Dedicated to the Sacred Heart

Lately, I’ve been writing a journal with various thoughts on my job. I have many. Just as soon as I think I’ve heard it all, somebody calls the office and finds a new way to stump me. The journal, however, catalogs not only the learning process, but the interplay between people and priests and thoughts on the spiritual life. It’s the kind of journal I could never publish, at least not in my lifetime, as privacy is a central component of what I do. In order to publish, I would have to keep things vague and/or change names. I suppose that would be true of many jobs — a medical receptionist, for example, has an entire office filled with private information. My journal entries don’t often dwell on specific information, though. Just as often, I’m cataloging what we did to wing it for the Corpus Christi procession last Sunday, and how that turned out. In fact, I was going to adapt that journal entry into a blog post (I wrote it on the Monday after Corpus Christi), until Friday arrived. At that point, the stunning overturning of Roe V Wade took precedence in my mind and journal.

Catholics are celebrating, you see. They’ve been at the forefront of the prolife movement for years. These activists, who will leave prolife rallies with sad grimaces and “see you at next year’s rally” defeatist statements, are dazed and confused, wondering what just happened. But they are also in the thrall of excitement, the adrenalin flowing. At least, they were yesterday. Adrenalin will always wear off, but the general consensus is that what happened in the Supreme Court yesterday was a big win on the side of goodness and holiness, and it couldn’t have happened on a better day, when Catholics were celebrating the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The Sacred Heart is a special yearly devotion, particularly dwelling on Jesus’ love for mankind. It’s this heart that compels Catholics to fight against the scourge of abortion, which is in opposition to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Abortion is antilife and anti-humanity. It’s evil at its finest and darkest — destructive to those whom Jesus died for before they’ve had a chance to perceive the sunlight, except perhaps what little penetration occurs through skin, muscle, and fluid.

A few weeks ago, a parishioner brought me a history of a local nun who is now in her nineties. She asked if it could be posted on a bulletin board, and if I could format it and make it look nice. I did format it, and I could understand why this parishioner wanted the story told. The nun had lived a life of service, including working for years in a home that helped teen girls. But what was particularly fascinating to me was her history of prolife rallies that had landed her in jail multiple times. Overturning Roe V Wade is what women like this Sister have been fighting for all these years.

I know this post could merit some cynical responses, particularly from conservatives. I’ve already heard those, seen those. Yes, I realize that overturning Roe V Wade didn’t outlaw abortion nationwide. We still have a war in front of us, both politically and culturally. And yet, this is still a win. Conservatives are loath to acknowledge any win in a larger battle. They come up with reason after reason why overturning Roe V Wade was not a good decision — I think conservatives must be the real Eeyores amongst us. This is part of why I haven’t called myself a conservative in a very long time. Their attitude is simply rotten. If they can’t acknowledge the goodness in overturning Roe V Wade, perhaps they could acknowledge that a Supreme Court justice decision that overruled all state laws is at the very least unconstitutional. Roe V Wade should never have had the overarching affect that it did. Getting rid of it will help restore state rights, at the very least.

It does something more, though. It rips open that outer layer of demonic possession of our nation. Yes, that sounds a bit extreme. As someone who believes in the spirit world, I don’t know what else to call the slaughter of babies. We had a veil over our nation that didn’t allow individual regions to stop this bloodbath from occurring. Every time a state or county or city tried, it was challenged at the Supreme Court level and held up to the supposed sacrosanct Roe V Wade. Now we can have sanctuaries for the unborn, in states like Texas. Of course, there will be backlash. Of course, the evil entities of the world will find a way to turn this decision to their destructive ends. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t the right decision to make. It just means there will be more work to do.

An Artist You Should Know

My dad is my favorite artist. Let’s face it: in many ways, he’s my favorite person. Of course, he’s up there with my mom and husband and children as being the best people in the world. As a parent, though, he has the distinction of knowing me longer than the rest of the best people, except my mom, of course.

I say he’s an artist you should know, but he’s much more than that to me. He’s my life mentor, and I don’t happen to be an artist. In other words, he’s not just a summation of the various media he works with. For a start, he’s the one who taught me to be a jack-of-all trades. I’ve discussed this subject before; while I admire the type of people who can focus on one skill and master it, I can’t imagine limiting myself that way. And I learned this from my dad.

On the job front, he worked his way from night janitor at Tektronixs to electrical engineer. On the home front, he gardened, canned, explored different cuisines when cooking, built many things and repaired others. On the artistic front, he carved things from wood, painted in oil and watercolor, did cartooning and pen-and-ink illustrations, and wrote poetry — often in calligraphy. He also played the guitar and harmonica. On the exercise front, he had a pullup bar in the garage, jump-ropes, various weights, and that’s not to mention that we did a lot of hiking and biking and fishing and camping as a family. On the education front, he took the occasional class for his job and read everything. And I do mean everything. He read fiction and nonfiction of all varieties and then take handbooks out into the wilderness to identify vegetation such as wildflowers, trees, berries, etc. He still does all the above, by the way.

As a child, I thought my dad knew everything and could do anything. In a sense, I was correct, despite that no humans can know and do everything. He has always had a zeal for doing and learning. He’s a Rennaissance man born into the postmodern world of James Joyce’s Ulysses. And, yes, he did read that, but mostly because he thought it was edgy when he was a teenager.

He introduced me to so many poets and writers and artists and musicians. Because of him, I can still detect when I’m listening to Mozart vs Handel or Vivaldi. I fell in love with Willa Cather and Coleridge and Christina Rossetti in high school…because of him. I browsed through art books with beautiful paintings because they were all over the house. I read the works of St. Augustine of Hippo and St. Thomas Aquinas, as those passed for bathroom reading in our house growing up.

If this sounds like a fan-girl post, wherein I wax poetic about my father and don’t have any other point, yes. Yes, it is. It was just Father’s Day, after all, and I want the world to know how blessed I was as a child. This is what happens when you aren’t perfect, and yet you live with the desire to do what is right and experience the joy of God’s world: you bless those around you. There is so much wrong with the world. There is so much that could make me very angry every day. But I was blessed with a father who loves God, and that’s something to be grateful for, despite that so many of my generation were harmed by their parents’ divorces and selfishness. It’s something to be grateful for owing to the selfishness of my generation’s parents. There will always be envious people in the world who can’t stand other’s good fortune when they haven’t had it themselves, but there is nothing I can do about that.

There is also nothing I can do about the fact that clown world just added about a thousand cars to their crazy train and is driving that train right over a cliff. I read in a news article just the other day a quote from the executive director of the Global Fund, in which he states that his little group is working on putting together billions to “strengthen” medical care systems to cope with the effects of the starvation that’s coming to the world. Think about that for a minute. The Global Fund doesn’t really care that we are headed into a purposefully created food shortage, only on lining the pockets of the medical community as the world’s weak and impoverished lie dying in their beds, probably with tubes jammed down their throats, as that seems to be the preferred method since Covid. Add to that all the rainbow flags waving as though life is some kind of eternal party, where we’ll dance right into our graves. So, we have a world of clowns who are members of the Global Fund, but really they are more akin to Killer Clowns From Outer Space, while the rest of us are ordinary clowns who will go for their candy cotton floss.

Or some of us will. Shudder. If that turned dark, it was only because a good writer always provides a contrast: those people who want others to starve and those who can’t or shouldn’t be fathers contrasted with good fathers who grow their own food to care for their families and create beauty at the same time.

This is just a screenshot on my phone. I recommend clicking the link below.

What is the Truth?

In my last post, I discussed my frustration with generic appeals to truth. Of course, I believe there is objective truth to the universe, God, and his system for redemption. But who has this truth? This is what Christians have been arguing over for centuries. Did God give us church authorities who would guide us through the Holy Spirit? Did he mean for us to read Holy Scripture and come to our own determination and what the truth is? If we are deciding between those choices, I answer yes to the first question and not the second. Each person can’t be his own arbiter of truth. We aren’t demigods who create our own reality.

This is the true failing of Protestantism: they have no Magisterium. They are fractured into thousands of pieces because of a lack of authority. Each one was begun by a man who believed himself to be the arbiter of truth. Sometimes, these men were simply idealists who believed they alone knew how to arrive at the purity of the early church. There are still idealists like that floating around today, many of whom simply call themselves nondenominational and start a new group of churches [group being very, very different from denomination] based off their purity model. Others simply go their own like the dudes of the manosphere and expect others to be “red-pilled” into their model…if they’re enlightened enough to see the truth. It becomes difficult to parse.

Insanity Bytes had mentioned in a comment to my previous post that humans do best when given concrete truths they can grasp. She quoted Jesus: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes through the Father except through me.” She’s absolutely correct. The personhood of Jesus is the ultimate truth. He is why we are Christians. His act on the cross, his dying for humanity and rising from the grave, is why we have a reason to hope in God and the afterlife.

Amen and amen.

Now what? How do we know if we are saved? How do we live our lives as Christians? Of course, the Bible answers these questions, but they are precisely the kinds of questions Christians argue over when they have no church authority to answer them. If all Christians are filled with the Holy Spirit, how do we all come to different interpretations of Holy Scripture? I’m not going to lie. I’m more analytical and logical than I’d like to be. I don’t prefer this type of confusion that extends to the very roots of our faith, such as how do we know we’re saved? It unsettles me that there isn’t one clear answer.

Years ago, I had Reformed voices niggling at my soul, making me question my salvation. If salvation was only for an Elect, I would surely not be it. How could I be? I’m pathetic compared to other humans. I’m not bold, attractive, or dynamic. Despite how harrowing it was, I could understand the case the Reformed Christians made from Scripture. I could also recognize the Arminians had a solid case. On a scale of unsettling doctrine, Arminian doctrine was much less so. But choosing the least comfortable doctrine is not my way. I prefer certainty. And I didn’t have it. It was terrible.

In this particular circumstance, God settled the answer for me. No, he didn’t tell me which of these doctrines was correct; instead, on a sleepless night, he spoke to me in an audible voice: My sheep hear my voice. He told me in no uncertain terms that I belonged to the Good Shepherd. I had heard his voice. Audibly — in the middle of the night, when disembodied voices shouldn’t have been speaking to me at all. I’m not sure there is a proper time for disembodied voices.

God’s voice settled my spirit, but it didn’t answer the doctrinal questions I had. How are we saved? What does it mean to be born again? I don’t know; I’ve never had a specific salvific moment, as some Protestant sects like to say. I’d never uttered the sinner’s prayer. I’d heard the gospel proclaimed in church in my childhood, believed it, and tried to follow God’s path for my life. I was also baptized.

And yet, for all that, I know there are people right now who still don’t believe I’m saved. I know this because they’ve told me. They’ve witnessed to me and tried to compel me to do whatever it is they think is the proper method of following Jesus – their definition of “born again.”

This happened to me recently, actually, at a nondenominational church our family used to attend together. I would attend Mass before the nondenominational church service and otherwise kept my affiliation with the Catholic church quiet. If somebody asked, I told them; I wasn’t going to lie about it, but neither did I want to start a debate. As far as I know, the woman who tried to save me at that church had no idea that I was a Catholic. If she’d known, I’m sure she would have used it as evidence against me.

To this day, I don’t know what she thought I was missing. She only said that she sensed I wasn’t truly saved. I explained to her that I’d been a Christian all my life, that I’d always felt the call of Christ and had responded to it. But, no, that can never be enough for Protestants who require an act or a cathartic moment: responding to the altar call, praying the sinner’s prayer, etc. It was confounding to me, as though the demonic forces were at work trying to shake the faith God had given to me in the dark of night. It came right at the cusp of churches opening up again, and I was seeking his will by going to a prayer group I’d been invited to. It was frustrating to be preached at and prayed about in the group. The other ladies there didn’t know any better and simply assumed I wasn’t a Christian because their leader was praying for my conversion.

I had to stop going for the sake of my sanity. I also stopped going to that particular church, but that was mostly because my Protestant husband had lost interest in attending church. He gets burnt out on formal church services. Based off that kind of experience, I don’t blame him! I wanted to tell the woman to get behind me Satan, but I figured she wouldn’t understand and take offense. Thinking back on it, she might have needed to hear it regardless.

What does it mean to be saved? If I supplied an answer, it would look like this: repenting, believing the gospel, and following Jesus. There is enough biblical proof of that definition, surely. But what does it mean to be born again? Is there a mysterious act that makes one born again? Is so, what it is? What about baptism? The Catholic church would say yes to that, but only with a few clarifications. After all, the imagery in the Bible, from Jesus’ own mouth, is that we must be born of both water and the spirit.

I’ve put to rest many of my questions over the years. Still, I’m always curious what others think. What do you think it means to be born again? How do you know you are saved? What brings you certainty?

Whoa-oh! The Things People Say

I’m imagining this as a song, you see. People say the darndest things. It keeps life interesting, creates fascinating dialog in stories, and just as often as causing confusion or laughter, annoys us deeply. Okay, this post is not about a collective. I will rephrase that. On occasion, I get annoyed by the things people say, usually the pat or disingenuous answers. There are a couple of modern aphorisms that especially annoy me, and I happened to hear/read two of them last week. Not that they are unusual. They are not. I will give a third just to be as contrary as possible.

The first: Correlation does not equal causation. There are, of course variations on this theme, but it’s a really, really dumb aphorism no matter how it’s formed. This week, I read it in the first comment on an informative article by Alex Berenson about cannabis use causing psychosis. It was a pinned comment; that’s why it was first. I’m pretty sure it was pinned to ward away any other nerds who felt they should whine that way. Mr. Berenson’s response: “Yeah, I don’t. And neither do the psychiatrists and researchers who have been studying this relationship for 40 years.” His response, naturally, was ignored and followed by some other whopping good logical fallacies, such as, “Yeah, what about alcohol?!” Well, he wasn’t discussing alcohol, nitwit. He was discussing cannabis and its use by this latest shooter who simply walked into a school and psychotically shot up a bunch of children.

My problem with this aphorism — and yes, I do think it counts as an aphorism by now — is that studying correlations is how scientists get to causation. Yes, there are some idiotic correlations that can be made, but that doesn’t mean that scientists write off correlations as unimportant. If they did, they would be like infants, which is how I view people who run around whining that “correlation does not equal causation.” Actually, even infants understand basic correlation, such as pain that comes from certain activities like sticking fingers in electrical outlets or touching hot pans. But they are just narcissistic enough that they often don’t see the correlation at all and blame their pain on their caregivers or siblings. I’ve seen it happen; I’ve watched young children trip and fall ten feet from their mothers and still cry out, “You made me fall!” This is how I view people who, instead of thoughtfully examining a correlation being made, cry out, “Correlation doesn’t equal causation!” Can you imagine for a moment a world in which scientists abandon correlation and search for completely unrelated phenomena to answer life’s pressing issues? For example: “This is what happens when African elephants die from the pox; disenfranchised American homosexuals go on shooting sprees.” And then they might go on to demonstrate charts of elephants dying at the exact moment killers picked up guns. Wait, don’t answer that because I’m 100% positive you’re going to come up with real-world examples of academics doing exactly that.

The second: All that matters is the truth! This one is generally found in conservative Christian circles, and it sound wonderful until you realize it’s completely meaningless. This came up in the quasi debate we were having about sola scriptura the other night. When Protestants pull this out of their hats, I know the conversation is over, even if it will wearingly continue on with the quoting of noncorrelated Bible verses (see previous paragraph about elephants and their pox). I always feel a bit like Pontius Pilate when I ask, “What is the truth?” There is a big difference between me and Pontius Pilate, however. I use the article the for a start. There are obviously numerous differences between me and a Roman statesman from centuries past, but the main difference is that I actually want an answer to my question. I don’t want the truth to go undefined.

I don’t want to mock well-meaning people who really do follow Jesus and have a strong sense of right and wrong; I do believe, however, that there is some disingenuousness with proclaiming that truth is all that matters, and then leaving the truth undefined. It goes along with the ideal of sola scriptura and wanting desperately for there to exist one infallible interpretation of the Bible that we will understand if only we pray and ask for the Holy Spirit’s guidance. I’m sure there is one infallible interpretation of Scripture, but which group of Christians has that? How do we know if the Holy Spirit has guided us to this purity of truth? As it’s evident that spirit-filled believers around the world and throughout the centuries have arrived at different interpretations, how do we know the one we believe is the truth? This is why I rarely get an answer to my question answering after the truth. Christians like to make general proclamations but are often too humble to go into details. They don’t want to be wrong before God. That’s a good thing.

The third annoyance I dedicate to a person I’ll call Bob. Bob outlined a hypothetical for the others in the room. Normally, I’m not annoyed by hypotheticals, as they are an attempt to distance people from the very real emotions that are coloring their arguments, and I even appreciated Bob’s attempt at using one. They become annoying only when they aren’t actually hypothetical. So, in essence, this phrase can be anything that starts with “Hypothetically speaking, …”. In this case, he wasn’t being hypothetical. Hypothetically speaking, I was a Catholic who believed in purgatory, and the other person in the room (we’ll call her Sue) was a Protestant who believed that to be absent from the body is to be in the presence of Christ. But I am a Catholic, and Sue is a Protestant (that leads to another oddity, if not annoyance, and that is the very prevalent modern protest of Protestants that they aren’t Protestant; they are, rather, Bible-believing Christians. Sure, that might be true if one were to erase history. I digress, though…). And I do believe in purgatory, and Sue does not. Bob’s hypothetical went like this: “You are (pointing at me) a Catholic who believes in purgatory, and you are (pointing at Sue) a Protestant who doesn’t. Which position is the truth, and which one is a false interpretation?”

Bob’s hypothetical was meant to be helpful to my anti sola-scriptura stance. Despite his not being Catholic, Bob doesn’t outright accept sola scriptura. Instead of appreciating his attempt at helping my position, I immediately recoiled because the vast majority of Protestants don’t know what purgatory means. Thus, his hypothetical elicited an emotional response from me; it was not right to bring up a subject that is so misunderstood and pit it against a verse taken directly out of the Bible that doesn’t by itself defeat purgatory. Of course, Sue had an immediate emotional reaction to being called a Protestant (see parenthetical phrase above) who believes xyz. She didn’t appreciate being put in a box and being told what she believes.

It was just a hypothetical! Bob pleaded. Perhaps that is ultimately the phrase that gets my ire up, as there are few subjects that can be relegated to hypotheticals without being slightly disingenuous. It reminds me of the way lawyers speak when they demand that the witness on the stand only answer yes or no. The lawyer knows he is being disingenuous and trying to elicit a specific answer, even if that answer doesn’t fully encompass the truth and can even subvert it. For the record, though, Bob was doing the opposite of that: trying to demonstrate that we probably don’t know the difference between truth and interpretation. Well, that’s kind of laweryly, too, to be honest. But who is the judge? Who is the judge? That night, nobody. And eventually, we all decided to go to bed and leave it alone.

I love Bob and Sue. They are people I want in my life, regardless of differences. I can’t imagine having friends or family who unpack correlation doesn’t equal causation. God forgive me, but it’s true. And honestly, Protestants should try to understand purgatory before arguing against it.

Apologetics Is Also a Vocation

There is a time and place for it. Years ago, I eschewed Bible studies because I didn’t desire to be a student any longer. I didn’t want to sit in a room arguing about the proper definitions of words in Scripture and what they might or might not mean. There is a time and place for education and sitting under a mentor or teacher; there is even a time and a place for questioning the mentor’s teachings. At a certain point — and my heart has always longed for it — Christians should take on vocations and live them rather than engaging in endless studying. Apprenticeships are supposed to be temporary — aren’t they? In most vocations, education is finite, even if the occasional recertification is required.

But there are people who are given the gift of teaching, and they engage in this type of wrangling to keep their minds sharp. The other word for this is apologetics. I suspect I have little of the teacher about me, and that is why (most of the time) wrangling over words doesn’t appeal to me. Yes, despite that, I’ve been teaching for years. In fact, I just finished my last tutoring gig last week. I taught all subjects, with a focus on math. This was not because I’m particularly gifted in math, but because this was what most of my students needed help in. And by the grace of God, I’m a jack of all trades and can switch from English to math to Spanish in one session. Not that this switching always happens with ease. And certainly not because I wish to make this a life task and keep switching from subject to subject.

God allowed me to teach, even though it was not a skill I possessed, nor something I have a passion for. Thank you, God. And thank you, God, for taking me out of it. I don’t know what my calling is. I like to encourage people and give them chance after chance to do the right thing (if I had ever taken on a full-time teaching job, I’m afraid I would have done the same, and my students would have been spoiled). I suppose my vocation is hidden in there somewhere. I was thinking on this subject because there is a natural prejudice in my household against Christian debate, and I am first among the prejudiced. I don’t find it profitable. Yet, I’ve found myself listening for hours to apologetics on my favorite YouTube channels. That would mean, I guess, that I like it more than I admit. Then again, I’m not the one engaging in argumentation when listening to a video. Argumentation is much easier to take when other people are doing it, and I have no stake in winning or losing.

Let me be clear though: there are only certain apologists I appreciate. And what I appreciate them for is not their egos or their gotchas or their numerous words. I appreciate those who make their ideas and the ideas they are defending very clear. They clarify ideas for me, rather than muddying the waters. Not all ideas are of equal importance, of course. But some are truly foundational. And I need those foundational ideas to be as solid as possible, if I’m allowed to switch word imagery on you. I need clear waters and solid foundations. Thank you very much.

That’s all I have to say about that because we’ve just had a long discussion in my prejudiced household, which began with an apologetic against Sola Scriptura (from me, and only at my husband’s bidding). Huh. We all claim not to enjoy debate, yet we do engage in it at times. If you had seen us thirty years ago, you would understand a little better that we used to be debaters. Hardcore. Ah, well, perhaps we were just going through the challenge phase of our apprenticeships. Arguments are for the young, and after that, they are only for old, decrepit teachers who can’t give them up.

There Is More to Be Said

Yesterday, I was hugely depressed. I’m sure that came across in my post. And I’m often so cut off from my emotions that my understanding of why I feel a certain way is terribly lagging. Let that be a lesson for you. Don’t suppress your emotions. Allow yourself to feel them so that you can sort through life changes without having to hit the vodka bottle. The changes I mentioned yesterday are hardly the only ones I’ve experienced in the last half year, but I don’t discuss certain subjects on my blog. Or I try not to. Some of them are neither positive nor negative, but more akin to and than neither/nor. They just are. The ones I didn’t discuss, however, have probably hit me harder than the ones I did.

Through my complete inability to accomplish anything, I was able to catch up on some blogging. Some of the blogs I follow I only see in my email, and those I haven’t gotten to. It was pleasant to just scroll with no time constraints on my WordPress app, though. And some blogs provide good reminders of basic life principles, like this one: Let the Lord Handle It.

The fear of abandonment is very real; many suffer from it due to their experiences with humans they should have been able to rely on. They carry that mistrust to their relationship with God. I have often thought that abandonment sounds lovely; that way I can be left alone. But my basic fear that I don’t matter at all is one deeper than a fear of abandonment. Why would God have ever noticed my existence to begin with? And yet, he has.

At Mass this morning, the homily was on Jesus’ promise that after he went up to heaven to be with his Father, he would leave us with the Holy Spirit, who would not only bring us comfort and peace, but who would literally dwell inside us. Not only does God not abandon us, but he must love us very much to want to dwell in us. We are important to him. Our needs are important to him. The world may never esteem us, but God through his love, grace, and mercy does. This is a powerful reminder. God loves us. God loves me. I wish to dwell in that knowledge and allow it to restructure my life.

Here I am Lord, I Surrender All…. These are beautiful songs I love to sing, and even more so when I believe the words.

My About Page Is a Lie…

…not completely, and certainly not intentionally. The truth is I’ve been doing nothing but going to work. I work for a Catholic church, so the part about Catholicism is certainly still true. But studying languages? Exercising? Writing books? Playing the accordion? No, no, no, and no.

Those who have known for me a long time are probably a little shocked. I’ve always done these things, plus extras such as taking classes here or there towards another degree that feels more and more like a wraith dancing along the horizon.

But here’s the thing. You try getting hit by a semitruck and see if your life just reverts back to normal. It does not. I thought that it would. I thought that I would just rest for a while and then spring back into everything. I expressed this disappointment to the chiropractor I’ve been seeing: The insurance money paid for a new car and part of the new accordion. Why can’t the allotted medical funds fix my back, too? He restated the obvious, that it would take longer than a few weeks to heal, and I would need to find time in my busy schedule to go for treatments more than once a week.

I’ve had an untenable schedule, too. My husband told me not to keep my freelancing work, and I didn’t listen. I kept the books I promised to edit; I kept tutoring. I worked seven days a week, twelve+ hours a day on weekdays. While my weekend work shifts weren’t quite as long, and I often enjoyed taking my computer out to my shed and blasting my music as loud as I wanted to, I was still working, taking time out only to go to the once-a-week chiropractic appointment and to Mass.

The freelancing is now done, and I’ve promised not to take any more work. I don’t know if my husband believes me or not. He’s known me longer than almost anyone (my parents being obvious exceptions); he knows I’m a tenacious workaholic. I really mean not to take more work, though*. Does that mean I will now have the energy to follow all my pursuits once more?

[*I owe a book critique to a friend, and I plan to do that for him. But that is not for pay and doesn’t count. So, he can just go ahead and email me when he’s got something for me to read.]

I honestly don’t know. The exhaustion is partly caused by low-grade chronic pain. My life has gone through a huge restructuring, and I don’t know what the future holds. My nihilistic side keeps whispering taunts in my ears: you were never going to be a good musician or truly speak Spanish, anyway. Your books will never be the visions you thought they were. They are riddled with errors and bad writing and…. I hate that defeatist voice. To be fair, this voice has never managed to stop me from continuing and practicing and learning new material, new songs, etc. But it’s still always there to assure me that I’m a giant screwup that was never meant to be.

I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean for this post to be so dark. In fact, I meant the next post I wrote to be about the baile I went to a couple weeks ago. That was great fun. I loved listening to one of my favorite bands live — there were four bands total, and they were all good, but I was there to see Los Huracanes, el grupo con tres acordeonistas. The music was very good, but I’m going to be honest, the concert simply exhausted me further. We left before it was over, at close to 2 AM. My pain was not low-grade that night; it was pulsing and awful because I’d try to do a workout with five-pound weights. Yes, that’s how far I’ve fallen. I can no longer lift even five-pound weights.

The pain and exhaustion also reminded me that I didn’t belong there; it wasn’t my culture. That is always the case, but normally I’m so excited by the music that I don’t care. This time, I was engulfed by a curious sadness watching the couples kicking up dust as they spun and danced. It was a baile, and my husband and I weren’t dancing because, let’s be honest, we didn’t grow up dancing as these people had. I had done a little dancing in my youth, including couple-dancing, but my husband had not. And that was not to mention I wouldn’t have wanted to dance due to pain.

I don’t want to leave this post on a down note. I’m not sure that my life is going poorly, per se. It’s like I said — a great restructuring has occurred, and I don’t know what I’m going to do, what I will pursue as far as writing, classes, hobbies, and even blogging. Blogging is a stress-reliever for me; it always has been. For that reason alone, I won’t give it up yet. I’ll try to be more positive, or at least more reflective and philosophical in the future. Where has my sense of humor gone? Um, actually, it’s still very much there and ready to erupt at the most inappropriate moments…alas, some things never change.

I want to add an image below of my favorite singer. I’ve posted videos of his songs before, but I love this image. I would love to find it on a poster or vinyl album cover that could be hung on the wall in my shed-office for inspiration. I haven’t found one, sadly. Still, it’s a positive note to end with. I like how deadpan his expression is, but that he’s still giving me a thumbs-up. Well, I know, he’s not giving me personally a thumbs-up, but that’s the power of music. It touches the heart in a personal way.

Echoes From Roswell Radio

Several years ago, when some friends of ours were walking with us through downtown Roswell, the loud din of the birds sounded as if they were echoing inside an aviary. It was a surreal sound I can’t explain to this day, and a surreal sound I’ve heard at various times since then. I don’t want to put too fine a point on it, but it’s obvious Roswell is actually inside a bubble the aliens have created for us. In my book Order of the PenTriagon, I call this the Roswell Bubble because obviously I lack naming creativity.

On Catholic radio the other day, which, by the way, is not confined to Roswell, I heard an echo of Protestantism that was mildly annoying. I don’t find all of Protestantism annoying, just certain aspects of it such as their attachment to the Southern Baptist philosophy known as complementarianism. Although I know that Catholicism isn’t hostile to this philosophy, it renders itself unnecessary most of the time and doesn’t have to be beaten like the dead horse that it is. I’m not sure why dead horses must be beaten, but the idiom says they do. Catholicism requires a pushback against feminism at times, or we would have women ordained as priests by now. But in general, the female saints — the greatest being Mary — and Catholicism’s respect of these honorable women as women, provide a necessary salve to the painful desire feminists have to be men.

The echo of complementarianism was particularly annoying (in case you wanted to know, it was on the show Trending with Timmerie) because it unpacked that old saw about men needing respect and women needing love in the context of marriage. But it went farther than I’d heard before. Why not? If you’re going to be complementarian and Catholic at the same time, you might as well take it as far as it will go. In this case, take it all the way to Mary. Don’t go halfway, mind you. Timmerie’s guest informed her audience that men, along with needing respect, need to be active and to do things and to feel accomplished, while women need to be the receivers of male doing. As Mary said, “Let it be done unto me.”

Honestly, are you as floored as I am by this kind of language? I don’t know how many times our Christian culture needs to hear the truth, but I suspect it’s as long as they keep unpacking this jagged saw. Love between a married adult man and woman is meaningless without respect for both parties. In fact, I would venture to say that disrespect could make women wither inside and lose all confidence because they don’t have the high-T confidence men have to withstand a certain amount of disrespect. And by that, I don’t mean men ought to be disrespected, merely that it isn’t as likely to break them. The second part I don’t know what to make of at all. I don’t think there’s a normal healthy male out there who desires a passive wife. Passivity causes depression and moodiness and trips down to the doctor’s office to procure prescriptions for antianxiety meds. Also, let it be known that Mary was being humble before God, a state that great men of the Bible found themselves in. Allowing God to work his will in us is not a feminine trait; it’s right and good, but it’s neither masculine nor feminine. Thus, it was not a general sense of feminine passivity that caused Mary to express that sentiment. Can you imagine what might have happened in the first century AD if a woman were to sit and do nothing all day, be the receiver only of her husband’s accomplishments? All members of poor families had to do in those days, or they would go hungry.

It’s insane that universal human needs and traits are determined to be masculine needs and traits by Christians; I’ve heard it frequently in (nonprogressive) Protestant circles. This was the first I’d heard it on Catholic radio. Very disappointing — but not altogether surprising. I didn’t listen to the rest of the show. After throwing out a statement such as that, I don’t know how a speaker can worm his way out of it. What is he supposed to say, that he didn’t actually mean it? That women obviously should be doers, too, because somebody has to make the dinner, etc.? This silliness is not just, well, silliness. It can be destructive to relationships. It can create codependent marriage partners, in which the male ego is thriving off the helplessness of his female mate. But most men would find a passive bride boring. The reasons are obvious, though perhaps not appropriate for a family-friendly blog if explicitly stated.

The truth is I rarely listen to Catholic radio. Maybe I simply am not aware of their hardcore complementarianism. I put it on in the mornings sometimes because my son doesn’t mind listening to Patrick Madrid on the way to school, but he does mind having to endure Mexican radio. Endure. Bah! I changed over to Mexican radio because my son was no longer in the car. What a relief. Not that Mexican radio doesn’t have its cultural issues, but it isn’t my culture, so why would I complain about the odd song that is obsessed with adultery or barely not-underage females? Most of the songs aren’t. So … I listened to the Mexican radio presenter excessively rolling his r’s for effect because a gran baile was coming to town. Don’t worry, I already bought my tickets, and echoes of the past came booming back yet again, just not in religious ways. I bought the tickets at a fancy boot store with boots at the level of the Tony Lamas I’d bought years ago for a baile. Tooled and elaborate, beautiful and expensive. However, I didn’t plunk down the $300+ for a pair of boots. Rather, I purchased a pair of boot-cut jeans and a western shirt like I used to wear before skinny jeans took over the women’s clothing section. I might pull out the Tony Lamas, too, but they are out of fashion now — they have the pointed toes that were popular some sixteen years ago. By the way, my Tony Lamas have birds on them. Aside from the pointy toes, they are heartbreakingly pretty with pink and turquoise and birds and flowers.

The bootheels are already echoing down the hallway…. Maybe they will echo a song for me inside this lovely globe filled with strange arcs of sunlight. If you would like to know who the headliner of the baile is, I will tell you: Los Huracanes del Norte. They live near here and give local concerts fairly frequently, but somehow until now, I’ve always missed them. They have a few accordion players in the band, one of whom, Jesus “Chuey” Garcia, I quite admire.

It’s unfortunate my impressions of Los Huracanes tunes don’t echo like birdsong. Ah, well, no trilling Snow White for me. I am spotted, anyway.

The Suffering Olympics and Fr. Stu

“Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who tells you differently is selling something.” –The Princess Bride (William Goldman)

I’ve about had it up to my eyeballs with those who take great pride in suffering more than others. It’s a pandemic that I ward away with teenage level eye-rolling. But I don’t want to make light of suffering, on the other hand, because it is very real. It is simply not a competition. There are a few universals to humanity — well, I’m sure there are many that could be added to the list — but regarding the big concepts, there are only three: God, love, and suffering.

When people choose to believe they are unique in their suffering, they also choose misery. Suffering is universal; misery in the face of it is not. Self-absorption beyond the age of about three absolutely should not be universal, but it is an unfortunate fad right now. There is an old-fashioned contrary self-absorption in toughness; I wouldn’t like to see that fad return, either (you know what I mean: “if you can’t pull yourself up by your bootstraps, you deserve what you get”). Neither of these attitudes is particularly helpful to anyone. Neither are they Christian, albeit one of them goes by the moniker the Protestant work ethic.

I was thinking about the idea of suffering this morning because it’s a universal that’s been put on full display for me lately by people who can’t give up their misery and bitterness. While I’m tempted to be annoyed because this inevitably comes with an inability to recognize they aren’t alone in feeling pain (eye-roll, remember?), it’s uncharitable to feel annoyed. If someone is so caught up in their misery that they can help no one, least of all themselves, then they deserve compassion…if they will accept it. Giving ompassion is better than feeling mocked (see quote above, which was in response to Buttercup’s you mock my pain; this is what it feels like to be around a self-absorbed miserable person. Of course, Wesley isn’t exactly a miserable narcissist, but his quote is still apropos…) Self-absorbed people are hard nuts, after all, and compassion is not always what they are seeking, even if it’s what we should be offering.

I was considering the universal nature of suffering this morning, but I had no intention of writing about it (the subject was too aggravating at that point) until I went to see Fr. Stu in the theater. Wow, what a film. I expected it to be; I had lofty expectations because it has Mark Wahlberg and Mel Gibson. It did not disappoint. It’s a beautifully done inspirational story that contains more than one theme: forgiveness, grace, sacrifice. Primary among them, however, is also suffering. The eponymous protagonist suffers greatly, more than the average person, and fights through it to find his life purpose. It’s all the more harrowing knowing it’s based on a true story.

There are two types of people in the world. No, you should never believe a smug author like myself who tells you there are only two. For the purpose of this post, there are still only two. Sorry. The two are these: the sufferers who dwell in misery, and the sufferers who choose not to. Choosing not to is not always a physical act; sometimes we really can’t pull ourselves up, not by our bootstraps or anything else. Rather, it’s an attitude. It’s an attitude of sympathy, gratefulness, and faith that surpasses circumstances.

I don’t want to look too askance at the Suffering Olympics. It does give everyone the opportunity to win gold, even if they can’t tumble, ski, or swim. What is necessary is coming alongside these competitors and ensuring they have their basic needs met so they have a chance to find their worth elsewhere, in fulfilling their unique purposes that spring from life’s three universals. That fulfilment is a shiny gold medal that all of us could have waiting for us. I believe that. I honestly do.

El nuevo acordeón

Yes, I bought an accordion. I replaced the Hohner with a Gabbanelli. I had wanted to have both someday, but it wasn’t meant to be. I’m not sure if “meant to be” is quite the right way to look at it, though. Maybe I don’t like it because it’s passive and mundane, whereas the pursuit of meaning is active. Are you the type of person who wants to find meaning in everything, like I am? There is meaning in the most mundane; I know there is, but it might not be graspable.

This is one of the biggest draws of the Catholic faith. Things mean things to Catholics. Little things, big things. They matter. This could be translated as nitpicking or excessive rule enforcement, and it frequently is translated that way. However, now that I’m in a position of upholding some of those rules, I’ve come to value and appreciate them. By “upholding rules,” I mean that I’m involved in record keeping and acting as the office delegate, ensuring that frontend protocol in matters such as baptism is kept. For example, I’m a witness to potential godparents signing affidavits attesting to their living godly lives. This is important. It is not to be taken lightly. We are a very lackadaisical culture; we value little. But “it will all be alright” shouldn’t happen when adults are tasked with the faith formation of children in their care. Hence, there is a religious notary process, and baptism certificates act as legal documents.

Speaking of lackadaisical legal dealings, we discovered today that due to sloppiness on the part of a notary republic months ago, we couldn’t be issued the title to our car. Someone should have caught this error long before we purchased the vehicle, and it didn’t happen. Sometimes, you have to sweat over the things that seem small because they are often not. In this case, the notary had crossed out a date and written a new one without initialing it, thereby rendering the power of attorney statement invalid.

While I can’t say what the meaning of specific events in my life is, at least not regarding all of them, I do know that God works all things together for good for those who love him and are called to his purpose. Purpose and meaning are conjoined twins. And for some reason I now have a new instrument. I have to tell you a little about that. The Gabbanelli company is a family-run business, and in some ways, being small means they are extremely lackadaisical (that is the word of the day). For example, although they have a secure online store, they want their customers to send photocopy images of their credit cards and IDs (yes, at the same time with a form that has the security code on it, too!) to them through insecure emails, after they’ve already charged the customers’ cards. They won’t ship the product unless customers are willing to compromise their identities. Hence, we sent them a wire transfer. They don’t take online security seriously.

On the other hand, they take their products seriously, sending a signed certificate with each instrument, stating that it is an official Gabbanelli. The instruments are high quality and unique in design; they don’t want imposters selling cheap knockoffs. For that reason, they also have one single store in Houston, TX. There are no other entities licensed to sell their products.

The oddities of humans and what they are careless about never ceases to surprise me. Whether it’s becoming a godparent or incorrectly issuing legal documents, such as notarized power of attorney statements, they will let it slide. And then they will proceed to dig in their heels at someone who uses the wrong tone of voice or commits a social crime like a malapropism. Well, thankfully, most things we sweat over do indeed work out in the end. Most do. Even malapropisms have an absurd sense of working out their intended meanings.

This musing over meaning was brought to you by my new accordion! I find the accordion meaningful, despite its status as a mere object. It makes beautiful music, and the instrument itself is a work of art. Beauty is inherently meaningful. The life events surrounding it…huh, who can say?

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