A Distinctly Disquieting Silence

silenceIt is a different kind of quiet. Not the silence of no one home for the moment, it is not the same as that at all. This silence has a depth and texture to it, heretofore unknown in these parts. I’m all for quiet, but this version… has a distinctly disquieting aspect to it.

Let me back up for a moment. When Mark and I married in 2007, his daughter Erica, a young woman who I was already very close with, officially became my stepdaughter. She was with us very frequently, always on Friday, Sunday, and Monday nights no matter what, and every morning. When high school started, she moved in with us pretty much full time, which was a gift.

When I first met Erica in 2004, she was 8 years old and she was at once timid and fierce. The day we met she had her face firmly buried in the safety of her dad’s arm. When he couldn’t get her to talk to me, I noted that I wished that I had someone’s arm to hide in myself! That made her laugh, and from there on in, we were set.

Part of our commitment to married life was that Erica would be a part of everything – and so she was. We truly embraced our commitment to one another as a family and we have been spending time together all these years. As she got older, she would be out or away more often, but she always came back. The silence communicated more of a “see you later.” The room in disarray, clothes draped on furniture, papers scattered, books piled up, and shopping bags everywhere.

EricaThingsThis past week the moment that we have all been waiting for came, and we dropped our beautiful girl off at college. This is a great time in her life, and in ours as well, but what an adjustment. The whirlwind that led up to the departure had us all in a high gear. Now the house is more orderly and very quiet.

Today it seems we are at a doorway or a gate, that opens to lead us all to new places. Who knows where we will go, but I do know this… for the moment, the distinctly disquieting silence shapes our days. We respond by doing our typical tasks and activities. None of this is bad, it is just different!

Today we hear the noise of no noise – a new sound that rings throughout the house and our hearts.

Where I’ve Been

OC_11Vacating. It was wonderful, and it is wonderful to be home again. Blogging to resume soon! How has your summer been?

Hope it has been good in some way, and don’t mourn its end too badly. Fall brings new gifts. And I can smell fall in the morning air. Can you?

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I’m still here…

10466769_10203299197814406_618249123_nDear Readers, I have not abandoned my blog, but it does appear that way, doesn’t it? This summer has kept me busy in all sorts of good ways. Deciding to opt for more more prayer, family and friends time, sleep, time outdoors, reading, gardening, sneaking in some Netflix , even more family and friends time. I’ve also been working on some side projects that have taken my time. Plus we had 3 high school graduations in our extended family, including our own daughter, and her high school graduation as well. It is no  wonder that this poor blog has temporarily fallen into disuse.

My hope is that you are enjoying these days as well and not really noticing that I’m not here much right now. I will return and I hope that you will also! How has your summer been? Vacations? Books? Gardening? Movies? Let me know in the comments!

Peace to all.

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Your wild and precious life

wild-lifeFor reasons that I can’t entirely explain, I dislike the term bucket list. Why? I’ve already said I can’t entirely explain! Perhaps I just dislike the term “kicking the bucket” that is foundational for said term. Death is not something I am averse to, although I am in no rush to get there!

OK, I just googled “kick the bucket” to check out images, now I can tell you that I now loathe the term bucket list. May it never be mentioned here again.

Let’s go with references to Continue reading

A lot on my mind

lot-on-my-mindYes, I am still here. It’s been a short while. Last week was very busy, I was attending and teaching at our fabulous annual diocesan catechetical conference, Spring Enrichment. This week has been busy catching up on everything that I did not get done last week.

Spring Enrichment was outstanding, and all is well, but I do have some things that are on my mind. Pardon the terrible bible pun image, and read on!

1. The “file” in my mind marked, SLAGIATT (seemed like a good idea at the time) is overstuffed.

2. The list of things that I want to write about is very long and is a bit crowded out by the aforementioned SLAGIATT.

Tropical-green-smoothie-23. Making one small change can make a world of difference. Due to some health concerns, I began to make myself a smoothie every morning for breakfast. The idea of such a thing was totally skeevy Continue reading

Now what?

new-years-resolutionsWith the holidays falling in the middle of the week, the weather and whatever else, it seems that today is the proper “start” of the year for most of us.

Now what?

Resolutions do not seem to be a good thing for me, so I typically do not make them. For reasons that I don’t understand, this year has gotten off to a very different start for me. Perhaps it was because I spent most of December being sick, after having spent a big chunk of November getting all kinds of tests medical tests. The tests and the sickness seem to be unrelated, but who knows.

In any event, I seem to have used every day of January thus far, including the first day of the year, purging, cleaning, organizing and more. I do not know why. Purging, cleaning, and organizing are as unlikely to me as resolutions themselves. The idea of any or all of those actions are not unlikely to me – just the reality of doing any of them for so many days in a row!

Today is Monday however, back to work, back to life. My health is holding its own, I am ready to get back to routines. Now what? Will I be able to sustain this?

There are a number of irons in my fire right now; writing deadlines passed, book ideas in my head, retreat possibilities, and other enterprises. Not to mention the daily business of life itself, home, family, work.

c2013_r1_2014_01_01dp950The Feast of the Epiphany that we celebrated yesterday reminds me that there is always a star in the sky. It is this orientation that I begin the new year with, following that star. Yet, the question remains, now what?

And the answer remains as well – follow that star.

Random thoughts about labor

2-PaperRagRoom1“In any case we clearly see, and on this there is general agreement, that some opportune remedy must be found quickly for the misery and wretchedness pressing so unjustly on the majority of the working class: for the ancient workingmen’s guilds were abolished in the last century, and no other protective organization took their place. Public institutions and the laws set aside the ancient religion. Hence, by degrees it has come to pass that working men have been surrendered, isolated and helpless, to the hardheartedness of employers and the greed of unchecked competition. The mischief has been increased by rapacious usury, which, although more than once condemned by the Church, is nevertheless, under a different guise, but with like injustice, still practiced by covetous and grasping men. To this must be added that the hiring of labor and the conduct of trade are concentrated in the hands of comparatively few; so that a small number of very rich men have been able to lay upon the teeming masses of the laboring poor a yoke little better than that of slavery itself.”

These words come from the papal encyclical, Rerum Novarum, promulgated by Pope Leo XIII in 1891. The emphasis on that last sentence is mine. Here we are, 122 years later and things are not so different. As is often said, the more things change, the more they stay the same. By the way, Pope Leo XIII was no firebrand, but he understood this element of justice very well. One hundred years later,  Blessed John Paul II issued the encyclical, Centesiumus Annus, which revisited Rerum Novarum, and updated some of the thoughts. Both documents are worth your time and effort.

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BelieveStrangely enough, one of the most powerful statements that I ever heard about the dignity of the worker came from… Cher. Yes – that Cher. Somewhere around 1986 or so, I was watching an interview in which Cher spoke about the loss of dignity of workers and the shame of being poor in a society so bent on improvement. So many years later, I cannot recall her exact words, but I remember snapping to attention when I heard them. It caused me to recall something a college friend had once said, something that his dad had told him, which was basically, “Even if you are a toilet cleaner, be the best ****ing toilet cleaner you can be. Do it well and with pride.

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In our culture, which often elevates successful (read: financially) work to religion, we seem to have sacrificed success for financial success. Not that that ends up mattering in the bad game of musical chairs.  Workers, even financially successful ones, often go to work worried. “Will this be the day?” they wonder.

focus_361055kWorkers in retail and fast food labor under difficult circumstances and wonder the same thing. Due to what would be called “zero hour contracts” in the UK, where many labor on an “on call” basis, jobs can be lost if you are not at the beck and call of the employer. All without any assurance of any hours in the first place.  I don’t think we have a name like zero hour here in the US; we just call it work.

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One of my unemployment “jobs” was some consulting work with a Very Big Outplacement Firm.  As a beneficiary of this very outplacement firm myself, I caught the eye of the person who ran the office. This was in 2008, deep in the heart of “you are screwed” country, the year it all fell apart. I did not see myself in dire straits, but I was not complacent either. Having spent a good deal of time and money on getting certified as a personal and corporate coach, her request to have me come on board to consult was welcomed by me.

That was until I began the work itself. *shudders* I spent time getting trained in the spring of 2008, and by summer I was ready to roll. The work was like nothing I had ever done before, and not in a good way.  On one hand, it seemed a corporal work of mercy to go into countless conference rooms to cheer and cajole the recently terminated, and to help them write their resumes and cover letters, and work on interviewing skills. On the other hand, it was like being in partnership with evil, because while their employer paid for this service, no one really seemed to care about the soon to be unemployed. I always thought that the outplacement assuaged the consciences, such as they were, of the employers. Who knows, maybe I am cynical.

This thought was made more real when I saw the movie Up in the Air with George Clooney in 2009. You will recall that he actually flew around the country working for a similar concern, but he got to do the actual firing. Violence without weapons, as companies madly downsized to beat the band.

PlanningRightsizingIt was around this time that the term “rightsizing” made its way into the vernacular. Talk about bloodless violence. How cheery – rightsizing, a term made for the one who was “righting,” and not for the “wronged.” Seeing the movie made me grateful that for whatever reason, Very Big Outplacement Firm seemed to have little work for me, despite the increased layoffs of the era.

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Here we find a new limit on the market: there are collective and qualitative needs which cannot be satisfied by market mechanisms. There are important human needs which escape its logic. There are goods which by their very nature cannot and must not be bought or sold. Certainly the mechanisms of the market offer secure advantages: they help to utilize resources better; they promote the exchange of products; above all they give central place to the person’s desires and preferences, which, in a contract, meet the desires and preferences of another person. Nevertheless, these mechanisms carry the risk of an “idolatry” of the market, an idolatry which ignores the existence of goods which by their nature are not and cannot be mere commodities.

That’s Blessed John Paul II, from the previously mentioned, Centesimus Annus.  His words regarding the “idolatry of the market” are worth noting at a time when business seems to hold more sway than individuals.

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So what is my point today? I’m not sure that I have one other than the idea that there cannot be justice without balance. This is not a new thought, is it?

lady-liberty-scales-of-justice-h-1000Whatever your thoughts are this Labor Day, maybe you can do this one thing. Try to see whoever seems like the “enemy” to you – management, the business owner,  the government, the union, or the workers themselves – in a different light today. Put on your justice blindfold and get out the scale. Maybe what you “weigh in” with will surprise you. Or at the very least, maybe we will all be invited to open our hearts and our minds as we go forth.

And when you go out on Labor Day, whether to the grocery store, the movies, or wherever, please thank the people who gave up their holiday as you enjoyed your own.