Advent Begins

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Today the first day of Advent; my first Advent after being baptised.

I am planning on offering some reflections as I approach these next twenty-four days.

As thus is the busiest travel day of the year, we are still not home from our Thanksgiving holiday, so I thought I would share this first rejection/prayer from St. Dimitri of Rostov.

This is the prayer that appears in the Advent booklet given out by my church.
The second picture is the copyright information.

The Republicans win the Senate

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The headline I woke up to was ‘seize’ the Senate, but really it was simply apathy that won the day. And before someone says it, two more Senators does not a mandate make.

Where would we be if every eligible voter votes and voted their conscience? I think Congress would have a completely different make-up.

For the most part, the Republicans I know personally all have good hearts, but the money disparity in the campaigns (thanks to Citizens United) can no longer be ignored. When “corporations are people, my friend” and women aren’t, there is a serious misconception (no pun intended) in what constitutes equality and fairness.

Does anyone who voted Republican truly think they’ve made a difference? Do they think that Republicans will turn this dwindling economy around? They won’t. They’ve had six years and have focused on social politics that get them money and votes, but not jobs when even registered Republicans have answered the polls negatively; have stated that the focus on marriage equality and reproductive rights/conception is their platform even when their constituents don’t want that.

They have had the power in the House to take care of the economy and help Americans but instead, they’ve provided gridlock worse than an L.A. freeway or the NJ Turnpike on Thanksgiving weekend and if humanly possible it will only get worse. They will concentrate on making their fortune while continuing to do nothing.

They’ve contributed to hate talk, fear-mongering, to fact-ignoring and in its place they’ve offered “if I say it, it must be true, no matter how ridiculous.”

We’ve become a nation of paradoxes:

a land of immigrants who are anti-immigration.

a land of GI Bill recipients and subsidized housing that wishes its disabled veterans would go away, preferably quietly.

a nation that promotes the porn industry in private and then blames the subjugated for how they are treated.

a nation of individuals unless your individuality is that of transgender youth wanting to use the bathroom without harassment.

a nation of equality unless you’re a woman exercising your reproductive rights or a black teenage boy walking down a street.

It’s hypocrisy at its worst, and it will only get worse.

I propose a solution to this lame duck Congress. Instead of wasting two years getting nothing done and paying for it, waiting for the next election and watching the blame game dance of pass the House & Senate, vetoed by the President, we banish them ALL and hold the election again.

We have seven weeks.

Everyone back to your corners, everyone given the same exact amount of campaign funds, no interest groups, no DNC, no RNC, and EVERY AMERICAN ELIGIBLE VOTES.

Let’s see where this country stands when push comes to shove because this – what we have now – is worse than 1775 and we know what happened then.

Instead of GOTV, how about GOYA!

Vote.

Serve jury duty.

Help your neighbor.

It’s not someone else’s problem; it’s everyone’s problem.

Where is the respect for a differing opinion? Buried under piles of interest group money.

It’s time to fix this system before it’s too late.

Quotation

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Since today I’ve decided to be Sam Winchester and work in a library since a motel room wasn’t available, I thought I would share his words from season 4, episode 8, Wishful Thinking.

It is also one of the reminders that I have for myself this week that helps me accept my changes and who I might become.

We can’t go back to our old lives. We’re not the same people.

-Sam Winchester

Weekend Update – Sunday

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On Sunday, I woke up not knowing what I would do for the day. My family would be home again later in the afternoon or early evening, but I still had most of the day to myself.

As I wrote in my journal, what better place to start the journey this week but at the train station.

In the last five years, I’ve been luckily been able to travel in three of those years: Wales in 2009, Denver in 2011, and Williamsburg, Virginia in 2013. By far, the trek with the least amount of travel stress was in 2013 when I took Amtrak. I would love to do that again. I loved the traveling by train.

I spent about two hours there, amid the noise of hellos and goodbyes, the Red Caps rushing about helping passengers, people asking for the bathrooms, a man working on his laptop, even a Tardis hat. I had a bag for my books and things, so I didn’t look out of place.

I took out my Kindle and read the first part of James Martin’s Together on Retreat. His first prayer was the calling of the first disciples. Jesus’ very simple, but powerful “Follow me” said out loud what I felt when he called me two years ago. I think that sometime this week, I might be ready to write about that in more detail.

After the train station, I followed the signs to a place where you could look across the river to the Albany skyline. I was surprised at how close I was to the water. To be honest, this looked like the place in the movies where you find the dead body or where the thugs take you to shoot you in the head and let you fall into the water, never to be seen again.

Despite this, there was a playground nearby with laughing children, painted murals on the highway support pylons, which after Doctor Who’s most recent episode, Flatlines, made me very, very, very nervous. I took pictures of the boats, of the water, of the bridge above me and the tall buildings across the way.

It wasn’t the Sea of Galilee that Fr. Martin was writing about, but it was still a beautiful place to meditate on a few things.

I haven’t sorted out what I’m doing with the rest of my week. I had only formally planned Monday and Saturday.

Monday, at my church was their annual Anointment Mass, and with my current health issues, I was really looking forward to going to this healing mass. It was beautiful, and very moving. There was music, which I loved singing with; most of the songs I’d had a little knowledge of, and the Fathers came to where we were sitting to anoint us and give us the Eucharist. It was very welcoming and intimate, and I got a lot out of it. They also served a lunch, and I sat with people I’d just met. It was lovely.

Out of the blue I’ve decided to drive out to the St. Kateri Tekakwitha shrine tomorrow. We’ll see what I find there.

Hopefully, all will be well, as was quoted from Julian of Norwich during the homily.

Weekend Update – Saturday (Plus Quotations!)

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As part of my weekend update (thanks Seth Meyers), I’d like to share three quotes that I find encouraging for this week.

I always defined myself in terms of what I wasn’t. … Always what I wasn’t, never what I was. And when you do that, you miss the moments. And the moments are all we’ve got. … And I can define myself by what I am instead of what I’m not.

-Dr. Stephen Franklin, Babylon 5, season 3

Thought for the week: As you become more clear about who you really are, you’ll be better able to decide what is best for you – the first time around.

– Oprah Winfrey

Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself.

-Harvey Fierstein

 

My family left this weekend to visit Grandma, and I didn’t know what I was going to do. I decided to start my week early. Saturday was a misty rain, and the orange leaves were practically glowing even against the grey sky. It was very reminiscent of Wales. A lot of things remind me of Wales, and then I get all misty.

I decided to pick a direction and take some photographs. I also decided to let someone else decide. After scrolling through my contacts, I stopped suddenly at Misha Collins’ contact info. (Yes, I have his number; he gave it out and sometimes he likes to surprise his fans. I haven’t been so lucky yet.) I sent him a text asking which direction I should take. I hadn’t even finished typing ‘north’ in the question, North or West, when I immediately knew his answer would be WEST, of course.

For those of you who are not fans of Supernatural, and do not know this, West is Misha’s son’s name.

So west it was.

It was raining, and every time I saw something interesting, I’d stop and take a picture of it. There was the train when I was stopped talking to my family.

There was the Episcopal Church with signature red door where the state trooper pulled up next to me to see if I was alright, double parked with hazards on in what was now pouring rain.

There was the old factory across the river and St. Mary’s Church with its shrine to the Blessed Mother. I sat there for a few minutes, glad it wasn’t Sunday and glad I was alone.

In trying to find my bearings to head back home to Doctor Who and Chinese take-out, I happened to cross over a bridge that went over what must have been the Mohawk River. I parked at the library, and listened to the rushing water, taking pictures, even filming a short video.

It was the first soothing thing I’d experienced since my family left. I do find it strange that waterfall-type water is calming to me considering I have a phobia of water, especially large bodies like lakes and oceans.

By now, the sun had come out, but it was time to starting going back home.

Wales was gone also, but my ‘retreat, recharge’ week had just begun.

 

 

October Recharge, 2014

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When my writer’s conference up and left to parts unaffordable, I tried to set up my own writer’s retreats; a solid week to concentrate on me as the writer with minimal upheaval to my family and my pocketbook. I would be home in the morning to send the kids to school, and then after Mass, I’d spend the day out, writing, visiting places I didn’t typically get to visit, taking photographs and making plans.

And, of course, writing.

It was good for my depression, and good for my soul, and fortunately, it didn’t upset the household balance too much.

Oftentimes, it reminded me of my solo trip to Wales that was a godsend and a challenge and spiritual and so many other things that five years later, I still write about the wonder of it all; about the aloneness but the comfort in that aloneness; that sense I had of self, and the want to do it all again.

Yes, even the driving on the wrong side of the road, which is less a string of expletives and more a warm musing of my adventures.

The Spring Enrichment offered by our Diocese fed my soul in a similar way, although I’m not sure I would call that a retreat per se. Some parts of it were certainly that positive aloneness, time to meditate, but other portions were too exhilarating; too mind racing to be mistaken for a private retreat. It was less solitary, but it also led me out of my comfort zone in several other ways:  asking questions, introducing myself to speakers and strangers alike, getting involved in conversations, offering my opinions. I was comfortable enough to be me for a little while.

This past summer, I had the opportunity to attend a spiritual retreat. I hadn’t ever gone on one before; everything there was new to me. This was a weekend of prayer and artistry, no artistic talent needed. A retreat director, artist Brother Mickey McGrath guided us through his five sessions giving our creativity an outlet through prayer and bringing us closer to G-d, whether or not we were drawing religious symbols or objects from nature, like flowers and leaves. Except for our private rooms, we shared classes, prayer and group meals.

For this retreat, I’d need drawing paper and colored pencils and as I mentioned I’d have my own room. It was very exciting, and it was a little intimidating, and very much out of my comfort zone, but for the most part, I was looking forward to it.

All of it.

The packing, the unpacking, the communal bathroom down the hall, meeting strangers, all here for our own reasons seeking our own spiritual fortunes; the quiet, the nature, the prayer, the wonder of something new and old at the same time, all taking place in G-d’s presence.

Typically, I’m not much for being alone, but this was different.  For starters, I loved my room. A bed, a chair, a desk. It sounds spartan, but it was homey. There was a ceiling fan and a big window next to the bed. I almost didn’t want to leave the room. The wifi didn’t reach the room and cell service was spotty, but that was a good thing. It gave me the quiet space to meditate, to think, to write.

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It was two and a half days of good food, good company, and good meditating time. I was surprised by my drawings. I enjoyed doing the mandalas. I also think I did pretty well; my drawings came out better than I expected since I’m not much of an artist. I drew my favorite flower – the daffodil. I drew the triquetra that’s been so important to me lately.

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Once I got home, I started drawing small circular badges to use on my website. It made me feel like I’ve accomplished something artistically. I wasn’t overly critical of myself as I usually had a tendency to be.

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I prayed. We had prayer services every day, and Mass on Saturday night plus I sat in the courtyard with my journal and prayed the rosary. It was the first time I felt connected to the rosary in a meaningful way, and it started me praying with it a little more regularly once the retreat was over.

This is my introduction to this week’s retreat. I’m doing something a little bit unlike what I’ve done before on my other ‘retreats’.

I’ve done the writing retreat and now I’ve done the spiritual retreat. Last year, I was fortunate enough to travel to Williamsburg, a gift from my best friend, which was a kind of retreat in itself.

However, beginning tomorrow (maybe even parts of today), I’m doing both, maybe more. If I can plan it out and prepare my family, I should be able to recharge my batteries on so many levels before the holidays surprise us like they do every year.

For regular readers here, I have had the new weekly format in place for two weeks now, and it seems that people like it. I do. I’m very comfortable with it, and since my family is always taking my computer, I’ve even made sure that I can post the first couple of days each week from my Kindle, my very favorite piece of technology that I own.

This week it’s hard to say if my posts will be feast or famine.

I do have plans, reflections I want to write, places I want to pray, thoughts and scripture that I want to meditate on, continuing my creative recovery through The Artist’s Way book, ending next Saturday with a full day creative retreat at a nearby Dominican Retreat Center.

I’m also using Fr. James Martin’s book, Together on Retreat as the basis for the spiritual guide for me. Having just finished his recent book, Jesus: A Pilgrimage, I love his tone, his style of writing and his insights which more often than not match my own. Where we diverge, he offers questions for my own meditations. I’m looking forward to sharing my week with you.

There are so many things flying around in my head that I’m hoping to and trying to set them up in their own homes, rooms if you will, and organize them into manageable chunks.

As anxious as I am for this weekend and succeeding at my retreat, I’m also very excited.

My primary theme is to center myself spiritually through prayer and writing. Writing is my lifeblood. It is the second point of my triquetra.

My secondary theme is taking care of myself.

Focusing on me, pulling my creativity along, seeking past my comfort zone, and finding me because I’m still lost, but also combining all the positives as coping and managing tools, mechanisms for living with my depression and anxiety and letting me be me, and then be able to introduce myself to the people around me.

August Month in Review

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Well, overall it looks like August sucked. Nothing like proof that your brain is in a fog. Some good things – we did our summer taste tasting (hate anchovies), went to Chuck E. Cheese to round out the summer vacation, took the family to the movies (Labor Day weekend).

Midway through the month I was able to attend a spiritual retreat with about fifteen other folks, directed by Brother Mickey McGrath. I will write more about this later on, so for now I will just say that I don’t draw, and I did draw, and I continue to draw. I don’t kid myself: I’m not an artist, but it’s not terrible, and I don’t mind sharing it. It’s an outlet for quiet contemplation that I had never considered before. I really only went for the retreat part and because I’d heard so many things about Bro. Mickey. I found so much more and am planning on attending his next retreat in February (money and scholarship pending).

My daughter and I had a Fangirls Night Out sponsored by our comic book store. There were raffles (we won Willow from Buffy!), cupcakes, a raffle and of course other like-minded fangirls. NO BOYS ALLOWED! Even the store’s owner was kicked out! It was great fun and she and I had a great time together!

My husband and I also celebrated our twentieth anniversary. With money being a problem we really couldn’t celebrate in a big way, but we decided (I thought of it – I can’t believe it, I never come up with anything good!) to go to dinner (sans kids) and a movie, like our first date. We saw Guardians of the Galaxy. I highly recommend it! Fantastic movie! And dinner was amazing. A local, rustic place with a pretty fireplace. The site has had a tavern on it since the 1700s. A nice night.

Thinking back, it’s kind of ironic that we went to Williamsburg, VA on our honeymoon when many of my fandom friends live down there now including my bf, who I obviously didn’t know back then. I think that half of them may have still been in diapers when I was there (and they were actually elsewhere). I’ve written before about Williamsburg being one of my special places from childhood. I’ve always been a history buff, and much of that came from my parents and the vacations they took us on as children, only one of them being Virginia.

I distinctly remember Williamsburg (among others) and having as much fun as we were quietly learning. Everywhere my parents took us, and later on vacations with my husband, I was always looking for and visiting the one room schoolhouses. Something about that entranced me; probably it’s Little House on the Prairie feeling.

It was neat that my husband and I chose to go there for our honeymoon: Colonial Williamsburg, Busch Gardens, shopping (one of my favorite things to do back then; now too, but we had more money back then). We rented a car, a Cougar that went 90 miles an hour if you breathed on the accelerator. We traveled the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel, something that still makes me queasy and that I’ve sworn never to do ever, ever again. (Much like driving in Wales.) I still shudder to think at the memory of being in the tunnel for so long, under the water. Recently, I’ve been lucky (with the generosity of Andy, Jenn and my husband) to have been able to get back there to see my friends for fandom fun. I’ve talked about how I used to hate being alone, but I really enjoyed those two trips that had me traveling alone-ish, and this trip down memory lane is reminding me that I wanted to write about those travels. I’ll put it on the list.

So while the written word eluded me, I’ve been drawing and this was probably the best family summer we’ve had in a long time. I welcomed back to school, but I wasn’t counting the days (hours) like I was last year.

Don’t forget that October 18 is E4K and I will be taking pledges.

I also have a couple of things that should be completed today and tomorrow, so wish me luck for more words in September.

Word Count: 6771 (wow, that sucks)

365s: 7/31 (wow, that sucks)

Movies: Defiance seasons 1 and 2
The Birdcage
Robin Williams: Weapons of Self-Destruction
The Italian Job
Babylon 5 – season 5
Amazing Spiderman 2 – reboot
Crusade – partial season
Guardians of the Galaxy

Books: A King’s Ransom – Sharon Kay Penman
Paper Towns – John Green

Posted/Published Topics: depression, suicide, Gishwhes, medical, health, cancer, religion, spirituality, social issues, summer

WIPs topics: Retreat wrap up, Gishwhes wrap up, fan vs. fandom, memoir homework, vignettes for stuff