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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Tale of Pajama -Clad Girls and a Stolen Goat

For a few days now, I've been giggling about a story out of Mankato.

Two little girls, ages 5 and 7, snuck out of their house on Saturday night, walked a mile to a Farm Park (whatever that is, exactly), and, uh...liberated a goat. They brought a leash with them and just walked the goat back to their home along a busy street, wearing their footie pajamas.

Fortunately, a neighbor saw them and thought it a strange enough sight to call 911, and fortunately, since they did look so odd, being so young, wearing pajamas in public, and leading a goat in the city, it was very easy for the chortling officer to find them.

I don't think it was very easy for the Police Officer to stifle her own laughter as she "assisted" the children and the goat home.

Today a local News channel posted a video of the story, well worth checking out!

Now I want a goat! (Well...I've wanted goats for a long time, but I live in the city and I don't think my neighbors would appreciate goats in the garage. Or the yard. Even if they WOULD save on lawn mowing fees!

Just sayin'

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Discalced Singles of Perpetual Involuntary Vocational Deprivation

Every now and then someone contacts me to ask how my "discernment" is going, and that makes sense, considering the very premise upon which I began this blog was... (drum roll....) : VOCATIONAL DISCERNMENT.

Well, I haven't offered any updates because IT ISN'T GOING ANYWHERE. 


Now, don't jam up my combox [not that I recall what a jammed-up combox is since I've never had one] with a bunch of hand waving interruptions and insinuations like nightmares from the past I wish I could forget resembling  "But Adoro! But Adoro! Go to this community! Or this Order! And Oh my gosh, Adoro, my twelfth cousin thrice removed liked THIS community and celebrated her jubilee this week so you should go there!".

Please spare me and all we discernment-weary Singles your....uh...distant relative's joy. I already assume it exists and that if God wanted us to know more about it, we'd be the recipient of it in some way, and far more directly than a combox internet-vocational-charitableness assault from someone I don't know and who doesn't actually know me no matter what I've written over the years.  (Why do I fell like I'm channeling The Crescat right now?!)

Anyway...yeah...I'm done looking and have been for over a year now. I know where I'm going but God has not opened the door. In fact, even though the community opened the door, I have not been able to enter their program, ironically, because I work for a church and every one of their formation weekends has also taken place on a weekend I have been required to work. Every one. No exception. Not even their retreat was possible for me. That's what I get for having to direct a program I don't even want; but then again, we must be obedient and go when GOD calls, not when we would prefer to go.

As a friend of mine observed (someone comfortably married who can afford to make such observations), I'm probably experiencing a "purification".  

Yeah, tell me something I DON'T know. What I AM interested in knowing is whether this ongoing period of purification that began roughly when I lost my first career in late1996 is going to finally come to an end? Gosh, stick a fork in me already! I'm done!

Apparently God isn't into the culinary arts and doesn't have very good aim with the fork. Maybe He should talk to St. Lawrence, who always knew when he was done.

But I digress.

After a conversation with a friend today, who was under the impression that I have decided to no longer pursue religious life, I realized that, well, this limbo is not only Hell for we who suffer it, but also a really confusing time for our friends and family members who have come to "see" us, finally, as religious, and don't understand why we're not living in a community and going around chanting and praying all the time.

This conversation made me come up with 

Oh, my regular followers are all shaking in your shoes right now, aren't you? You know ALL ABOUT my "Completely Brilliant Plans" from the past and how they...uh...ended...don't you?

Well, you all may be naysayers but really, this is brilliant and this time I MEAN it!

So, here's the deal:  there's a lot of we Single Catholics out there who aren't at all sure of our Vocation and are at various stages of discernment. For some it is a new thing, for some, who are veterans like me, we actually squwack cobwebs from our mouths when we utter the word "Vocation", and that's really disconcerting both to us and to our various interlocutors.

Many of us have worked really really hard, with SD's, with friends, with spiritually-wise trusted people to learn to seek God's will, and some of us have, in that journey, even spent thousands of dollars in a Master's in Theology program just to work in a church so that we might become even MORE poor and deprived in a voluntary economic inversion of involuntary poverty we didn't actually understand before it irrevocably buried us.

We discerned seriously, and then the doors closed. We realized we aren't called to Marriage (or probably not, at least), and focused with our entire hearts and souls upon religious life of some sort, and learned that, well, with our debt, the market crash that made it impossible for we late vocations to sell our homes and actually be without debt as canonically required, our student loans, our credit card loans from paying for car repairs not covered by warranty...etc...we're really REALLY buried, and not a valuable finely crafted Trappist coffin among us!

No one will have us. We're so poor we can't pay our own bills, and even though we have the ability, otherwise, to enter religious life, we find there are other obstacles, such as parish work, that literally makes it impossible to even BEGIN to enter the final stages to acceptance to a community...which, if completed, would open doors to mere financial assistance.

But heck, at least we get to experience the poverty-part while seeking. That's such a nice plus.

Gosh, I can't tell you what an honor it is to offer up a near-foreclosure existence while barely staying ahead of disconnection bills. Just riding the holy wave of the almost-destitute....whew! The ADRENALINE baby!

It's so heroic to be single and try to figure out which of my possessions will fit into a box on the corner under the 394 bridge near the Basilica in Minneapolis. I think my wool blankets hand-woven from Mexico, the ones I got in the market, would be wonderful, but I hope they don't pick up vermin too quickly or start to stink if they get wet.



This brings us to my plan:


I'm going to found a new Religious Order!

Are you ready?


But...before I tell you what it is, there will be a certain code of introduction we the Screeners (not "Superiors" as we have no authority whatsoever) will be looking for. It should be something like this:

"Hi, I'm Adoro and I'm a Single in Vocational limbo just when I had it figured out for...hold on I have to count (one...two..three...) Do you have a calculator? No? Ok, hold on... (, wait...ok six...back to...right...then...) TEN! I had it figured out for the tenth time, consistently. Um, except that...well...uh *scratching head, scraping toe on floor* I'm still Single and I THINK I'm supposed to enter religious life except that, ah, well...I can't. And it's not just a matter of funds but...ah, well...the door is...uh....stuck.

Yes, that's right, it's stuck. It won't open. I've tried and tried and the crowbar is defective. See? It broke! And now I'm out $20.00 for the broken crowbar and the store won't take it back since it's "used". Now I have to skip 3 days of Ramen noodles because I have to pay for that bloody crowbar!"

You see, that's what we'd be looking for, although variations would be permitted.

So, are you interested in what Religious Order could come out of the above intake interview?

Here it is:

The Discalced Singles of Perpetual Involuntary Vocational Deprivation

Who we Are: Singles from all walks of life who have sincerely sought God's will for our lives but broke crowbars and hurst tools while trying to open each and every Vocational least twice, if not more. We're on the "lowered expectations" end of the scale because most of us have tried sincerely several times and seem to be stuck in a room full of a few doors that refuse to open or be chopped down.

Each candidate goes through a screening process to make sure they aren't just taking the "easy way out"; we Discalced Singles of Perpetual Involuntary Vocational Deprivation worked HARD to get to where we aren't, and we won't tolerate anyone who hasn't put in the honest time and mileage. Most of us are age 36 and above, given the cut-off ages of most religious communities.

We Discalced Singles of Perpetual Involuntary Vocational Deprivation will take ANYONE of any age over and above those accepted by religious congregations. We're like the opposite of the Frassati Society - the flip side of that coin.

Oh, and just to be curmudgeonly, we don't do outdoors things because it's really hard on our feet since we're discalced.

That brings us to our Vows:

We take vows of Chastity, Poverty (not like we have a choice!) and Obedience to the Magisterium of the Holy Catholic Church, and we will go barefoot (discalced), also because we have no choice because a requirement of membership is actual poverty because the economy crashed and they foreclosed on our houses so now we're both homeless and shoeless and just trying to keep the car running so we can get to work so we can pay taxes, never mind the groceries....

We're still discerning our Charism; the thus far non-existent Discalced Singles of Perpetual Involuntary Vocational Deprivation is such a motley crowd and we so fear becoming modern hippies with vile 60's and 70's colored dyes and ironed hair and designer fringes on the organic hemp clothing being pushed on us by a nearby vegan community who just doesn't "get" our spirituality, man, know what I'm sayin'? (Seriously, just because we're poor doesn't mean we're without taste or have in some way become color blind! Also...we like meat. We actually would be willing to raise cattle as long as we get a good cut of steak every now and then, especially when it's warm enough to grill.)

So...more to come as we continue to discern our involuntary Vocational deprivation....

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Barking at the Rain

Last week we experienced another summer deluge and I was amused to see my dog leave her cover and stand facing the living room window, nose lifted, sniffing the puffed breeze flowing through the screen. She barked once, sat, laid her ears back, and continued to analyze the scents, finding it necessary to alert me another few times with barks and less urgent "woofs" that it was, apparently...raining outside.

To all appearances, she was indeed, barking at the rain, and I admit I shared her sentiments; I'm tired of the rain, too.

Lately, it's been pouring, and I'm not just talking about the crazy weather we've been experiencing for nearly the last year: the unusual extremes of winter followed by the unusual extremes of summer. And of late, the death, the crisis, the emergencies, the just won't stop raining.

Still, between the raindrops, there have been blessings, surprising blessings, seemingly small but when considered, reveal the hand of God at work.

My friend died a week ago Friday, and it was with agony on that day that  I reigned in my own grief and called the many other volunteers who knew and loved him, and then I called his students. And my co-workers.

Every so often I had to stop and take a deep breath, perhaps let out a little sob, only so that it would not interrupt my speech. I had to be professional, and still, on several of the calls, it was obvious both to the person receiving the news and to me that we BOTH knew the other was weeping.

I think what hit me the hardest was speaking to one of the students, catching the hitch in his voice, knowing he didn't want me to hear it and yet, I could nearly SEE it through the phone lines.

Willing to Suffer in Joy and Pain

For years, ever since I began at my work, I knew I was not "called" to it. I hate the charismaticsm that surrounds me and rules my co-workers and any area of youth ministry in which I am involved. I hate having to conform to a spirituality I do not possess and find lacking, and then inflict it upon our youth as though this is the ONLY thing.

One of the pillars of my work, then, was the man who recently went to his eternal reward, because although he never expressed it, he and I saw eye to eye on this and worked together to bring our own more...contemplative...spiritualities into the realm of religious education. And I know, from him and from his students, that he truly brought himself into the classroom, engaging them with stories from his life and military service, showing his love for them through teaching our Catholic faith through example, devotion, and practice.

He died praying for "his boys" and all who instruct students in the Catholic faith. To my blog readers...that means he was praying for YOU and for YOUR students as well!

Unexpectedly Finding my Place

When I went to pay my respects, before I approached the coffin I waited to speak with one of his daughters, and in a way, felt very awkward. It wasn't "my parish" because I only worked there, right? Yes, my work parish is a second home of sorts, but...still. Who was I to enter into this moment of grief?

The second she saw me, though, his daughter threw her arms around me and sobbed into my shoulder, "He loved you so much!"

I hugged her back, instantly as tearful, hugging her as fiercely. I've lost my father, too, and now I've lost a friend who was HER father, and all I could expel between my own sobs was, "I loved HIM so much, too!" We cried together, shared joyful stories together, and, well, reveled in the love of a struggling-to-be-holy man who had touched so many souls.

While there I saw many other parishioners, and we alternately wept and smiled, for we all knew our grief was transient; we believe in the Resurrection, and we are happy this dear soul has been called back Home, where we all hope to meet again.

It was there that I understood my place in the parish; I, too, have a role, I have a place, and to those parishioners I am also a part of the the family. Although I had often called upon this man for help in various programs, and he has meant a lot to me, it was through his family that I learned how important I was to him...and to all of them.

They helped me, unwittingly, understand more deeply the bonds of friendship and service and that my parish work has effects I cannot possibly understand.

My friend, in his death, has taught me a great lesson, perhaps the most important I have ever learned, about the value of the smallest things I do in my employment in ministry and their impact on the people I serve, including my volunteers.

It Was Pouring

While learning this great lesson, I was in the midst of fear of greater grief, fear of losing my mother. Fear of being the only family member available during her procedure. Fear of making the wrong decision for her, contrary to her wishes and Catholic teaching.

I couldn't find my mother's medical directive so couldn't bring it to the hospital so trusted, as she'd shown me, that it was with her documents should it be needed. She had to fill out paperwork prior to arriving at the hospital, so when I arrived I thought it would be available to me.

No, it wasn't. Mom remembered her overnight bag, but left all of her documents...ALL of them...on her kitchen table. That meant that her pre-op was delayed as she filled out the permissions and history and contacts all over again, but it wasn't until I was brought back and sat with her for an hour that I learned she didn't have her medical directive.

My own heart nearly stopped when, 40 minutes into what we expected to be a 60-120 minute procedure, I was called back to the "Consulting Room".

I had been glancing at the clock, wondering how my friend's funeral was going, wishing I was there, praying not to be planning my own mother's funeral.

Then in the Consulting room, I was living in two places: planning the future and visualizing the present at which I was not...present.

Because I've written of it, you all know how it turned out...but I cannot accurately express my agony of that time.

Feast of St. Rose of Lima

It is fitting that I finally publish this post on the Feast of such a great Saint, for St. Rose of Lima was well acquainted with suffering, and chose it both for her own hidden humiliation but also to emphasize the necessity of our willingness to unite our own agony with that of Christ in His Passion.

How often I fail at this! How often I complain and squirm and wail and whine!

How often God must roll His Divine eyes at my caterwaling!

When I experience the slightest discomfort, I complain.

Elevated humidity?  Oh, the suffering!

A pain in my knee? Oh, the agony!

A bit more rain than usual?  Oh the torment and drama!

A bit of suffering with the chance of "offering it up"? Oh the refusal to rise to holiness!

St. Alphonsus Liguori, in "Uniformity With God's Will"  wrote with simplicity about how easy it is to just...accept God's will in every moment.

I can't even stand a bit of discomfort. It's "too hot" or "too cold" or "too busy" or "too...whatever". Never mind the toil our Savior suffered for our salvation.

It's so easy to forget that we aren't here on earth to be comfortable and really shouldn't be so shocked at the trials that come our way. After all...we choose most of them for ourselves! Seriously, we shouldn't complain so much when we are faced with adversity of any sort.

While I can't speak for my readers, most of whom, no doubt, buck up so much better, I can say, with great shame, that I am all too willing to give in to venting and anger and passion when faced with the realities of life, when something is asked of me that takes me out of my comfort zone.

That is behavior far unfitting a Christian

A couple weeks ago, the  Gospel was about the woman Jesus called a "dog".

I know why He did this, and I know why she compared herself to one as well. She and I are one and the same and I realized it while I watched my German Shepherd respond with defiance to the downpour that was flooding our yard.

I am nothing more than a dog barking at the rain, for the rain will fall whether I bark at it or not. I know Christ and have been baptized into His Body, yet am nothing more than a dog refusing crumbs and barking at the rain, only to seek shelter as though the thunder and lightning do not exist.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Calvary Cometh

I spent yesterday in the hospital with my Mom. First waiting while she was being prepped, then waiting with her in pre-op.

The nurses, techs, and practitioner were all amazing and I was very impressed. While the time dragged on as we waited together for the procedure room to come available, I developed a new hobby: watching the IV drip. 

It's fascinating. I also counted the high number of ports. It's almost as exciting as watching paint dry. In a phone conversation with my brother that put Mom to sleep, we discussed the epic IV dripping with great excitement and animation.

Then without ceremony, they came to take Mom away and banish me back into the exile of the waiting room where I fired up my computer and tweeted about IV drips and drops. It was only 10:30 so I wasn't ready for lunch, and they'd told me it would be anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour and a half. No problem...I'd wait.

To my surprise, they called me to go to the consulting room only 40 minutes after they had wheeled my mother away to surgery. Was this good or bad news? Was the consult the type of "this is what happened and we need to do something NOW" or "good news she's fine"?

The volunteer who escorted me to the lonely and isolated  but comfortable "consultation room" told me the surgeon would be out in 5 minutes. Nope, he wasn't. I waited. And waited. And my uncle called on my mother's phone and I explained I'd know minutes ago? He asked me to call him back after I'd spoken with the surgeon. No problem.

Sure enough, the surgeon came out and delivered good news and with a diagram to prove it. He explained that they hadn't found anything so no medical intervention actually needed, contrary to our expectations! Thankfully I returned to the less-lonely waiting room and a staff member helped me carry my mother's things to post-op.

As I walked into the room Mom said, "Well where were you?" with this terrible, wide-eyed expression suggesting I had abandoned her.

" the waiting room."  She immediately relaxed.

"Oh." and then she forgot all about it. Quite literally.

The initial plans were for Mom to remain in the hospital overnight and then go home in the medical transport van that had brought her there. Unfortunately, the hospital was releasing her, deeming an overnight stay (in spite of an arterial stick) to be "unnecessary". Why was it "unnecessary"?  Because insurance wouldn't cover it.

So we had to scramble for a plan because she couldn't take the van home unless someone could ride with her. But we had no one to ride with her and stay with her overnight - we had not planned for it as they'd assured us, apparently, that Mom would be in the hospital overnight!

Oh, my. So it was decided that I would drive her to my brother's home, she would stay there and we'd figure out from there how to get her back home this week.

That's not what happened.

Last night I spoke with Mom as she called me in a panic over some directions from the doctor, which I explained was not part of her care plan since they had not put in stents. Oh, ok. Thanks.

All seemed well and I went to bed. My phone rang sometime around 2:30 am or so. I answered after staring at it in confusion but no one was there. I think I tried to call back but don't really remember. I knew it was my brother but figured perhaps he'd called me accidentally while checking on Mom.

I went back into a troubled sleep, to be awakened at 6 am by my brother, calling again. This time I managed to actually answer the phone.

He explained Mom had gone to the hospital via ambulance at about 2:45 or 3:00 am and was being admitted - she now has pneumonia.  During that 6 am conversation, he had to disconnect but later emailed me the room information. When we finally spoke again I got the crazy events that had led up to the 911 call.

I admit I had to chuckle a little bit over some of it - the repeated conversations with my very confused yet childlike mother, and my brother's surprise that, when you call 911 for a medical emergency you don't just get an ambulance, you get a BIG RED TRUCK! And a squad car. Yup - you get the calvary!

My brother had been very unsure about calling for an ambulance but I'm glad he realized the necessity of it. I won't go into details about the events that took place at his house; suffice to say he did the right thing and clearly, Mom is where she needs to be.

At this point we don't know what else will happen, how long she'll be there, or if they'll be able to identify some others of her medical complaints, of which there are many. Thank you to all my readers who have been praying for my mom, and please continue praying - clearly, we aren't out of the woods yet and don't even know what is coming next.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


This evening my brother called; he saw Mom this weekend and said she is falling to "suggestion". Because other people thinks she has to look a certain way, she now looks "ashen".

I rolled my eyes thankful we were on the phone, even though his description kicked my worry up a notch or so.

He explained then that Mom did NOT receive the Sacrament of the Sick (Anointing) at her parish, citing the fact that apparently, Father didn't have the oils on him. He was going to call her so I asked him to find out for certain, because if she was truly denied the Sacrament, I was going to call the hospital so that a priest could be there tomorrow.

Monday is the ONLY day there is no priest available at the hospital.

After some conversation, I gave my brother some facts about coronary heart disease, how the heart works, and what happens to a brain that is not receiving enough oxygen. This took place after he told me Mom had dropped the F-bomber.

That's right. Mom brought the F-word into everyday conversation. We have NEVER heard her utter that word. Ever.

Ergo: she's either had a stroke or she's hypoxic. Given her current diagnosis, I'm guessing the latter.
As I had to explain to my brother, welcome Hypoxia, the guest of Coronary Heart Blockage. Who is being evicted tomorrow. We hope. And disconnected.

Then Mom called, and I spoke with Her Hypoxicness directly. 

It took some creative lines of questioning, but I learned that yes, Mom DID receive the Sacrament of the Sick (Anointing). She had gone to Confession, and Father didn't have the oils on him and expressed that he didn't feel the Sacrament of the Sick was proper in her case. Clearly he had no idea what he was talking about, or Mom wasn't clear, etc.

As it turned out, though, after Confessions he DID Anoint her as she requested, regardless of his own "feelings" on the subject.

So thank God for that!

Then, once I had that information, Her Hypoxicness began crabbing at me about being tired, traffic, driving, and not knowing where to park tomorrow which was all making her even MORE tired, and she was also apparently angry that I was keeping her awake since she forgot that in fact, she called ME!

I explained to her that she was taking med transport to the hospital and didn't need to worry about parking - they would know where to drop her off. (I, on the other hand, do need to worry about parking and which limb will be severed to pay for it.).

Based on my brother's physical description of Mom today, her liberal use of profanity that has NEVER been part of her vocabulary, and her confused conversation with me this evening, I am even more worried than I was.

It is clear that the blockage in her coronary is affecting her more acutely than we'd realized. She's been short of breath for a long time, but also suffers from COPD from her years of smoking.

I pray that she makes it to the hospital tomorrow and hope they have O2 readily available.

Please pray for the surgeons who will be operating, the surgical techs and nurses, the anesthesiologist (I know there is at least one really good Catholic among them..hoping she's on the team), and all who are there to care for my mother and other patients at the hospital tomorrow.

Tomorrow, because it is a Monday, is the only day during the week that the hospital does not have a Catholic priest available. I am praying that because it is a Solemnity (Assumption of Mary), there will be a Mass I can attend and perhaps, if needed, a priest available, especially if it turns out he is needed.

Mom received the Sacraments (Thank God!) but you know what? I need them, too and it seems I will be deprived of Mass on the day I may need it the most.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Serious Air Force Amazingness!

Seriously, you have GOT to check out the pipes on this Air Force (National Guard?) Staff Sergeant Angie Johnson and the rest of the band, the Sidewinders:

The Intelligence from YouTube gives us the background on this incredible force:

Air Force Staff Sgt. Angie Johnson and Sidewinder perform a cover of "Rolling in the Deep'" by Adele. Sidewinder is part of the 571st Air Force Band, 131st Bomb Wing, Air National Guard. They are deployed as the U.S. Air Forces Central Command Band.

Sidewinder is Capt John Arata - officer in charge, keyboards, fiddle; Tech. Sgt. Kevin Maret - NCO in charge, percussion; Tech. Sgt. John Cavanaugh - operations/logistics, bass; Tech. Sgt. Joseph Castilleja - guitar; Staff Sgt. Tobias Callaway - saxophone; Staff Sgt. Ransom Miller - trumpet; Staff Sgt. Devin LaRue - trombone, guitar, keyboards; Staff Sgt. Brian Owens - vocals; Staff Sgt. Angie Johnson - vocals; Staff Sgt. Sean Navarro - Audio, Trombone

If you're not rockin' out with Sgt. Angie and Sidewinder and company on this, there's something seriously wrong with you.

OK, and really...check out that violin and hit that guitar....absorb those drums and return the echo.

I gotta be honest...I could sing this song and hit the notes, but I couldn't sing it with abandon, the proper vocal tone and hit every  note, every word, and embrace it with the same SOUL Sgt. Johnson hits with with such complete and effortless abandon. That is a true gift from God!

Dang. I'd be honored to sing backup for her, anything to bring out her vocals even MORE.

Is Sgt. Angie and Sidewinder releasing a album any time soon?

If I were dying, my wish would be to sing backup on their cover recording of this song. (No offense to Adele! I just love our Troops!)

** ** **

Um, well, OK then, nothing to see here and stop listening to Adoro [try to] sing in her car, shower, or livingroom! 

Move on..nothing to see here...nothing to hear  here...

Some things are just plain 'way bigger than a blog can contain...

Friday, August 12, 2011

Life Gets In the Way

Or is it more proper to say, Life IS the way?

We don't grow in holiness through blogging about it. We grow by experiencing challenges that force us to grow in virtue.

Our life experiences bring us out of our comfort zones, force us to confront not just the situation but also to reflect upon the state of our own souls, and hopefully, to help us grow deeper into our Vocations or even temporary states in life.

What's the old saying?  "Man plans and God laughs". Something like that.

There's been a LOT going on around me, at home and with family and work, and it consumes me.

Today has been especially difficult and I even fled quickly from Mass this evening, knowing I didn't have enough kleenex to absorb the tears.

We all deal with tragedy, but I'm still trying to sort out the magnitude of tragedy going on around me. I thank God for a special gift He sent this week, that being lunch with an old friend who is back in town for a reunion. Perhaps that was the respite that prepared me for today in the wake of all that has been going on and will coalesce in the next week.


I can't go into detail because it may involve court proceedings, but I can reveal a little.

Remember last fall, my posts about the battle against the mouse invasion?

Yeah. I had no idea what we were all up against. Although eventually the mice population lost to human dominance over our own proper habitat, we unfortunately didn't realize that humans can choose to be vermin because that, too, is a part of our fallen nature.

If I'd realized then what was going on, I would have been on the horn to child protection and the health department and anyone with jurisdiction over this on a weekly basis.

You see, I live in a townhome and the unit in question, being rented, was host to someone who misrepresented herself and unfortunately, wasn't screened by the homeowner. So it was that about 5 families or other single personages moved in, and the main renter happened to allow immediate destruction by her children with no correction. Ever.

Let's just say that the renter in question turned out to be a hoarder, didn't understand what cleaning chemicals, brushes, rags, mops, vacuums, etc are for, and never employed them. Ever. In fact, there seemed also to be no understanding in that home at all that garbage containers were designed for a purpose, too. Apparently, these people decided that living with and among and on top of and under garbage of all types was something they preferred.

Now, I didn't realize this until recently. Yes, I'd noticed the growing rank smell in my garage and increasingly had to suppress the gag reflex every day I came home. And yes, the people who resided there increasingly used the front lawn as a livingroom, and often, the lawn outside my place for major celebrations, which was very noisy and annoying especially with their unleashed dog and uncontrollable children who literally threw patio furniture at each other with no parental intervention.

But that's beside the point. They had their electricity turned off for non-payment shortly before the end of their lease which was not being renewed, and that's where I came in. While checking on the property for my friend the homeowner, I and another neighbor became aware of the ACTUAL condition of the property and the filth that contained the people there.

Have you ever seen the show "Hoarders" on A&E?  I find it ironic that I watched a few of them via Netflix while on the other side of my wall, THAT'S what was going on. But you see, I didn't realize because I had no reason to pass in front of that unit that faced away from me, and they were such heavy smokers that the cigarette smoke that permeated the walls and filled my home with a haze actually covered the scent of garbage and human soil.


Well, I actually had to enter the abandoned place to turn stuff off when the owners, unaware of what was left on deliberately or not by the vacated renters, had it turned back on. We pulled the fuse on the Central Air from outside and decided to enter (trespass) in order to protect the owner. And it all went downhill from there.

You can't imagine the smell. Four cats and the litter box never cleaned, or if so, only rarely. The introduction of a puppy. Actual violence done to the actual structure of the home. Filth everywhere. A kitchen never cleaned...ever. Walking on garbage, floors tacky, even the carpets. Mold and mildew from a serious water leak they did not call the landlords to report. (Now I know the source of the mildew I smelled about mid-winter but could never track in my house. The leak wasn't mine..but the scent came through my walls).

So...well...let's just say I've been in the unit taking damage photos with the owner's permission, blessing, and gratitude simply because I used to investigate fraud and know about the importance of photos in court proceedings.

Unfortunately, I may have signed away, for free, several years of my life.

But Wait! There's More!

Well, my personal life isn't exactly roses, either.

While I'm not a hoarder by any means, I have agony coming at me from another direction: family.

Recently I wrote about my mother's upcoming surgery. Even though Angioplasty is perhaps the least-invasive of all heart surgeries, the fact is that we all only have one heart muscle and if something goes wrong, it's over.

It's complicated by the fact my mother is high-risk with diabetes and a non-or-under-functioning kidney. (For those unaware: that complication has to do with the dye used to identify the blockage).

I'll be waiting at the hospital, alone, while Mom is in surgery as bro can't be there, and so I've been trying to emotionally and mentally prepare myself for the worst case scenario.


Then today I went to work, and learned that my friend, whom I wrote about a couple weeks ago, died this morning.

That was hard enough and I had steeled myself for the news, knowing that as a parish employee, I could not give in to emotions. I had to inform as well, and be present to support others.

So I received the news and took advantage of the short period of numb denial, and called, personally, all of our volunteers who had worked with him so long, starting with the most difficult. Then called the teens he had taught, and heard some very touching things from the parents with whom I spoke: as much as this man had been touched by "his boys", they also had been touched and spoke often of him. They had also learned much of their faith and that, too, had made incredible impact.

Because of this response I passed on to them his dying wish, which I won't reveal here for that should remain silent but for those whom it involves right now.

While making those calls, I often had to stop, take a deep breath, and get my emotions under control. On the other end of the phone I heard tears, sharp intakes of breath before I even delivered the news as some seemed to sense that I wasn't calling for my normal August reasons.

Many took the news and re-directed the conversation to other things, probably for the same reason I allowed it to be re-directed: for composure. To speak of normal things because, well, we were ALL at work.

And sadly, I had to leave the information on some voice mails and with great apologies. Still, if it were me, I'd rather have the voice mail notification than none at all or a cold emailed version.

Because of all this, I had to get away from the office. I couldn't go to the Adoration Chapel at work; when I am there I need to be "professional" and can't just go there to cry there in front of Jesus.

I had to go home, so I left work, went to my home parish chapel, and prayed the Office of the Dead, Divine Mercy, and laid my grief before My Lord.

And Then It Got Worse

When I arrived home, I had a phone call from my boss with the funeral information: it's Monday, the Feast of the Assumption.

The same day as my Mother's surgery.

I can't go.

I can't go to my friend's funeral because I will be sitting in a waiting room praying not to have to plan my mother's funeral.

And on top of all of that, today I also learned a co-worker and friend was diagnosed with breast cancer and will be undergoing very aggressive treatment, starting very soon.

We Are All Tested

I can't explain the ways of God, but I know the family of my friend probably hoped for a funeral on the Feast of the Assumption for the same reason I prayed my mother's surgery would be on that very same Feast Day.

It comes down to our beliefs about the Assumption, about eternity, about the Blessed Mother's intervention at the time of death

It comes down to what we believe about Purgatory (pray for the Holy Souls!) and eternal Beatitude.

Grief isn't a bad thing, as some want to imply. Grief is beautiful, for it is a corollary of love. We cannot truly grieve those we did not love. In grief, tears are the pearls recorded by God and if offered up, applied as prayers on behalf of the loved one who has gone to join Him, and such pearls are never wasted.

I know my friend received the Sacraments and spent his final months doing little but praying, most especially for others. I am honored and grateful to have been on his list.

I know my mother has received the Sacraments and will go into surgery spiritually prepared.

And I know that God wills me, in some sense, to be present there, in "original solitude", and He intends it for my holiness just as He intended for me to make all the phone calls, alone, earlier today, reigning in my own grief in order to support that of others. None of us lives for ourselves; our lives belong to God and He calls us forward into that life, to serve even when we'd rather retreat. This the paradox that makes us grow in virtue.

Tonight I am exhausted, and it seems, at every moment, there is a phone call or email demanding something more, and I find that still, somehow, I have more to give. It doesn't come from comes from Him.

Yes, Life gets in the way of our personal plans, but in reality, that's because God calls us to live through everything so that we may more appreciate His sacrifice, learn to live it ourselves, and bring others to Him through our own suffering.

You know...Jesus never promised that we wouldn't suffer. Rather, He promised to be WITH us.

The more difficult the trial, the more He carries us and our load.

Thank You, Jesus, because I can't carry any more right now.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

From Hell

Spiders are from Hell. They are demons sent to torture us in small ways. Think about it.

My long-time readers will remember a couple posts on the topic of spiders.

The first was aptly entitled Spiders so I offer this excerpt:

Fast forward to my new townhome. For the first couple years, I lived in holy terror of the bushes. They were COVERED in funnel webs and sheet webs, spiders entered my house through microscopic cracks and I considered purchasing a S&W .45 semi-auto and staking out the doorway in order to blow every creeping spider into oblivion. Or purchase a blow-torch. Or Aqua-Net and a lighter.

Every morning as I stepped outside with the dogs, I feared walking into a web that covered the doorway. As it was, they covered the doorbell and made the bushes look like a horror-movie version of cotton-candy. Vanilla flavored. I idly wondered if I sprayed the bushes with food coloring, could I SELL the webs as a fair treat?

Spiders on a stick.

Read the rest; for once it's not a long post but it has the benefit of big, colorful pictures of spiders. Go ahead. I dare you!

You may be asking yourself, "What prompted this random post about the demonic nature of spiders?"

Well, my Google+ friend (I'm not naming him as I'm not sure if he's public or not) posted a photo of a spider sculpture demonically placed directly across from the Notre Dame Cathedral in Ottawa, Canada. The spider happens to sport a huge egg sac crawling with baby spiders ready to overcome the world. Or at least the square.

Or perhaps it is actually an allegory of an allegory of the dragon discussed in colorful detail in the book of Revelation; the dragon waiting to eat the child of the Lady, forcing her to flee to save him from the spider's dragon's terrible jaws.

I bet if we really look at the original Greek, the term for "dragon" would mean:

 "huge giant gargantuan leviathan sickening drooling snapping aggressive funnel-and-sheet-web-weaving venom-bearing creepy crawling destructive poisonous vindictive rabid syphilic leperous flesh-eating hairy scuttering scaling ebola-and-tetanus-bearing kracken with eight legs building an ecosystem out of nasty rotten cotton spun out of its rear end in order to snare unsuspecting or misdirected innocents in order to entrap them in said cotton (not silk because silk is pretty) in order to suck blood from them for eternity just for sport and to get back at God for stepping on the snake that tempted Eve and suckered Adam."

Yup. That's what "Dragon" means in Revelation. It's all there. Really.

Spiders are creatures straight from Hell.

I once had a dream about it, and sin was the vehicle that carried the spider allegory. It still haunts me, and I STILL dream of spiders and spider-like creatures when I need to go to Confession.

Oh, yes, God knows how to remind me of Hell and how I will be spending it if I continue to reject Him.

I will be spending it with spiders, dead and alive, large and small, and I will NEVER be able to escape them!

The worst part about it, is this: if in life I become comfortable with them, that is the sign that in death, I will suffer eternal separation from God in their huge giant gargantuan leviathan sickening drooling snapping aggressive funnel-and-sheet-web-weaving venom-bearing creepy crawling destructive poisonous vindictive rabid syphilic leperous flesh-eating hairy scuttering scaling ebola-and-tetanus-bearing kracken with eight legs building an ecosystem out of nasty rotten cotton spun out of its rear end in order to snare unsuspecting or misdirected innocents in order to entrap them in said cotton (not silk because silk is pretty) in order to suck blood from them for eternity just for sport and to get back at God for stepping on the snake that tempted Eve and suckered Adam with no hope of ever escaping to a dragon/spider free eternity.

In order to understand this statement, check out my eternally-haunting dream from 2007, Attachments to Sin:

I turned away and went to find my spray bottle, a spider repellant, which I hoped would kill all the spiders that still lived, even unseen, in that terrible thick web. First I went to the garage where I was careful to cover all corners and the entire door with the fine spray. Then I went to the large wall/door in my home and sprayed it down, aiming especially at anything that moved. When done, I put the bottle away then returned to the conglomeration of spider webs, trying to figure out how best to deal with the mess.

Even as I stared at it, I realized that for some reason, I was not as horrified as I should have been; I am complete arachnophobic. I HATE spiders, they freak me out and give me nightmares. (case in point!). Yet I was somewhat disaffected by the overabundance of these horrible creatures and the home they had made in my very house!. I thought this kind of complacency to be odd, even in the dream.


Read the rest. You'll never look at spiders or sin the same way again.

Maybe you're still thinking I'm some sort of crank case.

I ask you this: Why do I think this post makes you think differently than you ever did before?

Yup. I'm a crank case. But that doesn't make me wrong.

Think about it; Spiders are a creation of God designed to reveal the nature of evil and Hell.

1.  Some spiders are *cough choke vomit*  pretty  *choke choke choke Heimlich choke cough* in some twisted way, and attract people...well...who are attracted to that sort of...uh... *choke* beauty *choke..someone give me oxygen* !!  Ugh.  That's all I can say about that or I'll drop dead right here on my own blog.

2. Have you ever seen the morning sun, as it rises, reflect upon the dew droplets innocently caught on the predatory reflecting the new light, the dew droplets like perfect victims pearls, revealing the incredible artistic, ingenious design of the death trap ?

[Note to self: get rid of anything resembling pearls. They now remind me of dew drops being sucked to eternal torture in a demon's lair]

3.  Spiders retreat and set snares for their prey, just like demons. All the creatures who find their violent end in a spider's web or outside his trapdoor have to do is go about their daily business of flitting from flower to flower or shade to shade, only to find the horrific countenance of deformed ickyness pouncing and latching onto them in all their nasty hairy skitteriness only to suck the life from them at leisure. It's a terrible, painful death involving liquefied organs.

No wonder they've spawned so many horror flicks. Just like they spawn their young and take over the planet.

4. Spiders and their lairs spawn and then attract innocent children who are fascinated by their surroundings and see only the pretty colors. Just like sin. Sin is pretty too, but it ensnares the soul and sucks the life out of the human who also mistook it for a shiny bauble.

5. The biggest spiders are found in the hottest places on earth: the tropics, the desert. Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Mexico, Guatemala, etc etc through the Amazon, then Africa, the Middle East, India, Taiwan, Indonesia, Australia, New get the picture.

Hell is HOT. That's why spiders live there on earth, too.

6. There are 6 points, the number of imperfection, ergo: God created spiders, and because every facet and creature of His creation has theological import, it's obvious that spiders were designed to remind us of Hell.

Spiders Demons weave pretty webs but reproduce in astronomical proportions; whatever "beauty" can be attached to a spider is merely an allegory for Satan and his minions and his horrific residence.

Spiders and Demons are the same thing and should be handled in the same way they handle us: violently.

Maybe that's why the Saints said we must "do violence"  to ourselves in order to rid ourselves of sin. After all, demons, by seeking to separate us from God, do violence to us, and spiders are, by nature, bloodthirsty, violent creatures.

I will never again feel guilty about "wasting" ammo on a spider. They're great for target practice.

I just wish the neighbors would relax about it.


What Do Sin and Belly-Button Lint Have In Common?

Observation 1:

Yesterday I was watching, via Netflix DVD, the 1980's show "Perfect Strangers". 

This probably has to be one of the best comedies ever, and it's so refreshing to actually LAUGH at things that are funny but not in a squirmy "I shouldn't be laughing at this" kind of way.

In any case, Balki, from the mediterranian country of Mypos, was working on a lint painting. He explained to cousin Larry that the legend of its origin had to do with their spiritual leader. The man apparently made a trip to the top of a mountain where he sat staring at his navel for sixty days and sixty nights, and returned to his people with a lint painting.

Seriously, doesn't that make you giggle?

Then I reflected a bit on navel-gazing. Are you ready for my observation?  Here it is:

If you don't navel-gaze on occasion, you'll never find the lint you missed.

Ponder that one for a bit...

Observation 2:

This morning's Divine Office, first reading, was taken from the book of Hosea.

The book itself is startling, expressive, and ultimately redemptive in character, but I always cringe at the names.

The prophet Hosea, at God's direction, took a harlet named Gomer as his wife, and she gave birth to a son. Then the Lord said to him,

Give him the name Jezreel
for in a little while
I will punish the house of Jehu
for the bloodshed at Jezreel
And bring to an end the kingdom
of the house of Israel;

Ugh. Brutal name for the poor infant son!

But wait! There's more!

Gomer gave birth to a daughter, and the Lord ordered Hosea,

"Give her the name Lo-ruhama;
I no longer feel pity for the house of Israel;
rather, I abhor them utterly.

And it even gets worse when Gomer gave birth to another son:

Give him the name of Lo-ammi,
for you are not my people,
and I will not be your God

That's just from today's reading! There's even more!

Although I do love the book of Hosea, which is an allegory expressing the spousal love of God for His Bride, the Church (and what a fallen Bride she is), the names given here cause me to ponder concupiscence, for truly, it is not God who rejects us, but we reject Him. We are the ones telling Him, "We will not be your people and You will not be our God."

That's what sin does.

Sometimes I am very saddened upon the necessary navel-gazing, looking for that lint I missed the last time I went to Confession. But when I really think about it, I am overwhelmed with gratitude that I am not named Gomer, Jezreel, Lo-ruhama or Lo-ammi, or for that matter, Mahershalalhashbaz.

That is all.

** ** **

P.S. You checked your belly-button for lint, didn't you? ;-)

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Comedy Among Tragedy

It's been a weird day for me, filled with grace, humor, sadness, grief, and hope.

Comedy of Errors

It all started with a thunderstorm that kept me home after my planned departure time, allowing me to take a phone call from a co-worker who needed a ride to work today.

I'd already opened my garage door for air, so when I finally left I found two birds taking shelter from the weather. They flew off as I encroached upon their friendly solitude and tossed my purse into the car.

En to co-worker's house, I was confused, wondering if perhaps I was on the wrong road; for some reason, everything looked weird today. Although the road signs and sights were familiar I was discombobulated, then taken aback even more when I had to slow for what I thought was a family of ducks. As I reached them, though, I didn't recognize them as any waterfowl I'd ever seen and was unable to get a good look thanks to a redneck pickup hard on my rear end. Had I not slowed to a stop for the birds, however, I would have run over the last cartoonish straggler, which I hope the pickup driver saw in his probable confusion as to my randomly-stopped behavior on a country road.

When I finally reached my co-worker's neighborhood, I missed the turn and had to go back, even though I've driven this route several times.

On the way to work, we saw yet another creature crossing the road ahead of us, but this time neither of us could identify us; could have been a cat, a badger, a skunk, or a raccoon...or some other critter not yet considered. For once, no deer appeared; they were probably still huddled in their storm-shelter thickets.

Then I took another wrong turn and headed up a highway that took me back towards home...not work. Laughing at my very stupid mistake, I turned around at the next exit and managed to navigate our way to the office.

My co-worker took me out for lunch to thank me for the drive to work and home for the last couple days, and on the way back from the office, I AGAIN turned down a wrong road, causing a detour from a known detour. There seemed to be a theme developing.

Finally, on the way back home, I AGAIN got off on the wrong exit to my co-worker's home, causing us to have to sit in traffic we could have avoided and even though it all worked out, she offered me the use of her GPS in case I got lost finding my way home again!

Yeah...I nearly took her up on that offer!

But that's not the whole story. There were bigger events today and I wonder if God just used my lapse in obvious navigation as comic relief to keep me from focusing on  weight heavy upon my heart.


Today we visited a dear friend who is dying of cancer, now completely bedridden at home, suffering from the encroachment of several brain tumors.

I admit I was afraid to see him, but at the same time, looking forward to it, for I love this dear, dear man.

When we arrived, I had to hide my shock (even though I expected this) at his condition; he looked like a concentration camp survivor. This once-robust man was lying in bed, eyes still bright and welcoming, overwhelmed so much by a body wasted away that he could not even reach up to hug us, settling for a good strong handshake instead.

We remained for an hour or so, listening to a story about a part of his life, laughing with him and his wife as they still bantered, laughing with his lively spirit even as he struggled to draw his breath, waiting patiently through his pauses as he had to often swallow, breathe, and gather himself for the next thing he was going to say. It was a great gift to be with him.

This man and I have a few wonderful things in common:  we graduated from the same university, although he has a greater claim to it: he was a Brother there for a time, trying his Vocation, attended the seminary there, and of course, ultimately earned his Bachelor's there, as did I...many many years later. So it was that I was grateful to sit at his feet, literally, as he spoke of his early Vocation, how it came to be, his Irish mother and her persistence, his Priest brother, and his children and grandchildren in their relationship to God and the Faith.  He showed us his rosary, spoke of his brother's death (only a couple years ago), of his mother.

Yup. He's always been a storyteller, but what I reflected on as we left was this: in his stories, he is remembering and communicating not just his actions, but trying to impress upon us those he loved who had gone before him. He is getting ready to meet them again.

He gave me a few directions and hopes for his funeral, things that perhaps I can assist with, and I recognized it as a "dying wish". He knows full well that I don't have the power to do all of it, but I do perhaps have the ability to influence at least SOME of it...and a few other things perhaps he doesn't expect. Those things are in the works and I must pray about the rest, for it involves personally delivering very difficult news to young people in hopes they will respond in love through their grief and meet Christ more deeply.

I don't know if I'll ever see him again, but as we told his dear wife, we hope to come back for "Chapter 2" of his story. I don't think MY life will be complete without it.

The Unexpected Tragedy

When we returned to the office today after the hilarity of lunch and getting "lost" on the way back thanks to my ditziness in known lands, I had an email from my brother.

Mom recently came to the Cities, to Abbot Northwestern Hospital, for some tests on her heart. Well, they found a blockage. My brother said only that Mom needed surgery, family needed to be present, and he couldn't be there so call Mom.

So I did.

Mom has a blockage in one of her Coronary arteries, which are the arteries that supply blood to the heart itself. One of the tests she had was an angiogram, and the surgery required now is Angioplasty. For those unfamiliar, it means they send a little balloon into the artery to clear the blockage, and this includes many risks, although it is probably easily the least invasive heart surgery available.

I told Mom to schedule it according to what works. She was concerned about a meeting with her Insurance Agent that week. I told her to cancel it, he'll understand. (She worries about these kinds of things).

We also discussed the Sacraments: I told her she should be Anointed (Sacrament of the Sick), but she said she wasn't sure how to go about it. Part of the problem is that her own Pastor is out with his own health problems, so substitute priests are covering their parish. They never know who's coming, and often, they don't even arrive for scheduled Confessions on Saturday. She had thought, since there are rarely any lines anyway even if a priest DOES show up, that perhaps she could ask for the Sacrament then.

Well...given the improbability of this actually happening, she is going to contact another nearby parish, one with which she is familiar, and ask for Confession and Anointing. (I also told her Confession is part of the Last Sacrament, for those who are able, so even if she hadn't been to Confession they should be offering it).  I looked up the phone number for her and it sounds like she is familiar with and comfortable with the priests, one of whom was ordained only a year or two ago.

As soon as I learned of her surgery, I sent out prayer requests, and immediately the Grace was flowing, as prayers are being answered.

First, Mom is going into surgery on August 15, the Feast of the Assumption. She has a HUGE devotion to the Blessed Mother, and I can't help but recall that my one and only surgery was on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. My Mother's prayers gave me my devotion to Mary and brought me back to my Faith, even though she didn't know I was lost. Now I am grateful to see Our Lady's intercession with the date of Mom's heart surgery.

We grew up with the images of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary...clearly, they will be with Mom, and hopefully with her surgeon, anesthesiologist, surgical nurses, technicians, lab techs, etc etc ets.

Secondly, she is going to receive the Sacraments of Confession and Anointing at...Divine Mercy parish.

At least, if complications arise, we will have the comfort of knowing she will go to Our Lord having received His Most Divine Mercy, after a life of suffering, after a life of quiet devotion and unnoticed holiness.

But please, God, not yet. I'm clearly still lost, can't find my way, and still need my mother!

Prayer Requests:

Please pray for my friend as he prepares to leave this world, and when you pray the rosary, add an extra decade for the Christian Brothers and for students everywhere.  

Pray also for my Mom, who hopes to continue with we who still need her, yet she still has the humility to know she may be going into this and meeting eternal beatitude. Although my brother and I and our extended family want her forever in Jesus's arms,  we aren't quite finished with her and are praying this surgery is typical and uneventful and gives her back a bit more health so that she can enjoy the fresh air a bit longer

Thank you all who have already received this news and are praying, and thank you to all who pray upon learning this information now.