Time to Reflect

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Ash Wednesday has arrived. It feels so early this year, but I suppose everything feels a bit jumbled during this pandemic year. As my priest said at mass this morning, things are different, but they’re also the same. Less people allowed at mass. Ashes distributed with a cotton swab (my parish) or sprinkled over your head (others). I didn’t make this morning’s mass in person although I planned to, and registered to attend. The ice on my car made different plans. I was able to watch the mass livestreamed and stopped by the church later in the afternoon to pick up a small vial of ashes. It was a do it yourself for me today.

I would have thought a year into the pandemic that I’d be an expert on reflections on any subject that came to mind, but when I went to write this on Tuesday, there was nothing. Sometimes reflections feel like journal entries, and I’ve been not great at journaling this past year. I’ve tried to keep checklists – masses attended, rosaries said, writing accomplished, but even that little bit has been a failing.

I hadn’t even decided what I’d be giving up, and then I gave myself an extension. Not anything canonical, but I think sometimes when we force ourselves to do things without the impetus of why we’re doing them, they lose something in the translation.

I spend a lot of time worrying about what I’m going to give up as if forty days without chocolate or soda is a hardship in the big picture of things, but on the other hand, I think that sacrifice should also be a sacrifice of time. What can I do to grow in my relationship with G-d? What are things that I can do for these forty days that will stay with me for the next forty? And then the next?

To begin for the readers waiting with bated breath, I’m not going to make my decision on what I”ll be offering to G-d for Lent until the first Sunday of Lent although I have a good idea what it will be and it wasn’t even on my original brainstorm list. By Sunday, I will have had some time to discern what I can accomplish from giving something up or trading it for something that is more positive and/or spiritual.

Lent is a forty day period where prayer, fasting, and almsgiving take the center of spiritual life. Despite being given dispensation from holy days and Sunday masses during the pandemic, I have still gone almost every week to the livestream mass. I was happily surprised to find it just as rewarding as going in person. In the summer, I began to attend Monday’s daily mass in person and I will continue to do that. Our church has done a great job of keeping things safe. I am very lucky with both my church and my children’s school.

In addition to the three pillars of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving since I’ve become a Cursillista, I try to incorporate the tripod of piety, study, and action into my everyday life, but moreso during Lent when our time is spent in communion with Jesus, and of course, ourselves.

I have some tools and links that I’d like to share with you to assist with your own Lenten journey. The first three I will be doing throughout Lent.

Daily Reflections for Lent: Not By Bread Alone 2021 by Mary DeTurris Poust

A Stranger and You Welcomed Me from Clear Faith Publishing

Along the Way: A Jesuit Prayer Pod – a weekly Lenten podcast from two Jesuit brothers

The Examen with Father James Martin, SJ – daily podcast with Fr. Jim Martin, SJ

Prayer of Spiritual Communion (this is what my parish uses for communion during their livestream masses for those of us participating at home):

I wish, my Lord, to receive you with the purity, humility, and devotion with which your most holy Mother received you, with the spirit and fervor of the saints. Amen

In addition to some of these, I am also going to praying the Rosary on Mondays and the Stations of the Cross on Fridays as well as committing to submit a reflection to my Cursillo group’s weekly digest. I will also (finally) begin reading A Pilgrimage to Eternity: From Canterbury to Rome in Search of a Faith by Timothy Egan. This was recommended a couple of years ago and I bought it then, but haven’t found the right time to start it. I’ve decided to make that time now.

I also intend to recommit to my writing, both spiritual and secular. Throughout the pandemic, I’ve kept consistent with this website, but my other writings have fallen on the wayside. I hope to rectify that over the next forty days.

I hope to bring you more in the coming days. Have a meaningful Lent.

Inspiration.

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Not so much.

Last weekend I attended a writing retreat. Three days of prayer and a choose your own writing adventure retreat.

It was wonderful.

This was the second year of a January weekend writing retreat, although I’ve gone to two other retreats with this director, and they are all special in their own ways. Last weekend was also very unusual. It was entirely on Zoom, and while that sounds daunting, it was nothing but fantastic all around. I think we’ve all adapted nicely to our technological advancements during these pandemic times.

On the very last morning, our subject was inspirational writing.

As it happened, prior to the weekend, I had been trying to write a reflection on the insurrection at the Capitol the week before, and it just wouldn’t come out. I’ve been told in previous writing classes that for the free write, if you can’t think of anything, just start writing. Something will come.

So that’s what I did, and I thought I would share it with you as we begin another weekend in a new era of this new full-of-potential year.

Inspiration writing is hard.

How do I conjure just the right balance of motivation, spirituality, and reflection on any given topic?

Am I supposed to inspire you?

Tell you what I find inspirational?

Be more subtle than that?

Johnny-on-the-spot and the spot is quicksand.

I made breakfast. It was terrible. Except the tea. The tea was good.

It’s cold now.

Carry On…

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In one week, a mere seven days after today, Supernatural begins with the first of seven final episodes in the show’s fifteen season series. It’s been a long road, and for the fans, there isn’t really an end. Some of us have grown up along the way, and watched as the actors got married, had children, and shared with us their other projects. Some of us found our voices, discovered new skills, met and overcame challenges and just enjoyed the stories. I am finding the ending of Supernatural a bittersweet time.

Supernatural came into my life about mid-way through its historic run although of course, I couldn’t have known that at the time. It was a dark time for me and the show filled a void, where I could watch it without having to think about the mental health issues that were nearly drowning me. As medication began and adjusted, as therapy began, as my faith took an unexpected turn, Supernatural was the light at the end of the tunnel that gently led me home. I can still feel a calm, soothing consciousness when I put on the reruns, either in syndication or on Netflix and let it play as the background music of my day whatever it is I’m doing at that moment.

I am glad that we will get an ending that is well thought out and does justice to the entirety of the series. Seeing old faces throughout season 15 has been a walk down memory lane, and I’ve enjoyed reliving some of their best moments despite the constant death of characters. Although to be fair to Supernatural, dead doesn’t always mean dead. Only time will tell.

One of the most valued things to come out of the series is the SPNFAM. A lot of that is through Misha Collins’ scavenger hunt, GISH and contributing to his charity, Random Acts. It has allowed us to become more politically aware and civic minded, especially here in the US. There is also the Stands shop where we can wear our fandom through merch while also supporting a variety of causes and charities that the actors find important. It has expanded my knowledge base of causes that I woudn’t necessarily have heard about otherwise. (I’ve shared some before, and I will share them again before the last episode airs.)

I’ve written love letters to Supernatural before and published them here and elsewhere; it has held me together when I was falling apart, and it brought me closer to people I wouldn’t ordinarily know across the country and the globe. It’s encouraged my writing, both in fan fiction and in exegesis as well as supporting my love of pop culture and puns, which Supernatural is full of. Plus there are the inside jokes, and online, there is a Supernatural gif for everything.

Supernatural is magical.

It will remain a special place in my heart forever.

While the series will end and there will be no new episodes to share and enjoy, we can still follow the actors we’ve grown to love on their various social medias, their future work and businesses, and through the fandom and fan-family.

Netflix

The CW

Supernatural Wiki

Thoughts On An Overcast Day

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I keep a planner. The monthly part of the calendar is my personal calendar of appointments and scheduling, birthdays and anniversaries to be remembered, and the weekly pages are where I plan my writing for Griffins and Ginger Snaps. This year, writing has been a struggle.

I have been more or less reliable in the publishing of posts, but these last few weeks have certainly been more difficult. There was so much going on in August and when I looked back on it, it seemed that they were all mental worries.

Not that they were all in my head, but it wasn’t that my feelings of busyness was having a lot of appointments or places to go, but it was all mental gymnastics – getting dinner planned, communicating with the school for my kids’ return, planning our vacation while simultaneously planning on not going, keeping up on election news, and so many other things. It’s been rough, and I know I’m not alone in this.

Continue reading

Writing Prompt – Pandemic Days

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I am missing my writing workshops, but that doesn’t stop me from writing. (There are dozens of other things that keep me from writing!) The age-old (and ofttimes wrong) direction is write what you know.

Many of us have been home for over one hundred days. Some of us are just coming under the auspices of quarantining (Texas, Arizona, Florida, etc).

How have you been holding up? Have you adjusted to life at home?

It might be time to take out a notebook, journal, or keyboard and begin writing about your experience. Even if you won’t be professionally publishing your writing, this kind of document is so valuable to your future families.

Here are ten questions to get you started. You can begin by simply jotting down quick answers, but then take your time and expand your thoughts. Include your five senses, talk about your feelings, talk about your family’s feelings and reactions. There are no wrong answers; these are your experiences.

If you think of other questions, send them, and if you want to share your experiences, comment with your thoughts and/or links to your writing.

1. Are you still working at your job? At your place of work or at home? How has work changed with the covid outbreak?

2. Do you have children and are they now home from school? Are you involved in their schooling? How much? Are they working independently or do they need a lot of parental input?

3. How has your grocery shopping and cooking changed? Were you someone who ate out a lot or had you already been cooking every day? Are you trying new recipes? What are you go-to favorite recipes? Write down the recipes so your family has them.

4. What have you done for entertainment? Are you watching more television? Netflix? Are you playing board games?

5. What are you reading?

6. Are you listening to podcasts? Are you watching more or less news?

7. How has your religious life changed? What are some of the things that you’re doing that you weren’t doing before? What are you continuing to do?

8. What was the last thing you did in the public world before the pandemic arrived (in the US approximately March 13, 2020)?

9. What do you miss most from being home all the time?

10. What are you surprised that you miss the least and are thinking about keeping out of your life when the pandemic is finally over?


Inspire. July.

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Original art. kbwriting. (c)2020

“There’s a million things I haven’t done, but just you wait.”

Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton: An American Musical

Throughout this pandemic, I have written and arted and journaled and prayed, usually with no rhyme or reason, letting the time at home and the mood of the day take the lead.

Last week, I volunteered, but was also asked and encouraged to write something for our weekly Cursillo newsletter. Our lay director decided to start it during the pandemic to keep everyone in touch.

I was happy to do it, but it took forever to start it. I had three drafts about online retreats; just a paragraph each. I skipped two lines to try again, and then it was July 3rd.

Our day revolved around watching Hamilton on Disney+. It was the premiere and for those of us unable to see the Tony Awared winning Broadway or the traveling shows, it would be the first time to view its magnificence.

I woke my family with shouts of “It’s Hamiltime!

And that began the piece that would eventually make it into the newsletter.

It was inspired in subtle ways, and then it just came to me while sitting at the keyboard.

Inspiration is everywhere.

Let it catch you when you’re least expecting it.

What Have I Done Today?

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What have I done today? Today, being a reflection of one day last week, April 2, 2020 to be precise. It is (was) day 18 of self-isolation/”quarantine” for our family. That is the official count since we last went out to dinner and our kids last had in-person school, which is not a phrase that comes readily from fingertips to keyboard or off the tongue. In that time, we have managed to come to some sort of happy (?) medium between the four of us who live in this house. Some days have blended into others, some pjs were worn a bit too long, too many video games, streaming services, and DVDs were played and watched, not enough fresh air, and way, way, way too many emails were received from every single email list I’ve been on for the last ten years telling me how they are addressing the COVID-19 situation in their establishments as well as many, many restaurants offering me free delivery or curbside pick up despite the fact that I am very much not in their delivery area.

But we’re all handling this in our own ways; some better than others.

As every day becomes some version of it’s Friday again as well as a Groundhog Day reboot, I thought I’d spend one day listing all of my activities or the less than active happenings as it were.

I decided to would share it here for others to see that we’re almost all coping with the same issues: limited resources, homeschooling our kids, working from home, trying to be useful, and often not succeeding, and then feeling guilty about that. Why haven’t I cleaned out my closets? Why haven’t I planted my garden? How can we possibly use that much toilet paper in a week?! No, I don’t know what’s for dinner; what are you making?

I absolutely recognize my privilege and am ever grateful in that I have a home, my children are safe, and my husband continues to work from our home. He had already been working from home for a number of years, initially requesting it because of some medical limitations for me after my third child was born. Eventually, it became his regular job to work from home. I do know how lucky we are despite having the worry that this may situation may stop or change before the quarantine is over. Time will tell.

For all of us.

I began that Thursday as I begin every day, by waking up. I have an alarm set for 8:30 from Sunday to Thursday. I set the alarm so I can “attend” Mass online. It’s hard to have an excuse not to be there when the commute is literally sitting up in bed and turning on my Kindle. In addition to masses four days a week, my parish priest is also doing FB Live storytime for the younger parishioners (but I tune in every week, and enjoy every minute of it!), our office manager is offering a weekly reflection on FB Live as well, and we’ve had soup deliveries on Wednesday for the last three weeks. Sadly, they end when Lent does. I couldn’t be more proud of my church and how they’ve handled this pandemic from the beginning in March, keeping everyone informed and faith filled, keeping our community despite the physical distance.

So, my alarm goes off at 8:30, and my day begins.

8:30am – Wake up.

8:30 – 9am – Checked email, Facebook, Twitter. Saved screenshots and links for COVID-19 information posts to get to later.

I take my morning medicine.

9am – Facebook Live. Since this is Thursday, there is no daily mass, but my friend and godmother who is the office manager for my church gave a wonderfully lovely Lenten reflection. She’s doing another one this week as well.

About 9:45/10am – I begin listening to my podcasts: What a Day from Crooked Media and Stay Tuned with Preet Bharara.

After that it’s time for breakfast, which sadly won’t come to me: a French toast bagel, toasted with melted butter.

I began reading a new book – The Boston Massacre (because clearly this is a lighter subject than what we’re living through right now.)

I went back on Facebook until …

11:30am – I watched New York’s Governor Cuomo’s daily briefing. I find his briefings calming and informative; also honest. I watch it every day that I am able to, and no, I do not watch the President’s daily briefing because those are the exact opposite of calming, informative, and honest. I screenshot many of the Governor’s slides to post on Facebook.

I cooked the meat and sauce and layered the lasagna in my crock pot for dinner.

When dinner was set up to cook for the rest of the day, I cropped the slides from the governor’s briefing and posted them on my Facebook page. (Several people have told me that they appreciate it, and it makes me feel as though I am doing something productive, something of a public service, even if it’s only in my mind.)

I then had Lunch with a Diet Coke followed by a snack. On my notes page that I kept the running diary, I didn’t write down what I had for lunch and snack, so I have no idea what it was. We’ve had sliced turkey and cheese in the house for sandwiches, we have ramen, macaroni & cheese, and often leftovers to have for lunch, so really it’s anybody’s guess what it might have been.

About now, I’ve begun to flag. I’m always tired since this situation has begun, not always physically, but I feel a constant level of worn out. My brain is going a mile a minute, but I am also paralyzed with uselessness.

I go back on my Kindle: Facebook, Twitter, some games. Things that I don’t need to think about because my brain just won’t slow down.

Clearly, I’m not writing. 😦

Emails.

My daughter was on Facetime with her friends and I heard her giggling and laughing hysterically. It resounded down from her room, and I stood at the bottom of the stairs, and just enjoyed it. It was a welcome sound; one that I haven’t heard for what seems like a long time, and I relished in it.

When the lasagna was ready, my son and I made homemade garlic bread. It was delicious.

We ate our dinner, which was also delicious. We’ve been cooking a lot!

After dinner, I had some yummy Mango Dragonfruit sherbet that my husband picked up for me as a surprise when he went out to get milk.

I read Governor Cuomo’s email that he sends nightly, which caught me up since his morning briefing. Again, positive and reassuring.

9pm – The Rachel Maddow Show. She is visibly upset with the federal government’s response. I am also upset. Disappointed. Embarrassed.

I don’t know if I just realized it while watching Maddow but I did not get dressed today. PJs feel almost like business casual as quarantine time ticks by. It’s quite nearly another universe.

After dinner, I clean up the dishes. I didn’t wash them though, just got them scraped and into (or near) the sink. At the moment, there’s too many for me to get started emotionally. I don’t mind doing the dishes, but I need to really feel it.

I went to bed; not to sleep, but to read.

Then I promptly fell asleep.

I woke up at 1am and went on Twitter where Alt_Immi‘s post set my teeth on edge. He had retweeted a 9 minute video of Russel Honore’, who commanded federal troops in New Orleans after Katrina, and who had a lot to say about the Defense Production Act and the “leadership” of Jared Kushner.

I became enraged, which kept me from sleeping.

I took my nightly medicine (which I’m really supposed to take around 11pm), and then I went to bed for real. Mostly.

I know that tomorrow will probably go about the same except with the addition of a shower and minus meat (since [as of this diary’s writing] tomorrow is Friday!)

This whole thing is horrifying and demoralizing.

As the following Tweet says, this is why we cried when he won. No lie.

We will get through this. Together.