Thursday, March 09, 2017

"...something Shakespearey..."

This, which I learned about indirectly through a link on Dappled Things, makes my Creative-Writing-Degree holding, English nerd heart go pitter-pat...

The stated rules include:
  1. Each participant may submit up to three (3) sonnets each.
  2. Each submission must be a Shakespearean sonnet (Shakespearean in form and in style: archaic Elizabethan language and all (see Gaynor example above)—the more clever the better chance the submission has of winning).
  3. Each submission must retain the title and composer of the original pop song (again, see above).
  4. Each submission must be a reworking of a recognizable pop love song (not something your sister’s best friend wrote and composed on a kazoo)—with a theme of either love desired (e.g. “I Want Your Sex”), love gained (e.g. “You Light Up My Life”), or, like Ms. Gaynor’s immortal work, love lost.
  5. All poems must appear in the comment box for this post for consideration.
  6. Winners will be notified in advance of the official announcement here at the Korrektiv.
  7. And, yes, the contest is decidedly open to all members of the Korrektiv Kollektiv.
  8. DEADLINE: April 1, 2017

It would be a fun exercise, and a neat challenge. I mean, it's been a long time since I wrote anything in Iambic Pentameter, but honestly, who wouldn't want to win a nebulous prize that's "something Shakespearey, I suppose"? It's just a matter of finding the perfect song. And there are so. many. options.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017


Blessed Lent!

I'm so behind with blogging. I have several posts floating around in my head (ahem, China), and Lent should help with that, as I've decided -- instead of giving something up -- to do something instead: I'm going to write every day.

It may not be the most penetitent of choices, and some might see it as downright frivolous, or self-serving, but it's something that hasn't happened for a while, despite my thinking that when I switched positions at the paper (nearly nine months ago already!) that I'd write creatively more often. I'm not using my God-given talent ("We offer you our failures, we offer you attempts, the gifts not fully given, the dreams not fully dreamt...") as I should, and making it my Lenten discipline will ensure I actually follow through. To move beyond distractions. To persevere, even if what comes out is pure dreck, or even if it's only responding to a letter. To push myself to not give up on a project simply because I'm stuck. Stuck, be it in a fictional corner...or the rut I seem to be sticking in, creatively, professionally...

Anyway, the blog can only benefit from some of that.

Plus, I'm also finally going to use the desk in my front room for its intended purpose, rather than just stacking random things on top of it. 😊

And in a hopefully-the-third-time-will-prove-the-charm scenario, I'm choosing to tackle, again, The Discernment of Spirits.

I tried a little bit of the Ignatian spiritual exercises back in 2008 during a silent women's retreat led by the Sisters of Life and, having enjoyed it-- although that isn't the best word: Appreciated the depth of thought and focus of seeing myself in one of the gospel events is more appropriate -- bought the book following that weekend. Apparently I didn't get very far that time, nor in 2011, when I tried again, according to a note I wrote in the book.

But if I was having a hard time deciding for certain that it should be my book for Lent, the face that it went missing for several days convinced me. Now that I tracked it down again, and have documented the coming read, it's time to make a start.
Writing will stem from this, too. It may all prove to be nothing more than dust, but aren't we all?

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

A personal litany of saints

Every morning I say morning prayer with my Magnificat and, when at the end there is time to reflect on my own intentions, I also invoke a list of saints that, through the years, has grown rather extensive. I didn't realize how many there were until I wrote this post!

In addition to the Blessed Virgin Mary, I petition, in the following order (not of importance, or even alphabetically, although some of them are alphabetized-ish, but simply how they've grouped themselves over the years):

St. Anne
St. Anthony
St. Andrew
St. Benedict
St. Bernadette
St. Francis de Sales
St. Ignatius of Antioch
St. Valentine of Rome
St. Joseph
St. Joachim
St. Jude
St. Gemma Galgani
St. Rita of Cascia
St. Gertrude the Great
St. Philip Neri
St. Alphonsus Ligouri
Blessed Anton Smolsek
Blessed John Henry Newman
Servant of God Elizabeth Liseur
St. Margaret of Scotland
St. Margaret of Cortona
St. David
St. Dominic
St. Columba
St. Ninian
St. John Ogilvie (when I remember)
St. Jerome Emiliani
Blessed Anne of St. Bartholomew
St. Anselm
St. Maximillian Kolbe
and the recently added St. Hildegard of Bingin.

I always close with the prayer to my guardian angel and the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, and if there is a particular saint who's feast falls on that day, I'll ask for their intercession, too.

Some saints I've been devoted to for years (Anne and Joachim, Bernadette who is my confirmation saint, Benedict, Jude, Joseph, Rita, Michael), others because they are patrons of writers (Columba, Francis de Sales, Max, Hildegard). Valentine I invoke not because of his patronage of the single, but because he is of Rome, and I started praying for his help years ago, when I hoped to make a pilgrimage to Rome a reality. Philip Neri because I prayed at his grave while in Rome. Gemma because she helps those with back pain, Gertrude and Margaret of Cortona because they are strong advocates for the Holy Souls in Purgatory.
Then there are the Scottish saints, whom I learned more about and prayed with while in Scotland: Columba (again), Margaret (although I'd know and loved her history long before going), David, Ninian, John Ogilvie.
Several joined the list as a result of Jen Fulwiler's Patron Saint generator: Blessed Anton (who was also an author), Jerome and Blessed Anne. No doubt in 2017 I will add another from this fun source.
Elisabeth Liseur because her jouurals and letters are so lovely, moving and faith-filled. John Henry Newman's writings, too.

Blessed Feast of All Saints! May these and all holy men and women pray for us!

Friday, October 21, 2016

8,365 miles, just the one way.

I have a fairly extensive bucket list of places I want to visit.

Domestically, there's the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, the Redwoods in California, New York for the Met and Broadway and the food, Chicago (I used to want to move there, once upon a time) and Savannah and Charleston (it's nuts I've been to neither) are the ones that immediately come to mind.

Of course, internationally, the list is vast and extends far beyond the ability of my bank account: Neuschwanstein in Bavaria, Paris and Normandy and Lourdes (St. Bernadette is my confirmation saint), pretty much everywhere in England, Hay-on-Wye in Wales (Sigh. A whole town of bookstores...), back to both Scotland (I didn't make it to Dunnotar Castle or Aberdeen) and Italy (to much-loved Rome and Florence again, especially the latter where I only spent a day. I'm really hoping to visit a college friend who's husband was recently stationed at a base in Vincenza for the next three years), Ireland, Morocco, the Great Pyramids and Valley of the Kings in Egypt (I've been fascinated by Egypt since I was little. I had a book on mummies and grave robbing when I was 6...which is a bit strange, when you think about it. Who bought that for me?), Greece, Poland (I've long wanted to visit Auschwitz, if that doesn't seem too strange, to see and mourn and pray where St. Maximillian Kolbe and so many others died), the undisturbed old-world charm of Prague, various countries in South America, Bora Bora (partly because of its WWII connection), Belgium (Vielsalm, specifically, because of another family WWII connection, Spain to see the Prado and Sagrada Familia among other sites, Australia and New Zealand....

I could keep on going. What you'll notice about the above (frankly still abbreviated) list is that there aren't any Asian countries on it. If pressed, I'd say Japan would be my first choice. China was never really in the picture.

So guess where I'm headed the day after Christmas and will ring in 2017?

As it turns out, both of my younger brothers will be getting married next (I joked to my mom that, barring a very quick courtship that commences incredibly soon, I won't be getting married next year, too. She laughed and said she could use the break.). My brother Ethan (after he returns from his deployment) I've already mentioned, but my brother Daniel will be marrying his fiance, Mira, January 1, 2017, in China.

They met in grad school and dated for several years, countinuing their relationship even after her program ended (it was a year shorter than his), her student visa expired and she had to return to China, her home country. Earlier this year, they became engaged. Because of all the variations possible in order to get her a green card, after much research, they decided the best way to expedite that -- and it could still take between nine and 18 months -- is to get married in China first.

It will be beyond interesting, because, first of all, we're not headed to Beijing (although we have a layover there on the way) or Shanghai, but to Chengdu, the capital of the Sichuan province and the closest city to where her family lives in Western China. It's where the pandas come from, where there is some of the spiciest food in the world (I'm not sure how my mother will cope, as she doesn't do spicy food much at all) and also has more tea houses (allegedly) than anywhere else in the world. :)

The wedding itself will take place on New Year's Day (apparently less of a big deal in the East, where Chinese New Year several weeks later is the real celebration) and then, the next day, we'll travel about an hour and a half southeast to Lezhi, where Mira's family is from, for another -- smaller -- celebratory dinner. We're staying in Chengdu in a flat her family owns at the top of a 15-20 story apartment building.

The more I've looked into things, the more excited I've become about this adventure I never expected to take. It's also going to be a complete fish-out-of-water experience. Although Mira speaks perfect English, her parents don't beyond 10 or 15 words, apparently, and her grandparents none at all. And it won't be like going to Europe, where in Italy, for example, I could understand quite a bit based only on my Spanish language background alone. I've bought a Lonely Planet phrase book that contains some basics on both Mandarin and Sichuanese, but I'm probably slaughtering the pronunciation... Note to self: watch some videos for help with that!

The flights have been booked, I've had a photo taken for the visa application (I look tired in it, but that will no doubt be the state of affairs after a ridiculous amount of time on planes -- the flight from LAX to Beijing alone is more than 13 hours) and I've completed most of the four-page travel visa application.

The trip will involve more than a little time travel, without a Delorean and its flux capacitor, or a TARDIS, traveling a day ahead in time and going so far east we have to go west to get there. We -- at least Mom and I; Daniel's staying a month beyond -- are slated to fly home Jan. 8, 2017. We will arrive back in the states while it's still the same day.

And while it will be a grand adventure, involving strange new places and a both new-to-me and ancient civilization, I am so very happy my brother has found someone with whom he can share his life, and that I will be there to see his marriage take place.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

A small update

Last month, I wrote about my friend's marriage difficulties and how I felt utterly unable to do anything to help her beyond being a listening ear and offering up daily prayers for God's grace to help both her and her husband find their way back to each other.

Recently, she told me that things between them have become a little better -- at least she and her husband are communicating again -- although she knows there is a lot of work still to be done on both their parts.

I was beyond grateful to hear her news. The stresses on both of them, as well as their children, have lessened. I'm relieved and hopeful that things will continue to improve.

I can only praise God and offer thanks to Him and to the Blessed Mother that my prayers for my friend's family have been heard, and keep those prayers going. And if any the few of you who actually read this prayed for them, too, well, thank you so much. Truly.

"Praying to Christ for your friend, and longing to be heard by Christ for your friend's sake, you reach out with devotion and desire to Christ himself. And suddenly and insensibly, as though touched by the gentleness of Christ close at hand, you begin to taste how sweet he is and how lovely he is."  - St. Aelred of Rievaulx

Saturday, October 01, 2016

The perfect age?

Today a priest asked me if I was married, and when I said no, asked me why not.

Oh, if I had a dime for every time someone's asked that question...

Anyway, while it was asked kindly, it was unexpected, as we weren't talking about that topic. So I rambled through my typical responses: "bad timing," "haven't met the right guy yet, I guess," "I certainly want to be married but I suppose its not God's will at the moment," "I don't want to marry just anyone..." and then drifted into silence.

Then he asked me how old I was. Not having any idea where he was going with this (was he going to say I'm too old, or that I should pack for the convent?), I told him the truth about being 38 because A, (duh) he's a priest; B, it was in a confessional (ergo, honesty required); and C, my age is not something I lie about. Doing so just seems vain and silly.

Anyway, his response surprised me.

"Oh, that's the perfect age. You know who you are and what you want, you're solid in what you do."

The perfect age? Ok, I'll take that. :) Although I certainly don't feel like I have it all together some (most?) of the time. That may be a lifelong work in progress!

Father continued, "But don't wait too long. Just expand your search a little."

Expand my search, huh? Having tried the online thing several times, with no success (I was too Catholic for most, or, on one of the Catholic sites, sometimes not Catholic enough, believe it or not), so I'm not sure what else I can do, aside from move...which I should probably do anyway. Anyone have any suggestions?

I did give the modern way of doing things a try recently. Some younger friends who are all about dating apps like Tinder and Bumble suggested I try one of those. Tinder just seemed too tawdry, so I gave Bumble a shot, briefly, but it, too, was so incredibly superficial, just lots of swiping in one direction or another based on nothing but looks  I admit to doing some judging -- the multitude of men with gym mirror selfies, and the seemingly vast swathes of them shirtless on boats holding large, dead fish (is it just because I'm in Florida? Because it reached the ridiculous stage so quickly) was beyond disheartening -- being healthy is important, and it's not that I dislike fishing, but you can't base a relationship on that, regardless of how much I might like sushi. There was just no concrete information about who these men really are or what, if anything, they believe in, and I need more to go on. I suppose, really, I'm just too old-fashioned (old school?) for dating apps.

But, apparently -- dating apps aside -- I am the perfect age, and now have at least one other person praying for me. That's always a good thing.

Sunday, September 18, 2016


All of your own problems suddenly look small when a friend calls crying and says her marriage is ending.

I have known things have been rocky, for months off and on, for this couple, but there have been patches of good, too. But I didn't know that her husband, who apparently now spends all his time -- when not at work -- on the phone with his best friend and his mother won't talk to her, is sleeping on the couch, is worried over the finances which he controls but is angry with her when she doesn't know things are tight -- but how can she know if he won't tell her, won't let her help? -- and won't go for the counseling she suggests. She doesn't know if he's seeing someone else. She has a home-based business, and home schools their kids, but is terrified of the uncertainty, and is trying to scrape together whatever she can in case he decides not to make her monthly car payment, or if she suddenly has to find a place of her own. She's been out of the professional working world for years and feels --wrongly -- that she has no marketable skills. She is somehow ashamed of her own supposed failure, and hesitates to tell any of her other friends. Her faith -- on so many levels -- is shattered.

I don't need to know -- don't want to know, really -- the details she shares, but I don't stop her recitation because she has been carrying these things for so long by herself. I am ashamed at the sense of relief that floods me when she suddenly switches conversational tacks of her own accord, because she is tired of thinking about it, too.

Holy family, pray for them!

I have spent so much time praying for them, for healing for both of them, for the children, for a reconciliation if God wills it, and while I know my prayers are heard, other than pray, there is nothing I can do, and it makes me feel guilty that I haven't done more, haven't called more, completely selfish and just...useless.

As I sit on my living room rug later, petting the drowsy dog more or less lounged in my lap -- she pokes at me with her paw when my hand stops moving for more than 2.3 seconds, the glutton -- I am thankful all of a sudden for the quiet, largely drama-free life I lead. While I so often lament my singleness, am I wrong to be grateful for it when someone I care for is suffering?

Then I read a post by Meg Hunter-Kilmer about Our Lady of Sorrows, who's feast was this past week. And it helped so much in making sense of how I felt. Meg wrote:

"Normally, identifying with the Blessed Mother is a good thing, a sign that you’re doing something right. You’re trusting God or pointing people to him or interceding. But when the people you love are being tortured, being Mary just means you’re standing there doing nothing.

I don’t want to do nothing. I want to fix it. I want to love them out of their pain or take it over for them. I at least want to do something, say something to make it better, even just a little, even just wiping the sweat out of their eyes.
But I’m not Simon. I don’t get to carry their crosses with them or for them. And I’m not Veronica. I don’t get to give them a moment’s peace. I’m Mary. I only get to be there with them, loving them in utter futility as a sword pierces my heart.
I hate being Our Lady of Sorrows. I hate standing there doing nothing, watching the people I love suffer. I hate waiting for a diagnosis, hearing about infidelity, watching depression. I hate going to prayer and begging, begging, begging to take their crosses from them and being told no. I hate being useless in the face of catastrophic pain.
And yet.
And yet, with all that he could have asked of his Mother in that moment of his greatest need, this is what he asked: just be with me. Just stand there and watch me suffer. Just love me in my pain.
And somehow, that nothing that she did was everything that he needed. Somehow, it bore fruit down through the ages for every one of us. Somehow, it is in her silent suffering with that Mary fulfills God’s plan for her. I’m sure she also wanted to be Simon or Veronica or Peter whipping out a sword or anyone doing anything. But she knew that being there and “useless” was good and right and beautiful."