Thursday, May 31, 2012

ember days, summer days, lazy days

School is out!  It's been out for almost a week, now.  And what do I have to show for it?  I have read some....

This series is probably one of the best I have come across.  There are meditations for each day, largely based on the scripture readings for the day.  Just awesome stuff.  It is not the 2-minutes-and-done kind of quickie meditation.  This is something you take, and you spend some time reading and pondering.  It quotes heavily from St. Josemaria Escriva.  Sometimes I have found myself taking notes.  And often I have been impressed (though I shouldn't be) with how well it fits with where I am in my life right now.  So I have finished up most of ended at Pentecost.  And I am actively searching for my next volume.  Being cheap on a budget, I am not willing to pay nearly $20 for a single volume.  But if I can find them on ebay for less than $5, we have a winner!  And I have debated about whether I want the paper version or the digital version.  Advantages of the digital version include the ability to increase the size of the font (getting more important with each passing day) and the ability to read in a dark church (where I sometimes find myself before school). 

Digital reading...who knew that books would be so 'last century'? 

This was a free download one day.  I think from Word Among Us.  So, I downloaded it.  An interesting read.  An easy read.  The author takes a prayer from St. Alphonsus, (I think) and unpacks it.  It's a good prayer....things that God can't refuse to give us.

This was a free download, too.  From the digital department of the local library.  Best part - no overdue fees.  Have to get a little bit of contemporary culture in, I suppose, and Stephanie Plum can sometimes make me LOL! 

My hair is getting grayer.  As this lovely photograph taken by my dear second child vividly details....

I have a pain in my side.  My friend says it's that "thorn in my side".  For a while it hurt most when I breathed deeply, so it was just a nuisance more than anything.  I really don't know how I possibly injured it, and I wasn't sure if it was a pulled muscle or what.  Exercise didn't really bother it.  Yesterday, I woke up feeling pretty darn good.  Until I grabbed the 5 gallon bucket of chlorine tablets in the back of my car....oh my....whatever had healed - just completely unhealed, and it is painful today if I so much as shift from park to reverse in my car. 

I've done some minor putting away.  We have never totally unpacked from the move.  There are still containers and boxes.  I am going with the little-bit-every-day method.  This rosary has been sitting in a ziploc in my bathroom forever.  I got it almost put back together today.  I am missing one bead and a little bit of chain. 

I cleaned my bathtub and the mirrors and a countertop!  Yay!  We (the kids and I) have made progress in the very small computer room that was just a dumping ground for paperwork of any kind.  Paper clutter is killing me.  Any suggestions?

I have swam, and I have napped, and I have walked the dog in the neighborhood.  I have called my EAP to set up an appointment for me and my dear hubby.  Nervous about that, but all shall be well and all shall be well (Julian of Norwich). 

Yesterday I had a wonderful visit with a couple from my parish.  They have helped finance our annual altar server outings, and we have worked together on some service projects.  They are the age of my parents, and the wife had surgery in February.  It has been one complication after another, and she has been pretty much housebound ever since.  Her husband invited me to visit, and I took him up on the offer.  Next time I will try to bring Holy Communion.  I have never taken communion to the homebound before, and there were just too many logistical questions to work out on short notice. 

My pastor has taken off this week, and as far as I know, his mother continues to hang on.  Last Saturday he told us that only she and God know why she is still here, and he's not sure if God even knows at this point. 

And oh yeah....before I conclude my rambling....Catholic nerd that I am....I learned something today.  From a couple of other blogs.  Ember Days.  Apparently they were around very early in the Tradition of the church....probably as a way of taking pagan days of fasting and offering sacrifice and re-orienting them to the one, true God.  After Vatican II, they kind of fell between the cracks, it seems.  Basically, they were 3 days every season of fasting and partial abstinence from meat.  They are celebrated on a Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.  In the winter, they follow the Feast of St. Lucy (Dec 13), in the Spring, they follow Ash Wednesday (so they get kind of swallowed up by Lent).  Summer Ember Days follow Pentecost (that's us right now!) and the Fall celebration is the Wednesday, Friday and Saturday in the week after the Exaltation of the Cross (Sept 14).  The old way of remembering this was "Lucy, Ashes, Dove, Cross".   Another blog suggested that we be rebels and reclaim that part of our liturgical calendar.  Fast.  Pray.   Jesus, himself, sometimes took the opportunity to fast and pray.  Why not us? 

And so there, you have your Catholic Trivia of the day.  Have a great week!

Friday, May 25, 2012

in appreciation

My favorite day of the year,!  There are 1,728 hours until school starts again!  All kinds of limitless possibilities sitting out there on the horizon - just waiting to be grabbed!

It was a pretty good school year.  For the first time in many years - 13 or so - I did not have an assistant, thanks to budget cuts.  I managed OK with less time to plan, less help, more students, and more classes.  I'm not sure my students fared as well.  Ultimately they pay the price.  Today we heard that our school will have more teacher assistants in the fall!  I am cautiously excited, as is my assistant from the last several years, who was assigned to another class this year.  She helped other students, but she never really left my class.

For some reason that I do not understand - gift of God, perhaps - I have finished this year very unstressed.  Usually by the time the end of May rolls around, my shoulders are in knots, I am not sleeping well at night because I am afraid of forgetting something while I sleep, and I just don't even want to talk to people.  That didn't happen this year.  I still had all my end of the year stuff plus Honors night to plan, plus the issues from home, but no stress.  I walked through things as they came, and life was good!

I was even able to appreciate some other people this year.  Teachers love to be appreciated, and some of the things that I have saved for years have been thank-you notes.  They come so rarely - from parents or supervisors or administrators or students.  I still have one that my principal of several years ago wrote to me after an Honors Night.

Person #1 on my list of gratitude was my kids' bus driver.  I'm not even sure what his name is, but my kids love him.  When we moved to our new house, I knew by the diversity of surrounding neighborhoods, there was a good possibility that they would be two of very few white kids on the bus.  My husband was horrified at the idea that I would even entertain the thought of them being in such a situation.  As it turns out, they were the only white folks on the bus, but it has been just fine.  The bus is drama-free, the bus driver waits for us in the morning if he gets to the stop first, and my kids have appreciated his wisdom and outlook on life.  A quick note for him, and a gift card to Chik-Fil-A. 

People #2-6 on my list were my co-workers who helped me with Honors Night.  I wrote them notes, too, and bought each a gourmet chocolate bar.  Not expensive, but just a way to say thanks.  They appreciated being appreciated.

Person #7 would be my good priest.  He has been going through a lot lately, as his mother is "hanging on" and they are taking everything hour by hour, day by day.   He has missed a couple of Masses in the past 2 weekends, and we never know if there is going to be daily Mass in the morning when we get there or if he will have gotten "the call".  Since it was about time, I figured I would take advantage of confession while I could, and went yesterday.  I mentioned something about being angry and the language reflecting that, and I had to smile as he commented wryly, " it usually does". 

Dear hubby and I are both agreeable to counseling, but quite honestly, the whole idea of working through things isn't very appealing.  I'm afraid they will decide that I'm the one that is totally off in left field somewhere.  And so I said something about the fear of working through things.  Fear doesn't usually come from God.  I know the Holy Spirit speaks through this man.  With barely a thought, he pulled an example from what he is currently going through with his mom and siblings.  Apparently things have not been all sunshine and roses with his siblings through the years.  He said how much he had dreaded what he is now going through, but how awesome God's healing love had been in the past weeks.  Never be afraid of the healing love that Jesus wants to pour out, he tells me...bite the bullet and work through it!  He is always SO encouraging!

Person # 8 would be my principal.  He has his issues, but he is also kind and compassionate.  I had an observation back in November, I think.  It was such a train wreck that I never went in afterwards for a post-observation conference.  In the middle of my math lesson, with my principal sitting in the back of my room, I had kids asking for "call-home slips" and refusing to lift their heads off the desk.  The icing on the cake was when one of them - in his socks - got up and started to 409 his desk in the middle of a lesson on equivalent fractions.  The desk was dirty, after all.  Probably because he had written on it.  I didn't know whether to laugh or cry when it was all done.  I chose laughter.  This week, I had to finally sit with him and sign end-of-the-year paperwork and that observation.  He said that in spite of the fact that I had to constantly redirect attention, my teaching never stopped, and that it was a masterful job.  I thought it was so kind of him to see the glass as at least half-full. 

And so here we are with a post that I meant to be about the opportunities of summer, but ended up to be about gratitude.  What are you grateful for?  How can you show it?

Friday, May 18, 2012

catching up....

Kind of a stream of consciousness...

Lots going on at this time of year.  For the first time ever, I have not been totally stressed at the end of the year.  I don't know why.  There's still a lot of stuff to get done.  Maybe I DID have some of it done ahead of time this year.  I "checked out" today with my special ed supervisor, so that is pretty much done.

We have five days left.  FIVE!  It's been an OK year.  I love my 8th graders, and I will miss them.  If they move on.  None of them passed both parts of the required test to move on.  They will go to Summer Remediation, and hopefully get the required numbers on a retake.  And then possibly an alternative 8th grade next year.  They have worked so hard this year; I was so disappointed for them.  But the test doesn't measure hard work.  Actually, I'm not sure what it does measure.  ....but let me not diverge with a rant on the educational system...

I will have a student teacher intern next semester.  That's a first for me.  Should be interesting.

Things with me and my dear hubby... Being married is the hardest thing I have ever tried to do.  We need counseling and the search continues.  He doesn't want anyone with a "religious bias", so I will probably make an appointment with my EAP.  When we talk, we just totally see things from different points of view.  He complains that I can't see his point.  He claims he can see mine, but he doesn't.  And when I try to pin down what his issues are (with me) it is like a giant game of "whack-a-mole".  Just when I think I understand what he is talking about, then, no...that's not quite it.  Things are fairly calm...the house is not a battle ground, but things could be so much better.

My good priest's mother is still in the hospital.  It is wearing on him.  You can tell he is tired.  He says they are taking it hour by hour.  One night waiting for "the phone to ring."  Other days, she looks a little better.  We had Bible Study on Wednesday night - it was the second-to-last of our study on Acts.  But he called it a wrap with that session.  Too much on his plate.  He thanked everyone for their prayers and told of the healing in his family that had taken place within the last week.  He says that when we pray for someone, not only do we pray for their needs and petitions, but we also pray FOR them - in their place - when they are too tired or not able to pray as they should.   When we pray for other people, they are the subject and the object of our prayers, he said.   

Boy Scout fundraiser this weekend, and then the last week of school!  HOORAY!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

gratitude, with a little grumbling

First of all - Happy Mother's Day to all mothers and those who are like mothers!  Sometimes I really think these holidays are over-rated.  And I have gradually come to realize that I have married into a family - an entire family - of holiday-ruiners!  Do you know the type?  Perhaps it comes with  high expectations, and then when those expecations don't come to pass, there is a holiday melt-down.  Or maybe it is just too much stress to be with each other.  There is always someone that has to have drama on a holiday!  Today was brother-in-law's turn.  But that is not worth giving much attention to. 

What I would want to remember is my sweet son, lighting the charcoal in the bar-b-q pit and cooking me a delicious steak.  Love you, B!  And the other Sweet Child 'o Mine...A.  I dropped him off at a party on Saturday afternoon.  He left his phone in my car, so I got out to give it to him after he had already joined his group of friends.  He gave me a hug and told me he loved front of other people. 

I'm not sure exactly what the red flower is.  I've been pulling the vines...thinking they are weeds, but they don't pull very easily. The roots don't come out.  Kind of like my marriage in some ways.  Almost not sure where the weeds are.  I am trying to discern what to do in the way of counseling.  I really would like a Catholic viewpoint - at least to start.  Since it is my "fanatical" participation in my faith that is the focal point right now.  A couple of emails to the diocesean Office of Family Life netted me 4 pages of names and phone numbers and prices.  There is one that I am drawn to, but at $165/hour.... On the other hand, my employer offers an Employee Assistance Program, which is no cost. 

There seems much to pray for these days.  My pastor's elderly mother has been in ICU in critical condition for the past several days.  Complications from elbow surgery, I think.  His update on Friday at Mass was that she was "continuing to sink lower and lower".  Today I got a call from a good friend who moved away several years ago.  I thought it was to wish me Happy Mother's Day, but it was to let me know that she is in her hometown....a couple of hours from here because her mother passed away last week.  The wife of an older couple that I have gotten to be friends with at church - my pew buddies - had surgery in February.  Complications - plural.  A stroke.  Her vision was affected.  It had begun to improve, but is now regressing.

Things are winding down at school.  I have 10 days left.  One of which will be a field trip, and another half of which I am going to take off to visit with my friend.  Much paperwork left to do, and trophies to order for Honor's Night...but I'll get it done.  And bread to order for our po-boy sale next weekend.  At least the Super Moon is over with....

My boys and I were scheduled to serve at Mass today....the late one that we never go to.  Our pastor was not there....he has had a tough week with his Mom.  The person who was supposed to read was not there, either.  Lectoring duties fell to me.  I've had thoughts of volunteering for that ministry at various times, but have never taken the big leap. Especially after I was asked to be an Extraordinary Minister for Communion.  I was a little nervous, and I know you could hear it in my voice, but I made it.  I got a text this evening from our music director giving me a pat on the back and hoping that it would be a recurring thing. 

When all was said and done this evening, I went to the little chapel by my house and spent a wonderful hour with Jesus.  I could have easily stayed for another.  While there is much to pray for, there is also much to be thankful for....  This picutre is a few weeks late, but my Granddad celebrated another journey around the sun.  With daily assistance from my parents, he still lives fairly independently. 

Have a great week, y'all!

Saturday, May 5, 2012


It is a journey that we are on.

I was raised Catholic in an average Catholic household in the 70's.  We went to Catholic schools, where the extent of religion class was "Smile!  God loves you!".  Our family went to Mass on Sundays, confession once or twice a year, and that was about that.  I continued on with that through college and into my 20's.  Then the 30's came.  I was pregnant, tired, and didn't like the new priest we had gotten.  It was easy to skip Mass, and it got even easier when I had a new baby and then, two.  Attending Mass didn't really get any easier with 2 toddlers.

Then 9/11 happened.  I was far away from Ground Zero, but the sense of vulnerability that day caused me to take a good look at where I was, and it wasn't really where I wanted to be.  We went to Mass that Sunday, and we've been going ever since - at least the kids and I, have.  A few months later, after finding no loophole, I went to confession.  I have blogged about that before, and that was really the beginning of an incredible journey for me.

We joined a church not too far from our house.  One Lent 6 or 7 years ago, I thought that I might try to attend daily Mass 3x a week.  Lent had already started when I made that commitment, so I figured 4 or 5 weeks left x 3 was something I could manage.  I did, and it didn't take long before I was hooked!  I felt for so long that it was a well-kept treasure.  It made a difference in my days that I noticed.  There was no Mass on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and it seemed like Thursday would never get here.  When Lent was over, I knew this was a keeper! This was the map and the Food for my journey.

My boys became altar servers, and a year or so in, I offered to do the monthly schedule for the servers.  It gave me a connection to the parish.  It is a job that I continue to enjoy today - a side trip on the journey.

One winter evening, as my boys and I walked to our car after our annual Advent Penance Service, my then-11 year old asked why we only went to confession once a year.  I had no answer for him, but we did start going more often.  Every three months, and then I started looking for opportunities to ask for directions on my journey more often.  (I am female, so I don't mind too much stopping to ask!)

When our present pastor arrived in our parish five or so years ago, one of the things that he said was a passion of his was Adult Education.  After a decade or more of "Smile!  God loves you!"  I jumped at the chance for this.  When he announced it in church, there was *something* that told me that it was for me.  His adult ed takes the form of the Great Adventure Bible Studies.  We have studied Revelations, the Bible Timeline (the 14 Narrative books of the Bible), Matthew, James, and Acts.   Each of these has been wonderful.  I have taken so much away from these studies.  GPS for the journey!

One thing that was a frequent struggle for me was finding time and space for personal prayer.  About a year ago, the Lord showed me that I could find about 20 minutes of time for that in the church near my work before school.  I'm sure some people would think I'm a little crazy going to Mass at one church and then later stopping at another church just to sit with no one there.  But it's a place to gather strength or to rest when I am weary from the journey.  I have also found Adoration chapels, and while I don't have a regular hour, it is a treat when I can sit in the Presence and stay for as long as I need.

I have met fellow travelers, and we have provided each other with mutual conversation and support on the journey.  People at daily Mass, Immaculee, others in our Seven Sorrows Rosary group, co-workers, other moms.

Missing in all of this, is my dearly beloved.  He has chosen not to travel with me on this, for reasons that only he truly knows.  Yes, some of it conflicted with his job, but the job is also an excuse - a way to avoid what just doesn't appeal to him.  And now...we find ourselves in different spots.  Me, very much enjoying the the trip, and him - angry that he has been left behind.  Fearful??  His response now is to try to hold me back.  I have done no more than to try to follow where Jesus has led.  But I am labeled a fanatic - measured by what the rest of the world does or does not do.

I asked my good priest the other night if he offers marriage counseling, and he told me who I could call.  We talked briefly....he knows my situation.  Our Bible study that night had coincidentally (?) mentioned something about Paul being a "fanatic".  I told him I, too, was now a "fanatic".  He looked at me and said, "Karen, I care about you enough that if I saw something that looked out of kilter, I would tell you.  But I don't see anything."  The next morning, we celebrated the Feast of Sts. Philip and James.  His homily centered on the Apostles, how Jesus called them and how he calls each of us.  We are all called to spread the Good News.  But just as the first original Apostles were martyred, we don't have to look far beyond our immediate family....spouse, children.... to find those whom the Gospel makes uncomfortable.  And we are called to respond with fidelity to His call.  I knew that homily was meant for me.  Encouragement and prayers for the journey.

More encouagement at Mass this weekend.  ...and everyone that does [bear fruit] he prunes so that it will bear more fruit.  Is God pruning??  Remain in me, as I remain in you.  Exactly what I plan on doing!!