Saturday, October 22, 2011

the one where she says "I'm back" again.

I am back. I don't know if I am still on anyone's blog reader. I don't know what I will write about. I don't know how often I will write. But what I do know is this: I love to write and I have missed it. When I get up and running and have managed to write a few posts, maybe I will remind folks that this blog still exists. Until then, I have no idea who is reading, but I shall write.

There are so many wonderful blogs out there and such great blogging communities but I've got to admit I'm not quite sure where I fit. Clearly, I ain't no mommy blogger, although I pray every day I'll find myself in the state of life (sooner rather than later, please Jesus!) that will someday put in me in that category. I'm a sassy single gal but not one with a dating life that would merit a bloggy play-by-play, and even if I was, to put that business on shout is not my thing. I love my house but am not one to constantly be redecorating and sharing my how-to's. I love Jesus and the Church but am not tryin' to have a theology blog up in here. I guess, as with life, it is not really about me fitting in but more about me just livin' out loud and letting people take it or leave it.

Life is good but seems a constant contradiction. Quite a bit has changed, yet so much remains the same. Many times I lifted my hands in praise but the next moment threw my hands up in exasperation. I trusted God with the big things but at times held tight to the small things. Thankfully, even when I cry hard, I end up laughing harder.

And so here I am. I'm back.

Monday, July 5, 2010

well, I'm back.

So, the whole "muh Jesus year" thing didn't really pan out the way I'd hoped. I spent more time posting about not posting than I did posting about....anything, really. Figured I might as well pack up shop there, mesh the two blogs, and come back over here. So, here I am. :)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

i've got the write stuff, baby.

So, several (ok...two) people have told me in the past week that I ought to get back to blogging. And, truth is, I really want to. When I'm not blogging it is often because there is SO MUCH that I want to write, it is easier to write nothing at all. Which is so against my nature when it comes to speaking...I rarely hold back my words - although I am working on that! In any event, I need to sort out what I want to write, and just...write it!

I plan to rectify that soon. Possibly tomorrow. Certainly not today, because I am feeling sleepy enough that I might be in bed by 11pm, and that's so rare that I don't want to mess with it.

Monday, January 18, 2010

slow and steady

I'm just over a week away from my one year anniversary of home ownership. I can honestly say this is one of the best things I've ever done in my life. Last night I hung a few pieces on my living room wall which completes my wall decor in that room (with the exception of one small frame that I need to find a picture for, on a small wall). It is hard to accurately express how happy I am each time I hang something up. Before I hang it up I envision where it will go, I measure, sometimes I even send pictures to friends for their feedback. Once it is up there, I generally find myself stopping my tracks when I walk into that room over the next few days, and just taking it all in. Basking in the glow that is home.

The process of deciding what goes up on my walls has taught me that I am decidedly quite picky about decor. The decorating process has clearly taken me a bit of time. It drives me crazy that some walls are still bare (like my entire bedroom!) but I really do enjoy the process of deciding what goes where. I love that a lot of what I've decorated with has a deeper meaning to me. There are serving platters that were given to Nanny and Grandad for their wedding, a painting that belonged to Medz Mama, a poster-sized print of a picture I took on the beach at Sarasota, a print of one of my good friend's paintings, a painting that was a gift from the artist (a dear friend), and so on... A friend of mine gave me a beautiful quote printed on a small canvas, and it fits beautifully right next to the door going in to my room; I love reading it before I go sleep each night.

So, clearly, I've been very intentional about setting up my home. And very, very slow. It occured to me today that God is working similarly in my life. He has been anything but quick when it comes to completing "rooms" in my life, but what He has done in my life has been intentional, it has meant something. I need to trust in that.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

we can even buy cheese to go with that whine

When something as tremendous and traumatic as the earthquake in Haiti happens, there is much perspective to be gained. We tend to filter our complaints, at least for a little while, because given what other people are going through, nothing in our lives seems all that bad. Of course that only lasts so long.

During my first month or so on Twitter, I noticed a trending topic called #whitewhine . Similar to #firstworldproblems , it is how some folks categorize their own "tweets" that are obviously uppity complaints to be making. While it was certainly amusing, it has become more of a wakeup call than a joke. It is so easy to forget sometimes how good we have it. I have lived in a country (Egypt), where, although as ex-pats we lived well, could see families living in shacks from my balcony. I have committed time for many years to mission weeks - most of them in the United States, one in Mexico. Certainly far from doing as much as I can, but I do a little, and at least have an awareness. But, again, how easily we forget.

I shared the concept of "whitewhine" with my best friend so it has become a staple of how we keep each other accountable. It is not uncommon, now, when I slip and bemoan the fact that my latte has gone cold, for her to chirp, "White whine!!!!" And, it helps.

Yesterday I was driving and got caught in very schoolbus-heavy traffic. I started to get a little huffy, but then I began to laugh. In my head, my complaint translated into this: "Oh, poor me. I am driving my fairly new car down nicely paved roads, and I get caught behind the vehicles that transport children to receive their state of the art education in one of the wealthiest counties in the state." Yeah. Hard to pedal away on the huffy bike when you say it that way.

When it all comes down to it, it is easy to translate about 99.99999% of all of our complaints this way. While I am far from perfect and still do my fair share of complaining about my first world "problems," it is helpful to recognize them for what they are. These problems...they are burdens that most would give anything to have. These are blessings.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Snuggie-ly warm

This is a bit of a drive-by posting, sorry I can't sit down and stay awhile. But, a few things to share:

- The hot water heater has stayed on since last Wednesday afternoon. I put some bricks in front of it carefully crafted a shield from the wind and it has proven successful. Little Holly Homeowner reigns supreme.

- I am now a believer in the Snuggie. I don't think I ever laughed at people who had them, but I never thought I needed one. Long story short: I have one now and I believe they are GENIUS.

- Speaking of the house and the Snuggie, my new windows allow me to keep the thermostat at 63 and it just feels mildly (but acceptably) cold. If I'm rocking the Snug, some cozy pajamas, and warm slippers, I can totally handle it. So, new windows = smart investment. I think Dad is entitled to an "I told you so" at some point soon.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

o Christmas tree

Last year's post-Christmas shopping event (now an annual standing date for the BFF and I) brought me a great many deals, most of them house-related, but my absolute favorite would have to be the last buy of the day. Muh Christmas tree. It was the big item on my list that day but we were just not seeing anything that looked worthy of being in THE house. My contract had just been ratified and I wanted something proper to adorn my new home. And there, at the Home Depot, we found it. 50% off, 9.5 feet tall, pre-lit. Come to mama.

By the time I got to the car, I'd already envisioned where this tree would stand, in all its majesty, in the new house. Had I not been all dreamy-eyed, I would have also tried to envision how it would fit in my car. Because, as we tried to get this big ol' box of tree in my wee Civic, it became apparent that it would take a Christmas miracle. And I'd just gotten some Jim Shore earlier that day for 75% off, so I'd used up my share the miracles. We unpacked the tree and shoved it in the car, which took a little of the pep out of my step...but it was restored later when I bought a bag made for the express purpose of tree storage. All is calm, all is bright.

Fast forward to this year. As soon as the first candle was lit in Advent, this girl was ready to get this party started. The tree went up and my house, once more, felt even more like home. Ornaments that I'd collected over the years that had subsequently been hung on someone else's tree (my family's, or ones shared with three to six other roommates)...they now decorated mine. As soon as I got home every night, I flipped the switch and my tree would be aglow, and the world felt right.

Tonight it was time to take the tree down. Liturgically, the Christmas season ends on Sunday but now is the only time I had to take it down. What I did not expect was how sad I would feel. First I removed the ornaments...several of them new - either gifts from friends part of my post-Christmas shopping this year. The tree looked so bare, I almost cried. I dismantled the tree and put it into the ridiculously huge red tree bag, and when I turned around and saw the big gaping empty space in that corner, my heart sank. As order is restored to this room - my big comfy chair reclaiming its space in the corner, the end table no longer a home for my creche, it feels so empty. Being the Catholic nerd I am, my first response to these emotions was: "We are headed in to ordinary time, not Lent!"

As sad as I am to put the tree away, the act of taking it down and putting it away, and how I felt afterwards, really did show me how much I had really benefited from having it up. It was a constant reminder in my home of what season we were in - as we waited in joyful hope, and as we celebrated the birth of Christ. It helped me focus, it helped me celebrate, and it really made a special season (or, seasons, actually) stand out, and be different from the...well, ordinary!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

so light the fire.

I know how to relight the pilot light of a water heater, I've known how for years. Which is good...I've had to do it four times in the last week. We've had ridiculous winds around here - at least ridiculous for our area. We're talking winds that blew the roof off the stable of our creche at the parish...winds that blew away a bag containing my nephew's dirty diaper (it was next to my stoop as I waited for trash day). So, windy. My water heater is in an outdoor utility closet so my best guess is that some of these winds have whipped through a vent, or underneath the door, and snuff out the pilot.

Why do I mention this? Because knowing how to fix this problem, how to light the pilot, it feels good. Of course, knowing how to fix it permanently would be nice, as I'm growing a little tired of proving my pilot lighting prowess after taking tepid showers (because I don't know the light is out until I'm trying to use hot water!). But the point is that when the problem happened, I knew how to fix it. And that? That felt good.

The pilot lighting skill is one that I tuck in my little basket of homeowner know-how. Right next to putting up my own blinds and curtain rods and hanging pictures properly. While I have a pile of stuff that I'm waiting on Dad to assist me with, it is quite empowering to know how to take care of some things on my own.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

amazing grace.

Wow. Yesterday's post was way longer than I'd planned. I guess when there's a decade's worth of thoughts swirling around to process, it's going to be lengthier than your average post. Also, I'm verbose. So while I'm not surprised, I am going to try to keep things short and sweet today. We'll see how that goes. Verbose, remember?

This morning I got up and went to confession, just feeling the need to get a really stellar start on this year, on this decade. And really, even just a good start on my day, week, and month! Point being, I needed the grace the Sacrament brings. And oh muh goodness, did God ever deliver.

From the moment I knelt down, I could just feel God's grace and forgiveness showering over me. The priest asked all the right questions and said everything I needed to hear (most of it, however, being things I didn't want to hear). Tears were rolling down my cheeks from the time I said, "Bless me Father for I have sinned" straight through to when the priest said, "I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit." I just kept getting this overwhelming feeling that God is fighting for me right now. He knows I am restless, He knows I am hurt, He knows I am clueless. And yet He fights.

Last night I watched the movie "Taken" with my sisters and brother-in-law. If you haven't seen it and want to, stop reading. If you have, or if you don't mind hearing the ending, keep reading. The daughter of a former spy type man is abducted when she is on vacation in Paris and the movie is all about how he and his crazyface skills manage to get her back. She had been kidnapped, drugged, and was being sold into some sort of sex trafficking operation. When he finally gets her back, she is on a boat that he has managed to jump on to and kill several men on board that were barriers to her. When she sees him, she cannot hold the tears back and in disbelief says, "You came for me." Or something to that effect. I was crying myself so I can't be expected to remember it precisely. Anyhow, she knows exactly how dangerous the people that had a hold of her were, how much her father had to have gone through to get her. She can barely believe he managed to do it, yet I do think on some level she knew he'd find her. And he says to her, "Of course I came for you." Again, I may be paraphrasing.

This morning as I walked to the car after confession (and wondered if the tears would freeze to my face, it was SO COLD out), I was grateful for a God that would do anything to save me. Who did do anything to save me. You know, since He died for me and all. This morning I was surrounded by the love of a God who, despite my sinfulness fights for me, and awestruck I hear Him say, "Of course I do."

Friday, January 1, 2010

being ready for a new year is so 1999.

When most people remember New Year's Eve, 1999, they recall the Y2K frenzy. The excitement, the nervousness, the curiosity about what would happen once we entered in to the year 2000. As for me? I was just glad that 1999 was over. I remember begging please please please God just let this year end and PLEASE make this next year better than the year I had just endured.

Now, the decade as a whole was altogether lovely. It is the decade in which both the entirety of my highschool and college years fell. During this time is when I began to allow myself to reach out to the God that had always been right beside me but that I'd never noticed. It was also during this time that this same God spoke, in no uncertain terms, into my heart and told me that I was to serve him by serving His youth. So really, it was not the decade that I had anything was that last year.

The year had begun innocently enough. I can't even remember how I brought in that new year but I have to guess that it was joyfully, in the company of great friends. I'd graduated college in the spring of 1998 and had a job that I liked well enough, but loved the work I was privileged to do through volunteering at the parish I'd grown up in. My parents were living back in the US after many years overseas, meaning my whole immediate family lived in the same country, state, even county at this point! Life was good. Until April.

If I haven't mentioned it before, I come from a big, crazy, amazing Irish family. I am the oldest of 26 grandchildren. At that point I think there were probably just eighteen of us. "Just" eighteen. And while we are all as different as can be, there is one thing we all have in common: our favorite people in the world are Nanny and Grandad. We'd just celebrated their 50th anniversary two years earlier and had been reminded of their beautiful love for each other, and for us. So April brought us the saddest moment that any of us had ever experienced in our lives: Grandad passed away. The last time I really saw him before the hospital had been on Easter Sunday, and when the pastor asked him how life was going, he gestured over to the family members that had attended Mass with him, and said, "I've got my couldn't be better." He was in the hospital for a few heart-breaking weeks and then passed away. He was my hero, he was my joy, he was incredible and I still miss him all the time.

In the midst of his hospitalization, the Columbine massacre happened. I remember sitting, crumpled on the floor of the hospital waiting room, bawling as the coverage came on to the television. I could not wrap my head around it...and my heart could not understand. As I mentioned, I'd begun working with teens already at this my heart hurt so deeply imagining how I would feel if this had happened in their schools. Those days were so filled with anguish and sadness for these people I did not even know, which was piled on top of the raw pain I (and so many I loved) felt as it became clear we would lose Grandad. Those days just hurt.

So much of my year was spent learning how to live in this new normal. Suddenly, my world had been shaken beyond what I could have imagined. I knew a world where my grandfather was always there, a world where teens were this beautiful example of God's love. That had been changed forever as I now learned how to exist in this world where my hero was gone forever and where teens can do the unspeakable, unfathomable. It would take years before I could understand that in absence of Grandad's physical presence was a legacy of love that could never go away, and in the wake of the sorrow of Columbine there was a beacon of hope, faith, and love that began to shine brightly.

When I saw the year 2000 glimmering in the distance, I began to get excited. Things were starting to look up: I had a new job that both challenged me and paid me well, and one of my best friends from college had just married the most incredible man. Hope was alive, love was in bloom. Until another indescribably difficult loss happened.

In college, I met one of the dearest people I've ever known. Jim O was incredible. He battled Cystic Fibrosis with vigor and determination, and a beautiful faith. He was the most helpful, generous person. He came and rescued my best friend and I on a snow day to take us to the movies. A few of us gals skipped class one Valentine's Day to go hang out with him when he was in the hospital and somehow by the time we got back to the dorms, he'd sent us each a dozen red roses. When he laughed hard (which was often) there was a little wheezing sound that would come at the end, and oh how I miss that sound! As you can tell, he was a favorite person in my life. While I knew it was something that may happen at some point (similar to my grandfather), I was just not at all prepared for it to happen as suddenly as it did. I'd also remained hopeful that medicine would advance, and he would once more surpass his life expectancy (which he had already done several times, I believe). He passed away on December 20, one of the last days of 1999 was spent with hundreds of people gathered in the chapel where we had shared so many great memories with Jim O, now having to say goodbye to him. I don't know that I have ever cried so hard in my entire life...this loss on top of losing Grandad was just crushing.

Now I cannot go on without mentioning that while this group of friends closed out 1999 with hearts full of heart and sadness, we rejoice with gladness and gratitude as 2009 came to a close. When I got home last night, I got word that two of these friends had a baby girl yesterday evening. The proud mama is the same friend who was diagnosed with lymphoma in July 2008, fought a strong battle, and was declared cancer-free last Spring. Sweet little girl joins four older siblings in a beautiful, faith-filled family. God is triumphant, His blessings abundant.

As you can see, 1999 broke my heart. You aren't supposed to lose a friend when he is 29. I wasn't ready to lose my grandfather when he was only 79. Teens are supposed to live to see 19. That year was not the end (or even the beginning) of loss or struggle in my life, but it was a hard year to bear. But you know what? GOD IS BIGGER. He healed my heart, He made me believe, He brought me joy. If 1999 was about loss, the years that followed were about abundance.

Right now, I can think of literally dozens of people in my life that seemed to be clawing their way towards 2010, begging God for the year to just. be. over. The tone in their voices as they indicated this desire absolutely mirrored how I sounded about ten years ago. In their lives, this year held broken relationships, health problems, lost jobs, marriages ending, promises broken, longings unfulfilled. It has been a really hard year for many people I love. I pray that God speaks His love into their lives, that He brings His triumph and showers blessings. And, looking ahead a bit, maybe take He could take it easy on everyone in 2019...these years that end in nine are really starting to get a bad reputation.