dad, to that little girl, and on the note he wrote to her, he'd signed his name, "Mr. K---".

When I saw those flowers, I remembered how much of a Daddy's Girl I had been, how much I missed those moments, and clearly, he missed them, too.

My Dad had a heart of gold, and even as he suffered in the end stages of alcoholism, his humanity never left him; those traits that define who he was remained intact, and he did his best to reach out and try to make the world a better place, wherever he could. There is a young woman out there who will likely never forget my Father, and to this day, I am so dang proud of him, and I so regret never knowing about this until I stood next to him in death.

My Dad wasn't perfect; our relationship somehow came to a strange "end" even before he passed away, but he never stopped being Dad, and he never stopped being who he was. He never stopped working to bring light to someone else, working to make them feel even a little less abandoned.

In so many ways, I'm just like my Dad; I inherited his sentimentality, his sense of adventure, which, as he also had spina biffeda, he was never able to pursue himself. I inherited his generally easy-going temperment and I only HOPE that one day, I'll also be able to take on his selfless ability to reach out to others, even amidst the most dire suffering.

I was nearly born on Father's day...I believe in 1974 (I'd have to look it up) it fell on the 19th, and I was born the day after. Dad so hoped for the gift of my birth to fall on Father's day, and sometimes we did have joint celebrations. It's no surprise that I have been so linked to my Daddy in so many ways.

Father's Day, now, is often painful for me because it's so easy to remember the hard stuff, and not the things that matter most. I look with longing at Father's Day cards, listen to people talk about how they are honoring their Father, and well they should. I miss my Dad. I wish I could call him up, take him out to dinner, get his advice, and once again, be "Daddy's Little Girl". Those days are gone, but those memories...ah...the memories...I pray I will never lose them.

I loved my Dad, and I still do. And in spite of the mess that really is my life, I hope, that, if my Dad was still alive, he'd be as proud of me now, even after all of life's beatings and all of my mistakes, as he expressed that he was in the news article he'd sent to me so long ago.

For all of you who have your parents, who have your fathers, don't take them for granted. I am happy for you all; realize how lucky you are, realize the brevity of life, and take the time to honor him as he deserves to be honored. Your father probably isn't perfect, and you perhaps have your differences. But realize you won't have him forever; these are blessed moments. Learn what you can, come to appreciate the person he is, and take what is good and LIVE IT.

I miss you, Dad. Rest in peace.


Your little girl.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help and Evangelization

Last night a friend gave me a wonderful gift; a copy of the icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, purchased in Rome, and blessed by the Holy Father.

I am floored by this gift and although she likely considers it to be quite casual and not really a big deal, this gift means a great deal to me, for many reasons.

Today I set out to purchase a simple frame, thinking to just do something quick to preserve it from inadvertant damage, and then shop for the right frame at a later date. But another friend today encouraged me to at least get it matted, and then the framing will be simpler later. Agreed.

So I went to a nearby Michael's, glanced through a few matts, and realized assistance was needed. The man who assisted me commented he really liked the colors in the icon and helped me to select a few options, then recommended a double matt, which really helps to set off the image. Several worked, but I decided on blue over brushed gold, and a frame which is simple yet decorative, somewhat of a bronze color.

While we were choosing the colors and the frame, we discussed art, and I explained the history of OLPH, just briefly, the legend of her origins, and the meaning of the icon. I pointed out several things, such as how all the lines point to Jesus, how Our Lady points to Him, and about how this icon is all about the mystery of the Redemption. I pointed out some other symbols as well, and explained, in answer to some of his questions, what little I know of iconography and that it doesn't just involve images of Mary and Jesus, but Biblical depictions, Apostles, and Saints.

He was very clearly interested and I saw that he was "seeing" the icon by the end of our conversation, not just as a casual piece of art, but something that means something. He thanked me for the art lesson. :-)

As this is a blessed image, it is a sacramental, so I had determined to correctly seat and frame it permanently, so paid the money to do so today. I shouldn't have spent the money, but who knows? Perhaps one day this image will become a gift to someone else, just as it was a gift to me. Sometimes even when it costs us, it is the right thing to do to take our treasure and treat it properly so that someone else may benefit even more down the road.

So even as we conversed about the framing options, pricing, and all the details, I offered prayers that the blessing on this icon at the Holy Father's hands would carry on to this man. For those unfamiliar with our Catholic understanding of blessed objects, the wording in the blessing pronounced by the priest (or in this case, the Pope) has to do not so much with the object, but that all those who use it or gaze upon it be blessed and drawn in closer to what that image is about; Redemption. I do not know anything about this man, only that he indicated somewhat hesitantly that he is a Christian. My prayer to OLPH was that she would reach out to him and draw him inward, so I took special care to point out her eyes, and how the eyes of the icon really draw us into it, invite us into the mystery portrayed, like a window.

I had mentioned that St. Alphonsus has a shrine to OLPH, and he expressed surprise. Apparently he is familiar with the church, so I explained where the shrine can be found.

Based on the conversation we had today, it sounds like OLPH has drawn another soul closer to her so that she can lead him even closer to her Son.

I never realized the simple task of paying to have an icon framed could also become an act of evangelization. May the man and any others who looked upon this icon today be abundantly blessed and consoled by the love of God.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Pray for us!

Friday, June 15, 2007

The View From Above

I was nearly hoping today that I would be met at the door by a group of my management, escorted to a closed office, and dismissed. I was nearly in tears as I drove in today, not at the thought of the humiliation of being terminated, but rather at having to stick it out for one more day.

I've experienced burnout before, but never to this degree, never without an end in sight, never from a position in which I am so completely trapped. And I have to admit, I feel abandoned by God in some ways because nothing is happening and I can't find an escape hatch from this professional burial ground. And I'm running out of air.

Funny thing, though; God uses the every-day to get our attention and teach us lessons we would not otherwise understand.

I've been dealing with a customer who had a bad experience with a new vehicle. Unfortunately, due to some bad advice she was given, she's now in an even worse position. I explained her position up front, having to be very careful to let her know that I was not giving any final answer, just defining the worst case and probable scenario while I worked to research the issue for her. I had to give her a lot of information, which, I knew, at the time didn't make a lot of sense. I realized I'd be having this discussion with her again.


Today we spoke again. I had spoken with the person who made the error, learned something additional, and called the customer to follow up.

She was very upset. She expressed that she literally felt like everyone had abandoned her and because she had to make calls on her own to another company to step up and handle the situation, that she was totally on her own. In reality, this woman experienced a miracle; she managed to get this other company to do something I had NEVER been able to get them to do in my years in this job. Nor had I ever met anyone else who had success with them. And so quickly! No, they aren't resolving her problem...not yet...but it looks promising.

She continued to vent, telling me how unhappy she was with me, with us as a company, with the person who made the error, and how abandoned she was.

I sympathized with her; she had a point, and certainly I did understand it. But I had to remind her that I had been very up front with her with regard to what she was facing; she agreed with that. But she was still angry.

Somehow we managed to go point by point, in a very logical manner, and I did a lot of listening. She said what she had to say, and while she was upset, she was rational and recognized the humanity of all parties involved. I actually found her to be quite refreshing, for this was a woman who had a right to be frustrated and angry, but who had the balance to be able to discuss the issues and even HEAR the answers.

I told her how amazed I was with what she had accomplished, and explained why; I explained the process I'd have to follow in accordance with company policy and state law. I explained the detriment to her, the time frame, and the historical response from the other company, likely due to their own policies. I explained the frustration on our end because of the stonewalling, delays, etc., and that I have NEVER gotten the response that she did. I explained how she had knocked down barriers that can not be ovecome from our end.

She was amazed, too. She was under the impression that we, being in "the biz" had all the clout and that things would be easier. How far from the reality of the situation!

Somewhere during this conversation, I realized that I was so clearly able to see her entire situation as a big picture; I knew the steps, I knew the legalities, I knew all the little pieces that had to fall into place. I knew the players involved and what they do and don't do. And I also knew the unfortunate customer's position because I'd worked with and for so many like her.

But she had a very small view; she had her notions as to how things should go, and had no idea how large the picture really was. During our conversation, I revealed to her all the workings behind the scenes, and remined her also of the fact of real people doing real things to work towards a decision or resolution of this issue.

She was amazed. She was floored. She was delighted to learn that things WERE happening, even though she couldn't see it. She was thrilled to learn that all the people involved really DO care about her situation and truly want to help her.

Is this beginning to sound familar to anyone?

I'm going to come out and say it; this scenario I lived out professionally today is exactly the scenario I've been living out spiritualy for a long time now.

I know I'm miserable. So does God. So do the Angels and the Saints. Everyone knows I want resolution, and everyone knows my preconcieved ideas as to what that resolution should be, and perhaps it is...but that doesn't mean other things have to be done first. It's a process, but one far more complicated than what I described to my customer today.

God sees the entire picture. He sees my problem, he really is helping, and so are all those Saints to whom I have prayed for intercession. I have experienced much grace this week, in spite of all my trials. I have experienced real affirmations of intercession. I still don't have the big picture; but God does.

And one other point, perhaps a very important one; I revealed to my customer today how detrimental our involvement would be in this situation, and how she's accomplished so much and knocked down barriers by virtue of the fact that we could NOT be involved.

And that little interior voice is telling me the same thing; if God was doing it all for me, crucial things would not be overcome, because I'm the only one with the authority to knock down those barriers. There are certain things I have to do myself, certain steps I have to take, and no matter what, God remains in charge of when those barriers fall and which remain erected.

I think we can all identify, because we all challenge God, we all want things our way. But as it says, God's ways are not our ways, which is as it should be, for He has the grand-scale view, He's reading the blueprints, he's designing the blueprints and he's tracking our progress.

When I was a kid, one of my favorite songs in church was, "I believe in God", typical of the folksy liturgical style of the times. But I have to admit, that song has remained with me and still serves to remind me that things are not always as they seem.

"I believe in the sun, even when it isn't shining.
I believe in love, even when there's no one there.
And I believe in God
I believe in God
Even when He is silent."

I learned today that God is not nearly so silent as I thought.

Solemnity of the Sacred Heart

Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in thee!

Bleeding Hearts and Bluebells

Once again, Sarah over at Just Another Day of Catholic Pondering has inspired me. She is SO GOOD at that!

She posted these beautiful photos of bluebells and bleeding heart flowers recently, and it makes me wax nostalgic. (Like that's hard for me.)

Until I was ten, I lived in the Rock River valley in Illinois. We had a rambler in a little rural neighborhood in view of the river. Our acre lot was bordered, near the house, by a fence to separate our yard from the neighbor's and another neighbor's garden..and up against the fence we had a raspberry bush, a lilac bush, bluebells, irises, and bleeding hearts.

I'm not sure when exactly I became aware of the flowers and fruit that graced our yard, but I do remember that it all came into my radar all at once.

First it was the lilacs; they were so fragrant, and so fleeting, although as I've gotten older I've realized exactly HOW fleeting are those blooms, and I love them that much more for their brevity. They must be loved intensely to make up for their temporary presence in scent and beauty. There is a spiritual lesson in that, isn't there? In God's eyes, our own lives are even more fleeting, even more unique, and he loves us far more intensely, yet he has given us these little examples of life in the Garden we shunned through Adam and Eve. I fully believe that in Eden, these blossoms were eternal.

Then the irises; I became fascinated by their purply-blue color and yellow centers, and I remember picking one to bring to my neighbor, Ethel, whom I loved dearly. I was a shy child, but she had the ability to make anyone feel comfortable, and she rewarded my bravado in visiting her with a piece of candy. So I picked flowers and gave them to her in exchange for her loyalty and her sweets. It was she who helped me identify the mysterious beauty in our back yard. I think that on one occasion, she walked around the little flower garden with me, waiting for me to ask the questions, answering them to the best of her ability.

The Irises were next to the Bluebells, and I knew as soon as she said the word where they got their name. I loved the curve of the stem, the delicate curvature of the "bell" and the tiny little "clapper" that jutted outward for the bees. I wondered if they would really ring if we shook them. They fascinated me.

But my favorite flower of all favorite flowers at the time was...the Bleeding Heart. For those unfamiliar with this flower, they grow on a bush and hang in a row, like little hearts, their literal shape, appearing to be dripping from the bottom.

I especially liked to gaze upon those flowers when I was sad, or happy, or experiencing any intense emotion, because they seemed to contain it all.

My Mom had a devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, so whenever I saw the bleeding hearts in the back yard, I was seeing Jesus and Mary, but especially Jesus, for his Sacred Heart was on our family Bible. When I saw Bleeding Hearts, I saw God's love, and I took those flowers so personally!

Sadly, I do not have a green thumb, and my complete inability to keep plants alive makes me appreciate God's creation that much more, for I know that where I fail, God is perfected, so I am content to simply allow creation to bloom around me.

Spring is such a beautiful, transient time of year; we are now in the lull, the limbo between spring and summer in Minnesota. The early blooms have withered away, and the summer blooms are only beginning to take place, but there are none so beautiful to me as those precious flowers of my childhood, the ones that captured my heart so long ago, remain with me today, even if I can enjoy them only in photos.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Of Toddlers, Temper Tantrums, and Timely Blessings

I think Father V. at Adam's Ale is rubbing off on me. He's fond of alliteration, and now here I go, copying his style.

Anyway, this is a long post alert. None of you should be surprised. You KNOW I can't keep my mouth shut!

Of Toddler and Temper Tantrums

Sometimes I think I paint a picture of myself on this blog that is not entirely accurate. Sometimes I get the impression that some readers think of me as some kind of "spiritual giant." As my previous post and some others like it should prove, I am nothing of the sort.

Today as I locked my computer, logged off my phone, and headed out the door, I considered some of the recent events of my life and the posts I've read recently by other bloggers, most notably Terry at Abbey Roads2 and Happy Catholic.

I have been struggling in my work for at least 3 years now. I've been there for almost five. My first year was very hard, but I had a goal, so it made the work bearable, but I couldn't lie to myself or anyone else...I hated it. Then I got promoted to my current position, and for about a year, I actually loved my job...mostly. Then things changed, and the company has gone downhill, the job has changed, and what I loved about it before no longer exists....that, and I've grown as a human being. I am not in the same spiritual place and those things I loved...well, let's just say that they are not things that are compatible with growing in virtue. Not for me, anyway. Perhaps others could handle the work and the focus of it without being so affected, but I am not one of those people. You all see how emotional I am; I wear my heart on my sleeve. My temperment is not compatible with my situation. Thus suffering ensues.

Yes, suffering is redemptive, and I've gone through phases...sometimes I'm able to accept my lot and trudge along, sometimes I'm barely keeping my rebellion at bay...and sometimes, the rebel in me is let loose in full fury and chaos reigns.

I am nothing but a spiritual toddler, kicking and screaming in my own little spiritual and emotional temper tantrums, telling God, "I will not serve!" even as I return to my work each day, grumbling, yet trying to hard, still telling God, "I am not going to do this!." And even as my words convey my feelings, my actions must be obedient, and God knows this, and tolerates my insolence. He knows I have no choice, and he knows this because he placed me in this very spot.

Today as I left, I considered one of my patrons, John Paul II. He helped me with my class spring semester this year, and has greatly opened my eyes to many theological matters. I've found him easy to talk to, and in doing so, he has lead me to answers.

Today, as I conversed in my prayer to this uncanonized saint, he reminded me of the posts I read, and asked me to consider what they told me. They are a mirror of myself and my reactions to things. They reflect what I do not want to see...that being my rebellion and my tantrums. I know that things happen on God's time, and I am reacting out of not necessarily frustration with God, but my own frustration with myself. I try to rely on myself far too much and end up leaving God out of the equation. I haven't found the balance of God's grace, my acceptance of it, and the actions I'm supposed to take versus the actions I want to take and my demands to God to fulfill what I want.

I say oh-so-piously, "Thy will be done," but what I reallly mean is "MY will be done."

God definitely knows our hearts, and even if we talk ourselves into saying we want God's will to be done, in reality, we are still praying to ourselves out of our own self-love, and God will certainly answer that prayer by allowing us to wallow in our own self-deceptive ways. It's the only way we can learn, and it's far more effective than a slap on the folded hands.

We inflict our own punishments. God doesn't have to do a thing. He just sits back and loves us enough to let us learn from our trials, most of which we cause for ourselves.

Then we kick and scream, we make demands, and finally God speaks up and asks, "Just WHO are you praying to?"

And then, maybe then, we stop long enough to listen to what he has to say, because that question is shocking in its simplicty.

Today, I realized that all my prayers are constantly being answered, even before I pray. In the context of my job, a few years ago God, seeing what was coming for he created me, drew me very close to him. I was attending Daily Mass and my work schedule allowed it. I was skipping lunch and going to adoration at a nearby chapel. I didn't realize it, but this was actually a fast. I once went almost two weeks without eating lunch, and I didn't care about the hunger, for the greater hunger was being relationship with Our Savior.

Then it hit...bad management, friction with a certain key co-worker, realization that I had no future in my position, an impossible workload....and a possible call to religious life.

He saw my need and answered it, giving me strength to persevere when otherwise I would have run away. I was falsely accused, but the accusation and closed-door meeting happened upon my return from lunch Adoration, and I kept my eyes on the crucified Lord, as directed interiorly to do.

The suffering has continued...I have not found an escape.


The Saints choose us...I'm convinced of that.

During my struggles, I was also making my entrance into the Church, and it was a long painful year, for even as I returned, I knew God was calling me to more, and I was so torn between the world and the spiritual life. Even as I suffered in the temporal realm, there was great joy in the spiritual, even as I suffered there as well.

One day I was in the back of the chapel, having an arrangement to wait until the end of the line to go to Confession with Father. I could not control my tears, I was struggling with so many things, and the waiting was unbearable. I sat, crying silently, looking at Jesus. I was near the statue of St. Therese the Little Flower; I've always had a devotion to her, even if marginal. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a woman wearing a black chapel veil standing next to me. She nudged me gently and held a little homemade booklet out to me. Stooping slightly, whispering, she said to me, "I brought this here tonight for someone who wanted it, but that person is not here. I think I'm supposed to give it to you."

That little booklet was a series of prayers and novenas to St. Therese the Little Flower. That same year, shortly after, I said a brief novena to her, and in October, a flower bush outside my door burst into bloom, 3 flowers only. My other bush, nothing. Some of my neighbors have the same bushes, the same light blooms anywhere else.

Then God sent me St. Francis de Sales, and his words of wisdom headed off some other crises. Next was Fr. Walter Ciszek, a Jesuit priest who spent 23 years imprisoned in Stalin's labor camps in Siberia, falsely accused. The parallels with my situation are undeniable, spiritually speaking, and given the hardship of his everyday life, his story gives me strength when facing my own problems.

God is upping the ante on me yet again, and I'm noticing the pattern...whenever he invites me deeper, to take on more in service to Him, the temporal issues become greater and more intense. The job is usually at the forefront of this type of suffering.

Yet, I am not alone. He sends in the troops. He sends me to His Mother.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help has become my perpetual help. I have quite literally felt my hands in hers, I have recieved affirmations of her intercession, and now, the Saints are coming out of the woodwork.

St. Rita (two people, in two days, brought her to me), St. Anthony (today is his feast day), Walter Ciszek, reminding me of his aid to me every day in my work, John Paul II, with his apostolic guidance with a personal touch...and so many others!

There is another Saint especially dear to my heart, for his was a household name for us. Our family prayed to him before he was ever canonized; Padre Pio. He was a friend of my great uncle, who met him during the war. I still have a letter from that uncle (the one who wanted me to be a teacher and offered to pay for my education), indicating that he added my brother and I to Padre Pio's spiritual family long ago.

Padre Pio is so close to us that I have a hard time referring to him as "Saint Pio", because, to me, he will always be "Padre", the grumpy "uncle" bearing the wounds of Christ. I'm certain it's this grumpy "uncle" who brought me back home, and I KNOW that he's the one who brought me back to Confession.

Yet for me, he remains on the outskirts of my spiritual awareness. I pray to him for his intercession, but more often, he doesn't answer those prayers directly, but instead places me in a position to bring his intercession to someone else. He has used me to bring signs of confirmation for prayers heard, he has used me to cousel others, he has used me to make connections on behalf of others. I didn't know of the connections until they happened and the other party revealed them to me.

Yet he terrifies me; my impression of him is of his grumpiness, although I know he was exceedingly kind, and wise, and holy. I have a sense that he is impatient with me, and well he should be...for I am a spiritual toddler when he has desired I be "raised" to be more like Christ. I fall short through my own fault, in spite of every grace given to me. How he must have sighed in impatience at yesterday's post!

But the Lord is faithful, and even in our imperfections, our spiritual childhood, he stays his hand and bears us up one more time.

I am such a mess of a human being...I am so often a bumbling idiot, and I am so grateful for the Lord's patience and the presence of our Holy Mother.

Yes, I am suffering, I hate my job, and that will continue. God has not seen fit to move me, and God seems to be very forgiving of my temper tantrums. He has sent me to Our Lady of Perpetual Help, He has sent me Saints, he has sent me angels, he has sent me people on earth.

My friends, I have no right to complain about anything; I have all the blessings available, and yet, I know I will continue to suffer in misery because that is our plight on earth.

We all suffer, but even in suffering, we have to recognize the blessings, because, it seems, the blessings are more obvious and abundant when we are in the throes of abject misery.

Our God is a God of mercy and paradox; and thus in true form, I must admit I am praying for more mercy and less paradox. Because, spiritual toddler that I am, I know I should be praying for God's will, but I'm going to be honest with you all...I'm praying for my will, and I need help in overcoming such a prayer.

And that's all I have to say about that. You can wake up and go home now. Come back and visit again sometime, especially if you need a nap.