Wednesday, January 18, 2017

First Things First

First things first seems like such a logical saying.  Of course, if something is first, it is first.  Not illogical like the last shall be first and the first shall be last.  First things first.  Seems like it should be easy.

But in my life, prioritizing was anything but easy.  Emergency, immediacy bumped things to the front, not importance.  When I have a few minutes to breathe and to choose, I have asked myself, what are those first things that should come first?

I have heard several recent speakers liken the first things to the oxygen mask on an airplane.  Put it on yourself before your children or other people.  First things....I wasn't good at that.  I tried to get the most things or everything or the ones that would give me recognition done first.  Truth?  It didn't make me very happy or satisfied or serene.  I often felt like water drops on a hot pan of grease, sizzling and dancing.

This past weekend we had an ice event.  There was little to do except stay home.  Happens I came down with a head cold and a UTI at the same time.  I was pretty miserable, but not in a life threatening way.  My house is a mess, Christmas is packed up but not put away, I have projects and things to do.  But, I did what I had to do and I took a nap.

I felt guilty about that nap, but I needed it.  It started me on the road to healing from the cold.  When I woke up, I understood something, first things first means, take care of myself.  All the things that needed doing could wait. I get to be the first thing.  First things first.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Christmas Is a Wrap

Yesterday was the feast of the Baptism of the Lord.  That officially ends the Christmas season.  Epiphany was Sunday, so the 3 kings have been and gone.  It is now Ordinary Time--not because the time is not important or insignificant, but because it is marked by numbers, not events--ordinal time.

Like many people, I can breathe a sigh of relief that the Christmas season is over.  Everybody is busy.  I was busy.  I changed my name, bought a car, on top of hosting gatherings and buying gifts and making gifts and parties.  There was all that pressure with the pleasure in the Holiday (Holy Day) season.

Last night I got 6 Christmas letters together. Printed off the computer, and signed, addressed and mailed this morning.  It is a pitiful excuse for the 50 or so Christmas cards I used to send, but it makes me feel that at least I made contact with the people I only reach out to once a year or so.  The letters gave me closure that I have finished Christmas this year.

I had more than one Christmas miracle to savor, but one I will report.  Please, ignore that it sounds a little like bragging, I just participated in this miracle.  There is a lady who is a casual friend of mine who was diagnosed with ALS this past year.  It is a terrible disease and it progressed fast for her.  She is now in a wheel chair and uses a device to communicate because she can no longer speak.  I know her through this group and they know I quilt.  I decided to make a lap quilt for her with squares signed by the group.

I started the quilt in November before all the holiday craziness began.  I had some tendon problems with my hands making quilting difficult.  Between the time I started the quilt and now, this friend has stopped coming to the group and has spent time in the hospital.  And here I was painfully quilting a lap quilt for a lady who might not live long enough to receive it.  The point was to let her know we cared, and that wouldn't happen if I never got to give it to her.  There was also the concern of how I would get it to her if I did finish it.

The group we both belong to had a workshop this past weekend.  I decided that I had to have it done then because surely I would see somebody who would see this friend.  Wednesday night as I quilted out toward the edges, I knew that it wasn't going to be finished unless I had one more day to work the binding.  So, I told God, if You want me to get it done this weekend, I am going to need a snow day Thursday to finish it.  We had an inch of snow Thursday morning in the wee hours and they called off school. Yay!

I had the quilt with me Friday night when I checked into the workshop.  Lo and behold, this lady was there for a few minutes before the workshop began.  I was able to let people who had written on the squares see the quilt and then give it to our friend.  It felt like we all gave her a hug.

Truly, if I had planned for a snow day, or that she would be there Friday night, it would not have happened.  I rejoice that I was able to participate in God's plan to show this lady a little tiny bit of love in the midst of a terrible disease.  I heard the angels humming a little Gloria.....and Christmas is a wrap.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Saint for the Year

For the second year in a row, the saint finder on the Conversion Diary has hooked me up with St. Valentine as my patron saint for the year.  Last year I rejected that pick because, St. Valentine in the midst of a divorce?  It just wasn't happening for me.  As I recall, I pulled the lever a few times before I got somebody I could relate to and right now I can't even remember who that was.  Some years the first saint to be pulled works out to be so right for me it is as though the saint picked me.

If you don't come from a Catholic prospective the idea of a patron saint probably sounds odd or even wrong to you.  This probably won't change your mind but let me explain that the Church has proclaimed that these saints are in Heaven.  The saints in Heaven can pray for us.  Asking them to pray for us is the same as me asking you to pray for my friend or my son or myself.  The saints are clouds of witnesses to the glory of God.

But, St. Valentine, how can I relate to him this year?  I read the list of things he is the patron for like lovers and martyrs, and I just didn't relate.  I will have to do some further study and see where St. Valentine fits in my life.  I have a feeling if I keep rejecting him, he will pop up first next year.

This year I am on a journey with St. Valentine.  I don't trust love.  I don't think I was ever loved in a meaningful way by my ex-spouse.  I don't know what it would feel like to have a partner who was open and honest with me. I don't know what it would feel like to be cherished and loved for myself with all my strengths and weaknesses and not manipulated and tricked and criticized.  At this stage of the game, I don't expect ever to know these things.  Perhaps they don't exist?

So, that being said, maybe St Valentine is a good choice.  I need to look honestly at my life and figure out what it means to move forward.  How will I find friends and love and support without needing a spouse?  What has all my pain and suffering meant and how does it inform me for the rest of my days?

Friday, January 6, 2017

Listening to the Tune of Life

Do you hear that haunting beautiful tune?  It is just far enough away to be indistinct.  Lovely enough to leave me in awe, wanting to hear more.  For me that is the voice of God, that whisper, that tune, that certain voice.  I credit that to the Franciscan heritage of the diocese I grew up in.  My discernment is rooted in that melody of life, that whisper from God. 

Sometimes I wish that that tune was louder, because I claim that sometimes I can't hear it.  But, I am learning, have learned, know in my heart, that when I can't hear the melody it is because I am going a different way.  My will and not His Will is how I would express it.

Lately I have found my way back to hearing that tune.  I am making better choices and feel happier and more serene.  How did I get back to that place after wandering in the desert for a lot of years?  Rejoicing, praising and thanking God were the main vehicles that got me back.  Like a rusty set of wheels, it was hard to thank in the midst of trials.  It was hard to trust and not to panic and be filled with anxiety.

But, like rusty wheels or to go back to the music metaphor, like learning to play an unfamiliar tune, it got easier with time.  Easier and easier until I could hear with certainty the voice of God, the call in my life.

Today  when a little piece of fear or worry about the future is nagging at the edges of my mind, I change the channel and find that hauntingly beautiful tune that is God's call in my life.  And I thank Him that He has got that.  There is a plan and I don't need the road map, I just need to trust.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

And a Happy New Year, Happy New Year!

Things have just been busy and busy and busy.  In the space of weeks, I got divorced, changed my name, cooked 3 holiday meals, traded in my car due to a sticky check engine light, decorated, and took Mom to the doctor.  That and the normal living things.  I had a lot of things I didn't do. I still might write Christmas cards to a few folks. I am not done with the endless name changes.

But, at the other side of the "holidays" I have considered how I want to go forward.  The Christmas tree was a hard thing this year because I heard myself being called crazy in court last year because I helped take down the tree.  That proved I wanted to stay married?  Apparently not, because I judge didn't find that I was crazy, but I have some anger in reserve over this. So, I have considered.  What do I want to do for the holidays?

Tradition, that is what I want, to establish new traditions that are meaningful for me during the holidays.  I am figuring out what those are.  I have a feeling they will evolve as my life changes.  But, I am a traditional type of person, and I have come to understand that customs and traditions are important to me.  So, one of my goals, my resolutions if you will, is to establish meaningful traditions for myself going forward.

And that is my word for the year--Tradition!

Have a blessed new year!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Joyous Noel

What makes Christmas joyous, special, magical, nostalgic for you? What do you most look forward to?  What are your most precious memories?  At Christmas Mass this year, part of the homily was focused on these questions.  Since then I have asked myself--what is it for me, about Christmas?

Sharing time with my family is probably key to having a gracious, lovely holiday for me.  Time breathing the same air and enjoying the food together with the people I love the most is the best.  I wish that we could spend all year or more parts of the year together in this way, but at least at Christmas we gather round.  As my mom (95) reaches into extreme old age I treasure these times together because they are surely limited.

Candles and carols at Mass make the holiday for me.  There are candles in my church all year round, but they seem to shine brighter with the holiday.  Perhaps it is the shortness of the days or the length of the nights that makes the candles sparkle more.  The old songs telling the eternal mysteries sound as if the angels were joining in at Christmas.

Then a tree that sparkles with ornaments gathered through the years and the creche with the holy family, the wise men and the shepherds make my house a Christmas place.  I think I must have a tree and a manger scene in my house to feel Christmas.

The sparkles in a child's eyes, seeing, noticing things for the first time makes Christmas special, joyous, precious for me. I look forward to grandchildren with noisy toys and shouts of joy at Christmas.

So, ask yourself, what makes Christmas joyous for you?

Friday, December 23, 2016

I Believed All of That....Still Do

Once upon a time I believed that my marriage was forever.  I thought that all marriages were flawed because people are human and they make mistakes.  I felt that if I worked hard enough, worked harder, gave it my all, didn't want anything for me, offered it up, I could stay married.

And that is part of the problem.  I am not sure that I ever loved my husband.  I loved who I thought he was, who I thought he would become, who he seemed to be.  I thought I loved that person.  I worked to be better, to do better, to be the Proverbs 31 wife.  I longed for that.  I pretended that.  You get my drift--fake it until you make it. And I prayed, for him, for me, for us.  I did that for a long long time, decades....

Ultimately, it all beat me down.  The demands, the lack of partnership, the lack of understanding.  There wasn't love or generosity or honesty in my marriage.  I made it look good.  I pretended it was good.  I came to cry a lot and feel nothing but anger and resentment.  I sought help.  From every source I could think of.  I went to 12 step programs, counseling, confession, spiritual direction, Retroville.....I decided that the only thing I sought was heaven.  I just needed to figure out how to get through this life with the scraps of my soul. I was depressed. I started medication and counseling.  Eventually I could laugh again. Laugh!

But, the reality of my marriage, not the pretended part, was ugly.  There was not much there to work with.  In my non-depressed mind, I couldn't stand to live with the lack of love and the non-existant partnership and without hope that things would ever change. I went to confession about it, to spiritual direction, to counseling with a Catholic counselor.  The answer I eventually came to accept was surprising, perhaps, shocking.  I discovered that almost certainly I did not go into my marriage knowing the things I needed to know about myself, about my husband, about marriage itself.  I came to see with clearer eyes, that although I meant to be married for life, God had another plan.  It is scary to say that, that God had another plan.  What if I'm wrong, what if the priests, counselors, directors are wrong? I moved forward in that only way that made sense, the only way that brought peace and serenity.  I left the marriage.

I don't want to go into what he did, what I did, my fears, health conditions, hurts, wounds, here in this public space.  Please, judge me, I judge myself.  I left this marriage and I am trying to be a single again in the eyes of the law and the eyes of the Church.  I face my salvation with fear and trembling.  But, I also feel God's love for the first time in many many years.  I know God loves me.  I hear His voice in the challenges I face and the strength I draw from Him.

I believed that marriage was for life, I still do.  But, I also have come to see that God doesn't give us a sacrament of suffering.  He brings us life.  He wants us to be who He created us to be and I can't do that crying in the corner or in the car every single day. I was a failure at marriage and I don't seek to be married again, but I will seek an annulment because, just because.....I need healing and understanding.  I need comfort and wisdom from my church, from my God.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Everything Old is New Again

When I was about in kindergarten I remember that one of my favorite activities was playing with my mother's button box.  It had a wide assortment of buttons.  She used to cut them off of worn out or out-grown clothing.  She also threw in safety pins.  You might imagine that I would pretend to sew on buttons or sort them perhaps, but you would be wrong.  I liked to open up the safety pins and pretend they were birds.  The buttons were the eggs.  I would sort them for my various bird families.  I think I remember that game because I only got to do it when Mom's sewing basket was out and she was using it.  I think she probably wanted to make sure that I didn't hurt myself with the pins and didn't lose the buttons.  The beauty of this kind of play is that I used my imagination. 

Today's toys don't allow for a great deal of imagination it seems to me.  There is probably a right way and a wrong way to play with most of them.  They come with directions and batteries.  I think it has been this way for quite a while.  There are gluts of toys but most of them have a particular purpose and method of play.  I think that most of my son's toys were that way and he is in his 30s.

I could be sad about the death of imagination, but as I sat in a workshop on makerspaces last month, I realized that imaginative play is back.  Collect a bunch of stuff, let kids play around with it and invent things and call it a makerspace.  I wish I knew what happened to my mom's button box.  I still have most of the buttons.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Waiting, Waiting, Waiting

I have forgotten that feeling of wanting something to come so badly that you can taste it.  I can remember having the feeling but the feeling itself escapes me if that makes as sense.  For example, the last months of pregnancy when holding the baby seems so far away and so urgent; or being in 2nd grade and waiting for Christmas.  To me, that anticipation is what I try to recover, rediscover during Advent.

Mostly I am not terribly successful at feeling the anticipation.  These days I am here in the moment and await Christmas, sadly, with a little dread because there is so much work on that day. Being here in the moment is not a bad thing.  But, wonder and awe and hope for the future are sometimes in short supply.

I took my 95 year old mother to the doctor yesterday.  It was not convenient or fun.  Basically the doctor found that she is experiencing the normal aches and pains of old age.  My mom is not by anyone's definition a "sweet old lady."  She has opinions and criticisms and repeats herself a lot.  But, if I overlook the areas where we have conflict and change the subject when she is critical, we can have a good time together.  And so we did.

With my mom and with many things in my life these days, it is not the anticipation of the future that I am trying to savor.  Right now Mom is in a good place, but she is 95.  Every single holiday could be her last one.  And even if not her last one, as her memory declines, I lose pieces of her.

So, these days I want things to stay the same so badly I can taste it.  But, this is life and things will change.  Perhaps I have learned a thing or two about waiting.  Savor the moment, enjoy where I am, take things one day at a time. Wait in wonder and hope and awe in the moment, don't put too much stock in some imagined perfect future.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Lessons Learned, Prices Paid

Someone tried to cheat me out of $130 today.  It isn't such a large sum of money that it would have caused me a great deal of trouble.  But, it was enough.  It was enough especially since I know for a fact that the person who tried to cheat me has more money than I do.  Why did they need to cheat me? 

But, before I gave the money over someone else told me to question the amount.  When I did I discovered the discrepancy.  I asked the person about it and there was a rather flimsy excuse that ultimately meant, I didn't think you would check, I thought you would just trust me and pay.

I didn't and I am not going to pay the extra $130.  But, I did some praying about it.  Why, Lord, why?  And I didn't get the answer to why the attempt to cheat me was made.  I got the answer that I have brains in my head and I need not trust people who have proven their dishonesty.  I need to be smarter.

That doesn't mean that I should be anxious or suspicious all the time.  It doesn't mean I shouldn't trust people.  But, I shouldn't trust dishonest people.  It all has to do with setting boundaries and limits and not accepting unacceptable behavior.  Those are lessons I need to learn.  I am being taught. One day at a time.