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Friday, July 30, 2010

On Blogging and Criticism

Famous quotes about writing paraphrased (and bastardized) for your enjoyment and edification:

Where do I find the time for not reading so many blogs?  
~ Karl Kraus (1874-1936)

Your blog is both good and original, but the part that is good is not original and the part that is original is not good
~ Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

The reason why so few good blogs (and newspaper stories) are written is that so few people who can write know anything...including how to write
~ Bastardized by Adoro, original quote by Walter Bagehot (1826-1877) 

Blogs are an unrivaled vehicle for telling the truth about other people
~ Philip Guedalla (1889-1944)

Blog:  Something published in haste and regretted at leisure. 
~ Oliver Herford (1863-1935)

The newspaper is the natural enemy of the blog, as the whore is of the decent woman
~ The Goncourt Brothers, 1858

A well-written blog is almost as rare as a well-spent life
~ Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) (This one is so bastardized it might be my own creation)  

A person who publishes a blog appears willfully in public with his pants down
~ Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950)

The man who reads blogs is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers. 
~ (Bastardized by Adoro, original quote by Thomas Jefferson, i.e. "the man who reads nothing at all" al)

A blogger is a lucky person who has found a way to discourse without being interrupted
~ Charles Poore

Journalism largely consists in saying "The Blogger is dead" to people who never knew bloggers even existed.
~  Adoro, orig. G.K. Chesterton 1(1874-1936)

Bloggers have two main problems. One is blogger's block, when the words won't come at all, and the other is logorrhea, when the words come so fast that they should be deleted before they are typed
~ Bastardized by Adoro, albeit true, inspired by original quote by Cecilia Bartholomew 

Blogging is turning one's worst moments into a warning for others
~ Adoro, inspired by J.P. Donleavy

If you can't annoy somebody, there is little point in blogging
~ Kingsley Amis

Unprovided with original learning, unformed in the habits of thinking, unskilled in the arts of composition, some resolved to write a blog
~ Edward Gibbon (1737-1794)

Asking a blogger what he thinks about critics is like asking a lamp-post how it feels about dogs
~ Christopher Hampton

When a blog and head collide and there is a hollow sound, is it always from the blog?  
~ Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742-1799)

This one is too good to be misquoted or bastardized:  

Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the university stifles writers. my opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them. There's many a bestseller that could have been prevented by a good teacher.  
~ Flannery O'Connor

*** The foundation of all quotes was taken from the anthology 1,911 Best things Anybody Ever Said compiled by Robert Byrne. *****

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Dear Sacred Heart of Jesus...

I recently found this prayer, written on an index card, and set it aside, recognizing my mother's handwriting. I think it was in a stack of holy cards or a book she had given me.Mom had written at the bottom, "from a 1956 holy card". Some of her own prayer intentions were scripted on the back, but I won't share those here. This prayer is simple and invites us directly into the heart of Christ himself, in childlike simplicity.

Dear Sacred Heart of Jesus, 
I have asked for many favors, ____________, but I plead for this one. Take it, place it in your Open Broken Heart, and when the Eternal Father sees it covered with the Mantle of Your Most Precious Blood, He cannot refuse it, for then it is your prayer, not mine. 

Dear Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place my trust in Thee.

You know, they just don't write prayers like that anymore.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, be my salvation!
Sacred Heart of Jesus, Thy kingdom come!
Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on me!
Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in Thee.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Grounded and Excommunicated

Among my readers, there are those who prefer the spiritual reflections, and those who like the various stories I tell about my life. I confess to enjoying both genres as well, and what I am about to say combines the two, in "classic Adoro style" as one friend once commented.
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When I was a little girl, although I was very shy as a rule, I was headstrong where I was comfortable.  (This facet of my personality really hasn't changed very much.)  As it was, as was just as obnoxious as every other child on the planet and because we grew up in different times, well, we didn't have the restrictions and dangers of children today.  It was nothing, back then, for me, as a 4 or 5 year old, to walk the equivalent of a block to my friend's house, for every neighbor on our road knew me and where I was going. They knew the boundaries, they knew my older brother who was usually with me, and thought nothing of my coming-and-going, even when alone.

One sunny summer day, after a morning of fun with our friends, we returned home for lunch and many tales of our adventures. Mom insisted that I should have a nap that afternoon and told me, contrary to the promises I had given to my friends to return after lunch, that I was forbidden to go.

I saw no reason for her harsh stance; we had been playing well together, had a great time, and plans to continue during the afternoon. Besides...I'd PROMISED I'd return!

All of my 4-or-5-year-old arguments fell on deaf ears, so it seemed, and Mom insisted that after lunch, I would be taking a nap.

As soon as I was "locked" in my room, a plan began to form. I was not one to play with dolls as a child, other than Barbie, and I played with Barbie like the boys played with their armies...only she became a leader of the Calvary Division!  But I had a doll that had been given to me one Christmas, a gift that constantly mystified me. She was as tall as I was, had eyes that blinked, curly dark hair, and could "walk" if moved a certain way. I named her "Mary" (I think that was the doll's actual commercial name), and Mom constantly spoke of how that doll's hair was the same color as mine and she couldn't tell us apart from behind.

Parents, take note:  your children hear and process very intelligently the things you say when you think they couldn't care less!

Oh, yes, I was listening, and it was by listening that I gained my "freedom"!

That fateful afternoon, after Mom had left, I quickly pulled back my bedcovers, got up, and put my tall doll in my place. I always slept with the covers over my head, so I pulled them up, leaving just enough hair visible for Mom to think it was me when she came in to check on me.

I went to my bedroom window, which was open, opened the screen, climbed out, and closed the screen behind me, leaving it cracked enough so that it didn't latch and would allow me re-entrance later.

Then I skipped off to join my friends!

It was a wonderful afternoon which ended unfortunately in a childhood fight, and I returned home steamin' mad!

Because I was so angry, I forgot my subversiveness and came in the front door, howling about my friend's betrayal and cruelty.

Mom was shocked. I can still remember how she stood there, wiping her hands on a towel as she came out of the kitchen, saying in anger and confusion, "I thought you were taking a nap!"

I stood rooted to the spot for a moment, then tried to run to my room to "destroy the evidence", but she got there first....and for the first time in my life, I was grounded. In fact, I wasn't allowed to play with "those boys" for a very long time.

And my doll was taken away. (That really wasn't punishment...I hated that doll.)


I have often remembered that day, usually with giggles, and even accolades from others exclaiming at the brilliance of my actions that day at such a young age.

That's the problem, though, isn't it?  We are all too ready to laugh at and enjoy sin, and I admit I am STILL brought to great mirth when I remember my huge deception, and I am STILL  at odds with my mother's very Just response.  As I write my own story, I remain on MY side and see my mother as the enemy in it.

And I was "captured" and "punished" by "the enemy".

This story shows how far I yet have to go. Even though now as an adult, especially in our age, I see my Mother's anger as concern and love, and the consequences of my actions as true Justice, I still can't shake my joyful and unholy mirth at pulling one over on her when I was barely beyond toddlerhood!

This is how we are towards God, too. 

All of us.

There are big (mortal, grave) sins, and there are venial (smaller) sins.  Mortal sins destroy the virtue of Charity (Divine love) in OUR hearts, cutting us off from a relationship with God.  Venial sins are small, often unintentional but encompass flaws that did not include intent, will, and full knowledge of what we are doing.

As I was a child, of course my sin was venial, but could anyone deny that my actions were totally innocent?  No!  Indeed, I disobeyed my mother, knowingly and willfully, I intended my lie (of my doll in my place) and I intended and willed my deception with full intention to get away with it.  I might actually theologically argue that, even as a child, even so young, I had come VERY close to committing mortal sin. The only missing element was that the sin itself was not objectively grave, although it could be argued that it was.

And, make no mistake to try to excuse me;  I knew at that time what I was doing, why, and the intended outcome.

That is human nature, and I cannot deny I knew the difference between right and wrong.

As adults, we try to excuse ourselves even more, trying to justify our actions in more perverse and more common terms.

But we now commit acts that don't involve disobedience to parents, but to God AND parents (if our parents gave us any objective moral formation at all).

When we commit mortal sin, which involves an objectively grave sin (murder, contraception, abortion, sexual acts outside of marriage, abusive sexual acts within marriage- like objectifying one's spouse, chemical abuse - going out with the intention of getting drunk, etc, use of the occult like Reiki, Tarot, Palm reading, etc....etc), we cut ourselves off from God.

He does not cut Himself off from us. He sent His only Son to die for us, a horrible death, because we are caught in this trap and can't get ourselves out.

We are all rams caught in thorns, and he offers Himself to take our place.

Yet still, we sin, and we cut ourselves off. We turn our backs on God.

Why the Punishment?

When my Mom grounded me for my serious and dangerous disobedience, she gave the punishment out of love. Notice she did not eject me from the family, but saw what I needed; to be kept under closer supervision.  She feared she would lose me, that something awful would happen, and saw that the correction I needed was to be kept within her sight so that she could form me more properly and more importantly....protect me.

When we cut ourselves off from God, something similar happens.

When we cut ourselves off from Divine Charity by committing mortal sin, God does not forget us, but, as soon as we recognize we are wrong (i.e. try to climb back in the window we evacuated or come in the front door in a frenzy) He pours His grace down upon us. He does this to get us back to Confession, to recognize who we are in relation to Him.

I once had a professor, a convert to the Church, who said that when he knew he had committed mortal sin, he felt "buoyed up" and almost BROUGHT to Confession by Divine Grace. He experienced more consolations in that period than when in a state of grace (if such a state can truly be discerned...we can hope but never presuppose in arrogance and pride). I've experienced the same thing; it is subtle, but present, and I always return to a state of dryness after Confession.

When we commit Mortal sin, in a way, we Excommunicate ourselves. Although the term "Excommunicate" applies to only certain, very very grave cases of "intelligent disobedience and betrayal", in a sense, that's what we do to ourselves when we act so willfully against Divine Charity.

The penalty of Excommunication, however, is far greater than anything most Catholics can ever experience.  Even the term "Latae sentencia" applies ONLY under certain circumstances and has to be applied by one in authority, not by the word of Canon Law itself.  Why?  Because the penalty is much like being grounded;  it is meant to heal.

When I was a child and was grounded for my serious offense, Mom, and Dad, saw that I needed to be kept closer to them, and so I was excluded from my social circle in order that I would both be formed and healed and directed according to what was right, and not allowed to travel in the terrible path I was headed had I had my own way.

So it is with excommunication;  do you think such a penalty is designed for anything other than healing?  Those who have been excommunicated are closest to the heart of the Church, for in their going astray, do you think they are forgotten or dismissed?

NO!  They are held closer in prayer and in attention. It is they who are excommunicated who bear the burden of their exile, for this penalty is only imposed upon those who are busy having temper tantrums, accusing their family and parents of "hating them" because they are not allowed to wreak havoc without censure or some other similar reason.

Excommunication is the Ecclesiastical form of parental "Grounding"; nothing more, nothing less.

I learned from being grounded, and I was better formed by the discipline. I thank my parents for being so vigilant.

In our age, an age that rebels against any authority whatsoever,  the penalty of Excommunication is seen by the faithful and the dissenters alike as an exile, which is a total misunderstanding of the theology and intent of the prescription.

I hope my comparison between grounding and excommunication has been of help to some of you. I do not offer my story as a full parallel or even as an accurate theological explanation, but only as an example that may offer some insight for those who struggle with the concept.

Know that if you do struggle with it, you are not alone, and your questions are encouraged.

Nothing that is True fears being questioned, for Truth has answers to all questions.

Sometimes I think I should pray that God ground me for all my earthly life.

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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Story Time with Adoro - Inanity

Since all of my 4 readers (God bless you!) have asked me to continue with "Story Time with Adoro" I thought I would indulge them this evening.  This post was originally published back on April 4, 2007 but I think it would be just as happy now in July of 2010.  

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One of the things no one knows about me is that I was once interviewed on the radio. In the studio. I'm certain that no one I knew actually heard me so this is knowledge only the DJ those present happens to have, and they've probably all long forgotten about it.

On the day we graduated from Firefighter training and were sworn in in a ceremony in which no one in my life other than my boyfriend at the time, himself a Firefighter for same city, cared to be present,  we "cadets" had a small gathering in a restaurant in downtown Minneapolis. We just had some drinks and appetizers, and then a few of us decided to hang out before the party in the evening, so we ran a few errands, picked up some beverages, and we ran out to my friend's part-time job (might have been volunteer): the B-96 studio in Minneapolis.

We all went in with her in order to get a glance at the inside of the biz, and she greeted the on-air DJ joyfully as they knew each other well, being fellow DJ's an' all. She told him that we'd graduated/were sworn-in that day.

He paused, appraised us all for a moment, and said softly, directly to our friend, shaking his head, " KNOW I gotta put you on..." He smiled at us all, thrilled to be able to provide something other media sources didn't know anything about.

I can still hear the melodic tone of his voice; the man was born to be on the airwaves.

We found ourselves presently in a small conference room that could maybe fit 10 or fewer around the table. We all had microphones in front of us, corresponding with each chair. I wondered if I was suddenly cast onto the set of "Frazier." Was a Jack Russel terrier about to bound into the room barking? Was Roz going to enter making some sort of snide comment, with Frazier retorting in his high-falutin' over-educated, under-intelligenced manner?

No...this was a small radio station established off of Olson Memorial Highway in Minneapolis, home to the proud DJ's of urbandome.

Our friend was in her element, clearly comfortable. The rest of us just stared at each other and her with mixed emotions; excitement, trepidation...fear we would say something completely stupid and the whole world would have a front-row ear while they drove home from work.

When our friend got the signal, she started in with a typical trendy radio introduction, obviously her regular opening line. I'd never seen her happier. She explained the context of our sudden presence on the airwaves and went into "interview" mode, placing herself both as a DJ they all knew and as a participant in the accomplishments we'd shared in training.

I can't remember the exact question she posed, but I think it had something to do with our biggest challenges faced as women in firefighter training.

What an opportunity! What a moment! To be able to speak for and encorage women everywhere!

We went around the table, introducing ourselves as directed. I think we gave our ages (we were all in our 20's), and then we answered "the question."

I said something to the effect that I "learned to face and overcome a lot of fears...and I'll always take that with me."

So there it is. My one-liner which will never go down in history. My moment in the spotlight...and the ultimate reality of inanity, forever disappearing into the deepest inaninty of history, forgotten, buried, never to be heard again.

(Please do not flood B96 for requests of our interview on that fall morning late in 2001.)

So! I invite you into the inanity...I challenge all my readers to provide their own moment of inanity, and nothing is too inane! (This post should serve as proof of that....)

Abandoned at the Foot of the Cross

I sought him whom my soul loves. I sought him but found him not. I called him but he gave no answer." ~ Song of Solomon 3:1

Every so often I have a sense of "abandonment."  It is not loneliness or sadness, but something different, perhaps a sense that words cannot describe. I find that this "mood" is often a catalyst to prayer and contemplation if I take the time to, in a way, enter into it.

I have been working on my second icon; Our Lady of Perpetual Help (or as I prefer, Our Mother of Perpetual Help), and it's a very slow process. This icon is very large, which means it takes much longer to fill in the colors, and I find that, because I am working directly under a ceiling fan, the paint dries out more quickly than I can adequately control, but yet, I often have to pause to wait for my freshest layer to dry before I can continue.

This kind of slow process definitely helps me to remain in prayer, as with each brush stroke, with each repetitive motion I am able to pray for a particular purpose. Maybe it's for help in writing this icon, perhaps for those I know have a devotion to her, perhaps for those I know are grieving.

A friend of mine is still grieving the loss of her dear nephew who was recently killed in an accident. Today we prayed the rosary for him in the chapel, and so today, as I worked on my icon, she, her nephew, and their family remained close to me so that I could offer them to Our Mother of Perpetual Help.

I began to see a connection, then, to my sense of abandonment today. I contemplated this solitude of mine and offered it up in union with Christ in his abandonment on the Cross, and Our Lady when nearly everyone else fled, leaving her to her grief and utter abandonment.  Even though others loved Jesus, even though John and Mary remained with her a the foot of the cross, none could truly enter into her grief; she is the Mother of Sorrows, who invites us to fly to her with our own.

As I worked on filling in her cloak, I considered how often I have left her to her grief, abandoned a the foot of the Cross. I wiped away a mistake when my brush had gone over the line into another color, grimacing at the residue left behind, and considered how my willful sin abandons not just Jesus, but His Mother as she prays at the foot of the Cross, her tears mingling with the blood of her Son.

I thought about how often I had willfully been distracted at Mass, perhaps entertaining other thoughts that took me away from the Holy Sacrifice being made present, and therefore, abandoning Our Lord at the very moment of salvation. How I have added to Our Mother's sorrows by being so distracted!

And still I worked, for I know that in the spiritual life it is important to recognize mistakes and their effects.

It is good for me to recognize how often I have abandoned Our Lord, and it puts my own eerie sense of abandonment into perspective. Perhaps it is proper for me to experience this while working on this particular icon, for the sense becomes a vehicle to deeper prayer and deeper penetration of the Mystery of our Redemption.

Mary always points to Jesus and always draws us to the Cross. She helps us seek and find Him whom our hearts desire.

We are never really abandoned.

"I will rise now and go about the city, in the streets and in the squares;
I will seek him whom my soul loves.
I sought him and found him not.
The watchment found me, as they went about in the city. 
'Have you seen him whom my soul loves?'
Scarcely had I passed them, when I found him whom my soul loves."
~ Song of Solomon 3:2-4

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Story Time!

I haven't had a Story Time in awhile, so settle in, grab your iced tea or warm milk or hot cocoa or water with a twist of lemon. Whatever works. Tonight I'm going to tell two stories: one from my rookie cop days (all I was was a rookie so I'm a bit of an expert on rookie stupidity) and one from my veteran insurance investigator days.

The Rookie

Tonight I was watching the new show, "Rookies" or whatever it's called. I cringe at a lot of it as it isn't like any rookiehood I've ever heard of or experienced, but heck, it's Hollywood and God knows they can't tell a story right if their lives and careers depended on it. (That explains a lot of what happens to celebs, but I digress.) Obviously, screenwriters know nothing about how reality makes a far better story than their pedantic and adolescently immature daydreams about what it would be like to be a cop.

Anyway, in part of tonight's version, the rookie cop ends up being left alone at a crime scene, there to keep the woman of the house company until her husband got home. But when the stuff goes down, she realizes that for some weird reason, she forgot to load her gun that morning.

I gotta be honest here; I don't remember ever UN-LOADING my gun! It wasn't our department policy. Heck, I should have ejected the round I carried in my gun during my tour of duty and had it bronzed as the round that was chambered and then retired without ever having to explode.  But I digress.

At the end of the show, the Captain (or whatever he was according to their hierarchy), when Rookie confesses to not having loaded her gun, tells her that it's a common mistake and "that's why you have a partner."

There's truth there; it IS a common mistake, and I remember the night I made that mistake myself!  The difference was this: it wasn't that I'd forgotten to load my gun. I had rather forgotten to bring it with me!

How did that happen?

On Day 1 on the Job, my FTO (Field Training Officer) gave me a tour of the facility and the holding area, showing me the lockbox for weapons. If an arrest was made, we searched them outside of holding, then once they were clear put our own weapons in the lock box.  My FTO said that he put the key (like a gym locker key) in his rear pocket as it would remind him, when he sat on it, that he'd forgotten his gun.

I think I did as he suggested, certain that if I sat on that oddly-shaped thing I'd remember before I ever left the station that I didn't have my gun.

Well, one night we brought a guy in, processed him, and hit the road. This was a normal practice. I remember driving through the streets, my FTO giving various instructions and suddenly I became aware that something was missing.

With a gasp I put my hand to my hip and confessed that....I didn't have my gun!

You know those dreams you have where you show up somewhere public and you're naked or clad only in your underwear?

The realization that I didn't have my gun was a lot like that, but WORSE as I realized that in my role, the public depended on me to have my gun. It wasn't about humiliation; it was quite literally life and death!

In embarrassment I returned to the station and my FTO let me go back inside by myself (it must have been 30 minutes to an hour after we'd left) so that I could sheepishly collect and holster my weapon. Oh, yes, the ribbing that came my way!

I thanked God nothing had happened in that time period; after all, even though my career was short, I did have need to unsnap my .45 and withdraw it during that tenure! I think that while on the Job, I'd rather have been naked than without my gun, even though I hoped and prayed never to have to use it!

It was a serious Rookie dumb moment:  honestly, how do you NOT notice that the weight of a .45 Smith & Wesson is absent?

Y'all, pray for rookie cops; they do stupid things, and you do NOT want them to be doing stupid things when YOU are the one calling 911!

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The Nice Car Thief

This story isn't mine, but it's so memorable and awesome I find the need to post it for your edification and entertainment!

One day, hard at work at my desk, I got a call from a new investigator who had the most interesting case; he thought it so funny he HAD to share it, and I'm glad he did!

It was, for once, a legitimate car theft claim.  The woman reported her car stolen, she gave a good description on the maintenance that was done and, importantly, that which was needed. She described the prior damage to her car (nicks, scratches, door dings, lights out...etc.  I don't know the specifics for her car, but it was an older model so she knew a lot of the marks that would identify it.).

As with many older-model legit thefts, her car was recovered within a couple weeks. She called to inform the Investigator of the recovery and said she was going down to the Impound lot to look at it and sign the paperwork that would allow the Insurance company to inspect it and tow it if needed.

She called her Rep/Investigator from Impound, completely perplexed.

Customer: Hi, Scott. I'm out here at the impound, and I'm looking at my car right now.

"Scott":  Great!  How is it?

Customer:  Well...this is weird. I'm looking at it, and it's DEFINITELY my car, but......

Scott:  What's wrong?

Customer:  Well......remember how I told you about the damage to my bumper? That big scratch I said was there?

Scott:  Yes...

Customer:  It's GONE!  It's like....he fixed it!  But...this is DEFINITELY my car, but it looks way better than it did before!  It's driveable so...can I get it out of here and take it home?

Scott:  Yes, go ahead. Save the receipt of the impound fees so we can credit you towards your deductible, then give me a call back if you find anything wrong with it.

That's where he thought it ended. A couple hours or so later, the woman called back.

Customer:  Hi, Scott, I got my car back and I have the receipt from impound. But..this is really weird.

Scott:  Hi! What's going on with your car?

Customer:  Well....I told you about the bumper, but, you know how I said that it needed an oil change and that it was making a funny sound before?

Scott:  Yes, I it worse?

Customer:  No!'s better! It's like...he fixed my car! It's running BETTER than I ever remember it running!

Scott:  SERIOUSLY????? 

Customer:  YES!

(pause, shocked silence as neither knew how to react)

Customer:  So...I guess you can close the claim, there isn't any damage to my car. It's actually better now than before it was stolen!  The impound fees are under my deductible and I'm happy to have my car back.  He even cleaned it out!

Scott:  I'm glad it turned out so well for you. This is amazing!  I'll go ahead and close the claim, but do let me know if anything does turn up, and I would like a copy of your out of pocket expense in case something else comes up.

Customer:  I'll fax it to you for your file. I can't get over this!  (laughing)

Scott:  (laughing)


You'd think it's over, right?  But wait...there's MORE!

A couple days later, the customer called the Representative back:

Customer:  Hi, Scott, you're not going to believe this....

Scott:  What happened? Is everything all right?

Customer:  Well, I was putting everything back in order. My maintenance manual is missing, but I found an insurance card in the mailbox.

Scott:  Oh?

Customer: Yeah! It looked different than my card, and I looked at the date on was insured through Company XYZ a couple days after it was stolen, and I want to give you all the info.  HE INSURED MY CAR!  (*LAUGHING*)

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Need I go on? I'm STILL laughing over that one and hoping this guy will steal MY car!  I only wish he had stolen it before the recent (and necessary) brake job/oil change.  My tranny flush is WAY overdue, but yet another thing to hit the credit card along with the brake replacement charges.

Is there a thief out there willing to take my car, fix it, and leave it for the cops to pick up? It would be cheaper to pay impound than to actually pay for it....

(Just sayin'....)

I gotta say, that was the BEST car theft story I ever head. I only regret that it went to a rookie instead of one of we veterans in need of a serious break...

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This Story Time has been brought to you by Adoro in hopes you have found comedic relief. Please show your appreciation in the combox if you would like Story Time with Adoro (TM) to be a regular feature.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Overheard in Adoro's World

The other night I went to Mass and afterwards talked with a friend for a few minutes.  His 11-year-old niece and teen nephew were with him, also engaging in the conversation in various ways.

As we were walking out of the church, the 11-year-old suddenly piped up and asked me, "So you're really holy, huh?"

"Nope! I'm a sinner!"

"Too BAD for YOU!"

Oh, kid, you have no idea.....

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Monastic Life

"Lord, let my cry come to you; do not hide your face from me." 
Ant. 1, Morning Prayer

I really love the contemplative life.

I only arrived home on Saturday, and immediately missed the hours of community prayer, the chanted psalms, chanted prayers, and the flow of life in a religious community.

I loved the fact that no matter what we were doing, it was the ONLY thing I had to do at that given time. When we were praying, there was nothing else on my mind (except the icon, which, of course, was being prayed!). When we were at meals, I was content to be present there, and only there.

When I was working on my icon, I was wholly absorbed into the process, and pondering, as I wrote, the mystery of the Incarnation, the identity of Mary and of Christ. I was realizing my many faults and the very real process of trying to grow in holiness, yet constantly failing. I came to learn that even that is a work of beauty when touched by God's grace.

It seems to me that life was far more real, and more honest, than the life I am living now. I

Even though I regularly pray the Liturgy of the Hours, I cannot do so at the same times every day, and so often when I go to pray my mind is on something I have to do next. I almost feel guilty for taking time out to pray and have to struggle hard against that temptation!

Last week, nearly every day it was my privilege to attend Mass in the Extraordinary Form. By the end of the week I was able to follow along, understood how to find my place in the missal, and found that I was far more focused and aware in that form of the Mass than I am when I attend Mass in the Ordinary Form (what many people call the "Novus Ordo" which is somewhat of a perjorative term.)

It was a bit jarring to go from a week of contemplative prayer, Latin chants, and the deep holiness of the Extraordinary Form to Mass in my home parish on Sunday complete with the narcissistic show tunes that tend to characterize (and wreck) the Ordinary Form. On Sunday I was distracted, I was irritated and found that I couldn't focus...because I didn't "have" to; I could understand everything clearly.

Last summer when I visited the Cistercians we talked about Latin; Sister observed that even though they often don't understand the words they are praying, they know the focus is God, and they realize that the Mass, and the prayers of the Liturgy of the Hours is so holy it has its own language. The Mass itself is so profound and mysterious that truly, on this side of the veil we are not MEANT to fully understand it.

We become sanctified by continually seeking the face of God, and, I have found, when things come too easily to us, it's very easy to think we understand everything, and therefore we stop seeking. So it is with Mass in the vernacular; I cannot focus because I have no REASON to focus. Nothing is mysterious; nothing draws me into the Mystery of Christ made present on the altar. I try to focus because I know what's going on, but in the Extraordinary Form, I am forced to look more deeply, to be more invested and in so being, to be more open to God.

I miss that.

I ache for that.

It was not a week of spiritual consolations by any means; most of my prayer life and Mass attendence is fairly dry. I desire to pray and I desire to attend Mass and enjoy doing so because I love God, but in all that I have written above, understand that none of it was about emotion or sentimentality.

Perhaps what I am trying to express is too far beyond words, although I suspect many of the faithful do understand and have the same interior sense.

Marriage to Christ

One of the things that came to me during prayer, and during Mass last week was, of course, the meaning of religious life. I considered the vows to be made, and how Our Lord courts his beloved, drawing her to Him in subtle ways. He is generous and does not withhold His generosity.

In prayer I pondered the vows of marriage, and the changes in life that must take place. If I were to marry, I would go to live with my husband, and his family would become my family. I would have a new circle of friends and acquaintances. I would have to get rid of many things, for they would not be needed or would be impractical in a new life. I would have to make sacrifices, and die to myself so as to offer myself more fully to the union to which I was called. My routine would change, my obligations would change.

So it is with religious life as well. All of that, and more.

I used to think about all the things I'd be "giving up", but in reflecting on the reality, it's not about giving anything up. It's about what is to be gained. If our hands are clinging to material things, they are not open  and able to cling to that which is eternal.

I want a life of prayer, a life of living intensely, a life of holiness.

I will never be satisfied with anything else.

"My heart is ready, O Lord, my heart is ready..." 
~ Ant. 1 Morning Prayer (Wednesday)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

My First Icon

I have just returned home from an amazing week.

It's also a week that proves that I am among the geekiest of Catholic geeks. Think about it! What do NORMAL people do when they take a week off work? I, personally, don't know. I'm not normal. (Surprise!)

Early Sunday morning I headed into the depths of Wisconsin corn fields to find the Oratory that rose as if planted from the depths of the fruitful land in the midst of Mennonite and Catholic farmland....and there, my "journey" began with a beautiful, contemplative Mass in the Extraordinary Form....

Iconography Reveals the Soul of the Iconographer

Icons are Scripture, which is why they are "written" as opposed to "drawn". Compare the work of an icon to that of the Word of God; when the monks of yore, St. Jerome, for example, bent over the candle at his desk, he sought to copy down EXACTLY what was written before. They wanted, and DID pass on to future generations, even 2,000 years later, what came from Christ Himself and His Apostles.  An Icon is the same; it is ancient, it is Scripture in pictures, in every line, color, shadow, and highlight.

Throughout the week, the icon began to take shape, little by little. It is made by many many thin layers of paint, delicate brush strokes, and in my case, mistakes that had to be covered up!

The icon Sister chose for us to write was Holy Mother of God "Three Handed", and the feast day of this particular icon, in the West, was July 12; the day we actually put paint to the lines.

What began as a mere trace, over the hours and days, slowly took form. It was an experience of Creation, nearly liturgical, for it seemed to me to follow the pattern of Genesis, finding its completion on Friday so that on Saturday, we could rest.

Those familiar with iconography are aware that they also need to be "prayed". I found I often had to "step away" from it and pray, and a few times took it to the chapel to look at it from a distance, evaluate what was needed, re-offer it to God and ask for help, in the words of scripture, to "bring it to perfection."  Indeed, the icon reveals the soul of the iconographer, not just in the lines but in the process itself!

In a humorous moment, however, as the Madonna's face began to clearly emerge, I paused, thinking that something about it looked, well.....very familiar!

Ah, yes; I had unwittingly made the Mother of God into my own image;  I had given her my nose!

So, without further ado, I present to you, my readers, a photo of my very first icon:

Yesterday morning it was placed on the altar at Mass (Extraordinary Form) and blessed. Soon I will begin work on my next icon.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Adoro's Monastic Adventure: The Sequel

Many of you will recall my "Great Monastic Adventure" of last summer: my visits to three different religious communities. One Active, the other two Cloistered.

It's exactly one year later, and I'm going off again, this time for an adventure of a different kind. This time, I will be living, again, in a convent, joining a small community, attending Mass, prayer, meals...everything. And this time, I will also be learning iconography.

Have no fear; discernment is a big part of this visit, too, for, as I had "asked" once before, would it be possible for me to live this life for a week without taking it seriously and posing my deepest questions to God?  There will be a great deal of time in prayer, a great deal of time to inquire of Him what He is truly asking of me.

It's time to move on....

I am done with school, I know that I am in a job to which I am not called (but for a time), and I am ready to make a decision. A very big one. The decision from which every other decision in my life will flow from that point on.

Whether this next week will answer those questions or not, I don't know. One of the communities I visited last summer is actively trying to help me come out again, perhaps as soon as the end of July/Beginning of August, although I am not sure that God is calling me to go there again.  Whether I would like to or not is pretty much a moot point. Last year, I had an interior sense of KNOWING I was supposed to go there. This year, I have an interior sense of "I'd like to go visit again", but I am wrestling with it a great deal. One of the things I have learned without a doubt over the last year is that I do not like teaching children. It's not my gift, I don't enjoy it (those few times I've done it), I cannot relate to them in any meaningful way, and without a doubt, I do not want to be a teacher!  Unfortunately, the community in question is primarily teaching or nursing. I know also that I don't have the temperament for nursing, and as you just read...nor do I have the aptitude to teach children.

Please do not misunderstand;  I love children! And, it seems, they love me back.  But loving them does not necessarily translate into having the aptitude to teach.

To a degree, the SKILL of teaching can be learned. One can learn how to put together a lesson plan and activities and plan out a year's worth of curriculum. One can be lectured and shown how best to bring great concepts down to the varying age levels.

However, that knowledge dies in the implementation when the person responsible for carrying out has a brain that doesn't bend that way.

I have tried and I have tried and even coworkers have commented that it's obvious I can't connect with them. It simply isn't my gift and the very thought of having to do such a job day in and day out.... *shudder*

Discernment of Gifts and Talents

A big part of discernment is knowing both your strengths and weaknesses in all areas of your life.

What makes you happy? What gets you fired up? What do you enjoy doing? To whom do you best relate? What skills do you actually possess, and of those skills, which are truly talents and which are mechanical motions you have to go through just to get the job done? Are you an organizer, a leader, a background worker, a ham or a wallflower?

What do you know, innately, that you are called to?

I'm still in that process of sorting those things out, but thanks to my parish work, have actually been given the grace of greater self-knowledge.

I am not an organizer or a leader. Don't put me in charge of anything; I can't organize and lead my way out of a wet paper bag ripped open on both sides! (Don't laugh: it's true!)

I am a person who needs structure. I can work within structure and process. As a friend once said to me, "You just have to know exactly what your job is, and once you know that, everyone get out of your way and let you work!" Yes, yes...the years have borne out his observation time and time again! I may adapt things to fit the situation, but overall, I need structure or I am lost. Ergo:  I am not a creative person.

I am occasionally a ham, but more often a wallflower. I prefer silence and solitude to noise and crowds. I far prefer Gregorian Chant and Classical music to Praise and Worship and Heavy Metal. (I like Evanescence, though!).  I prefer to work in the background, out of the public eye, and let someone else stand in the limelight. While I can do public speaking and do enjoy it, I cringe at standing in the center of a crowd of people firing questions at me or telling me they need this and that and shoving documents and things into my hand while I stand rooted there, blinking in confusion.

I am happiest when I am writing, when I am praying, when I am walking my dog. I am happiest when working to bring back the lost souls, the generations of Catholics and others who have fallen away from God.

I know, without a doubt, that God has prepared me for a particular service to Him and to the Church. The Bishop, in his homily at our Graduation Mass, spoke to us about having a "zeal for souls"; his plea resonated with me. That is the call of the Saints, it is the mission of the Church.

There are others who can teach children. My focus is on their parents, their grandparents; those who were lost and slipped away in the confusion following Vatican II.

If some of us don't go after those generations, their children now will be as lost as they. Our society is becoming more and more antagonistic towards religion. In the meantime, those lost generations are becoming more and more ambivalent and lukewarm, choosing neither this nor that, preferring a smattering of "whatever feels good".

I've seen too many Catholics at "ecumenical" events quite literally apologizing for "still being Catholic".

Too many who claim to be Catholic haven't even the foggiest idea what it means, why they stay, why they even claim the title.

That's the crowd God has called me to serve, and I know I am not alone in this.

What that means for my Vocational Discernment?  I don't yet know. But I do know that it indicates one thing:   I am not called to be an elementary teacher, or even a middle school teacher.

I am called to reach out to adults; for now, those who ask for help. Just last week I sat down with a friend, a teacher, from work. She needed help with a theology class she is taking this summer. The time with her FLEW by, and I was absolutely overjoyed to explain and help her understand a particular prayer of a Saint about which she had to write a paper. It was an absolute JOY to assist her!

Occasionally, because of my blog, people write to me and ask questions about Catholicism. Some of them are Catholic themselves, others are not and are just looking for information. I love answering those questions, helping them find other resources, helping them, hopefully, come closer to God.

That's what I'm called to. That is my passion.

So, tomorrow I head out to the next chapter and even as I learn a new skill, I will be living the monastic life once again, with my big question to God:   "What now?"

Maybe this time He'll answer. I'm ready to make a decision.

** ** **

Previous convent/ monastery experiences can be found at the links below. Interestingly enough, most of them have proven to be among my most popular posts; they continue to receive a lot of hits by people using search terms relating to discernment, convents, and monastic life.

Life in the Convent
The Bells of Temptation
Kissing the Cross
Advancing the Quest
Cistercian Retreat
Monastic Silence
Entering the Silence

Monday, July 05, 2010

Fundamental Differences

Several years ago, (many, in fact....too many...) just after my graduation from college while I was still a young, naive and gung-ho-feminist-gonna-be-cop with an attitude, I had the undeserved grace to work with a couple of guys who weren't afraid to be men.

I didn't realize at the time that they spoke a very solid, theological truth to me; after all, what an unlikely source! As I came to learn, though, they served to prove that God designed men and women very differently from each other, and to recognize those differences is not demeaning; rather, it glorifies God and sanctifies us all with the dignity God intended us to have.

You may be asking what wonderful truth these raggedy, trash-talkin', conceited tough-guy stereotypical men imparted to me?

I'm glad you asked!

One winter night we went out on the town and had a few brewskis and a few shots. I was a new addition to the management of our department (with them), and apparently that night at the bar was my "initiation" of sorts. We had worked together for a couple years, but my promotion was recent, and with my promotion, they finally had the freedom to tell me what they really thought.

That night I enjoyed their friendly, if challenging company, and was happy to be "one of the boys" which was a role I was used to filling.  In my college years, the reality was that most of my friends were guys. I could relate to them easily, and they liked me because I liked things such as weapons and learning hand-to-hand combat. And if someone got into my face, I was not real willing to back down.

Also, I could drink Tequila straight from the bottle and swear not just a sailor, but a pirate right under the table. I'm no longer proud of that gift, nor am I capable of it anymore, but at the time it endeared me to my male counterparts. At least to a professional degree.

(Aside: That's the irony of working with men in some fields...what is unprofessional in some crowds is professional in another).

Anyway, that evening as we waited for our next round of shots, we discussed women in Law Enforcement (a very personal topic for me), and we discussed women in the military. I was all for sending women into combat; I was a strong advocate of women in any and every role and made no bones about it. My male colleagues disagreed. One of them because, as was my impression, had been raised by a chauvenist pig and so became one, and the other arrived at his opinion from the point of view from his indoctrination as a Marine, Special Forces.

 In either case, my instinct was to completely disregard their old-fashioned archaic oppressive opinions as worthless drivel.

Just the same, those guys' words have never left me, as much as it used to pain me to admit it

The first thing I thought of when I learned about the Theology of the Body was the conversation I had with my   male friends that night. Pope John Paul II, had he been present with us, would have been nodding along with them while they told me about the facts regarding men and women.

Those guys explained very candidly that men have a natural instinct to protect women.

They agreed that women can indeed defend themselves, can do many or most of the same jobs men do, but women have to work harder to do it. (This was a lesson that came home to me about five years later when I trained for and was hired by the Fire Dept.) Their acquiescence to the idea that women had abilities, however, differed from their argument, for ultimately, they weren't talking about doing...they were talking about the foundation of BEING!

Carefully, trying to help me understand, these guys, these friends and co-workers of mine tried to explain that  (in a combat, law enforcement, firefighting situation) even though men realize women don't want any help if they are struggling with a task, men will still want to help them. Thus, in a combat situation, men will instinctively put themselves, and even other men at risk in order to help a woman, even if she is a soldier fighting alongside them. They will do it for the good of their unit, for the good of their country, for the good of the woman...possibly to the detriment of all.

I refused to see his logic and tried to argue that we women don't WANT protection, and we don't NEED protection. I was missing the point...he was attempting to explain to me that it wasn't about what women was about how men are designed and that no matter how much they tried, they could not suppress their internal instinct to protect the women around them.

This argument went on for hours. Literally. It went on all night.  I had lost it from the beginning but refused to let it go. My friends finally gave up, realizing that I simply was not going to see reality, and really wasn't even trying. I was too busy holding onto an ideology that saw human biology as "unjust".

The only problem was this: I HAD begun to see it their way, but I simply would not admit it or give up my feminist perspective. It was easier to hold on with all my might to what I wanted to believe, that which would serve my own personal ideology, than it was to look to the expertise of these men who had real-life experience to back up what they were saying.

One of them spoke from experience in combat, but was prohibited from giving examples as his examples were classified. The other spoke from a heart he didn't want anyone to know he had.  Both, in practice, were really a couple a jerks, but both, also, were real men who understood the fundamental differences between the sexes; differences I was afraid to acknowledge for fear it would make me less than I tried to be.

In the end, I learned the lesson the hard way, and only through understanding it have I come to embrace the Truth. I don't regret my foray into Law Enforcement or Firefighting, and I still support women's presence there, for women do bring a particular charism to the Job. However, I do advocate that women who take that route understand who they are, their limitations, and the limitations of the men with whom they work.

Men and women are NOT the same, but are designed to be complimentary to one another, for the good primarily of the family, secondarily to society.

I realize this post may be a catalyst to a greater discussion, and I welcome it so I will stop my position here.  Are there readers with differing positions?  Are there those who speak from experience who agree or disagree?  Are there those who seek clarification, or any who would like to add another facet in the interest of discussion?

The combox is open. I am truly interested in what my readers have to offer on this topic.
As a reminder, I do not allow anonymous comments. Make up a handle to identify yourself. Thank you.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Battle Hymn on the 4th of July

Today we celebrate our Independence as a nation, even we, who are Catholics, and who were not welcomed upon these shores. Yet we came, also as refugees, and we came willingly, not only to escape famines and wars and persecution, but also out of that commission of Christ to go forth and bring the gospel to all nations.

And so we came, and we made our homes here in this Protestant nation, knowing that as we live here, we are merely pilgrims, for our citizenship is Heaven. Our God-given duty is to bring the light of Christ everywhere we go, to live in His name, to die in His name.

We live this commission out with dual citizenship, for as our primary citizenship belongs to God, we become earthly citizens in this nation, taking the title "American". Even though we weren't wanted here, this country could not make us go and we have, indeed, continued to spread the gospel to all levels of society. We have taken up the American flag, and have died for this country so that all men might have freedom to practice their religion, might have the freedom to determine the laws of this nation and society, free from dictatorship, free from oppression, free to welcome others to our land so that they, too, can make it their earthly home.

We are called by God himself to the virtue of Patriotism, for we recognize the great gift of the American soil and government as an extension of His own benevolent hand, and by serving our country as good citizens from taxpayer to soldier to public servant to Supreme Court Justice, we are serving God as long as we remember that we live and die for Him in all that we do.

My fellow American citizens in Christ, today as we celebrate, let us recall those who have come before us, those pilgrims who also made this land their home and served it with every moment of their lives, putting their hands to the plow and keeping their eyes on Christ.  Let us recall that we are still called today to do the same,  and that in dying to make men free, we do so not just for political boundaries, but to keep our religion free; we die so that others may attain eternal life.

Our greatest obligation to our country is to serve God with everything we have, everything we are, and everything we will ever be, and in so doing, sanctify our nation.



Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword;
His truth is marching on.

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His truth is marching on.

I have seen Him in the watch fires of a hundred circling camps
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps;
His day is marching on.

I have read a fiery Gospel writ in burnished rows of steel;
“As ye deal with My contemners, so with you My grace shall deal”;
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with His heel,
Since God is marching on.

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat;
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet;
Our God is marching on.

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free;
While God is marching on!

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Our God is marching on.

Saturday, July 03, 2010


You know how it is when you grill your sweet corn over the hot coals of the charcoal grill, steaming it perfectly in its own husk...and when you bite into the kernels you can taste the sweet summer wind?

Yeah.  That's what I'm talkin' about.


I ain't got no time to be discussin' no deals with the devil.

For most a'y'all this post is gonna be a bit cryptic, and if you ain't got the gift of understandin', mayhap it ain't nuthin' meant for you. Take it for what it is an' offer it up for those that might be comin' to the same place in differ'nt times.

Maybe this jus' a written version o' th' Blues. An' lemme tell you, folks, no one get outta this life wit'out playin' the blues.

*       *       *

Long ago, I watched the movie "Crossroads", about old Willie Brown and his young potege'. This weekend it was my great pleasure to watch it again, this time with new eyes; the eyes, the ears, the soul the comes from not pretendin', but livin', the blues.

There are many messages in this movie, and the main theme that drives it belongs to Blues Legend "Blind Willie", the man what sold 'his sorry soul to the devil. Along comes Eugene, naive blues enthusiast, lookin' to seek his way by ridin' the coattails of the greatest legend still alive.

Even though Ol' Willie signed his soul away for his fame, he took his lumps along the way and knew that the music was created from within and anyone who wanted to play the blues had to earn his keep, had the walk the line, talk the talk...and live the notes.  It wasn't something that could be learned or even given; the Blues and all that went with it wasn't about mere talent, but spoke of the trials of life.

That's what the movie's about. I won't offer any spoilers as there are those who perhaps haven't had the gumption to see it for themselves.  I leave it to them, and to y'all to draw your own conclusions, but for myself, I find it to be no mistake that I am in possession of this movie on this particular weekend.

       *       *       *

Recently, on the same day, in fact, I  happened upon such a crossroads in a way I did not expect. My discernment is no secret; rather, it is the subject and impetus of my entire blog. Now that I'm done with school and am looking at the wide-open highway (sorta), I have been praying hard for direction. Where do I go? What do I do? Do I wait here, or do I choose a direction and follow it?

Just after praying, "God, what do you want me to do?" I received a couple emails.

One was from a friend asking for theological help as she struggles, as all students of theology do, with new concepts, faithfulness and the general overwhelm-ness all graduate students recognize. She recalled that I had my Master's degree and said, "Can you please help me????"

The other was more at random, from a person I've never heard of, touting himself as head of  somethin', touting hisself as havin' been done REFERRED to me by a trusted friend, wantin' me to open an ol' wooden door with rusty hinges jus' so he can ask a few questions for his commercial benefit.

Never mind the fact that some chapters have closed on my life: I was the one who slammed the door, and have only spoken o' some things as a caution to others.

I speak of them no more. I have been absolved, and those things are in the past. At one point, the devil tried to make a deal with me, and I walked away. That's all I'm willing to say these days.

I will NOT turn my back on God ever again.

       *       *       *

The devil comes to us when we are most vulnerable, and instead of making a direct attack, he most often seeks to get us to enter into dialogue.

Out of "niceness" we often want to engage in the dialogue. Maybe it's in the form of a random Bible Salesman down yonder who knocks us silly with his wares and robs us blind. Maybe it's in the form of a boyfriend who promises marriage, takes what he wants, and conveniently forgets about the ring and eternal life.  Maybe it's in the form of an email seeking "to talk" but the big red flags around the entire thing tell you that you know better and it's best to use the "delete" button.

The problem with sitting at a crossroads is that anything might come along. When you get there, as you will, you need to know what's important, you need to know your ultimate goal or direction or you might wind up havin' a pow-wow with the devil tryin' to get you to sell him somethin' you don' even realize you have, in exchange for some earthly thing even the devil can't poss'bly possess.

All o' us are out there, lookin' for success, lookin' for somethin' to define us. We all start out like fool-headed cusses, only tempered by the lumps we earn through sufferin' every step.

This weekend, I made my decision; answer the devil or answer to God. I take ALL that I have and I give it to God.  I ain't got no time for some joker wantin' anything else from me.  I been down that road, and Jesus already played those Blues and done tore up that contract I tried to make out o' my stupid fool ignorance so long ago.

I ain't lookin' back.  If you want somethin' else from me, don't bother ta' come knockin',  There ain't nobody home.  Buh-bye now and don't come back or you be meetin' the wrong end of my good friend Smith & Wesson, playing bass to my other good friend Winchester.

There ain't really no such thing as a Crossroads; the crossroads is life, and none o' us get outta here without takin' our lumps and singin' the blues. Don't ever let nobody be tellin' you different.

And don't EVER be enterin' into conv'sation wi' da devil; he got nuthin' you be needin and you can sing the Blues and da Praises o' God jus' fine without 'im.