Friday, September 29, 2006

My pumpkin plant is homosexual.

It's true! There are supposed to be male flowers and female flowers, but all this plant has is males. Tons of them, in flamboyant orange. Not that there's anything wrong with that, except that it means NO PUMPKINS!
Well, maybe this week I'll go buy a store-bought pumpkin, and save some of the seeds for the back yard. We'll see what happens.

The List.

Once upon a time I heard a comedian tell about having a top ten friends list, that he updated every year. I thought it was a great idea, and started doing it myself. My list was just that, a top ten friends list, and I would start working on it in November or Dcember. The first few years of the list, I would email the results out to the top tenners, or call with the good news. But then, our friends starting hosting New Year's Eve parties every year, and since most of the top tenners were there in person, I started announcing them at midnight. It was always fun to see them react to their places on the list, and comparing their ranks from year to year.
It was never hard to write the list, that is, never hard to come up with ten names of people who should "make it". Ranking them could be difficult sometimes. I had a few rules, like no family members on the list, (including husbands) and the friends who made it had to be "weekend friends"- that is, work friends could make the list but only if they'd become friends outside of work, too.
One of the best parts of having the list was telling new friends that I had it, or hearing other friends tell new people about it. Their reactions usually fell within these categories: "I don't want to be on your list!"(denial), or "can I buy you a coke?"(ambition). One friend used to call me in early December every year to check in and make sure that I was saving him a spot.
Last year, I didn't make the list. I just didn't feel like it. At midnight, at the party, everyone turned to look at me, and I said "I didn't make one". I thought there would be some kind of horrific reaction, some wailing and gnashing of teeth, but there was barely a whimper.
But I think I'll bring it back this year. I've got great friends and I like being able to let them know. Maybe I'll make it an even bigger deal, sponsor some wagering or have a dinner party for the top five. Maybe some prizes. Get busy friends!!

but seriously.

AM I the only one who has war dreams?

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Paper or plastic?

I have this thing about plastic grocery bags. I hate them. They don't hold my groceries together in the back of the car, allowing everything to roll all over the place when I take corners. Stores use WAY too many of them. But the worst thing about all those bags is how many of them I see every day tied up in some tree somewhere. I cringe when I see a grocery bag entwined in a tree limb, flapping in the breeze.

I remember when they started the changeover from paper to plastic. There was a lot of debate, and every store made an effort to ask their customers, "paper or plastic?" Remember those powdery-feeling biodegradable bags? What ever happened to those? (I remember reading that they weren't that much better than the regular ones. I dunno though.)
So, I try to avoid getting plastic bags at the store, and when I see them in trees and bushes and whatnot, I pick them up. I save the bags we do get, and bring them back to the store to recycle. I try to bag my own groceries, because when I ask the bagger kid to do it, they sigh at me.
Today, I went to Market Basket, and bought groceries for our dinner tonight. I asked for paper bags. The kid put two items in a paper bag, and then, I swear, put the other items into plastic bags, and put them into the paper bag. He individually wrapped, in plastic, the eggs, the milk, the chicken (ok, raw chicken, I can see that) and the bottle of hand soap. I worked at a grocery store once, and I was told that soaps are separately bagged so as not to contaminate the food. But seriously, how much contamination can happen in a ten minute car trip? How often do plastic bottles of hand soap burst open in the back of our cars?
So after I checked out, I pulled out of the register area, pulled over my cart, and rebagged my bags, grabbing a bag from a nearby register. Now I have four bags that have been used for two seconds, but they're wet and rumpled. They can't use them again, so I sadly hand them to the manager to put them in the bag recycling bin.
Join me, America. Boycott plastic grocery bags. Pick 'em up when you see them. Endure the hateful stares from bag boys while saving the planet.

Joe, you're too low! Pull up!! Pull up!!!!!

In a weird confluence of several of my most irrational fears, the little airport behind our house is hosting several WWII-era planes, and flying them out over my driveway (which is an unusual flight path for the airport). And they're LOW. You can count the freckles on the noses of the pilots).
All of you, my myriad readers, may remember that my post 9/11 fears of planes crashing on my house live on. (I don't always duck...) The other fear featured here, even more bizarre, is a war thing. What's weird here is that whenever I have dreams about war, (not often, I swear- don't go taking up a collection for my therapy) it's WWII that is the scene I picture. I know, I was born umpty-nine years after that war, but somehow, as wars go, it is the most significant and clear frame of reference for me. I blame the old movies and Time-Life books.
So imagine, if you will, heading out to work (on your day off) for a stressful meeting, and in the driveway, flying directly over your head (and did I mention LOW) is a WWII-type war plane. Oh, and you're me. Very Twilight Zone, no?
And, am I the only one who has war dreams?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

prayer request

I got this email from one of my kids from a former parish. I have taken out his town and last name, even though his father wants his story told as stated at the end of the email, ya know, just for safety or privacy's sake. But this young man needs your prayers, so if you could put him on your list I'm much appreciative.
I know this young man. He's a great guy, and it's so awful, after all he's already been through, that this is happening to him again. Please help me pray for him.

Hello family and friends,
I am writing you to ask you all to pray for a 17 year old student with brain cancer. He received a clean bill of health 5 years ago and learned in May of this year that the cancer has returned and is now in 6 areas of his brain. He is not a candidate for chemotherapy or radiation at this point. His only hope is an alternative treatment which his father is administering at home, through IV. The treatment causes a high fever of 105 degrees and makes the young man very ill. The hope is that the toxins that are injected will kill the tumors. Brain damage is now occurring; either due to the tumors or the toxins.
Please pray for the father and mother who are trying relentlessly to save their son; the son who is experiencing this pain and suffering and the rest of the family who include 4 siblings. The father, who I spoke to today, wants prayers and believes it is the only hope. He also wants his son's name to not be anonymous. His name is David. Thank you for including him in your prayers.

Thanks all.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Veterans' Day

When I was a fairly new Youth Minister, I was dating a Veteran Youth Minister, and lucked into attending a "Veteran Youth Ministers" meeting at the OYM. I tried to stay quiet, since I had essentially gained entrance on my boyfriend's coattails, but my ears were wide open. I learned so much from these people. They already knew and understood the things that I was struggling to figure out. They were confident, educated, strong- they'd tried and failed, and tried and succeeded. I wondered what my life would be like when I achieved veteran status.
Well I'm officially in! This week we're gathering again the veterans and I'm one of them. I've been doing YouthMinistry professionally for 10 years now, and working with adolescents for almost 15 years, in various other (secular) capacities.I'm at the point where those vets were so long ago, who I admired so much.
I do feel like a veteran, I have definitely seen and learned and tried a lot of things. I have developed a significant sense of cynicism, experience serious burnout, cried and laughed at the amazing things I've seen happen at kids, felt and known the presence of the Holy Spirit, learned a LOT about this Church and its workings... I've read and read and read as much about Youth Ministry as I have been able to. I've been inspired and enraged. I feel like a veteran-complete with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder!
I can't wait to hear what these veterans have to say. I'm wondering how many of us are in serious burnout mode. I'm curious to hear the differences between the stories of the males and the females. I wonder what people will be saying about the state of YM in the Archdiocese.
I'll keep you posted!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

too much to say

For as far back as I can remember, I've loved to write- not just loved to, I have needed to write. In college, when times were hard and I was struggling, and my heart was being broken by some fella, I had two remedies. I bought Symphony bars (we called them "sympathy" bars) and if things were really bad, I'd by myself a nice, new, black pen. Nothing fancy, just something that would write my feelings out in a lovely, serious, black black ink. My notebooks in college were full of brain-drippings, funnelled through my nice black pens.
Since college, I've filled plenty of journals- at times I would write every day, on and on, but at other points, you might see weeks or even months between entries in my journals. But still, and probably forever, whenever I hit crisis and struggle, it's like a physical need- I've got to write. It's almost as if I need to start writing to see what comes out. As that old quote goes, "How do I know what I think until I see what I say?"
So, now comes blogging, and suddenly everything is public and friends keep sending me articles about bloggers who've been drummed out of society for what they've written and now have to live on the river's edge wearing sackcloth. It's hard for me not to let my brain drip onto my keyboard, and out into cyberspace but I do know that it's important to be careful. So, the opposite situation happens- now, when I struggle the most, I step away from the blog because it's too risky to be truthful, too public a place to be private on.
Which is to say, if you don't see me posting much (like lately), it's probably because I have too much to say.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

on 9/11

On 9/11, (THE nine-eleven) I had just gotten up and was pouring myself an iced coffee, when the phone rang. I hadn't turned on the tv yet (I was that freshly awake). PJ was calling from work, where he couldn't get on the internet and had no tv access- he asked me what was happening, but I didn't know. I turned on the tv while I had him on the phone, and we watched things unfold. It was stunning- that is, I remember really feeling stunned, and it took me a while to really grasp what was going on.
I went in to where Scott was blissfully asleep, and woke him up. How do I wake him? What do I tell him? I woke him and said "something bad has happened" and we turned on the little tv in the bedroom and watched together, holding onto each other on our bed.
That day, we had lunch together and then went to our own parishes to get to work on how we could serve through this horror. It was that day that we decided to buy a cell phone, so we could more easily reach each other in times of crisis.
Just last week I realized how I'm still affected by this all. I was in the shower and heard a really really loud noise overhead. We live next to a small airport, and I thought maybe the Hood blimp was right over the house, but that really doesn't happen- then I thought it might be a plane about to fall onto our house. (that doesn't happen either, so far) I literally ducked in the shower. (I am great in a crisis) then I realized what it was- a lawnmower going by the bathroom window.
Before 9/11 I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have confused a lawnmower with a plane crashing on my house.
I have long noticed that God has put some near-misses with tragedy in my life, and I think it's been to teach me empathy. If I freak out at lawnmowers I can get a bit of a glimpse, however mild, of what the real victims of this tragedy must be feeling.
Although I won't be able to watch much of the tv 9/11-palooza that will be on tomorrow, I will be praying for all of us to heal and feel peace again.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Keeping Children Safe...........

Well I spent the last two days at a "training" for implimenting the new "Keeping Children Safe" program, which is essentially "Talking about Touching" for middle school grades. Although I don't feel as though I can really tell, here, what I thought of the training, due to the fact that I'm sure to be already on some list of sympathizers at the chancery after the bit of noise I dared to make at the session, I will tell you this little story.
Somewhere around the middle of the second day of the training, a refridgerator started to hum loudly in the kitchen which adjoined the meeting room. Between us and the fridge were a door, and next to that a really large, gaping wide window with no covering and no ability to shut. When the humming started, one of the leaders of the training jumped up to address the situation. She walked over to the kitchen, and closed that door. Didn't do much at all, with the gaping wide open window there to let all the noise flow through. But I guess she thought the action of closing that tiny, ineffective door was worth the action.
And that's the end of my story.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

sacred space

Ohhh yeah, when I got to work today I had 34 messages on my machine, and the light was blinking "FULL"...."FULL"...."FULL"...."FULL"....
The phone rang pretty much constantly as soon as I set foot in the office- in fact, every time I tried to get the messages off the machine and into my notebook, someone would call and that would turn off the machine mid-message, and I'd have to start over again.
In the midst of it all were tons of kids visiting, the maintenance guys ripping up carpet in the dining room, parents coming by to pick up or drop off paperwork, and a 400 piece mailing. Oh and also two meetings.
About midday, I got a message from my dear, sweet friend who has just taken a job in the West region, who lovingly told me she has a whopping 84 kids from grades 8-10. Total.
I thought about putting my head down on my desk, but instead I dialed up Sacred Space ( and tried to focus. Sacred Space is a website run by the Jesuits in Ireland (which explains the .ie domain on the web site address) and it's a great place to turn in just such a state as I was in today. You click, and it helps you ease into prayer, and then you click and it gently guides you to open your heart to God. There's scripture, and help reflecting, and also at the bottom of every page there's little places you can click for even more help, if you're stuck.
Today Sacred Space helped me get grounded again, and reassured me that God's power can overcome my powerlessness, which was a message I sorely needed to be reminded of. Ahhhhh......

Monday, September 04, 2006

Labor Day Freakout

Shhhhhh....Remain calm. DON'T think about the fact that tomorrow the proverbial poop hits the rhetorical fan. I KNOW every sign points to Summer being over but we don't have to talk about that. I KNOW every commercial on tv has a math book in it and every store has spiral notebooks on sale. I know. But, let's not focus on that. We don't have to. Let's focus on the good things. Let's go to our happy place.

Nooooo, no. Not there. Go deeeeeper. Breathe deep. There you go.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

I made it!

Okay, attendance-takers out there, take ease. I did go to Mass. I split the difference and went to an evening Mass at a parish between here and His. His would be, it really would be, too much like work, too much like home, and sometimes I really do love the feeling of being one of the crowd at Mass. I didn't have to get up once, I didn't have to worry that the lector might forget to step forward for the POTF, I didn't have to help with the collection, I didn't have to be uber-friendly (although I was pretty friendly!) It was very nice.
I know Mass is communal prayer, but I have to admit, I like the feeling, every once in a while, of being a little anonymous. I did the whole bit, I kneeled/stood/sat when everyone else did, I sang out with all the songs, and followed along with the readings. I smiled and said "peace be with you" to everyone, and all that stuff. But I felt alone in the crowd, and I liked it.
There. I said it.

however, I have to admit...

... it wouldn't take tooooooo much convincing to get me out of the house to, say, go get Supreme Roast Beef. I may be a terrible Catholic but I'm a VERY good eater.

a body at rest...

So I don't have to go to work today- it being Labor day weekend and thus attendance at the 6 will be light- and since I have about 55 hours of "comp time" to take back in response to my overworking lately- and I am faced with an interesting quandary. What to do about Mass? I've been invited to Scott's parish for the 5, which is always nice but today feels like it would be just what I'm trying to avoid. Also, there's something childish in me that keeps count of how many times I've slogged down there to "his" Mass versus how many times he's come to "mine".
So, if it's not there, and it's not my parish, then where? Well, I woke up too late to go to any normal morning Masses in our town, which would have been at 9 or ten. So I'll have to find another evening Mass. I know there's one at both of my former parishes, but can't go there!
The thing is, it would be so easy to just skip. Just stay at home and watch Fail Safe, which is saved on our dvr box. I could stay in my pajamas, eat brownies, play on my new computer, and did I mention it's raining out? Hard! It makes me realize that without working at/for the Church, it would be very easy for me to let my religious duties slip away. I wonder how Catholic I would be if I weren't a minister? I wonder what impels non-Church-employed Catholics to keep it up, especially when it's so darn cold and rainy outside?

Friday, September 01, 2006

fever dreams

At just around this time last year, as I was preparing to take on my new (current) job, I started feeling stress like I really never had before. I've been known as the kind of person who is laid back and doesn't get stressed out-I was once described as "walking valium"- so this came as kind of a shock. I started to have dreams that I could only really compare to the kind of dreams I've had when I'm sick with a high fever. The odd thing was, something would be stuck in my head and every dream I had would be centered on that, all night, and I just couldn't shake it. For several nights it was a particular Christina Aguilera song (I can't remember which one now) and it would be in my dreams and would continue to run in my head every time I woke up, which was several times during the night. It was awful- and not only because it was a pretty bad song.
I guess I have a high threshhold for stress- and maybe that makes it even harder to deal with it once it actually comes.
Now, a year later, I'm having those feverish dreams again- two nights ago it was a Beastie Boys song (great song- love it. But...). Everyone in every dream was rapping those song lyrics to me. No, they're not meaningful lyrics (ex: "just gliding in the glade... like Lorne Greene you know I get paid!")- just one of the last songs I had in my head before I went to sleep. Last night my dreams were all about the last days of Anchorage, the group home I used to work for and which is now actually closing down. There was lots to do, lots of running around and making sure everything was packed and taken care of.
I know why I'm stressed again this year- it's the same reason I was last year- the schedule and expectations that loom ahead of me are massive and intimidating, and I don't feel like I have much control over them. That's not a feeling I'm used to, and not one (clearly) that I'm comfortable with.
Tonight, as I write this, I'm away from home, on the Cape (or near it, I'm not exactly sure) with some of my dearest friends. We spent the evening laughing hard and I'm good and tired. I pray for peaceful sleep and that my emotional clock will be reset by the distance, fresh air and laughter.