Tuesday, January 31, 2006

2006 Catholic Blog Awards

As various other folks have pointed out .... the Catholic Blog Awards are accepting nominations through 3:00 PM CST on Friday. Lots of categorical options, so get out there and support your local Catholic blogs!

You Know What We Need???

Mystery Science Theater 3000 covering the State of the Union.

Monday, January 30, 2006


A body in motion tends to continue in motion, and a body at rest tends to remain at rest.

That's how I work, unfortunately enough .... and generally in the latter part of the definition. And not necessarily with the nice peaceful idea of "rest" either. Follow-through is not my strong suit. Once I get going with something, it's great, but if I pause for any reason .....

It's why I so desperately need things like "routines" --- and why I'm so terrible at establishing them. Journalling, for example. When I'm on a roll, it's very good. But, when I stop writing, the amount of effort to get me going again .....

And so it is with this. I was in a really good rhythm, and then, I took a momentary pause, and it all went kerfizzle. Suddenly I feel like I have nothing to say. Which I'm sure isn't true, and yet .... my brain says .... well, my brain says nothing. Hence, the having nothing to say. But, I figure I must write something in hopes that my brain might rediscover itself and return itself back into my skull where it belongs. After all, I need this brain to design the take-home test I need to give my juniors tomorrow, and to prepare lesson plans for my sophomores.

Hmmmmm. Inspiration still hasn't struck. Oh well, at least you all know I'm still alive.

Perhaps .... after dinner ..... and living group meeting .....

That is, if I survive dinner ..... I think it's some sort of salmon something. Well, I know it's some sort of salmon something, because the board in the kitchen said "Salmon 325° 4:15" but I'm not quite sure what kind of salmon something it is. I do know that the various salmon somethings that we have at the monastery are rather yucky to my tastebuds and, while this looked like something different than that, it still didn't look super-enthusing to me. And, unfortunately enough, here I don't have my standard recourse to cinnamon toast like I do in the big institutional serving line. Sigh.

Yesterday, as it was being made, it even smelled yucky, and I thought it was tuna. I'm hit or miss with tuna ... if it's mixed in with lots of noodles and other stuff that thoroughly hides the tuna, I'm generally OK. But ever since the day a few years back during a silent retreat when I was struck by the realization that the look of tuna strangely resembles pre-digested cat food ..... Not that I've ever seen pre-digested cat food, mind you, but I can imagine ....

And now that all y'all are eagerly awaiting the return of my brain to its skull (and pre-inertia-postings), I will hit Publish Post and be done with this.

MMMMMMmmmmmmmm, pre-digested cat food .................

Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Lament of the Lonely Cornflake

Well, in the intrest of proving that I can be creative, I figured I'd go back a few years into the vault. Part of our monastic formation includes taking classes at the nearby seminary/school of theology; the first class that we all take over there is Psalms and Prayer. In an effort to learn the various elements, we were required to write some various psalms and prayers of our own. And, since the instructor was more concerned that we had the format and other essentials understood (chiasms, parallels, and all those other big words), we had some flexibility with the topic about which we prayed and/or psalmed.

Thus, the day came when we had to write a lament -- complete with the ending of hope that God will pull us through. My one thought was to write a lament about the fact that I couldn't think of anything about which to write a lament. However, after having only been in the monastery one month, I had nevertheless been there long enough to learn that, in this very German community, even godliness isn't next to cleanliness. One of our jobs was to clean the dining room, a dining room that served probably about 75 sisters on a regular basis, with more on weekends. And yet, I use the word "clean" very loosely. For, in my mind, in order to clean, there must be something to clean. We cleaned invisible dirt. My jackpot was the day when I had two cheerios and a rice krispie in my "pile." (Yet, there was the day when, while cleaning church I found a couple pieces of popcorn?!?!?)

Therein lies the inspiration for the psalm of lament I am about to share with you.

The Lament of the Lonely Cornflake
Oh great God, creator of all that is good,
you made all things of this earth;
all things of earth reflect your glory.
˙˙Sun and moon, wind and rain
˙˙Wheat and chaff, corn and husk
˙˙Froot and Loop.
Why then, Oh Lord, do you allow them to mock me?
They call me a flake and scoff at me;
at my simplicity they thumb their oaty o's.
They say I don't have the rank of the crunchy captain,
or the magical deliciousness and luck of the charmed marshmallows.
And you, oh great chef, feed into their insults,
by lettting me fall to the depths of the underfoot.
I am nothing but flattened corn.
Is that how I fell out of your flavor?
No bowl for me,
˙˙no tray, no cupped hand.
No, you cast me out into the netherfloor,
where not even the spiders spin their home.
Oh, curse this "vessel of the altar*,"
this monastic cleanliness leaves me no neighbor in my distress.
Oh, hear the lament of the lonely cornflake;
of my mournful cries take heed.
But still I place my trust in the Lord that formed me;
I put my hope in the one who pulled me from the cob.
Even if you will not deliver me from my plight,
˙˙you will deliver me some spilled milk in which to swim.
You will grind mine enemies into compost,
You will let that Rabbit get his Trix.
Oh great God, creator of all that is good,
Deliver me into your goodness.

*In the Rule of Benedict, the monastic is told to "treat all things as sacred vessels of the altar" – it's the idea of stewardship, of taking care of everything, that the hoe used out in the field should be just as carefully cleaned after use as the chalice after Mass.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

At a loss .....

.... for words, if'n ya haven't noticed lately. Posts of substance (with the exception of those trying to lure my family out of lurking) have been rather lacking in this part of the Blogosphere. Seems to be a good bit of this going around, but still .... it's kinda disconcerting. There's nothin' there. Nada. Zilch. A formless void. A vast wasteland. Not even any stupid jokes, or odd articles. Actually, I could pull some of those (or the blog equivalent of quiz results), but even that doesn't enthuse me.

There's just nothing.

Extreme apathy.

Probably doesn't help that this has been the world's LONGEST week -- and that's a realization I came to midway through yesterday. And I didn't even have school Monday. Well, not exactly -- I chaperoned the sophomore field trip to a museum that isn't even remotely large enough to warrant an all-day field trip. By lunchtime I was realizing that I would have been better off staying at school and covering for the other teachers!

Then there was yesterday's observation which went .... I don't know, did I mention the apathy? Kinda bugged me because she didn't get to see me "in my element" for this official time (although they wander the school all the time), and I don't think there was much "Oh, good job" going on (but lots of stuff to fix, including some things that I do normally). But even that I kinda shrug off with an "Eh, whatever."

Then there's tomorrow where I get to be a Eucharistic minister for the school Mass. Except I've never done it before. Except there are lots of non-Catholic kids who come up for a blessing. Except that I can't even read the map to tell where in the gym I'm supposed to go.

Yeah, so .... apathy. Blah.

Drifting along.

Not even necessarily any reason why. I mean, I would say I'm feeling OK and things are good, except for this whole apathy/blah thing. But things have actually been OK these days. I mean, I'm assuming they are -- haven't really cared too much either way.

Heck, I haven't even felt like jumping on board any of the various new memes making the rounds.

Creativity is at a low point. Which is kinda stinky, cuz I'm all about creativity.


Really. I've got commenters who can vouch for that. I make up words all the time, create new lyrics for pre-existing songs. Heck, I even enjoy making baby pterodactyl noises on occasion. And if you're wondering what a baby pterodactyl sounds like? Well, you'll just have to .... find one and ask it, of course!

(And, as an aside .... I just did a spell-check to see if I spelled pterodactyl correctly and guess what I discovered? Blogger's spell check doesn't know the word "blog.")

But these days? Nuttin.


And what stinks is that I had been doing really well there for a while, lots of visitors and all that, and there's this paranoia that if I don't come up with something brillant and innovative really soon, I'll return to the world of the Insignificant Microbe and have my amphibianesque ego crushed by the Designer Intelligent enough to know that I've got nuttin to say.

Apathy's a big problem for me. Drifting is a huge problem for me. Just kinda drifting through life, without "hooking in" or connecting. A bleah kinda "no big deal" kinda thing. It's not bad, necessarily, but not exactly ideal, either. Just kinda "there."

And I can't chalk it up to Blogger's Block, either, because it's happening off-line as well.

And I can't chalk it up to weather because we've had some sunshine lately. And besides, that usually doesn't necessarily kick me into apathy mode.

It's just an odd space to be. In the pit, at least there's something. But here? Just ... kinda .... there.

So, since I have nothing to say, and no real feelings about having nothing to say ... I will cease saying so much nothing about this nothingness. I just hope it's enough to tide you all over until my pathy returns (if "a-" is a prefix that means "without," then isn't it pathy that I want?), so I don't devolve too far down the Ecosystem.


Man, I can't even come up with a decent closing tag-line. How sad is that??? Oh well. Guess I'll just hafta hit "Publish" and be done with it.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Prayers, please ....

.... I'm getting observed by my principal tomorrow .... first period .... we have block scheduling, which means 90-minute classes, which is a long time to have the principal sitting in there .... and since I was out sick on Friday, I didn't get the chance to give the kids a heads-up .... and it's only the third time I've seen these kids .... and if they're too intimidated by the principal to speak up then I'm royally screwed .... so, please....?

Could be a fit .....

Your Life Path Number is 11

Your purpose in life is to inspire others

Your amazing energy draws people to you, and you give them great insight in return.
You hold a great amount of power over others, without even trying.
You have the makings of an inventor, artist, religious leader, or prophet.

In love, you are sensitive and passionate. You connect with your partner on a very deep level.

You have great abilities, but you are often way too critical of yourself.
You don't fit in - and instead of celebrating your differences, you dwell on them.
You have high expectations of yourself. But sometimes you set them too high and don't achieve anything.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Supporting an Anonymous Teacher Person

Fellow high school religion instructor Anonymous Teacher Person has developed a new meme, playing off Blogger's spam-bot comment-block. The rules?
Create a post with these directions as your text. Comment on the post by creating an acronym for your blog from the "type this secret code to be allowed to comment" letters.
And I'll add that anyone else can play along on this post with an acronym for themself (or me, if you're feelin' frisky) from whatever their comment verification code is.

And I'm tagging .... anyone who happened to take a breath within the last forty-three minutes.

Friday, January 20, 2006

The Latest Fad in Emoticons

Coming from a bunch of church folk, no less! (Be sure to read the comments!)
Courtesy of RevSongbird (although she'll try to blame someone else ....)

Mister Manu, Where Have You Gone ...

Funniest thing I found about this post is the fact that, while other people felt intimidated enough to give an obligatory comment, the individuals for whom it was actually intended haven't even seen it (I don't think so, anyway). You see, my super-secret-sources tell me that I've had a visitor recently coming from an Virusian Village in a Happy Land*, who at that point had shown up various times. Even more telling was that this Very Special Visitor was diverting his attention from a certain allegedly-for-profit-but-in-reality-non-profit organization (his words, not mine). However, once I put a special post up for the visitor's benefit, he disappeared. Which is very stinky, given the time and effort put into that post.

But, for the rest of you folks .... to know understand that everything in that previous post was a part of my upbringing .... don't things make a lot more sense now?

* virus .... germ? happy .... merry? village .... town? Hmmmmmm......

Proofreading? Who needs it?

Apparently, some folks at Purdue. Be sure to read the WHOLE thing.
discovered at Overread ... full info and details at educeme.

Weekend Wonderings -- Audience Participation Edition

So, as you all may have noticed from previous posts (and/or the lack of previous posts!), things have been kinda odd for me lately. Right now, in fact, I'm sitting at home, having been sent home from school yesterday for being white enough to match my pants (including my lips, apparently) or else being green, depending on who you talked to. So I stayed home today, not wanting to push my luck (I have serious issues surrounding the escaping-of-food-from-the-same-place-from-which-it-originally-came) -- especially considering that we have a formation class this weekend that requires an 80-minute drive this afternoon with someone who is even more puke-phobic than I and who doesn't even really want me in the car with her because of this potentiality -- which WILL NOT happen. I'm extremely strong-willed when it comes to this.

But, I digress ....

The point I wasn't quite getting to was the fact that my brain is thoroughly non-functioning. I cannot, for the life of me, come up with a decent Weekend Wondering. I might later, in which case I might amend this post, but right now, nothing is coming to mind. Which is very stinky because I know there have been various times where I've thought "Ooo, that could be a good one!" But do I write it down so I could use it at times like these? Of course not. That would make sense.

So .... I'm thinkin' I'll take the cop-out route today make the sacrifice of remaining silent and allow you all the chance to have a voice. Isn't that so kind of me?

Thus, without further ado, I present you with today's extra-special edition of the Weekend Wonderings ....
What do you wonder?
It's wide-open, folks. Things you wonder large-scale or small-scale, those imponderable questions of life or those imponderable questions of Steph. Here's your chance, the voice you've never been given (not including your own blog, which gives you far more of a voice than you get here -- but here is the really important voice, the only voice that matters. Not that I'm biased or anything...) So, then, out with it -- Whaddya wonder?

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Come out, come out, wherever you are ...

Yeah, I'm talkin' ta you, ya YPaLurkers ....

YP no-name2

Perhaps you might not have understood me. Perhaps you did not think I was speaking to you, yes YOU, when I pointed out National DeLurkers Week and requested that you leave a comment. Perhaps you thought you were better than that, or that things like that don't apply to you. Perhaps you felt that, having developed the very special Little-Sister-Mind-Reading-Machine oh-so-many-years-ago, that you didn't have to comment -- maybe you forgot and thought you were just sneaking through that non-existant passageway between our bedrooms and so you didn't need to make your presence known.

But I'm smarter than that. I know (now) that caraway seeds are not baby slugs, even though I still can't eat rye bread because of that misimpression given to me so long ago. I know (now) that poppy seeds are not ant eggs, just as I know (now) that Porkius Piggius is not Latin for "Pretty Girl." I know now that some people call 'em green onions but they're really scallions. I know (now) that the Washington Monument is not the giant's pencil (the giant of "Jack and the Beanstalk" fame), and also that the Mormon Temple is not the castle of the Wicked Witch of the West, who will send her monkeys to kidnap any little girls that look upon said castle. (Although, to my defense, the "Surrender Dorothy" graffiti has been around for close to thirty years {and, for the record, one of my brothers knows one of the originators rather well!}, with a fame that has landed it in Wikipedia and various, even good-natured Mormon, writings. Unfortunately, I can't find an photo anywhere.)

And, to prove said smartness, even now, I have my own mindreading machine. And this one doesn't involve a Radio Shack 500-in-1 kit connected to a cereal bowl. This one doesn't involve torturing stuffed animals in a manner that foreshadowed some of the Gitmo and other rendition activities of today. And yet I, even I, can see that you are out there, lurking, refusing to make your presence known. And yet, your presence is yet known.

How could you leave me hanging? After all those formative years that I spent, learning the perfect way to fetch you your beer at the merest handclap? After being your willing Deputy Babysitter? After those summer vacations when you were off from school, when you so kindly and charitably allowed me the opportunity to continue my "store" game by making you lunch every day? And, no, it's not just you three I'm referencing. What about those promises that I wouldn't tell a certain maternal matriarch that I didn't see certain movies at your house? Or not joining in on the mockery of elaborate Jello creations and failed Petit Fours? (Oh, wait .... I guess I'm not so good on that one! But at least I don't make fun of your college choice, or cheer when you kid seems to lean towards the correct one .... ummmm .... maybe I'll just stop here!)

But truly, after all we've been through .... fried gerbils on the beach, Noble Ancestor spending our inheritance (and all for a King-sized Kit-Kat?!?!?), the battles over the diamonds .... And you, you spurn me thusly?

I'm beginning to wonder .... is it really true, what the song says ....

A hand for each hand was made for the world --
Why don't my fingers reach?
Millions of grains of sand in the world --
Why such a lonely beach?
Where are two shoes to click to my clack?
Where is a voice to answer mine back?
I'm all alone in the world.

So, step up, fess up, and make your presence known. Otherwise, besides the ever-incurring badness of not pleasing Sister Mary Saintly, you will also find yourself subjected to back-to-back episodes of Father Dowling mysteries and Murder She Wrotes as acted out by the theatrical children, all under the soundtrack of that ever-so-classic Silent Night as performed by John Fahey. Even if you wanna make up a name -- that's part of the fun of this stuff. Or else, I just might have to make up a name for you ......

Besides, there are people out there in BlogLand who have not been able to sleep for months, wishing, wanting, dying for someone to please explain to them what the Three B's of the Sing-Along Messiah are. Plus, think about it. I'm the one in control here. I'm Googlable, and I might just happen to accidentally link your name with some picture of, oh I don't know, some food-showing, perhaps? You've all already shown up here at various points in time, so here's your chance to clear your name. At least give me credit for all I've done to support my team ....

And not delurking, why that's, that's, that's reprehensible. It's almost like stealing my pen and pencible. What with all that sneering and leering so naughtily -- really, you ought to be in jail!

Come on, guys, you can't be that ashamed of me .... at least I don't do drugs!

Monday, January 16, 2006

Gift Swap Stuff Gotten

Now for my side of the bargain ....

So, there was this way-cool questionnaire for us to fill out to help the secret spoiler have a better sense of how to spoil. Also, we were theoretically supposed to have some theme or something (which I didn't exactly do, unless "Random Collection o'Stuff" counts!), all of which was laid out so perfectly by Marla. As a dutifully obedient little nun, I printed the thing off and carried it around with me, in hopes of concocting beautifully clever and brilliantly descriptive responses. It didn't help that my spoilee had really cool answers of her own, as did the others that I read. So, I had to come up with some pretty cool stuff. Well, with great effort, I managed to come up with some at least semi-decent answers.

Except ....

.... the answers never quite made their way from the printout lurking in my pocket to the Create Post that stared me in the face when I'd sit down at the computer. Once again, ooops. Seems to be a recurring theme with me these days, this "Ooops" word .....

So then I felt doubly-bad. Not only was my spoilee going to have to wait forever to get her stuff from me, but my spoiler wasn't even going to know what to get me. No, for some reason I just couldn't "get around to" explaining which color for me "should only be used in fungal remedy packaging or if human waste were to be redesigned" ... or what exactly it is that makes me "break out in gooberous pustules" (excellent questions, Marla -- I love your way with words!). [Hmmmm, as I look at these questions, I might have to dig out my paper off the pile o'crap on my desk and post them anyway, just as a fun meme .... But, I digress. So, as I was saying before I so rudely interrupted myself ....]

True to form for me, this lead to lots of great guilt thoughts. Would my spoiler go through archives, flip through the blog to try to get ideas? Would she just get a random collection o' stuff? Would she decide that if I didn't even wanna post the answers that maybe I didn't really want a part of this thing after all and just not bother? Oh, the trauma. I even got an Anonymous commenter asking about the questions and I still didn't post them. Have I mentioned my slacker side?

Well, the spoiler didn't have as little faith in me as I did, because one day during Christmas break here on the Hill (aka at the Monastery) I had a blue package slip sitting in my mailbox. I went to the package tables and found a package for me from New Mexico. Having somewhat of a brain disconnect, I was thinking "Oh, [this good friend of mine] is from New Mexico. How cool that she sent me a package!" But then I realized .... this can't be from her -- she's been in a monastery in the middle of Nowheresville, Missouri, for four years now. Hmmmmm. Then, I finally got a brain. It was my spoiler stuff. Whooo-hooo. (Not remembering now when I received it ... quite possibly it was before I had even managed to send mine, thus adding to my guilt factor. Regardless, I had a package!)

So, the package sat on the bookshelf in my monastery guest room. Don't know if I really blogged about it, but my pseudo-funk had actually been going on somewhat during the Christmas break, so the package was there but not necessarily thought about. Then, New Year's Eve arrived. We had had community meetings all day long and I had been feeling kinda out of it (I actually left the meetings at one point because I seriously thought I was gonna be sick [just as background because I don't think I've mentioned it -- this is something about which I'm truly phobic. More in a later, grosser post, but still something for you to know]. All the sudden I got really hot (people at my table later told me that I had been really pale and then all the sudden got really really red), so I bolted to go hide on a couch in the community room in hopes of practicing some of Sue's patented Universal Puking Avoidance. Unfortunately, this meant that I missed the more inspiring part of the meetings (we're beginning this whole new "Spirituality Institute" thing that just gets me WAY excited about things), but somehow I managed to settle things out a bit. Still not settled out enough, though, to want to hang too long at the community New Year's Eve party. So, when my novice with pneumonia was ready to head back down the hill, I was more than eager to join her, figuring that I'd probably do better to just crash on the couch in front of a movie. As I was putting on my comfy clothes (awesome new flannel Tigger pjs!) I saw the box on the shelf and realized, "Hey, I can open this now!" So, I took it downstairs with me and did.

Since the spoiler couldn't exactly match things up with the questionnaire (Oops!), she went with a New Mexico-ish theme. Yummy biscoquitos (which, my initial thought, before I made the New Mexico connection, was of my own Italian heritage of biscotti) and gummy jalepeño peppers, three little ornaments (an angel, a winged heart, and Our Lady of Guadalupe), one of those orange-with-cloves things (I'm so articulate with words, though I'm sure there's some official name for them), a red cloth that will probably go in my prayer space (the photo is rather posed and contrived, not really how it looks), and styrafoam peanuts and poppy paper, because what makes a package complete but a variety of packing materials! (I'm writing this from the monastery, trying to see what all's in the pictures that I happen to have .... deepest apologies if I'm forgetting something!). All in all, a nice pleasant diversion (and deliciousity) to a day of not-so-hot (or too-hot) feeling.

Thanks, Sarah .... big-time bonus points for the challenge of having to do this totally out of your own brain. You did good, despite my (non)assistance!

And now, without further ado, the pictures. Remember, I still wasn't feeling too hot that night, so I'm lookin' kinda pale in these pictures. Look around and you get a slight sense of what the Benet Hall parlor looks like as well! And, since the photos are also supposed to show the items in use .... you've also got a little sense of the window at the top of my cave! That, and a very fake and contrived prayer corner/table (since my chair has been inaccessible for a while, it's been my bed lately, and thus the table has kinda fallen into temporary disuse, only to be neatened for the purpose of said photograph). And, well, pics of me being goofy -- can I blame it on being sick? Oh wait, I wasn't sick, though. Sigh. What a way to make a photographic entrance into the blog world ......


So, thanks again Sarah .... good job working through the stumpedness! Thanks as well go out to Fishbowl Andrea for her patience with me. And thanks, of course, to Andrea and Marla, for setting this whole thing up!

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Gift Swap Stuff Given

So perhaps you might remember (yeah right!) a while back I tried to peer pressure some of you folks into joining me for a rather cool Winter Holiday Secret Spoiler Gift Exchange. Well, part of the bargain is to post what you sent & why, as well as what you received ... since, in my case in particular, my spoilee is still in the dark about who I am. So, without further ado .... I present the present (heeheehee). Late, of course, as always, but that's because my camera software didn't want to cooperate with me yesterday (and, of course, I had to wait till posting day to even download the photos ...).

Did I ever mention I'm a horrible procrastinator? I'm great with the ideas, but follow-through always leaves something to be desired. Plus, if you remember, the last week of school involved a good deal of stress and a great deal of work, and it didn't help that it never quite fully processed with me that, while we think of Canada as just our neighbor to the north, sending packages there still requires such silliness as customs and way-longer-delivery-time. Oops!

I had all sorts of cool thoughts and ideas from reading both her answers to the questionnaire as well as just surfing through her blog .... things like cool paper (don't think she quite mentioned that one enough!), cool pens, popcorn, and other sorts of arts and/or craft stuff, but then ... well ... the whole time thing .....

So, I got to start off by sending an anonymous comment to my spoilee saying that yes, I'm a slacker and no, she hadn't been forgotten, but that her gift might show up a wee bit late (given that it was mailed a good five/six days after the deadline). Fortunately for me, she was rather understanding of the whole thing.

But, I figured .... I needed some major schmooze factor to smooth things over. Thus, I decided to begin with this. Besides, I figured it would provide a nice counterpart to my patented Snowman Soup (with which, unfortunately, I neglected to include the snowman poop, which is what makes it all worthwhile. Hope you survived anyway!) Click the pictures to see a larger and/or more readable version.

The other, not quite so creative, elements that I chose to send in this box o'stuff included such treats as: a variety of random paper (including some really cool kinda fabricy paper, some heavier-than-but-kinda-like tissue paper, some homemade-not-by-me-though paper, and some plain orange squarish paper) .... a funky bamboo-ish paint brush (that looks like three brushes but is really just one), Conté crayons, and a little watercolor squirt bottle .... a coolish black roller ball pen and a necklace pen with a built-in bubble dispenser .... microwavable kettle corn .... Guatemalan worry dolls (most likely direct from Guatemala, since several of our sisters were on mission down there for a long time) .... a nun-made-but-again-not-by-me little paper box containing yet-another-not-made-by-me-item (although I have learned how to make these -- I just don't have the stuff) that is what we call here Benedictine Book Beads, complete with a St. Benedict medal at the end ..... topped off with a little festive post-it note and kleenex set (although they weren't originally packaged together at the store). All of which are photographed and pictured below, but since I'm still just learning the ropes of Flickr, you'll just have to figure out what is what. I think I've got a pretty brainy bunch of blalkers (blog stalkers -- hey, I had to do something to keep the alliteration going), I bet you all can handle the challenge! Or, if you'd rather see it all together, you can check out my spoilee's post and see the overall whole, complete with my big ol' writing on the box.

So there you go, Andrea from the Fishbowl. Glad you liked it, even though you did have to wait a big longer than most. But hey, we weren't supposed to open them until New Year's Day anyway, right? Peace out & have fun! And .... ya want I should send you more Kettle Corn??? :-)

National De-Lurkers Week

Posted so as to always remain on top, at least for this week ... so scroll down for the new stuff ... and comment there too!!!
courtesy of Paper Napkin, originally
Many of you made resolutions last week to lose weight, or quit smoking, or stop beating your children (oops, maybe that was just me), and I just read a Psychology Today article which notes a direct correlation between weight loss, and commenting on your favorite blogs, so leave a comment because it will make you skinny. Not that you're fat, because you're not!! So tell me how long you've been reading my blog, or your favorite book, or the first word that pops into your mind when you hear the word shish-kabob, and remember, if you don't leave a comment, you're letting the terrorists win.

Of course, not like my previous post wasn't enough to get folks to de-lurk themselves .... but this one's more in fun! Oh, and while you're at it? Map Thyself!

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Hypothetical Advice

I was sitting here, creating seating charts for my new semester, and was struck with a sudden inspiration that I wanted to share with you. Some helpful guidance, perhaps, should you ever find yourself in a situation like the one that the seating charts created in my imagination.

Let's say, for example, that you should find yourself, one day, watching a football game. A big game, perhaps a playoff game, maybe even with a team that has gone so long without doing much worth watching. And then let's say, hypothetically speaking, the team you imaginatively are supporting get a really awesome looking touchdown. Perhaps, after that touchdown, they kick the ball off, and the receiving team fumbles the ball. Suppose then, for example, the underdog team picks up the fumble, giving them excellent field position to perhaps tie up the game. Natural response, of course, might be to leap up out of the chair to celebrate.

In case you ever find yourself in such an imaginative situation .... it might be helpful to be aware of where you are. If, hypothetically speaking, you are sitting in a basement which happens to have a very low stuccoed ceiling, you might find it more advantageous not to raise your fists in a celebratory fashion.

But, like I said, this is all purely a hypothetical situation.

Stupid bleeding knuckles ...... (and, yes, I do mean knuckleS ... sigh)

Friday, January 13, 2006

Prayer Request .... or ....?

Continuing the trend of my family's respect for my higher calling. I present here as evidence an e-mail received tonight from a different brother (not the one who sent the nun toys); no, this one is from the season ticket holder, and, well .... I'll just let his words speak for himself.

Hey Steph - just checking in, with a quick suggestion that you go to that prayer board and wipe out all the names and replace them with a general plea for the Redskins. We're taking it on the chin by just about all the prognosticators and need as much help from as many corners as we can get it. Coach Joe has to be in God's good graces, so it's not that ridiculous a request. The poor and the sick and the dying you will have with you always, but the Skins this close to the Super Bowl.... eh.... not so much.
Hope you get to see the game.... GO SKINS!!!
Well, as a born-and-bred Washingtonian, growing up in the Gibbs era, so thoroughly thrilled when he came back from retirement and having no one in Nowheresville who understood the significance of that event, I gotta say .....


If anyone's looking for me between 4:30 and 8 EST tomorrow, I'll be by the TV. Anyone wanna join me? It's not nearly as much fun by yourself ....

And, as I said previously, doesn't this explain me a lot more???

UPDATE 6:30 PM: Ummmm, folks??? I don't think you're doin' your part here .......

Update to the Update .... well, we've had a good run. An awesome way to pull things out in the end of the season, and worlds apart from the last several gazillion years. Good job, guys -- there's always next year. At least that doesn't sound like the hopeless wishful thinking like it has for the past several years.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Not that I'm contributing to this in any way, but ...

.... Especially after kicking off a new semester of Social Justice class today, what with all the talk of personal dignity and respect and not teasing or playing off stereotypes or anything like that, but I figure if my good friend Natty (who happens to be blonde) wasn't offended, I suppose I could pass her joke along. It is pretty funny, I have to admit.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

To All My Recent Commenters

In case you missed it in the Update post ....

T H A N K Y O U ! ! ! ! !

Thank you for the kind words, the gentle support, the understanding and empathy, the prayers, the sweet e-mails, and everything else. Most importantly, thank you for trying to convince me that I'm not just a stupid lazy-butt, and for making me see that I'm not alone. They are the closest things to hugs that I have in this basement cave of mine, but, even better than hugs, I can re-read them over and over again. And so I thank you.

Or, click here for a more fun way to get the point. (Props to Amy at squirrelly.org for introducing me to these guys)

Update on the Pit

Last night, after dinner, I received this e-mail from a very dear friend of mine, even before I had seen all the comments and e-mails that I had gotten from all you in BlogLand:

The more I look at your blog today, the more I see how far you have come. Yes, these are "virtual people" to some degree, but you've gotten to know them a bit, and this was your first real opening up to community. That's a real step forward, though all outward appearances may appear to be a life out of control. See it as a practice run for talking with your own living group community. You've seen how compassionate a lot of people have been. Trust that you can evince a similar compassion from those who see you every day. It's okay if you cry some. This is real life, and I think most people respect REAL. This is not [fake people you have to deal with] fakery. This is real stuff. You've come a long way, baby.
Which then made me really wonder what all had been said, so I bounced over to my gmail address. Dagnabit, y'all (or is it ya'll?) made me start crying all over again!

Heading upstairs for dinner, I was all nervous because I knew I needed to say something, but how in the world do you bring something like this up without it sounding like a cop-out -- especially when you realize that you yourself feel that it's a cop-out, that you're just making excuses for being a lazy-butt? Then, I got up there and everyone else was already seated and there was this (seeming to me) odd silence. Then I got paranoid that one of them was gonna say something, and I wanted to get credit for saying it first, so after two almost-ready-to-dive-in-when-someone-else-asked-some-mundane-question-about-someone's-day, I finally managed to say something along the lines of "I'm sorry things have been less than ideal with me lately." Which was about all I could make myself say before needing to regain composure and, wouldn't you know it, Sister Somewhat Hard-of-Hearing has to ask "What'd you say" and so I had to take another twenty minutes (seemed like) to be able to spit it out again.

I then proceeded to bawl my way through dinner, telling them that I can see things as having been getting progressively out of whack for about a month (which probably means that it's been longer than that), that I'm not sure what the trigger is or why it's manifesting itself like this before (since it's never interfered with "normal functioning" to the extent that it's hugely noticable to others -- but, then again, it's been different every time), that maybe things'll settle out once the new semester begins tomorrow and I'm back into a "schedule" again, that maybe it's just been a build-up from moving and everything else that went on this fall (deaths, etc.) and having the down-time of break just brought it all to the surface .....

They asked what they could do, if I needed someone to knock on my door in the morning. I pointed out how that might help, but that then even makes me feel like a cop-out since everyone else is able to get up in the morning; they kinda dismissed that, saying that sometimes we need a little extra help. Of the two I was really concerned about, one was glad I said something because it gave her a very different understanding of what was going on; the other gave pointers of her own. The other two folks asked what they could do (or shouldn't do, if I knew anything that was a trigger), and thanked me for saying it because they know how hard it is to do.

Later, as I was reading all the wonderful comments, the other sister who lives in the basement came down and I asked her if she could knock on my door in the morning. She said sure, asked it I wanted it before or after her shower, and if I wanted her to make sure I was up or just knock. I said, "Just knock, although if I don't show up ...."; she said she'd come down and get me, and again acknowledged how hard it can be.

So, I'm thinking that with all the major prayers and well-wishes from you folks, and the guilt of "What my house is saying" lifted, that hopefully things can begin to at least settle out a little bit. At least some of the paranoia can be gone (although I'm really hoping that if they've been reporting back to the powers-that-be about me, that this also gets reported back!).

So, that crisis at least somewhat averted. I have my group tonight, so we'll see what comes of that .... of course, now I'm feeling OK about everything, which tends to make me feel like I don't need to say anything, so that's a new area to work on .....

And now I must see if any of my kids have e-mailed me their gospel projects, because I really don't want to fail anyone in religion class, but since grades are due at noon tomorrow and this is a major grade ..... I'll be back with more updates, but in the meantime, thank you all.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Pit

OK, so it's more than just a funk. The depression pit has been gradually eating me up since before Christmas. I've kinda battled depression for a long time now, but I say "kinda" because it hasn't always been an "active" battle --- it's really easy to stay in denial when it doesn't interfere TOO hugely with daily life ... at least, not in a manner that's noticable to others. Which makes now very odd. I've been far deeper into the pit many times before, but never before has it gotten in the way of daily life before. And it's a stupid way to get in the way too, that it's just oversleeping by twenty minutes or so, but it's enough to make my life a nightmare because of the people around me. It almost then seems like nothing worth talking about -- "Yeah, I overslept again, so what?" even if it is a symptom of a bigger issue. And, of course, the people I live with don't know the bigger issue, so they just get progressively more pissed at my non-appearance in the morning; and I don't necessarily have a "bigger issue" to tell them, because depression ends up being such a nebulous, amorphous thing that you can't really put words around -- so it ends up sounding like I'm just looking for an excuse to skip prayer. Plus, no one's saying anything or asking anything, which makes me wonder if they're either taking the "give 'em enough rope and they'll hang themself" strategy and/or reporting in to the "official" folks about how Steph is being such a slacker non-nun and how I really shouldn't be here. And I don't really have that close of a relationship with any of them to "talk" to them about it and besides, I got nothing to say.

Yes, I have my counselor; yes, I have my "happy pills" ... which were good for a time, but have been kinda sketchy lately. But now my counselor felt I was ready for a group setting, which cuts back on my one-on-one appointments, so I'm just kinda left hanging. Again, because it's just this generalized "blah" (except for the spontaneous crying fits) or else I'm in a decent space when I show up for the group .... there's nothing to say. Besides, as I always try to convince myself, "It's all good." It's no big deal, it's nothing, whatever. And even knowing that a good chunk of this right now is at least partially situational doesn't really seem to help matters much.

It's crazy. I was a music therapy major; I wanted to go into the counselling side of things. I know, better than anyone, that "depression" should have no stigma attached to it. And, in my mind, it doesn't. At least, not for other people. For me, though ....

And I've been so impressed with folks like RealLivePreacher, when I happened upon his up-front posts about depression, and HeyJules, who actually had begun with a whole blog detailing her journey out of the pit. I figured a while back that maybe I should step up, tell my story, and add to the non-stigma nature of the beast.

Except, go figure, I never got around to it. I vaguely referenced it back in September, but that's because I was leaning towards there. So now, here I am, pretty much in the thick of things, not necessarily giving the best picture of the beast. Not that there is a "best picture" of it, but if I was wanting to post to show how "normal" people have this and get through .....

And now this weekend I get to go meet with my prioress (who's incredibly sweet) in response to a wonderfully concerned e-mail she sent right after Christmas break saying that she wanted to get together because I seemed kind of out-of-it and were things alright? And then I get to follow it up with a meeting with my formation director (that is still not the most well-built relationship yet) that I'm not feeling nearly so good about. Part of it is that I've got nothing to say. I don't know why I'm not showing up, I don't know why I'm not waking up, I don't know why I'm depressed. And, while some people understand and accept that kind of struggle, others don't, and that makes it extra-hard. I beat myself up enough over how this is all playing itself out, this isn't my preference, and to then feel like I have to justify it or "explain myself" to others just doesn't help the situation at all.

And, of course, this whole Bible thing has exploded, and I've read all of 6 chapters .... while everyone else is ready for Exodus. I'm good at getting the blog going, but .... that's about it.

Not that there's really any point to this post. Just some random ramblings in search of some form of assistance. Not that there's even anything that can be done, but I just feel myself getting deeper and deeper in trouble with the folks I live with, which then makes me feel worse, which then increases the spiral, and .....


In a bit of a funk

OK, so it's a bit more than a funk. But the big issue right now is this whole "wake-up" thing. As in, acknowledging the alarm when it goes off. As in, actually getting up when the alarm goes off. As in, not just turning the alarm(s) off, climbing back into bed, and going back to sleep and waking with absolutely no recollection that all three alarms went off at three different times and were all turned off, presumably by you since there's no one else who woulda done it. It's a very bad thing, and I'm concerned b/c school starts in earnest on Thursday and this can't happen once school starts. It's been an issue for the last three weeks or so now, since right before Christmas, and so "go to bed earlier" isn't necessarily a solution. I made the mistake yesterday of commenting to myself that I seem to consistantly wake up twenty minutes after Morning Prayer -- just late enough to make it too late. Of course, that ensured that this morning I didn't wake up until 9 ... which is when I needed to be at school. Thank God I live only 10 minutes away and I'm real quick at getting ready, and thank God it was just to be there, that I didn't have any exams to proctor or anything like that, but still .... not a good thing AT ALL.

I've gone out and gotten an alarm clock that rings (hence three alarms -- radio, buzzer, and bell), I've tried making the clock be on the opposite side of the room (forcing me out of bed), I've tried creating an obstacle course that makes the clock thoroughly inaccessible (in hopes that the challenge of finding it will wake me up), but it's just not happening.

Any suggestions?

Saturday, January 07, 2006


OK, so this Bible thing has gotten pretty big. At least by my standards .... since I was kinda just throwing it out there on a whim. But now there are around 15 of us (so far -- anyone else? We start tomorrow!) and we've got pastors and all these other kinds of folks who know what they're talking about ... and me. And I'm the ringleader?!?!?!? This is just crazy talk! Oh well, it'll at least make me do it now -- I'm a sucker for external accountability.

Really, though, it should be cool. I'm just dumbfounded at how it's exploded. And I kicked it off? I'm just a nobody new kid out here in the Middle of Nowheresville, BlogLand. Me, the reluctant nun (title courtesy of ellipsis), the non-holy, non-pious, so-not-a-nun? I just don't get it .....

Oh well, we'll see what happens ..... {gack!}

Discovered at What is Your Only Comfort .... an easy way to visualize where you've been. They also have a countries one, but I didn't even bother.
create your own visited states map
or check out these Google Hacks.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Weekend Wonderings -- Coming Full Circle

Not even a week ago, Lorem was Revisiting Life Before E-Mail. Then, a few days later, I read a post about Communication Then and Now, wherein HermeneuticLand101 shared a comment from a friend: She made a point of telling me how important letters are and how much she was hoping the art of letter writing would never be lost. In my response to her post, I commented:
I think we're definitely gonna lose a lot. As it stands, a lot of the personal touch and expression that goes into one's handwriting is missing.

Maybe that's why I'm no good with e-mail. Awww, heck, I'm no good with snail mail, either. But I don't know .... maybe that there's more investment in a handwritten note?

Regardless, I'm not shutting down my blog anytime soon! I think with the frequency of blog posts, it allows more personality to shine through. Plus, the people are just too dang cool!
I'm curious, though, how things will evolve. A couple years ago, I was at my sister's house, and my 12-year-old nephew was playing with her old manual typewriter. "This is so cool. You can take it wherever you want in the house without having to plug it in, and you don't have to wait for it to print!"

SacredSpace, run by the Irish Jesuits, is a very popular online prayer space. Last year (and again this year), they also published a book with one of the readings for the day along with some reflection questions. What cracked me up was the line on the back cover of the book: Now people without a computer can prayer and reflect with SacredSpace anytime, anyplace, in just ten minutes a day.

Before I entered the monastery, I was watching TV in my apartment, when the commercial for the Saran Wrap bowl covers came on. You know, those things that look like the shower caps from the hotel? All of the sudden, my roommate burst out laughing at these "brand new designs" .... which happened to be identical to what Saran Wrap was when she was growing up -- before they developed the rolls of film.

In my Christmas stocking from my parents, I got some Wite-Out correction tape. Now, correct me if I'm wrong {grin}, but wasn't it originally tape? And then they got all fancy with this liquid stuff you could just brush on?

The communities formed around these various blogs almost remind me of the ol' time town hall, or barber shop, or wherever else. Folks coming together to just talk about nothing in particular, although sometimes there's a more specific time and agenda. Take, for example, the RevGals Friday Five. Monday Night Thoughtball with HeyJules. Overread and his Lyric Quizzes. And Wednesday just wouldn't be Wednesday without PhantomScribbler, her commenting pixie party, and their Wednesday Whines (complete with prizes!). People make connections and have blogger meet-ups -- heck, I remember at one point that some people were concerned because BrightStar didn't appear to have a new post for a while, and great relief to discover that it was just a glitch in Bloglines.

It's something I wonder about, though, this whole question of written communication. This is all supposed to be paperless, and yet we have to print out hard copies of everything so we can take it with us. Hard drives crash and viruses (or is it virii?) attack, so we have to be sure we have a backup copy -- or two or three. Spam so fills our inboxes that we miss a real message in the mess. But we can't rely too much on the spam filters, becuase then we'll have real messages misidentified and disappearing. Does it really save us anything? Does the ability to dash off a quick e-mail and have it instanteously recieved really benefit us when it simply means that the moment-of-passion buffer zone is completely eliminated?

There's no tone of voice online. Sideways punctuation can only go so far. Misunderstandings can get way out of control without the immediate ability to see the confusion in your listener's face, to hear it in their response. But that's where I think the joy of the blogs come in. With a blog, there's more than enough substance there to make up for the tone of voice. You read a few posts, you begin to get a sense of the personality of the blogger. Susan Rose points out how blogging has actually improved her writing; I think it'll do wonders to counteract all the garbage that IMs and text messaging have done to grammar.

I personally don't e-mail much. Part cuz I'm a slacker procrastinator with little to no follow-through abilities, but part, too, because ... well, I don't know. For one thing, it's too easy to lose track of an personal email that needs responding to when it gets mixed in with all the other stuff. And there's not the sense of the person. My roommate from college and I would do letters through the summer, and it was a blast -- seeing what she'd decide to write the letter on this time, covering the envelope with jokes and quotes, writing the entire text of the letter in a spiral. You can't do any of that online.

Not that I'm much better with snail-mail, but .... I'd rather improve in that department than online. There's something a lot more personal about a letter. Something about taking the time to write -- which, unlike e-mail (unless you're BlackBerrily enhanced) you can do anywhere. You can't doodle on an e-mail. And e-mails don't give me something to get excited about during the monastic-post-lunchtime-rush to the mailroom.

So .... I guess there are kinda two questions here, seeing as how I got myself sorta off-track:
Thoughts on Reinventing the Antiques
Letter-Writing vs. Letter-Typing

Bible Buddies

OK, so the pressure's on. No bailing out now that I've got folks doing it with me. Gack! So far it's myself, MertonFan, Kevin, WhatNow, Lisa, and See-ThroughFaith.

STF suggested that "We collect thoughts here once a week. You ask the questions! How does that sound?" Well, folks, how does that sound? What day would work best? Or would we rather have a separate team blog where people can throw on thoughts or questions whenever they want?

And thus we begin with the first 16 chapters of Genesis. Any thoughts as we kick this thing off?

Anyone else jumping on board? Come on, all the cool kids are doing it. We won't be your friends if you don't do it ......
Just so you all know: The Reading Plan from the biblein90days.com sidebar has a slightly different daily break-down than the Progress Tracker (which is for that specific Bible with "12 Pages a Day" and therefore has some mid-story stopping points). Doesn't seem like a huge difference, but I didn't want you all to get confused.

UPDATE: There is now a blog for these discussions at nuntimebible.blogspot.com. Come visit, sign up, have fun!

love ya, girl .....

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Bible in 90 Days

OK, so I've seen this (publisher's site and non-profit site) at various points around the web and figured, why not? Just what I need for a pick-me-up is one more thing that I want to do that I probably won't follow through on! But, at least it's not something that will drag on forever, right? I figure I might as well give it a shot and see what happens. Like one person had commented, it's only 12 pages --- when she'd think nothing of knocking off a hundred pages of her novel before bed. Course, I'm usually not even good with my novel, but .... we'll see. It's worth a try, yes?

I had my kids read two gospels straight through during the past semester, to get a sense of the overall story, and it ends up with a somewhat different feel than just the individual stories. I've tried various times to do the whole thing straight through, but never made it very far on my own. Of course, there are the various Bible-in-a-Year set-ups, but a year is an extremely long time for no-attention-span me. Ninety days is a lot less time. Not that it means I'll be any more successful --- heck, I'll be lucky if I even last a week and a half, but at least the closer proximity between start & end dates will make it somewhat easier to keep it at least on the guilt list!

There's actually a whole program designed around this, with DVDs and leader's guides and all that kind of stuff, but the nice thing is that at the publisher's site, you can register and they've got a little checklist for you with the passages listed, so you don't have to go out and buy a new Bible.

I figured I'd start tomorrow, with Epiphany and all that .... according to "My Personal Progress Tracker" I'll be wrapping up right at the start of my spring break -- which gives me a decent bit of wiggle room to finish before Easter.

Anyone wanna join me?

By the way, I think the initial site where I discovered this was Quotidian Grace's blog -- and if I'm reading her comments correctly, she was involved in developing and test-driving the curriculum. Am I right?

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Congratulations ....

.... to Some Unknown Person out there in the Pacific Time Zone for being my 5,000th visitor. I would send you cookies of gratitude, but since that would have to be an awful lot of cookies to accommodate that time zone, well, I guess I'll just have to eat them myself.

Mmmmmmm, cookies.

Course, Visit #5,001 comes from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, home of my favoritest college roommate ever. But, since she doesn't know about the blog (yet) and lives in New Jersey (at least as of last year sometime), I don't think it's her. Sigh. Oh, well, back to the cookies.

It's hard to mock something so obvious ....

'nother question for ya .... since when have "half-gallons" of ice cream actually only been 1.5 quarts? Quit messin' with my calcium-intake product of choice!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

This isn't even subliminal!

Has anyone else noticed the last lines of the third verse of Once In Royal David's City? I, personally, think it's a bit of a scam myself. "Hey, kids, let's sing this Christmas carol! In fact, let's have the kids do a solo on that third verse."

Christian children all must be mild, obedient, good as he.

Monday, January 02, 2006

FYI ....

I'm in the process of writing exams (yes, I know, the same exams I didn't write before Christmas). But, soon, it will all be over, and I'll be able to give my own answers to my Weekend Wonderings.

Can I just say that it's incredibly difficult to sit at a computer and attempt to write an exam without succumbing to the temptation to click the pretty little "e" at the bottom of my screen? Nargh!

Ahhhh, Do[n't]-It-Yourself Resolutions

In the year 2006 I resolve to:
Become one with my inner sociopath.

Get your resolution here

Well, people have been telling me the last couple days that I need to take a stand for myself ....

Course, then there was this one: In the year 2006 I resolve to: Stop refreshing this page until I get the answer I want. D'oh!

Discovered via .... lotsa folks!

Once Upon a Time ....

.... I celebrated a football victory of the Washington team over the Dallas team. The lone comment I received was from a different Steph, wherein she said, and I quote:

There are no other teams.
Just had to say it.

Now, I am a bit curious, Oh Dear Sweet Bearer-Of-Such-A-Good-Name ..... how exactly might one reconcile a statement such as that in the face of a headline such as this? Gibbs takes 'Skins to playoffs ~ Washington beats Philly 31-20 to reach postseason

Or, as perhaps the Washington Post's pair of headlines: Redskins Secure Playoff Spot and Fitting End to Eagles' Season?

Not that I'm gloating or anything like that .....

Are we really better off this way?

I haven't really noticed newspapers too much in my two weeks at the monastery; today, back at the house, ours was sitting there on the kitchen table, and a sneer involuntarily appeared on my face as I saw the main headline: Bush Defends Spy Program and Denies Misleading Public (the Loovul paper carried the NY Times story). The first thought that ran through my head? "Is it a bad thing that every sentence that I see that begins with 'Bush says' or 'Bush calls' I immediately scoff at and think is a load of BS?"

But then, since I couldn't resist reading the article, I then saw the quote from Bush: They attacked us before, they'll attack us again if they can. And we're going to do everything we can to stop them.

The thought that ran through my head at reading that? Actually, it wasn't really a fully-developed thought. More of an idea, a phrase. Actually, just a word. Which made me think, if you or I were to go to such great lengths because "someone's out to get us" ... we would have been evaluated and treated for our paranoia long before now.

No, I don't deny that terrorism is a problem. No, I don't deny that there are bad guys out there. But, like I said before, you can't just do whatever you want in the name of "Homeland Security."

Yes, September 11th happened. Yes, it was a horrible, awful, terrible thing. I was teaching at a school ten minutes outside the District line when the planes hit. My mom had just begun her new job three blocks from the Capitol. My biggest "visual" of home is flying into National Airport at night, the same National Airport that was shut down for several months. My friend's father was in the Pentagon when the plane hit; another friend had to run her youth group prayer service, all the time planning what she thought would have to be her uncle's funeral because he worked in NYC and she still hadn't heard from him. I took the Metro down a week later and saw the gash in the Pentagon for myself, to make it real. Believe me, I understand just how bad it was.

But I also find it very hard to believe that it could have been averted. For every new security device the good guys can create, the bad guys are creating a better way around it. Even just to walk down the street -- it is physically and psychologically impossible to take every single precaution possible. You cannot do it. Not unless you lock yourself in your closet and never come out ... but then you'll have trouble with the stale air. You go out, you'll get cancer from the sun; you stay in, you'll get cancer from the materials used to build your house. The whole thing is to be reasonable.

Problem is, we passed "reasonable" a long time ago. Paranoia will get us nowhere. Except for the added bonus for the "other guy" because it gets him off the hook.

When I was little, I'd screw up. Of course, everyone did. But my self-confidence was lacking, and so, after enough times of being told how I screwed up, I began to have my own pre-emptive strikes. I'd tell myself how badly I had screwed up -- that way, if/when someone else told me, I could have the upper hand because "I already know that." Worked with friends, too. My counselor calls it "Reject before rejected." Pretty soon, it got to the point where no one needed to tell me anything, because I knew better than anyone else just how horrible a person I was. I wouldn't even bother to ask permission to do anything because I already "knew" all the reasons that would be given in the saying "No."

So I just stopped trying.

That's what I mean when I say paranoia gets you nowhere. That's what I mean when I say it lets the other guy off the hook. My parents were never even involved in any of my lack-of-doing in high school, because they never had to be, I never let them. I had already told myself No.

It's the same dang thing here. The terrorists don't have to do anything now except sit back and watch. We're doing all their work for them. We're constantly looking over our shoulders, walking around on eggshells. We're becoming distrustful of those around us, keeping people in prison and torturing or not torturing them for merely looking a certain way. And we're giving them an excuse to keep on killing.

Again, please understand that I'm not saying that terrorism is not an issue facing our world today. At the same time, I'm finding it easier and easier to see why the rest of the world hates us so much. I don't think that we're completely helping the situation too much. We can't leave Iraq till the insurgency settles a bit; but how much of the insurgency is because we're there?

Yes, of course, the War on Terror. But at what cost? Which war outranks the other -- the War on Terror, or the War on Hunger? What about the War on Poverty, or the War on Crime?

How many people get killed here in the U.S. in violent crimes every day, every year? How does that compare to the number killed by terrorists? How many children are abused, mistreated, neglected? Are we truly fighting the right battle to bring about peace the way we say we do?

[As an aside ... I just googled "paranoid personality disorder" and one of the first results I got listed the following summary: Paranoid personality disorder is characterized by a distrust of others and a constant suspicion that people around you have sinister motives. People with this disorder tend to have excessive trust in their own knowledge and abilities and usually avoid close relationships. They search for hidden meanings in everything and read hostile intentions into the actions of others. They are quick to challenge the loyalties of friends and loved ones and often appear cold and distant. They usually shift blame to other people and tend to carry long grudges.]

Sunday, January 01, 2006

The God-Bearer

January 1st is celebrated as the Solemnity of Mary as the Mother of God in the Catholic tradition. Our priest this morning was commenting on how Mary, Mother of God, plays a very significant role in the Eastern Orthodox tradition.

He told a story of attending an Eastern rite service with Fr. Prosper, one of his brother monks, once, and Fr. Prosper kept repeating "Theotokos" over and over again. Fr. Anthony later asked what that was.

"Oh, Theotokos, the Mother of God. Without her, we would have none of this. The saints would have no names were it not for her."

Mary is the God-bearer. Mary said yes. By saying yes, she was the first disciple. Without her yes, we would have none of this.

For more information about Theotokos, follow the Greek link above.

Pictured is Our Lady of Vladimir, one of the most famous and most copied icons. This version was "written" by Sr. Mary Charles McGough, OSB, of the Duluth Benedictines; it also happens to hang on the wall of my bedroom. However, there are also plenty of other icons of the Theotokos.

[Incidentally enough, the Duluth Benedictines were just featured on the PBS Independent Lens series; the film was titled "Sisters: Portrait of a Benedictine Community" and aired a couple weeks ago. If, by chance, anyone happened to tape it and would be willing to share, I would love to be able to see it (I'm not sure if anyone at our place taped it or not.)]

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