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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Tonight I am making Chicken Tortilla Soup. Soups are so easy, and this one is filling, but is as fattening or non-fattening as you make it. Also, please note that this can be made Vegetarian; the substitutions are obvious, but I'll detail them at the end.

This soup is as spicy or mild as YOU make it.


* Skinless chicken breasts
* 1 fresh tomato
* 1 -2 cans diced tomatoes; (I use Ro-tel cilantro-lime and diced chiles flavor. Use the same 2 or mix the flavors...either way it's good. The latter is spicier)
* 1 small or medium chopped onion
* spices: cilantro (fresh is best!), paprika, celery salt, fresh garlic, fajita spices....check your cupboard! Any and all Mexican spices will work, all according to your taste.
* Salsa - add your favorite. I love using Mrs. Renfro's Roasted Garlic salsa. It is on the mild-to-medium side of spiciness, but cooks well into the soup. I recommend using what you have in the house or just buy your favorite.
* sour cream
* shredded cheese - purchased Mexican blend, or cheddar, monterrey jack, nacho, etc.
* Tortilla chips or Tortillas **
* Fresh avocado
* Serrano pepper or jalapeno - diced, seeds removed

* Secret Ingredient: Tiger Sauce. (Carried by Cub Foods, which is under the umbrella of SuperValue)

1. Chicken - either buy chicken tenders or cube a package of boneless/skinless chicken breasts. (note: you may also cube chicken after it's cooked)
2. Put chicken in pan, cover with water. Make sure chicken is completely submerged, and extra water is will cook off.
3. Bring to boil. When chicken appears to be done, remove pan from heat, remove chicken from water. Important!: Reserve the water - this is your broth (or base). **
4. Add the canned diced tomatoes, your chosen flavor.
5. Add chopped onion and chopped fresh tomato, cilantro, and chosen spices
6. Simmer.

**** HINT: You may simmer for an hour or more, or less time; if you like your onions to be crispier, either add them later or cook less. You may play with the time; all the ingredients are cooked so if all you do is heat and serve, you'll still have a good, flavorful soup. I prefer a longer cooking time so that I can play with the ingredients and the flavor. This would be a good crock-pot soup for that reason.

7. When you have determined that the soup is "done", remove from heat. You have two choices:

* blend the soup to smooth it out. I use a hand mixer, but a blender can also be used.
* serve as a "chunky" soup. If you serve as "chunky" see next step.

8. Add the cubed chicken and cook for a few minutes to reheat it.

9. Serve soup immediately over tortillas. Add sour cream, avocado, and cheese as condiments.


** Tortillas: If you use fresh tortillas, you will need to create your own chips. Cook the tortillas in a spray of vegetable oil in a fry pan or grill, then break up into chips. Otherwise, just purchase pre-made chips. Old Dutch is common, Doritos will add a different flavor.

** For a milder soup, omit the serrano pepper, use mild or no salsa, and choose a brand of diced tomatoes without spice. You may also use more fresh tomatoes in lieu of the canned stuff.

** VEGETARIANS AND VEGANS: In lieu of making chicken and stock, just use Vegetable stock. All of the ingredients listed above are made organically. I'm not sure about Tiger Sauce, so check the label.

*** ADDITIONS: You may add corn, celery or other veggies to this soup.

Please make suggestions or addtions in the combox.

As it is, this is soup I would serve Jesus if He came to my house. And anyone else. It's not terribly expensive, it's easy, adaptable, and gosh darn it, people like it!

!Buen Provecho!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Under the Bridge

Back in December, 2006, I posted the following poem:

Beneath the bridges
of the highways
People speed by, never seeing
the homeless citizens
beneath them.
The full moon rises over the city
setting in silhouette
makeshift shelters
under which
the downtrodden settle
with their bowls of soup
the light they can't seem to catch.

Tonight, I read a post over at A Second Chance, well worth reading for everyone. The article he cites is in my territory; I intimately know the area, and I will share a piece of this with you. But first, please read Uncle Jim's post:

35W and University Avenue

Best job: "Working for Northwestern Bell, back in '72. Lineman."

Worst job
: "Day labor stuff. Minnesota Barrel, for instance. They're heavy, you gotta stack 'em three high and stuff. But it was a job. I did everything there is."

Last job: "Senior center in Cambridge, doing maintenance work on their facility. I'm a handyman."

Dream job: "I dunno. I really don't. I'm on veterans' disability. I was in Vietnam."

Although Uncle Jim quotes three, I used this one...because it is the children of our generation who will be writing articles on us, but they will be quoting "Desert Storm", "Afghanistan", or "Iraq". And if you look at the current political culture, you will see some very disturbing parallels with the Vietnam Generation.

So, without, further ado, I'll tell my story, because this image lives on in me and I will not rest until I both share it and live up to it.

My regular readers are aware of the job I hated so much...working for a big insurance company. I was an investigator, and part of my job (a large part, actually) involved going to the Land of Misfit Cars to complete vehicle inspections.

So it was that I often passed by the intersection of Lyndale and Dunwoody, 2nd Ave, and Glenwood. All run from downtown Minneapolis, under I-94 in the area of I-394, and serves as a particular place in which the Homeless make themselves known.

Some bridge underpasses are for shelter; others are for jobs.

I often saw people holding cardboard signs; "Will work for FOOD". And the like.

One day, after leaving Minneapolis Impound and heading south on Lyndale from 2nd Avenue, I came to the stop light at Lyndale and Dunwoody. I was driving a company SUV with our name on the side, and as such, was always conscious of the image I was projecting to the well as the need to protect the confidential information that was held in my laptop on the passenger seat. I never did anything when I saw these people, usually choosing to avoid eye contact, although I often offered prayers. It was all I could do; I did not carry money or anything else on the job.

On that day, though, I saw something amazing.

How many people, when they see the homeless holding up signs, think, "Well, if I give that person money, he's just going to spend it on alcohol?" Or some variation on that theme.

So it was that I was in the vehicle, just waiting for the light to change. On the Northeast corner of Lyndale and Dunwoody, a man stood, holding a sign, begging for food.

Another young man, perhaps a college student coming from Dunwoody, was crossing Lyndale towards the homeless person, holding an apple in his hand along with his books.

I watched as he passed the man, neither acknowledging each other. god and the homeless both know that students are poor and have nothing to offer, so the former did not address the latter, expecting he would not be able to respond.

The homeless man with the sign kept on searching the drivers at the light; he did not approach anyone, only stood with his sign, the epitomy of humility.

But then something happened. The young man, the student, stopped in his tracks in the shadow of I-94, there on the west side of Downtown Minneapolis. He stopped, and looked at the apple in his hand, then turned on his heel and returned to the man with the sign, who was, by then completely oblivious to his presence.

The man with the apple either spoke or tapped the man on his shoulder, I can't remember which. The man with the sign turned around in obvious surprise, and dropped his hand-made sign to his side as he responded to the student.

The student held out his apple, almost hesitantly, yet with a certain confidance; as though he recognized that this is what he was supposed to do. The homeless man seemed to question the gift; he was clearly shocked, but when the student shrugged and continued to hold out the apple, the homeless man accepted it with a bow of gratitude, his surprise written into every feature. As the student walked away the homeless man bowed again, the gratitude literally fused into his very being, and he began to eat the apple with complete joy. His sign was forgotten; he had food in his hand, and it didn't matter that he was standing on a ghetto street corner beneath an interstate bridge...he had food from a generous stranger.

That scene has played itself out in my mind, over and over again.

It's not safe to carry money, and I have done too much work with regard to car theft to just open my window to people. And if in the middle lane, inviting people into traffic for a handout is simply not a good idea.

But the simplicity of an apple, the simple gesture of offering it with a shrug...that has done so much for me.

We don't have to offer change to the poor. We can offer actual food. We can offer granola bars, apples, gift certificates...things we ourselves use.

From that day on, I always wanted to have something to offer, but I didn't because if someting went wrong, I did not want to compromise the private information of my customers. But as a regular citizen, being a woman...could I offer something safely?


You know your neighborhood. Those who stand on corners tend to be "regulars". They are not there to carjack you. Discern. Can you safely offer some fruit or a biscuit from breakfast, an extra meal for the guy who hangs out on your nearby corner? Do you have a copy of "Employment Weekly" or the name of a Social Worker they can contact?

Do you have the name of a church they can go to for help? A soup kitchen?

Go to your Guardian Angel, and address that of the person you are now considering. Be guided in your giving, but give. The man I saw did not see the reaction of the homeless man, who continued to rejoice long after his benefactor was out of sight.

We do not love the poor for their gratitude; we love them for the Christ who redeemed them and who lives within them.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Feast Day of my 2007 Patron

This year, St. Wenceslaus chose me and, initially, for the life of me I really couldn't figure out the connection. I am not Czeck, I am not royalty, nor am I in government. But chosen me he has, and so I placed my hand in his and asked him to help lead me closer to Jesus as we journey through 2007.

I have done some research to learn more about this saint, whose name is so familiar to us in the Christmas song:

"Good King Wenceslaus looked out
On the Feast of Stephen
And the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even!"

The song tells the story of St. Wenceslaus, King of Bavaria (patron St. of Bavaria and Czechoslavalkia)who was out with his Page and saw a poor man gathering firewood to keep warm. They tramped through the snow, King Wenceslaus sending the page to find out what the poor man needed and how to best help him. The song also discusses the Page walking the Saint's footprints in the snow because Wenceslaus led the way to the man who needed their help.

The song is not really based on his life, but just the same, what an image of Christ to us all! But he was more than a song; this man stood as a rock in the face of the persecution of his own time, placing his trust in Christ rather than in the world.

Wenceslaus was born of pagan parents but raised as a Christian by his grandmother, St. Ludmilla. When he was older, St. Ludmilla encouraged him or, rather, somewhat pushed him into a governmental role which he intially resisted. In that time and place, the government was ruled by pagans. (Sound familiar? Although in our culture we call them "Democrats").

St. Ludmilla was murdered by the pagan regime for she was also an outspoken Christian.

Wenceslaus was murdered by his own brother and his brothers' associates on the steps of a Church, having refused to cowtoe to the pagan animosity towards his Christian stance. They cut him to pieces and buried him. His brother later repented and had his remains moved to the Basilica of the Infant of Prague, where they are today.

He was dedicated to Jesus, to teaching the faith in a pagan nation, and is the patron of Bavaria and Czechloslovalkia. He is known for his virtues, especially that of Patience.

In reviewing his story, I see a few parallels...I am a fledgling catechist, I am involved in parish leadership, I just began working formally in a church in the area of faith formation, and I am completely without virtue. So perhaps he has taken pity on my inability to overcome attachment to sin and is going to help me to obtain the Virtues he exemplefied so much? Patience, Humility, Temperance, Fortitude...

And I'll really appreciate it if he helps me with the upcoming presentations I have to give, and an article I have to write for the parish newsletter.

St. Wenceslaus, pray for us!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Breast Cancer and Denial

I was just watching the news, and their top story was a study on the link between alcohol consumption and breast cancer.

They interviewed several women, all of whom said that the link makes them think a little more, or maybe reconsider, because being healthy is of the utmost importance, etc.

The news story cited evidence that indicates even ONE drink per day SIGNIFICANTLY increases the risk of breast cancer.

Well, I agree, this could be really important news, but just the same, call me jaded and cynical; did the study include a couple of control groups? Specifically, control groups that isolated the use of birth control hormones or non-use of birth control hormones?

Because I've never ONCE seen the local news discuss the significant link between birth control pills and breast cancer, or, more recently, the effects of elevated estrogen and the impact upon fish.

I have a sneaking hunch that the study in this case did NOT involve the control groups which would indicate a HUGE variable, and in fact, a variable present to such a degree that it would prove the cited results of alcohol and breast cancer to be completely invalid.

Perhaps there is a link; I'm willing to believe that. But why does the link between birth control and breast cancer continue to be suppressed? And if the same women interviewed in bar were told that birth control pills may cause them to be breastless or dead later in life, how many of them would have shrugged and taken another sip, without making another comment?

Doesn't it just make you wonder?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


...not as though you aren't already. They are trendy, they are popular with the Hollywood set...but Caribou has MUCH better coffee, not to mention much better taste in music.

Have you seen this article?

Joni Mitchell is back after nine years, and she’s on the attack. In the title track to her new album, “Shine,” Mitchell takes a nice swipe at the Catholic Church by name.

“Shine on the Catholic Church/And the prisons that it owns,” she sings. “Shine on all the Churches/that love less and less.”

Mitchell was never one to mince words, but in her triumphant return on Starbucks’ Hear Records, she doesn’t give an inch."

You can read the rest yourself.

OK. I have a degree in Criminal Justice, and I studied in two countries. There were prisons in both. I toured prisons all over Minnesota as part of my education, and took one tour with a friend who worked at one of them. Fascinating thing; the Catholic Church didn't own ANY of them! Some prisons are, in fact, privately owned; it's a fairly new trend. But the Catholic Church is not in on that business. She does supply chaplains, however, to answer to the spiritual needs of those imprisoned, to uphold their dignity as human beings.

Perhaps we should send a Catholic Chaplain to attend to the spiritual needs of Joni Mitchell...she doesn't really have much dignity left. And I think she's consumed BOTH of her feet in this deal, so maybe she's also in need of a ride somewhere. We should be charitable and answer to that.

But then again...I'm not sure I want to subject some poor priest to her animosity.

You can make your thoughts known to Starbucks', and I encourage you to do so. Here's what I had to say:

Hi. Like Joni Mitchell, I am an opinionated artist. Oh... and did I mention that I'm Catholic? Too bad for you, I'm also a very OPINIONATED and OUTSPOKEN Catholic, as are a good number of my friends and acquaintances. I'm opinionated much like Joni Mitchell, but I learned a long time ago not to stick my foot in my mouth by sounding off about things beyond my comprehension.

Additionally, I've learned not to SUPPORT such loose cannons. That's a lesson Starbucks needs to learn.

It just so happens that, in addition to my strong, opinionated personality, I am Catholic AND I have a degree in Criminal Justice. And, just because I'm curious, could you, or she, tell me exactly WHICH prison is owned and operated by the Catholic Church? My goodness, perhaps I could have gotten a job there when I was unemployed after college!

And more importantly, I'm wondering why Starbucks is supporting and promoting the work of an artist who has made a completely unjust and ill-informed attack upon the Catholic Church?

May I remind you that there are a good many customers who happen to be of the Catholic faith? And those Catholics have lots of friends who are NOT Catholic...but don't like to see their friends insulted. And I'd like to remind you also that Catholics and their friends like coffee. A LOT. And if you hope to do any damange control at all, it may be for the best if you remove Joni Mitchell from your playlist, because another facet of Catholicism is that we like to talk to people, and we are NOT afraid to defend our faith. Especially when it's so easy because the "artist" in question is spouting off, not citing facts.

We, the members of the Catholic faith, have the ability to cite facts and figures in direct refute to what Ms. Mitchell has offered. Now, in all charitibility we may surmise that it is not Starbucks making such reckless charges, but in actuality, as the business carrying her music, in fact, you DO bear responsibility for her words and her position.

Does Starbucks REALLY want to support the unintelligent sputter of a dying artist whose last hope of popularity is that of Catholic bashing? or is that the last hope of Starbucks as well?

Please remove this artist from your association. Thank you

I sent in my comment under my name because I don't believe in speaking up to such a thing without being willing to take a hit for it. If we stand for what we believe, we have to be willing sign our signatures to it.

Starbucks has a history of doing controversial things, and they do it to MAKE business, because this kind of thing garners attention. There are those who will now be drawn to Starbucks due to name recognition. There are those who will go BECAUSE they bash the Church. Starbucks knows this. This entire thing is a calculated business move, and they also realize that most Catholics are lackluster as best.


Step up! I think that all or most of my readers are Catholic, so I ask all of you to write to Starbucks here, and tell them of your boycott, and that of your friends. Perhaps some of our non-Catholic friends would be willing to stand in solidarity with us against Starbucks...because, in actuality, they could be next. Perhaps our Muslim friends would be willing to write in to Starbucks and tell them that religious persecution is wrong, and they won't patronize this business anymore, either.

If Starbucks hears from enough people, they might change their tactics.

And it will have more impact if those who address Starbucks mention their faith tradition or lack thereof in denouncing the lyrics of Joni Mitchell.

So those of you who claim to fight for justice...speak up! And Catholics....if you don't speak...who will listen?

Blogger Reflection Award

Last week I was shocked to discover that angelmeg at Transcendental Musings nominated me for this award. I am amazed by her kind words and the nomination, and happy that my writings have apparently had an impact of some sort on others. All for God's Glory!

Here are the rules:

1. Copy these rules.

2. Reflect on five bloggers and write a least a paragraph about each one.

3. Make sure you link to this post so others can read it and the rules.

4. Leave your chosen bloggers a comment to let them know they've been given the award.

5. Put the award icon on your site

So, without further ado, and in no particular order, here are the bloggers who have also impacted me:

Angela Messenger: I found my way to her blog after she left a comment on mine, and for some reason, I have never left! She's one of those "gotta-check-every-day" blogs that addresses a range of things; deep spiritual introspection, everyday life, family, work, and liturgical conundrums. I always learn things from her, and so I encourage you to spend some time over at her place, too; you may find yourself cheering on her pro-life actions!

Father V. : Father V.'s posts are informative, inspiring, and oftimes, hard-hitting. He is in the process of providing ongoing catechesis in the art of symbols in the Church, as well as the realities of serving as a priest in today's world. His parish is lucky to have him, and I'm thrilled to have made his acquaintance (via blogging).

The Recovering Dissident Catholic: : Cathy_of_Alex does NOT mince words. That quick mind and biting sarcasm (with a soft heart) used to work for another side....and when she learned the Truth, she grabbed onto it with hands and feet and has resolved never to let go! And now she puts her talents to work in putting the rest of us to shame when she puts common behaviors of Catholics under the microscope of what is proper...and what is lazy or sinful. God bless her and may every other recovering dissident out there come to see the light so clearly!

Cow Bike Rider: He is on a journey, and is undergoing some very deep introspection which requires not only an assessment of what he has always believed, but what he is being lead to believe. And he is inviting us along on his journey, inviting comments and advice as he pursues God's will for him. I am constantly astounded by the fortitude of people who seek to follow Christ, even in the face of adversity that seems to try to prevent the steps they need to take. My prayers are with him as he undergoes perhaps the most reflective and exciting experience of his life.

Vive Jesus!: Ali is a fan of St. Frances de Sales and an author of deep reflections that will bring tears to your eyes. She has the ability to take a snapshot of life and serve it to you in a whole new perspective.

I pray you all will visit the blogs noted here, and find yourself, through them, lead ever closer to the Lord.

Monday, September 24, 2007

A Second Chance

The Fox and the Hound
The other morning, around 6 am or so, I was walking my dog before work. As we approached the woods on the other side of the park, a dog-like creature came out from the underbrush and trotted along the treeline. He saw us and stopped immediately, his ears forward, eyes bright. He even took a couple steps towards us, likely interested in my dog who was regarding him in much the same manner as we advanced upon his position.

I realized that the creature was a fox, his red coat and bushy tail even brighter than I'd imagined it would be; I'd never seen a red fox in the wild before. They are rare, elusive animals that prefer to remain undetected on the fringes, and take in the world around them carefully before responding.

This little guy had courage; I did not get a sense that he was a bit fearful of us, although it's unlikely that many have seen him. A year or so ago I heard rumors of a coyote in the area, which may be true, for they are everywhere, but it's more likely they saw this fox in his silver phase; I caught him in his red phase, and what beauty!

We continued our walk, and when he was uncomfortable with our trajectory he darted back into the safety of the thicket along the creek, but not without another glance back at us.

A Second Chance

Some people prefer to remain on the fringes. They read the blogs, and they enjoy what they read, but find that it's much more to their amusement and satisfaction to read and only occasionally comment. Sometimes they comment in the form of emails only, sometimes publicly in the comboxes. But they don't have blogs of their own, because they would prefer to take in the world around them, observe, and provide their wisdom when it is needed or called.

Many people don't even know such readers are there, for they are so elusive, and perhaps, when glimpsed, they are mistaken as other bloggers or something. Thus, legends develop.

And every so often, one of these comes out of the shadows and starts his own blog....

And I've been thinking along IT'S ABOUT DARN TIME!

So all y'alls, hightail it on over to Uncle Jim's place, and you'll find him to be a very hospitable host and he tells his stories and seeks your own, all revolving around Second Chances. See you there!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Alive in Christ

8. In the earthly liturgy we take part in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the holy city of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, a minister of the holies and of the true tabernacle [22]; we sing a hymn to the Lord's glory with all the warriors of the heavenly army; venerating the memory of the saints, we hope for some part and fellowship with them; we eagerly await the Saviour, Our Lord Jesus Christ, until He, our life, shall appear and we too will appear with Him in glory [23].

~ Sacrosanctum Concilium, Vatican II Document on Sacred Liturgy

This weekend I have class all weekend. Last night, one of my classmates announced that we were all invited to a baptism; she is the Godmother of a child who was being baptized in a manner that was being rushed for some reasons she would not divulge. The mother was living at the maternity home operated by the Missionaries of Charity, is Catholic, and agreed to have her son baptized.

So when our class (which takes place at a local church) adjourned for our one-and-a-half-hour lunch break, some of us went up to the sanctuary to be witnesses to this auspicious event.

Several things struck me immediately when we came into this small group, each having an impact of its own. First, I noticed a mother with a child. Initially I thought that she was the mother, but no, she was a witness, there to support her friend. Then I saw the little boy in question, a toddler, running around in a white satin tuxedo with Our Lady of Guadalupe embroidered on the back, coming back every now and again to hug his pregnant mother.

He was clearly the boy to be baptized. There was no father present, as you'd expect, although there were about four Missionaries of Charity...and their very holiness was so apparent in their faces. They were very similarly statured, and at times, I fully expected that if they turned around I would see Mother Teresa herself.

My devotion to her has suddenly increased. This was the first time I have ever been in the presence of the Missionaries of Charity. They were constantly smiling. They were clearly devoted to the mothers and children they serve. They were so obviously comitted to serving Jesus that He was present in every move.

Then we learned there was also to be a Mass. Great! But did we have time? Father was running late and came out to apologize, explaining he had to set up. There was no sacristan, apparently.

Some of us sat down in a pew to wait, as did a couple of the Sisters across the aisle. The little boy in his white tux ran around, seeking the Sisters. He ran into the pew, and Sister greeted him with a glowing smile, caught him up, and held him in her lap for a moment.

I was so struck by the image of her reaching arms, her veil, and that child coming to her. Suddenly I realized I was seeing a reflection of Mary, our Heavenly Mother, always ready with open arms, always ready to to catch us up, beaming, awaiting our affection, returning her own. The woman clothed as a Missionary of Charity was a very image of the Mother of God; and as I watched, my eyes teared up. All I saw was love. All I saw was Heaven; all I saw was our Mother, realizing that she treats us all in the same way. We are all her children, all so beloved.

Two of us had to leave for a moment, and then something came up that took me away. I left the church sadly, thinking I could not be there, honestly regretting it. I was torn; on one had I really wanted to eat lunch, and I brought part of our meal today for the class. On the other hand...I REALLY wanted to be at this Mass and Baptism! So I went and took care of the issue that had arisen, considered getting lunch...but could not eat. My hunger was quashed. So I walked up the stairs to the church...could I still go?

As I approached, I saw people kneeling in prayer. Was Mass well underway?

Quietly I opened the door and saw that although the candles on the altar were lit, Mass had not begun. I could attend! Yay!

So I slipped into a pew to join the very small crowd, and shortly thereafter, Mass began. We sang a hymn, and then Father opened with the Sign of the SPANISH! I had not realized the mother could not speak English, or, rather, was just more comfortable with Spanish. Father greeted the little boy, asking him a question, and began the opening prayers in Spanish. I could not hear the words due to the reverberation in the large, empty sanctuary.

One of the Sisters did the readings and the Psalm, but again, I could not understand what she was saying. Had I been closer I could have heard, but being that this was a small group, they did not engage the PA system at anything other than a very low level, which was not sufficient to reach me.

The Sisters repeated the responsorial as appropriate, so I could understand some of the words, but as I was in the back, I could not make out all of the remained silent, listening. Praying in spirit, if not in action.

Father read the Gospel also in Spanish, and it was a long one. I couldn't understand enough of what he was saying to even determine which Gospel. (Part of this may be due to a mild hearing loss I sustained a few years ago; I have trouble hearing at a certain register, and all of this was taking place within that very register.)

None of the Liturgy of the Word was done upon the altar; rather, the lector and Father stood in front of this small grouping of the faithful, and during the homily, which was also in Spanish, he directed much of what he was saying to the little boy. I could at this point understand enough of what he was saying to get the general gist of the homily; he was explaining baptism to this toddler. He was explaining God's love, and the transformation of baptism, how it would strengthen him, how the heart of Jesus would be within his own heart and make him strong.

It was so beautiful! Occasionally he would look up and speak a few English words, but most of the homily was in Spanish, spoken very carefully with clearly chosen words.

Then was the baptism. We the witnesses were invited to come forward to stand at the altar rail; in that church, the baptismal font is on the altar. I was a little unsure, but the Sister looked right at me and waved me forward smiling, and a few others also. This was a "family" thing; for the moment, we were family. One of the Sisters held the little boy as his pregnant mother stood by, smiling. I heard the words of the small exorcism ritual that takes place at the beginning of every baptism, and immediately, the tears began. I stood there, praying, and during the prayers to the Saints, I was able to respond, "Ruega por Nosotros". At the end, we prayed the "Salve Maria" in Spanish. It was a different version than one I learned some time ago, but I could pray the second part accurately.

(Santa Maria, Madre de Dios, ruega por nosotros peccadores, ahora y en la hora de nuestra muerte, Amen.)

I will never be able to explain how this was the most beautiful baptism I have ever witnessed; I will never be able to explain the PALPABLE grace that just encompassed all of us.

The Liturgy of the Eucharist took place on the altar as usual, but in Spanish. I knew what was happening, of course, but I did not know the Spanish responses, so I just listened.

Although I spent a semester in Mexico, I never once went to Mass. Although we were in many churches in Mexico, and Masses were going on in some of them, never once did we attend. And although I speak Spanish...I didn't understand most of the words spoken at this Mass today. It was completely humbling, and yet...transcendent. Because it didn't matter that intellectually I didn't understand the words. My soul was taking in more than I would ever be able to understand. It is our humanity that needs languages; our souls require no translations.

I knew what was happening, although a missalette would have been helpful (even in Spanish alone) so that I could have understood the words and responded. After all...I would not have needed an English translation. But the Mass was just as valuable and perhaps more beautiful than even the Latin Novus Ordo I attended...because I was at the mercy of God. We were there, we were praying so hard for this little boy, his mother, and her unborn child...each moment, each inconvenience...MEANT SOMETHING.

And although we were a small group, the Heavenly Contingent was present and the sanctuary could not contain all who were truly present.

After communion, although I tried, I could not stop the tears from overflowing once again. The presence of God sometimes does that; the recognition of grace is overwhelming; even grace not directed at us, but at a few souls most in need.

I cannot tell you the full story of this family; I don't think I'm free to do so. But this afternoon I learned the facts behind today's baptism of a beautiful toddler, and the very obvious and astounding change in him today. I will say only that his mother has been involved and is still involved in the occult, although she is a baptized Catholic. And this child apparently had been exhibiting some very bad behavior among his peers, but after his baptism, he has been a COMPLETELY different child! Please pray mightily for him, his mother, and her unborn child.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Prayers Needed!

I hit a huge problem at work yesterday; in November there is a retreat that I am supposed to plan and direct, a very important retreat having to do with Sacramental preparation.

The retreat is currently scheduled during the 3rd weekend of November; that is the weekend I am at class. I can't skip class - because it would be the equivalent of skipping 6 weeks or so of class.

I notified the Pastor yesterday of the conflict and asked if we have any options. He did state very directly that it's not something that can go on without my presence, so we are going to meet this afternoon to talk about it and see what we can do.

I have looked at the church calender; quite honestly, I've never seen such a full calender in my life. There are NO options. This is officially an impossible situation.

And yes, I took this problem to Adoration yesterday afternoon and I will do so again today before my meeting with the Pastor.

Please pray with me that our meeting will go well and that we will find a way out of this mess!

UPDATE! ~ I met with the Pastor this afternoon as planned, and things went well. As it turned out, the only reason they hadn't originally chosen the previous weekend was because he was supposed to lead a pilgrimage. Since the pilgrimage didn't happen, he still has the weekend available. So the conflict has been officially removed! And there are no space issues...those are also resolved!

PRAISE GOD! And thanks for your prayers!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Holy Terrors

I've been confronted lately by a part of my past I have not written about in my conversion story, perhaps touched upon, but that deserves a much greater discussion. Because others have experienced the same thing, to greater or lesser degrees.

Priests are terrifying. And I'm not talking about "the scandals" or anything else. Face it...a guy in a Roman Collar is quite literally a Holy Terror. And that's EXACTLY the way it should be...but not in the way you think I mean.

I grew up Catholic, and I loved Fr. Weber of the parish I grew up in, and I loved the Irish priest who came to visit a couple times per year (he had the most incredible accent!), and when we moved to Minnesota, I loved Fr. Peichel, a Polish priest with very big hands who used them to do all he could to convey the love of Christ. So my experience with priests was also an experience with holiness when I grew up. And I also greatly associated them with God, and even as a small child, asked my Mom if Father Weber was God!

In college, although I attended a Catholic college, I fell away, and I remained away, having come across some serious self-hating "Catholics". By then I had grown enough to form my own questions, and realized I didn't know why I was Catholic. I had been Confirmed not because I knew the faith and what I was accepting, but because it was the thing to do, my family was Catholic, I believed because I had been raised to believe...and I didn't want to be Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, or Assembly of God. So, basically, I wanted to be Catholic by default.

I never learned our faith in that atrocity we called CCD. I never learned anything in Confirmation, although I remember reading Acts of the Apostles, and at our weekend retreat in the parish hall there was a nice couple who came in to speak about chastity.

But that's all I remember.

And then, several years later, I began to come back. I won't give my conversion story because it's already been told. But suffice to say I had a lot of questions, and one part I DIDN'T tell in my conversion story is that I considered going to a priest to ask my questions. And I didn't tell it because it's a whole 'nother story.

I remember when I actually began to take an active role in exploring my faith. I was working nights and the night nurse was an Evangelical ex-Catholic who wasn't afraid to share her faith. I liked her because she wasn't "in your face" about her faith, but rather, wore her Christianity on her sleeve and in her actions. She admitted she wasn't perfect. She knew she didn't know everything. And she had a peace about her that I really wanted, and wanted to know ABOUT. And she told me about it. She invited me to her church, but didn't push. She disagreed with the Catholic Church, and to be certain, the Church had NOT followed the missionary call of Vatican II, for she was alienated as a result of the improper changes and the focus taken from the truth and placed on custom and innovation. She did not tell me these things, but in remembering our conversations, that's the root cause of her defection from the Catholic Church; a lack of catechesis. She had the SAME QUESTIONS about the Catholic Church as I did. Because although she was older, we'd grown up with the same lack of standards, the same lack of formation.

She found her formation and Christ in the Evangelical Church, what was there for her all along in the Catholic Church had people not been asleep at the switch.

But she really did seek Christ...and so was I. And so I began to seek out all sorts of Christians, and we discussed faith. I'd talk about God with anyone who was interested. And sometimes I ticked people off because they didn't want to talk about faith and God...because such discussions were "too deep." I was ordered to stop my questions and "just have fun!"

But the truth was, I couldn't have fun. It was empty. I was supposed to be doing something else.

In my EMT class back in 1999 or so I met a woman who became a good friend, and who separated from her husband during that time. They had two children; she had a little girl from a prior relationship, from when she was very young, and married, and the couple had the other child. Her husband had been the only father the oldest child had known, but never formally adopted her, feeling it was unnecessary as he was the only father in her life. Well, then they were separated, planned divorce and my friend called me one day completely seething with anger. Her then-ex-husband had gotten engaged to someone else, and when he came to pick up his biological daughter for a weekend, he broke the "news" to their other little girl, his non-biological daughter. He knelt down in front of her, took her hands in his, and said, "I can't be your daddy anymore."

From that point on, that little 8-year-old was searching. She needed a daddy. She was heartbroken. And she might have heard me asking questions about God and talking about church once, because, one day, she approached me.

"Can I go to church with you?"

I was shocked. I did not regularly go to Mass, although I considered it. I did not live close to my friend (about 30 min in good traffic), and for a moment I considered it. Her mother was not religious, but might let her go with me. But I knew I was not holy, I was not a good example, and I didn't go often. But would I if I agreed to take her on Sundays? Or wouldn't it be easier to NOT take her on Sundays? That would be inconvenient.

So in a flash I considered my options, and I asked her, "Why do you want to go to Church?"

She shrugged, still looking at me hopefully, although the hope was fading given the sarcastic tone in my voice.

I saw the look, and still continued, "When I was your age I HATED going to Church. You REALLY want to go?"

She nodded, wanting this even in the face of my obvious contempt.

"Do you want to go because your friends all go to church?"

She nodded, agreeing with this, the hope gleaming in her eyes again.

I can't remember what I said next, but I think I put it down, and maybe her desire to go to church. She was seeking God, just as I was, but some of my response was out of shock. She was eight and WANTED to go to church?

I will regret that scene for as long as I live; I don't think there's enough penance available in this lifetime to make up for that moment in time. A child came to me asking to be taken to Jesus, her mother would have allowed her to go with me...and I was a condescending bitch. I deserve whatever I get for that.

My only defense, and a very weak one at that...I was unholy. I saw myself as unholy, as incapable, unable to provide an example, unable to be consistent. Because I recognized a certain call to respond, step up to the plate...and I turned my back and walked away. And I tell this story for a reason; because the incident underscored my sense of imperfection and unholiness and unworthiness. And my response to that poor child was out of fear; but what she saw was derision.

Years later, after my continued search, I found my way into various Catholic churches. And invariably, I sat in back. I was unholy. I was undeserving. I could not approach the altar. I was absolutely convinced that people could look at me and see how sinful I was and that I wasn't a "real" Catholic. I had this weird impression that everyone else in the church was holy and devout and belonged there, but I was a fraud.

Priests were especially to be avoided, in their dark shirts and Roman Collars and their vestments. Because they were the holiest of the holy, in my mind, and if anyone could find me out and expel me, it would be them.

But I had an even deeper fear; that if those priests recognized me for what I was, they would tell me I had to go to Confession. And then my refusal to go would be confirmation to them that I was hell-bound. And that would destroy me.

Priests. Always my hang-up; because I'd always seen them as holy, and I knew that I was not living as I should live. And yet, I was doing exactly what is detailed in Genesis. When Adam and Eve sinned, what did they do? They hid in the Garden, saw they were naked...and covered themselves up. They fled from God. What did Peter do when Christ appeared to them? "Go from me, Lord, I am a sinful man!"

Sin makes us flee; we know when we've done something wrong, and we want to flee God's presence. That's what I was doing. I didn't want to go to Confession because I was too busy fleeing from God. I didn't want to see a priest because I knew he would make me confront reality; he would be Christ to me. And I couldn't bear all that holiness.

So in my confused state, I built up holiness to what it is not, and I warped the Sacrament of Reconciliation into what it is not. Because my only goal was to flee God...and He let me flee, because all that I was running from was an illusion.

I continued seeking, not knowing where to go. I didn't have a computer at the time, so couldn't just go online. So I expressed to a friend one day that maybe I should just go TALK to a priest. Novel idea! I knew my fears were irrational and I wouldn't burn up in the presence of a priest. But I didn't know where else to go or what to do. In conversation with a friend, I expressed my idea...and she verified the other thought in my head....he's too busy. He won't really care. Priests don't have time to answer stupid questions.

Yup. All the thoughts in my head. Affirmed by someone else. My questions were stupid. They (and I) weren't worth the time away from his busy schedule. And the very worst...."The Priest doesn't really care about your questions or your are worthless in God's eyes." Because that's what the latter meant to me....if the priest didn't care, then that meant I was worthless.

So I had nowhere to go. And I didn't want to call just some random priest. I didn't have any kind of a relationship with a parish anywhere. Very few of my friends were Catholic, and of those who identified themselves as such, I was either not around them much or they were as lost as I was. Yet I somehow understood one thing; I was seeking a relationship, and this is foundational. I knew that in order to come home, I had to be somehow connected, somewhere, and that requires a relational connection. It doesn't make sense to throw darts at a board and then say "There!" Coming home means HAVING a home...but I didn't know where "home" was.

But God is faithful...because he sent priests across my path, randomly. To lesson my irrational fear. To help me see their humanity. To develop a sense of connection. And it nearly worked. But not quite; I wasn't ready, but I see now that was part of God's plan.

When I moved to my current residence and attended my current parish, I followed my regular routine...I sat in back. I hid. I would not get involved. I did not approach the altar. I avoided anyone I thought was holy. I did not want to know the priests. Because although my "big Confession" of 12 years was out of the way, it had been 3 years since...and I was back to not wanting to be forced to do what I did not want to do; go to Confession. And I still had the crazy idea that if I happened to run into one of the priests he would immediately demand that I go to Confession.

My goodness, a guilty conscience sure does speak loudly!

Slowly God drew me into the fringes of parish life, letting me find friendships and connections first. A friend I came to know had big gatherings at her home on about six times per year, and one summer night, a bunch of priests showed up...and there went my blood pressure! I sucked up my irrationality and just wanted to have fun...just like them. So as they and a few others of us sat around the bonfire roasting marshmallows, one elderly priest asked me, innocently having NO IDEA to whom he was posing this question, "Have you ever considered being a nun?"

I nearly fell out of my chair! WHAT!?

Seriously, the beer I was drinking nearly came out my nose, and I choked out, "Are you KIDDING!? They'd kick me out of the convent!"

But he was entirely serious, and surprised by my answer. "Why would you say that?"

So by my reaction, I had bumbled into my own web; responding out of my own faulty perception to a sincere question of a priest who did not see how awful I really was. And I was more shocked that he did NOT see my unholiness than I was by the fact that he would even suggest that someone like me should consider religious life. Or that he was surprised by my answer.

Anyway, God's grace eventually got me back to Confession that fall, but it was still a struggle; I was facing a lot of things. And so a couple months after the bonfire incident, at that same house, I attended another gathering. Another priest was present, and he sat DIRECTLY NEXT TO ME! Man, I was shaking in my shoes. Because even though I had come Home, I still had this inordinate sense of my own unholiness and unworthiness to be in the presence of this crowd.

And to be sitting next to a PRIEST!

Of course I liked him, he was wonderful, I'd in fact made room for him to sit down because that was the right thing to do and there WAS room so he could sit and eat...but I was wishing mightily that there had been room somewhere else.

At some point during the evening, in conversation, some topic came up, I can't remember what, I cracked a joke, and Father said, "So maybe you need CONFESSION!" And he was joking along, too.

But in reality, I'd already gathered that the Sacrament of Reconciliation (he called it "Confession" just like my favored term) was near and dear to him. Others had spoken of this priest, his gifts in the Sacrament, and I realized that he was my almost-worst nightmare. (Going to Hell was always my WORST nightmare...Confession was second-worst).

Yup. There I was, next to Father Holy Terrorist, the priest who was ALL ABOUT the Sacrament of healing through Reconciliation. The priest who had the special grace of being able to read hearts.

So when he made his comment about Confession, I quite literally nearly burst into tears, CERTAIN that he could see right into my soul and realize I needed Confession AGAIN!

He didn't say a word to that degree, though. He didn't treat me any differently than anyone else. In fact, he was all that I did not expect...he did not burn up in my presence, I did not ignite in his, and overall, there was no spontaneous combustion at my friends' party that night. Rather, we had a lively group discussion, talked about God in our lives, the Holy Spirit, all very natural conversations. And I was thrilled to be able to share my experience of God, for I had recognized His presence all over the place. That evening was actually an experience of Heaven for me. And I'm certain that was no mistake.

At the end of the evening, a lot of people left at the same time, so it was down to our hostess, her father, myself, and FATHER. As we finished off our conversation around the dining room table, suddenly Father looked directly at me, yet, somehow he seemed to be looking away at the same time, as though at someone else in the room. But it's not possible for one person to look at two people at the same time, and so one gaze seemed to be at me...the other...interior. I can't explain this.

"You haven't let go of something." He said this as a statement, not a question.

I was a deer in the headlights. My worst fear. He SAW what I'd been hiding. He saw ME.

Of course I denied what he said. He seemed insistent, then let it go.

And that night, I went home, completely rattled, thinking about what my friends had said throughout the evening. That this priest had gifts, he had the ability to "read hearts" in the Confessional, and they'd told their stories.

So on one hand my worst nightmare had happened...God put me in direct contact with a priest who had this ability, exactly what I feared. And he didn't demand that I immediately go to Confession. He accepted my denial - and he didn't reject me. In fact, he had that very evening affirmed the faith that I had. And I realized, in prayer before I went to sleep, that his comment to me had far more to do with something I needed to know about God; that He was merciful, He knew my suffering, and that the priest was right: I had not forgiven myself. I had not let go of a LOT of things. I still haven't.

Those who were present that evening don't remember Father's words to me or my denial.

And those words STILL make a difference to me. Because sometimes God speaks very directly through our most irrational fears and to our most basic needs.

So for years, I had been terrified of priests. I was without Catholic friends to set me straight. What a difference a friend could have made. Yeah, I needed to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I needed to see that priests are men like every other man, but with a Calling. And "force" is not a part of that Call. Even when they have that special's given on God's time, when we're ready, and when it still shocks us but doesn't chase us away.

I'm not terrified of priests anymore. I love them, we need more of them, and I'm completely committed to that which I feared and fought for so long....the Sacrament of Confession. Penance. Reconciliation. And more priests. Because if I have anything to do with it, a LOT more people are going to find their way to Christ, a lot more people are going to find themselves confessing to a priest, a lot more men are going to find themselves exploring that Call, and a lot more women are going to find themselves entering convents.

On one hand, I wish there had been a friend to lead me to the answers and bring me to a trusted priest, and technically, that happened, eventually. But I was too busy fleeing, being the timid deer and the shy lost lamb. So on the other hand, had God made things so easy for me, I'm not sure I'd be where I am now (wherever that is...really).

But I will say this: if anyone ever tells you a priest would think your questions are stupid, he doesn't have time for you, or doesn't really care...well, find a new friend and find another priest.

And if a child ever asks you to take them to Mass with you....ACCEPT!

What began as my holy terror has inspired my own Holy Mission.
What began as my denial of Christ has become my daily work.

Don't ever tell me God doesn't have a plan or that He doesn't have a sense of humor. I am a living testament to both, and like St. Paul, I can only boast of my weakness. For that is where God shows his glory.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Busy Week

The 'blog has been silent lately as I've both been working late (it's that time of year!) and when not working, I've been trying to study. I have only a week before class, and MOST of my written work left to do. And memorization. I'm praying for a miracle. But thankfully, tomorrow I have some training in the morning and because this week has been heavy on hours, I'm taking the afternoon off. To do my homework. This time around, the quality won't be there, but at least I will have the remainder of the semester to try to get my grade up there. If I get a "C" on this stuff I'll count myself lucky this time around.

I may have more to say later this evening as I'm sort of taking the night "off" from studying. But that's so that I can get a little more formal work done tonight, some review for a parent orientation I have to do in a month. When I put my "time" in, I will basically be "free" for the rest of the evening.

I've got to say this, though; for 5 years, I hated my job, I was miserable, and when I got to work on Monday I was wishing for Friday. And yeah, we all go through that to some degree. But now, I'm going to work and my days and evenings are full, and because of my school deadlines, I'm appreciating every moment I have in the evening. I need those moments to study!

One of the things that came up in my interview was the idea of meaningful work; that what we do means something, transcending the obvious. Yeah, we all have to pay the bills or provide for families, but we all need to know that the hours we offer to our employer in exchange isn't a huge waste of time. We all have the ability to live spiritually, that is, for God, no matter what we do. But when our job fit isn't right, it can both be a time of purification and a sign that God has something else planned for us.

Just one year ago, I said to a friend on the phone, "Is this all there is?" I had taken stock of my life, looked around at the house I own, my dogs, and my stuff. I considered that I had discerned my call to religious life...and didn't seem to be called. I am still not certain if I am called to Marriage or to Single life...or if perhaps God has something up his sleeve yet to be revealed and perhaps I AM called to be a religious sister? In any case, I looked around and realized that there HAS to be more to life than just going to the drudgery and stress of terrible mismatched employment just to pay for a box I keep my stuff in.

What to do?

The answer: Trust God. Rely on God. For He alone suffices. He is enough, and the answers weren't to be found anywhere else.

God indeed spoke, and through my friend, when, during that fateful conversation, he told me not to give up on the idea of going for a Master's degree. Even though in our conversation I was a bit negative, he made me think, and the next day I thought, "Why not me?"

And the rest is history. I'm a grad student (struggling!), and I have a new job. And suddenly, my life has meaning again. I don't know where I'm going, but I no longer have any doubt that somehow I bumbled into God's plan for me in this moment. I've done a thousand things wrong, and I've run away from God, I've fought with God, and I've argued with myself. But God is faithful.

So I don't yet know what my life means or why this grain of Sand you know as "Adoro" is here, but different pieces of the puzzle are appearing from all corners of my life...and they fit.

That's all for now, and that's know there is meaning to my work, to know that I was called to this spot in my life. I pray that you ALL know exactly how this feels.

I took a risk in July when I turned in my resignation. And on August 3rd, I jumped...and our Merciful Father caught me.

I don't have it in me to feel anything other than grateful.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

We Will Never Forget

Those who have fallen...

Those who have rebuilt...

Those who still grieve...

Those who survived...

...And continue to serve...

...and relive that day with every breath they take.

We thank and salute you for your service, we are united in grief will all who lost loved ones, and we forge onward in prayer and rememberance for all.

Réquiem ætérnam dona eis, Dómine,
et lux perpétua lúceat eis.
Requiéscant in pace. Amen.


(Previous tribute/experience found here and the 2,996 Tribute to Katherine Wolf, here.)

Sunday, September 09, 2007


I can only stare at theology so long before my brain implodes, and then I'm done. I hope it gets easier, but for now, my mind just can't take it and I have to get away. So I found myself watching "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days", and I confess, I like this chick flick.

My favorite part is where she goes with him to visit his family in Staten Island. This scene strikes a chord with me; they did a great job with the scene. It's realistic, and in some ways, I've been a part of such a scene before. The family welcoming the girl, making her feel at home, and she falls in love with them, and they with her. It's a classic scene, and I like how this movie treated it.

Even though this plays out differently for everyone, there are certain elements that remain the same, and the romantic in me always gives in, the idealist refusing to let go. And I'll come out and say it; that scene is what I want, and watching it makes me feel lonely because I don't have it. And perhaps never really did.

I went out with a guy for about 3 1/2 years, and part of what kept me with him was his family. They were so gracious, they welcomed me, and made me a part of their family. When I house-sat for R. when he went to Afghanistan, they made sure I knew I could call on them for assistance if something was needed. So I'll admit it...I kinda fell in love with his family.

And apparently the feeling was mutual. R. and I broke up, but then I still house-sat for him when he was deployed to Iraq, because we had adopted dogs, and I needed to get away from my roommate. But his family and friends were still there, with open arms.

One evening, his brother came by to pick something up, and as he left through the back gate, he stopped, turned around, and paused, apparently having some kind of interior battle with himself.

Finally he said, "OK, I have to say something. R. is a FOOL! I always liked you, and so did my daughter C. And I just wanted you to know that. He is a fool to let you go."

Then he walked away, but he made my day. He wasn't the only one to express such sentiments, and for that, I'm grateful. I'm also grateful I didn't marry R., but it was nice to know his family cared for me just as I had cared for them.

And what I realize is that this isn't so much about marriage as it is belonging. We all have families....our immediate families, our parish families, our clubs, our groups. And what makes a difference is the love that ties us all together. In a sense, we do fall in love with each other. No, it's not all sticky romantic stuff, but there is something that ties us, and we know it's there when we welcome others and are welcomed by them, and in some sense, made to feel as part of a family. There's nothing in the world like it.

So on one hand, even as I long for the Hollywood scene, I know that every time I go to Mass, every time I go to the Church to help out or just to pray, I have that scene and so much more. No, it's not temporal, but there's something to be said for being set apart for God and His children at this time in my life. I don't think there's any family in the world, as wonderful as they might be, that can hold a candle to what it means to be a part of God's own household.

Saturday, September 08, 2007


OK, everyone, I need to have some fun. I live in the redneck portion of my metro area, and the other day someone commented that one of the local radio stations refers to a certain interchange near me as the "redneck bottleneck". I'm still lauging. We have MORE pickups per capita here than Texas, I'd wager. And although Soccar Moms are up there, too, the rednecks crowd them out.

Today I happened to hear Jeff Foxworthy again, and I've always been a fan. So I'm going to start with the redneck jokes I remember, and I'm asking all commenters to post their own. Go ahead and post what you remember from Jeff Foxworthy, but, to be fair, if you're quoting him or what you think he said, please cite him with a "JF" at the end of your post.

That way, those of you who are speaking from experience or observation can be recognized as being kings and queens of redneckdome! LOL!

So it begins....

If your grammy keeps a spit-cup on the ironin' board...You just might be a redneck.

If you have ever listed "ammo" on your Christmas list....

If your family tree does NOT fork....

If your HOUSE has wheels and your car DOESN'T.....

If you go to family reunions to look for a DATE....

If you back up your truck and hit the brakes hard to do a donut to unload it....

If hitting a deer at 65 mph is your idea of hunting...

If your Salad bowls all say "cool whip" on the side....

If your dress is strapless, but your bra isn't....

If you have to miss 10th grade because of jury duty...

(all from Jeff Foxworthy)

The Lord is My Drill Sergeant

So I went to Adoration and now I have a slight plan, we'll see how it pans out. I will focus on Spiritual Theology this weekend and see if I can get the essays done by tomorrow night. Then I will work more on the Old Testament stuff, (every day - memorization), and if I need to, re-read the 42 pages in the course notes for the Vatican II class, and hit the essays hard next weekend and next week. Then I should be ready for class.

At Adoration I was really laying it all out there for Jesus, wondering if I had discerned incorrectly...should I not have attempted Grad school? Am I doing the wrong thing? But no...I do sense that He wants me here because his interior reply to me was, "Welcome to Boot Camp."

Huh?! Yup. Boot camp for Catholics. I've enlisted in Christ's Military, and now he's putting the screws to me to see if I can "hang with the big dogs" (as a Marine Special Forces friend of mine used to say).

So, now my prayer has changed.

Psalm 23:

The Lord is my Drill Sergeant
I shall not complain
He makes me read books of Vatican II
He leads me to read of the Saints
And increases my knowledge of Him.

Even though I walk through the valley of academic failure
I will fear no bad grades
For Thou art with me
Thy Word and Thy Sacraments
they comfort me

Thou preparest me a test before me
in the presence of mine classmates
Thou poundest my brain with memorizations
my tears overflow
Surely more papers and test qestions
shall follow me
all the days of this course
And I shall dwell in the spirit of panic
for as long as it lasts


Ok, I surrender to the Lord my Drill Sergeant's will. Back to reading.

MASSIVE Prayer Request!

I'm having my first Academic Anxiety attack of the school year. This promises to be great fun!

I am behind in my reading due to the craziness of my last couple weeks, starting a new job with not-stable hours, and my head is just full of STUFF such that I don't know what's coming at me next. Well, I know, it's just a lot all at once.

Until about 20 minutes ago, I was fine. Then I looked at the calender. I have this weekend and next weekend...and the weekend after is class. Tuesday is supposed to be our first parish leadership meeting of the year...and I've decided that, unless I get WAY further on stuff than I am right now, then I won't be going because grad school is a higher priority. The parish won't sink without my presence. My grades WILL.

I've been plugging away at Old Testament stuff as there's a ton of memorization so that's one I'm spreading out because I don't have the ability to sit and memorize all the books of the OT all at once, or the geography, or the answers to all the questions. I have most of the reading done, but a lot of review will be needed for that class. fine. I can handle that one. (Please pray that I am able to memorize everything, though, for the test as required.)

So, moving on....Documents of Vatican II. I've done the reading. Then I looked at the essay questions I have to answer, 5 of them...and I can't answer a SINGLE ONE! In fact, even though I just completed the reading yesterday and today, well, I have no idea what I read. I have NO GRASP on this material. I don't know where the answers are. There is a reference to "SC, 1" and I don't know if it's "1" of the Intro, the entire Chapter 1, or just part 1 of the Intro or Chapter 1. I'm sure the answer to THAT is in my reading, too, but I don't know where.

And so I'm now crying just like I did last semester with the Writings of JP2.

Oh, and then there's the Spirituality class...I have only touched on the reading, and while those questions look easier, I can't answer them because none of the reading is done! I'm looking at the calender, and the time I have available, and I'm in a full-fledged panic.

Please pray for me. I'm so panicked I don't even know what to panic about first!

My Adoration hour is at 3. I'm going early with ALL my books with the hope Jesus will tell me which one to tackle first.

I really don't know if I can do this, and I am NOT exaggerating.

Friday, September 07, 2007


It's been an interesting week. I have no idea what I'm doing, but no one really expects me to. I've been doing paperwork, meeting people, and taking the mess that was left and trying to make sense of it.

I came from a system that was very organized, and although my own desk was a disaster area, there was a method; certain things were in certain places, and when they were no longer active they went to a storage area. Wheras I spent my last couple days cleaning up, it was easy because everything was marked for a particular place.

This week I stepped into an office both left completely disorganized and having been recently painted. So it was really messed up. I've reviewed the curriculum we're using and have tossed things that are theologically unsound, while informing the DRE that if she comes across X publication, toss it. She's trusting my judgment, which is very cool. But at the same time, I've also assured her that I'll not be making any huge changes to anything, especially considering I don't know the baseline of what I'm supposed to do! So all that will come. She's new in her position, too.

But something hit me hard this week; the actual call as a disciple of Christ. Yeah, yeah, we all know about it, we're all called, we're all serving, yada yada, yada. Yup, I agree...this is a no-brainer. But it hit me this week. Because I came across some liturgical scripts used throughout the year. Apparently I am the keeper of liturgical rites as they apply to faith formation, so I looked through what I have, being that I'll be directing a lot of that particular traffic in the right seasons. And there it was; the opening Mass last year, where Father asked the Faith Formation people to come up for a blessing, and cited words such as "Called" in the context of "Called to be Disciples of Christ in speaking his Word", and "Called by the parish", etc. And there it was. I was called. I am called. God called me to serve.


On one hand, there's a moment of wanna-be pride, but it's crowded out by my terror at being so completely clueless. I can't do anything but shake in my shoes and realize that I'm completely unworthy, not to mention unqualified. I have no experience. I don't know what I'm doing or what my job is. In my professional world, I have never been so completely unprepared and untrained.

God has sent me into my weakness...and He called me there. So on one hand it seems nice to be "favored", but in reality, I see this for what it is; discipline. A call to HUMILITY. Because nothing that is about to happen in the coming weeks will be because of me or my past accomplishments; it's all dependent upon God, because I have nothing to claim. So Pride has no place here because I am now living on my knees in the dirt - which is a great place to be when you need to address the Almighty.

I hadn't realized we'd be called forward for a blessing at Mass, which I appreciate (I need LOTS of blessings!), but what a spotlight, when all I want to do is fade into the background and just do my job. But God holds those He calls before lots of bright lights, and says, "look at my Disciples, my Servants, but not really, because they're pointing to my Glory...and you just get to see if they do it right."

Although the church has Perpetual Adoration, I only visited briefly once earlier this week, and today, I was ashamed for my absence and failure to address Jesus even ONCE every day. I had to make a trip to the parish office and was handed a package for the DRE, the sort that has a plastic cover over a binder, but the bottom was opened, and there were packets of wrapped paper inside that were not part of the binder. It was slippery, noisy stuff, but I was managing just fine.

So, carrying this noisy package, I "heard" Jesus calling me to visit Him in the chapel. Obediently, recognizing this inner voice, I diverted and went in, trying to be as quiet as possible as I entered and shut the door. I knelt on the floor near the door, and just as my knees touched down, the cellophane-wrapped package fell out of the bottom of the binder and hit the ground. Loudly. I cringed, whispered an apology to a amused-looking woman to my right, and while bowing to Jesus, picked up the papers and put them away again. As quietly as possible. Right.

Hi. I'm the new Faith Formation person on the staff. Nice ta meetcha.

I think Jesus was snikering at me.

So there I was, and there I offered him the prayer that came to me during my Vocational discernment, timeless words that no doubt come to EVERYONE who seeks to serve God:

"Jesus, I offer you everything I have, everything I am, everything I have been, and everything I'll ever be."

Today, though, I offered myself to Him through my clumsiness, my cluelessness, knowing my past work experience is useless, knowing my future is a blank page, and speaking through my fears of being inept and incapable.

And Jesus just looked at me, loved me, and told me to trust him. He doesn't care that I'm clumsy, noisy, clueless and inept. He finds those traits endearing in all of us.

And then I headed back to our offices to live out the rest of the day.

God doesn't make mistakes, he can't be taken by surprise, and all he asks is that we follow him. Why is that so hard?

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Who doesn't love Mother Teresa? What an inspiration of what God can do with one small person completely open to His will.

I drew the above portrait shortly after her death, one night as I sat at my night job, seeking God, seeking to come home, but not knowing what I believed. But one thing I knew, even in my fog; Mother Teresa was holy, and she was someone to look to as an example in how to live and how to follow Christ.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

First Day

Well, I'm officially a taxpayer again, rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar's, and rendering unto God what is God's. Really. In a big way.

I've just realized that my whole life belongs to working hours in His own house, my "off" hours in study for class. Wow. I think I've just become a solitary nun! (tongue in cheek)

Ok, seriously, things went well, I met a lot of people whose names I won't remember unless they are in their offices and I can look at their names on the doorway as I enter. And I'm registered for some training during September, and tomorrow we're going to clean up and arrange the offices, which promises to be both a messy and an interesting endeavor.

I had to leave early due to a pre-set appointment with the cable guy to downgrade my cable since I won't have time to watch things anymore. And I need to remove the temptation which might keep me away from studying. Seriously.

So I left so as to be home on time, because you know how it is...if you aren't there in your alotted window, at the very beginning, guaranteed the service person will have arrived already. So I was home. And waited. And waited. And he never showed up.

I am NOT taking more time off of work to repeat this experience. I have moved to accomodate them. It's time they accomodate ME. So tomorrow I will call and point out that they did not do the job they were supposed to do, when they were supposed to do it, and so they will need to come to my house on my schedule, they will compensate me by pro-rating every day they would otherwise be charging me for cable services that are supposed to be disconnected, and I may ask they compensate me for time lost from work. Just to make a point. No, they don't do it, but they should. first day of work and I had to have time off. Useless time off, when I've just had 4 WEEKS off, but no, they couldn't come last week when I would be home just hanging out.

I'm also not going to pay my bill until they adjust it to my satisfaction. (That stuff doesn't go to collections for a long time so I can buy some time here while they sort the charges out.)

Let's face it; we are all willing to pay for legitimate services rendered...but when said services are not rendered, no phone call is made, etc., and we are losing money so as to deal with things that have to be handled...well, companies need to step up to the plate and make good in some way. One thing I learned from my previous position; how to talk to Customer Service Reps and more importantly, how NOT to talk to them. So my conversation tomorrow will be completely professional and logical, because THAT is what gets results.

Confession: When I had a rude customer, even if they were right in that they'd recieved bad service for whatever reason, I was far more willing to bend over backwards to make good for someone who was reasonable and understanding and willing to allow me to do the right thing. People who blasted me, cursed, accused me or someone else of incompetance, etc., well, I wrote them off and they went to the bottom of the pile. Respect goes both ways. Yeah, my attitude is unbiblical, and Jesus would frown on that, but it's the reality in the world of Customer Relations.

So, the trick is this: be nice as pie, point out how you've been wronged, suggest ways the situation can be corrected, and above all, realize that the person on the phone handling your call is not usually the person responsible for something that didn't get done. Cut them some slack.

Anyway, thank you for your prayers and encouragement, everyone. I'm excited about my new job, looking forward to meeting a LOT more people whose names I'm not going to remember, and I'm completely in love with the idea that as I plan inservices and retreats or lessons, etc., I get to walk down the hall and do said planning right there at the feet of Jesus in their Perpeual Adoration chapel.

Is there a greater blessing than that?

Monday, September 03, 2007

Prayer Request

Tomorrow, after a month of unemployment, I return to a church.

I have no experience. I have nothing that qualifies me for this job, other than a deep love of Jesus and His Church and a true desire to serve Him. I know some of the people with whom I will be working, which is great, because in a sense, I already have friends there. And do you know what's really cool? The Pastor has a dog...a St. Bernard.

I can't wait to meet him. (The dog, I mean...I already met the Pastor and he's very cool. I just respect him that much more because he has a big dog.)

In all seriousness, it's always hard to start a new job, especially one that is very visible to others.

My goal is to do well, serve God, serve the parish, and do whatever I'm told...and whatever else I'm supposed to do. And do it well.

God help me. I have NO IDEA what I'm doing!

Novel Update

For those who are following along, I've added a couple more chapters to the story.

I'm going through a very rough patch in the story currently as we go through some transitions, have to pass over time and do so smoothly, and as I become acquainted once again with Kaya.

A curious thing happens when one writes lengthy fictional stories; the characters become "real". I find that I am able to empathize with this character, and as her personality begins to develop and I begin to see her flaws and her virtues, she becomes somewhat solidified. At this point in the story, her personality to most of you is likely very wooden, and the last couple chapters don't have any dialogue. But this time period is necessary as it is laying the foundation of a much larger story, one I hope will reveal to me, and to all of you, certain nuggets of truth.

Some of the characters in the story are loosely based on people I know, but Kaya...she's not like anyone I've ever met. She has perhaps some traits that are mine, some that belong to my best friend in high school...and some that make her a completely different person. Kaya has been floating around in my head, nagging me to write this story for years and years, so I suspect she won't quit bugging me until I let her have her day.

To be honest, although I have the basic framework of my novel, I don't know the story. It keeps changing. And when I realize I've just written something into the story I no longer like, I'm also finding that it's a setup for one event, and I have to figure out the logical consequences and fill in the blanks, rather than changing the story. It's like life, perhaps, as a small, inconsequential metaphor. Once something is done and a consequence is being faced, a chain of events has been set into action and has to play out.

Writing is all about digging for treasure, following threads, and looking at life from a God's eye view. So I'm finding, the further I go in this endeavor, that, not only do I not want to be God, but I'm thrilled that he doesn't make me weave together the different threads of my own life, but rather, just asks me to go through the events, keeping my eyes on him.

So now, even as I write this story, and feel the fictional eyes of Kaya upon me, and even though I hold the pen, in reality I am looking to God, because he is the author of all in my life that is good and true and beautiful, and somehow, He is the one who introduced me to Kaya and her world. It's time for me to bring her story into the light and see what gems will be unearthed for the world to see.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

"Aunt Nutsy"

I was bloggin' around today and found a couple posts on the subject of Bipolar, so thought I would chime in as I'm somewhat of an expert on the subject myself. After all, my big "welcome to adulthood" incident occurred only a couple weeks after my 18th birthday, in which I became my Mother's guardian after her suicide attempt, and my signature placed her on a 72 hour hold and nearly got her committed.

Terry commented in his post,

Most of the people I’ve known are incredibly talented and highly intelligent. Their suffering seems to have provided them with keen insights into human behavior, and as I always say, they were a hoot to be around when they were going into mania, or, as in the case of one friend, when she over-medicated. (Another trait is that they never share their drugs!) However, sometimes the medication produces side effects that are no fun at all.

He's right; many of those who suffer from this disease are highly intelligent. In the case of my mother, when I was in 5th grade, she went back to school, and although she hated the class (Women's Studies), and thought the professor was hitting on her (she was a militant lesbian - the prof. not Mom), Mom studied her butt off and got a 4.0. She did the same thing when she finally got her LPN license...she excelled academically.

And yes, she probably did have keen insights into human behavior at one time, but now, due to all the drugs she's been taking for so many years, her mind is no longer sharp, and in fact, she almost seems senile at times.

But let's back up a bit so I can give you an idea of what it was like to grow up in a house ruled by Mr. Hyde and Mr. Hyde.

Mom flipped her lid around the time she and my Dad got divorced. It was summer, July, I think, and it was hot and humid and we were looking forward to our last day of swimming lessons that morning. But we didn't get to our lessons, because Mom was pacing up and down the livingroom and into the kitchen, muttering to herself. If it were regular pacing, that would have been one thing, but she had a pace like that of a bridesmaid in a wedding. Right foot forward, feet together, left foot...both feet together. Pause. Repeat. She did this for hours.

Then a neighbor came to get us and take us to her house, and Mom went to the hospital, and a couple days later, an Aunt came to stay with us, and then Grandma. I can't remember how long Mom was hospitalized, but I still remember going to see her in the hospital a couple times.

We moved up to Minnesota a couple years later, and I think by then she'd been hospitalized once or twice more. I think by then our whole huge family realized my brother and I were going to be messed up for life, but that's another story.

So fast forward to Jr. High, when Mom's bipolar really revved into gear. It didn't happen all at once so my brother and I just became accustomed to the fact Mom was nuts, irrational, and no matter what the infraction, there would be much screaming and possibly broken glass to clean up in the kitchen. We actually thought this was normal. And in fact, we were pretty well convinced we must be horrible children because from the time we arrived home from school until we got up in the morning, Mom never ceased screaming. That's how it seemed, anyway.

I can't remember all the details from all the years, but a few things really stand out.

Mom didn't like our next door neighbors, so they became her target for awhile. They were squatters, a family that would move from place to place, would not pay the rent, would be evicted....and go somewhere else. They had done this for years. Mom got the idea that at one time they had lived in our basement (which, by the way, was not a liveable basement, was not finished, and was full of spiders and centipedes. This family usually did MUCH better than that!). Mom would not let go of the idea. She would go down and check the windows and doors, and went so far as to place old pans on the basement door into our kitchen, and glass jars, so that if they came upstairs we'd hear them.

Then Mom's manic psychosis took another step. This was around the time my brother left for college so was home only on weekends and vacations. She decided that the people living in our basement were breaking in every night and drugging and raping us. Seriously. She was absolutely convinced of this horror and saw "evidence" of it everywhere.

I was also preparing a report on drugs for a class, and she used this as "evidence" that I was using drugs myself. Around this time she forced me to go to counseling with her, which was fine. I was just as close-lipped yet joyful there as could be. If she wasn't going to show her true evil, I certainly wasn't going to be anything other than a sweet teenager.

Until, of course, she pulled my diary out of her purse. Yup. My diary. Where I wrote my deepest and darkest thoughts, where I vented and explored ideas I had no intention of carrying out. She also read of my suicidal thoughts.

The psychologist told my Mom in no uncertain terms that to take my diary was a HUGE breech of her parental "rights" especially since she had not broached the idea with him before doing it, and only her manic psychosis made her think I was using drugs. She tried to justify her actions by stating that I knew so much about drugs I must be using them; the psychologist disagreed, coming completely to my defense here. He did ask me about my suicidal thoughts, which I denied as being serious, and given that Mom was sitting right there, I certainly was NOT going to tell the truth. And in fact, for the rest of the session, the only time I spoke was to deny what I had written as being anything serious, and the psychlogist let it go. He also realized that with such a breech of trust in a household already in an uproar, well, I wasn't going to speak frankly.

He did ask me to take a personality test, and I came out as perfectly normal. And with every question with regard to suicide....I denied it. Consistently. (See? These tests CAN be manipulated when you know what they are looking for.)

Mom had other events of paranoia as her disease escalated. She had gone off her meds, doing the typical thing; she assumed everyone was poisioning her. Oh, and she was being raped everywhere she went, especially at the hospital. But she only "remembered" the alleged rapes when questioned about taking her medication and the possiblity that hospitalization was needed to get her back on track. She refused to go. And so, predictably, got worse.

One Saturday after evening Mass, I went to spend the night at my best friend's house. Mom was disapponted, she had ordered a pizza and wanted to "hang out" with me. Of course, I wanted nothing more than to get away from her unpredictability. Had I been home, I would have been locked in my room. She did let me go to my friend's house. Well, at 6:30 the next morning, Mom was pounding on their door. My friend came to get me and I went upstairs to chat with Mom in my friend's room while the family gave us some privacy. Mom explained that, the night before, the pizza she had ordered was delivered by an ambulance and they were looking for me. And then she wanted to check me for evidence of rape and wanted me to disrobe.

Um, no, Mom. That didn't happen. Ever.

I was horribly embarassed...I had just met my friend's parents and was pretty certain that they would never let me near their daughter again. But instead, her Dad drove Mom to the hospital and I lived with them for two weeks. I think I went to stay with my Aunt and Uncle for another two weeks.

And, of course, that's when I realized how weird my home life was. Because, at my best friends' house, and at my relative's house, whenver there was a disagreement, they worked it out. Sure, voices were raised at times, but rationality prevailed and not a single one of their glasses, not even the crystal, shattered. Things didn't fly through the air.

The peace in those homes completely unsettled me. I didn't know what to do in the face of rationality and normal behavior. It was completely alien to me.

Another thing Mom did...I'm not sure when this happened, exactly, but I remember my brother lived at home and it was summer. Mom became convinced that someone was stealing the car at night and bringing it back. Every night. She, of course, first blamed my brother and I, and then when we pointed out that we were home when this allegedly happened, she blamed the ever-guilty neighbors.

She took us out to the car to point out the mud on the tires. My brother and I directed her to the recent rains, the muddy driveway, and the fact that the mud on the top of the tires was dry, indicating that NO ONE HAD DRIVEN THE CAR OVERNIGHT.

Mom called the police anyway to report the theft. My brother and I went and hid in the house, wanting nothing to do with the person we began to call "Aunt Nutsy."

Things escalated when my brother went to collge, and immediately before. Mom loved to scream at him, blame him for everything, and even throw things at him. But after he went to college, she turned her anger to me. I was the devil incarnate, as far as she was concerned.

During my Senior year of high school, I left home twice, and went to live with my best friend. Her family, having actually made me a semi-adopted daughter, accepted my presence in their house without question. I went to school, I went to work, and thank God they were there for me. I was prepared to live in a box, though...anything to get away from Mom.

When I graduated, my Mom's sisters did their best to defend me from her anger and her irrational limits. The closer I got to graduating, the earlier she wanted me home at night. On the night of my graduation, she didn't want me to go to Northfield to visit my boyfriend, who had a wonderful family. She wanted me home by 8. At the time I was leaving, it was 6 pm. My aunt intervened, and told me, "Don't worry, I'll handle this. Be home by 10. That's the city curfew, right?"

I turned 18 a couple weeks later, and a couple weeks after that, it all came to a head.

My brother was home from school for the summer, and for some reason, Mom was going off on him all night. She was in a complete rage, screaming at him, throwing things at him, and finally he crept into my room and laid down on the floor, just trying to keep out of her sight. She was up all night.

I had to be at work at 5:15 to open the pool because I had the 5:30 am lap swim, and really needed to sleep. Given all the noise and screaming from the kitchen, things breaking and the like, I didn't get a lost of sleep. A neighbor from upstairs came down to talk to Mom, and literally sat with her all night long, just talking.

So when it was time for me to leave, it was the neighbor who gave me permission to take Mom's car. I already had permission, but given Mom's state, I wasn't sure what to do. None of us wanted her to have access to her car.

So I took the car and left for work. Mom didn't acknowledge me, thank God.

I was back home at 8 or so, and as I entered the communal foyer, I stopped, shocked. It was full of our belongings. I opened the door to our apartment, and junk was nearly waist high. Books were thrown off of shelves. Papers were everywhere. Keepsakes were broken.

As I entered, I could see that Mom was sleeping. The dog was nowhere to be found.

Immediately, I turned and fled the house, returning to work to use the phone. Our phone had been ripped off the wall. Somehow I got ahold of my brother, and he explained he'd grabbed the dog and took her to a relative's home for the day. When he left, the neighbor was still there.

I called my best friend...she was leaving for work, but her Mom was home. I headed there immediately praying someone would still be there when I arrived. I was speeding, even hoping to be pulled over so that someone else could take control of this mess.

When I got there, my friend's Mom had to leave so she gave me a key and told me I could stay as long as I liked, but I should probably take Mom's car back. I refused; she did NOT need her car, not in that state of mind.

Not knowing what to do, I called the psychologist my Mom used to see. I wasn't aware she wasn't seeing him anymore, but he was aware of the doctor she was seeing, and, after hearing of her behavior, he said he could help. He told me what time to be there, and we'd have to get a 72 hour hold if Mom didn't go willingly to the hospital.

So I swung by his office at the appointed time, and we took his car first to Social Services for the hold forms, then went to the police station where we met with the on-duty Captain. I'd spoken to this captain on the phone when arranging ride-alongs; I was known to this department and many of the cops there for that reason, but I'd never met this Captain before. He explained the form to me and what they would do...but hopefully Mom would go peacefully. He was very sympathetic, and I was terribly embarassed at the pus of my home life being exposed to so many people I respected.

We went to our house, where a squad and an ambulance had arrived. The front door was impassable so I told them how to get to the back door. I walked up with the doctor to try to talk Mom into going to the hospital; she immediately began screaming at me, so I melted into the background, out of sight. Our neighbor was still home, so drove me to the ER as Mom did decide to go peacefully.

As usual, when confronted by authority, she pretended nothing was wrong and explained she was "spring cleaning" by throwing the sewing machine into the back yard and destroying everything we owned. They didn't buy it.

In the ER, I went into the examining room as directed, and immediately Mom began accusing me, told me I was the one who should be there, I was the sick one, I was crazy, etc. I turned around and left. And so they brought the hold order out to me and I signed where directed, on the line labeled "legal Guardian".

My first act as an adult.

Mom did actually agree to be hospitalized, and went to a hospital to which she had not previously been sent. And we actually had to have them take away her phone privileges because she made threatening calls to me. My brother would wake me up in the morning, early hours, because "The devil is on the phone" or "Aunt Nutsy is calling", and Mom would sit there, speaking low so as not to be heard, "You're the one who's crazy. You need to be locked up. You can't get away with this. This is all your fault. There's nothing wrong with're crazy, not me."

I would actually hang up on her. Then my brother and I would set about cleaning the took nearly two weeks, and he did most of the work.

Mom was hospitalized for three months, and then spent another six months in a half way house. We lost our apartment, so there I was, my first year in college...homeless. I lived in the dorms, when when it was timem to go "home" for Thanksgiving and Christmas, I had nowhere to go, so my friends and relatives took my brother and I in. I changed my driver's license and other documents to my friend's address, knowing it wasn't really home.

Mom is doing well now, but the drugs have take their toll. She doesn't have a quick mind, she doesn't understand a lot of things, and she has a hard time speaking due to a combination of having a dry mouth and likely some neurological side effects, all drug related.

The neighbor who had spent so much time talking to Mom that night worked in a local psych facility, a residential hospital for teens and children. A year later, I actually accepted a position there as well, and did well, perhaps because nothing those kids could do was shocking to me; I'd grown up on the battlefield, but now it was different because I didn't have to live on it anymore. And when I did have to deal with Mom, I used techniques I'd learned on the job. When she went off on me for some small infraction, I treated her like an acting-out teenager and didn't engage in the argument. She, being treated at that point, would realize her irrationality, calm down, apologize, and we'd have a discussion about what infraction had or had not occurred.

Life has never been rosy. For years, Mom would call me for advice, and when I was starting out in life, when I really needed a Mom, I didn't have one. I was too busy being her Mom and giving her advice and taking the role of the wise adult.

I hated it, because I knew it was wrong. I couldn't keep my own life could I give her advice? But yet, if I didn't give her advice, people were going to take advantage of her.

To this day, I do not have a great relationship with my Mom; it's a struggle every time. Yes, I dearly love her, and the woman is a Saint. She really is; she has suffered greatly, and her faith has ALWAYS remained intact. But I can't confide in her because that trust has never been able to be restored. I don't know when her faculties will go. Yes, her disease is under control and she is doing well, but she is not capable of understanding anything but the simplest things, usually.

This disease is horrible, and it affects far more than just the one suffering directly; it disrupts entire families, and can do so for generations.

I am terrified of being a Mother; because this disease robbed me of my mother. Bipolar has so disrupted my own life, it has made me terrified that the effects will be passed down to my own children, if I ever marry.

My brother is not married, nor am I, my brother doesn't want children at all. I suspect he suffers the same fears as I.

I will never have this discussion with Mom, because she already feels enough guilt. She does not need to know about how this has affected me because it was not a behavioral choice. As it is, she spent years apologizing for things she could not control.

Most of those who suffer from bipolar realize that they are not the only victims, but I wonder if they really understand the havoc wreaked on those around them, and if they don't, it's a mercy to them. It is better that they don't know. They suffer enough.