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Life Planning Session (Because We All Know How Well Our ‘Best Laid Plans’ Go)

Before I begin this stream-of-consciousness ramble/organizational session/why-am-I-sharing-this personal post… a poem:

To a Mouse
Robert Burns
(audio version here)

Wee, sleekit, cowran, tim’rous beastie,
O, what panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi’ bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee,
Wi’ murd’ring pattle!

I’m truly sorry Man’s dominion
Has broken Nature’s social union,
An’ justifies that ill opinion,
Which makes thee startle,
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
An’ fellow-mortal!

I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen-icker in a thrave
‘S a sma’ request
I’ll get a blessin wi’ the lave,
An’ never miss’t!

Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!
It’s silly wa’s the win’s are strewin!
An’ naething, now, to big a new ane,
O’ foggage green!
An’ bleak December’s winds ensuin,
Baith snell an’ keen!

Thou saw the fields laid bare an’ wast,
An’ weary Winter comin fast,
An’ cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro’ thy cell.

That wee-bit heap o’ leaves an’ stibble,
Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
Now thou’s turn’d out, for a’ thy trouble,
But house or hald.
To thole the Winter’s sleety dribble,
An’ cranreuch cauld!

But Mousie, thou art no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain
The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men,
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

Still, thou art blest, compar’d wi’ me!
The present only toucheth thee
But Och! I backward cast my e’e,
On prospects drear!
An’ forward, tho’ I canna see,
I guess an’ fear!

Och! I, too, backward cast my e’e, and forward, tho’ I canna see.  I am not foolish enough to believe (anymore) that my life operates by my “best laid schemes”—no, life can only be lived one minute, hour, and day at a time.  My good intentions are nothing unless I choose to live out those intentions, now.

That being said, I’ve been in need of a life planning session.  And what better way to do it than write a blog post?

Commence the meandering babbling and gossamer strings that form the inside of my world.  Now’s your chance to exit the premises.

Really.  I mean it.

Still here?

Aaaaalrighty, then.  You may stay.  But don’t say I didn’t warn you. Continue reading

Anything but Supermom: The Beginning

Charity over at The Wounded Dove is hosting a new link-up called Confessions of a Good-Enough Mom, which I learned about from my awesome RH lady, Cristina.

I’m all over that link-up.

Since Charity shared her story about her first few weeks of motherhood, I will do the same.

Benedict First Week 010

Perfectionism, thou art my middle name.  And like Charity, I spent a good deal of time reading Ida May Gaskin and registering for cloth diapers.  And prepping cloth diapers.  And folding cloth diapers.  Because, you know, we got to do this whole parenting thing right.  Right?

Labor and delivery?  Awesome.  Eight hour labor, no back labor, loving husband coaching me through natural childbirth at a hippie-dippie Oregon birth center.  Love Oregon.  Cloth diapering? Great.  No issues there.

Nursing? Bonding?  PPD?

Yikes.

Day Two RestingI hadn’t understood the importance of bonding until Mimi came along and had something which to compare Babymoon #1.  Ben and I had a rough start.  Nursing and snuggling were overwhelming for him, and I was such a train wreck that I didn’t have the wherewithal to enjoy my new baby.

Knowing what we do now about Ben and myself, it’s understandable… but understanding something in hindsight doesn’t make the experience any less challenging or painful.  We struggled to bond, and I still struggle to forgive myself for circumstances outside my control.

Yet, without the difficulties of our first babymoon, I would have never hit the rock bottom that brought me to my knees before Christ, seeking help. My life has been transformed—radically so—and for that, I’m grateful.

As I’ve become healthier, the emotional bond with my son is strengthening.  Before Mimi was born, Ben and I had a sort of “second Babymoon”: we went everywhere, did everything, and enjoyed plenty of snuggles.  I wanted us to enjoy the last little bit of just the two of us as much as possible.

Our second Babymoon was a time of healing. No matter how rough the start, things can always get better.  And they did, and they have.

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Join the rest of the Good Enough Moms at The Wounded Dove.

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Not the Sweet Little Mushy-Gushy Holy Spirit Dove

Imagine the Holy Spirit as a dove.

Does your imagination produce this:

Search results for "holy spirit dove."

Search results for “holy spirit dove.”

or this:

Search results for "crucifixion."

Search results for “crucifixion.”

???

But, but, but… that’s not a dove!  That’s Jesus crucified!

I know.  I never put the two together, either.  When I think of the Holy Spirit dove, I think of… oh, I don’t know, lovey-dovey-rays-of-warm-fuzzies in my heart-heart-heart.  But apparently that’s—EEEEEEHHHH! (that’s a buzzer)—-wrong.

From Ven. Fulton Sheen’s Life of Christ:

The Spirit of God never appears in the figure of a Dove anywhere save here [the Baptism of Our Lord]… When the mother of Our Lord brought Him to the temple, her offering was a dove.  The dove was the symbol of gentleness and peacefulness, but above all it was the type of sacrifice possible to the lowliest people. Whenever a Hebrew thought of a lamb or a dove, he immediately thought of a sacrifice for sin.  Therefore, the Spirit descending upon Our Lord was for them a symbol of submission to sacrifice (59, emphasis mine).

Whaddamean, Fulton J. Sheen?  That our fuzzily-wuzzily light-beaming pop “art” of the Holy Spirit is not only gauche, but theologically lacking?

Killjoy.

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Oregon Nostalgia

Mary's Peak from 99W south of Corvallis.  Pinched from the internet.  I'm homesick.  Sue me.

Mary’s Peak from 99W south of Corvallis. Pinched from the internet. Sue me; I don’t care.  I’m homesick.

Mt. Jefferson. Also pinched.

Mt. Jefferson from Timberline Lodge. Also pinched. On a clear day we have a great view of Mt. Jefferson turning left from my parents’ street onto the main road (they live at the top of a hill).

McKenzie River.

McKenzie River. Also pinched.

North Falls, Silver Falls State Park.  Photo from Wikicommons.

North Falls, Silver Falls State Park. (Wikicommons)

Mount Angel Abbey.  Photo: Wikicommons.

Mount Angel Abbey. (Wikicommons)

Ben hiking in OSU's McDonald Research Forest (Peavy Arboritum)

Ben hiking in OSU’s McDonald Research Forest (Peavy Arboretum).  We did this 3 to 4 times a week when Ben was small. Our favorite trail was a 3 1/2 mile trail; Ben usually walked the last mile.

Beverly Beach.

Beverly Beach.  Coffee.  Very Oregon.

Sitting in his own folding chair.  11 months old.

Sitting in his own folding chair. 11 months old.

Walking toward the Pacific.

Walking toward the Pacific.

There he goes!

There he goes!

Stew of Resentment = Slavery

I spent yesterday simmering in a stew of resentment.

It doesn’t matter what or why I was simmering.  The fact of simmering is enough to know that I was in a bad place.

My mental track whilst in the stew falls along the lines of argument and self-justification.  The negative aspects of my choleric side come out and shine in all their ugly glory as the hamster wheel of I’m right and everyone else is wrong spins, spins, spins.

(Loving my metaphors this morning, by the way.)

Two realizations coming out of this:

1.  I am a sinner.

2.  Jesus Christ saves.

3.  There are people out there who spend their entire days and lives like this.

One day in the stew and I’m a miserable, closed-souled human being.  The stew is death.  I couldn’t imagine this being my normal.

And this is why we need evangelists.

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Magnificent and Beautiful

“Christ is calling us and awakening in us a desire to make our lives something magnificent and beautiful.”

– St. John Paul II

John Paul II must have also been an INFJ, methinks.

Or maybe that’s me projecting myself on to him, only because I love-love-love this quote.

Who Is This Jesus?

Forming-Disciples-Final.002I finished Sherry Weddell’s Forming Intentional Disciples yesterday.

(Yes, I know I’m a little late on the gravy train here.  CatholicMom.com read this book last year for Lawn Chair Catechism.  Better late than never, right?)

If you haven’t read it, do.  Weddell’s reading of contemporary American Catholicism, grounded in both statistical evidence and personal experience as founder of the Catherine of Siena Institute, has changed my own understanding of why the flock is going astray.  Hint: it has little to do with “entertaining” Evangelical Protestant worship services—one cause I, for one, assumed to be true.

As I read, one thought circled over and again in my mind: Who is this Jesus?  Weddell’s driving point is that we are disciples of Jesus Christ in the heart of the Church.  Seems like a duh point, but as it turns out, many, many, MANY Catholics don’t believe in a personal God with whom one can have a relationship.

Even if they attend Mass regularly, they do so as passive, rather than active, disciples of Christ.  To say explicitly that one “follows Jesus”—and to encourage others to do the same—is verboten.  It’s too Protestant.  And God forbid we be like those Protestants.

This, Weddell says, results in a suffocating silence in our parishes. The community that ought to be fostering discipleship instead threatens our evangelical spirit.  We fail at helping adult Christians grow in their life of following Jesus.

It’s strange.  When I joined the Church, it was the result of wanting to know Jesus better One would think that being an Evangelical would have ensured my knowing Christ.  It’s not that I didn’t know him, but that I didn’t know him well.  I’d say I followed the Bible more than I followed Christ, if that makes any sense.  I spent more time reading Isaiah or St. Paul (all well and good) instead of reading Our Lord’s words.

When I attended my first Easter Vigil in order to watch my friend Missy receive the Sacraments, I was struck by how much Catholics talk about Jesus.  The Gospel is proclaimed every Mass.  The Mass is the Eucharist (and the Eucharist is Him), its prayers almost entirely the words of Our Lord and the words of Scripture.  And in front of us, behind the altar, was a huge (sort of cartoonish, but still) crucifix with HIM.  He was everywhere and in everything.

Some Catholics may be surprised by this, but I was struck by how much more Scripture I heard in Mass than I ever did in an evangelical service.  Protestants tout their love of Scripture, but the plain fact is that Catholics hear more of it.  Furthermore, they hear the words of the Second Person of the Trinity far more than I ever did as an evangelical.

When I was a Protestant, my concept of God was vague.  While I would have never said this, my prayers mainly amounted to an appeal to a sort of personal-God-life-force whose Presence was somehow enmeshed in the state of my feelings.

But Our Lord became incarnate so that we might see the face of the Father.  He took pity on our need of concrete tangibles.  He had to be more than my vagaries and feelings.

Wanting to know Jesus was the driving force behind my conversion.

That being said, the Catholic suffocating silence does exist. Being in a parish now that suffers that silence, I feel it and I’ve responded to it.  It weighs me down.  What’s worse is that I haven’t done well fighting back.

I’ve allowed myself to fall into a sort of my own status quo of theoretical faith, the faith of assent, while my active discipleship wanes.  (Seeing this, it’s no wonder that my behavior of late has been of the “crazy lady” variety.  I’ve been acting in ways I haven’t acted in a long time.)

So I’m part of the problem.

I’m ready and willing to change.  As Father said to my in Confession this past Saturday, God “is chomping at the bit” to kindle the flame of faith within me.  But spiritual sloth is sticky and hard to shed.  I’m most definitely in need of grace.

Pentecost Bologna

Pentecost: Speaking In Our Own Language

And at this sound [the descent of the Holy Spirit] the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in his own language.

– Acts 2:6

Find your voice.  Every writer has her own.

Find your story.  My story is mine.  Yours is yours.

The Holy Spirit speaks universally, but He does so to each of us in our own language.  Let me take a liberty with Scripture and expand the definition of language to include temperament, family of origin, culture, and life experiences.  The Holy Spirit speaks His universal Truth to each of us within the context of our individual personhood.  He speaks my language.

I’m a firm believer that writing is a charism of the Holy Spirit.  Given this, the idea of finding our voice is, in some sense, speaking in our language.  I cannot write the books Cormac McCarthy wrote, because I’m not Cormac McCarthy.  His voice is not mine; his stories are not mine.

This matters for the reader as much as it does for the writer.  After all, what good is it to speak in tongues without someone to interpret?  When a story resonates, it’s because something in that story speaks to my individual experience as much as it speaks to some universal truth.  I “get” it.  We are kindred spirits.  I could even say that we share a charism in the same way the Franciscans or the Dominicans share a charism.  We’re speaking each other’s language.

In this light, I suppose I shouldn’t worry about whether or not I’m writing a “good” novel.  All that matters is that I’m speaking my language.  My Holy Spirit language.

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Cows, Chickens, and Multiple Link-Ups

Linking up with Conversion Diary (7 Quick Takes), Clan Donaldson (Garden Tour Link-up Party), and Small Things (Yarn Along).  It’s all about efficiency these days.

— 1 —

Chickens, cows, or chicken-and-beef pot pie?

4-H photoGo read the latest Ethel Says post.

Do it.

NOW.

— 2 —

Garden! Not that it’s inspiring or anything:

Ratty cushions?  Check. Fence that needs mending?  Check. Toys all over yard? Check.

Ratty cushions? Check. Fence that needs replacing? Check. Toys all over yard? Check. Patio that needs weeding? Check.

I once said that this isn’t Better Homes and Gardens, and I wasn’t lying.  To be fair, a) we’ve only been in this house for two years, and b) we are between blooming seasons. The spring bulbs and early bloomers have all died and the summer blooms have yet to appear.

The only annuals I have are some Johnny jump-ups my mother bought for Ben.  Given the current blah-blah-blah state of the yard, I may need to review my annuals-are-money-down-the-drain policy.  Stat.

There's a Bleeding Heart and something else (I forgot its name) growing in this shady spot.

There’s a Bleeding Heart and something else (I forgot its name) growing in this shady spot.  (And hosta.  Hosta doesn’t count.)

Herbs.

Herbs.  Hydrangea to the left.

Strawberry patch with no strawberries.  Grr.

Strawberry patch with no strawberry plants. Grr.

Baby greens---spinach, kale, beets, and Swiss chard.  Delish.

Baby greens—spinach, kale, beets, and Swiss chard. Delish.

Raspberry plants.  Not sure if they'll produce this year or not (probably not).  Plus some dill.  Blueberry bushes toward the back.

Raspberry plants. Not sure if they’ll produce this year or not (probably not). Plus some dill. Blueberry bushes toward the back.

Pile of compost/scrap that now stinks like a dairy farm.  Long story.

Pile of compost/scrap that stinks like a dairy farm.

My pride and joy: the tomatoes are growing!!!  Between these and the CSA share, I think we're going to be awash in tomatoes at some point this summer.

My pride and joy: the tomatoes are growing!!! Between these and our CSA share, we’re going to be awash in tomatoes at some point this summer.

Front yard---the patch of dirt between the driveway and front walk.  Those tall things (can't remember the name) are about to bloom. The phlox is done, as is the lilac.  I just split the sedum; we'll see how that does this year.

Front yard—the patch of dirt between the driveway and front walk. Those tall things (can’t remember the name) are about to bloom. The phlox is done, as is the lilac. I just split the sedum; we’ll see how that does this year.

Again, very few blooms.   I need to trim everything up.  The tall flowers were a gorgeous purple a few weeks ago.

Again, very few blooms, and I need to trim everything up. The tall flowers were a gorgeous purple a few weeks ago.

Those jump-ups I told you about.

Those jump-ups I told you about.

Ah!  Here's a pretty one!

Ah! Here’s a pretty one!

I've tried reseeding the front strip twice, but it only grows weeds.  Now we're trying some hardier plants interspersed with groundcover, working our way toward the right as we have more plants to put in.  We'll see how it goes.

I’ve tried reseeding the front strip twice, but it only grows weeds. Now we’re trying some hardier plants interspersed with groundcover, working our way toward the right as we have more plants to put in.  I need to move a few of them already; the side near the street is south-facing and very dry.

— 3 —

Hey, COW!

4-H photoHeh.

“Hey, COW!” is a game we used to play on youth group trips.  You roll down (or crack, in the case of an 18-passenger van) the window and scream, “Hey, COW!”  Then you count up how many cows turn and look at you.  Whoever gets the most cows to look, wins.

Hello, Oregonians.

— 4 —

Yarn Along!  My second time linking up with Ginny.

Apparently I’m supposed to include my current read in the picture with my knitting.  I just finished A Daughter’s Love by John Guy, and now I’m working on Ellen Gable‘s A Subtle Grace and (finally!) Jennifer Fulwiler‘s Something Other Than God.  Both of these, however, are on my Kindle.  A Kindle just doesn’t provide the same je ne sais quoi for a knitting-plus-book photo that a good old fashioned hardcover would, so I didn’t bother.

As to the knitting itself… my “learning to knit” practice pieces:

I practiced a more complicated rib/knit-purl pattern for this washcloth.

I practised a more complicated rib/knit-purl pattern for this wash cloth. I’ve washed it a few times already, hence the curling edges Let’s not look too closely at the twisted stitches, shall we?

This week's learning goal: increasing and decreasing, attempt #2.  I realized that I was using the wrong decreasing method the last time---I was knitting two together instead of doing SKP, which is why the last practice washcloth ended up lopsided.

This week’s learning goal: increasing and decreasing, attempt #2.  Moss stitch. I realized that I was using the wrong decreasing method the last time. I was knitting two together instead of doing SKP, which is why the last practice wash cloth ended up lopsided.

— 5 —

4-H photoSorry, can’t help myself.

Fine.  I will.  Just go read the article, will you?

— 6 —

Look at this sweet girl!

Seven big months!

Seven big months!

— 7 —

Signing off.  Have a great weekend.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

On Traveling the P.O.S.M.E. (Path of Social Media Enlightenment)

social media mavenMy newest personal and professional goal is to learn to use the com-pu-ter and the World-Wide-Web to be less of an in-tro-vert and idealistic starving art-teeeeest.  I.e, learn how to use social media.  For real.

I’ve been taken under the motherly wing of social-media-girl Cristina, one of my RH contributors, and am slowly discovering how these socially things are a lot less cumbersome and scary than I thought.  It’s nice connecting with my friends and colleagues, and putting my work out there isn’t as leech-like and Scumbag Central as I thought it’d be.

(Did I just say that out loud?)

I’ve taken the following steps on the Path of Social Media Enlightenment (P.O.S.M.E.):

  1. I updated my pages—bios, pictures, headers, etc.
  2. I dropped accounts I don’t use (Goodreads, to be specific).
  3. Facebook was already set to automatic posting for RH and NN, and I’ve decided to leave it at that.  The people who know tell me to not bother with playing the Facebook Algorithm Game.  It’s there for people who want it, but I’m not going to focus my attention on building FB numbers.
  4. I signed up for Hootsuite, connected both my personal and RH Twitter accounts, and set up my “streams.”  I also have my RH G+ page there, but I prefer using it through Google itself.
  5. I check Hootsuite every time I check my email.
  6. I made and am making Twitter lists of people important to me, such as my RH contributors.  I retweet their tweets.
  7. I follow other important Twitter lists, such as Lisa Hendey’s list of CatholicMom.com contributors.
  8. And, lo and behold, now I use Twitter to, you know, communicate with people.
  9. I now check Google+ and read people’s posts.  And respond!  Yet another miracle!
  10. (By the way, I’ve come to like Google+.  I live in Google already, so what’s not to like?  Everything feeds into everything else.  It didn’t make sense to me when I first looked into it.  Now it does.)
  11. I apply Cristina’s 80/20 rule—support others!  Be generous!  Encourage others by sharing their work!
  12. I still use FB to communicate with close family and friends, as well as participate in private groups.
  13. Pinterest!  More pinning!  Pin, pin, pin, pin, pin!
  14. I provide a link to pinned articles in their Google+ posting.
  15. I’m following people back.  It’s a nice thing to do, right?
  16. Oh, yeah, and leaving comments on blogs instead of reading and moving on.  I’m still working on that.

Those are my tactics so far.  Looks like a lot, but with a few tools—Hootsuite, using G+ with my Gmail—it’s not hard.  Almost… natural and organic.  And that’s the whole point of SM, am I right?

You’ll note that, if I were further down the P.O.S.M.E., I would have provided links to every. single. thing. I mentioned in this list.  But it’s late and I’m lazy.  Links are on the left, if you’re so inclined.

Nighty-night.