Mental Health Monday

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I was sick all weekend. I can always tell when I’m slightly better because my family, who have been extremely helpful and tolerant of me suddenly have earphones in, my bedroom door remains closed, and I am once again on my own; abandoned. And clearly melodramatic.

That’s not entirely true; I mean I’m definitely being melodramatic, but I also have a good family even if they can be a bit argumentative, but aren’t all families that way?

And I whine when I’m sick. I can’t help it. Fever, chills, whine. I’m a four year old.

I told them today that a little better is not not-sick. I’m still sick, and still need some help. They were happy to go to school and work.

Despite that, I was very busy today! And I really wanted to put a couple of things off, but I couldn’t because this is the only day I’m home all week. When did everything get so busy?!

What did I do today, you ask:

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National Pretzel Day

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Whether hot or cold, soft or hard, tiny twists or sticks, I think my favorite snack is the pretzel. With a dill vegetable dip, mustard (yellow or deli), beer cheese, or melted cheddar, it doesn’t matter – the pretzel is the main attraction.

My go-to brand is Rold Gold, but there is nothing like a soft New York pretzel with mustard. In fact, when we needed to use something quintessentially identifiable for our state for our team photo for GISH, I chose a soft pretzel with mustard while sitting at the Erie Canal.

I want one today!

(c)2022
(c)2022

Inspire. April.

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To many people holidays are not voyages of discovery, but a ritual of reassurance.”

Phillip Andrew Adams

Palms from Palm Sunday.
(c)2022

This week marks my massaversary. Two years before I received my sacraments, I began attending church services. It was during Holy Week that this started and it marked a profound change in my life. Attending mass, sitting alone in a pew reading Scripture didn’t make all my problems go away; they didn’t suddenly create a magical turnaround in my mental health issues, my personal issues, my crisis, but it did create light in the darkness, both metaphorically and literally in a bright light vision. I met new people who influenced me in all the positive ways you want friends to influence you. I discovered a group of people who were glad to know me, and provided material help despite not knowing me from Adam. I saw what a calling was through their actions, and I saw what it means to walk with Christ.

I was welcomed with great joy, and I continue to be.

My massaversary is more than simply a date on a calendar or a memory of long ago. It is present, it is here, it is now, and I am welcomed with great joy whenever I enter the church and cross my self with the holy water from the font in the gathering space.

Even in an empty building, I am welcomed because Christ is always present.

I will try to put words on my feelings in small ways as the week continues on, and as the Lenten Journey ends and Easter begins.

Lenten Journey – Week 5

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As we celebrate Holy Week, we are still looking back on Week 5 of Lent. Last week was another busy week. My labyrinth (photos below cut) had to be continued on the back of my card. I wrote about our church’s soup ministry during Lent and that had some profound close moments and memories. Even though I missed rosary last week, I had dinner with my family and sometimes that has precedence. I’ve been working on Felicia Day’s book, Embrace Your Weird, and it’s really forcing me to look inward which is perfectly in tune with the Lenten desert.

Also, last week’s Last Supper retreat was so much more than a one day experience. It really brought so much out of what the retreat house means to me. It was something of a spiritual experience in just being there, amid the familiar faces and places. It was wonderful.

Now I prepare myself for the Triduum – the last days of Christ and the beginning of eternal life. We need to walk through the fire so to speak, carry our crosses and come out on Easter Sunday reborn. I’m looking forward to it.

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Friday Food. The Last Soup Delivery.

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Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,

and delight yourselves in rich food.

Isaiah 55:2b (NRSV)

I had a quick Friday Food, and then I went on retreat yesterday. Let me explain about the retreat first and give you some interesting background as we enter into the last days before Holy Week (on the Christian calendar). It was a look at The Last Supper and the day began with Mass where we ate of the Eucharistic bread. Then a look at The Last Supper in each of the four Gospels, how they were similar and not.

We ended with a beautiful lunch of open-faced turkey sandwiches. I only mention this because of the base of bread that held the rest. The songs chosen for the mass were perfect, the homily was perfect, and everything reflected the entire day’s subject. We were fortified in so many ways: intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, and nutritionally. We were a week ahead of Jesus as we shared in the meal with our friends, some of whom we hadn’t seen in the past two pandemic years save for Zoom. In fact, one of the women I encountered I didn’t recognize with her mask on since I’d almost only seen her on the computer!

One of the other huge joys of yesterday was the amount of familiar faces that I did see. Every time I turned in a new direction, I was met with a wave from someone new, and someone I knew, and who I’d known for years, but hadn’t seen in several, again due to the pandemic.

There was also a hug, unexpected but welcome and it lifted me. Such joy shared. When it ended we prolonged it with another deep embrace, and coming so soon after mass, it just set my day in the right direction.
I was open to possibility, to upcoming knowledge and history, and continuing my faith journey, and doing it especially among friends.

All of this occurred one day after my weekly sustenance from our parish soup delivery. Every week during Lent (during the pandemic since before covid we shared a soup meal in the parish hall), my parish has prepared soup and bread and delivered them to parishioners. My son, who recently began to work, looked forward to Wednesday when he came home to a delicious bowl of soup for snack prior to dinner. This week was the last week, and it is what I call a legacy soup.

The woman who created the recipe was a friend of mine and she died last year. At the very beginning of the pandemic, she left a voice mail for me, expressing that Father Jerry asked her to call and to check on our family and see if we needed anything. It was so typical of this woman and my priest, and the entire parish that I belong to. (Our school district did the same thing regarding school lunches and internet access. We are well and truly blessed.)

The soup is similar to chicken noodle but no noodles. It’s been called Mary Lou’s Famous Chicken Pot Pie Soup and it was brought with homemade pie crust crackers. It is the most unexpected taste in a cracker, and eaten with the pot pie soup it is a perfect blend of joy and faith in the mouth. I love that this is the last soup of the season, and as I ate it, I thought of Mary Lou and her always positive greetings and cheer. She was one of the first people I saw in church in that long ago March of 2020, both of us wearing homemade masks (I in my folded bandana) and nodding at each other. It was one of the things that kept me going and kept my faith from deserting me. In fact, it was also my parish that kept my faith from deserting me.

Food is foundational. Before the pandemic, my church had a community Holy Thursday dinner before the Mass. At the Thanksgiving mass, we are given a small loaf of bread to bring our church into our family meal. During the pandemic, we held online cooking classes from a parishioner who is a professional chef. Food is central to our being, and as I’ve found, to the church family.

Food nourishes, and replenishes, and gives us a banquet of sharing with our families, and as the presenter expressed it yesterday, a table of fellowship, spreading our personal news and sharing the Good News.

What also connected it for me, was two of the links she provided as resources that I am excited to share with you:
1. Food and Drink in Luke’s Gospel (website)
2. Eating Your Way Through Luke’s Gospel (book)

As this Holy Week begins, I hope you’ll find friends and family around your table, breaking bread together and remembering the first Eucharist demonstrated by Jesus at The Last Supper.

Lenten Labyrinth – Week 4

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Publishing these in the middle of the next week gives me time to reflect on the week that’s passed, reevaluate my journey and see what changes need to be made in my spiritual life. It’s a when, not an if. There are usually a few. I think I’ve put writing in the center of the labyrinth since even my spirituality involves an excess of writing, but I feel that there must be more that I’m looking for when I get to the center. I may take a walk later this week (or more probably next) at one of our local labyrinths.

I’m also a little stuck on the exercises in Felicia Day’s book Embrace Your Weird. She suggests filming yourself. (Not going to happen.) But I still need to step back and watch myself with new eyes and then answer her questions. This guide is for fostering creativity, but I find that the parts of my life are so interconnected that I can’t help but reflect on my faith and spirit. I’ll pick it back up this afternoon when I get home from my errands. I think I’ll do my daily readings then as well.

I still haven’t been able to answer what it is I’m being called to, although I feel the tugging.

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Week 3 – Lenten Labyrinth Journey

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If you look back at last week’s labyrinth and compare it to this week’s, you’ll see what I saw: this week’s is a lot less active than last week’s.

And that’s okay.

Every week, every day is different, and while sometimes we are overwhelmed with activity, other times we are Baby Bear levels of just right (thanks Felicia Day for that description), and often we won’t know how we feel about each until the week is over. That was one reason that I chose to share the previous week’s labyrinth, after the week was over, and I had a couple of days to reflect and process how things went. This is titled Week 3, but I am living in the middle of Week 4.

This has given me a chance to look back and reassess. Am I reading enough? What am I praying for and should I pray more? Should I add people to my prayer list? I began grouping on Monday and this will continue indefinitely twice a month. I was confronted with taking action, and realized that I really do need a little intentional time; time to intentionally spend with G-d, in prayer, in meditation, contemplation, and discernment. That sounds like a lot of work! It can be, but it can also be a time to rest in the spirit, and see things from different angles and perspectives. Rest in the Word and in words.

How is your third and half-fourth weeks of Lent progressing? Are you feeling your way through the desert?

I’ve added another downloadable sheet to the home page. This is the coloring sheet I designed for Gish‘s Book Bash in reference to Florida’s discriminatory law not allowing schools – children and faculty – to say gay. I don’t understand a society that is afraid of a little word. Anyway, it IS okay to say gay, and more importantly, it IS OKAY to BE GAY (or any of the other LGBTQIA orientations and genders).


Lenten Labyrinth. Week 3.
(c)2022

Reflection on Weekend’s Book Bash

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This past weekend was spent in scavenger hunting fun! Since the pandemic, they’ve (GISH) been doing more and more mini-hunts to give people on lockdown something to do and raise money for charity. This most recent hunt was called a Book Bash and most of the items centered around reading and writing. My go-to’s if you will. With my writing retreat cancelled I found myself with nothing* to do so I signed up at the last minute.

[*Nothing to do means: cleaning house, taking a shower, going to mass, planning and cooking dinner, writing, preparing and filing my taxes, typing up interfaith meeting notes, writing and sending Cursillo reports, and half a dozen other things that are still on my to-do list, but hey who doens’t have 48 hours to spend aimlessly. I also signed up for a free vision journal workshop at a food co-op.]

Aimlessly doesn’t accurately describe the weekend, but I think you get the drift of the lack of impulse control I sometimes have.

Before I share the few items I did, I want to share the link to the charity that we supported with our registration fees: World Central Kitchen for their current humanitarian work in Ukraine. Their leader is Chef Jose Andres who leads with his heart and encourages giving especially where getting hungry people their necessary nourishment. If you have the mean, please give generously. They are on the ground in the world’s poorest and dangerous places, bringing hope with their meals.

World Central Kitchen

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Through the Labyrinth: Lent, Week 2

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Last week was kind of extraordinary. I am making great effort to attend Mass on Sundays on Facebook regularly, religiously if you will. There is a routine of the mass structure at our parish, and I’m sure it parallels many parishes: Music, Announcements, Prayer for the Deceased, Stand, Processional, Mass begins.

When there is a change to this, I can tell simply by who is milling about near the altar during the first musical portion. On this second Sunday of Lent, I saw our parish trustees. I felt tense. I felt anxiety creeping in and when they approached the ambo and stated that they’d be reading a letter from the Bishop, it did not help my tension and anxiety.

As I’ve mentioned previously (probably too many for some), my parish priest died suddenly in October and we’ve been waiting to hear about a new priestly appointment. This was that announcement. I held my breath, not that I have any control over the choice or know many of the priests very well, but still, I waited with literal bated breath.

It turns out that I do know this priest who will soon become my new priest. I actually cried. I was happy (and am) that he will be joining our parish. I’m feeling excited as I write this, nervous but not apprehensive and I think the announcement was the catalyst that set my week on the right path, although it was a very busy week planned (as is this one).

You will see from the labyrinth photos that I ran out of room and needed TWO more extensions. Unbelievable. The one negative was the my writing retreat scheduled for next week was cancelled, but again, I can muddle through and self-direct my own writing retreat while simultaneously doing a writing/reading scavenger hunt.

I had several close moments where I felt G-d’s presence palpably, I listened and learned, I wrote and I drew and I kept up with my readings. The week was overflowing with grace and spirit.

Looking back on last week, I am also looking forward to this busy week. Celebrated my son’s twenty-fifth birthday last night and today I am Zooming all day.

I feel good.

Lenten Labyrinth, Week 2.
Part 1.
(c)2022
Lenten Labyrinth, Week 2.
Part 2. (Plus book list)
(c)2022

Monday Morning Gratitude

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There’s a lot to be said about gratitude. I had a really busy and good week and this one is looking to be equally busy; let’s hope it’s equally good. I’ve found myself coming out of a struggle and I am grateful for that. It wasn’t an overbearing or debilitating one, but it was like a constant dull headache: it was always there, and I was always aware of it, and I couldn’t stop it. The dull ache is still there, but it doesn’t seem to be constant and that is a blessing; one that I have much gratitude for.

March is always a busy month for retreats and workshops. The buds and birds are coming out of their shells and coming alive, and so it seems are the classes to break everyone out of their doldrums. There were two online and one in person, and they were splendid. I am very lucky with the quality of teachers and presenters in my life. I needed to add more circuits to fit everything onto my Lenten labyrinth!

Monday begins the week with my oldest son’s birthday. He is twenty-five! Two. Five. How?! When?! We’ll be seeing him and taking him out for dinner and then going back to his house for cake (store bought – I’m a good cook, but baking is not really my forte). I already have it in the fridge and I’ll spend this morning finding a gift for him. He is so hard to buy for. That is a complaint that I can deal with.

We are so lucky to have him (and his siblings)! They all hold a special place, but the first one is just the first one – the one that began it all – parenthood, mistakes, lessons learned; incredible, overwhelming, abiding, never-ending, unconditional love.

My week ends with the writing retreat that wasn’t. It was cancelled, but to bring about the positivity it’s given me the chance to sign up for a mini-scavenger hunt with Gish revolving around books – a Book Bash if you will, and that should be entertaining and loads of fun with friends.

And right in the middle of the week, I’m starting with a group after a two year forced absence and I am looking forward to reflect with them on my Cursillo tripod and recall and discern close moments and there were a few where they’re hadn’t been in so long.

Gratitude awareness is something that can change a mood from not great to better, lightening the darkness if only we can sit with it and see it. Light the proverbial candle. Sit by the open window. Name one thing that you are grateful for; one thing that gives you contentment, and then sit with that for a few minutes before continuing your day.