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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

This is My Country

The Country I Knew

The country I grew up in was an idyllic place; people cared about each other, and even though we all had differences, they took a back seat to simply being human.

The country I grew up in was deeply religious, and while those without religion were looked upon with a little suspicion, when their homes burned down or if they had an accident and needed help and support in the days, weeks, or even months following, everyone was there to lend a hand with casseroles, hotdishes, housework,  yard work, or just a listening ear. Even more so, people got together to make sure Emergency Services could get to them more quickly if such a tragedy happened again, to anyone.

The country I grew up in had its problems, but those problems were not inflicted upon the children; things that belonged to the world of adulthood were relegated to adults, and those things that belonged to childhood were relegated to children, and the lines did not cross.

The country I grew up in was deeply Patriotic and flags flew from most homes, without harassment from anyone except the local neighborhood ragtag group of delinquents. Whom were always known to be from certain families and tolerated, still treated with respect and told where to go when they needed to be told where to go. They also knew they were under surveillance by pretty much everyone and that kept them in line until they got older, and then they went to California and did what they wanted to do and got murdered. True story.

The country I grew up in had respect for other countries and other beliefs, looked well upon people of good will and encouraged learning languages for the purpose of friendship and communication. Racism was not tolerated in my redneck corner of the world, and although it might have been a very "white" place, certain words were never used and we were taught to treat EVERYONE with respect, no matter how different they were. That went for babies, people of few means, people with "mental retardation" (one of whom actually helped me learn how to ride a bike), those of other races, and those who simply were mean old ladies who regarded everyone around her with suspicion. Respect. Always. Respect and kindness were the keys to the world; the Golden Rule:  "Treat others as you would like to be treated."  Pithy saying, but hard truth. Even if treated badly, don't lose that adage.

The country I grew up in had a spine; our past leaders spoke of "Walking softly but carrying a big stick."  Kindness and respect were important, but that did not mean lying down and allowing oneself to be treated like a doormat. Not personally, not professionally, not in terms of sovereignty

The country I grew up in respected Veterans, celebrated our Patriotism, knew our enemies and made no apologies about it.

The country I grew up in had good education that focused on the foundations of knowledge and prepared students for the real world in matters of reason, language, history, science, reading, music....and many other matters. Even though I grew up in a time of transition, I'm glad to have been there then, when education hadn't been taken over by immoral hacks and the foundation was maybe cracked but still intact. That education gave me a respect for my country and the ability to strive for more.

The country I grew up in encouraged subsidiarity along with solidarity so that no one ever had to fight their battles alone, but could do so with their peers.

The country I grew up in believed in the right to free speech, the right to religious observance, and the right to bear arms....all fundamental rights belonging to the human person under Natural Law and basic common sense, and coherent with the ability to live life, freedom, and pursue happiness.

My Country Now

 The country I live in now is comprised of people who are isolated from each other and even in tight quarters, don't interact very much and differences reign supreme and separate us all.

The country I live in now attacks religion (except for Islam, which it idealizes, which even Muslims think is weird especially given what their terrorist factions have done to this country and the people of the world on our soil.). And now if someone's home burns down or someone suffers a tragedy, no one notices or if they do, they go on record to talk to reporters about the person involved, just to be on TV. Not that they ever knew the person to begin with; and if the person involved was "religious" they are painted as a fanatic of some sort because "that kind of devotion is just not normal."

The country I live in now actively inflicts its problems upon our children, and socially indoctrinates the children in adult issues without the knowledge or permission of the parents, inflicting tough moral inconsistencies upon them while refusing to allow the parents to "opt their children out" of such psychological engineering.

The country I live in now actively works to remove the American flag from the homes of disabled Veterans who gave their hearts, souls, and limbs to protect the freedoms we no longer enjoy.

The country I live in now pampers delinquents and criminals while systematically disarming her legal, law-abiding citizens in the name of "public safety".

The country I live in now looks to the worst decisions and practices of other countries and inflicts it through illegal means upon our sovereignty, against the will of We the People, bringing tyranny to our States while telling us we need to be "tolerant", all while refusing to tolerate our very foundations as a country and the right of the People to be heard, to overcome, and to be save in our homes from the tyranny of the government.

The country I live in now creates situations designed to bring division, instigated by the government, fueled by the biased media, and tolerates no dissent against enforced racism and political division.

The country I live in now advocates the outright legally-imposed slaughter of the most innocent among us; unborn children. Especially those belonging to minorities, evidenced by the fact Planned Parenthood abortion clinics are mostly found in neighborhoods with a high demographic of races who are not white, all planned by racist Gloria Steinem, and our government is still saying that this is a good idea and even with an African president, killing his own children, he is being adored. This is the country I live in, killing her children in the name of...what?

The country I live in now is bereft of proper discourse and any disagreement descends into a political and  personal attack, so issues are never properly discussed, but only deflected in hostility. You can see it live on C-SPAN in Congressional hearings right along bi-partisan lines.

The country I live in now pays those serving in the military so little that their families have to live on food stamps in spite of the fact they are serving our country with their very LIVES.  At the same time, "elected" officials are pulling off triple digits FOR LIFE. With no actual risk to themselves other than political lampooning on Saturday Night Live, unless they're Obama Democrats, in which case they're safe from any actual insult.

The country I live in now sells weapons to terrorist nations to be used to murder Christians live on TV, like in Egypt and Syria, just for example. At the same time, my country actively works to disarm loyal citizens who want only to protect themselves and their families from the wolves, yet can't get ammo since it's been confiscated to be sent to Syria to kill Christians.

I live in a country where maybe we can still get guns, but the ammo that makes them useful against home invaders? In Syria and Egypt.

The country I live in now has a very strong citizen population; those of us who have not been compromised by the gospel of obedience to government overlords are wide awake and the knowledge of what's coming makes us lose sleep at night because we know we are no longer protected from the enemy, for the enemy is WITHIN our borders, and has been actively ELECTED in a fraudulent vote by stymied voters. Twice.

The country I live in now looks for handouts instead of looking for a way to work for a living, looking instead for the government to "save" us, even though we're now a sinking ship in an ocean of immorality and deception.

The country I live in now stymies free speech in the name of "tolerance", stymies the free practice of religion in the name of "birth control" and "tolerance", and stymies the right to bear arms in the name of "public safety" even though lawful citizens are already sacrificing for the safety of all, all ready to put themselves in harm's way in order to protect their own family or any innocent person.

The country I live in has criminalized the People and has made us all an enemy of the State, simply for being...Citizens of These United States.

We the People may still be Citizens, and this may still be the Home of the Brave, but we are no longer the Land of the Free.

The country I live in now hasn't geographically changed, but this country is no longer the one to which I was born. And it's time for We the People to take it back. 

Monday, July 01, 2013

After a Long Absence/ On A Path Finally Taken

These beauteous forms, Through a long absence, have not been to me As is a landscape to a blind man's eye: But oft, in lonely rooms, and 'mid the din Of towns and cities, I have owed to them In hours of weariness, sensations sweet, Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart; And passing even into my purer mind, With tranquil restoration:--feelings too  Of unremembered pleasure: such, perhaps, As have no slight or trivial influence On that best portion of a good man's life, His little, nameless, unremembered, acts Of kindness and of love. Nor less, I trust, To them I may have owed another gift, Of aspect more sublime; that blessed mood, In which the burthen of the mystery, In which the heavy and the weary weight Of all this unintelligible world,  Is lightened:--that serene and blessed mood, In which the affections gently lead us on, 
~ "Lines", William Wordsworth 

 Greetings, my dear friends.

I apologize for the long absence, but in life things change, and it's entirely possible this blog has come to an end. It has been a labor of love, a labor of defiance at times, and, for long time readers, an obvious catharsis. It is perhaps because of this blog and time away in prayer and reflection that has helped to open another door in my life.

As an update, at this time I am not considering religious life, and believe that door to be closed. I fully believe Our Lord called me to deeply discern that Call, but in the end, He desired only that I say yes, and be willing, even though He has not allowed my own response to be possible. Although I am saddened in some ways, in others I realize it simply means He calls me on to other adventures, and this is glorious for God always knows where our true happiness lies. It means I continue on, the pilgrim that I am, perhaps now going into "special ops" mode in the spiritual sense of the word. By this I do not imply extreme holiness (since I have no where near achieved it), only, rather, deeper adventure, deeper mission, more covert and hidden operations in my heart and soul than can be shared with the great unknown ocean that makes up the internet world.

In this time of absence here, though, I have been working. It was as if a dam broke, and after a couple years of no interest in writing, I have, in just the last couple months, written one book and am half-way through the sequel, perhaps of a trilogy.

A couple months ago while doing some "nothing" reading, suddenly an old idea clicked in my mind and the story and characters have come to life. I have a couple dear friends who are  helping me with this project, providing support and even professional editing assistance, connecting me with resources (including people to interview) for research purposes, and even more amazingly, God has connected me with a very holy priest who also writes fiction (so far unpublished as he has not sought it yet), who has become the kind of friend every Catholic writer needs.

Just today I spoke with him about story development, and he commented on the recently deceased author Vincent Flynn (Rest in Peace) who was a faithful Catholic who lived what he believed. He noted that Flynn allowed the characters to have "free will", and this is a mark in Catholic writing. Writing is of course an art, and as Catholics, if we are faithful, if we allow God to work through us, even in works that are not religious in nature, our faith shines through.

The books I am writing are not "Catholic" in the religious sense. They are simply stories about people, they are adventure, thriller, action, and romance. They are merely human drama....yet, is there anything "mere" about the drama in the average human life? I'm not speaking here of emotional angst, but some of the deepest yearnings of the human soul, which often play out in ways that seem superficial.

As an aside....

This is why we have fiction. Our very souls are laid out nakedly in fiction; it's why we are drawn to it, identify with characters that do not exist, and engage with a story that never happened. One theologian, I believe it was Fr. Thomas Dubay, once observed that our engagement with a story in which that story comes to life in our imaginations, bringing us directly into it, is actually like a state of contemplative prayer. It is NOT the same thing, but it reveals our ability to engage all of our senses and abilities; and if we can do that with mere fiction, it also indicates we can do so even more deeply, more completely, in communion with God.  I would suggest, therefore, that reading good fiction may very well be a preparation for prayer and help us engage more deeply; that is, if we read the right things.

Moving on...

Getting back to the main point of this post, I haven't been writing a religious work, yet I found, when I completed the first draft, that Catholic themes are present. I cannot write what I do not believe. I can create characters who don't share my beliefs, and I can establish themes and content, but in the end, who I am as a Catholic is still imprinted upon the characters and within the story. Themes of sin, of redemption, forgiveness, sacrifice and eternal union arise in ways that are perhaps unexpected.

In writing seriously, I have found that my characters do truly have "free will", for they don't match what I want them to do, but seem to have minds of their own. Characters I'd like to see go down one path, in an interaction with another character choose a different one...and somehow, details emerge about the importance of the deviation from what I, the author want.

I have found, thanks to brief conversations with my priest friend, that I now have the ability to go back in this work of revision, looking with different eyes at where the free will of the characters emerge, for none of them are clones of me. They don't act as I do, they don't respond as I do. Nor do I want them to do so.

My friend today pointed out that this act of writing is an act of co-creation with God, in allowing the characters to develop, to become who they are and not necessarily what I originally envisioned them to be. It is humbling to think of it in those terms, yet his comments hearken back to the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas, revealing the proof of God's existence as the First Mover. A painting points to an artist, and the brush held by the artist, and in any given creation, God is that artist. A book points to the pen and the author, but then, who created the author?

Any truth points to God, if it is really true.

Whether or not my book will be published, I can't say. Although the first draft of the first book is complete, and I've done a read-through and minor correction with the second draft (typos, minor things), the third draft is in deep progress and will take time and additional research as I await one of my  important contacts to come back into the country to be available to assist with special-ops information. (non-classified) ;-)

It's amazing how many people I've already had to involve in just writing the first draft, and now I understand the litany of thanks given in any published book, for no author acts alone or anonymously.

So with that, dear readers, I thank you for the prayers and sacrifices you have offered me over the last several years, and beg for more in this new endeavor (and always for my Vocation, whatever it may be as I enter middle age).

It's entirely possible this blog is not at an end, however, I likely won't be writing much here any more. I can say that perhaps there will be other updates and other actions of God that prompt me to add another post, but maybe the "Tales of Adoro" are largely at an end since the original purpose of this blog has fallen into oblivion.

Thank you for coming with me on this journey, and, God willing, it will continue albeit in a direction I never really expected.

God bless you all, and thank you. From the bottom of my heart and the core of my soul, thank you.

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the undergrowth; Then took the other, as just as fair, And having perhaps the better claim, Because it was grassy and wanted wear; Though as for that the passing there Had worn them really about the same, And both that morning equally lay In leaves no step had trodden black. Oh, I kept the first for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back. I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.
 ~ "The Road Not Taken", Robert Frost

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Caged Bird Finally Sings

It's been years. Years upon years since I last sang.

Time takes a toll on the voice, and for so long, I was actually afraid to sing. Afraid that I'd go back to my "diva" attitude which was actually completely unintentional from the start.

But one day at Mass, the choir was so beautiful and I was so taken up into prayer by that beauty that I knew it was finally time to sing again. As if it were a direct message from God, that day at the end of Mass there was an announcement that they were looking for choir members.  My heart rose and crashed at the same time; I am not available, ever, for their regular practice time. I couldn't join the choir.

In hope, though, I approached the Music Director, introduced myself and explained that I wanted to sing, used to cantor long, long ago, and that I couldn't join the choir. Might she have a place for me?

Just then a friend of mine passed by and we greeted each other. She agreed immediately (never having ever heard me sing) that I could Cantor with her. I urged the MD to "audition" me, insisting I might not be good enough. I know full well I don't have the range I used to possess and I, like everyone else, loathe bad cantors who don't know when to step down.

In our culture of entitlement and "self-esteem", far too many people are doing things they simply don't have the gifts to actually carry out.

My first rehearsal with my friend went well and our voices blended well together. That weekend as we sang together, it was beautiful, if not perfect (on my part).  The sound guy approached us afterwards and said he couldn't tell us apart, and expressed that he hoped we'd often sing together for that Mass.

It was a good start, and I was happy.

Tonight I sang again. But this week's rehearsal in preparation didn't go well and I know well my voice is not up to par. Not yet. For all I know, maybe not ever. But the Music Director didn't seem concerned, and I remained grateful to be able to sing with someone else; a friend who is much better than I am!  I knew that I could back off if I couldn't hit the note. She could.

Unfortunately, we weren't able to rehearse together this week, so I let her take all the solo parts. Even though I practiced them, and in fact, because I practiced them, I realized I simply couldn't do it. She was gracious and offered me these solos, but I turned them down in good conscience, out of a desire that the liturgy be beautiful.

Back in High School when I cantored, I admit I reveled in being a soloist. I loved it! Especially considering that I hadn't learned until Jr. High sometime that I actually had a good voice. To put it to use was amazing! And to receive accolades, however informal, was more amazing still!

All of us grow up, though, and having been away from the Church, and from singing for a very long time, I now come back with a different attitude.

First, I don't have the voice I had then, so there is cause for very conscious humility. (And that is NOT an oxymoron!). Secondly, I now know quite well what the Mass is about and Whom is to be honored, and it ain't me!'s a privilege to be able to sing, to Cantor the Mass. To truly pray, in song, the Mass in leading the other worshippers in those prayers.

I've learned that time takes a toll on the voice, but it tempers the soul, and as imperfect as I am, it is good to know that perhaps I still have something to offer. Maybe it's not that pretty right now, and maybe it never will be. But it's something, it's adequate and thank God that He is giving me the chance once again to sing for Him.

Thank you, Jesus.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

In Tribute to Pope Benedict XVI

Today, Pope Benedict XVI stepped down from Office and has entered a monastic life of prayer for the Church. In Tribute, Catholic bloggers everywhere are joining in with Ironic Catholic in posting our favorite paragraphs or quotes from the Holy Father's writings.

There are so many, but even as he left, Pope Benedict XVI gave us a message of hope, and leaves to go into a life of prayer, so I think it fitting to share with you one of my favorite passages as a highlight of his own lived belief and experience, advice and wisdom offered from the heart of God to us:

I. Prayer as a school of hope 
 32. A first essential setting for learning hope is prayer. When no one listens to me any more, God still listens to me. When I can no longer talk to anyone or call upon anyone, I can always talk to God. When there is no longer anyone to help me deal with a need or expectation that goes beyond the human capacity for hope, he can help me. When I have been plunged into complete solitude ...; if I pray I am never totally alone. The late Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan, a prisoner for thirteen years, nine of them spent in solitary confinement, has left us a precious little book: Prayers of Hope. During thirteen years in jail, in a situation of seemingly utter hopelessness, the fact that he could listen and speak to God became for him an increasing power of hope, which enabled him, after his release, to become for people all over the world a witness to hope—to that great hope which does not wane even in the nights of solitude.
~ Spe salvi, 32

Thank you, dear Holy Father, for reminding us that even when we think we are alone, the reason for our hope is God who will never leave us totally alone for we can always talk to Him, and he never fails to speak to us.

Friday, February 22, 2013


Tonight while preparing my dinner, I was engaged in the very simple task of cutting celery to go into an egg salad sandwich. Suddenly, in the midst of that I was taken back to a time in my teens, when I was lithe and active, hopeful and had the world at my feet. It seemed a random moment and was unfortunately fleeting, for I can't even recall exactly what the memory was about and why cutting celery lead to it.

I returned to the TV to watch one of my favorite shows and was taken again by one of the characters on it who, this time, reminded me strongly of an old neighbor. Perhaps it's a night for nostalgia, so I gave myself over to the bittersweet memories.

Back Down Home

As a child living in a little country neighborhood, we knew everyone and everyone knew us, and I had carte blanche permission to visit those who surrounded us. In some ways, I was like Scout in Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird". I innocently ran around the neighborhood, tomboy that I was, shy that I was, but comfortable in my own skin and with my own people; that to include those who flanked our property.

I'll never forget (I hope!) those hot, humid summer days when I took a break from play to visit the lady next door, Ethel. Sometimes I'd ask if I could go see her, sometimes I'd just go. I'd run around the fence line and up their drive, sometimes pausing to pick up a pine cone or other interesting artifact to present from the enormous pine tree that graced their front yard. The gravel crunched under my feet, ending at the faux grass runner that finished the walk up to the permanent screened porch addition that graced their trailer.

At first I would knock on that outer door and Ethel would answer, but over the years (or so it seemed to me, being so young) that eventually went to a verbal invitation from far inside to a permanent invite to come in to the cooler shade to knock on the inner door and receive the formal invite to bask in the air-conditioned inner sanctuary. We didn't have air conditioning and it was a treat to be invited into such a cool, refrigerated place in the height of the Illinois summer!

Ethel would be sitting in her favorite chair and always exclaim over my visits. She'd ask about my day, how Mom and Dad were doing, how my brother was doing (before I was in school) and sometimes he'd even be with me.  Most often, I think I went alone, although my brother might tell a different tale. He may have his own to share.

In any case...

She'd always offer a piece of candy from her ever-present dish, so much like our Grandpa, and the same kinds:  root beer barrels, cinnamon candies, butterscotch, chewy Neapolitan coconut candies, chewy caramel swirls, strawberry candies with a chewy inside, or fresh hard peppermints or spearmint. We'd never ask for a candy, because Mom taught us that this was rude, and Ethel knew that. Sometimes she'd offer right away, sometimes she'd wait. If the day was hot she'd offer ice water or lemonade, if it was a cold winter day, she'd have hot chocolate with marshmallows. But we never left without a piece of candy there and a piece to take with us "to remember to come back to visit me."

Ah, she was a dear lady! Sometimes her husband Abe was there, too, but as I recall he sickened and died. After that, although we didn't understand death at the time, Mom encouraged us to go visit Ethel when we could because "she could use the company."

And always, always, she was happy to see us. Sometimes she would see me out playing in the summer as I ran alongside our house, and she would call to me through the screen to "come on over, I have something for you!". And she'd have a doll or a trinket and always a piece of candy from her dish and perhaps something to take to Mom. Or maybe she'd ask me to get something from Mom to bring to her.

In looking back, I see now that what she was really seeking was the joy of childhood, because she remembered being a child, too. She recalled playing in the yard, the bright days of summer, and lived in her later years partaking vicariously through us and our own tales of adventure. I know she watched out for us and we knew their house was always a safe one if we needed help.

Ethel never failed to scold if we'd done wrong, and never, ever stopped loving. Most of what I recall about her is her love and her joy.

I don't remember saying goodbye to her. When we moved, we didn't understand permanent goodbyes, and sad to say, I don't know when she died.  I don't even know if I ever so much as sent a postcard to my dear friend.

But I do know this: I know the happiness and friendship Ethel brought to my life and my family back then, and I'm beginning to understand the happiness that perhaps my brother and I brought to hers, especially after her dear husband Abe passed away. I understand why she so welcomed us into her home and her life, and why she always kept the candy around to offer as part of her regular sense of hospitality. We never let her be lonely, and she repaid the favor as best she could to everyone around her.

My brother and I traveled back to our old neighborhood last summer, only to see Abe and Ethel's lot taken over by the same people who bought our house. I didn't expect anything so different, but am sometimes still overcome by the sadness from knowing that one can never really go back and reclaim those beautiful days that live on in our memories. The people we love pass away in this lifetime and we often live with the regret that comes from knowing we let a friendship go, maybe out of necessity or circumstance, but it never stops hurting. Nor should it. Not really.

Tonight, the simple task of cutting celery for egg salad took me back to a happier time in my life, perhaps because of the deprivation brought to me by being sick in the past week. When we are deprived of what we are accustomed to enjoy, we tend to take it for granted. Tonight, for the first time in a week, I could finally taste real flavors, but instead of ruminating on food, God has taken back to a memory of love and sacrifice "down home".

When it comes down to it, food and flavor are NEVER really about food, but about the love that sets the food before us and which we share together out of that very same love.

Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts, which we are about to receive, from Thy bounty, 
Through Christ Our Lord, 

Rest in peace, Abe and Ethel. Thank you for your love and your friendship. And the candy!

Long Lost...Back Again?

Greetings and Salutations to my long-lost readers! I the long-lost blogger?

In any case, thanks for hanging in there, welcome to new followers, and let me just say I hope to resurrect this ol' gal.

So here we are in the midst (well still the semi-beginning) of the Lenten season, and we've all been hit with the shocker of our beloved Holy Father's impending departure from the Papacy. It truly gives us all something to pray about and for as the conclave nears once again, and offer our Lenten sacrifices for the guidance of the Holy Spirit for the good of the Church.

I don't know about you, but right on schedule, God chose a sacrifice for me since I'm still awful with sticking to my own chosen sacrifices. That's right: I got the flu. Which always happens when I receive the St. Blaise blessing.

This time, though, I think I've avoided bronchitis but it's not over yet so who knows what joyful sacrifice God still has in mind for me to make this year?  I've been sick all week, went to work yesterday and had to leave - just couldn't make it for very long. Came home to nap, brought work home with me, and this morning we're dealing with a snowstorm. It's not horrible but you all know how it is: when you feel awful or just plain exhausted from being sick, the last thing you want to do is head out onto bad roads. I emailed my boss to ask if I could work from home today, and go in tomorrow.

My fear is that she may say I HAVE to go to the Dr. and get a note since I've been out most of the week. However because I went in yesterday and am sorta flip-flopping days off, I might be able to avoid that requirement. Thank you God for a flexible work schedule since I can't afford to go to the Dr. who will only tell me to do what I've been doing:  chicken broth, garlic, lots of fluids like tea, orange juice, water, sleep, lay low, OTC meds, and laying low. We all know how it goes. So...pray for me y'all and I'll offer this particular suffering for you.  (I should add that's a guarantee on my part, whether you pray for me or not!)

Today, because I'm home, am having a mini-retreat and may actually post some of my work, depending on how it progresses. Be well, my friends, be prayerful, and be holy as your Father in Heaven is Holy.

Blessed Lent to you all!