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.

All you need is love

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I wrote every day for a week, silence, for nearly two weeks.

Slowly but surely, I am returning.

We were on vacation, and while random thoughts of trying to blog would bubble up here and there, I decided to be on vacation.

And now I am trying very hard not to be on vacation!

Our trip was great for many reasons, not the least of which is because our family gets to be together in a different way. Oh, we have our moments, but we also love being together – and this trip was great for each of us individually and communally.

We went to London, with a quick side trip to Glasgow, Scotland. I used to go to London all the time; first as a tourist and Anglophile, and later because I had some close English friends. I went so frequently, and with such ease, that I never imagined that I would stop going, but life changed one day and I did. My last visit prior to this one was in June of 1996. Where did 17 years go?

JacintaFran7Sept2011It was great to be back, but I felt sharply aware of some losses. Of my close friends, one has died, and I felt her absence – as well as her presence – very sharply. Ironically, she was almost never in London during my frequent visits; she was living in Hong Kong at the time, but I met her during my first visit to the city in 1980, and our friendship spanned so many years. The last time I saw her was when she visited Massachusetts in September 2011; she knew that she was dying. She lived very purposefully until she died in late August 2012. The above photo was taken during that last visit.

imagesMy other friends were relatives by marriage of hers who became friends of mine in their own right. Slowly things changed over time, we drifted apart and lost touch. I had one other friend, and I lost her on my own. It is a long story, and it is a sad story, because it reminds me of how depression and ennui can bear down so very hard upon us, and we just let go. That is for another day. Maybe.

My husband and stepdaughter had never been to the UK before. What a gift it was to watch them experience the great city of London for the first time!

The trip happened because of some money that came to us via the death of my husband’s sister, Olga; another element of sadness. It is interesting to experience how these things can punctuate our lives. You must see the theme I am weaving, one of strands of sadness and loss that interweave with joy. This is the essence of life, and if one follows Christ, this is at the heart of the Cross and Resurrection. Life. Death. Life.

Abbey-Road-Album-Cover-One of our journeys was to Abbey Road, the famous street crossing in front of Abbey Road Studios. Ten prior trips to London and it had never ONCE occurred to me to go to Abbey Road! What fun it was to do something new for all of us.

If you have never been there, the first thing you may feel is pity for anyone trying to drive down the reasonably busy road. It is full of people trying to cross the street and have their photo taken. There is even an Abbey Road webcam! See for yourself!

In front of the Abbey Road studios, the wall is whitewashed and full of graffiti. I imagine it is re-whitewashed often, and full of new graffiti just as often! We each added our own bits to the wall, but I also studied a lot of what had been written by others. I had a major earworm going because of one Beatles’ song that was referenced by many of the graffiti writers, and it should be obvious what song that is due to the title of this post.

That is why I gasped when I saw this particular piece of graffiti, on the stonework, where you are not supposed to be writing anything.

abbeyroadolgaOlga. Mark’s sister’s name. Olga, whose death made our trip possible. Olga, whom we would rather have with us, than not, even if it meant not going to London, even though we were loving London. And thinking of Olga with every step.

Now I am not going all woooo-woooo magic superstitious on you, but I do think of these things as moments of grace. I suddenly felt as if I were in a thin place.

I’m going to try to retain the grace of that moment. You can’t “hold on to it,” such things can not be stored, perhaps retained is not even the right word. Whatever it is, as I make my way back to daily life, I hope that I can remember that love is all we need, because while I talk a good game about that, my inner churning would reveal otherwise.

This post feels so unwieldy, so in need of a lot of editing, so much reduction, and very much in need of a point… but none of this comes to me, and the clock keeps ticking. So that is how I will leave you, as I ponder the memories of a marvelous journey. All you need is love – love is all you need.

Here and there, this and that

That's me on the left... wait, on the right. Well - both! Some photo trickery for you.

That’s me on the left… wait, on the right. Well – both! Some photo trickery for you.

Once again days go by and posts do not go up. It is a pattern, and while posting itself may not be consistent, this pattern sure is! Last week found me awash in meeting deadlines. Procrastination is a particular gift of mine, and it is a gift that stands tall in my life. This week won’t be that different – I guess no week is that different for me!

imagesMore about the writing that I have been working on in a moment, but first things first… Last week a truly wonderful book was published, and I cannot recommend it to you highly enough. The Social Media Gospel, Sharing the Good News in New Ways by Meredith Gould is now available! A full review will follow, but for now, hear me when I say that this is a great book. It was an honor to have been asked to read an early copy and to provide what is commonly known as a book blurb to the publisher, so I have known about this work for some time. I am thrilled that the book is finally out, and in such an attractive volume. What – you want an ebook? Of course that is available, too! Order either version up right here. Parishes or groups wanting to embark on social media ministry should consider bulk orders; contact the publisher for further info.

There is no one who knows more about faith and social media than the woman whom I have called, “the apostle of the internet.” Meredith Gould is tireless in her promotion of #chsocm, aka, church social media. Go check out that #chosm link, or better yet, put that Twitter hashtag to good use by checking it out, and using it as well.

Along those same lines, I attended a great workshop from Friday to Saturday, which dovetails quite nicely with the book. It was a tremendous blessing to return to the (greatly refurbished) peaceful and prayerful place of respite and retreat known as St. Mary’s on the Lake. What? You live in the area and you have not been there? Oh, you *must* go! St. Mary’s is the summer home of the Paulist Fathers who are based in New York City.

There is a special place in my heart for the Paulists who “seek to meet the contemporary culture on its own terms, to present the Gospel message in ways that are compelling but not diluted, so that the fullness of the Catholic faith may lead others to find Christ’s deep peace and ‘unreachable quietness.’ Paulists do not condemn culture, nor do they try to conform the Gospel to it. Rather, we preach the Gospel in new ways and in new forms, so that the deep spiritual longings of the culture might find fulfillment in Jesus Christ. To this end, Paulists use printing presses, movie cameras, and the Internet to give voice to the words of Christ – the Word Himself – to a new generation of Americans.” 

Larry Rice, CSP proudly holding up his copy of The Social Media Gospel by Meredith Gould!

Larry Rice, CSP proudly holding up his copy of The Social Media Gospel by Meredith Gould!

Sorry, that was long but so necessary to understand this great order of priests. You can find out more about them by visiting their website. They may be best known to a generation of younger Catholics and other spiritual seekers at Busted Halo.

The workshop was lead by Larry Rice, CSP. Father Larry was previously unknown to me, but got a big thumbs up from people who are both familiar with the Paulists and the power of church social media, my dear friends, Mike Hayes and Paul Snatchko.  It was indeed a great workshop and we all learned and shared a lot in a short time. I don’t know how I did not know Father Larry before, but I know him now and am grateful for that!

By the way, if you can get yourself up to St. Mary’s on the Lake for a visit, I urge you to do so. Come on people, gather your parishes, your worship communities, your small faith sharing groups, or others with whom you gather in prayer – all are welcome! People of all faiths are invited to St. Mary’s on the Lake. You will find great natural beauty, peace, a quiet corner of Lake George, so please consider a visit.

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The accommodations are freshly painted and the common spaces are upgraded. As for the food… What can I possibly say? Best. Food. Ever. Seriously – if you do not believe me, go and find out for yourself. Site manager Ethan Allen has such a tremendous spirit of hospitality that you will feel gathered up in welcome the minute you drive up. And the man can cook – it is truly heavenly food!

So all of this has kept me busy along with some writing assignments for offline matters. I am also gearing up to take the helm at one of my favorite blogs, Catholic Sensibility, next week. Todd is going on retreat, and he must really need one if he hands the keys over to me. Honestly – what a privilege to write in this esteemed spot, easily one of my favorite blogs in all of #chsocm. I will somehow do for Catholic Sensibility what I can’t do for myself, and that is to post every day. Let’s see how that goes. (I have been preparing, so watch out world!) Todd is going on what sounds like an amazing retreat at St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, MN, a place that I dream of visiting.  Anyway, I will cross post whatever I publish at Catholic Sensibility, so stay tuned.

That’s all the news from here for now, more to follow! Thanks for reading. Why don’t you use the comments to tell us about what you’ve been up to? Stats tell me that a lot of you are out there reading, so if you want to speak up, I would love to hear from you!

My empty word file mocks me and other tales of writing (updated)

tumblr_inline_mjpyglF4VQ1qz4rgpLately I have been at many events where writing comes up, and people say things like, “tell me about your blog?” *sigh* My ego happily grabs my business cards from my purse and tosses them like a spray of confetti on New Year’s Eve. Simultaneously my seemingly unstoppable jaw flaps with phrases like “Oh, I just write about faith and real life, that kind of thing.”

Except for when I don’t. You see, I haven’t written too much lately. Kind of like one of my favorite anti-heroes Peter Gibbons, from the movie Office Space, I stare at my computer a lot, along with all my notes, and it might look like I’m working. But I am not.

If you are a regular reader, you know this. If you are among those who picked up the confetti, you will quickly notice this. And I have been struggling with this off and on for some time now. Oh, the writer’s life!

First it was finishing up that last semester. Then it was graduation. Now it is… well, it is… I have a very big deadline approaching. Things were going along, and then thought I was there, but then I started to revisit and edit. So, about being there? Maybe not so much.tumblr_m1tmz8sgIp1r82bbmo1_500I do have things that I want to write about and I will be back. Hope versus optimism, a thought I got from a post written by Bridget at Women In Theology. Other thoughts focus on the catholicity of being a Catholic Christian, which got a boost from this post by Jana Bennett at Catholic Moral Theology, inspired by an editorial from Matt Malone, SJ, editor of America Magazine. There are a lot of short scriptural reflections on my mind, but never on paper these days.

BPA0305RF1238-MAnd what about the sacraments that I want to write about? There is a big draft about baptism that I have been wrestling with. Wisely or not, I would like to write about LGBT issues in the Church, and that is rolling around in the back of my brain. Pope Francis provides me with endless fodder, including the recent flap about who gets saved.  (Updating by adding this link from Stephen Colbert.) And my desires to write about Holy Orders, or how we might be church going forward, and why the Eucharist matters, are far greater than my ability to do so, as of this moment. The list goes on and on.

And what about the posts about hearing three great theologians in recent times? From Elizabeth Johnson CSJ in April, to Anthony Gittins C.S.Sp.,  and Richard Gaillardetz PhD in May, I am awash in thought about all of them.

Family_Guy_Get_Me_Started_Black_Shirt_POPPlus, the Fortnight for Freedom is coming, and I have promised to submit two pieces to Catholic Sensibility during those dates. No – not about the Fortnight for Freedom, which you do not want to get me started about – but for the Two Weeks of Worthy Women series that blog host Todd Flowerday initiated during the first Fortnight for Freedom. Last year I wrote about Thea Bowman and Gertrude of Helfta. This year… well, you will have to wait and see.

And I do have a family, the desire to spend time with them, as well as read books, garden, walk my dog, and sleep. Let’s not forget the full time employment either!

So that’s where I’m at. If you are a reader, I beg your patience. If you are new, maybe you will poke around and see what I have said before. Things like this, or this, or maybe this?

The Steps That Lead Me To Who I Am – Wayna Picchu

In September of 2005, I took this photograph of some steps at Wayna Picchu, the mountain right next to Machu Picchu. Many photos of Machu Picchu are actually taken from Wayna Picchu.

When I got to Peru the one thing that I continued to hear was “you must climb Wayna Picchu.” I had not really considered doing so; I was so fixated on seeing the ruins in the relatively short time that I would be there. However, Continue reading

Jersey Shore – The There Will Be Bread Edition

What a fine week of vacation we had, in Ocean City, New Jersey. *sigh* We love Ocean City, for many reasons.

Ocean City has an interesting history, which you can read about here. Part of the history is that it was meant to be a Christian resort. As a result, Ocean City remains a dry town to this day. While I like wine with my bread, at church and at home, I am perfectly happy to stay in this liquor-store-free town. The net result of this is that unlike Seaside Heights, now infamous because of the MTV program, (*insert eyeroll here*) “Jersey Shore,” the OC boardwalk is devoid of rowdy bars and dance clubs, tattoo parlors and other such.

Now living the life I have lived, trust me – I have enjoyed my fair share of rowdy bars and dance clubs, including ones in Seaside Heights, when I was younger. At this point in my life, I am happy for a different chapter however and OC fits the bill.

Our vacation started, as many of you already know via Facebook, with a bang. As we were sitting at the traffic light that is at the entry to the island, we were rear ended. Poor Prius has had its rear end kicked, but at least it was not by Snooki! Actually, it was a teenager who hit us – a sweet kid, completely without guile who couldn’t stop saying “I’m sorry!” and “It was all my fault!” No one was hurt and cars can be fixed and our vacation proceeded without issue after that.

I had visions of writing a lot – blog posts as well as the kind of writing I long to do more of, which may or may not be published elsewhere someday. No such thing happened. There was no wi-fi (although a lurker friend on Facebook, you know who you are!) gave me a hard time about all my Facebook updates, which were mostly photos of the beach.

No – I did not write, but I walked, 5 to 8 miles each day, along the beach. It was heaven and then some. I did not stick with WW completely, but I was not crazy either; I did gain one pound back, but that is a far cry from my typical “I’m-off-the-plan-so-let’s-go-food-crazy.” That is very different for me. I did have a second slice of Mack and Manco pizza… I admit that that was hot-melty-cheesy-crispy bliss and worth every bite… The best pizza ever and I say that as a New Yorker talking about New Jersey pizza.

And I slept… and slept. That was a real joy, I can promise you. I also got to see my friend Donna Marie many times; she lives nearby. That was a real joy too! I also got to see Donna’s friend Sister Connie, RGS, who I had not seen since 1994 or 95! That was fun because Connie is an extrovert’s extrovert and I say that as a pretty extroverted extrovert! I was walking into a shop one day and I have no clue how she saw me, but from a dining terrace next door (she had to have corner-turning-vision but I did not ask) Connie came flying into the store to say hello! I ended up sittting down with her and Sister Anita as they ate their lunch.

(we went to Atlantic City with Donna Marie, her husband and her mom; this is at Caesar’s)

The best part of the vacation was spending so much time with Mark and Erica. While a 53 year old woman and her 15 year old stepdaughter are like some kind of off-the-charts hormonal bookends, just ask poor Mark about that, we do have a great relationship for which I thank God every day.

We went to the beach every day, we jumped in the waves and I was reminded of an 8 year old girl who loved the waves with wild abandon and inexplicably instantaneously loved me too, as I jumped in those waves with her, in Rhode Island not-so-many-years-ago.

Erica and I in 2006, another beach, another vacation.
And here we were in Ocean City, just last week.

Mark and I would take a walk on the beach every day and we both relished the amount of unfettered quiet time together. It was great and I felt myself humbled beyond imagination that God should have brought us back together in this way.

One of my favorite moments together was when we rode the ferris wheel, just the two of us, on the last night. (The ferris wheel makes Erica roll her eyes… too slow!)

Mark and Erica played their nightly game of air hockey at the arcade, a longtime tradition. I admit I loved seeing her win! They also played endless rounds of paddleball on the beach, a game that is more lost on me than the air hockey!

All in all it was a beautiful journey. There were – as there always are – hard moments. Anger, tears, frustration and the like, but there was also happiness, tranquility, joy and unity in ways that we don’t see enough of, in general.

So no blog posts or chapters were written, although I sent postcards to everyone who asked for one. However, not unlike bread, ingredients were added, things will rise and will be consumed. It is in that consumption, counter-intuitively, that  more is given than is taken, more is offered than is consumed and that is how we become One.

And that is why there will always be bread for me. Even – in fact, especially – in the Jersey Shore edition.