Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Gratitude and Humility

Since I wrote the post about humility, I went to confession...Not that interesting in and of itself, although I will say that the act of confession definitely helps with the whole "I'm trying to stay humble" thing.  It also helps with gratitude, at least for me--every time I screw up, confession reminds me of how very blessed I am in such a Merciful Savior!

When I go to confession, I really like to go to a parish near the center of town--in part, because it offers confession every weekday morning from 7:30a-8:00a, so it is convenient.  I also like going there because this particular parish is run by the Jesuits, and some of my best confessions have happened with the priests there (some of my more lackluster ones as well, but the good ones way outnumber the bad ones!).  That morning, I got a priest that I had never talked to before, and the interesting thing was that, after I had confessed my sins, he asked me what grace I was seeking from the Lord, then gave me several examples like humility, patience, gratitude, etc.  I replied by saying that there were so many graces that I need, and that it is hard to choose, but that I'd like to cultivate more gratitude in my life.  I then made the same argument as my last post--that one needs humility to be able to be grateful.

In turn, he turned the whole argument on its head.  His premise was that gratitude comes first, and that humility grows out of gratitude because we are seeing the blessings that God has given us...that the act of seeing the gifts we have for what they are--gifts that we did not earn--we are able to see ourselves with the right attitude and will be able to see ourselves as God sees us.

I find myself most grateful before the Blessed Sacrament...

Since then, I have been contemplating what the priest said, and I'm not sure that either of us are entirely wrong.  Really, it seems to come down to what sin you are more prone to--envy, or pride?  All of us can see that humility is really the virtue that is the antidote to pride, and the priest pointed to the fact that gratitude is the antidote to envy. No matter what, I think that these two virtues are incredibly intertwined, and I would be interested to hear your thoughts on their relationship.

Personally, I probably gravitate more toward pride than envy, so I'm thinking that pride is the major barrier for both humility and gratitude in my, I'm thinking that humility is really where I need to focus my attention, and gratitude will follow.  However, the idea of focusing on gratitude appeals to me because it seems like a gentler way of creating humility--I HATE the breaking that usually comes in asking for humility.  Having the Lord excise pride is painful!  And yet, when I can recognize what He is doing, it is easier to handle because I can see how it makes me more like Him.  I just don't usually see it until WAAAY after the fact.

May the Lord teach me how to do this!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Humility and Gratitude

A friend of mine posted a blog post on her Facebook page, which talks about 17 signs of a lack humility in our lives.  This post struck me, as I show so many of these signs, maybe not consistently, but often enough to feel the ouch that comes from seeing your faults in the mirror of Christ....One COULD argue that the fact that I write a blog points to a lack of humility in and of itself!

Since I saw this list, I have been thinking about the list itself, but something else has struck me about humility--it seems to me that there is a relationship between humility and gratitude.  In fact, I'm not sure that we can be grateful for the blessings in our lives unless we at least have a little bit of humility.  When we are not humble, we tend to take the gifts in our lives for granted, or even have a sense of entitlement for these things.  As I think about the gifts that I have been given, in family, friends, and the many other gifts that my life has been inundated with, I know that I'm not grateful enough for those gifts in my life.  But, as I have been ruminating and praying about my lack of gratitude, I keep coming back to the above list, and I am inclined to believe that I don't have a gratitude problem, but a humility problem.

So often, I think more about what I can do, and what I need, and what I want to say to people.  Even as I write this, I must admit that I was thinking about this post as I listened to the homilies in no less than 2 Masses this past week.  And, there, of all places, we should be focused on thankfulness rather than anything else--heck, Eucharist is Greek for thanksgiving!  I mean, when we go to Mass, Christ is making Himself physically present in the Accidents of Bread and Wine, and what greater miracle is that?!?!  And, instead of focusing on the weightiness of partaking of Christ's Body and Blood, I'm thinking about a blog post.

I'm not QUITE ready to start praying for humility yet, though, even if I should be.  It is one of those virtues that, when we pray for it, comes at a great cost.  Patience is another one of those virtues--I spent most of my high school years praying for patience, in spite of the fact that scripture says, "Tribulation worketh patience" (sorry about the KJV--that was my Dad's go-to scripture translation, so many of the verses I memorized as a kid are from the King James Version).  At some point, when those tribulations started piling up in my life, I figured that I didn't need to pray for patience, while I could probably use quite a bit of humility (and patience, for that matter!), I'm not at a place where I'm willing to pray for it for myself: my fertile imagination conjures up some pretty scary scenarios for how God could teach me said humility, and frankly, they scare me!!!

It is one of those things that makes me envy all of my mom friends....there is something about being entrusted with another human being that is innately humbling, and it isn't something that I have in my life to wear off those rough edges.  Instead, it is up to me to work on those rough edges through other relationships, and the process isn't always so straightforward.  Honestly, this is why I think I have so many friends right now that can whup my butt at Words with Friends.  It is a small way for the Lord to humble me!  It is also up to me to consciously work toward humility, sometimes by humbling myself, and sometimes by being aware of those times when I am not acting with humility in order to change my behavior.

I don't know who said it, but I vaguely remember reading a quote by a saint recently that basically said true humility is knowing ourselves so completely that we have neither too lofty a view of ourselves, nor a too lowly view of ourselves--we are aware of who we are to the extent that we can see who we are and where we stand in relation to others.  That is what I want, and I hope that the Lord does this for me, in spite of the fact that I'm not yet willing to pray for it.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Is it possible to be a biblioholic??? (Or, Bibliophilia on a Budget)

I just checked, and I currently have 165 books in my wish list on Amazon, and that doesn't even count all of the books that I have in my wish list for Audible (41 in my wish list, plus 37 that I have bought and either never finished or never started), the physical books that I own or have borrowed with the intent to read them (25 by my current count), or the books that I will be reading this coming year for book-club... Unfortunately, I think that I end up adding 2-3 books to my list of books to read for every book that I end up buying and/or reading from my wish list.  That doesn't even include the number of books in my Amazon account that I have already bought (and likely have never read), or the number of ebooks that I have through Barnes and Noble. To be fair, most of the books I have with B&N are books that I have actually read, so I will discount them for the current discussion....

Thankfully, most of my unread books are electronic, or my bedroom would probably look something like this!

I'm afraid that I need to find a support group.  "Hi, My name is Ruth and I am addicted to free books..."  ("Hi, Ruth!") It all started when I found Bookbub...and then, I subscribed to their list.  When you subscribe, you basically say what kind of genres you like, and then you get a list of about 5-7 books that are all under about $3-4.  On my list, I always have a few of them that are free, and if the description is even semi-interesting, I just go ahead and download it.  Then, I found out that I could like them on Facebook, and get the book bargains in my news the process, I started getting a post daily about a book that was free.  This book is usually in my email, so in and of itself, it isn't that interesting.  However, one day, I decided to click on the link, and in the process, I found out that there are more free books than I get in my daily e-mail.  I started clicking the link daily, and then, much to my own amazement, I now have 415 books that I have downloaded, and I have maybe read 20-30 of them, all because of BookBub.

I read. A Lot.  In fact, I probably read 1-2 books a week with gusts up to 4 or 5 books per week, but when I am downloading 5-7 books A DAY, then there is clearly something wrong with this picture (I also probably listen to 1-2 audio books a month).  If I were to quit BookBub cold turkey, refrain from adding any other books to my wish lists, and keep up with a listening/reading quota of 2 books a week plus one audio book per month for the duration, it would take me about 5.5 years to read through the backlog, and 6.5 years to get through the backlog for audio books.  I clearly have a problem, and finding someone who will pay me to read books all day every day is unlikely (however, if you know of a job like that, I would love to hear about it!!!).

I must admit that I have been justifying my BookBub habit...I keep telling myself that I will be able to catch up while I am on my Camino--I will have my iPad Mini with me, so I might as well put it to good use in the evenings by reading, right? I just tallied it up, people, and I have a total of about 575 unread books either in my possession or on my wish list, 385 of which I own in ebook format.  I will be on the Camino for 21 days, so I would have to read 18.3 books a day just to get through all of my ebooks....*shakes her head and laughs*  Even if I were a speed reader, and I'm not, this is not possible! 

Actually, I really just need to weed out the "that sounded interesting at the time" books, the "it doesn't sound boring and it is free" books, and the "I really should read that because so-and-so told me it was good" books from the "I really need to read this for my job" books, the "This is our book-club book for the month," and the "I have been waiting for the last six months for the author to publish again" books.   I also need to be more willing to quit reading a book if it isn't interesting or well written--even though the author isn't sitting there looking over my shoulder,  I often feel like I am insulting them if I don't finish their books.  I can actually count on one hand the number of books that I have purposely never finished and still have fingers left over:  Portrait of the Artist as a Young man; Heart of Darkness; and Pet Cemetery.  The first two were assigned to me in High School, and I just couldn't get to the place where they were interesting...when we quit studying them, I quit reading, even though I wasn't done.  That last book scared me so much that I had nightmares after reading the first chapter! I decided that I didn't need to finish the book, and have actually never read another Steven King novel because of my experiences with that one book.  I have a few other books that I have started with the intention of finishing, but haven't gotten around to completing yet....However, they are non-fiction books, so they are not always meant to be read in one sitting: I don't count them in the above list because of their very nature as non-fiction books.

So, I have made the first step--I have an unread book problem.  How does one learn moderation in acquiring books?  And, how do you determine what you should read?    I would be interested to hear your process for choosing books, both fiction and non-fiction.  And, if I get lost among the pixels, someone may have to complete an intervention on me.  "I'm Ruth, and I am addicted to free books."

This is day 5 of 7.  Go check out all of the other people that picked up the gauntlet that Jennifer Fulweiler threw down!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Hair, Hairy, and Harried

One thing that I'm looking forward to after my Camino is spending a weekend with all of my beautiful sisters in October....they have graciously accepted the challenge of helping me update my look and my wardrobe.  Considering that I haven't done this for about 6-8 years, I'm sorely in need of new clothes and a new look.  This includes my hair--since I keep it pretty short, this means that I have to deal with my hair getting shaggy.  I am currently wearing a headband to work daily, since it is still too short to do anything with, but too long to style like I normally do.  I wouldn't mind so much, except that I hate having hair in my face, and my bangs are about at the place where I usually get fed up and chop them with my kitchen shears.  I am resisting temptation, as I want to be able to really choose a new style when I see my sisters at the end of October.  It is getting dang hard, though.  At the same time I think I'm probably getting too old to continue sporting the "Julia Roberts as Tinkerbell" pixie cut, which I have worn since about the time I graduated from college in 1997.
I hate having hair in my face, so this is my usual "working late while in my PJ's" look.  Funny, it is the same fashion statement that my under 5 nieces seem to sport....I really need a haircut, but am waiting as long as I can stand it in order to maybe update my hair style.  At least I will be wearing a hat on my Camino!
Which brings me to the hairy part--I recently changed which blanket I use because of my animals.  All of them have light-colored hair, and they shed terribly.  Seriously, I think that I sweep/vacuum up their weight in hair every week.  You would think that they would eventually go bald, but no, they are still as hairy as they ever were...In the mean time, I have gone to a cream-colored comforter, since the hair doesn't show, and I have taken a vow to never buy microfiber fuzzy blankets ever again.

Ginger and the fuzzy blanket--as long as I own pets, I will never own another fuzzy blanket again!  I don't care how warm they are--they are hair magnets!
I am a procrastinator of epic proportions, and I am taking a few moments to write this so that I can get back to work on my proposal for teaching a class next spring.  I am really looking forward to getting back into the classroom, but I have to get my proposal in by the end of the week, and I'd like for a colleague to look it over before I turn it in.  That means that I need to finish my proposal as well as my syllabus before I go to bed tonight.  I can't say that I'm looking forward to staying up late tonight, but it will also mean that I will probably be able to teach in the Spring, and that is something that is worth a little less sleep.

I really need to be better at not procrastinating, but I have yet to figure out a way to refrain from doing so, especially when I have access to the playground that is the internet at my fingertips day in and day out.  I've tried Chrome Nanny, and it works to a point--did you know that you can just open another browser, like Firefox, and get around it?  It is the same with using the Pomodoro technique.  I'm really good about following it for one pomodoro, and then the ticking tends to get relegated to background noise, and I'm back where I started....I will figure it out some day, and hopefully going on my Camino will help me to reset my priorities. *sigh* It is the one sin that I have to confess every time I go to Reconciliation.  I know that it is better than coming up with new and ever more interesting sins each time, but it would also be nice to no longer have to confess this particular sin!

This is what the blanket looked like before I washed it--but the washing didn't get all of the hair out.  I think that this will be the "Hairy Blanket" from now on.  Sometimes I want to look at my critters and tell them, "this is why we can't have nice things!!!"

Lastly, I have not really trained for the last 4 weeks, running wise.  This means that I'm still barely able to run 3 miles, when I should be running 10-12 miles on my long runs.  If I don't get back in the habit of running soon, there is no way that I will be able to finish my Marathon in the middle of October.  I talked to one of the experts in the running club, and he says that, as long as I can run about 20 miles in one stretch after I get back, I should be ok, since I will be hiking with a pack for 3 weeks straight.  I've just kind of run out of steam these last few weeks, and it is really hard to get back in the groove.  I don't want to need my runs like I did when I first got my divorce, but I need some other sort of motivation to keep it up.  I need to work on that....

This is day 4 of the 7 day Challenge that Jennifer Fulweiler set up...Check out this link to see who else picked up the gauntlet!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

I am looking for a passage...

When I was in college, one of the greatest spiritual exercises I ever did was to take a passage of scripture and memorize the whole passage.  I did so by taking one verse for each day and meditating on it all day long until I could recite it at the end of the day.  The passage I chose for that exercise was Philippians 2: 1-12, and to this day, it is a passage that resonates in my heart.  I think that some of it has to do with the fact that I rolled it around, savored all the accents, and then did so again in case I missed anything, much like one would do with tasting a fine wine for the first time. 

I am told that Northern Spain has some very good wines, so I'm going to do my best to try a few of them!

As I am a little more than five weeks away from my Camino (36 days!!!), I have a lot to do for work, but I find myself thinking more and more about what I'm going to be doing as I walk day in and day out.  I'm sure that I will be talking to fellow pilgrims, as well as spending time in prayer by myself each day, but it seems to me that it is a unique time to tackle another passage and commit it to memory, especially since I will have a good 8-9 hours each day when I am walking.  At first, I thought that I would use Psalm 119, since memorizing the whole of it is on my bucket list, but I'm not sure that I can really meditate on more than one verse at a time--If I chose this passage, it would mean that I would have to memorize 7-8 verses per day in order to finish by the time I got to Santiago (I will only be on the Camino for 21 total days--19 days walking plus 2 rest days).    Then, I thought of my favorite Psalm, Psalm 27, but it is only 14 verses long, and I would run out of verses before I got to Santiago.  I can't think of any other passages off the top of my head...

This is from Burgos, the town that I will begin walking from

So, I would like to ask you, my readers, to maybe suggest a passage of scripture that would be appropriate to work on memorizing while I am on my Camino.  The passage should be between 19 and 22 verses long, although closer to 19 would be better, and it would be nice if it loosely related to pilgrimage (Psalm 27 is a pilgrim's hymn, and was usually sung on the trip to Jerusalem).  However, any passage of note would do.  I will be looking myself, and will post here what passage of Scripture I eventually choose in case you would like to memorize it with me. Just as I have asked specific people in my life to give me pebbles to leave at Cruz de Ferro, I want to include you in the pilgrimage, at least virtually....This is another way to include you and let you participate.  :-)

I look forward to hearing your suggestions!

This is day 3 of the 7 day Challenge that Jennifer Fulweiler set up...Check out this link to see who else picked up the gauntlet!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Cars, Communion, and Cash Flow

This week has been a difficult week for sticking to my commitment to take the bus to work...On Monday, I overslept until 7 AM, so I had to take my car in order to get to work on time  (setting your alarm for 5 PM instead of 5 AM is not conducive for waking up on time...).  I also took my car today because I am going to running club as soon as I am done with work, and it is easier to get home when I take my car.  For the most part, I agree with friends that keeping my car is a good idea so that I don't have to depend on others for going to the grocery store, etc. on weekends.  I really like the idea of saving the money that I can by not owning/using my car...2 days in a row is definitely not what I had planned, and I will likely use my car at least one more time this week, since it is the only way that I can make it to the free Lee Brice concert at the local Army base on Friday.

One good thing about using my car is that I can make it to daily Mass like I did today, and I really like being able to do that.  I have given back my parking sticker, though, so I can't park on campus helps me to keep my resolve to take the bus and use my car less.  Right now, it isn't that difficult to find a place to park on the street, but once the regular semester starts, I suspect that it will get much more difficult.  More than likely, if the car doesn't sell, then I will continue to take my car on Tuesdays, and maybe one other day a week.  That gives me the ability to go to daily Mass or to Confession before work on those days, and I still save gas by taking the bus all of the other days of the week.  It will also mean that I can start using the campus pool again, too.  It will mean that I will be helping the environment, but I won't be helping my pocketbook.  I use between 3 and 4 tanks of gas a month when I drive every day, and I usually budget about $120/month for gas.  I know that I can probably keep my gas consumption down to 2 tanks of gas a month. Of course, that is only if I take my car to work 2x/week or less, and then take the bus the rest of the time.  A bus pass is about the equivalent of one tank of gas at $30, so there really is no savings unless I can use my car even less.  (A tank of gas is usually about $35-40, since it is an 11 gallon tank) Well, I guess you could say that I'm still ahead, since I'm not paying for a parking sticker, which is $20/month...however, if it gets too hard to find parking, I will likely have to add that expense back.

The back of my car before I removed the 13.1 sticker when I was thinking about selling it.  There is one person that is looking at the car, and if they decide they want it, I will sell it (I kind of promised that I would).  Otherwise, I will be keeping the car.

At the same time, I keep asking myself this question, especially since I am probably keeping my car at this point: If I can get up at 5 AM in order to ride the bus every morning, how is that better than making the commitment and getting up at 6 AM in order to go to daily Mass, especially since there is no real monetary savings?  I can make all the arguments about the extra exercise and how it is better for the environment, but the real motivator has always been cold hard cash for this decision.  How is my bottom line (both literally and figuratively) more important than my spiritual well-being?

Somewhere over the last year, I quit getting up to go to daily Mass, and I'm not sure why....when my marriage was at its hardest, going to daily Mass sustained me in ways that nothing else did, not even running.  As I was driving to daily Mass this morning, I started thinking about how Eucharist means "thanksgiving," and that it fits nicely with my current journal theme of gift, for it is Christ giving Himself to us, but also us giving ourselves to Him in the Mass.  I want to get back into the practice of going to daily Mass, and I can only do that if I keep my car....where riding the bus, staying fit, and managing my time fits into all of this, I don't know, but I do know that it is time to quit being spiritually lazy.

One of my favorite quotes from Jennifer Fulweiler's blog is:
Your priorities are things you plan for.
 So, I need to begin planning my life around going to daily Mass, monthly Adoration, and running again.  I did that really well as my marriage was falling apart around me, but haven't kept that up in the time since my ex moved out.  I think that I got complacent because I didn't NEED these things just to function anymore. In the process, months and years of discipline have given way to a little bit of sloth on my shows in my huffing and puffing as I run, as well as in the spiritual flabbiness that I have been noticing.  I don't know what I will eventually decide about transportation to work, but I do know that I want to make my relationship with God my first priority.  If I do that, everything else will fall into place the way that it is supposed to.

I am blogging every day this week....go see Jen Fulweiler's blog for a list of others that are doing the same!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Gratitude and 2x4's

When I was going through RCIA,  my teacher would give us several prayer cards each class.  While I haven't really looked at many of them since I finished the class, there is one that I keep going back to over and over again...
If what I seek be according to Your will, then let it come to pass and let success attend the outcome.  But if not, my God, let it not come to pass.  Do not leave me to my own devices, for You know how unwise I can be.  Keep me safe under Your protection, Lord my God, and in Your own gentle way guide me and rule me as You know best.
It seems to me that I, at least, tend to pray for what I want, rather than what God wants.  This prayer reminds me that I need to be looking for God's will in what is going on in my life rather than thinking of God as an ATM for my wants and needs.  Usually, when I pray it, the phrase, "Do not leave me to my own devices" tends to get emphasized, as I have moments of silliness, stupidity, and downright obtuseness.  I would be a total wreck if it were all up to me!!!  I'm afraid that I usually also add the phrase, "or not so gentle as the case may be" after "In Your own gentle way,"  as I am convinced that God has a 2x4 with my name on it (it might be a 4x8, considering how thick my skull can be at times.  It isn't like I actually see what He hits me with--I just feel its effects!), just so He can whack me across the back of my head and get my attention....The older I get, the better I get at listening to His still, small voice, but that doesn't mean that I'm good at it yet!!!

This past weekend is a case in point...I went on my first and only date since my divorce was final, and God used it to hit me upside the head and say, "WHAT THE HECK WERE YOU THINKING???"  No matter how many people have told me that I need to wait at least a year before I started dating, I didn't get it until this past weekend.  Some of this is the nature of my failed marriage, and the fact that it was never really good to begin with; some of it is that the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back happened 14 months ago; lastly, some of it is that my ex moved out 10 months ago, even though the divorce was not final until the beginning of last December.  Even so, actually going on a date made me realize how incredibly not ready I am for dating again.  I like the idea of dating, and I like the thought of finding true love, but that doesn't mean that I'm really ready for the reality.  Frankly, I'm enjoying the freedom of being single, even if it can be lonely occasionally. 

In the process, I have also come to realize that online dating really isn't for me.  I have too fertile of an imagination, and it is very easy to create a false sense of intimacy from the first stages of getting to know one another online.  I've cancelled my memberships and have decided that I will go with old fashioned, face-to-face dating when the time comes for me to try again.  In the interim, I will count my blessings, and contemplate the enormous gift that God has given me--namely time to heal. 

I also finally broke down and started another journal today.  Like I used to in college, I have chosen a theme for this journal, which is "gift."  So often, I look at the healing that I still need to do, or the deficits in my life, but I forget to be grateful for the blessings that my life is over-flowing with.  As I move closer to my Aug. 29th Camino departure date, I want to focus on those blessings and cultivate a sense of gratitude in my life....When I focus on the Good things God gives me, it is then that the most healing takes place.  More importantly,  when I show my gratitude for all that Christ has done in my life, it is then that I am most content and at peace, and it is when I am least likely to need a whack from God as an attitude check.  Lastly, I suspect that, when we are truly grateful, it is then that we are most in line with who God created us to be--we were created to Glorify Him, and we do that best when our hearts overflow with gratitude.

I doubt that God will destroy that 2x4 with my name burned into it any time soon, but at least my focusing on what I am grateful for will give it (and me, for that matter!!!) a much needed rest.  May we all think about the blessings we have in our lives and thank God for them.  What are YOU thankful for???

Please visit to see other bloggers who will be writing 7 posts in 7 days....

Friday, July 12, 2013

Book Club for the next year!!!

I love going to book club...It forces me to read books that I might not have picked up otherwise, as well as gives me one night a month to spend with friends.  Accepting the invitation of my sister to join book club when I first moved to EP was one of the best decisions I have ever made.  Even though I'm not a mom and not homeschooling (this book club was started as an adjunct to the local Catholic Home-school Group), they have embraced me and I value all of their friendships immensely.

Thankfully, the ladies aren't like this...I think it comes from the fact that all of them are busy moms--read the book or don't, but still come for the fellowship!
 So, after all of us voted on close to 50 books, our choices for the next year have been chosen.  The winners are:

  • August: The School if the Family by Chantal Howard
  • September: The Innocence of Father Brown by GK Chesterton
  • October: Nine Years Under: Coming of Age in an Inner City Funeral Home by Sheri Booker
  • November: Miracles of Father Kapuan: Priest, Soldier, Korean War Hero by Ray Wenzl
    • we were told last night that this book was voted for by all but one of us.
  • December: No Meeting
  • January: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
  • February: The Ear of the Heart by Mother Delores Hart
  • March:  Fire Within: St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, and the Gospel on Prayer by Thomas Dubay
  • April: Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth
  • May:  Imitating Mary, Ten Marian Virtues for the Modern Mom by Marge Fenelon
  • June: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby
  • July: The One Thing is Three by Michael Gaitley
It is kind of interesting, because we usually have more fiction on the list, but it looks like there are only 3 fiction titles on the list this year...we also have more memoirs this year.  I think that many of us need to quit reading Jennifer Fulweiler's blog, since many of the memoirs are books she recommended!!!  It is also nice to see that Austen made the list this year--we seem to read one of her novels every other year or so.  We didn't read her this past year, but we read Bronte's Jane Eyre, as well as another Ann Patchett Novel.  We seem to read Patchett every other year, too.  Two years ago, we read Patron Saint of Liars by her and all of us agreed that we didn't like the ending.  It is one of the things that is most frustrating about Patchett--it is like she never really finishes her books!

I'm kind of sad because I'm going to miss book club in September, since I will be on my Camino, especially since the Fr. Brown novel is one of the books that I recommended to the club.  At least I already have it downloaded to my iPad Mini (free e-book!!!), so I will likely read it while in Spain, if not before.

Me reading with my critters.  I have been using e-books almost exclusively for the last 4-5 years!
I will be leading the discussion in October and April this year.  I'm looking forward to it!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Blank Journals and Temptation

Since it is now less than 8 weeks before I leave for my Camino, I have begun the process of making a prayer list in the back of the Journal I plan to take with me--It will be things that I plan to pray for daily on my Camino, and I already have several things I know I want to pray, it wasn't that hard to begin the list.  This was a mistake, though.  You see, I have kept every journal that I have ever written (well, almost--there is one, maybe two volumes that have been lost in one of my many moves), and if you were to look at them, you would notice something rather curious....most of them have something like 20-30 pages blank at the back of them.

This is a picture of one of the pages of my current journal...that particular day, my dog had put her nose on the paper in the hopes that I would pay attention to her...I traced around her nose, then embellished it. 

I don't know what it is about my journals, but once I have written in the same tome for weeks and months, there comes a point when I start itching to start a new Journal.  I start perusing the blank book racks at Barnes and Noble, looking for just the right shape, size, and color.  I start counting how many more pages I have, in order to begin gauging how much longer I need to write in THIS particular book, and, if it is spiral bound, I start to tear out pages from the back in order to, hopefully, make the journal fill up faster.  Sometimes, it is because I know that I am at a new place in my life, and I am just ready.  Sometimes, it is just that I'm sick of looking at the same cover over and over.  And, sometimes, it is because I have made the mistake and actually bought my next journal....I just begin to yearn to put pen to paper and fill the beautiful, pristine pages!

My journal often becomes a bit of a scrap-book...this is the bib from the 25k I ran in San Antonio this past May.  I will often add tickets, postcards, etc.  This particular journal also has some of the correspondence from the Tribunal pasted in it, and the journal I took with me to Mongolia in college has letters from home pasted in...It is why I will be taking a glue stick with me on my Camino.
This time around, I am using one of the many blank journals laying around my house (I don't want to be caught without a new Journal if I need it--horror of horrors!--do I?!?), rather than buying a new journal.  I have actually decided that I want to use up the majority of my blank journals before I am willing to buy a new one again, since having 7 empty journals sitting on my bookshelf seems a little excessive to me.  I've also thought about getting back into a habit of decorating my own journals again...I used to buy spiral bound sketch books, then made collages on the front cover.  I would then laminate them by covering the collages with clear packing tape.  The only problem is that I don't get any magazines, so I don't have a ready stash of pictures anymore that I can use on collages.  I  would rather use someone else's pictures, since my drawing is rudimentary at best.

This is an example of my sketching ability.  About the only thing I am good at drawing is ivy, and you will often find blank space being filled with meandering ivy in my journals.
So, you are wondering why it is so dangerous for me to begin readying my journal for my trip?  Well, I've currently got about 20 pages remaining in my current Journal, and I really want to wait to begin a new journal until I leave for my Camino.  I'm just not sure that it will last for the 51 days that I have left until I leave, and I really don't want my Camino Journal to have anything in it but my Camino.  I'm afraid that one of the following scenarios will happen:

  1. I will run out of pages in my current journal, and then begin using my Camino journal, only to not have enough pages to get me through my trip (I know that they have blank books in Spain, but I would rather have everything in one place).
  2. I will run out of pages, and then begin a new journal for here at home, but save my Camino Journal for my trip....I hate the idea of having 2 journals going on at the same time, although this is probably the most likely scenario at the moment.
  3. I will run out of pages, and then just wait until I leave for my Camino to write in my journal again--this idea is just WRONG.  I haven't been without a journal since I was 14, and I don't want to start now!
  4. I will get impatient with filling my current journal, and then begin using my Camino Journal just because I don't want to write in my current journal anymore (this could also hold true for a different journal than my Camino Journal as well).
  5. I will begin rationing how much I can write in my journal because I want to wait for my trip to start a new journal.
As you can see from the stack of pages on the right, I am currently at the end-game of this journal...I have exactly 21 pages left!

I think the real reason why it is dangerous to begin working on my Camino Journal is that I've turned a corner this last week, and I'm ready to start a new stage in my healing.  Somehow, starting a new journal is a symbolic gesture for me, and has been for a long time--I started my current journal shortly after my divorce was final. Nothing in my regular, day-to-day existence changed, but I had an attitude shift that was a long time coming.  I'm still not sure which scenario above will hold sway, but I'm sure that I want to chronicle all that God is doing in my life, so only time will tell.  I will try to white-knuckle it and continue to use the journal I am currently in, then make a decision when I have used the last page (or when I can't stand to use this particular journal any longer!!!).

I also like to add quotes that hit me for one reason or another.  I often try to write about the quote and what I like about that particular quote, but not always.  Sometimes, I will put a quote in randomly in my journal--when I do that, it usually has no embellishment or elaboration because it was originally written in the middle of blank pages.  When I finally get to the quote, it is often not as relevant to what is on my heart anymore.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Freedom and Following

Sunday's Mass readings revolve around the idea of Freedom and what it is, starting with the calling of Elisha by Elijah in I Kings 19:16, 19-21.  What hits me most about this reading is that, even though Elisha would like to tell his parents good-bye, he is willing to kill his yoke of oxen, cook it by torching his plowing equipment, and then uses the meat to feed the other workers there.  From my perspective, Elisha uses a scorched earth policy....It is almost like he knows that, if he leaves the yoke and oxen still there, he will go back to his old life, not continue to follow God's plan for his life.  All of us have those areas, I think...relationships, habits, time wasters, etc.  that the only way we can root them out of our lives is to scorch the earth with God's cleansing fire.

As some of you know, I am in the process of transitioning to a carless existence, partly because I can, and partly because I need to pay off some debts in order to go back to school, and this is the best way to do so that I can think of.  It has meant changing some of my routines, and learning to get up earlier than I am used to, but it is nice to let someone else fight traffic while I use the time to read, pray, and even update this blog!  I have to say that I am looking forward to being carless, partly because getting rid of THINGS is freeing on its own....ever since I heard about the 100 item challenge a few years ago, I've always wondered if I could be content with under 100 personal items, including clothes.  Really, I tend to wear the same outfits over and over, anyway, so why keep the clothes I might wear only once a year or less? Honestly, I doubt I could get to that small a number of items, but I could probably get down to like 200, if I were to work at I really need like 30 pair of socks and 20 t-shirts (this is an exaggeration--I have no idea how many of either I have, but I do know that it is more than I really need)? In some ways, I am already working on this because I have started only buying digital books rather than hard copies, and have begun doing the same for music.  I prefer to rent DVDs  or stream movies/shows rather than own them, and I haven't touched the DVDs I own since my ex moved out.  I'm not ready to get rid of the DVDs I own yet, but I see it happening in the future, especially if I ever take the time to make sure that all of them are available via Netflix.  Not quite a true scorched earth policy, but I suspect that there is a bit of an ascetic living in me underneath all this stuff.  

Of course, Elisha's sacrificing of his yoke of oxen and his plow was more than just getting rid of stuff.  That is only part of the puzzle--I can't just move away from, but I also need to move TO something. Elisha's actions were a declaration of allegiance to God and His plan.  This is why all religious orders require you to make a vow of is a way to consciously choose to put Christ above all else.   And, I think this is where the second reading from Gal. 5:1, 13-18 and the gospel message in Luke 9:51-62 come in.  One of the things St. Paul says is that we shouldn't let ourselves get put back into slavery because, when Christ sets us free, we are truly and completely free--and that freedom comes from following Christ and loving our neighbor.  Today, a friend posted this blog post on her Facebook wall, and I feel like it ties into this--it is more than just avoiding issues where we might be tempted, as this blogger mentions, but we have to rely on God to help us change our attitudes.

What I found most interesting about the gospel reading was that one of the disciples says something similar to what Elisha says to Elijah, "let me go say goodbye to my parents, first". And Jesus tells the man that he shouldn't look back, just like a man guiding a plow shouldn't look back if he wants to create a straight furrow.  I've never completely understood this passage--It is one of those times when I wish we could see what Jesus' facial expression was, just as I wish I could have seen the face of the man.  You almost get the impression that this particular disciple was looking for an excuse to leave and never come back, so Jesus calls him on it.

I don't think I have it in me to torch all of my stuff in order to follow Christ, like Elisha did, but I can consciously live with less, and in the process, ask the Lord to help me draw closer to Him.  I believe that living without a car is a good first step.