Saturday, August 27, 2011

show me the good

This post has been in the back of my mind for a couple of months...  And since nothing else seems to be in my mind... indulge me.    It kind of feels a little bit like one of those "specials" in the middle of a season of Survivor...where they just hash over old stuff...with a couple of new scenes.

Last year, at the beginning of August, I was d.r.e.a.d.i.n.g the start of school.  The previous year had not ended on a good note and the climate was just toxic.  And so because I figured I needed all the grace I could get, and because it was probably just "time", I went to confession, bringing with me the fear and the mistrust of the coming year.  I blogged about it here.  My penance was so, so perfect.  I know the Spirit works through his servant here.  Pray, he said, for God to show you the good He wants you to become.

So, I did.  It was simple, but I knew it would be good.  What I didn't count on, was that God would answer it literally and quickly. 

By the end of the month, I had two answers.  One came in the form of a lady that attended daily Mass, sitting across from me.  She was the unmistakeable sister of one of the people at work who was giving me so much grief.  I thought it was a bit humorous, that God sent a visual aid to remind me to pray for the woman.  But I had asked, "Show me the good You want me to become."  And He did.  "Pray for those who persecute you."  This lady attended Daily Mass at our parish for several months, but eventually I stopped seeing her there.  I asked her sister - by now we were on speaking terms - if she was OK.  She said she was...but sometimes she liked to attend Mass closer to where she worked.   But she was there as a visual aid when I needed her.  She may never know what purpose her presence there at Mass served. (Remember that if some days you don't know why you are at Mass or you don't feel like you are "getting" anything from it. God may be using you to impact someone, and you have no idea how!)

The second answer was my red-headed co-worker.  We met at our beginning of school faculty meeting, and hit it off almost immediately.  She was a good 10 or so years younger than me, the extrovert to counter my introvert tendencies, the mom of three children under five while my two were entering the teen scene.  She had been teaching long enough to know what she was doing, and to be quite good at it, but not so long that she had ceased to think she could make a difference.  She did not accept "because that's the way we've always done it" as an answer and she did not accept less than their best from and for our students.   She was a breath of fresh air for me, and I learned from her.  And she was a friend.  She was "displaced" at the end of last year, and I miss her dearly this year.  I miss our secret knock, the someone to bounce ideas off of, and our lunchtime conversations.  But I know that God sent her for a purpose.  An answer to that prayer, "Show me..."

Lord, continue to show me the good You want me to become.  Let my eyes be open to see it.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

dog days

What can I say?  School has started, and it is just pure-dee HOT! 

We all lack energy.  The heat doesn't help.  Yesterday evening, I came home, sat down in the rocker, and fell asleep. I didn't even have to recline.

The mornings are especially bad...soooo humid.  And by afternoon, it's a 100 or so.  My boys told me they announced a heat advisory at their school today...I guess that is for things like football practice.  How on earth can football in this weather be "fun"?

There seems little to blog about.  Some interesting little people at school, but it would be unprofessional to go there.

Some odd big people at school.  Ugh.  But I can't go there, either.

After my last post about wondering how I was going to get it all done, I heard that voice that told me that I don't walk alone.  What I get done, I will get done with His help.  

I was at the old house today.  I got out of the car to get the mail, but then I realized that I would be killed.  We lived on a highway. Our mailbox is one of the rural type deliveries.  They are resurfacing (widening?) the highway that runs in front of our [old] house.  They did the shoulders - only took about six months - and now they are doing the middle.  So traffic is rerouted to the shoulder.  Not sure quite how I will get my mail and live to tell about it.

See...reaching....deep for something to blog about.

I did run across something in a church bulletin that I thought was just lovely.  Maybe I can share that?  It was about the period of silence after communion. 

 "During this time of silent prayer the priest leads us into the third and last of the three ancient silences in the Mass, the silence when we reach out to be in communion with Jesus and with everyone to whom he leads us.  
You are now seated beside Jesus.
What is he saying to you?
What have you to say to him?
Is our Lord calling you to serve him in a special way...?
Is he inviting you to enjoy the vocation he has already given you...?
....Is he leading you to smeone whom you have hurt or who has hurt you?
You are now close to the saints and all your beloved dead; tell them of your love and receive theirs.
Listen to Jesus comfort you in your suffering.
See him reveal himself as the ultimate source of your joy.
Let him give you strength for your work.
Hear him answer your prayer.
[Mass in Slow Motion...Paul F. Ford]

Friday, August 19, 2011

one down....

The first week of the 2011-2012 school year is "in the books".  Not a bad first week, as first weeks go.  I looked forward to returning to some semblance of a routine.

Monday was hectic.  I drove the kids to the bus stop and waited.  And waited.  We thought maybe we had missed it, so I told them they could just come to Mass with me, and I would drop them at school after.  It would be tight, but I figured we could make it.  Until I drove into the parking lot and saw the extra cars.  And remembered it was the Feast of the Assumption.  Not a Holy Day of Obligation this year, but still extra people and and extra reading....we weren't going to make it.  We sat in the back, and made our exit at the beginning of the Eucharistic prayer. 

At school, I compiled a list of all my students from last year and all of those promised us from our feeder schools.  Our school is pretty transient, but e.v.e.r.y s.i.n.g.l.e child that we expected to be there, was there.  And we are gradually finding more who have come from elsewhere.  We have about 50% more special ed students, but 1 less teacher this year and no assistants.  The school board in their wisdom...  We could have told them...

By Tuesday, we had worked out the kinks with the bus, I think.  My kids mentioned that they were the only white kids on the bus, but didn't seem too bothered.  It was a bigger deal that the ride was long and the bus doesn't have A/C.

I wasn't sure about finding my rhythm for the mornings, with things being different this year.  The past couple of mornings, I have taken the kids to the bus stop for 6:10, made it to Mass at 6:30, then made it the establishment where I work out for a quick 30 minute (or so) workout.  I didn't smell too bad when I finished, and today, I had enough time to spend a few minutes sitting at the church before arriving at school around 8:15.

It was a good thing, too.  I needed that strength and peace today.  Hadn't been at school 30 minutes, and I was met with one of my students perching in a tree...totally non-responsive to any authority.  Then, he escaped.  We lost was too hot to run...but found him outside of the fence, hiding behind a tree.

Did I mention that we had a storm last night?  It was our first real storm in the new house.  Kind of cool.  Constantly flashing lightening and a steady rumble of thunder.  Kind of cool...until I got in my car this morning and felt something dripping on me...The sun roof?  Well, apparently, it was not entirely closed.  Wonder if my cupholders could double as rain gauges??

The first week of school is tiring as it is, and the 90+ temperatures just make it worse.  I think I'm going to like the morning workouts.  Wednesday was the first time I'd been able to spend any time at this church since early summer.   I took in reading material and my iPad.  As I sat there, with just the early morning sun coming through the few windows, I remembered that it was useless to bring reading material...too dark to read it...unless it is on the iPad - which has an inner glow.  I like that the time is day I might pray the Rosary.  Another, the Liturgy of the Hours.  Another, I might spend just enjoying the Presence. 

This morning...this gem was in the Office of Readings...

For thus said the Lord God, 
the Holy One of Israel:
By waiting and by calm you shall be saved, 
in quiet and in trust your strength lies.
 --Isaiah 30

And so you have an ADD snapshot of my first week of school.  No students yet in my schedule.  And I have no idea how I will keep up with paperwork, when I actually do have students to teach. Not sure how I will deal with getting kids out of trees when I have kids in my classroom to teach.  But I am not worrying about that today.  I'm going with the quiet and trust from above.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

so long, summer...

I had meetings three days last week....and the kids come on Monday.

Summer is officially over for us.  :-(

Last summer was a rich one, spiritually.  This one will forever be known as the Summer of the Move.  It was only across town.  Only 6 or 7 miles.  But from a house where we've lived forever (my husband lived there as a kid, and then off and on, until he ended up there for good in the late 1970's).  It's a house where we barely had room to turn around (or put up a Christmas tree) to a place where we have room to stretch.  But it has been a full time job - moving.  Dirty, hot, heavy, stressful.  And we are still not totally done...

But I honor of the end of summer, perhaps some pictures that did NOT make the blog are in order....
This is what the grass looked like in June.  We went a long time without rain.  

But there were some yummy things produced in the garden.  
Those red bell peppers (top right)...they were rather underwhelming.

The kids' "tree house".
It was one of the things that had to go in preparation of the move.

The fence, too.
It has been there for many, many years.  
Twenty, maybe.
Hurricane Gustave flattened it a few years ago. 
But we stood it back up, patched it, tied it together...
Too precarious to leave for a renter, it's gone now.
Someone came and hauled the sections use again.

The single picture that I have of the moving chaos. 
It was just too horrible to photograph.
The collected, neglected junk of so many years.

A diversion from the chaos.
My parents, sister, and nephew visited.
I live in a house that people can visit now!

Our annual altar server outing.
With our kind pastor and the majority of our faithful altar servers.
They told me I had to be in the picture this year.
I went with the flow.

The cake for my mother-in-law's 80th birthday.
Her name is Dolly.  

This is how the younger teen spent the majority of his last week of summer vacation.
Swimmer's Ear kicked his ....
Two trips to the doctor's office, antibiotic ear drops, and oral anti-b's, and I think we're on the downhill side.

And that, boys and girls, is part of the story of my life.

Friday, August 12, 2011

the fireplace mystery

Something I have always wanted, but never had, is a fireplace. 

But the new house has one!  I'm not crazy about (a) the TV on the mantle or (b) the all-the-same-color painted bricks and mantle. is what it is.  Might paint the mantle a lighter color. 

Anyway, having never had a real, live, fireplace before, I asked my friend, who is not a fireplace virgin, to show me some pointers in using it. 

Earlier in the summer, we tried and tried to figure out how one might turn it on.

We turned the red valve, but nary a thing happened.  We searched further...but found nothing.   My friend took off the fake logs, looking for clues.  Nada!

More than a few times, have we wished that the home came with an owner's manual. 

Tonight when I got home, there was a small pile outside the garage.  There were some leftover tiles and marble squares.  There was a plate that goes in the microwave, some remote controls, and a note with a phone number!  I called.  We had asked a few questions at closing, but the seller had never lived in the home, and so was not very helpful.

I inquired about the fireplace. 

Stand in front of the fireplae, she said....

See down there at the bottom right? 

Had to pry the bugger off with a knife...but now, the mystery of the fireplace is SOLVED!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

comfortable silence

My best friend is a cloistered nun.  We've covered that before, right?  She wasn't always a nun.  When I explain that I went to a monastery to visit my friend, people find that a little curious.  We went to high school together.  "Did you "know" then," they ask?  No, she was pretty much a "regular" person.  We ate pizza, saw movies (Return of the Jedi and Footloose come to mind), rode bikes, went swimming, worked on research papers, shared a tent, yakked on the phone, and went to CCD together. 

Even later, after college, she worked in NYC, and I visited her there when our family celebrated my grandparents' 50th Wedding Anniversary in New Jersey.  We went to the top of the Empire State Building and saw an off-Broadway play...Nunsense...maybe that was a "clue."  But she was in her 30's...after a variety of jobs and after living in a variety of places...when she heard God's call clearly enough to listen and follow.  She wasn't born wearing a veil or a habit.

 Can you guess who's who?  

One of the benefits of this for me, is that in recent years, I've been able to take a little time during the summer to visit her.  No matter where I am or what I am doing in my life, it is a [welcome] change of pace. 

I am able to stay "on site", which is pretty cool.  We meet a few times a day to visit for a few hours (that always go by pretty quickly).  Because they are "cloistered", we meet in a "parlor" each entering through a different door.  There is not grate or grille, as there was in years past, but still a barrier...kind of like a desk between us. 

My accommodations are fairly simple, but always comfortable, and always welcoming.  Everything that I need or want is right at my fingertips.  Including a plate of fresh brownies in the fridge! Part of the charm is that it is like taking a step back in time.

The phone in the next room!

 This greeted me upon a arrival.  Loved the welcome note from Sr. J.  
Doesn't the flowered glass just take you back to a simpler time?

Part of the "charm" is the scent.  
The incense, to be sure, but also the smell of the evergreen growing outside my room.  
I find myself breathing deeply.  
Here, the spiderweb growing in the evergreen captures the rain droplets. 

There is a schedule...a time for everything.
Morning prayer is at 5:30.
Mass, followed by prayer at 7:15.
Midday prayer at 11:50.
Evening prayer at 5:00.  
We visit at 2:00 and at 7:00.

I am free to participate in as much or as little as I choose.
Usually, I do most of it.  Why not?
Praying the Liturgy of the Hours with a group is not something I can do everyday.
The freedom to slow down, to not have to run here or do this
frees me to notice other things in life. 

The chapel is "empty" a good bit of the day, when the nuns are busy about other things.
And so I visited a couple of times a day.
This time, the Lord and I mostly sat in comfortable silence.
Neither one of us had much to say, as far as I could tell. 
But maybe after the craziness of this summer, He figured I needed a rest.
Just for the record...
a couple of  lovely naps were included in my time there...
and my friend and I did NOT sit in comfortable silence - we talked!

There is a basket under the altar that holds prayer intentions in preparation for an upcoming celebration.
Behind the altar are windows, opening onto a beautiful garden.
The gate that you see separates the sisters from others who come to worship at the chapel.
There are always birds, but I have little success in "capturing" them.  

 The deer, however, are not shy at all.  
They do not realize that in Louisiana, they would soon be a tasty addition to the dinner table.

The weather was wonderful.
I went a whole day without turning on my A/C.
(Quite the contrast to the 105 degree blast that greeted me at the Dallas airport yesterday.)
One night, I fell alseep with the windows open, listening to the sound of rain.
God always seems to paint a masterpiece for me on my last evening there.
And so, a wonderful end to a very busy where there seemed to be only limited time for even the Creator of the Universe.  It is back to work for me next week, and the year ahead promises to be a challenging one, with staff cutbacks and whatnot. But God is still the One in control of the world!  Can I get an Amen?

Friday, August 5, 2011

breaking up is hard to do

Disclaimer:  If you are a regular reader of this blog, skip this post.  (I have pictures of my trip that I want to post soon.) This is for people who do a google search for bellsouth or customer service or disconnecting from bellsouth or some such thing.

You see, we moved.  We transferred both our interntet and phone service to a provider other than bellsouth.  I had few complaints about bellsouth while I was with them, but the other provider was a better deal.  No hard feelings.

Except that I can NOT get bellsouth to let me go.  I can't even talk to a human.  It has frustrated me to no end.  To the point that I am putting it here for anyone in the world that is interested to see.  Because I can!

I started in earnest on July 27 trying to be disconnected.  This is the one and only time I got to talk to a real live human.  As soon as she found out that I wanted to have my service disconnected, she said she would transfer me to an "expert", and was never heard from again.  At 17 minutes, my cell phone was disconnected for whatever reason.  I didn't have time to invest another 17+ minutes into the process again right then.

Thursday and Friday were busy days at our house.  Major home coming, etc.  I didn't have time to sit down and deal with this.

So I did what I shouldn't have done and took the number with me on vacation.  Monday was a travel day, and I couldn't deal with this in an airport or on a plane, but bright and early Tuesday, I was on it!  I thought I would get it out of the way, so I could enjoy the rest of my get-away.  After all, each day that I am connected is costing me about $2.

So I tried twice on Tuesday, and was put on hold.  Once for 20 minutes and 49 seconds before my call was dropped and the next time for 43 minutes.  I was on vacation, and had plans for doing other things besides sitting on hold trying to disconnect my residential phone and DSL, so I hung up at that point.  I am pretty sure that 43 minutes is way too long to expect someone to hold.

While I was on hold, I sent an email to bellsouth.  I got back a reply saying that they were sorry, but they could not handle this request online, and that I could call the number that you see above during regular business hours.

I replied to that email questioning their sanity, but didn't receive a reply to my reply.

I called my bank to stop the automatic payment that is set up to pay this bill, but was told I would have to come in person to do that.  Since I was 1500 miles from home, I was unable to to do that right then.

Wednesday morning, I knew I shouldn't but I did it anyway.  I got the charger for my phone, put it on speaker and exactly 1 minute after opening of regular business hours, I called.  I was thanked for my patience each and every minute that I was on hold, and I was assured that if I continued to hold, my call would be answered in the order in which it was received.

I made coffee, and ate my breakfast.  I washed the dishes.  I went back to my room and checked facebook.  All the while being thanked repeatedly for my patience and assured my call would be answered.  I couldn't fathom how many people had called in the minute before I got through to be in line ahead of me, but it must have been quite a few.  Thousands or millions, maybe.

After about 104 minutes, I was pretty sure that I wasn't going to be helped.  I was at a monastery, for pete's sake, and one of the things I'd come to do was to spend some time with God, and this was surely putting a dent in the time.  So....I left my phone plugged in my room, turned down the volume on the speaker and went to the chapel.  The good Lord and I had a nice little visit.  I got back to my room just in time to hear it disconnect.  God's way of telling me that disconnecting phone service was NOT what he had in mind for me to do with these few days.  Wanna guess how long I was on hold for???  Don't peek!!  Got a number in your head?  Oh, go ahead....look!

Seriously!  They had me on hold for 2.5 hours!!  Now who has that kind of time?  Do you really think they ever planned to answer that call?  Do you think they really answer their calls in the order in which they were received??

Can you add all these hold times together??  I'll save you the's close to 4 hours.

I fired off another email or two.  This time I got a reply saying that they COULD disconnect me, if I could provide them some piece of information like the amount of the last bill or payment or the last toll number called.  Since I had access to my bank statement online, I emailed the amount of the last payment.  Only to receive another email the following day saying that they would need to confirm that I was authorized to make these changes. WTH???  But that I could call that 1-888 number you see above.  What would be the point?

I have sent more emails with no satisfaction.  They apologized for the "inconvenience".  Really??  4 hours on the phone to complete a 30 second transaction is an inconvenience.  I asked for a credit to compensate me for my time.  And I also want the service to be disconnected retroactively - to when I first attempted to do it.

I start back at work next week, and I'm quite sure I won't be able to spend several hours of my day on hold.

But I will be at my credit union on Monday morning to do my own disconnecting....Bellsouth from MY checking account.  Bet they disconnect me then.  Faster than they can say "Thank you for your patience!"

All I want to say is that this is the most pitiful excuse for customer service that I have e.v.e.r experienced in the 46 years I've been circling the sun.  If I knew where to go to report them to someone who cared, I would.  But in lieu of that, putting it out there on the internet will have to do!

Don't get Bellsouth.  You will NEVER be able to disconnect.

I will add that I asked for another number where someone actually answered, and they gave me an after hours number saying that it "might" be better.  I tell you, I am NOT holding my breath!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

paying it forward x2...grace in suffering

Holly, at a Life-Size Catholic Blog, hosts a meme on Tuesdays where she invites fellow bloggers to share *something* they have found somewhere else that might be of iterest to others.

A month or so ago, she featured my "for sarah" post. I was kind of amazed that something that seemingly wrote itself late one night gathered as much attention and affected as many people as it did.

This week, while surfing, I ran across a blog, Raising Saints, that I'd never seen before.  That is my first "Pay it Forward".  The link takes you to postings from July. The author is the mother of seven (ages 2-13) and is dealing with stage IV breast cancer. This touched me, because her situation was so similar to something a prayer friend of mine is dealing with. (She is the mother of three dealing with stage IV lung cancer.) Both have found out that the cancer has spread to their brain. The faith and humor that both of these women approach this tremendously challenging situation with is just beyond words, and something we can all learn from.  Take a minute to offer a prayer for each of these beautiful ladies and their husbands and children. 

My prayer friend - the one with lung cancer - has a caringbridge site, but not a blog.  She posted this(Pay it Forward #2)  earlier this week: 

I will have 2 doctor appointments this week to discuss plans, options, treatments, etc.  The problem is that my cancer has not followed any rules so far (and neither have I).  It is hard to plan for something so unpredictable.  My cancer doesn’t look like or act like other cancers .  That would be WAY to boring.  From what I gather we will just have to live in the moment and roll with the punches.  The most important thing to me right now is that I be at peace and still have some joy in my heart in the midst of the hardest of trials.  I can honestly say that I am in a good place now.  It is not something I have earned or achieved.  Please don’t think that highly of me.  I feel like Jesus outstretched his wounded hand toward me and I just grabbed it tightly and never want to let go. I feel like he is a protective older brother that is very wise about suffering and love and he wants to bring me to the Father.  I think, read, and pray often through the intercession of Our Most Holy Mother, Mary, to which I have a special devotion and admiration.  I am surrounded by so many wonderful family members, friends, and neighbors that take care of my every need and will love me and will not let go until I am secure in my Father’s everlasting arms.  What more could I ask? It is plenty enough for me.

And this: 

I will leave you, this evening with the lines of my favorite prayer;

Prayer of Abandonment

Father I abandon myself into your hands; Do with me what you will.

Whatever you may do, I thank you:

I am ready for all, I accept all. Let only your will be done in me,

And in all your creatures.

I wish no more than this, O Lord. Into your hands I commend my soul;

I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,

For I love you, Lord

And so need to give myself into Your hands,

Without reserve, and with boundless confidence,

For You are the Father.

Charles de Foucauld

All in all, beautiful writing and beautiful faith.  P(r)aying it forward....