Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day

Blogger won't let me upload a photo, so no photo of my front porch with its big flag flying in the breeze.

I am having a day off - no one is here.  I have no plans.  I have already had a two hour nap, have gone shopping for garden stuff at Target, and have done the work associated with that.

I think I am worn out from having a couple of dates with a man.  It puts my brain into over-drive.  I am not good at this - at all.  I thought a break of years might have made me better able to handle this, but apparently not.  Last night we went to see "Pirates of the Caribbean" in 3D!  I had never seen a 3D movie before.  It was fun.  At one point, I got such a start, I screamed (quietly), and my date laughed.  It was funny.

We went out for dinner at (another) expensive restaurant.  Although I love good food and fine dining, I am a bit uncomfortable with the fact that this man has spent $250. on our dinners and movie in the last week.  Honestly, I am just not good at this.  I paid for the popcorn and pop last night - but I had to insist. Is that so wrong?

Oh, who knows how to behave?  I don't.

I was a bit disturbed (again) by the role of the lead woman in the movie.  Increasingly, women in the movies are just men with breasts and big, glossed up lips.  Penelope Cruz is beautiful, but really, who would believe she could best a man in a fight?  That is just stupid.  I wish we would stop teaching our children (collectively) that women are "just as strong, just as tough" as men, and kick any man's ass in a fight.  That is just wrong, conceptually, and factually.

Women are beautiful and strong, but God help us, we have a different kind of strength than the brute strength of a swashbuckler.

I will pray that God will be with me as I am trying to live my life.  That I listen and not turn my back when it is convenient.  I keep praying for Him to "Bless it, or block it."

Thanks for your prayers.  As you can see, I need them.

Friday, May 27, 2011


I am so frightened.

This is something I have told ONLY my best friend.  No one else.

But now I am going to post it on the internet.  But I feel I need your prayers.

I met a man.  (that could probably be the first sentence in every tragic story of my life.)

Three years ago I signed up for "" and met no one.  I didn't even desire to meet anyone on there.  So, I stopped paying, but never found a way to remove my profile.  So, every now and then someone will send me a message.

Two weeks ago, someone sent me a message.  When I looked at his profile, I was interested enough to pay the monthly membership fee in order to open his message.  We e-mailed back and forth for a bit.  Last week we met for breakfast.  We had a great time, nice, easy conversation and lots of laughter.

Tonight we are going on a bona fide date.

I haven't been on a date for three years.  The last date I went on ended in a car accident.

I have spent the last three years really focusing on getting closer to Jesus and finding out what obedience means.   I think I have a much clearer idea now... like I can't just do what I feel like doing and figure "God loves me and forgives me."

In Biblical School or at Mass sometime maybe not so recently, someone, maybe a priest, maybe a teacher (I just don't remember) said something that I DO remember.  The question was "how do you know what you are called to be?"  The answer was "what is it that your heart desires?"  If you desire to be married, that is your calling.  If you desire to be a priest or nun, that is your calling.

When I was young, I wanted more than anything to be a nun.  But the minute alcohol hit my lips, that desire was gone.  Alcohol and marriage made some kind of mix that I tried (repeatedly).  I have now been nearly 27 years without a drink.  It has now been 18 years since I have been married.

I think I know that I was at least at one time called to be married.  I may have ruined all chances at that.  But I have spent the last 18 years trying to clean up the wreckage.  I am close to being "eligible" to be married in the church.  I wouldn't have it any other way.

This man is Catholic, he does not drink, our conversations are easy and nice.  And I am going on a date tonight.  God help me.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Yesterday when I came home from a long day of work, followed by a wonderful hour at Adoration, I had a wonderful surprise.  My neighbor had mowed my lawn.  Again.  She has been doing this for about a year now.  They are small lots and she claims that it is no trouble at all to mow my lawn while she is mowing hers.  Well, it is a kindness to me that is incalculable!

Last year when she started this, I tried to think of how to thank her, and started by baking her a few pies.  She loves my pies, but she doesn't really appreciate having the calories.  So, I started making her extras of whatever I was cooking - soups, stews, etc.  I realized later she didn't want those either.

Some things are not a "transaction."  This is not a transaction.  She doesn't provide me a service for which I pay her.  She is doing something for me out of the goodness of her heart.  My job is to say "Thank You."  I think my job is also to realize that the world is full of anonymous good people, doing anonymously good things for other good people.

On the other hand, at Sunday Mass this week, I seriously considered leaving my current parish.  My "other" neighbor, the deacon, gave the homily.  The general topic of which was living a Christian life.  As I heard him speak, I could only see all my beloved plants in the back yard killed at his hand.  I could not get past that.  I need to have a long chat with that man.  I am sure he has no idea how profoundly he has impacted me.  I am equally sure he has never given me a thought, which I find equally disturbing.  We are not supposed to be oblivious to those around us - are we?

I got a letter this week from a woman I "sponsor" in the Philippines.  It is a relatively small amount of money that is automatically withdrawn from my checking account each month.  But from her letter, I can tell that this amount of money each month, maybe equal to one dinner in a restaurant here, has changed her life.  She is thanking me for buying her a "Sunday" dress and new shoes.  For rice and milk.  For a health check up, and vitamins.  A plastic mat to sleep on and a comforter.   Her letters always make me cry.   Would I want her to try to repay me somehow?  That is just ludicrous!

Some things just aren't transactions.  They don't add up.  There's no score.  They just make this world feel like it isn't hopeless.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Last night was my graduation.  It was beyond all expectations.  It was a beautiful Mass, celebrated by 4 priests.  My pastor would have been there (because his parishoner was a graduate) but he had surgery yesterday.

We processed into the church, and the first people I saw were my friend and my daughter.  What a blessing to see their shining faces.  My "trouble" daughter was not able to attend as I suspected.  The mass was beautiful - that sounds silly, but maybe not.  It was beautiful.   As I listened to the young priest's homily, I wondered if I just liked it because I knew my daughter would - and she did - or if I liked it because I liked it.  It was probably a bit "funnier" than I like my homilies, but it was meaningful too.

The church was gorgeous!  It is one of the huge suburban mega-churches.  It has a cafe, a book store, etc., etc., and normally I don't think I would like that, but I just loved it.  The inside was just chockablock full of lovely stained glass.  Very dramatic.

The negatives are that I leave my classmates, my teachers, and the wonderful Denver Catholic Biblical School.  It was truly a life-changing experience for me.

My daughter and friend had absolutely NO idea it was the big deal it is.  They knew I was studying the Bible because I talk about it - a lot.  But they didn't realize it was a formal, four year program.  Now they do.  My name was in the catholic newspaper and my church's bulletin this week.  I got a letter from my pastor congratulating me.  I hope this doesn't sound prideful, but I am glad for the acknowledgment.  I know that hearing these things over the years is what planted the seed for me to have the desire to do this.  And now it is done.  I am grateful and sad.    But I know that God's grace will provide a way for me to continue to grow.

"I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me."  John 14:6

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Underside of Being a Revert

(no reason for the photo here except I took it on Sunday while out on my run and I thought it was beautiful.  The rock formation in the distance to the left is the famous Red Rocks Amphitheater.)

Tonight is my graduation from Biblical School.  I am excited.  I am thrilled to be seeing my classmates again.  I already miss them!  I already miss the necessity of having my nose in my Bible for hours and hours this week.  I will have to replace this somehow.  Somehow.

Back to the graduation... And the title of the post.  I have invited my daughters.  Well, that sounds like a no-brainer.  But it isn't.  You see, I left the church for 25 years.  The precise 25 years that were the most important for a woman to be a Catholic.  The years when I was raising my children.  I made sure my children were baptized, and that was the end of their religious instruction.  In other words, they have had none.   Or virtually none.

When I came back to the church, I was 40, and my children were teenagers.  I dragged them to church, but not for long.

So now my daughters are coming to Mass tonight.  I am so excited about this.  And nervous.  And frightened.  One of my daughters (the recovering addict and alcoholic) is absolutely covered in tattoos and piercings. I told her she must wear long sleeves and something that comes up to her neck.  I fear that she will find an excuse instead for not coming.

One of my dear friends is coming to the graduation and has agreed to sit with my daughters and coach them on what to do.  I have known this woman for 17 years, and last night as I talked to her I realized she never knew that I ever left the church.  She had no idea that I had ever left the church and therefore didn't raise my kids in the faith.

My real prayer?  That tonight my daughters will see the church the way I see it, with love.  And won't see it the way they have seen it in the past.

This is certainly not too big of a miracle to ask for....

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Really Listening

After four years of reading virtually nothing other than the Bible or books about the Bible, I am reading a wonderful book that is not about the Bible.  I was surprised at how much I like it.  It is set in Ethiopia.  It is called "Cutting for Stone" and I would highly recommend it.  One of my coworkers is from Ethiopia, so I decided to talk with him about the book today.  

He showed me a video of Addis Ababa on his computer.  The above church is in Addis Ababa, and he said "That was my church!"  He showed me around, just like you show a person around your home town.  Only it is half a world away, and we were only looking at a computer monitor.  But I could feel his homesickness, mixed with his pride.  I kept exclaiming - "how beautiful!"  and "oh, gorgeous!"  He said "Oh, yes, it is so beautiful."

And then, with my characteristic lack of tact, I said "why did you ever leave?"  I know him well enough to know that he came from a very wealthy family, and I could see how much he loves his homeland.  I know how difficult life has been for him here.  

He just looked at me like I had just asked him why he doesn't eat his computer manuals.  And said:

"I couldn't stand the communists."

Oh, yeah, there's that.  

I wish I took the time to really get to know the people I see every day.  I know my life would be richer for it.  And I know that God doesn't put us together so that we can give each other the cold shoulder. 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Holy Exhaustion!

I spent all day in a retreat today.  It was our last day of Biblical School.  We were sent out to find our calling.  Some of us know what that is, some of us (like me) don't.  It was a great day of very inspirational talks and a few videos.  I took some notes, mostly I scribbled madly into my Bible.  One of the quotes I heard and loved today:

"We are called to be 'fishers of men' not 'keepers of the aquarium.'"

After the retreat was over, I realized that it was Saturday afternoon, and I was at a Catholic Church.  Well, you all know what that means!  Confession!  So, I stood in line for a little while and then went to confession.  I took the above photo as I was waiting.  I love, love, love Catholic churches on Saturday afternoons.  The quiet, the dark, the sacred place where people come to acknowledge their sinfulness and ask for forgiveness.  

It struck me as I stood in line that two of the things that I found the most offensive about the teachings of the church as a disgruntled youth are two of the things I am most grateful for today:  confession and purgatory.    Without those, I would be doomed. 

Then I went to Mass.

I wish I had the energy to write about the retreat, but I am worn out.  It was a long Catholic day.  My head can hit the pillow tonight in deep satisfaction for a wonderful day.  Thanks to the Grace of God.  


One of my super cute friends from Biblical School made this for our potluck on Monday.  It is a watermelon, cut into the shape of a whale - and note "Jonah" in the mouth of the whale!  She had to promise her son she would not lose this treasured action figure.  Another friend made baklava shaped into scrolls!  I don't know why I didn't take a photo of that.  They were delicious, just like Ezekiel:  "And he said to me, 'Son of man, eat this scroll that I give you and fill you stomach with it.' Then I ate it; and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey." Ezekiel 3:3

I made a plain old strawberry rhubarb pie, but it was one of the better pies I have ever made, if I must say so myself.  I made the crust before I left for work in the morning, and then came home from work a little early so I could make the rest.

Today we have a day long retreat as our last day of Biblical School.  Graduation is on Friday of next week.  I am excited about the retreat, especially since no one would tell us ANYTHING about it, other than it is from 8:30 to 3:15 and they will serve us lunch - oh, and Bring Your Bibles.   I just pray we don't have a comprehensive exam, because if I have to remember things I learned in the first year - now four years ago - I am afraid I might be in trouble.  And if I have to revisit Isaiah, the book that caused me the worst crisis in faith I have ever had, I will not be happy.

Speculating about what it might be is not a productive activity, so I think I shall hop into the bathtub and get ready for my day.

I hope you all have a beautiful day, and may God bless you.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Someone gave Our Lady flowers last night at Biblical School.  Somehow I can pass this statue all winter long and not give it a glance, but in the spring, it captures my attention and I find it beautiful.

It was my last class of Biblical School last night.  Actually, we had our last lecture last week, so we had a potluck dinner last night.  It was so lovely, it was 9:00 p.m. before I ever looked at the clock.  I will miss the classes, I will miss the fellowship of the group.  Some of us will stay in touch, but it will never be this class again.   We have an all day retreat on Saturday, and then graduation is next Friday evening.  
I am looking forward to all of it.

Yesterday at work we had a little gathering to acknowledge the closing of a(nother) unit.  The last patient was discharged on Friday.  The last child at our hospital.  We are now only four units, all adults.  A few of us older folks reminisced about the days when there were eleven units there.  Now we are grateful for the four units, and only hope we can remain open when we are that small.  State budgets are a frightening thing.

I am today home with a migraine.  It is much better this afternoon than it was this morning, but I am still about to go back to bed.

Thankful for a comfortable bed, an open window with curtains billowing in the warm breeze,  the brand new leaves on the tree outside my window, and a nice big glass of ice water.  That is how I shall spend my afternoon.  Thanks be to God.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

On Mother's Day

I have so many friends and acquaintances who are sadly not mothers or have lost a child, I am hesitant to say "Happy Mother's Day!!!"  I know it is a difficult day for some.

I've had a wonderful day.  Starting with Mass last night, where I was given a little sprig of carnations for being a mother.  I thought it was sweet.  This afternoon my two daughters and two granddaughters came over for lunch.  Yes, I cooked.  But only because I wanted to.  We had a lovely lunch.  They brought me flowers and a rose plant.  The photo above is from the rose plant they gave me last year... it is a Chicago Peace.  This year it is a Fragrant Cloud - my all time favorite.

This week I have struggled with what to write, what not to write, and what kind of blogger I am.  I am not sure I have any business at all being a Catholic blogger - my blog doesn't seem to fit with the rest.  Mine is (a lot) more personal and less didactic.

I don't think I even know what kind of Catholic I am anymore.  I know I would like for Mass to be sacred.  I know it is the sacrifice instituted by Jesus himself.  Therefore, I wish people would be quiet and act like they are doing the most important thing they do all week.

Last night I went to a church I seldom attend.  Its sad that I don't like this church because it is only one mile from my house.  I got there early enough to pray the rosary.  There was raucous conversation and laughter all around me, I had to mouth the words to the prayers just to keep my place.  I looked around to see who was hollering and laughing so loud, and it was the priest.

I prayed that Jesus would help me be less judgmental.  I know that people who go to this church and like this priest tend to LOVE him.  So, what do I know?  Of course, one friend of mine who loves him goes gambling with him in a nearby casino town on a regular basis.  That just doesn't seem right to me... but again... what do I know?

I just know today that I am a humble little Catholic who has made enough mistakes to give the whole church a black eye.  So, I need to just be humble and grateful to be forgiven my sins.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

To Lighten Up...

Some folks are putting pictures of their mothers on facebook, so I did too.  Do you see that tiny baby?  That was me.  On January 6, Epiphany, 1952.  The day of my baptism.  My mother is holding me, my father is standing behind.  My maternal grandmother is on the right, and paternal grandmother is on the left.  Maternal grandmother was born in 1872.  Paternal, in 1883.

I am the youngest of five.  My mother was the youngest of eight.  Her mother was the youngest of ten.  I come from a very very old family.  I only had to go back three generations on my mother's side to get to the Revolutionary War!

Tonight I stopped at Target  on my way home from work.  I purchased a lot of solar lights for my garden.  When I came home, I changed my clothes and started putting them in.  My wonderful neighbor came over and helped me dig holes and place lights.  Eventually, we ended up pulling weeds and pruning trees and bushes.  My yard looks like a place I like right now.  And that is a good thing.

It is so good to do physical work with someone.  We are both women in our late fifties.  We were both sweating and breathing hard.  But we were laughing.  It is good, so good, to just go out and do some honest work and get dirt under your fingernails (well, I would have if I didn't have gloves on).

I am sorry about my last two posts.  Sometimes life just reaches up and smacks me in the face.  That is how I have felt this week.  But you know what?  I think it is cathartic, and I am getting it all behind me.  My life has been so good, sober, clean, real, and honest for many years now.  It surprises me when some old remnant of an ugly life I once led comes back around.

God has done for me what I could never have done for myself.  I am more grateful than words can say.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Adoption

In my last post, I said some other remnant of my sordid past's head had reared.  I hate to talk that way about a human being, but I don't know how else to say it - or feel about it.  Forgive me for spilling my guts here, but there are so few people I can talk to about this.  

I wrote earlier this year about giving up a child for adoption when I was 15 years old - in 1967.  I met her when she was 20.  That was the last time I saw her.   Meeting her was very traumatic and I ended up being hospitalized for depression for the first time in my life a month or two after the meeting.  Then I lost contact with her in 1990.  I could have called her adoptive parents, but they weren't very happy about my being in her life and I wanted to respect that.  Besides, I had very mixed emotions about having her in my life and trying to incorporate an adult into my young family.

It had been difficult enough to sit with my 12 year old son and 9 year old twin daughters and explain to them that they had a 20 year old half-sister.  But I did that, and they met her.

After our meeting, she "dropped in" on my sister's business in New York City, quite drunk.  My sister is a very successful business woman, and very wealthy.  She was horrified that some stranger would embarrass her and try to insinuate herself into her family.  I had to apologize.  I never realized that she would use information I had shared with her about my family to do something like that.

And then in February 2009, my daughter sent me an e-mail.  After 19 years.  She knew where I was all that time.  She wanted to come to visit me, along with her 18 year old daughter.  I told her no.  I told her I would like to see her, but I would like to meet somewhere neutral.  She ignored that and kept telling me she was going to come and visit.  She wanted to be my "friend" on facebook, but I wouldn't accept the invitation because that would give her access to my entire family, and I don't trust her with that.  She kept writing me e-mails telling me she wanted to be my "friend."  She wanted to talk to my kids.

I finally wrote her a long e-mail explaining that I wasn't ready to have her back in my life to that extent.  That I felt she was unreliable and unpredictable.  That I didn't want to put my kids through that if she was just going to evaporate again.  Her answer to me on that point was "I am reliably unreliable."  And that was a good enough answer for me.  I don't really want to have anything to do with her.

I have felt guilty about it.  But then I think:

  • I did my level best for her when I gave her up for adoption
  • She HAD a Good Family who adopted her and raised her well
  • I have a family for whom I have a responsibility not to screw up any more than I have
  • I get along well with my kids - they don't play these kinds of games - ever!
So, she sends me text messages from time to time.  Like on Christmas, Thanksgiving, Mother's Day.  They always say "Hi Mom!"  which I think is just weird.  Sorry,  she HAS a mother, and it is not me.  I gave birth to her and then did the responsible thing and gave her to a loving couple who could care for her.

On Saturday night I got the following message - out of nowhere.  I haven't heard from her since Christmas:
"I thought it over and this is the fakest relationship I ever had.  Please do us both a favor and forget I'd ever existed.  I'd thank you for life itself, but the fact is there weren't a real lot of options in 1967.  Enjoy your "real children" and don't bother responding.  Oh, I just realized I am flattering myself.  So, yeah, save it.  I'm absolutely positive Jesus would advise you similarly.  Best wishes to you and your REAL family for a happy, and wonderful life filled with lovely memories."

My first thought was that she was drunk.  The second is that she is very angry - maybe drunk AND angry.  I thought of responding and saying "As you wish."  But I just left it alone.

My own flesh and blood - she looks just like my mother - and I really don't want to have anything to do with her.

It is a sad thing.  Very sad.

The wreckage of decisions made when I was 14 years old.  I thought I did the right thing. I have no doubt that I did.  But now I am supposed to have another daughter - who is 43 years old?

God help me please.  Please.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Annulment

Yesterday I got the paperwork that proclaims my first marriage null.

Twenty-nine years after the divorce.  Thirty-one years after the marriage.  I was 18.  He was 20.  It was stupid and some adult should have put a stop to it.

I have wanted this thing behind me since 1972.  And yesterday it was.

It took 5 years to get the annulment.  The Archdiocese of Denver made me jump through hoops for 3 years, and then said because I could not find my former husband, it had to go to the diocese of the marriage - which was Chicago.  My pastor urged me to not let that happen.  He said that if I didn't have a local advocate it would just get lost in the shuffle.  But that didn't happen at all.

I had to prove again that I absolutely could not find this man.  I haven't seen him since 1974.  When he was breaking into my apartment.  Believe me, I can find anyone, but I couldn't find him.  Finally, I produced enough proof that he was unfindable.

They needed 4 witnesses.  Imagine finding 4 people who could speak to a marriage that lasted only 2 years and was over 29 years ago.  I had exactly 4 people, my three brothers and my sister.  They were sent long horrible questionnaires.  They each called me and said "REALLY?  You want me to do this?  What am I supposed to say?"  I told them to tell the truth.  Even if it meant they were going to write "I don't know," or "I don't remember."  One brother called me absolutely freaked out when he realized it had to be notarized by a priest.  He is married outside of the church and didn't want to have to face a priest.  I called my pastor for advice, he told me the priests aren't notarizing the person's marriage, just the paperwork, and to assure my brother he was fine to do that.  He finally sent the paperwork back, but failed to complete the most important parts.  I explained that to the person in Chicago, and they decided that three witnesses would suffice.

And now I have the piece of paper I have wanted for so long.  I felt no joy at this.  I don't know if that is because I am out of sorts with several things.  Another piece of my sordid past reared her head on Saturday night, and I will probably write about that later this week.  But not now.

What a mess of a life I have lived.  I have two more marriages to annul.  But those should not be difficult since I was not free to marry in the eyes of the church.

Why am I doing this?  My pastor said I should.

The first time I met him was in the confessional.  A man had just mistreated me and I came straight to confession.  I went to a church not my own, since I couldn't face anyone I knew at that time.  So, I walked into that confessional, crying, desolate, devastated.  I sat down across from the priest and told him "I'm a mess."  He asked me what was going on.  I told him.  I told him I had been married three times.  He laughed and said "You ARE a mess!"  I told him I felt like the Samaritan Woman.  He laughed.  He asked me to come and see him - and asked if I would mind waiting until after Christmas.  I waited.

And then I went to see him.  He told me I COULD do this.  He told me he would be with me every step of the way.  He told me it would be very healing to get a clean slate and clear away the wreckage.

And now one is done.  Two to go.  And I just want to cry.

I find great comfort in the words of Jesus.  How many times does he say "Your sins are forgiven."  Surely it is the ego in me that wants to convince me that my sins are too bad to be forgiven.  They can be.  I have repented.  I have amended my life.

I thank God for that.

Monday, May 2, 2011

We are called to be...

We are called to be this kind of person.  The one on the left, not on the right.  

When did the US become the kind of place where we dance in the streets over the death of a foe?  

I'm just as glad he is gone as anyone.  The military is in the business of protecting our country, and they have to do what they have to do.  I have nothing but respect and admiration for them.  

But us?  Jubilation over a man being killed?  I think we are behaving like the very people we pretend to be so superior to.