Daybook 77 and A Saint for All Times

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Outside my window::

Overcast and chilly. It’s definitely fall! But that’s OK! I have a lovely bouquet of red roses in a mason jar on my counter and they make all my mornings better. (My parents gave them to me for opening night of Dolly! They’re really gorgeous.)

Wearing::

PJs, and drinking Mystic Monk coffee. :) My body has been demanding lots of extra sleep lately so I’m trying to obey it, even though it makes me grumpy, because I’d much rather get up at like 8, and not 10. But….the body wants what it wants.

Reading::

I just won a book from Goodreads, so I’ll be starting that today (It arrived yesterday) and then blogging about it, so look for a review soon! Reading Benedict XVI’s general audiences on prayer as well. Really, I have a bunch of books I want to start/finish but I just haven’t yet, which is inexcusably lazy on my part.

Pondering::

The pontificate of St. John Paul II.

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I was so, so lucky to spend the majority of my life under his pontificate, which also meant, sadly, that I didn’t really appreciate it until he had already been diagnosed with Parkinson’s. (Well, one doesn’t really appreciate the pope when one is a small child, to be sure!) He was elected pope on October 22, 1979, just a few months after my parents were married. My siblings and I were all born during his reign. I received all my sacraments while he was pope. His writings, so rich in so many genres (he wrote plays and poetry), and his life, so rich in so many ways, are a source of inspiration and constant study for me.

I vividly remember feeling like I was losing a father when he was dying. My father is still alive–praise Jesus–but I thought this is what it would feel like. He had always been there, always faithful shepherding the church. He had done so much to bring Christ to the world, to “open wide the doors to Christ”, and he did so much to change the world! A pope from a Communist country, who helped bring about the defeat of Communism? Prayer works, indeed. It was unimaginable for so many people. I remember the night the Berlin Wall came down. We watched it on TV in our family room. But I really didn’t understand what was happening–I was only seven and a half. But as I studied history and became more mature, I marveled at it.

For me, personally, I have only admired him more as I’ve gotten older. I ask for his help before auditions, since he was an actor. I ask for his help when writing, since he was a writer (yeah, I ask St. Francis De Sales too, but John Paul II is more immediate for me). His fearless attitude, his call to “be not afraid!”, echoes all the time in my heart. And of course, his great devotion to Our Lady, as he entrusted his entire papacy to her.

I don’t think theologians have even begun to mine the brilliance of his writings, and what they mean for us. I’ll really always consider him “my” pope, like so many other people in my generation. It wasn’t just the length of his pontificate, but the way he spoke so intensely to young people, and even remembered them on his death bed: “I have looked for you. Now you have come to me, and I thank you.” I was a young person during his papacy; I was about to turn 23 when he died.

Watching him in prayer was an intense experience. I never got to see it, personally, but I’ve read accounts and seen video. He had such intense communion with God, such a deep prayer life. You could see how it imbued his mission, how vital it was to him.

And of course–his suffering, the idea of redemptive suffering which is so unique to Catholicism–was on display for everyone to see. As a sick person, this also inspired me. He showed us that life has worth always, even when fragile and failing. His spirit never faltered.

There’s so much that could be said about him. If you want to learn more, I suggest George Weigel’s monumental Witness to Hope

Around the house::

(I really need to reorder these when I have such a long pondering!)

Sweeping and mopping the kitchen floor today, and dusting the furniture in my bedroom.

Creativity::

Working on my NaNo2014 novel–getting the prep done before it starts up November 1!–and also it’s the last weekend of Dolly. Come see it!

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Daybook 76

Outside my window::

Totally clouded over. It was really pretty but really humid yesterday, and I think it’s raining outside now. Not that I mind rain and clouds, because they’re good knitting/reading/tea days.

Wearing::

Jeans and an Oakland Zoo (Pitt) t-shirt. I’m being lazy right now.

Reading::

Jodi Picoult’s Leaving Time comes out today. I was very lucky to snatch up an ARC (advanced reading copy) at an event a few weeks ago, and I have to tell you, this book is amazing. Read it. I want to write more about this book but not until more peeps have read it, so….get on it. :)

Taking up Swann’s Way again as well. During Tech Week/Performance weeks I load up my bag with books I’ve been meaning to read, and this is on the top of the pile. I re-read The Joy Luck Club earlier this week and found I really didn’t like the book as much as the movie! Also re-reading Outlander, and I’m on An Echo In The Bone.

Creativity:

A lot on this front. Dolly opens on Friday–gulp gulp double gulp. NaNoWriMo 2014 is live, so I’ve been drafting out my novel for that–thus far it involves opera and Italians (a good combination, of course!). And I’ve also been knitting. I can purl fine when I do an entire row of purl, but when I start with a knit stitch border it all goes to hell. Ideas? I really want to start a basket weave scarf but I can’t if I can’t manage to knit and purl in the same row!

Cooking::

Well I have lots of plans but this week is a mess with the cooking…so busy. Trying valiantly and possibly failing to get it under control!

Family::

my sister is in town! She moved to Texas over the summer and this is her first trip back since then. Her birthday is on Friday so we celebrated early on Sunday at a local restaurant. Yesterday we had lunch and coffee together before I had to run to a doctor’s appointment. It’s been great to see her!

Theater::

Well, Dolly, really, all the time. We’re in dress rehearsals now. I’m hoping on of the lovely ladies in the cast can do something with my ridiculous hair….I am so hair impaired it’s not even funny.

Health::

I went to the dermatologist yesterday. Part of post-transplant life is making sure that you take care of your skin with sun protection, because we are super photosensitive (meaning we can burn a lot faster than other people due to the meds), and getting regular skin checks. I go about every six months. Nothing out of the ordinary at this appointment so that’s a good thing. We have a much higher risk of cancer compared to the general population, and skin cancer in particular, so it’s very important to stay on top of these things. Fortunately I’ve never been much of a sun bunny.

Around the house::

Today is a house day, meaning I’m going to clean and tackle some projects here (filing, bill paying, etc.) that I need to do. This gets super important during tech week because otherwise the house can become a monster of utterly terrifying proportions due to neglect. :-P

From the iPhone:

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During a local shopping district’s chalk art festival–isn’t this great?

Grace will lead me Home

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There’s been a lot of talk lately about Brittany, the girl in Oregon who is 29 and has decided to end her life in a few weeks, because she has cancer.

I was going to write about this. But then Ann Voskamp put this on her blog, and…all I can say is yes.

Yes, five thousand times yes.

Suffering is pain. Suffering is darkness and doubt and horrible things, and there are times when in that suffering and pain we want to end it all, to end in on our terms.

I know. I’ve been there. I’ve almost said no so many times. So many times I wanted to close my hands, like Ann says in her book, and say no, God! No God, I will not take this from your hand! 

No, no, no. I will not.

But the thing is…..that’s where the pain all comes from. From saying no.

What kicked Lucifer out of heaven?

Saying, no, God. No, God, I will not do this. I will not serve. 

And finally….

Thousands of years later….the world was healed and saved with yes.

Yes, God. Yes, I will do your will. 

“For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.”

–John 6: 38

I have laid in the bed, in the dark nights, with tubes in my body and pain in my mind and thought I can’t.

I have fought against that will. I have wanted to stop.

But then I realized that God is in all those details. He knows when I sit and when I stand, and He has marked out my day aright.

There is a plan…it’s just not one I know, all the way to the end. But to end the story before it’s really over? To deny myself, and others, any of the precious days that God gives?

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I can’t.

We have to–all of us have to–trust in the plan. Open our hands and say “yes” to whatever is placed in it.

God is always good. Always. No matter what is happening.

In the suffering is the good, the glory…its beauty.

And I say that as someone who knows it, and who has wanted to run away from it and deny it and has wished for something that would be easier.

But that’s not His plan for me. His plan is for me, right here, and right now, with this body.

When He calls me, I’ll go. But until then….He’s the author of my story.

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Seven Quick Takes Friday No. 58

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 (I meant to schedule this for tomorrow morning. So “tonight”=Friday night. :) )

I.

OK, so good news first: I’ve been accepted to make life promises with my Lay Dominican chapter! Yay! I will make them in December at our monthly chapter meeting.

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I feel like Agnes with her Fluffy Unicorns. :) :)

II.

So I am super excited about that. I am also super excited that I got to read Advanced Reader Copies (ARC) of LOTS of awesome new books that are coming out! This week I got to read Leaving Time, Jodi Picoult’s new book which comes out October 14, and Alexander McCall Smith’s The Handsome Man’s De Luxe Cafe, which also comes out in October. I love these authors, and I adore these new books. You must read them!

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I’m not going to say too much about these because I want y’all to read them yourselves and then we’ll talk.

Tonight I also read Vanessa and Her Sister, by Priya Parmar, which comes out January 13. As an avid Virginia Woolf fan, I really liked this novel, especially since it was told from Vanessa’s Point of View, as the title tell us :) I’ve read almost all of Virginia’s novels, and The Hours is always one of my top five movies. Highly recommend this one.

The last one, which I haven’t read yet, is A Small Indiscretion by Jan Ellison. This one also comes out in January (1/27).

How did I get these? A local public library had a rep from Random House come in and talk about new releases, and there were lots of ARCs available for us to read. Part of that is drumming up interest, and no, I didn’t get paid to read these, so I can tell you, without bias, that the three I’ve read so far are great.

(ARCs are basically the finished novel, but “uncorrected proofs”, so there may be small typeset or editing errors that will be corrected before the final copies that go to bookstores.)

III.

I’ve also been cooking a lot this week, mostly from The Chew‘s first cookbook.  I’ve made General Tso’s Chicken, Mario’s Restrictor Plate Chili, and Eggs in Hell thus far this week (and my hands are still stinging from chopping the jalapeños in that last one!). These recipes have all been really great, and I’ll try to post links to them on my cooking blog.

IV.

Speaking of blogs: as part of the BOOK PROPOSAL, I need to develop a “platform”. So I’ve got an “author” web page, which has links to my Twitter and Facebook Author Page. (Yes, I have one, yes it feels ridic to have one, but….) If you would be so kind as to go to my page here and follow both those things (and the page!), I’d be super happy. 

The page itself is still under construction, so there won’t be too much activity there for right now. But it is important in this digital webby era to have BRANDING ALL OVER.

So, I’m trying.

(I hate selling things, by the way. I hated selling Girl Scout cookies. But I really want the book to get published, so I’m selling myself for my book. :-0 )

V.

In the world of writing, it’s almost NANOWRIMO time! This will be the third year I’ve participated. I wrote more about it here.  Come join? :) It’s fun!

VI.

Dolly rehearsals go hard core this week. Dancing is tonight.

I’m nervous about that. I don’t really….dance….

On Saturday we’re running/blocking Act I, and on Sunday, Act II. I’m not teaching CCD this week, it’s my co-catechist’s turn. The topic? The rosary. The first Sunday of October is Rosary Sunday at my parish, so we’re going to teach the kids about this very Dominican, very important devotion.

So it’s a weekend with Dolly and teaching, and dinner with my friend Mary.

VII.

And finally:

This is an awesome look at OSU’s Wizard of Oz halftime show.

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The Guardian Angels

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Today is the Feast of the Guardian Angels.

Yup, Angels are real, and yes, you have a Guardian Angel. And no, people do not become angels when they die. Angels are completely separate from human beings and aren’t interchangeable. We become saints, not angels. (everyone in Heaven is a saint, they just might not be a canonized saint.)

You should pray to your guardian angel. Do you? Last week in CCD we taught the kids about angels, and we’re teaching them the Guardian Angel prayer. (Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God’s love commits thee here, ever this day/night be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide.)

The Feast of the Archangels was Monday, so it’s a pretty “angelic” week, this week (rim shot).  But seriously, you might want to pay attention to your guardian angel, if you haven’t. You have an incredibly powerful protector with you all the time, whose only job is to watch you. Take advantage of that.

NaNoWriMo 2014!

So who’s up for doing NaNoWriMo with me this year?

This will be my third year, and I use October as a time to plant the seeds for November writing. :) My plan this year is another novel, more literary fiction and using some devices I haven’t used in my previous two novels–I don’t think, anyway. I have a bunch of “seeds” of ideas, but I’m not sure how they will all come together into a cohesive whole.

I write best when I’m on deadline, and NaNo is a great way to impose a deadline, to get those ideas out and onto paper. If you’ve never done it, I encourage you to try, because it’s an AMAZING experience. The first year I just had an idea; I didn’t do much more than that to “prep.” As I went along I did research into how you’d appeal to the Supreme Court (go lawyer friends!), Korean food and time zones, and Eugene Onegin, but really, the main thing is just to sit your butt down and WRITE. Make it a priority. Make it happen.

If you’d like to get a taste of what I wrote about the past two years, you can go here. Use the drop down menu at the top for things on specific novels.

St. Michael the Archangel

Daybook No. 75

St. Michael the Archangel

St. Michael the Archangel

Happy Michaelmas–the feast of Sts. Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, the three Archangels. 

“And I do not have you married by Michaelmas, it will not be my fault.”

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Outside my window::

Another lovely fall day, it looks like. On the warm side; I wouldn’t mind some fall temperatures!

Wearing::

PJs. I was doing my Morning Pages, and after this it’ll be time for Morning Prayer, and then I’ll get dressed.

Reading::

Voyager (yes I am working my way through the Outlander series again, duh); Love Does, and whatever I bring back from today’s library trip. Monday is my new “library day”, I’ve decided. I’m returning what I got last week and have finished, and checking out whatever strikes me.

In the CD player::

Dolly, of course. It’s all off-book now, but practice makes perfect!

Theater::

Speaking of Dolly, massive rehearsals start this weekend as we get ever closer to opening! You can get tickets here.

Liturgy::

It’s a busy week for it! Today is Michaelmas, one of my feast days, because my middle name is a derivative of Michael; St. Therese’s Feast Day is on Wednesday, and she’s my Confirmation Patron, and Friday is the First Friday of October. Whew!

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St. Therese of Lisieux 

I’m going to get to Mass on Wednesday and hopefully on Friday, too. Today I didn’t get up early enough to get things done before Mass, but I hope St. Michael will understand. :) October and November are so chock-full of saints’ days and feasts, and then we’re into Advent again. Can you believe it?

CCD funny::

(In class this week, we discussed the creation story in Genesis and had the kids draw pictures of what they thought it looked like.)

Me: (looking at student’s drawing) Oh, what’s that?

Student: (gleefully) It’s a tidal wave!!!

These kids, they kill me.

Pondering::

It is a repeated observation of St. John of the Cross that God prostrates souls in a preliminary trial when he intends to draw closer in love. Here a pattern is noted, calling for our insight. No doubt we need to understand the providence of God differently.

Trials do not reflect a sign of disfavor with God. Rather, the reverse is indicated. God is offering an invitation, even if it hardly seems so. He is teaching, even if it seems a harsh lesson. It may be a hard truth to accept that God’s greater love is proven by the prevalence of trials we could not foresee, and by their lingering despite every plea for their removal. It is a rare soul that learns to take no surprise at this.

There are indeed many shocks in what can seem God’s rough treatment. Perhaps it is not unusual that we attempt to persuade God to be more gentle in his manner. It appears sometimes that nothing moves him in this regard. More love for God, for example, rather than overcoming a trial, will seem on occasion to extend the duration of a time of trial. But at the end of the day we face always the same question. Would we prefer to love less if it meant not to suffer?

–Father Donald Haggerty

Fitness::

I lost two pounds last week! This week it’s gym and I want to work in a yoga workout as well, possibly on Thursday. We’ll see how the schedule unfolds.

Around the house::

Working on cleaning out my closet as well as purging books and magazines from the first floor rooms. My pile of things to take to Half Price Books is growing, as is the pile in the recycling bag. (Trader Joe’s bags are excellent for paper recycling, because you can just throw everything in, including the bag. :) )

From the kitchen::

Working on The Chew cookbooks this week; I’ve got some salads, chili recipes, and tonight’s meal, General Tso’s Chicken, in the works.

Definitions

One of the things I see in the CF community is the desire to label or define themselves by their disease. This bother me. I see lots of Facebook pages with “CF (kid’s name)” or “So and So’s CF Journey” or “CF Mom”, or CaringBridge pages with the same sort of titles.

If my parents–or anyone else–ever did this to me, we’d be having words.

Why on earth do people choose to define themselves by their disease? Does it make them feel better? I guess some people think it brings awareness, but to me it’s the opposite. What brings awareness is when you live your life in the best way possible, without constantly doing a I HAVE THIS WRONG WITH ME drumbeat. To me, having a “CF Name” page is just about as sensical as having “I have blue eyes” name page. So what. Who cares? Why do people let this define them?

I am, obviously, not a CF parent. But if my parents did this, I’d be having a talk with them. It drives me crazy to see and hear these things, like the only thing worth knowing about these people is that their genes are off.

Also, I’m not a hero, OK? I have done absolutely nothing incredibly brave in my life. I’ve lived the life I’ve had and that’s it. That doesn’t make me anymore heroic than the person reading this.

I’m writing a book about my experiences, and I’m in the process of sending our proposals to agents. I want awareness, obviously. I want a cure. But I don’t think the way to do that is to trumpet THIS IS WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME. I think it’s to tell my story about how I tried my absolute best to live a great life, and this is what happened on the way; that you don’t have to have this victim mentality. I want more people to be organ donors. I want people to live healthy lives. But I would never call myself a CF anything, or a Cyster, or whatever. That drives me nuts.

A survivor? Yeah, you can call me that, given that I’ve got more lives than the average cat. But let’s stop defining people because of a disease, and start defining them based on other things, things that are much more valuable.

 

 

Daybook No. 74

Outside my window:

Another sparkling Fall day. Well, OK, it’s the first full day of Fall, but yesterday was gorgeous too. I got to sit on my back porch with a drink and a book and it was amazingly awesome.

Wearing::

My PJs. Late start this morning–stomach wanted more sleep, stomach got more sleep.

Reading::

OK, so this week in The Artist’s Way, we’re not supposed to be reading. Um, yeah…..so I’m trying to “cut down” on my reading. The idea is that artists can use reading as a crutch to avoid doing other things. And yeah, there are times when I’m so guilty of that. So what I’m trying this week is “intentional reading”. As in, not just reading to avoid doing other things, but as a reward (not the best word, but it’s all that’s coming to me right now) for doing the other things. The only places where I’m keeping my reading “as is” is before I go to bed, and at the gym. Since I don’t have the CI adapter for my iPhone yet, I can’t listen to music, so I read, and I go harder when I do it. Strange but true.

And I went to the library yesterday and grabbed a whole haul of books, so I’m reading those. When I go to the library I just grab what looks good to me. So yesterday I read a biography of Gypsy Rose Lee, and two books on eating that were diametrically opposed to one another: The Engine 2 Diet and The Primal Connection. I liked the latter much better. Today I’m starting Palisades Park. Still reading Summa of the Summa, of course.

Creativity::
The Artist’s Way tasks, and learning the music for Hello, Dolly! I think we’re supposed to be off book this weekend, so I’m working on getting myself there.

Pondering::

Belief in God, and how that shapes your life.

I belong to a lung transplant group on Facebook, and I often see people over there saying things like “I was DETERMINED to control my destiny and my health! And so I did and I would do anything to keep on living!” or, “I believe that I control my health and my destiny”, or things of that nature.

All of these things make me pause. First, I love my life. But at some point–we’re all going to die. This should not be shocking to anyone. You’re born, you die. Circle of Life. (Cue Elton John) I am not willing to do anything to stay alive. For example, at this point, I wouldn’t consider a third transplant. A second, yes. A third, no. To me, a third seems selfish and sort of desperate. So many people are waiting for that first transplant, and you want a third? There’s also a lot of medical reasons: Your aorta is only so long. The more transplants you have, the more scar tissue, the more antibodies in your body (which make you harder to match to another set of organs), and the more trauma your body has been through.

I would much rather live my life, set things in order peacefully and calmly, then wait for a third call.

Life is wonderful, yes, but it’s not forever.

As for controlling health and destiny: well, health, to a certain extent, yes. Not entirely. If you think you can entirely prevent yourself from getting sick, you dwell in crazy land.

Destiny? No. You know who controls my life? God does. I don’t control it. I don’t even know what’s going to happen tomorrow. I have no idea. God controls my destiny. God knows when I’m going to die, and he knows everything that’s going to happen before then. My job is to cooperate with His plan for my life. If I went around thinking I controlled my destiny, I’d go crazy.

Yes, we control certain things. But big picture? That’s God’s domain. Far too many people blame Him for things they shouldn’t blame Him for, and far too many people think that they control things that are only in His hands.

I don’t have my book with me, but there’s a really good part in Outlander where Claire prays for Jamie; they’re in the French abbey and Jamie is close to death. She goes into the chapel, where the Host is in the monstrance for adoration, and she prays, “Lord, I commend to you your servant James” over and over. There, she realizes a way that might save him; but she realizes it in prayer, after she’s surrendered the person she loves completely to God.

It’s not just in transplant group where I see this. I see this every day in other people, and I’m sure you do, too. If I’ve learned one thing in my life, it’s that God is in control, not me. And praise Jesus for that! (Most of the time. ;-) )

Around the house::

(Back to the boring, eh?)

Cleaning, the normal stuff. Thursday has become my “cleaning” day since that’s an off day for the gym.

In the kitchen::

I made pea and mint soup last night, which was fun to make, but only so so in the taste department. Tonight it’s a Moroccan fish dish for dinner and a salad for lunch.

Plans for the week::

Gym today and W, and Fri and Sat.

Dinner with my brother tomorrow

A friend’s fundraiser on Thursday (he’s running for a county position)

Dolly rehearsals this weekend, and CCD on Sunday