Monday, July 22, 2013


Sometimes only a song can express what one is feeling.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Change and Pain in the Brain

I am not tidy.
I'd like to be, but I'm tidy-challenged. Clutter enters my life at light-speed.

I try.  I really do.

But I find it very difficult to get rid of things.

I have friends who say things like, "Doesn't it feel LIBERATING!!! and FREEING!! and WONDERFUL!! to get rid of all things? Don't you just LOVE the feeling of tossing out things?"

Um, no.  No, I don't.

I find it difficult, painful and I often end up regretting having let go of something. Letting go hurts...and so I find it difficult to toss out things like a favorite dress that no longer fits or a card from a friend from five years ago.

Now I know why. A new study at Yale indicates that in some people the same areas of the brain that register physical pain light up when people are faced with getting rid of a possession: the anterior cingulate cortex and the insula. Which means that no, I don't feel great when I get rid of things; I experience anxiety and pain.

However, some people, with different brain chemisty, have the opposite reaction. They get a high every time they get rid of something. So they get rid of as many things as they can, as often as they can because their brain registers the activity as pure pleasure.

Now, the two really big questions are:
1. Why people who experience pain with letting go of things so often enter into relationship with people who experience pleasure from it?
2. And why do the tossers of life seem to think that they are completely and utterly morally superior to the keepers when it all is just brain chemistry?

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

An Ice Cream Shop and Papal Style

 There seems to be a divide between people who find Pope Francis's style of dress and liturgy to be inspiring and those who find it distressing. The ones who are upset miss the high style and what they see as the "beauty" of the Church (which others dismiss as "smells and bells.")

I think part of the reason for the divide is what people, especially relatively new (since the middle to end of the JPII pontificate) converts expect of the Church and what those who have been around for a lifetime expect.

Maybe an illustration that came to mind as I tried to get to sleep last night will help.

Imagine an ice cream shop that has opened under new management. This shop sells many flavors of premium ice cream including a few unusual ones like lavender and  honey. People who have been coming to the shop for many years are used to changes of ownership on a fairly regular basis. So they come in, check out the new selections, and get back to their lives. People who have never been to this shop before are thrilled and return daily to see what new delights have appeared. They get so used to premium ice cream they can't imagine a time when there wouldn't be this special ice cream shop or their favorite owner. They write blogs about the wonders of the shop and bring all their friends in for samples.

One day the old owner dies and a new owner takes over the shop. The people who loved the old shop are a little nervous, but instead of premium ice cream, the new owner now serves even richer, more decadent flavors including some recipes from the past like butter pecan salted caramel with toasted nuts. The ice cream lovers are over the moon. Many line up for hours just to see what special flavor has been created. Those people who prefer plain vanilla and chocolate still come by, but they aren't enamored with the new treats. However, since they can still find vanilla and chocolate in the far back containers, they are okay with the new management. They know that there will be another new owner sooner or later.

Just when the people who recently came to love the shop are completely comfortable, reassured that they will have wonderful rich ice cream available for the rest of their lives, the new owner suddenly sells the shop. Much to the ice cream lovers' dismay, the shop now sells--gasp--frozen yogurt! No more butter pecan salted caramel with toasted nuts.  Just yogurt plus a few plain flavors of ice cream.

The new ice cream lovers are horrified. They have been betrayed. They had come to expect premium ice cream whenever they wanted it and now all they can get is frozen yogurt (and a few plain flavors of ice cream.) This is NOT what they signed up for when they started coming to the ice cream shop. It is an outrage, a travesty! They are angry, hurt and frustrated.

However, there are many people who are now coming to the shop who haven't been in years. They happily sample the yogurt. They never really liked the fancy flavors anyway. And those who always did like the plain flavors of ice cream are now very happy that they can get their scoops without having to drag out a carton from the back freezer.

As the fancy ice cream lovers mourn the loss of their favorite shop, the one they had expected to be able to go to for the rest of the lives, the new owner points out that it never really was an ice cream shop to begin with.

He shows them a sign that has been on the door since the very beginning--it's a frozen dairy product store.  Just because the recent owners had decided that meant ice cream didn't make it so. Yogurt is just as much a frozen dairy product as the most premium ice cream, the new owner explains. It has the same general ingredients, even the same calorie count (more or less) as ice cream. It meets all the requirements for the shop.

And the new owner adds that he hasn't forbidden anyone from having butter pecan salted caramel with toasted nuts; he just isn't serving it right now. After many years of focusing on customers with refined palates, the shop is now going for a the health-conscious, yogurt-preferring, plain vanilla crowd who have been hard pressed to find their preferences for many years.

The ice cream lovers may not be happy, but no one owns the shop forever, the new owner adds.  And who knows...the next owner might decide to serve gelato, he chuckles.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Sacred Space

 From my book in progress: Every Day Holy Day

Standing at the edge of Sacred Cenote at the ancient Mayan temple city of Chichen-Itza, I stared at the vibrant green water nearly 30 meters beneath me.  I knew that archaeologists had recovered artifacts of gold, jade, pottery and human sacrifice from this alarmingly placid sinkhole, where Mayan priests, hoping to court the favor of the gods, had tossed their helpless victims who often included children.  Just a few steps away, I could hear the cacophony of tourists buying cheap souvenirs and bottled water, but at the rim of the well, silence prevailed.

I understood why. The very rocks and cliffs seemed to have absorbed the fear and terror of those who had died and now, centuries later, their feelings reverberated, forcing even the most oblivious sightseer to silence.

Because of the horrors committed there, the place wasn’t holy, in the way that a great Cathedral is, but it was still sacred. It was a location where the veil between now and eternity was stretched so thin I could almost reach through it.

For me that is one definition of sacred.

I’ve felt that same sense at San Clemente in Rome, as I climbed down layers of excavation from the 12th century basilica where St. Clement is buried, through a fourth century church, to an altar to the Roman cult god Mithras and finally to the spring where the pre-Romans worshipped unknown deities.

I’ve also had that feeling at the oldest church in my town, where Mass has been offered every day for nearly 100 years.  When I enter the soft darkness, broken only by rainbow shafts from the stained glass windows, I know that I am in a place where the human and the divine intersect.

Reflecting on the sacred places I’ve visited, I think I understand that a location becomes sacred, not by declaration, but through honest and sincere prayer, even when, because of lack of knowledge, that prayer isn’t directed to the Triune God.

The Cenote at Chichen-Itza isn’t sacred because the Mayan priests declared it to be so, nor because of the sacrifices that took place there, nor because of the gods that were worshipped there, but because, at the moment of their deaths, individual souls cried out to their Creator, seeking mercy, salvation and hope and, at the moment of those deaths, their Creator answered.

San Clement is sacred because for thousands of years, people have been coming to that spot, seeking to do the will of God as they understood him, even when they believed that will involved slitting the throat of a bull and washing its blood way with spring water.

St. Mary’s in my town is sacred, certainly because the Sacrifice of the Mass is and has been offered there so many times, but also because countless prayers from countless pilgrims on life’s spiritual journey have been said in its pews, giving an ordinary city block a sacred dimension.
This power to transform the ordinary into the sacred isn’t the prerogative of priests and saints.  It’s something we all possess.  By the way we focus our attention on the divine, we can turn our homes, yards, even our cars into sacred spaces.

Summer is a wonderful time to work on this transformation because during this season, doors and windows are left open, meals are eaten on porches, and evenings are spent under the stars.  We experience a fluidity between in and out which can become a living example of how the mundane can become sacred by our actions, intentions and our prayers.

This day, I urge you to infuse your own physical spaces with the intention of allowing the divine to permeate.  Using the example of Brother Lawrence who says, “It is a great delusion to think our times of prayer ought to differ from other times. We are as strictly obliged to cleave to God by action in the time of action as by prayer in the season of prayer,” we can gradually alter our environment so that when someone enters it, they immediately know they are stepping into sacred space.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Sunday Gratitude

I'm trying to pack and do all the things I think need to be done before going to the Catholic Media Convention, like leave notes about the cats for the house sitter, water the plants etc.

I wonder why it is that I feel compelled to do things that I would normally put off for days just before a trip...maybe it's the same principle as wearing clean underwear in case you get in an accident.  Want the house to look better than it normally does just in case...

Since I have the vestiges of a sore throat and feel less than wonderful, this time the house will just have to be its normal not ready for staging self.

This Sunday I am grateful for:

1. A cell phone.  I really love my cell phone and I wonder how we ever survived without them?  I remember the first person who got one and how impressed I was with the giant brick that made calls almost anywhere.

2. Chocolate.  It really is a miracle drug.
3. Good friends. I am so grateful for the people in my life who make me better than I would be on my own.
(No know who you are.) 

4. Nefer and Basti.  They sometimes drive me crazy, but their joie de vivre helps me remember that all of creation is a song of praise to the Creator.

 5. My bed.  Dorothy might have said there's no place like home, but there's really no place like your own bed.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Summer Daze

Is there anything more splendid than the first days of summer!

I'm relishing the beauty of pots on my deck and laughing as the cats fight over a basket to sleep in. You see, they always fought over the basket so I put up a second one and now they fight over who gets the new one.  Just like kids!

On Monday I head to Denver to the Catholic Media Convention where I hope to see many old friends and perhaps make a few new ones. I'm hoping to try out some of my new-found almost skills with my iPhone camera as I visit a couple of places, including the Augustine Institute and their fabulous programs.

I probably should go pack!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Ruminating on Rumi

I had the great honor of visiting the Tomb of Mevlana Celaleddin-i Rumi , when I was in Konya, Turkey. It was a holy moment, akin to visiting the tomb of a Catholic saint.

Today I found this wonderful verse of his.

God's joy moves from unmarked box to unmarked box,
from cell to cell. As rainwater, down into flowerbed.

As roses, up from ground.
Now it looks like a plate of rice and fish,
now a cliff covered with vines,
now a horse being saddled.

It hides within these,
till one day it cracks them open.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Sunday Gratitude

It's not that I've been ungrateful the past several weeks, it's just that when I'm feeling mightily stressed, I tend to go into radio silence.

But no use looking back!

This week I am grateful for:
 Pots on the deck.
 A new manicure.
 Hydrangeas turning blue.
A wild turkey that visited my backyard.
Sweet tea.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A Favorite Prayer

 On this bleak, rainy Oregon day in May, I carry this prayer with me in my heart.

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that
I think I am following Your will does not mean that I am
actually doing so. 
But I believe that the desire to please You
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that, if I do this, You will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore I will trust You always 
though I may seem to be lost  and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for You are ever with me,
and You will never leave me to face my perils alone.
(Thomas Merton)

Monday, May 20, 2013

A Minor Miracle

I had a minor miracle happen last night.  But then, are any miracles really minor?

About 10 years ago, give or take, I lost my wedding rings. I thought they were still in the house, but I searched every place I could think of...and a whole lot that were the longest of long shots. I found a lot of things that were missing, but never my wedding set. About every six months or so, I would look for them again, but never located them.

Last night, about 11, as I tossed and turned, I felt compelled to go searching one more time. I looked in all the places I've looked before and, of course, didn't find them.  Then, because it was Pentecost, I decided that I would thank God in advance for having shown me where the rings were.  As I went through drawers and boxes, I kept giving thanks for having found the rings.

It was a long night.

About 2 am, as I searched through a small jewelry box that I had looked through at least a dozen times before, I saw a small sparkle.  I dumped the contents of the box into my hand and there, amid some mismatched earrings was my wedding set.

Had it been there all along? If it was, I hadn't seen it all these years.

And why last night? Why that night would I feel compelled to search for something that had been lost for so long?

I don't know.  I just know that I have found the rings and I give thanks for this minor--or not so minor--miracle.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Sunday Gratitude and Prayer Score Card

I have a perfectionist streak that says if I'm not writing a perfect blog post I shouldn't write at all...which means I haven't written at all.

Anyone else have that problem?  Perfect or not at all?  I've been working on that and have made some progress, which I will write soon as it's perfect.

Because it's late and I want to start the week's blogging, here is Sunday's Gratitude.

1.  A lovely lily scented votive candle.  I got several for my birthday last year and I decided not to "save" them, but to enjoy this is one of the last.  Its scent is heavenly.

2. Red rhodies along the side of the road. As in blood red for Pentecost.

3. Finding a bracelet I thought I had lost.
4. Trader Joe's chocolate pudding.

5.  Finding someone to put the moss remover on the roof because I don't do roofs.  Never have and never will. (NOT my roof.  I do preventative moss remover!)

Prayer Score Card

Actually, it's the same as last week. 
3 Yes
10 No answer yet


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Sunday Gratitude and Prayer Score Card

Today is the 19th anniversary of my father's death and, of course, Mother's Day. It's the second without my mother, although I don't recall much of last year at all.

So, remembering both my parents in prayer today.  I am grateful for:

1. The fountains in my yard. Here's the one I see the most often. It reminds me of the Middle East, even though it is set in the midst of Oregon greenery.

2. The restoration and on-going healing of a relationship. Only God knows the end of the story, but I am grateful for the healing that has taken place.

3. Skype, which allows me to "talk" with my son.

4. The white cupboards in my kitchen.

5. Fabreze...I have cats.  They have litter.  Connect the dots.

Prayer Score Card

I have 10 things on my list this month.  So far there have been 3 "Yes" and the rest are still waiting.
Interestingly, and this is something I want to explore in more detail, the more specific the prayer, the more specific the answer.  And the more immediate the prayer, the more immediate the answer.  Both yes and no.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Out of the Depths

I'd like to say, "Where does the time go?" but I know where it went.  Into a black hole of work, with a dollop of worry, a slurp of travel, and a heaping cupful of procrastination.  Yep, that's where the time went.

The perfectionist in me thinks that unless I go back and fill in all the missing days, I should write at all, but that serves no one, especially not me.  So, just a brief backward glance and then moving on.

I was honored to be a guest on Donna-Marie Cooper-Oboyle's new EWTN show, Catholic Moms' Cafe in Birmingham along with several prestigious and well-known authors.  Here's a picture of me with Donna-Marie, Marge Fenelon and Lisa Henley.  And one on the set for the show.

Then I went to an incredible seminar/retreat in Canada that gave me great new perspectives on my career, my relationships, my motives and my life in general.

Now I'm back in Oregon where there hasn't been rain for days and everyone is talking DROUGHT, but I'm loving the sunshine. I think my heaven has to be sunny.  It can sprinkle now and then, enough to give everything that fresh rain smell, but no long, grey, gloomy days that hang like a shroud over my life.  (Yes, I do question why I live in Oregon, but apparently the greenery offsets the greyery.)

So, what have you been up to while I've been gone?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Mom's Cafe

I've long admired Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle, ever since I learned of her decade-long friendship with Mother Teresa.  I never thought I'd get a chance to meet her, but God works in mysterious ways.  Not only do I get to meet her, I will be a guest on her upcoming EWTN television series called "Catholic Mom's Cafe"!
Donna-Maria has written a simply marvelous book with the same name (almost): Catholic Mom's Cafe" 5-Minute Retreats for Every Day of the Year (Our Sunday Visitor, 2013). When I had a chance to see a copy, I promptly turned to my birth day and chuckled with it was all about not worrying.  I think I have a PhD in worry, so the irony was not lost.
I've always loved daily devotionals and this little book is just my cup of tea (all puns intended.) Each day provides a quote from the Bible, an inspirational quote, a short but pithy meditation, a prayer and a thought to carry through the day. It's the ideal length for meaningful insight but not so long as to become another chore. It's the kind of book that would make a great gift for a new mom, a seasoned mother or even yourself!
Donna-Maria also has a great blog at (Disclosure:  I am an occasional guest there!) as well as a Facebook page at Lots of good stuff there...and not just for moms!
The book will be out soon and I've got it on good authority that you can get an autographed copy at her website. They will be available at Our Sunday Visitor, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Catholic bookstores as well.
And in case you are interested, here's link to the upcoming TV show and one of Donna-Marie's guests. :)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Inside Anxiety

Anxiety and panic are inside jobs.

That's one reason why it's so hard for someone who hasn't experienced them to understand what they are like.

In the past few days, I've had the opportunity to try to explain what they feel like to friends and family who have loved ones who suffer from anxiety and panic. If there is any good that can come out of my experience, perhaps being able to share the "inside" information is it.

Imagine sitting in your favorite chair, with your favorite beverage at hand. (Island Coconut Coffee with real cream.) The sun is splashed across the floor and the cat is basking in the warmth. You aren't awaiting a medical diagnosis.  No debt collectors are banging at the door.  You aren't facing foreclosure or starvation. No one is dying right this second.  All in all, things are pretty okay.  If anyone were to look at you, you'd look downright peaceful and content.

On the outside.

Inside it's a different story.

Let's start with the heart. It's probably racing, as fast as if you had just run around the block. It might even feel like it's skipping a beat now and then. But that's nothing compared to the stomach. It's in literal knots, twisting and churning, with surges of nausea. It feels like coming down with the flu. Only you aren't.  Then the breath. You feel like you are suffocating, like nothing short of great gasping gulps will bring in enough oxygen. Yet you know if you give in, you'll hyperventilate and feel even worse than you do right now, so you try to breath as slowly and steadily as you can...all the while feeling like you are suffocating.

That's just the tip of the physical feelings. You might add feeling faint, dizzy, shaky, trembling, too restless for words--or conversely, absolutely frozen in place unable to move. All the while, sitting in your favorite chair, watching the cat stretch in the sunshine, looking peaceful and calm.

Mentally it's even worse.There is a sensation of impending disaster and complete doom. You might have enough money in the bank to pay your bills this week, but your mind looks ahead to next Christmas and goes hysterical about how you are going to pay to travel to be with the family if they invite you again. Not to mention how you are going to pay the taxes next April. If you can slow down those thoughts, others catapult in. What if your mammogram, which is scheduled in six months, comes back with a problem like it did a year ago even though it turned out to be fine and you didn't have cancer? What if, when you decide you want to sell your house, you have to repaint it all and how will you find a reliable painter who won't overcharge? And what if the jar of jam that is in the refrigerator has gone bad and you'll get food poisoning because you had it on your toast this morning? And what if you are out of work next year? How will you pay your bills? And how will you pay the taxes in April!!!! Especially if the family wants you to visit at Christmas.

Inside, it's as if your body and mind have become a blender of terror, the physical contributing to the mental and the mental to the physical, all shredded and whirled into fear soup.

Well-intended family and friends try to reason with you...if you risk enough to share what's going telling you that Christmas is more than nine months away and it's not even tax day this year, much less next year, and you aren't planning on selling anytime soon and jam has too much sugar to go bad and no one knows for sure if they will have a job next year.

It doesn't help. You know these things intellectually and if logic were enough to banish anxiety and panic, no one would suffer from them.

Sometimes people who are frustrated because anxiety and panic don't make logical sense and tell you to just get over it. If it were that easy, you'd do it because you would like nothing more than to be freed from these mental and physical sensations.

Others suggest that you take medications and even if you are taking what your doctor has prescribed, you know that the only way to be totally free of the feelings is to be drugged into oblivion and you can't or won't live that way. Not to mention that the mind is the most powerful force on earth and a panic-striken mind can override all but the strongest of drugs.

There probably are some moments when the panic lifts. Maybe it's first thing in the morning, when you wake and think, "Oh, it's gone for good!" Or perhaps it's at night, when you fall into bed, praying that when you wake it won't be brooding on your pillow waiting for consciousness to break through. In those times, when the physical and mental torture wanes, you hope that perhaps today will mark the end or at least the beginning of the end. When it doesn't, the disappointment is almost too much to bear. You understand why some people think that suicide is the only way to be released from the unrelenting grasp of fear and panic because you don't know if you can stand to be disappointed one more time.

But you take a deep breath, sip your coffee, watch the cats and say a prayer that you make it through this minute because that's the only way you can manage. One prayer, one minute at a time. Because anxiety and panic are inside jobs.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Pope Francis and Mary, Undoer of Knots

My heart warmed when I read that one of Pope Francis' favorite devotions is to Mary, Undoer of Knots. It's my favorite Marian devotion.

I wrote about it here.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Sunday Gratitude on Monday

Better late than never, right?

On this Monday/Sunday I am grateful for:

Cherry blossoms

Having the taxes done before April 15

Divine Mercy Sunday--and the hope of healing

Chocolate (See getting taxes done above)

Hope. The thing with feathers, as the great Emily says.
(I can't find the source for this picture, but to whomever created it, thanks.)

Hunkering Down and the Siren of Suicide Revisited

I've said before that when I go on radio silence, both here and in my "real" life, it's because I'm battling demons.  So it is with the past weeks that I've been away, hunkered down, steeling myself against the anxiety that wraps its tendrils around my soul, choking out the smallest shoots of joy that try to emerge.

Things had gotten better for me, but then I heard about the suicide of Rick Warren's son. Rick is the author of The Purpose-Driven Life and the pastor Saddleback Community Church in California.

I understand all too well about the siren of suicide. 
Days before my mother's death, I wrote about her and her temptations.
That's when the siren of suicide sits on the rock and bats her beguiling eyes: "Come see me," she whispers.  "I have a solution.  A real solution. No more struggling with finances.  No more waiting at hospice bedsides.  No more trying to figure out how to get through one more day.  Just come see me and I will take care of it all for you." (Click here for rest of post.)
Several bloggers have written about Matt Warren and mental illness, none better than Thomas McDonald of God and the Machine. He articulates the experience of the "clammy parasite that attaches to your soul and sucks out your life day by agonizing day, until annihilation appears to be the only relief" as only one who has been inside the pain can.

While the siren of suicide has visited me, the one thing that has kept me able to function, albeit sometimes in hunker-down mode, has been the line from this Sunday's Gospel:

A large number of people from the towns
in the vicinity of Jerusalem also gathered,
bringing the sick and those disturbed by unclean spirits,
and they were all cured.--Acts 5
Notice, it doesn't say that some were cured.  It says ALL.  All were cured.  All those disturbed by unclean spirits, and certainly anxiety, depression and suicide are unclean spirits, were cured. When the cold foggy darkness seeps into my soul, I remind God--and myself--that ALL were cured.

I know from what his father said that Matt Warren had been prayed for and probably prayed himself for healing and it didn't happen. He remained caught in the claws of his depression until he no longer believed he could stand it.

I understand. Believing that healing is possible and believing that healing for you is possible are two very different things. I suspect that Matt Warren believed that God could heal his illness. However, at some point, he stopped believing that God would heal his illness. I understand that, too. After years of praying with no tangible result, the temptation to stop believing can be overwhelming.

And yet, I keep coming back to that verse:  "they were all cured."  Not some, but all.

Over and over in the gospels, we read that it was the faith of those who came to Jesus that resulted in their cures. They believed that Jesus would cure them. They didn't hope. They didn't wish. They believed.

And so, on this spring day, as the squirrel runs along the limbs of my cherry tree, causing the blossoms to fall like pink-tinged snow, I say the words of the father in Mark 9: Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

I don't know when, but I believe that my prayers that the demon of anxiety that has haunted me since my mother was placed on hospice nearly two years ago will be banished. Perhaps it may even be today.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Deliver Us from All Anxiety

One of the things I miss in the new translation of the Mass are the words, "deliver us from all anxiety." Somehow "deliver us from all distress," while presumably more accurate to the Latin, isn't as meaningful to me, especially when I am in the grips of an anxiety attack. I want to be delivered from anxiety, not just distress!

Since I've admitted to suffering from anxiety, I've been surprised at how many people have told me that they, too, have had their experience with this particular demon. People who appear to have their lives in complete order, with success in every aspect from relationships to finances, say that they battled or still do battle anxiety.

I'm not sure that misery loves company is quite accurate in this case, but it is interesting how many people carry this dark secret. And make no mistake...this is a very dark secret. The kind of dark secret that is usually associated with alcoholism, drug addiction or other types of haunting addictions. It's one thing to say that you are nervous; it's another to admit that even when you are sitting safely in a chair, looking out into a bright spring day, your heart is racing, there's a stabbing pain in your solar plexus and you don't feel like you are going to survive another minute, much less another day or week or month.

I wish I could tell those of you who have confided in me that I have the answer, the solution. I don't. Sometimes I get a modicum of relief and have a respite from the fear, but so far it has always returned. For me, it begins with my first breath in the morning, rising to a crescendo by mid-afternoon and, on the good days, diminishing by evening. Sometimes, by the time the moon is rising, I actually have moments of calm and peace. Those moments I treasure and try not to think that they will be gone by break of day.

It's the hardest battle I've ever fought and I'm not sure that I will win. All I know is that I keep trying and keep fighting and keep praying that perhaps, just perhaps, when the sun rises one morning, the demon will be left perpetually in the dark night of my soul.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sunday Gratitude, Prayer Score Card and Anxiety

When I struggle with anxiety and panic, I become a hermit crab.

I withdraw, retreat, and everything from this blog to friends to laundry is left behind. That's what has happened these past few days. I've gone into my shell, trying to keep the battering waves at bay.

I don't think that I've ever faced anything as difficult as coping with the anxiety that has been my near-constant companion for nearly two years, starting when my mother first went on hospice and through her death and the last year of grief.

Oddly enough, twice now, in the middle of a raging panic attack, I was told what a calm person I was. Outwardly, apparently, I do appear serene, but on the inside, my heart is racing, my chest is aching and every muscle fiber twitches with "fight or flight." And yet, by dint of will and practice, I must look as if I am very much in control of myself.  Perhaps that's why I retreat when the pain is too great. It's much easier to be calm when you are hidden under the bedclothes than when you are out in public.

As we enter into Holy Week, I went back to read what I had written last year about Jesus, the Garden of Gethsemane and panic attacks. And as we enter into Holy Week, once again I pray that perhaps with Easter will come healing and restoration and anxiety may become for me, just a memory of a time recorded on a blog. This is the week of miracles, after all.

With that, this Sunday I am grateful for:
  1. Trader Joe's Dixie Peach juice that tastes like summer when summer seems far away
  2. to lilacs, my favorite flower
  3. The ongoing and joyful restitution of a relationship
  4. Bits of blue in an otherwise grey sky
  5. Hope...even when I'm feeling like a hermit card

As for the prayer score card,
12 No answer
and 1--not sure.  I had prayed for clear direction on a decision and I never got direction, but I had to make a decision.  So not sure if that is a yes, no, or no answer.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Papal Coat of Arms

I have been waiting to see what Pope Francis chose for his coat of arms.
John Thavis, the Vatican observer, explains it better than I ever could.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Sunday Gratitude and Prayer Scorecard

Before I get into the Sunday gratitude and all, I would like to invite any of my readers who aren't Catholic who have questions about the pope or what's been going on to ask your questions in the comment box.  If I don't have the answer, I'll do my best to find out.

With that....
I am grateful for:

 A day without anxiety.  I had one last week and it was nearly miraculous.
The hope of a new pope.
Sunshine. We had a couple of lovely days.
Ice tea...finally warm enough for a glass.

As for the prayer scorecard, it's been a very interesting month.
1 yes
13 unanswered and
1 (probably) no.

I guess it's a season of waiting.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Pope Francis--A Little Overview

This is mostly for my non-Catholic friends, who have asked me questions about what all has happened in the Catholic church in the past few days. I'm not a papal expert, but I will try to explain what I can.

The election of Pope Francis is remarkable for many reasons, which have been talked about extensively in the press. Some of them are simply historical firsts--such as being the first pope from the Americas--the import of which only history will be able to evaluate.

But other aspects of this election have more immediate meaning even for the average Catholic in a parish and I'll try to explain a few (if I can.)

 The first is that we Catholics haven't had a pope resign for 600 years. It had been thought that popes were like until death. Pope John Paul II, whose health declined to the point of near morbidity in the final years of his pontificate, was held up as an example of that dedication.

However, his successor, Pope Benedict XVI took a different tact and shocked everything except maybe his brother and his cat by resigning. Thus the election of Pope Francis had a different tone from the very beginning since the Church wasn't in mourning.  People were sad to have Benedict step down, but death did not hang over the proceedings.  Therefore, the election of a new pope was marked almost exclusively by excitement and anticipation.

Mixed with a soupcon of fear.

The "liberals" in the Church were fearful that an archconservative would be elected and the "conservatives" were afraid that an archconservative wouldn't be. In Francis, both factions were taken aback since he is both conservative on doctrinal issues and liberal on social justice matters. So no matter where on the spectrum a Catholic falls, Pope Francis is bound to bring surprises.

One small indication of how this is evident lies in a bit of Catholic trivia. The pope wears red leather shoes, sometimes from famous shoe designers. When a man is elected, he is taken into a room called the Room of Tears (because, undoubtedly some have cried at their new responsibilities) where he is fitted into one of three sets of papal robes--small, medium and large--depending on the "substance" of the new pope. He is also presented with several sizes of red shoes.  Pope Francis declined to wear the whole papal regalia, choosing the most simple part of the outfit--a rather plain white robe without a fancy cape or trimmings. More striking, however, is that he didn't wear the ruby red slippers and as I write this, on the third day of his pontificate, he is still wearing the plain black shoes he wore from Argentina. It will be interesting to see what he wears when he is installed.  So check out his shoes for another clue of how he will treat papal protocol.

Much has been made about the choice of the name Francis. It had been thought that no pope would take the name Peter or Francis because no one would be bold enough to claim kinship with either The Rock of the Lord or the great saint from Assisi who even today is beloved by Catholics and non-Catholics around the world.  But Pope Francis shook and shocked Catholic circles by identifying himself with Francis.

The name is particularly significant because St. Francis is traditionally thought of both for his simplicity and love of nature and for his reform of the Church in a time of corruption. By choosing that name, Pope Francis sent a strong message to Catholics that he will be paying close attention to how the Church deals with the poor and with corruption. It is as if he said by the choice of his name that it won't be business as usual anymore.

Incidentally, the pope chooses a new name to indicate that he is leaving behind his old life and beginning a new one of universal service to the Church. The first popes, such as Peter and Clement, kept their own birth names. The idea of name change came when an early pope's birth name was Mercury and it was thought rather unbecoming to have a Christian leader bear the name of a Roman god. The practice stuck and we've had name-shifting ever since.

Finally, most Catholics are a bit startled by how unassuming Pope Francis is. We've been used to the Rock Star that was Pope John Paul II in his prime and the rather elegant and high-churchy Benedict, so to have a Pope who pays his own hotel bill, travels with his fellow Cardinals in a shuttle bus after his election and stops to pet a golden lab after a press conference with journalists is novel for us.

I can't speak for the whole of Catholics, but as for me, I am encouraged and deeply hopeful that Pope Francis will not just tell us what to believe, but show us how to live.  

May God guide and protect our new pastor from Argentina.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Pope Francis in Motion

He seems to be genuinely engaged with each person he meets. I've never felt a great desire to meet any pope in person, but I would like to meet Pope Francis.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Worth a Thousand Words

Pope Francis riding with the "guys" on the bus back to the hotel after his election instead of taking the papal limo.
I am already incredibly impressed with him. Didn't even take the front seat!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Few More Facts about Pope Francis

  •  A seagull perched on the chimney moments before the smoke announced the election of Pope Francis. The gull’s scientific name is Larus Argentinus Argentina.
  • One of Pope Francis' first actions as pope was to phone Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at Castel Gandolfo.
  • He is the ordinary (bishop) for Eastern-rite Catholics in Argentina, who do not have their own ordinary. This means (presumably) that he can celebrate the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom as well as the Roman rite of the Mass.
  • He is a “football” (soccer) fan and roots for San Lorenzo de Almagro, one of the five most popular teams in Argentina.
  • After his election, he rode the bus back to Doma Santa Marta with his fellow cardinals instead of using the papal car.