The End of An Era

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​A few weeks ago, more like a couple of months, mid-May, I watched the season fourteen finale of The CW television series, Supernatural. It feels both very close and very far away at the same time. The plot twist, the cliffhanger, the new apocalypse, and we’re expected, as with all season finales, to wait three to four months (which always seem like an eternity) for resolution. In this case though, when Supernatural returns in one more year, the season finale will also be the series finale. It will end with (my guesstimate) three hundred twenty-seven episodes and fifteen seasons. I’ve seen them all except one: Bugs. My son tried to trick me into watching that one; he failed. I don’t have huge bug issues, but I’m not taking any chances. 

Now that they’ve announced officially the end of the series, re-announced at their final Hall H panel at SDCC, and officially begun scouting locations and filming for season 15, I thought I would write down a few thoughts about this wonderful part of my life. Like many things in hindsight, it came to me later than a lot of the show’s fans; about halfway through the run, although those of us starting in the middle wouldn’t know that of course. For several years, whatever the current season was we thought it might be the last until that final renewal-non-renewal video announcement that came directly from the actors, Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki, and Misha Collins.

The series began in 2005, and I had heard about it around the time when it premiered. I don’t know why I made the choice not to watch it, and it was definitely a choice. I knew one of the lead actors from my soap opera, and that may have played into it, but I don’t remember, although I do think it was toted as a horror-genre series, and I do not like horror. That may be hard to believe considering what shows I watch now.

I began watching at the end of 2012, early 2013. It was the middle of season 8, and I binged like I’ve never binged before in order to catch up before the show returned from winter hiatus. I spent two weeks on Netflix, living and breathing Supernatural. I would not recommend this method. I was actually seeing things. There are definitely healthier ways to marathon a series.

There are also many emotional ties that I have to Supernatural and starting it at this time. It wasn’t a conscious decision to become a regular viewer. My friends were talking about the episodes, and I wanted to be involved in those conversations; I wanted to understand the references that my group was making. I didn’t really want to start a new series, but I also didn’t want to feel left out.

I was newly embroiled in a deep depression, just diagnosed and still adjusting medication, beginning talk therapy, beginning a writing class, beginning my religious conversion journey despite not being wholly aware of that. So many beginnings all at once. After seeing all of the episodes on Netflix, I rewatched them on TNT. I could come in at any episode, and whether or not I remembered it, I could still enjoy where they were, and I could watch them in or out of order. It became the soundtrack of my life, both on screen and on my MP3 player. It still is. When I’m having a low day, I’ll put on a random episode on Netflix and let it be my background music. Eventually, Supernatural would become one of my most steadfast coping components in my daily survival toolbox. 

My introduction to the series and the first episode I watched was The French Mistake [6.15]. It was a fourth wall breaking, meta-tastic, and gentle fan teasing (including the title which I’ve only just learned the meaning of!) all at once. They brought out all the actor stereotypes including huge houses, huge egos, behind the scenes backbiting, nods to tabloids and more. They killed one of the actors! The actor! They used one of the leads’ actual wedding photo. They played a clip from the other lead’s soap opera acting. They made fun of their unusual names. And in all of that it still kept the continuity of the storyline while having fun and giving the fans a gift in the process, and for me it cemented it as one of my favorite episodes even if I never watched another, but after a few days, I did. I don’t recall that second episode, but another one followed, and I stopped resisting, becoming like Alice falling down the rabbit hole.

It opened up a whole new world.

I was in love.

Not with any one actor or plot point or trope or merch, but with all of it; the whole damn thing. It  made me smile.

Despite my dislike of horror and bump-in-the-night, suspend-your-disbelief but it could maybe actually happen scary shows, I was pulled in. I mean I didn’t even watch The Twilight Zone; that was too disturbing for me. But the opening of this: Mom dies, Dad’s missing, then Jess, and I was off to the races. Add in the puns, the geek culture service, the pop culture references, it was as if I was part of the writer’s room.

Even the bad episodes were loved by me. Each episode has something for everyone. I loved the brothers’ relationship. Their parental surrogate Bobby. The lore. The puns and pop culture shout-outs I’ve mentioned. The apocalyptic. The moral dilemmas. The character development for all the characters. The Linda Blair cameo, the catch phrases, the music. I began to recognize some of the writing styles – Adam Glass, Robbie Thompson, Bobo (Robert) Behrens to name three. 

It was (is) everything.

I saw myself in so many characters – Dean’s parenting, the ever present mother to Sam (and every other character from Krissy to Charlie). Sam’s search for knowledge and love of history and research. Castiel’s naivete and need to make things right. Charlie’s geekiness. Crowley’s and Gabriel’s snark. Death’s love of junk food. Chuck; the writer and world builder. Jack’s innocence and wanting to please. Jody and Mary; the Mama-bears. Mick, the outsider wanting to belong somewhere and full of regret. I’m all of them, and yet none of them.

This mini-love letter is also an introduction to a fifteenth season series of things I love of, from, about Supernatural. It may be monthly, it may be weekly during the season, it may be sporadic, but I have so much to say and share on this extraordinary and inspiring series and my journey alongside it.

It’s phenomenal. It’s mythical.

It’s…

Supernatural.

(c)2019

Supernatural returns to The CW television network for its fifteenth and final season on Thursday, October 10th at 8pm. I’ll see you there.

GISH 2019 Has Begun…

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​The annual do-good, do-crazy scavenger hunt began yesterday. Bright and early on the west coast, mid-morning where I live on the east coast. Previous years finally taught me to give the website a little time to crash and then come back, so instead of jumping on right at 10am, I waited about fifteen minutes.

In the twenty-four hours and change since the list dropped, I have been communicating with my team, having a few laughs at my own expense, and writing up my notes for the items I’ve chosen.

Historically I’ve done about ten items per year. Assuming each team member does that many, that gives us a finished item list of 150. Some do more, some do less; we all do what we can. I’ve already seen some other teams dealing with miscommunication, and I may be biased, but for the most part, we have always had good communication. We don’t mete out a certain number of projects per person or restrict how many each teammate can claim. We all use the honor system and don’t take on more than we can handle. After a couple of days, we will put some back or trade or ask for help and feedback. For the most part, we get it done.

I’ve claimed six items plus two team items. There are two more that I have my eye on, but I want to get a couple of these finished first and leave those open for others. If they’re still there by mid-week, I may add them to my item list.

One of the major rules is that you can’t share anything from the list until the hunt is over. That day is Sunday, August 4th. The hunt ends on Saturday, but I can’t remember the time. There’s a countdown clock on the Gish website.

I can (probably) tell you that I’ve sketched out a few of the items, made a shopping list for one, planned on some scanning/photography for another. I’ve done first drafts for poems and drawings, one was really quite good, and one was just awful; terrible proportions. I need to dig out my sewing machine unless I want to hand sew the project I’m thinking of. My list includes one charity item and one global environmental item.

This year’s list has a good balance, splitting the items into fun, outside the comfort zone, charity, compassion, political, think global/act local, and in looking back over this list and previous lists for the last six years (plus this one) that I’ve participated in, it’s a good reminder that when the one week of the scavenger hunt isn’t going on, our lives should include the same balance. Not necessarily evenly split, but definitely parts of all those elements:

  • Fun activities
  • Activities that make us take a little step outside of our comfort zone
  • Charitable works
  • Be compassionate
  • Get involved in your local government and politics. At the very least, register to vote and then vote on November 3, 2020, and every year thereafter.
  • Think global and act local. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
  • Volunteer.
  • Help a neighbor.
  • Pay something forward.

Justice John Paul Stevens (1920-2019)

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​I have always been fascinated by the legal system and the law. My whole life, including reading for pleasure has included government, history, and legal issues. I have an analytical and argumentative mind and nothing comes close to both of those attributes more than the law.

In high school my favorite class senior year was Everyday Law, which would most likely be compared to a civics class – what to do if you get pulled over? What are your rights when approached by a polic officer? Your neighbor is infringing on your property, what do you do? That sort of thing. It was an elective, and I still really believe this type of class should be required for students to prepare them for the real world they are about to enter.

I have been privileged to live in a time where I have witnessed the ascension of the first African-American, the first woman, and the first Latina to the Supreme Court (Marshall, Day O’Connor, and Sotomayor, respectively).

When I served jury duty, the cover of Time magazine was Chief Justice William Brennan who was retiring. He was one of my favorite justices and his court more than any other cemented my philosophy firmly on the liberal side of things, although I would characterize my views as less liberal and more founded in civil rights and equality.

I continued reading and studying the law throughout my life, and majored in political science/pre-law for two years of college. Constitutional Law was my favorite class, and I loved my professor who I had for all three of my law classes. I still have all of those textbooks and I’ve added The Law of Writing to my collection. My enthrallment has never subsided.

Until 2010 when he retired, for as long as I can remember, Justice John Paul Stevens has been a staple on the Supreme Court. As the Bush years passed, and the liberal wing was replaced by more conservative jurists, Justice Stevens remained stalwart, continuing the tradition of upholding the Constitution through law and not political partisanship. It is essential to remember that Justice Stevens was appointed by a Republican, President Gerald Ford as was Brennan (by President Dwight D. Eisenhower).

John Paul Stevens was the third longest serving justice on the Supreme Court. When he joined the Burger Court (soon to become the Brennan Court), I had just turned nine and for my entire life since, Stevens became a member of one of the most iconic groups of justices. While all generations have heroes to look up to and all Supreme Courts make important, life changing, country-wide decisions, I was blessed with the ability to follow the Supreme Court that included John Paul Stevens as well as his iconic colleagues.

Justice Stevens read briefs, and listened to oral arguments, deciding cases such as Hamdan v Rumsfield, Massachusetts v EPA, and dissenting on Citizens United v FEC and Bush v Gore as well as DC v Heller. Related to this case, he believes the 2nd Amendment should be readdressed, whether appealed or amended is still to see. He hasn’t been on the court in nearly a decade, but his voice will be missed in our world.

Rest in peace, Justice Stevens.

As a matter of constitutional tradition, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, we presume that governmental regulation of the content of speech is more likely to interfere with the free exchange of ideas than to encourage it. The interest in encouraging freedom of expression in a democratic society outweighs any theoretical but unproven benefit of censorship.
“Excerpts From Ruling on Internet: ‘Statute Abridges the Freedom of Speech'”. http://www.nytimes.com. June 27, 1997. 

Whenever we remove a brick from the wall that was designed to separate religion and government, we increase the risk of religious strife and weaken the foundation of our democracy.
Church & State Editorial, http://www.au.org. May 2010.

A democracy cannot function effectively when its constituent members believe laws are being bought and sold.
Dissenting, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. ___ (2010)

Preet Bharara had a lovely reflection on Justice Stevens

Justice John Paul Stevens – A Maverick on the Bench Dies at 99

Justice Stevens with Justice Elena Kagan, who took his place upon his retirement. Photo from Supreme Court government website. (c)2019

Mary Magdalene

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​I have always been intrigued by Mary Magdalene, maybe because with all the followers of Jesus she kind of stood out. She wasn’t his mother or other family member; she wasn’t the daughter or spouse of one of his followers, but she seemed to drift in and out of the Gospels much the way the other Apostles did. She was from the same area as most of the Apostles, near the Sea of Galilee, probably from the fishing town of Magdala, which appears to give her its name.

While Jesus didn’t particularly send her on mission work away from him as he did with the other Apostles, she was there to witness His ministry and evangelize about it, traveling after the Resurrection to the far reaches of Gaul, preaching His Word there, and then spending her final years in prayer and contemplation in a cave in France, near Arles, called Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. Prior to her thirty years of solitude, she preached and taught after arriving in a rudderless boat, showing us modern Catholics the inclusion of women preachers from the beginning. (One needs only look to St. Brigid and St. Hildegard of Bingen for two examples that Mary was not the only woman in this role). Her journey is not well documented, and as with much of her life is sometimes conflated with both Mary of Bethany and the sinful woman (from Luke’s Gospel). However, she is mentioned by name twelve times throughout all four Gospels suggesting that had she been anyone else, it would have been mentioned. It took until 1969 when the conflation was officially removed by Pope Paul VI and she was acknowledged on her own.

For a long time, and sometimes even today, she was thought to be a prostitute or the wife of Jesus, both of which are deemed historically inaccurate. On the other hand, she was beset by seven demons, all of which Jesus drove away. She may have chosen to follow him after he performed this miracle and returned her to herself. Either way, she appears to have been a part of his earthly ministry for most of his time and then after. Unfortunately, she left behind no writings of her own.

I also find the stories of her prominence in Jesus’ discipleship believable because of John and Paul’s depiction of her in such an important and dominant part of the resurrection narrative. I have observed both of them to be sexist and dismissive of women, and so I think their inclusion of Mary gives more weight to her role as well as a stronger plausibility in my mind. In fact, in the Gospel of John, he characterizes her as the first apostle.

In appearing in all four Gospels as she did, she is shown from different perspectives and parts of the whole story of what she witnessed. Being the earliest of the four, I’m more inclined to agree with Mark’s image of the empty tomb rather than some of the other representations.

She traveled alongside Jesus as he led his ministry both as witness and disciple. She isn’t seen in a woman’s role (as Martha and Mary were in their household). She also is not an elder wise woman or a mother like Elizabeth. She asks for little if anything unlike the mother of Apostles, James and John. In fact, Luke’s Gospel talks about her support of Jesus’ ministry financially.

She remained in Jerusalem and near to Jesus for the crucifixion, his burial, and resurrection. She is the one who discovered that his tomb was empty and was the first witness of that event, and upon further scrutiny discovered Jesus himself, although she did not recognize him at first. He directed her to return to the other apostles and announce his return. She was the first one to testify to his Resurrection, and in telling the Good News to the Apostles, she is rightly called the Apostle to the Apostles.

Her feast day is today, and a few of her patronages are close to my own heart. In addition to places she is patron of, she also watches over and intercedes for apothecaries, contemplative life, converts, and women.

Today’s Readings:

Collect 

O God, whose Only Begotten Son entrusted Mary Magdalene before all others with announcing the great joy of the Resurrection, grant, we pray, that through her intercession and example we may proclaim the living Christ and come to see him reigning in your glory. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
John 20:1-2, 11-18 

On the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.”Mary stayed outside the tomb weeping. And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb and saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the Body of Jesus had been. And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”She said to them, “They have taken my Lord, and I don’t know where they laid him.”When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?”She thought it was the gardener and said to him, “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him.”Jesus said to her, “Mary!”She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,”which means Teacher. Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,”and then reported what he told her.

Further reading:

Who was Mary Magdalene?
Unknown Role of Christian Women in the Early Church
Thoughts on Women in Ministry
Did the Vatican Hide Art that Depicted Female Priests?

Reflecting

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​With borrowed car I was able to attend my first retreat/workshop of the year! There is another one next week, but what brought me to keyboard was what happened when I arrived and then when I left, and on leaving I realized that it is something of a habit for me.

Each time is different. The subjects are different; the program director is often someone new, although not this time. I always walk in, greet the greeter, settle into my seat, drop my things, and return to the entrance to pay my fee and sign in.

When I arrived on Thursday, I was greeted by the associate with such joy that it almost took me aback. I missed last month, and I guess I had forgotten to email that I was coming since I was already registered, but her joy became my joy at belonging in this place; with these people. It filled me.

Upon leaving, I take more time than I should. I put away my tea cup and throw out my napkins. I say goodbye and I slowly return to my car. Then I sit in the car, whether it’s for two minutes or ten. On this day, I read from my daily Lenten reflection book that I hadn’t the time to read in the morning when I woke up. As I began to drive away, I saw the windmill/hermitage, its stones stark against the gray sky and the bare branches of the many trees that will fill in the coming weeks. I pulled over and took a picture, similar to the one you see here.

Windmill/Hermitage. (c)2019


It just spoke to me.
About halfway home, I realized that the car was very quiet.

It occurred to me that I never turn on the radio after an event at the retreat center. I continue to be at the retreat for my commute home, not wanting the morning (or the day; or the weekend) to end. It stays with me until…

I don’t really notice the changeover, but at some point on the drive, the stillness of the retreat house, the words of wisdom, the spirit, and the calm make way for the lists in my head that had been pushed aside temporarily. Once I realize that the retreat moments are gone, I’m practically home.

On this day, however, I decided to jot down a few thoughts, those very thoughts that you’re reading, and prolong the wonder of the spirit before writing the checks and making the phone calls.

I’ve been waiting to be called to post this. As you’ve already read, this was written during Lent this past spring, but it could have been written any time in the last few years. Every time I’ve returned to the “house” I’ve thought about this, and always meant to post it, but never did for whatever reason.

Now, I’m back at the House for my first weekend of the year. I say that as if I go on many weekends throughout the year. I do not. I’d love to do more, but that is simply not financially feasible.

When I walked in this time, I was greeted (by one sister and one associate) and I checked in. My son brought my suitcase down the hall to my room and after inspecting the recliner and deemed it worthy of his admiration, he hugged me goodbye and left. He asked if I wanted the door closed (I did not) and then I was alone. I usually unpack a few things so I’m not living out of a suitcase for the two and a half days, but today, I just sat in the recliner. I knew how it felt from the last weekend I was here, and I had requested this room mainly because of this chair. I almost never sit in the chair. I don’t find the wooden rockers comfortable and the side chairs just don’t make me feel whatever it is that I’m looking for, but when I sat in this chair, it was perfect. Not so comfortable that I’d fall asleep or so uncomfortable that I couldn’t relax or contemplate the weekend, but, like Goldilocks, I found it just right.

I sat.

Not for very long, but it only took a moment or two to feel it; that feeling of belonging. Of the world drifting away for a few moments. It was like a release of …everything – the bills, the kids, the politics, the lists; it all melted away. I didn’t notice it happening; I just knew that it did.

Whatever the subject of the retreat is, while it’s important and interesting, and giving me something to both hold onto and to reach for, it is only part of the retreat experience. Last night, we talked about resting, but not resting as in sleeping or brushing off this day and getting ready for the next; the resting that comes through meditation, which isn’t legs crossed on the floor, eyes closed, hands still, although it is that for some. It is the meditation that is contemplation, that is searching, but quietly, letting it come to me rather than my running after something that I can’t see. It’s a refresh, a recharge, but it is also more than that.

Through my bedroom window there is a copse of trees and through them there is a parking lot. I know this, but when I looked out this morning in the very early morning light, it looked like a lake and its stillness brought me stillness and it reminded me that wherever I am can be where I want to be.

Things are not what they appear to be. (c)2019


When I wake up at 5:30 in the morning, I typically roll over and return to sleep while I can. For an instant I think I’ll get up and write, but I never do. Not even here, but today that is what I’m doing. It’s five-thirty and this is what I’m doing, and it feels perfectly just right.
Once I finish, which is coming very quickly, I am going to put on a long sweater and sit out in the courtyard. I picture myself with a warm mug of tea but I know that I’m not getting the tea; I just want a few minutes outside feeling the breeze that I see blowing the leaves around. That’s how I will start today.

Good morning.

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.

My Easter Bag

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​It’s hard to believe that Easter was only one week ago. Most of my Holy Week was spent in church between morning prayer services, the parish community dinner, evening prayer and mass. There is a lot going on and a lot packed into the second half of the week following Palm Sunday. The three days of Holy Week prior to Easter Sunday is called the Triduum, which is basically one long service beginning on Holy Thursday with the sign of the Cross and ending at the Easter Vigil on Saturday night the same way. At our parish we have hospitality or receptions on Saturday morning and evening, the former in celebration of the lighting the Easter fire and the latter in celebration of welcoming the new members to the Catholic church through the RCIA program.

It’s very fulfilling and spiritual, but it’s long and it’s tiring. Since my first Vigil, one of my yearly customs is that I will bring a small tote bag along with my usual purse to carry a water, cough drops, tissues. I’ll add my worship booklet so I have it for the entire three days.

At some point during Holy Week, I’ll realize that I don’t really need my pocketbook if I toss my wallet and kindle and phone and other necessities into the tote bag. That way I only have one bag to carry and keep track of.

Genius, right?

Well, every year, I’m surprised by the time Saturday afternoon rolls around at how heavy this tote bag is. I don’t realize it’s getting heavier as I add things one at a time until the very end when I go to grab it out of the car, and it pulls me back in.

Here is a picture of it when I arrived at church for the lighting of the Easter fire on Saturday morning:

The inside of my Easter bag on Holy Saturday morning. (c)2019

It has my large wallet, kindle, hearing aids, extra batteries for the hearing aids, clipboard and pad if the urge to write grabs hold of me, a pen, packet of tissues, bag of cough drops, daily reflection book for Lent, cell phone, rosary, Triduum worship aid, any of the other worship aids that I’ve collected during the week, bottle of cold water, umbrella for the upcoming rain (it wasn’t raining when I arrived but it was raining very hard when we all went outside to light the fire). I think there may have been a few other odds and ends in there. All I know is it was really heavy by the time I pulled it out of the back seat.
Admittedly, and embarrassingly, this one week later, it still has stuff in it, and needs to be completely emptied and put away. It doesn’t have much, but still, it’s long past time.