Monday, February 19, 2018

A Season for Reflection

I've been pondering Lent this week - most especially of the care for others and recognizing God's presence within everyone.  Matt. 25: 31-46 tells us we will be judged on what we do and don't do for others.  Jesus is pretty specific about it, too.  Lately, I find myself more conscious of this than ever.  Perhaps it has something to do with aging but frankly, I attribute my current deeply reflective turn of mind to my church community here; a church community that fosters prayer, adoration, education, and community in action for its members.  For the first time, after a lifetime of multiple moves and being a member of many parishes, I am deeply experiencing Bible study and a love of my faith in a way that is deeply meaningful and personal.

So, how do we respond to Matthew's Gospel of the Lord? How far do we take His instructions? How do we recognize the difference between enabling and truly helping? Should we try to recognize this or is it only for us to provide the perceived need?  Do you give the drug-addicted drugs? Do you give food to the obese never thinking about its value for their bodies?  Do you pay a person not to work or ignore the over-indulgences of alcohol addiction and sex addiction? And what about social alienation? How do you help to find balance and stop self-abuse? 

The answer is easy; listen to Christ's words. Unfortunately, the world around us makes it complicated.  So, how do you reject worldly complications and actually help?  Do you choose one way? Or, do you choose many ways? Where do you help? How do you help? 

Each of us has a station in life but we don't have to stay there. It's only a starting place wherein we are open to accepting help, open to being aware of seeing the needs of others and act; understanding that movement from our starting place can be upward or downward.  We can rise up or sink into the abyss, squandering life's possibilities.  Movement is as much physical as it is spiritual. We can remain at a physical low while acting in a way that elevates us spiritually just as a person more well-placed can squander his gifts and be lost in a sea of selfishness and disdain or even fear.

We are given only one life to get it right but in that single lifetime, we have many opportunities. We can start out wrong but have countless chances to grow in the love of God by giving service to others. We can also start out well-placed but, in the end, fall into selfishness or despair and loss of hope.

For me, there are two simple keys. One is to recognize God's presence in my life and the lives of others. The other key is to act. And, it's not up to me to judge the value of my actions. That I will leave to God.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Books, Beautiful Books

When  I left here four years ago after spending 3 months on a domesticate mission with Sr. Darlene, one of the places that I discovered to be a jewel in the Caruthersville crown was the public library.  I discovered it to have a wealth of literary and cultural activities waiting to be shared with the community.  I loved going to the library here. 
 Now that we are returned for good, I find that the library has become the heart of this town for me.  In the short 8 months I've been here, I have been to the library more times than in the 19 years we lived in Turlock, CA.  Yes, they had a nice library but it had really strange hours and the lure of its presence never clicked with me.  

Not so, the C'ville Library.  From plays to special grant information classes, the Christmas village and Sundays at the movies, genealogical research to renting fishing gear (is that really true???),  this small library has a big heartbeat.

Perusing the stacks, I discovered unread authors and I dove into, heretofore, unknown places.  The library also got me to thinking of the place of books in my life.  As I reflected on this question, I realized that as a family we had come full circle as a family of book lovers, something that I never thought would happen.  

All my adult life, I have never been without a book in my purse. The times it HAS happened, it felt as crippling and unnatural as taking my lipstick from my bag and forgetting to put it back.  The Pirate is a readDr. He has filled his library with countless books on Civil War history and political and societal issues. Our son, Quanah, has always been a bookhound (as my dad would say). To this day I'm amazed that he read "The Inferno" by Dante Alighieri when he was in high school.  It wasn't required reading, it just sounded interesting.  Now, in his late 30's, he's still reading the hard stuff, heavy on philosophy, Church history, and theology.

It was my daughter I truly despaired of when it came to fostering a love of books.  It seemed that no amount of reading to her as a child or encouraging her as a teen would get her to love reading as a recreation.  But later, with time, she did start picking up books.  She discovered Nicholas Sparks and for her 21st birthday, I gave her all the books he had written up to that point.  She read them all. She dove into an autobiography of Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Suddenly I had a reading daughter.

Both our children married readers. Quanah's Erin reads the heavy stuff too but they also read aloud to each other.  I remember one memorable night I called them and they were reading one of the Harry Potter books to each other (hmmm, or was it Lord of the Rings?)  Anyway, the habit continues to this day and I find it very old-fashioned and very, very, loving.  Krista's Adrian reads self-improvement books, inspirational success stories, and modern Catholic writers for living a righteous life and being a good man, a good husband, and a good father.

The thing that makes me the happiest though is our
grandson, Sebastian. Seb, at 3 and a half, LOVE books. He "reads" them daily.  Matteo seems to have picked up on reading as well but at 2, he's still too busy being a toddler.  And Karolina, at 4 months, will no doubt click with reading.  She is already showing signs of wanting to keep up with her brothers.

And now, birthdays and Christmases all seem to center around books and journals.  Book giving has become the number one choice for thoughtful gifting and it extends to our friends and other family loved ones, too.  Visiting libraries and bookstores constitutes a good date night for Don and I.  It's a satisfying feeling, at this late stage in life, that our children will never have to be stumped on what to get mom and dad for Christmas.  Books are the glue of our lives.  When things fall apart or we need to just escape, there is always a book to retreat to.

This week I have two books to mail off to Krista and Adrian. One is entitled "The Case for Jesus". The other, for Adrian, is entitled "Resucito Jesus Realmente de Entre los Muertos?"  At a time in their lives when disposable income is at a premium, I'm quietly happy that I can provide them with books as they continue to stir the pot and make the glue of their own lives.

Dedicated to The Pirate who 
keeps me supplied in journals.

Monday, February 12, 2018

It Has Been a Year

Recently, I've been thinking about the passage of time, dates I remember, significant numbers that point us to momentous change.  My earliest one goes back 46 years and the damage from that time lingered for many years.  Soon after, I left San Diego.  Big changes were coming though I could not know it then.

I finished university.  Met the Pirate and we married in haste.  We both knew a good thing when we saw it. I became a mother twice. We bought our first home.  I got my last job, one that lasted for 23 years right up to retirement.  Nearer in time dates are becoming grandparents three times over and the near death of a daughter and her child.

Along the way, in between all that, Kennedy was assassinated. No one my age is likely to have forgotten where they were when that happened.  Then 9/11 occurred.  I was so grateful that my father, a Pearl Harbor Survivor, had not live to see that.  He died 8 months before that savage moment, stained our memories forever.

It wasn't until I started writing this that I realized how many significant events there actually have been.  My ordinary life seems not so ordinary after all.  We all have dates and times we look back on.  We only have to reflect back, write down just one and the rest will come to the surface naturally.  At least, that is how it worked for me.  They haven't all been good dates but each, in its own way, held great significance.

One date that had the greatest impact was December 17, 1977.  That was the day I decided to take a day trip to a little Southern California mountain community with a friend.  That was the day I met the Pirate.  He's shared a lot of my significant dates over the past  almost 41 years but it is the most recent one, now 1 year and 12 days ago that reverberates like a baritone wind chime.

That Sunday, January 28, 2017, was the night Krista told us that our #3 grand was on the way and that she and her little family were moving to Tennessee.  The door opened wide, welcoming the Pirate back to the place he longer to be.  And like Ruth in the Bible, I followed into an unfamiliar world.

Now, six months have passed by since I started sharing my adventures with you.  The first impacts of change have lessened and more mundane experience demand my attention - like learning to walk again and not feeling like Quasimodo, ever off balance and slowed down to 33 1/3.  Older readers will understand the speed image, younger readers, unless they are fans of vinyl, not like.  And I'm more and more integrating my new reality into daily life and feeling the sharp pangs of saying good-bye to my past.  Lent is here; a time of reflection.  It's a time to not necessarily give something up as a disciplined offering to God, but more a changing of self, old habits, a cleansing time.  Like losing weight and buying new clothes, things fit differently in life now and it's important to discover how to get just the right fit.

Ruby Tuesday

From time to time I post to Ruby Tuesday. I haven't done so for a long while but I ran across the opening page today and went looking.  Here I share one of the alter candels at St. Cecilia's Catholic Church in Kennett, MO.  

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Looking for Sunlight

Days are long and gloomy in the Bootheel during the
winter.  There are a few things I could be doing but it won’t change the fact that in winter, the days are the shortest and feel the longest.

Hours and hours of being alone gets old fast.  I tried 

crocheting today but I did something wrong in the second 

row so I tore it all out.  Then I planned dinner and read 

awhile.  Thank God for books. But, I'm still restless.

Nikki, my hairdresser, was sick today and called to cancel 

my appointment.  I had been waiting for that appointment 

for 10 days. Disappointing but oh well . . . So, I grabbed my 

jacket and headed out the door.  

A good cup of coffee felt just right and I headed to the

Round House. They were closed for the afternoon.  Knox, 

Twister's, and Granddad’s Deli had all closed in the past 3 

months so the next stop was El Carreton.  Closed.  Last 

option – Daylight Donuts. Closed.  A hot cuppa was not in 

my immediate future.  So I went to Hayes. 

Have I ever mentioned that I hate their parking lot?  No 

one knows how to park in this town. I’ve never felt as 

unsafe as I do when I’m in the Hayes parking lot. The 

contents of my basket reflect my state of mind.  Apples, 

oranges, and a pre-made Caesar Salad are the upside. 

Then I spotted Heavenly Hash ice cream.  In the basket, it

went.  And the coffee was still on my mind so I bought a 

small carton of half and half.  Neither are good choices and 

again, oh well.  These luscious pleasures did brighten my 

mood, if not improve my waistline.

And finally, I’m in the check-out line.  A Snickers jumped 

into my cart all by its little old self.  I can still taste the party 

it set off in my mouth.  Now to get that much-desired cup of 


Sunday, February 4, 2018

Shake, Rattle, and Roll

Growing up in California, I lived in the ever-present shadow of the “Big One”.  We would have the Big One within 30 years.  Since “they who know about such things” were measuring from the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, it seemed to me that by the mid-20th century, we were actually overdue.  By the time we moved here, I was well into my 3rd ‘within 30 years’ warning.  

Earthquakes are a fact of life in California.  The constant, background storm of little 2.0’s aren’t even noticeable.  There is always a whole lot of shakin’ going on, even when we don’t feel it.  Living on the edge of two tectonic plates and more than a few fault lines, well, that is just the way it rolls in California.

But, every once in a while the Golden State likes to make itself felt.  The last time we got a good, sound shaking was in 1989 with the Loma Prieta Quake.  That one was terrible.  Freeway overpasses flattened the cars on the lower level.  The San Francisco Embarcadero was no more.  That one, all the way out in the Central Valley, I felt.  Lines swayed.  Plate glass windows rippled.  The ground bobbed like a kiddie rollercoaster and for one who doesn’t like any kind of rollercoaster, I was terrified and didn’t think it would ever stop. The door on my wall clock broke free and opened.   The clock door opening was actually pretty amusing.  It was such a small thing but so telling.

There were some sobering and daunting “horrible beauty” photographs to come out of that event.  And, like all photos that keep records of what happens in the aftermath, there were images that were quintessentially California.  They practically scream CALIFORNIA at you.   Kids skateboarding on makeshift ramps created from uplifted sidewalks might be one such image.  So . . . you can imagine how unimpressed I was by the little 2 point somethings that rattle folks along the New Madrid Fault Line. 

It wasn’t until I visited the New Madrid Museum (highly recommended, by the way) that I learned about the Earthquakes of 1811-1812.  This quake was actually a series of quakes and aftershocks that ran from December 1811 through February 1812.  The first was in Arkansas estimated to be 7.6.  The second, in New Madrid, occurred in January 1812 estimated to be 7.5 and this one swallowed an entire town.  The third, in February 1812, created Reelfoot Lake.  Anyone who’s local knows about Reelfoot and it’s one of the first things that visitors or new residents learn about.  My respect for the New Madrid Fault was increasing.  I was also thinking, “I moved from earthquake central to another quake center? And there are tornados, too? Sheesh!”

But it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I actually felt and HEARD one of these fabled quakes.  We were hit with a 3.6’er and the lift, clap, and boom I felt and heard was nothing to sneeze at.  I also screamed, as if lightning exploding on top of me and accidents with semis wasn’t enough.  But hearing it was the really scary part for me.  Living in the Central Valley of California, our quakes and rumbles were quiet.  They roll and come at you in waves.  This one felt like two immovable objects moving anyway and slamming together. I’m sure California quakes aren’t quiet for the folks in the thick of them, but for us, it was quiet.  Actually hearing this one left me shaking for a while.  

So, after seven months here, I’ve reconciled myself to the not so new normal of my life.  I was born in quake country; I will no doubt die in another quake country.  I’ve developed a new found respect for this little ol' fault line of yours.  It may not be the San Andreas, but it sure packs a punch.

Monday, January 29, 2018

The Music of My Life

Saturday night I enjoyed another evening of music at Little Pizza Heaven listening to The Jax. One part nostalgia and one part goofy humor, the Jax is a two man Jack-in-the-box of fun embodied by Mike Barlett and Kevin Winstead.

It was one of those nights when so many of the songs spoke to me of specific moments in my youth. The rock music of the 60s and 70s is my era, folk, not so much. And country? Never. Back home I had my pick of radio stations for this time period and the so called Vietnam Era music wailed. Tracks from The Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Mamas and the Papas, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young were my playlist. Add to it the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Eric Burden and the Animals, Big Brother and the Holding Company (who didn't love Janice Joplin?) Pink Floyd, and the Moody Blues and my playlist was complete.

Fast forward to the 20teens, sitting in on Turlock's downtown music scene was not really satisfying.  Surrounded by millennials and hipsters just made me feel old and out of place which was really too bad.  It's not that we outgrow our desire for intimate contact with the music; it's that the music outgrow us.

My playlist reflected an era and a regional appeal that didn't include rockabilly with the likes of Elvis, Narvel Felts, or Jerry Lee Lewis. But unexpectedly, KCRV-am radio crept in and lodged into a corner of my heart.  Suddenly, old school county music, gospel, and sometimes the blues had my attention. I love listening to the news and the local calendar. I even learned a little something about frog hunting and squirrel hunting. So when I discovered the local casino was bringing in Narvel Felts, I was game to go. I would hear first hand why people loved old school rockabilly and country.   It wasn't until that night that I learned he was a bit of a local legend. Sweet!

So, now I've been to Little Pizza Heaven and enjoyed The Jax 3 times.  I even have a uniform, a t-shirt I always wear, the Jax original, a T-Rex that can't clap its hands.  Their music is right out of my playlist along with some pretty humorous stuff too.  And judging by the age range of the pizza loving audience, no one feels too young and out of place.  After all, classic rock and blues never go out of style

A Season for Reflection

I've been pondering Lent this week - most especially of the care for others and recognizing God's presence within everyone.  Matt....