I’m not okay

I’m not okay.  Thanks for asking.  The last few months have been hell on earth.  I didn’t realize how much of an anchor my mother was in my life until she was gone.  Now, I just feel like I’m floating along without course or direction.  God how I miss her.  I miss calling her on my way to/from work and having aimless converstations about the kids or life or school or the animals or dad or us or…I miss sending her pictures of things the kids are doing (like their Halloween pumpkins or Phenee’s artwork)  I miss her voice, her comforting words, her irritating practicality that usually resulted in an “I know mom!” from an exasperated me.  I miss our plans for the future, when they would finally retire and move down her to NC and be able to share in our lives on a more regular basis.  I miss smiling and being able to laugh or love freely.  It is all void.

People are kind.  They mean well.  They reach out and ask how I am and to help.  But there isn’t anything they can do.  Not really, not in anyway that really matters.  They can’t bring her back.  She’s gone.  They can’t fill the void that now is in the center of what is left of my heart.  There isn’t anything to say or do.  It’s just empty.

Some days are better than others.  Some days I can get through the day with only passing thoughts or small pangs of pain.  Others are much worse.  When it hits me that she isn’t there anymore…and I can’t call her to ask her something…or check in on her day…and then, I start to crumble.  Only, I can’t really crumble because somewhere in all of this I have to be the adult.  I have to take care of the kids and my students and the house and the pets and do my job.  So I have to put on the mask and take the stage and pretend all is okay, when really it isn’t.  But that is what is expected, so I have to do it.

I’m not falling down the rabbit hole.  It isn’t that kind of sadness.  It is grief that has taken hold and won’t let go. People tell me it will get better.  I’m sure they’re right.  But, it isn’t better – at least not yet.  It is just an act to get through the day.  But it is taking a toll.  I am pulling away from the kids.  Our conversations are shorter.  We aren’t doing as many things together like we did before.  Bedtime is earlier and car rides are quieter.  Anger is closer to the surface and quick to boil over.  Time and eneregy are not being put into lessons the way they once were.  Relationships with colleagues and students are beginning to fray…I kid myself and tell myself that I need time away from it all, but in reality, it won’t change anything.  The grief will still be there, a weight upon my chest, holding me down…

People will tell me…your mom wouldn’t want this for you.  She would want you to be happy.  I know that too.  Once again the difference between knowing and doing are two different things.  It is not something that I can turn on and off like a faucet.  It is an ever-pressing force closing in around me.  Maybe time will push it away.  Maybe pieces of it will always linger. I don’t know.  Right now though, I am not okay.


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Chasing after Rainbows

“Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant   between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.” Genesis 9:14-15

Since I was little, I’ve always loved rainbows.  Every picture I used to draw would have them in it.  I was fascinated by them, but rarely saw them when I was younger.  Since moving to North Carolina it seems that they are much more frequent occurences.  We get light afternoon showers here that will, more often than not, have a rainbow SOMEWHERE afterwards – the trick is to find it.  This has become a bit of a game for me.  Some people chase tornadoes.  I chase rainbows.

Which brings me to this afternoon.  I was working on some curriculum work for school when I began to hear the faint pitter patter of rain coming into my chimney.  I looked out the window and sure enough – we had a rain shower with the sun still streaming through the trees.  That was enough for me.  I grabbed my camera, put on some shoes and out the door I went.  I was looking for “my rainbow.”

I walked down the steps and up the block to the shopping center in the rain, camera in hand, searching for my rainbow.  I kept saying to myself, it has to be here somewhere as I looked up at the clouds in the sky.  I walked all the way around the ‘block’ and back to the apartment complex looking for my rainbow.  But, alas, I never found it and I was kinda disappointed….and then I found myself having some other thoughts…

How often do I have some rain and even some stormy weather in my life and just when the sun starts to come out and things begin to brighten again do I start demanding my rainbow?  That all will be well and there will be no more no more stormy weather?  But that isn’t what the promise is all about.  The promise isn’t that there won’t be storms, it’s that all will be well even though they happen.  I won’t be destroyed, rather, I will be restored by the process and made new and fresh as the water begins to recede.  I also can’t “demand” the rainbow to occur (as much as I might want to do so!).  It is a gift, a reminder of mercy, hope, and love, which cannot be demanded, but must be given freely.

With this thought in mind, I still will chase rainbows, but I will also remember the promise

This is a rainbow I found last Fall.

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An Unexpected Lesson

I had a bit of an unexpected lesson today from a very unexpected source.  In fact, I don’t think that the lesson was intentional at all, but it happened just the same.

This morning, a dear friend posted about her hurt elbow.  She was walking a friend’s dog back in January and fell and shattered it.  It has taken her 6 LONG months to get it to a point that she can ALMOST use it again.  Hours and hours of physical therapy, exercises, surgery, and rehabilitation later, she is finally able to return to some semblance of normalcy.

Her time away has given her the opportunity to really evaluate what is important to her and where she wants to go and what she wants to do with herself.  She’s had to struggle through the pain of the injury, but also through some major life changes and has come out of this time ready to move forward.

Her challenges remind me that it sometimes takes a catalyst, such as an injury, to give us the space and perspective needed to really take stock of where we are and where we want to go.  The road to recovery is painful.  There will be steps forward and steps backwards.  We will lose patience with ourselves, wanting our injuries to heal sooner than they are ready.  But time, perseverance, patience, and faith will bring us through, and we can emerge from the struggle stronger than we began…

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Wise Words

Mark this, you who never think of God.
‘How can you recite my commandments
  and take my covenant on your lips,
you who despise my law
  and throw my words to the winds?  – Psalm 50
Don’t even know where to begin on this one.  This was the response (in bold) and first stanza of the Responsoral Psalm this morning at Mass.  This past weekend has been filled with many nudges in very poignant and direct messages.  We had a ‘preached’ retreat yesterday led by an amazingly spiritual woman who’s own faith journey has taken her on many paths and in a myriad of directions.  There were numerous occassions yesterday when she was addressing the group that I felt that she was only addressing me by what she was saying….and then I go to Mass this morning…
I don’t think I’ve ever heard this Psalm before and the words, especially the response, struck me cold.  The Gospel was about Jesus calling others to follow him, leaving the troubles of the world behind them.  And it would have been very appropriate for Father to have preached on that, especially since this Mass was also the welcoming of a new candidate to the community I happen to be on retreat with at the time.  But Father didn’t preach on that.
Instead, he focused on the Psalm.  In simple, humble, and beautifl words, Fr. talked about paying lip service to what is in the Scriptures verses actually LIVING them.  He said, in not so many words, that we had to remember that God is near us in even the smallest details of our day and that we must always have faith and trust in Him….
At the very end of the Mass he offered some very sage advice to the new candidate, but it also applies to me as well.  The joy of the moment and the newness and excitement will eventually leave us (talking about embarking on joining religious life but applies in all new situations as well) and even when that happens to keep focused on the daily promise and commitment…to trust that things will work out for the best…even if it isn’t like you think you want it to be at the time…

Again, profound words from a very wise man…

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Some Lessons are a Pain in the Back

Ok, I haven’t written a blog post in a while…okay…a LONG while…but recent events have spurned me to write this…

Memorial Day weekend I had a great time with friends choosing a pattern and fabric for an upcoming wedding and all was fine – until my back started to hurt.  What started out as a fairly minor pain on Saturday evening turned into me being pretty much in agony by Sunday night.  I came pretty close to going to the hospital because I couldn’t move without wanting to scream…I got in touch with a friend who (besides offering to take me to the hospital if I really wanted to go – and mind you at this point it’s about 10pm and she has 2 kids at home) agreed to take me to urgent care in the morning (Memorial Day).  We met Monday morning and she took me to the doctors as well as to get my perscriptions and also home afterwards (with a stop for breakfast in between).  I spent most of Memorial Day not moving.  Tuesday I went to school but was literally crying in the hallway trying to walk from one classroom to another and ended up leaving a little early to go my regular doctor who also perscribed some medicines and x-rays.  I was out of school the rest of the week and out of work over the weekend.  Pretty much spending most of that time on my back in bed nursing an ice pack and some extra pillows, only leaving to go to the chiropractor and to physical therapy.  Over the weekend I did venture out to Barnes and Nobles for about an hour to walk (carefully) around and I did go to Mass on Sunday morning.  But pretty much the rest of the time was spent laying in bed.

So this is where the lesson came in…I like to be independent and in control.  Maybe not quite to the “control-freak” extent, but I don’t like to have to rely on others for help.  Not being able to move meant I HAD to rely on others…My friend to take me to the doctor on Monday.  My other friend who agreed to pick me up from the doctor on Tuesday if need be.  And my mom, who flew in to Greensboro from Tampa (on her way home from vacation) to stay the week with me while I get better.  I’m not used to giving up control or relying on others.  Having to ask for and need help is new for me.  I couldn’t move – or could barely move – so that meant I couldn’t prepare food, get groceries, perform chores, or even something as basic as give my poor cat some water and food (I couldn’t bend to reach the bowls or put them on the floor).  Even dropping some tupperware on my kitchen floor meant asking someone to help me pick it up.

Being injured has made me realize that it’s okay to need help once in a while and that there are people around that are willing to help me.  I just have to be willing to LET THEM…

Again, some lessons are a pain in the back to learn, but nonetheless, important.

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Psalm 40

I waited patiently for the LORD;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
3 He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the LORD
and put their trust in him.

4 Blessed is the one
who trusts in the LORD,
who does not look to the proud,
to those who turn aside to false gods.[b]
5 Many, LORD my God,
are the wonders you have done,
the things you planned for us.
None can compare with you;
were I to speak and tell of your deeds,
they would be too many to declare.

6 Sacrifice and offering you did not desire—
but my ears you have opened[c]—
burnt offerings and sin offerings[d] you did not require.
7 Then I said, “Here I am, I have come—
it is written about me in the scroll.[e]
8 I desire to do your will, my God;
your law is within my heart.”

9 I proclaim your saving acts in the great assembly;
I do not seal my lips, LORD,
as you know.
10 I do not hide your righteousness in my heart;
I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help.
I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness
from the great assembly.

11 Do not withhold your mercy from me, LORD;
may your love and faithfulness always protect me.
12 For troubles without number surround me;
my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see.
They are more than the hairs of my head,
and my heart fails within me.
13 Be pleased to save me, LORD;
come quickly, LORD, to help me.

14 May all who want to take my life
be put to shame and confusion;
may all who desire my ruin
be turned back in disgrace.
15 May those who say to me, “Aha! Aha!”
be appalled at their own shame.
16 But may all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who long for your saving help always say,
“The LORD is great!”

17 But as for me, I am poor and needy;
may the Lord think of me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
you are my God, do not delay.

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Light for the Journey

When i heard the gospel today, it made me think of discernment on some levels…and our ability to fully commit ourselves to follow the bridegroom.  Do we come fully prepared? With extra oil in reserve for the hard times ahead? or do we need to go and get more – to leave – and risk losing it all.  Do we have the courage to do all that is necessary to fully prepare for His arrival?  Do we wait in joy or fear for our Beloved?

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I Hate My Kitchen….(a story about grace)

So, if you know me you probably know that I hate my kitchen. It is about four feet wide by about 8 feet long. I can stand in the middle and touch all four walls. The rest of my apartment is wonderful, but my kitchen is tiny. As a result, I spend as little time in it as possible. This is a shame, as I really DO love to cook and bake.

So today I decided to be creative before I went to work. I got materials together to cook meat to make stuffed peppers and to make the meat sauce for lasagna. I put out the pans and the oil and added the veggies and was ready to go! I pulled out my small pyrex dish from the cabinet and placed it on the stove. I turned on two burners to begin heating so I could start the cooking process.

While the pans were heating up, I thought I could run back to my bedroom and grab an extra towel for the kitchen. I no sooner got to the hallway leading to the back of the aparment then: BAM! Something crashed in the kitchen. I grabbed the towel and went back to the kitchen to see what happened. Apparenlty, I turned on the wrong burnner. I turned on the one under the pyrex dish, and although it was only on for a minute or so – it exploded. There was glass EVERYWHERE. It was all over the stove, counters, and floor, as well as in both pans I had on the stove…

And as I inwardly sighed and wondered how in the world I was going to clean all of this up…I had to be thankful too…because if it had exploded 30 seconds earlier I would have probably gotten really hurt. Thank you Jesus for looking out for me!

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For All the Saints…

Thomas Merton once wrote, “For me to be a saint means to be myself,” and as we celebrate the festivals of All Souls Day and All Saint’s Day, it is not without cause that we reflect on what makes one a saint.

The Church has many identified saints, many we are familiar with: St. Francis and Claire, St. Thomas and St. Ignatius, St. Therese, St. Catherine, St. Christopher, and St. Jude, and probably a few hundred more that I haven’t listed here.  The Church does not call a person a saint arbitrarily.  Rather, there is a long and involved evaluation process in place that is used to determine if there is cause for canonization.

But what about the unidentified saints that are all about us?  The ones who go out of their way to love and serve God on a daily basis?  The ones who offer respite for the weary or food for the hungry?  What about those who offer a smile to those who are grieving?  They, too, can be considered saints, and like those who belong to the Church roster, can be inspirations and models for all of us of how to be Christ to others.  I think we tend to look for large ways to become saints…perform acts of piety and penance…look for some grandiose romantic demonstration to say, “Ah ha!” and those are fine, but not necessary.

I think, like Merton, we can all be saints, if we simply live as God has created us to be: ourselves, in His image and likeness, treating others the same.


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Dark Clouds, Bright Sky

So today when I went outside I noticed the sky.  On an otherwise sunny day, dark clouds had gathered overhead.  These dark, almost purple-black towers of oppressively looming masses hovered overhead threatening to drown any and all unlucky persons caught underneath when the rain came flooding down.

And these clouds seemed to be a mirror to what has been going on inside of me lately.  I seem to be living under a black cloud, caught in the middle of a series of dominoes that are tumbling around me.  All areas of my life seem to contain more stress than I can manage on my own.  I am walking underneath the rain clouds and my umbrella seems to be broken.

But then, too, I look to the horizon and I know that not all is lost.  For there, in the distance, the sun is coming out.  A brilliantly painted sky is off to my right, and I am wrapped in the warm, bright light, that is God’s love.  And I know that even if I am caught in the rain at the moment, that sooner or later it will give way to the sun and all will be well.

and I am loved…Oh, how I am loved…

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