Friday, June 29, 2012

7 Quick Takes

For those of you who noticed, but didn't catch Wednesday's post, we were called out of town suddenly by the death of my sister-in-law, Catherine. She was my husband's oldest sister and was only 47. I chose not to blog about the experience while it was happening because my family needed my immediate and complete attention--that includes my in-laws. So the blog was quiet for a week or so. Sometimes the real world takes priority.

A little about Cathy. I met her when she was a wife and a mother of four young boys. She was vibrant, cute, and outgoing. She was relatively happy, very busy, and a bulwark of her church and family. She played the guitar and sang. She worked part time as a waitress at an upscale restaurant where she also sang on the weekends. Then everything started to change. She was diagnosed with manic depression and began a long downhill slide into addiction. The tremendous willpower she used to power her life became another burden; she couldn't take medical advice, psychiatric advice, or marital guidance. Ten years later, we could all sense that she would soon hit bottom A divorce hadn't been the bottom. Relationships strained to, through and beyond the breaking point weren't the bottom either. Her alimony was running out and she had been unable to return to waitressing or train for another profession to support herself. Losing her apartment might be the bottom, my husband and I speculated.

The bottom turned out to be death by what appears to be an accidental overdose of prescription and over the counter medications. She always played her meds. Always. It's not uncommon among the mentally ill. For her, it proved fatal. For those of us left in the wake, it has been devastating. I have nothing to sum this up, no point to make in order for it all to make sense. This is simply where we are left, this blank and unexpected moment. My husband has a hole in his life, and I am at a loss as to how to comfort him. From here, we simply go on.

Let me move away from that to this: Thursday night saw our community of Amarillo join in prayer for Religious Liberty. It was a lovely ecumenical prayer service called into being by our Bishop, Patrick Zurek, and hosted first by our Catholic Cathedral. The next several months will see it hosted at other churches around town. It was truly a blessed evening, full of song and prayer. One moment that especially stood out to me, as a lover of the ancient musical form of Chant, was that the minister of a local megachurch, Trinity Fellowship, was blown away by the fact that Catholics sing the Bible. Indeed, we do. We pray it, too, especially in Mass.

It is hot here. Those of you east of us are beginning to be hit with our heatwave. To give you an idea of the difference, though, you have to understand that our heat index factors in the breeze and the lack of humidity. Wednesday's temperature was 102 degrees but our heat index was 97. Pretty neat, huh? I don't think that's going to happen east of the Mississippi, though. Brace yourselves and change those filters on your air conditioners so they can do their jobs properly.

My younger son suddenly decided to make a few leaps. Not only did he potty train himself completely during the week long trip, he suddenly began speaking in full sentences, too. The potty training is sticking, but the use of sentences is following the pattern of many of his hard earned skills. We see the full blown skill for a day or two, then it disappears completely for a few months before it is permanently acquired. We have every confidence that this skill is following the same pattern because his one-word speech production has suddenly become a commonplace event, regardless of his audience. We see by this that something major has happened in his language production. He is also strutting. That confidence is a rarity and it is beautiful to see.

All my children are learning by leaps and bounds this summer. Each one of them is now reading. The oldest is now a chapter book aficionado and the youngest is getting fluent enough that she is using blocks to spell out words, real words, when she plays. It is mind blowing. I had planned to school through the summer anyway, but with all the excitement about the world of words buzzing around, I would have had to school, like it or not.

I am blundering through my first week back, distracted and dreamy, with my thoughts very much "back east." One of the ways I am coping is through my favorite literature. Although all is not quite well in the world, Lizzie did marry Mr. Darcy, after all, even though it looked pretty hopeless for a while there. I'm so glad to see that the story didn't have a new ending this time around. I needed that reassurance.


Jennifer Fulwiler
Thanks to Jennifer Fulwiler, a fellow Texan, for hosting
7 Quick Takes Friday 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


If you are wondering why the sudden silence on the blog, my sister in law, Catherine, died suddenly and unexpectedly a week ago Sunday. We left for Virginia to be with my husband's parents shortly before Midnight that Monday and returned home yesterday.

I could have blogged about the trip and all of the experiences, as a good blogger probably would have, but all of it was too intense and personal for any of that. Some things are meant for family only, as I'm sure you will understand.

I am back and will be blogging regularly hereafter.

Meanwhile, tonight's show will be interesting, to say the least. I am doing my part for Deeper Truth's project on Revelations, specifically laying some groundwork for the finished product. We'll be looking at chapters 4 and 5 tonight. Feel free to join us at this link at 7 p.m. Eastern tonight.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day

Have no dread or fear...the Lord, your God, carried you, as a man carries his child, all along your journey. 

Deuteronomy 1:29, 31

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The flowers of a gentle June

The flowers of a gentle June
nod at the breeze
and whisper on their stems,
"Seeds, seeds, seeds."

The sunflower
aches and preens, 
for the sun's caress, 
turning its blind brown eyes
unblinking toward the light,
whispering, pleading, "See? See? See?"

So gentle a June
under a forgiving sun,
weeps green
weeps gold
weeps orange and pink
and does not yet grieve the Spring.

Friday, June 15, 2012

7 Quick Takes

Worth it

My son has trouble communicating. That's his quirk. We have him so attuned to social interaction that he is able to express and read emotions fairly well now (I'd give him a A+ for expressing emotion, C- for reading them), so we've come a long way. A lOOOOooooong, long, long, long way. If you looked at him, you'd never know he was Autistic. You'd think he was quiet. Abnormally quiet. Now speech is the next big hurdle. I've resisted sign language because it made communication too easy: he stopped trying to talk. I've resisted the picto-card technique, too, because he hated it and I could see his point. We all knew he wanted a cookie; he was communicating that perfectly well; what he communicated even better was, "Why are you making me look stupid by handing you a card for what you already know I want?" We've found a way around the cards: the iPad. We bought an app that does the very same thing as the picture cards. Now, he gets to use the iPad, gets to communicate, and he gets to be cool. Priceless.

Why Write about Autism?

I have to address this because I have been asked by someone genuinely concerned for my boy: "Why do you write about your son's Autism?"

For the record, this is why:
Because it's our "normal." It's what we do. This is a family blog and this is our family. Autism is not a dirty little secret here; it's our day to day. Like I struggle with a temper and procrastination, my son struggles with communication. It's what he works with. It's what he has to overcome. Having a label for his struggle and the enormity of what he would struggle against makes the struggle a little different, but it doesn't make him any different. We all struggle with something. We all have our quirks. This is his.

Another explanation

I'm going to offend again by comparing Autism to something as trivial as temper. Here's my explanation: my son will overcome this in his way and in his time with diligence and hard work. It will always be there to work around, to strive against. This is his challenge, like my daily battles with a bad temper is mine. His is more heroic than mine, for certain, but he is no different than any of us in having a quirk. It is a matter of degree. It is in the struggle that he will be made a man, just as you and I were made into who we are by ours. In all truth, my character couldn't have battled what he has already won. He's just made of better stuff than I, so he was matched with a stronger foe. Get it?

Like Lightning

I was reluctant to "do school" with my Simon yesterday. He was doing so well on his iPad assignments and was in such a good mood that wrestling over the paper and pencil variety of work seemed above my pay grade when I was still feeling bad with this bug. I cornered him with it at breakfast this morning instead.

"Point out all the upper case Qs," I demanded in the most conciliatory and hopeful tone imaginable.

Simon barely glanced at the page, then BAM! His hand hit the page. He's done this sort of thing before, and I always thought it was a dismissive gesture, a "get this work away from me" type of thing, but today he'd been eating blueberries. On the page, next to only capital Qs, were four little purple fingerprints.

"Uh," I said, thinking impossible thoughts. "Point out all the lower case Qs, please?"

BAM! Four more fingerprints in all the right places.

He met my eyes for a split second and smirked at me. His look saying, "Bring it on, Momma."

In less than 10 seconds his work was done. He was back to his blueberries, his brother and sisters were impressed, and his mother was rethinking all those battles over papers. He'd been answering my questions all along, and I'd missed it.

Time to move on to things bigger and better. Oh, I'm bringing it, kiddo. This time, I'm bringing an ink pad!

Are We There Yet?

I've noticed that most of the time, I find myself at a loss for number 5 in my Quick Takes. It seems to be my  transition number. It's like getting to the halfway point in a grueling job, where the end is not quite in sight and the idea of the effort it will take to finish the work is almost enough to finish you off. That's the point that this number 5 leaves me. I'm always hoping to be done right about here.

It's All About Trust

If I ever would make up a list of my spiritual deficits, a lack of trust in God would be at the very top. I am a worrier. I fret over decisions and outcomes as if my life depended on getting every detail right. I behave as if I am in control and I know best, but I know full well that I am not and do not. Hence all the worrying. At any rate, now that this has been brought repeatedly to my attention, I have been making a concerted effort lately to trust that God knows what He is doing, that He will provide the skills and stamina for whatever the daily trials shall be. You'd think this would be easy by now. "Trust Him," has been my mantra of late.

Finally, A Holy Spirit Moment

One of the many benefits of the retreat is coming away with a spiritual director. One of the priests who came to the retreat sendoff had been my regular confessor for several months before his being assigned to a larger and more distant parish. He was the one person I thought of whenever the wistful hope of having a spiritual director crossed my mind. "He's too busy" or "He's too far away" and "I'm too shy to ask for such a thing" were the thoughts that followed quickly on the heels of that hope. But this time the surprise at seeing him gave me the audacity to ask, all the while verbally hand feeding him the excuses he'd need to refuse politely; I prefaced my request with phrases such as, "I know you're too busy for such a thing" and "You are so far away now, it would be very difficult to manage." His response? "I can only answer as directed by the Holy Spirit," he said as he accepted. He then gave me a prayer to discipline myself to, exhorting me to pray it regularly and completely...

As you may have guessed, inspired by the Holy Spirit as he was, this was the prayer he gave me (minus the prayer card)...


Jennifer Fulwiler
Thanks to Jennifer Fulwiler, a fellow Texan, for hosting
7 Quick Takes Friday 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

I blew it

I completely forgot the podcast last night. In my defense I am still coming down from the retreat high and I am sick.

I don't have a cold, no, and it's not a flu or anything simple. It's a systemic kind of thing and it hit me hard enough Tuesday morning I was at the doctor that afternoon. I'm obediently taking a heavy dose of antibiotics, probiotics, and electrolytes while attempting to get as much rest as is mommily possible.

The short version of all of this is simply to admit I did forget to get my act together and remember that it was Wednesday in time to put on the podcast.

Next week, God willing. Next week.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Coming down the mountain: After the retreat

Be still and know that I am God.
Image source: Eric Bartley
Psalm 46:10

I woke up this morning to a beautiful display of cloud to cloud lightning, just like this picture. "Time to write," I thought, so here I am, coffee at the ready, listening to the thunder and to the still, quiet voice.

I can not tell you all that occurred on the retreat; for some things there are not words, so I will wait for the fruit of it to come tapping out of the keyboard, to come laughing out of my mouth, to come weeping out of our shared stories, and to come sweating out of my work. The expressions of God in us are poems that are lived.

I will share this little story, because it is mine to give, and because it points to the finger of God, stirring our little lives.

Two years ago this weekend, my sister came to me here in Texas. It had been years since we'd seen each other, and we managed finally to find each other in our sisterhood. 

It is so hard to explain that last sentence. Eleven years separate us. She longed for a sister and when I was born I was given away to be adopted. She was told that I had died, and then she wasn't even given a funeral to show her how to grieve. I was a gaping wound in her heart, a loss. On my part, I was told I had half brothers somewhere. A sister wasn't mentioned. When I went searching for my birth family at 18, I was told by someone who knew the family that I should quit looking, so I did. Then our mother found me. One of the many surprises was her, a sister.

A sister...another of those inexplicable gifts. I could go on and on chasing this tangent, trying to wrap other words around such a word. For the present, I can only leave the word, hanging like a bead of nectar from the honeysuckle. If you have never tasted sisterhood, this is close...

Image Source:

On her weekend visit, when we found each other all over again, she noticed something about my life. Not feeling quite secure enough in me, she left her gentle rebuke and sisterly advice to a Christmas present later that year. In the mail came this message on a plaque, "Be still and know that I am God."

I did not feel an immediate connection, merely a sweetness, in the message. The plaque went on a windowsill. When I moved, it went into a box for almost a year.

Until just this past week the message was locked in that box. Monday I determined to decorate my dining room and finding myself with art too small to cover a large expanse of empty wall, I thought of my sister's plaque and dedicated that wall to it. It is at the top, above a cross and several pieces of art that demonstrate being still, knowing God. There is only one character moving in all the pictures, Judas dipping his bread into Christ's bowl at a rendition of the Last Supper. "There," I thought, looking at the arrangement. "That'll fix that."

Then Thursday, I signed in for the retreat and the Bible verse chosen for it was revealed to be that very same one. I felt the nudge, that invitation, that stir in my heart that said, "Will you listen?"

I am being still. I am listening. 

I am learning.

One thing that I have learned is that, even when you think you are answering one call, it turns out to be another. Sometimes the plan was laid for you long ago.

The liturgical year of the Catholic Church is based on the date of Easter, which is based on the Vernal Equinox and the phases of the moon. So the same feast may occur on different dates year after year. Two years ago, my sister visited me and graciously sang songs with my little choir on the feast of Corpus Christi. I say graciously because she is Mormon and I am Catholic, and the theology of Christ on this feast day is one where our faiths diverge. She sang anyway, her voice and her choice were a gift to me.

My retreat ended two years later, on a Sunday, on the feast of Corpus Christi.

Two years ago she saw something in my life that needed stillness, God, and listening. The retreat was built around the very phrase she chose to give to me. 

Also on the retreat were three sets of sisters: half sisters, full sisters, and one set of five sisters. God meant for me to be on this retreat. God meant for me to notice all the many ways that this relationship of sisterhood is played out.

I am listening.

Image source:

"For those who believe, no explanation is necessary. For those who do not believe, no explanation is possible."-- Author Unknown

Monday, June 11, 2012

I am slowly coming down from the retreat high and am reading a lot, reviewing some old writing, and actively pondering. This post was inspired by coming across something that triggered the memory of wearing a tie dye T-shirt of E.A. Poe. I kept a safety pin in his forehead to keep his thoughts together. That was the way this English major rolled.

(I need more coffee)

Thursday, June 7, 2012


I am heading on retreat this weekend. I'm a bit physically and spiritually run down. You may have noticed the sparse blogging--the writer's blocking more like--that has been a symptom of the need to go off and be quiet awhile. I'm off and hope to be fresh and full of posts when I return!