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Sunday, July 29, 2007

What to expect from a true Minnesotan

My Mom just sent this to me, and it's a jem!

Rules of Minnesota:

1. Pull your droopy pants up. You look like an idiot.

2. Let's get this straight; it's called a "gravel road." I drive a
Pickup truck because I want to. No matter how slow you drive, you're
going to get dust on your Lexus. Drive it or get out of the way.

3. You say our lakes smell bad to you. They smell like money to us. Get
over it.

4. So you have a $60,000 car. We're impressed. We have $250,000 combines that are driven only 3 times a year.

5. So every person in every pickup waves. It's called being friendly.
Try to understand the concept.

6. If that cell phone rings while a bunch of ducks are coming in; we
will shoot it out of your hand. You better hope you don't have it up to
your ear at the time.

7. Yeah, we eat walleye & northern pike and love it. You really want
sushi & caviar? It's available at the corner bait shop.

8. The "Opener" refers to the first day of deer season and the first day of fishing season. It's a religious holiday held, respectively, on the closest Saturday to the first of November and the second weekend of May, usually Mother's Day. The related holidays celebrating Hunting and Fishing Widows are held on the same dates.

9. We open doors for ladies. That applies to all ladies, not
necessarily all women.

10. No, there's no "vegetarian special" on the menu. Order steak. Or
you can order the Chef's Salad and pick off the pound of ham & turkey.

11. When we fill out a table, there are three main dishes: meats,
vegetables, and breads. We use three spices: Onion, Pepper, and Garlic!

12. You bring "coke" into my house, it better be brown, wet, and served over ice. You bring "Mary Jane" into my house, she better be cute, know how to shoot, drive a truck, and have long hair.

13. College and High School Football is as important here as the Lakers
and the Knicks, and a hell of a lot more fun to watch.

14. Yeah, we have golf courses. But don't hit the water hazards - it spooks the fish.

15. Colleges? Try St. Mary's, St. Thomas, St. Olaf, Concordia, St. John's or a satellite of Ave Maria. They come outta there with an education plus a love for God and country, and they still wave at passing pickups when they come home for the holidays.

16. We have more folks in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard than
any other state, so "Don't screw with Minnesota." If you do, you will get whipped by the best."

Fire's Status Update

Last week I called the vet again because Fire seemed to be quite distressed, and I detailed what I meant by that: He is drinking water like a fish, he is panting a lot, he can't get comfortable.

The vet upped the Tramadone to two tablets, 3 times per day. I repeated that back a few times...that's a huge increase! The tech repeated the orders.

Sadly, I can't give him the drugs 3 times per day, not while I'm working, but as soon as I'm not, well, he'll get his drugs on schedule.

I've been wondering, though, if he'll last that long.

This morning he gave me a scare; he wasn't interested in breakfast. That's one of the signs. Is he telling me he's done?

So I put it aside, because, yesterday, I gave him a half-dose of the tramadone at 2:30, and then the full dose at 10:30 pm, so I didn't want to jump to conclusions, not knowing what this opiate is going to do to him. Fire initially got up, looking for his "special treat" (medication delivered in a marshmallow)., refused his food, refused water, and returned to lie down on his dogbed. He did eventually eat, when I brought his bowl to him, the food moistened with water.

And he was very interested in going outside to do his business, yet reluctant to come inside. Cabin fever. Who doesn't enjoy the feeling of the sun on one's face?

This evening, again, he didn't get up to eat, but having learned from this morning's endeavors, I brought his bowl to him and he ate with relish. He is still interested in food, but I think that standing and having to dip his head to eat is difficult for him. But if I leave the food out, the Shepherd will help herself, so just waiting for him to make a decision is not really an option.

If he were a healthy dog, I wouldn't, in a thousand years, bring his food to him. But Fire is dying, and he deserves some concessions, even pampering.

Just as some general info, when I first adopted Fire, I fed him from a raised area, which is recommended by some sources to prevent bloat, which large-chested, long-legged dogs are prone to. Other articles refuted this, suggesting feeding from the ground. It's pretty much split 50/50, so because of different circumstances, I haven't fed Fire from a raised bowl for a long time. And for a few days, I've watched him struggle to get up using only three legs, his weight loss is discernable, even though he still maintains a healthy weight for a greyhound, and I've noticed some of his muscles shaking.

He is slipping away quickly, and I wondered if I'd be calling in Monday, in favor of a trip to the vet clinic to send him over the Rainbow Bridge.

But today he's been quite tranquil, has not seemed to be in any great distress, and every time I opened the door to go outside, he wanted to go out, too. Once outside, he's not really wanting to focus on business, but seems to be wanting to spend some contemplative moments in the dappled shade beneath the maple tree, grazing on the crabgrass that lines the fence, and just enjoying life in general.

Is my dying friend trying to tell me something? I think he is.

For a dog, he's a lot wiser than I am. He knows his life is short; he knows that now is the time to observe the glories of creation, the amazement of life, because it's a gift that can't be taken for granted for man or beast.

So tonight, I brought him his bowl, and he immediately went to work. My Shepherd, adjusting to this change, waited for him to be finished and stuck her nose in his bowl at the usual moment, helping him to lick it clean. This is part of their sibling relationship, although he's not nearly so defensive of his food as he used to be.

When I first got Fire, he was food-aggressive, which is common in ex-racing greyhounds. So for about a week, I fed him by hand. I would dip my hand into the food bowl, keeping the bowl out of reach, forcing him to depend upon me, associating my hand with the food. I knew that one day, it may happen that I'd have to take something dangerous from him, without having to lose my hand to do it.

He came around quickly, although, with regard to rawhides and the like, I still have had to resort to even "better" treats to entice him away. Even though he quickly figured out my ploy, I learned to be quicker and used the actions of the other dog as natural interference if something really good had to be taken away.

Dogs will be dogs; we have to respect them for what they are.

See how far Fire has come; from fighting for his food, to having it brought to him.

Some would say it's "time". I disagree; a theme is developing, and while I am making concessions for Fire, the time has not yet come to send him away. He's not ready to go.

On one hand, I fear I will make the decision too quickly, on the other hand, I fear I will wait too long.

For now, Fire is content. He is resting peacefully, he continues to be a living work of art, graceful even as he limps through his last days, loving even as he suffers such deep, unreachable pain.

I looked into his eyes today, his adoring, devoted greyhound eyes, and I asked him if it's time. He placed his paw into my hand and stretched his head towards me, begging for a pat. And his eyes never left mine.

No, Mom. It's not time yet. Pet me.

** I still have a long ways to go to pay for Fire's existing vet bills. If you are interested in helping, you may do so here. Thank you, and God bless you. ***

Some Blogger Issues

This is a PSA:

I have my blog set up to send me an email notification if there is a comment, however, for the last few days, I have not recieved any emails. Very odd.

Is anyone else having this problem, or am I going to need to send a note to the powers that run the site?

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Finch and the Sunflower

This afternoon, I sat down at my computer and pulled back the drape so that I could gaze out the window, and there, before my astonished eyes, was a yellow finch perched atop the sunflower.

Mystery solved.

I had actually feared that it was squirrels destroying the flower, but had been a bit mystified as to how those critters could climb the stalk without breaking it. But I also knew birds could of course reach the flower, certain, though, that I would never catch them in the act.

This afternoon though, I saw Mr. Finch, my friendly avian neighbor, happily pecking at his meal to his heart's content. I gazed at the sight in wonder, grateful for the gift of God's hand in motion, feeding the birds of the air; for this sunflower is His very hand.

Just as with the Parable of the Breadcrust, God is giving me a front row seat to the Parable of the Sunflower and through this, He is revealing his everyday glory. It is an encouragement to trust in His providence. Even as I look at the pecked over appearance of the head of the sunflower, I can witness the buds now blooming, I can witness their pollination, and when the time comes, I will again be witness to the feast laid out for not just Mr. Finch, but for his entire family.

It is a parable of trust, a witness to life, and a symbol of God's eternal love.

Labor of Love

The sunflower outside my window is being eaten away, little by little, every day, mysteriously. Other flowers are beginning to sprout from the same stalk, but the large head, which was once so glorious, is now anything but. And yet, the sunflower still lives on, seeking the sun, and providing sustenance to whatever wildlife happens by for a meal.

And still, I water the stalk, no longer for my initial flagging sprout, but now in hopes for the life of the flowers yet to bloom. Because there is always hope; even amidst death, there is hope and there is new life to take the place of the life that has left, and that new life must be tended as well.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Taste of Summer

I don't know what it is about summer; there is something about hot weather that makes me want to eat tomatoes and cucumbers and basil. Now that I know what basil is.

My family lived in Illinois (near Rockford) until I was ten, and I can remember many hot, humid summers spend reluctantly helping Mom weed the garden, or joyfully playing with my friends in the woods and vales and yards that surrounded us.

One summer mid-morning, we decided we were hungry, and we all seemed to agree that the best possible snack was one of the invitingly-ripe tomatoes that were maturing on vines all over the neighborhood.

So while Mom worked in other areas of the yard and garden, we asked if we could snack on the tomatoes growing on the vine. She told us we could so we carefully selected those that appeared the most lucious.

I remember being somewhat surprised by my thirst for these juicy red-orange gifts from God. I did not, as a rule, like vegetables, and cooked tomatoes made me gag. But that day, I developed a very strong taste for that which grew on the vine, and lead others to join me in this wonderful endeavor. We proceeded to pluck the ripe orbs directly from the vine, wipe them on our shirts, and bite into their juicy goodness right there as we knelt in the dirt. It is one of my favorite childhood moments, and if I could do an oil painting, the memory is so strong that I would indeed paint a child enjoying a summer tomato while surrounded by summer heat and humidity in the comforts of the home garden with freshly churned dirt and bees buzzing around contentedly.

After enjoying what Mom's garden had to offer us, we decided we were still hungry and went inside for some water and to seek other snacks. There were a few tomatoes on the counter by the sink, so we ate the rest before moving on to my friend's house and garden, where they (thankfully for their mom) had fewer ripe vegetables.

Then we were done, and when lunch rolled around, we weren't interested. I wonder why?

For some years, I'm not sure tomatoes gripped me so strongly. I remember my cousin introducing me to a "tomato sandwich" several years later; this consisted of bread, mayo, and a tomato, and on a hot day, it really hit the spot. Mom and my Godmother, my cousin's Mom, thought we were nuts, but we were completely happy with our choice.

I'm not sure when it happened, exactly, but at some point, I realized that tomatoes taste like summer. They do, they really, really do. There is something about fresh Minnesota summer tomatoes that brings childhood into the present, and the present into eternity in the enjoyment of a flavor given to us directly by God.

A couple years ago, I attended a party in which a friend brought Gazpacho, which, of course, I found to be absolutely DIVINE as it is tomato-based. I'd never had a cold soup before, but this stuff was wonderful! Last summer I found a recipe and made it maybe once, but it lasted for awhile (being that I'm single), and because of the labor, I didn't make it again. The ingredients alone were far too complicated, but the soup was great!

Recently, though I discovered a new way to make Gazpacho; while making pasta and other appetizers.

So, without further ado, I will present to you my mid-summer recipes tailor-made for tomato and basil lovers.


The other day, I saw a sale involving Classico Pesto, and decided to give it a shot. I've tried other brands (Alessi) and found it to be salty and miserable, but figured another company deserves a chance. For some reason, the idea of Basil and Tomato pasta was appealing to me.

A few years ago, when I first moved into my townhome, some friends came over to celebrate my birthday with me and we made various types of pasta. Italian appetizers were of course also involved, my favorite of which was cherry tomatoes cored and filled with home-made basil pesto.

I couldn't get ENOUGH of those little things!

So last weekend, I made this appetizer and ate a whole little carton of tomatoes filled with basil.

But then there's the question: what do do with the cores and the juice? Coring tomatoes is a messy endeavor. But, having remembered my previous gazpacho experience, I simply cut the cherry tomatoes over a small bowl and caught the juice and the cores. By the time I was done, there was a certain amount in the bowl, to which I added some of the pesto, and some cucumbers, and some spices, white wine, and some red wine vinegar...and put it away in the fridge.

Then I just cut up some larger tomatoes, tossed it with the basil pesto, and served it with angel-hair pasta.


I also plan to cut up a baguette, slather it with pesto and chopped tomatoes and melt pasta on top. Thanks to my dear neighbor Lisa for that suggestion, which can actually be done on the grill, although I've never tried it.

And of course, I just love tomatoes sliced with a little celery salt sprinkled on top. There's nothing like it in the world.

You may be wondering what I did with my mini-gazpacho? I ate it, just that little bowl, and it was wonderful. Today, I made a larger bowl, doing the same thing. I use the left-over angel-hair pasta noodles, but this time I heated some sliced and chopped red onions in a little olive oil and garlic, and when they were ready (still a little crispy), I added the pesto sauce from the fridge along with the chopped tomatoes, just to heat everything a little. It was tossed with the pasta. I also had some cherry tomatoes I had to use up or they would go bad so I made the appetizers and from the core both of the large tomatoe for the pasta and the little ones, they went into a bowl. I added some low-sodium V-8, cucumber, and a few onions. Some Cholula red sauce (it's like tobasco but more flavorful), a touch of Tiger Sauce, red wine vinegar, pepper, pesto and more basil, thyme, majoram, pepper, celery salt, and it now resides in my refrigerator to provide dinner for me tomorrow night. A light dinner, but given all this heat, a perfect dinner.

So long ago, when Mom discovered the garden bereft of tomatoes, the counter bare of her new harvest, and the neighbor's garden robbed, she was met with a dilemma. What to do with a child who didn't normally eat vegetables but who had one day gone overboard? We'd raided the gardens with permission, given by unsuspecting parents. And we were eating healthy foods as opposed to ice cream, or cookies, or the like!

In the end, we were only lightly scolded. Mom was happy we ate the tomatoes but asked, that, next time, we just not eat them ALL.

She was a very good Mom, still is. She doesn't like tomatoes as much as I do, though.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Grad School News and Booklist

I spoke with the IPT director today, and advised him of my situation; I cannot pay for school, but I don't want to withdraw. He mentioned that loans MAY be available, and had the Program Coordinator look into it and get back to me.

She gave me the info for a specific lender and website, I went there, applied, and have the preliminary approval, even e-signed it. So now I know...I can go to school this semester. Praise God! It is a bit unofficial until I get the confirmation of approval, but as I have good credit and have never defaulted on a loan, there is no reason they would deny me.

I am keeping my Grad School bleg, however, because these loans are not subsidized so I hope to be able to contribute something as I go. The reality is that I'm getting a loan because I can't afford it on my own. And I continue to thank those of you who have been so generous already in your assistance. Your funds will help me buy books.

As promised, I am posting the book list. If you happen to have any of these titles/editions and would like to send them my way either as a donation or as a sale, let me know either in the combox or via email. Please note, I am posting specific editions because some of the titles have multiple versions. If the prof provided the ISBN number, I will provide it as well, in order to be as specific as possible.

Please note: The titles I am listing are not ALL the books required for the classes. I am not listing those resources I already have in my possession.


* ONE of the following titles: (all out of print)

1. Trouve', Marianne Loraine, FSP (General Editor), The Sixteen Documets of Vatican II, with introduction by Douglas G. Bushman, S.T.L. (Boston: Pauline Books & Media, 1999)

2. The Sixteen Documents of Vatican II, with Commentaries by the Council Fathers (Boston, MA: St. Paul Editions) - poss paperback is the only version available

3. The Sixteen Documents of Vatican II (Boston, MA: St. Paul Editions) - hardback only

OR, as a last resort:

* Flannery, Austin (ed.), Vatican Council II: The Conciliar & Post Conciliar Documents, Costello Publishing Co; Revised edition, 1987 (Paperback)
ISBN: 0918344395

Of the above, I am praying to find the first one on the list. The prof did note that of the alternate option, there is an inclusive language edition which is not recommended in any way, shape, or form.


* Aumann, Jordan, Spiritual Theology (Westminister, MD: Christian Classics, 1987).

* Vatican II, Lumen gentium, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church. Chapter V: The universal Call to Holiness in the Church. Boston: Pauline Books and Media
ISBN: 0-8198-1843-7 (( If I can find one of the V2 books, this should obviously be included ))

* St. Alphonsus Liguori, Uniformity with God's Will, Thomas W. Tobin, trans., Rockford IL, Tan books and Publishers, Inc., 1977.
ISBN 0895550199

* St. Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life. John K. Ryan, trans. Preface and Frist part (New york: Doubleday, 1989, [1972]
ISBN: 0-385-03009-6

I actually own Intro. to the Devout Life, but not that edition. I may check to see if mine is acceptable but otherwise I'm expecting to have to buy this book.


* The New Jerusalem Bible, Henry Wansbrough, General Editor. New York: Doubleday, 1985. ISBN: 0385142641 *******REGULAR EDITION ******

* The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version. Catholic edition. San Francisco: Ignatius Pres, 1999.
ISBN: 089870491x


* The Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version. 2nd Catholic edition. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006.
ISBN: 978-0-89870-833-2; 0-89870-833-8; 978-0-89870-834-9; 0-89870-8334-6, 978-0-89870-936-0; 0-89870-936-9

(prof note; "it is important the student obtain this edition (NOT the New Revised Standard Version)

* Pontifical Biblical Commission, The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church. Boston: Pauline Books & Media, 1993. ISBN: 0-8198-3670-2

* Pontifical Biblical Commission, Sancta mater ecclesia ("The historicity of the Gospels 4/21/1964) Boston: Pouline Books & Media, n.d. ISBN: 0-8198-3344-4

* Pope Leo XIII, Providentissimus deus (On the Study of Sacred Scripture" 11/18/1893). Boston: Pauline Books & Media, n.d. ISBN: 0-8198-6922-8

* Pope Pius XIII, Divino afflante spiritu ("On the Promotion of Biblical Studies" 9/30/1943) Boston: Pauline Books & Media, n.d., ISBN: 0-8198-5858-7)

I have the RSV-CE, but my ISBN does not match, so I'll be contacting the prof to see if mine is sufficient. Otherwise I'll be obtaining two more Bibles.

Please, if any of you can provide any of these books, or even links where they can be found new or used, let me know. I'm primarily looking for used books, just as I did as an undergrad, but Theology resources tend to have a nasty habit of going out of print quickly, presenting special challenges to both students and professors. Clearly the V2 documents are availalbe at the Vatican II website, but unfortunately, the computer screen gets in my way when I try to highlight special passages, and then I scroll down and lose my space, and thus the highlighter fluid has marked a totally different passage or nothing at all. They, in total, are too long to print out so I am looking to actually purchase the books recommended.

And please, y'all, keep praying for me. I'm happy to be looking forward to beginning graduate school in earnest, even if it's only for one semester. It's all on God's grace, and His grace sometimes arrives in the form of a student loan.

I didn't think a loan was available for those of us off campus, but apparently they are, thank God. It could be a special arrangement the school made with the lender, so clearly I'm grateful.

This is one thing off my list.

And I got another app turned in today and another with the same county for another position. I don't have a chance in the world at the latter, but one never knows until one is either rejected or called for an interview. All in God's hands.

God bless!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Light in the Shadows

I wish I had some words of wisdom or some kind of insights or even something interesting to say or observe, but I don't. I have writer's block. Which is just as well; I need to focus on many things, and perhaps when a few things are knocked off my list I can stop being Martha and be Mary again.

Or something like that.

I still can't pay for Grad school, and today I read about osteosarcoma; Fire has weeks to up to 4 months, but given how fast this is moving, I don't think he'll make his next birthday, which is in September, according to his ear tattoo. And it weighs very heavily upon me because I will have to be the one to give the word. It's not time yet, his pain is being managed and I'm making accomodations for him in the meantime.

And I'm asking God what I should be learning right now, which is, maybe, going back to just living one day at a time. Realizing how precious life is, and how much things can change in a single moment. How much we all take for granted, plans we forsee, assumptions we make about the future, and then in a moment, it all changes.

I have to wonder, in all of this, what is really important? What is being lined up right now? What is God doing in the background? What is he asking of me?

I don't have any answers, not to anything. Not to my job situation, not for how to deal with Fire's terminal diagnosis, not for how to pay for grad school this semester or ever.

Tonight I'm just sad, and have been biting back tears most of the day. A couple women from the greyhound rescue organization have been in contact and have offered their support. Of the three of them, two have suffered this loss recently and let me know of their concern and prayers for us, knowing how it feels.

I guess it's just hitting me that this is for real, it's formal, and it's terminal. And the best thing to do is to let nature take its course. All I can do is wait and watch and pray, and thank God for the gift of life and the gift of love. Because no matter how painful this is, I would not take it back. I would not reject this gift, and I am willing to accept this because it is God's will for me in this moment. It is God's will for this dog, and one day, I will write about the spiritual lessons brought into my life by these humble creatures.

But not tonight. Not tonight.

Tonight is my night and even as I wander among these shadows, I know there is something more beyond them and so we will pass through this valley, never alone.

It's always hard to face losing a friend.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Final Answer

We went to our vet appointment today and had the X-Rays done. The good doctor came in and first put up the initial X-ray, then today's for comparison, right next to it.

It's official; it's osteosarcoma, and it has very obviously spread and will continue to do so. This malignant, terrible disease is the reason my dog was fine three weeks ago, and can't even navigate stairs now. Nor will he ever be able to do so again.

There will be no more walks around the neighborhood, only hopping around in the yard for brief interludes of sunshine and breezes. There will be no more greyhound "meet-and-greets" because the travel to and from and the time standing will be too hard on him.

Fire will be sleeping downstairs from here on out, because I cannot allow him to come up the stairs for fear of fractures not only in the cancerous leg, but in the good leg from stress alone.

Fire is not going to get better; he is going to deteriorate.

I didn't cry in the vet clinic this morning as the Vet gave me the diaagnosis and the options. Before I could start I blinked the tears away and focused on the facts, knowing that there would be plenty of time for tears later. Like now, as I write this.

These are the options in the order presented.

1. Euthanasia. No. Not yet. The vet agreed.
2. Do nothing. Live with it, and treat the pain. Watch his weight, his appetite, his attitude, whether the pain is controlled or if he is suffering inordinately. Wait.
3. Radiatian treatment at the U of M. "It's not inexpensive, but you'll have to call there to find out." They use this to control pain and delay the spread of the cancer, but it also thus delays the inevitable, because it is not a cure. The cost is around $3,000 to $5,000
4. Amputation and Radiation treatment. Again, delaying the inevitable. And he didn't say it, but amputating a liimb on a greyhound, well, you just can't do that to a greyhound.

We are treating for pain. In addition to the 75 mg of Rimadyl twice daily, we are adding a narcotic, Tramadol, at a lower dose to be increased if needed. I think we have one months' supply of both pain meds.

The bill for today:

Medical progress exam.....$21.00
Total after 5% discount $143.72
The time we have left......Priceless

If you have interest in helping to cover Fire's bills, please click here. I don't know how much time he has left but my guess is that we really won't need any more trips to the vet, but the last one. And I don't know how long that will be, so for now, I'm just going to enjoy the time my greyhound has left and pray I have the courage to make the decision when the time comes.

Friday, July 20, 2007

On Worry and Trust in God

As my regular readers know, I recently gave notice at my job, and my last day is August 3rd. I have nowhwere to go...yet. Then my Greyhound required some emergency vet bills, some ongoing treatment to control infection and pain, and this is still ongoing. And the deadline for Grad school registration is coming up.

By nature, I'm a worry-wart. I can't make decisions without great agony and without the sense of a worry-knife twisting in my gut, reminding me that I'm likely making a bad decision with bad repurcussions. Sometimes that knife-twist is right, but more often, it's wrong, as Et-tu Jen points out in her post.

Some of the best advice I've heard in recent years came from a homily our priest gave last December. He was talking about worry, and threw out some amazing statistics about what people worry about: I don't recall the exact numbers, but the majority of things that people worry about are future events -- and at least half of those never even happen.

So I resolved to stop worrying about the future so much, and the results have been really interesting. I never cease to be amazed at how often things that I was just sure were going to happen ended up playing out entirely differently than I'd expected, weren't as bad as I thought, or never even happened at all. At least a few times a month I find myself thinking, "Wow, I'm glad I didn't waste time worrying about that, since it's all moot now." (Which is not to say, of course, that I don't have any problems! Just that things often happen differently than I would have expected.)

(Go read the rest. Well worth it!)

She sure got my attention with that post...what she says is so true and this truth has been born out time and time again. And yet I worry.

Of late, whenever worry has started to eat at me, typically it's been about odd things, not the big ones. Such as; I need to go shopping for clothing for a different job, for a new interview suit as my old one no longer fits and can't be tailored, what am I going to do for food when my money runs out..etc.

I have some friends who can offer me some part time retail work, no bennies, but the cash will pay some bills. And I could find on call and PT work, or $8.00/ hour the basics will be there. I have friends who would invite me over for dinner, I have frozen and canned food to last awhile, and I can call the utility companies and my lienholders to discuss options before things get out of control.

When I worry about these little things, then, this is what continually comes to mind:

MT 6:

25 "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat (or drink), or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they?
27 Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?
28 Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. 29 But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them.
30 If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?
31 So do not worry and say, 'What are we to eat?' or 'What are we to drink?' or 'What are we to wear?' 32 All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, 19 and all these things will be given you besides.
34 Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.

Here's what's so ironic; I'm not worrying about what I SHOULD be worrying about, and that, at its very core, is worrisome. I could lose my house, thus destroy my credit, destroy any credibility I have with my extended family (I'm already the black sheep of my generation so how much credibility I have is already in question), I could get my car repossessed, thuse losing any ability to get to work, to the job I don't have yet...etc.

Yet I'm not worried. Have I gone BEYOND worry into complete insanity? I should be worried about all those things, but no, it's the small things in life that have me concerned. No, I have not learned to live in the present, but of late I've read a few things that have given me some perspective.

Are you aware that in Europe, they traditionally have shorter working hours and a typical vacation allowance of six weeks? SIX WEEKS! Of VACATION TIME! That completely blows me away. Here in the U.S., were lucky to get two weeks of vacation allowance, and often sick time is rolled into that time off. And if we miss too many days, even for legitimate reasons that can be backed up, employers often have the right to let us go for "absenteeism".

When taking this under advisement, and considering all the people, typically in high-stress but well-paid professions, who take "Sabbaticals", I've come to realize that perhaps what I need is a "Sabbatical" and this is going to be provided to me, whether I want it or not, and if God has decided that this is what I need, then He will provide for my NEEDS...not my wants. This is going to be a period of simplification, and I'm the first to admit I need it.

The last time I was unemployed, it was due to injury and I was paid a Work Comp wage, which was adequate as I did not own a house at the time. I had to report to a counselor every week, who told me I had to document 8 hours per day of job searching, I had to come in every other week to "prove" I was seeking employment, and she was completely unqualified to judge what I was or was not doing because her knowledge did not extend to goverment jobs. (ie: if one calls, say, a county office every week to inquire about the status of an app, when each applicant is told up front in writing what that status will be and how long it will take, etc...well, said applicant is likely to get theri app lost somewhere). I had to explain this process over and over. I have a degree in Criminal I can work in government offices. Which has a very specific hiring process. It was a miserable summer, I didn't have God although I was in the process of conversion, and in hindsight, I saw a lot of things I could have done had I not been wasting so much time arguing with Work Comp people who had no idea what they were doing. In their defense, they really dealt with a lot of people who were not educated and who did not know how to seek employment. I didn't fit their profile and squirmed under their scrutiny.

And the irony...oh, the irony! When I finally was offered a position, with the company I am now leaving, my counselor asked me, "Do you think you'll be happy doing that? Handling claims? Working for an insurance company?"

This, from a woman who told me I should go flip burgers, which would NOT have been "indemnification". This, from a woman who went out of her way to clip job ads from a newspaper without reading them in light of my qualification and experience. This, from a woman who wanted so badly to be rid of me she suggested I apply to be a Wilderness Counselor or a Police Captain. (My reply: I couldn't lead myself out of the wilderness, much less a bunch of wayward delinquents, and for the latter...whose world are you living in?)

I had to waste time writing letters in my defense as the employment wheels turned, I bombed several interviews, and finally got the job that has made me miserable for the last five years. And I took it out of pressure, because I was desperate to get out of my situation. It was the first offer to come along, and I know darn well that had I turned it down, I would have been absolutely crucified.

So I have to admit that I'm entering this time of unemployment with a sense of freedom, recognizing I could lose my house, but thrilled I don't have to lose my mind. Thrilled that this time, no one is breathing down my neck. If the creditors do, so be it. Right now my credit is excellent and I'll work hard to keep it so. But for now, I'm fine. For now, I have hope, and a sense that I should batten down the hatches and prepare to live an austere existence for the next couple months.

Hopefully I'll find a good job, though, by the end of August. I'm well qualified for many things,and after this sabbatical I'm taking, I'll be able to enter the workforce with renewed energy, confidance, and a sense of purpose.

We all need a break. I'm taking mine now, and all I can do is trust in God.

Is this that fabled "sense of peace" people refer to with regard to discernment?

I apologize this is getting long, but sorry, I'm not done yet. My opinion and meandering rages on...

From Jen's post:

I was reminded of all this when I came across a wonderful excerpt from "The Secret of a Happy Life", by Fr. Lasance over at one of my favorite blogs, Starry Sky Ranch. It's so beautiful...and so true...and so something I really need to remember in the coming months:

One secret of a sweet and happy Christian life is learning to live by the day...Life does not come to us all at one time; it comes only a day at a time. Even tomorrow is never ours until it becomes today, and we have nothing whatever to do with it but to pass down to is a fair and good inheritance in today's work well done, and today's life well lived.

It is a blessed secret this, of living by the day. Any one can carry his burden, however heavy, till nightfall. Anyone can do his work, however heavy, till nightfall. Anyone can do his work, however hard, for one day. Anyone can live sweetly, patiently, lovingly, purely, until the sun goes down. And this is all life ever means to us - just one little day. "Do today's duty; fight today's temptations, and do not weaken or distract yourself by looking forward to things you cannot see and could not understand if you saw them." God gives us nights to shut down upon our little days. We cannot see beyond. Short horizons make life easier and give us one of the blessed secrets of brave, true, holy living.

Oh, yes, what a quote with regard to worry! Also the reason I'm not a saint.

Living in the present; choosing the right thing at every moment. I'm thrilled, and so is God, if I can go 30 seconds without giving in to some type of everyday temptation. Big not-so-secret thing about me; each day is a struggle in this walk to holiness. Each day presents challenges I either cannot or refuse to overcome, because I'm way to comfortable in my regular habits and vices. I'm way too comfortable with my favorite sins. I highly doubt that this problem will come to an end with the job. The temptations will change; my ability to handle them will not, so I pray that I do go to Mass every day, that I do work to cultivate a deeper prayer life, that I do committ to making a schedule and keeping it, so as to maintain some sort of discipline to keep my life afloat and respectful.

I should be worrying about all these things, but I'm not. And yet, I can't say I entirely trust in God, although this experience may bring me closer to this goal.

It's all about trust in God, and while I say I trust Him, I have serious reservations I'm fighting to overcome. But God is faithful, even in cleaning up the messes we make. Are you willing to come along with me on this ride? All for the glory of God...because for me, there will only be humiliation should my worries come to pass, and God cannot be blamed for my own mistakes. All I can do is trust, and pray, and go on.

Life is a gift....all I want is to find that gift again.

Early Morning Update on Fire

I am calling the vet today.

Last night, Fire would not go upstairs with us. It has become his habit of late, to pause, gather himself, which might involve a little uncertain pacing, and then carefully navigate the stairway. Until last night, though, he did not have a problem. In the morning he just hops down using his good leg for balance.

But last night was different. He didn't even try, but for putting a paw on the second step, then withdrawing it and whining plaintively. I brought his kennel blanket and a couple toys up to entice him, to no avail. I left him alone, letting him figure it out...nothing.

We had to go to sleep, and I ended up bringing my German Shepherd up with me, rather than letting her stay with Fire for company. Even though Fire did not want to come up the stairs, dogs will play and I feared if left 7 hours alone, they will find some playtime and make Fire's condition worse.

I heard him whine just a little and then there was silence for the rest of the night. This is the first time he has ever slept on a different level of the house. Ever since I trained him how to navigate stairs, he has never failed to either follow or even beat me up the stairs at bedtime. Last night, although he had the freedom to come up at any time, even though he must have been terribly lonely, he did not venture to attempt the trek.

This morning he heard me get up, right on schedule, and as I got prepared to walk the dogs, (in his case, just a quick walk in the yard) he stood crying, just so that I could start my Friday with a heaping dose of pitiful guilt.

He feels warm, indicating he likely has a feaver. He seems distressed, he's barely using his left hind leg, and he's not even standing at my elbow begging to be petted as he usually does this time of day. It is not possible for me to have a cup of coffee and not pet the greyhound; it's part of the morning routine. In fact, he's usually so persistent that I have to set the cup down and focus on him for awhile, and then finish what's in the cup. After wiping up the spilled coffee, of course.

So this morning I will go to work, I'll call the vet clinic when it opens, and see what they recommend. Because we've run all the diagnostic tests, I honestly hope I don't have to take him in again, but we all know that's not how it works. We'll be going in again, either today or tomorrow, because that feaver is indicative of something more than an irritated ligament.

Another first; he went and laid in his kennel in lieu of begging for attention, and when I went into the kitchen to get his Rimadyl and the medium (a marshmallow) I use to give this huge tablet to him, he didn't even try to get up for this wonderful treat. In fact, he seemed to take it from my hand when I brought it to him just because I'd gone to the trouble.

Any time a dog does not show inordinate interest in his favorite treat, something is wrong.

I called the vet this morning, by some miracle he is not off today; he is usually not working on Fridays. They sent me to his voice mail, I left a message about Fire's fever and inability to go upstairs, they called me back and tomorrow he is going to re-take the X-rays. We were going to wait a month. Guess two weeks to the day is necessary.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Summer Interlude

I think I have writer's block, apparently a mid-summer malady, as it seems to be affecting several bloggers.

Anyway, I'd like to thank those of you who have so generously donated money to help pay Fire's vet bills and for Grad school. I haven't yet heard from the program director at IPT, but that's not cause for alarm. He may very well be incommunicado this week due to if no response I will call IPT and get a message to him. Additionally I will also post my book list in case someone out there has what I need and doesn't need it for themselves. My main shopping will involve used books, just like when I was an undergrad, except now that world is my bookstore, not just the overpriced college shop.

As of the end of the day tomorrow, it will only be two more weeks of a regular paycheck, and then they should pay out my earned 60 hours of vacation time, which will take me to mid-August. And then, as now, I'm on God's graces.

When are any of us NOT on God's graces?

Tonight, though, I'm going to bed early. I'm exhausted. Fire is doing OK, is limping and still on twice-daily doses of Rimadyl. But he's taken to hopping so as to move along more efficiently outside, only using his bad leg when he has a need to walk slowly or put it down to support himself at the right moment. I'm not sure if it's my imagination, or just some muscles atrophying, but I think there is a knob forming, which it can't be...can it? Can cancer grow so quickly?

I pray it's my imagination. Mom always did say I had a vivid imagination. I really wish it was less vivid right now.

The last few nights have been rough for Fire. He has had a very difficult time getting comfortable, even though I bring the dogbed upstairs for him along with his kennel blanket (an old comfortor) for extra padding. Then he'll go to the futon I gave the dogs (it's old), and as he tries to first climb on and lay down, which used to be very easy for him, now he struggles, pants, shakes, turns and figits, the piece of furniture creaking all the while. Occasionally he also jostles against the bed, and if I have managed to start to drift back to sleep, I am nudged wide awake.

It doesn't help that the last couple nights were very warm, and even with the AC on, it doesn't do much in upstairs of my townhome, so I still have to make use of a fan, which blows on me all night. Which is uncomfortable, noisy, even for a quiet fan, and then I end up watching the clock and realizing I have only 4 hours to try to get good sleep...make that 3 hours and 40 min, or 3 hours and 30 minutes. Jump to 3 hours...then 2 and one half get the picture.

Yup. That's been my last few nights.

So tonight... * yawn *

Escuse me.


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

All God's People

One of the things my superiors have always commented upon has been my ability to "endear" people to myself and build rapport by taking our conversations outside of the parameters of our business relationship, lightening the conversation, bringing both themselves and I into the picture as people. No one trained me to do this; I'm actually just naturally nosy and talkative, and apparently, this force can be directed to Good!

This trait of mine has been addressed at many positions, even the ones that were complete failures for me; somehwere in my life, God gave me the ability to put people at ease when they are in crisis and make something as boilerplate as a recorded statement into a conversation. Perhaps had I remained in Law Enforcement I would have been able to obtain great confessions...but that's not who I am.

I do love people. I love their stories and legitimately want to learn about their lives. (Yeah, I'm also completely ego-centric as evidenced by this blog.)

Today, though, I heard a story that stopped me in my tracks such that I had to share it with my co-workers.

Keep in mind; I hate my job and the subject and focus of my job; not the customers. (Some are irritating to no end and there's nothing we can do right...)

This lady hails from Russia and has been in the United States for 15 years. I'm not sure how we got on the topic, but she made a comment about something so I opened the door wider and asked her what brought her here. She grew up under a dictatorship and when Gorbachev came into power, there was a very brief window of freedom for the people of Russia. This was her opportunity. She fled the country into the Ukraine, lived with her son for awhile and then they traveled to the United States, where they became citizens and made a life here.

She acknowledged that even though it's now "home", it's not Russia, it's not her homeland, and it's not perfect. However, she also knew that it was a gift to embrace the comforts and opportunities of this country, and she is giving something much as she is able. This summer, she is traveling back to the Ukraine, six hours from her own country. She will be so close to her family, yet she will not be able to visit because, as she said, Russia is still under a dictatorship. Should she try to return home, she would be considered to be a spy, she would be arrested, and she would never be released.

She will, in all liklihood, never see her family again.

Over the phone, I could hear how this breaks her heart. How she misses home. Her country is not about the political machine that governs it currently any more than the US is about our own political machinations. It is about family. It is about the land. It is about roots.

And she can never go home again; she can never embrace her family again.

This is true suffering.

I thank God for introducing me to people like her, to help remind me that we are a country of refugees, a society made up of people who have fled various nations and various histories, and we have made our home here. We have been born here, and we are now citizens of a soverign nation.

Sadly, we have forgotten our ancestry; we have completely come to disregard the sufferings of our previous generations who left family and land and home to sacrifice for the future lives of the progeny yet unborn; us.

Take some time tonight to consider from whence you came; consider your ancestry and the nations your grandparents or great-grandparents, etc. fled for the promise of the lives that would come, including yours. Consider their suffering, when the journey entailed, and how they could never go home again, either.

We are a country of refugees; let us remember, upon meeting those who are such recent Americans or even temporary residents, that they have come here for a reason, and everyone has a story. Most of them will calmly tell you stories of harrowing escapes, but gloss over them so you will not see their pain. They will tell you of fallen walls and dictatorships, they will tell you not of hovels, but of beloved family members they will never see again.

We must become family to people who are displaced and would not choose this country but for certain circumstances; we must listen to their stories and recognize that, but for the grace of God, there go we.

Jesus, I trust in Thee

To your Mercy, O Lord, I entrust my Past.
To your Love, I entrust my Present
and my your Providence. ~ St. Padre Pio

Any other captions?

Monday, July 16, 2007

A Thank You and a Renewed Bleg

Firstly, I offer a big THANK YOU to those of you who have assisted with Fire's Vet bills, and Fire thanks you, too. Actually, if you met him, he'd just walk up to you and demand to be petted because that's what he lives for. :-) He's just maintaining right now, his attitude is fine, he's interested in chasing squirrels and bunnies, an very frustrated with me for not allowing him to do so. He still can't go for real walks and I don't know if he ever will again...I don't really know what to expect. I will continue to provide updates. Please look here if you are interested in helping with Fire's Vet Bills.

Next on the list...

Grad School - Institute for Pastoral Theology. The deadline for registration is August 10, only a few weeks away. To date, I'm not even close to having the money, although, at $2,000 per semester for Grad credits, well, that's not bad. It absolutely kills me to see that this really is affordable and I can't pay for it. Such is life. When I was awarded the Merit scholarship, I was told to ask others for assistance to cover the remainder of what I cannot afford. I was also told to contact the program director if the money still wasn't there so that he could see if there was anything he could do. And of course, he instructed me not to wait until the last moment!

So tonight I sent him an email advising of my situation and inquiring about my options. I assured him I am not withdrawing or giving up - not when there's still time for God to act.

I am also renewing my request to any of you who may be willing or able to help to contribute to this fund. I hate blegging, but again, several people have suggested I do so, including the IPT Director (not blegging specifically...more like begging in general! lol!)

So if you do wish to assist with this, click here.

Thank you for anything you can do...including simply offering prayers!

Sunday, July 15, 2007


I grew up in Illinois, in the Rock River Valley, nestled against the rolling hills that always tend to accompany a river. It was a white-trash neighborhood filled with people of little financial means but big hearts, and really, a place where a novel should be set. Maybe one day I'll write that novel.

We had a babysitter, a teenager who lived across the street, a "tough girl" who smoked, loved horses, and had a soft side that didn't normally manifest. But one summer day when Mom was working and Annette was in the mood, she took us hiking. We were familiar with the local trails, the ones we went sledding on in winter, the trails my brother warned me were dangerous due to the fictional quicksand, and the monsters the inhabited a particular area. But of course, I had my own imagination and I knew that Bambi and Faline and the Great Prince of the Forest resided in a small thicket where the gravel road forked, so I was never afraid to walk the trail to visit my friends down the road.

Annette, though, took us beyond the beaten paths. Through the summer humidity we barely felt, through the dappled shade, across brooks with skating water spiders that made me scream and shy away, Annette lead and even forced us onward and upward, into one of our great childhood adventures, to a destination you’ll never find in any travel guide, but which hides in the hills and valleys of Rock River Valley; Skyway.

Back in the late 80's, I remember watching the movie on TV, "Bridge to Terebithia", about a girl and a boy who are both bullied in school due to different reasons, yet find deep, true friendship and a special place shared only by them.

Back in those years, I was having problems of my own...I actually identified with both characters. I won't go so far as to say I was "bullied", but I will say that I did not identify with my peers, partially because of my introspectiveness, partially because of my family's financial poverty. When I came across that movie, although it wasn't the most, well, high-budgeted film I'd ever seen, it captured me, it brought me into it, and it reminded me of Skyway, at a time in which I was desperately missing my home in Illinois. We had recently moved to Minnesota and I didn't have many friends; this story reminded me that true friendship was better to be valued than superficial popularity.

Just tonight, I watched the remake of this story and found the impact upon me to be even greater. Tonight, I went home. Tonight, I was reminded of Skyway and the imagination of childhood.

While our visit to Skyway does not compare to the special effects of Terabithia, nonetheless, the setting is nothing if not striking in similarity. Having crossed creeks and fought our way through the Illinois wilderness in our very backyard, we entered a sort of clearing created by very high trees and very little ground vegetation. A perfect place, screened from the outside by the prairie and the trees; shaded inside creating a cool oasis from the heat of the Illinois summer. Some mysterious kids, long before us, had built a tree house, using fallen trees from the area, rejected wood from various constructions, and rope that wasn't of any use to anyone but an imaginative child. There was a fallen-tree ramp leading up to a makeshift rope bridge, leading to a grand tree house nestled between both the deadfall and the live oaks present in that place.

The first time I saw Terebithia, I knew I was looking at Skyway; and I knew the magic, I knew the characters, and I knew the friendship

Tonight I watched the 2007 version of Bridge to Terebithia , and I could not stop the tears.

I remembered Skyway, and I empathized with the unreality and denial that accompanies the revelation of death. I asked the same questions as Jessie...can God send such a child to Hell? Theologically I answered this question before the end of the movie yet was surprised to hear it addressed, if only in sentimental terms.

My friends, I have been to Terabithia, and it is every bit as beautiful and mysterious and adventuresome as portrayed in the movie. It is a version of Narnia and every other childhood fantasy-world come to life. It is a time of friendship, a reality of memory, and a location that reminds us that there is a place for childhood to remain present with us forever. Terebithia and Skyway also remind us that tragedy isn't so far away; that even in the world of imagination and fantasy, we bring a part of ourselves, we remain there, and we influence future generations.

I am still wiping the tears from my eyes as I write this; I am still looking upon Skyway, I am still absorbing Terebithia, and I see a link with Narnia. They all encompass tales not only of childhood adventure, but of real-life sacrifice for a greater goal, true friendship, and the value of imagination in a world that seeks to quash that which is not readily apparent.

We are all called to be like children, to believe like children, and to live and love like children. Let us forever be reminded of the child within us who sees the mystery and the potential of the forts built by unknown hands in the deep forests in our back yards; let us forever be reminded of the friendships built from adversity; let us forever be willing to believe that which is "impossible", for it is within impossibility that God is most gloriously manifested.

For Tara...

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Rockin' the World!

I was nominated by Ironic Catholic as a Rockin' Girl Blogger, and now I get to nominate five other women who rock!

* Cathy_of_Alex, the Recovering Dissident. This woman blows me away with her knowledge of the faith and her boldness in sharing it with others, no matter what it might cost her. If the world were full of Catholics like her, well, it would be a better place. Gotta say it...she ROCKS!

* Angela Messenger. This Canadian Catholic woman and I have a bit in common...we both teach RCIA, but she's probably better at it and she knows more than I do. Her blog is filled with spiritual introspection and resultant instruction, humor, prayer, and parody. What else could anyone want? Angela is Rockin' Canada!

* Ma Beck! This Lady inspires me with her strong pro-life stance. She has a few recent posts about her experiences at an abortuary in Chicago and the raw reality contained within the words of Planned Parenthood workers themselves. And of course, I know she's tough because she was a Coast Guard Cop, and now, as an ex-Coastie I feel a bit of solidarity with her because I was an almost-Coastie. Learning that about her just increased the already-great respect I have for her and her writing. Rock on, girlfriend!

* Loved Sinner. Tara is a convert to the Church and has completely fallen in love, and that's why she rocks. Not only did she have to wade through a lot of stuff and overcome a great deal in order to join the Church, but once she made that decision she pressed on in spite of her own private battles. She kept her eyes on Jesus, knowing that He was there for her, and now she shares her conversion, her faith, and her everyday life and photos with us. I can see that she loves with the love of Christ, and that's why she deserves this award. Tara is A Rockin' Girl Blogger from Utah.

* Catholic Mom of 10. This wonderful Lady who hails from England not only serves as a loving mother to ten children, but is willing to put it all out there even in the face of rabid secularism. If that doesn't Rock, I don't know what does! Mrs. Jackie Parkes MJ, mantilla-twitch to you and yours!

And you know what? That's not enough. I'm sorry, but I HAVE to add another name, another blog, to the list. I'd be remiss if I did not.

* Sarah, the Snoring Scholar. Talk about writing from the heart, and even from the heart of the garden! She can bring a flower to life just as easily as she can bring her little girl's joi de vive to your screen...and apparently she doesn't have a green thumb! A confession here...for years, I thought that I could never be a mother, thought I'd NEVER want to go through childbirth, raise children, etc. Yet, when Sarah shares her experiences as a young mother with another on the way, I come to understand what it means to be a woman, what it means to be a mother, and the miracle of life is made personal to me. Thank God for women like Sarah. Is there any doubt that Sara is a Rockin' Girl?

Blog On, Ladies!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Who's Got an Axe to Grind?

Back when I was in training for the Fire Department, having gone through mostly academics for four months, we were then subjected to the last six weeks of training. At "The Tower".

The dreaded Tower.

I had worked hard in the academics and rivaled another guy (whose Dad was a Chief) for the top spot in the class. But being a woman, I knew that I could not maintain that position, and this reality was brought home in our first week at the Tower.

They had a setup to include a six story building attached to a two-story "residential" building with a typical Minnesota roof. There was also a specially-built training building which allowed for different floor plans, smoke machines, and propane-fueled flames.

And they had the chopping simulator. This was a one-story building with four cutouts fit for wooden pallets. I remember my first experience and training evolution involving this; we had to climb a ground ladder, step onto a roof ladder, climb it, step out onto the peak, move along it to the far side and climb down the ariel ladder (from the ladder truck) which was extended up to the peak. Then we went to the chopping simulator.

Most of we women just didn't have the strength to grab a pallet, which was more unweildy than it was heavy (although some were very heavy!) and carry it up a ladder, so some of the guys helped with this. It was put in place, and when we could chop through it (by breaking ALL the boards, leaving only the frame, and then chop the frame and push it through the holes to "clear" it from the roof), we'd be done.

I was given a pallet, thrilled it seemed to be very weak. So I swung the ax, which had a dull blade - they all did - and it bounced back at me without a result. Surprised, I swung again, harder. It bounced higher.

Frustrated, I really went to town on this thing, determined that it would not win. And finally a board broke. I rejoiced and continued until the axe flew out of my had from an especially surprising rebound. While a fellow classmate retrieved the tool for me, one of the other guys stopped what he was doing long enough to make a few suggestions, which, at the time, I thought made no sense. The boards were clearly the weakest in the center. I could jump on it and break it...why wouldn't the axe cut through? So I initially ignored his advice, decided I just wasn't swinging hard enough, and redoubled my efforts, resulting only in futile swings, much sweat, much frustration...and a "failure". My coworker just shook his head as I descended the ladder in exhaustion and defeat.

I had to try again later as we went through other training evolutions. And the situation repeated itself. I exhausted myself trying to break the pallet at it's strongest point, which, in my mind, was the weakest point. And no matter how hard I tried, I could not get through the springy wood. It continued to repel my axe. All around me, the guys were turning their pallets into toothpicks...and I couldn't even get through ONE!

Finally the Captain ordered me down, and after taking off the SCBA, the coat, and my helmet so I could wipe off the sweat and pour water on my head in the ninety-degree September heat, one of the guys pulled me aside. Another joined him. They explained to me why my pallet wasn't breaking; it had nothing to do with a lack of strength, but was completely about technique. They explained how the weaker points were really up against the frame, how to hit it so it would break, and that I wouldn't have to work so hard. They gave the same instruction to a couple other of the women, because this wasn't an issue of men versus women; we were a unified group, and where one was failing, all were failing. If not individually, then at least as a team. It literally hurt all of us to see one person struggling, and of course, there was the practical concern; we had to be able to depend on each other. One day, our lives may be in that person's hands, and the trust factor was greatly needed. We had to build each other up and help them overcome their own weaknesses.

I recieved a similar lesson when fighting with the hose one day...I simply could not hold it, advance it while on my knees, and control a straight stream. When I had to hold my position, even on my knees, without someone to support me from the back, the water pressure literally pushed me backwards. It was exhausting.

I wasn't the only person with this problem, and one female coworker provided a tip she got from another firefighter who'd gone through this training the year prior. As it was, I never got the opportunity to test that particular technique, but I have no doubt it worked as others did try it and were able to maintain and advance as they needed.

Does anyone else see a metaphor for "fraternal correction"?

When another member of the mystical Body of Christ is suffering, we all suffer in some way. When that person is struggling, engaging in a futile and self-destructive act, which also may affect us all, we MUST speak up and offer constructive correction. They are destroying themselves and putting everyone else at risk.

In training, we had to focus on saving lives.

In the Church, we focus on saving souls. Can we trust one another with our souls?

If we are not willing to speak up in correction or guidance, we are helping to sever any unity that might exist. If we are the ones in error, we NEED that correction before the axe we're using to beat through our agenda goes flying out of our hands and into an innocent person's back. We NEED to be brought to bear, or we'll go so far off course that the rest of the Body is brought down. Conversely, if we recognize that someone is doing something wrong, we are obligated to step in and provide some instruction.

Ultimately, the decision to listen to truth or to disregard is in the hands of the one in error, yet, when the error is chosen over truth, it hurts everyone, it affects everyone, and we are wounded greviously.

I'll never forget the willingness of my class to come to my aid when I was in error, and I'll never forget how much it hurt when someone failed. Part of our training involved building and recognizing that special unity we had as a team, that special bond between us all, and the understanding the reality that we had to depend upon one another.

It is no different in the Church, whether we are considering our own personal conduct or public conduct when claiming to represent the Church as a Catholic. None of us is perfect; we all struggle with something, perhaps many things. So it is that we are responsible for knowing our faith and doing our best to live it, go to Confession when needed, and accept legitimate correction when we are wrong. Beating a pulpit in futility destroys us, causes schrapnel to fly, and wounds the rest of the Body. And when we see that someone else is engaging in such behavior, be it subtle and known only to us as a close friend, or be it publicly and loudly, we must intervene and attempt to put a stop to the damage being done.

And just to sum it up with another metaphor:

A properly sharpened axe, when used correctly, even though sweat and muscle are a part of the process, makes short work of big obstacles.

Thanks, guys, for taking the time to teach me how to do it right.

Five Reasons Meme

Ironic Catholic has tagged me for a Meme:

Five reasons you love Jesus:

1. Because Jesus loved me first, with the complete, all-encompassing, perfect self-giving love that brought him here to die for our sins by reversing the sin of Adam and opening Heaven for our eternal union with God.

2. Because Jesus invites us to unite our suffering to his, dignifying our own suffering and giving it meaning, giving our very lives meaning.

3. Jesus never gave up on me, even when I had given up on myself, and he showed me that he will NEVER give up on me, no matter how lost I become, no matter how confused, no matter how dark it seems or how sinful I am, He will never give up and he will never let go.

4. Jesus healed my eyesight literally overnight when I was due for surgery the next day, and, years later, physically intervened to prevent me from taking my own life.

5. When I most needed Jesus, when I was all but orphaned due to family crisis, He kept me close to Him even when I didn't realize it, recognize him, or know him with any understanding. And through his loving protection through all those tumultous years, I came home, the Prodigal daughter, praying never to be separated from Him again.

I tag

Angela Messenger (Happy Birthday Lady!)

Snoring Scholar

and anyone else who doesn't have a blog but wants to play. That's what comboxes are fer!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

A Bleg

I didn't wanna do it, and I've been praying about it and thinking about it, and really digging in my heels and resisting the idea. It is very difficult for me to ask for money. I pretty much grew up on welfare due to my family's circumstances and as a result I swore I would never live like that again. I swore I would not ask for money from others because there's nothing wrong with me and I can work for what I want or need.

Of course, I could not see into the future, and I did not look at this through anything but the eyes of wounded pride.

Several people, both people I know, and people who are regular readers, have contacted me privately and suggested I set up a donation account. People have indicated they want to help, but think that if I do determine to go the "bleg" route, I should be safe about it for all involved, and I completely agree.

So after much prayer, my recent circumstances, to include impending Grad school, the dog's illness, and the upcoming end to my regular paychecks, well, I've come to realize that I can't do it all. And I also had to realize that sometimes pride can get in the way of others who legitimately want to help what they see as a worthy cause, and sometimes we have to have enough humility to allow God to work through others.

I will admit I am doing this with reservations, but just the same, I intend to be transparent about it and tell you what I need. I will allow you and God to determine what you should or should not do. As always, my circumstances are in His hands, not mine, and that has never changed.

Those who read my blog are aware that I recently gave notice at my work, another reason I'm so hesitant to "bleg". Yet I am not asking for anything for my personal circumstances; my specific requests are for the vet bills for my greyhound, and for assistance with Grad school.

As for an update on Fire; he is actually doing OK, but his limp is worse. I spoke with the vet today, and he indicated that he expects this condition to "wax and wane", and the limp may be worse now yet still get better over time. He is already at the high range of his medications and more could bring us into dangerous territory, so for now, it's just a matter of trying to keep Fire quiet. That's really hard when he's interested in chasing the squirrels he's not allowed to chase! For now, we're in a holding pattern, and next month we will go in for another diagnostic X Ray to find out if we are dealing with a bone cyst (and whatever implications that has), or osteosarcoma, which implications are obvious.

The bill thus far for Fire is $492.84 from the Emergency Vet Clinic on Friday, and $62.45 for the follow-up visit with our regular vet on Monday, including the additional pain medication (Rimadyl) given for PRN usage when the current course of meds runs out.


The second button I'm adding is for Grad school. I've had just as many people suggest I ask publicly for help with this. When I was accepted to school, I was awarded a Merit scholarship which is given for both need and merit. This covers 1/3 of the credits as long as I take 4 or more credits per semester. The agreement indicates that should I recieve a windfall, I should call the school to advise them that the scholarship is no longer needed; coversely, I was also told that if that scholarship is not enough, to contact them again so they can tap into other donors. People believe in this program so much they are literally making their own funds available for students who can't afford to pay for it. I pray to be one of those people one day.

In any case, I have spoken with a local priest who is seeking assistance for me for this program, but in response to the private emails I have recieved, I have decided to add a donation button for this as well.

My plans (God willing) are to take 5 credits this semester, and I just received the paperwork today. The costs are as follows:

* Tuition per credit hour........$479.00, 5 credit total:.....$2395
* Less amount paid by the Merit scholarship:.............. - $798.33
* Student fee per credit hour $20/credit. 5 credits...........$100.00
Amount needed after the scholarship........................$1,696.67
* Course notes for the following classes:
Old Testament I, Introduction to Vatican II, and Foundations of Catholic Spirituality...................... ...........................$50.25

Total needed for Fall Semester (not including books)..........$1746.92
There are costs for books and I do have the book list and recommended editions, etc. I'm not certain how much will be needed; I have a couple of the books, but ironically, although I own 3 Bible versions, it appears I need to buy another one.

I can list the needed books in another post in case someone has it and is willing to donate it, help me find it, or buy it for me. I can't ask to borrow a source, for I have already learned through experience that books become marked up, highlighted, underlined, and tabbed. And then they become officially "reference" material!

I don't know how to add this to my template, so for now, I'm just posting the buttons here. I've never done this before, and I do NOT want anyone to feel obligated. If the money isn't there for school, it's not there, and thus God's will is revealed.

I cannot stress this enough...I'm doing this very reluctantly, but at the behest of many people who think it's a good idea. Do not feel obligated; that is not my intention. Perhaps the biggest thing I need are prayers, and that costs nothing. If all you can or want to do is pray, I thank you from the bottom of my heart and I ask you in turn to let me know of any of your intentions. Fair warning...I entrust all intentions into the hands of Our Mother of Perpetual Help!

God bless you all.

Please note: I copied the HTML given by Paypal, and apparently it included a very lengthy space. I can't edit it out. Additonally, I had tried to label the buttons but the label did not come through. They are: Fire's Vet Fund, and Grad School Fund.

I Need a Latin Lesson

When I was recently reading Fr. Z.'s post about "sister" Joan Chittister's misunderstanding and misrepresentation of Catholic beliefs and the Motu Propio, I came across the following phrase, repeated by the priest while upon the altar:

Domine, non sum dignus

I know that it means, "Lord, I am not worthy!"

For reference, here is what Fr. Z. stated in his post:

Ehem…. one of those things the lone male priest is saying silently up there at the altar Sister can’t approach is "Domine, non sum dignus… Domine, non sum dignus… Domine, non sum dignus…" before anyone else says it."

Please understand that I have not had the opportunity to study Latin, although I love the language. My experience is in Spanish as my second language (I used to be quite proficient, nearly fluent), and due to my study, I am actually able to discern the meanings of many words in the Latin-based languages.

Additionally, this post is *not* about our worthiness or lack thereof to receive, nor is it about where this is in the Bible; this post is about pure linguists and the theology behind the usage of the Latin and specifical theological context with regard to the chosen words.

So, here is my question:

The word "dignus" is clearly the source for the word in English, "dignity". Theologically, "worth" and "dignity" are very much linked, but in English, they have very different connotations, and I am seeing, in spite of the differing connotations, they are absolutely related. But then that lends to a theological conundrum for me.

I agree that none of us is "worthy" to recieve Jesus, none of us is worthy to be saved by Him, none of us is worthy of the graces, the love, and the very gift of life given to us by God. We have inherent dignity, but we are not worthy of that dignity given so freely to us.

So, I completely understand why the priest is praying, " Domine, non sum dignus, Lord, I am not worthy". Over and over.

But if I translate it, "Lord, I do not have the dignity", that changes the meaning, at least, in English.

We know that as human beings, we have inherent dignity, and perhaps I have just understood the term "dignity" as being at a lower value than "worth". When I see the word "worthy", that denotes a quantatative value. The word "dignity", however, is a dignity given to us which is equal across the board. There is not quantitative value to the term. I believe that when God became man, He elevated our dignity, for, as it states in the Vatican II document Gaudium et Spes, 22, "He worked with human hands, he loved with a human heart..." etc. Jesus elevated our existing dignity ever further by becoming one of us...but this is not the same thing as elevating our WORTH.

Because even within our dignity as human beings, and thus our "worth", we cannot possibly be "worthy" ENOUGH for what God has condescended to give us so lovingly.

I simply do not see the equality in the terms "worth" and "dignity", although I do see their relationship to each other.

Can someone please explain to me why "dignus" is translated as "wothy" and not "dignity" as it appears it should be?

What am I missing theologically and linguistically? (Um, a lot, but let's just start here....)

It really seems to me that the use of Latin in the liturgy requires not just an understanding of the bare translations (for those so inclined) but of the theological value of the words chosen and the meanings behind those words, such as "dignus". It seems they cannot be taken on simple face value, but must be understood historically and within a certain linguistic and theological context. This perception actually deepens the respect I have for the Old Form of the Mass (Tridentine), although I have never attended it. I have attended a Latin Novus Ordo, and loved it, my only desire being that I wish I was actually well versed in Latin.

So....can anyone explain this translation of "dignus" to "worthy" and give me a Latin lesson 101 as it pertains to this particular wording?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

What am I? And Who are YOU?

Thus said St. Francis. I realize that today is the Feast day of St. Benedict, and while his daughter, a Benedictine Sister, inspired my post, it is the words of St. Francis that define it.

During Lent this last spring, while I was undergoing a particular trial in life, I remember that I was having great difficulty in everything, including prayer after Communion. I had so much I wanted to say to God, there was so much I wanted to hear God saying, but there was no communication whatsoever. I came close to despair, and fought that temptation with great difficulty. I felt my faith failing me. Who is God, anyway? What difference does it make?

So I knelt and looked up at the huge crucifix that graces our sanctuary, and I just considered intellectually what I'd been learning in class about Jesus Christ and who he was. What he did. For us. I considered his suffering, and I stared intently at the nails in his hands, the crown of thorns digging into his head, the blood running in rivulets I knew had been there, although they are not depicted on a typical crucifix.

It struck me, suddenly, so hard that I couldn't even breathe for a few moments. Tears threatened to overwhelm me.

My life has no meaning apart from the cross. My life has no definition apart from the suffering of Jesus on my behalf. My own suffering has no meaning without reference to Him.

And I realized it was true, and how deeply I believed it. At that time, my load did not lighten, but it was, rather, illuminated before me, allowing me to see it through the eyes of my Savior.

Tonight I was watching EWTN and something Benedictine Sister Gertrude Gillette, O.S.B said has just brought that illumination of Lent back into my present.

She was discussing relationships; we are who we are in relation to others. We all affect others and are affected by them in life, and this, in turn, defines who we are and who we become. She described how the Benedictines define themselves in relation to Christ - and so should we all.

Just as God revealed to me on that day in Lent, my life has no meaning, I am nothing, without relation to Jesus Christ. It is He who must define me, who must lead me, who must shape me into what I am supposed to become.

So it is for us all.

The the thoughts of others, the attitudes of others, good or bad, enter our souls through our senses. When we read, the words of another person comes through our eyes, our intellect, and enters our souls, perhaps changing us forever. What we hear enters our ears, passes through our minds, and becomes a part of our souls, again, potentially changing us forever. It is relational.

So we have to ask ourselves; what are we reading, not so much to consider the words, but to contemplate what we are alloing to enter into our very souls. We have to think about what we are hearing; what is going on around us, and does it glorify God and dignify us? Or does it sneer at God and trample our human dignity to bits...and how does that affect us and or ability to be Christ-like to others?

We MUST look only to Jesus to define ourselves. No other human being can substitute, and we should be looking to those who exemplify Christ as models. We need to pay attention to what we read or see or hear and take care that it is not poison we are so willingly imbibing into our very souls.

The good Benedictine Sister reminded me today to look to Christ to define my path; to look to Him to understand my trials and my suffering. To look to him to infuse virtue into my soul.

Because apart from Jesus, I am only so much dust and ashes; apart from Christ, there is no reason for me to live. United with Christ, we are instruments of God and his strength becomes ours, and in that relationship, God is glorified and our own dignity as human beings is affirmed.

So I answer these questions from the good St. Francis:

What am I? Only dust, and to dust I will return.

Who are You? My Creator, my Savior, my Father, my God, the lover of my soul, the One who knew me before I was born, who loved me even as he was tortured and suffered death for my sins, the only one who will ever suffice. God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit.

What am I, you ask? Nothing, apart from God.

Monday, July 09, 2007

The Sunflower

When we first moved to Minnesota, we were excited to see sunflowers blooming in our yard in July. I don't know why, but there was something about that long, powerful stalk and the huge disk with petals that helped me to feel at home. I had not grown up with these flowers, but something about their presence was comforting to me.

Overall, I do not really see myself as that much of a "flower-girl". I like flowers, but I've been a tomboy for so long that, in some ways, flowers just don't seem to define me (other than the dandelion or the violet, both seen as being "weeds"), yet as I've gotten older, their beauty keeps drawing me to them and more deeply, into God.

So when I bought my townhome, which has only eastern sun exposure, I planted a sunflower seed. It began to sprout that first year, but I needed that particular space to store some outdoor "furniture" so, being stuck in constant shadow, the little sprout died.

It's been a few years now, and this year I determined that although I don't have a green thumb, I should attempt to grow sunflowers again, partially for privacy for my ground-floor window and protection from the sun, and also, for a little bit of beauty in what "land" I have. So I went to the store and purchased a few varieties, but what clearly intereste me most was the Giant Sunflower; it has a long stalk, and when it blooms, it's huge. It has edible seeds, and basically, this flower is completely useful. And it grows in the wild, meaning even someone without a greeen thumb can grow it.

So I planted a few seeds, and our spring, in the beginning, was wet. I eagerly watched the little sprouts, and then, another, unexpected sprout appeared, right where I had planted the seed a few years ago.

This time, I have been careful not to cover the area with shade; I want to watch new life bloom before my eyes, and this little sprout, which at first resembled the weeds, caught my attention. I had been about to weed my "garden", and something told me to hold off. So I put the gardening gloves away, watered the clover and the mystery sprout, and hoped for the best.

It wasn't long before I recognized the sunflower stalk, and knew this was no ordinary "weed". This was the seed I planted years ago, finally given enough light and water to rise from the ground that had held it captive for so long.

My new sprouts also began, but I had planted them late in the season so hoped they would survive. Every day they were bigger, but I realized I'd planted them too close together. They were doing well...would one crowd the others out? Would they all die?

And then we were hit with a few days of intense heat, intense sun, and a period of intense dryness. We've been in a drought here in Minnesota, and sadly, I had to watch my little seedlings first fade, the wither, then die.

There was another sunflower stalk almost as large as my original one; I'm not sure where it came from, but there it was, and just as the seedlings died, that one did as well. I tried to save all of them. When I saw the little ones fading, I removed a couple of the weaker ones, and added some potting soil to the sandy, rocky ground. I added water for a few days...but they continued to decline. Then the heat sealed their fate, and they all died, even the brother to my healthy stalk. It withered, bent over, and in spite of my ministrations, it also died and became home to spiders. I quickly put an end to THAT!

But for a couple weeks now, I've been watching my original seed come to fruition; that stalk has grown daily, literally visible to the naked eye. I have watched the head form at the top, leaves actually closing at night, and the head drooping in the shade and then again with the evening, seeming to wilt. Yet upon the morn, upon the rising sun, the head of this flower has begun to lift, and each day, it is visibly larger. Each day the leaves grow bigger, each day, the stalk grows wider and more supportive.

Yesterday, I saw a glimpse of yellow petals, thinking that perhaps they would begin to open in a couple days. And then, in the late afternoon, we were hit with a storm. Along with a strong gust, the torrential rains fell, and all creation praised God for we needed this deluge so desperately! I watched my flower anxiously as it waved in the wind, blown to and fro in the gusts, rising in between, flexible enough to withstand and still hold its ground.

This morning, I opened the drape and was shocked to see what looked like an open hand, waiting to greet the sun just hinting at its coming. When I let Fire out to walk, we inspected the flower and I saw the green center and open petals. I've noticed that it really does follow the sun...drooping low but hopefully open in the morning, wide open to receive the light and heat of the sun as long as the direct rays are available, and remaining open to receive even reflected rays once the stalk and flower itself are cast again into the shadow under th eaves.

Tonight I began to be alarmed as the flower again began to droop, but was reminded that this flower literally follows the sun. Upon closer observation, I saw that it is already pollenating, and some of the pollen has fallen upon the leaves. My flower is growing quickly and will soon be in its full glory; and by its very existance, God is praised.

I am the woman without a green thumb, watching every day as this miracle of a flower, one that lived in the shadows for three years, has finally sprouted and has come to fruition. All I did was plant a seed, and wait. All I have done was take away the shadow that suppressed that original seed, and finally, God's creation has come to bloom almost at my very doorstep, and certainly before my livingroom window.

What metaphors might this simple flower, once considered to be only a weed, have in store for all of us?