Prompt – 1/12 – Choices and What Ifs

Standard

It is spring and there is a new writing group on the horizon. Six weeks of memoir writing, which means twelve new prompts.

Our theme this session is Choices and What Ifs. Over the course of our lives, there are so many of those big and little choices that take us where we go, sometimes where we long to go, and sometimes where we have to go.

As the Doctor (Who) says, “We don’t always go where we want to, but we do go where we need to.”
Nothing could be more true than my life in the past almost decade or so.

We all have those moments – should we turn left? Or right?

Go to college or get married? Or both?

Have children or wait?

Eat that cheeseburger or grab a salad?

So many seemingly unrelated choices that form our reality.

But what if we had turned right instead of left?

Taken that gap year to Europe?

Lived impulsively or more prudently?

Here’s our chance to explore those choices and remind us of the ones we did take, and where we are now.

It’s not simply about regret or justification; it’s so much deeper than that.

Let’s go.

The first prompt is an assignment. It was the first one I was given at the start of this session.

Make a list of life choices.

They are not necessarily things you would change or keep. We’re not there yet. Just the choices in your life.

For an example, here are three of mine (of a much longer list):

1. Choosing a major for college

2. Reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
3. Attending a political protest

They seem innocent enough, but have all had a major impact on my life and future choices.

16/52 – Ezra Klein

Standard

I first saw Ezra Klein giving analysis on MSNBC. I knew that seeing him on screen that I would be in for an insightful discussion of that day’s headline news. I have always found him honest and engaging; able to get to the heart of the matter, and show depth to both (or more) sides of an issue.

When he formed his new website, Vox, I followed. I have never been disappointed. They are both opinionated and educatonal. Their opinions are clearly laid out as are their explanations of the complicated facts and news of the day.

He, and his team, have a way of taking a huge issue and breaking it down into bite-sized, easier to understand pieces. He and Vox use whatever media isw at their disposal from videos and charts to photos and humor.

Ezra Klein is a great example of what it is to be a journalist in today’s media world.

With this year’s uproar over fake news and the President’s disregard for the profession of journalism and the journalist, it is more important than ever to have reliable news sources. Ezra Klein is a reliable news source.

Check him out on Facebook and on the Vox website.

It’s Thursday

Standard

I feel as though I should apologize. I plan out  my posts, and try to have them here almost daily. On a week like this, there should have been at least three of my writings to read.

I’ve been writing.

Daily.

Between my Lent/Easter journal, a quick positive book news about my house, writing class homework, and brainstorming for my saint’s prayer card that I’m working on, I’ve been writing every day.

Unfortunately, in my mind, I’ve felt as though I’ve shared some of that here when I haven’t.

I will have a bit of a catch up once I sort out my morning and my writing class.

In the meantime, what are some of the things you’ve thought that you’ve done this week, but in actuality have not?

The Future is Female

Standard

In honor of the March for Science, held today across the country, a little word art. There are two women’s names that I’ve listed with only a last initial. Those are two women scientists I know in my personal life. They are an inspiration to me in more ways than one, and certainly more than just scientifically. 

We all have those girls and women in our lives.

Who are yours?

The Future is Female, done for the March for Science, April 22, 2017. Word Art. (c)2017

March for Science – Information

Standard

Official Website
Why we March
March in DC

Start: Washington D.C., North of Washington Monument, Constitution Avenue NW between 15th and 17th street.

8:00am: Grounds open.

9:00am: Teach-ins start.

10:00am: Main stage rally program begins.

2:00pm: March begins! 

The Route – The march will form on the Washington Monument Grounds and proceed over the following route: starting at 15th and Constitution Avenue NW and proceed east on Constitution Avenue NW to 3rd Street NW, south on 3rd Street NW into Union Square where the group will disperse. 

Satellite Marches – Find one in your area!

March for Science – An Introduction

Standard

​Tomorrow is the March for Science. As these important issues come up, I’m trying not to be political, but what we call political actually affects a number of people’s real lives. From crime to health care, immigration to women’s equality and civil rights for all, these are basic things that many of us deal with on a daily basis. I know people are tired of hearing about privilege, but if you’re not affected by these issues and simply see them as politics as usual, then more than likely you are in a privileged group.

That doesn’t mean that you are rich or have no troubles of your own; it is simply that from your perspective you can’t understand “the big deal”  or why some of us are so vocal. You may or may not take your rights for granted, but for some of us who live the day to day of having our civil rights violated, it has been very frustrating.

Whether or not you believe that our global climate is changing or whether or not you feel that it is a man-made problem, it is eveyrone’s responsibility to maintain adequate living conditions for everyone here now, and everyone to come.

This simply means taking care of our environment.

Conserve water.

Turn off the lights when you leave the room.

Adjust your thermostat.

Pick up litter.

In listing them, these should not be controversial. In fact, many of these should be common sense.

When a new White House Administration comes in, their priorities take precedence. They focus on what they feel is important. Looking back decades, we can see that. Even President George W. Bush, whose policies didn’t believe in climate change still did his part to protect the environment without compromising his capitalist values.

When the Trump Administration came in, on the very first day, they eliminated web pages from the official White House website. Ignoring what we would deem controversial like the justice department, immigration, LGBT+, and ethics policies, they also shuttered anything about climate and environmental protections as well as national parks, and food and drug safety. This included established and agreed upon science.

You can’t change facts.

You can disagree with them; you can have a differing viewpoint in how to address them, but facts are facts.

Our children need to know how to read and analyze data critically, objectively, and sadly, we are all being lied to when less than knowledgeable people are in charge of the various departments.

Tomorrow, as we have been doing since January on a variety of topics, we stand up for science.

We must broaden our minds, and think critically, and problem solve, and communicate with the best minds. We should encourage science education and questioning.

Science. Not silence.

This is the first of a series of posts for the March for Science and science resources. Please add your own suggestions in the comments. Now more than ever, we need to be here for each other and for our planet. We have one chance to get it right.

Stand up and be counted.

Giving Up One Bread for Another

Standard

​I did have the thought on it before my priest mentioned the duality during my first Lenten confession. Yes, I said first. This was one of those seasons that needed more than one visit for reconciliation. Every time I cleared my conscience and received absolution, that pesky Lenten abstinence came and bit me in the willpower. Sometimes, it wasn’t even about the willpower; it was forgetfulness. In my four years of observing abstinence for Lent, this was the first year that nearly did me in. It truly was a reminder of the big picture and not so much the item given up.

I believe I’ve mentioned that it took me longer than usual to choose something to give up. I finally decided on bread, and then promptly forgot what bread was. it was in my mouth, and then I knew I was done for. I had been told, this year for the first time, that I could eat the forbidden item on Sundays, but I always seemed to forget that, and abstain on Sunday, and then trade it off for another day, like my son’s birthday or the parish Holy Thursday dinner, both Italian feasts that included the most amazing breads.

Not only that, but I even confessed to a priest who wasn’t my own for the first time. That felt weird, but I was on retreat, and wanted to be absolved before I began the retreat. I like beginning those with a clear head and heart.

So I gave up bread.

The reasons were two-fold. One was for the religion of it all. I have to give up something. What would be meaningful? The second reason was that bread was something my doctor wanted me to give up. I actually had given it up last year under doctor’s orders. That included all bread products, sugars, cakes, cookies, etc. Everything except flatbread. I lost nearly thirty pounds in three months of doing that. And then, I got lazy and complacent and gained it all back, and a little bit more. I thought that I’d try to follow the doctor’s plans as part of my Lenten abstinence and at the same time attempt to once again jump start my health care.

That is what Lent is about. Giving up something to make room for something else, in order to take on a new direction to focus. That focus is not only a benefit to my spirituality, but also physically. It is all connected.

Give up something; add something else. All for the greater goal of becoming closer to G-d, and keeping the positive action in my life when Lent ends.

For Lent, I didn’t give up all breads; just bread. Bread, rolls, croissants, bagels, French toast, English muffins, waffles but not pancakes. Not cakes or muffins or cookies, but pumpkin bread and raspberry swirl loaf. Corn bread, but not corn bread muffins or sweet cake. I would still eat flatbread as my doctor allowed during the first change. For some of them, as obvious as they are, I hadn’t realized what comprised of bread. French toast was the hard one. I love French toast. And bread pudding.

Not to brag, but I do have to admit that I made an amazing spinach quiche using broken matzo as a bottom crust. Everytime I’ve attempted quiche it’s been a disaster, but this one was spectacular. I’m planning on making it again before Passover ends.

Now the real question: In giving up the bread, what would I be taking on?

I’ve been keeping a Lenten journal since Ash Wednesday. I jot something in it every day; most days I have quite a lot, and if I left it off for the entire day, I wrote a little admonishment about forgetting or being tired, but I usually made up for it the next day, coming back to it two and three times or more throughout the day. There is no word minimum; just something contemplative, prayerful, meaningful every day. I have really loved doing this. I have already decided to continue it through the Easter season. I may keep it up as a prayer journal after that, but I will see how it goes through Pentecost.

Unless I had a retreat or a doctor’s appointment, I have also attended the daily nine o’clock mass. When I started attending those five years ago, they were something to do, something to keep my depression in check, to give me a schedule to adhere and then they became more. Now, I go because it’s Lent, but also because I miss going when I don’t. Whether the reason is that I’m busy or too lazy, it doesn’t matter. I didn’t go, and I really missed it in my life. It is a good beginning to any day.

For the past two weeks, I have added praying the rosary with the church group daily after those masses. While I have my issues with some of the political aspects of the after rosary prayers, I have still gotten something out of it for my spirit, and it has given me some incentive for working on my own prayer card for St. Elen, my name saint. It is in these informal prayer settings that I see how I, and anyone else can write their own prayers that will rise to the subject they are addressing, whether they be the Holy Mother, Jesus, the saints, or a family member deeply missed.

In giving up bread, however, I of course did not give up the Eucharist. For one thing, it is a flatbread, so technically it didn’t count for my purposes. It’s also not really a bread at all when it’s consecrated as Jesus. I also had to reconcile with myself the giving up of bread and then continuing to take the Eucharist during Passover which would be during the Lenten season and Holy Week. I have managed to separate the two that has worked for my purposes and conscience. The balance of the two isn’t quite a burden, but it is something that I do struggle with as I blend the two important observations without shorting either of them.

It was kind of perfect, though to give up bread. This is the season after all, that we are given life-giving bread; the season that celebrates its origins. While we receive it weekly, we are reminded of how it came to be during our Last Supper Mass. “This is my body, which will be given up for you.” It seemed appropriate that in giving up the bread of everyday, I was continuing to take the bread of redemption, of salvation. Every time I gave up a bread item during Lent, I was reminded of the bread I would receive each Sunday.

Every time I resisted a piece of bread or a biscuit, inside I smiled, not at my willpower or how wonderful I was to uphold my promise, but because of what giving up that bread represented. Instead of physical bread, I received eternal bread, and the taste of that lasts much longer and satisfies much more than regular, unconsecrated bread from wheat. I am nourished through the bread of Jesus, and it lingers with me throughout the day, and the days between my next taste.

Christ is Risen. Lent is over now, and I go back to my regular life. I hope that it includes regular masses during the week, and pausing when I eat my bread in memory of why I gave it up this Lent in the first place. It seemed apropos to substitute Christ’s bread for sustenance, and a never ending supply of faith and life everlasting.

Amen.

15/52 – Chosen

Standard

​Lent is over. The Easter fire is lit. In just about seven or so hours, it will be blessed, we will light our candles and illuminate the church. And so begins the Easter Vigil; practically the same way across the world in their own time zones. It begins so late because we wait until dark.

Every year from Ash Wednesday until tonight, I am asked if it brings back memories of my own first Easter Vigil. I never know what to say. Of course, it does, in many ways, but in others it fosters new memories that blend with the old ones. It is also hard to explain that my Easter Vigil is often somehow with me more often than not. Every time, I cross myself at the holy water font. Every time, I receive the Eucharist, I think back to that very first one. Each one feels like the first time, and each subsequent one is a crumb on the path I have chosen.

For many, Christ is chosen for them, through their families and traditions, through their spouses or wanting to give something to our children to connect them to “their people”, but as we get older and understand more and hear more, and even listen more, we make choices along the way, every step of the path we follow. Turn left? Or right? Confirmation? Or not? Weekly communion? Or is that first one enough? Is it all that I need?

I didn’t know what was being offered when I chose Christ. I had only intended to choose a ritual, a place of being that make me feel…something; feel better about my life. In staying, I chose a new path, a dim path until one day, just like that, it was lit, brighter than the sun, all encompassing, my eyes rising to meet the glow. Despite the glow of suns and brightness unimaginable, my eyes stayed. I didn’t hear words or sounds, but my heart heard the words. Not words, but something translated, engraved on my soul, that while giving me many choices really gave me none.

Once it was there, it can not be taken away. My only choice is to accept what I’ve been gifted and continue my direction, my directing, my learning, my new way.

Every day that I have not been on retreat, I have attended the daily mass during Lent. For the past two weeks, I have remained in the church to recite the rosary. Those two commitments have given me a steadiness to carry me through this time in the desert.

Easter begins and Passover is ending, and they both celebrate the release from bondage, the exiting from the desert, the wilderness, our yearly exodus.

(c)2017

Massaversary

Standard

Tuesday was my Massaversary. By the calendar, it was really about a month ago, in March, but the first Mass I ever attended was on Holy Tuesday, which was two days ago.

I remember it clearly because of the recommendation of my friend, Tim. He said I should try to attend the masses during Easter’s Holy Week, that they were really lovely. I went to that first one on Tuesday. Then on Wednesday, I went to the second one.

And then I discovered that that’s it for the daily  masses in Holy Week. Thursday and Friday and Saturday were all simple prayer services; the big services or masses were held in the evening.

I went to the following prayer services, and was shocked on Saturday to have been caught up so emotionally at the lighting of the Easter fire. It was overwhelming, and almost too much, but it was.

Going back to my first Mass on that Holy Tuesday, it ran just like a regular mass. The fabrics were still purple, the flowers were a mix of greenery and red, leftover from Palm Sunday, although at the time I did not know that.

I sat alone behind an older woman with a colorful embroidered jacket. She was also wearing a hat. I would find out later in the season that her name was Shirley.

I was struck by the synchronicity of it all. Everyone doing the same thing, at the same time, sometimes before the priest gave the signal to move. There was a call and response, and everyone knew all the words. Everyone except me.

I was also struck  by the exercise program of it all.

Sit, stand, cross yourself. Bend your head, sit, stand, cross yourself. Kneel, stand, raise your hands, drop your hands, kneel, stand, raise your hands, drop your hands, shake hands with your neighbor, walk to the front, eat, drink, and walk back. Bow and sit. Then stand, bow, and genuflect.

Add a little bit of music and you’ve got a Richard Simmons video.

It was foreign, and I spent most of my time watching the others, trying to emulate what they did, just slightly slower than they.

That was the beginning.

I still go to the daily mass; at least I try to. I have returned for Lent, and I have indeed missed it. I think I’d gotten lazy, but I’m hoping to make it part of my daily prayer time again.

This year, since last week, excepting today, I’ve stayed after the daily mass for the recitation of the rosary. I have some issues with the after rosary prayer, but that is a subject for another day. All in all, I get good feelings from praying to the Holy Mother; something I couldn’t have imagined five years ago.

So, happy massiversary to me!

And Happy Easter to all of you.