Inspire. May.

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Statue of Mary, Journaling, Spring Blooms, Rosary, Mary by Tomie de Paola, Zen Garden. (c)2020

Mary our mother sustains us in moments of darkness, difficulty, and apparent defeat.
– Pope Francis

We’ve been slowly returning/adapting to a new normal. I don’t think we’ll go back to what we knew as normal for a long time, if at all.

I don’t think it’s helpful to be Pollyannas, but it is possible to find joy in our new circumstances.

Knowing that staying home and also wearing a mask when I go out for groceries and other supplies is my way of contributing to the mitigation and the time to search for a cure makes it a bit easier to accept my role in the effort. Each of us has a small part but all of us together can create a larger outcome.

Cooperation.

Unity.

Selflessness.

Compassion.

We all have our own struggles, but I would encourage you to find the silver lining in the cloud; the rainbow after the rain; the cliche in the trope.

Three Places Where I Find Joy

1. Cool breeze

2. Mary  *more below

3. Kindle – FB with family/friends, books, podcasts, writing – encompasses much of my person in one place, not quite a talisman, but a path, a tunnel from one place to the next; from one world to the next.

May is also Mary’s month in the church. There’s Mother’s Day and Mary is all of our Mothers. Marian devotions. May Crowinings. Pope Francis provided two new prayers to add to our rosary prayers for the month of May. 

I will have weekly Mary posts throughout May beginning below with links to the Vatican’s Rosary pages and the Pope’s letter and his two rosary prayers.

I have been praying them when I’ve prayed the rosary this week and it truly makes me feel as though I’m doing something tangible and positive during this pandemic. I may also begin a Mary meditation, but time will tell.

Mental Health Monday – Reflection

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​I had originally wanted to write and post this today in the morning, but when I got out what I thought I wanted to reflect on, it didn’t feel right. It said all the right words, but the tone was off, and the objective was off from what I intended in the thought process. As it turned out, I had the opportunity this morning to attend my parish’s semi-annual Anointing Mass, which administers the sacrament of the sick, and for healing. It’s a really wonderful experience. It’s similar to a regular mass with the inclusion of the anointing with oil. The readings are related to sickness and health, and the homily is always inspirational. The range of people attending is literally the range of people who attend the church. Residents of nursing homes come by bus. Some people are in wheelchairs, some use walkers, some have heart conditions, joint problems, MS, migraines, all sorts of ailments including mental illnesses and health issues.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and I learned that last year at my Diocese’s annual Spring Enrichment program. One of the attending vendors was the Diocese’s Consultation Center. They gave me this bracelet, 

and provided resources. Obviously anything with the Diocese will fall under Catholic doctrine, but the idea that the official church is to welcome and help those of their people struggling with these issues is a big step in the right direction.
During my own parish’s Prayer of the Faithful, they have included mental health ailments along with the other sick mentioned for as long as I’ve personally been attending masses with my priest.

Last week my Diocese held the Spring Enrichment. It was a much smaller event than in previous years, so I was surprised to see several vendor tables. They are mostly publishers related to Catholic School education, books written by the keynote speaker, pastoral care and other educational opportunities, and this year, it was very unexpected to see a table manned by the NYS group of NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. They had pamphlets and resources for self-hairm and suicide prevention and many of the things their organization covers. The significance of having them there, in their own right, promoting their organization, appearing to me without any restrictions as far as Catholic doctrine; no limitations on what they were offering.

I was very happy to see this as historically many religious groups have upheld a stigma against mental illness and the taking of medication to help those illnesses and issues. I am so glad to see more open acceptance of mental health as a medical issue, which it’s always been despite being hidden for so long. It’s so important that we normalize and eliminate the stigma of mental illness and it is long past time.
It was like a light being turned on in the dark.

Mental Health Monday – May 6th

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month, so we’re kicking off Mental Health Monday with a few reminders and links:

Mental health affects EVERYONE. Mental Health is often confused with Mental Illness, and both are afflicted with social stigmas where we don’t acknowledge our issues, we don’t speak about them, and we ignore our friends and family who have them, regardless of the degree.

As a whole, we need to be more open and in that way, we encourage others around us that they can come to us, and they will receive support.
To start out this awareness month, check out my Mental Health Monday tag, an ongoing series of mental health stories and resources. I also have a Crisis Intervention Resource page that offers hotlines and some websites. I have already added the new Trans LifeLine to it.

Other resources to check out include:

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
BetteruBetterUs on Instagram (helping people of color connect with therapists)
Project Ur Ok, on Instagram
The Carter Center: Mental Health
The Trevor Project
School of Awake (for young girls)

Five of My Personal Self-Care Practices

1. Take a Mental Health Day. This is especially helpful when you work full-time. Sometimes with all of the obligations and expectations, a day off is needed. I also allow my kids to do this if needed.

2. Tea. It is no lie that tea cures everything. And if it doesn’t cure it, it certainly helps put things in perspective. The time it takes to brew a cup of tea and drink it is often enough time to allow yourself to take a breathe, and it can be done anywhere – home, work, coffee shop on the corner.

3. Do something mundane. There are times when I get low and can’t focus even on relaxing, so I will put on a rerun of Supernatural and let that be my white noise. I’ve seen all of the episodes so I don’t need to pay strict attention to the plot, and I find comfort in the familiar voices.

4. Music. My go-to’s are the Hamilton soundtrack, Sign No More from Mumford & Sons, England Take My Bones from Frank Turner, and Adele plus the Supernatural soundtrack that I’ve put together.

5. Prayer. I know this isn’t for everyone, but if I can sit down and pray or read a spiritual book it does tend to re-center me so I can continue with my day.

Share 1 or 2 of yours in the comments!

May: Flowers and Birds: Photos

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From my garden. This lilac tree is one of the best things about my house, and probably counts in the top five reasons we bought it. This year’s blooms are so much more than the past several years: they really are extraordinary. A silver lining, or purple if you will, to this last year and more of political and ethical strife.

Mid-morning sunshine through the lilacs and pines. (c)2018


Buds are still formng! (c)2018


Close-up. (c)2018


Close-up. (c)2018

May: Reflection

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​Domestic violence awareness month happens in October. Maybe that’s because it’s getting closer to the holidays, and that’s a prime time for tempers to flare, control to be lost, and violence to erupt. Domestic violence impacts 1 in 3 women. That is a huge number of victims. In addition, there is a double standard when it comes to defending one’s self against domestic violence: women are more likely to go to jail for defending themselves than men are for the initial attack. Men murder their partner, and they go to jail for maybe a few years. Women killing their partners in self-defense after years of abuse will often get sentenced into the decades.

This isn’t about statistics, though.

About now, some of you may be wondering, if domestic violence awareness month is in October, why am I bringing this up in May. A week and a day ago was the seventh anniversary of my friend’s murder by her ex. She was murdered while washing out a tea kettle in the bathroom. One of her roommates was also killed. I am sad and embarrassed to say that I was in the ranks of being a victim-blamer, and I take every May to reevaluate her situation, realize how little I was able to see from my vantage point, and promise to do better when I see things in the future.

I made assumptions based on the little I knew, not realizing that there was an iceberg hidden that I was only seeing a very small, tiny bit of. That tiny bit gave me a false sense of security as well as superiority. Hubris.

It took me a long time to come to grips with my part as something of an enabler by dismissing what I was hearing as nonsense; by ignoring the hairs standing up on the back of my neck. I’ve prayed. I’ve journaled. I, along with other friends, did an anniversary/memorial tea tasting meditation ceremony (not sure how else to describe it.) It brought me closer to my friend and closer to closure for myself.

Leaving an abusive situation is not as simple as walking out of the door. There are emotional factors. There are economic factors. The one thing I learned is that it’s easy to judge someone from the outside. It’s easy to know the “right” call to make when you’re not the one who has to make it.

I wasn’t close enough to the situation to have stopped her murder, but I could have been less judgmental. I could have been more patient with her idiosyncrasies that in hindsight made sense even if they didn’t at the time. I could have been more supportive.

If you are, or someone you know is living in an abusive situation, ask what you can do to help. Offer options and solutions. Don’t tell the person what they “should” be doing or what you would be doing differently if you were in that situation.

The number to call for help is the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233

This is a tree I used to sit across from in my car and think about my friend. I just sat and stared at this nearly daily. It belongs to the church I now attend, so I see it fairly regularly. It both gives me sadness and peace. (c)2018


May: Flowers, Birds, Dances: Recipe

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I found the most delicious curry chicken salad at The Fresh Market. Unfortunately, The Fresh Market isn’t convenient for me to get to as often as I’d like, so I deconstructed the salad, and devised my own recipe. I share it with you here:

Curry Chicken Salad
Ingredients:

1 cup Mayo

1 TB + 1 tsp. Sweet Curry Powder

Scallions, 1-2 stalks

1 small box Golden Raisins, about 1/4cup

2 TB Mango Chutney

2 1/2tsp. Chopped Pecans

Fresh ground pepper (I did five turns with a pepper mill)

Chicken, cooked, cut into cubes (in the picture that goes with this, the chicken is cut much smaller than I would have liked) – about 2 cups is what I used; with cubed it may come out to more if you’re actually measuring it.

Water chestnuts, drained – about 1/8-1/4cup (I just grabbed a handful and diced them)
Mix 1 cup of Mayonnaise and 1 TB + 1 tsp. Sweet Curry Powder and set aside.

Most of the rest is to taste.

Cut up chicken and put into a separate bowl.

Add diced scallions, chopped water chestnuts, a handful of golden raisins, 2 TB of mango chutney, about 1 tsp. of pepper (put in however much you like for your own tastes), 2 1/2tsp. pecans.

Mix with a fork.

Add in the mayo mixture and mix again, then add more until you have the desired consistency. If it’s too wet, add more chicken or solids like the scallions and water chestnuts, etc. If it’s too dry, add more of the mayo mixture (you should have a little left over.)

Mother, May I?: Flowers, Birds, Dances

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​It’s supposed to be warm. It’s May. But it’s still cold. We still have our heat on; the nights are still a bit too cold, but I’m about to cave, and turn off the heat. May’s a little ridiculous to still have it on. I might have to sleep in a sweater, but I need to draw the line somewhere, don’t I?

For those of us with school-age children, May is busy. We’re getting ready for the end of the school year, we’re making plans for the summer that hopefully don’t include eighteen hours of television and tablets per day. 

Locally, it’s tulip season. There’s a festival in the capital. Flowers and music and food. Mother’s Day is the same weekend. So much too do, and not enough time, like most of the year.

It’s dance season. Proms, which my kids are too young for, but middle school still has their dances where the boys don’t think they need ties no matter what the dress code says, and the girls want to wear gowns even though they’re so, so young.

We’re catching up on our snow days and sick days. My son is already talking about Halloween. For gardeners, things are blooming, or at least beginning to. Weeds are being pulled, birds are tweeting, loudly; I don’t like the heat of summer, but really…when will the sun return?

19/52 – Mary

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​As May soon comes to a close, I am reflective on something I heard at the beginning of the month: May is Mary’s month. There are so  many other months that involve Mary: March for the Annunciation; December for the Nativity and the Immaculate Conception; October for the Rosary; August for the Assumption. I’m sure there are others.

Maybe it has something to do with her visit to Fatima or Mother’s Day, during the same weekend this year or nearby in other years.

I never  looked for a connection with Mary, but it was still somehow there. I don’t pray all of the devotions; in fact, I don’t think I know them all. After three years, it’s still all new to me. Every day is a learning experience. I am drawn to Mary as mother and model; I pray the rosary, and as soon as I saw it, I became attached to Her as Untier of Knots. I think it’s the idea that problems can be solved if you just take the time to work them out. Untie the knots. Of course, there is the knot connection to Celtic spirituality that I lean towards.

May 13th was the centennial of Mary’s first appearance at Fatima in Portugal. October will commemorate the last appearance. It’s not my lifetime, but it’s still hard to believe that anything Mary related happened in the twentieth century. I think of Biblical and Mary and Jesus as being two thousand years old, not during my grandfathers’ lifetimes.

i think what I find so fascinating is the universality and timelessness of Mary’s intercession and influence. She is the epitome of faithfulness and free will. We all have our free will to make choices, to struggle through our beliefs, to form our psyche and our values. Looking towards Mary, her life wasn’t terribly easy. She was a mother like I am, making day to day decisions on things that affect her family and its future. How much she must have wondered about her son, and his well being when he began his public ministry. Was he eating right? Was he warm at night? Was he staying one step ahead of harm?

She didn’t have any special revelation or insight into Jesus’ future; only that he had a path to follow and whatever that was, wherever that ended, she was his mother and his support.

Maybe that’s what I like. 

Being single-minded and open-minded when it comes to our  kids. Being the best at what we do, whatever that is. And still, being Mom, like at Cana as well as at the foot of the Cross.

Motherhood is a continuum, a spectrum of every emotion, every decision, every moment that involves our kids, even the adult ones.

We watch, we wait, we love.

So, maybe May is Mary’s month, the same month we celebrate our mothers and our kids celebrate us. Mother’s Day is every day that comes with a hug or a giggle or a tearful exchange. It’s all there, and it’s all always been there.

Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Blessed is all of our Jesus’, our own sons and daughters, within our hearts, and they in ours, forever.